It's finally here.
The 2014 NFL Draft is now just one day away, and the pieces are beginning to fall into place. Sure, we don't know exactly which player is going to go to which team, but we have a good indication of which players teams value.
Having extra time between the end of the college football season and Day 1 of the draft has caused a ton of speculation regarding the outlook of Round 1. Teams have likely gone back and forth on who to select given this extra time, but it's now time to make a decision.
Here's how Round 1 of the NFL draft should shape up considering the most recent news, rumors and analysis.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney may have hinted at what the Houston Texans' intentions are for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, via Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle:
Houston has several options here. They can take Clowney, pass on him and take a quarterback, or trade back into the first round to stockpile picks and get more talent later on. In the end, passing up on Clowney will prove too difficult a choice to make.
2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Like the Texans, the St. Louis Rams have a multitude of options at No. 2. NFL.com's Marc Sessler tweets that they are very interested in Greg Robinson, however:
Robinson is a guy that can start from Day 1 and make an impact on a line that needs to work hard to keep Sam Bradford on his feet.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Where will Johnny Manziel be drafted? That has been the primary question for much of this process, but John McClain of the Houston Chronicle appears to have the answer:
Manziel is a top-flight athlete with the playmaking ability to potentially turn this Jacksonville franchise around.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Sammy Watkins is a special talent. He's the best offensive weapon in this class, and the Cleveland Browns will be more than happy to pair him with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. If they land a quarterback at No. 26, the Browns will be in good position for the future.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo
Khalil Mack won't slip past No. 5. The fact that he fell to No. 5 is even a surprise, but the needs of teams picking ahead of the Oakland Raiders are to blame. Oakland may be missing out on Clowney and Watkins, but Mack has the potential to be a staple of the next great Raiders defense.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews is a tier behind Greg Robinson, but the tackle from Texas A&M has a bright future in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons might try to trade up to No. 1, but there's currently no indication of anything happening. As the draft stands now, Matthews will be wearing red and black next season.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't appear confident in Mike Glennon for the future, but with Manziel already off the board, the team will likely wait until Day 2 to grab another quarterback.
At No. 7, they'll grab Mike Evans. Evans will start right away alongside Vincent Jackson and provide a strong complementary threat over the middle of the field. While Jackson is torching defenders over the top, Evans will be schooling them over the middle.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Blake Bortles would be a great fit in Minnesota's system, as the Vikings could offer him the chance to get acclimated behind Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder before giving him the job later on in the year. Plus, his size and arm strength should make the transition into the NFL a little easier.
9. Buffalo Bills: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Peter King of SI.com called Zack Martin his "Hottest Guy in the Draft" for this past week:
"[Mike] Mayock surprised me the other day by saying he thought Martin will come off the board “between nine and 13 … He’s too good. He’s too safe. He’s about as safe a player as there is in this draft.” Mayock told me Sunday he saw a Notre Dame practice last summer in which Martin had to be shifted from his usual spot, left tackle, to guard because of an injury, and when he watched the tape of the practice, “It looked like he’d been playing guard for years.’’ I know one team in the top 10 seriously considering him."
That one team could very well be the Buffalo Bills. The Bills could use more help on the line to keep EJ Manuel safe in the pocket as he continues to learn how to be a successful quarterback in the NFL.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Darqueze Dennard isn't particularly fast, but he is a very good press-corner and plays a physical style that would suit the Detroit Lions in their quest to mitigate the impacts of some of the best receivers of the NFC North. The Lions aren't too far away from seriously competing in the NFC. Taking a potential shutdown corner is a good first step towards doing so.
11. Tennessee Titans: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
Eric Ebron has had drop problems in the past, but he's clearly the best tight end prospect in this draft. The Tennessee Titans could use a few weapons around Jake Locker, and Ebron would be a great option for him over the middle and on third down. That is, of course, if he can be relied upon to catch the ball consistently.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The New York Giants can do a lot with this pick. They can take a wide receiver, a defensive tackle, a linebacker or an offensive lineman. In the end, they'll opt for the latter.
This is what general manager Jerry Reese told Tom Rock of Newsday: "We have work to do still on the offensive line. We brought some offensive linemen in, but we're still going to try to get players on the offensive line."
That makes Taylor Lewan the obvious choice here.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
After shoring up the offensive line with the No. 2 pick, the Rams will now look to defense at No. 13. While he's not on the level of Clowney or Mack in terms of dominance, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is one of the top defenders in the draft and will make his presence felt in the St. Louis secondary. This is a safe pick.
14. Chicago Bears: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Chicago Bears currently have openings at both safety spots. Calvin Pryor, one of the hardest hitters in the draft, will certainly be available at No. 14.
Chicago would love to get Clinton-Dix, but that would require them to trade up at least one spot—though it could take more to be safe. Pryor is a good consolation prize, however, as he also profiles as a future star.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr can immediately step in and strengthen the pass rush of the Pittsburgh Steelers while also providing them with much-needed depth at outside linebacker. Barr has the speed off the edge to wreak havoc in the backfield. After all, he started his college career as a running back.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald would be a great fit for the Dallas Cowboys at No. 16. With such an abysmal defense last year, the Cowboys are really in line to draft whichever defensive player is best at No. 16—regardless of position.
