This is going to be a fun draft. There are amazing talents, such as defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and offensive tackle Greg Robinson. There are also a handful of talented quarterbacks, some of whom might be worth the most elite picks.
The draft could go a number of ways, so it's easy to get lost when mocking the first round. Still, if you look hard enough, a clear direction emerges. Here is that direction.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Texans can't draft Clowney. He may be the most exciting player in this draft, but it makes no sense to pair him with J.J. Watt. Watt is the prototype for an end in a 3-4, while Clowney is the prototype for an end in a 4-3.
Instead of spending the most precious pick in the draft on a player they can't put in his best position to succeed, the Texans will go quarterback.
With his size and solid skill set, Bortles has the most pro-style skills of the top quarterback prospects.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Once the Texans pass on Clowney, the Rams will begin feverishly working the phones. Instead of trading this pick, however, the Rams will find better value in drafting Clowney and shopping current defensive end Chris Long.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Greg Robinson is going to be great. What will make him elite is that he will not only lock down a quarterback's blind side but also dominate in the run game.
This will be enough to make the Jaguars pass on the remaining quarterbacks.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Browns won't pass on a quarterback. With wide receivers Josh Gordon and Nate Burleson along with tight end Jordan Cameron, the Browns have an exciting foundation on offense. All they need is their quarterback of the future.
Johnny Manziel has the most arm talent of any quarterback in this draft. He will be an exciting and quality selection for the Browns.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
After being busy in free agency, the Raiders have a lot of freedom with this pick. Sammy Watkins is not only in the running for the best player available, but he is also a great fit.
Watkins will give the Raiders' solid, young receiving corps the No. 1 it needs.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Yahoo! Sports' Eric Edholm pointed out that it looks like the Falcons are moving to a 3-4. To help that transition make a serious impact, the Falcons need a fierce pass-rusher off the edge. Khalil Mack will not only be an excellent pass-rusher but also a complete linebacker.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Although tackle is not the biggest need for the Buccaneers, Jake Matthews is too strong a prospect to pass on. Matthews has everything a team looks for in a pass-blocker.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
After a shaky offseason, Teddy Bridgewater's draft stock has taken a bit of a hit. He remains, however, the most pro-ready quarterback in the class.
Bridgewater will be able to push for playing time right away, and the Vikings won't pass on that.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Bills defense is stout up the middle, but it needs some athleticism on the edge. Anthony Barr has plenty of athleticism.
The converted running back is a bit raw, and he is a gamble, but he's worth it.
10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Lions have a talented but inconsistent defense. C.J. Mosley would help with that weakness. He has the athleticism and instincts to be a factor in both the run and pass game. With the Lions' stout defensive line, he'd 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, and that gives them some freedom with this pick. Still, Oher is coming off a bad season, and drafting a tackle is not a bad idea.
With Taylor Lewan available in this mock, drafting the athletic tackle is a great plan.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The following stat, tweeted by NBCSports.com's Josh Norris, can work out two ways for Eric Ebron:
He can either overcome his drops and improve in this area, or he can be crushed by the weight of his catching miscues and allow it to destroy his career.
Despite his issues catching, Ebron is an amazing prospect. He has the speed to get deep, and the Giants need someone who can exploit the seam. It will help open things up on the outside for their vertical offense.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Rams will be tempted to take a receiver with their second pick. They will wait, however, and hope Mike Evans is available here.
Evans is tall and athletic and has great hands. He will pair great with Tavon Austin.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears defense needs a lot of help. The most glaring need comes in the middle of their defensive line. Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald is an option here, but Timmy Jernigan is a better choice.
Jernigan lacks Donald's explosion, but he is a monster at the point of attack.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert has blown people away with his athleticism, but what Darqueze Dennard loses to Gilbert in athleticism, he picks up in physicality. As this tweet from Packer Report highlights, he has used his tools with great effectiveness:
The Steelers love physical corners. Dennard is a great fit.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys have to address their need at either defensive tackle or free safety with this pick. The best choice is to take the athletic and well-rounded Calvin Pryor.
