The 2014 NFL draft is rapidly approaching, with the scouting combine—one of the major milestones of the offseason—already in the rearview mirror.
Pro days are on the horizon, and then it will be up to scouts, general managers and other team personnel to pool their collective knowledge and prepare to make selections in the draft starting on May 8.
Let’s take a look at the first round after the combine and ahead of home-field workouts during pro days.
*All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Bortles decided to buck the concerning trend of top quarterback prospects doing practically nothing in Indianapolis leading up to the draft. He participated in the main drills, including running the 40-yard dash and throwing for scouts.
He undoubtedly improved his stock in the eyes of many, showing that he could make all the throws and that he is quite athletic for his 6’5”, 232-pound frame.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, via CBSSports.com, summed up this future star’s performance perfectly:
[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.
The Texans are going to have a tough decision to make with the top pick, but Bortles has to be in the lead right now. The 22-year-old simply looks like a franchise quarterback and continues to back that up with concrete evidence that he can become one.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Robinson’s footwork and quick 40-yard-dash (4.92 seconds) at the combine further revealed that he is a franchise-worthy left tackle. The Rams need a marquee lineman to protect Sam Bradford or whoever the quarterback of the future might be in St. Louis.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Manziel may have snubbed the throwing portion of the combine, but he proved to be one of the best athletes at his position during the drills he did participate in.
The Jags are clearly intrigued by the prospect of adding the Texas A&M product into the mix, as they interviewed him over the weekend in Indianapolis.
Prior to their meeting, head coach Gus Bradley was a bit concerned about Manziel’s ability to be humble, per Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "It’s one thing to have confidence and another to have humility, If you have humility you can talk about your weaknesses. If you do that, then that’s how you improve. That’s what I’m excited to talk to him about in our meeting."
Sports journalist Jenna Laine says Manziel seems to be alleviating the doubts of those who remain skeptical about his character:
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
If Johnny Football knocked the Jacksonville interview out of the park, expect them to draft him come May.
4. Cleveland Browns: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney is a once-in-a-generation prospect who has the upside to absolutely take over the NFL and become the most dominant defender in the league. Whether he has the work ethic required to get to that point remains to be seen, but it’s worth a gamble for the Browns here at No. 4.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Watkins is a game changer at the wide receiver position. He plays extremely fast and has a mean streak that allows him to destroy the man trying to defend him. The Raiders could use a true No. 1 option and bona fide star at the wideout spot, so Watkins is a no-brainer here.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo
Mack will be competing with Clowney to be the first defensive player to come off the board. The Buffalo product is capable of doing everything at a high level, including rushing the quarterback, stopping the run and even dropping back into coverage.
The Falcons must improve their defense drastically to return to the playoffs this coming season, so adding a versatile, top-notch talent such as Mack makes sense, and he might be the steal of the draft at No. 6.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Matthews is the type of tackle who will make life real easy for second-year signal-caller Mike Glennon next season. The Aggies product will keep the pressure off the cannon-armed quarterback and allow him to pick apart defenses with ease.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Bridgewater did not do himself any favors in Indianapolis, as he hardly participated in any meaningful drills and came off as “aloof," according to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller:
Regardless, he has the talent of a No. 1 pick and represents a chance for the Vikings to nab a franchise quarterback—something the team desperately needs to compete for a playoff spot.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Lewan is a great athlete for his position, and he proved that with the top 40-yard dash time of any offensive lineman at Lucas Oil Stadium. He’s a perfect fit for the Bills, who let EJ Manuel get hit too many times last year and saw the young quarterback sustain a number of injuries.
10. Detroit Lions: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Barr would help transform the Lions pass rush into a respectable unit after it hit rock bottom in 2013. Detroit was simply not able to get after the quarterback and totaled a mere 23 sacks.
This Bruins product is able to knife into the backfield with ease and use his immense speed (4.66 40-yard dash) and athleticism to take down the opposing signal-caller.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Mosley is a one-of-a-kind linebacker who can come in and change the way the Titans perform on defense. He’s the type of tough run-stopper you want in the middle of a front seven, and he's also able to keep an eye on the quarterback and drop back into coverage when needed.
12. New York Giants: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert is the premier cornerback prospect in this draft, which is exactly what the Giants need to bolster the secondary.
Big Blue had a number of problems last year, but it can best address a gaping hole at the cornerback position by adding this Pokes star. He’s a freak athlete capable of covering top receivers from day one.
13. St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Rams need some safety help to complete their defense. St. Louis already possesses an amazing core of pass-rushers and just needs to bring in some talent to prevent the big play and capitalize on poor throws made by harassed quarterbacks.
