The scouting combine is just getting underway, and prospects are doing all they can to impress scouts and NFL executives in an attempt to bolster their draft position as the 2014 NFL draft creeps closer.
As the combine moves along, there will be plenty of rising and falling players on teams' draft boards. Already during the early interview portions of the combine, certain players have already helped themselves by showing intelligence and maturity, while others continue to raise concerns.
All these things taken into consideration, let's take a look at how the first round of the 2014 NFL draft could possibly shake out if it were to happen today.
1. Houston Texans: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Texans need a franchise quarterback. Johnny Manziel began to show that he could be the best man for the job after a polished media session at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine Friday.
In a turn of events, Manziel was down to business and seemed rather humble while talking to media, including Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com:
This is a job. There's guys with families, coaches with families, with all kinds of things on the line. For me, it's nothing new. It won't be a hard thing to kick. I'm just going to focus on whatever organization I'll be at, just pouring my heart out trying to be football 24-7 with that team.
He said all of the right things Friday, and even though his measurables weren't off the charts, he is undoubtedly a playmaker on the football field.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Rams already have a beastly pass rush with defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Adding Clowney into that mix would give the team the versatility to create devastating mismatches along the defensive front. After all, the best remedy for a pass-happy league is applying constant pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
After the failed experiment with Blaine Gabbert, it's back to the drawing board for the Jaguars. Fortunately, this time around, they have a much more polished prospect in front of them. Bridgewater may be the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's draft. He is capable of coming in and leading this offense to new heights immediately.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
After so many recent changes within this organization, the Browns need stability somewhere. By selecting Bortles as their quarterback of the future, they will accomplish that feat. Bortles' big frame and surprising athleticism will allow him to flourish in a very tough AFC North.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
In a division that features Peyton Manning, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers, the Raiders must do something to keep up with constant aerial assaults. Mack is one of the fastest, most pure pass-rushers in the 2014 draft. His presence on the defensive front either at outside linebacker or defensive end will apply much-needed pressure to those aforementioned quarterbacks.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Matt Ryan found himself under a heavy amount of pressure in 2013. His lackluster protection and injuries to his top weapons were the two biggest factors in the offense's decline. Picking up Matthews would give Ryan an elite tackle to protect his blind side for the remainder of his career. The Falcons' offensive woes are easily fixed here.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
With defensive-minded head coach Lovie Smith in the fold, it could be speculated that Tampa Bay goes defense here. However, with Watkins—the draft's most talented wide receiver—still on the board, the Buccaneers will finally get a perfect complement for Vincent Jackson and help the progress of quarterback Mike Glennon.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
With Jared Allen heading into free agency, the Vikings are in serious need of a young replacement on the defensive front. Barr is a versatile prospect who can flourish either as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He will be a welcomed chess piece for new head coach and defensive guru Mike Zimmer.
9. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Bills could use some offensive weapons; however, at this point in the draft, they will get their best value on the defensive side of the ball. Adding a speedy, sure-tackling linebacker like Mosley alongside 2013 rookie phenom Kiko Alonso would give the Bills one of the most athletic linebacker corps in the NFL.
10. Detroit Lions: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
In the quarterback-friendly NFC North, the Lions have been severely lacking in pass coverage. They could fix that here with a cornerback; however, allowing their current young talent to develop behind a monster pass rush would be another viable option. Ealy will give Detroit one of the most ferocious defensive fronts in football.
11. Tennessee Titans: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Titans already have a young, athletic defense up in the trenches. They could still use some upgrades on the back end though. Clinton-Dix is a ball-hawking safety who makes quick, decisive breaks on the ball when playing deep. His physicality also makes him a threat against the run.
