Jan 1, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) runs off the field after the second quarter of the Capital One Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers held at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
This pick is starting to make more and more sense. The Texans have a REAL need at the QB position. They traded Matt Schaub and are going to be all-in on Ryan Fitzpatrick this season unless a rookie comes in and wins the job. That being said, I think Houston covets the pass rush duo of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney enough to the point they are willing to forego the need at the QB spot until later in the draft in order to make that dream come true.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
The Rams could go a number of directions here. They could take an offensive tackle, despite having just invested a ton of money in Jake Long/Rodger Saffold. They could take a WR despite having traded up in last year’s draft to get Tavon Austin. OR, they could take arguably the top defensive player in the draft, Khalil Mack.
I really love Mack’s potential fit as an edge rusher in the NFL, and he’s not to be limited to a scheme either way. We saw a similarly gifted athlete a couple of years ago in Von Miller, and I think Mack can be that type of player in the Rams’ 4-3 alignment despite playing a lot of DE in college.
3. Oakland Raiders (f/JAX): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
**MOCK TRADE — Jaguars trade #3 overall to Raiders for #5 overall, #67 overall, and 2015 4th round pick**
The Oakland Raiders have plenty of needs, but they also filled a lot of needs with this year’s 30-plus club in free agency. They didn’t hurt themselves for the future financially, but they need to bring in some guys that can make plays NOW because they are clearly not adding these veteran players to wait around to win. Sammy Watkins fits the bill as a player who can stretch the field, contribute as a returner, and give you blazing speed at the WR position. Why do they trade up? The Browns would take Watkins at #4 overall, in my opinion.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Forced in between a rock and a hard place, the Browns take what some perceive to be the top QB on the board. Bortles has been compared to the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, so I’d say he’s in decent company there. Bortles could compete for starting duties immediately with Brian Hoyer or sit behind him for part of a season.
5. St. Louis Rams (f/JAX via OAK): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
**MOCK TRADE — Jaguars trade #5 overall (from OAK) to Rams for #13 overall, #44 overall, and #110 overall**
The Rams could wait and take what’s leftover at the OT position, or they could jump back up into the top 5 picks and get the best one in the draft. While that’s an arguable point for some, there’s no denying Robinson is a heck of an athlete, fills a void for the Rams at RT, and can be a staple left tackle in the future. Why do they make this trade? As I said before, if they stand pat at #13 overall, they could get stuck with leftovers or no one at all.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Falcons, in a good position to take one of the top tackles on the board, settle with Jake Matthews as their new RT and LT of the future. Matthews is one of the most NFL-ready linemen in this year’s draft, and some consider him the top OT overall. This would be a solid pick for a team that needs to invest in their protection of Matt Ryan.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Mike Evans has been compared mostly to current Bucs WR Vincent Jackson. In this scenario, he becomes his teammate. The Bucs and new head coach Lovie Smith would be able to re-create with Evans/Jackson the ‘Monsters of the Midway’ that was spawned in Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
The Vikings are giving their defense a new look this offseason, and with former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer the team’s head coach, you can expect he’ll be pulling for one of the top defensive players in the draft at this point. Rick Spielman is still attached to Christian Ponder, and has a fallback plan at least for this year in Matt Cassel. This pick could be a QB still but I’m going with Barr in this scenario, as the Vikings need to significantly upgrade their pass rush.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bills could really go a number of directions here, but Taylor Lewan seems like a really solid pick for them. He could allow Cordy Glenn to move to the right tackle spot, or play there himself, and would provide the Bills with a potentially dominant left tackle with impressive athletic ability.
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
I’m not completely sold on the Lions taking a CB at this point, but Gilbert is almost unquestionably the top prospect on my board here, and the Lions certainly could use a playmaker like this on the back end. With Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans gone, the sexy WR pick options are gone. With the top OTs off the board, that’s no longer an option either. The Lions could try and trade up or maybe even move down here, but Gilbert’s athleticism, playmaking ability, and special teams prowess are a good fit.
11. Tennessee Titans: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Bernard Pollard re-signed in Tennessee, but an upgrade is still needed next to Michael Griffin. The Titans are a wildcard team to take a QB here as well, but Pryor is a guy who’s really beefed up his stock in recent months. He is a very good strong safety prospect who hits like a ton of bricks, and could be a really nice addition to this Tennssee D, now coached by Ray Horton.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Giants could look to the defensive line here, but instead they go with the sexy pick and take the ultra-athletic and speedy Eric Ebron, the TE out of North Carolina. With Hakeem Nicks gone, targets will open up in New York and Ebron could eat them up. He can play in line or out wide, and is a versatile offensive weapon.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (f/STL): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
After obtaining additional 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks as well as a future pick, the Jaguars finally settle on ‘their guy’ in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is considered the most pro-ready QB in the draft by some, and with a little bit of pressure taken off him by this particular draft slot, Jacksonville is a place he could slowly develop and excel if given the proper time.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
This pick is one of those ‘no-brainer’ selections you have in every draft. Aaron Donald is a beast on the interior defensive line, showing incredible pop and quickness off the snap. In Chicago, he would ‘Bear down’ with Jared Allen and LaMarr Houston, Chicago’s top free agent toys. Together, they would make up a strong, hard-nosed front that would revitalize the Bears’ defense.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Ike Taylor’s play has deteriorated, and the Steelers now need to look to depth on the back end of their defense. They are a great landing spot for arguably the top corner in the draft, a guy who was a leader and arguably the best player on the best defense in college football this past season. This seems like a very natural fit.
