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1. Houston Texans -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The combination of Clowney and J.J. Watt could potentially become a modern day version of Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen. That’s high praise, but Watt is already the best inside rusher in football, and Clowney has the potential to develop into the game’s top edge rusher.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Selecting Robinson allows the Rams to move Jake Long to right tackle and keep recently re-signed Rodger Saffold inside at guard. Robinson solidified his status as a top 10 pick by doing a masterful job against Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy in the SEC championship game. He further enhanced his draft stock with a solid combine workout. This pick will be a hot spot for trade activity, but the Rams won’t be able to drop far down and still land the player they want. They’ll need to decide whether they want extra draft picks, the draft’s best tackle prospect, or its best receiver prospect.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Drafting a quarterback remains in the cards for Jacksonville, but head coach Gus Bradley is a defensive-minded man, who comes from an organization (Seattle) that found their franchise quarterback in the third round. His preference -- especially with Andrew Luck in the division -- is likely to build a defense in the image of the Seahawks. Mack would give him the elite athlete to center his defense around, while also addressing the franchise’s pass rushing woes.
4. Cleveland Browns -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Bypassing a quarterback with the No. 4 selection and choosing the best player available may entice the Browns. Watkins followed up an historic Orange Bowl performance (16 catches, 227 yards, and 2 touchdowns) with a sensational combine workout. Pairing the dynamic athlete with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron could give Cleveland one of the league’s top offensive arsenals.
5. Oakland Raiders -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The last Raiders receiver to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season was Randy Moss back in 2005. That’s unacceptable, especially in today’s pass-happy league. The team did signed James Jones in free agency, but he isn’t a legitimate No. 1 option. Many feel Evans (6-foot-5, 231 pounds) is.
6. Atlanta Falcons -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Moving up to select a pass rusher remains an option for Atlanta, but the asking price might be too steep for a team with several needs. Matthews represents a solid fallback plan. Football is in his blood. His father Bruce Matthews is one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history. Whether it’s with Atlanta or somebody else, Matthews has the ability to step in and contribute as an immediate starter.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Because they filled many of their needs via free agency, Tampa Bay has the luxury of looking to the future with this selection. I’ve never bought into Lovie Smith’s declaration that Josh McCown was the team’s starting quarterback. McCown turns 35 this July, so Tampa Bay must address the position for the long-term. Many compare Manziel to Seattle’s Russell Wilson, but I believe the proper comparison is to 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. While that isn’t necessarily good for his long-term future, developing behind McCown would be.
8. Minnesota Vikings -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
After mistakenly reaching for Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder in 2011, the Vikings may stay away from a quarterback with their first pick. Instead, they could opt to draft an interior pass rusher. Donald could play alongside Sharrif Floyd in Mike Zimmer‘s defense, giving him two young defensive tackles to work with.
9. Buffalo Bills -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bills have a good left tackle in Cordy Glenn, but they could upgrade the right side. Lewan entered the combine as the clear-cut No. 3 offensive tackle in this draft, but he displayed the kind of athleticism and movement skills you see from top 10 tackles. He still remains this draft’s No. 3 tackle, but the gap between him, Matthews, and Robinson may not be as wide as many (like myself) thought.
10. Detroit Lions -- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Lions need secondary help, but the prospect of pairing Ebron with wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate could prove too enticing for general manager Martin Mayhew to pass up.
11. Tennessee Titans -- Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Expect the Titans to play multiple fronts this season, but their long-term trajectory points to a full switch to a 3-4. They need to re-shape their front seven, as a result. Barr has enough athleticism to transition from college defensive end to pro outside linebacker. He can drop in coverage and is versatile enough to play multiple positions.
12. N.Y. Giants -- Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Improving their offensive line remains a priority for the Giants, despite the fact they drafted Syracuse’s Justin Pugh in the first-round last year. Martin had an outstanding Senior Bowl week, where he displayed enough versatility to project as a guard or tackle. He could help solidify the Giants’ offensive line by sliding into one of those positions. He could even play center.
13. St. Louis Rams -- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Even if Tavon Austin develops into a star receiver, St. Louis must continue to add pieces around quarterback Sam Bradford. Beckham does a great job of going up and battling for the football. He is also versatile enough to play outside or the slot, while athletic enough to get deep. Pairing him with Austin could make St. Louis’ offense fun to watch again.
14. Chicago Bears -- Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Bears could draft as many as two safeties with their first three picks. Clinton-Dix has good size and is physical enough to play in the box. He is also a natural enough athlete to thrive as a centerfielder on the backend.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
With Ike Taylor regressing last year, Pittsburgh finds themselves in the market for cornerbacks. The Steelers finished tied for 29th in interceptions last year, 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 -- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Jerry Jones didn’t sign Henry Melton to be just a stopgap at defensive tackle. They expect him to make an impact for years to come. As a result, the Cowboys may not draft a defensive tackle with this pick, as many expect. They could look to add a defensive end. Ealy is still a work in progress, but he has an outstanding pass-rushing repertoire. He can rush inside or accelerate around the edge. Whether it’s defensive end or tackle, Dallas needs to improve their defensive line.
