*= Player and team have had private visit
1. Houston Texans- OLB Jadeveon Clowney* (South Carolina)
Right now, it’s looking pretty cut and dry. The Texans seem locked into Jadeveon Clowney as the #1 overall pick. He’ll be an upgrade over Brooks Reed on the outside as an edge rusher and allow Reed to move to middle linebacker, where he’ll be a better fit and upgrade that position, allowing the Texans to upgrade two need spots at once. Unless someone meets the Texans absurd asking price to trade up here, I think we see them take Clowney.
2. St. Louis Rams- OT Greg Robinson* (Auburn)
This is another one that’s looking pretty locked in. Most major outlets are reporting that the Rams will take Greg Robinson here if they don’t trade down. Greg Robinson can be an immediate upgrade at the right tackle position and give them insurance on the blindside in case Jake Long is unable to play early in the season after tearing his ACL late last season.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars- OLB Khalil Mack* (Buffalo)
I have a hard time seeing Khalil Mack get out of the top-3 picks. I could see someone moving up to 2 to grab him, but if no one does, I don’t think the Jaguars let him get past them. He’s arguably the top player in this draft class after Clowney and he’d fit the Jaguars well. The Jaguars have a need for a young leo edge rusher as both Chris Clemons and Jason Babin are over 30 and Mack would fit that position like a glove.
4. Cleveland Browns- WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
A couple of years ago, the Browns had two first round picks and an early second rounder. Going into that draft, I thought that the Browns were going to target Trent Richardson, Kendall Wright, and Brandon Weeden with those 3 picks. They took Richardson early and then took Weeden with their next pick, only because Kendall Wright was off the board two picks earlier. This year, I expect them to target Greg Robinson, Teddy Bridgewater, and a wide receiver like Cody Latimer with their first 3 picks. Robinson is off the board here though so the Browns have to “settle” for the draft class’ top wide receiver. Watkins will give them another target after Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
5. Oakland Raiders- WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M)
The Raiders went hard in on DeSean Jackson before he signed with the Redskins. Wide receiver isn’t their biggest need, but they need young difference makers anywhere they can get them and the Jackson pursuit showed they’re interested in adding at wide receiver in the right situation. I think this is that situation. Evans is a rising prospect going into draft day and several reports have confirmed that the Raiders have serious interest in him. If he’s available, I expect them to pull the trigger.
6. Atlanta Falcons- OT Jake Matthews* (Texas A&M)
The Falcons are targeting one of the top 2 edge rushers or one of the top 3 offensive linemen. They’d have to move up to get Clowney or Mack and they probably would for Robinson too, but they still have their choice between Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan here. Matthews is the consensus higher rated prospect, but Lewan wouldn’t shock me, though his off-the-field incident seems inconsistent with the type of players the Falcons usually draft. Drafting either would help upgrade an offensive line that has a huge hole at right tackle and a huge injury question mark in Sam Baker at left tackle.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- QB Johnny Manziel* (Texas A&M)
The Buccaneers are going to add a quarterback early, after working out 4 of the draft’s top quarterback prospects. Lovie Smith has made it clear that he’s not a fan of incumbent Mike Glennon, signing Josh McCown and anointing him the starter on day 1, followed by all of the work the Buccaneers have put in on quarterback prospects. Several sources are reporting that the Buccaneers would love to add Manziel here at 7 and trade Mike Glennon later on draft day. In this situation, with Mike Evans off the board, taking Manziel is their most logical move.
8. Minnesota Vikings- QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)
While Johnny Manziel may be the top quarterback on some team’s boards, including Tampa Bay’s, the Vikings reportedly have Bortles atop theirs. They probably won’t be moving up to grab him, but if he is available here at 8, I see them pulling the trigger. If they wait until the 2nd round to take a quarterback, they’ll be picking behind quarterback needy teams like Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Oakland and might not be able to get their guy. Bortles is a strong armed traditional drop back quarterback, which is what offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves.
