The 2014 NFL draft is one of the most exciting in recent memory due to its immense star power, so all eyes will be on Radio City Music Hall in New York for Thursday night's opening round.
Several prospects in this year's class could potentially become true franchise players at the next level. Add in the uncertainty surrounding what might happen at the top of the draft and it will most definitely make for must-see television.
Here is an updated first-round mock draft along with a closer look at some of the most intriguing prospects with the 2014 NFL draft looming.
First-Round Mock Draft
|1||Houston Texans||Jadeveon Clowney|
|2||St. Louis Rams (via WAS)||Sammy Watkins|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Blake Bortles|
|4||Cleveland Browns||Johnny Manziel|
|5||Oakland Raiders||Khalil Mack|
|6||Atlanta Falcons||Greg Robinson|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Mike Evans|
|8||Minnesota Vikings||Teddy Bridgewater|
|9||Buffalo Bills||Jake Matthews|
|10||Detroit Lions||Justin Gilbert|
|11||Tennessee Titans||Darqueze Dennard|
|12||New York Giants||Aaron Donald|
|13||St. Louis Rams||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix|
|14||Chicago Bears||Calvin Pryor|
|15||Pittsburgh Steelers||Anthony Barr|
|16||Dallas Cowboys||Dee Ford|
|17||Baltimore Ravens||Taylor Lewan|
|18||New York Jets||Eric Ebron|
|19||Miami Dolphins||Zack Martin|
|20||Arizona Cardinals||Kony Ealy|
|21||Green Bay Packers||C.J. Mosley|
|22||Philadelphia Eagles||Odell Beckham|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||Brandin Cooks|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Morgan Moses|
|25||San Diego Chargers||Kyle Fuller|
|26||Cleveland Browns (via IND)||Xavier Su'a-Filo|
|27||New Orleans Saints||Ryan Shazier|
|28||Carolina Panthers||Marqise Lee|
|29||New England Patriots||Stephon Tuitt|
|30||San Francisco 49ers||Davante Adams|
|31||Denver Broncos||Jason Verrett|
|32||Seattle Seahawks||Cyrus Kouandjio|
Mike Chiari's Mock Draft
Top Prospects to Watch
It can be argued that quarterback Johnny Manziel was one of the most dynamic players in the history of college football during his two seasons at Texas A&M. Whether or not his skill set will successfully transfer to the NFL is a major point of contention, though, as is his projected landing spot within the draft.
Several teams selecting early in the first round could use a quarterback, including the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders. That means Johnny Football should have several opportunities to get selected early.
Manziel is such a polarizing prospect that opinions regarding him seem to run the gamut, but ESPN's Mike Greenberg doesn't expect him to get past Oakland at No. 5:
After all that's been said and done: Johnny Manziel will go off the board in the first five picks. Book it.— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) May 7, 2014
Houston desperately needs a quarterback at No. 1, but it may be difficult to pass up an elite prospect like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Jacksonville is definitely a potential landing spot for Manziel too, as is Cleveland at No. 4.
The Browns could really use a signal-caller as well as a personality who can reinvigorate the fanbase. Manziel definitely fits the bill, and he would presumably fit offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme, which Robert Griffin III excelled in with the Washington Redskins.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam would likely love to have Manziel due to the impact it would have on the organization's bottom line, but football people will have the final say on draft night, per Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network:
Could owner Jimmy Haslam intercede in Browns' selection process Thursday? Coach Mike Pettine said: "That would NEVER happen."— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 6, 2014
In addition to that, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports is reporting that the Browns will not select Manziel at No. 4:
Browns won't be drafting Manziel at #4. I know it's been out there a ton that they will but no that's not how they have it— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) May 6, 2014
As definitive as Glazer appears to be, nothing can be taken as gospel during the lead-up to the draft. It would behoove the Browns to discount their interest in Manziel if they truly want him, and it is entirely possible that it is nothing more than a smokescreen.
Manziel to Cleveland makes all the sense in the world, and there is every reason to believe that the Browns will take him if he is still available at No. 4.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney may very well be the most talented prospect to enter the NFL draft in a decade or more. Despite that, he is far from a sure thing to be the No. 1 overall pick. The Houston Texans are at the top of the draft and could potentially pair Clowney with All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, but they have a number of different options.
The Texans need a franchise quarterback, especially with an offensive-minded head coach in Bill O'Brien. Staying at No. 1 and taking a signal-caller is a possibility, as is trading down with someone who is enthralled by Clowney's potential.
Some are seemingly convinced that the Texans will stay at No. 1 and take Clowney since it is the popular maneuver. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, though, Houston is definitely willing to listen to trade offers:
After discussing the topic with people familiar with Rick Smith, it doesn’t appear #Texans are 100% sold on Clowney. Thus, willing to trade— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 5, 2014
Clowney wouldn't necessarily fill an area of need for the Texans, and he may not be a great scheme fit either. Rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, trading down and acquiring more picks may ultimately be the smartest thing the Texans can do.
Houston has been predictably tight-lipped about its intentions, but Clowney believes that he is its top target should it stay at No. 1, per Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports:
Jadeveon Clowney said he knows nothing official but doesn't think he'll drop past Houston as No. 1 pick.— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) May 7, 2014
There is no question the Texans will receive and consider some enticing offers leading up to draft night, but the allure of a once-in-a-generation pass-rusher will ultimately prove to be too much for Houston to pass up. Look for the Texans to stand pat, take Clowney and pray that he becomes the player so many expect him to be.
When the 2013 college football season ended, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was considered the likely No. 1 overall pick. Despite not having played in an actual game since then, the perception is that he could fall to the bottom of the first round or perhaps even into the second round.
Bridgewater didn't have a particularly good pro-day performance, but it is tough to believe that one minor hiccup would cause teams to sour on him. If anything, it is possible that teams are feigning disinterest in order to increase their chances of landing him.
Which prospect will you follow closest on draft night?
Maybe Bridgewater isn't quite at the level of Manziel or Blake Bortles, but he is at least a top-three quarterback in this class. Since so many teams need a quarterback early in the draft, Bridgewater definitely still has a chance to be a top-10 selection.
The Vikings are most definitely in the market for a quarterback after declining Christian Ponder's fifth-year option. The Vikes may very well choose to let Ponder leave via free agency following the season. Matt Cassel is also in place, but he simply isn't a long-term answer.
Bridgewater, on the other hand, is arguably the most polished passer in the draft, and he has the potential to be an excellent NFL quarterback. Minnesota seemingly has interest in Bridgewater or it at least did at one time, as it brought him in for an official visit:
#Vikings only hosted top 30 meetings with Teddy Bridgewater & Tom Savage of the top QBs. But met privately somewhere with all top passers.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 24, 2014
The Vikings can't afford to waste running back Adrian Peterson's peak years, so they need to find a franchise quarterback immediately. Bridgewater fits the bill and would be a major steal at No. 8.
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