As hard as teams around the league try to mask draft-day intentions, sometimes it is far too obvious what a front office is thinking on the path to the NFL draft.
Free agency tends to unveil a team's intentions. While shoring up an area of need is not a surefire way to eliminate a position for a team in the first round, it's a safe bet that most won't double dip.
Now that the majority of the major dominoes in free agency have fallen, the most obvious choice for each franchise is clearer than ever.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater's pro day was so iffy that NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has dropped him to No. 26 overall in his latest mock.
The good news for Bridgewater? One bad workout won't kill his draft stock, which remains that of a future franchise quarterback.
Look, he should have worn gloves to the mostly meaningless event. The fact he needs to allegedly wear gloves to be even more accurate won't prevent a team like the Houston Texans from grabbing the greatest quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
St. Louis has to play it smart with two picks in the first round, with Sam Bradford's health the top priority.
Jeff Fisher understands this and will grab a freakish athlete who blew away scouts at the combine and will keep Bradford on the field.
Greg Robinson is still coming into his own from a technical standpoint, but the physical traits on their own warrant such a high pick and starting gig.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clearly the Jacksonville front office is content with Chad Henne under center for another year if need be.
A safe bet is the Jaguars grabbing a signal-caller later in the draft, but at No. 3, they have to take a can't-miss prospect—not a quarterback who may or may not pan out.
That prospect is Jadeveon Clowney, who helps to change the complexion of the defense right away as he is an upgrade over both Jason Babin and Tyson Alualu.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
With two picks in the first round, Cleveland has a wealth of different ways it could go here.
But the obvious choice is the best player on the board in Sammy Watkins, who compares himself to Baltimore's Torrey Smith:
It's a fair comparison thanks to Watkins' elite speed. He also contributes in the return game, but what makes the Clemson product such an obvious choice here is the fact he'll line up with the likes of Josh Gordon, Andrew Hawkins and Jordan Cameron in order to make the life of a young quarterback very, very easy.
5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Oakland has no choice.
Despite having what can be classified as the worst roster in the league, the Raiders don't have a lot of options with quarterback being such a need.
Blake Bortles has a very high ceiling and the looks of what is a framework for a franchise quarterback, so he's a smart play. He'll grow with the team as the rebuild continues.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The signing of Paul Soliai indicates that the Atlanta Falcons are ready to get serious about what was a miserable defense a year ago and will also throw a wealth of 3-4 looks into the traditional 4-3 base next year.
With that in mind, it is more obvious than ever that Khalil Mack will be the pick. He is an elite prospect who can rush from multiple spots. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has him going No. 1 overall in his latest mock (subscription required), which captures the respect he has already earned at the pro level.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Things have not gone as planned for Tampa Bay to this point in the draft, but it all works out anyway as the Buccaneers steal a tackle prospect who was once in consideration for the No. 1 overall pick.
Jake Matthews is stout in all areas and an immediate pro starter at most positions on a line, so it makes sense Lovie Smith would scoop him up in order to improve the line play after the addition of Anthony Collins.
It's not a sexy move, but Tampa Bay will be much better in the long run as a result.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Kiper knocks this one out of the park in his mock:
As I talk to teams, I get the sense there's a great deal of uncertainty around the quarterbacks in this draft. But there's a point where uncertainty turns into a reasonable bet, and Manziel at this point on the board is closer to the latter. There are some decent weapons in place in Minnesota for Manziel. There's a great deal of uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball here, but it doesn't outweigh the questions at QB.
Now that defensive guru Mike Zimmer is in town, Minnesota can rest easy, knowing it will field a competitive defense. But that does not fix the issue under center, which is of the utmost importance in today's NFL.
Johnny Manziel is considered a huge risk by some, but his ability to extend plays with his feet makes him a safe option for a team with plenty of weapons.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
There's a reason Buffalo is one of four team visits that Eric Ebron has set up before the draft, according to Pro Football Talk.
With the best interests of second-year quarterback EJ Manuel in mind, the Bills must make a move on the top receiver available so early. There's not a ton of value to be had at positions of need with the way the board falls, so Ebron is a safe marriage of need and value.
He has game-changing speed for such a big (6'4", 250 lbs) player, which will do much to help Manuel. Ebron can reel in a short pass to keep the chains moving and has the potential to pick up big numbers after the catch.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Detroit is in a similar situation to Buffalo in the value-need regard so early, especially after inking No. 2 receiver Golden Tate to a deal.
Corner becomes the biggest need as a result, so a local product like Darqueze Dennard makes the most sense. The Detroit secondary is young, but no one has emerged as a surefire quality starter just yet.
