Now that the combine is under wraps, and pro days are in full swing, NFL mocks drafts are running rampant—and rightfully so. At this point of the year, exactly what draft prospects have to offer NFL teams begins to take shape.
Team needs weigh just as heavily as what prospects can bring to the table; however, with the 2014 free-agency period beginning on Tuesday, some franchises will look to bolster their rosters by signing established pros as well.
The draft process will continue to be fluid, as players will continue to rise and fall on boards and free-agent acquisitions will change draft strategies.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how the first round of the 2014 NFL draft could shake out if it were to happen today.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
It's obvious that the Texans need a franchise quarterback; however, it remains unclear as to which one they will select. At the moment, Bridgewater seems to be the most NFL-ready prospect due to his high intelligence, familiarity with multiple reads and smart decision making.
He also has a lot of confidence entering the draft—an important attribute for a rookie signal-caller. During an interview with Jim Corbett of USA Today, Bridgewater's confidence shined: "No doubt, I feel that I'm the best quarterback in this draft. I'm not going to just say that. I actually feel I can back up these words. I'm just confident in myself and my capability of doing all the things at this position and to go out there and prove that I'm the best guy."
This will weigh heavily with NFL organizations and lead to his eventual No. 1 overall selection.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney was an enigma while at South Carolina with a roller-coaster 2013 season. However, he proved to NFL scouts that he has what it takes to be a successful edge-rusher on the professional level.
Standing at 6'5" and weighing 266 pounds, he ran a blazing 4.53-second 40-yard dash—the fastest of any lineman at the combine. His athleticism is off the charts, and he appears to be a once-in-a-lifetime prospect. Pairing him with Robert Quinn and Chris Long would make the Rams defensive line one of the league's most ferocious units.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
We already knew that Manziel has the ability to make plays anywhere on the field. He was a polarizing figure in college and always seemed to produce yards—even when it looked as though there were none to gain.
The Jaguars are in need of such a versatile quarterback. The offense has been lackluster at best, and adding a mobile quarterback is the smart move. Team executives must also be impressed with the way Manziel handled himself when he met with them for an interview during the combine.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Yes, the Browns are in need of a quarterback and could go with one here. However, solid signal-callers will be available later in the draft, and it may be too difficult to pass up on the services of Watkins at No. 4.
The best wide receiver prospect in this year's draft, Watkins put up monster numbers in 2013 with Clemson and backed them up with one of the best combine performances of any prospect. After running a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and looking fluid in position drills, he showed that he can contribute immediately.
Josh Gordon and Sammy Watkins together? Get your popcorn ready.
5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Raiders could go multiple directions here; however, with Bortles still available, the franchise can finally take its long-term answer at quarterback. Bortles backed up his impressive 2013 season with a solid showing at the combine and is gaining a great amount of praise from analysts. He has the ability to get Oakland's offense back on track quickly.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Falcons offense fell apart in 2013. It was partly due to a rash of injuries but mainly due to a collapsing offensive line. Matt Ryan must remain healthy if this team is going to regain its form. Adding Robinson—who shined with a mix of athleticism and strength at the combine—will give Ryan the anchor he needs to continue his success in the NFL.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Tampa Bay has plenty of great pieces in place on the offensive side of the ball. However, if quarterback Mike Glennon can't get more time in the pocket, he will not be able to grow. Adding Matthews here will give him the time needed to get the ball downfield and take a huge step forward as the Buccaneers signal-caller in 2014.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
With Mike Zimmer takings the reins as head coach, rest assured that he will look to beef up the defensive line. Jared Allen is departing to free agency, and a young edge-rusher is needed to pick up the slack. Mack has the necessary burst and speed to beat offensive tackles around the outside.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The next step for the Bills is to get EJ Manuel up to speed. The best way of doing so is to surround him with quarterback-friendly targets. Ebron has the size—6'4", 250 pounds—and speed—4.60-second 40-yard dash—to stretch the field and become a viable red-zone target.
10. Detroit Lions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
In a pass-happy division, the Lions need to bolster the back end of their defense to keep up with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler. Clinton-Dix is a versatile safety who flourishes by reading the eyes of opposing quarterbacks and making quick, concise breaks on the ball. He brings physicality as well and can also be used along the line of scrimmage in run support.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Titans already possess a young, athletic defensive front; however, a presence is needed on the outside to bolster this unit to elite status. Barr possesses fantastic speed on the outside and is capable of rushing the passer or remaining in coverage against quicker running backs and tight ends.
12. New York Giants: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
New York could go with an offensive tackle here; however, Dennard may be too difficult to pass up at this point in the draft. Prince Amukamara has been stellar for the Giants, and Dennard's addition would give him the complement necessary to shut down other high-octane NFC East offenses.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Rams have some great athletes on the offensive side of the ball, and Tavon Austin looks to have a promising career as a slot receiver. Adding the 6'5", 231-pound Evans would give the team its necessary outside target to help move the chains and provide a much-needed large weapon in the red zone.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
In 2013, the Bears owned the NFL's worst rushing defense. Dealing with elite NFC North quarterbacks remains an issue as well. Donald has the size to plug up running lanes and the athleticism to slice his way into the backfield on passing downs. His versatility solves both of those problems for Chicago.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The most important aspect for any NFL offense's success is to keep its quarterback upright. This couldn't be truer for the Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger has been knocked around for years. Lewan had a great combine and is a mauler in the trenches. Once he refines his technique, he will become a solid anchor on Pittsburgh's offensive line for years to come.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys need to figure something out against the pass. They had difficulties in coverage throughout the 2013 season. Safety play was a major contributing factor to the team's dismal defense. Pryor is one of the most physical safeties in this year's draft class and has the coverage abilities to go along with it.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Ravens do not want to see Joe Flacco throw another 22 interceptions next season. By adding offensive weapons around him, he will have more opportunities to flourish. The Ravens already added Steve Smith in free agency; however, he is more of a stopgap solution. The team still has to address the wide receiver position early in this year's draft.
