The Houston Texans are on the clock as draft season is in full swing. With the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine just days away and pro days following soon after, scouts will begin to get better ideas of what draft prospects will be able to contribute on the NFL level.
For now, we are able to gauge what these athletes are capable of producing based on their performances in college. The draft is a fluid process, and players will continue to rise and fall on draft boards until draft day finally comes on Thursday, May 8th.
Based on current team needs and schemes, let's take a look at how the draft could possibly shake out if it happened today.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Even though the Texans are in dire need of a quarterback, there are still arguments as to whether they should pass up a signal-caller for dominating defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Not a chance.
Exactly RT @NFL_CFB: Mayock: Bridgewater not as much of a wild card as Manziel and more developed in reads than Bortles.— Nathan Zegura (@NathanZegura) February 18, 2014
Despite Clowney being a possible once-in-a-lifetime prospect, the Texans already have a solid core of talent offensively and defensively. They are simply missing a quarterback that can get them back into playoff contention.
Much like the 2013 Chiefs, a change at the position can do wonders for an NFL franchise. Bridgewater has the skill set and intelligence to come in and start immediately. He gives the Texans the best chance of success in the 2014 season.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
How likely are the Rams to trade this pick?
Although the Rams already have two dominant pass-rushers in Robert Quinn and Chris Long, adding the talented Clowney here would give the defense a tremendous amount of versatility. In a pass-happy league, it's important to generate a great amount of pressure. A defensive package that puts all three of these players on the field at the same time would do just that.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Football comes off the board with the No. 3 selection. The Jaguars have been lacking a playmaking signal-caller for a long time, and Manziel would be the answer to that problem.
Mike Mayock on Johnny Manziel: "He's a different evaluation. He was like a combination of Fran Tarkenton and Doug Flutie vs. Alabama."— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) February 18, 2014
Not only can Manziel create yards with his arm and his legs, but he would bring the star power that the Jaguars have been missing. The addition of Manziel would give a giant boost to both the Jaguars offense and the stadium's attendance.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Yes, the Browns are in desperate need of a quarterback. However, with Manziel off the board, they may go elsewhere. Another problem with Cleveland's offense has been a lack of weapons. Josh Gordon has been a revelation, but he needs a complement on the other side of the field.
There are some great quarterback prospects who could be available either later in the first round or in the second round. Cleveland will look to fill the need at the quarterback position at some point in the draft—just not here.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
With Watkins off the board, the Raiders will look to the defensive side of the ball. In a division that features quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers, Oakland will look to combat those high-octane offenses with an improved pass rush.
Mack is a speedy player who has a quick burst off the line. He can bring versatility to this defense by contributing either as an outside linebacker in a hybrid 3-4 scheme or a defensive end in a base 4-3 defense.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The chips have fallen the right way for the Falcons here. After suffering multiple injuries on offense—along with poor play from the offensive line—Atlanta saw a quick fall from grace. Matthews can protect quarterback Matt Ryan for the remainder of his career. He is an NFL-ready prospect who will improve the offense in a drastic way from Day 1.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
With Lovie Smith taking the reins as the new head coach in Tampa Bay, he will look to bring in more athletic linebackers to bolster the defensive front. Barr is a do-it-all linebacker who can flourish against the run, as a pass-rusher and in coverage.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Vikings should be doing back flips to get Bortles at No. 8 overall. At 6'4" and 230 pounds, he is the epitome of an NFL quarterback. Bortles needs some work on his technique; however, once he is polished, the Vikings will get a strong-armed quarterback with surprising athletic ability.
9. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
With Mario Williams and Kiko Alonso already in the fold in Buffalo, the rich just keep getting richer. Being able to produce a consistent pass rush, stuff the run and remain stout in coverage is the recipe for success for an NFL team—just look at the Seattle Seahawks. With the addition of Mosley, Buffalo will not be too far off that pace.
10. Detroit Lions: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy lining up at defensive tackle, showing off his versatility. Athletically, he’ll draw some Aldon Smith comparisons.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 1, 2013
The Lions need to combat the pass-happy NFC North in a big way. They could look at the secondary here, but adding an elite pass-rusher would be just as effective. While the Lions cornerback corps continues to develop, Ealy will help in a big way by producing a big amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
11. Tennessee Titans: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Titans have a young, fast defense already, and adding Clinton-Dix to the secondary would only continue that trend. Clinton-Dix is a physical safety but flourishes in coverage, as he can read the quarterback's eyes and make a decisive jump toward the ball. The back end of this defense just got a whole lot better.
12. New York Giants: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
After throwing 27 interceptions in 2013, rest assured that quarterback Eli Manning will want some better protection along the offensive line. Robinson is one of the most NFL-ready prospects in this year's draft and will cover Eli's blind side for years to come.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
4.4, probably in 4.47 range RT @tdogg14: any idea on what Mike Evans 40 time will be?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 18, 2014
The Rams already have some great young players on the offensive side of the ball. Both Tavon Austin and Zac Stacy lit it up as rookies in 2013. However, they are still in need of a big target on the outside. Evans, at 6'5" and 225 pounds, will be exactly that for this developing offense.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Bears were atrocious against the run last season. Ranking dead last in the league and allowing an average of 161.4 yards per game on the ground does not sit well for a historically good defensive team. Donald is the answer to that problem, as he can slice his way into the backfield and effectively plug up running lanes.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Should the Steelers go defensive tackle here?
The Steelers had the same problem as the Bears last season. Normally solid against the run, they saw a drop-off in effectiveness in 2013. The big-bodied Nix, at 6'3" and 357 pounds, is a perfect fit as the nose tackle in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme.
