Let's review what we know about the 2014 NFL Draft.
We know that the Houston Texans have the No. 1 overall pick. We know that three quarterbacks are generating significant buzz and could be among the top 10 players off the board. What we don't know is which teams in the top 10 will end up with Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles. Come to think of it, with just under three months until the draft, we still know very little about how it will all play out.
The St. Louis Rams are the one team that can throw a wrench into the whole first round. As of right now, it's not a certainty that the team is sold on Sam Bradford as its quarterback. Because of that, it's worth exploring what the first round might look like if St. Louis tries to replace Bradford.
Here's our best guess.
1. TRADE Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans) - Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
*Browns trade picks four and 26 to the Houston Texans for the first overall pick.
Trying to guess where Johnny Manziel will wind up on draft day is quickly becoming one of the hardest parts of mocking the 2014 NFL Draft. The Cleveland Browns are reportedly high on Manziel, but with three months between now and draft night, so much can change. On a conference call last week, Mel Kiper Jr. said Manziel is the consensus top quarterback in this draft based on people he has talked to. For now, we'll trust Kiper Jr.
In this hypothetical, the Browns trade picks four and 26 to the Texans to move up and get Manziel. Having two first-round picks gives Cleveland more ammo than any other team trying to move up in this draft. If Manziel really is their guy, the Browns shouldn't hesitate to move up and get him, even at this cost.
2. St. Louis Rams - Blake Bortles, Quarterback, Central Florida
Here's where the 2014 NFL Draft could get weird. Are the St. Louis Rams committed to Sam Bradford at quarterback? At this point, we have no reason to be sure one way or the other. For now, St. Louis has to be considered a possible candidate to draft a quarterback.
Blake Bortles is still a bit of an unfinished product at quarterback. His size and mobility make him an enticing prospect. Many have linked the Texans to Bortles, and it appears more and more likely that he will come off the board somewhere in the first eight picks of the draft. It's time for a new direction at quarterback in St. Louis.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
The Jaguars luck out here. For whatever reason, Teddy Bridgewater seems to be getting nitpicked, and may not be the lock for the first overall pick we once thought he was. Regardless, if he's on the board for the Jaguars at No. 3, they would be foolish to pass on him. He's head and shoulders above Manziel and Bortles as a passer and still has room to grow. The upside with Bortles and Manziel may get them drafted higher, but the idea that Bridgewater is done improving is off base. He's skilled at sensing and avoiding pressure and throws just about every route in the book with accuracy and anticipation. There's no reason he should fall to No. 3, but it seems like a plausible scenario at this point.
4. TRADE Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) - Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
Even after trading down, the Houston Texans manage to land the top player in the 2014 NFL Draft. Jadeveon Clowney could fit in opposite J.J. Watt in Houston's three-man front. If Antonio Smith leaves in free agency, Clowney makes even more sense for the Texans. His explosiveness is off the charts and he has the versatility to move all over the line of scrimmage.
The Raiders are in a tough spot if Clowney and all three quarterbacks come off the board in the first four picks. Offensive line is definitely a possibility, but injuries were a big cause of their problems at tackle in 2013. Oakland drafted Menelik Watson a year ago, and while he's far from a guarantee to develop, he may be enough to keep the team from investing heavily in the position. Sammy Watkins may seem like a luxury pick for a team that can't afford one, but he's the best player on the board and would help spark an offense desperate for playmakers. Quarterback can be addressed a bit later.
This may seem high for Kony Ealy, but he's going to be one of the stars of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine later this month. His movement skills are outstanding for a player his size, and he has the versatility to move all over Atlanta's four-man defensive front. Ealy's production ran a little hot and cold throughout his career at Missouri, but outside of Clowney, he has more developmental upside than any player in this draft.
Khalil Mack is a dynamic linebacker in the mold of what teams should be looking for in the position. He is a terror as a pass rusher off the edge but has plenty of stand-up skills that could come in handy in a 4-3 defense. With outside linebacker and pass rush both being issues in Tampa Bay, Mack would be an ideal fit.
