The 2014 NFL Draft is upon us and although things are likely to play out like a drama with plenty of twists and turns, here is a best guess at how the first half of round one will take shape. Picks 17-32 will follow in part two of this article.
- Houston Texans—DE Jadeveon Clowney, S. Carolina
Addressing its most glaring need and taking quarterback Blake Bortles makes the most sense, but passing on the draft’s best athlete could be next to impossible. Houston could also end up selecting, then dealing Clowney for a sizable return.
2. St. Louis Rams—OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Ideally, the Rams would like someone to step up and make a trade here for a chance at Sammy Watkins or Johnny Manziel, but after last year’s move to get Tavon Austin, they will likely play it safe. Besides, Robinson is an excellent run-blocker and sure-fire pick.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars—LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Blake Bortles makes a lot of sense here as well, but Mack has all the tools to be an instant star. He does not possess blazing speed at 4.65, but he is quick enough, talented enough and certainly big enough at 6-3, 250 to become a key cog.
4. Cleveland Browns—WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
This is where many see Johnny Manziel coming off the board, but QB Brian Hoyer proved himself worthy of getting his shot this season. And passing up on a Jerry Riceish prospect that is much faster than a 4.43 with the ball in the air would not be prudent.
5. Oakland Raiders—WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
The Raiders love their gamebreakers and just having seen their top home-run threat in Watkins come off the draft board, they are likely to go after the next best thing, a 6-5, 225 pound wide receiver that could catch a BB in the dark.
6. Atlanta Falcons—OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
A lot of people expect the Falcons to try and make a move for Clowney, which would require a boatload of a trades. More pressing, however, is keeping Matt Ryan upright and Matthews would fill that need well
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
The Bucs would have taken Evans here, as they could use a receiver or two, but Ebron’s tangibles—6-4, 245 and 4.60 40 time—are just about as good. And he can block.
8. Minnesota Vikings—QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
The Vikes have given Christian Ponder every opportunity to prove they made the right choice, but the only thing he has proven is that he is not the team’s future. Bortles appears to be that guy and is certainly worth the gamble.
9. Buffalo Bills—OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
The Bills have their quarterback in E.J. Manuel, now they need to keep him healthy. Lewan is a monster of a man at 6-8, 315 who should fit the bill perfectly.
10. Detroit Lions—S Haha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Seems like every year the Lions are in need of defense, but draft heavy on the offensive side. It will be hard to ignore the need to fill some holes in the secondary, though, particularly in a division that puts the ball as much as the NFC North does.
11. Tennessee Titans—LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
As tempting as it would be to pull the trigger on Manziel if he were available at this point, Jake Locker should have at least one more opportunity to break out. That said, Barr is probably your number two pass rusher behind Clowney.
12. New York Giants—DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
His height at just 6-0 may raise some concerns, but Donald brings more than enough upside to trump all those questions. Aside from totaling 181 tackles (115 solo), 66 tackles for loss, and 29.5 sacks in three seasons as a starter at Pitt, at the Combine Donald ran the fastest 40 (4.68) and had the most bench press reps (35) of any defensive lineman.
13. St. Louis Rams—LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
The perfect complement to Laurinaitis and Ogletree, picking up Mosley would give the Rams one of the fiercest and quickest linebacking corps in all of football.
14. Chicago Bears—CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
A shaky secondary whose best player is 33-year-old corner Charles Tillman could definitely benefit from some fresh legs. Gilbert is also a solid returner and with the departure of Devin Hester to Atlanta, he gets the nod over TCU corner Jason Verrett.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers—WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Pittsburgh desperately needs to address its Swiss cheese-like secondary, but with Wallace bolting to Miami last year and Sanders now gone, the need for playmakers should top the list. Beckham and his 4.31 40 would be a great place to start.
16. Dallas Cowboys—QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel still being available in this late in the draft seems darn near impossible, but so does Jerry Jones passing on the hometown product. There have also been reports that if Manziel was available at number 16, Jones would eagerly pull the trigger.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat