A win in the NFL draft is tough to nail down.
At face value, all teams win thanks to the addition of a top prospect. Wins and losses won't truly make themselves known for a few years. But a careful marriage of needs, value and forward-looking analysis are what consistently make a team a winner on draft day.
With that in mind, each team in possession of a pick in the opening round of the 2014 NFL draft can score a victory in some fashion or another.
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Houston's best bet—as well as the several teams beneath it—to win the first round is to trade down in what is the deepest draft in recent memory.
Since most won't be willing to make a move, the Texans go big to start things off and grab the best quarterback in the class who can both contribute right away and has an enormous ceiling.
Much of the concern around Teddy Bridgewater is his size. James Palmer of CSN Houston would like a word with those who preach that narrative:
Aaron Rodgers is actually the best possible comparison for Bridgewater in more ways than one. That's quite a win, no?
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
In order to win in general before patience in St. Louis runs dry, quarterback Sam Bradford has to stay off his back and actually remain on the field.
To that end, the Rams must look to take the best overall tackle prospect the class has to offer.
Said tackle is Greg Robinson, who is already a surefire starter with room to develop thanks to his extreme athleticism. His addition will go a long way toward keeping Bradford upright.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Rare defenders such as Jadeveon Clowney don't come around often, so a team like Jacksonville has an easy decision to make.
The Jaguars wouldn't mind a quarterback in the first round if they were 100 percent sold on a prospect, but that won't happen with Bridgewater off the board. Clowney is an easy sell as a game-changing defender who makes those behind him better.
In the interim, Chad Henne or a rookie obtained later can stick under center.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Sammy Watkins is on to something:
But seriously, the Cleveland Browns being able to pair Josh Gordon with Sammy Watkins is one of the bigger gets of the draft considering the quarterback situation is still in flux.
Oh, and they have another pick later in the round.
5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Believe it or not, Oakland obtaining Matt Schaub does not rule out a top-five pick spent on the position in 2014.
In fact, it may encourage it. In the quest for a franchise signal-caller, the front office may be willing to grab a prospect with seemingly unlimited upside and let him learn for a year or two rather than throwing him to the wolves right away.
The shoe fits with Blake Bortles. Oakland has a wealth of issues, but a long-term solution under center is the biggest riddle of all.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Atlanta has been more than serious this offseason about upgrading what was a rather lackluster defense a year ago.
In that same vein, the Falcons should continue the renovations with one of the top overall players with Buffalo's Khalil Mack. He's scheme versatile and meshes well with Atlanta's hybrid defense, so he'll rarely leave the field and keep offensive lines guessing.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been aggressive in tackling needs this offseason, which does much to open things up early in the draft.
Perhaps the best possible move the team can make at this point is to grab another explosive weapon who makes the life of either Mike Glennon or Josh McCown easier.
The best candidate is Mike Evans, who combines tight end worthy size with sure hands and a knack for attacking the ball at its highest point. Across from Vincent Jackson, he'll excel regardless of who happens to be under center.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Mike Zimmer is known for speaking his mind, so comments made about Johnny Manziel on 104.9 The Horn in Austin are easy to take at face value, via Pete Roussel of 247 Sports:
There are some flags that come up. All of the things that happened out in Los Angeles, the commercials and all that stuff. The position of quarterback in the NFL is such an important position and the reason these guys need to be a totally football-minded guy is the pressure of the position and being the face of an NFL team and doing everything right. That’s the thing you want to know about him: Will he be into work early every single day? Will be the last to leave? Will he be the guy that is working the hardest to get better?
Smokescreen? Maybe, but any flags at this point have to be worth the risk for the top remaining quarterback, who also just so happens to be one of the more intriguing prospects thanks to his mobility.
Zimmer knows this and will make the right call on draft day.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The task is simple for Buffalo as it enters the first round—do whatever it takes to ensure second-year quarterback EJ Manuel's success over the long term.
With that in mind, it is only right the front office grabs the top offensive weapon available.
Eric Ebron is an instant contributor and will do much to make Manuel's life easier. His big frame, blazing speed and crisp routes will create mismatches all over the field and help to free others like Stevie Johnson up.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
With Golden Tate on board, the other obvious need outside of a pass-rusher (which is not available given the board) is cornerback.
Darqueze Dennard remains the best in class thanks to his physical play and sound coverage skills.
In Detroit, Dennard does not necessarily have to start right away, but the Lions would get a guy who can eventually develop into a shutdown corner once he adapts to the pro game.
