The NFL draft, held during the second weekend in May, is still more than seven weeks away. But mock drafts are flying around the Internet. There's no slam-dunk first overall pick.
You could make a legitimate argument for any of the following players going first overall: Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, and possibly Greg Robinson or Khalil Mack.
I did take potential trades into consideration (four in the first round). As all drafts are, the picks could be a position of need or it could be the best player available. Here's my attempt at predicting the first round, all 32 picks, of the 2014 NFL draft.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
It will be difficult for the Texans to pass up Jadeveon Clowney. Pairing him with J.J. Watt could give the team one of the best sets of defensive ends in the history of the NFL if Clowney lives up to expectations. But the Texans already have some good pieces on their defense. They're close to becoming a contender again. They need to worry about the quarterback position, especially with three top candidates to choose from.
After all, you cannot win in the National Football League without a competent quarterback. General manager Rick Smith and new head coach Bill O'Brien will have their choice of Bortles, Teddy Brodgewater or Johnny Manziel.
Bortles seems to be the safest pick and is considered the consensus No. 1 quarterback in most mock drafts. He could help the Texans, who reached the playoffs in both 2011 and 2012, return to the postseason as early as 2014.
2. Atlanta Falcons (trade up with St. Louis): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
It's the Atlanta Falcons who grab the player with the highest ceiling in the 2014 draft class, trading up with the St. Louis Rams to nab defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has shown he's willing to trade up in the draft, as he did in 2011, when the Falcons moved up to the sixth pick to grab wide receiver Julio Jones.
The Falcons collected just 32 sacks as a team in 2012, and their best pass-rusher is 32-year-old Osi Umenyiora, who is past his prime. Clowney will give defensive coordinator Mike Nolan a much-needed weapon to rush the quarterback.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars actually exceeded expectations during Gus Bradley's first year as head coach, winning four out of five games late in the season. But they're a disaster at the quarterback position. The team just traded 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers after three disastrous years at the helm, and even general manager Dave Caldwell knows he can't possibly enter the 2014 season with veteran Chad Henne as his starting quarterback.
The Jags have their choice of Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel. The safer pick is likely Bridgewater, who is perceived to be a future franchise quarterback. In the weak AFC South, Bradley and Bridgewater could have the Jaguars knocking on the door for a playoff spot as early as next season.
4. Oakland Raiders (trade up with Cleveland): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Oakland Raiders need a quarterback, even more than the Cleveland Browns do. Trading up for former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is exactly the type of move the Oakland Raiders would make.
Manziel is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect. If he succeeds, he could turn the Raiders into a winning organization for the first time since the 2002 season. If he fails, consider it the end of the road for general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen.
5. Cleveland Browns (trade down with Oakland): Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
It took the Cleveland Browns a while to find a head coach, and now it looks like they will miss out at a chance for one of the draft's top three quarterback prospects. They could reach for a prospect like Derek Carr, a borderline first-round pick, but it makes more sense for defensive-minded head coach Mike Pettine to grab the best available defensive player.
That's Khalil Mack, a dominant college pass-rusher who could get after the quarterback from outside linebacker in the Browns' 3-4 defense.
6. St. Louis Rams (trade down with Atlanta): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
If the Rams stayed on the board with the second overall pick, they would likely take offensive tackle Greg Robinson. It's by pure luck that general manager Les Snead gets his man four picks later.
Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller calls Robinson a "once-in-a-decade athlete at the position." He's a tremendous athlete who could help quarterback Sam Bradford turn in a breakout year in what could be a do-or-die season for the fifth-year signal-caller.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Purely drafting by the best player available, rookie general manager Jason Licht can't pass up Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. He's a game-changing weapon on the offensive side of the ball.
The combination of veteran Vincent Jackson and Watkins will help tremendously with the development of young quarterback Mike Glennon (assuming he earns the starting job). Watkins has the potential to go second overall. The Bucs get a steal at seventh overall.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The Vikings really need a quarterback. Christian Ponder failed to develop into a franchise quarterback, and they can't possibly use veteran Matt Cassel as a one-year stopgap without even drafting a quarterback.
With the draft's big three quarterbacks gone, look for the Vikings to pull the trigger for Derek Carr, the younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr. It's a bit of a stretch at No. 8 overall, but when a team needs a quarterback, it can get desperate.
