The debate surrounding the No. 1 pick is a hot topic heading into nearly every draft. But with three quarterbacks, a defensive end and even a wide receiver being seen as possibilities to come off the board first, the 2014 NFL draft is making for a huge discussion this offseason.
After an NFL Scouting Combine in which several players impacted their draft stock—some good, some bad—the top 10 is wide open.
As for the rest of the first round, multiple players have shifted and might have even risen out of the second round to become late first-round picks.
Here's a look at the entire first round and the most ideal draft pick for each team.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Whether or not scouts and coaches want to question his effort on the field, Jadeveon Clowney comes into the draft as the most talented athlete in the class.
While going with a quarterback appears to be the logical choice here, Clowney not only gives the Houston Texans another terror on the opposite side of J.J. Watt but also leaves them with a trading chip if they decide to move down for their quarterback and load up with picks.
Star receiver Andre Johnson said he would trade away the pick, per David Nuno of KTRK-TV. One possibility is looking at the Cleveland Browns or Oakland Raiders, who are both in need of a quarterback, before making the selection.
Then, there's the Atlanta Falcons, who just so happen to sit at No. 6 in the draft. Clowney has already expressed interest in playing with the Falcons, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com: "I wish they could trade up for me. but I hope I don’t fall to No. 6. I like Atlanta—a lot. They’re pretty good. They’ve got some guys from South Carolina on the team, also. And it’s close to home."
Perhaps one of the most polarizing players heading into the NFL draft, Clowney easily makes the Texans a much better team and gives them a plethora of possibilities.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
By far the most explosive playmaker in the draft, Sammy Watkins proved why he's considered the No. 1 wide receiver in the draft with his combine results.
While he didn't rank at the top of the class in a few of the workouts, Watkins certainly made an impression on scouts and coaches with his performance. Gil Brandt of NFL.com gave his analysis of Watkins from the combine:
Watkins threw the bar up 16 times in the bench press, though he almost made it to 17. He has 32-inch arms, which are pretty long for a receiver. Watkins officially clocked a 4.43 40, but I had him at 4.38 and 4.39.
He has extremely explosive speed, meaning he's one of those guys who will be able to catch a quick screen and beat you downfield on a fly route.
That dynamic ability will land him at the top of many draft boards, and it puts him in position to be the top offensive player taken with a loaded quarterback class.
The Rams are in desperate need of a tall receiver to go along with Tavon Austin and take some of the attention away. With Watkins sitting there at No. 2, it's hard to resist making this pick.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Though I still believe Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback in the class, teams are clearly falling in love with Blake Bortles—and deservedly so.
After a career year at Central Florida, Bortles has the look of a No. 1 quarterback, but it will be up to NFL executives to figure out where the signal-caller will ultimately fall.
If he does land with the Jacksonville Jaguars, it would be a match made in heaven. The Jaguars have been without a franchise quarterback since the days of David Garrard taking them to the playoffs.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Teams could trade up to get Bortles or any of the quarterbacks in the class. But if Johnny Manziel is still sitting on the board when the Cleveland Browns get to make their selection, they will choose him with no hesitation.
With two picks inside the first round, the Browns could likely move up if they are worried about their quarterback being taken by the Jaguars.
Easily the most debatable top-five player in this class, Manziel makes so much sense with the Browns that it's hard to see him in another jersey.
And with playmakers such as Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron to go along with a defense that turned a corner in 2013, Johnny Football might be the last piece necessary for new head coach Mike Pettine to thrive in Cleveland.
5. Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Now seen as the No. 3 quarterback, Bridgewater didn't throw or run at the combine, opting to hold off until his pro day at Louisville.
Despite the fact that he sat on the sidelines for many of the workouts, Bridgewater still made waves with his press conference before the start of the event, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
"I feel that I’m the best quarterback in this draft," he said. "No doubt. I’m not just going to sit up here and say it. There’s obviously actions that have to back up these words, and I’m just confident in myself and my capability to be able to play this position. I’m just going to go out there and prove that I’m the best guy."
