One 2014 Draft Prospect Each NFL Team Should Already Be Targeting
Thanks to Roger Goodell's announcement earlier this week that the 2014 NFL draft will be held in May, the event is still nearly a full year away. Even so, NFL scouting departments are already starting to work on scouting the nation's top college football players in preparation for next May.
It is still completely unknown where each team will pick in the draft order. Nonetheless, we can speculate on players who could match up with each team based upon its projected needs and where each team and prospect is likely to fall in the draft order.
In each of the following 32 slides, we have identified one player who would make sense as a potential early-round selection (not necessarily a first-round pick) for each NFL team. While the team may not ultimately end up needing a player at this position, the player identified is one who each corresponding team should at least be considering preliminarily.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
All information on free-agency years are via Spotrac.
Arizona Cardinals: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (Jr.)
The Arizona Cardinals decided to pass upon a weak quarterback draft class in 2013, instead going the veteran route by trading for Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
Palmer is the team's likely starter for 2013, but he is 33 years old, and is an interception-prone passer who really hasn't been the same quarterback since missing most of the 2008 season due to injury. Palmer is not a long-term option, and Stanton has not shown he can be anything more than a backup.
If poor quarterback play continues to be the case in Arizona, and the Cardinals end up with an early draft pick, they should not pass up the opportunity to draft Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater if they have the chance.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has previously had Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterbacks as offensive coordinator in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Like both of them, Bridgewater is a strong-armed pocket passer with great size, who can zip the ball through tight windows and is great at making plays scrambling outside the pocket.
The Cardinals are not going to make a serious challenge in the stacked NFC West division until they find a franchise quarterback. If they are picking at or near the top of the 2014 draft board, Bridgewater should be their top target.
Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU (Jr.)
The defensive tackle position is already one of the weakest spots on the Atlanta Falcons' roster. Making matters worse for the 2014 season: Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry and Corey Peters will all be unrestricted free agents.
LSU's Anthony Johnson would be a good target for the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. He could be available late in Round 1, where the Falcons will likely be selecting, and has the potential to play either defensive tackle spot in a four-man front.
Johnson is an explosive athlete who can beat blockers with his quickness and shut down plays in the backfield. He is also an effective gap-filler who plays with power against the run.
Johnson is listed at 304 pounds by LSU's official website, but has played at heavier weight. His athleticism makes him a good fit to be a penetrating 3-technique defensive tackle, but he could also bulk up and play the 1-technique nose tackle spot if needed.
Baltimore Ravens: James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
After focusing on rebuilding their defense in the early rounds of the 2013 draft, the Baltimore Ravens should target an offensive tackle early in 2014. Bryant McKinnie is not a long-term answer at left tackle, while Michael Oher is set to become an unrestricted free agent, which could leave the team looking for new starters on both sides of the offensive line.
North Carolina's James Hurst is an intriguing prospect who could very well end up being a late first-round pick even in another very strong offensive tackle class.
Hurst is not an exceptional athlete, but he uses his feet well. Listed at 6'7" and 305 pounds according to North Carolina's official team website, Hurst stands out for his length. He does not overwhelm defenders as a drive blocker, but he has the strength to hold up well at the line of scrimmage.
He is a polished technician who already has three years of starting experience at left tackle. He has to prove he can continue to dominate as a senior without star left guard Jonathan Cooper next to him, but with a strong senior season, he could be the long-term left tackle the Ravens need as a 2014 first-round draft pick.
Buffalo Bills: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Bills are in the process of converting to a new hybrid defense under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine that will likely feature more variable fronts and blitz packages. As the Bills determine who is and is not a good fit in their defense in 2013, they will likely be in the market for more defensive playmakers in 2014.
The Bills could certainly use another outside linebacker who can line up in a variety of spots in multiple defensive fronts. BYU's Kyle Van Noy fits that description best of any player in the 2014 draft class.
Van Noy is an effective pass-rusher off the edge, a sideline-to-sideline playmaker in space and a great athlete who drops back into coverage effectively. He fits well at outside linebacker in both 4-3 and 3-4 looks, but can line up situationally as a pass-rushing defensive end or 3-4 inside linebacker.
After going offense-heavy in the early rounds of the 2013 draft, adding a toy for Pettine's defense early in 2014 would make sense. If the Bills are in position to draft Van Noy, they could add an instant-impact playmaker at linebacker.
