1. Houston Texans – Trade w/Jacksonville- Jaguars select Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Manziel is a perfect fit in Jacksonville; he’ll sell tickets, make the Jaguars relevant again, and he’s going to be a great. Quarterbacks are more valuable than defensive ends, which in turn makes Manziel the most valuable player in this draft, not Clowney.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
In the hypercompetitive and defensive dominated NFC West, the Rams make the decision to follow suit and take the talented linebacker from Buffalo. I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded down, but in this version of the draft they stay put.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Pick traded to Texans- Texans select Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney has been the consensus (I’m not a member of this group) top prospect for well over a year now, so the Texans get the best of both worlds by adding a pick and still getting the player they wanted to take at number one.
4. Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Instead of adding a quarterback, the Browns land the best wide receiver to enter the NFL since Julio Jones. Watkins may be better than Jones, and he’ll help form one of the best wide receiver duo’s in the league with Josh Gordon.
5. Oakland Raiders – Greg Robinson, T, Auburn
The Raiders need help up front and they end up with the top tackle in the draft. With the trade for Matt Schaub in the offseason, it is clear the Reggie McKenzie and his crew are trying to win now. Protecting your quarterback is the best way to do that, and Robinson fills that major need.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
The Falcons are in major need of offensive line help, and they find a player with the best NFL bloodline of all time. Matt Ryan needs to be kept upright and adding Matthews, who has been blocking for Manziel the last two years, will do just that.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Last year the Bucs spent a third round pick on quarterback Mike Glennon and he pushed Josh Freeman out the door. Enter a new regime with a new plan; expect to see Glennon traded and Bortles to eventually win the job over career backup Josh McCown.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Everyone has him falling, his pro day was awful, blah-blah-blah…Minnesota needs a quarterback desperately, and they like Bridgewater. Let’s not forget that Rick Spielman once used the number 12 pick on Christian Ponder.
9. Buffalo Bills – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Bills need to find a good tight end, and Ebron fits the bill. Ebron has issues with concentration, so he’ll take time to develop, but if he taps into his athleticism like he did at UNC, then the AFC East is going to have their hands full for the next decade.
10. Detroit Lions – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The third Aggie to go in the top ten heads to Detroit to team with Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford. Detroit has had issues with their second receiver so having Evans fall to number ten is a godsend for the Lions offense. Evans brings toughness that the Lions need.
11. Tennessee Titans – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.
Alterraun Verner bolted for Tampa in free agency and left a hole in the secondary; Gilbert is the type of player that can come in and play right away. He may not be the level of Verner, but the Titans will be happy with the skill set Gilbert brings to their defense.
12. New York Giants – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald provides a presence that the Giants are desperately in need of on the defensive front. Donald shouldn’t be available at this point in the draft, but questions about his size push him out of the top ten. This is a steal for the Giants.
13. St. Louis Rams – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
People are going to think I’m nuts to project the Rams to draft two linebackers with their first two picks, but I’m sticking to it. Barr is an outside linebacker with huge NFL potential and impossible to pass up at this point. The Rams linebacker core, in theory, would be all set for the next five to eight years.
14. Chicago Bears – Ha Ha Clinton Dix, FS, Alabama
The Bears need help at safety and Clinton Dix is the top safety in the 2014 class. The Alabama product should start right away and will add athleticism and flexibility to the Bears secondary. Dix has the ability to play corner in a pinch too, making him more valuable.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
The Steelers haven’t been able to protect Big Ben for the last few seasons, and if they want to get back to the playoffs they better fix this problem. Lewan has great feet, balance and he has been facing top competition throughout his college career.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Although the Cowboys do need help on the offensive line, they’re also thin at the safety position. Pryor is the second ranked free safety in this draft; this would be the smart pick for Dallas, so assume they’ll do something different.
17. Baltimore Ravens – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Alabama’ track record for NFL players, especially first round picks, has been very spotty, but the Ravens typically draft well. They go with Mosley, one of the best athletes in this draft. The Ravens are still in transition on defense since the departures of Lewis and Reed. This pick helps.
