I have strategically held off on the mock draft this year.  Too much can change in the weeks preceding the draft, and this is even more true this year with the draft being pushed back two weeks.  I think that most of the teams have their board’s set.  I won’t try to predict trades, though they are inevitable.  I believe teams picking in the teens will try to trade back, as I believe there to be 8-9 truly elite players. 

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney: DE, South Carolina: Houston’s GM Rick Smith has made it no secret that the team is willing and open to move down.  The latest word is that the Falcons aren’t interested in moving up to select Clowney, but everything leading up to the draft is a smoke screen until it does or does not happen.  In spite of Clowney supposedly not being a scheme fit in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense, his upside is simply too high to ignore, and Houston won’t be the club to pass on a guy who has 20 sack upside.

2. St. Louis Rams: Sammy Watkins: WR, Clemson: This is a very tough call to make. The latest rumor is that Les Snead is high on Johnny Manziel, and as the world’s biggest Sam Bradford detractor I can’t blame him.  The Rams have invested a ton of resources in WR with marginal results, but Watkin’s has the potential to be a Julio Jones like game changer.  If they are going to stick with Bradford, this should be the pick.  OL is another big need, so Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews are also viable options.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack: OLB, Buffalo: The Jags had the least sacks in the league last year, and Mack would provide a desperately needed infusion of talent along the defensive front 7.  He is a natural fit to play the LEO position in Gus Bradley’s defense.  Manziel is another option here, but the Jags will probably be at the top of the draft next year, and with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston coming out the 2015 draft class will be flush with talent at the QB position.

4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB: Texas A&M: The Browns have been looking for a franchise QB since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999.  Manziel is probably the most polarizing figure in the draft, but his upside is undeniable and his skill set is taylor made for the offense that Kyle Shannahan runs.  The Browns would probably prefer to get Watkins if he falls and address the QB position later, but they will settle for the electric Aggie.  They would also take one of the tackles here, or reach for Mike Evans

5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT: Auburn: I do not believe the Raiders will take a QB in the first round of this year’s draft.  They traded for Matt Schaub in the offseason and I think that their front office likes Matt Mcgloin as a developmental prospect.  They let Jared Veldheer walk in free agency, and while they signed Donald Penn in free agency, the team needs youth and talent along the offensive line.  I think that Aaron Donald and Mike Evans are also potential picks for the Raiders.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT: Texas A&M: The Falcons are another team that needs offensive lineman in the worst way.  Matthews is one of my favorite prospects in the draft.  He is the son of hall of fame OT Bruce Matthews and cousin of Clay Matthews, so innate football talent is in his blood.  After giving up so much to get Julio Jones just two years ago, I do not think that Thomas Dmitroff will want to give up more valuable resources in what is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.  Aaron Donald could also be the pick here.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR: Texas A&M: This would be a logical fit with the depature of Mike Williams to the Bills via trade. The Bucs also have needs along both lines but Evans would be a great complement to Vincent Jackson and his eventual successor. Josh Mccown thrived in Chicago with a 1-2 tandem at WR and this would be similar.

8. Minnestoa Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB: UCF: I think that Bortles to Minnesota is a perfect fit.  He’s not a finished product, but the Vikings just re-signed Matt Cassel, so he could sit for a year and absorb the playbook.  Norv Turner is notoriously good with QBs.  Just a year ago he had Brian Hoyer playing like an all-pro before he tore his ACL early in the season.  The Vikings need players on defense, so I wouldn’t rule out UCLA standout Anthony Barr.

9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE: UNC: This is another selection I’m torn on.  The Bills ranked 16th in pass protection last year, and I believe that they do need help along the offensive line.  With that being said, EJ manuel looked so-so as a rookie, and he would benefit tremendously from a Jimmy-Graham like talent at TE, and Ebron fits the bill.  Taylor Lewan of Michigan is also a possibility for the Bills.

10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB: Michigan State:  The Lions secondary is devoid of talent, and they would benefit greatly selecting the in-state product.  Dennard won the Jim Thorpe award as the nation’s best defensive back.  The Lions have spent resources in the draft on DBs recently, with Darius Slay and Bill Bentley, but Dennard would be a home run selection in my opinion.  I view him as a superior prospect to Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, and I think that CBs are more valuable than safeties.  Don’t rule out an offensive lineman or a safety here.

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB: UCLA: The Titans let Alterraun Verner leave to Tampa Bay in free agency, and they would benefit greatly from a talent like Verner.  While his cover skills are inferior to Dennard’s, Gilbert is a freakish athlete and a phenomenal return man.  The Titans did not pick up Jake Locker’s 5th year option, so Teddy Bridgewater or even Zach Mettenberger could be options as well. 

12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT: Pitt: The defensive front, which has traditionally been the foundation of the Giants defense, has been depleted by attrition. Donald, who has drawn favorable comparisons to Geno Atkins, would fit nicely with Jonathan Hankins to provide an interior pass rush for the Gmen. Other possiblities are offensive tackle and WR, but I believe Donald is their guy.

13. St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, OT: Michigan: The Rams would sprint the pick to the podium of Lewan slides this far.  While there are some character concerns spawning from an Ann Arbor bar fight, Lewan has the potential to be a franchise left tackle for 10 years.  Add that to the fact that Jake Long has a checkered history of injuries, and this seems like a no-brainer.  The Rams also need help in the secondary, so I wouldn’t rule out Ha-Ha Clinton Dix.

14. Chicago Bears: Ha Ha Clinton Dix, FS: Alabama:  The Bears had an atrocious defense last year, and their secondary did not help their cause.  Clinton Dix would be a day one starter and would provide an impact playmaker that the Bears need in the worst way.  CJ Mosley of Alabama would be another possibility here. 

