Aaron Donald has done the most to raise his stock.
Pick #1 Houston Texans
The Previous Pick: Jadeveon Clowney
The Pick: Blake Bortles
The Reason: Bill O’Brien was a coach under Bill Belichick before he went in and cleaned up the mess that was Penn State. He managed to run one of the best offenses in the NFL and return Penn State to a competent football team despite all the sanctions. What I’m trying to say here is that no one is going to tell this man who he should pick. If he doesn’t feel that one of these quarterbacks is worth the number one pick then he will not take them.That being said, Bortles fits O’Brien’s ideal quarterback in terms of size, and he had a promising performance at the combine
Pick #2 St Louis Rams
The Previous Pick: Jake Mathews
The Pick: Greg Robinson
The Reason: The Rams could very well trade out of this pick, but if they stay here they almost have to take a tackle. Sam Bradford has been good enough that if he has protection he can make things happen.
Greg Robinson showed that he has unreal athletic ability, and you can’t teach size or pure athleticism. Robinson weighed in at 6’5” 332 pounds and then proceeded to run a 4.92 40 yard dash. His combine performance matched up to his dominating game tape, and that makes him the first tackle off the board.
Pick #3 Jacksonville Jaguars
The Previous Pick: Blake Bortles
The Pick: Teddy Bridgewater
The Reason: The Jaguars can not afford to miss on this pick. They need a quarterback, and no one in this draft is a sure thing. I had originally mocked Bortles here, but I think his combine performance paired with Bridgewater and Manziel’s unwillingness to throw elevates his stock to number one. That being said, Bridgewater was the consensus number one pick at the midpoint of the college season. He is polished and rarely makes bad decisions in the pocket.
Pick #4: Cleveland Browns
The Previous Pick: Johnny Manziel
The Pick: Johnny Manziel
The Reason: The Browns are a mess in the front office. They fired their coach after a year, hired the Bill’s defensive coordinator. Then the owner fired the front office and hired new people who did not help bring in the coach. The owner getting involved tells me one thing: he knows who he wants in the draft, and his original office did not agree. Johnny Football is the most polarizing player in the draft, and he did make steady improvements throughout his sophomore year. The Browns would not be a perfect fit for Manziel, but they certainly would not be the worst. He would have Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, a very good offensive line, and a better than average defense. The biggest wildcard here is the front office.
Pick #5: Oakland Raiders
The Previous Pick: Teddy Bridgewater
The Pick: Khalil Mack
The Reason: The Raiders are interesting here. They lack depth in this draft so some wonder if they will trade down to add more picks. However, I think adding a special edge player in Mack is a great idea for this young Oakland team. He will bring leadership and the all around ability this defense needs to start to take shape.
Pick #6: Atlanta Falcons
The Previous Pick: Greg Robinson
The Pick: Jadeveon Clowney
The Reason: Atlanta was not supposed to be here. They were supposed to be in the playoffs but injuries across the team and a shotty offensive line lead to an awful season. Jake Mathews would be hard to pass up when you have 100 million dollars invested in your quarterback, but Clowney’s talent is too much to pass up at number six. Something tells me he would have fun chasing Drew Brees and Cam Newton around four times a year.
Pick #7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Previous Pick: Khalil Mack
The Pick: Jake Mathews
The Reason: Greg Schiano is out, but he leaves behind a solid group of players on offense. Mike Glennon was competent last year, playing well enough to give himself another shot this year. However it has been reported that the front office relationship with left tackle Donald Penn is rocky and he may be cut at some point in the offseason. If that happens replacing him with a blue chip prospect like Mathews would be a quick and easy reload.
Pick #8: Minnesota Vikings
The Previous Pick: Derek Carr
The Pick: C.J. Mosley
The Reason: The Vikings unfortunately cannot grab a quarterback at this point. Derek Carr is the next best prospect at this juncture, but he still is not worth this pick. Minnesota could trade down, but adding a hyper-productive player like Mosley would be good for an aging defense. They could try to add an end if Jared Allen does not resign, but Mosley would fit nicely on their weak side.
Pick #9: Buffalo Bills
The Previous Pick: CJ Mosley
The Pick: Sammy Watkins
The Reason: The Bills need to start building around their first round pick from last year, EJ Manuel. To do that they need to add a top end wide receiver and Watkins is the best in a stacked class. He showed the explosive speed that we all saw in game at the combine and could be a nightmare to defend for the AFC East.
Pick #10: Detroit Lions
The Previous Pick: Sammy Watkins
The Pick: Mike Evans
The Reason: The Lions will be ecstatic if this scenario plays out. Evans showed that he is not just a big body at the combine, running a 4.53 second 40 and having a 37’ vertical. For a receiver who weighed in at 6’5” 231 pounds those are impressive numbers. Pairing him with another huge receiver in Megatron will be great for his development.
