At the end of the college football season, quarterbacks dominated the top-five picks in mocks of the 2014 NFL draft. Perception has swayed.
Many mocks have two quarterbacks going in the top five still, but few have a quarterback going No. 1. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was once widely mocked as the top overall pick in this draft, but his value is on such a slide that he appears headed for the second round.
I still have a quarterback pegged to go No. 1 and three in the top eight. The lure of landing a quarterback is just too much for these guys to stay on the board any longer.
Here is how I see the first round playing out.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Jadeveon Clowney is the popular mock selection for the first pick. His talent and potential warrant that, but the only way it will happen is if the Texans trade down.
I don't see the Texans getting enough value to trade down, and they aren't going to draft Clowney and then make him adjust to a 3-4. With J.J. Watt dominating as an end in a 3-4, the Texans aren't going to switch their scheme.
Clowney could be a feared pass-rusher in any scheme, but he is ideally suited to play an end in a 4-3. The Texans aren't going to spend the No. 1 pick on a player they can't put in his best position to succeed.
Instead they will turn to Blake Bortles. Bortles doesn't have an elite skill set, but he is a pocket passer with the size to take the abuse of the NFL.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney isn't going to fall past the second pick. The Rams will explore trading down from this selection. They don't have a need at defensive end with Robert Quinn and Chris Long already manning the position. Like the Texans, however, they won't find the value to make trading down worth it.
Instead, they will draft Clowney and explore trading Long for future draft picks.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Jaguars are still reeling from the failed selection of quarterback Blaine Gabbert. They will shy away from making a similar mistake and go for a safer pick.
Greg Robinson is going to be dominant in the run and pass game. He has power, agility and quickness.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
With a wretched history of drafting quarterbacks, the Browns still won't shy away from the position. There are some concerns around Johnny Manziel stemming from his size and playing style, but there is no denying his arm talent.
The Browns won't pass on that talent.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Khalil Mack is the best player available, and the Raiders could use help at linebacker. Playing a 4-3, however, the Raiders aren't in the best position to get the most out of his pass-rushing ability.
Instead, they will go for a player they can put in his best spot to succeed. The Raiders have solid young receivers in Rod Streater and Denarius Moore, but Watkins would bring the talent of a true No. 1.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
This draft scenario works out perfectly for the Atlanta Falcons. As Eric Edholm reported, all signs point to the Falcons moving to a 3-4. All they need now is a dominant pass-rushing linebacker.
Khalil Mack is a freakish athlete with the potential to be a double-digit sack producer for years to come.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Left tackle is not the Buccaneers' biggest need. After being active in free agency, however, the Bucs have allowed themselves the freedom to take the best player available, and that is Jake Matthews in this scenario.
Matthews is a polished pass-blocker with the potential to be an elite left tackle in the NFL for a long time.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Which QB will have the best NFL career?
The journey of the perception of Bridgewater's draft stock has been fascinating. Once widely considered the No. 1 pick in this draft, that opinion has taken a nosedive.
Charlie Campbell reported on WalterFootball.com that an NFC executive said Bridgewater wouldn't be selected in the first round and "that he thought Bridgewater was a 'fourth-round guy.'"
Still, as ESPN's Josina Anderson reports, teams haven't lost all interest:
Sources: "Teddy Bridgewater in Cleveland, after private workout, then heading to Texans."— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) April 21, 2014
It's possible that teams are interested in him as a potential second-round pick, but the Vikings can't afford to wait.
Minnesota must find a quarterback it can build its offense around.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
After converting from running back, Anthony Barr only played at linebacker for two seasons at UCLA. He made an instant impact with his freakish athleticism, but he is still raw.
This makes him a bit of a project pick, but his speed and athleticism is badly needed on the edge of the Bills defense.
10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Lions lack consistency. This stems from several reasons, but on defense, the most glaring is a lack of discipline that leads to big plays by the opposition.
C.J. Mosley would help with that. Not only is he a sure tackler, but he will help solidify the Lions defense with his disciplined play.
11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Titans entered this offseason with a glaring need at right tackle. They signed Michael Oher to help take some of the glare off that need, but Oher was suspect last season.
The Titans could draft Taylor Lewan and let him battle with Michael Roos for starting duties on the left side. The loser could then compete with Oher for the other side.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Giants don't have enough offensive weapons to leave things open for their deep passing attack. This has led to Eli Manning throwing far too many interceptions.
Eric Ebron would instantly help. He has great athleticism and size. He will require extra attention from safeties as he tries to exploit the seam.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Rams spent the eighth pick last year on receiver Tavon Austin, but they still need help at the position.
Mike Evans would pair well with the small, but explosive Austin. He has good athleticism and wonderful size at 6'5". On top of that, he has great hands.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears must get more physical at the point of attack on defense. No player is going to help them with this more than Timmy Jernigan.
