NFL Mock Draft: Texans choose Clowney?

NFL Mock Draft: Texans choose Clowney?
May 5, 2014, 1:45 pm
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South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) walks on the field in between plays in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium.

(USA Today Sports Images)

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina*

As the draft keeps getting closer, it's looking more and more likely that Jadeveon Clowney will be the Texans' choice. That's if they end up staying at the top spot. General manager Rick Smith has stated that they're investigating all options, including trading the first-overall. The Texans have been seen all of the top prospects, and have spoken highly about Blake Bortles, Clowney and Johnny Manziel. Bill O'Brien was complimentary of all them, and to this point, has still yet to reveal his hand.

The new Texans head coach said he was going to draft a quarterback in this year's draft, he just didn't say when. Manziel and Bortles both had great pro days and impressed a lot of critics, but Clowney may have had the most impressive showing of all. However, the biggest hurdle for Clowney wasn't any physical object, he had to make NFL personnel believe that his desire to play football is as high as anybody out there... and from everything we've heard, he's been proving it.

On physical ability alone, Clowney may be the greatest defensive prospect of the last 10-15 years. With any player you draft, there will always be questions, but you simply can't overlook what he could potentially bring to the table. He's the top prospect in the draft, and it's not really close.

2. St. Louis Rams (f/ WSH): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson*

Since around late November, I've had the Rams pegged with an offensive lineman at the second spot. Convinced, prior to free agency, that they were going to need to revamp their offensive line. Adding a tackle will be important for St. Louis to do before the season, enough even, that they should consider going that direction with their other first round pick. The value for Sammy Watkins is simply too much right here. There's a lot of great offensive tackle prospects in this draft, but not as many great receivers.

The real weakness for the Rams last season was their inability to connect on big plays. Only two players on the roster connected on more than five 20-plus yard receptions (Jared Cook, Chris Givens), that's a problem, especially when you're bringing back Sam Bradford. A young quartebrack that is on the hot seat to start to perform. How can he show what he's worth if he doesn't have legitimate targets to throw to?

Enter: Watkins.

He's a freak of a receiver, he's fast, can leap for days and very strong. He's definitely the top skill position player available and should start very early in his NFL career. Solidifying his spot with an impressive showing at the combine, his Junior year at Clemson was also fantastic, tallying over 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. Pairing Watkins with Tavon Austin should set up their offense for seasons to come, regardless of what Bradford may or may not be able to accomplish.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

I think the Jaguars need to seriously consider Blake Bortles here. They haven't had a franchise quarterback since Mark Brunell... and this is one of the few chances you have to draft a home state product to rally a deprived fanbase. That said, they need to improve both sides of the football and Khalil Mack might be the most complete defender in this draft.

Mack can cover in space, tackle at the line, and possesses good athleticism. He was so good, that he was able be a standout at Buffalo University. That speaks more to his ability then anything else. He wasn't recruited by any major schools, and he worked himself into a potential top pick in the NFL draft. Determination and character enough for two players, for a Jaguars team in need of a little heart and leadership, Mack is a great option.

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. Johnny Manziel's draft stock is the highest it's ever been. Many expected him to contend for one of the top picks in this year's draft, but there are others that believe he shouldn't be drafted until much later. All the critics were silenced after a calculated and precise performance during his pro day. He proved he could throw behind center, maintaining the movements that made him "Johnny Football" and still able to get the football into his receiver's hands.

The rumor out there has long been 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, and at this point, there's still a chance that he could go first overall to Houston.

5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn*

An impressive junior season and monster showing at the combine have rocketed Greg Robinson to the top of the draft. He could go as high as the second pick, but there’s little chance he would fall past a team like Oakland. The Raiders made every attempt this offseason to acquire as much talent as they possibly could.

In free agency, they’ve signed former Texan Antonio Smith, Justin Tuck, Lamar Woodley and most recently, Charles Woodson. They’ve been stocking up on defense, but their big attempt at addressing their offensive line was squandered when Rodger Saffold failed his physical and went back to St. Louis.

