1) Houston Texans- Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina
The Texans would love to draft their franchise quarterback here but the simple fact is that none of the big three quarterback prospects in the 2014 draft are assured franchise guys. Johnny Manziel is the most polarising player in the draft but even in his home state doubts over his ability at the next level persist. Blake Bortles has all the weapons but his production and game tape are not that of a top overall pick and after a poor pro day long time number one consensus Teddy Bridgwater has slid rapidly down draft boards.
Jadeveon Clowney is atop almost everyones board and with good reason. He looks the best defensive end prospect to come along in around a decade and the prospect of teaming him with 2012 defensive player of the year J.J. Watt should have Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel salivating. The Texans have had a long time to consider and reconsider this pick but common sense should tell them not to over complicate this and pick the best player in the draft, Jadeveon Clowney.
2) St. Louis Rams- Greg Robinson, OT Auburn
There has been plenty of speculation linking the Rams with a trade down from this pick, their third first rounder from their 2012 blockbuster trade with the Washington Redskins. With doubts seemingly heavy over all three quarterbacks long linked with such a trade however it is looking less and less likely that a trade of value to the Rams will present itself and therefore they take the player atop their board.
Greg Robinson has the physical attributes and upside to become one of the league’s best left tackles and with brittle former number one overall pick Sam Bradford under center such a player would be a delight for head coach Jeff Fisher who needs his franchise quarterback upright to stand any chance in the toughest division in football.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars- Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
Probably not the destination that brand ‘Johnny Football’ would have really wanted but a dream pick for the Jaguars who need to both fill their stadium and attain a franchise quarterback. Manziel remedies the first issue and his unique skill set could finally give the Jaguars an identity both offensively and as a brand.
If Johnny Football is going to succeed he needs a playbook designed around him and in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch the Jags have just the man for the job. Fisch led Matt Hasselbeck to three pro bowls in Seattle and directed the University Of Miami’s hugely productive passing offense in 2012. Manziel is a boom or bust pick but even if he proves to be the latter it will be no different to what the Jags have grown accustomed too, if however Manziel is a hit the long term mediocrity of this franchise could finally be lifted.
4) Cleveland Browns- Blake Bortles, QB Central Florida
There has been plenty of speculation linking Johnny Manziel here but even if he is on the board I have my doubts over his legitimacy as a signal caller in the AFC North. Facing three brutal, bruising defenses twice a year outdoors does not look the sort of task the slender if slippery Manziel is built for.
Bortles has great size and the powerful former tight end has a bit of the Ben Roethlisberger about him. He can make all the throws, has a powerful arm and is smart and elusive in the pocket for a guy his size. Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco have three super bowl rings between them and show the value of a big strong armed quarterback in the AFC North. Bortles would actually have a great situation to come into in Cleveland, the Browns have one of the league’s best receivers, a rapidly improving tight end and a defensive line led by perennial all-pro left tackle Joe Thomas.
5) Oakland Raiders- Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson
The Raiders seem inexplicably smitten with their veteran quarterback recruit Matt Schaub. With the Raiders the word inexplicable should be an anagram of the team name however. Schaub won’t lead the Raiders to the promise land but is just about a serviceable starter. He desperately needs receiving talent and luckily for the Raiders Sammy Watkins arguably the second best player in the draft is still available at number five.
Watkins is a rare athlete. He has the sort of game breaking speed of a Tavon Austin or Percy Harvin but stands 6 foot tall and weighs 210 lbs. He looks very much a leading candidate for rookie of the year and capable of an instant impact in the NFL. Whoever drafts him should get an electrifying player and the Silver and Black need such a player more than most.
6) Atlanta Falcons- Khalil Mack- DE Buffalo
The Falcons were one of the most disappointing teams in football and there were two major contributing factors, injuries and a complete inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Better health is something they can only cross their fingers for but improving their woeful pass rush is a matter they can take into their own hands. Had the Texans been in for a quarterback the Falcons would have been seriously likely to trade up for Jadeveon Clowney at number two but with him off the board they get the best remaining option. Mack is slightly undersized at 251 lbs but has a frame capable of adding bulk. He has phenomenal quickness and is refined beyond his years as a pass rusher. Mack’s motor is relentless and he gives the Falcons a chance to hurry Drew Brees and Cam Newton.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M
The Bucs would love to draft a quarterback here but can they be sure Teddy Bridgwater is better than Josh McCown? McCown had a fine season last year in Chicago and looks sure to beat out Mike Glennon who is rumoured to be on the trade block.