Bridgewater, like Bortles and Manziel, could go earlier in the draft and wind up as the first quarterback taken off the board after his pro day workouts. But with the scouts giving Bortles and Manziel the edge coming out of the combine, the Oakland Raiders will gladly take the Louisville product.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Greg Robinson has firmly claimed the title of No. 1 offensive lineman in the 2014 class. The Falcons need to protect Matt Ryan a little better than in 2013 and could look to the Auburn product for help in that department.
The Rams have a similar need. If St. Louis takes Clowney—if he falls that far—the two teams could make an exchange, meaning the Falcons could wind up with the best defensive end in the class.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
In one of the deepest divisions in the NFL—though it didn't look that way in 2013—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will need to upgrade defensively to stack up with the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints.
With the best outside linebacker in the class in Khalil Mack, new head coach Lovie Smith and the Bucs will be on their way. Mack offers both speed and size with the ability to cover the entire field—all things Tampa Bay needs against three great offensive teams in the NFC South.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
With new head coach Mike Zimmer bringing in Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator, the days of Christian Ponder starting behind center for the Minnesota Vikings might just be over.
Derek Carr is considered just outside the top three quarterbacks in the class, but his combine results and great showing at the Senior Bowl suggest he was worth the hype after the college season.
Carr might be more of a developmental project than Bortles, Bridgewater or Manziel, but his arm and accuracy will be welcome sights for Turner and the Vikings.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Despite having one of the best defenses in the AFC in 2013, the Buffalo Bills still have needs in the front seven.
With Anthony Barr still on the board and with a hole to fill, the Bills won't flinch at grabbing one of the best young linebackers in the 2014 class.
Though Mack has slowly worked his way up boards ahead of Barr, the former UCLA linebacker doesn't believe any players should be taken ahead of him, according to Ross Jones of FoxSports.com:
I think I am the complete package. I can help a team right away win football games, playoff games and championships. It’s something that I always dreamed about. The teams that do pass on me will regret it.
I’m going to let my play do the talking. I’m not going to say much or act out in any type of way but when I get on the field, those teams that do pass on me, it’ll always weigh on me and make me have a chip on my shoulder.
Still sitting on the board as a top-10 pick, Barr could wind up being one of the best players in the entire class.
And with that chip on his shoulder—not a huge one; he is going in the first round, after all—Barr will prove his worth for the Bills in his first season alongside Kiko Alonso and Mario Williams in the front seven.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Coming out of Michigan State, Darqueze Dennard won't have to do much travelling when he's picked on draft day, as the Detroit Lions have a need at the position.
There is still much debate after the combine as to whether Dennard is the best cornerback in the class. But with the resume he's put together on the field, Dennard will edge out any other defensive back when May 8 rolls around.
11. Tennessee Titans: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Once seen as the best overall offensive tackle in the class, Jake Matthews has slid back just a bit to the Tennessee Titans at the No. 11 pick.
While he doesn't possess the same sort of athleticism and speed Robinson from Auburn does, Matthews will be a great pickup just outside the top 10 for the Titans.
And with the return of Jake Locker behind center, Matthews could be blocking for yet another dual-threat quarterback, something he's clearly comfortable with after blocking for Manziel in college.
12. New York Giants: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The New York Giants took a big step back in 2013, and much of that was due to poor defensive play. The defensive line isn't as fearsome as it once was, but New York has a chance to change that with the No. 12 pick.
Kony Ealy is an outstanding lineman who has a chance to develop into a star with the Giants, and he is the nasty type of player they are looking for to shore up the position and put together a dominant line.
13. St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Coming out of Michigan, Taylor Lewan is just the latest in a deep offensive tackle class this season. And while he isn't considered to be the same type of prospect as either Robinson or Matthews, Lewan is not far off.
With the Rams going playmaker early to help Sam Bradford, getting Lewan at No. 13 is another important key to success for the quarterback and the offense as a whole.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
After an abysmal year defensively for the Chicago Bears, they will look to fill a need immediately with their first-round pick.
And with the top overall defensive tackle still left on the board, going with Timmy Jernigan is as close to a lock as we'll get in the first round.
