The excitement surrounding the official start of free agency has many football fans turning their attention toward the 2014 NFL draft to see where teams will find the players needed to fill areas of weakness.
The draft is scheduled for May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall.
Here is how the first round will be handled by each franchise with a selection on Day 1.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney proved at the scouting combine that he has all the tangibles to be worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. In a pass-happy NFL, the Houston Texans drafting a complement for J.J. Watt would create one of the most dominant forces in the league.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
If head coach Jeff Fisher believes quarterback Sam Bradford has the mental aptitude to lead the St. Louis Rams to the next level, he must give him viable weapons. The best playmaker in the 2014 draft is Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Re-signing Chad Henne was a smart move for the Jacksonville Jaguars in terms of stability, but the franchise must think big with the No. 3 overall pick. While there is no doubt that Johnny Manziel has bust potential, his charisma and marketability as Johnny Football will make the risk worth the reward for an organization desperate to find a franchise player.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Whether the Cleveland Browns have the foresight to select a quarterback such as Central Florida’s Blake Bortles at No. 4 has yet to be seen. If the rumors about the franchise being interested in Matt Schaub are true, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Browns fans will be more disappointed than they were last season.
5. Oakland Raiders: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
People expect the Oakland Raiders to go flashy in the first round, but not this year. If Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews is available at No. 5, the offensive line will have its anchor.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The biggest offseason need for the Atlanta Falcons is an outside linebacker who can rush the passer consistently. While there is a chance Clowney falls this far, the more likely answer will be UCLA’s Anthony Barr. Not a bad No. 2 option.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
After adding defensive end Michael Johnson to the trenches via free agency, the Tamp Bay Buccaneers need to bolster the offensive line as well. Auburn tackle Greg Robinson would be the steadying force the team needs at the position.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Re-signing Matt Cassel was the smart move as a long-term backup plan, but the Minnesota Vikings still lack a franchise quarterback. If Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater falls to No. 8, the Vikings must build for the future with a new QB.
9. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills are looking for more consistency rushing the passer, and selecting Buffalo star outside linebacker Khalil Mack would be the perfect way to add a bright prospect while still gaining a face the franchise can build around.
10. Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Assuming the Detroit Lions don't sign a free-agent wide receiver, the right selection at No. 10 would be Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. With Calvin Johnson desperate for a complement, Evans would be an ideal No. 2 option for Matthew Stafford.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Opposing teams ran the ball well on the Tennessee Titans at times last year, and the biggest issue for the franchise was its lack of consistency against the rushing attack. Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has the ability to stuff the run and contribute in coverage as well, and he will blossom into an every-down backer.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants. If the organization ever wants to win another, it must select an offensive lineman such as Michigan’s Taylor Lewan in order to protect the franchise quarterback.
13. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
After taking Watkins with the No. 2 overall pick, the St. Louis Rams will address their defensive needs in the secondary by selecting one of the best all-around cornerbacks in the 2014 class, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The hottest commodity from the combine was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. After a season that saw the Chicago Bears destroyed by opposing running backs, adding Donald would be a wise investment that pays instant dividends.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Another team in desperate need of help at defensive tackle is the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Donald off the board, the next-best option is Notre Dame’s Louis Nix.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The Baltimore Ravens locked up Dennis Pitta to a long-term deal, and the move allows the franchise to look elsewhere in the first round. Look for Baltimore to address its safety need by drafting Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
After watching a rush on defensive tackles claim several of the players the Dallas Cowboys were targeting, the team will be forced to settle for Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman. Luckily for Dallas, though, Hageman has the potential to be one of the best players in this draft.
18. New York Jets: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The New York Jets released wide receiver Santonio Holmes and thinned out the already non-existent depth at that position. The rebuild will start when Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin falls to New York at No. 18 overall.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Last season's drama was well-publicized, and the Miami Dolphins need to move on from the situation as soon as possible. Selecting a tackle who can play on the right side, such as Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, is the fresh start everyone needs.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The rebirth of Carson Palmer with the Arizona Cardinals has rejuvenated the offense, but the team must add protection to keep him upright in the pocket. Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio is a solid option at No. 20 overall.
21. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
With tight ends Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless on the open market in free agency, the Green Bay Packers must use their first-round pick to lock up a potential stud in North Carolina’s Eric Ebron. This could be the steal of the draft.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The biggest need for the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason is in the secondary. If the franchise doesn’t address the need at cornerback via free agency, drafting Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert would be the correct direction in the first round.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Despite a strong start to the season, the Kansas City Chiefs limped into the postseason defensively, and they must address their need at the defensive end position first. Missouri’s Kony Ealy may be rough around the edges, but he is a star in the making.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
A.J. Green is already one of the best wide receivers in the league, but the Cincinnati Bengals must find a viable complement on the other side of the field. LSU’s Odell Beckham would be an ideal second option in the pass offense.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The San Diego Chargers stunned the NFL when they backed into the playoffs, but in order to make the postseason again, they must draft a cornerback such as TCU’s Jason Verrett to help prevent teams from burning them along the sidelines.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
If Cleveland Browns safety T. J. Ward walks via free agency, the Browns must immediately draft his replacement. Louisville safety Calvin Pryor will be the all-purpose force the team needs at the helm of the secondary.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
After yet another season of struggling to find a consistent pass rush, the New Orleans Saints must look to an outside linebacker built for Rob Ryan’s defensive system. Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier would be the ideal fit.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Carolina Panthers are looking to add depth and talent to the wide receiver group this offseason. Quarterback Cam Newton needs new weapons, and USC’s Marqise Lee would be an affordable alternative to addressing the position via free agency.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The injury issues for star tight end Rob Gronkowski have to be taking their toll on the New England Patriots franchise. New England should look to a prospect such as Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro at the end of the first round.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The lack of depth at wide receiver was a major issue for the San Francisco 49ers last season, and adding a talented player such as Brandin Cooks from Oregon State would bolster the position.
31. Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
While the defensive line showed glimpses of being an elite unit last season, the consistency must improve next season. Drafting a talented tackle such as Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt would be a remedy for the Denver Broncos.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant, and the newfound need for depth at that position will help Seattle take the educated risk associated with Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan. The rich keep getting richer.
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