Selecting a bust within the first 10 picks of the draft can be devastating to a franchise, and finding value later in rounds makes any general manager look like a genius. Here are four players highlighted in this complete first-round mock draft at Nos. 21, 26, 27 and 28, and each will deliver great value for the NFL teams prescient enough to grab them.
1. Houston Texans: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
He's the biggest star in the draft, and he would be the biggest star in Texans history almost instantaneously. For a franchise in need of a change, "Johnny Football" is the play to make and he wouldn't even have to leave the state.
2. St. Louis (from Washington Redskins): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Rodger Saffold will stick around, but the Rams still need help on the offensive line. Opting for the best offensive linemen in the draft makes sense, although they could trade this pick if other teams are desperate for a quarterback or the player at No. 3.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney is talented enough to go first overall, and he's a more sure-fire talent than any of the three quarterbacks on the board. His blend of size, power and speed make him a terror at the line of scrimmage.
4. Cleveland Browns: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Mack is another player on some draft boards at No. 1, including Mel Kiper's "Mock Draft 3.0" on ESPN.com. The Browns do not have a glaring need this position, but aside from Clowney, Mack is the best defensive player on the board. The Browns can wait and land a QB with the No. 26 pick (from the Indianapolis Colts) or even in the second round.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Sammy Watkins is an incredible wide receiver. He hauled in 101 catches for 1,464 yards and 12 scores last season. He's got great acceleration to make him a downfield threat, and his muscular frame helps him fight for space and bully defenders.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Falcons gave up 44 sacks last season, and Matt Ryan can't produce value for his huge contract if he's running from the pass rush. Matthews protected Manziel for the Aggies, and he's the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bucs could opt for a QB, but they have Josh McCown there for now. Good offense begins with good line play, and they can go after a QB in the second round like AJ McCarron or Jimmy Garoppolo.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Vikes made some moves in free agency, but Matt Cassel is still the quarterback. If Blake Bortles falls to this spot (and the Vikings don't trade down), look for Minnesota to lock up the UCF product. He looks like a QB at 6'5", and at 232 pounds he's got the body to be a durable pocket passer.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Couldn't tell ya. Top 10 player here still. RT @JSat5: why has everyone cooled on Anthony Barr all of the sudden?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 25, 2014
The Bills need to shore up the linebacking corps, and if Barr is still on the board, they will opt for him over one of the many talented wide receivers on offer. There will be another solid WR available when they pick next. He only switched to linebacker in 2012, and in 2013 he was a first-team All-American.
10. Detroit Lions: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The window will be closing on Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson sooner than later, and a talented tackle to protect the signal-caller would be a wise investment. He started 52 games for the Fighting Irish, more than anyone in school history.
11. Tennessee Titans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
With apologies to Jake Locker, it seems the Titans are in the market for a quarterback. Despite a so-so pro day, Bridgewater proved his skills in college by improving every season and accruing 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 2013 as a junior.
12. New York Giants: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Mike Evans is huge. Literally. He is 6'5" and totaled 1,394 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. The Giants could use a big-bodied wideout with Evans' ability, and if he lasts until No. 12, they will leap at him.
13. St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Rams could also trade down with this pick, but the opportunity to lock up the finest safety in the draft won't escape them considering it's a position of need. Pryor also forced five fumbles, proving he's a hard-hitter with a nose for the ball.
14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald by a good margin RT @ScoutHawk12: who is the best interior pass rusher in the draft?— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 27, 2014
This would be a perfect marriage, and it would really rankle the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only would Donald be a good complement to the Bears line, it addresses a position of need after they were gashed by opposing rushers with regularity last season (161.4 yards per game, nearly 25 yards worse than the second-to-last team). He won the Outland Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award, and he's clearly the best defensive tackle on the board.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Crimson Tide's defense was nothing short of fearsome the past few seasons, and Clinton-Dix was one of the reasons. He snagged an interception in the 2012 SEC title game and in that season's championship game, then was a second-team All-American in 2013. Despite his knee surgery in December, he's a mid-first-rounder.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Cowboys were rotten at defending the pass last season. Dennard took the Jim Thorpe Award last season as the top collegiate defensive back. It's a perfect marriage.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
The 6'4" junior set an ACC record with 973 receiving yards. With tight ends from Jimmy Graham to Julius Thomas torturing defenses with their combination of size and speed, Ebron could certainly come off the board even earlier.
18. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Eric Decker cannot fix the Jets' grounded passing attack by himself, and aside from a few injury issues and the history of bust wideouts from USC, the Jets could snag a top-notch receiver here with Lee, who took the 2012 Fred Biletnikoff Award.
19. Miami Dolphins: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
You might have heard about a little controversy with the Dolphins offensive line. They could use the new blood. Xavier Su'a-Filo has experience starting at left tackle and left guard, and the second-team All-American would be a good candidate to move from SoCal to South Florida.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert is 6'0" and has good size for a corner. He would bolster a Cardinals defense that made strides last season, but was still soft against the pass. If he falls to No. 20, the Cards would also get a guy with six kick return touchdowns in his college career. No corner ran a faster 40-yard time at the scouting combine than Gilbert.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
With Eric Ebron hogging the top ranking among tight ends, Amaro becomes an immediate sleeper. His 6'5" frame makes him a big target, and while Ebron could very well go within the first 12 picks, Amaro is likely to be available late in the first round.
Amaro is an excellent route-runner with soft hands, and he's got the unique athleticism to make him a matchup nightmare down the middle of the field. Though he only ran a 4.74-second 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine—0.14 seconds slower than Ebron—he showed off his leaping ability with a 33" vertical and 9'10" mark in the broad jump. Both numbers ranked fifth among tight ends.