*Jets trade picks 18 and 49 to the Minnesota Vikings for pick No. 8
When looking for a team that could trade up on draft day, desperation for a certain position or player is the first thing that comes into play. Desperate might be a fitting description for the Jets' current wide receiver situation. Mike Evans could elevate his draft stock into this range by the time the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is over. He's dominant at the catch point and skilled at coming back to the football. He's not as sudden an athlete as Watkins, but he still has the potential to be a No. 1 wide receiver. If New York wants to give Geno Smith a chance to succeed, surrounding him with a talent like Evans would be a good way to start.
9. Buffalo Bills - Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
This worked out nicely for the Bills, didn't it? The top two offensive tackles in the draft both fell into Buffalo's lap with the No. 9 pick. Many think Auburn's Greg Robinson has passed Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and will be the first tackle off the board, but Matthews still grades out as better prospect. He could slide in at right tackle for the Bills from day one.
The Lions certainly need help in the secondary, but Detroit would be wise to find some playmakers in the passing game. Outside of Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, Matthew Stafford didn't have any consistent receiving threats to rely on. Brandon Pettigrew is a free agent, and while Joseph Fauria was an efficient red-zone option as a rookie, Eric Ebron would be huge upgrade at tight end. He's a smooth and explosive route runner with the body control to adjust to poorly thrown passes consistently.
11. Tennessee Titans - Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
Greg Robinson probably won't fall any farther than this. The Auburn offensive tackle is a mauler, but has unrefined footwork. He wasn't asked to pass block in the traditional sense very often during his Auburn career, but his sheer athleticism and size will get him a look a lot earlier than this. He's a possible top-five pick who can come to Tennessee and start right away at right tackle.
Bradley Roby had an inconsistent junior season and has fallen a bit in most mock drafts as a result. He's still an explosive athlete, and that's likely to show up when he runs through drills at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Giants have been known to take the most talented players even if they aren't yet the most refined. Roby fits that description and fills a position of need for New York.
13. St. Louis Rams - Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC
Now that the Rams found a new quarterback, surrounding him with as much talent as possible should be a priority. Marqise Lee suffered through injuries for most of the 2013 season and that hurt his production. He's a natural burner, but needs to refine his technique when catching and get tougher at the line of scrimmage. His speed is outstanding, though, and he makes plays after the catch.
The Bears defense is starting to get old in a hurry. Chicago couldn't stop the run in 2013, and the secondary is in need of a few upgrades as well. With some of the top defensive linemen off the board, cornerback makes sense at pick No. 14. Since Chicago doesn't rely on press coverage as often as some teams, Jason Verrett should be high on its list of preferred cornerbacks. If he were a few inches taller and a bit heavier, he would have a chance to be a top-10 pick. He can click and close better than any corner in this class and is aggressive when the ball is in the air.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
Troy Polamalu is still playing at a high level, but Pittsburgh needs to find another playmaker for its secondary. Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix is a versatile safety who can play in single-high coverage, and come up to the line of scrimmage to defend the run. He would form a dangerous tandem with Polamalu and be able to replace him eventually.
16. Baltimore Ravens - Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
With all of the top wide receivers off the board, the Baltimore Ravens are likely to address the offensive line. Cyrus Kouandjio was exposed at times this season, particularly in the Sugar Bowl. Still, he's a big-time athlete with plenty of room to grow as a pass blocker.
*San Diego trades picks 25 and 89 to Dallas for pick No. 17
The interior of the Chargers' offensive line is a mess. San Diego secured the tackle position in the 2013 draft; adding more help on the interior should be the next priority. To ensure they get their choice of guard, the Chargers will likely have to trade up. Xavier Su'a-Filo is our top-ranked guard and the type of athlete at the position who is worth taking in the middle of the first round.
18. TRADE Minnesota Vikings (via New York Jets) - Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
With the top three quarterbacks off the board at pick No. 8, the Vikings could go a few different directions. They could reach for a quarterback at No. 8 or they could trade down and collect more picks. Obviously trading down is easier said than done. In this version of the NFL Draft, the Vikings find a trade partner and still get their quarterback. Derek Carr grades out as a second-round pick, but quarterbacks tend to get a bump in value as the draft approaches.
