The 2014 NFL draft appears to be stacked with top-flight talent across several different positions, and that bodes quite well for the teams that are looking to take that next step. It obviously isn't possible for every pick to be successful, but essentially every team should be able to fill a pressing need.
In fact, the draft is so deep that it wouldn't be particularly surprising to see some teams trade down in an effort to stockpile picks throughout. Two teams already have multiple first-round picks, and it will be very interesting to see how that impacts the proceedings.
With all of that said, here is a look at the entire draft order as it currently stands along with ideal selections for every team picking in the first round.
1. Houston Texans (2-14): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
After consecutive playoff appearances, nobody could have possibly expected the Houston Texans to regress as much as they did this past season. After winning their first two games, the Texans lost 14 consecutive contests, and they now find themselves with the No. 1 overall pick. There are several issues that Houston must address, but the main one resides at the quarterback position. Neither Matt Schaub nor Case Keenum is the answer, and it's time to find a franchise guy.
This year's draft happens to be rich with talent at the quarterback position, and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater tops the list. Almost every prognosticator seems to agree that Bridgewater is the best signal-caller available, and Houston simply can't afford to pass him up. Not surprisingly, Bridgewater received a ringing endorsement from collegiate head coach Charlie Strong, according to Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle:
Strong on whether the #Texans should draft Teddy Bridgewater No. 1: "Without a doubt."— Jerome Solomon (@JeromeSolomon) January 6, 2014
The Texans have plenty of weapons on offense such as Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and Owen Daniels. They also had the No. 7 defense this past season. A stud quarterback is the lone missing ingredient, so Houston could get really good in a hurry if Bridgewater is as good as advertised. The Texans have a new head coach in Bill O'Brien, and he has a reputation for doing great things with quarterbacks. All of that points toward Bridgewater being the guy.
2. St. Louis Rams (from 3-13 Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Rams spent a first-round pick on a wide receiver last year in the form of Tavon Austin, but they could really use an all-around complement across from him. Watkins fits the bill perfectly.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Blaine Gabbert experiment is a clear failure, so it's time for the Jaguars to secure a new franchise quarterback. Jacksonville will go with the home-state guy in Bortles after his Fiesta Bowl masterpiece.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
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Two things that the Browns need more than perhaps any other team are a star quarterback and a reason for the fans to get excited. Many question whether or not Manziel can develop into the former, but he'll definitely provide the latter.
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
There is no question that the Raiders could use a quarterback, but with the top three off the board, they would be much better off addressing other needs. Matthews is arguably the top overall prospect in this draft.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Nobody expected the Falcons to go 4-12 this season, but it could prove to be a major positive. Clowney was tabbed as the surefire No. 1 overall pick in this draft entering the season, but his poor campaign negatively impacted his stock. That won't scare Atlanta away.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Bucs would be sorely disappointed to see Clowney get taken one pick ahead of them. However, a big tackle like Robinson to protect young quarterback Mike Glennon would be a great consolation prize.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Barr is ideally a 3-4 outside linebacker, and the Vikings currently run a 4-3, but Barr is too big of a talent to pass up. With Leslie Frazier out as head coach, Minnesota's defense could very well evolve anyway.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Bills could be in the most advantageous spot of any team since they'll have a myriad of options, but taking do-everything linebacker Khalil Mack out of the University at Buffalo could give the Bills one of the best defenses in football.
10. Detroit Lions (7-9): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Detroit may very well have the best front four in the league, but the secondary has been an issue for quite some time. Taking the top cornerback in the draft is a no-brainer, especially since Dennard played his college ball at Michigan State.
11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
The Titans have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, but they can't seem to put it all together. Safety is their one obvious need, and Clinton-Dix is far and away the best option.
12. New York Giants (7-9): Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Even when they were winning Super Bowls, the Giants had issues at linebacker. Shazier is a great athlete with top-notch instincts, and he would be a great fit on New York's defense.
13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
After nabbing Watkins at No. 2, the Rams continue to get richer with Kouandjio here. St. Louis could really use a right tackle, and offensive tackle just so happens to be the deepest position in the entire draft.
14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
This season was an odd one for Chicago as the offense was its strong suit while the defense lagged behind. Because their need along the defensive line is so great, the Bears will reach a bit for Ealy at No. 14.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
Protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is always a major concern for the Steelers. They may finally take steps toward doing so effectivley by nabbing Erving in this offensive tackle-rich draft.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8 pending coin flip): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Despite losing several key contributors to free agency and retirement prior to the 2013 season, the Baltimore Ravens came oh so close to reaching the playoffs.
The Ravens may not be the same team that won the Super Bowl a year ago, but they do have many of the same pieces. They simply need to replace the players that they have lost, and that starts with wide receiver Anquan Boldin. He was arguably the biggest reason why quarterback Joe Flacco played MVP-caliber football in the playoffs last season, and Flacco simply wasn't the same without him.
Torrey Smith proved capable of being a No. 1 guy, and Jacoby Jones made some plays when healthy as well, but Boldin was never sufficiently replaced. It's impossible to make up for Boldin's clutch ability and postseason experience, but the Ravens can bring in someone with a similar skill set at the very least.
