Every team picking in the first round hopes to make the best possible selection in the NFL draft. However, some combinations between team and player are too perfect to pass up.
When a squad has a glaring need at a certain position and a top prospect is available at the spot, it just seems like a match made in heaven. Although this does not always come true, it is always nice to imagine a perfect fit for a team in need.
Still, there are 32 picks to be made in the first round, and every squad wants to find the best player to improve the roster going forward. Here is a look at the latest mock draft, with perfect fits highlighted in italics.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Although Jadeveon Clowney did not have the best production this past season, he had to deal with plenty of double-teams and extra attention from opposing offenses. When he's paired with J.J. Watt, opponents will have to pick their poison and likely leave one of the defensive ends open to make a play.
While the Texans need a quarterback at some point in the draft, creating an elite tandem on defense might be too good to pass up.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Greg Robinson proved throughout his last season at Auburn that he can be a dominant run-blocker. He helped lead the No. 1 rushing attack in the country as an athletic mauler who can clear space against anyone.
Although he might need some time to develop his pass-blocking technique, he has all the tools to help the Rams this season and beyond.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Few players have ever entered the NFL with as much hype as Johnny Manziel. The former Heisman winner is an exciting player on the field, but there are questions about how his game will translate to the next level.
However, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell explained that Manziel is someone who can play right away. According to Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union, Caldwell recently stated, "Johnny would probably be the one guy you could plug in there sooner rather than later just because his style of play isn’t going to change much from Year 1 to Year 2."
On a team that has not had a winning record in six years, Manziel could provide a jolt of energy while making big plays with both his arms and his legs. There is certainly offensive talent, but he can succeed without it and bring some wins to Jacksonville.
Although there are other needs on the roster, the Jaguars cannot avoid drafting a quarterback any longer.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Browns do not have an immediate need at wide receiver, but pairing Sammy Watkins alongside Josh Gordon would be a dream scenario for whichever quarterback winds up throwing passes.
Cleveland can then use its second pick in the first round to find a true franchise quarterback without making too big of a reach.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Oakland has a bunch of needs on both sides of the ball, so it might as well grab the best player available who can make a big impact for the defense.
Khalil Mack is a versatile player who has the ability to be an elite pass-rusher or drop back into coverage. In either situation, he will immediately improve the Raiders defense and become a fixture for years to come.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews might not have the upside of Robinson, but he is as solid as the offensive line prospects come. The son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews has proved himself on both sides of the line and can excel in both run and pass plays.
While the Falcons might want a pass-rusher like Clowney or Mack, finding someone to protect Matt Ryan is just as important.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Mike Evans is going to be in high demand in the draft as a 6'5" receiver who can catch almost any ball close to him. No matter where he lands, he will be a major threat in the red zone early in his career.
Tampa Bay already has a big receiver in Vincent Jackson, but the addition of Evans can take some of the pressure off the Pro Bowler and give the squad another weapon on offense.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Vikings are in need of a new franchise quarterback, but they do not want to reach for someone after Christian Ponder failed to live up to expectations. The good news is that Blake Bortles has as much upside as anyone in the class at the position.
He has good size (6'5", 232 lbs), a strong arm and the pocket mobility to extend plays when given the chance. If he can improve his decision-making, he has the potential to be a star in the NFL.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
After drafting a quarterback in the first round last season, Buffalo has to do whatever it takes to protect him. Selecting Taylor Lewan at this stage would help in this area.
Although he has played left tackle throughout his career at Michigan, the explosive player could end up being a mauling right tackle opposite Cordy Glenn.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
There seems to be a big divide between scouts in deciding the best cornerback in this class. While Justin Gilbert might have the athleticism that impresses fans, Darqueze Dennard has the skill to be much better in the NFL.
As Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen notes, Dennard has great physicality in the secondary:
Writing up a post on #MSU CB Darqueze Dennard. Press-man skills + physical style are a good fit for the NFL game.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 28, 2014
Even without elite size (5'11", 199 lbs), the Michigan State product uses his strength to throw receivers off their routes and stick with them wherever they go. After seeing the success of players like Richard Sherman in Seattle, it is clear that this is what it takes to stop the pass in the NFL.
The Lions need to improve their pass defense, and Dennard is a local product who can help out immediately.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Teams might be scared of Anthony Barr's lack of polish as a linebacker, but he has the potential to be an impact player early in his career. He proved at UCLA that he can be an elite pass-rusher with the athleticism to get by almost any lineman.
Although he might not develop into a three-down player, he is worth the risk for an improving defense.
12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
After losing Linval Joseph in free agency, the Giants are in desperate need to replace him on the defensive line. This part of the team used to be a strength, but it is currently in shambles.
Fortunately, Aaron Donald could be a star at defensive tackle thanks to his quickness and ability to penetrate into the backfield with consistency. Even though he is smaller than others at his position (6'1", 285 lbs), he will fare just fine in the NFL.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Fans would love to see the Rams draft an impact receiver, but they need to let Tavon Austin develop after just one year in the NFL. With Evans off the board, there is no reason to draft one of the similar wideouts available.
Instead, the squad has to bring in one of the best defenders in the class in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who can instantly improve the pass defense with his ability to cover almost the entire field in the secondary.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Although Chicago could use a safety, it is much more important to upgrade the defensive line after allowing the most rushing yards in the NFL last season.
Timmy Jernigan would help in this area with his ability to clog the middle of the field while also remaining active to shed blockers and get to the ball-carrier. This is exactly what the Bears need heading into next season.
Who is the best cornerback in the class?
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Steelers need to add some quickness and athleticism to the defense after the unit looked old and slow for much of last season.
Justin Gilbert fits this description with his pure speed and leaping ability. Although he needs to work on his cover skills, he can learn from some experienced players in the secondary to help reach his potential.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
After allowing the most total yards in football a year ago, Dallas needs anyone who can stop the bleeding. Louis Nix III would qualify as someone who can take on blockers and allow the rest of the team to make plays around him.
He has the strength necessary to easily move onto the next level and make an impact as soon as Week 1.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
Kony Ealy knows how to get to the quarterback, no matter where he lines up on defense. With the Ravens, he will join a great tradition of linebackers who have had plenty of success in this same job.
Most importantly, he could ease into the action while developing into the complete player he has the potential to be.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
There is a good chance Eric Ebron will be off the board by this point, but the tight end still has a lot to prove before living up to the Jimmy Graham comparisons laid upon him. The good news is that his athleticism gives him incredible upside.
The Jets might as well take a chance on the talented player who could give them another legitimate weapon on offense.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Miami Dolphins allowed the most sacks in the NFL last season, and it was clear the offensive line needed to be rebuilt. The organization signed Branden Albert to play left tackle, but this is still not enough.
Adding Zack Martin would represent a big upgrade thanks to his versatility to play almost anywhere on the offensive line. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller takes a look at how good he could be at different spots:
Zack Martin: Solid projection at left tackle, very good future right tackle, All-Pro potential at guard.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 28, 2014
Miami could use either a right tackle or a guard, meaning the coaching staff can evaluate the player and figure out where he would fit best.
While the Dolphins might need to trade up to complete this pick, it will be worth it for a team that is looking to contend for the playoffs next season.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
After coming dangerously close to the playoffs last season, it stands to reason that the squad would use this pick for an impact player who can help immediately.
On the other hand, Carson Palmer is not the long-term answer at quarterback. With a sliding Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals can get great value for a player who can spend a year learning before becoming a star down the line.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Green Bay has to upgrade defensively, and no position needs more help than safety. Things will not get any easier with quality passing offenses like the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions competing twice every year.