9. Buffalo Bills- OT Taylor Lewan (Michigan)
I expect the top-3 offensive linemen to go off the board in the top-9 picks. Mel Kiper doesn’t think Lewan will make it out of the top-6. I could see that happening if Atlanta takes him over Matthews, but I don’t see 3 offensive linemen going in the first 6 picks. Assuming that doesn’t happen, it sounds like the Bills will take whichever one falls to them. Erik Pears is mediocre, aging, and going into a contract year and either he or the rookie they draft here can play left guard, another need position, for a year.
10. Detroit Lions- OLB Anthony Barr (UCLA)
The Lions have expressed interest in adding a pass rushing linebacker. That makes sense as they need a 3rd linebacker in play in base packages, but they also need another edge rusher opposite Ezekiel Ansah because Jason Jones is much better at getting to the quarterback from the inside. Anthony Barr is someone they’ve shown interest in and I expect them to take him here at 10 should he be available.
11. Tennessee Titans- CB Justin Gilbert* (Oklahoma State)
I think the Titans would really like to trade down because their needs don’t really line up with the best available prospects, but I’m not mocking trades here. If they do stay put, I think Gilbert is the best mix of need and value. This is a weak cornerback class at the top, but Gilbert should still be a top-15 pick as the top cornerback off the board. The Titans have cornerback depth, even after losing Alterraun Verner, but they don’t have a sure starter opposite Jason McCourty. Gilbert would be an upgrade over 2013 3rd round pick Blidi Wreh-Wilson and nickel back Coty Sensabaugh.
12. New York Giants- OT Zack Martin (Notre Dame)
Here’s where the 4th offensive lineman comes off the board. Zack Martin is not expected to last past the 12th pick and for good reason. The Giants’ offensive line is still in flux. William Beatty is coming off of a serious injury. Chris Snee is coming off a bad year and is getting older. Justin Pugh was their best offensive lineman last year and he can play any position except center, as can Martin. Having two versatile, talented, young offensive linemen like Pugh and Martin is going to help things come together upfront offensively.
13. St. Louis Rams- S HaHa Clinton-Dix (Alabama)
This is a very commonly mocked pick and one I’ve been putting here for a while and I still see it going down on draft day. The Rams lost both of their starting safeties after the 2012 season and didn’t do much to replace them, only drafting TJ McDonald in the 3rd round in 2013. McDonald was a reach there and broke his leg as a rookie. He’s locked in as a starter for 2014 out of necessity, but they need another starter opposite him and take the draft class’ top safety here at 13.
14. Chicago Bears- DT Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)
This is another one that’s a perfect mix of fit and value. Donald could go earlier than this, but if he’s still available, the Bears won’t waste any time turning in their card. Henry Melton signed with the Cowboys so the Bears are bringing back the same group of defensive tackles that helped contribute to their atrocious run defense last year. They added LaMarr Houston through free agency and he’ll help their run defense on the edge in base packages and play defensive tackle in sub packages, but he won’t help their interior run defense in base packages. Donald’s specialty isn’t the run, but he’s a disruptor from the interior who will help their run defense and an obvious upgrade over Jay Ratliff. He’s the draft class’ top defensive tackle and his only issue is his size at 6-1 288, which won’t matter to the Bears, who have a history of smaller, quicker defensive tackles.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers- WR Odell Beckham* (LSU)
I could definitely see Odell Beckham going earlier than this. Both Tampa Bay and Buffalo will consider him as a fallback and the Giants could take him at 12. I could also see the 49ers or the Jets moving up ahead of Pittsburgh to grab him. However, if he’s available to the Steelers here at 15, he seems like a no brainer for a team that is desperately thin at wide receiver after losing Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders in free agency over the past two off-seasons.
16. Dallas Cowboys- DE Kony Ealy* (Missouri)
The Cowboys added Henry Melton and re-signed a hopefully healthy Anthony Spencer this off-season, but they still might have the thinnest defensive line in the NFL. Anthony Spencer is still going into his age 30 season coming off of a serious injury and only on a one-year deal, while Nick Hayden is still the starter at defensive tackle next to Melton. Kony Ealy has the frame to play both inside and outside and makes a lot of sense here for the Cowboys. He can work in rotation outside with Spencer and George Selvie and play inside on obvious passing downs.
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