With their dominant 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks wrapped up the 2013 NFL season as champs.
In the coming days, the football world's focus will turn to May's NFL draft, when all 32 teams will meet in New York to select this year's crop of top college football talent. The next few weeks will become saturated with pre-draft hype, the ballyhooed NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and important pro day workouts.
Even though there won't be any more football games between now and May, stocks of players can seemingly still rise and fall. Now that the official draft order has been set, here are updated projections for the entire first round of the upcoming draft.
1. Houston Texans: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
The Houston Texans need a new franchise quarterback—there is no question about that. But this year's crop of top signal-callers doesn't feature a sure thing, so the club might as well try to bolster its already menacing pass rush.
Adding an instant-impact player like Jadeveon Clowney to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus would make Houston's defense a major force in 2014. Despite questions surrounding Clowney's effort in 2013, he'll have nothing to hold back once he reaches the NFL.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
After finishing a 7-9 in the ultra-competitive NFC West, the St. Louis Rams are in prime position to deal away this pick they acquired via the Robert Griffin III trade in 2012. With Matthews, St. Louis would get another talented tackle to anchor the right side of the line opposite Jake Long. Ultimately, I think the Rams trade this pick to a team enamored with a starting quarterback, but Matthews is the safe pick here if they elect to stay at No. 2.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Like a few other teams picking near the top of this year's draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars have major issues at quarterback that can be addressed with an early first-round selection. Out of this year's top QBs, I think Bridgewater has the best mix of athleticism and mental ability to emerge as a franchise quarterback at the next level.
Whenever Bridgewater gets selected in the draft, he's sure to become a rich man, and he already has his first purchase lined up, via Mike Huguenin of NFL.com:
"When I was in third grade, I promised my mom that I would get her a pink Cadillac Escalade," he said.
Bridgewater's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and currently is in remission.
"Pink is the color that represents breast cancer, so I just want to get her that big pink Escalade truck and see that big smile on her face."
While Bridgewater's slight frame (6'3", 205 pounds) is certainly cause for concern at the next level, his accuracy and decision-making are what make him such an attractive NFL prospect.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
The underwhelming trio of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer led the Cleveland Browns to a 4-12 record in 2013, and like many others, I suspect the club will try to address its biggest need at quarterback with this pick. While Bortles may not have the same clout as Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel, he has the size and arm strength that many NFL teams covet.
Bortles could continue to move up the draft boards with a nice showing at the combine, following a junior year in which he threw for 3,581 yards, 25 TDs and nine interceptions for Fiesta Bowl champion UCF.
5. Oakland Raiders: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Rounding out the top trio of 2014 quarterbacks, I suspect Johnny Football will end up with the Silver and Black. The team needs to move in a new direction at quarterback after the failed Matt Flynn experiment and struggles from Terrelle Pryor that vaulted undrafted rookie Matt McGloin into the starting quarterback role.
With Manziel, the Raiders would receive an unpolished player but one with the potential to turn into a true franchise player. Manziel might not have the best size (6'1", 210 pounds), but he possesses rare mobility and moxie for a college quarterback that makes him an intriguing NFL prospect.
6. Atlanta Falcons: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Ever since his dominant performance against Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game, Greg Robinson's stock has been climbing among draft pundits. There were many issues on the 2013 Atlanta Falcons, but by selecting Robinson, the team would bolster its shaky situation on the offensive line.
Veteran Sam Baker struggled at tackle before going down with a season-ending knee injury in November. Robinson is a load at 6'5", 305 pounds, and he would provide some instant competition to Baker and second-year tackle Lamar Holmes.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
New head coach Lovie Smith is regarded as a defensive guru, and he has a lot of talent on that side of the ball in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson. In Khalil Mack, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be adding a big playmaker to their pass rush.
8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
The Minnesota Vikings also had an ineffective rotating cast under center in 2013 with Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman. Carr, who excelled in the unheralded Mountain West Conference for Fresno State, might be a stretch here at No. 8, but the Vikings can ill-afford to gamble to see if he's still available in the second round.
Carr separated himself as the top signal-caller throughout the Senior Bowl process, per Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, and he appears ready to make the leap to the next level.
