1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina*
The Texans have finally brought defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel on board, and while the system he ran in New England (where he had most of his success) was a two-gap 3-4 system, I still believe Clowney is the pick here.
There's no guarantee that Crennel will return to his former system. He said he still needs to assess the talent and begin to develop his plan for the team. Crennel is very intelligent and I believe he would be thrilled about an opportunity to work a player like Clowney into his system.
Texans owner Bob McNair stated that Clowney is a "once in every 10 years" sort of defensive prospect. He's a game-changer, that can't be stopped in many one-on-one situations. As Houston has the opportunity to look further into each athlete prior to the draft, I think they'll see too much potential in Clowney to take anyone else.
2. St. Louis Rams (f/ WSH): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
I've had St. Louis taking Matthews for two months now. The Rams added Jake Long in the offseason, and he performed pretty well, but the other side of the offensive line is still a liability. Jeff Fisher had his team playing good football toward the end of the season. If they could add another top lineman to anchor the right side and get Sam Bradford back, healthy with a final season to prove himself... STL could be in prime position to challenge for the postseason.
They could also look at adding a quarterback or Sammy Watkins, but Jake Matthews may be the safest pick in the draft. It wouldn't be crazy to see the Texans drafting him with the first overall pick.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
A lot like Houston, the Jaguars have issues well beyond quarterback. The Jaguars have been searching for a franchise signal-caller since the days of Mark Brunell. But this year's class doesn't have any sure things at the position. Their defense on the other hand, simply needs playmakers. Anthony Barr is far and away the best linebacker in this draft class, and would instantly help one of the NFL's worst ranked defenses.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M**
Cleveland has two first-round picks in this year's draft. They will likely take a quarterback with one of them. Manziel's draft stock is impossible to project at this point. On talent, he's a top-10 pick. I believe that he may have the highest potential ceiling of all the quarterbacks in this class but there's a lot that goes along with drafting Manziel. He comes with a lot of baggage that some franchises may shy away from, call it "Tebow-syndrome."
The rumor out there is that the Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is a big Johnny Football fan. Does that mean he'd be willing to take him with the fourth overall pick? It's definitely become a possibility, but it'll be interesting to find out more as we get closer to the draft.
5. Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville*
Bridgewater's stock has been taking some hits in the last few weeks. While I've never thought of him as the top quarterback, it's still surprising, seeing as how it really hasn't been because of his ability or play on the field. Called into question has been his leadership tendencies and how his personality will adjust to the NFL. He's excelled at Louisville, but didn't perform at his best when they played tougher opponents. Despite all the questions, he might have the best arm in the draft right now. He'd definitely be an upgrade for a team like Oakland, in need of a potential signal-caller for the future.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn*
Despite Auburn's huge success this season, I'm not sure many expected Greg Robinson to actually declare for the draft. Robinson's stock has been soaring this season alongside Auburn's return to prominence. His addition to the draft only deepens what is one of the best years for offensive lineman in recent memory. Adding some protection for Matt Ryan, so that he can lead Atlanta back to success is going to be a high priority for the Falcons.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson*
The verdict is still out on whether Mike Glennon is the QB of the future for the Bucs but if they want to find out for sure, giving him weapons will be vital. Tampa could also look into drafting one of the offensive tackles, but Watkins possesses elite ability. Alongside Vincent Jackson, they could be a very effective duo.
8. Minnesota Vikings: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
It's no secret that the Vikings' defense has fallen off in recent seasons. They're in need more leadership at the linebacker spot. Mosley has been a leader for Alabama since his freshman season, he could help add some stability and a level of accountability to their group of linebackers.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*
A strong year for offensive tackles, Lewan would've been a stand-out last season, but his decision to stay another year at Michigan should net him a top-10 selection. Adding protection for E.J. Manuel moving forward will be important for his growth. The Bills have been making a lot of strides the past two seasons, and adding another anchor on their line could put them over the top.
10. Detroit Lions: Marqise Lee, WR, USC*
Calvin Johnson is the most dynamic offensive threat in football today. Beyond him, however, the Lions didn't have another receiver on the roster compile 500 receiving yards. Lee is a speedster with good hands, adding a few pounds could make him a potentially elite option. Adding his agility with a play-maker like Johnson, could make Megatron even better. And if Johnson were to ever get injured, insure them another capable player so it wouldn't be a season-ender for the entire team.