In order to contend with the explosive offenses of the NFC North and get back to the playoffs, the Bears need to get better defensively right away. With Jernigan, they get a start in the right direction.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
With both safeties for the Pittsburgh Steelers currently in their 11th and 12th seasons, it's time to start building for the future. And there is no better insurance policy in the draft at the safety position than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
With his speed, physicality and ability to cover the entire field, Clinton-Dix is the perfect player to eventually take over for Ryan Clark and learn under the veteran safety.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
When you talk about atrocious defenses, the Dallas Cowboys have to be one of the first teams brought up.
After reworking the entire defensive coaching staff and suffering against running and passing offenses alike, the Cowboys will go with one of the most athletic tackles in the draft in Aaron Donald.
The Pittsburgh product has proved that he can hold his own against other great linemen even though he's undersized. He might not be the only defensive player the Cowboys take, but Donald is a great start for the deflated group.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Though Watkins is at the top of the class in terms of wide receivers, there is plenty of depth at the position.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock spoke about how deep the class is, according to Taylor Price of 49ers.com. "There’s more quality at the top of this draft that I’ve seen in a long time," Mayock said. "It’s the best wide receiver class that I’ve seen in years."
One of those outstanding wide receivers is Mike Evans, who is as physical and fast as they come. The 6'5", 225-pound receiver broke out at Texas A&M the past two seasons and is a perfect fit for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens.
While Evans could go higher than No. 17 overall, his ability in the red zone is exactly what the Ravens need to take attention off Torrey Smith.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
It took 18 picks for the first tight end to come off the board, but Eric Ebron will certainly fit in well with the New York Jets.
After a season in which rookie quarterback Geno Smith went through a number of growing pains with an awful offense around him, Ebron might be just the cure for their offensive woes.
Given Ebron's physical tools and his outstanding ability to catch nearly everything thrown in his general direction, there is no better fit for the Jets.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The key to getting the Miami Dolphins offense going in 2014 will be keeping Ryan Tannehill upright throughout the season. They were not very good at that in 2013, but that was, in large part, thanks to a certain situation that lost them two offensive linemen.
If the Dolphins go with the Notre Dame product in Zack Martin, they not only have a viable player who can fill in right now but also a lineman who can hold his own for years to come.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
One of the nastiest players in the draft, Ra'Shede Hageman fits the Arizona Cardinals' new identity perfectly.
The Minnesota tackle would come into a defense that ranked at the top of the NFL in rushing defense and would have the chance to grow under Bruce Arians' style. Coming into the NFC West, where points are already hard to come by, Hageman would become yet another dominant force.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
There are several deep positions in the 2014 draft, and defensive tackle is clearly one of them. While the likes of Jernigan, Donald and Hageman might go ahead of Louis Nix III, he is a more than capable tackle who could make an immediate impact for the Green Bay Packers.
And in an NFC North division in which the Packers regularly have to face the likes of Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Reggie Bush, adding Nix to the defensive line only bolsters their chances of separating themselves from the pack.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
The late-round addition of Earl Wolff will soon pay off for the Philadelphia Eagles at the strong safety position, but grabbing up one of the most explosive free safeties in Calvin Pryor could help build a strong secondary for the future.
Coming out of Louisville, Pryor has skyrocketed up draft boards and has earned his title as the No. 2 safety in the class. With the Eagles having a need to fill at the position, Pryor is a perfect fit and could help revive a porous secondary from last season.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
A game manager. A short-yardage passer. Call Alex Smith what you want, but he's a worthy quarterback who just needs more complementary pieces around him to continue the success from an 11-5 season.
With that in mind, the Kansas City Chiefs will go with a playmaker from the West Coast who was once regarded as the No. 1 receiver in the class in Marqise Lee.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com offered his analysis of Lee from the combine on Twitter:
Marqise Lee really helped himself today. But Sammy Watkins was head/shoulders above every other WR. #NFLCombine— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 23, 2014
Though that's something of a backhanded compliment, Brandt's comments show that Lee is continuing to progress despite a lackluster 2013 season with USC.
