There was a time when I had three quarterbacks mocked to go in the first five selections of this draft.
After far too many weeks to overthink the process, I now only have one QB going in the top five. I am not alone in this line of thinking. Plenty of other mockers have gone this route, as indications and offseason transactions have pointed toward franchises with top picks passing on quarterbacks in the first round.
At any rate, first round will no longer be a mystery after Thursday. In the meantime, here is my final attempt at predicting how it will play out.
1. Houston Texans: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
The Texans would definitely benefit from identifying their quarterback of the future, but there isn't one who makes it worth passing on an elite defensive talent.
Jadeveon Clowney is widely speculated as the No. 1 pick, but unless the Texans trade this pick, that's not going to happen. I don't see any team ponying up the kind of value the Texans would need to move down. That will leave them to make this high-profile selection.
Mack is a far better option for the Texans, who run a 3-4. Mack is an excellent prospect as a pass-rusher and an all-around linebacker. He will fit right in with the Texans, and, most importantly, he naturally pairs well with J.J. Watt.
Clowney is the most exciting prospect in this draft, but he is not as good a fit for the Texans as Mack is.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney isn't going to last past the second pick. I expect the Rams to explore trading down, but they won't find the value either.
Besides, the Rams can draft Clowney and still pick up additional draft picks by then trading veteran defensive end Chris Long.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Jaguars are certainly in play to draft a quarterback. The allure of Greg Robinson will keep them from drafting one.
Next to Clowney, Robinson is the most physically dominant player in this draft. He has the potential to be absolutely dominant in both the run and the pass games.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel is the most polarizing figure in this draft. Even his dissenters have to agree, however, that his mix of arm talent and instincts make him exciting prospect.
The Browns have had absolutely no luck drafting and developing quarterbacks, but that won't keep them from taking a chance on this exciting talent.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
I wouldn't be shocked to see the Raiders draft left tackle Jake Matthews in this scenario, but I'm leaning toward Sammy Watkins.
The Raiders have competent young receivers, but neither Rod Streater nor Denarius Moore is a true No. 1.
Watkins is that type of talent. He does not have elite size at 6'1", but he has everything else. Watkins is a threat to get deep or catch short passes and take them to the house.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
For all of the speculation about the Atlanta Falcons trading up and drafting Jadeveon Clowney, it makes far more sense for them to not give up that kind of value and grab one of the supremely talented left tackles instead.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Which QB will have the best NFL career?
The slide of the quarterbacks in this draft works out well for the Buccaneers. Mike Glennon was not without hope in his rookie season, but he also wasn't overwhelming.
With new head coach Lovie Smith taking over Tampa Bay, it is natural for the new regime to look for its quarterback of the future.
Bortles has all the tools to be that guy.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The journey of Teddy Bridgewater's draft stock has been fascinating. He was widely mocked as the No. 1 overall pick at the end of the college football season, but that status is now long gone.
In the end, he won't slip past the Vikings. Minnesota must find a quarterback to build around, and Bridgewater's game film will be too much for the Vikings to pass on.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bills could definitely stand to identify their left tackle of the future. In this scenario, Taylor Lewan is the best option to fill that need.
He is already a polished pass-blocker and a phenomenal athlete.
10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Lions need a heady and steady linebacker to help bring consistency to their defense. Mosley is a great fit. He is coming out of a 3-4 at Alabama, but he has the athleticism to handle the increased space he will have to cover in a 4-3.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr is a freakish athlete. He is raw, but his potential as a pass-rusher is undeniable. The Titans need the athleticism on the edge of their defense, and Barr's ability to get to the passer will be an instant upgrade.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron is an exciting talent with a great size/speed ratio. He will stretch the field and preoccupy safeties.
That will allow the team's aerial attack to find more space on the outside.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With two picks in the top 13, the Rams are in a great position in this draft.
One of their biggest needs is at wide receiver. They spent a top-10 pick on receiver Tavon Austin last year, and while he showed flashes of dominance, he is not a complete enough receiver to be a No. 1.
It wouldn't be shocking to see the Rams draft Watkins at No. 2. Given the depth at the receiver position, however, they will wait to address that need at No. 13.
