Draft fever is running rampant in all of us right now. It's just about April and the 2014 NFL draft is only one month away. The scouting combine has passed, pro days are wrapping up and all that's left is for the Houston Texans to take the podium on Thursday, May 8.
After a frenzy of activity during the free-agency period, many team's needs have changed. Prospects continue to rise and fall on draft boards as well. This is a very fluid process, and projections will continue to be altered right up until draft day.
As it stands right now, let's take a look at the likeliest selections for the first 32 picks of the draft.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Even after an impressive pro day from Johnny Manziel, it appears as though the Texans are still eyeing up Bortles as their quarterback of the future. Houston's head coach Bill O'Brien came away impressed after Bortles' pro day, according to a tweet from John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
Bill O'Brien on Blake Bortles: "We met with him last night. it was a good meeting. He's a really nice kid and a smart kid."— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 19, 2014
It's always difficult to know just what teams are thinking at this point in the year; however, the Texans sure look intrigued by an improving Bortles.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Should the Rams trade this pick?
Robert Quinn and Chris Long are two top-notch defensive ends already residing on the Rams' roster. That shouldn't stop St. Louis from taking the most talented prospect in this year's draft. Clowney is a monster on the field, and he will allow the Rams defensive front to become more versatile and create nightmarish matchups for opposing offensive lines.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Don't believe everything you hear. Sure, Bridgewater had a lackluster pro day, but that won't stop NFL teams from drafting him very early. His tape at Louisville speaks for itself, and he is one of the most intelligent and polished quarterback prospects this year. This would be a very wise choice for the Jaguars.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
ICYMI: Johnny Manziel impressed onlookers at his pro day Thursday, including Ron Jaworski & Jeff Saturday http://t.co/i9hCuvLqRJ— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) March 30, 2014
Manziel put on an absolute clinic at his pro day. His mechanics look to have improved, and his maturity level has reached an all-time high. He looks every bit the part of an NFL franchise quarterback, and the Browns shouldn't hesitate to snatch him with the fourth-overall selection.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Raiders brought in James Jones via free agency, but they still need plenty of help on the offensive side of the ball. Watkins is widely heralded as the draft's best receiver, and he would make an immediate impact in Oakland—no matter who winds up under center.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Now that quarterback Matt Ryan is getting his offensive weapons back from nagging injuries, the next step is to keep him protected. Robinson looks like the best offensive tackle prospect in this year's draft and is very much NFL ready. He'll start immediately, and his presence will be felt.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The more time I spend on Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, the more I'm positive he'll be a 12-year stud in the NFL. It's all there, folks.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 12, 2013
Tampa Bay sure went on a spending spree during the free-agency period. Even though they brought in Anthony Collins from Cincinnati, the team could still use a complementary anchor on the other side of the line. Matthews excels in every aspect of his position and will make the Buccaneers line one of the NFL's best.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
How much fun will new head coach Mike Zimmer have with Mack on his team? Zimmer thrived in Cincinnati by utilizing many packages and defensive rotations. Mack will be the chess piece that Zimmer can use in that same fashion in Minnesota. His presence also helps ease the burden of losing Jared Allen.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Scott Chandler re-signed with Buffalo, but the need for offensive playmakers is still there. Ebron is the most athletic tight end in this draft and will provide a huge, friendly target for up-and-coming quarterback EJ Manuel.
10. Detroit Lions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The 40-time is impressive for HaHa Clinton-Dix, but how smooth he moves in space is what excites you as a player.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 25, 2014
When you're in a division with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, it's important to shore up the defensive secondary. The Lions didn't get much production last year from their safeties, and adding Clinton-Dix—a physical, ball-hawking safety—to the mix will improve this defense in leaps and bounds.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Titans brought in Shaun Phillips from Denver in free agency, but he is more of a stopgap solution for the team at the age of 32. Barr is an athletic playmaker who has a nose for the backfield. He will be the long-term answer at the outside linebacker position for a vastly improving defense.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Giants would love to forget their offensive woes from a year ago. Adding Lewan will help make that happen. A mauler in the trenches and a fantastic physical specimen, Lewan will give the Giants offensive line a much-needed improvement at the tackle position.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans a good fit for Rams?
St. Louis continues to improve as a team but still needs help on the offensive side of the ball. Tavon Austin has a bright future as a slot receiver, but the Rams need a big outside threat. Evans fits the bill perfectly. Combining him with Austin will make things very difficult for opposing defenses.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Bears shored up their defensive end positions in a big way via free agency, but they could still use a big body on the interior of the defensive line. Donald is stout against the run and has the athleticism to provide an interior pass rush as well. He will flourish next to the likes of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Steelers suddenly have a big need at the wide receiver position after losing Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency. Lee is a home-run threat whenever he touches the ball and will provide a great complement to Antonio Brown.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys could be in trouble once again in 2014 if they don't address the safety position. The team struggled to contain opponents' passing attacks last season, and Pryor would be an instant improvement. He is a smart safety who can play center field and make an impact along the line of scrimmage as well.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Really like Zack Martin from Notre Dame. Have talked to teams that have him as a guard. Handled himself well at LT though.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2014
After bringing in Steve Smith in free agency, the Ravens' draft needs changed in a big way. The goal now is to keep Joe Flacco upright. Martin is an NFL-ready prospect with the versatility to play any position along the offensive line. His addition will go a long way for the Ravens.
