Every year we get NFL GMs, scouts, and draft experts over thinking the draft process and taking the shiniest athlete instead of the best overall player. Most years it's a QB like Blaine Gabbert or Jamarcus Russell. Some years it's a defensive player who blows up in the combine like Mike Mamula.
This year we got some great BOOM or BUST picks in Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel. Both could turn the NFL upside down and both could be colossal flops for all we know. But now we need to look at 5 guys who will bring the most value to where they will likely be picked and in a world of unknowns are the "safest" picks of the 2014 NFL Draft. The NFL Draft is a crap shoot but it's always safe to lay down on the 6's and 8's when all else fails. Here are some picks who should pan out.
1) Khalil Mack, outside linebacker, Buffalo
I'm sure I will get some heat for saying this but Mack is a better overall player and athlete than Clowney. Watch the film. Mack is just as fast, explosive, and unlike Clowney he doesn't take plays off. Mack is the one guy on film who jumps out for his consistent play. He will be an All-Pro and he carries a chip on his shoulder. If I had the #1 pick I would take Mack without hesitation.
2) Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Texas A&M
Drafting a Matthews is like drafting a Manning. His bloodlines flow with future success in the NFL. On top of that he's the best overall left tackle in this draft who can pass protect and open up huge holes for the running game. His athleticism reminds me a lot of Tony Boselli. He's a future All-Pro and is much better than the #1 and #2 overall players taken in last year's draft.
3) Zach Martin, offensive guard/tackle, Notre Dame
Martin was by far the best overall player at the Senior Bowl. A 4-year starter at ND who didn't give up a sack his senior season the only knock on Martin is his measure ables. He's considered a tad short (6'4) for offensive tackle and his arm length is a bit short too. But he makes up for it by being a tenacious blocker and leader. Whether given the chance on the outside or interior of a line remains to be seen but it is a safe bet Martin will dominate at those positions.
4) Darqueze Denard, cornerback, Michigan State
In my mind Denard is the best overall corner in this draft and it looks like he might not get drafted in the 1st round according to some mocks. He's not tall (6'0) and he is not extremely fast but his overall knowledge of the game and defense is through the roof. Denard is also a tenacious, get in your face competitor who wants to be the best and thinks he is the best. He reminds me a lot of Richard Sherman.
5) Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh
Just a shade under 300 pounds Donald was often double and sometimes triple-teamed in college and still made a huge impact at a position which is usually just used for run stopping. Donald if you watch the film is a high motor guy who reminds me a lot of Geno Atkins when he was coming out of Georgia. He's tenacious, has a great work ethic from all accounts, and will disrupt NFL offenses for years to come.