The top draft-eligible college football players in the country will soon be heading to the next level, courtesy of the 2014 NFL draft.
Every selection marks an opportunity to land the next NFL superstar, and many are found after Round 1. However, there's more pressure on general managers to land starters and potential stars with first-round picks, which hold immense value for NFL teams.
Obviously, the draft order isn't set in stone, and there will likely be some big shifts in where players end up after the Senior Bowl, pro days and the scouting combine.
That said, here's a look at what could go down in May when the league kicks off its annual draft.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Case Keenum has until the end of the 2013 season to convince Houston he's the quarterback of the future, but it's hard to imagine the Texans will feel comfortable banking on the undrafted signal-caller out of Houston.
Should Houston take Bridgewater or Clowney?
Especially when a player of Bridgewater's caliber is sitting atop the board.
Not only does Bridgewater possess the raw tools to succeed in the NFL, but he's been groomed in a pro-style system that featured a strong run game, which is Houston's preference.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator for Seattle before he landed his current position. Adding a pass-rusher like Clowney will help Bradley's current team dominate on defense like his old one in the years to come.
3. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
It only took 10 games for the Rams to figure out how to get Tavon Austin involved on offense. Now that he's become a viable threat, it's time to add another.
Austin is a slot specialist who relies on speed and quickness, but St. Louis still needs a dominant outside receiver to balance the field. Sammy Watkins is a big, strong and fast receiver, and he has the potential to become an NFL superstar in the mold of A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Falcons have needed an upgrade at offensive tackle for a few years. Thanks to a horrible 2013 campaign, they'll be able to land a legitimate elite left tackle in Matthews, who'll protect Matt Ryan's blind side for the next decade.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
For the second year in a row, Tampa Bay ranks among the league's worst teams in terms of sacks. The Bucs only registered 27 sacks in 2012 (No. 29) and have tallied only 24 this year through 12 games (No. 28).
Anthony Barr will likely be coveted by teams that feature a 3-4 defensive scheme, as he projects to be a dynamic outside linebacker in the mold of Aldon Smith. However, he also possesses the frame to attack off the edge in 4-3 schemes as a defensive end.
Either way, he's an elite prospect, and he'll greatly improve Tampa Bay's ability to attack opposing quarterbacks.
6. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
One of the players receiving the most buzz right now heading into draft season is Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently made a shocking statement, saying Carr could go No. 2 overall to the Jaguars:
Do not be surprised if Derek Carr goes No. 2 overall. More in Thursday’s Scouting Notebook.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 4, 2013
It's not unwarranted hype, though.
Carr has been unbelievably accurate and smart for the Bulldogs this year, passing for 4,462 yards with 45 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He can make every throw in the book, and he'll be heavily discussed as the draft draws closer.
7. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Before the news of his impending season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL, Zach Mettenberger would have been a good pick here, given his strong, accurate arm. The Browns need a quarterback in the worst possible way, however, and Manziel would be an intriguing option.
8. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Raiders have a couple more years of adding young talent before they'll be a viable playoff contender. Adding a dynamic pass-rusher like Khalil Mack would make Oakland's defense much better in the immediate future, though.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Every young quarterback needs a security blanket, and it doesn't hurt if said blanket can also torch defensive secondaries over the top.
Eric Ebron is a freak athlete who has star potential. He's the perfect weapon for EJ Manuel, who is accurate and who possesses the arm strength to take advantage of Ebron's elite physical tools.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Lewan's final year at Michigan wasn't his finest, and as Matt Miller of Bleacher Report recently pointed out, the offensive tackle has been "sloppy" with his technique. However, Lewan is a physically gifted player who has elite NFL potential, and the Steelers desperately need the help at his position.
11. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
There isn't a more dysfunctional offense in the NFL right now than the one playing for Rex Ryan's New York Jets. The offensive line can't protect Geno Smith, who has zero viable weapons playing alongside him.
Mike Evans has the size and speed to make huge plays down the field. Unlike Stephen Hill, who the Jets drafted last year in the hopes of sparking their offense, however, he also possesses great hands. He'd be a huge improvement over anyone currently on the team's roster.
12. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Colin McCarthy hasn't matured into the stalwart leader Tennessee needs on defense. If anything, he's gotten worse the past couple of years after a promising rookie campaign. C.J. Mosley is not only a leader, but he's a talented linebacker who can play all three positions if need be.
13. San Diego Chargers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
There's no doubt the Chargers need help in their defensive secondary, as San Diego ranks No. 28 in the league in pass defense. Adding a shut-down corner like Darqueze Dennard, who's been unbelievable for the top-ranked Spartans, would be a huge boost in this regard.
14. New York Giants: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Jon Beason has been a phenomenal addition to New York's defense since coming over in a trade with Carolina. The Giants still need to add to their linebacking corps, however.
Ryan Shazier is a speed demon who has a nose for the ball. He can attack the quarterback off the edge, stuff the run and track down receivers in coverage. He'd be a phenomenal complement to Beason on the weak side.
15. St. Louis Rams: HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Rams should add to their growing number of talented young defenders with this pick. HaHa Clinton-Dix is a hard-hitting safety who can also cover ground on the back end. He recently underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus, but he'll be good to go for the 2014 season.