Robinson, from Auburn, would give them a franchise left tackle, anchoring their line for the future, regardless of who they have at quarterback. Whether they go with Matt Schaub behind center, or draft a player like Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, Robinson is the sort of player that the Raiders would look at as a franchise centerpiece, someone who can instantly upgrade an offense, and as close as a guaranteed success that you’ll find in any NFL draft.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

For a long time, I had Jake Matthews being taken second overall by the Rams. He's still good enough to be taken that high, but a lot of other prospects have jumped him on the charts. Robinson, specifically, showed some freak athletic abilities that have turned him into the top tackle in the draft. But that said, Matthews is still very, very good. By good, we're talking eventually Pro Bowler good.

It's been said that Matthews could be the safest pick in the draft, and that may still not be wrong. For the Falcons, they need help getting their offense back on track. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White, it shouldn't be too hard, they've just got to keep Ryan off his butt and they should find success again.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M**

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.

Trading Mike Williams to Buffalo opens up the second receiver spot next to Vincent Jackson. Tampa Bay would also like to add a pass rusher, but Clowney's gone at this point. Evans wouldn't be a bad alternative route to go, he's big, physical, and deceivingly quick for his size. He could be a star as a possesssion receiver in the league.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida*

This would be a great scenario for the Minnesota Vikings. They have been looking for a young quarterback to hand the reins to since Daunte Culpepper. Safe to say, it’s been a while.

Bortles is a very interesting prospect, he’s got the size, arm strength and football IQ you look for in a franchise signal-caller. And yet, it’s not just his arm that makes you think he’s going to be a star in the NFL. He has mobility in the pocket, more than you would expect from someone his size. If you had to equate him to a current NFL QB, he reminds many of Ben Roethlisberger as he was coming out of college.

After drafting Christian Ponder and striking out, it’s going to be very important for the Vikings to hit on their next quarterback selection. If Bortles is available by the eighth overall pick, it would be the best move for them to make.

9. Buffalo Bills select: 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 ten 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: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama*

Detroit's been looking to upgrade their secondary for a few seasons now, but it hasn't been a complete success. The addition of Glover Quin hasn't been as successful as they'd hoped, and they relied heavily on Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston, both of whom underperformed this past season. Clinton-Dix is a ballhawk, a leader amongst defensive backs, and the best safety in this draft.

11. Tennessee Titans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville*

Bridgewater's stock has been taking some hits this offseason. While I've never thought of him as the top quarterback, his numbers are hard to ignore. Can poor showings at a combine and pro day can really tell you if a quarterback is going to succeed in the NFL? I don't know, but I probably wouldn't bet against Bridgewater. He excelled at Louisville, and while he didn't perform at his best when they played some of their tougher opponents, he has shown that he has a knack for winning. We'll see if it converts to the NFL.

12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina*

The Giants offense has been in flux for a little over a season now. They relied heavily on Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks in the past and with Nicks on the move, they're going to need a new target for Eli Manning. Ebron is a freak athlete and has been on the rise all offseason. His skill set would create a lot more versatility in the Giants pass attack. He'd be the best tight end they've had since Jeremy Shockey was in his prime, and he could potentially be even better.

13. St. Louis Rams: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

The Rams added Jake Long last offseason, and he performed adequately, but that's not what you look for in a player getting paid as much as he is. The general thought is moving him to the right side should help him perform more to his abilities.

Should the Rams do that, they'll need to look for someone to develop into the new left tackle.
Jeff Fisher had his team playing good football toward the end of the season. If they could add another top lineman and get Sam Bradford back, healthy with a final season to prove himself. The Rams could be in prime position to challenge for the postseason.

14.Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh*

What an eventful offseason it's been for Aaron Donald. At one point, he was a fringe first-rounder, and now he's considered the top defensive tackle in the draft. It's no wonder, considering he brought his best stuff every step of the way. From a fantastic showing at the Senior Bowl, to his impressive combine and pro day, Donald's emerged as a force. His motor, tenacity and technique will make him a starter very early in his pro career.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Secondary is a real need for the Steelers. Keeping mostly the same unit together for a lot of years and without the infusion of youth and speed, they've become slow and vulnerable.  Gilbert is considered to be the top corner in this class and has the ability to develop into a true shut-down corner.

