By Jacob Kornhauser on April 20, 2014
With the NFL Draft less than three weeks away, it's time to start looking at who each team in the first round is likely to pick. Some teams like the Rams and Browns have multiple picks and could really improve their teams quickly. Whatever the case may be, every team needs to be improving via the draft this time of year. Here's who everyone in the first round figures to take on Thursday May 8.
While it must be tempting for the Texans to take hometown legend Johnny Manziel, they have to make the right decision here by taking the best quarterback on the board. Bortles has all the measurables to be successful in the NFL, now he just needs to put more time into learning coverages and whatnot. If they decide to go quarterback, which they should, Bortles will be their man.
Although it's possible the Rams could trade this pick for a couple of later picks, they might want to stick with it. They can take Robinson, who is likely the best offensive lineman in the draft. They need that in order to protect quarterback Sam Bradford who is recovering from a torn ACL.
Clowney is a once-in-a-generation talent and the Jaguars would be foolish to pass on him. Jacksonville has so many needs and when that's the case, it's often wise to take the best overall available player on the board. In this case, that would be Clowney.
The Browns are in need of a quarterback and a main attraction to bring fans to the gate. Manziel brings both of those, but with that comes a lot of question marks. His maturity has always been under scrutiny and there's a lot of speculation as to whether or not his small frame can hold up in the NFL. Only time will tell, but Manziel's playmaking ability is enough to convince the Browns to take him with a top-five pick.
The Raiders have a reputation for reaching for offensive playmakers in the first rounds of drafts. If Watkins falls to them at No. 5, it will be a steal, not a stretch. Watkins has all the size and tools to be a Pro-Bowl receiver in the NFL right away as he showed off against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. This would be one of the Raiders' better picks in recent memory.
Last year made it clear that the Falcons needed a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball. Mack would provide just that right away. His combination of size, speed and instincts have some people saying he could be the top pick in the draft, but the Falcons would be happy to take him sixth if he's there.
Evans has all the makings of a great possession receiver in the NFL who could possibly take the top off the defense at times. In Tampa Bay, he would be playing opposite Vincent Jackson. With two big targets like that, quarterback Josh McCown could light up opposing defenses like he did with the Bears throwing to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery a season ago.
There's no question the Vikings need an answer at the quarterback position and fast. They are starting to add some solid weapons to the offensive side of the ball and need a signal caller to get the ball in their hands. Bridgewater has some work to do after a poor workout, but he still has a unique skill set that Minnesota would love to see put to work.
Matthews is among a handful of top offensive lineman in this class and that's exactly what Buffalo needs. Last season showed the Bills were for real on defense, they just needed their offense to be able to put up enough points. While they also need to add a few playmakers, adding to the offensive line foundation would be wise with this pick.
It seemed like the Lions couldn't stop anybody on defense down the stretch of last season and that caused them to miss the playoffs once again. Even with a stellar pass rush, breakdowns in pass coverage were common. Gilbert could help change that as he could start right away and instantly bolster one of the Lions' weakest units from a year ago.
Barr's rare combination of size and speed makes him a borderline top-10 pick and the Titans would be ecstatic if he fell to them at No. 11. He fits their scheme perfectly and could make an impact right away. At his size, he's flexible enough to work on the outside as a defensive end or stand up on the edge as a rushing linebacker. That's good news for the Titans.
There are mixed opinions about Lewan coming out of Michigan. Many believe he's a top-10 talent while others think he's more of a late-first-round guy. He's not as developed as some other offensive line prospects, but he may have the highest ceiling of any of them. If they don't want Eli Manning running around for his life again in 2014, the Giants will select Lewan.
The best safety in the draft, Clinton-Dix would quickly patch up one of the few holes in the Rams' defense. As long as everyone can stay healthy on the offensive side of the ball this year, the Rams could be dangerous if they added Clinton-Dix to an already above-average defense.
Initially, it seemed like the Bears would go after a defensive lineman in the draft. After signing defensive ends Lamarr Houston, Willy Young and Jared Allen, that seems far less likely. They could still take a defensive tackle, but they would be wiser to take Pryor out of Louisville to take one of their safety spots. It was a glaring hole last season and if they added Pryor, they could potentially completely fix the defense within one season.
Dennard has the best big-play ability out of any defensive back in this draft and that should intrigue the Steelers. The defensive-minded Steelers love ball-hawking and Dennard could further that effort. He could step in right away and help ease the transition as Pittsburgh's secondary continues to age.
