Teams will find impact players all throughout the first round of the 2014 NFL draft; that much is not in doubt. What is a great mystery is the order in which these players will be selected.
In play for the top picks in this draft is an intriguing mix of talent headlined by South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but as you'll see, I don't project him to be the first overall pick.
So, with Thursday's festivities finally at hand, here is how I see the general managers attacking this year's first round.
1. Houston Texans: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
The Texans aren't going to get the kind of value they need to trade this pick, and that means Clowney will not be the first pick; he doesn't fit with the Texans.
Clowney's freakish blend of size (6'6", 266 lbs) and athleticism would certainly allow him to produce in any defense, but his best position still comes as an end in a 4-3 scheme. That is why it would be foolish for the Texans—or any other team that features a 3-4 scheme—to draft a player at No. 1 overall and then put him in any position other than the one he would be best-suited to play.
Meanwhile, Khalil Mack would be an excellent fit for Houston. Mack is not the dominant pass-rusher that Clowney is, but he will still put plenty of heat on the quarterback. Mack, however, is a complete linebacker, and he would be a great fit with defensive end J.J. Watt.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney won't last past the second pick, and there is still a chance that the Rams will trade down.
In the end, however, why trade away the chance to draft a talent like Clowney when they instead could draft him and then trade defensive end Chris Long?
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Greg Robinson is a rare talent. He is powerful enough to be a beast in the running game and fluid enough to be a wall in pass protection.
All of this will have the Jaguars selecting him at No. 3 instead of taking a shot at finding their quarterback of the future.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel is an exciting talent; there is no denying that. He is not without his concerns, but his upside makes him a worthwhile gamble for a franchise that has been continually starved for its quarterback of the future.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Which QB will have the best NFL career?
In this scenario, Sammy Watkins is an obvious selection for the Raiders. He is the best player available, and would serve as the No. 1 option the Raiders need to lead a solid, young receiving corps.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Falcons don't need to mortgage future drafts to trade up when they have a need at left tackle and there is so much elite talent available at the position.
Jake Matthews will be excellent in pass protection from Day 1.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Buccaneers have been extremely active in free agency. Consequently, they don't have a dire are of need and are in a position to take the best player available.
Blake Bortles has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback, and this is an opportunity for Lovie Smith and the new Tampa Bay regime to grab their man under center.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater's draft stock has been free falling, but he still won't slip past the eighth selection. The Vikings need a quarterback, and Bridgewater's college success is too much to ignore.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan completes the trio of great prospects at left tackle in this class. He has the skills and physicality to start from Day 1.
In a class with talented tackles, Michigan football reminds us that Lewan is the most athletic of them all:
The Bills need a long-term option at tackle, and Lewan is a great answer.
10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
C.J. Mosely showed an advanced understanding of reading offenses as the quarterback of Alabama's defense. He would be switching to a 4-3 scheme if he is selected by the Lions, but he has the athleticism to pull it off.
Detroit would greatly benefit from Mosley's consistency.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
The Titans need explosiveness on the edge of their defense in order to improve their pass rush. Anthony Barr has a long way to go in order to become a complete linebacker, but his athleticism will make him an instant threat as a pass-rusher.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron is a freakish athlete. He is not a natural pass-catcher, but his ability to stretch the field and hit for a big play make his occasional drops more than acceptable.
This is the exact kind of presence the Giants need to help open up their vertical offense.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Unless the Rams draft Watkins at No. 2, they will be targeting a receiver here. In this scenario, that will lead them to a perfect fit in Mike Evans.
Evans has fantastic size at 6'5", and he also has great hands. He has enough speed that he can be a true No. 1 option. He would be the perfect partner at receiver for last year's No. 1 pick Tavon Austin.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears defense got old, and then it got soft. Chicago was last in the league in rush defense last season, and improving that facet of defense has to start by improving the defensive line.
Although the explosive Aaron Donald is still available here, the Bears will go for Timmy Jernigan, a bigger and stronger defensive tackle.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Darqueze Dennard is a physical corner and checks in just under 6'0" and 200 pounds. He will fit right in with Pittsburgh's brand of defense. Ike Taylor will be 34 at the start of the season, and the Steelers need depth at the position.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
I really hope Manziel falls to the Cowboys, because Dallas would snap him up in a heartbeat, which would be fantastic. I have no idea how successful it would be, but I do know it would be entertaining.
At any rate, he is long gone in my mock, and in lieu of the polarizing quarterback, the Cowboys will add the draft's most complete safety in Calvin Pryor.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
No one seems quite sure if Zack Martin is fit to be a tackle in the NFL, but everyone seems to think he will be an excellent guard. I tend to agree, and the Ravens should, too.
