The college football season is over, and the NFL has just three games left before a new Super Bowl champion is crowned. That means the 2014 NFL draft is on the horizon, and teams have fully shifted their focus to the offseason.
In today's landscape, the stock of draft prospects can seemingly rise and fall dramatically with upcoming college all-star games and the important NFL scouting combine. There is still plenty of playoff drama to unfold for the league, but that doesn't mean it's too early to do some first-round projections for all 32 teams.
Here's an updated look at the draft order following the divisional round action, complete with predictions for each selection.
1. Houston Texans: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
The Texans' 2013 season was plagued with poor quarterback play from the combination of Matt Schaub and Case Keenum. It's clear that the Texans need a new franchise player under center after 14 straight losses to end the year, and Bridgewater is the safest bet of the top quarterbacks in this class.
While Houston doesn't have the luxury of having a surefire stud to choose from at No. 1—like Andrew Luck in 2012—Bridgewater brings a lot of upside and potential to the table. He recently declared for the draft after a junior season in which he completed 71 percent of his passes, totaling 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions.
The main concern regarding Bridgewater is whether or not his 6'3", 205-pound frame can withstand the physical toll of a 16-game NFL season. But with his accuracy, sharp decision-making and athleticism, Bridgewater should be able to step in and contribute from Day 1.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Washington Redskins fans must be dreading the upcoming draft, as their team's No. 2 overall selection is headed to the Rams as part of the Robert Griffin III trade two years ago. After going 7-9 in the ultra-competitive NFC West, St. Louis is in a great position to trade back and stock up more valuable selections to go along with their own No. 13 pick.
But if the Rams stay here, they might as well get the most talented player on the board, and that would be Clowney. Sure, there are questions about his effort and attitude, but a player with Clowney's ability is rare.
He's a beast at 6'6" and 274 pounds, and he should become an instant impact player at the next level. Adding him to a pass rush that already features Robert Quinn (19 sacks in 2013) and Chris Long (8.5) would give St. Louis an elite defensive front.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Blake Bortles may be a safer NFL prospect at this point, but Manziel has the chance to be a superstar. Either way, the Jaguars need a quarterback, because Blaine Gabbert, the team's first-round pick in 2011, certainly hasn't panned out.
Manziel is known for being a dual-threat under center, but his passing stats alone stand up with the best of them:
Aside from giving the Jaguars a primetime player at their biggest position of need, Johnny Football would put butts in the seats for Jacksonville, which ranked 28th in attendance in 2013 (59,940 per game). Bortles might not have the same affect for third-year owner Shahid Khan, who will likely be looking for a franchise player with the expected departure of Maurice Jones-Drew via free agency.
As Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com noted, Jacksonville offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch enjoys having a mobile quarterback, so Manziel would be an intriguing option for the team to build around.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Cleveland clearly doesn't have a long-term answer at quarterback, and Bortles helped his stock with a nice showing in the Fiesta Bowl—going 20-of-31 for 301 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while also adding 93 yards and another score on the ground—and leading UCF to a 52-42 upset of Baylor.
Bortles, a prototypical pocket passer, has vaulted into the national spotlight following a second stellar season as UCF's starter in 2013. He finished with 3,581 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season, and he has good size at 6'4" and 230 pounds.
5. Oakland Raiders: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The Raiders could go a number of ways after another dismal season, and they will especially need some help across the board on defense. The team should also consider trading up to the No. 2 spot with St. Louis in order to get a quarterback after subpar seasons from both Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin.
But the Raiders will likely want to hold on to all of their draft picks and not mortgage the future like the Al Davis regime would, and Watkins would provide the team with the best chance to land a rookie playmaker at a position of need.
Offensive tackle Jake Matthews is worth a look here, but the team spent a high second-round pick on Menelik Watson last year, and his season was essentially wasted due to injury.
6. Atlanta Falcons: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Matthews is widely viewed as the top tackle prospect available after serving as a valuable protector for Manziel and the high-octane Aggies offense. Among the many issues for Atlanta is the offensive line, where starting left tackle Sam Baker was struggling before going down with a season-ending knee injury in November.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com analyzed the strong group of offensive linemen set to be drafted in May, with Matthews topping the list.
With Baker's injury concerns, Matthews could jump right into the mix as a starting tackle option along with the Baker and Lamar Holmes, who just wrapped up his second season with the Falcons.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
The Bucs have a hired a defensive-minded coach in Lovie Smith, and he would be able to work wonders with Mack, a talented pass-rusher who proved to be one of the NCAA's best linebackers in 2013.
