GREEN BAY—Draft analyst Tony Pauline says “the fun begins with pick seven with Tampa. That’ll set the tone for the middle part of round one.”
That’s Pauline’s prediction for when the first quarterback will be chosen and a possible run on quarterbacks might begin. The 2014 NFL Draft begins at 7 p.m. CT Thursday, and the intrigue will begin right away with pick No. 1, held by the Houston Texans.
“I think it’ll be (Jadeveon) Clowney by the Texans or a team that trades up,” Pauline predicted. “The Falcons don’t want to give up a huge amount because they’ve got several needs.”
The Rams hold the second pick of the draft and the Rams have provided mixed messages on what they might do.
“I think it’s going to be one of the tackles, either (Greg) Robinson or (Jake) Matthews. They’ve got to protect (Sam) Bradford, but they let it be known at the combine they’re going to shop that pick,” Pauline said.
At No. 3, the Jaguars are a candidate to pick a quarterback, but Pauline is picking a wide receiver for Jacksonville.
“I think they’re going to take Sammy Watkins. Khalil Mack is in the conversation but Justin Blackmon was suspended and (the Jaguars) have strong need at receiver. Watkins isn’t that far off from the third player,” Pauline said.
Cleveland wants a quarterback. Does the run begin at No. 4?
“I think the Browns could pull a surprise and take Mike Evans. The Browns don’t need defense. They need offense badly. Blake Bortles is the sleeper here,” Pauline said.
At No. 5, Pauline thinks Oakland will reel in one of the steals of the first round. Most draftniks have Mack in the top two spots, but Pauline has Mack falling to the Raiders.
“The Raiders want a player that can afford immediate impact and help them win games immediately. Mack would be a good pick,” Pauline said.
Should Atlanta remain at No. 6, Pauline is convinced the Falcons would spend that pick on an offensive tackle, either Robinson or Matthews.
At No. 7, Tampa has been linked to Johnny Manziel, though the Bucs selected Mike Glennon in the third round of last year’s draft and Glennon showed distinct promise in his rookie season.
“I think Manziel is going to be an owner’s pick,” Pauline said, suggesting Manziel offers a significant gate attraction for teams needing to sell tickets. “Either Tampa takes Manziel or Minnesota takes (Blake) Bortles (at No. 8).”
Pauline also projects Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater as quarterbacks to be selected in the first round, and that could cause the Packers to be a target for a trade.
“Teams like Jacksonville and Cleveland might trade back into the first round to get a quarterback,” Pauline said.
The draft guru considers tight end Eric Ebron to be another pivotal prospect in the first round. Ebron offers significant playmaking ability but his bold personality might cause him to fall.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley is another player Pauline believes could slide lower than his value.
“Mosley could go to Miami if Zack Martin isn’t there. That’s the earliest (Mosley) goes, to Miami (at No. 19),” Pauline said.
Might Mosley be available to the Packers two picks after Miami’s pick?
“There’s definitely a chance. He could be one of the steals of round one. The Packers at 21 would get my 14th-rated player in the draft,” said Pauline, who rates linebacker Ryan Shazier, safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, defensive tackle Louis Nix and wide receivers Odell Beckham and Brandin Cooks as fitting in and around pick No. 21.
“It’s not a good inside linebacker draft. If you want an inside linebacker, you better get him quickly. It’s not a deep safety draft. After the top three, the other guys have question marks or have one-dimensional games. I like Terrence Brooks. That’s a guy to consider in the third round. If he had better ball skills, he’s probably a top 45 pick,” Pauline added.
The fun is soon to begin.