Carolina Panthers: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida (Jr.)
The Carolina Panthers are relying upon their cornerbacks to step up in a big way in 2013. Second-year cornerback Josh Norman has big potential, but opposite him in the lineup, Captain Munnerlyn is a stopgap solution at best who was only re-signed to a one-year contract.
Even if Norman steps up this season and becomes the starter and playmaker they expect him to be, the Panthers would still be smart to draft a cornerback early in the 2014 NFL draft. One player who would make a lot of sense in Carolina if he declares is Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy.
A playmaker with great length and athleticism, Purifoy has as much upside as any cornerback in college football. He is physical in man coverage, an active hitter in run support and is very good at making plays on the ball.
Purifoy needs to become more disciplined and consistent in coverage, but he has the potential to be a true No. 1 cornerback at the next level. If the Panthers have a shot to draft Purifoy in 2014, he could be the playmaker their secondary currently lacks in both coverage and in run support.
Chicago Bears: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (Jr.)
The Chicago Bears have a long list of key players set to become unrestricted free agents in 2014. With quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive tackle Henry Melton likely being their top priorities to re-sign, that could leave the team unable to re-sign both of their star cornerbacks, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.
The Bears do not have much talent at the cornerback position behind Jennings and Tillman, so losing either one of them would make finding a replacement a major priority in the 2014 NFL draft. If that is the case, the Bears should be looking for an instinctive cornerback who excels at making plays on the ball.
That's where Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu comes into play. While Ekpre-Olomu is not a particularly big cornerback, he is a fluid athlete and good tackler. Like Tillman and Jennings, he is a turnover-creator who has very good ball skills and is also good at stripping the ball for forced fumbles.
Even if the Bears manage to re-sign Tillman and Jennings, Ekpre-Olomu would be a terrific addition as a nickelback. If needed as a replacement, he would be a good choice for the Bears if they are picking in the latter half of Round 1.
Cincinnati Bengals: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
One area that the Cincinnati Bengals will likely want to address in the 2014 NFL draft is at center, where they could certainly use an upgrade over Trevor Robinson and Kyle Cook. This may not necessarily be a first-round move, but Arkansas' Travis Swanson would be a great target for the Bengals in Round 2.
Swanson has a great combination of size and athleticism for a center, and he utilizes his physical skill set to be both mobile and powerful. He already has three years of starting experience at center, and should be an immediate starter at the next level.
A physical yet also athletic center, Swanson could be a solidifying piece in the middle of an otherwise very strong offensive line. If the Bengals continue to have struggles at the position this year, they should keep a close eye on Swanson.
Cleveland Browns: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama (Jr.)
The Cleveland Browns will almost certainly make a strong effort to re-sign strong safety T.J. Ward, but even assuming Ward returns to the Browns in 2014, they will likely be in the market for an upgrade at free safety to pair with him. Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, a projected first- or second-round pick should he declare for the 2014 draft, could end up on the Browns' radar.
Next to Ward, who is arguably the NFL's best run-support safety, the Browns need to add an athletic safety who can be a playmaker and upgrade in deep coverage. Clinton-Dix is still a developing talent, but he showed in a promising sophomore season that he has the deep coverage ability, ball skills and striking ability to be that playmaker.
Clinton-Dix is a good athlete with great size for the position, listed at 6'1" and 209 pounds by Alabama's official website. He has the potential to rise and end up being the top safety in the 2014 draft class and a very high draft choice, but he could also be a second-round possibility for the Browns to upgrade at a position of need.
Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Jay Ratliff is set to make more than $8 million in 2014, and Jason Hatcher will be an unrestricted free agent. That will likely put the Dallas Cowboys in the market for a new defensive tackle to help lead the front line of their new Tampa 2 defensive scheme.
The defensive tackle with the most upside in the 2014 draft class is Notre Dame's Louis Nix III, a big, yet quick, defensive tackle with star potential.
Nix has to prove whether he has the stamina and interior rush ability to be a three-down player. He has the potential to be a fantastic 4-3 nose tackle as a big run-stopper who can beat blockers and push the pocket.
He is a good penetrating tackle for his size (listed at 6'3" and 326 pounds by Notre Dame's official website) and is very strong and powerful. Adding Nix, if the Cowboys are able to get him as a first-round pick in 2014, would add another potential star to help lead the Cowboys' defensive front.