Interior defense was a big problem for Dallas last season and they began to address that by signing former Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton to a four-year deal. They still need more help and the massive Jernigan could provide just that. He will need to be better conditioned, but Jernigan is a physical specimen who could help the Cowboys' defense instantly.
It's not a flashy pick, but it's a necessary one. Interior blocking is going to be key for the Ravens this season as they couldn't get much at all going on the ground last season. Martin could prove to be they guy capable of opening up holes for running back Ray Rice and that could be the difference between the Ravens making or missing the playoffs.
After their defense showed what they could do in 2013, it's time for the Jets' offense to finally show up. Adding Cooks to the receiving corps would go a long way toward doing that as he has insane speed and he's always a home-run threat. Adding that dimension to their offense could be the spark Gang Green needs.
Ebron is one of the best tight ends to enter the draft in quite some time. He fits the Jimmy Graham mold as a hybrid between tight end and wide receiver, and a weapon like that would be a welcome addition in Miami. The Dolphins surprised a lot of people last year and adding a guy like Ebron could push them into playoff contention.
The Cardinals were the biggest surprise in the NFL last season, missing the playoffs at 10-6. Their defense is aging and needs more speed on the outside. Shazier would provide just that plus a little pop with his big-hit ability. Adding him would seem like a pretty easy transition for both sides.
If Mosley falls to the Packers at No. 21, they will feel as if they won the lottery. He is powerful, fast and has a very solid football IQ. That combination is what makes him a very attractive candidate to start opposite Clay Matthews in the Packers' defense. Mosley may be the piece the Packers have been missing on defense for a while.
After cutting star receiver DeSean Jackson over off-the-field issues, the Eagles clearly need to add some offensive talent back to the organization. Beckham Jr. would provide that and then some as he has the speed to take the top of the defense and the hands to make big catches on key downs. He still has to refine his route running and overall play, but with enough time, Beckham could develop into a very solid receiver in the league.
A relatively unknown player nationally, Ward had a great 2013 campaign with the Huskies. While the Chiefs generated a great pass rush last season, they need a little help in the secondary in order to help Pro-Bowler Brandon Flowers. Ward would provide that and be able to step into a starting role relatively quickly.
Fuller has been steadily moving up draft boards after a solid combine and the Bengals could very well decide he's the top cornerback on their board when they're selecting at No. 24. Cincinnati had trouble in the secondary last season and adding Fuller would surely solidify that.
Nix is absolutely massive and would take up plenty of room inside for the Chargers. They have built up a solid linebacking corps, but now the defensive line needs some work. Nix would instantly help in run defense and it would be a plus if he could generate anything on the pass rush.
Not everybody is sold on Verrett, but his ability to make plays on the ball can't be questioned. He was one of the best in college football and bringing those skills over to the NFL, he could make the Browns one of the best secondaries in the NFL. With several pieces already in place there, Verrett would help make the Browns' defense feared again.
Dee Ford is a great athlete for his size and the Saints would be fortunate to end up with him at No. 27. He can play on the outside, but with his frame, could also likely play a defensive tackle spot on occasion. His athleticism and versatility make him a very attractive prospect to the Saints who are in need of a more stable and consistent pass rush.
The man with the best name in the draft is also one of the top linemen in the draft. Kouandjio would shore up a Panthers offensive line that was shaky in front of quarterback Cam Newton at times last season. With more time to throw and decide what to do with the ball, Newton is capable of being that much more effective.
The Patriots know a thing or two about employing massive defensive tackles. Vince Wilfork, a force of nature, is one of the best known defensive tackles in the NFL. Even larger than him in frame is Hageman out of Minnesota. Putting him on that defensive line would help the rest of the Patriots' defense as he could plug up the inside for opposing rushers.
In order to add depth and talent to their defensive line, it would make sense for the 49ers to add Tuitt in the draft. For the most part, San Fran has strong outside rushers, but not too many inside. Tuitt would give them that inside rusher would could also stop the ball-carrier. He doesn't get as much attention because he played opposite Louis Nix, but Tuitt is just as good and possibly has a higher ceiling.
Roby is one of the better cover corners in the draft and that's exactly what Denver needs. They already majorly improved their secondary and their defense as a whole, but adding Roby to the mix would solidify it even more. With a defense that is stout and Peyton Manning at quarterback, the Broncos would be tough to beat in 2014.
Lee played college ball at USC where Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll coached for several years, so there's some common ground there. On top of that, his height and speed play perfectly into the Seahawks' offensive game plan where they want to pick up small chunks en route to bigger plays down the field. It would be smart for the reigning Super Bowl champions to keep Lee on the west coast and make him a Seahawk.
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