The 2014 NFL draft is nearing closer and closer, and things are still unclear at the top.
A number of formidable prospects—Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Khalil Mack and more—have emerged as potential No. 1 overall picks. A number of quarterbacks could sneak into the top few picks or fall out of the first round altogether. Previously unheralded draft prospects are still emerging, even with just weeks left before the big day.
Needless to say, a lot can change between now and May 8, when the Houston Texans will go on the clock.
But for now, here's how the 32 first-round picks should go down.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Texans need a quarterback but will settle for a player who has the chance to be the biggest quarterback tormentor this league has seen in years.
Jadeveon Clowney isn't a finished product and might be somewhat of a risk from a character standpoint, but he has enough potential to make both of those afterthoughts. With the right people in his ear and in the right system, he will be one of the NFL's best in no time.
This is undoubtedly a pass-happy league, but that goes both ways. Clowney, at his best, will be able to impact the passing game as much as any quarterback in this draft will. That's doubly important in the AFC South, where Andrew Luck has the potential to run things for the foreseeable future.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
With two early first-round picks, the Rams will have more flexibility than anyone else in the early part of the draft. That will allow them to land Greg Robinson, the best tackle in this class with versatility through the roof and the ability to keep quarterback Sam Bradford on his feet.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Mack has made noise as a potential No. 1 overall pick, but it won't take long for him to come off the board.
As long as Clowney goes No. 1 overall, Mack won't be long after him. The Buffalo linebacker has got it all: size, speed, durability, intangibles and much more. Within a few years, he'll be the Jaguars' stud defender who is all over the backfield and constantly leading the team in tackles.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Browns need a quarterback, and with every one of the top guys still on the board at No. 4, they won't pass up getting their guy.
It didn't look like Cleveland was interested in the former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time Heisman finalist when it skipped Manziel's pro day. But ESPN's Chris Mortensen has since tweeted that Johnny Football will work out for the Browns in the upcoming weeks.
All of the talk with this pick will be the hype it generates, but that's not why the Browns will pick him. They'll get him because he's a winner, has incredible arm strength and the "It" factor that will allow his style of play to thrive in Cleveland.
5. Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
With Mack and Clowney already off the board, the Raiders won't be able to pass up a chance to lock up a franchise quarterback and one who has been underrated for much of this offseason. Teddy Bridgewater is a soon-to-be starting quarterback in the NFL, and Oakland will treat him as such with the fifth overall pick.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Plenty of teams go into the draft needing to address their offensive line but none more so than the Falcons. To help turn around their run game and keep Matt Ryan on his feet, they will grab Jake Matthews, who could have been a top pick in last year's draft had he come out.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Offseason departures have marred Tampa Bay's receiving corps, and with Josh McCown coming in to seemingly start and revamp the offense, the Bucs will grab the best perimeter weapon in this draft. Sammy Watkins has "star player" written all over him, with the speed to take it to the house at any point.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
A lot has been said about quarterbacks slipping in this class as of late, but it will end with three going in the first eight picks. Minnesota is definitely targeting a quarterback with the No. 8 pick, and considering Blake Bortles—a prototypical pocket passer at 6'5" and 230 pounds—is available, the Vikings won't be upset with getting a franchise quarterback.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Needless to say, EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis were on their backs a lot in 2013. With a number of weapons in the backfield and a promising franchise quarterback in Manuel, expect the Bills to invest in their offense by grabbing a decade-long starter and potential Pro Bowler in Taylor Lewan.
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Lions couldn't stop very much as far as opposing passing games went in 2013, ranking 23rd in pass defense. Grabbing Justin Gilbert, who could start right away, would be invaluable, as Detroit could throw him into the fire early, knowing he's ready to develop with a lot of snaps played.
11. Tennessee Titans: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
After getting linebacker Wesley Woodyard from the Broncos over the offseason, the Titans answered their most pressing need. But they still need a potential starter with the No. 11 pick thanks to Alterraun Verner's departure and will go with the next available cornerback who is ready to play tons of snaps in his rookie year.
