The upcoming NFL draft is filled with uncertainty. It starts with the Houston Texans and the No. 1 pick and filters down from there.
Most of the blame for this falls on the quarterbacks. As always, there are teams looking to find the signal-caller of the future, and not surprisingly, most of those teams will be drafting early.
The problem is there are quarterbacks in this class with talent worthy of using a top pick on, but they also have questions that could lead to top teams passing on them. This makes mocking the upcoming first round an uncertain job, but isn't that part of the fun of the draft?
Here is my latest attempt at solving this puzzle.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
It would be foolish for the Texans to draft Jadeveon Clowney. Along with the quarterback Blake Bortles, the defensive end from South Carolina is the popular selection here.
The foolishness does not come over Clowney's potential. The athletic freak has the ability to be a dominant force. The problem is, he is not a good fit with the Texans.
Houston plays a 3-4. Clowney is coming out of college as an end in a 4-3. Now, as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, Clowney would still be a formidable pass-rusher, but it is not where he is best suited. Sure, the Texans could switch to a 4-3 to accommodate Clowney, but that would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
J.J. Watt—perhaps you've heard of him—has proven to be an all-time great defensive end in a 3-4.
Given all of this, the Texans will opt for Bortles. He has the size and skill set to warrant the selection.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Once the Texans pass on Clowney, this becomes a supremely interesting pick. The Rams would not appear to be in the market for a quarterback in the first round. Offensive tackle Greg Robinson will be an option here, but Clowney will prove to be too much to pass on.
The Rams will look to trade down from this spot, in the end, they will find better value drafting Clowney, pairing him opposite Robert Quinn and then trading fellow defensive end Chris Long.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Jaguars are in the market for a quarterback, but the allure of Robinson's rare blend of power and explosiveness will win them over.
This is a safe and valuable pick for the Jaguars.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel's blend of arm talent, mobility and awareness won't allow him to last past this selection.
The Browns have some strong offensive weapons in place with wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Manziel is the kind of player this offense needs to become dynamic.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Oakland Raiders have to find someone who is going to be productive with this pick. It doesn't really matter which position. Sammy Watkins is a solid value, and he has the athleticism and ball skills to make an instant impact.
The Raiders have a decent young receiving corps, but lack a player with true No. 1 potential. Watkins is that player.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
There aren't a lot of picks I feel supremely confident about in this draft, but if Khalil Mack is available when the Falcons make their selection, this is one of them.
All indications, as Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports reports, are the Falcons are moving to a 3-4. They need one important piece: a player who can rush the passer. Mack will be able to do that and a lot more.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews is a fantastic pass-blocker. He will be solid from his first day on an NFL field and for a long time after that.
The Buccaneers' biggest need is not at tackle, but they did a solid job filling their holes in free agency and have the luxury of picking the best player available.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater has had an interesting offseason. At the end of the college football season, Bridgewater was widely thought of as the No. 1 selection. Now, his stock is plummeting so fast he's drawing comparisons to fictional characters, as the tweet from BR's Matt Miller tells us:
I present you with the greatest QB comparison ever. An AFC North coach compared Bridgewater to...Willie Beaman. I'm not making this up.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 14, 2014
Aside from the fact this comparison is absurd and baseless, I think you get the point, some people are a tad down on Bridgewater.
Still, we are talking about a talented passer with an advanced ability to read a defense. The Vikings could certainly use that.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr has the talent and athleticism to be an absolute star. He is also, however, extremely raw. He is a risk, but he is worth it at pick No. 9 for the Bills, who need more athleticism on the edge of their defense.
10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
C.J. Mosley is a talented and instinctive middle linebacker. He is a solid value here and a good fit for the Lions. With the Lions' talented defensive line, Mosley will be free to make plays all over the field.
11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Titans signed right tackle Michael Oher in free agency this offseason to fill one of their biggest needs. Still, Oher is not coming off the best season.
Taylor Lewan will compete with Michael Roos at left tackle, and the loser of the battle can compete at right tackle.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron has the talent to be a game-changing tight end. NBCSports.com's Josh Norris points out a slight drawback, however:
Had an 11.43% drop rate in 2013 RT @jjones9: Here at UNC Pro Day where TE Eric Ebron has registered three drops so ffar— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 25, 2014
Still, Ebron can stretch the seam and help open up an offense. This will help open up things on the outside for the Giants' deep passing attack.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The St. Louis Rams will be on the lookout for talent at wide receiver, and if Mike Evans is available here, this is an easy selection. Evans is lengthy, athletic and has great hands.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Timmy Jernigan is not going to dominate on the stat sheet, but he is a strong presence in the interior of the defensive line.