16. Dallas Cowboys select: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State*

The Cowboys defense was hurting by the end of the 2013 season and with Jason Hatcher on the way out, Dallas needs some life on the defensive line. 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. Jernigan is a big guy that should plug up holes early in his career.

17. Baltimore Ravens: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Since losing Ray Lewis, the Ravens defense just hasn't been the same and they didn't just lose their leader, they also failed to replace him with a suitable successor inside. Thankfully for their linebacking group, the addition of veteran Elvis Dumervil, who had nine sacks last season, mostly worked out for the team.

It's time for them to address their need in the middle, and C.J. Mosley is the perfect solution for Baltimore. Mosley was a leader at Alabama since his freshman season, he could help add some stability and a level of accountability to their group of linebackers. If the Ravens hope to contend moving forward, infusing youth into their defense will be key.

18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU*

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 as their potential QB for the future. They've added Eric Decker, but they still need to add a few more weapons. Beckham's stock has never been higher, he has a rare combination of size and speed that will make him a deep threat the Jets haven't had in quite a while.

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 had a good showing at the combine, and his stock has continued to rise. He's a big man that plays with a lot of aggression and one of the top pass blockers in the draft, what's not to like?

20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

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 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. 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.

21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville*

The Packers are going to take a safety at some point in this draft. Morgan Burnett has been average at the position, but they currently don't have another starter alongside him. After Clinton-Dix the safety pool runs pretty thin, but Pryor had a stellar season at Louisville and should find himself somewhere in the first round. He would be looked upon to start early, and despite that, he might still be their best safety.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Anthony Barr is the top pass-rushing linebacker in the draft, and the Eagles are in need of an impact player off the edge. Connor Barwin performed well, but Trent Cole is getting older and still adjusting to a new position. There’s still a lot more adjustments to be made, but adding an impact linebacker is going to be on the top of their to-do list in this draft.

At one point, Barr was heralded as the top linebacker in this class. He still has that potential, but he’s not as versatile as some of the others. His role in the NFL will be to get after the quarterback, an area where he’s been very productive. Receiver is the popular option for Philadelphia, but the value for Barr here would be too much to pass up.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State*

Alex Smith had a nice season in Kansas City, and head coach Andy Reid should be considered one of the greatest coaches ever because of it. When you look at what Smith had to work with, it's a wonder they were as successful as they were.

Dwayne Bowe has been a standout with the Chiefs, had one of his worst seasons to date, and the rest of the receivers didn't help matters much either. Brandin Cooks isn't as well known as some of the other receivers in this draft, but maybe he should be. His ability to stretch the field sets him apart from the other wideouts on their team.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Justin Gilbert and Dennard are the two top corners in this draft, and some teams reportedly even have Dennard as their top-rated defensive back. Expectations for Dennard will be for him to eventually become a lockdown corner. He’s got good size, is deceptively fast, and he may have the best one-on-one skills of any defensive player in this class.

25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

San Diego is another team in need of help in the secondary. Losing key members of their defense over the past few seasons, adding a playmaker like Fuller should be a necessity. They could also look to add a pass rusher, but the value for defensive backs at this point is higher.

26. Cleveland Browns (f/ IND): Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA*

Regardless of running back or quarterback, the Browns need to take a look at their offenisve line. They ranked 27th in the league at running the football last season, with a left tackle like Joe Thomas that shouldn't be the case. Su'a-Filo is the top guard in the draft, and having him block for their new QB, Johnny Manziel, only provides that extra protection for the new face of the franchise.

27. New Orleans Saints: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame*

The Saints will be looking to add help inside; it's been one of the weaker spots on the defense. A real impact player inside, Nix is a space-eater with top level quickness for a big guy. New Orleans needs help getting at opposing quarterbacks and eating up space inside. Nix could have a big impact early in his rookie season.

28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC*

Poor Carolina. They seemed to lose out on every big name wide receiver out there this offseason. They also let Steve Smith go, which leaves Cam Newton without any sort of go-to target. Marqise Lee is one of the more well-rounded options in this class. He possesses great hands, and adding a little more muscle could make him a potentially elite option.

29. New England Patriots: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State*

Last season, Tom Brady may have had the least amount of talent around he's ever had. The lack of weapons was not intentional on the Patriots part, but we still saw Brady have success, further establishing him as one of the all-time great quarterbacks.

