2014 NFL Draft Projections: Final Predictions for First-Round Action

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2014 NFL Draft Projections: Final Predictions for First-Round Action
Garry Jones/Associated Press

Draft-altering trades, surprising selections and once sought-after prospects sliding down the board are all factors we witness every year. All it takes is one of these scenarios to completely torch any mock draft leading up to Thursday's event.

Rest assured, this will happen once again in 2014.

There's been plenty of recent chatter regarding teams looking to move up or down in the draft to acquire a coveted prospect; not all of it is true. In fact, sifting through the smokescreens can be a rather daunting task.

So, with the draft now on the horizon, it's time to make some bold predictions regarding draft day movement that will change everything we thought we knew heading into Thursday night.

 

Atlanta Falcons Trade Up to No. 1 Overall

The Falcons have 10 picks in this year's draft—one of the highest numbers of any NFL team. Atlanta has plenty of collateral to make a big move if it so chooses.

It won't take long for the Falcons to get this done.

The Houston Texans have made it clear they would be open to trading the top-overall selection. During an interview with Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com, general manager Rick Smith spoke of the possibility:

Now where the game is played is if there's an opportunity to move and, in this case, obviously to move back if somebody else wants to come up to that first pick. Then you weigh what the opportunities are versus who the individual is that you want to take and what that value is relative to the value that somebody might be offering you. But as you move through the draft, obviously you don't know who's going to be picked when.

Atlanta is no stranger to giving up plenty of selections to get a coveted prospect (see: Jones, Julio). This year, the team will do it for Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney, the athletic freak from South Carolina, will give the Falcons the pass-rushing boost they desperately need.

The Falcons struggled up front on defense last season, finishing 29th in the league with only 32 sacks over the regular season. Clowney is the answer.

For the Texans, moving back to the No. 6 spot still gives the team plenty of options. There will still be pass-rushers, quarterbacks and offensive tackles available there. Acquiring something in the range of additional third-and fourth-round selections, along with a first-round pick in 2015, doesn't hurt either.

 

Blake Bortles Slides Down Draft Board

Sure, there has been plenty of speculation regarding Bortles as a potential top draft pick this year. However, not much is known about Bortles, given his short time in the spotlight.

One thing we do know is Bortles will need some time to develop his technique and may not be ready to start from Day 1.

Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth summed up Bortles perfectly:

Bortles is just gifted enough to be a success story but just flawed enough to become more kindling in some franchise's bonfire of disappointment. In a draft class that features the mercurial Manziel and vexing Clowney, the big-strong-bright-fast kid is somehow the biggest risk on the board. Though if Bortles slides just a bit, the risks diminish, and the rewards become great.

Bortles does have upside, but he's a risk early in the draft. Rest assured, NFL teams know this.

With so many talented, lower-risk prospects available early in the draft, teams may balk at the idea of selecting the former UCF standout early.

Take this scenario into consideration.

Assuming there are no trades at the top of the draft, here's a likely rundown of how the top-eight selections could play out:

2014 NFL Draft: Projected Top-Eight Selections
Pick Team Prospect
1 Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney
2 St. Louis Rams Greg Robinson
3 Jacksonville Jaguars Sammy Watkins
4 Cleveland Browns Johnny Manziel
5 Oakland Raiders Khalil Mack
6 Atlanta Falcons Jake Matthews
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Evans
8 Minnesota Vikings Anthony Barr

Sean O'Donnell's Predictions

Teams in need of a quarterback in this area of the draft are plentiful. However, they have other pressing needs that could be filled by a safer prospect. This could leave these teams to look toward the second round for their quarterbacks.

If this happens, there may not be another team looking to take a quarterback until possibly the New York Jets at No. 18 or Arizona Cardinals at No. 20.

There may be teams looking to trade up in this area for Bortles; however, sliding from a potential first-overall pick to the late teens is a giant slide for this quarterback.

 

Oakland Raiders Go All In on Teddy Bridgewater

Don't worry, Oakland fans. That headline doesn't mean the Raiders will be selecting Bridgewater at No. 5 overall. Rather, they'll package some of the few picks they have in this year's draft to move back into the first round and take Bridgewater late.

According to Vic Tafur of SFGate.com, Oakland isn't considering taking a quarterback with the No. 5 selection. This still leaves them with a hole to fill at some point in the draft.

So, why not later in the first round?

We've all seen the headlines: "Teddy Bridgewater's Draft Stock Falling" or something to that extent. It appears as though he could slide into the second round. That won't happen.

Plenty of teams in the early second round will be looking to address their need at the quarterback position. This will prompt one of them to move back into the first round to grab their signal-caller there.

Drafting a quarterback in the first round has its advantages. Teams can exercise a fifth-year option on the player, thus extending his rookie deal further. Second-round quarterbacks do not come with that option.

With and early second-round pick, expect the Raiders to move into the No. 32 selection currently owned by the Seattle Seahawks.

This moves the Raiders ahead of the Texans' 33rd selection and puts the team in great position to snag their quarterback of the future.

Bridgewater may need a little time to develop, but that's all right for Oakland.

This is a young, budding team with plenty of developing talent. Matt Schaub will start for Oakland in 2014 while Bridgewater learns and adjusts under his tutelage.

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