The 2014 NFL draft is approaching fast, and the excitement surrounding where the top prospects in this year’s class will land has football fans from around the world ready for the May 8-10 event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
With fans clamoring to see what their team has up its sleeve, here are the projections for the entire first round.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
After dominating his pro day, it’s clear that South Carolina pass-rushing defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has the raw ability to be a star in the NFL. If the Houston Texans feel confident in his attitude, this will be the best move for the future.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The St. Louis Rams must protect franchise quarterback Sam Bradford if the team wants to be successful, and the perfect selection at No. 2 overall would be Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Central Florida’s Blake Bortles may have the edge in terms of physical tangibles when compared to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, but Johnny Football has the "it" factor. With a high football IQ and an ability to connect with fans, the Jacksonville Jaguars will find the franchise QB they have always needed with Manziel.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Jacksonville’s risk with Manziel will give the Cleveland Browns the chance to draft a quarterback with serious upside. Bortles may be a raw prospect, but he will have ample opportunities to shine as an instant starter in Cleveland.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The addition of quarterback Matt Schaub this offseason was a major coup for the Oakland Raiders, but they need to add a viable weapon to get the most out of the veteran. There is no better wide receiver in the 2014 class than Clemson’s Sammy Watkins.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
There are many teams in the NFL desperate to add a legitimate pass-rush specialist, but few teams need it more than the Atlanta Falcons. If Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack is there at No. 6 overall, Atlanta will have the player it has been searching for.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The rush on pass-rushing outside linebackers will continue when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select at No. 7 overall. UCLA’s Anthony Barr should be the best OLB left on the board and an easy pick for Tampa Bay.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
There has been plenty of criticism of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but he showed raw talent and ability during his college career. With none of the options on the Minnesota Vikings roster deserving of another chance to start, it’s time to take the educated risk on a prospect like Bridgewater.
9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
If EJ Manuel truly is the franchise quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, the team must surround him with big-time weapons. Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans has the chance to be a star in the NFL and could be the target Manuel needs.
10. Detroit Lions: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
There is no discounting the talent of the weapons on the offensive side of the ball for the Detroit Lions, but the need for an anchor on the offensive line is a glaring issue. Auburn’s Greg Robinson is an incredible talent and a steal if he falls to No. 10.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Getting back to basics on the defensive side of the ball, the Tennessee Titans must address the needs against the pass and against the run. The smart first step in that process would be drafting Alabama middle linebacker C.J. Mosley as the new defensive leader.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Quarterback Eli Manning is one of the top players in the NFL, but he was hit far too often last season. The New York Giants must protect him better, and adding Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan is the most intriguing option.
13. St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
After drafting an offensive lineman with the No. 2 overall pick, the St. Louis Rams must address the need for a cornerback by taking talented Oklahoma State prospect Justin Gilbert.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Chicago Bears were destroyed through the middle of the defensive line by opposing running backs, and the team must get back to basics. After dominating the scouting combine, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald would clog the middle for years to come.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The rush on defensive tackles will be in full effect as the Pittsburgh Steelers address the need in the middle by adding Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III as the run-stopping inside presence that the team lacked in 2013.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Dallas will get in on the DT rush by selecting Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman. Fortunately for the Cowboys, Hageman has the raw size and ability to be the best tackle out of this draft with the right development.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Since the departure of Ed Reed, the Baltimore Ravens have lacked a field general in the secondary. After playing with the Alabama Crimson Tide, free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be an ideal fit.
18. New York Jets: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Head coach Rex Ryan has to add talent all over the roster, and predicting his first move will be difficult. With his affinity for defensive, versatile pass-rushing defensive end Kony Ealy may be the weapon the New York Jets are looking for.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
It was obviously a tumultuous season along the offensive line for the Miami Dolphins, and the rebuilding process must continue with the selection of Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer has found the fountain of youth with the Arizona Cardinals, but he needs more time in the pocket. While Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is rough around the edges, he has the size and power to be a bulldozer off the edge.
21. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The loss of tight end Jermichael Finley to free agency has left a major void for the Green Bay Packers that only a talented prospect like North Carolina’s Eric Ebron can fill.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
After watching wide receivers beat the Philadelphia Eagles' top cornerbacks, it has become abundantly clear that the franchise needs to address the secondary. Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard is the hard-hitting team player Chip Kelly would love.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Head coach Andy Reid is still implementing his style into the Kansas City Chiefs franchise. Adding a talented wide receiver like Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin would be the perfect weapon for Alex Smith in Reid’s West Coast offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
While the San Diego Chargers were able to get into the postseason in 2013, the franchise must address the need at cornerback first. At No. 25 overall, TCU’s Jason Verrett would be the perfect addition.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
The Cleveland Browns lost safety T.J. Ward this offseason to free agency, and addressing the need immediately in the draft is a top priority. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor would fit the need.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
One of the teams most desperate to add pressure off the defensive edge is the New Orleans Saints. With a real struggle rushing the passer, New Orleans must take the educated risk and draft Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The turnover at wide receiver this offseason for the Carolina Panthers has been stunning, and drafting an affordable player like USC’s Marqise Lee who can still contribute in a big way is a smart start to the rebuilding process.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in the NFL when he is healthy, but a string of injuries should have the New England Patriots concerned. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro would be a star with Tom Brady.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The offseason hasn’t gone as the San Francisco 49ers expected, but the team must simply address needs in the draft. Adding Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks would add depth at the position.
31. Denver Broncos: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Denver Broncos made several free-agent signings during the offseason, but there is still a void in the center of the defensive line. Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is big enough to fill that hole comfortably.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
After several Seattle Seahawks defensive linemen cashed in on the Super Bowl victory, the franchise must add depth and talent in the trenches. Selecting Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt would be an ideal pick.
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