1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, Quarterback, University of Central Florida
The Texans could go in multiple directions with this pick. They could go with Jadeveon Clowney, who many experts consider to be the best player in this draft. Or they could go with one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, or Teddy Bridgewater. I have them picking UCF’s Blake Bortles. Bortles fits new Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien’s system the best out of the three. He is also a safer pick than the other two as Johnny Manziel presents red flags with his maturity and off the field issues while Teddy Bridgewater struggled at his pro day and has struggled in private workouts with other teams.
2. Atlanta Falcons (trade up with the St. Louis Rams): Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, University of South Carolina
The current owners of the number 2 overall pick, the St. Louis Rams, are open to trading the pick for the right price. The Falcons are in dire need of a pass rusher and Falcons’ General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has shown in the past that he is willing to trade up for the right player that will fit the team. Clowney fits the Falcons’ need for a pass rusher and a premier defensive player. This pick makes a lot of sense for the Falcons to trade up for to grab what many experts think is the best player in the draft.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
This should be a no brainer for the Jaguars to take a quarterback at this pick. After being one of the worst teams in the NFL for many years this offseason they are quietly starting to build a solid roster. To at least start competing this upcoming season they need to pick either Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater to fill the biggest hole on the roster. I give Manziel the edge right here because he has been having a better draft season than Bridgewater. He will also help the Jaguars sell tickets as this has been an area the franchise has really struggled in.
4. Detroit Lions (trade up with the Cleveland Browns): Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The Lions love Sammy Watkins and would be open to trading up to draft him. That is why I am predicting that they will trade up to grab him. Watkins is considered by many draft experts to be the best wide receiver they have evaluated in many years in a very deep wide receiver draft. Pairing Sammy Watkins with Calving Johnson would go a long way in making the Lions one of the elite offenses in the NFL. Drafting Watkins would make him the final piece in making the Lions have one of the more complete offenses in the NFL.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, Outside Linebacker, University of Buffalo
The Raiders have a lot of needs but they need to go with the best player available with this pick. Pairing Khalil Mack with recently signed pass rushers LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck will go a long ways in improving the Raiders’ 22nd ranked defense from 2013.
6. St. Louis Rams (trade down with the Atlanta Falcons): Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
This is the first of the Rams’ two first round picks. Picking one of the elite offensive tackles in this draft at this pick will prove to be a major win for the Rams after trading down with the Atlanta Falcons for this pick. Offensive tackle is a major need for the Rams as they need another offensive lineman to protect often injured quarterback Sam Bradford. Robinson would present a huge upgrade for the Rams at this position.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
In what could be a surprise pick to many, I have the Buccaneers taking Teddy Bridgewater at this pick. The Buccaneers have other needs they could address at this pick like offensive line or another wide receiver to pair with Vincent Jackson but I doubt the Buccaneers would pass on a talented quarterback with high potential like Bridgewater. The Buccaneers recently signed Josh McCown to be their starter but adding Bridgewater will help provide more competition to the quarterback competition as well as having a talented signal caller to lead the Bucs in the future in a division with three talented quarterbacks.
8. Vikings: CJ Mosley, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
This might be kind of a reach but this might be the best player available at a position of need for the Vikings at this pick. The Vikings have a need for a new inside linebacker after releasing Erin Henderson this offseason. Adding CJ Mosley will give the Vikings a new leader for their defense for a long time in new head coach Mike Zimmer’s defensive system.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
This would be a great pick for the Bills. The Bills have a solid left tackle in Cordy Glenn but he would be even better if he was moved to guard. Taking Matthews at this pick would go a long way in helping solidify the Bills offensive line with one of the elite offensive tackles in this draft.
10. Cleveland Browns (trade down with the Detroit Lions): Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
The Browns need a quarterback. That is obvious. But there aren’t any quarterbacks worth taking at this pick. The Browns do need another wide receiver to pair with Josh Gordon. Mike Evans would be a great fit for the Browns and would give the Browns a duo of big, tall receivers. A duo of Josh Gordon and Mike Evans at wide receiver would give the Browns a duo similar to the Bears’ duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, Outside Linebacker, UCLA
This makes sense for both sides. The Titans are switching to a 3-4 base defense under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Barr would play outside linebacker in this system. Horton has been known to get a lot of production out of his pass rushers in his defensive scheme. Current Titans Linebackers coach, Lou Spanos, was the defensive coordinator at UCLA where Barr was very productive in his college career. Pairing the Titans with Barr would provide a big boost to their defense and pairing Barr with his old defensive coordinator is sure to benefit both parties.
12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
The Giants need help on the offensive line in the worst way. Eli Manning was sacked 39 times last season. The Giants need to protect Eli if their 2 time super bowl winning quarterback is ever going to regain his form. Lewan would make sense for them with this pick at either right or left tackle.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
The Rams need a safety and adding Clinton-Dix with this selection will provide a huge upgrade for the Rams at that position. The Rams defense has the potential to be very good and adding a safety in Clinton Dix’s caliber will help complete their defense in providing a backend ball hawking safety.