11. Tennessee Titans: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame*
The Titans could use a lot of different positions to try and infuse new energy into their team. However, the staple for them has always been defense, and rushing the passer. Something they haven't done particularly well in a long time. Adding a player like Tuitt, who many scouts say reminds them of Richard Seymour, could go a long way toward revitalizing their defensive line.
12. New York Giants: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama*
Kouandjio may have the most physical gifts of the offensive linemen in this class. The Giants need to buy Eli Manning more time to work, and while infusing youth into the defense would be a nice luxury. Enhancing the offensive line is a neccessity after this season.
13. St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.
The Rams have had one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL this season. They have a ton of talent up front, but their secondary still has some glaring holes that opposing teams have been able to expose. Gilbert could potentially be the top corner in this class and has the ability to develop into a true shut-down corner.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida St.*
On talent alone, Jernigan should be a top-10 pick. Unfortunately, defensive tackles have had a trend of falling later in drafts, as it's not the sexiest pick to make. Chicago needs to add more interior defenders and Jernigan is a big guy that should plug up holes early in his career.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame*
A real impact player inside, Nix is a space-eater with top level quickness for a big guy. Pittsburgh's defense needs some retooling, as they haven't been the same unit they were when the team was winning Super Bowls. Helping out the linebackers and secondary by getting some pressure on opposing QB's will only help get the Steelers back to glory.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Has there been an area on this Cowboys team as disappointing as their secondary? Dallas has a lot invested in Morris Claiborne, and there's still hope he could tap into his potential moving forward. However, the safety position has been an achilles' heel for the squad all season. Clinton-Dix is the best safety in this draft. He's a ballhawk, and a leader amongst defensive backs.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Rebuilding isn't something the Ravens have had to do in a long time, but they've lost a lot of the defense over the past few seasons. Thankfully, the addition of Dumervil has worked thus far for the unit, but if they hope to contend moving forward, bringing youth to the table will be key. Mack might be the most complete defender in this draft. He can cover in space, tackle at the line, and possesses good athleticism.
18. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M**
The New York Jets have been in transition for several seasons now. They've done well, adding several nice pieces on the defensive side, and taking Geno Smith as their potential QB for the future. What they really lack is offensive weapons right now. Evans is big, versatile, and would be a good possession receiving option.
19. Miami Dolphins: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Dolphins need better bookends on their offensive line, and should be searching for a future anchor, especially after losing Jake Long last offseason. Moses is one of the biggest linemen in the draft and could fill in on their line early in his career.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida*
Carson Palmer has been bouncing from team to team the past few seasons, but seems to have finally found a good spot in Arizona. Despite their success, they did miss the playoffs, and Carson Palmer is already 34 years old. The Cardinals might not be able to pass up a chance to grab a signal-caller for the future if one falls to them in the 20s. Bortles has all the tools you look for in a franchise quarterback. His stock has been on the rise all season, and recently he's been targeted by a lot of draft experts as a fringe first rounder.
#21 - Green Bay Packers select: Kyle Van Noy, LB BYU
Van Noy is a prototypical 3-4 OLB. The Packers have talented linebackers, but haven't been able to generate much of a pass-rush last season... adding a quick and powerful guy off the edge like Van Noy would go a long way towards rectifying that.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Eagles would like to keep their receiving corps intact but it's unlikely to happen with both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin looking for new deals. There's a good chance they'll lose Maclin in free agency, and whether that happens or not, they would benefit from bringing a dynamic threat like Jordan Matthews on board. Matthews has been one of the most consistent WRs in college over the past few seasons. He should be a hot commodity come draft day.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina*
Ebron is a freak athlete and has been on the rise all season. His skill-set would create a lot more versatility in the Chiefs pass attack. He'd be the best tight end they've had since Tony Gonzalez.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
The Bengals' defense has been stellar, but opposing teams have found the holes on their offense. Disrupting Andy Dalton has been an affective strategy. If Cincinnati hopes to continue their offensive sucess, protecting Dalton by adding quality pass-blocker on the inside should be a big consideration. Richardson is the best interior lineman in this class and would fit their offense perfectly.
25. San Diego Chargers: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
San Diego has lost a lot of playmakers in their defense the past few seasons. A lot of scouts are in love with Trent Murphy. A very intelligent player, with good intangibles that just seems to be involved in every defensive play at Stanford.