Pryor is a ball hawk whose athleticism won’t allow him to give up the home run plays. He can also come up and support the run, as his strength is underrated (18 reps on the bench press) and his tackling form is great.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Jernigan dominated the BCS National Championship Game and now has a chance to parlay that performance into an early pick in the NFL draft. The Bears were the worst in the league at stopping the run in 2013, so adding a lane-clogging behemoth such as this Seminoles star is a priority.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Steelers have a star at the wideout spot with Antonio Brown running routes for the team, but they lack serious production at the tight end spot.
Ebron can change that, as this UNC star is blazing fast and capable of making big plays over the middle. He’ll be a red-zone threat Ben Roethlisberger will lean on to convert opportunities inside the 20 into touchdowns.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Cowboys must overhaul their defense this offseason, and they should start from the inside the out. At 6’1” and 285 pounds, Donald may not be the biggest defensive tackle, but he works in a 4-3 scheme and is one of the most savage players on the board.
The Pittsburgh product attacked the weights and put up an eye-popping 35 reps of 225 pounds, and he also burned through the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds. He’s a hard-working machine who could completely change the culture of the pitiful Dallas defensive line.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans is a steal for the Ravens at No. 17. The giant Aggie is a game changer due to his immense height, his hands and his knack for making big plays.
With Torrey Smith limited in terms of his capabilities as a receiver, Evans is the type of No. 2 Joe Flacco needs to stay relevant and return to the playoffs in short order. However, it shouldn’t take long for this young man to emerge as the top receiver in Baltimore.
18. New York Jets: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Cooks may not be the tallest wideout (5’10”) in the class, but he is one of the fastest, with a 40 time of 4.33 seconds. The Jets could use this type of burner to help Geno Smith make strides in his development heading into a critical second year under center.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Dolphins have to bring in more bodies to help protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The team lost a number of contributors along the offensive line during the 2013 campaign and must restock in May.
Martin is the right guy for the job and could immediately step in and play a role along the team’s patchwork line.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Shazier is exactly what the Cardinals need to remain in contention for the NFC West. Having athletic pass-rushers who can find ways to bring down the quarterback will ensure that guys such as Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson aren’t running roughshod against this squad.
21. Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Clinton-Dix is an incredible athlete who will finally give the Packers a legit standout talent at the safety position. This kid is going to protect against the big play, pick off errant passes with ease and even come up and stuff the run when called upon.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Eagles offense was on fire once Nick Foles took over the starting quarterback duties in 2013, so expect the team to look at defenders with its top pick.
Ealy seems to fit the bill for what this group is trying to do, as the Tigers star is an elite pass-rusher who will make it much easier for the Philly defense to get the ball back to the offense and allow it to score points.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Amaro is the security blanket Alex Smith needs, but he will also help keep the defense honest. Instead of checking down to Jamaal Charles on a regular basis, Smith will have another option to throw to in the big, sure-handed Red Raiders tight end.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Dennard is a tough player who thrives on locking down his man and completely taking a receiver out of the game. He’s the perfect complement to a blue-collar Bengals secondary that is starting to see some of its key contributors get up in age.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
The Chargers defense was a major problem area in 2013, so it wouldn't be surprising if the team called Nix’s name in May.
The stout Fighting Irish tackle will help plug up the holes along the line of scrimmage, allowing the Bolts to allocate more resources to stopping the pass—another area of concern last year.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Carr may not be a surefire franchise quarterback, but he should be on the radar for the quarterback-starved Browns.
This team found varying degrees of success last year despite a rotating door of quarterbacks, so hopefully it can nail down a solid starter by acquiring the Bulldogs star.
27. New Orleans Saints: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Lee is a playmaker with a nose for the end zone, which is something the Saints need to add to the mix, as their window to win a title with Drew Brees under center is starting to close.
28. Carolina Panthers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Panthers' group of wideouts isn’t exactly the team’s strength, so expect the club’s brass to allocate a first-round pick toward bolstering the talent level in the receiving corps. Matthews is quick and has great hands, which will help this group get back to the playoffs in 2014.
29. New England Patriots: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Pats could use some more support on the offensive line, and Kouandjio is an absolute steal at No. 29. The ‘Bama product should eventually develop into an indispensable member of the team who will help keep Tom Brady and the next starting quarterback of this franchise upright.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Benjamin is another national title game star who will almost certainly be making big plays on Sundays soon. The Niners could use a mammoth receiver such as this FSU product, especially in the red zone.
31. Denver Broncos: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Broncos narrowly missed out on winning a Super Bowl, so they’ll look to reload this offseason and make another run with Peyton Manning at the helm. Giving the Hall of Famer another weapon is smart, but developing a potential future star at the wideout position is even wiser.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
What type of player should the Seahawks use their first-rounder on?
The Seahawks can get back to the big game by doing what they did on defense all season in 2013: getting after the quarterback, crushing the runner and denying the pass.
Ford would help the champs continue to bring the heat in a big way, so don’t be surprised if he comes off the board here.