15. Pittsburg Steelers: CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama:  I was very tempted to stop Mike Evans’ slide here, but its not like the Steelers to use premium selections on skill position players.  The Steelers are getting old and slow in the defense and Mosley would help to stop that trend. He is another guy who I like a lot and would be a natural fit to play ILB in the Steelers 3-4 defense.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, SS, Louisville: The Cowboys need help along the defensive front more than any team in the league.  With that being said, I don’t need the value here.  I think the Cowboys would love to trade out here, ideally to a team looking to get Mike Evans. If they stand pat, Pryor would provide a much needed physical presence in the back end of their secondary. 

17. Baltimore Ravens: Justin Gilbert, CB: Oklahoma State: The Ravens could use a playmaker opposite Torrey Smith, but I don’t see the value here at 17. Instead, they’ll opt for the athletic Ok State coverman. He is also an outstanding return man, and some have compared him to a poor man’s patrick peterson.

18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr, WR: LSU:  The Jets need offensive playmakers more than any team in the draft.  They would probably hate to lose out on Evans by one pick, but Beckham Jr wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.  The Jets could take a look at Martin here as well, but WR is too glaring a need and Geno Smith’s development is contingent upon Idzik surrounding him with playmakers.

19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin: OT, Notre Dame:  This would be a sprint the pick to the podium, no-brainer pick for the ‘phins.  Their offensive line was a disaster last year, no thanks to the Incognito-Jonathan Martin mess.  If Martin is gone, the Dolphins could stand to add another weapon for Tannehill, like Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Shazier, OLB: Ohio State: The Cardinals had one of the best defenses in the league last year, and Shazier would help solidify an already talented unit.  Some speculate the Cardinals will pick Carson Palmer’s successor here, but in such a competitive division, I think they need to into this draft with a win now mentality. 

21. Green Bay Packers: Brandin Cooks, WR: Oregon State: The Packers could really use a safety, but with Clinton Dix and Pryor off the board, I think Cooks would be a great pick here.  Paired next to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, this could give the Pack the best trio of receivers in the league.  The Pack could use an interior defensive lineman with this selection as well.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marquis Lee, WR: USC: With the highly publicized departure of Desean Jackson, WR quickly became a pressing need for the Eagles. Chip Kelly is familiar with Lee from his days coaching at Oregon, and he would pair nicely with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.  The Eagles could also use a pass rusher, and Kony Ealy of Mizzou would also fit nicely.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT Alabama: The Chiefs lost three key pieces to their offensive line via free agency departure when Brandon Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah all signed elsewhere.  Last year’s number one pick Eric Fisher will be moving to LT, and Kouandjio can step in and start at RT.  The Chiefs could use a WR and a safety, but I don’t see the value here.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kony Ealy, DE: Mizzou:  The departure of Michael Johnson in free agency leaves a glaring hole opposite Carlos Dunlap.  Ealy was a productive pass rusher in the SEC and projects as a 4-3 DE.  There are talks of the Bengals letting Dalton walk and selecting a QB here, but I think the needs at DE and CB are too glaring to pass on at this point. 

25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB: VA Tech: The Chargers are a team that needs help in their secondary.  Fuller is an athletic cover corner who would step in and start on day one.  The Chargers need help along all levels of their defense.  They also need offensive lineman, so I wouldn’t rule out Todd McShay’s favorite, UVA OT Morgan Moses.

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indy): Jason Verrett, CB: TCU: Ideally, I believe the Browns would like to get a WR here, but I don’t see the value.  Verrett would pair with Joe Haden to give the Browns a solid 1-2 combo at CB.  I think that with the 4th pick in the second round the Browns could still get someone like PSU’s Allen Robinson or Cody Latimer from Indiana.

27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE: Auburn: The Saints were in cap hell this offseason and saw Will Smith leave as a result.  Ford would play OLB in Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense and would provide the Saints with a much needed boost in the pas rush department.  The Saints are another team that could use help along the offensive line, as well as a WR. 

28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, OT: UVA: At first glance, WR is the no brainer pick for the Panthers.  Steve Smith signed with the Ravens as well as Brandon Lafell signing with New England.  The Panthers did sign Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant, and the need at OT is even more glaring. Jordan Gross retired and their is no successor in place.  Moses could be that guy, and they could address WR in the 2nd round.

29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro: TE, Texas Tech:  It’s never easy to predict who the Pats are gonna take, but with Gronk blowing out his ACL and little depth behind him, Amaro could be a good insurance policy.  He’s big and athletic in the mold of Gronk, and Brady and Belichik love to throw to the tight end.  An interior lineman or safety are other possibilities here.

30. San Francisco 49’ers: Bradley Roby, CB: Ohio State: CB and WR are the biggest needs for the 49ers.  There are talks of the ‘9ers using their plethora of draft picks to move up and get one of the premiere wideouts.  I’m not predicting trades, and with that being said I think they’ll stand pat and take Roby. He has had some recent transgressions with the law, but I think he will do alright in a strong locker room like San Fran has.

31. Denver Broncos: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State:  The Broncos need some beef along the defensive front.  Jernigan is a force and would instantly upgrade the interior of the defensive line.  The Broncos could stand to add some depth along the offensive line and at linebacker.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG: UCLA:  The Seahawks chose not to exercise James Carpenter’s 5th year option, and with Russel Okung’s free agency approaching, they need to beef up their O-line. Su’a-Filo would be a plug and play starter, and would help keep the soon to be very rich Russell Wilson upright.  They would also look at Ra’shede Hageman here to help offset the loss of Red Bryant to the Jaguars.








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