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

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

Feb 21, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel speaks to the media in a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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.TeamPlayer
1Houston TexansJadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
2St. Louis Rams (via Redskins)Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
3Jacksonville JaguarsJohnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
4Cleveland BrownsBlake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
5Oakland RaidersSammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
6Atlanta FalconsAnthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
7Tampa Bay BuccaneersKhalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
8Minnesota VikingsTeddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
9Buffalo BillsMike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
10Detroit LionsGreg Robinson, OT, Auburn
11Tennessee TitansC.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
12New York GiantsTaylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
13St. Louis RamsJustin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
14Chicago BearsAaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
15Pittsburgh SteelersLouis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
16Dallas CowboysRa'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
17Baltimore RavensHa Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
18New York JetsKony Ealy, DE, Missouri
19Miami DolphinsZack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
20Arizona CardinalsCyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
21Green Bay PackersEric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
22Philadelphia EaglesDarqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
23Kansas City ChiefsKelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
24Cincinnati BengalsOdell Beckham, WR, LSU
25San Diego ChargersJason Verrett, CB, TCU
26Cleveland Browns (via Colts)Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
27New Orleans SaintsRyan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
28Carolina PanthersMarqise Lee, WR, USC
29New England PatriotsJace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
30San Francisco 49ersBrandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
31Denver BroncosTimmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
32Seattle SeahawksStephon 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.

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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