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1. Houston Texans -- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
A popular theory has Houston trading for New England quarterback Ryan Mallett and selecting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick. Any trade proposal, however, is mere conjecture at this point. Right now, the Texans need a quarterback and Bridgewater is the best in this draft. You’ll hear nitpicks regarding his skinny frame, but Bridgewater is a polished passer, who is ready to step in and start immediately.
2. St. Louis Rams -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Trading out of the No. 2 pick is probably the most likely scenario for St. Louis. There’s sure to be a ton of activity regarding the selection, especially as Clowney and a top-flight quarterback remains available. I believe Atlanta is the perfect trading partner, as they could then use the pick on Clowney. However, the Rams could just as easily take Clowney, who many regard as the draft’s best player. Adding Clowney would give them a three-man rotation in their base defense. Also, they could easily kick him inside in sub-packages. The trio of Clowney, Chris Long, and Robert Quinn would give them the league’s most formidable defensive line.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
No team needs a quarterback as much as Jacksonville does. Blaine Gabbert is a bust and another year with Chad Henne starting has 4-12 written all over it. Drafting Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles is an option, but Jacksonville brass may find it too difficult to pass on Manziel. Many compare him to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, but I believe the proper comparison is Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick. When a play breaks down, Manziel tucks the ball and runs. It’s his legs (and not his arm) that gives him his wow factor. This isn’t necessarily good for his long-term future, but the Jaguars could use a spark at the position.
4. Cleveland Browns -- Jake Matthews, OT, Cleveland
With two first-round picks, Cleveland can afford to bypass a quarterback with the fourth pick in favor of the best player on the board. Football is in Matthews’ blood. His father is Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews and his uncle is former Cleveland linebacker Clay Matthews. The Browns already have Joe Thomas at left tackle, so they can stick Matthews at right tackle, while kicking current right tackle Mitchell Swartz inside.
5. Oakland Raiders -- Anthony Barr, DE/LB, UCLA
One of the reasons Oakland hired Reggie McKenzie is because he has vowed to take the best player available on draft day. In addition, current head coach Dennis Allen coached Von Miller in Denver, and Barr is a bit comparable to Miller. Like the Denver all-pro, Barr isn’t somebody you worry about fitting into your defense. Instead, you build your defense around him. Barr’s a versatile defender. He’s capable of rushing as a defensive end or linebacker. He can also drop in coverage. Selecting him would give Allen a new toy to move around and create mismatches against opposing offenses.
6. Atlanta Falcons -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
A masterful job in the SEC championship against Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy solidified Robinson’s status as a top 10 pick. He’s a mammoth tackle prospect that can step in and protect quarterback Matt Ryan’s blindside on day one. With that said, I have a hunch the Falcons will do their best to move up to select Clowney, so Robinson could just as easily be the fallback option for the Rams if they move down. In fact, it’s a perfect swap.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
By hiring Lovie Smith, Tampa should take an underachieving defense and vastly improve it. As a result, their off-season focus should be on upgrading the offensive side of the ball. After an historic performance in the Orange Bowl, Watkins figures to hear his name called in the first 10 picks. He’s a dynamic athlete, who made significant strides as a route runner in 2013. Pairing him with wide receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Doug Martin gives Tampa a trio of skill players capable of putting points on the board.
8. Minnesota Vikings -- Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
You’ll probably get opinions across the spectrum regarding Bortles. Some view him as an elite prospect. Others (myself included) remain skeptical. The Vikings, however, are desperate to find a young signal caller to develop. Whether it’s Bortles or somebody else, it’s likely they’ll target one with their first pick.
9. Buffalo Bills -- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
From a pure talent standpoint, Seferian-Jenkins is one of the best players in the draft. In fact, he’s a bit of a Rob Gronkowski clone. There are some questions regarding his dedication to the game, but nonetheless, he is the most physically player at an ever-evolving position. I suspect his raw talent will be on full display at this year’s NFL combine.
10. Detroit Lions -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
An upgrade in the secondary would serve the Lions well, especially since they play in the same division as Chicago and Green Bay. Dennard thrives is man-coverage and uses his physicality to disrupt receivers downfield. This could leave him susceptible to penalties, but it’s a good trade to make, if he’s able to prevent a team’s No. 1 wide receiver from wreaking havoc on his defense.