There is a lot more depth in this draft at defensive tackle than at safety. The Cowboys can address that need in later rounds.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
Baltimore's offensive line was a disaster last season. Zack Martin will be an instant upgrade. My guess is that he'll wind up starting at guard, but the Ravens can use his help at either position.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Jets signed Eric Decker this offseason, but they still need help at the position. Odell Beckham Jr. makes the most sense. He is not the most complete receiver left, but his speed will help open up the field for New York's anemic offense.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Cyrus Kouandjio is a strong, mauling lineman. He is not the most athletic and is better suited for right tackle or guard.
The Dolphins will have a spot for Kouandjio wherever he can contribute
20. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald is 6'1" and 285 pounds, and he has great explosiveness. His lack of length is not ideal for an end in a 3-4, but his strength, speed and leverage will make up for that.
The Cardinals need bodies along the defensive line, and Donald would look good at end in their 3-4.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The Packers need someone to help them dominate at the point of attack on defense. Louis Nix III is coming off of knee surgery, but he is the best nose tackle in this class.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Ha Ha Clinton Dix has good range and athleticism. He has some work to do in the run game, but he can lock down a deep half of the field.
The Eagles, who finished last in pass defense this past season, badly need that.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee didn't live up to lofty expectations last season, but it was an up-and-down season for the entire USC team. Still, Lee is a dynamic receiver with great ball skills and leaping ability.
This will fit in Kansas City. The Chiefs are desperate for playmakers on the outside to help open up the offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert has the talent to be drafted higher than this, but he will be limited by a deep crop of corners in this class. Still, his value will be too much for the Bengals to pass on. Cincinnati must beef up its corner depth behind the elderly Terence Newman.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
San Diego made terrific strides last season, but most of those strides came on offense. The Chargers need lots of help on pass defense.
Kyle Fuller is a natural cover man. He will be an instant upgrade for the Chargers.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
After taking Manziel at No. 4 in this mock, the Browns could decide to balance their first-round effort with a defensive pick, or they could just go all-in on offense and ensure this team has a promising young core.
Benjamin is not the most athletic receiver, but he is 6'5" and rangy.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Saints have taken steps to beef up their pass defense by adding safety Jairus Byrd and veteran Champ Bailey this offseason. Byrd will also help out in run defense, but the point of a good run defense is to not have safeties making tackles.
Ryan Shazier will help the Saints keep opposing backs in front of the front seven. Shazier has solid athleticism and tackling. He will be a big boost to the run defense.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Panthers finished 29th in the NFL in passing yardage last season. I get that this team wants to win with defense and running first, but 29th is a touch low.
The Panthers will be desperately looking for help at receiver in this draft. At No. 28, they won't do any better than the small and explosive Brandin Cooks.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The New England Patriots must add more talent to a thin secondary. Jason Verrett is easily the most talented corner left in this scenario, although he is far from the biggest.
Verrett checks in at 5'10" and may struggle against receivers on the outside. He will be excellent against the slot from day one, and that will be helpful in New England.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The 49ers will be looking for a wide receiver with this pick, and there is a deep group of talent at the position.
Allen Robinson has underwhelmed some with his athleticism, but he's a sturdy and steady presence in passing games.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
With Peyton Manning gunning for one last shot at the Super Bowl, the Broncos' intentions remain firmly planted in the present. This makes drafting easier. The Broncos can look for players with ability that will instantly translate to the NFL.
Kony Ealy's length and athleticism will make him an instant threat rushing the passer.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
The Seahawks must reinforce the middle of their defensive line. Ra'Shede Hageman will help. At over 300 pounds, he has ample size. He also has great athleticism. He has yet to turn that into prolific results on the football field, but the Seahawks will look to cultivate his talent while he helps clog running lanes.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!