Donald can command double teams and create opportunities for his fellow rushers to get into the backfield. He is one of the best defensive talents in this class.
17. Baltimore Ravens: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Inside linebacker is a position where the Baltimore Ravens would probably like to improve, and C.J. Mosley is by far the best at the position this season. Health concerns have hampered his draft stock this offseason, but he appears to be back on the rise yet again.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Odell Beckham is the perfect fit for the New York Jets given their needs for offensive weapons. Eric Decker was a solid addition, but Geno Smith and Michael Vick still need more guys to throw to. Beckham can make plays alongside Decker while helping Smith mature as a quarterback.
19. Miami Dolphins: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Morgan Moses is one of the better pure tackles in the draft, and with the likes of Robinson, Matthews, Martin and Lewan already gone, the Miami Dolphins will have no qualms with taking him at No. 19. Improving the offensive line is a must for Miami, as Ryan Tannehill can't sustain another sack-filled season like he did in 2013.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy is a guy that teams will kick themselves over passing up. He's a potential steal for the Arizona Cardinals at No. 20, as his skills as a pass rusher could develop very quickly. Sure, he's a raw talent of sorts right now, but in the right system, he could flourish.
The Cardinals could use another pass rusher, thus giving Ealy the opportunity to see time from Day 1.
21. Green Bay Packers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert is a versatile corner that also excels as a return man. The Green Bay Packers could always use a quality corner to compete with the likes of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, so making this pick is a good idea.
Gilbert can play in the nickel as well as outside, plus he has shown the ability to play deep like a safety when needed. That type of versatility will greatly benefit Green Bay.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Replacing DeSean Jackson won't be easy, but Marqise Lee has the talent to do so. In fact, their skills are quite similar. Both are speedsters that excel in space, and quarterback Nick Foles will love hooking up with Lee over the top of defenses.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
The Kansas City Chiefs could go with a quarterback here to play behind Alex Smith, but the smart move would be to take a lineman—preferably a versatile one. Luckily, Xavier Su'a-Filo will be available.
"Having the abilities to play every position on the line is something to my advantage," Su'a-Filo told Nate Davis of USA TODAY Sports. "I don't have a preference. I enjoy being versatile."
Sounds like a good fit to me.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Andy Dalton is the starter in Cincinnati, but that won't stop the Bengals from taking Teddy Bridgewater if he falls to No. 24. Dalton has had issues leading Cincinnati in the playoffs, and another disappointing outcome could lead the franchise to make a change in the future.
With Bridgewater in place, the Bengals at least have options.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Here's what CBS Sports' Rob Rang had to say about this selection:
"The Chargers boast young standouts at every level of the defense but cornerback is an obvious area of concern. Fuller is an instinctive, physical defender whose aggression and short-area quickness make him well-suited to defensive coordinator's zone-heavy scheme."
The Chargers' defense can take a big step forward with a smart draft, and the first smart move they can make is taking Fuller at No. 25.
26. Cleveland Browns (from IND): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Here's that quarterback for Cleveland that I mentioned earlier.
Derek Carr has a huge arm and will benefit from having multiple big-play receivers at his disposal. Watkins, Gordon and Cameron will post big numbers if Carr can transition smoothly into the NFL.
In all likelihood, the quarterback Cleveland takes will start. Currently, Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen are the only QBs on the roster.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The New Orleans Saints managed 49.0 sacks last season, which is good. Cameron Jordan was the only consistent member of the defense in that regard, however, so it would be wise to add Dee Ford to the mix.
Ford is a versatile defensive end that can rush through the line or use his speed to get off the edge. Rob Ryan will love having Ford in the mix.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Cam Newton's group of wideouts is nothing compared to last season. The loss of Steve Smith was huge, but there were other, smaller losses that will be prevalent during next season unless other guys are brought in.
At No. 28, look for Carolina to go for Brandin Cooks. Cooks could very well go earlier, however, so a guy like Davante Adams from Fresno State is also a fit.
29. New England Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. thinks the New England Patriots are a good fit for monster defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman, via Marcus R. Fuller of twincities.com:
"Hageman right now would be a good pick for New England. He's the kind of guy, you look at his athletic ability, the way he can bat down passes. He needs a little more stamina and endurance to play four quarters, but I think New England would be that team."
Tight end is an area of need as well, but a guy like Jace Amaro can likely be had in Round 2.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Colin Kaepernick is in need of another pass-catching option alongside Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. In a deep class of wideouts, there's bound to be someone of value available at No. 30. In all likelihood, Florida State product Kelvin Benjamin will be.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Ryan Shazier is lightning fast—he ran a 4.38 40-yard sprint at one of his workouts, via CBS Sports—and the Denver Broncos would be thrilled to add that type of speed to their defense. The Broncos don't have many holes, but if the Super Bowl was any indication of their defense, then Shazier is the pick to make here.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
The Seattle Seahawks need both a receiver and a tight end, but with such a deep group of wideouts, the team can hold off until Round 2 or 3 to grab someone. There aren't nearly as many quality tight ends, though, so look for Austin Seferian-Jenkins to hear his name called at No. 32.
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