Denver Broncos: Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky
The 2013 season will be a make-or-break year for third-year linebacker Nate Irving. Irving should get a shot to win the starting middle linebacker job, but will need to stay healthy and step up or the Broncos will go in another direction at the position for 2014.
Linebacker looks like a potential need for the Broncos either way, as Wesley Woodyard will also be an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
Having drafted Western Kentucky defensive end Quanterus Smith at a bargain rate in Round 5 of the 2013 draft, the Broncos could fill their need at middle linebacker with another talented Hilltopper in 2014. Andrew Jackson is a highly-productive linebacker who tackles well and attacks the backfield, and could be a great selection on the draft's second day.
For the Broncos to truly become a championship-caliber team, more playmakers outside of Von Miller need to emerge in their defensive front seven. If that does not happen in 2013, adding a player like Jackson in 2014 could help accomplish that.
Detroit Lions: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (Jr.)
The Detroit Lions and the NFL as a whole will find out in 2013 whether second-year left tackle Riley Reiff is the real deal, but either way, the Lions still need to find another starting-caliber offensive tackle to start opposite him.
The Lions will hope to be selecting significantly lower in the 2014 draft than their top-five draft choice in 2013. If they do end up near the top of the draft again, chances are good that offensive line woes will be among the reasons why.
If they are in a position to draft early, Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio would be a great target for the Lions. A long, big and powerful offensive tackle with good feet, Kouandjio has the potential to be a fantastic left tackle, but could also project to being an immediate upgrade at right tackle.
Kouandjio's game is still developing, but he is physically imposing and has improved consistently throughout his short collegiate career. He has enough athleticism to be a strong second-level run blocker, and he does a good job keeping his opponents engaged with his physical strength.
The Lions will likely be in the market for a starting offensive tackle opposite Reiff in 2014, and they could get a very good one if they have the chance to draft Kouandjio.
Green Bay Packers: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (Jr.)
The Green Bay Packers' top two tight ends, Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless, will both be unrestricted free agents in 2014. If the Packers lose them, it would certainly make sense to target Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins as a replacement.
Also a basketball player in his freshman year at Washington, Seferian-Jenkins fits the modern prototype for an NFL tight end.
He has massive size, listed at 6'6" and 266 pounds by Washington's official website, but is also a fantastic athlete. Seferian-Jenkins is a deep threat over the middle who can be a true mismatch for defenders to cover as a receiver. He is also a strong, powerful blocker who can be an extension of the offensive line on running plays.
The Packers lost Greg Jennings this offseason, and James Jones will be an unrestricted free agent next season in addition to Finley and Quarless. The Packers should be in the market to give Aaron Rodgers another weapon to their passing offense, and they could truly add a dynamic one and a potential superstar in Seferian-Jenkins.
Seferian-Jenkins does have significant character concerns, as he was suspended indefinitely from Washington's football team after being arrested in March for driving under the influence. If the Packers can look past those concerns, however, they could end up with an elite NFL tight end should they have the opportunity to draft him.
Houston Texans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Houston Texans will likely make a strong effort to re-sign unrestricted free-agent inside linebacker Brian Cushing in 2014. The Texans could use an upgrade over Darryl Sharpton, who will also be an unrestricted free agent, next to Cushing at inside linebacker.
The Texans may have to move up in the 2014 draft to have any shot at selecting Alabama's C.J. Mosley to fill that void, but he could end up falling down the board as most inside linebackers have in recent years.
Mosley has the skill set, nonetheless, to be the star of a defense, especially as a 3-4 inside linebacker. He is an explosive athlete who consistently makes tackles and excels at dropping into coverage.
Adding Mosley in next year's draft would give the Texans another star playmaker on their defense. Should the Texans resign Cushing, they could assemble one of the NFL's best 3-4 inside linebackers duos by drafting Mosley. Either way, the Texans would be smart not to pass up the opportunity to draft Mosley if they get the chance.
Indianapolis Colts: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Indianapolis Colts are very weak at the cornerback position behind starters Vontae Davis and Greg Toler. With Davis being an unrestricted free agent in 2014, the Colts should be keeping an eye on the top cornerbacks in the 2014 NFL draft class.
