Early Odds for Top Pick of the 2014 NFL Draft

Michael SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterMay 2, 2013

Early Odds for Top Pick of the 2014 NFL Draft

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    The NFL draft is anything but an exact science.

    Twelve months before the 2013 draft, Matt Barkley and Manti Te'o were popular names to go up toward the top. Twelve months before the 2012 draft, Andrew Luck was as sure a thing as one could get, but Robert Griffin III came out of nowhere. Twelve months before the 2011 draft, Ryan Mallett and Da'Quan Bowers were supposed to be locks.

    Point is, anything can happen in a college football season. While, right now, Jadeveon Clowney looks like the best prospect this side of Julius Peppers, it's hard to remember that a prospect as fantastic as Peppers went No. 2 after David Carr.

    It's also important to remember that Clowney's teammate—Marcus Lattimore—was supposed to be the best running back prospect ever. A knee injury can change one's draft stock in a hurry. Clowney gets that; he's even taken out an insurance policy.

    Twelve months out, we have no idea who the top pick in the 2014 NFL draft is going to be, but the field of candidates couldn't be any more exciting.

Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 1 percent


    I believe that Logan Thomas has all the tools to be an effective NFL passer. That said, I've also watched enough of his college games to know that there is lots of work to do before he becomes one. I talked about RGIII in the opening slide, and the comparison there is apt—RGIII became a much more polished pocket passer in his final season at Baylor.

    An even better comparison for Thomas is Colin Kaepernick, who spent most of his final year at Nevada proving that he could pass the ball just as well as he could run the option. Virginia Tech certainly isn't as much of a niche offense, but Thomas needs to show he can take the natural tools he has and effectively lead a team before anyone touches him toward the top of the draft.

Marqise Lee (WR, USC)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 1 percent


    Speaking of positions having a hard time going No. 1...wide receivers just aren't (positionally speaking) valuable enough to go first in the NFL draft. Marqise Lee is no Calvin Johnson, and even Johnson didn't go first.

    That said, it's possible that a team like the New York Jets could end up with the first pick overall. (Calm down, Jets fans, I said "like," not specifically just you guys.) A team with a young passer and no established No. 1 WR could conceivably take the chance on Lee with the first pick.

Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 1 percent

    Without injuries, this number would be a lot higher, but a torn pectoral muscle ended his 2012 season early and could keep teams from taking him No. 1 next April, even if he comes back and dominates the Big 12.

    Jeffcoat is ridiculously athletic and a good speed-rusher. He may fit even better in a 3-4 defense but could easily play in either defensive front. I'm expecting a good year from Jeffcoat, and if so he should be a top-10 pick.

David Fales (QB, San Jose State)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 1 percent


    Fales going first overall would remind a lot of people of David Carr once doing the same, although Eric Fisher coming out of the MAC to go No. 1 was just as absurd once upon a time—even the week before the draft!

    The space between the haves and the have-nots in college football might never shrink too much, but the quality of prospects like Fales coming out of supposedly small schools is too great to ignore—even at quarterback.

    Poised, tough and accurate, Fales has all the intangibles that NFL teams look for in quarterbacks. He also has ample size (6'3", 220 pounds) and arm strength to succeed in the pros. He could easily challenge to be one of the top quarterbacks off the board.

Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 2 percent


    I've evoked RGIII's name a couple of times, but I need to do so one more time with Boyd. Again, they're different prospects entirely, but the work done by Boyd needs to mimic RGIII's success in his final season at Baylor.

    He needs to not only win a lot of football games, but also show he can do so with his arm as well as his feet. Geno Smith put up eye-popping numbers, like Boyd is capable of, but he fell out of the first because teams didn't trust that he was capable of being the franchise passer that a team can build around.

    Still, expect the production alone to give Boyd a boost in next year's draft, and Boyd should test extremely well in the pre-draft process. With a little luck and a bowl win, Boyd has an outside shot at No. 1.

C.J. Mosley (OLB, Alabama)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 3 percent


    Mosley is both the most athletic and most polished pass-rusher in this draft class that isn't named Clowney. He's coming to the NFL via Alabama, which has some history of sending great defenders to the NFL.

    With another year of production and potentially another championship, it isn't crazy to think that he could take a step forward into No. 1.

    Of course, defensive players have an uphill battle going first in the draft anyway, and Mosley would have to show he's better than Clowney and the top-rated quarterback.

Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 5 percent


    There were rumblings, at one point, that Matthews could have overtaken his teammate Luke Joeckel as the top tackle in the 2013 draft. Then, Matthews went back to school and Eric Fisher did it for him. The biggest issue with Matthews is that we haven't seen him at left tackle, only right.

    In 2013, Matthews needs to show that he has the ability to kick-slide out and negate pass-rushers on the edge. He's already a mauler, but most teams in the NFL are far more worried about protecting their investment at quarterback than improving their run game.

Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 5 percent


    Lewan gets the slight nod on my board over Matthews (note, they have the same percentage, but I'm choosing to list Lewan over his peer) because in his biggest game against the toughest competition, Lewan stymied Jadeveon Clowney with (at times) little help.

    It was exhibit A in the case for Lewan to be the top tackle in this class and the case may be closed if his 2013 season is anywhere close to as good as his 2012.

    The biggest reason neither Lewan nor Matthews may go No. 1 is that many of the teams that drafted a tackle in the 2013 NFL draft didn't get their quarterback either.

    So, they may be drafting up there again. Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia and Cleveland would all likely pass on Lewan if he were the actual top prospect for a more impactful position.

Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 40 percent

    Clowney has to top this list, right? As Lee Corso would say, "not so fast, my friends."

    A defensive player hasn't gone first overall since 2006. Before that, it was 2000. Before that, it was 1994. While we may be "due" for a defensive player to go sooner or later, the issue is usually that the years a defensive player goes first lack an elite passer.

    Why should Clowney go first? Put on the tape! Clowney makes an impact in almost every game he plays in and he's done so since his first game in college. He has prototypical size, off-the-charts athleticism and polished pass-rushing skills.

    Had he been able to come out in 2012, it's likely he would have been the top pick. Heck, had he come out after high school, he'd likely have gone in the top five.

Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)

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    Chance of Getting Drafted First Overall: 41 percent

    As intimated on the last slide, the only thing standing between Clowney and the top pick is an elite passer. Bridgewater is that elite passer. He's 6'3", 220, has a cannon for an arm and has shown he's able to beat SEC defenses.

    He's also very accurate and showcases the ability to hit receivers in stride at the short-, intermediate- and deep-passing levels.

    If Bridgewater holds his form as the top passer—and he has the talent to—he should be the top pick next April.

     

    Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.