Less than a month separates every NFL franchise from accumulating fresh talent in this year' NFL draft.
This draft class offers a bright batch of exciting prospects looking to make a name for themselves on the professional level. Some of the best athletes in recent memory have expanded their hype through pro-day workouts.
In terms of talent, this year's draft is as good as it gets. In terms of predictability, it doesn't get much tougher. Few players can be easily projected, which will make life tough for the Houston Texans at pick No. 1.
There are several ways Houston can go, which will have a domino effect on the other teams with early selections.
While the 2014 draft holds several plausible scenarios, let's take a look at one way the selection process may unfold.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
I've been leaning towards Teddy Bridgewater as the opening pick for the longest time, but it's getting harder to ignore all the buzz pointing to Jadeveon Clowney starting the draft. From listening to Texans head coach Bill O'Brien, Sports Illustrated's Don Banks thinks they're going with the pass-rushing monster.
I'll keep this simple: Everything I've heard from new Texans head coach Bill O'Brien so far this offseason seems to point to taking a quarterback, but somewhere other than the draft's first pick. When O'Brien says he doesn't see a lot of separation among the draft's top-rated six or seven quarterbacks, and goes on about how "very, very difficult'' it is for a rookie quarterback to play right away, it pushes me further and further into the Clowney at No. 1 camp.
In terms of talent alone, the South Carolina defensive end is certainly the best player out there. Houston could take Jimmy Garoppolo, or even deliver a twist of irony by snagging Derek Carr to begin Round 2.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Rams could add another wideout speedster in Sammy Watkins, drink the Khalil Mack Kool-Aid or even put Sam Bradford on notice with a quarterback if they're really feeling daring. They could also once again trade down from pick No. 2, which they did two years ago to receive this pick.
But if they really want to give Bradford a fresh slate in 2014, they'll provide him with a tremendous offensive tackle to shield him from danger. While that creates yet another decision between Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews, Robinson is the choice that could justify such high billing.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
If Clowney falls to the Jaguars, they should have no qualms with worrying about quarterback after Round 1. However, they have the choice of the passer of their choosing to heal a position of dire need.
Don't get carried away with the Teddy Bridgewater resentment, as pro day success or failure rarely correlates to actual NFL action. The Louisville product is still the best quarterback on the board.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Browns also possess the Indianapolis Colts' first-round selection at No. 26, giving them another opportunity to take a quarterback if they're smitten with Watkins or Mack. Those two are certainly in play, but expect them to take playmaker Johnny Manziel, whom Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach described as "a Russell Wilson-type player" on the NFL Network.
5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Blake Bortles is the most volatile of the top-three quarterback prospects, as he did not assemble a consistent track record of superlatives throughout his UCF tenure. But he's physically gifted enough to contain a higher ceiling than any other passer, which will cause the Raiders to bite at No. 5.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
If Fox Sports' Peter Schrager is right, then I'm wrong.
Mack made some fans at Buffalo, where he forced an NCAA record 16 fumbles while amassing 327 tackles and 28.5 sacks. The Falcons need a defensive weapon like Mack who can cause chaos behind the line of scrimmage.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Behind Vincent Jackson, the Buccaneers are shallow at wide receiver, but they can make a major splash by grabbing Watkins, who can burn secondaries vertically with his amazing speed while also utilizing his exceptional hands and footwork. A great value at No. 7 considering he could just as easily go No. 2.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
NFL quarterbacks should be sweating bullets, as UCLA's Anthony Barr is the third defender taken so far who will make them absolutely miserable. Barr's success is more predicated around his ability to reach the signal-caller, and he'll quickly make his presence felt in Minnesota.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Buffalo gets a solid addition in Matthews, who is ready for the big leagues after dealing with Manziel's play-extending ways at Texas A&M. The Bills have the offensive talent to strive, but they need an enforcer in the trenches to put the puzzle together.