Dennard becomes that right away, and while he won't be without his struggles, the secondary will be much better off with him on board.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
A linebacker who does not excel as a pass-rusher is always a risky proposition so high, but the Tennessee Titans are in an interesting position.
With no true stud pass-rusher left on the board but a wealth of depth and potential to be had in the mid-rounds, the Titans can settle on C.J. Mosley here, who has the look of an every-down interior player and leader of a unit from Day 1.
He was the leader of a vaunted Alabama defense, can make plays sideline-to-sideline and has enough football acumen to be the quarterback of the unit. That's not a bad value any way it is sliced.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The news surrounding Taylor Lewan has not been all good as of late, but as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler points out, some teams will still be willing to take the risk based on his upside:
New York is one of those teams, given the wealth of issues Eli Manning had last year behind a somewhat porous line.
Lewan is an elite prospect who somewhat relied too much on his physical traits to excel in college, but with some refinement, he can be a franchise player for the next decade.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
St. Louis did much to help Bradford avoid another costly injury with its first pick and now adds more talent to round out an offense that has the look of a viable unit.
In Mike Evans, the Rams get a prospect who can line up at wideout or tight end and create mismatches all over the field, which will do much to open things up for Tavon Austin, Jared Cook and even Zac Stacy out of the backfield.
Worst-case scenario: Evans becomes a reliable chain-mover. Given the location of the pick, that's a good investment.
14. Chicago Bears: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Much debate will continue to rage in regard to whether or not Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the top safety in the class, but the fact of the matter is a needy team can't go wrong in the first round with little overall depth in the class.
ESPN's Kevin Weidl believes the Alabama product is best in class:
Simply put, the duo of Chris Conte and Anthony Walters is a miserable one at best, so a bone-jarring safety who can lead the unit against the run while holding up well enough as a center fielder is the obvious choice.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Pittsburgh went out and nabbed Cam Thomas in free agency, which gives the team some breathing room at nose tackle and a starter who would get the nod over any rookie.
As a result, the Steelers can turn their attention to a shaky secondary in need of some youthful talent.
They get just that with Justin Gilbert, who is still the No. 1 corner in the class in the minds of many experts. He'll rotate in as a starter immediately while being mentored by Ike Taylor, whose mind has not regressed like his body and on-field play have in the past 12 months.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Jerry Jones' franchise is interesting to say the least, as the addition of Henry Melton does not necessarily prevent the team from adding another defensive tackle early.
Of course, that seems unlikely with such a gaping hole at defensive end after the release of DeMarcus Ware.
Kony Ealy is the best end on the board who schematically makes sense. He can start right away or contribute in a rotation, which will do much to help mask the deficiencies of a shaky secondary behind him.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The addition of Steve Smith in Baltimore is great, as what may turn out to be a two-year rental before his retirement will do much to help solve the issues of Joe Flacco's offense.
But there is still a need for a big receiver who can move the chains consistently, which Penn State's Allen Robinson happens to do with relative ease:
At 6'3", 210 pounds, he fits right in and will see little attention with defenses focused on both Steve and Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta. That's a win, given the slot.
18. New York Jets: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Many New York fans may scream foul, given the woeful performance of the franchise when it comes to the defensive secondary this offseason, but the focal point of the draft remains on Geno Smith.
Rex Ryan can't afford a down year from Smith, so a top tight end who can line up at multiple positions and take the attention away from other receivers while acting as a safety net for a sophomore quarterback is the best move.
Jace Amaro is tough to nail down position-wise, but in New York, he would be a valuable commodity as a reliable receiver who can create mismatches each down.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Give Miami credit: The team knows rebuilding the offensive trenches is of the utmost importance.
The front office has been aggressive in this regard with the signing of Branden Albert, but that's far from the only move the team has to make.
With so many holes in front of Ryan Tannehill, the most-sacked quarterback last season, versatility is a highlight of the draft. Zack Martin embodies this approach thanks to his ability to play inside or out, and the Dolphins can stick him at whichever spot they don't manage to upgrade.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
It's readily apparent with the signing of John Carlson that Arizona will not take a tight end in the first round. Bruce Arians' offense does not use the position enough as is, and now he has a strong duo with Carlson and Rob Housler on board.
Instead, Arians needs to buy Carson Palmer more time to execute the vertical attack, and Andre Ellington needs clear paths to freedom if he is to take the next step.
Cyrus Kouandjio is the obvious conclusion. He would form a nice pair of bookend tackles in tandem with Jared Veldheer, which in turn gives Arians no excuse not to produce a top-five offense in 2014.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
With B.J. Raji back in the fold, Green Bay can turn its attention to the secondary and finally get an upgrade at safety.
