NFL Draft 2014: 6 Teams in Prime Position to Draft Immediate Impact Players
One thing that we have come to learn when watching the NFL draft is that some teams have a knack for drafting the right players. Having the first overall pick does not automatically mean you're going to get a star.
Which teams get the stars depends not just on their own ability, but where certain players go. Quarterbacks will naturally go earlier than their value, and that will open up opportunities for teams outside the top five to draft a top player.
These following teams are the ones that are most likely to draft a star, or at least someone who can step in on day one and make things happen. The slides are in draft order.
Pick 1: Houston Texans
On the surface, the first pick getting the best player is a no-brainer. Even if that team chooses a quarterback, it's a no-brainer that they would select the best one.
That being said, there are teams that can throw curveballs at the top of the draft, and the Texans are one of them. Everyone wanted them to select Reggie Bush back in 2006 with the first overall pick, yet they went with Mario Williams, which worked out well for them.
If the Texans were willing to do that once, they will do so again. If they are interested in Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack or a quarterback, then that's who they will select. And if history is any indication, they will be a day-one starter.
It's not yet clear who Houston may select. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain (h/t NFL.com) has them selecting a quarterback, while Houston-based radio host Lance Zierlein has them selecting Clowney. Both are possibilities, as is the third option.
Pick 2: St. Louis Rams
Thanks to getting the pick in an earlier trade with the Washington Redskins, the St. Louis Rams have an advantage over other early teams in that they have a lot more options here.
The Rams do not have a need at quarterback since they have Sam Bradford, which means that they can pick the best player available at any other position, or they could trade down if they prefer.
Their most pressing need is offensive tackle. Nick Wagoner at ESPN.com notes both Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews would fit the bill, and it would make sense to draft either.
Whether they decide to draft Robinson, Matthews or the top defensive player on the board, since their defense as a whole can be shored up, that player will have no trouble starting on day one.
Pick 6: Atlanta Falcons
After the top five picks, it's likely that the top three quarterbacks will be selected. This opens up the floodgates for the top skill players to be selected.
The Atlanta Falcons are in a perfect position in this draft not just because of that, but because they don't have that quarterback need, meaning they can go after the best available player, whether it's Anthony Barr, the best cornerback available or even Khalil Mack if he falls that far.
As evidenced by the wide-open selection, recent mock drafts, according to SI.com, have Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Khalil Mack as possibilities.
In my mind, the only player not in play here is Sammy Watkins, given the depth at wide receiver later in the draft, the more pressing needs elsewhere and the injury history of Julio Jones—the Falcons may not want to repeat drafting another first-round wideout.
Pick 11: Tennessee Titans
The 11th pick, on the surface, doesn't sound like anything special, so this addition may come across as odd. However, Tennessee has several different holes that they can fill in the starting lineup, so they can simultaneously draft the best player available and draft for need.
This already puts them at an advantage, but by being just outside of the top 10, it means they are right behind teams more likely to draft for need and as a result, a top-five prospect could realistically fall to them.
Don Banks' mock also notes how many ways the Titans can go, showing how sure it is that they can get an impact player. He notes that they could acquire, "Taylor Lewan, a safety such as Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, or pro-ready receivers like Mike Evans of Texas A&M and USC's Marqise Lee."
Pick 17: Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens land on this list for two reasons. First, they are one of the few teams that I feel confident that, no matter where they pick in the draft, they would be able to land an impact player based on their track record over the years.
Second, the areas where they do have needs (tight end, sizable wide receiver, offensive tackle) are positions where the Ravens can grab someone. The best tight end in the class, Eric Ebron, could still be there at pick 17, and at worst, the third-best wide receiver should be available there as well.
Mock drafts vary on the Ravens, but Ebron may be the most frequent player listed. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated simply says of this pick, "Ebron is exactly the type of downfield target Baltimore needs."
Ebron would be a day-one starter for Baltimore, and even if the Ravens went the best-player-available route, they would be able to find a good player.
Pick 30: San Francisco 49ers
One good thing about picking late in the first round is that usually a team has few holes to fill on the roster, at least when it comes to starters. The 49ers, who came close to two straight Super Bowl appearances this past season, are one such team.
The only particular pressing need they have, given how last season turned out, is wide receiver. Ask any local newspaper, be it the San Jose Mercury News, The Sacramento Bee or another paper, and they will all tell you precisely that.
They should have Michael Crabtree back in full force for 2014, but without him they were an entirely different team offensively. Suffice to say, they need an extra weapon there.
Luckily for the 49ers, the wide receiver group is incredibly deep. Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will be off the board, but there are many other wideouts with first-round talent that are available, such as USC's Marqise Lee or LSU's Odell Beckham Jr.