By Mike Tanier, Dan Pompei and Russ Lande

NFL drafts are like snowstorms: No two are exactly alike.

No, we did not mean "snowflakes." Snowflakes are tiny and beautiful, like scouting reports on sixth-round picks. But no one past kindergarten age takes any time to admire them, because we are too worried about snowstorms. Snowstorms take forever to arrive, cause tizzies of anticipation and anxiety and obliterate entire weekends, like the NFL draft. They also dump tons of slop on your head and force you to shovel your way back to sanity. But they inspire a sense of wonder, awe and hope, which is why most of us have not packed up and moved to Arizona.

Last year's draft was the Weekend of the Tackles, when those of us who earn our living off draft enthusiasm picked up our pompoms and tried to get you excited about Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher, two men you would still not recognize if they stood in front of you in the deli line. Two seasons ago, we had the Coronation of Foregone Conclusions, as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III paired off with the Colts and Redskins long before the draft and spent the weekend cuddling and spooning. In 2011, it was Lockout Lunacy, with Cam Newton and others overshadowed by a labor situation that changed like the weather on Mount Washington.

And this year, we finally arrive at The Draft That Never Arrived. The belated 2014 draft, anticipated the way a human voice is anticipated after an hour on hold with your credit card company, will be a draft like any other: stars, hugs, risers, fallers, boos, the annual Mike Mayock laryngitis drinking game on Saturday (do a shot every time he squeaks). But with no clear-cut No. 1 selection, an odd (though not bad) assemblage of quarterbacks, and a bunch of unpredictable franchises holding two first-round picks, the permutations are endless. The draft will engulf your weekend and earn far too much attention, but in what precise way?

Your call is important to us, so please stay on the line. Russ Lande, Dan Pompei and your humble emcee, Mike Tanier, are here to give one last round of bold predictions (and check out Dan's final first-round mock draft here). Draft experts are held to the same standards as backup catchers -- if we bat about .210 but look like we know what we are doing, we last forever -- but while none of us may be sure what the Browns will do, we can say for certain that teams will improve, there will be a lot of intriguing moves ... and we will spend next week digging out.

* * * The First Five Picks * * *
1
texans_logo
Houston Texans

Mike

Jadeveon Clowney
South Carolina DE
After all is said and done, just stop procrastinating and select the once-per-decade talent.

Dan

Khalil Mack
Buffalo LB
The ideal scenario for the Texans would be a trade down, and there might be interest from the Bucs, Lions or Bills. The Texans might have to accept less than market value in a trade, however. A lot of people still believe the Texans will go with Jadeveon Clowney if they are stuck with the pick. Others suspect the Texans will come to the conclusion that Mack can help them more than any other player.

Russ

Khalil Mack
Buffalo LB
 Mack fits the Texans 3-4 defensive scheme better than Jadeveon Clowney and comes with none of the work ethic/competitiveness questions that surround Clowney. His ability to rush the passer off the edge from a two-point stance, make impact plays against the run and shine in coverage makes him the ideal outside linebacker in Romeo Crennel's defense.
     
2
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St. Louis Rams

Mike

Greg Robinson
Auburn OT

Those quarterbacks will be awfully tempting, but Jeff Fisher is not easily tempted by quarterbacks.


Dan

Jake Matthews
Texas A&M OT
There is a lot of noise about Johnny Manziel going to the Rams, and there seems little doubt the Rams like him. But it's possible they take Manziel later. Matthews seems to be Jeff Fisher's kind of guy, and over the last couple days front office men have been buzzing about how the Rams will take Matthews ahead of Greg Robinson. The Rams also would like to move down.

Russ

Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M QB
The Rams want to get Greg Robinson and Johnny Manziel, but realize that Manziel will be long gone by the 13th pick, while tackle Taylor Lewan will likely be there. While Lewan does not have Robinson's potential, he is a far better pass blocker now and could start at right tackle from day one, giving the Rams two elite tackles to protect Manziel.
     
3
jaguars_logo
Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike

Khalil Mack
Buffalo LB
The trend of obsessively avoiding potential superstar franchise quarterback/box office boosters continues. And it may not be a bad thing.

Dan

Jadeveon Clowney
South Carolina DE
If Clowney goes first, the Jaguars could take Mack. Or they could take Sammy Watkins. The word circulating around the league is head coach Gus Bradley really wants a pass rusher. If they want until later rounds, he is not likely to find one who can have an immediate impact.

Russ

Jadeveon Clowney
South Carolina DE

Jacksonville needs an impact pass rusher for its defense to take the next step. If there is any coach in the NFL who can get the most out of Clowney, it is Gus Bradley. Bradley is a charismatic leader who consistently motivated players that other coaches have not.

     
4
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Cleveland Browns

Mike

Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M QB

If they don't draft him, they had better trade with the Vikings or Titans, who will.


