2014 NFL Draft: Predicting Positional Breakdown Numbers for First Round

Dan TylickiAnalyst IMarch 31, 2014

Clemson's Sammy Watkins rushes upfield during the second half  of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina Saturday Nov. 30, 2013 at Williams-Brice Stadium, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina won 31-17. (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)

The first round of the NFL draft is ever changing. It's impossible to perfectly guess who will be selected and who will be snubbed, and since mock drafts change every day, it's tough even to estimate who will be selected.

Sure, there are no-brainer selections, players who will go in the top-ten picks as projected for months leading up to the draft. For everyone else, including fans, writers, and the athletes themselves, that first day is, quite simply, a bit of a waiting game.

However, as the draft gets closer, as it becomes clearer what type of players each team is targeting, some positions start to stand out a lot more than others.

The offensive skill positions, which are much stronger in this draft than last year's, are arguably the easiest to predict for this year's draft. Like last year, the running back position does not have a clear first-round talent, and all 32 teams will pass on drafting a ball-carrier.

It's clear to me that 2014 will see four quarterbacks go in the first round. Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater have been first-round shoo-ins for months, and the latest news on Derek Carr is that, thanks to a great pro day, he has solidified himself as someone a team will take a chance on in Round 1.

Wide receiver is perhaps the best position in this year's draft. Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are guaranteed first-round picks, and the batch of borderline first-round talent is huge, with Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson and Odell Beckham Jr. all possibilities.

That's not counting a strong group of second-round players, such as Davante Adams, Jordan Matthews and others—one of which could sneak into the first round.

The Chiefs, Browns, and 49ers all need wide receivers, and due to the talent at this position, I could see another team choosing one at the end of the first round, giving us six wide receivers.

Tight end is a much easier position to define for Round 1: Eric Ebron is in a class by himself and will be the one tight end selected on day one.

The offensive line, like wide receiver, has been very fluid throughout this draft class. For offensive tackle, Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews are already guaranteed top-five picks, and Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin have solidified their first-round status, giving us four.

The interior offensive line, however, is surprisingly weak by comparison, with no one likely to be a first-round pick. The only player in discussion for Day 1 is UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo, and that's only after a good combine. Even then, he's barely ranked in the first round. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks has him drafted 32nd as does CBS Sports' Dane Brugler in his latest mock.

With four quarterbacks, six wideouts, a tight end and four offensive tackles, that's 15 offensive players, which makes this draft split fairly evenly among not only offense and defense, but among skill positions and the trench players.

The defensive end position became clear almost immediately after the combine. South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney has been a top prospect in this draft since the college football season started, and Kony Ealy Missouri is a solid mid-round selection.

Dee Ford, the third player in the first-round mix, seemed to come out of nowhere, but a great pro day combined with a great Senior Bowl performance has gotten teams talking.

For the defensive tackle position, Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh has solidified himself as the top player there, Notre Dame's Louis Nix III is a clear option for later in the first round, and everyone has Florida State's Timmy Jernigan mocked to the Bears with the 14th overall pick.

While those three are obvious, two others in Nix's teammate Stephon Tuitt and Minnesota's RaShede Hageman are wild cards and could be selected late in the first round or fall as far as to back end of Round 2. I would be surprised if one was not selected by a team wanting to shore up its defensive line, so four selected total seems realistic.

Inside linebacker may be the easiest position to predict, as Alabama's C.J. Mosley is in a class by himself and may be the only one taken in the first two rounds, let alone on Day 1.

Outside linebacker is not much more difficult than its counterpart. Khalil Mack (University of Buffalo) and Anthony Barr (UCLA) both have top-ten talent, and Ohio State's Ryan Shazier showed enough this past season to confirm that he is a first-round prospect, giving the draft four first-round linebackers in all.

For the safety positions, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama has had a first-round grade all season, but Louisville's Calvin Pryor came out of nowhere to become possibly the first safety taken in the draft.

The cornerback position is one I struggle with, because I feel need is going to trump talent here. Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert both have first-round talent, but after that the class is not as strong.

Kyle Fuller, Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett all have talent, but all have major weaknesses that make them, to me, not worth a first-round pick. Despite that, I can see two being selected later in the round.

Three defensive ends, four defensive tackles, four linebackers, two safeties and four cornerbacks give us 17 defensive players in the first round. That side has more borderline talent, so if the numbers end up wrong, the first round will likely have more defensive players drafted than projected.

With the draft several weeks away, this is subject to change as more information is revealed about these prospects, but given the crop of talent, these are fair numbers to expect for the draft.