Lee demands attention whenever he takes the field. He is a game-changer at the position and will provide a great complement to Torrey Smith and eventual replacement for Steve Smith.
18. New York Jets: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Jets need an answer at cornerback quickly—especially after Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reported the team's release of Antonio Cromartie before free agency began. Gilbert is one of the quickest corners in the draft and has the ability to shadow the league's fastest receivers. His ball skills also make him a constant threat to create turnovers.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Last season, the Dolphins offense made great strides thanks to the growth of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. However, the team still has issues on the outside of the offensive line and must address them in order to keep its quarterback clean. Martin is an NFL-ready prospect who could come in and make an impact immediately as the club's long-term left tackle.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
In a division that features quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, maintaining a consistent edge rush is a necessity. With Ealy's speed, the Cardinals will not only be able to apply pressure to those quarterbacks but also contain them to avoid giving up yards on the ground.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Packers offense felt the absence of Jermichael Finley last season. Finding his replacement should be one of the team's top priorities. At this point in the draft, adding the 6'5", 265-pound Amaro makes sense. His big frame and deceptive speed make him a perfect candidate to flourish in the Packers' offensive scheme.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The Eagles offense took flight in 2013 due to the dazzling play of Nick Foles. Now, it's time to bolster the defensive side of the ball. The secondary struggled last season, and adding another edge-rusher to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks is one way to help solve the team's defensive woes.
Ford has the strength to play with his hand on the ground as a defensive end and the speed to stand up as an outside linebacker in the Eagles scheme. He will be able to contribute in multiple packages immediately.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Beckham isn't the biggest wide receiver; however, his ability to create yards after the catch on underneath routes makes him a perfect fit for the Chiefs' West Coast offense. A complement to Dwayne Bowe is necessary to give Alex Smith more opportunities to produce from the quarterback position.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Bengals have a deep, talented roster, but they could use a few additions on the defensive side of the ball. The cornerback position may not be an immediate need, but with aging, oft-injured and inexperienced corners on the roster, it will become one soon. Verrett is a speedy, versatile corner who can play outside or inside. His addition will give the Bengals the necessary youth injection to continue their defensive prowess for years.
25. San Diego Chargers: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Head coach Mike McCoy and resurgent Philip Rivers were revelations for the Chargers last season. Rivers isn't the most athletic quarterback, and adding extra protection for him is a huge need. Su'a-Filo is the draft's top guard prospect and will contribute immediately in his rookie season.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The draft just became a home run for the Browns. With the addition of Watkins earlier, and now the selection of the strong-armed Carr, the team has all of the necessary weapons to flourish on offense. Carr stands at 6'2" and weighs 214 pounds. He also has the athleticism to escape pressure in the backfield. His strong arm will be a perfect tool for game-changing receivers Gordon and Watkins.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Rob Ryan's 3-4 defensive scheme brought about a dramatic turnaround for the Saints defense in 2013. Adding players who fit the scheme will only improve its effectiveness. Shazier is an intelligent, hardworking, vocal leader who can provide consistency up front on the outside for this budding defensive unit.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Panthers lost both Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell in free agency, so they need a solution at wide receiver quickly. Cooks is a similar receiver to Smith and will ease the burden of his departure. Cooks was the most productive receiver in the NCAA in 2013 and followed that up by running a blazing 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine. He would be a welcome addition to the Panthers offense run by talented Cam Newton.
29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
New England struggled against the run throughout the 2013 season, allowing an average of 134.1 yards per game on the ground. Adding the 6'2", 331-pound Nix would solve that problem instantly. His strength and big frame allow him to stand up to the best offensive lineman. Plugging up holes is his specialty, and he has the experience to contribute right away.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The 49ers need to add a big, complementary receiver to Michael Crabtree. Benjamin showed his ability to stretch the field and be a valuable asset in the red zone while at Florida State. He will bring those qualities to San Francisco and give the offense a huge boost.
31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Before free agency began, Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today reported that longtime corner Champ Bailey was released by the Broncos. This position quickly became a high offseason priority for Denver. The Broncos did acquire Aqib Talib but still need additional help in the secondary.
Roby possesses great size at 5'11" and 194 pounds, blazing speed—he ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the combine—and good ball skills. He will ease the burden of losing the future Hall of Famer.
32. Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
Russell Wilson continues to improve with each passing year. To ensure his ongoing success, the Seahawks must shore up the interior of the offensive line. Yankey comes from a pro-style offense and has been effective while blocking for the run and protecting for the pass. He has the experience to come in and start during his rookie season.
All prospect combine results and measurements courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
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