9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Bills need to take the best player available if they want to compete in the AFC East. Quarterback E.J. Manuel struggled as a rookie. Adding a reliable target in Mike Evans will ease his development in his second season.
Evans is a fast, physical receiver who can go up against the division's top cornerbacks (Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes and potentially Dee Milliner).
10. Detroit Lions: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Even though undrafted free agent LaAdrian Waddle played well after taking over the right tackle job midway through the season, the idea of Jake Matthews falling to the 10th overall pick is too good for the Lions to pass up. He was the nation's best offensive tackle prospect until Greg Robinson dominated at the scouting combine. Matthews is the type of player who could hold down the fort at the tackle position for the next decade.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Here's a slam-dunk pick. The Tennessee Titans are implementing a 3-4 defense under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt. Barr would be the perfect pass-rusher to turn the Titans from the league's worst defense in 2012 to an above-average defense just two years later.
12. New York Giants: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Giants have some major work to do on their defensive line. They collected just 33 sacks last year, and they lost their top pass-rusher, Justin Tuck, to the Raiders, as well as defensive tackle Linval Joseph to the Vikings. A dominant pass rush is how the team won the Super Bowl after both the 2007 and 2011 seasons. Add Kony Ealy next to Jason Pierre-Paul, and the Giants' pass rush instantly becomes significantly better.
13. St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Rams may have an above-average defense, but it's still easily the worst in the division. They have a terrific front seven, but they could really use a playmaker in their defensive backfield, especially after releasing failed big name free-agent signing Cortland Finnegan. Enter Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, a hard-hitting physical player who will instantly command the respect of opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers.
14. Chicago Bears: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
If the Chicago Bears take the best player available, they'll grab Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan. He's dominant enough to play either tackle position, where his presence will send Jordan Mills (NFL-high 62 hurries allowed at right tackle in 2013) to the bench.
15. Dallas Cowboys (trade up with Pittsburgh): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Another team to trade up in the first 15 picks of the draft, the Cowboys grab the top cornerback on the board. Justin Gilbert's size, tremendous speed and reputation as a ball hawk likely knocks failed first-round pick Morris Claiborne out of a starting role.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (trade down with Dallas): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Steelers really need to reestablish themselves as a dominant NFL defense. In particular, they need to get younger, especially at cornerback. Ike Taylor turns 34 this offseason, and he allowed six touchdown passes without an interception in 2013.
The best defensive player available halfway through the first round is Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, a physical, playmaking cornerback who could take over the starting job by 2015.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Joe Flacco has never had a Pro Bowl wide receiver or tight end. Following the Steve Smith acquisition this offseason, he'll have his best one-two set at receiver since he entered the NFL. But the Ravens still need some more offseason weapons, especially if Ray Rice never recovers from last year's disastrous campaign and the Ravens turn into more of a pass-first team.
In a receiver-heavy class, the Ravens grab USC's Marqise Lee, a speed demon who will give the team one of the better trios of receivers in the National Football League. Hopefully Joe Flacco can return to form in 2014 following the worst year of his career.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
There's no way the Jets can pass on drafting an offensive playmaker for Geno Smith. In one of the best receiver classes in recent memory, the Jets can pick Odell Beckham with their first pick. He has great speed, good hands and he's outstanding in space. He and Eric Decker would give the Jets a respectable one-two punch at receiver.
The Jets have drafted a defensive player in the first round in each of the last four years, and everybody knows Rex Ryan wants to return his defense (19th in scoring in 2013) to elite form. But he simply cannot pass on an offensive player in this draft. His future as Jets head coach hinges on Geno Smith's development in 2014.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Miami Dolphins simply have to figure out a way to protect their quarterback. Ryan Tannehill took a ridiculous 58 sacks last year, the most in the NFL. He also lost tackle Jonathan Martin and guard Richie Incognito to Bullygate.
Notre Dame's Zack Martin can help the team upgrade its offensive line. He's skilled enough to play tackle or guard. After the Dolphins signed Branden Albert in free agency to play left tackle, plugging Martin in at right tackle seems to make the most sense.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
If Eric Ebron falls to the 20th overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals get a.) the best player available and b.) a player at one of their weakest positions. Ebron has massive size. He's a 6'4'', 250-pound weapon who can excel at tight end or line up in the slot to create mismatches for opposing defenses. He'll give veteran quarterback Carson Palmer a third weapon in the passing game, joining Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (trade up with Green Bay): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
With Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix falling to the 21st pick, the Eagles will undoubtedly trade up one spot to acquire a player who fills their biggest need on either side of the ball. Clinton-Dix immediately becomes the team's best safety since Quintin Mikell, who left as a free agent after the 2010 season. Clinton-Dix is a hard-hitting, physical safety who will also help improve a secondary that allowed the most passing yards in the NFL in 2013.
