No matter how many times we predict what will happen at the NFL draft, there are always ways that it surprises us. The 2014 version will be no different.
Every team has its own evaluation process that is different from what is seen in the media. The Dallas Cowboys "reached" on Travis Frederick in the first round a year ago, but he started every game and performed well. Bruce Irvin is also off to a good start with the Seattle Seahawks after being a surprising pick early in 2012.
Meanwhile, fans at home are usually able to watch the "green room," featuring a high-profile athlete who is sitting around much longer than expected. Of course, Aaron Rodgers was one of those players, so it doesn't always turn out badly.
This year's class has enough talent to get people excited throughout the draft, forcing teams to make some bold moves. Here are some predictions of interesting things that will happen May 8 in Round 1.
The Atlanta Falcons Will Trade up for a Big-Time Talent
Two years ago, the Falcons were in the NFC Championship Game and a few plays away from the Super Bowl. However, they fell apart last season and finished with a head-scratching 4-12 record.
While this was no doubt a terrible result, the good news is that there is a lot of talent still on the roster. The problem was that the squad ranked in the bottom 10 in the NFL in both sacks and sacks allowed. If the squad can fix these issues, it will once again be a playoff contender.
For this reason, Atlanta has to make sure it gets an elite player at one of its need positions. Fortunately, there are a few available stars at the top of the draft.
Jadeveon Clowney is the best option after showcasing a unique combination of size, strength and speed from the defensive end position. He also previously discussed his willingness to go to Atlanta, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com: "I wish they could trade up for me, but I hope I don’t fall to No. 6. I like Atlanta -- a lot. They’re pretty good. They’ve got some guys from South Carolina on the team, also. And it’s close to home."
It might be too difficult to trade up to No. 1, but moving up to the No. 2 pick certainly seems possible if the Houston Texans pass on him.
If Clowney is unavailable, the Falcons could still trade up for Buffalo's Khalil Mack, who is rising on everyone's board, according to Peter Schrager of Fox Sports:
The Khalil Mack "hype" is real. I've heard he won't fall past no. 3.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) April 11, 2014
The linebacker is one of the more complete players in the draft and should make a huge impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Meanwhile, if Atlanta wants to improve the offensive line, it would be smart to grab Greg Robinson out of Auburn. The offensive tackle is a mauling run-blocker and is still improving in pass protection, which could eventually make him one of the best at the position in the league.
The Falcons do not want to miss out on these elite players by sitting back at No. 6. Instead, they will move up to get better.
Teddy Bridgewater Gets the Quarterback Slide
Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn and most recently Geno Smith have all sat around waiting to be picked for much longer than they might have hoped. This year, Teddy Bridgewater is going to know the feeling.
The Louisville star entered the draft season widely considered to be the best quarterback in the class and a top contender for the No. 1 overall pick. However, he has been a victim of the extended offseason process, apparently struggling at every stage.
First, he did not impress anyone at the combine. Then, he had a poor pro day with many NFL teams watching in anticipation. ESPN's Chris Mortensen even reported April 11 that the quarterback struggled in individual team workouts, via Rotoworld.
While teams like Blake Bortles because of his size and mobility and Johnny Manziel will get drafted due to his playmaking ability, there is less that separates Bridgewater from the pack. Suddenly, he might not even be one of the top three quarterbacks selected.
Bleacher Report's Chris Simms breaks down a few other names that could sneak into the top 10:
With this many options, teams in need of a quarterback can simply wait until the later rounds to grab their guy. As a result, those squads will take advantage of the surefire talent at other positions available in the first round.
Bridgewater will in turn be waiting around for someone to take a chance on him.
Seven Wide Receivers and No Running Backs Land in First Round
If this does not tell you how much the NFL has shifted to a passing league, I do not know what will.
This year's running back class has some talented players who could have successful NFL careers, including Carlos Hyde and Tre Mason, among others. However, none of them have that "it" factor that separates them from the rest of the class.
The result is that we should see no running backs taken in the first round for the second year in a row.
On the other hand, organizations will go crazy for a potential impact receiver that is available in the draft. In 2014, there are a bunch of them.
Leading the pack is Sammy Watkins, who is one of the best prospects at his position in the last decade. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com points out how much coaches are falling in love with the former Clemson star:
Long-time coach at #Clemson’s Pro Day said Sammy Watkins “is just different. Those balls he caught, deep-ball acceleration - unbelievable.”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 6, 2014
While Watkins is likely to go in the top five, the rest of the draft features a number of other players who can contribute early. Mike Evans of Texas A&M has the size at 6'5" to win almost any jump ball, a trait that many teams will want on their team.
After that will come the speedsters in Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee and Odell Beckham Jr. Each of these players has the ability to turn any reception into a long touchdown. While the order might be up for debate, it would be surprising to see any of these men drop out of the first round.
The last two are more questionable first-round picks, but Allen Robinson has been moving up draft boards recently, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
Finally, Kelvin Benjamin has the combination of size (6'5", 240 pounds) and game speed to make him a quality receiver at the next level. Although he is a bit raw compared to others in the class, teams will not want to pass on this ability.
Obviously, the likelihood of seven receivers all turning out to be great is not good. However, each of them is worth the chance in the first round.
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