17. Baltimore Ravens -- Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
A hard-hitting safety with a nose for the football, Pryor is comparable to Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu. He would pair nicely with Matt Elam, who was Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2013. For years, the Ravens have watched Polamalu torment them. Drafting Pryor gives them a chance to return the favor to rival Pittsburgh.
18. N.Y. Jets -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Clearly, the Jets are deciding between a wide receiver and a cornerback with their top pick. The board may make the decision for them. Dennard thrives in man-coverage and uses his physicality to disrupt receivers downfield. In fact, his coverage skills make him very similar to Darrelle Revis.
19. Miami Dolphins -- Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Another high-rising prospect is Shazier. The Dolphins are looking to add an impact linebacker, especially after the disappointing seasons from Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. The ability to play all three downs makes Shazier a day one pick.
20. Arizona Cardinals -- Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
At one point it seemed plausible that Bortles would go No. 1 overall, but now he could be in for a draft day fall. Many still view Bortles as an elite prospect because of his upside, but his accuracy, decision-making, and mechanics need work. Bruce Arians developed both Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, though, so he definitely has it in him to turn Bortles into a viable starter. Even those skeptical (including myself) of the Central Florida prospect recognize he has the talent to emerge as the best from this draft class.
21. Green Bay Packers -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Toughness and versatility is what Green Bay wants from their front seven, as they strive to compete with San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC. Signing Julius Peppers makes them more versatile. Drafting Mosley would make them tougher. Many regard the Alabama linebacker 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 tackler and takes good angles to the football. He and long-time Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk would give the Packers a rugged look at the position.
22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
You don’t release DeSean Jackson without having a plan in place to replace his production. That plan (if it exists) could involve Cooks, who has the blazing speed to play in Kelly’s offense. Cooks reminds me of Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb, though he also compares with Jackson. His size (5-foot-10, 187 pounds) could concern the Eagles, but in the last two years, he’s caught 195 passes for 2,881 yards. He’s also scored 23 touchdowns. Kelly coached against him in 2012.
23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
Hageman has excellent size (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) and is versatile enough to play 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 defensive tackle. His inconsistencies suggest that he’s not yet ready to make an immediate impact, but Kansas City head coach Andy Reid values defensive and offensive lineman in round one. Reid has drafted a defensive or offensive lineman in the first round in eight out his last nine attempts.
24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Injecting youth into their secondary is something Cincinnati may consider. Next season, Adam Jones turns 31 and Leon Hall turns 30. In addition, because of injuries, they relied on 35-year-old Terence Newman last year. Fuller’s stock is on the rise, likely because of his size (6-foot, 190 pounds) and long arms. He has good instincts and recognizes routes, consistently making plays on the ball. His best football is ahead of him.
25. San Diego Chargers -- Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
A strong combine performance could elevate Roby back into the first round, after he disappointed in 2013. Roby ran a sub 4.40 in the 40-yard dash and scouts like his upside to develop into a quality NFL starter. I’d prefer to see TCU cornerback Jason Verrett in this spot, but Verrett’s size (5-9, 189 pounds) could scare the Chargers in another direction.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) -- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Expect the Browns to select a quarterback with their second pick if they don’t take one at No. 4. Bridgewater and David Carr are the two most likely candidates, with Bridgewater earning a higher grade. The Louisville signal caller is ready to step in and start immediately because of his polished mechanics. His game tape is vastly superior to Bortles and Manziel, so Cleveland would be getting excellent value by making him the third quarterback taken in this draft. In fact, given the existing talent on their roster, Bridgewater could be the final piece to put this team back into playoff contention.
27. New Orleans Saints -- Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
The Saints made major strides defensively under Rob Ryan, but his unit still needs more talent that is aggressive. Bringing in a rusher capable of winning one-on-one battles with opposing offensive lineman is a good start. Throughout Senior Bowl week, Ford displayed enough athleticism to shift from defensive end to outside linebacker. His ability to accelerate around the edge may give him the advantage over BYU’s Kyle Van Noy here.
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 wide receiver to replace long-time receiver Steve Smith. Benjamin’s a big target (6-foot-4, 232 pounds) with outstanding hands. 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 -- Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Landing the versatile Lee at No. 29 would be an excellent get for San Francisco. He can lineup outside or inside, and he’s athletic enough to stretch the field. 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 who is terrific after the catch.
30. New England Patriots -- Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Most teams peg Su’a-Filo as the top guard prospect in this draft, a position New England needs to consider upgrading. The UCLA standout can play every position on the offensive line, though playing left tackle in the pros seems like a long shot. The Patriots could plug him in at right guard and have an immediate starter.
31. Denver Broncos -- Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Drafting a cornerback remains in the cards for Denver, even after they signed Aqib Talib in one of free agency’s blockbuster moves. Verrett displays good recovery speed, ball skills, and instincts. His size is an issue, but the Broncos do have smaller cornerbacks on their roster, so they may overlook it. While Verrett can play the outside, I think he’d thrive as a slot corner.
32. Seattle Seahawks -- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
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. 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 talented player at an ever-evolving position.