In a deep draft that lacks a clear No. 1 choice, the NFL's May extravaganza is likely going to be one surprise after another.
The deep talent pools make trading down in the first round a wonderful option. This would net teams extra selections while not losing all that much value on the player they wind up selecting.
The problem with this is there aren't going to be many teams looking to trade up, which will make for light trade action in the first round.
As far as uncertainty when mocking this draft goes, teams trading down is about the only cause we can scratch off of the "potential havoc-wreaker" list. If I was worried about complete failure, however, I wouldn't be into mock drafts.
Here is my latest attempt at navigating the muddied waters of the 2014 NFL draft's first round.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Former NFL head coach Jon Gruden is heaping praise on Blake Bortles. That isn't surprising. Gruden seems to love every quarterback he talks to. Still, Bortles stands out enough to him that he is making it clear, in a tweet by College Football 24/7, he believes the Texans should take him:
Gruden on Bortles: "Houston needs the 'Golden Knight.' " http://t.co/cuhJVq9Sqd— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) March 31, 2014
Obviously, Gruden's thinking has zero bearing on what the Texans will do, but it is easy to see Houston believing in the same line of thinking.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
One of the Ram's needs is not another defensive end. With Robert Quinn and Chris Long, the position is one of the strengths of the team.
So Rams coach Jeff Fisher must be content with the pass-rushers on his roster right? John McClain of the Houston Chronicle shared this:
Jeff Fisher "I've learned you can never have enough good pass rushers (when asked bout Jadeveon Clowney)."— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 26, 2014
Clowney is too special a talent for the Rams to pass on.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
For my money, Greg Robinson is going to turn out to be the most dominant player from this class. He reminds me of former Seahawks tackle Walter Jones, and he will dominate in the run and pass game as Jones did.
This will be too much for the Jaguars to pass on, and they will forever be happy they didn't.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
There are concerns with Johnny Manziel. For a guy that is going to be chased around by 300-pound linemen he can't see over, he's tiny. Also, Manziel already has a circus-like atmosphere surrounding him.
Still, this is also a young man with outstanding arm talent, the greatest innate feel for a pass rush I've ever seen and the penchant to hit for big plays.
Cleveland could definitely use all those qualities.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
There is a caveat with this pick: If the Raiders sign recently cut receiver DeSean Jackson, I don't think Sammy Watkins will be the pick. I would change to offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
I believe the Raiders will take the best player available, but there is little separating Watkins, linebacker Khalil Mack and Matthews.
Mack could be an option, but with the Raiders committing to pass-rushers to fit a 4-3 line, the Raiders don't offer Mack the best scheme for his talents.
So, let's give them Watkins. The Raiders are just a true No. 1 receiver away from having one of the NFL's best receiving corps.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack does appear to be a fit for the Falcons.
As Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports reports, all signs point to the Falcons moving to a 3-4 next season. Mack would make that transition much more fruitful.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
I like what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been able to do this offseason, and it all started with hiring head coach Lovie Smith.
Smith will make sure this team is playing quality defense.
He and the Bucs help that defense become a winning formula by establishing a consistent offense. Drafting a guy who can handle a quarterback's blind side for the next 15 years or so is a good place to start building consistency.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater's draft stock is difficult to gauge. As SirusXM NFL Radio tweets, former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon wasn't impressed with Bridgewater's pro day:
ICYMI: Rich Gannon Co-Host of the SiriusXM Blitz did not like what he saw from Teddy Bridgewater at Pro Day. Audio: http://t.co/30hb00pfJq— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) March 24, 2014
Which QB will have the best NFL career?
That pro day came on the heels of the scouting combine where Bridgewater did next to nothing. This is not a great start to Bridgewater proving he can handle the pressure of the NFL.
Still, how far can he drop? We are talking about a pocket-passing quarterback with an advanced ability to read a defense and make audibles. He would make the Vikings more dangerous from day one.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Bills have quickly made big strides to turn around their defense. This team still needs to get more playmakers on the edge, however.
Anthony Barr is that kind of player. He is raw, but he has the athleticism to be an excellent pass-rusher and even drop back in coverage.
10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Despite having a wonderful defensive line, the Lions have still struggled with a terribly inconsistent defense.
C.J. Mosley would greatly increase the consistency. He is a heady linebacker with the athleticism to cover a lot of ground. In Detroit, he wouldn't have to worry about a lot of blockers on him due to the Lions defensive line. This would allow him to make lots of impact plays.
11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Signing right tackle Michael Oher was a good move for the Titans this offseason, but it's still not enough.
This team needs more help on the edge of its offensive line. Michael Roos was solid at left tackle last season, but he is 31 and has just one year left on his contract. On top of that, Oher was less than inspiring last year.
Drafting Taylor Lewan would give the Titans a competition at tackle and help ensure this team received better tackle play than last season.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron's hands, as noted by NBC Sports' Josh Norris, are a bit of a concern:
Had an 11.43% drop rate in 2013 RT @jjones9: Here at UNC Pro Day where TE Eric Ebron has registered three drops so ffar— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 25, 2014
In the end, that isn't going to hold his draft stock back too much. He is such an intriguing athlete that it is worth the risk.
As long as he isn't dropping more passes than he's catching, opposing defenses will have to pay plenty of attention to him. His ability to exploit the seam and stretch a defense is exactly what the Giants need.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Mike Evans may not be the most explosive playmaker in this draft, but he will still make plenty of plays.
