2014 NFL Draft: Rounding Up the Latest Expert Buzz and Speculation

Nick Kostos@@thekostosContributor IMarch 20, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: Rounding Up the Latest Expert Buzz and Speculation

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    The first, thunderous wave of the NFL free-agent period has come and gone, so it's time to round up the latest expert buzz and speculation surrounding the 2014 NFL draft.

    This has been, and will continue to be, a critical week as far as the draft is concerned. Two of the top quarterbacks, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and UCF's Blake Bortles, have already had their pro-day workouts, and Fresno State signal-caller Derek Carr takes the field Thursday.

    In this column, we'll also tell you which top tight end has scheduled four different visits and why the St. Louis Rams potentially hold the key to the draft, as well as which team hosted B/R NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller's top-rated safety.

    Here is the latest expert buzz and speculation regarding the 2014 NFL draft.

Teddy Bridgewater Underwhelms at Louisville Pro Day

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    For months, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been bandied about as the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. The chances of that happening may have taken a hit Monday, however, as Bridgewater failed to dazzle at his pro-day workout.

    NFL.com's Mike Mayock called the workout "average at best" and said he saw "a lot of flutters, a lot of inaccuracy" (h/t NFL.com's Mike Huguenin).

    Per Dan Parr of NFL.com, there were six NFL head coaches on hand for Bridgewater's workout—Houston's Bill O'Brien, Jacksonville's Gus Bradley, Oakland's Dennis Allen, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer, Philadelphia's Chip Kelly and Tennessee's Ken Whisenhunt—along with Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Out of those six teams, the Texans, Jaguars, Raiders and Vikings are in obvious need of a franchise signal-caller.

    While the consensus is that Bridgewater didn't perform up to his ability, not everyone felt that it was a total disaster. NFL.com's Gil Brandt tweeted that he's "not as down on (the workout) as some," and he also claims that Turner told him he thought it went "pretty good."

    It's important to note that a pro-day workout is far from the be-all, end-all for quarterback evaluation, because game tape is still what truly tells the story. That doesn't mean Bridgewater won't fall in the draft because of Monday's lackluster performance; it just means that basing an evaluation on a pro-day workout would be a bit flawed.

    B/R's Michael Schottey believes that despite Bridgewater's struggles on Monday, he should still be the No. 1 overall pick in May's draft.

    John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported that the Texans are still considering Bridgewater with the top pick.

    Bridgewater is the top-ranked player on Matt Miller's most recent big board. In his most recent mock draft, he has the Jaguars selecting Bridgewater with the third overall pick.

Blake Bortles Impresses at UCF Pro Day

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    While Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater fizzled at his pro-day workout, UCF signal-caller Blake Bortles sizzled at his.

    NFL.com's Mike Mayock said Bortles' workout "looked like it was supposed to look" and then noted that "he's potentially a franchise quarterback" (h/t Mike Huguenin of NFL.com).

    Prior to the workout, Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net reported that Bortles "met extensively" with the Texans, Jaguars, Raiders and Vikings. As noted earlier, all four of those teams are in obvious need of a franchise signal-caller.

    The Texans hold the top pick in May's draft, and coach Bill O'Brien liked what he saw from Bortles, telling John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, "It was a good workout. (Bortles) made all the throws. Shows good footwork. I was impressed."

    ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay gushed over Bortles' ability (h/t ESPN.com):

    I don't care how many catches or drops or anything like that, I see a guy that clearly has raw physical tools present and is progressing towards a more finished product than what I saw from Bridgewater earlier this week. If I'm absolutely taking a quarterback, I'm taking Blake Bortles.

    Bortles clearly raised his stock with a tremendous pro-day workout, but as noted in the Bridgewater slide, the event is not the ultimate indicator of the quarterback's eventual success or failure in the NFL. With that said, Bortles seems to have separated himself from Bridgewater at the moment.

    Bortles came in eighth on Miller's most recent big board. In his most recent mock draft, Miller has the Cleveland Browns selecting Bortles with the fourth overall pick.

Derek Carr Set to Rise Up Boards?

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    While Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and UCF's Blake Bortles have already had their pro-day workouts this week, Fresno State's Derek Carr is set to have his Thursday—and the 22-year-old signal-caller could be about to skyrocket up draft boards.

