Now that the season is finally concluded with the Seattle Seahawks crowned as the champs, the final draft order is set. Well, almost. The Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens finished with identical records and will flip a coin at the Scouting Combine on February 20th to determine who has pick 16 and 17. Though it may be trivial, the Cowboys may wish to lose the toss as pick #17 has proven fairly “lucky” in the past, producing Emmitt Smith, Mel Renfro, Kevin Smith and Kevin Brooks the four times they picked 17th. With that in mind, here is my first mock draft of the season. So much is likely to change between now and May 8th with free agency and trades still to go, but this is a good way to look at team needs and prospects as they stand going into the Combine in an entertaining way.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
If the Texans had their choice, I think they’d prefer to take Clowney with the first pick. However, the need for a QB is too strong to ignore or wait. I expect an impressive showing at the Combine will propel l Bortles to the top of the QB class and thus down to Houston
Team Needs: QB, OT, DE/OLB, S
2. St Louis Rams (from Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
I really think Jake Matthews is the better OT prospect, but the Rams will likely fall in love with Robinson’s size and run blocking. Just like last season when Eric Fisher leapt over Luke Joeckel in the evaluation process, Robinson, with a nice Combine, could do the same thing.
Team Needs: OT, S, WR, G
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Jaguars, despite a desperate need for a signal caller, will be thrilled to get the best player in this draft with the #3 pick. If the Jags can keep Clowney motivated, he could transform the Two-toned Helmets on defense next season.
Team Needs: QB, DE, C, RB
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Despite the uproar in the front office, the Browns are still likely to stick to the plan of drafting Johnny Football. New GM Ray Farmer might attempt to trade up, especially if Bortles gets by the Texans, but will likely stay and take a guy that can bring some positive attention to this woeful franchise.
Team Needs: QB, RB, G, WR
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Like the Jaguars, the Raiders take the best player available despite a big need at QB. Whether they draft one later or sign a veteran, any Raiders QB will be thrilled to have Watkins lined up out wide.
Team Needs: QB, WR, DE, G
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
While the Falcons might be very tempted to draft a pass rusher like Khalil Mack, their biggest need really is on their O-line and having Matthews fall to them is fantastic. The Falcons learned last year low going cheap up front can cost you an entire season.
Team Needs: OT, DE, TE, DT
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo
New HC Lovie Smith will need to put some teeth in that defense and adding Mack will do just that. With great versatility, Mack can move all over the defense and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Team Needs: DE, TE, OT, LB
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
New OC Norv Turner has already indicated the Vikings will be looking for a QB and having Bridgewater fall to them is a dream. Bridgewater is the most polished and NFL-ready QB in this class, but concerns about his slight frame and lack of “wow” factor will likely have him slip a little.
Team Needs: QB, DE, LB, G
9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
One of the things I love about the Bills organization is they almost always tip their hand as to their draft pick. However, since so few major media outlets pay attention to Buffalo it often gets missed. The Bills have mentioned several times finding a reliable target for young EJ Manual and Ebron looks like he might be a star.
Team Needs: TE, G, LB, S
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Most Big Boards right now have Dennard over Gilbert in the CB rankings. However, I think Gilbert will have better measurables (namely 40 time) and might leap into the Top 10. Though the Lions also really want a WR to pair with Megatron, the WR crop in this draft is very deep and can be filled in round 2.
Team Needs: CB, WR, S, OL
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Barr was once thought to be a top 5 pick. But once scouts started carving up tape, issues with inexperience, technique and size all started Barr down the board. However, with the Titans converting to a 3-4 Barr will make a great pass-rushing OLB.
Team Needs: OLB, RB, OT, S
12. New York Giants: Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Giants just love versatile offensive linemen and Martin fits that bill perfectly. Though his build might fit better as a guard in the pros, Martin showed enough agility and anchor to hold his own at LT at the Senior Bowl. Wherever he plays, Martin will be a nice addition to the Giants offensive line.
Team Needs: OT, DE, LB, CB
13. St Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
With two picks in the top half of the 1st round, the Rams can address both of their top needs without reaching. Clinton-Dix is a playmaking safety that the Rams secondary has lacked for some time.
Team Needs: OT, S, WR, G
14. Chicago Bears: Tim Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears defensive line got decimated with injuries last year. And now with their top DTs facing free agency, Chicago has a huge need up front of defense. Jernigan fits perfectly as a 3 technique in the Bears D.
Team Needs: DT, S, CB, C
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Ike Taylor really struggled last year and the Steelers could find a clone of him in Dennard. A tough, physical corner accustomed to being on an island, Dennard might have a little Richard Sherman in him.
