We’re just a month out of the 2014 NFL Draft, and things are beginning to become clearer as to where players might fall, which teams are targeting which positions and just how far these quarterbacks may fall.
The Texans move away from a quarterback first overall, two quarterbacks still land in the top-10 and Mike Evans continues to move in the first round.
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
From all I’ve heard now, Houston taking a quarterback first overall isn’t in the mix, and they are working hard to trade down from the first overall pick. If they stand here, they won’t pass on a talent like Clowney.
2. St. Louis Rams – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Taking Tavon Austin in the top half of the draft last year was a bit of a reach, and expecting him to be more than a situational rookie was a mistake. They need more weapons if they hope to allow Sam Bradford to succeed, and Watkins is viewed as an AJ Green/Julio Jones/Calvin Johnson types by NFL teams.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars have long been tied to Teddy Bridgewater, but from what I’ve been told, it’s no lock they take him despite being awfully high on him. They’ll strongly consider Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins if they’re available. But as of now, I’ll go with the top quarterback on their board as of now.
4. Cleveland Browns – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Cleveland doesn’t have a strong receiver, outside linebacker or offensive tackle need, so the value of this pick for them (if they pass on a quarterback) is low. I wouldn’t rule out them reaching for a quarterback (Derek Carr?) or taking a receiver like Mike Evans, but I’ll say they opt for the best player available in Greg Robinson.
5. Oakland Raiders – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Oakland is looking for instant contributors, and Khalil Mack would be a plus-value here if he slides down this far. The Raiders would also consider Sammy Watkins if available, and are prime trade-down candidates to a team like the Bills, Giants and Ravens.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Trading up for Jadeveon Clowney has long been rumored for Atlanta, but it may be too hefty a price to move up the first or second overall pick. If they opt to stay at six, they’ll target either Khalil Mack or one of the best offensive tackles on the board. Matthews can play left or right tackle and kick inside to guard as well.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
After moving on from Mike Williams, the Bucs need ample help at the receiver position. While I’m not a huge fan of Mike Evans as a prospect, he fits the Alshon Jeffery mold that Lovie Smith wanted in Chicago, and he could form quite a physical duo with Vincent Jackson opposite him.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Even though they have Matt Cassel as the current starter and Christian Ponder is still on the roster, the Vikings are still expected to target the quarterback position early in the draft. Derek Carr is on the same tier as Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles in my mind, but the positive character issues coming from him recently give him the nod for Norv Turner’s offense.
9. Buffalo Bills – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
If Mike Evans is available, I’d expect he’d be the pick, and the Bills may be targeting a trade up to secure the big receiver. If not, adding Eric Ebron may be their fallback option, and in my opinion would be the better selection.
10. Detroit Lions – HaHa Clinton-Dix, SAF, Alabama
The Lions needed help at safety after letting Louis Delmas walk, and even after adding James Ihedigbo in free agency, they still need to address the position. Clinton-Dix is the best safety in the class, and a clear cut above who they could get in round two.
11. Tennessee Titans – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
After losing Alterraun Verner, the Titans failed to address the position in free agency. While they could use an in-house answer (Blidi Wreh-Wilson currently the next man up), but adding an elite talent like Justin Gilbert would make new defensive coordinator Ray Horton happy.
12. New York Giants – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Giants are the most likely team after the top-10 to look for a trade-up, and they could be one of many mid-first round teams to consider a move up. If they stay here, they could consider which top talent slips. In this scenario, Aaron Donald and Taylor Lewan are the most logical. Donald fills a bigger need.
13. St. Louis Rams – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Rams didn’t add a cornerback this off-season to the surprise of many, and only have Janoris Jenkins as an ideal NFL starter. Fuller is the next highest viewed cornerback by NFL teams after Justin Gilbert, and should be able to step in right away and contribute.
14. Chicago Bears – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Rumors are Dennard could slip on draft day, but as of now, I’ll stick with him being arguably the safest of the cornerbacks to start early in the NFL and for a long time. The Bears need some youth at cornerback and Dennard can contribute situationally and fit in to the lineup as injuries/fatigue set in during the year.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
If he’s available, Ra’Shede Hageman may be the Steelers man on draft day. They need help at the five-technique spot, and they have a history of over-looking character (and injury) concerns. Hageman is a Muhammad Wilkerson-type talent, and his flashes make him a worthy top-20 pick.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Pryor, SAF, Louisville
Like Darqueze Dennard, rumors are that Calvin Pryor isn’t as highly viewed by NFL teams as he has been recently in the media. Still, this safety class isn’t very top heavy, so teams in need of help may reach early on draft day. He’s still versatile enough as a free or strong safety to have value, and should fit the Dallas Cover-2 defense well enough.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Ravens have Ricky Wagner and David Mims battling for their right tackle spot as of now. While both have shown, in college, that they have starter capabilities, it’s unclear whether the Ravens have seen enough in practices to deem them starters. Taylor Lewan is a plus talent who could easily land in the top-10 picks.
18. New York Jets – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
New York would love one of the top cornerbacks to slip here, as they need a starter opposite Dee Milliner after not bringing back Antonio Cromartie. However, they shouldn’t force the pick, and instead could opt for more pass-rush help and land a near-elite talent in Anthony Barr.
19. Miami Dolphins – Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
I’ve long-linked Zack Martin of Notre Dame to this pick, but Su’a-Filo seems to be more highly viewed than Martin as of now. While he plays a less-premium position, the Dolphins need instant guard contributors, and Su’a-Filo is the best in the draft.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Similar to Hagemen in Pittsburgh, I believe if Ealy is available for the Cardinals here, they pull the trigger on the versatile pass rusher. While he doesn’t have a set position, he could fill multiple roles for the Cardinals defense still working on getting younger for the future.
21. Green Bay Packers – CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Packers could get any number of directions with their first round pick. Defensive back, defensive line, linebacker, tight end and even receiver are all in play. But Mosley provides an instant help for their run defense, and can fill a handful of roles (inside and outside) for the Packers defense situationally as a rookie.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Replacing Trent Cole for the future may be a high priority for Chip Kelly, and Dee Ford can provide a smooth transition for the future. While pass rusher isn’t a major need, the Eagles have cleared up most of their glaring holes in free agency or from within. If a top cornerback falls, I’d peg the Eagles as a landing spot.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Receiver isn’t as big of a need for the Chiefs as some may believe, but they will strongly consider getting one of the draft’s best in this talented group. Marqise Lee is the better value in my opinion, but Andy Reid may consider Brandin Cooks, especially considering the way he used DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Similar to the Eagles, the Bengals don’t have many glaring needs across the board. However, the defensive backs probably need the most help now and into the future, and with an in-state talent like Bradley Roby available, he seems like a logical fit. Character concerns will worry teams, but it seems like it’d be a surprise if he fell out of the first with the way teams’ value cornerbacks. His draft stock/positioning sounds a lot like Jimmy Smith’s did back in the 2011 NFL Draft.
25. San Diego Chargers – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Finding a landing spot for Nix isn’t easy, but it’s hard to imagine 25 teams passing on a nose tackle of his talent level, even though he’s viewed as just a two-down player by most teams. The Chargers could use an upgrade at nose tackle, and landing a potential top-10 talent would be ideal for San Diego.
26. Cleveland Browns (via IND) – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Sticking with my past projections, I just don’t know exactly where Manziel fits in this first round, and he may very well slip out of the first 32 picks. But if Derek Carr isn’t available here, I think new head coach Mike Pettine targets an athletic quarterback who can make plays on his own, so he can focus more on the defense throughout the draft.
27. New Orleans Saints – Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
The Saints need pass rushers. They can’t enter next year with Victor Butler, Junior Galette and Kyle Knox as their three best outside linebackers. I’m a big Attaochu fan, though I haven’t heard either way from teams. As of now, I’ll stick with him in the first round, and I think he’s a worthwhile top-15 selection.
28. Carolina Panthers – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Carolina has made it no secret based on their off-season moves so far: They’re targeting offensive tackle, cornerback and receiver early and often on draft day. With none of the top cornerbacks left, this pick comes down to an offensive tackle or Brandin Cooks. I’ll lean Martin, who I have rated higher and fills a right tackle spot that may be more valuable to Cam Newton than another vertical option.
29. Houston Texans (via NE) – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Blake Bortles falling this far? Don’t be surprised. I’ve heard teams aren’t as enthralled with Bortles as some have projected, thanks to him needing a lot of work before he’s ready. I still think his best fit is in the Texans offense, and if Bill O’Brien can work a trade with his former employer and secure their top quarterback (and get him on a five-year deal as opposed to a four-year deal that second rounders get), the Texans leave Day 1 as the draft-day winners.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Odell Beckham Jr, WR, LSU
The 49ers are the most speculated team to trade up on draft day, as they have the ammunition to move up and get one of the top talents that may slip on draft day. Receiver seems like a very possible trade-up option, but if they could stay put and secure Odell Beckham here, I think they’d strongly consider it.
31. Denver Broncos – Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
The Broncos could consider undersized yet NFL-ready cornerback Jason Verrett here, but I’ll say they opt for Crichton, who can give this defensive end group a needed boost. Keeping the pass rush stocked with talent would be wise, especially considering their struggles in keeping Russell Wilson off-balance in the Super Bowl.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
While Michael Bowie may be an adequate starter at right tackle, my guess is the Seahawks would love to get the mauling Kouandjio to replace him if available. His arthritic knee concerns have been over-blown, and I’d be surprise if he fell much further than this.
33. New England (via HOU) – Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
34. Washington – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
35. Cleveland – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
36. Oakland – Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
37. Atlanta – Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
38. Tampa Bay – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
39. Jacksonville – Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
40. Minnesota – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
41. Buffalo – Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
42. Tennessee – Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
43. New York Giants – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
44. St. Louis – Jimmie Ward, SAF, Northern Illinois
45. Detroit – Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
46. Pittsburgh – Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
47. Dallas – Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
48. Baltimore – Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
49. New York Jets – Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice
50. Miami – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
51. Chicago – Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
52. Arizona – Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
53. Green Bay – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
54. Philadelphia – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
55. Cincinnati – David Yankey, OG, Stanford
56. San Francisco – Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
57. San Diego – Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State
58. New Orleans – Davonte Adams, WR, Fresno State
59. Indianapolis – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
60. Carolina – Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
61. San Francisco – Brandon Thomas, OT, Clemson
62. New England – Joel Bitonio, OG, Nevada
63. Denver – Travis Swanson, OC/OG, Arkansas
64. Seattle – Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers