2014 NFL Draft: Latest Rumors on Where Top Prospects Will Land

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2014

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 09:  Mike Evans #13 (L) and Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies wait on the field before the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on November 9, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The NFL draft is less than a month away, yet we still don't have a clue how the first round will play.

Who will go No. 1? How about No. 2? No. 3? Anyone not working for the teams holding those picks who say they have a definitive answer is lying. The rumor mill, however, can help fans peruse executives' minds to examine their thought process.

If one of these rumors is to be believed, the Houston Texans won't begin the draft by selecting a quarterback. Scouts are instead gushing over other players such as Khalil Mack and Mike Evans, whose stock is booming in the weeks before the draft.

Let's take a look at the NFL hot stove to help solve the draft puzzle.


Quarterbacks Falling

Quarterbacks are the glamour position. The franchise saviors. The money-makers. Few NFL drafts pass without a quarterback or two or five going early in the opening round.

This year, teams might break that mold, as Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King reported that the squads holding early picks have soured on the top available signal-callers:

I’ve heard that at least four quarterback-needy teams—Houston (first pick), Jacksonville (3), Cleveland (4) and Oakland (5)—are strongly considering passing on quarterbacks with their first picks and waiting until their second or third selections. Simple reason: They’re not in love with any of the quarterbacks, and there are too many other good players who are surer things than a quarterback you have sincere doubts about. For that reason, there could be more quarterbacks taken in round two than round one.

If those teams all balked on Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles, at least one or two of them could free-fall through Round 1. The Minnesota Vikings could grab one at pick No. 8, but after that, the passers might have to wait until the Arizona Cardinals at No. 20 or Cleveland's next pick at No. 26.

Meanwhile, King also mentioned that the Jaguars have their eye on Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo as a second-round candidate. If everyone, however, is operating under the same mindset, they'll have to worry about the Texans, Browns or Raiders poaching him from them before they have a chance in Round 2.

The quarterback certainty makes this a truly unpredictable draft class. The premier guys could all warrant top-five picks, but it's apparently no guarantee their names will get called during the first round.


Khalil Mack: Top-Three Pick?

Khalil Mack is one of the main reasons why those teams are considering their options outside of quarterback. A versatile defender who can torture offensive linemen, quarterbacks and running backs may offer more overall value.

According to Fox Sports' Peter Schrager, the linebacker won't have to wait long before his name is announced:

Some experts, including NFL Media Analyst Mike Mayock and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., think the Buffalo bull-rusher should go No. 1.

What makes Mack so special? Through four years with the Bulls, he recorded 327 tackles, 75 for losses and 28.5 sacks. Whether he's playing the run or hunting the quarterback, offensive linemen can't keep him out of the backfield. 

After improving in each of his four years at Buffalo, he's now starting to receive recognition as one of the draft's safest picks. Those scared by the cornerbacks and even Jadeveon Clowney are viewing him as a sensible alternative.

For Schrager's tidbit to materialize, Houston and/or Jacksonville will have to decide against a quarterback. He'd make the most sense for the Jaguars, who were tied for 27th in total defense last season. 


Teams Looking to Trade Up for Mike Evans

Mike Evans is becoming a highly desirable commodity leading up to draft day.

Officially listed 6'5" on NFL.com, Evans is a lengthy target that will win his fair share of jump balls in the NFL. During two seasons at Texas A&M, he reeled in 17 touchdown receptions while averaging 16.5 yards per catch.

His stock is rising by the day. Draft Insider's Tony Pauline had this to say of Evans: 

[Evans] is a lock to be a top ten pick. Several teams feel the spread between he and Sammy Watkins of Clemson is not a great as many are making it out to be, something I completely agree with. Based on conversations it's my educated “guess” the team who selects Evans will make a trade to acquire his services. Right now it looks like three teams are the frontrunners to make some sort of move for Evans. If the St Louis Rams trade out of the second spot, and they will make every effort to do as much, Evans would be a target assuming they stay in the top ten. Two teams selecting in the middle of the first frame who are very high on Evans and would consider trading up to grab him are the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens.

Many mock drafts pair Evans with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 7, assuming Watkins is gone. The New York Giants (No. 12), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 15) and New York Jets (No. 18) are other teams that would greatly benefit from obtaining the tall wideout.

Yet it's surprising to hear him labeled a top-10 "lock," as Tampa Bay is the only strong fit for him among those teams. While the Detroit Lions could assemble a dominant receiver duo with Evans and Calvin Johnson, they have bigger defensive needs to address.

Slotted at No. 22, the Philadelphia Eagles would have to take a big leap up to land Evans, similar to the Atlanta Falcons forfeiting several assets to acquire Julio Jones in 2011. If they hold pat at No. 22, they could snag one of Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks or Odell Beckham Jr.