With just more than one month to go until the NFL Draft, the expectations are mounting, and there still plenty of uncertainty about what will happen — even at the top of the first round.
Without knowing who could go number one, the whole draft is really hard to put into place. But rumors are flying, the speculation is brewing and things are looking more and more like the Houston Texans have their eye on a quarterback with the first overall pick.
1. Houston Texans – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Word around league circles is heavy that the Texans are going quarterback instead of pairing Jadeveon Clowney with J.J. Watt, or taking the more pro-ready Teddy Bridgewater or drafting the college hero in Johnny Manziel.
Bortles is a player that has the look and tools of a franchise quarterback, but his footwork is messy at best right now, his arm strength seems to have regressed from 2012 to 2013 and his most success is shown to be as a result of a play breaking down instead of him winning from within the pocket.
2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
As hard as it is to ignore the fact that:
A. Jeff Fisher never drafts an offensive lineman early.
B. The Rams have invested over $20 million on the offensive line for Jake Long, Rodger Saffold and Scott Wells for 2014, it still is hard to think Robinson wouldn’t be a great pick.
Robinson could start at right tackle, allowing the Rams to keep Saffold at guard, left tackle if Long isn’t healthy, or left guard to make a completely dominant left side of the offensive line in a division boasting perhaps the best front sevens in the NFL.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Amazing that maybe the best defender to enter the draft in five years falls to number three, but quarterback and protecting the quarterback sometimes wins out over stacking talent at a position of strength.
Clowney would give head coach Gus Bradley his missing defensive end to continue to build a dominant defense for the Jaguars.
4. Cleveland Browns – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The thought of the Browns passing on the dynamic and explosive Sammy Watkins for Evans may seem absurd, but with the weapons the Browns already have in place in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, the fit just seems right.
Evans is a big-bodied, physical receiver who can pair up with the dynamic Gordon and, much like Arizona did in 2013, give the Browns the offensive weapons that any quarterback can succeed with.
5. Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Welcome to the Raiders Mr. Watkins, as Al Davis looks down with a smile on his face.
Watkins is the most dynamic offensive weapon in this draft class, and will immediately get number-one receiving duties in Oakland.
He has the ability to beat teams deep, but also has improved his work in the intermediate and is strong after the catch.
He’ll give Matt Schaub an Andre Johnson-like security blanket at receiver, and help get the Raiders’ offense back on track.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
With Matt Ryan being the investment he is, the Falcons need to protect him and Matthews would be an excellent fit in that way.
He has the pedigree to be a starter on the Falcons’ O-line for a decade.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – C.J. Mosley, LB Alabama
The Bucs are moving to a Tampa 2 defense again, and they have many fits already on the team to make the switch. But one they don’t have is that middle linebacker that controls the defense like Brian Urlacher did in Chicago.
While Mosley isn’t quite the athlete that Urlacher was, he is a Sean Lee clone, and along with Lavonte David, would immediately form one of the most formidable linebacking duos in the NFL.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
This may end up being the best thing to happen to both Teddy and the Vikings, as Bridgewater would get to work with Norv Turner to start his career and the Vikings would get to move on from Christian Ponder.
9. Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
One of the most dynamic edge players in the draft, Mack would offer Buffalo another weapon on an ever-improving defense.
While the Bills could use a player like North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, Mack could be a James Harrison-type impact edge player, and those don’t come often in the NFL.
10. Detroit Lions – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
An excellent safety prospect, Clinton-Dix would give the Lions the desperately-needed help they need in their secondary.
Clinton-Dix gives them a rangy, back end safety that can help them cover up some of their holes on defense.
11. Tennessee Titans – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton gets a weapon in his third stop in three years and his second run with Ken Whisenhunt.
Barr is a dynamic, explosive edge-rushing type, who Horton can mold into the player he needs on the outside in Tennessee.
12. New York Giants – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Giants need to find more weapons for Eli Manning and Ebron is just that, an offensive weapon.
13. St. Louis Rams – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
With two wide receivers off the board for the Rams’ second pick, they look to continue to build the defense.
