Trying to figure out exactly what's going to happen in the 2014 NFL draft is a hopeless task. There are simply too many variables in play—starting right away with the first overall pick—to have a clear idea of how things are going to play out.
That's a good thing from an entertainment standpoint. Most of the time, there's at least a general sense of how the first handful of picks will go before the draft even starts, and that sets the tone for the entire round. This year, there are numerous possibilities for how those top selections will fall into place.
Add in the fact that teams have used the additional time leading up to the draft to set further smokescreens regarding their planned direction, and the draft could be total chaos. Knowing that, let's check out some of the latest buzz involving some of the most talked-about prospects.
Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack?
Clowney has long been viewed as the best overall prospect in the class. However, Mack has challenged him for the top spot after some strong workouts at the combine as well as his pro day. It appeared as though Clowney had survived the challenge in the weeks leading up to the draft, but Mack has regained some momentum in the final days of the pre-draft process.
The Buffalo linebacker, who's probably the most NFL-ready player in the draft, possess an all-around game that any defensive coordinator would love. And when Peter King of TheMMQB.com asked draft guru Gil Brandt for some forecasts, Mack and Clowney were involved:
I don't think Teddy Bridgewater falls to the second round. I think Johnny Manziel will go in the top five, but not number one. And I think Khalil Mack gets picked ahead of Jadeveon Clowney.
Early in the draft process, it seemed like the Houston Texans would fill their quarterback void with the first pick. They never seemed to fall in love with any of the options at the position, however, which makes Clowney or Mack the more likely option.
Though passing on an edge rusher with the awe-inspiring potential of Clowney would be a risk, it sounds like the tide may be moving in Mack's favor.
Ebron is one of the turning-point prospects for the opening round. There are so many teams that could use an athletic tight end to bolster their offensive attack, starting with the Buffalo Bills at No. 9. If he goes that early, it could shake up the entire first round.
Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net passed along a couple of interesting notes about the North Carolina star. He reports that the Baltimore Ravens, who own the No. 17 pick, are very interested, but some teams are being scared off due to some perceived personality issues:
Several sources tell me the number one target for the Baltimore Ravens in round one is tight end Eric Ebron, a player they've coveted for quite some time. Could Ebron slide to the 17th pick? I was told earlier this evening the New York Giants maybe souring on Ebron due to many of the personality red flags we've reported on this site since November. The other obstacle for the Ravens are the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team we've mentioned several times as a suitor for Ebron.
Which player will have the most surpising landing spot?
From Buffalo, who sits just inside the top 10, through the Miami Dolphins, who sit at No. 19, there are at least six different teams who would make a play for Ebron. Given that high number of potential landing spots, he shouldn't make it to the 20th pick, but where he ends up is anybody's guess.
There's no doubt that he fits the mold of an athletic tight end who is capable of making plays and stretching the field over the middle. But a front office will have to balance that talent with the red flags Pauline mentioned before committing to him as an early pick.
There was a time when it seemed like Bridgewater had a realistic chance to be selected with the first overall pick; that's no longer the case, though. While some analysts still list him as the best player available, there are still plenty of questions as to where he may land.
Ultimately, a lot will depend on whether the overall quarterback slide is legitimate. Instead of four players from the position going inside the top eight—a reasonable forecast at one point—there is now no guarantee that even one signal-caller will go that high.
If Bridgewater and his fellow quarterbacks do suffer a drop, he will represent great value later in the opening round. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that the Cleveland Browns would be interested in him with their second pick of Round 1:
If #Browns go QB-less at No. 4 and Teddy Bridgewater is waiting there at No. 26, don’t be surprised if Cleveland grabs him. Scouts like him— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 5, 2014
Johnny Manziel going to the Browns at No. 4 remains a popular projection, but grabbing a different instant-impact player in the top five then getting Bridgewater at No. 26 represents more value for the team, though. However, the Browns would definitely be taking a chance in hoping that he slides that far.