16. Green Bay Packers (f/DAL): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
**MOCK TRADE — Dallas Cowboys trade pick #16 to Packers for pick #21, #85, and #161**
The Packers trade up ahead of Ozzie Newsome and the Alabama prospect loving Baltimore Ravens to get the best free safety in the draft to fill their biggest need defensively. Clinton Dix can hit, he can cover, and most importantly he can make plays on the ball. Paired with Morgan Burnett, he’d give the Packers a nice young safety duo.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Baltimore Ravens have an obvious need at the WR position even with the signing of Steve Smith this offseaso. How many years does Smith have left? Will Torrey Smith emerge as a true #1 receiver with Joe Flacco at QB? Beckham Jr. is one of my favorite prospects in the entire draft, combining strong hands with speed, toughness, versatility, and pro-readiness.
18. New York Jets: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Jets seem smitten with Bradley Roby, the Ohio State cornerback who has all the tools and upside but couldn’t quite put it together enough to cement a top 10 selection. Roby is as gifted as any corner in the draft, and if anyone can get the best out of him it’ll be Rex Ryan and his staff.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
This pick hasn’t changed for a considerable amount of time. Zack Martin is a smart, versatile lineman that could start immediately at right tackle. The Dolphins could certainly go other directions with this pick, but Martin is possibly the best player on the board at this point and would fill a need for them.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Demarcus Lawrence, DE/LB, Boise State
The Cardinals need to add edge rushers at some point, and Lawrence is a guy that is really rising on a lot of boards. He racked up 72 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks this past year at Boise State and has a lot of upside.
21. Dallas Cowboys (f/GB): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Cowboys traded down in this mock draft, and still end up getting one of the best defensive end prospects in a draft that has plenty. Ealy is a big prospect who would step into the slot left empty by Cowboys legend DeMarcus Ware, now a Denver Bronco. This is a dynamic athlete who, when all is said and done, could go much higher than this.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Eagles took a pass on DeSean Jackson, who is now a Washington Redskin, and need to replace him. They signed Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin back, but also let go of Jason Avant. Wide receiver is a big spot of need for them, especially considering Maclin could leave after this season. Lee replaces a lot of what Jackson could do. He is an explosive playmaker down the field, and can return kicks/punts.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Guard is a top need for the Chiefs, who signed Jeff Linkenbach for depth but at this point in the draft, they cash in on the top guard prospect in the draft and a guy who is a plug-and-play. It’s not the most attractive selection, but an absolutely necessary one.
24. San Francisco 49ers (f/CIN): Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
**MOCK TRADE — The Bengals trade pick #24 to the 49ers for pick #30, #129, and #170**
The 49ers have a clear need at the CB position with Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown now departed. Fuller is a very good corner prospect with a physical style of play that will fit right in with San Francisco. The 49ers make this trade because there is no way they are fitting 12 picks on their current roster, so they move up to get a guy that can be an immediate starter for them.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Chargers continue to use high picks to rebuild that defensive front. Louis Nix is graded by some as a top 12 player in this draft. He would re-join fellow Notre Dame star Manti’ Te’o in the middle of that San Diego defense where I think he could really be great.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Browns pair their new QB with a new speedy, dynamic receiver prospect. Cooks is one of my other favorite receivers in this draft. He catches everything thrown his way, is dynamic after the catch, and finds ways to get open. He is a great value at the bottom of round one and a nice complement to Josh Gordon.
27. New Orleans Saints: Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/LB, Georgia Tech
Another team that needs to add some edge rushers in this draft is New Orleans, who cashes in on the rise of Jeremiah Attaochu here. Very athletic player who is still somewhat raw, but gives a lot of effort and plays with some nastiness. He’d be a bit of a surprise first rounder, but you have those every year.
28. Carolina Panthers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Panthers have a difficult choice here between offensive tackle and wide receiver. This draft is potentially deeper in the 2nd and 3rd rounds at WR than it is at OT, so I gave them the best OT on the board. Kouandjio has cleared up some concerns about his health, but he still sees a fall because of poor workouts. The Panthers would hope he could be a left tackle at this draft slot, but he may be best off on the right side.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
This has been a popular pick for the Patriots, who don’t have a ton of glaring needs on their roster but we all know how great this offense was when two tight ends were playing well. Amaro is the type of guy that can split out and play receiver if the need arises, and he presents a great size mismatch for New England, however they want to use him.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (f/SF): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Verrett might be small in terms of his height, but he plays bigger than a lot of cornerbacks nowadays. I love his potential in the NFL and with the Bengals, he’s a great value at the bottom of round one and they pick up a couple of extra mid-round picks in the process. This is a nice value for them.
31. Houston Texans: (f/DEN): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
**MOCK TRADE — Broncos trade pick #31 to Texans for pick #33, #101, and #181**
Here’s the draft bombshell. Johnny Manziel has seen a huge fall in this draft which is certainly possible, but he could also go within the top 10 picks. Instead, he goes to a team that picked in the top 10 but still gets both of their guys. Houston would be willing to deal a couple of mid-round picks to jump back into the first round, as other teams like Minnesota, Oakland, Tampa Bay, or Tennessee could also come calling here.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Seahawks let Golden Tate go this offseason, their leading receiver from 2013. They aren’t necessarily a passing offense by any means but Russell Wilson is steadily improving and they could use a big body on the outside. Benjamin is one of the biggest receivers in the draft, and fills a major need for Seattle.