The opening day of the 2014 NFL draft has finally arrived. Although the annual prospect showcase was only moved back a couple weeks from it's usual date in late April, the wait felt like an eternity as teams sent out plenty of smokescreens to make an uncertain draft even more murky.
There are some players like Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins that seem to have a pretty defined range of where they may land. But there are others, including Johnny Manziel and Eric Ebron, who will be turning-point picks because where they will land is completely up in the air.
Above all else, it should make for an entertaining start to the draft, which should carry over to the next two days. And that's what the NFL is seeking in the end. So let's check out some updated mock drafts and recent rumors making their way around the league.
Expert Mock Drafts
|2014 NFL Mock Drafts - First Round|
|Pick||Team||Mike Mayock (NFL.com)||Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN)||Evan Silva (Rotoworld)||Tim Daniels (B/R)|
|1||Houston Texans||Jadeveon Clowney||Jadeveon Clowney||Jadeveon Clowney (traded to ATL)||Jadeveon Clowney|
|2||St. Louis Rams (via WAS)||Greg Robinson||Greg Robinson||Greg Robinson||Greg Robinson|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Khalil Mack||Sammy Watkins||Khalil Mack||Khalil Mack|
|4||Cleveland Browns||Jake Matthews||Johnny Manziel||Mike Evans||Johnny Manziel|
|5||Oakland Raiders||Sammy Watkins||Khalil Mack||Sammy Watkins (traded to DET)||Sammy Watkins|
|6||Atlanta Falcons||Taylor Lewan||Taylor Lewan||Blake Bortles (traded to HOU)||Jake Matthews|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Mike Evans||Mike Evans||Johnny Manziel||Mike Evans|
|8||Minnesota Vikings||Justin Gilbert||Blake Bortles||Aaron Donald||Aaron Donald|
|9||Buffalo Bills||Zack Martin||Jake Matthews||Eric Ebron||Eric Ebron|
|10||Detroit Lions||Darqueze Dennard||Odell Beckham Jr.||Jake Matthews (traded to OAK)||Justin Gilbert|
|11||Tennessee Titans||Blake Bortles||Darqueze Dennard||Justin Gilbert||Anthony Barr|
|12||New York Giants||Eric Ebron||Aaron Donald||Taylor Lewan||Taylor Lewan|
|13||St. Louis Rams||Odell Beckham Jr.||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix|
|14||Chicago Bears||Calvin Pryor||Justin Gilbert||Calvin Pryor||Calvin Pryor|
|15||Pittsburgh Steelers||Kyle Fuller||Zack Martin||Kyle Fuller||Zack Martin|
|16||Dallas Cowboys||Johnny Manziel||Calvin Pryor||Anthony Barr||Timmy Jernigan|
|17||Baltimore Ravens||C.J. Mosley||Eric Ebron||Odell Beckham Jr. (traded to SF)||Odell Beckham Jr.|
|18||New York Jets||Brandin Cooks||Brandin Cooks||Darqueze Dennard||Darqueze Dennard|
|19||Miami Dolphins||Cyrus Kouandjio||C.J. Mosley||Zack Martin||Ryan Shazier|
|20||Arizona Cardinals||Anthony Barr||Derek Carr||Dee Ford||Blake Bortles|
|21||Green Bay Packers||Ryan Shazier||Ryan Shazier||Ryan Shazier||Jason Verrett|
|22||Philadelphia Eagles||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Kelvin Benjamin||Brandin Cooks||Brandin Cooks|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||Marqise Lee||Marqise Lee||Marqise Lee||Marqise Lee|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Aaron Donald||Kony Ealy||Bradley Roby||Bradley Roby|
|25||San Diego Chargers||Bradley Roby||Anthony Barr||Louis Nix||Kyle Fuller|
|26||Cleveland Browns (via IND)||Teddy Bridgewater||Kyle Fuller||Derek Carr||Teddy Bridgewater (trade)|
|27||New Orleans Saints||Kelvin Benjamin||Cody Latimer||Stanley Jean-Baptiste||Cody Latimer|
|28||Carolina Panthers||Derek Carr (traded to Oakland)||Morgan Moses||Joel Bitonio||Morgan Moses|
|29||New England Patriots||Jace Amaro||Ra'Shede Hageman||Teddy Bridgewater||Jace Amaro|
|30||San Francisco 49ers||Stephon Tuitt||Jordan Matthews||Austin Seferian-Jenkins (traded to BAL)||Stanley Jean-Baptiste|
|31||Denver Broncos||Jason Verrett||Jason Verrett||C.J. Mosley||C.J. Mosley|
|32||Seattle Seahawks||Stanley Jean-Baptise||Stephon Tuitt||Ra'Shede Hageman||Xavier Su'a-Filo|
Full Mock Info:
Mike Mayock (NFL.com)
Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN; subscription required)
Evan Silva (Rotoworld)
Latest Draft Rumors
Unsurprisingly, Manziel has dominated the conversation on draft day. After it looked like the college sensation was going to land somewhere inside the top 10, a late storyline has emerged connecting him with the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas owns the No. 16 pick in Round 1 and already has Tony Romo on its roster. Yet, Rotoworld passed along a report from Todd McShay of ESPN, who stated on SportsCenter Dallas has the Texas A&M quarterback atop their draft board.
