NFL Draft 2014: Predicting Where Top 1st-Round Prospects Land

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NFL Draft 2014: Predicting Where Top 1st-Round Prospects Land
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NFL draft is the next big offseason event for the league, and the excitement surrounding where the top prospects will land in the first round has football fans genuinely excited for the May 8-10 event.

While the best teams in the NFL make the most out of every pick in every round, the casual football fans who know about only the best prospects will be focused on where each potential game-changer will land.

Here are the predictions for the entire first round and a focus on where the most polarizing prospects will be selected.

2014 NFL Draft First-Round Predictions
Pink No. Team Player
1 Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
2 St. Louis Rams (via Redskins) Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
3 Jacksonville Jaguars Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
4 Cleveland Browns Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
5 Oakland Raiders Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
6 Atlanta Falcons Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
8 Minnesota Vikings Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
9 Buffalo Bills Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
10 Detroit Lions Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
11 Tennessee Titans C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
12 New York Giants Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
13 St. Louis Rams Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
14 Chicago Bears Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
15 Pittsburgh Steelers Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
16 Dallas Cowboys Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
17 Baltimore Ravens Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
18 New York Jets Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
19 Miami Dolphins Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
20 Arizona Cardinals Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
21 Green Bay Packers Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
22 Philadelphia Eagles Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
23 Kansas City Chiefs Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
24 Cincinnati Bengals Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
25 San Diego Chargers Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
26 Cleveland Browns (via Colts) Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
27 New Orleans Saints Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
28 Carolina Panthers Marqise Lee, WR, USC
29 New England Patriots Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
30 San Francisco 49ers Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
31 Denver Broncos Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
32 Seattle Seahawks Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

No. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

There is nothing orthodox about the way former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel plays the position, and there is no denying the raw talent that he has put on display during his college career.

With 63 passing and 30 rushing touchdowns during his two-year stretch at Texas A&M—as well as the 2012 Heisman Trophy—the strength of his arm and his maneuverability in the pocket make Manziel an intriguing prospect.

The Houston Texans hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and head coach Bill O’Brien told Jeff Reynolds of CBS Sports about the misconception that Manziel will struggle to deal with the physicality at the next level:

If you watch the Ole Miss game, he might have hurt his ankle early on and he came back. And he threw from the pocket in that game. If you watch him, he's going to be able to do a lot of different things. So, yeah, I think he's sustainable.

Houston should take South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall draft pick, and the Jacksonville Jaguars must take Manziel when he falls to the franchise at No. 3 overall.

Jacksonville is a floundering organization that has lacked the kind of player the franchise could be built around. While there is a possibility that Johnny Football could be a bust, he has natural charisma and polarizes the mainstream media enough to be the face of the Jaguars moving forward.

If Manziel blossoms into a star in the NFL, Jacksonville will have the cornerstone it has always lacked.

No. 8 Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

The Minnesota Vikings had three starting quarterbacks on the roster last season—Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel all tried their hands at the job—but none of these players deserve the chance to start for the team in 2014.

Minnesota must use its No. 8 overall pick to select the best quarterback available. If the draft shakes out as predicted, the Vikings should take Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater as the new QB of the future.

There are genuine concerns about Bridgewater’s size and durability as he transitions to the NFL, and his pro day did little to sway the opinion of many scouts, according to Peter Schrager of Fox Sports:

While many teams have lowered their tangible physical grades on the QB, there is no doubting his football I.Q. As one of the smartest players in the entire draft, Bridgewater proved to former head coach John Gruden, for a segment on ESPN, that he is ready for the jump to the NFL.

Add in the arm strength and accuracy shown during on-field drills with Gruden, and Bridgewater is still one of the top prospects in the draft, via SportsCenter:

The Vikings have a very talented team, but have lacked the leader under center who can take the franchise to the next level. With running back Adrian Peterson not getting any younger, adding a potential star like Bridgewater could put Minnesota over the postseason edge.

Bridgewater would be a game-changer with the Vikings.

No. 20 Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

The Arizona Cardinals are looking to build a fundamentally sound team under head coach Bruce Arians, and drafting a potential starting right tackle like Alabama Cyrus Kouandjio would be the smartest long-term investment for the franchise.

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Kouandjio was the picture of inconsistency in college on the left side of the offensive line for the powerhouse Crimson Tide, but at 6’9” and 322 pounds, there is no questioning the raw size and power of the lineman.

With the correct coaching approach from the team and the proper development and commitment from the player, Kouandjio is a raw prospect that has the potential to blossom into a bona fide franchise left tackle over the next few years.

Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer had a career resurgence in Arizona, and with the desire to keep him upright in the pocket and healthy next season, adding a prospect like Kouandjio will be an educated risk the franchise should be willing to take.

*Stats via Combine information via official tracker.

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