The 2014 NFL draft is getting closer.
Pushing the draft back a few weeks was a questionable decision by the NFL, but it has certainly been effective in amping up the anticipation for the annual event. This year's crop of talent has had more time to workout and meet with NFL organizations, and this has created a media circus surrounding the players at the top of the big board.
Mock drafts are changing almost by the day. With so many mocks out there, it can be hard to really get a sense of where each player should be taken. But look no further.
This updated mock has all the best landing spots for everyone that should be taken in the first round of the draft.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Houston Texans have a franchise-changing decision to make in the weeks leading up to the draft—Jadeveon Clowney or a quarterback?
Grabbing a signal-caller is of the utmost importance for this team, so they'll ultimately look there. But then they need to figure out which one to take. Blake Bortles is the easy answer. He has good size and a big arm that can step in right away and play.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OL, Auburn
Greg Robinson has the makings of a future Pro Bowler on the offensive line. He is by far the most gifted at the position in his class, making this an easy choice for a St. Louis Rams team that can use an upgrade at tackle.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Jacksonville Jaguars need a legitimate competitor to change the face of the franchise. Blaine Gabbert failed at doing so, so the team should go for more of a playmaker this time around. Johnny Manziel is an athlete that has a motor that never stops.
He's the perfect candidate to start bringing the Jaguars back to relevance.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Cleveland Browns can get a quarterback later. Sammy Watkins awaits them at No. 4.
Just imagine the prospect of Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and Watkins all going out for passes. That's a passing attack that can be explosive with the right quarterback in place. They'll grab that guy at No. 26.
5. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney falls to No. 5 here because of the needs of other teams—not because of his own faults (which are few and far between). Clowney will likely be the best player to come out of this draft given his physical skills and ability to get to the quarterback.
Oakland represents a particularly good fit for him given their age on the defensive line. He'll be a staple of that pass defense for years to come.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
CBS's NFL insider Pat Kirwan thinks that Jake Matthews is the ideal fit for the Atlanta Falcons at No. 6: "The Falcons are in a great spot to take a pass rusher or a 10-year starting left tackle," he writes. "Today it's the pass protector and a guy that gives Matt Ryan the best chance to succeed."
Matthews isn't on the same level as Robinson, but he's darn close. He has great physical tools and will help to keep Ryan upright. That's crucial.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Josh McCown will need some more weapons if he is to succeed in Tampa Bay. Vincent Jackson can't do it all by himself, so the team will have to take a difference-maker at No. 7. Mike Adams is a tier below Watkins (as all of the other wideouts are), but he's a big target that will help McCown transition to life in Tampa Bay.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The need for a quarterback is too large to ignore at No. 8. Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel aren't going to cut it next season, so the Minnesota Vikings might as well draft for the future of the position.
Teddy Bridgewater has been mocked all over the first round, but the Vikings are a good fit. He probably won't start from Day 1, but expect him to get starts toward the end of the season when the team is inevitably out of playoff contention.
9. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills will make the smart choice of keeping Khalil Mack in Buffalo with the No. 9 pick. Mack is a beast off the edge and has potential at both outside linebacker and defensive end. Pairing him with Kiko Alonso is a great move for the future of this defense.
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Bringing in Golden Tate shored up any major concerns at wide receiver, so the Detroit Lions can now look toward the secondary. Justin Gilbert, the top corner in the class, will be able to step in right away and cover the beast receives of the NFC North. Plus, the only way to grab a receiver without reaching would be to trade up. The potential losses of doing so could be catastrophic.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Anthony Barr is a guy that can play (and play well) right away. He doesn't have a ton of experience on defense given that he began is college career as a running back, but this guy is fast and hits hard. I like him at No. 11.
12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The New York Giants have undergone a facelift this offseason, and that will continue during the draft. There are offensive linemen that the Giants can snag later in Round 2 or 3. At No. 12, Aaron Donald is a great fit.
Donald is one of the top pass-rushers in this class. His big body stuffs holes and commands double-teams. He's a guy that the Giants can restructure their line around.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Rams defense is pretty good, but they could use another guy in the secondary. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the top safety in the draft and will make his presence felt early on in his NFL career. St. Louis can go a few different directions with this one, but grabbing Clinton-Dix is the smartest option.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Timmy Jernigan is the second-best defensive tackle in the draft, and the Chicago Bears desperately need a run-stuffer in the middle. Jernigan was, at times, the best NFL prospect on the field for the Florida State Seminoles last season. He's the real deal.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, FSU - projected 1st Round, but the tape shows a player with inconsistent initial quickness, leverage and anchor issues.— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) April 4, 2014
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The best scenario at No. 15 for the Pittsburgh Steelers would be if Darqueze Dennard is still available. The team has a need at cornerback, and the rookie would be able to step in right away and make contributions to a defense in need of some young legs.
Dennard was the Jim Thorpe Award winner last season, as Mike Wilson of scout.com points out:
The kid is good.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Dee Ford, OLB/DE, Auburn
Replacing DeMarcus Ware won't be easy, but Dee Ford boasts a similar set of skills. The Auburn product has been moving up boards recently, and the Dallas Cowboys would be very smart to make this move. He has the potential to be one of the top defenders taken this year.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
Joe Flacco would really benefit from a play-making tight end. Despite drop issues in college, Eric Ebron is the man for the job. He creates matchup nightmares with his blend of size and speed, and Flacco will get him the ball over the middle of the field.