18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
The Jets were linked to every big name free agent wide receiver this offseason. Nothing came to fruition and John Idzik has made it clear he’s building through the draft. Beckham is an athletic specimen that looks the part of the NFL wide receiver. Geno Smith gets a new weapon to work with.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, G, Notre Dame
The Dolphins went into this offseason with a major problem- the offensive line. They essentially didn’t have one after watching it crumble in 2013 due to bullying and chaos. Martin is considered the top guard in the draft and will be most likely inserted into the starting lineup on day one. He and Pouncey alone will make Miami stronger up the middle.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Carson Palmer has about three seasons left in him, so drafting a quarterback is a necessity for the Cards. Derek Carr will not get the same treatment his brother did by getting thrown to the wolves and will have a chance to learn under Palmer until he’s ready to take the reins.
21. Green Bay Packers – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The pass rush was addressed in free agency and now the back end is addressed in the first round. Dennard has decent size, a strong bloodline (cousin Alfonzo is a starting cornerback for New England) and has the look of an NFL corner. Health could be an issue.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Marquise Lee, WR, USC
If Lee was allowed to enter the draft last year, he would have been a top ten pick. He had a down junior season but Chip Kelly will look past it because he knows what he is getting with Lee- one of the top wide receivers in this draft. Lee isn’t your typical Trojan wide receiver (translation- not a bust.)
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Chiefs need depth at the wide receiver position and Cooks fills that need. Cooks is a polished, strong third receiver to add to the Avery/Bowe duo. Andy Reid knows that a wide receiver core should resemble a basketball starting five and the selection of Cooks gets them 3/5 of the way there.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois
The Bengals have a good defense and Taylor Mays has played decent for them at strong safety, but it is hard to pass on Ward at this point, especially knowing that New England and other AFC contenders like him. Watch for Ward to steal the starting job from Mays.
25. San Diego Chargers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Chargers get a steal when Kyle Fuller slips to them in the first round. Facing the Broncos a minimum of twice a year makes it essential to have a great pass defense. If the Chargers don’t take a corner here, don’t be surprised to see them go after a pass rusher.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts) – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
With Joe Haden at the top of the depth chart and the addition of safety Donte Whitner, the Browns are one corner away from having a dominant secondary. Roby will look to become the second Buckeye starting in the Cleveland secondary.
27. New Orleans Saints – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
The Saints gambled their first round pick on a running back in 2011, trading up for Mark Ingram, but he looks like a bust. Darren Sproles was traded and Pierre Thomas isn’t getting any younger, so Hyde will have an opportunity to win the job right away. The Saints get it right this time around.
28. Carolina Panthers – Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
The Panthers gutted their wide receiver core in the offseason so this pick is more of a need pick than a best overall player pick. The Panthers select a player that Cam Newton will love and help erase the pain of losing Steve Smith. Latimer, a former basketball star, has good size and athleticism.
29. New England Patriots – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
When Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down last year, it was clear that the Patriots depth on the defensive line was lacking. The main problem was stopping the run; adding Nix will give the Patriots the insurance policy they need if Wilfork’ Achilles injury acts up or Kelly happens to go down again.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The 49ers have a problem on their hands with Aldon Smith, regardless if he cleans up his act. He is absolutely going to be suspended by the NFL and he could possibly even face jail time for his braincramp at the airport. The 49ers add Ford to their star studded defense and allow the young talent to develop on the fly.
31. Denver Broncos – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Broncos did have a great offseason and they added a top end cornerback, but Verrett is the best player left on the board. With the prospect of facing New England in the AFC title game, having a strong secondary will be key. Aqib Talib is always a wild card when it comes to health, so Verrett could end up getting his fair share of playing time in his rookie year.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The Seahawks have gone through the typical free agent raid that Super Bowl champs endure, and the most important piece they lost was Golden Tate. Robinson isn’t the same type of player as Tate, but he will certainly help the Seattle offense get over his loss.