With the 2013 NFL regular season in the books, the NFL draft order continues to take shape. The top 20 picks are now locked in as the playoff teams are set.
That means it is high time for a quick update to my 2014 NFL draft projection. This is a quick one-round update, with more detailed incarnations to come as the playoffs progress.
The St. Louis Rams seem to be sitting in the catbird seat, holding the second overall pick from the Washington Redskins in addition to their own selection at 13. The Cleveland Browns are the only other team with more than one first-round selection.
Both teams are in positions where they could take the best player available at their respective first-round picks; however, they would do well to consider trading back and stockpiling even more picks in a very deep draft.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
It's hard to say how many people pegged the Houston Texans to be the worst team in the league at the start of the season. The collapse of the Texans this season points right back to the play of their quarterbacks. With a new head coaching coming in, it will be time to bring in a different passer.
The pick here has to be Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. While not the sure thing that Andrew Luck was coming out of college, Bridgewater is a cut above the other quarterbacks in this draft. He is a fluid athlete and a natural thrower. He is mature and intelligent, possessing all the skills needed to be a successful starting quarterback.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
It's hard to imagine the St. Louis Rams won't be entertaining some significant trade offers for this pick. The Rams front office isn't shy about trading out of these sorts of picks to add future selections, so for all their needs, don't be shocked if the same thing happens again.
However, assuming they stay put and use this pick, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews makes the most sense. This team needs an upgrade on the offensive line, and drafting Matthews would give St. Louis a player to plug in for a healing Jake Long. The pick could eventually allow Rodger Saffold to move full time to guard.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
All the conversation over the course of this season has been about how the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to be the worst team in the league and their reward would be a franchise quarterback. However, plans change, and Bridgewater will no longer be an option for the Jaguars.
But don't cry for them, as their consolation prize is among the most explosive and disruptive defensive players in the country. South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is a physical freak of nature. He would add a presence on the defensive side of the football that this franchise has never had. The Jaguars will still need to address the quarterback position, but Clowney is just too good to pass up.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The Cleveland Browns can go in multiple directions here. With a new head coach on the way in, drafting a quarterback is always an option. However, given the talent at the position and the potential on the roster, they might hold off on picking a QB in the first round.
Instead, they turn to the wide receiver position and add Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. He and Josh Gordon would make up one of the most formidable tandems in the AFC. Watkins is a complete player who stands well above the rest of the wide receivers in this class.
5. Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
It is impossible to know what the Oakland Raiders are going to do in the draft. They have had a revolving door at quarterback for the bulk of the season, and none of the passers has inspired confidence. While the Raiders have options in the first round, selecting a quarterback might make the most sense.
Fresno State's Derek Carr is a strong-armed, athletic signal-caller. The mental parts of his game are still works in progress. When it comes to arm talent and athleticism, he is as good as any quarterback in this draft.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, Defensive End, UCLA
The most glaring weakness of the Atlanta Falcons is in their pass rush. For as well as many of the young players on this roster have played, there are far more questions than answers at defensive end.
UCLA pass-rush hybrid Anthony Barr looks like someone whom the Falcons could utilize as a pass-rush specialist. The coaching staff can mask his lack of size and harness his speed and explosiveness.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Khalil Mack, Defensive End, Buffalo
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another team with lots of pieces in place, but they have proved incapable to put them all together. And like the Falcons, improving the pass rush has to be a top priority this offseason.
Buffalo's Khalil Mack may have been the best defensive player in the country this year. He is another of tweener who can play either linebacker or defensive end. He and linebacker Lavonte David would make for one of the more athletic and explosive defensive tandems in the NFC.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
Well, here it goes. It was only a matter of time until Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel came off the board. The Minnesota Vikings have some excellent pieces in place on offense but struggle to find someone to get them the football.
Manziel is a polarizing figure among prospects. Some consider him nothing more than Mike Vick with a weaker arm, and others say he's the second coming of Fran Tarkenton. The Vikings will be banking on the latter when they use such a high pick on him.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
Every year, a team goes from worst to first. 2014 could be the year of the Buffalo Bills. Getting Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan to bolster a big, physical offensive line would make a lot of sense. He is a great swing tackle prospect who can play on the left or right and competes with a real nasty streak.
10. Detroit Lions: Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC
The Detroit Lions are another team that is much more talented than their record indicates. Much of the blame has fallen on quarterback Matt Stafford. If his struggles are the cause, then adding a weapon to help him would prove beneficial. USC wide receiver Marqise Lee would be a terrific complement to wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The Lions have tried for several seasons to find Johnson a proper running mate to no avail. Lee would change all that.
11. Tennessee Titans: HaHa Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans are building an impressive defense. Adding a piece like Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix could be the final piece of the puzzle. He can cover a ton of field and excels at both coverage and run support.
12. New York Giants: C.J. Mosley, Linebacker, Alabama
It is difficult to imagine that Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley could fall this far, but if he does, the New York Giants can't pass on him. Even if linebacker isn't the most pressing need, the versatile and explosive Mosley would represent the greatest value at this point in the round while still filling a significant need.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ra'Shede Hageman, Defensive Tackle, Minnesota
The Rams spend their additional first-round pick on a player to help finish what will be a talented defensive line. Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman is one of the most disruptive interior defensive players in the country. He has tremendous size and speed and plays with power and leverage.