26. Cleveland Browns (f/ IND): Tre Mason, RB, Auburn*
Cleveland pulled off one of the more clever trades in recent memory by shipping off Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first-round pick. While Richardson has been mostly a bust, his departure still leaves a hole for the Browns at running back. Mason declaring for the draft makes him the top runningback on my draft board. He's an every down back that has so many dynamic abilities, he could be everything the Browns thought they were getting in Richardson.
27. New Orleans Saints: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Saints' defense had a remarkable turn around this season. They may still elect to find more play-makers on that side of the football, but there's no doubt their offensive line has been banged up. Terron Armstead stepped up in the postseason, but they may lose right tackle Zach Strief in the offseason.
28. Carolina Panthers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn St.*
Steve Smith gets older every season, and the Panthers have still to find an heir apparent at receiver. LaFell has improved and is a solid No. two, but there's a lot more to be desired if you expect to continually be a top offense in the NFL. Allen Robinson is big, fast and produced well against tough opponents. I think Cam Newton would be very happy if he had an opportunity to utilize Robinson's diverse skill-set.
29. New England Patriots: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida St.*
Talk about doing a lot with a little. Tom Brady led his Patriots to another successful season, but if you would've said last year that it'd be possible without Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, most would've called you crazy. The Pats will definitely look to give him a true consistent option in the offseason.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan St.
San Francisco is rock-solid all around the board. They have a great balance of veteran leadership and youth on their roster at a lot of positions. One of the few positions they don't have much depth at, is at cornerback. Dennard is a complete corner, he can play in any scheme, and should be able to start quickly into his NFL career.
31. Denver Broncos: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida*
Denver's once vaunted secondary is old and have been injury-riddled. They need to address the cornerback position at some point soon, it's been the only true weakness on their team this season.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi St.
What's left for the team that seemingly has it all figured out? They have the league's top defense, and have a young, dynamic group of players on offense. While you always look to add new playmakers to make your team even more threatening, why not bolster your offensive line to improve all of your skill players? Jackson has been a monster at Mississippi State and could end up being the first guard taken in the draft.
33. Houston Texans: A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Possessing the first pick in the second round gives the Texans incredible versatility. They can really take anyone they want in the first round, and still address any other major need with the 33rd overall pick.
I've been spending a lot of time recently watching tape on all the quarterbacks in this class and the more I see from McCarron, the more I believe the hype. During his time at 'Bama, McCarron has elevated himself into one of the top leaders on the field. His desire to push himself and those around him is infectious and would benefit a locker room in need of some direction. I can absolutely see him and a tough-minded head coach like Bill O'Brien working well together in the NFL.
34. Washington Redskins: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville*
Washington's first pick of the draft, and they don't have the luxury to draft anything other than need. After Clinton-Dix the safety pool runs pretty thin, but Pryor had a stellar season at Louisville and could find himself in the first round.
35. Cleveland Browns: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Addressing the offense with their first two picks in the first round, Cleveland can look to build up the defensive line in the second. Hageman is a monster in the middle, and could play multiple roles for the Browns up front.
#36 - Oakland Raiders select: Jace Amaro, TE Texas Tech
Amaro has really been rocketing up the charts in the last few weeks. When all is said and done, there's an outside shot he's the first tight end drafted in May.
37. Atlanta Falcons: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
I think the Falcons are hoping to have a shot at either Clowney or Barr in the draft, as they desperately need to improve their pass rush. While Martin isn't quite one of those two, he wouldn't be a bad plan C.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon St.*
Lovie Smith will use one of his first two picks on improving the defense. The Bucs had one of the worst pass attacks in the NFL last season. Bringing in new blood at defensive end will be one of Tampa Bay's top priorities.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars: Zach Mettenberger, QB LSU
Mettenberger tearing his ACL should prevent him from rocketing up the charts. He has elite arm strength, depending on how his interviews with teams go and if he can get healthy in time for pro days... he could still find himself as one of the top QB's drafted. After everything we've seen from a lot of the college quarterbacks this season, I think Mettenbergers skill-set may end up translating best to the NFL.
#40 - Minnesota Vikings select: Derek Carr, QB Fresno St.
Derek, the younger brother of David, has been sky-rocketing up the charts with elite play in his senior season. He's versatile, works hard, possesses an accurate arm, and he can make all the throws.
*Non-Senior, **Redshirt Sophomore