The Dolphins aren't likely to be picky about how they upgrade the offensive line. Zack Martin is a versatile player who could slide in at tackle or guard for Miami. After a strong senior season at Notre Dame and a good showing at the Senior Bowl, Martin seems to have secured a spot at the end of the first round.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Anthony Barr, Linebacker, UCLA
Anthony Barr is a player who could slide on draft weekend. While his length and speed turn heads and his production as a senior was impressive, he's not an advanced pass rusher or a complete linebacker. He misses a lot of tackles and lacks any sort of counter move. The Cardinals could use a pass rusher, and Barr will start to generate plenty of interest once he starts to fall this far. Arizona could be willing to take a chance.
Those who want C.J. Mosley to be the next Luke Kuechly as a prospect are likely to be disappointed. Mosley is still a quality inside linebacker prospect, but he's not quite as far along as Kuechly was coming out of Boston College. Positional value causes Mosley to slide a bit, but the Packers need an inside linebacker in the worst way. Ted Thompson would have to be thrilled if Mosley makes it to this pick.
The Eagles need more playmakers in the passing game, and that will become an even bigger issue if Jeremy Maclin leaves in free agency. Odell Beckham Jr. has reliable hands, great body control and plenty of speed. He's beginning to look more and more like a first-round lock.
With all of the top wide receivers off the board, the Chiefs have to go in a different direction with the No. 23 pick. Luckily, the Chiefs get some value at cornerback, another position of need. The NFL Scouting Combine will be important for Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. He needs to prove he has the straight-line speed to turn and run with receivers. Regardless, his aggressive nature would be welcomed in Kansas City's secondary.
The Bengals are one of the few teams in the league that can draft for value in the first round. They've built a solid roster and don't have too many dire needs. A few more talented pieces in the secondary would be nice, and Calvin Pryor is one of the best players available at this juncture.
25. TRADE Dallas Cowboys (via San Diego Chargers) - Ra'Shede Hageman, Defensive Tackle, Minnesota
The Cowboys would be wise to try to find a trade partner and move back. They need help along the defensive line, and the later portion of the first round is a sweet spot for value at that position. Ra'Shede Hageman would be an ideal target for Dallas and he's a bit less risky at this spot.
26. TRADE Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) - Jimmie Ward, Safety, Northern Illinois
With their extra pick from the Browns, the Texans add yet another piece to their defense that inexplicably took a step back in 2013. Jimmie Ward can move all over the secondary. He's shown the ability to be a big hitter at safety, and he flashed his man coverage skills at the Senior Bowl. If he's not taken in the first round, Ward won't last long on day two.
The Saints took a step forward on defense in 2013 but are still adding pieces for their 3-4 defense. Dee Ford is an undersized pass rusher, but he has both the power and movement skills to transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Ford's performance at the 2014 Senior Bowl likely made him a first-round pick.
It's time for the Carolina Panthers to find a big, physical receiver for Cam Newton to work with. Kelvin Benjamin certainly fits the bill. While he's had plenty of issues with his hands, Benjamin has the size and speed to develop into a dominant receiver in time.
The Patriots are likely going to be in the market for a tight end after Rob Gronkowski once again ended the season on injured reserve. A position that was a strength on the depth chart a year ago has become an area of concern. If New England wants another shot at a Super Bowl with Tom Brady, he needs a few more weapons around him.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
The 49ers' secondary has become an issue. Drafting Eric Reid helped a bit, but the Niners need to add some youth on the boundary. Justin Gilbert has appeared much higher than this in some mock drafts, but he's still somewhat flawed in the finer points of playing cornerback. His size and speed will make him a first-rounder, though.
After watching Peyton Manning deal with as much pressure as he did in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks, offensive line should be high on the Broncos' list of needs. Taylor Lewan didn't have the best senior season and could slide some. He's not likely to make it out of the first round, however.
The rich get richer. Aaron Donald would be a bit of a luxury pick for Seattle, but depth and versatility on the defensive line are huge for the Seahawks. Donald would provide both.