After months of feverish anticipation highlighted by the wildest runway to the big day yet, the 2014 NFL draft is set to commence.
Before players waltz to the podium, put ink to contracts and fans rejoice, rage or something in between, let's take one final look at how the proceedings should play out based on both need and value.
Besides, fans won't get a 2015 mock until...
1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
So it has come to this.
The Houston Texans still clutch the No. 1 pick and with it the responsibility of not setting back the franchise for a decade or more.
It's fun to think of what could be, but quarterback should be the main consideration. Teddy Bridgewater, despite borderline slander all offseason, remains the best in class and gives the Texans the best chance to compete now and down the line.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Barring a trade down, the St. Louis Rams are in a great position of luxury at No. 2. There's an allure to a top lineman on either side of the ball, but Jeff Fisher can do better than that with two picks in the first round.
Linemen can wait. Players like Sammy Watkins don't come around often, and his immediate contributions on special teams and as the primary target for Sam Bradford will be felt throughout the league.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller put it best:
Was asked for the safest picks in the 2014 NFL draft. Sammy Watkins, Jake Matthews, Aaron Donald were my instant responses.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 19, 2014
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
It's a mini miracle the Jacksonville Jaguars have Jadeveon Clowney fall in their laps, as the defense needs as much talent as possible and a face of the unit.
Clowney is as rare as it gets in this class, not to mention in quite some time. He's an every-down player who changes the complexion of the unit in a hurry as his ripple effect is apparent on those behind him.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
It's been fun to pretend that Cleveland is doing anything else, but when push comes to shove, the Browns can't do better than Johnny Manziel.
Manziel is built to break the quarterback curse in Cleveland thanks to his improvisation skills and strong arm. He'll be surrounded by elite talent like Josh Gordon, so the odds are in the Browns favor that things finally turn around under center.
5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Rotoworld's Josh Norris put it best in regards to Greg Robinson:
Greg Robinson’s pass protection RIGHT NOW is a legitimate concern. Projecting is part of the game, but growing pains will be too.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) April 17, 2014
Robinson is not without his flaws, but sometimes future potential is too overwhelming to pass on—especially for a team like Oakland.
With refinement, Robinson has what it takes to be the NFL's top tackle. He'll struggle, but the move will pay off in the long run.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Tackle or rusher?
It's been the consistent question surrounding Atlanta the entire offseason, and it's hard to imagine the front office won't officially decide until time almost expires during their selection.
The depth of the offensive tackle class paired with the elite skill set of Khalil Mack makes the decision a tad easier. He's the type of talent who transcends scheme and uplifts a unit on his own.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Mike Evans has the size of a tight end (6'5" and 231 pounds) and the game of a wideout.
If that's not appealing to Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay, it's hard to think what is for an offense that will be led by either Josh McCown or Mike Glennon (ahem—or a rookie added later?).
Evans is huge and can create mismatches on the outside and in the red zone across from Vincent Jackson. It's a rather easy decision.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The hype for Blake Bortles has been livid, but remember one thing—not every player will come off the board in the top few picks. Just ask Bleacher Report's Ty Schalter:
Jadeveon Clowney won't go past 3. Blake Bortles won't go past 3. Sammy Watkins won't go past 3. Khalil Mack. Greg Robinson. Teddy B. Get me?— Ty Schalter (@tyschalter) April 11, 2014
So why does Bortles fall? He's more of a project than the first two quarterbacks off the board, and his sitting out for a year would probably do him some good.
The immense ceiling is apparent, which is why Minnesota is willing to halt his free fall. It doesn't even mean Bortles has to be the starter as a rookie, either.
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
EJ Manuel is the name of the game for Buffalo.
If the front office is truly invested in the Florida State product as the signal-caller of the future, more weapons around him are an obvious must.
There's a rather significant drop off in talent after Eric Ebron at tight end, (Jace Amaro doesn't count, more on him later) so Buffalo is more than happy to scoop up a sure-handed receiver with blazing speed.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Never has a top-10 pick been so undesirable.
For Detroit, it's very hard to align need and value here. The Lions front office can get some semblance of both with Darqueze Dennard, who is arguably the top corner in the class and surely hits on a position of potential need.