As if Romo didn't have enough pressure on him, adding Manziel to the roster would make for a complete circus atmosphere. That's never prevented Jerry Jones from making a bold move before, however, so it's impossible to count it out.
One thing to keep in mind is Romo's contract. Andrew Brandt of ESPN reports the structure of his current deal makes him virtually unmovable:
Another storyline capable of shaking up the first round is the Houston Texans' willingness to move the top overall pick. Since a clear No. 1 quarterback never emerged during the draft process, it would make sense for Houston to trade down to stockpile picks.
If another team wants the pick—likely with an eye on Clowney—it better be ready to pay a hefty price. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports the Texans' current asking price is a total of four picks, including a swap in Round 1 this year:
Obviously, that's likely just a base with alterations being made on how far they would need to drop in the first round. It's also possible the price could change as the draft gets closer, if the Texans really want to add more picks instead of settling for one player.
That said, the cost is going to remain sky-high and rightfully so. Clowney has the skill set and natural ability necessary to become a truly game-changing defensive player. Should he reach that potential and Houston trades the pick, the front office better have a lot to show for it.
The general consensus for most of the draft process has been that Watkins has been the top wide receiver available, followed by Mike Evans. As it turns out, Manziel's top target might end up coming off the board first, if the Oakland Raiders are the first team to pick a wideout.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports a source says the Raiders have Evans higher than Watkins on their draft board. At No. 5, they could have the option to choose between the two, but it's not a lock they will go in that direction:
As one league source who is as connected on matters of the draft as anyone explained it to PFT, the Raiders are believed to prefer Evans to Watkins. The question becomes whether both are still on the board at No. 5, and whether the Raiders choose to pick a receiver.
Evans, as you would expect from any great athlete, believes he's been the top player at the position all along. According to CBS New York, Evans said to WFAN in March that he was the best wide receiver and also explained why:
I think I'm a big, physical receiver, who is a big-play threat as well as a possession receiver. I guess I'd say I got good hands and am the best blocker at the receiver position. And I will do anything it takes to win.
As for a receiver who's made a serious climb leading up to the draft, Odell Beckham Jr. is now being linked to a team inside the top 10. He was viewed as a player likely to go in the second half of Round 1 until a recent surge.
Joe Buscaglia of WGR reports the Buffalo Bills would seriously consider selecting Beckham at No. 9, assuming none of the draft's biggest names suffer a slide. He also notes tight end Eric Ebron would be in the conversation, as well.
One of the hottest names in the draft right now is LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., and one of the biggest proponents of his talents are indeed the Bills. According to league sources, Beckham, Jr. is a player Buffalo is very serious about taking with their ninth overall pick in the event a board plays out a certain way.
Expect the rumors to continue swirling right on through the opening round. At this point, it's incredibly difficult to predict even a single selection correctly, which points toward plenty of chaos once teams are officially on the clock.
Perhaps the most interesting thing will be seeing whether all of the different rumored moves come to fruition, or if the round ends up being pretty straightforward in the end. If it's the latter, it will show exactly how little information can be yield from rumors late in the process.
No story has the potential to become bigger than Manziel to the Cowboys, though. If that ends up happening—and it still seems like a long shot on the surface—it would dominant headlines for the foreseeable future.
It should be an interesting night, to say the least.