1. Houston Texans: DE Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina
The Texans were successful by drafting defensive end Mario Williams first overall in 2006 and by trading for a third-round quarterback (Matt Schaub, drafted 90th overall in 2004 by the Atlanta Falcons). Houston can’t pass up the best player overall.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Wide receiver Tavon Austin might be the Rams’ slot receiver, but that’s not the same as being the primary receiver. Selecting outside linebacker Khalil Mack to complement outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar is tempting, St. Louis boosts a sputtering passing game first (195.3 yards per game, 27th in the NFL).
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
The need for a franchise quarterback is obvious for the Jaguars, but players like Mack don’t come around very often. It worked out very well for Jacksonville when they drafted linebacker Kevin Hardy second overall in 1996. They expect a similar return from Mack.
4. Cleveland Browns: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
The need for a franchise quarterback is obvious, as Brian Hoyer is the remaining passer on the roster. But a young quarterback won’t be successful behind an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks. The first step toward turning around the Browns begins with Robinson.
5. Oakland Raiders : QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
The Raiders shored up the offensive line by signing free-agent offensive tackles Donald Penn and Austin Howard. Though QB Matt Schaub was added through a trade with the Houston Texans, he’s not the long-term answer under center for Oakland.
6. Atlanta Falcons: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Atlanta’s pass protection was shoddy (44 sacks allowed), and the Steven Jackson-led run game was terrible (last in the NFL). The addition of Matthews (along with the return of good health) could make the offense scary again.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
The Buccaneers seemingly addressed all holes through free agency, giving them the luxury to go after an impact player. Trading wide receiver Mike Williams clears the path for Evans to line up opposite of Vincent Jackson for an intimidating receiver duo.
8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
The Vikings deserve credit for having the courage to draft Manziel. Minnesota blew it when they selected QB Christian Ponder 12th overall in 2011. The bad experience doesn’t deter the Vikings from selecting Manziel.
9. Buffalo Bills: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
It’s going to take more than just signing offensive guard Chris Williams to plug a porous offensive line. If E.J. Manuel is to become the Bills’ franchise quarterback, he needs better protection than the 48 sacks Buffalo allowed last year.
10. Detroit Lions: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Let’s see. The Lions play the Green Bay Packers (sixth-ranked pass offense) and the Chicago Bears (fifth) twice a year. Need I say more?
11. Tennessee Titans: OLB/DE Anthony Barr, UCLA
The Titans got nine sacks combined from defensive ends Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley. There are doubts about the starting linebackers as well. Tennessee will enjoy moving Barr all over the field.
12. New York Giants: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
The best counter to the prolific offenses New York sees in the NFC East is to keep opposing quarterbacks from passing. Defensive end Robert Ayers will replace Justin Tuck in the lineup, but he isn't Tuck’s equal as a pass-rusher. Donald will help make up the difference.
13. St. Louis Rams: S Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Playing in the toughest division in the NFL, the Rams know they need a great defense to compete in the NFC West. Many of the pieces are in place. Adding a difference-maker like Clinton-Dix to the secondary gets St. Louis closer.
14. Chicago Bears: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Dick Butkus. Mike Singletary. Brian Urlacher. Expectations could be crushing for the next Bears middle linebacker. Mosely has to follow in the footsteps of NFL legends. Playing for Alabama and winning two BCS National Championships prepared Mosely well.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Though the pass defense finished ninth overall, starting cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay combined for one interception. Taylor is also entering his 12th season, so it’s time to find his replacement.
16. Dallas Cowboys: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Just when Dallas thought its pass defense couldn't get any worse, it did. The Cowboys pass defense in 2012 was the worst in franchise history…until 2013. Spending big money in free agency or selecting first-rounders hasn't solved the problem. Maybe they get it right with Pryor.