16. Green Bay Packers: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The Packers must contend with Chicago and Detroit twice a year—two of the top teams in the league when it comes to receiving threats. Green Bay's defensive secondary has been a sieve this year, allowing over 3,000 passing yards and 22 touchdowns in 12 games.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a physical cornerback who loves to take on the opposing team's top receiver. He'd be a terrific addition, playing alongside Casey Hayward in the years to come.
17. Chicago Bears: Trent Murphy, OLB/DE, Stanford
Chicago's defense is a huge liability right now. The team's cornerbacks are getting old, nobody wants to tackle and the defensive line is a mess. Julius Peppers' best days are clearly behind him, and the Bears need to bring in a young pass-rusher to take over when he's gone.
Trent Murphy doesn't get a lot of publicity for what he's done at Stanford. In his past two seasons, Murphy has logged 23 sacks and 37.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
18. Baltimore Ravens: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Ravens have a viable deep threat on the perimeter in Torrey Smith, and Dennis Pitta is a great security blanket underneath. But adding a dynamic tight end like Jace Amaro would give Joe Flacco another big target, which would really stretch defenses and challenge the entire field.
19. Arizona Cardinals: Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
The Cardinals already feature one of the most formidable defensive fronts in the NFL. But Louis Nix is an elite talent who would make the unit even stronger. If he's still on the board at this point, there's no way Arizona will pass him up.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis had a rough time getting his players going early in the year, but his defense is improving on a weekly basis these days. However, talented players at core positions are still needed.
One of the most critical positions in a 3-4 scheme is defensive end. The best 3-4 defensive ends have the power, agility and speed to push the pocket and chase down ball-carriers along the line of scrimmage. Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame possesses those attributes, and he'd be a player Philly could build around.
21. Detroit Lions: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Detroit features one of the NFL's top defensive fronts, but the team's secondary remains suspect. Heading into Week 14, the Lions rank No. 26 in the NFL against the pass.
Bradley Roby hasn't been as dominant for Ohio State this year as many had expected, but he's still a first-round talent who would be an instant upgrade for the Lions.
22. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Ryan Tannehill has been relentlessly pummeled in his first two seasons as the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins also struggle to run the ball consistently. Adding Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio would help Miami in both areas of need, and at No. 22, he's a value pick.
23. Dallas Cowboys: Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
Doug Free has been a disaster for the Cowboys, and Tony Romo has suffered, as a result. Adding a young, talented athlete like Erving to play opposite Tyron Smith for the next decade would be a smart move to protect the team's franchise quarterback.
24. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
After drafting the quarterback of the future early in Round 1, the Browns with this pick can give him a big tool to succeed. Josh Gordon has become an elite player, but Cleveland still needs a reliable counterpart on the other side of the field.
Allen Robinson is a physical receiver who is most effective after the catch. While Gordon is stretching defenses vertically, Robinson would be a dangerous weapon underneath.
25. Cincinnati Bengals: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
There's a good chance defensive end Michael Johnson will be playing for another team in 2014. He's an unrestricted free agent after this year, and he'll be expensive to keep. A player who could step into the vacant spot is Vic Beasley, who's been a terror off the edge for the Clemson Tigers in 2013 (12 sacks).
26. San Francisco 49ers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Before the season began, Marqise Lee was considered to be the top receiver in the nation. Injuries have slowed him down this year, along with poor quarterback play, but he's still an elite prospect. He'd be a terrific complement to Michael Crabtree in San Francisco.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The first thing NFL teams must do to find success is beat teams within their own division. While Kansas City features a talented trio of cornerbacks, Peyton Manning has shredded the team's secondary twice this year.
Adding another physical cornerback with the size (6'0" and 200 lbs) and speed to cover big receivers would help the Chiefs win the AFC West in the years to come, even after Manning has played his last game.
28. New England Patriots: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Losing Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly spotlighted a real need for New England to bring in more talented young defensive tackles next season. Ra'Shede Hageman is a incredibly strong at the point of attack, and he could potentially play multiple positions on the line.
29. Carolina Panthers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Jason Verrett isn't a big cornerback, at 5'10" and 177 pounds. He plays much bigger than that, however, and he uses his quickness and tenacity to make up for any lack of size. Verrett would be a tremendous nickel cornerback for Carolina, which already features one of the league's top defensive units.
30. New Orleans Saints: Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State
New Orleans' defensive turnaround under Rob Ryan has been nothing short of miraculous after the Saints featured the worst defense in the league in 2012. Kenny Vaccaro is a terrific young safety, and the Saints would be smart to add another talented defensive back in Lamarcus Joyner, who has shown an ability to get after the quarterback (five sacks in 2013).
31. Denver Broncos: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
Peyton Manning makes up for offensive line deficiencies, but there's no doubt the Broncos need an upgrade at center. Travis Swanson is the top center in this year's draft class, and he'd step in as the instant starter for Denver in 2014.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Seattle typically picks up players most casual fans aren't aware exist, and Kony Ealy fits the bill. The talented defensive end is flying under the radar, but he possesses a similar frame to Aldon Smith and is starting to become an intriguing dark-horse first-rounder.
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