Tampa Bay has talent on the back end of the defense with cornerback Darelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson, but the pass-rushing Mack would provide a big boost to the front seven.
8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
Minnesota's quarterback situation was also one to forget in 2013, as the carousel of Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel led the team to a 5-10-1 record.
It might be a stretch to draft Carr this high, but the position is such a huge need that the Vikings need to pull the trigger. Minnesota could also deal this pick, too, as it can trade back and hope Carr is still available a little later in the round, or they could trade up and go for a franchise guy.
9. Buffalo Bills: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Robinson made the most of the big stage in the BCS championship game, showing some mauling ability against a powerful Florida State defensive line. The day after the Tigers lost the game in last-minute fashion, Robinson announced on Twitter that he would be leaving for the NFL:
The Bills gave up 48 sacks last year, which was tied for fourth-worst in the NFL, and Robinson would provide a nice compliment to young tackle Cordy Glenn.
10. Detroit Lions: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Detroit's secondary was suspect in 2013, and Dennard has all the tools to be a shutdown corner, which is key in an NFC North that features top wideouts like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson and Alshon Jeffery.
With starting cornerback Rashean Mathis set to hit free agency, Dennard makes sense for the Lions at No. 10.
11. Tennessee Titans: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Barr has been touted by some as a top-five talent, and he would be a great value pick for the Titans if he's still around at No. 11.
Barr is a skilled edge rusher who would bolster Tennessee's quality pass defense, which ranked 11th in 2013, giving up an average of just 225.8 yards per game through the air.
12. New York Giants: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
It sounds like middle linebacker Jon Beason and the Giants will try to work out an agreement this offseason, per Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News, after the respected veteran made a big impact on Big Blue in 2013. However, Mosley is versatile enough to move to outside linebacker in the NFL, and he should be able to contribute right away after serving as a leader on the stout Crimson Tide defense pver the past two-plus seasons.
13. St. Louis Rams: OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
The Rams are still in position to get a quality player with their second pick of the first round. While Matthews makes sense for the Rams at No. 2, they could select Clowney first and still select a high-ceiling tackle prospect like Kouandjio at this point in the round.
Kouandijo looked a step slow against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, but he is still viewed as one of top tackles available. Playing for St. Louis, he could learn immensely from Jake Long and give the Rams another quality bookend.
14. Chicago Bears: DL Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
No team was worse at stopping the run than the Bears in 2013—and it wasn't even close. Chicago's 161.4 rushing yards allowed per game was 25 yards more than No. 31-ranked Atlanta (135.8), and the athletic Hageman is a versatile option for a defense that may be shifting from its 4-3 alignment under coordinator Mel Tucker.
Not only can Hageman slot in as a tackle in a 4-3 defense, but he also has the size at 6'6" and 311 pounds to be a solid defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: NT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
Longtime Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton was sorely missed following his retirement in 2012. After featuring a top-five rush defense for the better part of a decade, Pittsburgh ranked 21st in 2013, giving up 115.6 yards on the ground per game.
Hampton's replacement, Steve McLendon, admittedly didn't play up to par during the season, and Nix would be a stout option to try and build around. Listed at 6'2" and 342 pounds, Nix is a load, and his draft status shouldn't be affected by minor knee surgery that ended his season early.
16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
The Ravens' offense wasn't the same in 2013 without a reliable possession receiver like Anquan Boldin. The team already has a home-run threat in wideout Torrey Smith, but Evans is a big-bodied target who features some sure hands and would be a nice compliment in the passing game.
The 6'5", 218-pound Evans declared early after his sophomore year as Manziel's top target, hauling in 69 catches for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns.
17. Dallas Cowboys: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
The Dallas defense was in shambles by the end of the year, but a talented pass-rusher like Ealy could be a game-changer for the Cowboys.
Mizzou teammate Michael Sam may have put up bigger numbers in 2013, but the 6'5", 275-pound Ealy figures to have a brighter NFL future. Pairing him with DeMarcus Ware would give opposing teams fits.
18. New York Jets: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
New York's 2013 tight ends, Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow, don't have much upside going forward, and this year's class features two intriguing options at the position in Ebron and Jace Amaro. I suspect the Jets will be enamored with Ebron's athleticism and speed, as the 6'4", 245-pound tight end moves like a receiver.
