Some of the most productive offseason moves for NFL teams are made during the NFL draft, which starts on May 8 in New York City.
The scouting process remains a work in progress at this point in the proceedings. The combine gives some perspective into what players have to offer at the next level, but by no means will teams draft players solely on their 40-yard dash times.
Pro days and individual workouts are still in the future for most of the draftable prospects. During this transitional period, these young men will continue to be evaluated—physically, mentally and emotionally.
Every team's big board looks different, which is why it's difficult to project where players will land. That said, it's always a fun project.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Blake Bortles may have done himself a huge favor by opting to throw at the combine, while Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr chose to abstain.
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports broke down Bortles' successful day throwing the ball:
[Bortles] didn't disappoint with the spotlight on him, displaying his smooth set up and release and tossing darts down the field. Bortles' accuracy and footwork on his three-step drops were excellent, showing very good rhythm, timing and precision to rip it with very good target placement. He was a tick late with his seven-step drops and has room to improve his feet and balance in this area, but Bortles was still able to be accurate down the field, especially on deep bucket throws.
With plenty of positive momentum on his side even before the combine, Bortles appears to be in excellent position to become the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Perhaps nobody did more for his draft stock during the first two days at the combine than offensive tackle Greg Robinson out of Auburn. He measured in as a behemoth at 6'5" and 322 pounds, and his 4.92-second 40-yard dash and smooth footwork during field drills had scouts drooling over his pro potential.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Manziel didn't throw at the combine, but he did look good running and jumping, and apparently he aced his interviews, according to Jenna Laine of NBC Radio:
Hearing Johnny Manziel absolutely knocked it out of the park in his team interviews. One scout told me, "He's a stud. Extremely bright."— JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) February 23, 2014
The Jaguars won't improve much without a quarterback, and while it might be intriguing to draft a top pass-rusher, this is the right pick in Round 1.
4. Cleveland Browns: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney coming off the edge for Cleveland would give the Browns one of the most dangerous front sevens in the NFL opposite Paul Kruger. With plenty of draft picks—including another first-rounder—the Browns can afford to take Clowney now and draft a quarterback down the line.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Raiders need playmakers across the board. Sammy Watkins put together a phenomenal junior campaign for Clemson last year, and his tape shows him to be a top-flight receiver. While he didn't post record-breaking numbers at the combine, his speed and athleticism still checked in at elite levels.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo
If it were up to Mike Mayock of NFL Network, Khalil Mack would go No. 1 overall. Upon hearing that noteworthy news, Mack responded, via CollegeFootball 24/7:
Khalil Mack on Mike Mayock saying he'd take him as top pick: "Mike Mayock is the man. Now I have to prove him right." #NFLCombine— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) February 22, 2014
Blessed with freak athleticism and a quick first step, Mack would be a perfect weapon for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to utilize with great creativity next year and in the years to come.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews doesn't possess the freakish athleticism to match Robinson, but he's a technician. He's also capable of playing on both sides of the line, and he'd be an instant starter for the Buccaneers.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Bridgewater rubbed some folks the wrong way by choosing not to run or throw at the combine, but he's still a top quarterback in this year's draft class with excellent tape in his corner. Barring an unlikely poor showing at his pro day, he'll be one of the top players in the draft, and the Vikings need help at this position.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
We all knew Taylor Lewan had the athletic talent to become an elite left tackle in the NFL, and he proved it once again at the combine by posting top marks in four categories, including the fastest 40 time among offensive linemen. The Bills need to improve offensively—both on running and passing plays. Lewan would be able to greatly assist in this endeavor.
10. Detroit Lions: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Who is the bigger game-changer?
The Lions suffered without Cliff Avril last year, finishing with the worst marks in the league for sacks with 33. Ezekiel Ansah showed promise, but he'll need help in the years to come. Anthony Barr would be a perfect player to pair with the athletic freak. Detroit would have two dangerous pass-rushers who can attack opposing offenses.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Tennessee needs to get quicker and more athletic up front to be able to compete in the AFC South. C.J. Mosley is a highly intelligent linebacker who has these qualities, and he's a proven leader who would instantly make the Titans better defensively.
12. New York Giants: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With the top offensive tackles off the board, New York should do the next best thing to help Eli Manning succeed in 2014 by drafting Hakeem Nicks' replacement.
Mike Evans showed tremendous speed (4.53 seconds officially in the 40) for his size (6'5" and 231 pounds) at the combine. His ability to make big plays downfield would open up things considerably for Victor Cruz underneath, and his red-zone capability would be a welcome addition, as well.
