Everyone thinks they know best when it comes to the NFL draft. At this stage in the process, you are simply hoping that your team makes the obvious move that you know is right.
Each team has been evaluating prospects for months and is finally starting to come to a consensus about who are the studs and who are the duds. The good news is that no matter where a squad is drafting, a perfect fit will be available.
What does this mean? While all fans want to see a trade up to get the big stars, there is always a good match right where a team is selecting. Here is a look at the smartest picks for each team in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Houston needs to grab a quarterback at some point in this draft, but the emergence of second-round options like AJ McCarron, Tom Savage, Zach Mettenberger and others allows the squad to pass on selecting one with the first pick.
As a result, the Texans can grab the best overall player in the class in Jadeveon Clowney. The freak athlete can be a star at the next level and pair with J.J. Watt to create one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Although drafting an offensive lineman is not always exciting, Greg Robinson will represent a huge boost for the Rams offense. The big man will clear tons of space in the running game and keep Sam Bradford as healthy as possible.
This will help bring the most out of the skill players who are already on the roster.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
A lot of people have problems with the way Johnny Manziel conducts himself off the field. They see him at various sporting events with fellow celebrities or even playing football on jet skis.
However, none of this takes away from the fact that he is an excellent football player who will help whichever team is smart enough to draft him. He has great instincts with the ball and always seems to make a play with his arm or legs.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network points out that he would take Manziel if he needed a quarterback:
"If I'm a GM in the Top 10, and I had to take a QB, it would be Johnny Manziel." -Mike Mayock— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 27, 2014
The Jaguars are one of those teams in need of a quarterback, and the former Heisman winner could be the boost they need to get more wins next season.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Like many of the other teams drafting in the early part of the first round, the Browns need a new franchise quarterback. However, Sammy Watkins might be someone they cannot pass up.
The receiver has the perfect combination of size and speed that makes him a dangerous player with or without the ball. Putting him on the field opposite Josh Gordon could be unfair for defenders, no matter who is throwing passes.
5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Blake Bortles is a bit raw for a quarterback prospect, but he has the potential to be a star in the NFL with his strong arm and mobility within the pocket to extend plays.
The good news is that the Raiders still seem a few years away from contending, which gives Bortles a chance to grow in a pressure-free environment. Oakland can then use the rest of the draft to build around the talented passer in a complete rebuilding process.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Falcons would love to grab an elite pass-rusher to improve the defense, but it is much more important to find someone who can block up front. After giving a lot of money to Matt Ryan, the organization needs to protect him.
Jake Matthews is one of the safest picks in the draft. He can start from Day 1 at either tackle position and remain there for the next decade.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Some players with size do not use it to their advantage. Mike Evans is not one of them.
At 6'5", he can go up and get contested balls over almost any defender who is trying to stop him. A scout told Mark Eckel of NJ.com, "In my opinion, he made Johnny Manziel, not the other way around. A lot of times, Manziel just ran around and threw it up for grabs, and he came down with it."
He would be a great addition to the Buccaneers to take some pressure off Vincent Jackson in the passing game.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
If Khalil Mack is still on the board at this stage, the Vikings cannot pass on him. The talented outside linebacker has shown the ability to excel at rushing the passer, dropping into coverage and stopping the run.
For a team that finished last in the NFL in points allowed last season, Mack would represent a big improvement.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
It is rare to find a 6'7" offensive lineman with the explosiveness to run the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds, leading all players at his position at the combine, per NFL.com.
Taylor Lewan could end up being a dominant presence on the outside, and it is something the Bills should not pass up as they hope to protect EJ Manuel for the long term.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Lions could have one of the best defenses in the league if they could get cornerbacks who are capable of sticking with their receivers. Darqueze Dennard has that ability with a physical presence and great instincts to mimic the best cornerbacks in the game.
While he might not have the pure athleticism of others in the class, he is the best in coverage and will end up being the best defensive back in the draft.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Titans had a solid pass defense a year ago, but it could have been much better with a consistent pass rush. The squad finished only five sacks away from last in the league in the category.