One of those cornerbacks is TCU's Jason Verrett, who is likely to be selected in the late first-round range, in which the Colts should be expected to draft.
Verrett is a fluid, athletic cornerback who proved his ability to make plays on the ball with 22 passes defended last season, tied for the most in the FBS.
Verrett is undersized for the position, listed at only 5'10" and 176 pounds according to TCU's official website. He makes up for some of his lack of size by playing with physicality and being a sound tackler.
The Colts could bring in Verrett next season to immediately compete for a starting spot, or be an upgrade as the team's nickel cornerback should the Colts successfully re-sign Davis.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Jacksonville Jaguars could very well end up drafting a quarterback such as Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater to start their 2014 NFL draft. That said, 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert should get one more chance to prove himself as a franchise quarterback this season. Iif he finally steps up as expected, the Jaguars could instead look to continue rebuilding their defense.
Reinforcing the Jaguars' defensive front seven is an area that certainly looks to still be a need next offseason. Much like Dion Jordan was often suggested for the Jaguars in 2013, a player who could make a lot of sense for the Jaguars as a high 2014 draft selection is UCLA's Anthony Barr.
Barr has huge upside as an outside linebacker/pass-rushing prospect with a rare combination of length and athleticism. He is an explosive athlete with outstanding acceleration, and has the versatility to be both a "Leo" pass-rusher and a strong-side linebacker upgrade in the Jaguars' defensive scheme.
Barr's technique still needs to develop significantly. He needs to become physically stronger and a better tackle to play in a defensive-line role, as he would in the "Leo" spot. His upside, however, is likely to make him a very high draft selection in 2014.
The Jaguars' rebuilding process will take more than one year, and as a result, they could be in prime draft position to take a chance on Barr next offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs: Dominique Easley, DE, Florida
The Kansas City Chiefs lost one of two former top-five draft selections at defensive end this offseason with the departure of Glenn Dorsey. The other, Tyson Jackson, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
The Chiefs will be hoping to bounce back in 2013 and not have another top-five draft selection, and if that is the case, they will not be in position to draft South Carolina superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
A good first- or second-round choice for the Chiefs would be Florida's Dominique Easley. Easley is an interior defensive lineman with explosive quickness, good power and adequate inside rush moves. He is a natural fit to play the 5-technique defensive end position in the Chiefs' 3-4 defense.
Even if the Chiefs do re-sign Jackson, they could use a long-term upgrade over Mike DeVito opposite him. Drafting Easley would give the Chiefs a more explosive inside penetrator on their defensive front, which could potentially help the team bring more pressure into opposing backfields.
Miami Dolphins: Louis Nix III
Both of the Miami Dolphins' starting defensive tackles, Randy Starks and Paul Soliai, will be unrestricted free agents in 2014. Considering the heavy spending that the Dolphins did this offseason, including a contract for wide receiver Mike Wallace that will have a $17.2 million cap hit in 2014, they are unlikely to be able to bring back both of their star defensive tackles.
The Dolphins do not have much behind Starks and Soliai at the position, so they will likely have to draft a replacement should they lose either of them. The aforementioned Louis Nix III of Notre Dame would be a great choice if the Dolphins can get him in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Nix is best suited to play the 1-technique nose tackle position in the Dolphins' four-man front, where he would be a natural replacement for Soliai. That said, his nimble athleticism and penetrative quickness would make him a solid replacement for Starks as well.
If Nix follows up on a promising sophomore season with a strong junior year, he is going to be a hot commodity in the 2014 NFL draft as a star of the defensive tackle class, and the Dolphins are among the early favorites for where he could end up.
Minnesota Vikings: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Both of the Minnesota Vikings' starting defensive ends, Jared Allen and Brian Robinson, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2014. Given that, a pass-rusher such as Texas' Jackson Jeffcoat could be on the team's wish list next offseason.
Allen and Robinson are a solid pass-rush tandem, but if the Vikings are unable to re-sign both, Jeffcoat would be a fine replacement for either. Jeffcoat is coming off of a torn pectoral which cost him the second half of his junior season, but assuming he returns fully healthy, he should be one of the nation's best defensive ends in his senior year.
Jeffcoat is a great athlete with a quick first step and a good arsenal of pass-rushing moves. He has the speed to chase down quarterbacks and ball-carriers, and is a solid tackler.