Team Needs: CB, OT, S, WR
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Ravens and Joe Flacco really missed Anquan Bolding last year. Evans, a big 6’5” receiver with a tendency to bail out his QB, is exactly what this offense needs. However, if Evans runs a blazing 40 time he might not still be available by pick 16 or 17.
Team Needs: WR, OT, C, S
17. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
As we saw in the Superbowl, the key to the Tamp-2 defense is getting pressure on the QB without mush blitzing. Donald, though a little undersized, should be an instant starter at the 3 technique and fill the void left by free agent Jason Hatcher.
Team Needs: DT, S, LB, DE
18. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Jets will be looking for any offensive weapon they can find to help young QB Geno Smith. Lee is a vertical threat and a great route runner that instantly become the best WR on the Jets roster.
Team Needs: WR, TE, S, G
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Dolphins need to completely revamp their offensive line at every position but center. Though Kouandjio may not be the best tackle prospect available, some red flags circling around other tackle prospects might have them go a different direction given the events of last season.
Team Needs: OT, G, DT, RB
20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The Cardinals would have to be thrilled to find a QB at #20. Carr could be the target of teams that passed on QBs early to trade up and snag so the Cards will have to be vigilant to land him. With Carson Palmer nearing the end of his career, this would be a great situation for Carr to learn a season and not get thrown into the fire as his brother did.
Team Needs: OT, OLB, S, QB
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
BJ Raji is a free agent and might be better suited to play DE if he is retained. Nix can be a force in both run stopping and pass rushing. Though the Packers might have bigger needs in other areas, their front office is usually pretty good about taking the best player available.
Team Needs: S, OLB, DL, TE
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Eagles don’t want to go into this draft needing a safety because it is very likely Pryor will be gone before they pick with a good day at the Combine. Pryor is quickly rising up draft boards around the league due to his play-making and awareness.
Team Needs: CB, S, OLB, WR
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
This is another pick that I don’t really agree with but could see happening. Benjamin’s size and speed combination will have GMs around the league salivating. I’m not convinced about his route running or hands, but a really good Combine could change my mind.
Team Needs: WR, TE, DB, OL
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
This might be the first pick considered a “reach” by some. I like Roberson as the next best CB available over Verrett due to his size and ballhawking skills. The Bengals must greatly upgrade their secondary to make more of a playoff run.
Team Needs: CB, OT, DE, S
25. San Diego Chargers: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
The Dwight Freeney signing did not work out for the Bolts and they need a real upgrade on the pass rush. Ford shined at the Senior Bowl and has tremendous burst off the edge.
Team Needs: CB, OLB, TE, OL
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): David Yankey, G, Stanford
The other big needs for the Browns are all at positions of strength in this draft and could be filled in later rounds. Yankey is another outstanding guard from the linemen factory that is Stanford. The Browns use the pick they got for Trent Richardson to improve the blocking for a different RB.
Team Needs: QB, RB, G, WR
27. New Orleans Saints: Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Mizzou
Ealy could be a great fit for the Rob Ryan defense due to his flexibility of position. Though he played DE at Mizzou, some scouts think Ealy has the frame to add some weight and play DE in a 3-4 too. Wherever Ryan plays him, Ealy should thrive in New Orleans.
Team Needs: OLB, OT, ILB, S
28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr, WR, LSU
The Panthers have a number of big needs going into this offseason but getting more weapons for Cam must be near the top of that list. I have Beckham Jr as the 4th rated WR in this draft with his explosive playmaking ability.
Team Needs: WR, CB, OT, LB
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Tom Brady would be thrilled to have Amaro to throw to next season. With the ability to play TE or WR, Amaro will fill the void left by Aaron Hernandez last year and get that Patriots offense back on track.
Team Needs: C/G, TE, DT, WR
30. San Francisco 49ers: RaShede Hageman, DE/DT, Minnesota
The Niners would love one of the top WRs or CBs to fall to this spot but that is pretty unlikely. I expect them to field offers for trades here too. But if they stand pat, Hageman would be yet another beast to add to that scary front 7, likely becoming a DE in their 3-4.
Team Needs: WR, CB, DE, C
31. Denver Broncos: CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama
While Mosley is often rated much higher on many experts’ big boards, positions like inside linebackers often slip. The Broncos would love to plug Mosley into their defense next season despite needs at CB and S.
Team Needs: CB, ILB, DE, WR
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA
The Champs don’t have a lot of holes to fill, but an upgrade at guard could help their running game. Su’a-Filo is my top rated pure guard in this draft and should be a ten year starter in this league.
Team Needs: WR, G, TE, DL
Teams without 1st Round Picks
Team Needs: CB, WR, ILB, DL
Team Needs: CB, G, DE, S