After months of speculation and countless mock drafts made and remade, the 2014 NFL draft is finally about to commence beginning on Thursday, May 8.
Few would have predicted that the seven-round process of selecting former college players would be such a ratings boon, but the draft has become the main event of the NFL offseason. With the Super Bowl months past and training camp still months away, the draft is an oasis in a football-less time, nodding to the possibility of great play on the horizon.
Teams will engage in this exercise in optimism for three days, and from the comfort of your preferred viewing location, you can follow along and watch each and every pick.
|Thu, May 8||Round 1||8 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Fri, May 9||Rounds 2-3||7 p.m. - 8 p.m., 8 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.||ESPN, ESPN2|
|Sat, May 10||Rounds 4-7||12 p.m. - 8 p.m.||ESPN|
QBs to Go Early
All seven rounds contain the capacity for intrigue—when and where, most likely on Day 3, will Michael Sam go, for example—but Thursday's first round will undoubtedly boast the biggest names and highest drama.
That's true every year, but it's especially so in 2014, as a deep quarterback class will give the league's lowliest franchises the chance to reinvent themselves overnight.
On his final big board before draft day, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller includes four signal-callers in his top 21 players: Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr and Blake Bortles. Bridgewater is Miller's top prospect overall, while Manziel, Carr and Bortles come in 12th, 15th and 21st, respectively.
Even so, Bridgewater's ranking is no indication he'll actually go first overall, while the other QBs will likely leapfrog guys at other positions to go in the first half of the first round, if not the top 10 picks.
The Houston Texans currently hold the No. 1 selection, but ESPN's Trey Wingo doesn't believe the Texans are committed to making that pick themselves.
The @HoustonTexans say the #1 pick is there for the taking: In the common draft era, back to 1967, the #1 pick has only been traded 10 times— trey wingo (@wingoz) May 2, 2014
A trade of that magnitude would obviously send shockwaves across the rest of the draft, rendering every prognostication made based on the current draft order all but obsolete.
Should Houston stay at the top of the draft, though, it's no more clear which player will shake Roger Goodell's hand first.
In comments made to FOX 26, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, Texans owner Bob McNair refused to commit to a direction his team was planning to take, keeping open the possibility of Houston moving the pick for an asset haul.
“Really at this point we don’t know and we really won’t know until right up at the time we have to make a decision because people are talking to us about the possibility of trading down and it’s a question of what people offer, whether their offer is such that it’s worthwhile to trade down."
McNair went on to say that there is no can't-miss quarterback in this class—a claim which is not outright denying Bridgewater and Co.'s bona fides as franchise QB prospects, but rather acknowledging more polished passers who have come before them.
“You got three quarterbacks and all of them have some holes in their resume,” McNair said. “A quarterback that goes out and performs for you and is a franchise quarterback is more valuable than a player playing another position, but there's a lot more risk there. It's a more difficult position to play and there are lot more failures.
“You drop down and there's another group close behind, not exactly where they are, and maybe one of those quarterbacks will become better than one of these other three,” McNair said. “There are no slam dunks. There are no Andrew Lucks out there, no Peyton Mannings. If there were it would be an easy decision, but that's not the case.”
Of course, the risk of passing over a potential game-changing quarterback is just as great as the risk of picking wrong, which is why teams would be willing to reach for someone a little farther down the big board.
Miller might have Johnny Football outside the top 10 prospects, but ESPN's Chris Mortensen doesn't see Manziel falling past the Cleveland Browns at No. 4.
THIS JUST IN: Chris Mortensen reports he expects Browns to draft QB Johnny Manziel at No. 4 if he's still there. pic.twitter.com/iQNNfNDg2H— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) May 5, 2014
Bridgewater and Manziel are the two most electrifying QBs available, but Bortles and Carr both wield prototypical size for the position and big arms to match. The latter two might not garner the same top-five buzz, but they are every bit as likely as the former two to earn starting jobs from Day 1.
No one knows for sure when and where they'll be throwing in the pros, but come Thursday, no one will have to wonder anymore.