Baltimore's offensive line was awful last year. Wherever Martin can contribute, the Ravens can use him.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. is a speedy wide receiver and dangerous playmaker. He is far from the most complete wide receiver available here, but his potential impact is huge.
Draft expert Mike Mayock sees this being the Jets' selection, and ESPN's Rich Cimini highlights what the Jets will be choosing between:
Mike Mayock, on conf call w/ reporters, has Odell Beckham Jr to Jets right now. Their decision: Highest-rated WR or one of top 4 corners.— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) May 1, 2014
The Jets need to add a threat like this to their stale offense, and Beckham's potential would be foolish for New York to pass on.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Cyrus Kouandjio is a strong lineman who will be a credit in the running game, no matter where he settles along the line in the NFL.
He would be a quality, young piece for the Dolphins to add to the offensive trenches as they reshape their offensive line.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Most have Aaron Donald mocked higher than this, and I certainly wouldn't be surprised for that to wind up being the case. I believe his lack of size at 6'1" and 285 pounds will leave him on the board a bit longer than most expect.
Arizona won't hesitate to snag him here though, as they will be on the lookout for reinforcements along their defensive front. Donald would make for a fantastic end in a 3-4.
On the surface, Donald is not an ideal fit for end. He lacks the kind of length associated with the position. Donald is not a typical athlete, however. His explosiveness is excellent, and he also plays with leverage and strength.
Donald won't put up elite sack numbers, but he will get his share of pressure. He will also be a force in the running game.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
With B.J. Raji coming back to Green Bay for at least one more season, nose tackle is not a pressing need. Still, the Packers need more bodies along the defensive line, and Louis Nix III is athletic enough to play end against the run.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Some picks just fall into place, and this is one of them. The Eagles were last in the league in terms of pass defense this past season, and they were especially vulnerable over the top.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's speed and athleticism will help the Eagles limit big plays.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee is being undervalued, and I see no indication to mock him any lower than this selection. His combination of leaping ability, ball skills and hands make him a threat all over the field.
Also, Lee is one of the classic examples of a player whose game speed is greater than his timed speed. He is going to have an excellent career, and he would give the Chiefs the extra offensive option that they need.
24. Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
If Justin Gilbert refines his skills, he has the athleticism to be the best corner in this class. Either way, he has the skills to at least be an effective corner.
With Terence Newman being 35 years old, the Bengals must be on the lookout for depth at corner. Gilbert presents good value here and would be too much for the Bengals to pass on.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Chargers have to bring in secondary help. Kyle Fuller is 6'0" and 190 pounds with good speed. He has the ball skills to play man and zone.
He will be an instant upgrade for the Bolts.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
At Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel's favorite target was Mike Evans. As you can see, I have the Browns selecting Manziel at No. 4, and here I have them giving Manziel another 6'5" target to throw to.
Kelvin Benjamin would be a boost to the Browns on third down and in the red zone, and he would pair well with the dynamic Josh Gordon.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Ryan Shazier is never going to be a star, but he will be a solid all-around linebacker. The Saints need to improvement along their front seven, and Shazier would help New Orleans begin that process.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
If the Panthers find someone with this pick to play both left tackle and wide receiver, that would be ideal, as they desperately need help at both positions.
Since they will be forced to choose between one or the other, however, wide receiver presents far better value.
Brandin Cooks is reminiscent of former Panthers receiver Steve Smith, and he has the potential to be just as effective.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Jason Verrett's draft stock is vertically limited. He won't go that high in the draft because his head is not far away enough from the ground, as he is just 5'9". He is a great cover corner, however, and a solid value here.
He will bring needed depth to the Patriots secondary and can initially provide solid defense in the slot.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
With other wide receivers displaying superior athleticism, there is not a lot of buzz surrounding wide receiver Allen Robinson. He will be just fine in the NFL, however.
Robinson may not ever become a true No. 1 receiver, but he will be a quality and reliable addition to any receiving corps. The 49ers must look to add weapons to the passing game in order to help the offense build consistency.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Broncos added DeMarcus Ware to help boost their pass rush, but they could still use another threat. Kony Ealy will bring that skill. He may never bring much else to the NFL, but he will make an instant impact as a pass-rusher, and the Broncos need that.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
The Seahawks' defensive line is too thin. They have to address that issue through the draft, and they may as well do it in the first round.
Ra'Shede Hageman is big and athletic. He is raw, but Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have not shied away from this kind of talent.
All height/weight information courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.