11. Tennessee Titans -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Entering the 2014 off-season, Tennessee is dealing with some ambiguity at safety. Will they re-sign Bernard Pollard? Will they part ways with Michael Griffin? Both played well in 2013, so there’s incentive to retain them, but the Titans owe Griffin a lot of money and Pollard may seek a long-term deal in free agency. As a result, Tennessee could target the draft’s top safety. Clinton-Dix offers good size and on-field awareness. He’d do a fine job replacing Griffin or Pollard on day one, and he’d offer more long-term upside.
12. New York Giants -- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
After a woeful performance on offense in 2013, the Giants decided to shake things up and hire Green Bay quarterback coach Ben McAdoo as their offensive coordinator. McAdoo will bring a calming influence to the Giants, and he’ll bring along the knowledge of developing a high-octane passing game. One of the ingredients to such an offense is a bona fide stud tight end, which Ebron has the skill set to become.
13. St. Louis Rams -- Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Even if Tavon Austin develops into a star receiver, the Rams must continue to add pieces around quarterback Sam Bradford. A crisp route runner, Matthews caught more passes than any other receiver did in SEC history. He could play outside, while Austin makes his impact from the slot.
14. Chicago Bears -- Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
After allowing over 150 rushing yards per game, which was the most in franchise history, the Bears seem likely to upgrade the middle of their defense. They could opt to pickup inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, but Jernigan would be an ideal fit alongside the returning Henry Melton. Jernigan is an animal. He does a great job of stopping the run by fighting through blockers. He’s also a good pass rusher.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
With Ike Taylor regressing last year, Pittsburgh finds themselves in the market for cornerbacks. The Steelers also finished tied for 29th in interceptions last season, so they need to generate more turnovers. This makes Gilbert an enticing option. He‘s this draft‘s biggest playmaker in the defensive backfield. He’s still developing, but the Steelers aren’t afraid to develop a raw talent.
16. Dallas Cowboys -- Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The Cowboys inability to stop the run was on full display as they collapsed against the Packers in a late-season defeat. There lone bright spot on the defensive line is Jason Hatcher, but he’s a free agent, and it’s not clear as to whether the Cowboys will bring him back. Nix isn’t the most ideally suited player for Monte Kiffin’s defense, but that hasn’t stopped Jerry Jones in the past. Plus, if the Cowboys were ever to return to a 3-4, Nix could easily settle in as the team’s starting nose guard.
17. Baltimore Ravens -- Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Starting outside linebacker Terrell Suggs turns 32 this summer, so the Ravens will begin (if they haven’t already) to think about the long-term situation at outside linebacker. Some view Mack as a top 10 pick. Others view him as a late first-round pick. I think he falls in the 10-20 range. He’s one of the most explosive pass rushers in this draft and he’ll holdup versus the run. He’ll likely standout as this year’s NFL combine.
18. New York Jets -- Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California
Whether it’s wide receiver or tight end, the Jets should use their first pick on an offensive skill player. If the top two tight ends are off the board (Ebron & Seferian-Jenkins), then Lee makes the most sense. He didn’t play as well in 2013 as he did in 2012, but that was mainly due to injuries. When he’s fully healthy, he’s a dynamic threat capable stretching the field deep. He‘s also terrific after the catch. For the Jets, he could be an impact player on day one.
19. Miami Dolphins -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Surrendering a league-high 58 sacks will get you in the market for a left tackle, especially with a 25-year-old franchise quarterback to protect. Lewan is several steps below Matthews and Robinson, but he’s dependable and tough. It’s not a flashy choice, but a player like Lewan is what Miami needs.
20. Arizona Cardinals -- Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
In 2012, Arizona had arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line. They made strides in 2013, but there’s still plenty of room to grow. The return of last year’s first-round pick Jonathan Cooper will help, but adding a tackle could put them over the top. Kouandjio will bring a tremendous physical presence to Arizona’s offensive line. He and Cooper could give their offensive line a long-lasting foundation. When is the last time the Cardinals had that?
21. Green Bay Packers -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Getting tougher upfront is a necessity if Green Bay is to compete with San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC. Mosley fits the bill. Many regard him as one of the elite prospects of this draft, but linebackers tend to fall on draft day, and the Alabama tag makes him a little overrated. Still, Mosley is an excellent two-down linebacker. He and long-time Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk would give the Packers a rugged look at the position.