Jernigan doesn't have the explosiveness of Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, but he is a rock for the middle of the defensive line. He will help the Bears clog running lanes and wear their opponent out.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Darqueze Dennard is exactly the kind of corner the Steelers have had success with. He is good in man coverage, and at just under 6' and 200 pounds, he is a physical player.
Ike Taylor is about to turn 34 and the Steelers need depth at the position.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys need to go defense here. A defensive tackle would be a wise decision, but free safety is a better one.
There aren't many prospects in this draft at free safety with the potential to come in and start right away. Calvin Pryor has that ability. He is a complete safety, and he will help the Cowboys from allowing as many big plays.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
After suffering through a season of putrid play along the offensive line, the Baltimore Ravens must find at least one upgrade in this draft.
Zack Martin will be an upgrade. The question is if he can be a tackle in the NFL. If he can't, Martin has the strength to excel at guard.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. is a speedster and a playmaker. The Jets are starving for this. Beckham Jr. is not the most polished or complete receiver on the board at this point, but once he gets the ball in his hands, he is the most dangerous.
Beckham will also provide a spark with his return ability.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Opinions on Cyrus Kouandjio's draft stock vary, but I don't see a scenario with this mauling lineman falling out of the first round. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller agrees with me:
A lot of people on Twitter may not like it, but Cyrus Kouandjio is going in the first round come May 8.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 21, 2014
Kouandjio may not have the quickness to handle left tackle, but his physicality will be a credit to the Dolphins' offensive line.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Like the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly believes, I think Aaron Donald's best position is as an end on a 3-4 line:
I'm putting Aaron Donald on my board as a 3-4 DE. I just don't know about him playing DT in a 4-3 scheme. But his film is impressive!— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) April 22, 2014
Donald is 6'1" and 285 pounds. This is not the kind of length teams typically looking for in a defensive end. His explosion more than makes up for it, though.
The Cardinals need reinforcements on their defensive line, and they won't do any better than Donald at No. 20.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The Packers need added depth and strength along their defensive line. Louis Nix III may be entering the draft off of knee surgery, but he is still the best nose tackle in this class.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Eagles were awful on pass defense. They were last in the NFL in passing yards allowed. They need a free safety to come in and limit deep holes in their defense.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has the athleticism and instincts to successfully patrol the deep part of the field.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Chiefs were led in rushing and receiving last year by running back Jamaal Charles. This is not sustainable.
The Chiefs do have Dwayne Bowe to throw the ball to, but he needs someone on the other side of him that is a deep threat.
Marqise Lee is not the fastest receiver in the class, but he has excellent leaping ability and outstanding ball skills. He would fit in well with the Chiefs.
24. Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Based solely on athleticism, Justin Gilbert is the most impressive corner in this class. He is, however, a bit raw. This is alright for the Bengals.
Gilbert wouldn't be forced into action right away, and he could be groomed to take over for the ageless Terence Newman.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller has the size, at 6' and 190 pounds, and athleticism to be a shutdown corner. The Chargers desperately need someone with that ability.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kelvin Benjamin is not the best athlete, but his length at 6'5" and his good hands will make him a great possession threat.
The Browns have some strong, young pieces in place on offense with receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Benjamin would be a strong complementary piece.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Saints made waves by signing safety Jairus Byrd and veteran Champ Bailey. They were strong signings, but this defense still needs to get better in the front seven.
Ryan Shazier is an athletic and physical linebacker. He would bring needed physicality to the Saints rush defense.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Panthers will be on the lookout for a left tackle. However, that position is going to be fairly well picked over by the time they make their first selection.
They will find better value at receiver. Brandin Cooks is under 6', but he has the speed, strength and ball skills to be a threat all over the field.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Patriots can use more cover talent. Jason Verrett is a good value and a strong selection. Verrett is just 5'9", but the Patriots could train him on covering the slot and see if he develops enough to handle the outside.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Allen Robinson has underwhelmed scouts with his lack of athleticism, but it's not like he's void of talent in that department. Check out this tweet from Lions247:
Robinson has good size. He runs good routes, and he will be a dependable option in the NFL. His addition would help bring consistency to the 49ers offense.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Broncos pass defense was awful last season. They need to draft someone with their first pick who can make an impact in that area. Kony Ealy is that guy.
Ealy is not a complete player, but he has the athleticism and size to get to the passer.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
The Seahawks need some weight and muscle added to their defensive line. There is no doubting Ra'Shede Hageman brings that.
He checks in at over 300 pounds, and he moves well for his size. He was not prolific in college, but Pete Carroll and the Seahawks haven't been concerned with college production when making selections.