Amaro could have an immediate impact at an increasingly important position, and he profiles similar to a player like Jordan Cameron of the Cleveland Browns, who went for over 900 yards and seven touchdowns on 80 catches last season.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Eagles will be scoring plenty with Darren Sproles added to the backfield, but they need to shore up the secondary. Fuller was a captain with the Hokies and has great instincts to help him anticipate the action.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Chiefs rush defense left a lot to be desired last season. Mosley is a sure-handed tackler with good instincts in the middle from an elite college defense. He is the reigning Butkus Award winner and a defensive anchor.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
TCU CB Jason Verrett played most of the season with a torn labrum. I did that and couldn't pick my arm up until fixed. One tough hombre— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 23, 2014
Jason Verrett shared Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year despite his 5'9" frame, and he's got the raw speed to fly all over the field. He ran a time of 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and he's consistently around the ball. The worry is that he's undersized for the pros.
25. San Diego Chargers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Chargers need help at the position, and Roby is the best guy on the board at this stage. He dealt with some suspensions and disciplinary trouble in college, but he flashed his skills in 2012 as a Thorpe Award semifinalist.
26. Cleveland Browns: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
In a draft where no one can devote enough ink to Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater, Derek Carr offers tremendous value as the top quarterback in Tier 2. While it is possible that some team who places high value on Carr could snatch him up even sooner, he is much more likely to last until late in the first round or early in the second.
Last season, Carr led the Bulldogs with his best year yet, tossing for 5,082 yards and 50 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. That's in Peyton Manning and Drew Brees territory in terms of stats. Carr may need to work on his pocket presence, but his cannon-like arm strength helps him fit passes in where few else can.
As noted by Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer, Carr worked out for the Browns on Monday after having dinner with members of the coaching staff on Sunday, and he sounds very comfortable with the organization.
Carr told Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez on Sirius XM's Late Hits about the structure of the workout, via Cabot:
It went exactly how we wanted it to and now of course, we just wait until May and see how they're feeling...Coach Shanahan, he really kind of ran the workout Everyone was standing there and talking of course, giving their input on things they wanted to see.
We do their drills, and they really want to tire you out, see how you're feeling, really grind you a little bit. And then you go into throwing routes while you're tired, like a football game. After all that, you do some bootlegs and they want to see how you move on the run when you're tired.
Since the Browns have the fourth and 26th overall picks in the draft, it would be prudent for them to take a more sure-fire impact player at No. 4 (like a wide receiver or offensive lineman) and then select Carr or the best available quarterback at No. 26.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
With Khalil Mack being unanimously regarded as the top linebacker in the draft, fellow outside linebacker Anthony Barr could possibly get snatched up within the top 10 or 15 picks. Shazier is third on the list, and he would be a fantastic fit for the Saints, who are in need of a rusher on the edge.
Shazier is a sure-handed tackler who racked up 143 total tackles (101 unassisted) last season. He has the great speed and instincts to be a dangerous blitzer, and he's got the well-rounded ability to slide to inside linebacker as well.
Ohio State star linebacker Ryan Shazier posted an unofficial 4.36 time in the 40-yard dash. pic.twitter.com/CzI4Oqlnkn— Jerry Emig (@BuckeyeNotes) March 7, 2014
Shazier added a little bit of bulk in the offseason in order to fill out his frame—measuring in at 6'1" and 237 pounds at the combine—but it wasn't enough to slow him down one bit. Shazier demonstrated blazing speed at Ohio State's pro day on March 7, running an unofficial time of 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com.
28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Benjamin doesn't have the softest hands in the draft, but he offers the most potent combination of size (6'5", 240 lbs) and speed, possessing both the straight-line speed to race past most cornerbacks and the height to beat them on jump balls. (Auburn's secondary can tell you all about it after witnessing Benjamin's athletic game-winning touchdown catch in the BCS championship game last season.)
Think of him like Alshon Jeffrey, except two inches taller. The last eight teams picking at the end of the first round (Chargers, Browns, Saints, Panthers, Patriots, 49ers, Broncos and Seahawks) could all use a wide receiver, especially a long target with speed like Benjamin.
The one concern with Benjamin is that he must cut down on his dropped passes, but he checks every other box that a team could hope for in a receiver, and he's a proven winner with a national championship on his resume.
29. New England Patriots: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Ealy stands at 6'4", but at just 273 pounds he could stand to add some muscle to his frame. He's quick at the snap, hounds opposing quarterbacks and was a big reason for Missouri's vast improvement last season.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Since they missed out on DeSean Jackson, the Niners should select a receiver in a draft stacked with first-round caliber wideouts. Cooks not only ran a blazing 4.33 time in the 40-yard dash, he also claimed the Biletnikoff Award in 2013 as the nation's top WR.
31. Denver Broncos: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
If he hangs around this long, he'd be a great addition for a new-look Broncos defense. He's a sizable young man, and that makes for a potentially great run-stuffer. With Nix's ability to fill gaps on the line and his 6'2", 331-pound frame, the Broncos should look past the torn meniscus he suffered in November and grab him.
With apologies to Timmy Jernigan, the top of the draft is stocked with so much talent, plenty of first-round caliber guys will fall into the early second round.
32. Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
What do you get the team that already won it all? A guard. You know the Stanford product is smart, and he can talk baseball sabermetrics with Russell Wilson. He started 42 games for the Cardinal and was a first-team All-American at left guard. He also played left tackle in 2012 and made first-team All-Pac-12.
All height/weight measurements and combine information courtesy of NFL.com.