Every NFL team has to prepare for the best-case and worst-case scenarios when it comes to their picks in the draft. We asked Bucky Brooks, one of our NFL Media resident scouts, to walk us through the first round of the 2014 draft, drawing up real scenarios each team could face on May 8, based on their needs and what the teams picking around them might be thinking.
25. San Diego Chargers
Top needs: CB, NT, WR
Best-case scenario: The Chargers would love for one of the top cover corners to fall to them. Fuller or Roby would be ideal candidates because of their size-speed dimensions, but both could be long gone by the pick. Verrett is a potential starter despite lacking ideal size.
Worst-case scenario: If the Chargers are unable the land a cornerback, the team could look to pick up a pass catcher with speed and quickness. Cooks would be a perfect fit with his exceptional speed and quickness, but a darkhorse candidate such as Latimer could be in the team's plans.
Bucky's pick: Verrett. The TCU standout is a polished technician with exceptional feet, hips and hands. Although he lacks the size to battle big-bodied receivers on the perimeter, Verrett's savvy and guile should make him an effective starter with the potential to move into the slot on nickel downs.
Other analyst picks Daniel Jeremiah (Verrett), Charles Davis (Nix)
26. Cleveland Browns
Top needs: QB, CB, WR
Best-case scenario: GM Ray Farmer has a pretty good sense that a quality quarterback will be available for the Browns at the bottom of the first round or top of the second round. Thus, he is comfortable taking the best available player at the 26th pick because he can address additional needs down the road. Ideally, I believe he would like to grab Bridgewater or Carr at this pick to give the team a young quarterback to build around.
Worst-case scenario: The Browns are in the catbird seat with a number of picks in the early rounds, so there's nothing that could transpire on draft day to upset their plans. If the targeted quarterbacks are off the board at this point, the Browns have the option of taking a position player, preferably a corner to fill a void opposite Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden in the lineup.
Bucky's pick: Bridgewater. The Louisville standout is the most pro-ready of the quarterbacks in the 2014 class. Although Bridgewater's stock has taken a bit of a hit since the end of the season, Farmer recognizes the value in selecting a polished quarterback with a high football IQ.
Other analyst picks Daniel Jeremiah (Marqise Lee), Charles Davis (Cyrus Kouandjio)
27. New Orleans Saints
Top needs: OLB, WR, CB and OT
Best-case scenario: The Saints have the luxury of taking the best available player due to the lack of glaring holes on the roster. Thus, the team could select the highest-graded player on the board at this point regardless of position. Given head coach Sean Payton's offensive background, the Saints could look to add an explosive playmaker on the perimeter to upgrade a potent passing game. Lee, Beckham and Cooks are each capable of adding some sizzle to the lineup and drafting one of them would give Drew Brees a speedster to target on vertical passes.
Worst-case scenario: The challenge of sitting at the bottom of the round is trying to accurately gauge what prospects should be available at that point. Based on the Saints' needs, they would have a tough time if the top pass rushers, pass-catchers and cover corners are off the board. Although the talent gap isn't significant at wide receiver and cornerback, the prospects in the second tier would be considered reaches at this point. Thus, the Saints could rely on a fallback plan that includes taking the top offensive tackle prospect on the board to fortify depth at the position.
Other analyst picks Daniel Jeremiah (Marcus Martin), Charles Davis (Stanley Jean-Baptiste)
28. Carolina Panthers
Top needs: OT, WR and CB
Best-case scenario: The Panthers must walk away from the draft with new starters at offensive tackle (LT) and wide receiver. Thus, GM Dave Gettleman will evaluate the pool of talent at both positions, and select the best available prospect at the spot with the fewest blue-chip prospects. Looking at the 2014 class, I would expect the Panthers to take the top remaining offensive tackle (Martin, Moses or Kouandijo) to replace Jordan Gross as Cam Newton's blindside protector. The depth at wide receiver will give Gettleman an opportunity to land a No. 1 receiver on Day 2, so it's imperative to take the top offensive tackle on the board due to the significant talent disparity between blue-chip prospects and red-chip players at the position.
Bucky's pick: Kouandjio. The Alabama standout suffered through a 2013 season that was a bit disappointing, but scouts still rave about his immense talent and potential as a mauler on the edge. He is a powerful run blocker capable of blowing defenders off the ball. Although Kouandijo must tighten up his footwork as a pass protector, he is such a dominant force as a run blocker that the Panthers should gamble on his upside and potential at this point of the draft.