16. Baltimore Ravens (pending coin flip): Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Let's look at the numbers: Joe Flacco put up an 87.7 passer rating in 2012 with a solid corps of wide receivers. In 2013, with a lackluster unit, he was able to muster a passer rating of only 73.1. That seems like a problem that needs to be immediately rectified. Adding the speedy Lee as a complement to Torrey Smith would do just that.
17. Dallas Cowboys (pending coin flip): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Cowboys had one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL last season. Allowing an average of 286.8 passing yards per game, they finished the year ranked 30th in the league. Cornerback play was a huge contributor to those woes, and adding an elite talent like Dennard would do wonders.
Dennard, a physical press corner, excels on an island in man coverage which will allow the rest of the secondary to shift to the opposite side of the field. Dallas just improved in a big way.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Adding Ebron makes perfect sense for a team that hasn't announced its starter at quarterback for 2014. Geno Smith was less-than-average—to put it kindly—in 2013. However, a lack of weapons was a big cause for his struggles. Ebron is a fast, big-bodied tight end who can create mismatches on seam routes and in the red zone.
19. Miami Dolphins: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Miami's offense made huge strides in 2013 thanks to the improved play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. As their signal-caller continues to develop, protecting him becomes a priority. Lewan is a mauler in the trenches who can give Tannehill a clean pocket or clear gaping running lanes for the Dolphins backfield.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Carson Palmer had a resurgent season in 2013. Larry Fitzgerald restructured his contract over the offseason to stay in Arizona. Running back Andre Ellington looked very impressive during his limited carries last season. Taking all of those things into consideration, it would be very difficult for the Cardinals to pass up on a big, strong offensive tackle like Kouandjio here.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Packers have one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses when Aaron Rodgers is healthy. The problem is that opponents regularly combat that with aerial assaults of their own. Because of this, adding talent to the back end of this defense becomes a priority. Pryor is a very physical corner who also has great ball skills. He will start immediately and provide a big boost to Green Bay's secondary.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Finalizing game notes on Justin Gilbert (CB-OKState). Would have drafted him over any CB not-named Patrick Peterson in last three classes.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 24, 2014
The Eagles just barely missed out on Pryor, as safety is this team's top need. However, they really do need help in all aspects of the secondary after allowing an average of 289.8 passing yards per game in 2013—ranking dead last in the league. Gilbert has the speed to shadow receivers and the natural ability to undercut routes. This ball hawk is not a bad consolation prize for Philadelphia.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Kansas City's offense came to life last year after the additions of head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith. They need to add playmakers at the wide receiver position, and Beckham is a perfect fit. Excelling in underneath slants and crossing routes, he is the ideal receiver for this West Coast offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
What is the Bengals' biggest need?
Verrett may not be the biggest cornerback, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in quickness and physicality. Now that Terence Newman and Adam Jones are getting older, and Leon Hall is a constant injury concern, adding an injection of youth here with Verrett makes a ton of sense.
25. San Diego Chargers: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Chargers could use a cornerback here, but with Verrett off the board, they will fill another need. This offense flourished in 2013 under head coach Mike McCoy. Keeping quarterback Philip Rivers upright is an absolute necessity.
Even though San Diego could use a guard more so that an tackle, Martin has the versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line. Adding him into the mix will allow the Chargers to get the best-possible mix of players in front of Rivers in 2014.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
After grabbing Watkins earlier in the draft, it's time for the Browns to nab their quarterback of the future. Carr possesses all of the traits of an NFL signal-caller. Standing at 6'3" and weighing 218 pounds, Carr has the frame, arm and intelligence to flourish in the NFL. Cleveland finally got its franchise quarterback.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense quickly took shape in New Orleans last season. Finishing as the fourth-ranked unit in the NFL in 2013, this marked a huge turnaround. Now, adding scheme-friendly pieces is the next order of business. Shazier is a natural leader and sure-tackler. He doesn't have much speed, but his intelligence will allow him to flourish as a do-it-all linebacker in the NFL.
28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Carolina's defense really took shape in 2013 and finished second in the NFL. The offense began to improve as well, as Cam Newton proved that he is the future of the franchise. Now it's time to surround him with weapons. Adding Benjamin will give him a big, friendly target on the outside and make the eventual retirement of Steve Smith easier to swallow for this offense.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Mayock: Jace Amaro, Ra'Shede Hageman could be available/make sense for @Patriots in 1st round.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) February 18, 2014
After losing Aaron Hernandez for good and Rob Gronkowski to multiple injuries, the Patriots have a sudden need at tight end. Amaro is a huge target at 6'5" and 260 pounds. His experience in the Red Raiders' spread offense will translate well to New England's pass-happy scheme.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Hageman is a great fit in the 49ers' already-dominant front seven. His size of 6'6" and 311 pounds makes him a versatile piece in this unit. Hageman has the strength and quickness to play either defensive tackle or defense end in this 3-4 scheme. This addition will allow this unit to remain as one of the league's best for a long time.
31. Denver Broncos: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
After losing Elvis Dumervil a year ago and dealing with Von Miller's injury concerns, Denver needs to add another outside pass-rushing linebacker to its defensive front. Van Noy has a high amount of intelligence and a nose for the ball. He can be used in certain packages immediately and will translate to a full-time starter in the near future.
32. Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
The deepest team in the league, Seattle does not have many glaring needs. However, after the interior of the offensive line collapsed at certain points last year, strengthening that core became a need. The Seahawks should do everything they can to keep Russell Wilson clean. Adding Yankey, an immediate starter, will do just that.