Heading into the 2014 NFL draft, the first five selections are wide open, which means the rest of Round 1 is a complete mystery as well.
As such, anyone who says they have a handle on what will happen is simply lying. Furthermore, mock drafts cannot be taken too seriously, as nobody has a clue what NFL general managers are thinking about this time of year.
That said, it's always a fun exercise to map out Round 1, and fans can't get enough information about what could potentially happen during the dark days of winter (from an NFL perspective). With that in mind, here's a look at one scenario that could occur when Roger Goodell starts calling prospects up to the podium on May 8.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney is the best prospect available in the 2014 NFL draft, and as such, he should be selected No. 1 overall.
No doubt the Texans need a quarterback or two, as rookie head coach Bill O'Brien recently said the team may select, via Houston Texans on Twitter. However, the opportunity to land a potential Hall of Fame defender should be too tempting to pass up:
Clowney, paired with J.J. Watt on Houston's defensive line, would give the Texans a dynamic duo the likes of which hasn't been seen in recent memory. Their ability to rush the passer from multiple spots on the line would give the Texans the ability to dominate the defensive side of the ball once again after a difficult 2013 campaign.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Signing Kenny Britt was a smart move that could pay dividends if the talented receiver lives up to his potential on the field and stays out of trouble off it. However, teams need more than one top receiver these days to make significant offensive strides through the air.
Adding Sammy Watkins, who recently (and correctly) told told KGMZ-FM in San Francisco he has "some freakish talents" would be a smart move that would help the Rams compete with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in the uber-competitive NFC West.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Jaguars fans must be jubilant about the Blaine Gabbert era finally coming to an end this offseason, when Jacksonville shipped him off to San Francisco. Chad Henne's not the answer, though, and there's no question this team needs to invest in a new face of the franchise.
Teddy Bridgewater is the cleanest quarterback prospect in this year's class in terms of his abilities on the field, his pro-readiness and his ability to lead a team from the first day of training camp. Though not as hyped as Johnny Manziel, he's the perfect fit for Gus Bradley and the Jaguars.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
After weeks of feigning interest in Manziel, it appears the quarterback-needy Browns have changed their tune about the polarizing signal-caller, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen:
Manziel possesses an innate ability to make jaw-dropping plays on a regular basis, and he'd be set up with a capable pass-catching unit in Cleveland with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron leading the way. Add the freshly acquired Ben Tate to the mix on the ground and you have a potent offense in the making.
For his part, Manziel appears to be thrilled with the idea of landing with the Browns.
"If something happens, and it's the Cleveland Browns, I'm going to pour my heart out for the Dawg Pound and try to win a Super Bowl for Cleveland," he said recently, as noted by Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports. "I don't care if they've had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I'm going to be the 21st and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl."
He's just the man Cleveland needs to turn the franchise into a real force offensively, and the team's defense is already loaded with talent.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Oakland has done a marvelous job this offseason adding experienced veterans who should help turn the Raiders into a competitive franchise this year. However, in order to continue building this team the right way, general manager Reggie McKenzie needs to bring in impact playmakers on both sides of the ball via the draft.
Khalil Mack's ability to rush the passer is already at an elite level, and he has Von Miller-type potential in the NFL. He's as much of a can't-miss prospect as there is in this year's draft. The Raiders would be crazy to pass on him at this point.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Already featuring one of the league's most explosive offenses, Atlanta needs to bolster its offensive line in order to get the most out of this unit. Greg Robinson is a freakish athlete who is just starting to tap into his immense potential. He'd be an instant starter for the Falcons on the left side, where he'd protect Matt Ryan's blind side for years to come.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Buccaneers fans would love to land Watkins here, but the likelihood of the talented receiver falling to this spot is nil. Instead, the Bucs would be smart to add offensive line help to ensure Mike Glennon doesn't get pummeled in 2014 like he did last season. Jake Matthews isn't as athletic as Robinson, but he's more polished coming out of college and isn't a consolation prize.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Speaking of consolations, Blake Bortles could be just that for the Vikings—a team that is desperate for a franchise-caliber quarterback after striking out badly with Christian Ponder.