The Bears could certainly use that, but they could use just about everything on defense. Still, Jernigan is great start for the Bears.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Darqueze Dennard is coming off a fantastic season. Check out this stat from Packer Report:
Darqueze Dennard held opposing WRs to 0.88 yards per pass attempt. Best since scout service NFL Draft Report started tracking in 1968.— Packer Report (@PackerReport) April 15, 2014
The Steelers don't have the biggest need for a corner, except for the fact Ike Taylor is about to turn 34. Dennard will provide great depth, and he is an excellent fit.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are the the best safeties in this class, and it isn't all that close. The Cowboys must address their need at free safety, and they won't be able to do so in the later rounds.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
The Ravens had a rough year along the offensive line last season and must infuse some youthful talent. Zack Martin is a fantastic talent.
He may not have the length and speed to stick at tackle in the NFL, but he will excel somewhere along the offensive line.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Jets need a little speed to help open up their offense. Odell Beckham Jr. has plenty of speed.
Beckham Jr. is not the most complete receiver, but he is a burner and has solid ball skills.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins find themselves in need of a makeover along the offensive line. Cyrus Kouandjio is a big, physical lineman. He may be best suited for guard in the NFL, but he has the ability to wear defensive linemen down.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald's lack of size will leave him on the board longer then some project, but that will work out well for the Cardinals.
Arizona needs help along its defensive front. The Cardinals run a 3-4, and that will be the best spot for Donald.
Donald may lack the length typically associated with the position—he is 6'1"—but his explosiveness and leverage will allow him to overcome this.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Louis Nix III is such an intriguing talent at nose guard that he is likely to go in the first round despite the fact he is coming into the NFL off of knee surgery.
The Packers must get more physical and stout at the point of attack. Nix will help them do that.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Eagles must address the fact they were last in the NFL this past season in pass defense. Head coach Chip Kelly may be tempted to go offense with this pick, but if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is available, the Eagles will not pass on him.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Chiefs are almost a lock to go receiver here. After all, this team was led in receiving yards last season by running back Jamaal Charles.
Marqise Lee is a natural receiver with great ball skills.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Bengals are in a similar position as the Steelers. They do not have the biggest need for a corner, but Terence Newman is 35. A little depth at the position is in order.
Justin Gilbert is a tremendous athlete and well worth the 24th pick.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Chargers won't be too happy when the Bengals select Gilbert. This franchise is desperate for help in their pass defense. Luckily for them, this draft is loaded with corner talent.
Kyle Fuller is a natural cover man.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
If the draft plays out like this, Browns fans will have plenty of reason to be excited. Kelvin Benjamin is a tall receiver at 6'5" and will be a credit to any offense in the red zone and on third downs.
Of course, this isn't the sole reason for the excitement. I also have the Browns drafting Manziel earlier in the round. That would leave Cleveland with an offense that features receivers Gordon, Benjamin and the newly signed Nate Burleson, tight end Cameron and Manziel.
That is a potentially lethal mix.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Ryan Shazier was not the most consistent linebacker at Ohio State, but he did make his share of impact plays. He is a physical and athletic linebacker.
After the Saints added safety Jairus Byrd and veteran Champ Bailey this offseason to help out the pass defense, Shazier will give a boost to New Orleans' rush defense.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Carolina has to do something to boost its pass offense—the only real avenue at this point is the draft. Brandin Cooks will do that. He may be under 6'0", but he is fast, explosive and strong for his size.
In other words, he is pretty similar to the recently departed Steve Smith.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Jason Verrett may only be 5'9", but he is a natural cover man. This size may keep him from excelling on the outside, but he will be an excellent slot corner.
That will be a nice fit for the Patriots.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Wide receiver Allen Robinson isn't getting a lot of hype this offseason, and it's understandable given his lack of big-play ability.
Still, he is a reliable receiver who runs good routes and knows how to use his body. He would give quarterback Colin Kaepernick another reliable weapon and add consistency to the offense.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy is a natural pass-rusher but not much else. Still, the Broncos need someone who can make an instant impact, and Ealy will be able to bring heat on opposing quarterbacks from Day 1.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
Ra'Shede Hageman is unnaturally athletic for being over 300 pounds. Still, he was not the most productive college player.
This won't bother Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. They haven't shied away from similar players, and they need help along their defensive line.