Nothing is a guarantee going into the 2014 NFL draft but there are plenty of likelihoods. With that in mind, what are a few surprises fans should watch for in May?
St. Louis Rams take Sammy Watkins
Pretty much every team in the top ten has a short list of players laid out by the experts that they will probably pick. The one team that is becoming harder and harder to predict is the St. Louis Rams. Will they go offensive line, defensive line or even quarterback? One option seldom discussed is they also could go wide receiver. Tavon Austin wasn’t quite the gamebreaker they hoped in 2013 and Sam Bradford could use a more reliable target. That makes Sammy Watkins of Clemson awfully tempting when they go on the clock.
New York Giants grab Mike Evans
One of the more surprisingly active teams in free agency was the New York Giants. Their defense has undergone a serious overhaul with the additions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond at corner and JaMeel McClain at linebacker. Then there was the under-the-radar signing of Geoff Schwartz to fill in at the thin guard spot. That has left the draft options wide open for the G-Men, and the one area of the roster they hasn’t seen any action is wide receiver. With the loss of Hakeem Nicks the team needs a new outside option for Eli Manning, and the 6’5″ monster Mike Evans out of Texas A&M may be the one for them.
Cleveland Browns don’t take a quarterback in first round
The top ten of the 2014 NFL draft is burdened by teams in need of a quarterback. The Cleveland Browns are obviously among them and they have better position than most because they possess two first round picks. However, based on the latest projections and feelers it seems the top quarterbacks are all over the map in terms of stock. Since they have ten picks overall and one of the first available in the second round, there is a very real possibility the Browns forego taking a quarterback in the first round and instead wait until early in the second. This way the two first rounder can be devoted to “safer” talents on offense or defense.
New York Jets take a corner in the first round
All the talk about the New York Jets adding offensive weaponry early and often in the draft is no surprise. At the same time, it’s easy for people to forget the head coach of that team is a defensive guy and it’s become clear Rex Ryan is not happy with the current status of the cornerback situation. Antonio Cromartie is gone and the team failed to bring in help in free agency, leaving the group in the hands of shaky 2013 first round pick Dee Milliner. Unless they are able to get help on the market somehow, there is a very real possibility that Gang Green folds under the pressure and decides to get a cornerback in the first round again rather than continue arming Geno Smith.
Green Bay Packers go after Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor
Re-signing Sam Shields and adding Julius Peppers really helped out the defense for the Green Bay Packers but their main problem remains inconsistency on the back end at safety. Sitting at #21 in the first round, it’s not realistic to think they have a shot at landing one of the top two options in the 2014 NFL draft. Both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor are expected to go somewhere in the 11-20 range. That means the Packers, normally not known for being very aggressive early might have to move up the board to get one of them.
Carolina Panthers go offensive line in the first round
Each day that ticks by leaves the Carolina Panthers more and more desperate to upgrade at wide receiver. Steve Smith is gone, as are Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell. It’s a situation that almost guarantees the team will select a receiver in the first and perhaps the second round as well. Then again, the team doesn’t exactly have a strong history of taking wide outs that early. The last time they grabbed one in the first round was Rae Carruth in 1997. Panther fans almost certainly have bad memories of that debacle. Meanwhile, the franchise has taken an offensive lineman twice with their first pick, including long-time anchor Jordan Gross who is now a free agent. Given the depth of the 2014 class, Carolina could very well spurn the receiver position in round one in favor of finding a replacement for Gross up front.