I don't know if receiver is the top target on their priority list, but it should be on there. Another year with lackluster options will only do more to hurt an already aging Brady.

Kelvin Benjamin is no where near a finished product, but his strengths may be more polished than other receivers in this draft class. At 6-5, 240 pounds, and an 83-inch wingspan, he's a matchup nightmare any spot you place him, and believe Bill Belichick would find unique ways to utilize the Florida State standouts size.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State*

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. Roby is a physical, cover corner and reminds a lot of scouts of Cortland Finnegan. That sort of toughness might not be a bad thing for a Niners secondary in need of a little spark.

31. Denver Broncos: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama*

Peyton Manning was off his game in the Super Bowl because of the multiple disguised looks of the Seattle secondary, and the Seahawks getting pass rushers in his face, almost at will. For Peyton to remain productive and take the Broncos to the next step, he'll need more protection. Kouandjio is a huge tackle, at one point, he was being evaluated as a top ten draft pick. His skills are a bit raw, but he's got the size, power and aggression you look for in a starting tackle.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech*

What’s left for the team that seemingly has it all? A young offensive line, franchise quarterback, the league’s top secondary and loaded with talented defensive players.

Seattle is in a position of luxury when it comes to their first pick in this draft. One area they will look to improve is by adding some offensive weapons… they lost Golden Tate to the Lions in the offseason, and the only other receiver to register over 700 receiving yards was Doug Baldwin.

No tight ends on the Seahawks roster managed to reach the 400 yard mark. Zach Miller is basically your average NFL tight end. There’s a lot of room to upgrade from an offensive stand point. Jace Amaro is a big target, and has good speed for his size. He reminds a lot of scouts of Rob Gronkowski, and there are definitely worse players to be compared to. The idea of Russell Wilson with a legitimate red zone target is pretty scary.

33. Houston Texans: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois

So the Texans don't take a quarterback with the top pick, in that situation, is there really any doubt they're taking one at the top of the second? I think the general consensus is that Derek Carr is the next best QB available, but given Houston's past with Carrs, it might be best to stay off the road.

Jimmy Garoppolo is one heck of a prospect in his own right. He's got average size and speed, but man, has he been successful. He threw for over 5,000 yards and 53 touchdowns last season, you read that right, FIVE THOUSAND YARDS in a single season.

Granted, Eastern Illinois plays mostly cupcake teams (when compared to say, the SEC)... but obviously, he was a head above the competition. He has one of the quickest releases you'll see, some scouts have compared it to Dan Marino. Let's not go too far with that comparison, but that's not a bad guy to remind people of, unless your name is Ray Finkle.

Another interesting tidbit to read way too much into, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien seemed at his most active during Garoppolo's pro day workout. And it was one of the most highly complimented and praised workouts from any quarterback this offseason.

34. Washington Redskins: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame*

Retaining a lot of their defense was a good first step, but the Redskins still have a long ways to go on that side of the football. Adding a player like Stephon Tuitt, who many scouts say reminds them of Richard Seymour, could go a long way towards revitalizing their defensive line.

35. Cleveland Browns: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State**

Josh Gordon emerged as one of the top receivers in the game last season. He'll be looked upon to go further in that role in the future. However, they still need other players around him to prevent him from seeing double teams. Adams is one of the more underrated prospects in the draft. He was unbelievably productive, has good size and speed. If he falls to the second round, whatever team drafts him should consider themselves lucky.

36. Oakland Raiders: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

I knew Mettenberger would prove himself worthy at his pro day. He has elite arm strength, depending on how his interviews with teams went and despite his ACL injury, he could still find himself as one of the top QBs 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.

37. Atlanta Falcons: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

Atlanta needs a lot of help on defense. They could use a linebacker, but bolsering the interior D is top priority. Hageman is a monster in the middle, and could plug whatever holes the Falcons had last year up front.

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri*

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: A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama

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 in 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.

40. Minnesota Vikings: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State*

It's no secret that the Vikings defense has fallen off in recent seasons. They're in need more leadership at the linebacker spot. A tackling machine, Shazier would help stabilize a defense in desperate need of new blood.

*Non-Senior, **Redshirt Sophomore

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