Here is my first projection for the NFL Draft. Chances are, if the guy you want is an underclassman and is not there, I assumed he went back to school. Kony Ealy would be an example. Beyond that, the scouting reports I have done so far are there with the picks, so enjoy. Feel free to tell me how I ruined your team, do not know anything about the draft or whatever else, but since I am stupid as you’re pointing out, keep that in mind and explain to my slow self why the pick is bad; not just that it is bad. Thanks. Without further ado, here is what will absolutely, definitely happen in May:
1. Houston Texans - Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville
The Texans get their franchise quarterback and while there are reports Bridgewater is considering going back to school for another year, it is that time of year. Plenty of prospects think about going back about this time with fans, teammates, and coaches all potentially talking about a player coming back and leading their team to the championship. Ultimately, Bridgewater will likely decide as good as all of that sounds, he would probably like to go ahead and get paid.
2. St. Louis Rams (From Washington) - Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M
The Rams have a decision to make on Sam Bradford and the substantial amount of money they are on the hook for with him. Bradford has shown ability when he has been healthy but cannot seem to be healthy long enough to really develop a rhythm from week to week. Jeff Fisher says he believes in Bradford, so they opt to give him more protection and that his run of leg injuries end. Matthews also gives them insurance as Jake Long has had a bad run of injuries himself. Matthews can play at left tackle and the Rams have a much better starting five that can help them run and pass better.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Derek Carr, QB Fresno State
General Manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley make Carr their choice to lead the Jaguars. Carr is as physically talented as any passer in this draft and while he has some consistency issues with his footwork, he has all of the ability to be a great quarterback. The Jaguars have some weapons in place with Cecil Shorts, Marcedes Lewis and Justin Blackmon if he can stay on the field.
4. Oakland Raiders - Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina
GM Reggie McKenzie has been tasked with clearing the Raiders from dead money and bad contracts, which has been a painful process. The Raiders could certainly go quarterback here, but they might simply want to build their team on the best overall talent they can get and fill a huge need at defensive end. Lamar Houston can move back to defensive tackle and the combination of Houston and Clowney can get after the quarterbacks in their division, including Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith.
5. Cleveland Browns - Brett Smith, QB Wyoming
For all the things that people love about Johnny Manziel, Brett Smith has them with more experience under center, more size and arm strength. The difference is that he played exciting football in Laramie, Wyoming against the Mountain West as opposed to College Station in the SEC. Wyoming’s head coach, Dave Christensen was fired this offseason and Smith is a true junior who may opt to learn a new system in the NFL rather than stick around to learn new head coach Craig Bohl’s system. If and when he declares, he will be an extremely talented player when people turn on his tape. He is a little raw and plays somewhat of a sandlot style at times, but his talent is obvious. It remains to be seen if Smith can go quite THIS high, but all indications are the Browns will take a quarterback and may use some extra picks to move up if needed.
6. Atlanta Falcons - Khalil Mack, OLB Buffalo
The Falcons’ defense has struggled due in no small to their inability to rush the passer. Their fan base is hoping and praying they can get Clowney, but if they cannot, Mack is a great option. Mack has done just about everything for the Bulls this year and been the best player on the field against the top competition. He needs to do work to continue refining how he takes on and shed blocks, but he can play the run, get after the quarterback and move around whether it be as a linebacker or a defensive end.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Anthony Barr, OLB UCLA
The Bucs’ season has been an out and out disaster up until they finally got their feet under them with Mike Glennon at quarterback. The Bucs could still take a quarterback, but they find themselves out of position, so they opt to add more speed and versatility to their defense. Barr is a phenomenal athlete and has terrific feet and quickness. He is still developing and needs to work on playing much lower and getting more efficient with his instincts, but as a player that can play either end or outside linebacker and move around, he is a huge weapon for an already extremely talented defense.
8. - Minnesota Vikings - Blake Bortles, QB Central Florida
Bortles has been on the radar of many in the NFL Draft community since last year because of his size and strength. This year, he has made some splashes in games, leading the Golden Knights to a win over Penn State and taking South Carolina to the wire in their only loss on the season. Bortles will have another big opportunity to showcase his talents against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Bortles has a great deal of size and potential but has mechanics to work out and more developing to do. Like the Browns, the Vikings are in a spot where they have all but told the world they are taking a quarterback, so while Bortles may not warrant the pick, they could go this route if they cannot move the pick.
9. Tennessee Titans - Greg Robinson, OT Auburn
It remains to be seen if Robinson will enter the NFL Draft, but he is an unbelievable athlete with a mean streak. He moves around so easily and effortlessly and just goes out on each play looking to beat up the guy across from him. Robinson may have as much athletic upside as anyone in this draft and the Titans would be a good fit both in terms of their style and putting him on the same line as Chance Warmack.