Dan

Greg Robinson
Auburn OT
Two days ago, the world was convinced Johnny Manziel was their pick. One day ago, the world became convinced Johnny Manziel was not their pick. I've heard neither general manager Ray Farmer nor head coach Mike Pettine is sold on picking Manziel at No. 4. Farmer is more likely to make a solid choice and go for the top-rated offensive tackle on the board, either Robinson or Matthews.

Russ

Sammy Watkins
Clemson WR
With Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron already on the roster, Watkins would give the Browns an excellent set of playmakers for whomever plays quarterback for them in 2014. Watkins brings the explosive burst, playing speed and rare run-after-catch ability to take some of the big play pressure off Gordon, which makes their offense tougher to defend.
     
5
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Oakland Raiders

Mike

Sammy Watkins
Clemson WR
Congratulations, Raiders: You now have exactly one offensive player for opponents to worry about.

Dan

Sammy Watkins
Clemson WR
Front-office men from other teams are convinced the Raiders will not take one of the quarterbacks with this pick. That leaves them picking either Watkins or an offensive tackle, and the word is they really like Watkins. He would fill a big need and he has the talent to justify the pick.

Russ

Jake Matthews
Texas A&M OT
 
Donald Penn really struggled in pass protection in 2013, so if newly acquired quarterback Matt Schaub is going to have a career resurgence like Philip Rivers did in 2013, the Raiders need to make sure he is well-protected and upright. Matthews is a technically sound blocker who should be able to step right in to provide excellent protection at left tackle.
     
* * * First-round Quarterbacks, In Order * * *
   

Mike

Manziel, Bortles,
Bridgewater, Savage
Pitt's Tom Savage is the wild card. Some team with time to wait (Bengals, Cardinals) will draft him late in the first round.

Dan

Bortles, Manziel,
Carr, Bridgewater
A chance exists no quarterback will go in the top 10. Manziel remains the wild card. He could go as high as the second overall pick, or he could slip into the middle of the round. It will get interesting late in the round as a run on passers could begin as early as the 20th pick, when the Cardinals get their chance.

Russ

Manziel, Bridgewater,
Bortles
 Despite there not being a premier quarterback prospect in this year's draft, the need to find a quality starter leads teams to reach.
     
* * * First Running Back Off the Board * * *
   

Mike

Carlos Hyde
Ohio State
To either the Browns at 35 (second round) or Falcons at 37. Both teams need a 20-carry back, the Falcons to soon replace Steven Jackson and the Browns to push Ben Tate, who may have been a system mirage in his Texans heyday. I have a feeling the Falcons and Browns will be trading again this weekend, which could cause these picks to flip-flop.

Dan

Carlos Hyde
Ohio State
With the 35th pick. The Browns also are a threat to take him with the 26th pick, depending on how the quarterback scenario plays out for them. Chances are very good Hyde is taken somewhere in this vicinity. Many consider him clearly the best running back in the draft.

Russ

Lache Seastrunk
Baylor
In a year with many solid-but-not-spectacular running backs, Seastrunk's rare acceleration and playing speed could lead to him being selected ahead of the more well-known Carlos Hyde, Tre Mason and Bishop Sankey. Although he is not a polished receiver, he explodes through holes and has the speed to out-run angles to score long touchdowns, which are traits NFL teams love.
     
* * * Will Be Drafted Too High * * *
   

Mike

Blake Bortles
UCF QB
Scouts and coaches start to think like women with terrible, self-destructive taste in boyfriends this time of year. I can fix him. Maybe you can. Just don't max out your credit cards and abandon all your other goals simply to attract him.

Dan

Tom Savage
Pitt QB
It is possible he will be taken as high as the second round. I talked to a scout this week who said he knew of no other evaluator who thought Savage was better than a fourth-round pick in the fall. His late rise is a little puzzling. Savage has potential, but ultimately he is a developmental quarterback who has struggled against pressure.

Russ

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Alabama S
Clinton-Dix is expected to be the first safety selected somewhere in the first round, but when I evaluated him I was disappointed. Although he flashes a willingness to come up quickly in run support, he does not do so consistently and does not wrap up when tackling in space, which leads to missed tackles. More of a concern are his questionable coverage instincts, which lead to him often being a beat or two late reacting to passes.
     
* * * Will Be Drafted Too Low * * *
   

Mike

Ross Cockrell
Duke CB
One of my favorite mini-sleepers. Cockrell is a medium-sized, medium-speed technician of a defender, with an ornery streak. He was the main reason Mike Evans was driven to distraction in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and traded paint with other big receivers throughout the year. He's a Cover-2 type who could start for a decade, but he will be sitting on the board on Saturday.

Dan

Jordan Matthews
Vanderbilt WR
He appears to be underrated in the draft -- like his cousin Jerry Rice once was. Matthews might not be the flashiest athlete among the wide receivers, but there isn't much he does not do well on the field.

