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NFL Draft 2014: Notable Rumors, Predictions for Top Available Prospects

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NFL Draft 2014: Notable Rumors, Predictions for Top Available Prospects
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The drama surrounding the 2014 NFL draft will reach a fever pitch in the coming days as teams continue to meet with players and rumors swirl.

Below, we'll break down some of the notable predraft rumors floating around the league and predict where this year's top available prospects will end up when the dust settles a month from now.

 

Sidney Rice's Comeback Complete

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Free-agent wide receiver Sidney Rice has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, suffering a torn ACL last October that forced him to miss the remainder of Seattle's championship season. On Wednesday, Rice announced he would return to the Seattle Seahawks:

On Monday, NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported that league sources said Rice emerged from the recovery process and has drawn interest from a handful of teams:

Per a league source, former Vikings and Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice has received clearance to resume football activities from Dr. James Andrews.  Rice tore an ACL on October 28. 

Now that Rice has been cleared, don’t be surprised if something happens quickly.  He could sign in the next few days. … Interested teams, we’re told, include the Seahawks, Saints, Giants, and Panthers.

Each team has a big need to fill at wide receiver, but ESPN.com's Dan Graziano previously stated that the New York Giants would back out of the Rice chase if it gets crowded, which proved to be true:

There was also a report Monday linking the Giants to oft-injured wide receiver Sidney Rice, who's apparently telling teams he's been cleared medically, but I am told not to expect the Giants to be serious bidders if a lot of other teams get involved on Rice. Could happen, and if healthy he'd fill a big need for them. But he's never healthy and I think the Giants just sort of checked in to see about the price.

ESPN.com's Mike Triplett reported on Tuesday that the Saints were interested in Rice's services: "The Saints are still among the teams in play for free-agent receiver Sidney Rice, according to a league source. The Saints showed interest in Rice earlier this offseason."

It remains to be seen if the Saints made a major push at the end to try to sign Rice before he returned to the Seahawks. Regardless, Rice returned to the defending Super Bowl champs, which now leaves teams such as the Giants and Saints likely re-ordering their internal draft big boards.

 

Cleveland Browns Considering AJ McCarron?

Michael Conroy

The Cleveland Browns have two first-round picks in May's 2014 NFL draft, and it seems the club could be interested in using one of those selections on former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.

On Wednesday, The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot reported that McCarron would spend some extra time in Cleveland ahead of the draft, per a league source:

If McCarron is indeed coming back to meet with the Browns' front office and coaching staff, it could mean that Cleveland is leaning toward drafting McCarron next month. While there's no doubt he'll be available for the Browns at No. 4 overall, the AFC North hopefuls could be taking a risk by waiting until their second selection at No. 26 overall.

A handful of quarterbacks have been projected (subscription required) to come off the board before McCarron, but if the Browns believe he's the guy to turn things around under Mike Pettine's regime, don't be surprised to see him go in Round 1.

 

What Could the Kansas City Chiefs Get for Eric Berry?

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With the Kansas City Chiefs staring down a plethora of key needs and sitting on very few resources (cap space and draft picks), The Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger recently pondered the possibility of trading away Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry in exchange for some high draft picks and to free up cap space.

Mellinger admits that Berry isn't on the trade block, but he has talked to league sources who believe trading Berry could land Kansas City a crucial pick in 2014's draft:

Let’s be clear. The Chiefs are not shopping Berry, and there is no indication they’ve been contacted about a trade. But the possibility is at least being kicked around in some football circles, and Chiefs GM John Dorsey would have to listen, if not actively pursue it.

Through conversations with NFL personnel men, Berry would likely bring back at least a second- and third-round pick — perhaps more. One scout thought a first-round pick would be possible.

As Mellinger points out, trading Berry would sting given how productive and consistent he's been since the Chiefs selected him fifth overall four years ago.

Still, the Chiefs are clearly a few pieces away from contending for a Super Bowl title. And in an ultra-competitive division like the AFC West, Kansas City will have minimal room for error this offseason. If the Chiefs don't address their key holes before or during the draft, they could see other teams pass them by in the AFC next season.  

Latest Predictions for Marquee 2014 NFL Draft Prospects
Player Prediction
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina No. 1 overall (Houston Texans)
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida No. 3 overall (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson No. 4 overall (Cleveland Browns)
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville No. 5 overall (Oakland Raiders)
Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo No. 6 overall (Atlanta Falcons)
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M No. 8 overall (Minnesota Vikings)

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Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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