With questions over Bridgwater Lovie Smith takes the safe option in his first draft adding college phenomenon Mike Evans. Evans has remarkable similarities to Tampa’s number one wide out Vincent Jackson as a huge receiver capable of making big plays in the vertical passing game. Evans has also drawn comparisons to A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall and if he plays at either of their or indeed Jackson’s level he will be a great value pick at number seven.
8) Minnesota Vikings-Anthony Barr, DE/OLB UCLA
Barr like earlier selection Khalil Mack is probably undersized as a pure defensive end but as a SAM linebacker and pass rush specialist he could play a sort of Von Miller role in the twin cities.
New defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is said to be modelling the Vikings on the Bengals cover 2 scheme which often sees the Bengals rush five men. Barr has phenomenal speed off the edge and could be hugely productive as the fifth rusher yet is an excellent cover linebacker who closes rapidly and tackles expertly. He is the sort of athlete who can play a variety of roles and play them all with ease.
9) Buffalo Bills- Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M
Upgrading the tackle positions is a must for the Bills after drafting quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first round last spring only to see him miss a third of the year with injuries. With their two headed running back monster of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson the focal point of the attack adding a major upgrade at right tackle makes sense.
Matthews is arguably more pro-ready than our second overall pick Greg Robinson and looks well capable of stepping in as a day one starter. He will expect to move over to the more valued and higher paid left tackle spot down the line but for now is a solid right tackle.
10) Detroit Lions- Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State
The Lions sooner or later have to give Matthew Stafford a chance by adding corners that can cover rather than just relying on Stafford and Calvin Johnson to always score one touchdown more than their opponent.
Justin Gilbert is the consensus top corner in the draft. Gilbert is a big but rapid corner, the sort so coveted to deal with the extraordinary athletes playing wide receiver in the modern NFL. Gilbert isn’t afraid to get physical and has great ball skills for a defensive back so can make game changing plays. At number ten he is a must for the Lions.
11) Tennessee Titans- Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State
The Titans are sick that Gilbert goes a pick before them but I can’t see any way he gets past the Lions. Alterraun Verner left in free agency leaving the Titans dreadfully short at corner. If indeed Gilbert is gone this pick will likely be Dennard, Bradley Roby or Kyle Fuller.
Dennard’s scheme versatility gives him the edge and he excels as a press man corner where his physical style is best seen while his speed gives him nice possibilities as a zone defender.
12) New York Giants- Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh
The Giants desperately need help alongside Cullen Jenkins upfront after losing Linval Joseph. Donald is inexplicably being overlooked by some because he weighs less than 300 lbs but he has extraordinary upper body strength and he shows up time after time when watching game tape of the Panthers.
Donald was completely dominant in the senior bowl and was almost unstoppable all week. Donald’s relentless motor and enormous power would make him a hugely disruptive 3 technique for the Giants whose long revered pass rush isn’t what it was.
13) St. Louis Rams- HaHa Clinton Dix, S Alabama
The Rams go defense this time with the talented Clinton Dix, the latest in a long line of NFL calibre defensive backs out of Nick Saban’s hugely successful Crimson Tide programme. The Rams have an exceptional front four but could do with a center fielder to rival their divisional rivals, the Superbowl Champions Seattle who have Earl Thomas, arguably the best safety in football.
HaHa Clinton Dix has the size and strength to cover tight ends and running backs one on one but is best as a last line of defense in one deep safety looks which playing the power running teams in the NFC West is vital and he looks the sort of player that controversial defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can turn into a pro bowler.
14) Chicago Bears- Louis Nix, DT Notre Dame
The Bears lost Henry Melton in free agency and must find a suitable replacement early in the draft. Nix, a man mountain fits the bill and can help beef up the Bears defensive line which is vital considering that they have to face Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy twice a year.
Nix is the classic two gap nose tackle whose size and sheer power overwhelms offensive linemen one on one and routinely creates lanes for blitzing linebackers and one on ones off the edge for defensive ends. Nix is quick for his size too and is more than just a pocket collapse, he can get into the backfield and is a tremendous asset for any run defense.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers- Ra’Shede Hageman, DE/DT Minnesota
The Steelers aging defense is due for upgrade in many positions and the physically gifted Hageman could man any of the three defensive line spots and would get playing time as a pass rusher from day one.