The Vikings may have started a youth movement for their defensive line when they used one of three first-round selections in the 2013 draft on Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. Continuing that movement with an explosive pass-rusher in Jeffcoat would be a smart plan.
New England Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The New England Patriots decided not to draft any long-term options at defensive tackle this offseason, but it appears to be a very likely and somewhat necessary move for the team to make in 2014.
The Patriots recently released both Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love, who split time starting under defensive tackle next to Vince Wilfork last season. This year, that role appears likely to be split by Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead.
Armstead is an unheralded CFL product (formerly of USC) who has the potential to be a star. But even if Armstead is a star, the 32-year-old Kelly is only a temporary solution at the position, and the Patriots have little depth at the defensive tackle position even behind Vince Wilfork.
The Patriots need to find a long-term playmaker who can be the penetrating, 3-technique defensive tackle they need next to Wilfork, especially as Wilfork gets older. A good fit for the Patriots would be Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman.
Hageman is a raw talent, but he has a very explosive combination of power, quickness and speed. He can be a difference-maker on the Patriots' defensive line both by shutting down gaps as a run-stopper and making plays bringing pressure on the quarterback.
Hageman appears likely to be a late first-round selection, which should be the range in which the Patriots draft in 2014.
New Orleans Saints: Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama (Jr.)
As the New Orleans Saints are transitioning to a 3-4 defense this season, one thing they are still missing from their defensive front seven is a premier pass-rushing outside linebacker. They should be in the market to find that player early in the 2014 NFL draft.
One possible addition as a mid-to-late first-round pick would be Alabama's Adrian Hubbard. Hubbard is a skilled playmaker off the edge who can be a three-down standout as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Hubbard does not quite have the explosive athleticism one covets in a top-tier pass-rusher, but he has consistently shown the ability to bring pressure off the edge. He is also a very good run defender who takes on blocks physically and sets the edge well.
After a breakout sophomore season, Hubbard could truly emerge as a national star in his junior season on Alabama's defense. If he does that and then declares for the 2014 NFL draft, he should be a very attractive target for the Saints as they continue building their new defensive personnel packages.
New York Giants: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State (Jr.)
The New York Giants made a couple of low-profile additions at linebacker this offseason by signing veteran free agents Dan Connor and Aaron Curry, but the Giants' linebacker corps remains a unit without a star. The Giants should actively be in the market, especially in next year's draft, to add a playmaking linebacker.
The Giants could get that, likely in the mid-to-late first round, in Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, assuming he declares for the 2014 NFL draft.
Shazier is a fantastic athlete who consistently makes hard tackles and makes plays all over the field. He is undersized, listed at only 6'2", 222 pounds by Ohio State's official website. He often makes up for his lack of size by playing with aggression and taking on blocks.
Shazier is an effective blitzer who can be an immediate upgrade at weakside linebacker for the Giants. He is not only a big playmaker around the line of scrimmage, but is also very good at dropping back into coverage and making plays on the ball.
New York Jets: Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee
The New York Jets have been moving some of their own pieces around in an effort to rebuild their 3-4 defensive front, but one piece they may not have a true fit for is an anchor nose tackle in the middle.
Kenrick Ellis will get his chance to prove his worth as a nose tackle in 2013, but if he underwhelms, the Jets would be smart to consider upgrading over him with Tennessee's Daniel McCullers.
McCullers is a truly unique prospect with the potential to be a superstar nose tackle. He is an enormous size presence (listed at 6'8" and 360 pounds by Tennessee's official website) and he drives through his opponents with strength and power. He also has rare athleticism for his size, and has shown the ability to track down runners downfield when he has a proper angle.
McCullers may not be a three-down player at the next level, but if the Jets are looking to plug up their run defense, McCullers would be a great first- or second-round addition for a specific role.
Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (Jr.)
There isn't a lot to love about the Oakland Raiders' 2013 roster or their chances to make a big move up the standings in the upcoming season. Finishing with one of the draft's top two picks is a very real possibility for the Raiders.
Whether the Raiders have that rough of a season or not remains to be seen. If they do, they should make a serious push toward drafting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney is a truly rare talent for the position. He has an incredible and rare combination of size and athleticism. He is also a very skilled pass-rusher who combines a strong arsenal of rush moves with a very quick first step and efficient strength and power.
