Draft promises drama, intrigue
1. HOUSTON TEXANS — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South CarolinaL Since Bill O’Brien was hired in Houston, I’ve penciled Blake Bortles into this spot for the Texans at No. 1. But Clowney might be too talented to pass up here and from what I’m hearing, he is the favorite at No. 1 if Houston keeps this pick.
2. ST. LOUIS RAMS (from WAS) — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: Yes, the Rams brought back Rodger Saffold, but with his injury history and Jake Long coming off a serious injury himself, Robinson is still a strong possibility here.
3. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo: With zero quarterbacks off the board here, do any of them intrigue Jacksonville enough to be the future of the franchise? Manziel is very tempting, but I’m leaning no, making Mack a natural fit as the Jaguars upgrade the defense, specifically the pass rush.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS — Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Browns will give Brian Hoyer a shot, but is he the long-term option? No, Ray Farmer and his staff weren’t at Manziel’s pro day, but if you think that means they’re not interested, you’d be wrong.
5. OAKLAND RAIDERS — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Raiders need upgrades at several positions, most importantly quarterback. But they might be left in a spot where they guy they want isn’t left on the board.
6. ATLANTA FALCONS — Jake Matthews, OT, Auburn: The two favorites for this pick is either pass rusher or offensive tackle and with Clowney, Mack and Robinson off the board, Matthews, Barr and Lewan are the main candidates.
7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS — Blake Bortles, QB, UCF: Could Lovie Smith and Co. really draft a quarterback with the first pick of the new regime in Tampa? It’s certainly possible as the Buccaneers are doing their due diligence on all the quarterbacks, including in-state product Blake Bortles.
8. MINNESOTA VIKINGS — Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: Best player on the board or quarterback? The Vikings desperately need an identity at quarterback, something Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater could bring to Minnesota. But more of a “sure thing” might be the direction here and Aaron Donald would be Mike Zimmer’s new Geno Atkins.
9. BUFFALO BILLS — Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: A former offensive lineman and offensive line coach, Doug Marrone will have a tough time passing on the toughness and grit that Lewan brings to the field.
10. DETROIT LIONS — Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: The Lions have the best wide receiver in football and a top-10 pick with several holes on the roster, could they really draft a wideout here? Yes, if a talent like Evans is still available.
11. TENNESSEE TITANS — Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Titans lost Alteraun Verner to free agency and despite feeling comfortable with some of the young cornerback talent on the roster, Gilbert’s long, fast skill-set might be too enticing with this pick.
12. NEW YORK GIANTS — Zach Martin, OL, Notre Dame: The Giants drafted a versatile tackle/guard last year in the first round (Justin Pugh), could they do it again this season?
13. ST. LOUIS RAMS — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama: After going offense with the No. 2 pick, the Rams need to look at the defense with their second first rounder, specifically the backend.
14. CHICAGO BEARS — Calvin Pryor, SS, Louisville: The Bears addressed the defensive line in free agency and if Aaron Donald is gone, Chicago will mostly likely look to upgrade the secondary.
15. PITTSBURGH STEELERS — Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The Steelers current cornerback talent isn’t going to scare any opposing offense and in a division with Josh Gordon and A.J. Green, a physical, aggressive cornerback like Dennard could change that.
16. DALLAS COWBOYS — Anthony Barr, DE, UCLA: The Cowboys have done their due diligence on Barr in the scenario that he falls to them. Well in this mock, Barr is still around and I don’t think Dallas will pass.
17. BALTIMORE ORIOLES — Jimmie Ward, FS, Northern Illinois: Could the Ravens go safety in back-to-back years? Why not, that’s one possibility with James Ihedigbo gone.
18. NEW YORK JETS — Odell Beckham, WR, LSU: The Jets took out the check book for Eric Decker in free agency, but chances are they aren’t done addressing the wide receiver position, especially if a talent like Beckham is still on the board.
19. MIAMI DOLPHINS — Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Miami has some solid options at tight end, including Charles Clay who emerged last year as a reliable receiving threat. But no tight end on the Dolphins’ roster can match the ability of Ebron and what he brings to the offense.
20. ARIZONA CARDINALS — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Carson Palmer is the Cardinals starting quarterback in 2014, but beyond that is a question mark and Arizona might be tempted to secure that long-term answer in this draft with Carr.
21. GREEN BAY PACKERS — C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: The Packers need help on defense and could benefit from Mosley slipping down draft boards due to injury issues.
22. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana: Latimer is more than just the flavor of the month, he is drawing legitimate first round interest from several teams and the Eagles have shown a great deal of interest in the former basketball star.
23. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Andy Reid and John Dorsey will be looking to add explosive weapons on offense and Lee would give Alex Smith another target starting in week one.
24. CINCINNATI BENGALS — Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: Although shoulder surgery will likely keep Verrett shelved until training camp, he is an outstanding cover man who will be able to help the Bengals’ banged up secondary.
25. SAN DIEGO PADRES — Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: Despite his off-field activities in the news, Roby is still likely to land in round one and the Chargers have the need and have shown the interest.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS (from IND) — Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: As the Browns begin talks to lock up Joe Haden long-term, they’ll also be looking to draft a worthy counterpart for the No. 2 cornerback spot in Cleveland.
27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn: The Saints ranked top-five in the NFL last season in team sacks, but it’s tough to pass up playmaking pass rushers.
28. CAROLINA PANTHERS — Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee: This pick will most likely be to help surround Cam Newton with help, either a left tackle or a wide receiver.
29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS — Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame: Not sure the Patriots expect the space-eating nose tackle to be here when they draft, but if Nix is still on the board, he makes a ton of sense in New England with Vince Wilfork’s new contract basically a one-year deal.
30. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: The last time the 49ers drafted a fast, undersized slot receiver in the late first round, it didn’t work out so well (A.J. Jenkins). But Cooks is a different story with his combination of athleticism and polish to start at the “Y” from day one.
31. DENVER BRONCOS — Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State: Shazier is simply a fun player to watch with his athleticism and ability to diagnose on the move and the Broncos could use his speed on defense.
32. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS — Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA: The starting offensive guards in Seattle have produced inconsistent results so far this season. Su’a-Filo has experience at tackle and guard.