The draft order for the 2014 NFL Draft is set — at least the top 20 selections.
The playoffs will determine the selection order for the final 12 picks.
The Texans have locked up the No. 1 overall pick for the third time in franchise history and quarterbacks will be high on their wish list. It might also be tempting to draft a unique defensive talent like Jadeveon Clowney, the South Carolina pass rusher who would pair nicely with defensive end J.J. Watt.
Last year only one quarterback was drafted in the first round, but there will be several quarterback-needy teams picking early in May, including the Jaguars, Vikings and Browns, who are ready to bail on first-round quarterbacks under new regimes.
But will the demand outweigh the supply?
Probably so, which makes the answers to the questions above even more crucial.
With four months to figure out the answers, time will force the dominoes to fall, but if the draft were today, this is how I think it might play out.
1. Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
What a difference a year makes. The Texans have gone from a talented playoff team to the No. 1 pick, and are looking for a new head coach. Houston is set to pick in the top five for the first time since they selected Mario Williams No. 1 overall in 2006. If the Texans see a quarterback in this class that gives them an upgrade over Schaub/Keenum, that’s the pick and Bridgewater is the favorite to go first.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
This is a tough pill to swallow for the Redskins, who have earned this high of a pick, but traded it to the Rams two years ago in the Robert Griffin deal. Expect the Rams to offer up this pick for ransom, similar to two years ago, but if they keep it, GM Les Snead and his staff have the luxury of going best player available, which is the Clowney.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Jaguars regime appears prepared to move on from the Blaine Gabbert era in Jacksonville and no one can blame them. Manziel is a lightning rod as a pro prospect, but someone in the top-10 will take a chance on his playmaking ability, possibly the Jaguars.
4. Oakland Raiders – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Raiders use multiple looks on defense and will tinker with different 3-4 formations, something they’ll show more of if Oakland can add a talented pass rusher like Barr. A California native, the UCLA sack artist is a powerful athlete with loads of potential.
5. Cleveland Browns – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Brandon Weeden won’t be back in Cleveland, Jason Campbell is a stopgap and while Brian Hoyer is still in the team’s long-term plans, he’s coming off an ACL injury and Cleveland needs to add a young arm to the mix. Bortles is very reminiscent of Ben Roethlisberger when he was coming out of Miami (Ohio) and has intriguing pro potential.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Falcons have more than a few needs, but one of them is at left tackle where Atlanta needs to find a long-term replacement for Sam Baker. Matthews isn’t flashy, but he’s a model of consistency and is effective in pass protection and run blocking.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has done just enough to likely earn another season as the starter in Tampa and in order to help him develop, the Buccaneers would be wise to add another vertical weapon at receiver. Watkins is a dangerous playmaker with explosive traits with the ball in his hands.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Minnesota is stuck in quarterback mediocrity with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and newly acquired Josh Freeman. Even with a coaching search underway, quarterback has to be No. 1 on the off-season priority list and Carr has the arm talent that Christian Ponder never showed.
9. Buffalo Bills – CJ Mosley, OLB, Alabama
The Bills have found themselves an impact middle linebacker with Kiko Alonso and could upgrade the outside linebacker spot with the athleticism and heady instincts of Mosley.
10. Detroit Lions – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Lions expected more out of their secondary this season, but the results haven’t been quite what they expected. Dennard isn’t the fastest and needs to control his aggressive nature downfield, but he works hard to gain positioning and blankets receivers with his physicality.
11. Tennessee Titans – Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
The Titans pass defense is ranked top-10 in the league, but Tennessee could use an upgrade to its pass rush. Mack is a versatile front-seven pass rusher who is effective rushing off the edge or stunting from different angles.
12. New York Giants – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Giants offense was all over the map this season and while there is plenty of blame to go around, the front office needs to tweak certain positions, including tight end. Ebron has the athleticism of a receiver and instantly creates mismatches for opposing defenses.
13. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
St. Louis added Jake Long in free agency last offseason, but he suffered a torn ACL last week and Robinson would be an upgrade over Rodger Saffold and Joseph Barksdale on the other side. No player has shot up boards more than Robinson, who has top-15 potential if he declares early.
