2014 NFL Draft: Best-Case Scenario for Teams at Top of 1st Round
The 2013 NFL season is over halfway complete, and as the games begin to wind down, the playoff contenders are becoming clear. Conversely, the teams that are going to be making draft selections early have become clear as well.
While every team has at least two wins this season, some are more surprising than others. The Jacksonville Jaguars being near the bottom isn't exactly a shock, but the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons had playoff hopes this year yet are mired at the bottom of the rankings.
As a result, any mock drafts done earlier in the season are completely useless even though the big board has not changed all that much for 2014.
With only five games to go, which top draft prospects are the best selections the players could make? There are bottom-of-the-barrel teams that do not need a quarterback this year, so the best-case scenario could come from any position.
The Jacksonville Jaguars seemed so bad the first half of the season that there were rumblings of them going 0-16. Since their bye week, they have won two of their past three games and they do not have plans to be the bottom team in the league so easily.
Chad Henne is playing just well enough to lead the Jaguars to the occasional win, but neither he nor Blaine Gabbert is the long-term answer. The Jaguars have some talent in Luke Joeckel, Cecil Shorts and others on offense, they just need a quarterback to capitalize on it.
The easy best-case answer here would simply be any quarterback, but they need a franchise guy the team can rally around, much more so than the other 31 teams.
Scouts have been enamored with Teddy Bridgewater for one reason: He can be that franchise guy for an NFL team. If you place him in Jacksonville even now, suddenly it is a team that wins some games in the AFC South.
Speaking of the AFC South, the Texans looked like they had everything in place to make a deep playoff run this year. Instead, fans began to boo Matt Schaub, he got injured and they have yet to win a game since starting the season 2-0.
I would never have thought they would need a quarterback in the draft a season ago, but the bridge has been burnt with Schaub, the team has no confidence in T.J. Yates and Case Keenum is simply not getting it done despite loads of talent on offense.
The best-case scenario will depend greatly on the coaching staff next season, since Gary Kubiak, with his health and the team's struggles, is almost certainly on the way out. No matter who the coaching staff is next year, they need a playmaker who can get things done and get the locker room excited again.
Who better to do that than Johnny Manziel? Bringing in the local talent would help out with morale, and with the likely departure of Ben Tate next year, they will need another guy who can run to help out Arian Foster.
The Minnesota Vikings are the most frustrating team on the list. They tied against the Green Bay Packers last week, and as such are 2-8-1 rather than 2-9 like the other teams on this list. More importantly, they have so many holes on both sides of the ball that trading down to acquire several first-round picks may not be a bad idea, much like they did last year.
For all the holes on offense and defense they have, they have used three quarterbacks, and none have worked out. Christian Ponder is a bust at this point, and the Vikings will have to move on from him.
Which quarterback fits best for them? It's the other reason they are frustrating. Based on their playing style and the coaching staff, there is not one player I can look at and see him playing in Minnesota without a second thought.
As much as they need a quarterback, they need a leader more. That's why the best fit for them would be Anthony Barr. Jared Allen is likely gone after this season, and having that pass rush was one of Minnesota's strengths for some time. If the Vikings can draft a guy who can get double-digit sacks, then that can take the pressure off Adrian Peterson and whoever may be quarterback next year.
The Atlanta Falcons had an offense that should have been a powerhouse in the NFC this year. Instead, the running game has disappeared, the offensive line has struggled and once Julio Jones was out for the year that severely hurt the passing game as well.
Despite the issues there, Jones' return and some free-agent fixing on the line can make them solid in 2014. The defense is another story, however. Honestly, if they wanted to use every single draft pick on defense, particularly the defensive line, I would be fine with that.
Osi Umenyiora is the only one able to disrupt an opposing offense while getting to the quarterback. An extra person doing that would be great.
That is what makes Jadeveon Clowney a no-brainer to the Falcons. He is the best defensive prospect in some time, he can lead a front seven in the NFL and the Falcons will actually have a player on defense opposing offensive lines would be somewhat worried about.