We are now mostly through Week 5 of the NFL season, and while it might be a little early, we are starting to see some real needs for each team—as well as key players in college football emerging as legitimate pro prospects.
Several teams have struggled in key areas, and some players just aren't getting the job done. These teams are already going to start looking for possible college prospects at these positions, hoping that they can scoop them up in the NFL draft come back.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Jadeveon Clowney is arguably the top pro prospect, but when your team has Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne under center, you need a quarterback more than anything.
The most pro-ready QB in this year's draft, Bridgewater, brings a lot to the table. He has a terrific arm and makes some truly great throws. Like all young quarterbacks, he needs to continue developing, but he's miles ahead of where 99 percent of college quarterbacks are at when they enter the NFL.
2. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Plenty of people are criticizing Clowney for a less productive season, but he looks just fine on film. Opposing offenses are simply doing whatever it takes to keep the play away from him, and doing that makes him just as important of a player.
Terrelle Pryor has been playing well enough that the Raiders shouldn't go for a quarterback in this year's draft. By adding Clowney, they could have an excellent defensive front with him and Lamarr Houston, which could make a big difference defensively.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Again, I'm tempted to put a quarterback down here, but we haven't seen enough of Mike Glennon at this point to say that he will or won't be the guy in 2014.
For a team that's as bad as the Buccaneers are right now, they don't really have too many holes. They're essentially going to be going with best player available here, and Barr is the second-best defensive player in the draft.
Barr has excellent speed and does a lot of things right at the outside linebacker position. He's someone who can get to the passer and stop the run. Some scouts compare him to Von Miller, and I'm sure the Bucs would be just fine if he turned out to be that good.
4. St. Louis Rams: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Vegas isn't too kind to the Rams, which is fair considering the competition they face in their own division and the losses they've faced already.
The top players available don't fit the needs of this team with the No. 4 overall pick, so they might reach for a player in a position that they need. Roby fits that need at cornerback, with the secondary really struggling this season. Cortland Finnegan hasn't been the player we're used to seeing, which means it might be time to find some other defensive backs.
Roby is the top corner in the nation right now, doing a great job playing both in press and soft coverage. His combination of athleticism and speed make him a perfect fit for this defense.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Steelers have a lot of holes right now. Almost everything about this team is falling apart, so they will be happy with any new faces in May.
Even with the trade for Levi Brown, this team needs help on the offensive line. There are a number of talented offensive linemen in this year's draft class, but Matthews is the best of this group. He would help take the pressure of Ben Roethlisberger and help open some lanes in the ground game.
6. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
This team is adding some great, young players. They're still a few pieces away from being a successful team, however, and could use some help on defense.
I've been impressed with Kiko Alonso so far, but the linebacker position is still thin. Mosley is a versatile linebacker who can play on the inside and outside. He's a freak athlete with some incredible instincts and a knack for getting to the ball.
He sometimes bites on play-action, but there's a lot of potential with this incredibly talented linebacker. Mosley could be a future Pro Bowler who would make the Bills defense a threat in the AFC someday.
7. Minnesota Vikings: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
It's time for the Vikings to move on from the Christian Ponder era. He's not progressing as a passer, instead he's regressing and hurting this team.
The Vikings would be absolutely thrilled to draft Mariota. He's a terrific athlete at the position who could completely change this offense. So far in the 2013 college season, he's put up 21 total touchdowns and almost 1,700 total yards in just six games.
With Mariota, Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson, this would be one of the most electric offenses in the NFL.
8. New York Jets: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Geno Smith, as inconsistent as he's looked, doesn't really have anyone to throw to this season.
The Jets could change that in May.
There isn't a better receiver right now in college football. Watkins had terrific size at 6'1'' and 205 pounds, which is combined with some impressive speed to make him a deadly weapon in any offense.
A healthy Santonio Holmes to go along with Watkins would make this offense a lot better than it is now.
9. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The offensive line for the Giants is just plain bad right now. They looked bad before all of the injuries, and they look even worse now.
They drafted Justin Pugh in last year's draft and he's played significant time. They need more help than that, so drafting Lewan out of Michigan is the way to go. He excels in man-blocking and has the technique that you look for in an offensive tackle.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: De'Anthony Thomas, OW, Oregon
The Eagles really need some help on defense, but there's no way that Chip Kelly is passing on his favorite offensive weapon from his days at Oregon.
