Who will be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft? It depends on who you ask and when you ask them.
If you were to ask someone before the season it was South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney. During the first half of the season, when Clowney wasn’t quite playing up to his immense hype, Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater became the trendy pick for first overall. As the 2013 season went on Oregon QB Marcus Mariota became another popular choice. There’s even been some chatter about UCLA OLB Anthony Barr or Texas A&M LT Jake Matthews potentially going at the top.
Now that we’re at the end of the regular season and still no one knows for sure.
Looking at how the NFL Draft order is shaping up, it could be QB heavy at the top. If the NFL Draft were today, the order would go as follows: Jacksonville Jaguars (1), Houston Texans (2), Atlanta Falcons (3), Minnesota Vikings (4) and the St. Louis Rams (5) still have the Washington Redskins‘ first round pick from the Robert Griffin III trade. But in looking at the upcoming schedules, this order will likely be shaken up. Jacksonville and Houston still have to play another game, the Falcons have a very winnable game against the Redskins, and the Vikings will be major underdogs in every game remaining.
I think the first pick will come down to Houston or Minnesota, as they’re the two teams I actually believe will lose out, but never discount the Jags’ ineptitude, either.
If Jacksonville has the first pick, they go in one of two directions: either draft QB (Mariota or Bridgewater) or trade down. Yes, Clowney is far and away the most talented prospect of this class or any of the last 20 years, but one stud pass rusher isn’t going to change a franchise as barren the Jaguars. Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are backup QBs at best.
If Houston has the first pick, they’ll take a QB. As fun as it is to imagine Clowney rushing opposite of J.J. Watt it’s just not likely the Texans would take that route. Matt Schaub has taken on a Chuck Knoblauch-type psyche and should probably be in a mental institution, while undrafted hometown hero Case Keenum just isn’t a guy you build a franchise around. Mariota or Bridgewater, hands down. Trading down probably won’t be likely as they don’t have a ton of other pressing needs other than a star QB.
Minnesota is in a similar situation as Houston, and there’s no way they wouldn’t take a QB. Christian Ponder hasn’t done anything to convince you he’s going to get any better, Matt Cassel is 31 going on 90, and Josh Freeman can’t unseat either of them, showing you what his future looks like in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. Yes, Clowney would fill in nicely for soon-to-be-departing Jared Allen, but the Vikes have been looking for a franchise QB since Fran ‘the Man’ Tarkenton retired in 1978.
In conclusion, there’s essentially three teams that have a very good shot at the No. 1 pick, and all three would almost surely draft either Mariota or Bridgewater. Not because they’re the best players in the draft, but because the teams at the top are absolutely starved for consistent quarterback play. Whether it’s Mariota or Bridgewater going No. 1 overall, we’ll have to wait and see how the testing goes, combine, etc. Right now they’re too close to call.
Now we all just have to play the waiting game and see how the rest of the season goes for these teams.