Pro days are an important piece of the puzzle for NFL teams and prospects when it comes to the pre-draft process.
For those athletes who didn't receive a combine invite, it's a chance to catch the eyes of scouts and executives and perhaps sneak on to someone's draft board. For other top prospects, it serves as a comfortable setting to showcase skills they didn't flash at the NFL Scouting Combine a couple of weeks ago in Indianapolis.
There's still a lot of work to be done between now and the May 8-10 NFL draft, though, as teams will start hosting prospects at their facilities and doing their final evaluations. For now, here's an updated look at projections for the entire first round.
1. Houston Texans: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Of the top three quarterbacks reportedly being considered by the Houston Texans at No. 1 overall, Blake Bortles was the only one to throw at the combine. While Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater will wait until their pro days to throw for NFL teams, Bortles had no hesitation about performing under the pressure.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the three signal-callers are still in the running to be this year's top selection.
While there have been star-studded quarterback classes in recent years, Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently told Marc Daniels of 740 The Game in Orlando, Fla., that Bortles was the best of this "average" crop of QBs.
Still, at 6'5", 232 pounds, Bortles has the prototypical size that Bridgewater and Manziel lack, and he is expected to meet with the Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars following his pro day on March 19.
Bridgewater's and Manziel's individual showcases will play a major role in determining who goes No. 1, but right now, it looks like Bortles has the best collection of mental and physical tools to succeed in the NFL.
2. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
There was a lot of chatter in recent weeks about the Atlanta Falcons possibly trading up here for Jadeveon Clowney after the dominant defensive end told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com that he'd like to see the Falcons select him.
While the St. Louis Rams are in a great position to trade back here, they also have a major need on the offensive line now that Rodger Saffold is expected to move to a new team, with the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders emerging as front-runners.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com recently listed Saffold among the free agents he expects to change jerseys this offseason:
With Saffold on the move and top tackle Jake Long recovering from a serious knee injury he suffered last season, it makes sense for St. Louis to find a new protector for Sam Bradford. Charlie Campbell of FoxSports.com gave his take on Robinson and how he would fit in with the Rams in 2014:
[Long] has suffered repeated injuries in recent years, and his body could be breaking down. Robinson could play guard or right tackle before eventually taking over at left tackle. I'm still torn on projecting Robinson over Jake Matthews given Jeff Fisher's ties to the Matthews family. However, Les Snead's first-round picks have all been players with rare a combination of size, speed or athleticism (Michael Brockers, Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree). Thus, Robinson fits the profile.
Robinson (6'5", 332 pounds) has shot up draft boards since his mauling performance in the BCS National Championship against a solid Florida State defensive front. His strong performance at the combine, as detailed by Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, also helped boost his stock as an agile and strong athlete who should be able to step right in and be a big-impact player.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
The Jaguars desperately need a quarterback, but it would be hard to pass up Clowney.
As expected, he stole the show at the combine by running a 4.53-second 40-yard dash after measuring in at 6'5" and 266 pounds. Sure, the Jags have a big need under center, but adding an impact player to the defense could be just as big for the team.
Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com shared his thoughts on why Jacksonville should make Clowney the No. 3 pick:
If Clowney is still on the board at No. 3, this pick gets interesting. The elusive "franchise" quarterback or the all-world pass rusher? Clowney has elite tools and can become something special in the NFL if he pushes himself, lining up as Gus Bradley's premier pass rusher on defense. If the Jaguars do go Clowney here, look for Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo to be options in the late first or early second round for Jacksonville.
As Brugler noted, the Jaguars could hope that Derek Carr falls to the early second round at No. 39 overall, or they could try to fill the void via free agency.
Meanwhile, Clowney would bring an instant face to the franchise for a team that will likely lose Maurice Jones-Drew via free agency. The team needs a franchise quarterback, but there are enough questions surrounding Manziel and Bridgewater that the Jags should take Clowney if he's available here.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
There is no question that the Cleveland Browns need a new leader on offense. Last year's three-man combo of Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell led the team to a 4-12 record as the team finished in the cellar of the AFC North yet again.
Manziel might be flashier, but I think Bridgewater's accurate passing and smart decision-making are two skills that could translate well to the NFL.
Chris Fedor of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland offered his take on Bridgewater and the Browns:
There are still concerns about how Bridgewater's body will be able to handle getting hit by NFL linemen, but he showed up at the combine listed at 6'2" and 214 pounds, 10-15 pounds bigger than his playing weight throughout college.