Dennard is a great prospect and can surely have a fruitful career, but this may be a bit high. Detroit doesn't have a bevy of other options that marry need and value, though.
11. Tennessee Titans: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald made the list in Miller's above tweet for a reason.
Donald is a classic 3-technique defensive tackle who can apply pressure from the interior of the line. Yes, that makes him a supposed odd fit in Tennessee, but the coaching staff can't be comfortable allowing him to slip past as they continue their schematic change.
Great players transcend scheme. Donald has the looks of one and the Titans will turn out better as a result.
12. New York Giants: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Ditto the Donald comment for Jake Matthews.
There's not much to say at this juncture. Matthews' hasn't changed and won't as an elite tackle prospect with a surefire fruitful pro career ahead.
It's a highway robbery for New York, which needs talent of Matthews' caliber in front of Eli Manning to help deter his interception-happy ways.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
It's so cliche to call any player a "missing piece," but the description couldn't be more apt for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in St. Louis.
St. Louis quietly has one of the NFL's better defenses, sans the safety spot next to T.J. McDonald. Clinton-Dix is the remedy after setting himself apart as the top safety in the class as NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah explains, via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune:
Jeremiah on why he prefers safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix to safety Calvin Pryor: "I want the ball-hawk. I want the guy with range." #Bears— Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) April 17, 2014
That's the top player at each of two positions of need for the Rams. Not bad.
14. Chicago Bears: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Go ahead and imagine the Chicago front office running to the podium for Ra'Shede Hageman.
While the coaching staff may have preferred Donald, Hageman is a superb consolation prize thanks to an elite set of physical traits that marries speed and power exceptionally well.
Hageman enters a strong veteran environment thanks to names like Jared Allen, so expect him to pan out just fine as Henry Melton's replacement.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The narrative around Pittsburgh on the path to the draft has been corner or wideout for good reason.
Given the depth of the wideout class and value on the board between the two positions, the Steelers must grab Justin Gilbert to groom behind the likes of Ike Taylor.
It's not the sexiest pick for a "What have you done for me lately?" NFL, but it's a savvy move nonetheless—something Pittsburgh hasn't been on draft day in quite some time.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
DeMarcus Ware is gone and the addition of Melton isn't doing much to change that, so an edge defender makes the most sense for Dallas at No. 16.
Good news—Kony Ealy is the entire package. Stout against the run and capable of providing a rush from the edge or interior, Ealy has the look of an every-down player as a rookie who is flexible in where he lines up.
For the cash-strapped Cowboys, that's the perfect route to take in the first round.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan is a mixed bag as far as first-round stock goes, but there is no denying his natural talent that is simply in need of refinement.
Lewan gets all of the above in Baltimore, a team that suddenly has a top-flight tackle duo in tandem with Eugene Monroe. That's how you protect a major investment.
18. New York Jets: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
It's hard to find a more pro-ready corner than Kyle Fuller in the 2014 class, which should be the goal of any team in the first round—but especially the New York Jets.
Without Antonio Cromartie in the fold, things are looking a bit scarce in Rex Ryan's secondary. In Fuller, he gets a corner who not only stands tall against the rush, but can hold his own in coverage.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
The writing has been on the wall for Zack Martin and Miami for quite some time.
Coming off a year in which Ryan Tannehill was the NFL's most-sacked quarterback, the front office has spent the offseason looking to upgrade the miserable unit.
Martin is an ideal fit. Not only is he a quality lineman, he can play any spot on the line. That's additional flexibility any team could use, but especially the one in Miami.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The story has been tough to figure out when it comes to the medical status of Cyrus Kouandjio:
Good info from @PSchrags: Nick Saban says not one NFL team has failed Cyrus Kouandjio over his repaired knee.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 12, 2014
That said, he remains one of the better run-blocking tackles to come out in recent years and is a great value at No. 20 overall.
For Arizona, he's the long-awaited answer at right tackle, which in tandem with left tackle Jared Veldheer gives the Cardinals quite the duo.
21. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
C.J. Mosley unfairly tumbles a bit because of the nature of his position, but he's a prototypical sideline-to-sideline linebacker who has a rather simple transition to the pros.