Sammy Watkins will most definitely be off the board by No. 16, but Baltimore may very well get lucky and have Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans fall to them. After a monster 2013 campaign, Evans decided to declare early, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Texas A&M WR Mike Evans and Penn St. WR Allen Robinson declared for NFL draft.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 2, 2014
Like Boldin, Evans is a big, physical receiver who attacks the ball at its highest point. At 6'5" and 225 pounds, there simply isn't a corner in the NFL who can go up and get the ball like he can. Flacco had his issues in 2013 due in large part to his penchant for taking chances. He likes to throw the ball up there and let his receivers make plays. Boldin did it often and so can Evans. This seems like a match made in heaven if the Ravens are fortunate enough for Evans to drop.
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8 pending coin flip): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys had what was historically one of the worst defenses in NFL history in 2013. Their secondary was torched regularly as Dallas was No. 32 in the league against the pass, but Gilbert should help immensely in that department.
18. New York Jets (8-8): Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
It's no secret that Jets quarterback Geno Smith needs some offensive weapons in the worst way. A stud tight end would be especially helpful as a safety valve when Smith gets into trouble, and Amaro can certainly serve in that role.
19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked more times than any other signal-caller this past season. That can't happen again, and perhaps Ogbuehi can ensure that it doesn't.
20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Cardinals performed far better than anyone could have possible expected in 2013, but they still fell just short of the playoffs with a record of 10-6. Solidifying the offensive line with Lewan should make Carson Palmer and the entire offense more dangerous next season.
21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Teams ran on the Packers at will as the 2013 season wore on, and weakness at inside linebacker was a huge contributing factor. Mosley is the best this draft has to offer at the position, and Green Bay would be ecstatic to get him.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Cornerback Brandon Boykin was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, and all signs point to him being a longtime starter, but he needs help on the other side. Verrett is a consistent cover man who should add another dimension to Philly's defense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Defense was the Chiefs' biggest strength for much of the season, although the offense really came on late. Quarterback Alex Smith proved that he can be more than a game manager, and getting him a stud receiver like Lee will only help in that regard.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Some might argue that the Bengals' biggest weak link is quarterback Andy Dalton after his awful playoff performance, but Cincinnati won't give up on him quite yet. Depth in the secondary is a need, though, and Roby would provide it.
25. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Zack Martin, OG, Notre Dame
The Chargers dealt with injuries and inconsistency along the offensive line all season long, yet they still managed to persevere. Guard has been particularly troublesome, but luckily Martin is the best guard this draft has to offer.
26. Cleveland Browns (from 11-5 Indianapolis Colts): Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
It is blatantly obvious that NFL teams are placing less and less value on the running back position. Having a great running back is still important, but teams are willing to pay premium prices. That is why no backs were selected in the first round last year, and it wouldn't be shocking if the same thing happened this year. Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey is considered by most to be the best rusher in this year's class, but he was only given a second-round grade, according to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports.
After receiving a 2nd round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, #Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey is leaning toward entering the 2014 NFL Draft— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) January 4, 2014
Even so, Carey seems likely to declare. If he does, then it isn't outside the realm of possibility that he could sneak into the first round.
The Cleveland Browns are in desperate need of a featured back after cycling through the likes of Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya and Edwin Baker in 2013. They gave up on Trent Richardson, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, by trading him to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this season. With that in mind, they may be a bit gun-shy when it comes to drafting a back in the first.
Running back is a huge need, though, and taking one at No. 26 isn't quite as big of an investment. If the Browns go with Manziel earlier in the first round, then he must be put in a position to succeed. He'll already have Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron to throw to, but he'll also need a back to take some of the pressure off of him. Carey is the perfect guy to do that, and Cleveland ought to snap him up with this selection.
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Saints improved markedly this season defensively thanks to the presence of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but they could still use some fresh personnel. Outside linebacker can stand to be upgraded, and Van Noy would fit perfectly.
28. New England Patriots (12-4): Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
The Patriots have made a habit of collecting defensive linemen over the years, but they still lacked depth at the position this season due to the amount of injuries they suffered. Tuitt would be perfect as an end in Bill Belichick's defense.
29. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
It's extremely tough to pinpoint a true need on the 49ers' roster, but adding another defensive lineman to the mix can never hurt. Hageman is a big, versatile player who should be able to play in a number of different spots along the line for San Francisco.
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30. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Steve Smith is coming off a subpar season, and guys like Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn will never be confused with No. 1 receivers. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton desperately needs a top target, and the huge, athletic Benjamin fits the bill.
31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Beasley was once thought to be a top-10 prospect, but his 2013 season didn't go as well as hoped. With Von Miller working his way back from a torn ACL, the Broncos could really use another pass-rusher on the roster.
32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Seahawks are viewed by most as the NFL's best team, but quarterback Russell Wilson would really benefit from more weapons in the passing game. Ebron is far more superior than Wilson's current options at tight end in Zach Miller and Luke Willson.
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