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Improving defense should be Detroit's utmost priority after rating 23rd against the pass last season. Justin Gilbert is a slick cornerback with enough speed to match strides with the game's fastest wideouts.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Titans can use a steady tackler roaming their defense, which is why they'll make a move for Alabama's C.J. Mosley at No. 11. He doesn't quite brandish the star luster of the class' other top defenders, but he'll make a strong living racking up tackles in the NFL.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
With Hakeem Nicks gone, the Giants have no dependable receiving options outside of Victor Cruz. Eli Manning has turned Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard into serviceable tight ends, so just imagine what he could do with a receiver/tight-end hybrid like Eric Ebron.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
While the Rams actually sported a solid defense last season, they still lagged mightily behind the NFC West's defensive gurus. Their secondary suffered the largest shortcomings, so they'll take another Alabama defender in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix off the board.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Timmy Jernigan gives the Bears exactly what they need: a large defensive tackle to stuff running lanes for the league's most laughable rushing defense. While some Windy City fans would lament taking him over Aaron Donald, Jernigan is a better fit for a team that has missed the postseason in six of the past seven seasons.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Someone with a desire for Mike Evans, potentially the New York Jets or Philadelphia Eagles, may trade up if he falls outside the top 10. They'll have to pounce before the Steelers enter the mix, because they'd be well served to latch onto the skilled receiver, who will overjoy Ben Roethlisberger by snagging home jump balls.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Dallas has several defensive holes and no financial flexibility to solve them, so it's safe to say Jerry Jones' squad will take someone on the point-preventing side. After ranking last in total yards allowed, they might as well snag the best available talent, which is Donald.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Inferior protection didn't help a Baltimore offense that fell apart during its Super Bowl defense. The Ravens probably won't want to reach for a receiver after signing Steve Smith, but they can improve their offense by selecting Taylor Lewan.
18. New York Jets: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Jets have always relied on stout cornerback play under Rex Ryan's watch, but they're now left searching for answers after losing Antonio Cromartie to the Arizona Cardinals. Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard will appease Ryan and retool their secondary alongside Dee Milliner.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
You may have heard about Miami's offensive line woes. Not a word of that might have been related to their on-field production, but they surrendered a league-worst 58 sacks and prevented the running game from blossoming. Zack Martin is safe and reliable, which is exactly what the Dolphins want right now.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Jason Verrett, CB, VCU
No, the Cardinals don't particularly need Jason Verrett, but there's also no need to reach for Carr or an offensive lineman that they can get in the second round. Adding Verrett to cover the slot would give them an impenetrable secondary that could challenge Seattle's Legion of Boom.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Calvin Pryor will make highlight reels for his earth-shattering hits, but he'll also prove capable of policing the field in coverage and inching up to play the run. Green Bay should relish the opportunity to grab him after enduring non-existent safety production last season.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
To replace DeSean Jackson, the Eagles will grab a wide receiver who models himself after the former Philadelphia wideout. Brandin Cooks will become Chip Kelly's new speed demon, only he'll play a more subdued role in the slot pending a successful return from Jeremy Maclin.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Cooks would have been perfect for the Chiefs, but they'll instead gamble on USC's Marqise Lee, who figured to get appraised much higher before vanishing during his junior season. If his struggles were simply the result of a knee injury he's moved past, Lee is a bargain late in the first round.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy is one of this draft's biggest wild cards. He might get scooped up by Dallas at No. 16, but the Missouri defensive end could just as easily fall outside Round 1. Let's cut the difference and take him off the board at No. 24, where the Bengals will roll the dice on the top talent.
25. San Diego Chargers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Chargers' secondary was far from super last year, which is why they'll seek out Ohio State's Bradley Roby at pick No. 25. While he'd struggle against tall, physical wideouts, Roby's quickness makes him an asset guarding No. 2 and slot receivers.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller is becoming incredulously popular among draft pundits, so don't be surprised if he rises even further up the first round come May. The Browns would benefit from some added depth at corner to augment Joe Haden.
27. New Orleans Saints: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Better production against the run could vault the Saints from an above-average defense to an elite unit. Somehow, the massive Louis Nix III slipped through the first 26 picks, so the big man will take a stroll to the Big Easy to bolster New Orleans' title hopes.
28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Carolina's depth chart right now has a picture of a tumbleweed occupying its wide receiver slots. Any wideout the Panthers take will have the treacherous task of immediately becoming Cam Newton's go-to guy on the sidelines, but Odell Beckham Jr. can at least use his incredible leaping ability to make some plays for the dull aerial assault.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
If anyone knows how to utilize tight ends in the passing game, it's Bill Belichick. And if there's any quarterback about to explode if he sees another dropped pass, it's Tom Brady. Jace Amaro is a wide receiver in a tight end's body, which should help the Patriots find their offensive groove again.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
He's not much of a possession receiver, but Kelvin Benjamin can make spectacular individual plays and use his size to box out opposing defensive backs in the end zone. Going to San Francisco affords him the chance to learn from Anquan Boldin before eventually becoming his heir apparent to the starting role.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The AFC Champions could go for a safe guard, or they can look to make a major splash with Ryan Shazier, Ra'Shede Hageman or Dee Ford. Based on their offseason, I'm thinking they're interested in the "go big or go home" approach. While Ryan Shazier is not constructed like the prototypical linebacker, his speed should become a major asset in the pros.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Concluding Round 1, the Seahawks lock down Xavier Su'a-Filo—because you can never have enough protection when it comes to your 25-year-old quarterback who just won the Super Bowl. While not always the prettiest, Su'a-Filo gets the job done at the guard slot and should be an immediate contributor for the defending champs.
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