The 2014 NFL draft is scheduled for May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and the extended period of time between the end of the regular season and the draft has caused a frenzy among football fans.
Here are the genius picks for the entire first round.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Houston Texans are in the enviable position of drafting No. 1 overall. With so many options in the 2014 class and several areas of weakness to address, Houston’s best bet will be taking South Carolina pass-rushing defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Quarterback Sam Bradford has been tabbed as the St. Louis Rams quarterback of the future, but he needs an offensive line protecting him and providing the time needed to make big plays. There is no better option than Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Not only are the Jacksonville Jaguars looking for a franchise quarterback, but the organization is also looking for a cornerstone it can build its future around. No prospect embodies that notion better than Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Without former first-round pick Brandon Weeden on the team anymore, the Cleveland Browns are looking for a new star who will take the franchise to new heights. With the raw size and strength to be a successful starter in the NFL, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles should be selected at No. 4 overall.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
After signing veteran quarterback Matt Schaub this offseason, the Oakland Raiders are looking to add weapons that can maximize his talent. The best wide receiver in the 2014 class and the likely pick at No. 5 overall is Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
One of the biggest flaws on the Atlanta Falcons roster during the 2013 season was the lack of a consistent pass rush. With Clowney off the board, Atlanta will look to add a potential game-changer like Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Another team desperate for a pass-rushing outside linebacker is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After watching Clowney and Mack go before Tampa Bay makes its selection at No. 7 overall, the Buccaneers will be forced to settle for UCLA’s Anthony Barr. Not a bad consolation prize.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
None of the quarterbacks who started for the Minnesota Vikings in 2013 deserve the opportunity to start in 2014, and the franchise should be thinking quarterback early in the first round. After Manziel and Bortles are taken early, expect Minnesota to select Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Buffalo Bills must surround quarterback EJ Manuel with serious weapons if they expect him to succeed, and the top wide receiver on the board after Watkins is Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. Manuel would have his new No. 1 receiver.
10. Detroit Lions: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Detroit Lions must add depth and skill along the offensive line during the first round, and if Auburn tackle Greg Robinson falls all the way to No. 10, quarterback Matthew Stafford will have the protection he has lacked.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans will continue the rebuilding process by drafting the quarterback of the defense, Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. With the ability to stop the run and drop into coverage, it won’t take long for Mosley to make an impact.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The key to success for the New York Giants will be protecting quarterback Eli Manning so he has the time to succeed. Whether the team plays him on the left or right side, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is the correct selection at No. 12 overall.
13. St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
After taking an offensive lineman with the No. 2 overall pick, the St. Louis Rams will address the needs on the defensive side of the ball by selecting a talented cornerback like Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The scouting combine is a great measure of the raw talent each prospect possesses, and no defensive tackle shined brighter than Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald. With the Chicago Bears destroyed through the middle by opposing running backs, Donald is an ideal fit.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
As it is with every first round, the positional rush will be on through the heart of the opening round. The Pittsburgh Steelers are also looking to address a need at defensive tackle, and with Donald off the board, the yellow and black will draft Louis Nix III of Notre Dame.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The rush continues as the Dallas Cowboys reach the podium at No. 16 overall. With the need for a run-stopping presence in the middle of the defensive line, Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman would bolster the run defense and pressure the QB against the pass.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The Baltimore Ravens have lacked a true secondary captain since the departure of Ed Reed, but the need could easily be filled by Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix if he falls all the way to No. 17 overall.
18. New York Jets: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Head coach Rex Ryan understands that the New York Jets need upgrades at several fundamental positions, and the franchise will take the best player available. Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy would be a nice fit in Ryan’s blitz-heavy defense.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
There is some debate about whether the Miami Dolphins should take Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin or Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, but the one certainty is that the team will address its need in the trenches.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
With the success of veteran Carson Palmer under center for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013, finding more protection for him in order to buy more time in the pocket should be a top priority. By adding Kouandjio or Martin (whichever player Miami passes on), Arizona will have the upgrade it was looking for.
21. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
There is no doubting that Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but the Green Bay Packers must surround him with weapons like North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron to maximize his talents.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Philadelphia Eagles had a serious issue stopping big plays deep down the field, and adding Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard would be an instant upgrade and add toughness on the outside.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
As head coach Andy Reid continues to implement his West Coast offense into the Kansas City Chiefs game plan, the addition of a talented wide receiver like Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin would be a perfect schematic fit.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
There are several key areas of need for the Cincinnati Bengals, but when LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham falls to No. 24, the franchise will have the perfect complement to A.J. Green.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
After backing into the postseason in 2013, the San Diego Chargers will have to make fundamental upgrades to be a viable contender again. Adding a gifted cornerback like TCU’s Jason Verrett is a smart move late in the first round.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Safety T.J. Ward walked away from the Cleveland Browns via free agency and left the team with a giant void on defense. There is no doubt Louisville’s Calvin Pryor has the raw talent to be a star at the next level.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
One of the teams most desperate for pass-rush depth and talent is the New Orleans Saints. While Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier is a bit of a risk this early, he has more upside than almost any other prospect left on the board.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Carolina Panthers are simply desperate for depth at wide receiver. Adding USC’s Marquise Lee is taking the best player available.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
There is no doubt that Rob Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but his inability to stay off the injured list is a major concern. Add in the lack of talent at the position on the roster, and taking Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro would be a smart pick.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
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31. Denver Broncos: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Denver Broncos bolstered their defense this offseason through free agency, but there is still a need for a talented defensive tackle. If Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan slips in the first round, Denver could find the steal of the draft.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The Seattle Seahawks have undergone major changes along the defensive line, and the overhaul will continue with the addition of Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt with the No. 32 overall pick.