Mike Evans is an excellent prospect. He has height at 6'5", solid explosiveness and great hands, and he is a great counterpart to Austin.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Chicago Bears need toughness and muscle in the trenches. Timmy Jernigan may not be as explosive as fellow defensive tackle Aaron Donald, but he will be a force in clogging up running lanes.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Like wide receiver, there is a deep crop of talent at cornerback. No corner fits Pittsburgh better than Darqueze Dennard.
The Steelers like corners who can be physical at the line. As the following tweet from 95.7 The Game indicates, Dennard likes to play physical:
Top CB prospect Darqueze Dennard says he prides himself on beating up WRs at the line of scrimmage— 95.7 The GAME (@957thegame) April 30, 2014
This fit feels natural.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys need a safety to help them limit big plays from the opposition. Calvin Pryor is the most complete safety in this class. He is a ready tackler in the run game, and he has the athleticism to be solid in a deep zone or in man coverage.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
Zack Martin may not have the length to stick at tackle in the NFL, but he will be able to slide inside to guard and be excellent.
Either way, he will be a benefit to the Ravens.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. has the speed to get deep and stretch the field. The Jets need playmakers, and having one who will stretch out a defense will be a big boost to the offense.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Looking to reshape their offensive line, the Dolphins will be on the lookout for the best tackle available.
Cyrus Kouandjio is a mauling lineman. He may be better suited for the right side than the left, but his physicality will be a quality boost for Miami.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Arizona Cardinals must add reinforcements to their defensive line, and if Aaron Donald is on the board, they won't be able to pass on him.
Donald was a defensive tackle in college, but his impressive explosiveness will make him an excellent defensive end in a 3-4.
Donald would be a huge boost to the Cardinals defense.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The Packers need to get more physical at the point of attack on defense. Louis Nix is the best nose tackle prospect in this class.
The Packers already have B.J. Raji at the position, but Nix would give them depth and the flexibility to field an excellent defensive line on run downs.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Coming off a season in which they finished last in pass defense, adding a safety with the athleticism and range needed to solidify the pass defense is a priority for the Eagles.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a good athlete and a natural playmaker.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Kansas City Chiefs need to add another offensive weapon to help diversify their offensive attack.
Marqise Lee is a natural receiver. He is not the most explosive receiver, but he has great ball skills, body control and leaping ability.
24.Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert is an exciting athlete with the potential to be a shutdown corner in the NFL. This is not the biggest need for the Bengals, but with an aging Terence Newman, additional depth is needed.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The pass defense was the weakness of this Chargers team last season. Adding a gifted corner will help.
Kyle Fuller would be an instant upgrade. As the following NFL.com tweet highlights, draft guru Mike Mayock is certainly high on Fuller:
"Kyle Fuller is one of my favorite players in the entire Draft." - Mayock http://t.co/Y4R8EHDbdF— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) May 1, 2014
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kelvin Benjamin is far from the best athlete at his position in this class. But he is 6'5" and has solid hands.
If the draft plays out like this, he would provide Johnny Manziel the kind of lengthy target he had with Mike Evans at Texas A&M.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Saints must improve their consistency on defense. Bringing in an active player in the front seven to help lock down opposing running games is a good start.
Ryan Shazier is an athletic linebacker with the range to make plays all over the field.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Panthers must be on the lookout for an offensive tackle here, but the first-round talent at that position will be well picked over by the time they select.
Instead, the Panthers will address another need by bringing in the small but explosive Brandin Cooks.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Patriots must add depth to the corner position. Jason Verrett is an excellent option. He is a natural cover corner but stands at just 5'9".
The Patriots could groom him to defend the slot while he builds up the skills to handle bigger receivers on the outside.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Allen Robinson is getting next to no hype heading into the draft, but he will still hear his name called in the first round.
Let's check out former NFL player and B/R's own Ryan Riddle's thoughts on Robinson:
Allen Robinson is going to be one of the best WRs in this draft. #VaultMe— Ryan Riddle (@Ryan_Riddle) May 5, 2014
The 49ers must find another legitimate pass-catcher in this draft. Robinson is too good to pass on at No. 30.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy has the kind of length and explosiveness that will make him a force rushing the passer. He may never bring much more to an NFL field.
That will be all right for Denver. The Broncos need all the pass-rushers they can get, and they also need players who can help them win now.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
The defending Super Bowl champs are going to be vulnerable against the run if they don't add some muscle to their defensive line.
Tipping the scales at over 300 pounds, Ra'Shede Hageman will bring that.