Analysts and draftniks are split about Bortles' pro potential, but the signal-caller out of UCF has done everything in his power to convince teams he's the real deal. After putting together a fantastic season for the Knights, he performed extremely well at the combine and then put on a show at his pro day.
Loaded with talent offensively, with Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and Adrian Peterson, the Vikings could bite the bullet once again by selecting Bortles just four years after selecting Ponder in Round 1.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
After landing Mike Williams from the Buccaneers for a sixth-round pick, Buffalo's receiving corps looks solid. Williams joins Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods to comprise a talented trio for second-year quarterback EJ Manuel.
However, the team still lacks a top tight end, and Eric Ebron would be given the opportunity to become an instant-impact performer for the Bills as a rookie in 2014.
10. Detroit Lions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Playing six games against the potent offenses in the NFC North means the Lions must feature an equally talented secondary to avoid running into constant trouble through the air. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is this year's top cover safety, and he's pretty darn good at the line of scrimmage, too.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr racked up 23.5 sacks in two seasons for the Bruins, and he is still learning how to effectively rush the passer after starting his career on offense at UCLA. This kind of rare talent doesn't grow on trees, and as such, the Titans would be foolish to let him slide.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Eli Manning suffered through what was one of his worst seasons as a pro last year because New York's offensive line was a mess. Without a serious overhaul, things won't get any better in 2014, but thankfully, Taylor Lewan could make a big difference immediately if drafted by the Giants.
13. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Landing the top offensive weapon at No. 2 is just the first chance for Rams general manager Les Snead to improve his roster, and adding the top cover corner here would be a coup. Darqueze Dennard isn't the dynamic athlete Justin Gilbert is, but he's going to be a dynamic player early in his career. He is the perfect replacement for Cortland Finnegan, who was released by the club in March.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Adding Jared Allen in free agency gives Bears general manager Phil Emery leeway to pursue other angles in the first portion of the draft. Speaking of angles, defensive tackle Aaron Donald knows how to take them...right to the quarterback. He's an explosive player at the point of attack who'd be an instant starter up front.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Given the incredible skill set and physical prowess of Mike Evans, there's a good chance he'll be long gone when Pittsburgh selects in Round 1. However, as we see every year with some talented players, Evans has slid into the middle of the first round, but he won't slide any further.
The Steelers need to find a replacement for Emmanuel Sanders, and Evans could end up becoming far more effective in the long run.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Whoever's calling plays in Dallas will need a competent safety to patrol the back end of the defense. The Cowboys didn't fare well in this regard last year, featuring one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Talent was the biggest issue, but adding Calvin Pryor would significantly improve things on this front in 2014.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Adding another receiver to play opposite Torrey Smith should be a top priority for Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome this year. Marqise Lee lost some draft momentum in his final year at USC thanks to a nagging knee issue, but he's still a remarkable talent who would thrive in Baltimore's attacking offense.
18. New York Jets: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Rex Ryan would do (or at least try to do) back flips if Justin Gilbert is still on the board when the Jets pick in Round 1. The talented playmaker brings elite athleticism to the league, and Ryan knows how to coach up his defensive backs.
Many draft analysts rate Gilbert higher than Dennard, and he adds elite return skills to his resume. He'd quickly become an impact player in Ryan's defense, which is becoming downright scary with young talent at many key positions.
19. Miami Dolphins: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
After landing Branden Albert to play left tackle, suddenly the Dolphins are in a position to make another big splash in the draft. While it might seem strange that Miami would take another pass-rusher after drafting Dion Jordan last year, the NFL's climate is such that possessing multiple elite defensive ends is nearly a necessity.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians would love to see Derek Carr fall into the bottom half of Round 1. If he makes it to this point the Cardinals would be silly to let him continue dropping to a playoff contender.
Carr has a strong, accurate arm and is willing to take shots down the field, which is a requisite to play in Arians' offense. He's a perfect developmental quarterback for Arizona while Carson Palmer remains the starter for another year or two.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Aaron Rodgers is going to aggressively push the ball down the field whenever he gets a chance, but he really missed tight end Jermichael Finley last year when he went down with his injuries. Jace Amaro needs to prove he can block effectively to become an elite NFL tight end, but he already has the skills needed to become a tremendous option on passing plays in the middle of the field.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Eagles fans aren't sure what to think about the team's recent decision to release DeSean Jackson, but they'd quickly forget about the star receiver if Philly drafts Brandin Cooks, who isn't shy about what he brings to the NFL.