19. Miami Dolphins: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Following the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito fiasco, it's no surprise that the Dolphins gave up a league-worst 58 sacks in 2013.
With Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi and Florida State's Cameron Erving both returning to school in 2014, Lewan is the best remaining choice to replace Martin at tackle if the latter doesn't come back to the organization.
20. Arizona Cardinals: S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Arizona's defense is a piece or two away from joining the league's elite after leading the league in rushing yards allowed per game in 2013 (84.4).
The team could use a new middle linebacker if Karlos Dansby leaves via free agency, but there are no top-notch prospects at the position—besides Mosley, who will likely be long gone by No. 20.
Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers are locked in as the team's cornerbacks, but the team could look at an upgrade at safety with Clinton-Dix.
21. Green Bay Packers: DL Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
In November, Bob McGinn of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that B.J. Raji left a multi-year offer from the Packers on the negotiating table, a sign that Raji is set to test his value on the open market.
Tuitt (6'6", 312 lbs.) doesn't have the same stop-plug presence in the middle of the defense as Raji, but he is a big and fluid athlete who could be molded into a big force for the Pack.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
For as much improvement as the Eagles showed defensively in the second half of the regular season, the team still finished dead last in passing yards allowed per game (289.8). Gilbert is a talented corner who could help turn the tide in the team's weakest area.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marqise Lee, USC
Aside from Dwayne Bowe, quarterback Alex Smith doesn't have many reliable options in the passing game.
Lee has shown great flashes of athleticism and playmaking ability during his time at USC, and he would provide a home-run threat for an offense that could be deadly with another dimension alongside elite running back Jamaal Charles.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Vontaze Burfict has emerged as the anchor in the middle of Cincinnati's menacing defense, which ranked at the top of the AFC in terms of points allowed per game (19.1) and yards allowed per game (305.5).
James Harrison will turn 36 in May and is under contract for just one more season. Shazier could be a talented understudy and substitute on the outside before growing with Burfict and Rey Maualuga.
25. San Diego Chargers: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
The lack of San Diego's depth in the secondary was crucial in the team's season-ending loss to the Denver Broncos in the divisional round. Verrett is another one of this year's talented cornerbacks who figures to be pressed into duty with big responsibilities in 2013, regardless of where he ends up.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): OL Zack Martin, Notre Dame
The Browns already have a talented offensive line nucleus with perennial Pro Bowler Joe Thomas and two-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack.
Martin had a decorated four-year career at tackle with the Fighting Irish, but at 6'4" and 308 pounds, he projects to to be a guard at the next level.
27. New Orleans Saints: LB Vic Beasley, Clemson
A lot of linebackers are expected to be taken off the board in the first round, and Beasley is another pass-rusher who showed a lot of promise in 2013, leading the ACC with 13 sacks.
New Orleans forged a defensive identity under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan, who would be able to use a powerful player like Beasley.
28. Carolina Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Benjamin certainly passes the eye test as an NFL receiver at 6'5" and 234 pounds. He also showed that he can make plays in the clutch, as his last-minute touchdown grab from Jameis Winston gave FSU a comeback victory over Auburn in the BCS title game.
*29. New England Patriots: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Rob Gronkowski is a major injury concern at this point, and the Patriots love tight ends.
Amaro fits the mold as an athletic and versatile option for Tom Brady, and he would be counted on for instant production after putting up 106 catches for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns for the Red Raiders in 2013.
*30. San Francisco 49ers: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
San Francisco's roster has very few holes to address, as evidenced by the team's run to its third straight NFC championship game.
If there's one area where the Niners could really use more depth, though, it's at receiver, where there is little behind Michael Crabtree and Boldin. Cooks (5'10", 186 lbs.) is a speedy slot type who would bring a new element to the team that already has solid possession receivers.
*31. Denver Broncos: DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State
Denver clearly needs to address its defense in this draft, as the unit showed cracks throughout the season and benefited from a record-setting year from Peyton Manning and the offense.
Crichton is a fluid athlete at 6'3" and 265 pounds, and he could be a replacement for Shaun Phillips and/or Robert Ayers, who are both set to be free agents after this season.
*32. Seattle Seahawks: OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Richardson is among the top candidates to produce as a guard at the next level, and he would certainly push for a starting job in Seattle next year. Injuries riddled the Seahawks offensive line this year, and adding a young player like Richardson would only help the cause.
*Slots are not yet official and are projected based upon regular-season record and strength of schedule.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!