The 2014 NFL draft is rapidly approaching, but there is not any concrete information on where any of the top prospects will wind up.
While reports may start leaking on which potential star the Houston Texans are considering signing closer to May’s event, for now all we can do is speculate on where these talented first-round picks may land.
Keep reading to find out where I think some of the best available players in the upcoming draft will get selected.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3 Overall)
Clowney is a once-in-a-generation star who could go as high as No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans, but they direly need a franchise quarterback and will likely go in that direction on draft day.
The St. Louis Rams are going to have a plethora of options at their fingertips when they select No. 2 overall. Clowney is definitely deserving of heavy consideration in that spot, but ultimately the Rams should decide to bring in a world-class offensive tackle over upgrading an already stellar pass rush.
That leaves the Jags with the best chance of scoring the South Carolina star, and they should pounce on the opportunity should it present itself.
Clowney is a special player who would immediately make Jacksonville’s line one of the most feared in the league. The team already brought in former Seattle Seahawks Red Bryant and Chris Clemons to help bolster their defensive front and should continue that improvement by adding arguably the most talented prospect in this draft.
The NFL Network’s Charley Casserly heaped praise upon the Gamecocks standout and explained why a team would have no issue drafting him, as per Bryan Fischer of NFL.com:
What you want to do is when you wake up the next morning, feel good that you took the best player in the draft. The best talent in the draft is Jadeveon Clowney. Guy makes rare plays against the run, rare plays against the pass. Maybe the most talented defensive end I've ever scouted.
While Clemons and the re-signed Jason Babin are perfectly capable of filling in at Gus Bradley’s LEO spot, the Jags would be hard-pressed to pass on Clowney, a bona fide star who could completely change their defense.
USA Today's Brent Sobleski believes that the line would be quite interesting with Clowney on it:
That Jags defensive line is getting really interesting. Imagine if they add Clowney or Mack.— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) March 13, 2014
Where will Clowney go?
His presence would augment the contributors added to the line this offseason—not clash with it. Clowney could learn the NFL ropes from a veteran like Clemons, and both could relentlessly attack the quarterback, either simultaneously or via substitutions to keep their legs fresh.
Don’t sleep on the rebuilding club pulling the trigger on yet another defensive lineman this spring, as it can address the quarterback position later in the draft and possibly next season.
Blake Bortles, QB, UCF: Cleveland Browns (No. 4 Overall)
The Browns are inching toward relevancy and could become a full-blown playoff contender sooner than later by nailing their first-round pick in the upcoming draft.
This team direly needs a signal-caller, as it remained relatively competitive during the 2013 campaign that saw a handful of different players take snaps under center, including consensus 2012 draft bust Brandon Weeden and veteran Jason Campbell—who were both cut last week.
If Bortles, the rising quarterback who displayed immense talent during his time at UCF, were still on the board, it would be tough for Cleveland’s brass to pass him up.
This young man has been dominating the pre-draft process and just looks like a franchise signal-caller, as he measured in at a rock-solid 6’5”, 232 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February and impressed scouts by making all the throws and participating in every major drill.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBS Sports) described the performance:
[Bortles] didn't disappoint with the spotlight on him, displaying his smooth set up and release and tossing darts down the field. Bortles' accuracy and footwork on his three-step drops were excellent, showing very good rhythm, timing and precision to rip it with very good target placement. He was a tick late with his seven-step drops and has room to improve his feet and balance in this area, but Bortles was still able to be accurate down the field, especially on deep bucket throws.
Bortles is exactly the type of gunslinger that the Browns need to get Josh Gordon, who emerged as one of the league’s premier receivers in 2013, and tight end Jordan Cameron the ball deep down the field and in position to make plays.
He might not be the starter on day one, due to Brian Hoyer’s presence and the ability he flashed before going down with an injury this past season, but Bortles would be the ideal prospect to have waiting in the wings. He should eventually take over at some point in the upcoming season, or for the start of the 2015 campaign, and help guide the Browns to contention.
While there are plenty of detractors who aren’t sold on Bortles’ ability, he should be ready to step up and silence the doubters. This kid clearly belongs in the NFL, and Cleveland is a perfect place to showcase his rare talents.
CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan even believes that the Browns could be so high on this Knights product that the franchise will trade up with St. Louis to grab the No. 2 pick and select him.
It’s an interesting scenario to think about as we move closer to the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, which begins on May 8.