Week 17 can be an emotional roller coaster for teams fighting for a playoff spot. As each team competes to make the playoffs, others are left fighting for top draft picks. For now, this list will apply to the teams that have their draft position in 2014 set in stone. In other words, this list will handle the teams that failed to make the playoffs in 2013 and can begin scouting the collegiate ranks for their pick of the litter. Part I will provide analysis of the teams drafting 1-5 in April.
Here is the full list of teams who know where they pick in April:
|2||St. Louis Rams (from Redskins)|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|12||New York Giants|
|13||St. Louis Rams|
|17||New York Jets|
We are not the only ones looking ahead to the draft, as CBS Sports has compiled a list of their top NFL Draft prospects:
|RANK||PLAYER||POS.||POS. RANK||SCHOOL||CLASS||HT.||WT.||PROJ. ROUND|
|1||Jake Matthews||OT||1||Texas A&M||Sr||6-5||305||1|
|2||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||1||South Carolina||Jr||6-5||274||1|
|7||Darqueze Dennard||CB||1||Michigan State||Sr||5-11||197||1|
|8||Mike Evans||WR||2||Texas A&M||rSo||6-5||225||1|
|9||Cameron Erving||OT||3||Florida State||rJr||6-5||320||1|
|12||Derek Carr||QB||2||Fresno State||rSr||6-3||218||1|
|14||Cedric Ogbuehi||OT||5||Texas A&M||rJr||6-5||300||1|
|16||Eric Ebron||TE||1||North Carolina||Jr||6-4||245||1|
|17||Johnny Manziel||QB||3||Texas A&M||rSo||5-11||210||1|
|18||Stephon Tuitt||DE||2||Notre Dame||Jr||6-6||312||1|
1. Houston Texans (2-14)
The Texans were a popular pick to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. 14 losses and one head coach later, the Texans seemed to do everything wrong this season, except for earning the highly coveted first overall pick.
The first time the Texans had the 1st overall pick was the year their franchise was assembled in 2002, drafting quarterback David Carr from Fresno State. Carr did not come close to having a career warranting the #1 selection. Ironically, 12 seasons after selecting Carr first overall, one of the top quarterbacks in the coming class is Derek Carr of Fresno State. Derek is the younger brother of David, but before Texans fans begin lose their minds, Carr is not projected as the best overall draft prospect.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston addressed their need of improving an offensive line that allowed 42 sacks and was completely ineffective in producing a foundation for a quality run game. Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M could be a fit for Houston.
On the other side of the ball, Jadeveon Clowney is considered by many as the top overall prospect. However, I doubt Houston will draft a defensive lineman first overall again a la Mario Williams in 2006. It will be interesting to see what Houston does with 2014′s first overall pick, as déjà vu will certainly be lingering in the Texans draft room come April.
2. St. Louis Rams (From Washington (3-13))
Was RGIII really worth the price the Redskins paid for him last April? Only time will tell if Robert Griffin III is worth three first round picks and a second round pick. Regardless, the Redskins had a horrible season, which benefits the Rams who wisely traded out of the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft in order to make way for Washington to select Baylor’s first and only Heisman winner.
Rams GM Les Snead now sits in the drivers seat for St. Louis. The Rams are sitting pretty with the 2nd and 13th first round draft picks in 2014. Before predicting what the Rams will do with the 2nd pick, SI’s Peter King reported that the Rams are already open to trading the 2nd pick. “There are going to be some teams that want to pick a quarterback,” said Snead, “and that could increase the value of our pick. I have told people I’m not sure I know how to draft without multiple first-round picks, so I’m always going to be interested when it comes to making sure I can continue to do that.”
If St. Louis decides to sit tight at No. 2, they have to consider adding another weapon for Sam Bradford to play opposite of speedy Offensive ROY candidate Tavon Austin. Perhaps WR Sammy Watkins out of Clemson would be the Rams best bet, as he combines speed and size like no other receiver in this draft. Don’t be surprised if you see the Rams trading down come draft day.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)
One year after selecting offensive tackle Luke Joeckel second overall out of Texas A&M, Jacksonville finds themselves picking in the top five yet again. The 2013 season wasn’t a complete disappointment for the Jags, as at one point this season they were the hottest team in the AFC and were hopeful of reaching the playoffs. While they didn’t succeed in making the playoffs, progress was demonstrated under first-year head coach Gus Bradley.
Considering Jacksonville holds on to the third pick, they could go in an array of directions come draft day. First off, Jacksonville’s defense was atrocious this season, allowing 379.4 yards per game (T-27th in the NFL) and sacking the quarterback just 31 times (Last in the NFL). While they don’t exactly have a franchise quarterback in Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert, if Clowney is still available at 3, it will be hard to pass up a player that can annihilate anything in his path.
This is especially true in a draft class that doesn’t boast a definitive, NFL ready quarterback. By building a defense around Clowney, Jacksonville could grab a quarterback in the second or third round. If Clowney is there, I don’t see how the Jags could pass on him.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
2013 was a whirlwind of a year for Cleveland. After unexpectedly trading former first-round pick Trent Richardson to the Colts in just the third week of the season, front office surprises continued following the final week of the season. The Browns made it official Sunday night that they had decided to fire head coach Rob Chudzinski, to add to the Factory of Sadness in Cleveland.
The firing came as a shock to fans and Browns players alike. “We’ve had some crazy things happen since I’ve been here. … But this one, this tops the list. This is just crazy,” D’Qwell Jackson said. Owner Jimmy Haslam preached stability and patience when he bought the team just one year ago. SI’s Peter King spoke to Haslam in October 2012, “One thing I learned from watching the Steelers is the importance of consistency in coaching, and how much it sets you back when you’re always making a change. When you change coaches, it can be a three-or four-year deal to get back.”
With such flux and instability, it can be difficult to predict potential draft picks of an unpredictable NFL front office such as the Cleveland Browns. Do they draft the next franchise quarterback two years removed from drafting Brandon Weeden in the first round? What about Cleveland native Brian Hoyer, who was the best of the three quarterbacks who started in Cleveland this season, before suffering a season ending torn-ACL against Buffalo in Week 5? What about Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger, who were brought in to bolster Cleveland’s pass rush, yet only produced two more sacks this season than in 2012?
A lot of question marks surround the Browns and their No. 4 overall pick. Hopefully 2014 will provide long-awaited answers for a deserving Cleveland fan base.
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12)
Another mundane year for the silver and black, another top 10 draft pick. 2013 marks the second consecutive 4-12 season under head coach Dennis Allen for the Raiders. Quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor simply did not get the job done in 2013, as they combined to throw more interceptions than touchdowns.
Sitting pretty with the 5th pick, a quarterback selection could be in the works for Raider Nation. If they declare for the Draft, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and 2012 Heisman winner Johnny “Football” Manziel could be on the top of Oakland’s draft board.
A quarterback will be needed to lift the 24th ranked passing offense in the league. Derek Carr could be a possible selection by the Raiders as well, as he has a similar style of play as the mobile Manziel. Bridgewater is more of the prototypical pocket passer that has been successful in the NFL.
Stay tuned for analysis of teams drafting 6-10 coming soon.
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