The end of the 2013-14 NFL season has created legitimate excitement surrounding this year’s draft and the predictions for the latest mock draft.
With the scouting combine and pro days likely shaking the entire first round to its core, this is how the first 32 selections should go as before NFL teams get to sit down with the top prospects.
Here are the best moves for each team selecting in the first round.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Houston Texans are open to the idea of dealing the No. 1 overall draft pick. With few players possessing the raw size, talent and intangibles that South Carolina pass-rushing defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has, he could easily be the top selection in the pass-happy NFL.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
As much as Houston could trade away the top pick, the St. Louis Rams could easily move the No. 2 overall selection in 2014 to further stockpile picks and build a long-term winner. If the franchise is forced to take a player at No. 2, Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews is the ideal prospect.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
An organization that has lacked direction for as long as the Jacksonville Jaguars have should be willing to try anything to make the team better. If Texas A&M quarterback prospect Johnny Manziel is available at No. 3, this is the smartest pick for the new face of the franchise.
4. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
If the picks unfold as I have predicted, the Cleveland Browns will be the luckiest team in the 2014 NFL draft. Many experts believe that Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater is the top quarterback in the draft, and he would be the perfect reset for the Browns.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Oakland Raiders have always been a franchise obsessed with speed at wide receiver, but Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is so much more than that. With the best consistency of any pass-catcher in the draft, Watkins would be a star in Oakland or any city that selects him.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
There are several teams looking for help on the pass rush, but few have as much raw talent already as the Atlanta Falcons. UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr is the versatile player the defense desperately needs.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise must get back to basics, and that includes rebuilding the offensive line. A top offensive tackle like Auburn’s Greg Robinson would be the perfect addition to the team.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
With three former starting quarterbacks on the roster—none of which actually deserve to start in 2014—the Minnesota Vikings must take the educated risk by drafting Central Florida QB prospect Blake Bortles.
9. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills should be looking to the University of Buffalo and dual-threat defensive end Khalil Mack. Not only is Mack a hometown hero, but with the ability to rush the passer and stop the run, he’s the versatile defender the Bills need.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Offensively, there are few franchises that can compare to the Detroit Lions, but there have been major struggles in the defensive secondary. The key to stop many of the big-play woes for the team is standout Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
After struggling against the run throughout last season, the Tennessee Titans must add consistency and toughness through the middle of their defense. That starts with Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The biggest key to success for the New York Giants is quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants must protect their investment by drafting an offensive lineman like Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
After taking an offensive lineman at No. 2 overall—or trading the pick away altogether—adding a serious weapon to the wide receiver group like Texas A&M star Mike Evans should be an easy selection.
14. Chicago Bears: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Chicago Bears were flat out one of the worst teams in the NFL against the run, and addressing the need for a run-stopping defensive tackle by selecting Notre Dame’s Louis Nix would be the perfect addition.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The secondary for the Pittsburgh Steelers is getting old. While there is no doubt that Troy Polamalu is still a viable starter, drafting a long-term replacement with Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a good start for the next generation of hard-nosed defenders.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The injury to tight end Dennis Pitta was one of the biggest issues for the Baltimore Ravens this season, and adding a player like North Carolina tight end prospect Eric Ebron would give quarterback Joe Flacco a serious threat in the passing attack.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
While the Dallas Cowboys could look to the secondary with their first-round selection, the possibility that the franchise could draft a talented offensive lineman like Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio is the long-term project the franchise needs.
18. New York Jets: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
If the New York Jets want young quarterback Geno Smith to survive as the starter, the franchise must draft weapons to surround him. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is the short-pass threat Smith needs as a safety valve.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The need for offensive line help in Miami is obvious. The Dolphins will find the offensive tackle of the future with Notre Dame’s Zack Martin. This is the smartest possible decision.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Finding another complement to Larry Fitzgerald would be a huge help for quarterback Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals, and USC’s Marqise Lee would be the ideal pick. Arizona must go offensive line in the second and third rounds, though.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
The biggest offseason need for the Green Bay Packers is at safety. If Louisville free safety Calvin Pryor is available at No. 21, the franchise will have the player it needs for the future.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The biggest flaw for the Philadelphia Eagles was the lackluster play of the defensive secondary. The perfect solution to the problem would be versatile Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Kansas City Chiefs need depth at wide receiver, and the franchise couldn’t ask for a better talent at No. 23 overall than Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Wide receiver A.J. Green may be one of the best in the league, but Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton needs more help at the position. A skilled receiver like LSU’s Odell Beckham would be an ideal complement.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
After making a surprise run into the playoffs, the San Diego Chargers must get better in the secondary if the team wants to make another trip to the postseason. TCU cornerback Jason Verrett would fit San Diego perfectly.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
With the pick the Cleveland Browns acquired in the Trent Richardson deal, the team should look to a defensive end like Missouri’s Kony Ealy who can step up against the pass and the run.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
With the NFC South so heavily dependent on quarterback play, the New Orleans Saints must find a consistent outside linebacker who can get pressure on opposing QBs. Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier is a rough prospect, but he has the potential to be a star.
28. Carolina Panthers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The Carolina Panthers need a wide receiver. Penn State’s Allen Robinson is rough around the edges, but he has the raw ability and intangibles to make this late first-round pick worth the investment.
29. New England Patriots: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Another team that has struggled stopping the run has been the New England Patriots. With the need to pressure the quarterback as well, dual-threat defensive end Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame would be a smart fundamental addition.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
San Francisco proved that it needed to add depth and talent at wide receiver this offseason, and Oregon State pass-catcher Brandin Cooks would be an ideal addition late in the first round.
31. Denver Broncos: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Denver Broncos need to get back to basics this offseason. Whether it’s the offensive line or defensive line, the Broncos must address the needs in the trenches first and foremost. Adding a defensive tackle like Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh is the smart move.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
There isn’t much for the Seattle Seahawks to address this offseason, but there are never enough elite offensive linemen on a team. With serious long-term potential, Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses would be a smart first-round selection.
*All stats and info via NFL.com.
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