The 2014 NFL draft is scheduled for May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and the anticipation surrounding where the top prospects will land has led to this latest post-combine mock draft.
Here are the brilliant moves that NFL franchises can put into play during what promises to be a wild first round.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
There is no question that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is worthy of the No. 1 overall pick with his freakish athletic ability and limitless potential, but the Houston Texans desperately need a quarterback.
With trading this pick being a possibility, Houston is in the driver’s seat.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
After acquiring this pick from the Washington Redskins in the Robert Griffin III deal, the St. Louis Rams are going to give their franchise quarterback Sam Bradford a weapon to utilize in Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
There is no question that taking Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel third overall is a huge risk for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Blaine Gabbert was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, and the franchise lacks a face to build around. Johnny Football is the charismatic star who could lead the team out of the gutter.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles has all the tangibles to be an elite player in the NFL and could easily be taken No. 1 overall. If he slips to No. 4, the Cleveland Browns will find the franchise quarterback that they crave.
5. Oakland Raiders: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The questions about which quarterback will win the starting job next season have already begun, but the Oakland Raiders must add talent to the offensive line regardless of who is under center. Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews is the best of this class.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Atlanta Falcons are desperate for a consistent pass rush. With the Falcons implementing a unique defensive scheme, UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr is the versatile pass-rusher who can attack from anywhere.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Regardless of whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers keep Mike Glennon as the starting quarterback, the team needs a franchise left tackle moving forward. If Matthews is gone, Auburn’s Greg Robinson would be a perfect second option.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder—three starting quarterbacks who failed to impress during their time with the Minnesota Vikings last year. The franchise must usher in change by drafting a talented player like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater to prove things will get better.
9. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo
It’s almost too perfect to have Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, a pass-rush specialist with a knack for getting after ball-carriers, fall to No. 9 when the Buffalo Bills make their selection. This fits on so many levels.
10. Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Calvin Johnson may be the best receiver in the NFL, but he can’t carry the Detroit Lions offensive unit by himself. With the team’s clear affinity for tall receivers, 6'5" Mike Evans is the complement that Matthew Stafford and the Lions need.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans will be looking to get back to basics this offseason with their moves, and adding a talented linebacker like Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, who can stuff the run and stifle the passing attack, makes the most sense.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Last year, the New York Giants couldn’t protect quarterback Eli Manning, and he paid the price with a poor statistical output. With a potential franchise left tackle on the board at No. 12 like Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, the Giants must make this pick.
13. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
After taking Watkins No. 2 overall (if the Rams don’t trade like last year), St. Louis will select a player from the defensive side of the ball with the No. 13 pick. If Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard is available, the choice will be simple.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Chicago Bears were destroyed by opposing running backs on a weekly basis. While fantasy owners loved the guaranteed points, Bears fans and the Chicago front office were not amused. The culture of the defensive tackle position will change when the team takes combine ace Aaron Donald at No. 14.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Just as the Bears were gouged through the middle, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking for help at the defensive tackle position as well. Notre Dame’s Louis Nix is the versatile defensive lineman that the Steelers will be seeking.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The void that was left by the departure of Ed Reed on and off the field has never been filled, but the Baltimore Ravens have a chance to grab an impact player like Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round to address that need.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
It is unclear if owner Jerry Jones will play it smart or go flashy with the Dallas Cowboys’ first-round pick, but a safe selection would be filling the defensive tackle void with Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman.
18. New York Jets: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Last year’s rookie season for Geno Smith was tumultuous, but he handled the adversity well. Now, the least the franchise can do would be to give him a viable weapon like Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
It’s safe to say the Miami Dolphins need to add talent and depth on the offensive line as soon as possible. Whether he plays left or right tackle, Notre Dame’s Zack Martin would shore up the O-line.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Carson Palmer has been better than expected in his role of veteran quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, but he needs protection. Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio is far from perfect, but he has the raw potential to blossom into a franchise left tackle.
21. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
While the Green Bay Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers, the franchise must give him a reliable weapon at tight end. Enter North Carolina’s Eric Ebron.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
It is no secret that the biggest need for the Philadelphia Eagles is the defensive secondary, and if Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert falls to the team at No. 22, this will be the perfect selection.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Kansas City Chiefs are still retooling for head coach Andy Reid's style, but the team will forgo a pick on the offensive side of the ball for a talented defensive end like Missouri's Kony Ealy.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
A.J. Green is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but the Cincinnati Bengals lack a true No. 2 to complement his skill set. LSU's Odell Beckham offers the team the slot presence that could help Green become an even more dangerous deep threat.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The San Diego Chargers made the postseason on the impressive play of the offensive unit, but they lacked the depth and talent at cornerback to make a deep run. TCU’s Jason Verrett would make an instant impact for the franchise.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
With the Cleveland Browns losing safety T.J. Ward to the Denver Broncos, the pick that the team acquired from the Indianapolis Colts for Trent Richardson could be used to select a viable long-term replacement like Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
It’s clear from the recent offseason moves that the New Orleans Saints are retooling this offseason, and the outside pass rush is still one of their biggest weaknesses. Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier would be an ideal fit this late in the first round.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Carolina Panthers need more weapons to give Cam Newton a chance to shine in the passing attack as much as he has in the rushing attack. Drafting a wide receiver like Marqise Lee would be the perfect remedy.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Despite being arguably the best tight end in the sport when healthy, New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski has been the definition of injury-prone. If Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro is available at No. 29, the team will have the ideal complement and backup.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The porous play at wide receiver last season will result in the San Francisco 49ers eyeballing that position in the first round. With elite speed, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks will be the outside threat that takes the lid off defenses.
31. Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The Denver Broncos must do a better job of clogging the middle against the run, and when Notre Dame defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt falls to No. 31, the franchise will have its decision.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
With defensive tackle Red Bryant signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, per Adam Schefter, the Seattle Seahawks will have to look for a replacement in the draft. Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan would be good deal in the last pick of the first round.