That's exactly what the brass in Green Bay want to hear.
There, Mosley will be an every-down-linebacker who acts as an enforcer against the run and gives the unit a bit of an attitude.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
There's something to be said for the fact Philadelphia could address the wideout position in the first round, but the better value would be to grab Calvin Pryor and reinforce the spot next to Malcolm Jenkins.
Pryor has seemingly fallen behind Clinton-Dix, which is fine as he can still patrol the defensive backfield effectively while he develops.
Wideouts can be had later in the draft in what is a very deep class.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The hype for Marqise Lee was all over the place on the path to the draft, but once things settle it's clear the USC product has a skill set that validates a first-round selection.
Lee compares well to Watkins in many ways, with the noticeable issue being drops. Still, he's a smart fit in the offense in Kansas City as he can regularly contribute in Andy Reid's attack.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Cincinnati Bengals enter the first round in a position of luxury, which can be used to address what will be a rather obvious need in the next few years.
Jason Verrett provides the team some insurance behind the first three names on the depth chart, which all have injury concerns in their past and are over the age of 30. He also provides a sound presence on special teams until he and Dre Kirkpatrick can take over in a few years.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Norris was one who is an advocate of Louis Nix III as a remedy for a 3-4 team with nose-tackle issues:
Steelers fans really dislike my Louis Nix projection... I don't get it. Didn't they struggle to prevent convertible 3rd downs? Issues vs run— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) April 15, 2014
Pittsburgh takes a pass in this scenario, but San Diego can't afford to as a playoff roster looks to build momentum through further development and supplemental talent.
Nix enters San Diego as the best tackle on the roster and provides a noticeable upgrade right away.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
If there is one player who can shock the class in hindsight and turn out to be one of the best overall pros, it's LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and his ability to score from anywhere on the field and provide a spark on special teams.
Cleveland has a no-brainer here. Beckham Jr. would shine across from Josh Gordon and make plenty of contributions on special teams as the rebuild in Cleveland continues.
27. New Orleans Saints: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
Rob Ryan personally sprints to the podium in this scenario.
Anthony Barr has taken a lot of heat as a former running back with a limited set of moves, but he's still a natural pass-rusher who can be effective in the right situation.
There's not a better fit than New Orleans, whereas earlier teams were willing to pass on the upside that comes equipped with massive bust potential as well. The Saints won't be afraid to take that risk.
28. Carolina Panthers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Carolina picked a heck of a class to finally rebuild the wideout corps and can get things started on the right path with Allen Robinson. Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko is in the minority, but one can see why the argument for Robinson is strong:
Personally, I'd rather Allen Robinson than Mike Evans, unless you're desperate for a big-body on the edge. I think he's very under-valued.— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) April 16, 2014
Robinson doesn't have the size of an Evans, but he plays like it with the way he fights for every reception. In Carolina, his brand of tough, reliable football is a must-have.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Now about Amaro.
He's listed as tight end, but really plays like a possession receiver who can line up at any spot on the field and contribute.
That sounds like the perfect weapon for Tom Brady. Amaro is injury insurance for Rob Gronkowski, and one heck of a complement to boot.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
San Francisco may be thinking linebacker at No. 30, but the team may be content to roll with Corey Lemonier.
Instead, the team can round out its wideout corps with speedy slot option Brandin Cooks, who will make his fair share of major plays as a rookie despite being mired in a run-first offense.
Cooks is a sound value and a first-round pick by San Francisco that will pay dividends for years to come.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Inside linebacker was a mess for Denver last season, and Ryan Shazier has something to offer at all three spots to help mitigate the issue.
Shazier touts blinding speed for the position and is a natural fit with the Broncos as he can provide a rush, move sideline-to-sideline well and even drop into coverage.
As far as value goes, Denver knocks this one out of the park.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Seattle certainly doesn't mind a high-risk, high-reward scenario to close out the first round.
Kelvin Benjamin's career may wind up writing the book in that regard.
The ceiling? One of the NFL's best deep threats. The basement? A player who washes out of the league rather quickly thanks to drop issues.
It's a gamble worth taking for the champs, as a consistent deep threat puts the offense over the top.