1) Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Texans’ beat writers and reporters have indicated that Houston will draft a quarterback with this selection. But I’m not so sure. Teddy Bridgewater is probably the most NFL-ready, but his size is a potential concern. Johnny Manziel is a gifted escape artist, but his strengths of throwing on the run and improvisation would be minimized in new head coach Bill O’Brien’s offense. Blake Bortles has all the measurables, but he needs a lot of work. The Texans might prefer mid-round values like Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron, or Jimmy Garoppolo, allowing them to take the most talented player available in Clowney. While there are questions about his desire and work ethic, his talent is unmistakable. He has rare size, speed, and quickness for a defensive lineman. With the right coaching and motivation, he can be a Hall of Fame talent. Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel has to be licking his chops. A defensive line with J.J. Watt and Clowney would be absolutely terrifying.
Mock 1.0 – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
2) St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Rams will look to deal this selection, just as they did two drafts ago with the Robert Griffin III pick. My guess is that they make a deal with Cleveland, Oakland, or Atlanta. If it’s Cleveland or Oakland, this will be a quarterback. If Clowney doesn’t go first overall, Atlanta, among others, will attempt to trade up. In the event that the Rams cannot find a trade partner that’s willing to make it worth their while, they’ll decide between the top offensive tackles available. The Rams are on record as standing behind Sam Bradford, so they’ll need someone who can actually stand in front of him. Robinson is massive, and he’d be a fantastic blind side pass protector for Bradford. He’s also a very good run blocker, and he’s capable of sticking at left tackle for the next decade.
Mock 1.0 – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
3) Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars need a quarterback as badly as any team in the league. Between the failed Blaine Gabbert experiment and their subsequent turn to Chad Henne, Jacksonville needs a signal caller to have any chance of moving forward. The only challenger to that thought process would be if Clowney inexplicably fell, which would make it very difficult for second-year coach Gus Bradley to pass. Bridgewater is probably the most complete quarterback in the draft, and with his ability to move through progressions and throw on the run, he becomes a very intriguing option for a team that has struggled at the quarterback spot since Mark Brunell left town. The Jaguars would also need some additional talent around him, as their offense is really, really weak right now.
4) Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
With some of the recent changes in Cleveland, it’s unclear how the team will address the quarterback position in the upcoming draft. The old regime seemed smitten with the idea of Manziel in Cleveland. He’s still the best quarterback on the board at this point. Johnny Football will step into a prominent role in their new look offense under Kyle Shanahan. The Shanahan offense typically relies on a strong running game, a big time wideout, and a quarterback that can throw on the move. The Browns may need a running back, but this offense typically makes stars out of late round picks, such as Terrell Davis and Alfred Morris. As far as a stud receiver, they have Josh Gordon, and his arrow is now pointed straight up and Manziel is incredible when he gets outside the pocket. Depending on his commitment to the offseason program and willingness to learn, Manziel has a chance to be one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. With a little more talent around him, he could flourish in an offense that seems tailored to his talents.
5) Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Oakland needs a quarterback as well, and if one of the top three signal callers is available, their pick will be an easy one. They could also trade down to get more picks. Between Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders are one of the most quarterback-needy teams in the league, and they’ll need to address that in this draft or via free agency. They could opt to sign a guy like Michael Vick in free agency, draft a quarterback in the middle rounds, and grab Sammy Watkins or an offensive tackle here, but my guess is they take the plunge on Bortles. Bortles has a strong arm, and he looks the part, but he’s still a raw talent. He honestly needs a solid coaching staff and talent around him, so Oakland might not be a great fit, but he’ll be given the opportunity to start right away.
Mock 1.0 – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
6) Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Ideally, the Falcons want a pass rusher. If they can’t pressure Drew Brees or Cam Newton, it may be another long year. They’ll be a team trying to trade up with St. Louis. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff has made the bold (and successful) move before, trading up for Julio Jones in 2011. If they can’t move up, they may struggle to find value on the defensive side of the ball with their sixth overall selection. Instead, the Falcons will look to improve an offensive line that struggled across the board last season. Matthews was fantastic protecting Johnny Manziel’s blind side, and he’ll look to do the same for Matt Ryan in Atlanta. He’s a strong run blocker, which will help both Steven Jackson and Ryan. Atlanta is a really talented team that underachieved a season ago, so bolstering the line could be the difference between a successful 2014 campaign and another disappointing season.
Mock 1.0 – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
New head coach Lovie Smith would love to get a dominant defensive player, and he gets his wish here. Tampa Bay was a mediocre defense last season, but Smith will turn that around in a hurry. He’ll use a solid defensive line to pressure the passer and fill running lanes, and he’ll put Darrelle Revis back to work shutting down top wideouts. In Mack, the Bucs would get a complete linebacker. He’s just as comfortable chasing down a back as he is in coverage. He has the athleticism to drop into zone or play man, as well as the strength and quickness to play at the line of scrimmage. His intangibles are also strong, making him any defensive coach’s dream.
Mock 1.0 – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
8) Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St.
Minnesota is looking to move on from the Christian Ponder era. The problem will be that the top signal callers will most likely be gone when they pick. That means going in another direction or selecting the next quarterback on their list. First time head coach Mike Zimmer could ultimately decide to go defense, since that’s his background, but that would probably mean starting Matt Cassel. I’m guessing they go after a quarterback in Round 1, so I’m guessing it’s Carr, who has become somewhat of a scout’s darling. He’s got the arm strength to make all the throws to go with the athleticism to keep plays alive. His new best friend would be Adrian Peterson, who would force defenses to load up the box and provide decent throwing lanes.
9) Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Bills have a better roster than you might think. They have a strong running game to go with a solid offensive line. They drafted their quarterback of the future last year in E.J. Manuel, and they’re hoping he can stay healthy. Their defense was very good against the pass last season, but struggled against the run. But their true need is playmakers. They’ve drafted a few nice pieces for Manuel, but Ebron would be the field-stretching tight end that they need. He would spread out defenses, allowing more running room for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, in addition to opening up passing lanes. His athleticism and pass-catching ability make him an intriguing option for the Bills.
Mock 1.0 – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
10) Detroit Lions: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Lions could use help in their secondary, but if Watkins were to be available at the tenth slot, it might be really difficult to pass on him. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are already a top quarterback-receiver combination, but teams are still loading up against Megatron. Putting Watkins on the other side would make an already potent Lions offense downright terrifying. Watkins would run deep, taking the second corner and possibly a safety out of the picture, while Johnson, Reggie Bush, and the rest of the receiving corps moved the ball downfield. And if the defense got aggressive, Stafford has the arm to drop back and try to overthrow Watkins, which is difficult to do. He and Johnson would immediately be a top wideout tandem.
Mock 1.0 – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State