The nation's most promising football prospects will eventually sign lucrative contracts to play professional football. For now, they are left to speculate with scouts and fans until the NFL draft arrives.
Until May 8 pops up on the calendar, all we can do is guess who lands where during the big day. Will linebacker Khalil Mack have to transition from the Buffalo snow to Florida sun or will he need to acquire a pair of cowboy boots for his move to Houston?
If fans think it's nerve-racking waiting to see who their team acquires, think what it must feel like for the players, who must endure a nationally scrutinized process to prove their merit before waiting for their job assignment to be announced on TV?
Let's try to help a few of those young lads out by predicting where they'll end up in this year's draft.
Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack is winning over more fans by the day, and he might have swayed an important person.
Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King is leaving the door open for the Texans to draft Mack at No. 1, citing general manager's Rick Smith's supposed preference of Mack over South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney:
Houston, at No. 1, isn’t set on Jadeveon Clowney. In fact, one FORS (Friend of Rick Smith) told me the Texans general manager likes Khalil Mack over Clowney, and we still don’t know which quarterback Houston would choose if it chooses one first overall. I still think the Texans would go with a more sure thing with the first overall pick than a quarterback—and that sure thing could also be tackle Greg Robinson. But imagine Mack, the outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo, being the first pick in a stacked draft. Wouldn’t that be something—a second straight Mid-American Conference player (Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, by Kansas City) as the top pick in the NFL draft?
Through four years at Buffalo, Mack recorded 28.5 sacks and 75 tackles for losses. He routineley visited the backfield, which is an ability that makes him likely to warrant a top-five pick.
Which defender will have the better NFL career?
Smith's friend saying the GM likes Mack better than Clowney should hardly be taken as gospel. It could be a carefully planted tidbit to play mind games with everyone or it can just be as misinformed buddy. It also won't mean anything if the Texans select a quarterback.
Nevertheless, the explosive linebacker won't last far past No. 1. More than anyone else, the Jacksonville Jaguars need to seek out the best player available since they have holes everywhere. A new quarterback isn't making this squad a playoff contender.
Mack would inject life into a stumbling defense that ranked 27th last season. If Clowney is off the board at pick No. 3, expect Jacksonville to look Mack's way.
Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3)
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Tight ends are all the rage now, no longer hidden in the trenches to solely perform the dirty work. Teams want someone big enough to block and provide a larger target, but quick and athletic enough to elude linebackers in coverage.
Eric Ebron can offer all of that. With NFL.com listing him at 6'4"and 250 pounds with a 4.60 40-yard dash time, he'll either be too big or fast for the poor defender tasked with stopping him in man coverage.
Plenty of teams can use a difference-maker at tight end. Ebron would provide a different gear to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Buffalo Bills, who both pick in the top 10 at No. 7 and 9, respectively. Each New York team playing in New Jersey could also benefit from his services.
Ebron has other plans, though.
"I would love it, would love it, would absolutely love it," Ebron said. "I like the way that Calvin Johnson plays and everything about him. He's a beast."
Pairing Ebron with Megatron is a scary thought, but considering they ranked 23rd against the pass last season, it makes more sense for the Lions to select cornerback Justin Gilbert. Tampa Bay and Buffalo could also have their eyes on offensive line help, while the Buccaneers can snag Mike Evans if they want another receiving option.
That opens the door for the 21-year-old to fall to the Giants at No. 12. After years of shuffling around short-term options at tight end, they can use a permanent fix—especially after Eli Manning's horrific season.
Ebron would also make the perfect complement to Victor Cruz, who offers quickness and agility to Ebron's size and power.
Prediction: New York Giants (No. 12)
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald isn't your typical defensive tackle. He does not possess the typical tackle frame, but is quick with enough strength to suffice.
While his ideal NFL role remains uncertain, he'll make his mark somewhere.
The Giants have a special place in their heart for defensive linemen and lost a key cog in their unit when Justin Tuck jumped ship to the Oakland Raiders. It certainly wouldn't shock anyone if they grabbed Donald at pick No. 12.
However, Ebron makes even more sense for them, as I just explained a few lines above.
While the Chicago Bears are another candidate at No. 14, a traditional run-stopper makes more sense for them after finishing last against the run in 2013. Timmy Jernigan will catch their attention.
At pick No. 16, the Cowboys won't pass up Donald. They ranked last in total defense last year and lost their biggest playmaker in DeMarcus Ware, who will now suit up for the Denver Broncos.
They need defensive talent anywhere they can get it and can worry about fit later. Donald can become a building block for Dallas' line.
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys (No. 16)