14. Chicago Bears: Louis Nix III, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
The rebuilding of the Chicago Bears defense has begun. With their first pick in 2014, the Bears add a massive defensive tackle prospect in Notre Dame's Louis Nix III. He slips a little, but assuming he's ready to go at the start of the season, he would represent a serious upgrade in the middle of the Bears defensive front.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
The Pittsburgh Steelers' highest priority has to be to get their secondary younger and more athletic. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert gets the nod here over some other cornerbacks because his size and athleticism fit the mold of what the Steelers look for in a coverage player.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Scherff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
The offensive line has been a concern for the Baltimore Ravens all season long. Their offense has struggled because of it. The Ravens could choose to add a wide receiver to bolster the offense, but instead they'll look to improve the line and with it the run game.
Iowa's Brandon Scherff is a lunch pail-type of tackle who might not win any awards for athleticism, but he is a strong blocker who rarely misses an assignment.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State
Should the Dallas Cowboys choose to stick with their current defensive scheme, their needs are clear. They need a cornerback, and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard represents an exceptional value here. Safety or defensive end might be greater needs, so don't be shocked if they trade back here as well.
18. New York Jets: Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
Now that the New York Jets have committed to their franchise quarterback, it is time to get him some weapons. Texas A&M Mike Evans represents a fantastic value here. He is a huge wide receiver with surprising athleticism and tremendous catch radius.
19. Miami Dolphins: Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
If Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson declares for the draft, getting him this late in the first round would be a steal for the Miami Dolphins. He is super athletic and excels at blocking in space.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
The run on offensive tackles continues as the Arizona Cardinals select Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. He struggled early in the year but has come on lately. He is a devastating run blocker who is improving in pass protection.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech
Without knowing the future of tight end Jermichael Finley, adding a tight end here seems to make sense for the Green Bay Packers. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is the best all-around prospect in the draft. He is an exceptional wide receiver and improving blocker. He would be a great fit in the Packers offense.
22. San Diego Chargers: Kony Ealy, Linebacker, Missouri
The two primary needs for the San Diego Chargers at this point are outside linebacker and cornerback. Weighing out the comparative value of each position, the Chargers should be able to add a cornerback in the second round. This enables them to add Missouri's pass-rush specialist Kony Ealy to play the 3-4 rush outside linebacker position. He is a fast riser due to his huge 2013 season.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Ryan Shazier, Linebacker, Ohio State
On defense, the Philadelphia Eagles have been porous, especially against the pass. They could use an upgrade at cornerback but should be able to find one in the second round. Instead, they look to Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier for a dynamic element. He is athletic enough to drop into coverage or rush the passer and has been productive during his time at Ohio State.
24. Kansas City Chiefs: Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver, Penn State
If the Kansas City Chiefs are going to be taken seriously among the top teams in the NFL, they must be able to move the football on offense with more consistency. This means adding another wide receiver who can take some heat off Dwayne Bowe. Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson is one of the best players in the country with the football in his hands, and he can do a little of everything at the position.
25. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU
There are several ways that the Cincinnati Bengals can go here. They have no glaring areas of weakness, so they can draft the best player on their board: TCU cornerback Jason Verrett. He is the most technically sound cornerback in the draft and does well in both man and zone schemes.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): Blake Bortles, Quarterback, UCF
Taking UCF quarterback Blake Bortles in the first round might feel like a reach, but for a team in dire need of a quarterback like the Cleveland Browns, they have to get him while they can. He has an impressive mix of size and athletic ability with a more-than-adequate arm. Questions about whether he can handle the complexity of the NFL are legitimate, but he looks poised to make a considerable jump.
27. New Orleans Saints: Bradley Roby, Cornerback, Ohio State
For the New Orleans Saints, it comes down to adding a wide receiver or cornerback at this point in the draft. Both positions hold similar value, so the Saints can't go wrong either way. The depth of the wide receiver position does give cornerback a slight edge.
As a result, Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby is the pick. He has slipped a little due to some inconsistent play, but he plays with elite speed, which can't be taught or coached.
28. New England Patriots: Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
During the season, the New England Patriots have counted on rookie defensive tackles. This makes an impact defensive tackle a top priority. Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald is an underrated prospect who has progressed quickly as the season has gone on. He is nearly impossible to block with a single lineman, and his ability to be scheme versatile fits perfectly with the Patriots system.
29. San Francisco 49ers: Jarvis Landry, Wide Receiver, LSU
Wide receiver is the only glaring weakness on the San Francisco 49ers roster. The 49ers would be well-served to bring in a player who can line up opposite wide receiver Michael Crabtree for the long haul. LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry is explosive and fast and provides everything that the 49ers offense needs. He can stretch the field and still work the middle on the short and intermediate routes.
30. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, FSU
When the Panthers have a quarterback as talented as Cam Newton, they need to surround him with weapons. As wide receiver Steve Smith starts to wind down his career, it is time to add a fresh skill player into the fold. Florida State wideout Kelvin Benjamin is a massive, athletic target. His catch radius would provide Newton a formidable target, especially in the red zone.
31. Denver Broncos: Vic Beasley, Defensive End, Clemson
It is hard to look at a team that puts up the gaudy numbers that the Denver Broncos do and see a lot of holes. However, on defense, this team could improve its pass rush. That's where Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley comes in. He is great at dropping his hand on the ground and turning the corner on a tackle. He is a bit undersized but shows a great burst and closing speed.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
If you are the proud owners of the final pick in the round, your season was a rousing success. The Seattle Seahawks don't have a lot of problems on either side of the football. However, a key to building this offense is to put weapons around franchise quarterback Russell Wilson. Eric Ebron is very much a receiving tight end, and he would provide Wilson with a nice big target who can make plays with the football in his hands.