1. Houston Texans - QB Blake Bortles, UCF
I have little doubt that Teddy Bridgewater is the top quarterback in this class, but the NFL’s obsession over size and build is real. Bortles will draw some poor man’s Andrew Luck comparisons thanks to his strong pocket movement and mannerisms, but there are some major differences between the two. Bortles is not as composed under pressure and his velocity drops when under duress.
2. Cleveland Browns (Trade via STL/WAS) - QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
It is difficult to understand any team’s mindset at this point in the process. Especially one that changes their mind so often. A report stated GM Ray Farmer preferred Marcus Mariota to any other QB in this group, but he later told the media he has a quarterback in mind at this point in the process. Rather than be patient and wait, I think owner Jimmy Haslam might push to trade up and land their guy.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
It is only a guess, but I think the Jaguars prefer Bridgewater as the top quarterback, so they might trade up to that No. 2 position to get him. One question I have with Manziel’s transition to the NFL is that he might need a receiver who consistently wins at the catch point. Mike Evans made Manziel better and Manziel made Evans better. The Jaguars do not have that, however.
4. Atlanta Falcons (Trade via STL/CLE) - Edge player Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
The Falcons have stale pass rushers and a GM who has shown he does not mind trading up for a top flight talent. The question is, does Thomas Dimitroff believe that trade and package of picks partially led to the Falcons’ poor 2013 season? Clowney is a rare talent, joining Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh Andrew Luck with that label.
5. Oakland Raiders - WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The Raiders certainly need a quarterback, but Watkins is on a different level. He is clearly the top receiver in the class due to his combination of explosion and ability to win at every level of the field. I would not worry that over 57 percent of his catches were recorded at the line of scrimmage.
6. St. Louis Rams (Trade via ATL) - T Greg Robinson, Auburn
I would be surprised if Robinson is not the first offensive lineman selected in May. The NFL obsesses with upside, and even though I prefer Texas A&M's Matthews as a player right now, the draft is not (always) focused on the following season’s success.
Robinson was asked to make a number of blocks when crashing down and getting to the second level, which he did at a high level. Robinson makes some blocks look absurdly easy, gaining leverage with strength that starts from the ground up. I wish there were more individual pass protection opportunities out in space, but Robinson is a great athlete for his size.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs - Edge player Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Mack was suspended for the opening game of the 2012 season, so that could impact his evaluation. Not for me. Mack is so versatile, since he wins in a variety of different ways and alignments. His leverage and power as a rusher to keep his opposition on skates is outstanding. Lovie Smith has shown that he is willing to adjust his defense in certain situations. Mack can play SLB near the line of scrimmage and help on the end of the line in pass rushing instances.
8. St. Louis Rams (Trade via MIN) - WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Expect Evans to run a fast time at the Combine, despite many questioning his speed. The big receiver has been called a long strider, and while that might be true I do believe he is quicker than given credit for. Evans’ yards after the catch are not discussed enough. He is very willing to win at the catch point and work back to his quarterback.
9. Buffalo Bills - T Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
EJ Manuel obviously should receive another season as the starter. With that said, there might be questions beyond that point. Head coach Doug Marrone has a history with the offensive line. I am a big fan of Cordy Glenn, and it appears teams view Jake Matthews at multiple spots along the front five. Some have mentioned Matthews could make a move to center. It could be true, but I do not think a team will be in a position to take Matthews if they want to do so as a center.
10. Detroit Lions - S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
I know corners are often mocked to the Lions, but coupling Clinton-Dix with Glover Quin behind a very good defensive line could help considerably. Others might question if this is too early for the Bama safety to be selected. I would not be surprised if he has a late surge like Mark Barron.
11. Tennessee Titans - DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
Sure, Nix dealt with a knee injury this season, but there are flashes of Vince Wilfork to his game. Looking back at Ray Horton’s defenses, he played two first-round picks at the 1/0 with Phil Taylor and Dan Williams. I think Nix offers more upfield ability than either, meaning he could stay on the field in more personnel groupings. The talent is there for this pick.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (Trade via NYG) - Edge player Anthony Barr, UCLA
Chip Kelly obviously took notes during his time at Oregon. That up close exposure likely aided in selecting Zach Ertz last season and continued into his implementation and use. Barr is not as far along in his development as we all thought his summer, but he still has plenty of upfield and chase down speed. If he starts using his hands and length more effectively, he can make a large impact.
For those wondering, there are a handful of examples that show teams are willing to trade with other clubs in their own division.
13. Minnesota Vikings (Trade via STL) - QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
We saw a similar move last year with the Bills, trading back with a quarterback in mind. Carr and Norv Turner would be fun to watch. The Fresno State product will frustrate and wow his fan base all in the same game. Carr does not throw from a balanced base on a consistent basis, but his arm hits throws at every level of the field with touch and velocity.
14. Chicago Bears - DT Timmy Jernigan, FSU
I do not evaluate Jernigan this highly. I think he wins as a 1/0 after delivering a strong punch to keep his opposition off balance. The problem is when he tends to move laterally around blockers after not winning off the snap. He is not agile when moving east and west. With that said, the Bears need to upgrade the interior of their defensive line. Badly.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Off LOS LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
The Steelers should be locked in on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive back can be upgraded, but I think adding Mosley next to Lawrence Timmons would allow Troy Polamalu to play in the deeper portions of the field and keep everything in front. Mosley has always had the range and awareness in coverage, but he attacks blockers better than given credit for. The Sean Lee comparisons are real.