"Maybe Chip Kelly is looking to take another speedy receiver in that first round, and that could be me," Cooks recently said, as relayed by Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com. "Who knows? And if that’s the case, a lot of people will wonder ‘Can he do it like DeSean Jackson?’ In my opinion, I can do it like him and do it better.”
Bold words, but after the receiver tore up the Pac-12 last year at Oregon State, he has reason to feel confident.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The AFC West is a veritable minefield for opposing defensive secondaries, thanks to the exceptional week-in, week-out play of Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. In order for the Chiefs to compete for a divisional title, they must continue to improve on the defensive side of the ball.
Jason Verrett is a dynamic cornerback who would thrive as a slot defender in the NFL. Adding him to play with Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith would give Kansas City a trio that would have a fighting chance to shut down even the formidable Broncos offensive attack.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Bengals fans might see this pick and throw up their hands with disgust. However, after the team lost Anthony Collins in free agency, offensive tackle has become a position of need. Andrew Whitworth isn't as young and spry as he used to be, and there is a distinct lack of depth at this position.
Zack Martin has star potential, too, and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller points out he's a player who can thrive in multiple positions:
While drafting an offensive lineman is never a sexy pick, this one would be smart for the Bengals, both from a long- and short-term perspective.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The Chargers must find a way to stop teams from running roughshod over their defense next year after allowing 4.8 yards per carry in 2013. It seems safe to say adding this year's top nose tackle, Louis Nix, would fix the problem.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Again, not a sexy pick here, but the Browns need to get better up front to become efficient offensively. Xavier Su'a-Filo is a plug-and-play left guard who would significantly bolster Cleveland's rushing attack, which must be a high priority for the Browns this upcoming campaign after finishing last season with one of the worst running games in the league.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan would love to get his hands on speedy linebacker Ryan Shazier, who projects as an absolute nightmare pass-rusher in a 3-4 scheme. Shazier has the quickest first step of any linebacker in this year's class, and he plays with a ferocity that belies his diminutive stature.
28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
At this point, it's hard to imagine how Cam Newton will have success throwing the ball, considering the departures of wide receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. Needless to say, the Panthers need to add some talented wideouts in the draft.
Odell Beckham is a standout pass-catcher who possesses excellent body control and hands. His ability to gain separation during his routes is also elite, and he'd quickly become Newton's go-to target on the perimeter.
29. New England Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Thankfully for Patriots fans, New England was able to retain Vince Wilfork, which wasn't a sure thing at one point this offseason. However, there is no doubt this team still needs to overhaul its defensive line.
Adding Ra'Shede Hageman would be a quick way to do so, according to Erik Frenz of Boston.com:
Hageman's frame is similar at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds with 34 1⁄4-inch long arms, and like [J.J.] Watt, he has shown the ability to use those long arms to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. [...] If the Patriots want to groom an athletic lineman with a lot of upside, and get a little younger on the inside, Hageman would be a solid addition to the rotation.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
In order to overtake the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, it's likely the 49ers will need to feature a more potent, more dynamic receiving corps. Colin Kaepernick clearly possesses the talent to take his game to another level, but he needs help. Kelvin Benjamin is a red-zone monster who has the physical tools to develop into a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
After the Broncos signed Aqib Talib this offseason, the need for a cornerback in Round 1 isn't as strong as it was before the move. However, it's clear the NFL is continuing to evolve into more and more of a passing league. As such, teams can't have too many talented defensive backs, and Bradley Roby would be an excellent addition.
32. Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
The only real areas of weakness for Seattle last year were the tight end position and the offensive line, where depth was an issue during the middle of the season. Tight ends can be found later in the draft, but the Seahawks must address the offensive line early. David Yankey can play all over the line and would compete for a starting role immediately for the Super Bowl champs.
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