14. Chicago Bears: Calvin Pryor, Safety, Louisville
Due to injuries and age the Bears defense last season was horrible and definitely not up to the standards of past Bears defenses. Drafting Pryor would add a thumper to the Bears defensive backfield who is good in coverage but is exceptional in run support. Pryor would help solidify a retooled Bears defense into becoming an elite defense again.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
The Steelers have multiple needs along their aging defense but adding the best corner in the draft will go a long ways into helping them becoming the classic Steelers defense like they once were. The Steelers’ top corner, Ike Taylor, is aging and his play has fallen off in recent years. Adding Gilbert will give the Steelers a potential future leader in the secondary that will eventually replace Taylor as the top cornerback on the team.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
The Cowboys have needs all across their defense. Their defense last season was historically bad after switching to 4-3 base defense. After losing Jason Hatcher, the Cowboys need a new defensive tackle to anchor the middle of their defense. Aaron Donald would be a great pick and building block for the Cowboys as they try to rebuild their defense back to relevancy.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame
The Ravens would be thrilled if Zack Martin fell to them. At this pick they should either address offensive line or safety but Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix won’t likely make it to this pick. The Ravens’ offensive line really struggled last season in both pass protection and in run blocking. Adding Martin will give the Ravens someone who has the potential to be a pro-bowl guard or a very solid right tackle for many years to come. Martin would be the final piece to get the Ravens running game back on track and to protect $120 million quarterback Joe Flacco.
18. New York Jets: Marquise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC
The Jets’ offense struggled mightily last year. A lot of the blame was put on rookie quarterback Geno Smith. While Smith did struggle during his rookie season he did not have many weapons to throw to. The Jets added Eric Decker this offseason but adding Lee will improve the offense dramatically and give whoever wins the Jets’ quarterback battle, either Michael Vick or Geno Smith, a deep threat to complement Eric Decker’s underneath receiving ability.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio. Offensive Tackle, Alabama
The Dolphins added Branden Albert to be their left tackle but they need someone to anchor the right side of their offensive line that failed to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill last season. Adding the big tackle from Alabama will give Tannehill more time to complete his passes.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Dee Ford, Defensive End, Auburn
The Cardinals have a very physical defense but they don’t have a premier player to get to the quarterback. Adding Auburn’s Dee Ford will help solve that issue in helping the Cardinals become an elite defense in the NFL.
21. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
What makes Packers General Manager Ted Thompson one of the best GMs in the NFL is that he likes to take the best player available and with good value. It is possible that Eric Ebron’s pure talent won’t allow him to fall this far but if he is available Thompson would love this pick. Adding Ebron would give Aaron Rodgers another middle of the field target that would replace the departed injury prone tight end Jermichael Finley.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State
The secondary was the main weakness of a subpar defense for the 2013 Eagles. While the Eagles have added pieces like Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll to their secondary the Eagles still need a shutdown corner. Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard gives the Eagles a talented cornerback who could be a stalwart for their defense for years to come.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
The Chiefs have other needs but I doubt they would pass on one of the talented cornerbacks falling to them at this point in the draft. The Chiefs’ secondary really struggled in the second half collapse against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2013 Wild Card Game. The Chiefs also need a new nickel corner and Fuller fits this bill as a potential starter down the road.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kony Ealy, Defensive End, Missouri
The Bengals need another pass rusher opposite Carlos Dunlap to replace the departed Michael Johnson. Kony Ealy was very productive for the Missouri Tigers in his college career and would give the Bengals a big body on their defensive line that can rush the quarterback as well as defend the run.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
The Chargers need a big nose tackle to anchor the middle of their defense to replace the departed Cam Thomas. Nix fits this bill perfectly. He was highly productive at Notre Dame. He is also big enough to play nose tackle at 331 pounds as well as versatile.
26. Cleveland Browns: Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
This pick is where the Browns will get their quarterback of the future. Derek Carr is an ideal fit for what the Browns want to have in a quarterback and is a good fit for new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system.
27. New Orleans Saints: Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, Oregon State
The Saints have other more important needs like another pass rusher and center but the Saints would be thrilled to have one of the many great wide receivers in this draft fall to them at this pick. Drew Brees could use a deep threat to pair with big, possession type receivers Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. Brandin Cooks was highly productive as a game breaking, deep threat receiver at Oregon State.
28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr, Wide Receiver, LSU
After losing top two receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, Cam Newton has a limited number of players he can throw to. Luckily, this is a deep draft at the wide receiver position. Odell Beckham is one of the many receivers with a first round grade and would be a great fit for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers as a future top receiver.
29. New England Patrios: Timmy Jernigan, Defensive Tackle, Florida State
The Patriots have two aging defensive tackles anchoring the middle of their defensive line in Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork. Those two, especially Wilfork, have been productive over their careers. Bill Belichick is known as a strong defensive mind that loves to pick defensive players that will fit his scheme. Jernigan was highly productive for a National Championship winning Florida State Seminoles defense. If Jernigan is the pick here, look for Jernigan to be a highly productive player on the Patriots’ defense.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Roby, Cornerback, Ohio State
The 49ers have five picks in the first three rounds but yet don’t have many holes on their roster. The 49ers have one of the best defenses in the NFL with elite talent at all levels of their defense. They are only missing a shutdown cornerback. Roby, while undersized, is a very aggressive player that plays well in coverage. This pick would be a great pick in helping solidify the 49ers defense.
31. Denver Broncos: Xavier Su’a-Filo, Offensive Guard, UCLA
The Broncos do not have many needs in this draft but they have a glaring hole at left guard after Zane Beadles left for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chris Kuper retired. Su’a-Filo is highly regarded as the best guard in a relatively weak draft for guards. Su’a-Filo would be a solid pick for the Broncos as the final piece to their offensive line to protect an aging Peyton Manning.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Florida State
The Seahawks are arguably the most complete team in the NFL and have rarely any holes on their roster. However, they could use a big target for Russell Wilson. The Seahawks have deep threat receivers Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin but Benjamin would be a great complement as a possession receiver that can also make tough catches.