Evans has wonderful size, solid athleticism and good ball skills. On top of that, check out what NFL.com's Gil Brandt had to say about his hands:
Mike Evans has the best hands I've seen since Calvin Johnson.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 27, 2014
Combine him with Tavon Austin, and the Rams would have a dynamic talent base at receiver.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Timmy Jernigan would be a sturdy pick for a team desperate for defensive help.
Jernigan is not going to fill stat sheets or grab a lot of attention. What he will do is clog up running lanes and consistently win his battle in the trenches.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Darqueze Dennard is not the most athletic corner in this class, but he is the most physical. This makes him a strong fit for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh is not desperate for corner help, but Ike Taylor is about to turn 34 and the Steelers must beef up their depth at the position.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is a popular pick here for the Cowboys, and it makes sense. The Cowboys need more defensive linemen.
They also need a free safety, however, and Calvin Pryor is a great prospect. The Cowboys will be able to find defensive linemen who will be able to contribute as rookies further down in this draft. The same cannot be said for free safeties.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
The Ravens offensive line destroyed Baltimore's season last year. It kept the running game dormant and gave quarterback Joe Flacco too little time.
Zack Martin will help. Martin may not be able to handle tackles in the NFL, but if that is the case, he still projects to be an outstanding guard.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Signing wide receiver Eric Decker will help the Jets have an offense more befitting of the NFL instead of high school, but this team still needs more weapons.
Odell Beckham Jr. qualifies as a weapon. This speedy receiver will stretch the field and create the opportunity for big plays, which the Jets desperately need.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
After a bit of turmoil in their offensive trenches a season ago, the Miami Dolphins must reshape their offensive line.
Signing tackle Branden Albert was a wonderful addition. Cyrus Kouandjio would be another strong add.
Yes, there are medical concerns with Kouandjio that include some failed physicals at the combine, but this very well could be much ado about nothing. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora helps explain:
Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandijo, a potential 1st round pick, will not need a post-combine medical re-check in Indy. His knee is not an issue— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 26, 2014
Kouandjio is a strong talent with a lot of excellent game film. Even if he can't make it at tackle, he still projects to be a wonderful guard.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Arizona Cardinals must reinforce their defensive line in their 3-4 system. Aaron Donald is perfect. He is 285 pounds, which makes him ideal for end, and he has excellent explosion.
There is a chance Donald will be gone by this selection. In the end, however, he will slip due to his lack of size.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Coming into the draft off of knee surgery and an inconsistent season at Notre Dame, Louis Nix III has some doubters.
The Packers could use Nix's massive frame in the interior of their defensive line.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a fun player to watch. He has great range and a nose for the ball, but is not the greatest asset in run defense.
The Eagles can't be overly concerned with the last fact, however, as this team finished last in the NFL in pass defense this past season.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Running back Jamaal Charles led the Chiefs in rushing and receiving yardage last season. This is not a sustainable model for offensive success in the NFL. The Chiefs need more weapons.
With solid speed and great ball skills, Marqise Lee will be able to make big plays and stretch the field in the NFL.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert is a strong athlete with the ability to be a shutdown corner in the NFL. The Bengals will not be able to pass on his value at No. 24.
Cincinnati is not desperate for corner help, but with Terence Newman being 35, the Bengals need depth at the position.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
If the San Diego Chargers can fix their porous pass defense from a season ago, the sky is the limit for this team.
NBC's Josh Norris helps sum up Kyle Fuller's coverage skills:
Kyle Fuller is going to run your routes for you, WRs.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 30, 2014
Fuller should have no problem finding playing time with the Chargers.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kelvin Benjamin has the length and hands that will make him a wonderful bail-out target for a young quarterback. As you may have noticed, I have the Browns selecting Johnny Manziel at No. 4.
Benjamin would give Manziel the kind of lengthy target he had at Texas A&M with Mike Evans, and it would help complete an impressive group of young skill position players.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The New Orleans Saints made great strides on defense last season, and signing safety Jairus Byrd will help that process continue next season.
This defense still needs improved tackling in the front seven, however. Ryan Shazier is a good athlete and has a nose for the ball. His physicality and tackling will help bring consistency to the Saints defense.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Brandin Cooks is an explosive, albeit small, receiver. He can make plays all over the field, and his ability to get deep will help Carolina's run game find space.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
New England may have upgraded the corner position by adding cornerback Darrelle Revis and letting Aqib Talib go, but that did nothing to improve their depth.
Jason Verrett would help with that cause.
Verrett is small, but his coverage skills are outstanding. He will instantly be a strong option to cover the slot.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The 49ers would undoubtedly prefer to draft a speedier receiver here, but with the talent available at the position in this scenario, Allen Robinson is the best choice.
Robinson has good size and solid athleticism. He isn't going to beat defenders with his quickness, but his footwork and route running make up for that.
He would fit right in with the 49ers' scheme and help ensure offensive consistency in San Francisco next season.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Denver Broncos enter this draft with narrow vision. Any players brought into Denver must first be evaluated on how much immediate impact they can bring to the team.
With great length and explosion, Kony Ealy will be an instant threat as a pass-rusher.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
With Ra'Shede Hageman bringing outstanding athleticism but light college results, he has all the feel of a Pete Carroll selection. Carroll appears to have supreme confidence in his ability to get the most out of these kinds of players.
On top of that, the Seahawks need more bodies along their defensive front.