11. Tennessee Titans: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald is the No. 16 overall prospect on Mel Kiper's big board for a reason, as the description illustrates (subscription required):
No player has jumped as much during the postseason, and he moved up another five spots in our rankings this week. He led the country in tackles for loss, then went to Mobile and was a star at the Senior Bowl against very good competition; then he went to Indy and ran 4.65 in the 40 at 285 pounds, and also threw in 35 reps in the bench press for good measure. And the combine totals, athleticism and power match up perfectly with how he played in 2013, with a blend of quickness and power to run through and around blocks, creating constant problems for offenses. Now, he's a likely mid-first round pick.
If Donald sounds like the perfect addition to a unit that is now transitioning to a 3-4 base, it's because he is.
Donald is scheme versatile and can hold the edge in run support or apply consistent pressure. Just outside of the top 10, he is the perfect mesh of value and need.
12. New York Giants: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Much like St. Louis way above, New York has to keep its quarterback upright.
Eli Manning was not injured like Bradford per se; he was just downright awfully in his interception-happy ways.
Being constantly under duress didn't help. At No. 12 overall, Jake Matthews is a steal given his pro-ready talent. He's a big upgrade from Week 1.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix next to T.J. McDonald is the best possible lineup the Rams can roll into next season with in the defensive backfield.
The rest of the unit is rather stout, but it can't be as effective as possible with safeties that give up deep plays and can't act as reinforcements against the run.
Clinton-Dix is a major upgrade. His instinctive, rangy play is what Jeff Fisher's defense has missed in recent years and puts the unit over the top.
14. Chicago Bears: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The front office in Chicago has to be irate with Donald coming off the board a few picks earlier, but Ra'Shede Hageman is a great consolation prize.
Henry Melton is gone, so Hageman is a nice way to retain a consistent pass rush from the interior of the line.
On film, it would have been nice to see more consistency from Hageman, but a player who has such a rare combination of size, speed and strength is worth a bit of a gamble.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Pittsburgh Steelers were very serious about their due diligence when it comes to Justin Gilbert, as noted by Draft Insider's Tony Pauline:
It's hard to envision the Steelers going anywhere else with the pick at this point. Not strictly because of the due diligence, but because the move makes entirely too much sense with Cortez Allen alone as the only quality corner currently on the roster.
Gilbert can start right away and provide a boost as he adapts. In time, he may turn out to be one of the better corners in the league.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Melton is a nice get for the Dallas Cowboys, but help on the edges with DeMarcus Ware gone is a must.
Kony Ealy is cheaper, younger and has enough talent to effectively produce right away. Halfway through the first round, that can be tough to find.
Dallas has a wealth of issues on defense and continues to drown in cap issues, but Ealy is a breath of fresh air in that he allows a mediocre secondary to spend less time in coverage as he consistently collapses the pocket.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan remains one of the most talented players overall set to enter the league, but his technique needs refinement by a capable coaching staff.
Baltimore is willing to make the time investment given the shoddy play of the line a year ago, which in a way was responsible for a large part of the blame for poor seasons by Ray Rice and Joe Flacco.
Lewan can rely on his physical tools to excel while he tweaks the finer aspects of his game, which once fully developed, could allow him to be one of the best tackles in the pros.
18. New York Jets: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Much like Buffalo earlier, another AFC East teams needs to do everything it can to make sure a second-year quarterback succeeds.
This time the narrative refers to the New York Jets and quarterback Geno Smith.
Jace Amaro has sure hands and versatility that makes him an obvious choice for the first round. His game is suited for the methodical attack in New York, and his presence gives Smith another weapon to lean on rather than forcing things.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Zack Martin and the Miami Dolphins seem fatefully connected. For his part in the role, Martin seems at home with the idea, as captured by Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated:
The fit is obvious as the Dolphins attempt to rebuild the NFL's worst unit from a year ago. Martin has the versatility to play inside or out, so that flexibility gives Miami more options as it attempts to find the right starting lineup.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Like former Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith, Cyrus Kouandjio is viewed as a right tackle who excels in the run game.
A bulldozer who bullied his way through the SEC is quite the commodity to have, and Kouandjio would give Bruce Arians a bookend pair of offensive tackles to both extend the career of quarterback Carson Palmer and squeeze the absolute most out of promising running back Andre Ellington.
That's a win.
21. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
C.J. Mosley is one of the better insider linebackers to enter the draft in the past few years right with names like Luke Kuechly and Kiko Alonso.