Alongside Dwayne Bowe—who will be turning 30 midway through the 2014 season—Lee could be an explosive offensive weapon for the Chiefs to help topple the Denver Broncos at the top of the division.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Despite losing their defensive coordinator, the Cincinnati Bengals have a stout defense that helped get them to the playoffs in 2013.
With that said, the team still needs to fill the cornerback position. Terence Newman is in the twilight of his career, and Adam Jones is entering his ninth season in the league.
If Justin Gilbert is still on the board at the 24th pick, the Bengals would be better off adding him to the roster and letting him flourish in their system.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
With a great combine performance and plenty of tape from his years with TCU to back it up, Jason Verrett is slowly becoming a lock as a first-round pick.
Verrett's name could continue to climb, but for now, he's an ideal fit for the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers need a defensive back, and Verrett is the best one available with the 25th overall selection.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Browns got their quarterback with their first pick. With the 26th pick, they will get him a playmaker who can help him succeed at the next level.
What Kelvin Benjamin brings to the table is not only the ability to make plays and change the game with his physicality. He's also a 6'5" receiver who will offer Manziel a big target to look for in space.
After working with Evans throughout his college career—another 6'5" receiver—Manziel will be able to target Benjamin in the NFL. Not a bad situation, especially with both Gordon and Cameron already in the receiving corps.
27. New Orleans Saints: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
In 2013, the New Orleans Saints beefed up a terrible defense as Rob Ryan led them to being a top-five defense in the NFL.
The Saints can continue to grow in 2014 with the addition of C.J. Mosley, one of the best linebackers in the entire draft. With several teams drafting based on need in the first round, Mosley just so happens to slide to the Saints, and he makes for a perfect fit in New Orleans.
28. Carolina Panthers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
After a lackluster combine performance, Cyrus Kouandjio could slide out of the first round. But with the loss of Jordan Gross, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the Carolina Panthers are in desperate need of a replacement at the position.
Kouandjio more than proved his talent on the college stage with Alabama, but the combine sent shock waves throughout the NFL. Despite the sudden doubts about his talent, Kouandjio will still be a first-round selection and will work his way into the Panthers offense.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Two years ago, the New England Patriots were so rich with tight ends that this didn't seem like a possibility. But with the loss of Aaron Hernandez prior to the 2013 season and the constant injuries of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots now need to fill the position.
Thankfully, they might have Gronkowski 2.0 on the board late in the draft in Jace Amaro. Texas Tech defensive coordinator Greg Robinson spoke about the tight end and compared him to Gronk, according to Dan Greenspan of NFL.com.
"I know Rob very well, but he (Amaro) affects the game similarly," Robinson said. "He's a big-body guy. He's like a power forward playing basketball."
While those are lofty expectations for Amaro, he certainly lived up to his billing in college and at the combine. If he can continue his success in the pros, the Patriots might have yet another playmaker for Tom Brady.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The San Francisco 49ers have a need at cornerback. Kyle Fuller is a 6'0" defensive back who was a shutdown corner for Virginia Tech on a defense that flourished in the ACC.
With Jim Harbaugh constantly looking to boost his defense, this seems like an ideal selection for the 49ers. In an NFC West in which defenses clearly shine, Fuller might be just the guy the 49ers need to continue their success.
31. Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
After a disappointing end to an otherwise spectacular season for the Broncos, adding to the defense should be the first priority.
While there are certainly other needs for this team, Stephon Tuitt is a great defensive tackle in a loaded class who can make an immediate impact.
If the Broncos can remain healthy on the defensive side of the ball to help the offense out, they can return to the Super Bowl and come away with the Lombardi Trophy. Tuitt can help get them there, even as a late first-round pick.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
The final pick of the first round goes to a player who has been climbing up draft boards all the way into the opening round.
Antonio Richardson of the Tennessee Volunteers is yet another offensive tackle in this ridiculously deep 2014 class. But with his size and ability off the line, Richardson offers much more than just a run-of-the-mill late selection in the first round.
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