9. Buffalo Bills: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Sammy Watkins (6'1", 205 pounds) has been one of college football's most explosive playmakers the last three years and finished this past season with 101 catches, 1,464 yards and 12 scores. He would figure to be an instant downfield threat for 2013 first-round pick quarterback E.J. Manuel while providing a nice complement to fellow wideout Stevie Johnson.
10. Detroit Lions: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Playing in an NFC North that features elite wideouts like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson and Alshon Jeffery, the Detroit Lions need some help on the perimeter. There is debate as to who is the top cornerback in this year's class, but I think Darqueze Dennard (5'11", 197 pounds) has the athleticism and quickness that separates him from the rest of the pack. Lions corner Rashean Mathis is set to become a free agent this offseason, so Dennard could step right in as the starter in 2014.
11. Tennessee Titans: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
If Anthony Barr were to tumble to No. 11, he would be a great pick for the Tennessee Titans. New coach Ken Whisenhunt has a made a name for himself on the offensive side of the ball, but Barr would give the team a much-needed pass-rushing presence, and he figures to produce immediately in 2014.
12. New York Giants: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
At 6'2" and 238 pounds with sound football instincts, 'Bama linebacker C.J. Mosley has the ability to play inside or outside at the next level. With middle linebacker Jon Beason hoping to return to Big Blue following an impactful 2013 campaign, Mosley would provide a nice option on the outside to help shore up the front seven from last year.
13. St. Louis Rams: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
St. Louis is still in position to select a quality player with its own pick in this year's draft. Quarterback Sam Bradford needs some weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and Mike Evans certainly fits the bill. Listed at 6'5" and 225 pounds with soft hands, Evans would provide a nice possession receiver-type to complement speedy wideout Tavon Austin.
14. Chicago Bears: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Anchoring the stout defense for the national champion Florida State Seminoles was tackle Timmy Jernigan, who declared for the draft early following his junior season.
Chicago's rush defense was abysmal in 2013, giving up an average of 161.4 yards per game on the ground—by far the worst mark in the NFL. With the 6'2", 298-pound Jernigan, the team would draft a big-bodied difference-maker in the middle of the defensive line.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: NT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
When thinking of the Pittsburgh Steelers, one usually thinks of a stingy defense that's tough to run against. That wasn't the case in 2013, as the team struggled without longtime stalwart Casey Hampton in the middle of the defensive line. Louis Nix is a big fellow at 6'2", 342 pounds, and he should still be able to make an instant impact despite undergoing minor knee surgery during the 2013 season.
16. Dallas Cowboys: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
DeMarcus Ware remains one of the games elite edge-rushers, but adding the talented Kony Ealy on the other side of the field would give the opposition headaches. Ealy is a rangy defender at 6'5", 275 pounds, and he has a rare blend of athleticism that makes him a logical option for the Dallas Cowboys in the first round.
17. Baltimore Ravens: WR Marqise Lee, USC
Quarterback Joe Flacco captained a struggling offense in 2013, and Lee could provide a nice shot in the arm. He possesses great speed that would give Flacco two solid deep threats on the perimeter along with speedster Torrey Smith.
18. New York Jets: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
The New York Jets didn't receive much production from the tight end duo of Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland in 2013. With his speed, the 6'4", 245-pound Eric Ebron might be the most explosive tight end prospect since Vernon Davis. In fact, Ebron broke Davis' ACC record for receiving yards for a tight end in 2013, racking up 55 catches for 895 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season.
19. Miami Dolphins: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
After the fallout of the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation, it's no surprise that the Miami Dolphins gave up a league-worst 58 sacks in 2013. Taylor Lewan serves as the next top option in a deep class of offensive tackles, and he could step right in if Martin doesn't return to the team in 2014 as expected.
20. Arizona Cardinals: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
The Arizona Cardinals were one of the league's top teams in the second half of the 2013 season, but playing in the hard-nosed NFC West did the team no favors, as it missed out on the playoffs despite a 10-6 campaign. Offensively, the Cardinals have a big hole at tight end. After his massive junior year (106 catches, 1,352 yards, seven touchdowns), the 6'6", 260-pound Amaro has the ability to step right in and make contributions.