Russ

Kyle Van Noy
BYU LB
Likely to be a late first or high second-round pick, Van Noy was clearly more productive than many of the other defenders that will be drafted in the top 20. I believe he has the talent to be a double digit sack man playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Do not be shocked if Baltimore or San Diego grabs him.
     
* * * Blockbuster Trade Prediction * * *
   

Mike

All of us expect the Falcons to do something drastic, so let me pick something more fun. Either the 49ers, Broncos or Patriots will trade up to the middle of the first round in search of an "over the top" player. The 49ers have two second-round and three third-round picks to play with (and roughly 0.25 overall needs), making them prime candidates. But I can also see Bill Belichick dangling a second-round pick and a 2015 first-rounder in front of buddies Andy Reid or Chip Kelly, because they have more tomorrows than he does.

Dan

The Falcons will trade down instead of trading up. They will deal with the Bills, who will come up to the sixth spot to take wide receiver Mike Evans. And the Falcons will drop back to the ninth spot, where they will select offensive tackle Zack Martin.

Russ

If the Rams do not select Johnny Manziel with the second overall pick, I believe that the Buccaneers will make an aggressive move to trade up with either the Rams or the Jaguars to select him. The new Buccaneers regime does not seem sold on Mike Glennon as their quarterback of the future and Manziel would give their offense a rare playmaker.
     
* * * Biggest Story From Day Two * * *
   

Mike

An amazing run of skill-position talent. A team could pick a legitimate immediate starter at wide receiver in the second round, then come back and get a sturdy 20-touch running back in the third round. The big names will be flying off the board on Friday!

Dan

The Bucs trading with the Texans for the first pick of the second round to take Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The Texans have already made it known they are more than willing to deal. The Bucs seem intent on grabbing a QB early. This deal could be a piggyback trade with the Bucs moving down in the first to acquire more trade ammunition.

Russ

The flurry of trading at the top of the second round as numerous teams that passed on quarterbacks in the first round move up to select the one they want. If only two or three passers are selected in the first round, I think four or five could go in the first 10 picks of the second round.
     
* * * Biggest Story From Day Three (Other Than Michael Sam) * * *
   

Mike

Let's talk about the real controversial, polarizing sign-of-the-times youngster with a hard-to-categorize skillset likely to enter the NFL on Saturday: Northwestern's Kain Colter. Colter showed at the Senior Bowl that he has the tools to make the switch from quarterback to slot receiver pretty smoothly. He's a project and he is coming off ankle surgery, but Colter has potential to offer more to an NFL locker room than a ready-to-serve union rep.

Dan

The fall of Zach Mettenberger. The LSU quarterback had a chance to be taken as high as the second round, but you have to wonder if the fact that he reportedly failed a drug test at the combine won't send his stock spiraling downward.

Russ

How one or two big name quarterbacks from the SEC, Aaron Murray and/or AJ McCarron, will still be available when the fourth round begins. This will, of course, lead to a social media frenzy ripping NFL front offices for passing on highly productive passers from the best college football conference in the country.
     
* * * Michael Sam Will Be Drafted By * * *
   

Mike

Giants
6th round
He fits the defensive scheme, and the business-oriented Giants organization will keep a lid on any "first openly gay player" histrionics, though I shudder in anticipation of the Daily News headline.

Dan

Seahawks
5th round
What I hear from a lot of front office men is "Sam doesn't fit our scheme." And that is coming from front office men whose teams use every kind of defensive scheme. But he has enough redeeming qualities to appeal to someone. Pete Carroll judges prospects almost entirely by their redeeming qualities.

Russ

Ravens
6th/7th
round
Although he is not a good all-around athlete, he has quick feet, good strength and the hand use and pass-rush skills to be effective rushing off the edge in a 3-4 defense. The Ravens have a long history of using late-round picks on highly productive college players who lack the ideal measureables, and many of them have succeeded.
     
* * * Mr. Irrelevant Will Be * * *
   

Mike

Chris Coyer
Temple FB
Bill O'Brien (whose Texans pick last) will remember Coyer from when he was Temple's starting quarterback against Penn State in 2012. Coyer switched from pesky option quarterback to H-back in 2013, catching 20 passes in an all-purpose role. Coyer can be a fine special teams contributor who fills a Michael Robinson-type role in the NFL.

Dan

Matt Hall
Belhaven OL
At 6-foot-9, 324 pounds, this small-school prospect could be worth a late pick. Hall is clearly a developmental player, but he has the tools to come on if he is given time and good coaching.

Russ

Jeff Mathews
Cornell QB
After a big week at the East-West Shrine Game, Mathews' stock seemed to be on the rise, but it has not held up. A number of NFL people have told me that they view Mathews as a late-round pick because he needs to speed up his in-pocket process and improve his accuracy. With a plus arm, good athleticism, size and smarts, Mathews has many of the traits to become a starter, which is why he is an ideal late-round, developmental quarterback prospect.