The Rams are hoping for Clinton-Dix to fall, but instead land Pryor, who brings a physical, hard-hitting style that Fisher loves in his defense.
14. Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Bears have become less “Monsters of the Midway” and more a team centered around a pass-happy, finesse offense.
They were aggressive in free agency and Donald would add the perfect 3-technique defensive tackle to their defense.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
With the defense still in a semi-rebuild mode, adding a potential shutdown corner would be a great get for the Steelers in round one.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
There’s a question about whether or not Jernigan will give it his all every play, but there’s no question about how dominant he can be when he turns it on.
Jernigan would give the Cowboys the interior pressure maker they missed last year in their defense.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Ravens continue to rebuild their offensive line around Joe Flacco and in doing so, they take the talented, but troubled Michigan offensive lineman.
Plugging Lewan in at right tackle would allow the Ravens to get back to their physical running ways and open up the deep passing game again.
18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Jets’ offense needs weapons badly for whomever their quarterback is in 2014, and Beckham Jr. is one of the better pass catchers in this draft.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Dolphins, like the Cardinals and Ravens, spent big money on their offensive line in free agency, and now they finish the line off with a bookend on the right side. Martin could also play guard, depending on how the Dolphins want to use him.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Kony Ealy, Edge Rusher, Missouri
There’s a bit of a split on what Ealy projects to be at the next level, but the Cardinals’ free agent interest in Green Bay’s Mike Neal says that they are OK with that unknown about the player.
There is no denying that Ealy has the short-area quickness to be an edge rusher, whether from a stand-up position or with his hand in the dirt, and his versatility and strength at the point of attack means that he can be an asset to the Cardinals from multiple spots.
If he can’t succeed on the edge, he can put on a little weight and become an effective 3-4 defensive end. But any way you slice it, he has the upside, length, quickness and aggressiveness that the Cardinals are looking for.
21. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Packers are a hard team to figure out, but what Shazier offers is a dynamic, impactful defensive player who can line up in a multitude of positions, while also offering the athleticism to match up with the read-option quarterbacks.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Eagles could go a plethora of ways here, but Gilbert offers too much value and upside at this point to continue to fall.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
While the Chiefs need some work on the back end of their defense, they also need to find short-area weapons for Alex Smith.
Lee is maybe the most dynamic after-the-catch receiver in this draft class and would be a dynamic weapon for Andy Reid’s West Coast passing game.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Maybe the best pound-for-pound corner in the class, Verrett offers an intriguing option as a slot corner and a wonderful match up weapon for the Bengals.
25. San Diego Chargers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Fuller has become one of the hottest names in the NFL Draft scene over the last month because he is an absolute phenom at corner.
The issue with Fuller is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. But if he can figure out how to do that, teams will wonder why they passed on him.
26. Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Vikings at eight and the Cardinals at 20 may be the only teams that stand between Manziel and a date in Cleveland at the back end of round one.
He’s the most polarizing prospect in years, but his upside may end up being higher than anyone in the draft. A new regime can take a chance on that.
27. New Orleans Saints – Dee Ford, Edge Rusher, Auburn
Maybe the Cardinals pull the trigger on Ford, maybe his medical issues scare them away, but the productive pass rusher likely won’t make it much further down the draft board than this.
28. Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
There are some questions about Benjamin, but he has big play ability and would offer a massive target for Cam Newton.
The problem is the Panthers also need offensive line help, and luckily Newton affords you some leeway on protection.
29. New England Patriots- Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Hageman offers the Patriots so much in the way of versatility and athleticism, while also being a young option on their defensive front while Vince Wilfork slowly works his way back.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby gets a bad rap for his sluggish play at times in 2013, but he was dominant at times in 2012.
The 49ers have a massive hole in their secondary and adding Roby is a good start to correcting those problems.
31. Denver Broncos – Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada
The Broncos need some work on the offensive line after addressing their needs on defense and keeping Peyton Manning’s weapons intact.
Bitonio is a fantastic talent, with explosive ability and a nasty, physical demeanor who will take up for his quarterback.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Brandin Cooks, WR Oregon State
The Seahawks have the ability to go a lot of different ways here. Cooks offers them another receiving option to grow with Russell Wilson.