21. Green Bay Packers: DL Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Ra'Shede Hageman is an imposing physical force at 6'6", 311 pounds. With B.J. Raji set to test the free-agent market this winter, Hageman could fill the void. Though he might not have the same stop-plug qualities as Raji in the middle of the defense, Hageman's power and athleticism would still make him a force to be reckoned with.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: FS Calvin Pryor, Louisville
As prolific as the Philadelphia Eagles offense was in 2013, the back end of the defense was just as porous. Calvin Pryor has established himself as one of the most talented safeties in this year's class with his combination of size (6'2", 208 pounds), speed and hard-hitting ability. The Eagles finished with the league's worst pass defense in 2013, giving up an average of 289.8 yards per contest during the regular season.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
With quarterback Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs' passing offense could look stagnant at times. Other than wideout Dwayne Bowe, the QB really doesn't have any major threats through the air to keep teams honest against the pass. While there are certainly questions about Benjamin's consistency, there's no doubting that he's a talented player with size (6'5", 234 pounds) that you can't teach.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Blindside protector Anthony Collins proved himself in 2013 as a starter, and he might be getting a big pay raise in free agency because of it. If the Bengals don't want to fork over the dollars to keep Collins around, they could try to keep Andy Dalton protected by drafting Kouandjio. Though he's viewed as an unpolished product, Kouandjio moves very well for a man of his size (6'6", 311 pounds).
25. San Diego Chargers: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
There are some who see Justin Gilbert as the top cornerback in this draft. He would help shore up a Chargers secondary that had holes in 2013. Gilbert has nice size at 6'0", 200 pounds and the talent to improve a defense that gave up 258.7 yards per game through the air.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): OL Zack Martin, Notre Dame
There aren't many strengths on this Cleveland Browns team, but offensive line is one of them. Zack Martin was a decorated tackle at Notre Dame the past few years, but at 6'4", 308, many project him to be a guard at the next level. He would be a solid addition to a line that already features perennial Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas and quality center Alex Mack.
27. New Orleans Saints: LB Vic Beasley, Clemson
Defense isn't an afterthought in New Orleans anymore with coordinator Rob Ryan manning the sidelines. Vic Beasley led the ACC with 13 sacks in 2013 as a defensive end, but he projects to be a linebacker at the next level at 6'2", 235 pounds. Beasley would provide some nice depth to the Saints' outside linebacker position and a nice change of pace from Parys Haralson, a steady yet unspectacular veteran.
28. Carolina Panthers: WR Allen Robinson, Penn State
Allen Robinson terrorized opposing defenses last year and racked up 97 catches, 1,432 yards and six scores before earning various All-American honors from outlets around the country. Listed at 6'3", 210 pounds with decent speed, he can give Cam Newton a big-bodied presence in the passing game that could bring another dimension to the offense.
29. New England Patriots: DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Respected New England Patriots run-stuffer Vince Wilfork only has one more year left on his deal, and Stephon Tuitt would be a talented understudy in 2014. Tuitt has also shown versatility throughout his college career, something coach Bill Belichick always appreciates. And at 6'6.5", 312 pounds, he can move around on the front seven to help improve one of the league's worst run defenses.
30. San Francisco 49ers: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick already has a couple of solid possession receivers in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin on the outside. But the speedy Brandin Cooks would bring another element to the San Francisco 49ers offense out of the slot after posting some monster totals (128 receptions, 1,730 yards, 16 TDs) in 2013.
31. Denver Broncos: OL David Yankey, Stanford
As good as the Denver offense was all year in 2013, Seattle was able to expose the Broncos' O-line in the Super Bowl. Veteran guard Zane Beadles also struggled down the stretch. David Yankey projects to be one of the best guard-types available in this year's draft class.
32. Seattle Seahawks: WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
When you win the Super Bowl, it's clear that there aren't very many holes on the roster. But Seattle certainly could use some more help for Russell Wilson and the passing game at receiver. Beckham doesn't have great size (6'0", 193 pounds), but he proved to be an explosive playmaker in 2013, hauling in 59 receptions for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns for the LSU Tigers.
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