The first round of the 2014 NFL draft came and went with plenty of surprises, both in terms of who was picked and who wasn't.
The latter part of that equation should make for some interesting moments on Day 2, with several first-round-caliber prospects remaining on the board. The early part of the second round is often considered an extension of the first round, and that seems particularly true this year with so much talent still up for grabs.
Here are the latest predictions regarding where the best available prospects will ultimately land during Friday night's second round.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee was considered by many to be the top pass-catcher in the country entering the 2013 season, but turnover at the quarterback position, turmoil in the coaching ranks and nagging injuries prevented him from reaching the lofty production levels he achieved in 2012.
The fact that he was still available late in the first round wasn't a huge shock, but eyebrows were certainly raised when the first 32 picks passed without Lee's name being called. It isn't an ideal scenario for Lee, by any means, but there are definitely some teams picking early in the second round who could use his services.
The first team that comes to mind is the Cleveland Browns at No. 35. Cleveland addressed two of its biggest needs in the first round by selecting cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel. The next course of action is finding another weapon for Johnny Football who can complement star wide out Josh Gordon.
Lee unquestionably fits the bill, and it can be argued that Cleveland would be a great fit. There wouldn't be a ton of pressure on him to come in and produce right away, with Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron already serving as the primary options in the Browns offense. Lee will also draw single coverage more often than not.
The move would also make sense for the Browns, especially now that Lee presumably has a chip on his shoulder. Lee has the skill set to be a star in the NFL, and Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times believes that he will prove his detractors wrong:
Sticking around the draft for Bridgewater and Marqise Lee, two guys who are going to prove they fell too far..— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) May 9, 2014
Lee was the victim of an extremely strong and deep wide receiver class in the first round, but he has "sleeper" written all over him in the second round. If Cleveland secures him at No. 35, then he may prove to be the biggest steal of the entire draft.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Through all the craziness of the first round, three quarterbacks ending up being selected in the form of Blake Bortles, Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. That means several interesting signal-callers are still on the board, including Fresno State's Derek Carr. Although Carr was tabbed as a potential first-round pick by many analysts, he is still waiting to find out where he'll be playing in 2014 and for the foreseeable future.
Several teams could still use some help at the quarterback position, including the Houston Texans, who hold the first pick in the second round. Houston decided to take the top-overall prospect with the No. 1 overall pick, selecting South Carolins defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but a huge hole remains under center. Taking a passer at No. 33 is a distinct possibility, and Carr could be the top guy on the Texans' board.
Such a pick would be extremely fitting since Houston took Carr's brother, David, with its first ever draft pick back in 2002. That choice ultimately didn't work out, and it almost feels as though Derek is paying for his brother's shortcomings. According to ESPN's Michael Smith, though, the younger Carr would be a steal for Houston in this draft:
If the Texans take Derek with the first pick of the second round they'd be stealing a Carr this time around.— Michael Smith (@michaelsmith) May 9, 2014
If nothing else, Carr has had the right attitude about the draft process. Despite not being selected in the first round, Carr seemed optimistic and excited about what might happen in the second round, per David White of the Fresno Bee:
It wasn't difficult for me. If this is the route that it goes, then so be it. ... This doesn't change anything for me. You just want your name to be called, whenever it is. ... This is nothing new to me. I'm still going to be blessed to play for an NFL team. I'm going to be the same guy. ... My phone's been going crazy. Whoever takes me is going to get everything I have.
The Texans obviously need a quarterback after sending Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders this offseason. Carr is somewhat of a project, and he may need some time to develop, but his ceiling is as high as any quarterback in the entire draft.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Atlanta Falcons entered the 2014 NFL draft with major issues on both the offensive and defensive lines. The former was addressed in the first round, when Atlanta selected potential franchise offensive tackle Jake Matthews. There is still a definite need on the defensive line, but one of the draft's best pass-rushers may very well fall into the Falcons' lap at No. 37.
Which remaining prospect will have the best NFL career?
Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy is coming off an eight-sack season with the Tigers in the competitive SEC. He was often overshadowed by teammate Michael Sam, who won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award, but it should be noted that Ealy's presence helped Sam immensely in terms of not having to face extra blockers on a consistent basis.
Despite the emphasis on rushing the passer in today's NFL, Ealy somehow slipped through the cracks in the first round. There are definite questions about his consistency, but Ealy has elite athleticism and could be a big-time producer in the NFL in the right situation.
The Falcons seem like a good fit for him, and they have done their due diligence on Ealy, according to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post:
Missouri DE Kony Ealy told me he met twice with the Falcons, Cowboys and Bears. Two meetings = serious interest.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) May 6, 2014
Atlanta really struggled in the trenches last season, which is why they took such a significant step backward. Getting a guy like Ealy would improve the entire defense due to the emphasis that opposing offenses would place on stopping him.
Nobody would have been shocked had Ealy been taken in the middle of the first round, so Atlanta would likely jump for joy if he falls to No. 37.
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