If there is one player in the 2014 NFL draft who can spark the Raiders back toward success, it would be Clowney. The Raiders still have a major need for a premier pass-rusher at defensive end, and may already have their quarterback of the future, having traded for Matt Flynn and drafted Tyler Wilson in Round 4 of the 2013 draft.
If the Raiders have the opportunity to draft Clowney, they will be selecting a player with the potential to be among the NFL's elite defensive players from his rookie season onward, and to immediately bolster the Raiders' pass rush.
Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC (Jr.)
If 2012 fourth-round pick Matt Barkley is in fact the quarterback of the future for Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense with the Philadelphia Eagles, it is imperative that the Eagles give him plenty of weapons to work with.
Jeremy Maclin will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014, which could leave the Eagles in need of another wide receiver. But whether Maclin returns or not, the Eagles would be smart to target Marqise Lee if Barkley is going to be the franchise quarterback.
During their two years together at USC, Barkley and Lee formed a prolific passing connection. Lee is a home-run threat as an outside receiver who could be an upgrade over Maclin, and give Barkley a true go-to downfield weapon in Philadelphia.
Lee, who has 2,864 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns in two seasons thus far, is a graceful playmaker. He does a terrific job tracking the ball downfield, has great acceleration and is a very smooth open-field runner.
If the Eagles decide to go forward with Vick or Foles as their long-term starter, Marqise Lee may no longer be a selection worth maneuvering the board for. Reigniting the Barkley-Lee connection, however, would be a great decision if possible for Philadelphia's offense.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Pittsburgh's two starting defensive ends, Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood, will both be unrestricted free agents in 2014. Barring major breakout seasons from both 2009 first-round pick Hood and 2011 first-round pick Cameron Heyward, the Steelers should be in the market for another chance to upgrade in 2014.
Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt is a potential first-round pick who is naturally suited to end up as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Tuitt is a skilled outside-inside pass-rusher who has ideal size for the position (listed at 6'6", 303 pounds by Notre Dame's official website).
Tuitt uses his length well as a pass-rusher, plays with good power and has good feet. For a team that needs to rebuild its stock of impact players and get young on defense, Tuitt could develop into a cog for a new generation of the Steelers defense.
San Diego Chargers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The San Diego Chargers recently signed Max Starks as a temporary left tackle upgrade for the 2013 season, but the team still desperately needs a long-term option at left tackle who they can then bookend with 2013 first-round pick right tackle D.J. Fluker for many years to come.
Fortunately for the Chargers, the 2014 draft class is another class of fantastic offensive tackles, with four already standing out as potential top-10 draft picks. Any of them could end up being the franchise left tackle prospect the Chargers need, but the most solid choice among them at this point would be Michigan's Taylor Lewan.
Lewan has the skill set to be a terrific NFL left tackle, and already has three years of starting experience at the position. He is a very technically-sound lineman with quick feet, great length and impressive physical strength.
Texas A&M's Jake Matthews has the most natural ability and upside of any offensive tackle in the draft class, but he still remains a left tackle projection at this point, as he has played right tackle for the Aggie for the last three years.
With Fluker set to be entrenched on the right side, the Chargers need a left tackle prospect they can count on to hold down that side of the offensive line as both a lead pass protector and run blocker. They can get that out of the athletic, powerful and experienced Lewan.
San Francisco 49ers: Daniel McCullers
The San Francisco 49ers have the NFL's best defense, but one thing their 3-4 defensive scheme surprisingly does not have is an anchoring nose tackle who can be a consistent presence and dominate inside.
For a team that has been able to draft for luxuries rather than having to fill many pressing needs, the 49ers should have Tennessee's Daniel McCullers on their radar in the 2014 draft. As mentioned before, McCullers' massive size and rare athleticism for his size give him huge upside as a 0-technique nose tackle.
The 49ers typically only use their nose tackle situationally against the run, which is where McCullers excels. He is terrific at using both his power and quickness to make plays at the line and push the middle of the line into the backfield.
A defense as strong as the 49ers should only benefit from adding another unique piece with unique abilities to its personnel. Adding another dominant run-stopper with rare size and range in McCullers could pay huge dividends.
Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, G/OT, Stanford (Jr.)