Calvin Pryor will be able to counter those attacks with great physicality that allows him to slow down opponents in the middle of the field. He has the versatility to play either safety position and will likely contribute early in his career.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. can assume that role with his quickness and athleticism to burn defenders with or without the ball. In Chip Kelly's offense, he will be utilized to his full ability.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Chiefs reached the playoffs a year ago with Jamaal Charles doing most of the work on offense. They need someone else who can make plays and possibly stretch the defense.
Brandin Cooks can take both of these roles as one of the fastest players in the draft. Although he will be used mostly out of the slot, he can give Kansas City an immediate boost next season.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
There are few players in the class with Ryan Shazier's combination of size and athleticism. He has the versatility to be a great pass-rusher while also having the speed to cover the run from sideline to sideline.
The Bengals do not have many needs on either side of the ball, but they could use a defensive playmaker like Shazier in some role.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Chargers had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL last season, mostly due to the poor efforts by the cornerbacks on the roster. The players could not stick with receivers long enough to keep them from making big plays down the field.
For this reason, San Diego has to draft the best cornerback available, which in this case is Kyle Fuller.
He was a bit inconsistent throughout his career, but he has an elite natural coverage ability, as noted by Louis Riddick of ESPN:
Think of how good Kyle Fuller will be when he cleans up some of his off man technical issues. The kid has crazy natural coverage instinct...— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) April 29, 2014
If the Virginia Tech star can live up to his potential, he can be a useful addition to a playoff contender.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Derek Carr will have a big jump from the Mountain West to the NFL, but his strong arm and good decision making will help make the transition easier. If he is given time to develop, he could end up even better.
Meanwhile, drafting Watkins with the first pick will give the Browns an offense that is ready to shine even with an average performance by a quarterback.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Dee Ford went through the toughest conference in college football and was one of the most dominant defensive players in the nation. He showed that he can rush the quarterback and cause havoc in the backfield on almost every play.
The Saints could use someone with this ability as they look to take another step toward getting back to the Super Bowl.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Cam Newton took a big jump last season, but he did it without much help in the receiving corps. After the offseason, the current group is even worse.
Marqise Lee will represent a nice upgrade with his ability to score from virtually anywhere on the field. Although he had some problems with drops last season, this should not be a lasting issue once he gets more stability at quarterback.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Jace Amaro had an extremely productive final season at Texas Tech, passing most wide receivers when it came to catches and yards. He has soft hands, and his size at 6'5" gives quarterbacks a big target in the middle of the field.
Tom Brady would love someone like this catching passes after losing Aaron Hernandez last season and going without the oft-injured Rob Gronkowski for most of it.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Although wide receiver might be the more intriguing pick, the 49ers have a bigger need in the defensive secondary. The current unit lacks experience and could end up being a weak point of an otherwise great defense.
Jason Verrett will not provide experience, but he is as solid as they come entering the NFL with great coverage skills and instincts. He will be able to play right away and give the team exactly what it needs on that side of the ball.
31. Denver Broncos: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Although most project C.J. Mosley as one of the top 20 players in the class, he might fall on draft day. He lacks the pure athleticism of someone like Shazier, while the middle linebacker position has been devalued in general.
While teams will try to fill needs in other areas, the Broncos are left with an elite talent at the end of the first round. He would step in and contribute immediately in the middle of the defense next to Danny Trevathan.
If you want an endorsement for the player, just ask head coach Nick Saban, via Jim Corbett of USA Today:
If people evaluate C.J. as a football player — how fast you play; how athletic you are; how instinctive you are and how many plays you make — I would challenge anybody to show me 10 better players. He silently works hard, doesn't look for a lot of self gratification from other people — really has fun doing what he does. He understands, though, to have fun and to be confident, you really have to invest time and earn it. He practices that way, plays that way. It is unusual today to find someone who is driven to do well in everything he aspires to.
Based on this projection, the Broncos could be getting a star at this stage in the draft.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Xavier Su'a-Filo is someone who can excel at either run or pass blocking in the middle of the offensive line. While the Seahawks are a run-heavy team, it is the skill in the passing game that will really help after allowing way too many sacks during last year's Super Bowl run.
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