Pick #11: Tennessee Titans
The Previous Pick: Anthony Barr
The Pick: Anthony Barr
The Reason: The Titans might need a quarterback, but there are none here worth taking. Instead they go with a promising young pass rusher in Barr who had a standout season at UCLA. A former running back, Barr uses his leg strength to drive off the ball and agility to get around slower moving linemen. He can play end in a 4-3 or outside backer in a 3-4. The versatility and pass rush he provides will be too tantalizing for Tennessee to pass up.
Pick #12: New York Giants
The Previous Pick: Mike Evans
The Pick: Taylor Lewan
The Reason: The Giants drafted Justin Pugh in the first round last year, and he turned out a stellar year for them. However, they could still use offensive line help and many people think Pugh could be even better at guard. Enter Lewan, who showcased his athletic ability at the combine with the fastest 40 of the group. He was a four year starter at Michigan and he will bring that experience to whoever drafts him.
Pick #13 St Louis Rams
The Previous Pick: Eric Ebron
The Pick: Eric Ebron
The Reason: The Rams need another pass catcher to pair with Tavon Austin and Ebron can be just the player. He is tall, strong, and has great body control. He will be able to catch balls down the seam which will inturn open up Austin for underneath routes. A great two picks for the Rams.
Pick #14: Chicago Bears
The Previous Pick: Timmy Jernigan
The Pick: Aaron Donald
The Reason: Originally I had Timmy Jernigan in this spot, but Aaron Donald was more productive in the college game and has shown everyone why during the draft process. He dominated quality competition at the Senior Bowl, and then put up unreal numbers at the combine (4.65 40 yard dash, 35 bench press reps at 6’1” 285 pounds). He is showing that he can match physical ability with on field production, and he would be an excellent three technique player for the Bears
Pick #15: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Previous Pick: Taylor Lewan
The Pick: Justin Gilbert
The Reason: At this position the Steelers are choosing to pick the best player on the board rather than addressing their top needs. Gilbert is certainly the best player left, a true lockdown corner who has the size (6’0” 202 pounds) and the speed (4.37 40 yard dash) to play with the best receivers in the game. In a division with AJ Green, Josh Gordon, and Torrey Smith a lockdown corner is certainly needed.
Pick #16: Dallas Cowboys
The Previous Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The Reason: Dallas has been very average for the past ten years. There are several reasons for this, but we won’t get into those. Instead we can focus on how they can improve. The first step is to improve the secondary. Clinton-Dix is a hard hitting safety who played for one of the best defenses in the country. He has the ability to extend the route of the receiver so the front seven have time to get to the quarterback.
Pick #17 Baltimore Ravens
The Previous Pick: Justin Gilbert
The Pick: Marqise Lee
The Reason: The Ravens already have a burner at the wide receiver position in Torrey Smith, what they need is a good route runner to complement him. Lee has shown straight-line explosiveness as well as explosion in and out of his cuts. He runs crisp routes and is experienced in a big time program after three seasons at USC.
Pick #18: New York Jets
The Previous Pick: Brandin Cooks
The Pick: Brandin Cooks
The Reason: The Jets get an A+ for their first round picks last year. Sheldon Richardson was a force on the defensive line, and although Dee Milliner did not have an excellent season he did show flashes that made him such a high pick. The Jets also drafted Geno Smith, who started for them for the year. He was inconsistent to say the least, but part of that was a lack of targets. Cooks was the best receiver statistically in the college game this past season and he backed it up at the combine, running a 4.33 40. However he also showed that he is not just a straight line runner, posting the best time out of the receivers in the 20 yard shuttle (3.81), showing off a 36’ vertical leap, a 10” broad jump, and setting the combine record in the 60 yard shuttle at 10.72 seconds. He will be a great target for Smith.
Pick #19: Miami Dolphins
The Previous Pick: Zack Martin
The Pick: Zack Martin
The Reason: Miami had a horrible season from a PR perspective. The Jonathan Martin/ Richie Incognito bullying scandal caused flux across the offensive line and in the locker room. Now the Dolphins look to rebuild their line. They have a promising young quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, but he will go nowhere without protection. Martin is an immediate starter at either tackle or guard, and Miami could use his versatility.
Pick #20: Arizona Cardinals
The Previous Pick: Cyrus Kouandjio
The Pick: Cyrus Kouandjio
The Reason: The Cardinals are real competitors now. They have a defense littered with underrated stars in Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, and Patrick Peterson. Add a healthy Tyrann Mathieu and their defense may be better than ever. Now they turn to the offense, and their first priority is to protect Carson Palmer. Kouandjio’s stock has been falling since his poor showing in the Sugar Bowl, and it did not get any better at the combine. However, he comes from a system with a history of producing offensive linemen, and he has the size and athleticism to be a special talent.
Pick #21: Green Bay Packers
The Previous Pick: Calvin Pryor
The Pick: Calvin Pryor
The Reason: Pryor has flown up draft boards recently after scouts and coaches have had time to really study his tape. He was the best player on Louisville’s defense, and was basically quarterbacking the defense. The Packers need help in the secondary if they want to survive a division with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. Pryor will help in that regard.