16. Dallas Cowboys (coin flip) - S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Pryor was asked to play far off the ball at Louisville. I would not list him among the rangiest safety prospects in recent memory and would play him closer to the box. He misses tackles in space due to aggressive angles, but others have turned that negative around quickly in the NFL.
17. Baltimore Ravens (coin flip) - TE Eric Ebron, UNC
Adding a receiver as a priority does not necessarily limit teams to the “wide” variety. Ebron can line up detached in the slot or inline. Ebron offers exceptional athleticism and improved at the catch point in 2013. Expect a ridiculous workout at the Combine. He is also a willing and adequate blocker, which means you can keep him on the field on almost any package.
18. New York Jets - WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Beckham Jr. can win in a variety of ways and at multiple levels of the field. Put him in the slot or out wide. He is firmly the third receiver in this class by my estimation. Beckham Jr. can also win at the catch point in contested situations, something that is tough to find for someone of his size.
19. Miami Dolphins - OL Zack Martin, Notre Dame
This is all dependent on a team believing they can play Martin at guard or tackle. I think he can be good on the edge, but an excellent interior lineman. Martin plays with a wide base but extremely powerful hands. He is a versatile type that can fit into the starting lineup, but shift to another spot if necessary.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Edge player Dee Ford, Auburn
Ford is not just a speed rusher. Turn on his games against Texas A&M and Missouri and you will see burst, strong hands, and leverage to keep his opposition on skates. The argument between a 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB can be a bit of a waste of time now. Line Ford up wide and let him win. He could fill a sub-package pass rushing role early on in his career if necessary, or at least until he improves his reach block understanding.
21. San Francisco 49ers (Trade via GB) - WR Kelvin Benjamin, FSU
Trent Baalke has obviously done a good job of helping build the 49ers roster. One thing is clear, he does not mind taking chances. Benjamin is a fairly sizable one. There are instances of greatness in terms of stretching the field and domination at the catch point, but also lapses in concentration or limited movement skill.
22. New York Giants (Trade via PHI) - T Taylor Lewan, Michigan
There is a ton of uncertainty along the Giants’ offensive line. Justin Pugh can play multiple spots along the offensive line and Will Beatty went down with an injury late in the year. Lewan is not in the Matthews/Robinson tier of tackles, however, expect many teams to believe he can start immediately.
23. Kansas City Chiefs - DL Ra’Shede Hageman, Minn
With Hageman, I see a player that can line up at any one of the spots in an odd man front. He has played a lot of one technique this season, and has contributed at three and five technique as well. His athleticism will be on display at the Combine. That great workout could mean his future is projected as an end in a three man line, but I prefer him close to the center. Finding consistency is the key.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Three of the Bengals top corners are over 30 years old. Gilbert still struggles to turn and run while mirroring receivers, specifically along the sideline, but there has been plenty of buzz about Gilbert. He has great ball skills as well.
25. San Diego Chargers - CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Roby still has plenty of talent, even if it was not on display at all times this season. He is very aware at knowing when to peel off his route and attack underneath patterns and is not afraid to lower his shoulder for a big hit. The closing speed is there as well. Roby does need to stick to his man tighter when mirroring routes in man coverage.
26. Cleveland Browns (Trade via IND) - WR Marqise Lee, USC
I like Lee, but his game regressed in 2013, specifically due to a 12 percent drop rate. Lee mainly runs breaking routes, as 43 percent of his patterns were inside or outside breaks, many short, and 36 percent ended on movements back the quarterback. Only two catches in 2013 were caught deeper than 20 yards down the field.
27. New Orleans Saints - DL Kony Ealy, Missouri
I think the NFL likes Ealy more than I do. The Missouri defensive lineman can win on the inside or outside, but his hand use to gain a balance, momentum and leverage advantage leaves more to be desired. He also needs to display a more powerful leg drive. With that said, if an evaluator really likes Ealy’s upside, I could see a comparison to Greg Hardy.
28. Carolina Panthers - T Morgan Moses, Virginia
This is purely a need based projection, as finding a current and future tackle is the Panthers’ top need. Not receiver. I really hate Moses’ posture and am afraid it will lead to waist bending due to some questions about his functional strength. Many questioned if the same would happy to Cordy Glenn. I was a big fan due to Glenn’s ability to absorb and redirect thanks to his lower half athleticism. I do not see the same from Moses, but his hands are faster than his feet. I could buy some Marcus McNeil comparisons for Moses.
29. New England Patriots - DL Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
A few weeks ago I worried that Bill Belichick would not select Donald purely based on measurement minimums for the position. After discussing the idea with NESN’s Doug Kyed, I think Donald’s ability to cause disruption in the interior cannot be overlooked. Resetting the line of scrimmage and causing confusion in the backfield is king. He is a much, much better prospect than Chris Jones, Joe Vellano and whoever else the Patriots signed off the street last year.
30. Green Bay Packers (Trade via SF) - S Jimmie Ward, NIU
I am a huge fan of Ward. His versatility to line up as a safety that keeps everything in front or move into the slot to cover slot receivers or safeties is a big plus. He could fill a Kenny Vaccaro type role for many teams.
31. Denver Broncos - CB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
Expect to hear Breeland’s name more and more throughout the process. His game grows on me with each game. Breeland does not panic when trailing receivers, patiently locating the football and attacking to disrupt at the catch point.
32. Seattle Seahawks - TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
The Seahawks do not have a receiver like Amaro on their roster at this time, so instead of replacing another player consider this move as an addition and new wrinkle. Amaro can fit almost any alignment. He is a very fluid mover to win underneath and at the intermediate levels. Don’t discount his willingness to block downfield, in space, or at the line. Marshawn will like that.