12. New York Giants: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Notable defensive ends leaving New York has happened so much in recent years that it's going out of style. To stay afloat in the NFC East, the G-Men need to grab a pass-rushing menace to place alongside Jason Pierre-Paul and make sure that they maintain the advantage of having a daunting pass rush.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Rams have a choice—go with a top lineman or a top receiver at No. 2 overall. In this case, they went with Robinson, meaning they passed up on Sammy Watkins. But they won't be too bummed to get Mike Evans, a big-body receiver with the speed to make opponents pay on the outside and the strength to make plays in the middle of the field as well.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears need help in many areas defensively, so much so that they will simply go with the best player they can get at No. 14. In this case, the top cornerbacks and pass-rushers are off the board, so it makes sense to grab Timmy Jernigan to plug up the interior and make things a bit tougher for Chicago's opponents in the trenches.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr isn't as heralded of a prospect as he was during the 2013 college football season, but his tape speaks for itself and proves him to be one of the best young pass-rushers. Going to the Steelers will allow him to develop and learn underneath some experienced Pittsburgh defenders as he becomes a surefire starter.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
There's no doubt that the Cowboys need to address their lack of big bodies in the trenches, and even though they could use help in a number of areas, they won't be able to pass up Aaron Donald. Dallas has been desperate for help in the interior and will get some here.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Not many teams need help at receiver more than the Ravens, so it makes sense to grab one of the many first-round-worthy wideouts in the class. What make Kelvin Benjamin special, though, are his NFL readiness and ability to play a lot of snaps right away. Baltimore will need that, as Torrey Smith is one of very few able wideouts on this squad.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Even after getting Eric Decker over the offseason, the Jets need to add aerial threats to help out Geno Smith or Mike Vick. Adding Eric Ebron would allow New York to inherit a prototypical new-age tight end who should see his athleticism and ball skills translate to the next level.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Miami has to get an offensive lineman, and there's no doubting Cyrus Kouandjio's ability. After being an anchor for a few years at Alabama, he comes from a pedigree of successful standouts, and in the worst-case scenario, he will take time to develop into an above-average starter in the league.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Pryor, CB, Louisville
Arizona has revamped its defense in recent years, and Calvin Pryor would fit right in. The Louisville cornerback plays a physical, hard-hitting style that would benefit from playing alongside Patrick Peterson—one of the NFL's best young cornerbacks.
21. Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Plenty of teams struggled against the pass in 2013, but Green Bay was among the worst of them. The Packers' 24th-ranked pass defense doesn't do justice to a secondary that made opposing quarterbacks salivate all season. Bringing in one player won't change everything, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could have a big impact as a young leader if he can step into some playing time early.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Eagles don't have DeSean Jackson anymore, and that's a serious problem for a Chip Kelly offense that depends on speedsters on the outside. Marqise Lee doesn't exactly translate to that, but he has elite ball skills and could develop into one of the league's most dangerous wideouts.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Alex Smith doesn't have many able bodies to throw to, and adding Jace Amaro would be an instant upgrade and give the QB to have a consistent option in the middle of the field.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
After making the playoffs in 2013, the Bengals need more depth to take the next step, and a solid place to have that is at pass-rusher. Dee Ford will translate quickly to the next level and start tormenting Ben Roethlisberger and the other AFC North quarterbacks.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
If not for Philip Rivers, Ken Whisenhunt and a dynamic offense, the Chargers wouldn't have been anywhere near the postseason in 2013. The best place to improve a defense is in the trenches, and Louis Nix III would be able to make his presence felt just as he did at Notre Dame.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
After adding a franchise quarterback in Johnny Manziel, the Browns will be eager to add more weapons to the offense. Jordan Matthews has proved his ability, setting SEC career records at Vanderbilt and growing into a quintessential pro prospect. He's durable, can handle a heavy workload and has all of the tools to make a quick impact.
27. New Orleans Saints: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Letting go of Jonathan Vilma wasn't easy for the Saints, but it will be even tougher when they start playing football games in 2014. To help alleviate the pain, C.J. Mosley—a standout leader at Alabama who has been in as winning a culture as any—could come in and immediately gain some valuable playing time.
28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The offseason hasn't been kind to Carolina's receiving corps, and even though the Panthers have made a signing or two, it's obvious they will be turning their first-round pick into a receiver. Odell Beckham Jr. has dominated the SEC's best corners and looks to be an immediate impact player.
29. New England Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Vince Wilfork is coming back, but the Patriots won't wait to start building for the future in the defensive trenches. A big move in that direction would be with a first-round pick, which they can turn into Ra'Shede Hageman and come out with a 6'6", 311-pound monster prospect.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Colin Kaepernick's offense struggled at times in 2013, largely due to a lack of receivers getting separation. Enter Brandin Cooks—arguably the quickest player in the draft class with home run ability.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
A 43-8 Super Bowl clobbering should remind Denver that it won't get Peyton Manning another ring without a solid defense. Investing in Ryan Shazier, who could develop under Von Miller and Danny Trevathan, would allow for Jack Del Rio's defense to have some more options.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
The Seahawks don't need much of anything other than added depth heading into 2014, but one of the most valuable places to add a promising rookie is on the offensive line. Antonio "Tiny" Richardson looks to be an above-average starter at the least in the NFL and could develop into that in Seattle.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!