Mosley is a sound fit for Green Bay, a team that still has a need for a sideline-to-sideline enforcer who can clean up anything that escapes a beefy offensive line and talented pass-rushers.
Most years Mosley would go higher, but the combination of a lesser importance on traditional linebackers and a very deep class allows him to take the tumble.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Again, personal visits are not an ultimatum, but it speaks volumes that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was personally in attendance at Louisville's pro day, as illustrated by Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Look, it's a different story if Bridgewater takes an improbable tumble, but Calvin Pryor is the focus come draft day.
A rangy safety with adequate coverage skills and violent run support is just what the scheme in Philadelphia needs.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
As a prospect who can contribute on returns and play inside or outside in all formations, Marqise Lee is quite the total package for a team willing to look past an iffy final collegiate year at the tumultuous USC.
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid should have no qualms making Lee the pick. He understands the value of versatile receivers with elite speed who can create big plays when surrounded by reliable targets like Dwayne Bowe.
In order to keep the Alex Smith-led offense clicking, Lee is the best play for the Chiefs.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
One of the teams with few needs and in a position of luxury to take a forward-looking approach, Cincinnati can take a prospect it falls in love with who does not have to start right away.
The position of choice is obvious with so much old age littering the depth chart, and Kyle Fuller is a typical Cincinnati defensive back who can play all three spots and dabble at safety if necessary.
As a rookie he'd be primarily stuck on special teams but double as a critical building block for the future.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
It's hard for a 3-4 scheme to function properly without a powerful nose tackle, so it makes sense that San Diego is on the market for an upgrade in that regard.
With plenty of erratic play from the likes of linebacker Manti Te'o, the Chargers need to find a space-eating tackle who makes things easier for all involved. Louis Nix is the guy as the best 3-4 war daddy in the draft, and his transition would be rather seamless given his stature and the nature of the position.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The Derek Carr-Cleveland connection is strong, so much so that the Fresno State product would love a shot to compete with names currently on the roster:
Cleveland has to luck out to get a prospect like Carr this late in the first round, but it's doubtful many teams will be willing to take the risk a team like the Browns can considering they have two selections in the round.
Carr enters a quarterback-friendly environment with a solid line and three top-tier weapons to throw to—what's not to like?
27. New Orleans Saints: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
New Orleans is quite the wild card in the first round, and there is nothing stopping the team from grabbing a quarterback or something wild. An elite offense is already in place, and the defense is one of the NFL's better units thanks to Rob Ryan.
That unit can get even better with another quality pass-rusher, and Anthony Barr is hard to hate after a fall down the board.
Barr is strictly a rusher, which is fine in tandem with Ryan, who will only place the UCLA product in a position to succeed. Everybody wins.
28. Carolina Panthers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
It's incredible just how under the radar Allen Robinson is in what is a very deep class. Jayson Braddock of 790 AM summarizes the situation best:
Robinson is an ideal fit in Carolina, a team with several holes to fill at the position. He'd be the reliable, chain-moving guy of the bunch who fights for every catch and has the propensity to bust a short gain for a long one as he bullies smaller defensive backs out of his way.
29. New England Patriots: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
It's a poorly kept secret that the New England Patriots are on the prowl for a tight end this offseason.
A complement to Rob Gronkowski is a must, as is an insurance policy should he go down with another injury.
Troy Niklas is the obvious candidate given the state of the board. He continues what is a strong pedigree of tight ends out of Notre Dame and will make an impact right away as he routinely finds himself the target of passes from Tom Brady.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The San Francisco 49ers are missing one piece in the receiving corps, which would be a reliable, speedy option at the No. 3 or 4 slot on the depth chart.
Brandin Cooks is the ideal fit as one of the draft's most electric receivers. He's a tad raw, but flanked by the likes of Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, odds are he'll pan out just fine with defenses focused elsewhere.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Remember the description for Mosley above? Apply the same to Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, minus the whole inside linebacker thing.
Shazier is a talent worthy of a much higher selection, but it's a safe bet the Denver Broncos have no issues with his fall. As a speedy outside linebacker who can hold up well in coverage and apply adequate pressure when asked, Shazier is a great value near the end of the first round.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Jason Verrett is a physical player by all accounts when one peruses his wildly entertaining and productive film, so he'd fit right in with Seattle.
While a far cry from the typical Seattle mold of massive corners, Verrett has the coverage ability and physicality to start right away in certain packages. As the final pick, Seattle would get a steal and player who adds critical depth to a secondary that is already very talented.
Note: All free-agency signing info courtesy of ESPN.
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