With the 2014 NFL Draft starting on Thursday, we're finally going to get to find out where the top prospects will end up for this upcoming season. This includes many SEC prospects, including those you were rooting for when you were betting on SEC football. If you feel like this draft season has gone on forever, you're not alone; the draft was pushed back three weeks due to scheduling conflicts at Radio City Music Hall.It's scheduling conflicts like this that has caused the NFL to consider moving the draft out of its longtime home in New York.
All that's for future drafts. For the next week, everyone will be paying attention to the current draft, and the top prospects.
Have you not been following along for the past month and a half, and have missed out on what your team needs, and which players are good? Have no fear, we're here with a handy cheat sheet for you. We'll tell you which teams are looking for which position, who the top players at that position are, and about where they should fall in the draft proper.
There's a degree of subjectivity in the draft grading process, of course—some people, for example, consider Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr a first-round pick, while others have him go as late as round four. That's what makes the draft so exciting, though. Let's take a quick, cheat-sheet-style glance at who teams will be targeting come Thursday night and through the weekday.
Teams most in need: Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, MinnesotaTop 5 prospects:
Plenty of teams in need for a quarterback, but there'll be a scramble for the top few names. This is why players like Derek Carr and AJ McCarron could slip into earlier rounds; there's a shortage of gameday-ready players at the position.
Teams most in need: Tennessee, Jacksonville, NY Giants, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, Arizona, Carolina.Top 10 prospects:
Bad year to be the Tennessee Titans, who need to find a replacement for the departed Chris Johnson. There should be plenty of value on days two and three, however, for teams willing to wait a bit.
Teams most in need: Detroit, Baltimore, NY Jets, Kansas City, Seattle, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, New Orleans, Carolina, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Arizona.Top 15 prospects:
This is a fantastic year to be looking for a wide receiver, as the pool is one of the deepest it's been in years. This class has the talent to challenge the '96 receiving class as best of all time. 1996 saw Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Marvin Harrison, Eric Moulds, Muhsin Muhammad, Terrell Owens, Joe Horn and Jermaine Lewis all have Pro Bowl careers in the NFL. This class could be every bit as good.
Teams most in need: New England, Buffalo, Green Bay, Atlanta, NY Jets.Top 5 prospects:
Eric Ebron should be one of the most interesting players to watch during the first round of the draft. On a pure talent perspective, he's one of the top 10 players available in this year's draft. There isn't a team who desperately needs a tight end, however, so it'll be interesting to see when his pure talent overcomes team needs. I could see him going as early as number 9 to Buffalo or as late as number 29 to New England. His rise or fall could have a cascade effect on the rest of the draft.
Teams most in need: Atlanta, NY Giants, St. Louis, Miami, Arizona, Carolina.Top 5 prospects:
This year's an off-year for tackles, compared to last year's draft. To get to five first-rounders, I had to include Martin, who projects as more of an interior lineman in the NFL. With six teams potentially looking for first-round tackles, one or two of them will find themselves odd-men out after Thursday night.
Teams most in need: Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Miami, New England, San Francisco, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle.Top 10 prospects:
Lots of teams with needs on the interior, but not a lot of top players to fill those needs. You're looking at Su'a-Filo or converting Zack Martin if you're looking for potential first-round selections in the middle of your offensive line, and that's pretty much a stretch as it is. I'd expect New England and San Francisco to end up with the top two centers, Martin and Richburg. After that, it's all up in the air.
Teams most in need: Minnesota, NY Giants, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore, San Francisco.Top 10 prospects:
After arguably the best player in this class in Clowney, the defensive end position cools off a little bit. There's some serious value to be found in the 20th-40th pick selection, however, meaning teams like San Francisco or Cincinnati could hit a big-time name without reaching much. If you're stuck in the middle of the round, though, you're probably missing out on Clowney and yet would have to significantly reach for the next tier. It's a rough spot to be in.
Teams most in need: Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Cincinnati, San Diego, New England, Oakland, Tampa Bay, NY Giants, Seattle.Top 10 prospects:
It's a great draft for people clogging up the center of your defensive line. While rumors have the Cowboys seriously considering taking quarterback Johnny Manziel, I think they'd be better off adding to their defensive front with a player like Donald. Chicago and New England could also be early defensive tackle selectors come draft day.
Teams most in need: New Orleans, Houston, Washington, Tennessee, Arizona, Green Bay, San Diego, Denver, Cleveland, Oakland.Top 10 prospects:
It's a tale of two positions at linebacker. If you're looking for a pass-rusher on the outside, you're spoiled for choice. Eight of the top 10 prospects ply their trade on the outside, and that ratio continues through the first five rounds of the draft. If you're looking for the next Ray Lewis on the inside, however, your choices are limited. C.J. Mosley is as good as anyone in the draft, and Chris Borland shows promise, but you're probably waiting until day three if you're looking for anyone else.
Teams most in need: Washington, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Diego, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Tennessee.
Day two should be a cornerback feeding frenzy, with as many as 11 cornerbacks well within range to be taken in rounds two and three alone. The first round would be even more cluttered if Washington and Indianapolis still had their first-round selections; as it is, there should still be a massive run on the position in 20s.
Teams most in need: Chicago, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Oakland, St. Louis.Top 5 prospects:
The winner of the best name in the draft goes, unquestionably, to Hasean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, but he's not just a great name—he's the top player at his position. There's a significant drop-off after Brooks, all the way down to the fourth round, so if your team needs a top safety, they'd better take one sooner rather than later.
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