I like Ebron so much at No. 17 that I'm confident in saying that Flacco will turn him into a serious candidate for next year's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Yep. Book it.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
This pick has been locked in for weeks, if you ask me.
Eric Decker is a good fit for the New York Jets, but he can't do it alone. Geno Smith needs another weapon, and Odell Beckham would be a perfect complement. Throw in Chris Johnson out of the backfield, and the Jets made serious strides to improve on that side of the ball this offseason.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Another pick that has been locked in for quite some time, in my opinion, is Zack Martin at No. 19 to the Miami Dolphins. Miami needs help on the offensive line, and there are holes aplenty on that unit.
Ryan Tannehill can't go through another year like he just did. The Dolphins need to keep him on his feet. When upright, he's pretty good.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy has dropped down into middle portion of Round 1 after going significantly earlier in some of my other mocks. Why? Well, it's not his fault. The needs of other teams simply don't match up with him going particularly early.
Kirwan agrees with Ealy at No. 20: "Ealy has the talent to play on the edge and the size to move inside when the Cardinals want to slide the front around. For now he would be in a rotation with Darnell Dockett and a year from now he's the man."
I think Ealy learn a lot from Dockett in his rookie year and blossom into an above average linebacker in Year 2.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Calvin Pryor hits like a strong safety but can cover the field like a free safety. The Green Bay Packers desperately need to upgrade their secondary, and Pryor fits well here at No. 21. There's a chance he might go earlier, and if he does, look for the Packers to reach for Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois. Ward won't crack the first round otherwise, but the Packers need safety help.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee is the most comparable wideout to Jackson in this class, though his potential is even greater. Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton likes Lee a lot:
Having some trouble projecting #USC WR Marqise Lee. Positives: quickness, smoothness, elusiveness and competitiveness. True home run hitter— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) April 5, 2014
Look for him to land in Philly and take part in an explosive offense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
After missing out on Lee, the Kansas City Chiefs will have to reach just a little bit for Brandin Cooks. A late-first rounder, Cooks will get the benefit of hearing his name called a few picks earlier than expected.
NFL analyst Gil Brandt is high on Cooks, even going so far as to compare him to Wes Welker:
The Chiefs and Alex Smith need a wideout to play with Dwayne Bowe. Cooks will be that guy.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Only a piece or two away from a Super Bowl run, the Cincinnati Bengals could benefit from some youth in the secondary. Jason Verrett is a tier below the likes of Gilbert and Dennard, but his coverage skills are good. He'll see a handful of starts next season in Cincy.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller and Verrett could easily trade places on draft day. It's really just a matter of preference, to be honest.
Fuller has great leaping ability to defend passes up in the air and plays good coverage. He also doesn't shy away from contributing against the run, and the rest of the San Diego Chargers defense will appreciate his efforts.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Ah, the quarterback we've all been waiting for.
Derek Carr can sling it around the field, and that's exactly what the Browns need with such dynamic offensive weapons. Don't be fooled, though; the team's offensive makeover still isn't complete here. Expect them to go after either Carlos Hyde or Tre Mason in Round 2.
27. New Orleans Saints: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
I've seen C.J. Mosley in the top 10, and I've seen him in the early bit of Round 2. I don't think either is particularly accurate, hence why I have him going at No. 27 to New Orleans.
Rob Ryan's defense was very, very good last year. It will only improve after an offseason that saw the front office bring in Jairus Byrd and now Mosley.
28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Carolina Panthers need to solidify their wideout corps, so the logical thing to do at No. 28 would be to grab Kelvin Benjamin. He's a big receiver (6'5", 243 lbs) that can go up and get the ball. Cam Newton will benefit from having that type of receiver.
A few rounds later, look for Carolina to again go wideout with either Jared Abbrederis or Josh Huff.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Jace Amaro is the perfect fit for the New England Patriots. So perfect, in fact, that I don't think I've changed this pick for quite some time.
It makes too much sense. Tom Brady thrives in a system with two tight ends. Rob Gronkowski also shouldn't be relied upon for 16 games next season, so having a capable reserve is key.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
An aging secondary could use some fresh legs. That's where Bradley Roby will come in. He isn't afraid of contact and has good instincts in pass coverage. He'll be given some time to learn under the veteran members of the unit before being thrust into real action.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Denver Broncos are in a position to draft based on the best available. At No. 31, that will probably be linebacker Ryan Shazier. The Ohio State product can do a little of everything. He can defend against the run and the pass, and he isn't terrible in coverage. As a three-down linebacker, Shazier can make an impact early for Denver.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller always knew that Davante Adams was destined to be taken at the end of Round 1:
Late 1st rounder on my board right now. RT @TonyPauline: Davante Adams/WR/Fresno State unofficially 4.48s forty at pro-day....— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 20, 2014
Adams is great with his hands and knows how to go up and get the ball in the air. He is athletic enough to make circus grabs while also making most of the routine ones. The Seattle Seahawks need someone to replace Golden Tate, and Russell Wilson will be happy to know that Adams will be the guy.