The NFL draft has transformed from a barely-covered event to a three-day spectacle that continues to get bigger every year. This offseason, the buildup has been the biggest yet.
For the first time since 1984, the draft will be held in May instead of April. While there were multiple reasons for this move, one benefit is that it will give teams more time to evaluate prospects and hopefully make better decisions on draft day.
On the other hand, it also gives fans an extra few weeks to do their own research and eventually get more upset when "their guy" is not taken. Make sure your team makes the right decision by following all three days of the NFL draft.
Here is a guide to make sure you do not miss the all-important Round 1.
When: Thursday, May 8
Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York City
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network, ESPN
Who Will Go No. 1?
While any player wants to go in the first round, being selected No. 1 overall is an added accomplishment that no one can take away. Sometimes it leads to a great deal of success like Peyton Manning, while others it leads to being little more than a trivia question like JaMarcus Russell.
This year, the Houston Texans have a number of options to help improve a team that has a lot of talent but struggled all last season.
At the top of most people's list is Jadeveon Clowney, the big-time defensive end who has a previously unimaginable combination of size, strength, speed and athleticism. He recently announced that he will stop doing private workouts for teams, something that might signal that he knows something, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
People I've talked to around the league believe Clowney is not working out because he's been told he'll be the No. 1 pick.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 14, 2014
On the other hand, there are questions about his work ethic that might cause teams to pass on him, via NFL on ESPN:
"He's spoiled and he's lazy. He's never worked hard a day in his life." Unnamed "NFC personnel man" to NJ Star Ledger on Jadeveon Clowney— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 14, 2014
If the Texans decide not to draft Clowney, they almost certainly have to grab one of the top quarterbacks in the class. Case Keenum showed some ability last year, but the squad needs a new face of the franchise.
Whether the team thinks Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater or someone else is the best in the class, Houston should grab one of them.
Where Will Each Top Quarterback Land?
Every position in the NFL is important, but no one is as heavily scrutinized as the quarterbacks. These are the players that will have the biggest role as to whether a team can take the next step toward the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl.
For this reason, each team is being incredibly cautious about who it selects in the draft.
This year's class has plenty of good options at the position, but each one has reason for doubt. Johnny Manziel has the star power and the ability to make things happen with his arm or legs. As Todd McShay of ESPN points out, however, he is a risky pick:
Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater has seen his stock fall as well in recent weeks due to poor showings at the combine and his own pro day. Whether this should trump what he did on the field is up to the teams.
On the other hand, Blake Bortles is on the way up draft boards due to his prototypical size and strong arm. According to James Palmer of CSN Houston, the UCF quarterback was asked why he should be the top pick in the draft and responded, "I don’t know. I guess just what I put on tape and the things I can do at quarterback are hopefully things that they like, so it’s up for them to decide."
The majority of teams in the top 10 are in need of a quarterback, which should allow each of these players to be selected early. However, others might end up being perfectly fine waiting to grab someone like Derek Carr, AJ McCarron or Zach Mettenberger.
Which Teams Will Make Exciting Trades?
The reason mock drafts are rarely accurate is because as soon as the first team is on the clock, every other team looks at potential trades to ensure that they get the best player available.
Last season, 11 picks in the first round were by teams not originally slated to be there. This year will be no different as general managers negotiate to move around the first round.
The most intriguing team that could make a trade is the St. Louis Rams, which own the No. 2 pick. Without a need for a quarterback or a defensive end like Clowney, the squad could deal out of the spot and draft someone who would be a better fit later on.
General manager Les Snead explained his decision-making process heading into the draft, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
I like to say you make the best decision long term because the short term is by definition short -- it won't last as long. But I think you make a good point. Because we're in 2014, this draft is really good, it's a good chance for us to take some shots with picks in this draft to improve the team. Not only tomorrow and opening day, but also four and five years down the road.
He also notes that teams have been "flirtatious" about making a potential deal.
There will certainly be a big market for trades at the top. Charles Davis of NFL.com speculates that a team like the Atlanta Falcons could be interested in moving up for a pass-rusher like Clowney or Khalil Mack. Other teams could want to pick a quarterback or offensive lineman that would be available.
No matter what happens, you can be certain there will be plenty of surprises throughout what should be an exciting first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
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