Now that the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is over, it’s time for fans to shift their focus to the actual draft starting on Thursday, May 8 and the mock draft predictions.
After watching some of the biggest names in college football put their skills on display for the scouts and officials from across the league, the excitement surrounding draft season is officially upon us.
Here are the easiest picks for every team selecting in the first round.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
After clocking a blistering 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina is once again considered one of the top picks in the draft despite a lackluster season.
Houston has stated it would trade the No. 1 overall pick for the right price, but Clowney should be the top selection regardless of who picks first.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
In 2012, the St. Louis Rams made a deal that sent the No. 2 overall pick to the Washington Redskins for Robert Griffin III, and the franchise is still reaping the rewards of that trade.
The franchise will be open to moving the pick if the right deal arises, according to Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated, but the need for a wide receiver and the availability of a future star like Clemson’s Sammy Watkins would be the ideal combination.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Whether you love Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel or not—I’m looking at you, Jaws—there is no denying his mainstream notoriety and his ability on the field. A franchise like the Jacksonville Jaguars desperate for a new quarterback and a marketable player would be foolish to pass on Johnny Football.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
There is no question that the top priority this offseason for the Cleveland Browns is finding a quarterback of the future with their No. 4 overall pick. Manziel may be taken before Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, but many around the league feel Bortles has more upside.
5. Oakland Raiders: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Oakland Raiders must get back to basics to build a long-term winning program, and that starts with the anchoring of the offensive line. Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews fits Oakland’s needs.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
While the Atlanta Falcons were hoping that Clowney would drop all the way to No. 6, the team will not be forced to settle. UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr has the potential to become a top pass-rusher in the NFL.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
There is plenty of talent on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster, but the franchise must get back to the fundamentals by building the team from the ground up. Starting with an anchor on the offensive line, Tampa Bay would be smart to draft Auburn tackle Greg Robinson.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Minnesota Vikings have three starting quarterbacks in Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder, but none of them deserve the starting job. With new head coach Mike Zimmer looking to make an instant impact, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would be the fresh start the team needs.
9. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo
Buffalo's Khalil Mack is one of the best defensive ends in the 2014 draft. With his ability to stop the run and rush the passer, the Buffalo Bills would be smart to add depth and talent on the defensive line.
10. Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
As great as Calvin Johnson has been for the Detroit Lions, the franchise must find players to complement him by forcing opposing defenses to spread their coverage. If Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is there at No. 10, the Lions would have one of the most dangerous tandems in the NFL.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans needs to select a linebacker who can dominate against the run with consistent tackling, but he also needs to be able to slide into coverage and disrupt an opponent’s air attack. Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is the answer.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Eli Manning is still one of the top quarterbacks in the league, but the New York Giants must draft an offensive tackle who can protect him. Michigan’s Taylor Lewan would be just the man for the job.
13. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
After taking Watkins at No. 2, the St. Louis Rams can shift their focus to another position of need like cornerback. Head coach Jeff Fisher loves physical CBs, and Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard fits that mold.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
One of the biggest winners of the combine was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, according to Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, and the Chicago Bears would be happy to fill its biggest need with Donald.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Just as the Bears are looking to add talent at the defensive tackle position, the Pittsburgh Steelers should forgo taking an offensive lineman in the first round and add a run-stopping machine like Louis Nix of Notre Dame.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
With veteran Dennis Pitta likely leaving via free agency, the Baltimore Ravens' need for a tight end who can stretch the field as a receiver while being just as strong run blocking will lead the franchise to select North Carolina’s Eric Ebron.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys need help on defense against the pass and against the rush. The best fit would be Alabama’s hard-hitting free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
18. New York Jets: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Whether it’s Geno Smith under center this season or not, the New York Jets must add offensive weapons at the wide receiver position to give the quarterback a chance to succeed. Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin would offer the Jets talent on offense and special teams.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The need on the offensive line is obvious, and Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin has the right mixture of raw talent and big-game experience to make him a smart addition to a franchise that needs a fresh start.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The defense in Arizona is one of the best in the NFL, and the offense has shown great strides led by quarterback Carson Palmer. It’s time to address the needs on the offensive line by selecting Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Obvious flaws on defense plagued the Green Bay Packers last season, but selecting a safety with as much raw talent as Louisville’s Calvin Pryor is the smart long-term solution to a fundamental need.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Head coach Chip Kelly has made a major splash since joining the Philadelphia Eagles, and he will make another on draft day when he selects Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert to secure his secondary.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
With the future of Dwayne Bowe uncertain, the Kansas City Chiefs must look to the future at the wide receiver position. LSU’s Odell Beckham would flourish in Andy Reid’s offense and be a major threat for Alex Smith.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Another team that must get back to basics is the Cincinnati Bengals. The team needs depth at the defensive tackle position and would find it with Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The defensive secondary was a big issue for the San Diego Chargers last season, but a postseason berth proves that the franchise is still on the cusp of serious contention. Adding an elite CB like TCU’s Jason Verrett would be an ideal selection.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
It’s unclear what kind of approach the Cleveland Browns will take this season, but the franchise should be drafting offensive and defensive linemen—like Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy—to start rebuilding the foundation of the team.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Rob Ryan’s efforts with the New Orleans Saints defense didn’t go unappreciated, but the team needs more out of the unit to be a serious Super Bowl threat. The NFL is a pass-happy league, and drafting Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier is a smart addition to the pass rush.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The need for viable second and third options behind veteran wide receiver Steve Smith is one of the Carolina Panthers' biggest needs this offseason. If USC’s Marqise Lee falls all the way to No. 28, the Panthers will have their weapon.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The injury to star tight end Rob Gronkowski’s knee has the New England Patriots looking for a No. 2 option and a possible long-term replacement for the oft-injured Gronkowski. Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro fits the mold of what the Patriots are looking for in a TE.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The lack of depth at wide receiver last year for the San Francisco 49ers was one of the biggest reasons the team struggled to find any offensive consistency, and the solution will come in the 2014 draft in the form of Oregon State wideout Brandin Cooks.
31. Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
While there are several needs the Denver Broncos must fill this offseason, the lack of an elite run-stopping defensive tackle will lead the team to draft Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt at the end of the first round.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Seattle Seahawks will keep with the defensive tackle theme to close the first round and select Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan. With the right conditioning, Jernigan could become another key member of the Seahawks defense.
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