We've seen that Thomas can thrive in this offense and understands how it works. Even with DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, the Eagles could use another playmaker to spread the field even further and make this one of the best offenses in the NFL.
It will be a controversial decision, yet one that will make this offense even more deadly.
11. Cleveland Browns: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Sorry, but Brian Hoyer wasn't the long-term answer. Even when he comes back form the injury, he's not going to be able to turn this team around.
The Browns need a franchise quarterback, plain and simple. Boyd has looked fantastic so far and has shown great presence in the pocket. He's a big quarterback with the speed to avoid the pressure and take off if necessary.
12. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Levi Brown is gone and Eric Winston could be gone after this season.
That offensive line is going to need some help.
There are two offensive tackles that people are debating over here, but I'm going with Kouandjio. He's struggled a bit to start the season, but people are going to forget that as the season continues and after the NFL combine.
13. Carolina Panthers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Steve Smith isn't going to play forever. His retirement is likely in the next few seasons at 34 years old.
It's time to start looking for his successor.
The most exciting option here would be Matthews out of Vanderbilt. He is an impressive receiver at 6'3'' and 206 pounds, blowing past defenders and putting up monster numbers. He had 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and he already has 709 yards and five touchdowns through just six games this year.
Cam Newton can do it all by himself, so this pick would add a new and exciting weapon to a team with a lot of developing, young talent.
14. San Diego Chargers: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The pass defense is struggling for the Chargers. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), they have a pass coverage grade of minus-21.4, the third-worst in the NFL.
Ekpre-Olomu has the speed and toughness to keep up with all different types of receivers. The Chargers desperately need a talented and versatile defensive back, so they would love to bring in a guy with the Oregon CB's set of skills.
15. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
The worst team in the league against the run, the Rams need to focus on their offensive line before they can think about bringing in talent to put behind Sam Bradford.
Richardson is the top offensive guard prospect for the upcoming draft. He can do it all, from pass-blocking to run-blocking, thanks to his aggressiveness and athleticism.
16. Tennessee Titans: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
If the Titans are one or two pieces away from having one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, bringing in Richardson could be the answer.
Richardson put himself on the map after completely shutting down Clowney almost single-handedly in 2012. He's a top-notch left tackle that would protect Locker's blind side in the 2014 and beyond.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Ravens might have a bigger need at receiver than any other team right now. Torrey Smith is good, but can they really trust a guy like Jacoby Jones or Marlon Brown as their No. 2 guy?
Lee's draft stock has taken a hit due to a knee injury this season, but he's a top-tier receiver with huge upside when healthy. The Ravens would consider this pick to be a steal and finally have a guy they can confidently start opposite of Smith.
18. Atlanta Falcons: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Falcons defense is depleted at the moment after injuries and departures. Quite simply, any help on the defensive line would be a big lift to this defense.
Nix could have been a first-rounder last year, but he will be one of the top D-line prospects after this season. He's an athletic defensive tackle who can take up space and make plays in the backfield, making him an automatic starter for the Falcons next season.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
With Jake Long gone, this offensive line is struggling. They need anything to help with that, and they will probably reach for someone just to fix that problem.
With Matthews, Lewan and Kouandjio all gone already, Erving is the next go-to guy. He isn't the most massive prospect at 6'5'' and 310 pounds, but he's solid and certainly worth a first-round pick.
20. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Surprisingly enough, there aren't a lot of holes on this Bengals team anymore. Where they could use some depth at is in the secondary, and Verrett is the best option available here.
Verrett is not a big corner at 5'10'' and 178 pounds, but he's tough as nails. He won't back down against a physical receiver and can make plays to turn the ball over with some soft hands.
21. Detroit Lions: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The secondary is one of the few big weaknesses for the Lions, so they will take the best defensive back they can get here.
Clinton-Dix has been part of an excellent Alabama defense for the past couple of defenses, and he's got the potential to be a game-changing safety. He's got good size at 6'1'' and great vision and ball skills to make him a first-rounder.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
With the quarterback situation taken care of, the Browns can focus somewhere else with their second first-round pick from Indianapolis. With Phil Taylor disappointing so far, they could certainly use some help on the defensive line.
