I understand that creating Mock Drafts for the NFL Draft is largely an exercise in futility. Trades happen and no matter how many times you look over scouting reports on a class, the draft will fall differently than everyone expects. Nobody has the information that the 32 NFL teams have, nor do we know who they really like and don't like. But still....it's fun to play one of my favorite annual sports guessing games. With that said, I'll give a 1st round mock draft a quick go. I won't predict trades, though, so that already makes sure my draft will not be perfect.
1) Houston Texans, Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Simply put, I don't think you should overthink this if you're the Texans. Clowney is the best player in the draft, a physical specimen that can step in and immediately be a game-changer. Add him with JJ Watt and others and you have a formidable defense. A youth quarterback is needed, but that can be gotten at the top of the second round.
2) St. Louis Rams, Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
If Clowney isn't taken 1st this could be a prime spot for a trade. Either way, the Rams could stand pat and grab a cornerstone offensive tackle. I prefer Matthews slightly over Greg Robinson, but either could go here.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars, Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars need a lot of help in a lot of places, but a franchise QB is as big of a need as any. Bridgewater, despite concerns over his size and arm, is still the best QB in my opinion and immediately gives the franchise a shot in the arm when combined with their busy free agency period.
4) Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
New regime (again) in Cleveland and they swing for the fences. Manziel is a polarizing figure, but new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has worked with athletic quarterbacks in the past (Robert Griffin III). Browns have pieces around the offense to help his transition.
5) Oakland Raiders, Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Watkins is a trade-up candidate for other teams, but I think he would not make it past Oakland at this spot. They need a young QB to groom, but it sounds like they will go with Matt Schaub for the forseeable future so a quarterback early isn't a certainty. Watkins is an electric playmaker that doesn't need to go deep to hit big plays.
6) Atlanta Falcons, Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Falcons could go on the defensive side of the ball, but instead opt to protect Matt Ryan by getting the big and aggressive Robinson.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
An athletic attacker, I'm not sure if he exactly fits the Cover-2 scheme Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier are bringing to Tampa Bay. But he's the best player on the board at this point and a person that you can do special things with. If he isn't taken here, he won't make it past the next pick.
8) Minnesota Vikings, Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Vikings could go with a defensive player here and opt to go quarterback in Round 2, but with the way the draft has fallen thus far the better value lies with the quarterback with the highest ceiling. Bortles won't need to start right away and could even be a third-stringer for the first season allowing him to learn under the Norv Turner tree.
9) Buffalo Bills, Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Surrounding quarterback EJ Manuel with targets is key and this big-play athletic tight end would be a good piece to add. This could be a prime trade down candidate spot as well with teams moving up to grab the first CB off the board or WR Mike Evans.
10) Detroit Lions, Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.
The Lions could be tempted to go with Evans here. A trio of Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Evans would be scary for opposing teams. Instead they go with Gilbert, a big corner that can step in and contribute right away on a defense that needs help on the back end.
11) Tennessee Titans, Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Very raw but extremely talented, Barr can be difference-maker for the Titans.
12) New York Giants, Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Giants could opt to address the defense, but protecting Eli Manning is still a priority.
13) St. Louis Rams, Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
A little surprised the 6'5, 231 lb. Evans is still here, but the Rams take full advantage of it and add to pair with the speedy Tavon Austin.
14) Chicago Bears, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The revamping of the Bears defense continues with Clinton-Dix. He can step in and contribute defensively as the Bears try to knock the Packers off the top of the NFC North hill.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers, Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan St.
The Steelers have gotten long in the tooth defensively and an infusion of youth is needed. Add the solid Dennard to give some youngness to the back part of the Pittsburgh defense.
16) Dallas Cowboys, Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Dallas needs help on the defensive line and the fast-rising Donald could be just the man to help out.
17) Baltimore Ravens, Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Martin offers some versatility for the Ravens, who need help on the offensive line.
18) New York Jets, Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
New York continues to acquire weapons around Geno Smith (or Michael Vick).
19) Miami Dolphins, CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama
This pick could go many ways, but the Dolphins opt to help out the middle of their linebacking corps with the versatile Mosley.
20) Arizona Cardinals, Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St.
Carr is creeping his way up the draft boards and would fall into a nice situation with the Cardinals. He could sit behind Carson Palmer for a year or two and learn from Bruce Arians and not take nearly as many hits as his brother did early on for the Texans.
21) Green Bay Packers, Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Pick a position on defense and you could probably make a case the Packers could use some help there, but no place moreso than safety. Pryor steps in and plays right away, helping bring a presence to the middle of the defensive backfield.
22) Philadelphia Eagles, Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon St.
With DeSean Jackson now in Washington, the Eagles need to grab a new receiver to fill his role and the fast-moving Cooks is their man.
23) Kansas City Chiefs, Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio St.
I like Shazier a lot and think he walks into a good situation in Kansas City.
24) Cincinnati Bengals, Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Moving up on my draft boards, Fuller fills a need for the Bengals in the secondary.
25) San Diego Chargers, Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
The big-bodied lineman helps take blockers away from former Fighting Irish teammate Manti T'eo.
26) Cleveland Browns, Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi St.
Another piece on the offense, this time an offensive guard that could emerge as a standout at the position for years to come.
27) New Orleans Saints, Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio St.
Defense is trying to catch up to offense, so a cornerback is the way to go.
28) Carolina Panthers, Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida St.
Wide receiver is a big need so the Panthers get a big-bodied wideout to help Cam Newton.
29) New England Patriots, Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
Feast or famine player, but I like his odds of succeeding under Bill Belichick.
30) San Francisco 49ers, Jason Verrett, TCU
Help in the secondary for a team without many holes.
31) Denver Broncos, Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
A younger pass rushing combo to bring in with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.
32) Seattle Seahawks, Xavier Su'a-filo, OG, UCLA
The champs opt to protect Russell Wilson and help out their punishing run game.