With Anthony Barr, Tennessee will have an immediate contributor who can eventually develop into a star at the position. The former running back has great athleticism and will use it to get to the quarterback over and over again in the NFL.
12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Giants made a bunch of major free-agent moves on both sides of the ball. They acquired a few offensive linemen to pair with current veterans who are not going anywhere, which means that drafting another offensive lineman is unlikely.
However, one area where New York did not improve is at defensive tackle. After losing Linval Joseph, the squad will have a giant hole in the middle of the defense that requires plugging.
Fortunately, Aaron Donald should be available at this stage, and the hype is just growing for the Pittsburgh star. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com passed along some high praise for the defensive tackle:
Had an AFC executive call Aaron Donald the “best D-lineman coming out in the last 10 years.” Buzz is real. Comparative player?John Randle.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 25, 2014
If Donald can be anywhere near this good, the Giants will be much improved on the defensive side of the ball.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Sometimes it matters where a player went to school. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix spent the past few seasons competing at a high level for one of the best defenses in college football at Alabama and was a leader in the secondary.
This training will help him slide right into the starting lineup with the Rams and contribute at a high level in the first few weeks of the year.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Timmy Jernigan proved this past season that he can make a huge impact on the defensive side of the ball. He can penetrate into the backfield, blowing up opposing plays before they even get started.
After allowing the most rushing yards in football last year, the Bears would welcome this addition.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Simply put, Pittsburgh needs to get younger and more athletic on defense. While the unit was statistically in the top half of the league, it was a big drop from 2012.
Justin Gilbert would represent an upgrade thanks to his pure speed and athleticism at cornerback. He can stay with the faster receivers in the league and is a game-changer with the ball in his hands. If he is still on the board, the Steelers would love to have him.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The Cowboys have a lot of holes on the defensive side of the ball, so they might as well grab someone who is big enough to cover most of the field.
While Louis Nix III might not be that big, the 6'2", 331-pound tackle can help the entire unit with his ability to clog holes and take on blockers. He can free up space for the rest of the players on defense, hopefully improving a squad that gave up the most total yards in the NFL last season.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
While the Ravens had more problems on offense than defense last year, re-signing Dennis Pitta and bringing in Steve Smith should give Joe Flacco enough weapons to survive. On the other hand, the defense continues to get raided in free agency.
Baltimore will be just fine, though, if it adds a versatile pass-rusher like Kony Ealy. While his final position is not yet known, he can contribute to the team early if he is put on the field and told to hit the quarterback.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron might be off the board before No. 18 due to his upside as an elite tight end. Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen provides a quick scouting report on the talented player:
Writing up #UNC TE Eric Ebron...Matchups + formation flexibility at NFL level. Still developing as a route runner. 4.6 speed at 6-4, 250.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 22, 2014
However, the Jets should do whatever it takes to bring him to New York. He could immediately become the most explosive offensive player on the roster and will help improve a stagnant offense.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Even with the addition of Branden Albert in the offseason, the Dolphins still need more upgrades to an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in football last year.
Zack Martin played left tackle for most of his career at Notre Dame, but he could be an even better guard with his ability to generate power inside. This would be just fine for a team that is hoping to contend for the playoffs next year.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater has seen his stock fall since being considered to be one of the top prospects in the draft. However, the quarterback seems unconcerned about the latest buzz, via Bryan Fischer of NFL.com:
It feels like it's been years since I touched the football and played a game in pads. I've been positive throughout the entire process, only worrying about the things that I can control. Basically, I look at every day as a blessing and a new opportunity.
You can understand why Bridgewater should be waiting to get back into pads, because that is where he shines. While other quarterbacks excel in pro days, the Louisville product separates himself with the ability to step up in the pocket and make reads under pressure.