13. St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Rams could be without cornerback Cortland Finnegan this upcoming season, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported he will need to take a "sizeable" pay cut to stay with the team, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
Justin Gilbert as a backup plan isn't so bad, though. He's the top cornerback in this year's draft class and possesses Patrick Peterson-type athletic prowess.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Nobody knows if Henry Melton will be wearing a Chicago uniform next year, and even if he's back, nobody knows if he'll be the same player after he tore his knee up last season. Aaron Donald out of Pittsburgh could potentially be a better version of Melton as a pro. He's a terrific pass-rusher who plays bigger than his 6'1", 285-pound frame, and the Bears need the help up front.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Steelers need more productive weapons for Ben Roethlisberger to play with, and Heath Miller's career appears to be waning. Adding Eric Ebron would give the Steelers another big playmaker in the middle of the field, and he'd supply some much-needed speed at the position.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
There's no doubt the Cowboys need safety help after the team's abysmal defense finished the 2013 season with the third-worst mark against the pass. Calvin Pryor out of Louisville can play the deep pass as well as anyone in this year's class, and he's a formidable tackler near the line of scrimmage on running plays.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. secured his spot in the middle of Round 1 with a nice display of speed at the combine, running the 40 in 4.43 seconds and matching Watkins. He's also an incredible receiver down the field and is known for making circus catches on a regular basis.
18. New York Jets: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Speaking of speed, Brandin Cooks was faster than any other receiver at the combine with an official time of 4.33 seconds. His production last year for Oregon State is just as noteworthy, and he'll give the Jets hope for a competent passing offense for the first time in a few years.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Dolphins gave up an eye-popping 58 sacks last year, leading the next-worst team by 10 in this category. Clearly, the offensive line needs work, which is why it will be shocking if Miami doesn't address it early in the draft.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Elite pass-rushers are hot commodities in the NFL, which is why the Cardinals shouldn't let Ryan Shazier fall any further in this year's draft. His quickness is off-the-charts good and allows him to get around flat-footed offensive tackles with ease.
21. Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Green Bay's defense hasn't been strong the past couple of seasons, and Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse points out the biggest problem and its solution:
After an offseason of standing pat at the position, Thompson now needs to pick a safety high in the 2014 NFL draft or get active in free agency. No longer can the Packers sugarcoat the deficiencies of the position, hoping for development from the group of safeties already on the roster.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been considered one of the top defensive players in this year's draft class since before the 2013 season began. He'll instantly help the Packers improve against the pass while lending significant support against the run.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis needs elite pass-rushers to bring to life his vision for a dominant 3-4 defense in Philly. Kony Ealy is an elite talent who could be drafted far sooner when the event is held in May.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Jace Amaro isn't a speedster at the tight end position, but he's going to become a highly productive player in the NFL. He'd become a security blanket in the middle of the field for Alex Smith, who thrived in San Francisco when playing with Vernon Davis.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Gritty man-to-man specialists who love a challenge don't grow on trees. Darqueze Dennard fits the bill, however, and his presence in Cincinnati's defensive backfield would significantly boost what is already one of the league's most impressive defenses.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
Thanks to a lack of talent at the nose tackle position, the Chargers featured one of the worst run defenses last year, allowing 4.8 yards per carry. Louis Nix III is the top nose tackle in this year's draft class, and he'd shore up the weak unit—making life easier for Manti Te'o and Donald Butler.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
After passing on Bridgewater at No. 4, the Browns would be crazy to do the same with Derek Carr still here for the taking. He showed surprising speed and athleticism at the combine, and he was one of the nation's top passers last year. Better yet, he's a mature kid who is as clean as they come.
27. New Orleans Saints: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
It's about time for the Saints to give Drew Brees a shiny new toy to play with on Sundays.
Marqise Lee out of USC is a natural playmaker who does excellent work after the catch. While route-running prowess isn't yet a skill he possesses, the talented receiver will get better with pro coaching.
28. Carolina Panthers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Panthers haven't done a good job of collecting offensive playmakers who are not running backs, and Cam Newton's development has been slightly stunted as a result. Bringing in quality receivers should be a top priority.
29. New England Patriots: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt playing next to Vince Wilfork would be a nightmare for opposing offenses to deal with, and New England needs to add depth to its defensive line anyway. He isn't an athletic freak on par with Clowney, but his ability to move with agility at his size makes him a formidable force all over the line.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The hype surrounding Kelvin Benjamin took a slight hit after his mediocre combine performance. He looked a bit clunky running the 40 and didn't wow in the jumping drills. That said, Benjamin is a verifiable red-zone dynamo, and his ability to go up and get passes would be a perfect fit with Colin Kaepernick.
31. Denver Broncos: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Florida State's Timmy Jernigan doesn't have a lot of amazing tape, because he wasn't needed all that much throughout the season. However, the big man was dominant in the BCS National Championship Game—clearly the best defender for both teams.
The Broncos need another dynamic defensive lineman to be able to utilize Von Miller's speed properly off the edge.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
It's not set in stone that Michael Bennett will be back with the Seahawks in 2014. This team is always looking for young pass-rushers who can make big splashes, and Ford has the look of a Cliff Avril clone.
Note: Combine results via CBS Sports.
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