Calvin Pryor is the other top name in the class and has a rangy skill set that will be immediately useful for the Packers.
While not a perfect solution for a unit with a few holes, Pryor will help mightily against the pass, which teams will be doing a ton of in an effort to keep up with an Aaron Rodgers-led offense.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Ra'Shede Hageman is a tough prospect to pass on for a needy Philadelphia unit, especially with a review like this from ESPN's Todd McShay:
Hageman joins a front that is quickly looking to be one of the league's best, and while secondary help behind it would have been nice, the depth of the class overall warrants the pick here.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Behind Dwayne Bowe, there isn't much to talk about in terms of receiver productivity or depth.
That changes with the addition of Marqise Lee, who has quite the bargain stock after a wild final year at USC. He is a bit of a risk given his smaller frame, but he fits well in a Kansas City offense that needs more sure hands.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
With the first three corners on the depth chart over the age of 30 and injury risks, Cincinnati needs to go with secondary depth here.
This is especially the case with Dre Kirkpatrick still an unproven commodity as he heads into his third year.
Kyle Fuller has seen his stock jump way up as of late, and the film speaks for itself. There are those who would take him higher than some of the draft's most-talked about prospects:
Fuller will by no means see the field a ton as a rookie, but he's quite the insurance policy and future starter.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Since Pittsburgh stole Thomas, San Diego enters the draft in a bit of a panic mode with no real warhorse to lead the attack in the trenches.
Luckily for the Chargers, Notre Dame's mammoth tackle Louis Nix takes a tumble down the board simply because he's not as scheme-friendly as some would think.
He is easily the best 3-4 nose tackle in the draft and starts right away, especially in San Diego.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Derek Carr's stock has been on quite the rise since his overall sound workout at the combine, which caused some to go back and re-evaluate the tape because his talent has always been apparent.
He is a smart choice for a team like Cleveland with two picks in the round and a plethora of talent to insulate him while he adapts to the pro game.
Given the circumstances, this is an easy call. The team gave Brandon Weeden the boot for a reason and is ready to start over. Carr is that fresh start and one with tremendous upside.
27. New Orleans Saints: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Anthony Barr's stock has been on the mend, but it has been all over the place as the draft inches closer.
There are two sides to the coin. On one hand, he is an elite athlete who has a knack for getting to quarterbacks. On the other hand, he's a former running back with a one-dimensional game who does not have a variety of moves at his disposal.
No matter this late in the round, especially in New Orleans. Rob Ryan will put Barr's skill set to great use, which will allow him to make those who passed on him look foolish.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Carolina picked a good time to finally go all-in at wideout.
With Smith gone, Cam Newton has no real weapons to throw to outside of Jerricho Cotchery, so this is one of the easiest picks to nail down.
Brandin Cooks is an elite speedster who has garnered lofty praise from the likes of NFL Network's Gil Brandt:
That is the type of weapon Newton needs on every down, so Cooks makes the most sense. Even better, the team can still go out and grab a bigger receiver to round out the group in the mid-rounds.
29. New England Patriots: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
It's no secret the New England Patriots need a tight end.
With Rob Gronkowski annually hurt as of late, New England will opt to grab an insurance policy and a schematic fit who can still contribute in two-tight end sets.
Said fit at this point is Troy Niklas, a big-bodied receiver who can create mismatches and absorb plenty of passes at the first-down marker and in the red zone.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
San Francisco did right by Colin Kaepernick to bring back Anquan Boldin, but a forward-looking approach to the offense is necessary in this regard.
Jordan Matthews is the right answer, given the status of the board. He can contribute right away, learn from Boldin and eventually take over.
While San Francisco could go a few different ways, a receiver like Matthews won't make it to the 49ers' pick in the second round.
31. Denver Broncos: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Chris Harris is quietly one of the best corners in the league, but more talent for a secondary constantly under attack is necessary if Denver's defense is going to hold up its end of the bargain.
Jason Verrett is the best move here, especially with some lofty comparisons being thrown around by experts:
His physicality against the run will be a welcome addition in Denver, as will his ability to cover receivers.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Seattle defensive line is one of the scariest things around the league, but that won't prevent Pete Carroll and Co. from grabbing an elite prospect at the end of the first round.
Aaron Donald compares favorably to Cincinnati's Geno Atkins, which means the Seahawks may have another stout pass-rusher on the line to make the lives of offensive lines around the league a collective headache.
Note: All free agency signing info courtesy of ESPN.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!