The Browns will almost certainly be among the teams at Bridgewater's pro day on March 17, where he'll audition his arm strength with familiar receivers on a familiar field in Louisville. Given the production of their quarterbacks last year, the Browns should pick a signal-caller here.
5. Minnesota Vikings (via OAK): QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
If the first four picks play out as predicted, the Minnesota Vikings could be spurred to trade up three spots to No. 5 and get their hands on Johnny Football.
While the Raiders also have a need at quarterback and currently hold the fifth selection, Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reported that Oakland's brass is more enamored with Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.
But the Vikings might not want to gamble and could instead put fate into their own hands by trading up.
Minnesota had a rotating cast of quarterbacks, none of whom produced, in Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder. While the team is bringing back Cassel and Ponder for 2014, Manziel would be able to compete for the starting job in training camp as he tries to silence his doubters.
6. Atlanta Falcons: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
It will be hard for any team to pass up explosive wide receiver Sammy Watkins at this point in the draft, but the Falcons still possess a talented receiving corps with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas.
Meanwhile, the defense could certainly use some help after giving up 27.7 points per game last year, the sixth-worst number of any team in the league. Rob Rang of CBSSports.com gave his take on why Mack would be a smart selection for Atlanta:
The Falcons desperately need help on the defensive side of the ball but considering the millions invested in their skill position players, adding talent to the offensive line is a critical need, as well. Mack, the all-time leader in FBS history with 16 forced fumbles and tied for the all-time lead with 75 career tackles for loss over his career. Among the cleaner prospects in the draft, Mack is a dark horse candidate for No. 1 overall with the Texans and would offer great value here.
There has been a strong debate about Mack and fellow top linebacker Anthony Barr, but it appears the Buffalo product has won teams over with his strong game tape and recent workouts, per John Wawrow of the Associated Press.
Listed at 6'3" and 251 pounds, Mack is expected to be a strong pass-rusher at the next level after posting 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss as the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon showed some promise in 2013, and he could certainly use some more firepower on offense.
The team already has a solid running back in Doug Martin, and adding an explosive playmaker such as Watkins alongside Vincent Jackson would certainly make this offense more exciting.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock recently had some high praise for the 6'1", 211-pound Watkins:
According to Pete Iacobelli of the Associated Press, plenty of teams are interested in Watkins, who spoke to reporters after Clemson's pro day this past week:
Watkins has several NFL meetings and individual workouts lined up over the next several weeks. "I'm getting ready to travel the world," he said, smiling.
For now, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound receiver says he'll fine tune his route running and focus his mind on making as big a splash in the NFL as he did at Clemson when he was an All-American as a freshman.
He doesn't care who picks him. "I'm willing to go to any team and try and have that instant impact," he said.
The Buccaneers and new head coach Lovie Smith have appointed former Cal coach Jeff Tedford as the offensive coordinator, and it would behoove them to add a player of Watkins' caliber.
8. Oakland Raiders (via MIN): QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
As I noted earlier, it might make sense for the Raiders and the Vikings to swap their early picks in the first round.
Both teams need quarterbacks, but it's the Raiders who are supposedly eyeing Carr, per Farmer, who wrote, "The Raiders are known for their unconventional picks, so Manziel might seem like a natural fit for them. Word is, though, that they liked Carr more coming out of the combine."
This might seem like a head-scratcher to many, but that's nothing new for this Oakland franchise. Carr's body of work in college has been questioned, as he played in the less-than-stellar Mountain West Conference and generally isn't regarded as a top QB prospect in this year's class behind the trio of Bortles, Manziel and Bridgewater.
According to Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle, the Raiders might also want to sign free-agent veteran David Carr this offseason if they draft his younger brother:
No matter what general manager Reggie McKenzie does here, it better work; otherwise, he and coach Dennis Allen could be out of jobs by next year's draft as the Raiders try to shake off their losing ways.
9. Buffalo Bills: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Aggies tackle Jake Matthews is widely regarded as the other top tackle (alongside Auburn's Robinson) in this year's talented crop of offensive line bookends.
At his pro day for Texas A&M recently, the 6'5", 308-pound prospect looked sharp for a host of NFL personnel, including Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley, per Jeff Reynolds of CBSSports.com.
When Matthews does hear his name called by commissioner Roger Goodell, he'll become the seventh member of his family to play in the NFL. Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press recently spoke to Matthews following his pro day, and he said the following:
It's always been a little something to think about. It's a special situation. Now that I finally have my shot I'm just looking forward to going out and proving it doesn't matter what my name is, what matters is that I can play and I'm capable. And I hope teams get that from me and not just going off my name.
