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Chris graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing. He has spent a lot of time working with the media. From engineering radio broadcast for most of Atlanta’s major sports teams to shooting high school football games behind a camera, Chris has a lot of media experience. Besides that, he loves soccer, detective shows, and a buffet list of 'nerdy' things that would embarrass his wife.

Which Top 10 Pick of the NFL Draft Will Reverse Their Team’s Fortunes in 2014

With all the excitement that buzzed around the start of this year’s NFL Draft, you’d think that kick-off was only a few hours away. Even though the games only take place in the latter part of the calendar, the start of the 2014-2015 season of the NFL has actually already come and gone. Free Agency and contract talks have been going on since the end of the winter, and for many teams, the draft is the last time they’ll get a chance to improve their odds of winning their conference.

This is especially true for the teams selecting in this year’s Top 10. While it’s very prestigious for whichever player is chosen, it’s hardly a glowing compliment to the teams who find themselves in these positions. All of them finished near or at the bottom of the league last year. In fact, these teams are usually the last teams that any player would want to play on. However, this year is a little different as there are a couple that are maybe 1 pick away from being contenders in their conference. Teams like Houston, Atlanta and Detroit are seen by many as just shy of being the conference favorite. But 1 pick can change it all, and this article will look at how the first 10 teams in the draft fared.

1st Pick: Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina

Clowney-Hit

The Texans’ defense looks really scary with Clowney (Image Credit: Newsobserver.com)

Many people thought that Bill O’Brien being the “QB guru” that he was meant that the Texans were definitely going with a new franchise signal caller. The signs were there. After all, O’Brien was at New England when Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady was breaking all those records. Plus, they bounced Matt “Pick-Six” Schaub over to Oakland. But would you pass on the best player in the draft? No, and neither did the Texans, who picked up Tom Savage in the 4th round yesterday.

Adding Clowney to the likes of Brian Cushing and the J.J. Watt is only going to make Houston’s already formidable defense even nastier. I heard some rumblings that Khalil Mack would have been a better fit for their defensive scheme, but you do not pass on a talent like South Carolina’s Clowney. Andrew Luck better hope that the Colts O-line brings their A-game at least twice a year. If not, then the Texans will dominate and find themselves atop the AFC South yet again.

2nd Pick: St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT Auburn

In the NFC West, you’re going to get hit and pushed around, whether it’s by defensive or offensive lineman. The key to this pick is that it signals to the rest of the world that Sam Bradford is the guy in St. Louis. There was talk about the Rams going with a new quarterback, but ultimately St. Louis decided to protect their current QB instead. Robinson should be able to throw his weight around in the ultra-competitive NFC West. He is a very big and physically gifted tackle, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to stop the talented pass rushers of Seattle and San Francisco.

While it would have been interesting to see St. Louis actually give their franchise quarterback some talent to throw to, this pick will help keep the injury-plagued Bradford off the training staff’s table somewhat – a huge key to success for the Rams. I feel like everyone in the West is stacked, and all St. Louis would have to do is take 1 game from each of the three other teams in their division to have a chance to finish atop. I’m sure Washington would love to have that pick back, but the Rams did excellent by picking up a good DT in Aaron Donald to go with the Greg Robinson pick.

3rd Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles, QB Central Florida

I don’t necessarily think this is a terrible pick, considering that the Jags haven’t had a franchise QB in a while. But they already said that Henne will start this year, so surely they could have waited? Essentially, the Jags are in full rebuild mode. It was kind of expected considering that they got rid of MJD, Justin Blackmon is probably not playing for a long time and one pick was hardly going to see them automatically compete with the Texans and Colts. They did acquire Marquis Lee (WR out of USC) in the 2nd round, but the Bortles pick by itself wasn’t a game changer.

4th Pick: Buffalo Bills – Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson

Sammy-Watkins

Buffalo trade up for Watkins (Image Credit: Adam Hunger – USA Today Sports)

This sort of reminds me of the Julio trade the Falcons did a few years ago. It came out of nowhere, and the two picks that Cleveland got in exchange were questionable. However, there is no question that the Bills chose the best wide receiver in this year’s draft. Now anyone who watched coverage of the draft heard the pundits immediately discuss how this signaled the end of Stevie Johnson in Buffalo. Well, it did and now Watkins joins former Buc Mike Williams, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Robert Woods as the playmakers for E.J. Manuel.

