How many quarterbacks will go in the opening round? Where will quarterback Johnny Manziel end up? Will the Packers finally get some defensive help with the 21st pick?
These are all good questions, which will finally get answered tonight, when the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft takes place in New York City. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen tonight, but here is my best guess on just how the opening round will unfold, minus the trades, which will certainly take place once things get rolling.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
New head coach Bill O’Brien can get his quarterback in the second or third round, thus can’t turn down the chance to put Clowney on the same d-line as J.J. Watt.
2. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is a tempting pick, but protecting QB Sam Bradford in a division with Seattle and San Francisco is a bigger priority.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Jags really need a QB, but head coach Gus Bradley comes from Seattle, where the Seahawks used a dominant defense to win the Super Bowl.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Like the Rams, Cleveland thinks hard about drafting Watkins, but Manziel is a perfect fit for a team that needs a playmaking QB to inject life back into the franchise.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Raiders miss out on Manziel, and are tempted to grab QB Blake Bortels, but are pleasantly surprised to see Watkins fall to them.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
No team needs offensive linemen like the Falcons, and Robinson might just be the best tackle in this year’s draft.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bucs could take Bortels, but ultimately decide getting an elite tackle is more important, when the QB position can be taken care of in the second round.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortels, QB, Central Florida
The Vikings learned last season that having no QB means you have no chance. It won’t take long for Bortels to overtake Matt Cassel as Minnesota’s starting signal caller.
9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With the top three offensive tackles off the board, the Bills turn to their other biggest need, and hit a home run with the 6-foot-5 receiver.
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Lions were really hoping Evans would fall to them, but have no problem taking the best cornerback in the draft, who also had six kickoff returns for touchdowns in his college career.
11. Tennessee Titans: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Titans really could use a quarterback, but Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is too big of a reach here, so they get a potential steal in Donald, who led the NCAA in tackles for loss last year.
12. New York Giants: Zach Martin, OG, Notre Dame
Martin played tackle in college, but his size makes him more suited to play guard in the NFL. He will be an opening-day starter for whoever drafts him, and the Giants always value good o-linemen.
13. St. Louis Rams: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Louisiana State
The Rams passed on receiver with the No. 2 overall pick, but find a good one at No. 13. Last season, Beckham broke the LSU single-season record for all-purpose yards with 2,315.
14. Chicago Bears: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Bears had their season end when a busted coverage let Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb run free to the endzone. Dennard is the type of player that won’t let such a play happen again.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Steelers need a cornerback and the physical Roby is the best one available. And with the top receivers off the board, Roby is the most logical selection.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Cowboys need to find pass rushers after DeMarcus Ware was let go in the offseason, and Barr recorded 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last season for the Bruins.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
There are two elite safeties in this year’s draft, and Clinton-Dix is one of them. Playing in the SEC in college has prepared him best for facing NFL offenses.
18. New York Jets: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Jets miss Derrelle Revis in their secondary, and may make a bit of a reach with Fuller, whose two older brothers – Vincent and Corey – either played or are still playing in the NFL.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Remember the Jonathan Martin scandal? Martin is now in San Francisco, which means Miami needs an offensive tackle. Kouandjio opened big holes for an Alabama offense that pounded the ball.
20. Arizona Cardinals: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Cards have a good defense, but it’s not the caliber of division rivals San Francisco and Seattle. Mosley, who led Alabama in tackles the last two seasons, could change that.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
The demise of Green Bay’s defense can be traced back to the loss of Nick Collins to a neck injury in 2011. Pryor is big-hitting safety who can change a defense, much like Seattle’s Earl Thomas, which makes him a no-brainer pick, if he is still available here. Other options could include Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman or North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
One of the reasons the Eagles cut ties with DeSean Jackson is because they knew they could find his replacement in a draft loaded with receivers. Cooks, like Jackson, is undersized with speed to burn.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
The Chiefs lost not one, but two guards in free agency, making it a position of need. Su’a-Filo, who was the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in the Pac 12 last season, can also play tackle.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Don’t be shocked if the Bengals take Fresno State QB Derek Carr, but in the end, the best player available is Shazier. The former Buckeye will be a fan favorite in Cincinnati.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dam
The Chargers could use a receiver, but nose tackle is also a need, and Nix is a good one. He should demand double teams, which will free up other playmakers on the San Diego defense.
26. Cleveland Browns: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Browns got their QB in Manziel early in the draft, now they need to give him more weapons to throw to. Benjamin, who caught the game-winning pass in the BCS Championship Game, is a big target at 6-foot-5.
27. New Orleans Saints: Jason Verrett, CB, Texas Christian
The pass-happy Saints could always take a receiver like USC Marqise Lee, or Indiana’s Cody Latimer, but instead take Verrett, who turned heads with his athleticism at the combine.
28. Carolina Panthers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Panthers really need a receiver, but with the draft’s top tight end still on the board, who played right down the road at UNC, the Panthers still get good value late in the first round.
29. New England Patriots: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Defense is where the Patriots need to get better, and younger. Hageman, who stands 6-foot-6 and was Minnesota’s MVP last season, will fit nicely in New England.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The 49ers like pass rushers, and Ealy is just that. In a draft lacking guys who can get to the QB, San Francisco is thrilled to nab Ealy late in the first round.
31. Denver Broncos: Joel Bitonio, OG/OT, Nevada
In the Super Bowl loss to Seattle, Denver learned it must do a better job protecting QB Peyton Manning. Bitonio, who can play anywhere on the line, is ready to start in the NFL.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California
Pete Carroll is unable to turn down the chance to take a USC receiver, who should provide an upgrade over Golden Tate, who left via free agency in the offseason.