17. Baltimore Ravens: OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Right tackle Michael Oher left in free agency, but he won’t be missed by the Ravens. Kouandjio won’t protect QB Joe Flacco’s blind side, but he will help make Baltimore’s pocket a safer place after the Ravens allowed 48 sacks.
18. New York Jets: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Even though the Jets lost three O-linemen in free agency, the biggest problem with QB Geno Smith’s protection was that he held on to the ball too long. Besides two free-agent receivers and running back Chris Johnson on board, adding Ebron gives Smith a safety blanket.
19. Miami Dolphins: G/T Zack Martin, Notre Dame
In Little Havana, QB Ryan Tannehill pinatas are sold because they’re accurate. No quarterback absorbed more sacks last year (58) than Tannehill. It’s not good for business for the Dolphins. Miami selects Martin to help protect their developing franchise player.
20. Arizona Cardinals: DE Dee Ford, Auburn
The decision could come down to a cornerback or a pass-rusher. Outside linebacker John Abraham led the team in sacks with 11.5, but how long can the 35-year-old Abraham keep the production up? Ford will be groomed to replace the veteran.
21. Green Bay Packers: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Tight end Jermichael Finley is a free agent and probably won’t be back in Green Bay after suffering a career-threatening neck injury. Andrew Quarless was re-signed, but the Packers need a second tight end to help fill out the unit.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Because the Eagles offense was prolific, the pass defense was assaulted, leading to the worst pass defense in the league. Three players were added to the secondary through free agency, but improving the pass rush will ease the burden on the defensive backs.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
An offensive line that struggled with consistency needs to come together. Last year’s top pick, right tackle Eric Fisher, will move to the left side while guard/tackle Jeff Linkenbach can hold down the right. Somewhere in between, Su’a-Filo will squeeze in to complete the O-line crew.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
Defensive end Michael Johnson isn't a huge loss sack-wise, as defensive tackle Geno Atkins is expected to be back from injury and defensive end Margus Hunt is a developing project. Ealy is ready now to add to a balanced pass rush.
25. San Diego Chargers: DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
Massive nose tackle Cam Thomas (6’4”, 330 lbs) is heading east as a free-agent departure, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the line. Nix is built to fill the void (6’2”, 331 lbs).
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
After signing free-agent offensive tackle Paul McQuistan and drafting Robinson, a rookie quarterback has a chance to succeed in the Cleveland. Despite the poor workouts, the Browns believe the film on Bridgewater and are able to stop his free fall.
27. New Orleans Saints: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
The playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions served as a lesson for the Saints. Unable to score and forced by the Seattle Seahawks into a game of catch up, New Orleans was steamrolled by Seattle’s physical run game. The Saints hope with Jernigan they’ll be ready next time.
28. Carolina Panthers: OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
While the loss of three wide receivers, including career Panther Steve Smith, is big, it’s not as significant as losing three offensive linemen, including two starters. Moses has the daunting task of filling the shoes vacated by offensive Jordan Gross.
29. New England Patriots: DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Though the Patriots and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork were able to agree on a contract extension, Wilfork’s deal doesn't provide long-term security. The Patriots can cut Wilfork without drastically affecting their salary cap. In a year or two, Tuitt could anchor New England’s D-line.
30. San Francisco 49ers: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
For now, San Francisco is all set at receiver with a fully healthy Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin re-signed for two more years. But Boldin is 33 years old. His decline is possible, so the 49ers stay a step ahead and add Benjamin.
31. Denver Broncos: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
Signing cornerback Aqib Talib was a great move, but he can only shut down his side of the field. Cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie both left as free agents, leaving one starting slot open. Verrett can compete for the position, but he would still provide depth even if he doesn't win the starting spot.
32. Seattle Seahawks: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
It wouldn't be the first time the Seahawks drafted a Buckeye cornerback, as they did in 1997 when they selected Shawn Springs third overall. Roby might not be the player Springs was, but with great coaching and mentors, Roby should turn into a quality player with Seattle.
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