Cordy Glenn is penciled in as the team's left tackle going forward, but Matthews could bring an upgrade over veteran Erik Pears.
10. Detroit Lions: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Many draft analysts have predicted that the Detroit Lions will draft a cornerback with the No. 10 overall pick, and Justin Gilbert may have separated himself from Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard during the combine.
Listed at 6'0" and 202 pounds, Gilbert is slightly bigger than Dennard (5'11", 199 pounds), but he posted a 4.37-second time in the 40-yard dash, which was 0.14 seconds better than Dennard.
That's a sizeable gap in the world of 40 times, and speed is king for NFL cornerbacks. Plus, the Lions play in the same division as talented receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
With key 2013 contributor Rashean Mathis testing the free-agent market, Gilbert is a sound choice for this franchise.
11. Tennessee Titans: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Along with other expected first-rounders such as Mack and Alabama's C.J. Mosley, Barr also figures to make a big impact at linebacker.
Rang explained why adding Barr to Tennessee's defense would be a good fit:
The Titans tied for 21st in the NFL with 36 sacks recorded in 2013 with defensive tackle Jurrell chipping in a disproportionate 10.5. As such, general manager Ruston Webster might be willing to ignore other positions of concern (like right tackle) with a potentially dominant edge rusher like the 6-foot-5, 255 pound Barr falling into his lap.
Tennessee has a new coaching staff in Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who is expected to use a hybrid 4-3, 3-4 scheme that could benefit from a versatile player such as Barr.
12. New York Giants: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
The G-Men suffered through major struggles on offense throughout 2013, which has prompted general manager Jerry Reese to label it as one of the team's top priorities this offseason, per Jordan Raanan of NJ.com:
You start in-house with your offensive line. We drafted a few young players [in recent years] and hopefully they can grow into a role for us. Obviously, you look at free agency and we have a couple guys that ended on [injured reserve] for us last year. We’ll see what their status is moving forward and, of course, the draft there seems to be some good offensive linemen in this draft.
Lewan is up next in this talented class behind Robinson and Matthews following his decorated career at Michigan. The four-year starter at Michigan has a huge frame at 6'7" and 309 pounds. Top Giants tackle Will Beatty is recovering from a serious leg injury, while last year's first-round pick, Justin Pugh, could move inside to further strengthen the line.
13. St. Louis Rams: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
If the Rams get Robinson to protect quarterback Sam Bradford, they might as well get some offensive weapons for him too.
St. Louis used its No. 8 overall pick on explosive wideout Tavon Austin last year, but Evans is a completely different type of player. Listed at 6'5" and 231 pounds, Evans has great hands and figures to be a great possession receiver in the NFL who could do big damage in the red zone.
While his 4.53-second time in the 40-yard dash isn't spectacular, Evans has plenty of skill and size to succeed at the next level.
14. Chicago Bears: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
It's no secret that the Chicago Bears need to shore up their run defense after giving up an average of 161.4 yards per game on the ground in 2013, by far the worst mark in the league.
At this juncture of the draft, the Bears should have their pick at a few top-notch options at defensive tackle, and a rookie could be counted on to make an impact from Day 1. Chief among the prospects is Timmy Jernigan, who anchored the champion Florida State Seminoles' menacing defense last year.
Listed at 6'2" and 299 pounds, Jernigan is a great athlete, as detailed by Rang:
Given the Bears' toothless defense a season ago and the highly explosive offenses of the NFC North, Chicago is almost certain to select a defender with their first pick of the 2014 draft. Though he only emerged as a full-time starter at Florida State in 2013, Jernigan's combination of burst, agility and power makes him one of the draft's most intriguing talents.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Football fans in the Steel City have to be happy that the team has signed Troy Polamalu to an extension that will keep him with the team until at least 2016.
The Steelers have a proud history of strong defenses, and pairing Clinton-Dix in the backfield with Polamalu would created a talented tandem. But as Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com noted, there are a few teams that could benefit from a player like Clinton-Dix:
The talented safety is viewed more as a versatile cover guy as opposed to hard-hitting Calvin Pryor, who is also vying to become the first safety off the board in May. While Polamalu is already one of the best ball hawks in the game, Clinton-Dix seems like he has the ability to fit a variety of roles for the Steelers in their secondary.