Pick #22: Philadelphia Eagles
The Previous Pick: Dee Ford
The Pick: Odell Beckham Jr.
The Reason: I had mocked Dee Ford here, but his inability to compete at the combine hurts his stock. He could not demonstrate that his has more than just speed, as the strength and agility tests would have solidified his stock. Instead the Eagles will choose to look towards the offensive side of the ball, taking Odell Beckham Jr. who showed off great speed at the combine. He would provide another dangerous weapon for Nick Foles.
Pick #23: Kansas City Chiefs
The Previous Pick: Kelvin Benjamin
The Pick: Kelvin Benjamin
The Reason: Benjamin has flown up draft boards since his game winning catch in the National Championship game. He is long, athletic, and can separate from defenders in the air. At the combine he measured in at 6’5” 240 pounds but proceeded to run a 4.61 40 yard dash. The Chiefs need someone who can make a big play in the red zone, and with tight end size but wide out speed Benjamin can be that target.
Pick #24: Cincinnati Bengals
The Previous Pick: Darqueze Dennard
The Pick: Darqueze Dennard
The Reason: Cincinnati has a solid defense lead by Vontaze Burfict and Geno Atkins. However, Leon Hall is getting older, and Dre Kirkpatrick has not panned out. Dennard brings a physicality to the position and is a gamer. He was a main cog in Michigan State’s top five defense.
Pick #25: San Diego Chargers
The Previous Pick: Lamarcus Joyner
The Pick: Louis Nix III
The Reason: The Chargers had a great season after many people did not expect them to even make the playoffs. Philip Rivers had a resurgent season and the offense was actually very productive. Defensively however there is still work to do. Nix is the best zero technique player in the draft this year, and pairing him up with his old friend Manti Te’o should help the defense come alive.
Pick #26: Cleveland Browns
The Previous Pick: Odell Beckham Jr.
The Pick: Davante Adams
The Reason: Adams was a standout performer at Fresno State, and he brings his athleticism to the NFL. He showed good not great speed at the combine (4.56 40 yard dash) but he did show up a great vertical leap (39.5”). He will have to develop, but pairing him with Josh Gordon would be a smart move.
Pick #27: New Orleans Saints
The Previous Pick: Antonio Richardson
The Pick: Antonio Richardson
The Reason: The Saints’ biggest need right now is to keep Drew Brees protected. However, a pick this late limits their ability to take a blue chip tackle prospect. Richardson has the most upside of anyone left on the board. He is 6’6” and 330 pounds, but my bet is that he will wow people at the combine. His biggest issue is that he is such an athlete that he sometimes abandons his technique in favor of pure aggression. If the Saints can hone his athletic talent they will have a great young player.
Pick #28: Carolina Panthers
The Previous Pick: Jace Amaro
The Pick: Jace Amaro
The Reason: The Panthers need another weapon for Cam Newton, and the best place to start is with someone who fits into that new breed of tight end. Amaro can line up as an inline tight end or in the slot. He makes many plays in space and his size allows him to box out smaller defensive backs to make the catch.
Pick #29: New England Patriots
The Previous Pick: Aaron Donald
The Pick: Stephon Tuitt
The Reason: Stephon Tuitt would be a great fit in the Patriots multiple defenses system. In their base 3-4 Tuitt could play the five technique as a defensive end, but if they switch to a 4-3 he can easily slide inside to the three tech. It is that type of versatility that Bill Belichick loves, and Tuitt has the ability to excel in that type of system.
Pick #30: San Francisco 49ers
The Previous Pick: Louis Nix III
The Pick: Ra’Shede Hageman
The Reason: The 49ers have a one of the most underrated players in the league at defensive end in Justin Smith, but on the opposite end they could use some help. Hageman has the size at 6’6” 310 pounds he can play defensive tackle or defensive end in a 3-4. Adding Hageman would just be adding another freak to a defense that already has arguably the best linebacking core in the NFL.
Pick #31: Denver Broncos
The Previous Pick: Jason Verrett
The Pick: Jason Verrett
The Reason: The Broncos were destroyed in the Super Bowl, but they have the talent to get back there next year. I think a healthy Ryan Clady helps them immensely against Seattle’s pass rush which shredded the offensive line in that game. However, their defense still needs work. Champ Bailey is a first ballot hall-of-famer, but he is 35 and only played in two regular season games last season. Verrett is a bit small, but he has the quickness and toughness to play man to man.
Pick #32: Seattle Seahawks
The Previous Pick: Troy Niklas
The Pick: Timmy Jernagin
The Reason: The Seahawks are the reigning world champions, and they have the best defense the NFL has seen in years. However, they just cut Red Bryant and they may not be able to retain Michael Bennett. Jernagin played well this year, disrupting the run and the pass. He falls to this spot because of need not ability, and he could be a great addition to an already incredible defense.
By Zach Besaw