Hageman at 6”6’ 330 lbs is an enormous man but has excellent quickness to accompany his obvious strength. He has limited experience and has questionable work ethic but between Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin both could quickly be resolved and you could see him becoming a real terror for the Steelers in the future.
16) Dallas Cowboys- Kony Ealy, DE Missouri
The cap strapped Cowboys had to release all pro pass rusher DeMarcus Ware and are left with no proven pass rushers on the whole roster. The league’s worst defense from 2013 could use upgrades virtually everywhere but securing a pass rusher is top priority.
Ealy looks a prototypical 4-3 end and would start from day one in big D. He isn’t an elite pass rusher because of his fairly average speed but he is a significant upgrade on the Cowboys current roster and is excellent against the run also which was also a problem for this defense in 2013.
17) Baltimore Ravens- C.J Mosley, LB Alabama
The Ravens do a great job of finding starters in the early rounds of the draft and C.J. Mosley could start from day one. The Ravens filled some holes on offense in free agency to put them in position to draft the best available player in the first round and Mosley is just that here. Mosley has been one of the mainstays of the hugely successful Alabama defense the last four years and his versatility makes him an every down player. Excellent in coverage, instinctive and with a high football IQ he could go some way to replacing Ray Lewis for the Ravens.
18) New York Jets- Odell Beckham, WR LSU
The Jets added controversial veteran quarterback Michael Vick this offseason to add some speed to an offense which was incredibly pedestrian last year. Vick will likely beat sophomore quarterback Geno Smith to the starting job but whether he can stay healthy is another matter.
Whoever is under center for gang green they desperately need to find playmakers and Odell Beckham is just that. Beckham displayed his blazing speed with a 4.31 seconds 40 yard dash at the combine last month and he is just as dangerous returning kicks as he is at wide receiver. Vick combined well with DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia so he should appreciate a similar player in Beckham.
19) Miami Dolphins- Taylor Lewan- OT Michigan
The infamous Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin incident has left Miami short on their offensive line and although Brandon Albert and Bryant McKinnie were added in free agency the Dolphins can’t pass on a lineman with top 10 talent this late in the first round. Lewan is a man mountain at 6 foot 7 310 lbs but is smooth and athletic. He could start at right tackle in his rookie year and take over from Albert on the more important left side in a year or two.
20) Arizona Cardinals- Teddy Bridgwater- QB Louisville
The Cardinals won’t likely be thinking quarterback in the first round at this stage of the draft process but two things make this pick happen. Firstly the Cards almost always pick the best available player in the draft rather than drafting for needs and Bridgwater would have strong claims to be the best available player at number 20. Secondly veteran Carson Palmer is not a long term option under center. Palmer improved play at the position last year after the revolving door of the 2011 and 2012 seasons but he threw far too many interceptions too.
Here the talented Bridgwater can learn from the sidelines for a year before taking over and providing an upgrade in 2015. The Cardinals scheme should suit Bridgwater, a pure pocket passer whose greatest abilities are his decision making and ability to work through progressions quickly to find an open target.
21) Green Bay Packers- Calvin Pryor- S Louisville
Back to back Louisville Cardinals come off the board here with the Packers needing to shore up against the deep pass to help them become contenders again in 2014. Pryor has climbed up boards steadily during the draft process and is now consensus second best safety. He isn’t an elite athlete but when you watch his tape he is always around the ball and he has the knack for creating turnovers. The Packers were among the league’s worst at creating turnovers last year so adding a playmaking safety like Pryor would be a major bonus.
22) Philadelphia Eagles- Kyle Fuller- CB Virginia Tech
The Eagles need a receiver to fill the void left by DeSean Jackson but unless Beckham is still on the board they may wait until the second round in a deep class. Kyle Fuller would be higher on most boards than any receiver at this juncture and the Eagles are short there also. Fuller is a versatile corner able to play inside or outside and his ability to match up with number one receivers bodes well for the future, the Hokies are excellent at providing NFL calibre defensive backs and Fuller looks another safe bet.
23) Kansas City Chiefs- Eric Ebron- TE North Carolina
The Chiefs need offensive playmakers in the passing game to take some of the heat from Jamaal Charles. Ebron is generally expected to go in the top half of the first round so represents great value for Andy Reid here. Ebron is basically an out and out pass catcher but his speed and size combination is very rare and he will be a huge weapon for Alex Smith whose favourite target in San Francisco was a big fast tight end in Vernon Davis. Ebron could finally give the Chiefs a legitimate replacement for Tony Gonzalez.
24) Cincinnati Bengals- Bradley Roby- CB Ohio State
Terence Newman and Pacman Jones are coming to the end of the line and the Bengals need to enthuse their secondary with youth to maintain their top ten defense. Bradley Roby is a pretty obvious pick here; he is a big fast corner who excels in man coverage. Roby and Dre Kirkpatrick, the Bengals so far unsuccessful first round pick of 2012 could become a strong pairing if Kirkpatrick can stay on the field.
25) San Diego Chargers- Ryan Shazier- LB Ohio State
The Chargers need to help their defense against the pass and whilst a corner would have been their favoured option the four off the board already don’t leave any value on the board at 25. Shazier is the kind of kid who will improve any defense with his electric speed. Shazier is a fantastic tackler but also has the range and agility to excel in coverage and he could be one of the stars of this year’s class.
26) Cleveland Browns- Marqise Lee- WR USC
The Browns arm Blake Bortles with a third playmaker in former Trojan Marqise Lee. Lee is a three year starter at a high level and was hugely productive throughout his career in Southern California. A Heisman finalist in 2012 he suffered a little with double coverage in 2013 but remained successful. He is a great route runner who seems to always be able to get open when it matters particularly on third down. His YAC ability would be a nice bonus for his rookie quarterback to pick up yards on check downs but Lee can get open deep also.
27) New Orleans Saints- Kelvin Benjamin- WR Florida State
Drew Brees loves tall receivers like Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston so drafting Benjamin would delight him. Benjamin stands at a giant 6’5” and is exceptional at using his size to win jump balls. He was a huge part of Florida State’s National Championship winning team, catching the Championship winning catch inside the final minute. He is fast enough to get open deep and can overwhelm smaller corners and of course excels in the red zone. Benjamin could easily have double digit touchdowns in his rookie year in the big easy.
28) Carolina Panthers- Brandin Cooks- WR Oregon State
The run on receivers continues and few teams are more desperate than Carolina in that department. With Steve Smith gone the Panthers may have the worst receiving group in the league and it’s almost inconceivable that they don’t draft a receiver here. Cooks ran a 4.33 at the combine and is a small but very nimble athlete who can turn short throws into big gainers. Cooks is best in the slot where his agility and quick feet make him extremely hard to cover inside and despite his size he is highly durable and tough so big hits don’t worry him.
29) New England Patriots- Zack Martin- OT/G Notre Dame
The Patriots always fill their holes to give them the chance to draft by their board rather than needs. Most teams will have Martin inside the top 20 so Bill Belichick is delighted to draft an instant starter here. Martin could play at right tackle or guard as a pro but he is too good to not get on the field as a rookie. Martin was great at the senior bowl and almost certainly did enough to force himself into the first round.
30) San Francisco 49ers- Jason Verrett- CB TCU
There aren’t many holes on this roster and with five picks in the first two days expect the rich to get richer. The 49ers take one of the best players available here in Verrett who will likely start as a nickel back in the NFL. Verrett is undersized but is a tough competitor with the speed to keep pace with almost any receiver in the league; he may get the job of Percy Harvin twice a year.
31) Denver Broncos- Xavier Su’a-Filo- G UCLA
Protecting Peyton Manning is the number one priority in Denver and Su’a Filo is a great pass protector. He is a rare athlete for the position with excellent speed, quickness and agility to mirror rushes and he stands strong against the bull. He isn’t over powerful in the running game but his agility can really help on stretch plays and screens.
32) Seattle Seahawks- Marcus Roberson- CB Florida
The Seahawks dealt remarkably well with the upheaval that suspensions caused to their secondary last year. They are still strong atop the depth chart but behind the starters their isn’t the depth that the rest of the defense can boast. Roberson would fit in well in Seattle, he is a big strong corner who lacks elite speed but excels in aggressive man coverage schemes. He could really flourish in Seattle.