16. Dallas Cowboys: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald may have been the biggest benefactor from the combine, as his stock soared following his 4.68-second mark in the 40. It was quite the accomplishment for the productive defensive tackle, who measured in at 6'1" and 285 pounds.
Donald led the nation with 28.5 tackles for loss last year, and his display of speed and agility had Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis making comparisons to Geno Atkins, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Jason Hatcher is 31 and signed through 2014 for the cash-strapped Cowboys. Donald could bring a nice, young presence against the run and the pass to a team that could use help up front.
17. Baltimore Ravens: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
General manager Ozzie Newsome has made plenty of sage decisions while crafting the Baltimore Ravens, and that's because he has often drafted the most talented players on the board regardless of position.
According to Todd McShay of ESPN.com (subscription required), Newsome could think along those lines in drafting Mosley:
I had the Ravens select the best player available in this scenario, which is something they have a history of doing. Linebacker isn't necessarily a need spot for Baltimore, but the team isn't set at the position, either, and Mosley would provide an upgrade as a very productive playmaker with versatility and range.
18. New York Jets: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Quarterback Geno Smith needs some help on offense, and tight end Eric Ebron brings a unique skill set to the table.
He measured in at 6'4" and 250 pounds at the combine before running a 4.60-second 40-yard-dash, showing the speed that made him one of college football's most explosive tight ends. In fact, he broke Vernon Davis' ACC record (871) with 973 receiving yards on the year.
The veteran duo of Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow has limited upside going forward, but Ebron has plenty of it and could prove to be a valuable target for Smith as he grows more comfortable in the offense.
19. Miami Dolphins: OL Zack Martin, Notre Dame
There is no offensive line more in shambles at the moment than Miami's, as the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga removed two of the team's offensive linemen from the fold.
Miami needs some reinforcements after giving up a league-worst 58 sacks last year, and Zack Martin is a versatile option who could be plugged in at either guard or tackle. Listed at 6'4" and 308 pounds, Martin was a decorated tackle at Notre Dame, but his build suggests he will be better served as an interior lineman in the NFL.
20. Arizona Cardinals: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
The Cardinals need some help with their offensive line as well, but adding to the stout defense would prove to be a smart draft strategy for the club.
Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell have been a strong duo at defensive end for the team in recent years, but both players will also be making a lot of money in 2014. Brugler suggested that Dockett's status with Arizona is a question mark going forward, while Matt Miller of Bleacher Report offered this comparison of Ealy and Panthers Pro Bowler Greg Hardy:
That's not to say Miller or anyone expects Ealy to step right in and be as good as the respected veteran, but the potential is certainly there.
21. Green Bay Packers: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Cornerback Sam Shields agreed to a four-year, $39 million deal to stay with the Green Bay Packers on Monday, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
Now, general manager Ted Thompson should keep trying to improve the Packers secondary, which was one of the league's worst in 2014. Keeping Shields off the free-agent market was clearly one of Thompson's top priorities this offseason, and the focus should shift to safety.
Thompson told Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that he needs to be aggressive when addressing the position, and Pryor is a talented, hard-hitting player who would come with a team-friendly rookie contract.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
It's been something of a rotating cast at cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles in recent years, as Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher took over the starting duties last year.
But the secondary was slashed all year, giving up a league-worst 289.8 passing yards per game. Dennard looks too talented to pass up at No. 22, even if Williams and Fletcher are poised to come back in 2014.
The two veterans could be expendable after this season if Dennard grows into the No. 1 cornerback most expect him to be in the NFL.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marqise Lee, USC
Quarterback Alex Smith could use some more help at receiver, as the Kansas City Chiefs don't have much depth behind go-to guy Dwayne Bowe.
The biggest question marks surrounding Lee have to do with his ability to stay healthy, but the 6'0", 192-pound wideout was a prolific playmaker during his college days and would provide a nice downfield threat to this team.
With an offense that already features arguably the NFL's top running back in Jamaal Charles, the addition of Lee could put the Chiefs over the top.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Most draft pundits have the Bengals taking a cornerback to bolster a group that is dealing with a variety of issues.
Leon Hall is rehabbing an Achilles injury, and high 2012 draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick hasn't panned out so far. Terence Newman and Adam Jones aren't getting any younger either. McShay shared his reasoning regarding why the Bengals should draft Fuller:
The Bengals need a cornerback, and Fuller is a guy who turned some heads with his combine performance. The two big question marks on him had been speed and durability, but then he ran a 4.49 40 and, from what I heard, teams didn't come away with any concerns about his durability. He has good size (6-foot) and long arms and proved to be an explosive athlete based on his test results.