12. New York Giants: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions in 2013. It wasn't due to a lack of weapons, it was more so due to the fact that he was under constant pressure. Adding Robinson to anchor the offensive line would allow the Giants to take a step in the right direction and get the passing offense back on track.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With young, talented players like Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin on this team, the Rams find themselves gaining an explosive offense. One thing that is missing is a big, quarterback-friendly wide receiver on the outside. The 6'5" Evans would fit the bill perfectly.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Bears had the worst run defense in the NFL last season. They also find themselves in a division that features plenty of talented quarterbacks. Adding Donald addresses both of those issues. He is stout against the run and is nimble enough to knife his way into the backfield and apply pressure to opposing signal-callers.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
In Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense, the Steelers need a huge nose tackle to help fill the gaps on the defensive front. Nix is one of the biggest bodies in the draft and is surprisingly athletic for his size. He would fit perfectly in Pittsburgh's hard-nosed defense and is tough enough to stand up to the physical AFC North.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Cowboys were just terrible on defense in 2013. With one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, severe improvement is needed if Dallas is to finally find the postseason. Dennard is a cornerback who can find success in man coverage without safety help over the top. His addition allows increased versatility and production to a defense that was lackluster a year ago.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Ravens took a huge step backward last season after losing Anquan Boldin in a trade to San Francisco. Without a complement to Torrey Smith, quarterback Joe Flacco struggled. Lee demands attention on the field and would bring much-needed stability to the Ravens wide receiver corps.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Ebron just makes a world of sense for the Jets. After a terrible showing from Geno Smith last season, the team has yet to name a starting quarterback for 2014. Part of Smith's troubles was the fact that the Jets could not surround him with weapons. Adding the big, fast Ebron would finally give the young signal-caller a target that he can rely on.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Ryan Tannehill made some great strides for the Dolphins last season. Now, Miami needs to focus on improving the offensive line to keep its quarterback upright. Kouandjio is the best tackle on the board who does not come with character issues—something the Dolphins should certainly be looking to avoid at this point.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Carson Palmer had a resurgent year in 2013 for a Cardinals team that finished 10-6 and just barely missed the playoffs. With the offense firing on all cylinders, the Cardinals need to add protection along the offensive line to ensure that Palmer can find the same amount of success in 2014. Lewan is a physical player and a mauler in the trenches. He'll ensure that Palmer stays clean.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
There is an ongoing theme in the NFC North: Protect against the pass. That is exactly what the Packers must do as well. Adding Pryor would finally give the Packers some much-needed stability on the back end of the defense. He is one of the most physical prospects in this year's draft and is rarely caught out of position. He is a player that Green Bay could certainly rely on.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Eagles are trying to figure out what to do with free-agent wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. Even if they keep one of them, wide receiver is not a strong suit. Without a viable safety on the board here, they will turn their attention to the offensive side of the ball.
Beckham's ability to flourish on short slant and crossing routes while utilizing his speed to produce yards after the catch makes him a perfect fit in Chip Kelly's offense. Adding weapons around Pro Bowler Nick Foles is certainly not a bad idea for the Eagles.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Chiefs are another team that could look at the wide receiver position here. However, they also have holes to fill in the secondary. Adding a ball-hawking cornerback like Gilbert would allow head coach Andy Reid to continue to build around a solid, young core of talent in Kansas City.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The cornerbacks in Cincinnati are getting older. Both Terence Newman and Adam Jones are at least 30 years old. Leon Hall continues to be a giant injury concern. Dre Kirkpatrick is still unproven. The Bengals need to add a new corner before it's too late. Verrett will bring a welcomed youth injection and could play either inside or outside for this team once he develops.
25. San Diego Chargers: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Under head coach Mike McCoy, the Chargers offense flourished in 2013. Quarterback Philip Rivers was able to regain his form, and the team earned a trip to the postseason. Rivers isn't the most nimble of quarterbacks and needs added protection along the line. Martin can play tackle or guard and will give the Chargers a big boost heading into 2014.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Now that the Browns have secured their quarterback of the future, it's time to surround him with weapons. Josh Gordon has been a revelation for Cleveland, but he really needs a complementary wide receiver across from him. Benjamin is a huge wide receiver who will be a friendly target for a young quarterback as well as a valuable target in the red zone.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme allowed the Saints to completely turn around their defense. After finishing fourth in the league in total defense in 2013, it's time to add pieces that fit the scheme. Shazier is a sure-tackling outside linebacker and natural leader. He will provide stability to the Saints linebacker corps for 10-plus years.
28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Panthers had a fantastic season in 2013. Both the offense and defense found great amounts of success. The defense finished second in the league, and Cam Newton proved he is their quarterback of the future. Adding protection for Newton should be top priority for Carolina. Moses is a physical, intelligent tackle who can come in and provide an immediate upgrade.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Aaron Hernandez isn't coming back. Rob Gronkowski is an injury waiting to happen. The Patriots have suddenly gone from having the most dynamic tight end duo in the league to having a glaring need at the position. Amaro is a huge target who can stretch the seam and find a role in red-zone situations. His addition will make Tom Brady a very happy man.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Despite already having one of the most dominant defensive fronts in the NFL, the 49ers could still use some added youth in that area. Hageman has the size and speed combination to play either defensive tackle or defensive end in their scheme. His addition will ensure that this defense remains one of the league's best for years to come.
31. Denver Broncos: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Broncos found themselves missing crucial pieces on their defensive front seven last season. Elvis Dumervil went to the Ravens, and Von Miller and others were lost to injury. Adding Van Noy for pass-rushing depth is a smart move for Denver here. If this team can improve on the defensive side of the ball, it could be in line for another run at the Super Bowl.
32. Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
The Seahawks have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. They don't necessarily have any glaring needs. However, at certain points last season, the interior of the offensive line started to crumble. The Seahawks will want to do everything they can to protect Russell Wilson, and adding a smart, NFL-ready guard like Yankey would be ideal.
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