    ESPN's Louis Riddick surmised as much earlier this week, noting that Carr "can/should rise (up draft boards)" with his pro-day performance.

    Derek Carr is the brother of David Carr, who was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2002 NFL draft. The elder Carr has been giving his younger brother tips throughout the process, saying in a video on SI.com:

    Before he went to the Senior Bowl, I gave him a heads up about what happens at the Senior Bowl. Before he went to the combine, I told him what would happen at the combine. Before he goes to his pro day, I'm going to tell him what goes on at his pro day. We talk about specific things you have to do as a quarterback. Progressions, hot reads, and different things you have to know. I didn't know that when I came out. I had no one to tell me that.

    Carr threw for 113 touchdowns in three full years as the starter at Fresno State, and he clearly has the confidence to succeed. Speaking in the same SI.com video, he exuded just that:

    Going into my pro day, I don't think teams will be able to say there's not one thing I can't do. I've been a starting quarterback for three years. I've played in two systems. I can do whatever I'm asked to where a team can say, "We trust you. Here's the keys to the Ferrari, don't crash it."

    If he doesn't crash and burn Thursday, Carr could find himself rapidly moving up boards.

    Carr came in 13th on Miller's most recent big board. In his most recent mock draft, Miller has the Cardinals taking Carr with the 20th overall selection.

North Carolina TE Eric Ebron Schedules Visits with Four Teams

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    North Carolina's Eric Ebron is undoubtedly the top tight end in the 2014 draft class, and he has recently set up visits with four potential suitors.

    Ebron told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that he will visit with the Bills, Lions, Ravens and Panthers.

    All four of those teams are interesting choices considering they all have established tight ends already. Three of those teams re-signed their 2013 starters this offseason—Baltimore (Dennis Pitta), Detroit (Brandon Pettigrew) and Buffalo (Scott Chandler)—and the Panthers have an incumbent in Greg Olsen.

    Furthermore, they surely won't be the only squads interested in the talented pass-catcher. Not only does he have outstanding tape, but Ebron also impressed at February's scouting combine, running a 4.60-second 40-yard dash, per NFL.com.

    He came in 16th on Miller's most recent big board, and he is the top-ranked tight end. In his most recent mock draft, Miller has the Packers selecting Ebron with the 21st overall pick.

Rams Shopping No. 2 Overall Pick?

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    In many ways, the St. Louis Rams hold the key to May's NFL draft.

    By virtue of the trade that landed quarterback Robert Griffin III in Washington, the Rams own the second and 13th overall picks in the first round this year, and Rams general manager Les Snead hasn't been shy about his intentions to potentially trade out of the No. 2 spot to acquire even more picks.

    Speaking with Peter King of TheMMQB.com in December, Snead had this to say about the situation:

    There are going to be some teams that want to pick a quarterback, and that could increase the value of our pick. I have told people I’m not sure I know how to draft without multiple first-round picks, so I’m always going to be interested when it comes to making sure I can continue to do that.

    Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net reported this week that the Rams have been "actively shopping" the second overall pick.

    Whether or not the Rams trade the pick could vastly affect how the draft shakes out. A team in desperate need of a quarterback could choose to trade up, or Snead could stand pat and select the best player available.

    Either way, the Rams loom large as power players come draft time.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Visits with the Detroit Lions

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    Miller has Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as his top-rated safety (coming in one spot ahead of Louisville's Calvin Pryor on his most recent big board). In his latest mock draft, Miler projects Dix to be selected 10th overall by the Detroit Lions.

    Interestingly enough, Dix was in Motown this past Monday for a visit with the Lions, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free-Press.

    Dix believes he can be a top-10 pick, telling Birkett, "I watched Mark Barron do it a couple years ago, when he went 7, so it’s been done. If (the Lions) want to take me at 10, I’m looking forward to it and I would love to be in Detroit.”

    Thus far in free agency, the Lions have failed to sign a safety, and they also lost free safety Louis Delmas to the Miami Dolphins. Detroit finished last season with the NFL's 23rd-ranked pass defense, so it clearly needs help on the back end.

    Dix told Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com that he sees himself as a free safety at the NFL level.

    There's no doubt that Dix would improve the Detroit secondary, and Miller believes he could be a great fit in the Motor City. Lions fans should keep their eye on the talented safety as the draft draws closer.