22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
The Eagles need pass rushers and nobody got after the quarterback more than Murphy did in 2013. His 15 sacks led college football. He’ll bring versatility to Philadelphia’s defense. He can rush the passer standing up or put his hand in the dirt. He also plays the game with incredible intensity, which is what the Eagles are going for on the defensive side of the ball.
23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Given Andy Reid’s track record in the draft, you can probably expect him to target a big man. Reid has drafted a defensive or offensive lineman in the first round in eight out his last nine attempts. Because of injuries, Tuitt didn’t get off to a great start in 2013, but he close strong enough to put himself in first-round consideration.
24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
An underrated prospect, Dixon possesses good size and incredible athleticism. According to Baylor‘s website, he runs a sub 4.40 forty-yard dash. He’s also tough against the run and a fundamental tackler. If he performs well throughout the pre-draft process, I think he has the ability to sneak his way into round one.
25. San Diego Chargers -- Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
Because of his size (6-4 & 340 pounds), Richardson is drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame offensive guard Larry Allen. Like Allen, Richardson is insanely powerful, but he’s also nimble on his feet. Drafting Richardson and playing him next to right tackle D.J. Fluker would go along way to solidifying San Diego’s offensive front.
26. Cleveland Browns -- Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
If the Browns opt to pass on a quarterback with their first pick, you can expect them to target one with their second pick. Carr is an interesting prospect. He was very productive for Fresno State in 2013 and his quick release is similar to Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. That doesn’t mean he‘s the next Marino, though, as Carr sometimes forces the ball into coverage. He also needs to work on his accuracy. Nevertheless, he’s an appealing quarterback to any team picking in the later half of round one.
27. New Orleans Saints -- Kony Ealy, DE/LB, Missouri
The Saints made major strides on defense in 2013, but they must continue to add to an aggressive defense. They need a rusher capable of simply beating the guy across from him. Ealy makes sense, especially if he lasts this long. He has an outstanding pass-rushing repertoire. He can rush inside or accelerate around the edge. He’d have the potential add another layer to New Orleans’ defense.
28. Carolina Panthers -- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
With a Super Bowl caliber defense in place, Carolina must upgrade the offensive side of the ball. They need a possession wide receiver -- which Benjamin is -- to compliment long-time receiver Steve Smith. Benjamin’s a big target (6-4 & 232 pounds) with outstanding hands. He plucks the ball out air as if it’s nothing. He’s still developing, but he made significant progress in 2013, and could eventually emerge for Carolina in the way Alshon Jeffery did in Chicago.
29. San Francisco 49ers -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
After a productive 2013 campaign, Evans saw his draft stock rise into the first round. How high is it, though? Evans does a great job of using his big body to post up defensive backs. However, he isn’t a burner. You won’t see him getting consistent separation from NFL defensive backs, which is likely to drop him down several draft boards, especially with a strong group of underclassman receivers.
30. New England Patriots -- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Surrounding Tom Brady with better skill players is a priority for New England. They need somebody versatile enough to play inside and outside, while athletic enough to stretch the field. That’s what Beckham does. He has terrific acceleration and does a great job of catching the ball with his hands. He could emerge as the player Bill Belichick thought he was getting when he drafted Aaron Dobson last year.
31. Denver Broncos -- Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State
You won’t find a definitive answer regarding Joyner’s draft stock. Simply put, it‘s all over the place. Because of his size (5-8 & 194 pounds), some teams will take Joyner off their draft board entirely. At the same time, though, he is this draft’s most instinctive player. He’s versatile enough to cover the slot, but he’s at his best when he relies on his instincts to freelance it with his play. The Broncos don’t seem to shy away from smaller defensive backs, so Joyner could be an ideal fit for them at the backend of round one.
32. Seattle Seahawks -- Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Seahawks need pass catchers. Specifically, they need somebody who can move the chains, as a healthy Percy Harvin will settle in as their big-play threat. Amaro did a great job of moving the sticks at Texas Tech. In fact, he was the most productive tight end in college football last season. You could argue he’s not an elite athlete, but he’s a steady player across the board, and could help take Seattle’s passing game to the next level.