NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
With a couple more weeks of football season in the books, it’s time to take another look at how the 2014 NFL Draft may turn out; read on to find out who’s currently projected to go in the first round this April.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville*
Bridgewater remains the most polished quarterback prospect in the class, although at this point he is clinging to an increasingly small lead over Marcus Mariota.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon**
Mike Glennon may well receive another opportunity if Greg Schiano somehow keeps his job, but that looks unlikely despite Tampa’s Monday night victory.
3. Atlanta Falcons – DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina*
Osi Umenyiora turned out to be a solid investment, but he turns 32 tomorrow and would hardly prevent the Falcons from drafting Jadeveon Clowney here.
4. Minnesota Vikings – QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M**
This may seem a little bit high given some of the concerns surrounding Manziel, but it’s looking more and more like the Heisman winner is destined to go top-five.
5. Houston Texans – LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
At this point, Houston’s best move may be to upgrade over Brooks Reed, their struggling right outside linebacker, who is in the midst of a dismal season.
6. Buffalo Bills – LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Mack remains in Buffalo, replacing Manny Lawson and providing defensive coordinator Mike Pettine with a dangerous, versatile edge rushing option.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers – OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M*
Given that the Steelers have seemingly already given up on Mike Adams and that Levi Brown immediately suffered a season-ending injury, Matthews makes sense.
8. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins) – OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Joseph Barksdale has played well on the right side, but he lacks the long-term upside of Lewan, who would perfectly complement left tackle Jake Long.
9. Oakland Raiders – WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson*
The Raiders have received some decent production out of Denarius Moore and Rod Streater this year, but it would help to add more of a true number one target.
10. New York Giants – OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama*
Drafting Kouandjio wouldn’t necessary mean giving up on 2012 first-round pick Justin Pugh, it’d just cause Pugh to slide to a more natural position, right guard.
11. St. Louis Rams – LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
St. Louis hasn’t received the production it expected from its linebacker corps this season, but upgrading over JoLonn Dunbar and Will Witherspoon would help.
12. Cleveland Browns – WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M**
Josh Gordon provides Cleveland with a number one receiver who can stretch the field, but they could still stand to upgrade over their other starter, Greg Little.
13. Miami Dolphins – OT Cameron Erving, Florida St.*
Erving has the size and athletic ability to potentially man the blindside tackle position in the NFL, something that Jonathan Martin was originally drafted for.
14. Baltimore Ravens – DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame*
The offensive line is a mess, but it may prove hard for Baltimore to resist pairing Nix with Haloti Ngata, who would be allowed to slide back outside to end.
15. Tennessee Titans – DE Vic Beasley, Clemson*
Beasley is undersized, but fits the NFL’s recent trend of favoring more athletic options who can impact the passing game; he replaces Kamerion Wimbley.
16. San Diego Chargers – CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon*
None of San Diego’s cornerbacks, including 2012 free-agent signing Derek Cox, has played particularly well this year, creating an opportunity to invest there.