22. Green Bay Packers (trade down with Philadelphia): Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
A one-year deal with nose tackle B.J. Raji won't prevent the Packers from drafting Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman. He's a disruptive, dominant defensive lineman who can play nose tackle or defensive end. He can effectively rush the passer and stop the run.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Chiefs should really focus on the offensive side of the ball in the draft. They need another playmaker for quarterback Alex Smith, especially since Dwayne Bowe isn't the same player he used to be. Brandin Cooks is shifty and explosive, a similar player to Percy Harvin or Tavon Austin. He also ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any receiver at the combine.
The nation's Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's best wide receiver in 2013, Cooks can also return punts.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Best suited for a 4-3 defense, Aaron Donald could give the Bengals the most dominant one-two punch at defensive tackle in the NFL, assuming Geno Atkins returns completely healthy from his ACL tear. Donald stole the show at the scouting combine. He's undersized for a pass-rusher, but he's extremely quick off the ball.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Chargers surprised with a playoff berth in Mike McCoy's first year as head coach. Now, they need to work on shoring up their defense. They could go with a number of cornerbacks, but they really need an anchor in the middle of their defensive line.
Notre Dame's Louis Nix is the prototypical nose tackle. He's a massive 340-pound body who compares to Vince Wilfork or B.J. Raji. Plug him in the middle on defense, and the Chargers will drastically improve a run defense that allowed 4.6 yards per carry in 2013.
26. Cleveland Browns: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
Assuming Dee Ford's back doesn't drop his draft stock out of the first round, the Browns get an undersized, yet dominant pass-rusher with their second first-round pick. Ford, who collected 12.5 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks as a senior in 2013, will transition to outside linebacker in the Browns' 3-4 defense.
27. New Orleans Saints: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Rob Ryan did an incredible job in his first year as defensive coordinator for the Saints, who finished the year with the fourth-fewest points allowed in the NFL. It's the offense that actually could use a little bit more work heading into the 2014 season, as veteran quarterback Drew Brees doesn't have a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver.
Enter Penn State's Allen Robinson, a physical playmaker who makes catches in tight spaces and is willing to do what's asked of him. He doesn't have game-changing speed, but he's a great possession receiver who can also block on running plays.
28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
There is absolutely no reason in the world for the Carolina Panthers not to draft a wide receiver with their first-round pick. Look at their current depth chart. Their top two wide receivers are Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt, who have zero career combined catches. Zero.
Lucky for the Panthers, this receiver class has a dominant group of playmakers. Kelvin Benjamin doesn't have great speed, but he's extremely physical with a ridiculous wingspan. His speed is below average, but his size makes him a tremendous option in the red zone.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
This should be a fairly obvious pick. If Jace Amaro is still available late in the first round, Bill Belichick is going to pull the trigger. Rob Gronkowski simply cannot stay healthy, and Aaron Hernandez is never going to play again.
Jace Amaro set the all-time NCAA single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end in 2013. He's huge (6'5", 265 pounds) and is the type of weapon both Belichick and Tom Brady would love for the Patriots offense.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Although they possess one of the league's most dangerous defenses, the 49ers could really use some work at the cornerback position. Both of them, in fact. Kyle Fuller ran faster than expected at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.49 in the 40), and he is physical enough to succeed against both the pass and the run. He would likely step into a starting role by the start of the 2015 season.
31. Denver Broncos: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
John Elway should draft the best available defensive player with his first-round pick. Timmy Jernigan would make two straight first-round picks on a defensive tackle, but that's okay. Williams hasn't developed into a star yet, by any means, and Jernigan offers a lot more as a pass-rusher.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
The Seattle Seahawks played a perfect game against the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, but they are not a perfect football team. Their best option for the first round is drafting the best player available, preferably on the offensive side of the ball.
UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo would immediately step in to start at either of the two guard positions. He's a tremendous athlete who could help Russell Wilson take significantly fewer sacks (44 in 2013) in the future while creating running lanes for veteran Marshawn Lynch.
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