Plenty of defensive backs should be taken in the first round of the draft, and Fuller has been rising up boards lately.
25. San Diego Chargers: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
In the mix with Fuller and Ohio State's Bradley Roby as cornerbacks trying to crack the first round is TCU's Justin Verrett.
Verrett showed off his great athleticism at the combine, running a 4.38 40-yard dash and posting a mark of 39 inches in the vertical leap.
His game tape reminded McShay of NFL Pro Bowl corner Antoine Winfield:
Even though he's a bit undersized (5'9", 189 pounds), Verrett should be able to step in and make an impact for the Chargers from day one, as the team currently has a relatively unknown group of cornerbacks in Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall, Crezdon Butler and Derek Cox.
26. Cleveland Browns: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Veteran and defensive rock D'Qwell Jackson was cut and has reportedly signed with the Indianapolis Colts, per Pat McManamon of ESPN.com.
That means the Browns have a big void to fill at linebacker, and it makes sense that they use their second selection of the first round on a versatile and explosive player such as Shazier.
The 6'1", 237-pound linebacker might have to put on a little bit more weight, but he blew teams away with his fast 40 time at his pro day this week, per Jerry Emig of OhioStateBuckeyes.com:
Shazier didn't have an official time at the combine, but his mark would have easily bested the top linebacker 40 time of 4.51 set by Boston College's Kevin Pierre-Louis in Indy.
27. New Orleans Saints: DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Aside from Clowney, there is perhaps no more intriguing athlete in this year's draft than Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman.
In the creative 3-4 system used by New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Hageman could be used in a variety of roles across the defensive front. Listed at 6'6" and 310 pounds, the athletic Hageman could use some good coaching, but he has the raw tools to be an impact NFL player.
28. Carolina Panthers: OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
When Jordan Gross announced his retirement earlier this offseason, offensive tackle emerged as a big need for the Carolina Panthers heading into the draft.
While Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama is also worth a long look here, recent concerns about his knees have some teams worried. Morgan Moses might gain from Kouandjio's downfall and sneak into the first round.
Moses is viewed as an unpolished product who plays too tall at times, per NFL.com, but he has the prototypical size (6'6", 314 pounds) and arm length (35 3/8") teams covet from O-line bookends.
29. New England Patriots: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
No one seems to do more with tight ends than the New England Patriots duo of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
Now that Rob Gronkowski has been sidelined by another big injury, the team could draft Jace Amaro and plug him into the starting lineup right away. Amaro was prolific during his Texas Tech career, as highlighted by his 106 catches for 1,352 yards and seven scores in 2013.
30. San Francisco 49ers: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
The Niners could use some more offensive firepower for Colin Kaepernick, and Brandin Cooks is an intriguing option who could still be around by the end of the first round.
If he is, the team would be wise to jump on him, as Cooks looks like he has the ability to grow into a solid slot receiver in the NFL. Flanking him with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis would surely bring a new element to the San Francisco passing game.
Cooks ran a 4.33 40 in Indy and won the Biletnikoff Award in 2013 as the nation's top receiver after totaling 128 catches for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. But as a 5'10", 189-pound target, he'll have to prove he can handle NFL hits.
31. Denver Broncos: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
The reigning AFC champions could use some more depth in the secondary, as detailed by Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com:
With the release of Champ Bailey and the pending free agency of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and, on a restricted basis, Chris Harris Jr., the Broncos hit March unsure of exactly how their cornerbacks will stack up.
The release of Bailey is painful from an emotional perspective, but was necessary in the cold calculus of roster construction in the salary-cap era. An outlay of $10 million to the NFL's third-oldest active defensive back -- and one coming off a season in which he missed 11 games to a bothersome sprained left foot that left him in pain throughout the year -- was just too high.
The Broncos might be smart to address this position via the draft. According to Mayock, the 5'11", 194-pound Roby, who ran a 4.39, 40 at the combine, is one of the elite athletes at corner in this year's draft:
32. Seattle Seahawks: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Not many players have the chance to go from an NCAA champion to a Super Bowl champion, but Seattle would be a great landing spot for Florida State star Kelvin Benjamin.
He has a big frame at 6'5" and 240 pounds, and he would provide a weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson, who doesn't have many proven targets in the passing game.
There aren't many holes on this Seattle Seahawks roster, but the lack of depth at receiver is a glaring deficiency Benjamin could help improve.