18. New York Jets: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Jets added wide receiver Eric Decker in free agency, and the team's focus now should be on the secondary. Dee Milliner struggled in 2013, and he is the team's current best option at the cornerback position. Dennard could be Darrelle Revis 2.0 for New York. He flourishes on an island and takes plenty of pressure off of the rest of the secondary.
19. Miami Dolphins: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Miami already has an elite defensive end in Cameron Wake; however, adding a complement to him on the other side of the defensive line would be devastating for opposing teams. Ealy's speed and ability to locate the quarterback will help give the Dolphins one of the league's most ferocious pass rushes.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
For the new followers, my love of Justin Gilbert may become annoying to you. But he's a freak. Top 10 talent on my board.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 25, 2014
The Cardinals brought in Antonio Cromartie to pair with Patrick Peterson, although Cromartie only signed a one-year deal with the team. Gilbert would be a great long-term answer across from Peterson. He is a speedy, ball-hawking corner who can hang with the NFL's fastest receivers.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Tight end is still a big need for the Packers. It's never a bad idea to surround Aaron Rodgers with more weapons, and Amaro is one of the best options in this year's draft. His huge frame and deceptive speed will fit perfectly in Green Bay's pass-happy offense.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Eagles' draft needs took a dramatic swing after the team released wide receiver DeSean Jackson. In Chip Kelly's high-octane offense, a new playmaker is needed. Beckham has the speed to pick up right where Jackson left off. He has the ability to stretch the field and also create yards after the catch on shorter routes as well.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Bigger need for Chiefs?
The Chiefs brought in Sean Smith from Miami to pair with Brandon Flowers; however, adding Verrett here would give the team a tremendous trio. Verrett is a small-but-quick corner who is best suited to play in the slot. Having a plethora 0f talented cornerbacks is a must in the pass-happy AFC West.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
As expected, the Bengals lost defensive end Michael Johnson in free agency. They still have a talented group up front, but could use additional pass-rushers. The Bengals thrive on a great rotation in the trenches, and Ford can come in right away and contribute while Margus Hunt continues to adjust to the NFL.
25. San Diego Chargers: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
The Chargers revamped their passing attack last season under the watchful eye of head coach Mike McCoy. Things are certainly going in the right direction for this franchise, and protecting Philip Rivers is at a premium. Su'a-Filo is the draft's top guard prospect and will bolster a weak interior of San Diego's offensive line immediately.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Browns got their quarterback earlier in the draft, and now it's time to surround him with more weapons. Cleveland already brought in speedy slot receiver Andrew Hawkins in free agency. Now, it's time to add another threat to complement Josh Gordon. Cooks is a quick, game-changing wideout who will create matchup problems for opposing defenses when on the field.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense works nicely in New Orleans—that's even a bit of an understatement. The Saints were great on the defensive side of the ball last season. Adding a player that fits the scheme perfectly is the next step. Shazier is an intelligent, natural leader and sure tackler. His extensive experience should allow him to earn a starting role in his rookie season.
28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are gone. In their place is Jerricho Cotchery. That's not exactly an upgrade. Cam Newton and the Panthers offense need some serious help at wide receiver. Benjamin is a huge chain-moving outside threat. He demands attention on the field and will help revive Carolina's aerial attack.
29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
New England needs a run-stuffer on the interior of its defensive line. The Patriots struggled in this department in 2013, and Nix's big body is exactly what is needed. He will be a fun chess piece for Bill Belichick to use on the field.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The 49ers already have a dominant front seven. However, Justin Smith is aging and Tank Carradine is still unproven. Adding Hageman will increase the depth and versatility of the 49ers defensive front. He can play either defensive end or defensive tackle in their system and will make an immediate impact.
31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Denver landed Aqib Talib in free agency, but the team still needs a complement for him on the other side. Roby has a great combination of size and speed. He is battle-tested, coming out of Ohio State's program, and could be a great long-term answer for the Broncos.
32. Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
The Seahawks are one of the NFL's deepest teams. They don't have many glaring needs, but are in prime position to fill one of them here. Seattle needs an upgrade on the interior of the offensive line to keep Russell Wilson upright. Yankey is an experienced guard coming out of an NFL-friendly system in Stanford. He'll start right away for the Seahawks.