The Seattle Seahawks could already use upgrades over the right side of their offensive line. Both right guard Paul McQuistan and right tackle Breno Giacomini are unrestricted free agents in 2014, and the Seahawks may be better off moving on from both.
One player who would make sense, should he declare, with what will likely be a late first-round pick, is Stanford's David Yankey. Yankey is a well-rounded offensive lineman with experience at both left tackle and left guard, and could immediately plug in at either spot on the right side of the line in Seattle.
Yankey is better suited to play at guard, but while he does not quite have the length and athleticism of a left tackle, he could also play right tackle. His versatility, strength, footwork and intelligence would all make him a smart choice to address an area of need and succeed as a starting-caliber offensive lineman for an NFL team next season.
St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
If Rodger Saffold is unhappy about being moved to right tackle, chances are good he will leave the St. Louis Rams as an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
The Rams have two picks again in next year's first round. That puts them in a good spot to take advantage of the round's talent, and move up if there is a player they want badly enough. A player who could be worth moving up for is Texas A&M's Jake Matthews.
Matthews is an outstanding all-around offensive tackle prospect who is both a dominant pass-protector and a skilled run blocker. He is a very good athlete with great feet. He also has great length, which he supplements with power and physical strength.
Matthews certainly has the game to play left tackle, where he will play as a senior at Texas A&M, but could also be an immediate star at right tackle for the Rams opposite Jake Long. Adding Matthews could give the Rams a pair of fantastic bookend tackles for years to come, while Matthews could eventually move over to left tackle when Long's time with the Rams comes to its conclusion.
The Rams should be looking to fully solidify their offensive line in 2014, and there would be no better choice in this year's draft class than Matthews.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have a new quarterback in 2014, but they will focus on developing Mike Glennon or re-signing Josh Freeman before targeting a signal-caller in the draft. Regardless of who their quarterback is, however, they need to add more weapons to the passing offense.
The Buccaneers' only two marquee receiving targets are Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, and Williams is also an unrestricted free agent in 2014. Most of all, the Buccaneers could really use a receiving playmaker at the tight end position, which they could potentially get in Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
As mentioned before, Seferian-Jenkins is a downfield weapon in the middle of the field who can create mismatches with any defender who tries to cover him. He could immediately become a go-to weapon for whoever the Buccaneers' quarterback is in 2014, and is also a powerful in-line blocker.
Seferian-Jenkins wouldn't be the first troubled tight end to become a Buccaneer in recent history (see: Jerramy Stevens, Kellen Winslow), but his elite potential will ultimately make him worth the risk for an NFL team early in the draft.
Tennessee Titans: David Fales, QB, San Jose State
2013 is going to be a make-or-break season for Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker, whose sophomore season was littered by injury and interceptions. The 2011 No. 8 overall pick will have the chance to prove himself as the team's franchise quarterback, but could be replaced in 2014 if he fails to step up his game.
As a result, the Titans should start putting the pressure on Locker and looking at potential early-round draft picks who could come in and challenge Locker in 2014. The best among those options could be San Jose State's David Fales.
Fales is a skilled pocket passer who has terrific accuracy. He is a smart decision-maker, has good footwork in the pocket and can fit the ball into tight windows. He does not have the arm strength or athleticism that Locker does, but could already challenge Locker in terms of making reads under pressure and connecting with targets downfield.
If Locker has a strong 2013 season, then searching for a new quarterback in 2014 will no longer be necessary. The Titans should start evaluating their options, however, in case it becomes evident this season that the Locker experiment is not going to pan out.
Washington Redskins: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Washington Redskins will be without a first-round pick again in the 2014 NFL draft, as they once again send that draft selection to the St. Louis Rams as part of the Robert Griffin III trade. This will likely leave the Redskins out of the running to draft any of the top first-round targets.
On the draft's second day, one area the Redskins could look to address is at wide receiver. Josh Morgan and Santana Moss will both be unrestricted free agents in 2014, which would make it smart to add another weapon for Griffin to work with.
Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews is a talented downfield receiver who could be an option in Round 2.
There is a lot to like about Matthews. He is a tall wideout (listed at 6'3", 205 according to Vanderbilt's official website) who runs crisp routes and has good speed. He is not as explosive or elusive as the draft's top receivers, but he would form a strong starting duo in Washington with Pierre Garcon.
Dan Hope is an NFL draft featured columnist for Bleacher Report.