14. Chicago Bears – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The Bears need to add depth in the secondary at both cornerback and safety this offseason. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are on the wrong side of 30 and soon-to-be free agents, which could push cornerback to the top of Chicago’s need list.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
The Steelers aren’t a player away from seriously contending and need to rebuild at several key spots on the depth chart, including both the offensive and defensive line. Nix can be the replacement for Casey Hampton the Steelers have been searching for at nose tackle.
16.* Baltimore Ravens – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Ravens have deep threats at receiver with Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown, but could use a larger, more physical talent for Joe Flacco to target. Evans won’t run a blazing 40-yard dash but he’s fast enough with the aggressive nature to win contested throws and be a threat after the catch.
16.* Dallas Cowboys – HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Cowboys drafted the strong safety of the future last season with J.J. Wilcox, but free safety is a different discussion. Clinton-Dix would provide an immediate upgrade at free safety and would help give Dallas some semblance of a pass defense.
18. New York Jets – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Although he’s been a turnover machine, Geno Smith will likely hold onto the starting gig for another year. And the Jets need to add more weapons to the offensive arsenal and Lee will be one of the targets New York will consider.
19. Miami Dolphins – Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Dolphins might be able to get by with their patchwork offensive line for now, but no question an upgrade is needed. Kouandjio is still developing and needs to improve his technique, but the size and athleticism combo is enough to earn him a spot in the top-20.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Cardinals defense has been quietly been one of the better units in the league, but need to get younger at outside linebacker. Shazier has shown the versatility to be effective dropping in space (122 tackles this season) or rushing the passer and making stops in the backfield (22.5 tackles for loss).
21. Green Bay Packers – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Incumbent Packers starting tight ends Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless are both free agents after this season so the Packers might be shopping for a new starter at the position next offseason.
22. San Diego Chargers – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Chargers addressed the offensive line in the first round last April with D.J. Fluker, but San Diego still needs help in the trenches, specifically at left tackle. Lewan has the athleticism, base and wingspan to start at left tackle as a rookie.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
Chip Kelly will continue to build the Eagles’ defense and look to get bigger, faster and stronger. Hageman is an upgrade in all three of those areas and would give Philadelphia a versatile guy in the trenches.
24. Kansas City Chiefs – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Chiefs offense needs to add more playmakers that will help produce explosive plays. Benjamin might give some Kansas City fans flashbacks of Jonathan Baldwin, because of the size, speed and potential, but he’s worth the gamble here.
25. Cincinnati Bengals – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Bengals have some talented players on the depth chart at cornerback, but need to continue to build depth there. Gilbert has the size, body control and overall speed to hold up on an island at the NFL level.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
The right tackle position has been a trouble spot for the Browns offense this season and Cleveland should toy with the idea of adding a right tackle and moving Mitchell Schwartz inside to guard. Ogbuehi isn’t quite as well-known as his teammate Jake Matthews, but he is almost as talented with a high ceiling himself.
27. New Orleans Saints – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
With the Saints utilizing a 3-4 base defense in 2013, athletic and versatile stand-up pass rushers are important pieces to what Rob Ryan wants to do. Beasley does a nice job converting speed to power and flashes intriguing pass rush skills.
28. New England Patriots – Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
The Patriots need to build depth on the defensive line and New England covets versatile front-seven players who can fill several roles. Tuitt moves well for his size and has versatile experience lining up all over the defensive line in college.
29. San Francisco 49ers – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
San Francisco needs to get younger at cornerback and Verrett would be a good fit at nickel and also compete for a starting role as a rookie.
30. Carolina Panthers – Allen Robinson, WR Penn State
Can the Panthers really go another off-season without finding more weapons for Cam Newton? Robinson has been one of the most productive receivers over the past few seasons, for several different quarterbacks. He isn’t overly special athletically, but he is a natural at the position.
31. Denver Broncos – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
With Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers both hitting free agency after the season, the pass rush could be an area of need for the Broncos in the draft. Ealy has first round tools and his NFL ceiling is higher than his production in college would indicate.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Zach Martin, OG, Notre Dame
The starting offensive guards in Seattle have produced inconsistent results so far this season. Martin, who lines up at left tackle for the Irish, projects best at guard where he could be worth a first-round pick.