With another year for the Bills revamped defense to gel, there may be a bit more heat on the Patriots this year. The Bills easily have the most weapons on offense of any team in their division (if the Pats don’t get Gronk back to 100%). However, it’s up to Manuel to get the Bills back to the promised land, and Watkins might be the player to do that. Think Randy Moss – Minnesota Vikings (1st time).

5th Pick: Oakland Raiders – Khalil Mack, OLB Buffalo

It was a shame that Oakland couldn’t be Oakland for this round. Atlanta could have been great for Mack. Oh well, that’s life. This pick was a very good pick for the Raiders, having added Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley in free agency. Make no mistake – defense will win this division. I think that a young and talented linebacker like Mack will help Oakland contain the talented runners and receiving threats of the AFC West.

I wrote last year about how Oakland was one of the 2013-2014 season’s disappointments, but I think that this pick may have signaled a change for the much maligned Raider Nation. It’s hard to imaging them topping their division, especially over a team like the Broncos. But the 2014 Oakland Raiders might just be more competitive this year.

6th Pick: Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M

I’m glad Dimitroff didn’t trade up for Clowney, because there were too many depth issues to lose anymore picks. Plus, when you are paying your quarterback big money, you have to make sure he can play all 16 games. Matthews should help solidify an offensive line that was almost non-existent last year. He could very well be the difference between Matt Ryan getting sacked less that 20 times, instead of 40 plus. That’s huge! Especially with offense being the Falcons best asset.

In an NFC South that has added a lot of weapons, with the Saints, Panthers and Bucs all adding wide receivers on day 1, the Falcons are making sure that their offense remains one of the most formidable. I know I’ve spent a lot of time touting the importance of defense, but the Falcons defense is the worst in the division (on paper) anyway – why not protect your investment at least? This may very well be the NFL’s 2nd closest division next year.

7th Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M

Mike-Evans-Tampa-Bay

Tampa Bay’s new weapon (Image Credit: Frank Franklin III/AP)

New coach Lovie Smith spent the beginning of the offseason revamping Tampa’s defense. However, having shipped off Mike Williams and with a fairly unproven Mike Glennon as quarterback, there was a serious need to add to the offense in this year’s draft.  Enter Mike Evans. He will definitely be bringing the ball down in and around the red zone with ease, and paired with the dangerous Vincent Jackson, Tampa might have one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFC this year.

While it remains to be seen whether he will be catching passes from Glennon or Josh McCown, the end product will most likely be the same. This pick may be the one that has the biggest effect in the NFC South. I’m not saying that Tampa will win the division, but they now look like one of the most complete teams in the division.

8th Pick: Cleveland Browns – Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State

Well, since Josh Gordon can’t seem to stay clean, maybe it would have been better for the Browns to have stayed at 4 to get Sammy Watkins. However, the one thing you do need in the AFC North is a stout defense. Adding Gilbert was a good move by Cleveland and it’ll be hard for Big Ben, Flacco or Dalton to make a ton of plays against the Browns’ secondary. Pair this pick with Cleveland’s latter acquisition of Johnny Football, and the Browns suddenly look like they have the ability to be a dark horse in the AFC. I don’t think next year is their year to make the leap though. But soon Browns fans…soon.

9th Pick: Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr, DE UCLA

The Vikings did well to add an athletic pass rusher that’s likely to get his hands on some of the pass-happy QBs in the NFC North. However, Barr does lack a bit against the run, and against the likes of Matt Forte, Reggie Bush and Eddie Lacy, that could be an eventually haunting downside.

2014-nfl-draft

Image Credit: USATSI

But there is the whole preseason to work him out and solidify the team on defense. With Jared Allen essentially defecting to the Bears, Minnesota needs Barr (and new QB Teddy Bridgewater) to have a great rookie season in order to avoid bringing up the rear of the North, and most likely the NFC.

10th Pick: Detroit Lions – Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina

In my opinion, the Lions only real areas of need was leadership and maturity. New head coach Jim Caldwell might be a good fit for the former. However, I’m not sure if you can draft the latter, so this Ebron pick is sort of a toss up. There are a lot of people who say that Detroit needed someone to help take the load off of Megatron’s shoulders. Well, the Lions already had Golden Tate, and still have Reggie Bush and Brandon Pettigrew. Do they need Ebron? He may have a Jimmy Graham-like impact…or he may be only as good as Pettigrew. Either way, they still have one of the best offenses up North, and a very solid defense as well. Look for the Lions to push the Pack and Bears to the final game of the regular season in 2014.

This year’s 1st round didn’t disappoint, and with a lot of exciting players set to make their professional football bow, it’s sure to be a great season for us fans.

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