Don't be surprised if they decide to pick up Jernigan. He's only starting in his first season, but he explodes off of the line and loves making big plays in the middle of that defense.
23. Houston Texans: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
As successful as the Texans have been over the past few seasons, they have a surprising amount of needs. They'll go for the best player at one of those positions, and Mack stands out from the rest.
The Texans would be getting a great pass-rusher in Mack. He's simply been a monster all season, bursting onto the scene in Week 1 against Ohio State with 2.5 sacks and a 45-yard pick-six.
He's got an awesome name and an even more awesome set of skills that will make this the first player of few drafted out of the MAC in 2014.
24. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
There are very few holes on this undefeated team. With that being said, wouldn't this offense be even better if they could find another big guy to play opposite of Dwayne Bowe?
Enter Brandon Coleman.
There are few pro prospects who are receivers and taller than Coleman at 6'5''. He's becoming a more and more attractive prospect with that size and speed, making him another ideal possession receiver who would make Alex Smith a very happy man.
25. Dallas Cowboys: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The Cowboys could use some help on that defensive line after moving to a 4-3 defense. They need some big bodies to stuff up running lanes and blow up plays.
Although he's a 3-4 defensive end, Tuitt has the tools to move inside and play defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. He's a big presence at 6'5'' and 303 pounds, and he could knock some interior offensive linemen on their rear ends throughout his career.
26. Chicago Bears: James Hurst, OT, UNC
I was high on the Bears offensive line at the beginning of the season, but now they're starting to show their true colors, which makes me think that maybe they need some more help on that side of the ball.
The next best offensive tackle would be Hurst, and he's the last of them that could be considered a first-round talent. The 2013 All-American candidate and preseason All-ACC selection has a chance to shoot up draft boards as the season continues, but his ideal frame and strong season so far should be proof enough that this guy can play at the next level.
27. Green Bay Packers: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
The Packers have tons of talent on offense and defense, but they need to make sure they can protect their franchise quarterback more than anything else.
Jackson is a big boy, that's the first thing you notice when you see him. He's big enough at 6'3'' and 335 pounds to handle his guy on the defensive line yet quick enough to be a pulling guard and kick out defenders to set up running lanes for guys like Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
The 49ers haven't been the same this year. A big part of that has been the secondary, which has been a liability for the most part this season.
For some reason Colvin isn't a big prospect among scouts at the moment, but he certainly passes the eye test when out there. He's got solid size, speed and plays well against a high level of competition that makes him worth a late first-round pick.
29. New England Patriots: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
This isn't a tough choice. I like Kenbrell Thompkins so far, but I don't think him and Danny Amendola are enough to get the job done in the passing game with Tom Brady.
Johnny Manziel hasn't been getting it done by himself this season. He's relied upon great play from Evans, who has been a very appealing NFL prospect. He's a 6'4'' possession receiver who has really solid hands and can make great catches anywhere on the field, including jumping up and snatching balls out of the air in the end zone.
30. New Orleans Saints: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Saints don't need help on offense. Drew Brees will take care of that. The defense has improved drastically, but they could use a bit more help getting to the quarterback.
They will likely be drooling over a player like Van Noy.
The BYU standout is an incredible pass-rusher, but also a complete player at outside linebacker. He has the ability to make plays in whatever defensive scheme he plays in at the next level as just an overall playmaker that could make this defense one that's above average, and that's all the Saints need with that offense.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
It's hard to point at any glaring weakness on this team, but a strong defensive tackle to line up with Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on that offensive line would give opposing offensive lines nightmares.
I wanted to put Anthony Johnson out of LSU here, but Sutton is the better fit for this scheme. He can play the three technique and be a legitimate pass-rusher on the inside, making him the more ideal choice late in the first round.
32. Denver Broncos: Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
As good as the offense has been, the one knock on them has been their struggling pass defense, which showed up big time against Tony Romo and the Cowboys.
A shutdown corner would help this team immensely. Exum is the perfect size to become just that, listed at 6'0'' and 224 pounds. He can keep up with the majority of outside receivers in the NFL and does a nice job turning his hips and keeping with them in man coverage.
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