Although he might need some time to develop into a legitimate NFL starter, the Cardinals can give him that time with Carson Palmer still under center. Bridgewater can then develop into the future face of the up-and-coming franchise.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Green Bay will face a number of top passing attacks next season, starting with the Lions and Bears within the division. Both squads have big, physical receivers who are capable of making catches over the middle of the field.
Calvin Pryor can prevent those plays thanks to his physical nature and willingness to come up and make a hit. His presence will improve the pass defense and help the Packers win another division title.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. might be the most dynamic player in the draft. He is not only fast, but he also shows great change of direction with the ability to burn any defender before going up and getting the ball at its highest point in the air.
He has the ability to not only replace DeSean Jackson, but make people in Philadelphia forget about him within a few weeks.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Kansas City had one offensive playmaker last season: Jamaal Charles. While the running back had a fantastic year, he will not be able to carry the squad to the playoffs again without help.
Brandin Cooks can at least create space with his ability to stretch the defense. He is one of the fastest players in the class and could be the deep threat that the team is missing.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Ryan Shazier can do it all as a linebacker. He has the athleticism necessary to be a star in the passing game, either as a rusher or someone who can drop into coverage. He also can cover almost the entire field against the run.
While the Bengals might not have a glaring need at linebacker, the Ohio State star has enough upside to make him a worthwhile pick who can blossom in a few years.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
While Philip Rivers led the Chargers to the playoffs last year, he had to overcome a terrible pass defense on his own team. The squad has to grab the best cornerback available to upgrade the one of the worst secondaries in the league.
Kyle Fuller fits that description as a solid cover corner who can be left on an island in man coverage. He has great instincts with his hands to force a number of turnovers at the next level.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
After grabbing Watkins with the first pick, the Browns have made things easier for the next quarterback. With a solid offensive line to go with a potentially elite receiving corps, anyone can have success.
Of course, Derek Carr will not need that much help with a strong arm and the ability to spread the ball around the field. As long as he can transition to a pro-style offense, he will be productive at the next level.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
If you want to see how explosive Dee Ford can be, check out his performance in ESPN's Sport Science:
In the video, Ford calls himself the best pass-rusher in the draft, something that is not far off. He has a one-track mind that allows him to get to the quarterback at all costs, no matter who is in his way.
Although he might never become a true all-around defensive end, he can contribute exclusively on passing downs, especially early in his career. In Rob Ryan's aggressive defense, this would work out just fine.
The Saints have transformed a terrible defensive unit into a great one, and Ford could put the squad over the top.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Panthers had a below-average receiving corps last year and got even worse this offseason. They need to grab an impact player in the first round and possibly one or two more in later rounds.
Marqise Lee is the best receiver available as someone who can turn any catch into a touchdown. Although he had some problems with drops, his playmaking ability is worth the risk.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Even when Rob Gronkowski is healthy, the Patriots need another big option who can make plays down the field and in the red zone. Otherwise, Tom Brady will be once again stuck, trying to sneak throws into tight spaces for smaller targets.
Jace Amaro solves this problem with his 6'5" frame and soft hands. He is a natural pass-catcher who can contribute early in his rookie season.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Although Jason Verrett is only 5'10", he makes up for it with great speed and the quickness necessary to cover some of the best receivers in the league. He could be successful at covering the slot or on the outside.
While the 49ers would love to grab an impact receiver, they have more question marks at cornerback, making this a safer pick.
31. Denver Broncos: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
DeMarcus Ware will pair with Von Miller to create an experienced pass-rushing tandem from the outside. However, only Danny Trevathan is capable of making plays in the middle of the defense.
C.J. Mosley can be the missing piece in this unit thanks to his ability to cover sideline to sideline against the run or the pass. He might not have a high ceiling compared to other linebackers in the class, but he should be ready to contribute right away.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Russell Wilson was sacked 44 times last season, which is a major problem for a team that is hoping to keep him under center for the next 10 years.
Xavier Su'a-Filo excels at pass protection and could help solidify the offensive line as the Seahawks look to defend their Super Bowl title.
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