Other analyst picks Daniel Jeremiah (Moses), Charles Davis (Moses)
29. New England Patriots
Top needs: DL, TE and G
Best-case scenario: The Patriots are known for moving out of the bottom of the first round to accumulate extra picks throughout the draft. Given the depth of the talent pool at the skill positions, a decision to move out of the round could give the Patriots more opportunities to upgrade the talent and athleticism at the bottom of the roster. Ideally, the Patriots would love to get a big-bodied defender like Hageman or Tuitt to fortify the interior of the hybrid 3-4/4-3. A tight end like ASJ would also be a great fit, with Rob Gronkowski recovering from a serious knee injury.
Worst-case scenario: The Patriots' success moving up and down the board in recent years could discourage teams from partnering up with the team on draft day. Thus, the Patriots could be forced to pick an overvalued player at this point. Although it's common for red-chip players to come off the board at the bottom of Round 1, the Patriots would like to add a difference-maker at any position. Su'a Filo could be the guy, but adding a guard certainly won't energize the fan base on draft day.
Bucky's pick: Hageman. The Minnesota standout has been called a "boom or bust" candidate, but it's hard to ignore his intriguing size and athleticism as an interior defender. Hageman can play any spot along the line, which makes him the kind of versatile defender that Bill Belichick loves to feature prominently in his game plans.
Other analyst picks Daniel Jeremiah (Hageman), Charles Davis (Hageman)
30. San Francisco 49ers
Top needs: WR, CB, DE, OLB and C
Best-case scenario: The 49ers desperately need a speed receiver to add some sizzle to the offense on the perimeter. Thus, I could see the team packaging a few picks in a trade to move up the board to land Beckham, Cooks or Lee. If the team is unable to find a willing trade partner, the 49ers could take a chance on an intriguing prospect like Latimer at the bottom of Round 1.
Worst-case scenario: The 49ers must consider outside linebacker after Aldon Smith's latest transgression. Although the recent decision to pick up Smith's option means the young pass rusher is under contract through 2015, the team needs to add an insurance policy at the position to guard against another meltdown by the Pro Bowler. This could lead the team to pull the trigger early on a sleeper candidate like Lawrence despite the chance of the draftee sitting on the sidelines for a few seasons.
Bucky's pick: Martin. This pick is a bit of a surprise based on the conversation surrounding the 49ers' top needs, but the team needs to find a replacement for Jonathan Goodwin in the starting lineup. Martin is a rough, rugged blocker at the point of the attack, with the football IQ to make all of the calls and adjustments at the line.
Other analyst picks Daniel Jeremiah (Stanley Jean-Baptiste), Charles Davis (Tuitt)
31. Denver Broncos
Top needs: CB, WR, OL and LB
Best-case scenario: After watching the Seahawks bully his Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, John Fox is committed to building a tougher and more physical offensive line. He would love to fortify the interior with a brawler at the position like Su'a Filo. If he is unable to land a powerful blocker, Fox could look to add a disruptive defender capable of making an immediate impact as a situational player.
Worst-case scenario: Unless the Broncos are willing to make a trade up the chart, the team will have to patiently wait for a top prospect to fall into their laps at the bottom of Round 1. Although good players routinely fall down the chart, it takes a little luck to land a blue-chip player at this point.
Bucky's pick: Su'a-Filo. The UCLA standout is a tough, hard-nosed blocker with a nasty disposition and a technically sound game. He is a Day 1 starter with the potential to spark a revived Denver running game.
Other analyst picks Daniel Jeremiah (Joel Bitonio), Charles Davis (Joel Bitonio)
32. Seattle Seahawks
Top needs: OL, DL and WR
Best-case scenario:Pete Carroll and John Schneider have killed it on draft weekend the past few seasons. The duo has a clear picture of the kind of prospects that suit the Seahawks' system. More importantly, they aren't afraid to go against the grain to pick a player that appears off the radar. After winning the Super Bowl despite a patchwork offensive line, I would expect the Seahawks to look hard at adding a potential starter at right tackle. Moses, Kouandjio and Bitonio should garner serious consideration at this point.
Worst-case scenario: The Seahawks' success with unheralded playmakers on the perimeter makes it unlikely that the team will invest a top pick in a wide receiver. However, a few draft day surprises at the top of the board could force the team to reconsider this year. Thus, the team could take extended looks at Benjamin, Latimer, Matthews, Adams and Robinson as developmental playmakers on the perimeter.
Other analyst picks Daniel Jeremiah (Su'a Filo), Charles Davis (Su'a Filo)