10. Buffalo Bills - Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan
This is another situation where the team is in an awkward spot. If the Bills see an edge rusher they like, they could go that route. The Bills have been a team that lines up with a bunch of big guys and just look to dominate their opponents and run the football in order to create opportunities for E.J. Manuel. The Bills have some linemen they like and want to continue using, but Erik Pears appears to be the weak link. Lewan gives them options. They can keep Cordy Glenn at left tackle and put Lewan at right tackle or they can move Glenn to the right side and have Lewan protect Manuel’s blind side. Lewan seems to have caught a lot of grief due to problems on the interior of the Michigan offensive line, but he fits the style and mentality of the Bills power running game.
11. New York Giants - Ra’Shede Hagemen, DT Minnesota
The Giants have gone from a team with an unending amount of defensive linemen to being really thin in the middle. When all else fails, they like to get back to who they are and dominate up front. Hageman is an animal in what he brings in raw power and the quickness he shows. They can get back to stopping the run and creating more opportunities for Jason Pierre-Paul to get after opposing quarterbacks.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers - Cedric Ogbuehi, OT Texas A&M
The Steelers have invested a ton of resources up front and certainly have found pieces that can be a great group in the future, but left tackle is a spot that has eluded them. Ogbuehi is currently at right tackle for the Aggies but clearly has the athleticism to block on the left side. He has some work to do in terms of anchoring and staying balanced but he can slide out and protect without much issue. Ben Roethlisberger is still there and still the franchise, so keeping him upright is incredibly important.
13. New York Jets - Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina
The Jets just need any type of weapon that can go out and catch the ball from Geno Smith. Ebron may have the most upside of any offensive weapon available at this pick and give them options. Ebron can line up all over the field and is a terrific athlete. Jeff Cumberland is not a bad player and the combination of the two could be pretty good for the Jets and open up opportunities for plays like Stephen Hill on the outside. Plus, everyone knows ESPN is just dying to run the New York Jets tight end montage.
14. St. Louis Rams – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB Oregon
Janoris Jenkins has been a good player for the Rams, but Cortland Finnegan has been a disaster and that contract an abomination. Olomu, should he declare, has terrific feet and the ability to make plays on the football and being put in a dome should be a great fit to run with the NFC West receivers. Having Chris Long and Robert Quinn going after the quarterback should create opportunities for Olomu to jump plays and cause turnovers.
15. Dallas Cowboys - Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, FS Alabama
The most obvious need for the Cowboys is at defensive tackle but unless they find someone worth this pick that fits their scheme, they will have to attack another area on the defense. One of the areas that could be a good move for them is upgrading the free safety position and trying to cut off big plays over the top with a ball hawk. The Cowboys have a lot of issues to address on the defensive side of the ball, but Dix could make a big impact for them early.
16. San Diego Chargers - Cyrus Kouandjio, OT Alabama
It is conceivably possibly the Chargers could go with King Dunlap since he has been much better this year than he was at any time in his career with the Eagles, but they may not want to bet on that happening again. More likely, they will pair up Kouandjio as a bookend with his former teammate D.J. Fluker and give them a solid group to protect Philip Rivers. Kouandjio is somewhat similar to former Charger Marcus McNeil.
17. Green Bay Packers - C.J. Mosley, ILB Alabama
Even in a year where Aaron Rodgers has missed a ton of time with his shoulder injury, the Packer defense is still the weak link. A.J. Hawk has had a better year than many might have expected but Brad Jones is an average player. Mosley has all the tools to be a great linebacker both against the run and in coverage, which is exactly what the Packers need and could really help them get this defense being able to handle more of the load for when Rodgers is back.
18. Detroit Lions - Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson
The Lions have had a frustrating time with how fragile their offense has been. When Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson or Matthew Stafford are less than 100%, the offense really has issues. Nate Burleson’s pizza mishap certainly hurt, but the Lions could use another legitimate weapon on the outside anyway. Watkins is a great fit with Stafford’s arm and his ability to be a power receiver that stretches the field. He is ideally suited as a #2 receiver and could have a huge impact across from Johnson as a rookie.
19. Baltimore Ravens - Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M
Joe Flacco has missed Dennis Pitta much of the year, which has been a huge problem, but Flacco was at his best when he had a receiver who could go up and won 50/50 balls like Anquan Boldin did. Evans may not have elite speed, but he is fast enough for his size and really does show a ton of ability going up and high pointing the football. This would be a terrific match for both players. It also lets Torrey Smith work as a speed #2 option where he has been at his best as well.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Cornelius Lucas, OT Kansas State
For some, Lucas is not all that highly regarded. He has some issues as a run blocker, but here is the key with Lucas. He has terrific size and length and has shown the ability to be a dominant pass blocker on the left side. His play is reminiscent of Jonathan Ogden because he is so tall and overwhelms opponents in pass protection. Lucas has trouble getting behind his pads as a run blocker but that can be improved upon and as long as he keeps the Cardinals quarterback upright, they will work to develop the rest.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - Bradley Roby, CB Ohio State
Reports of Roby’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. There are some issues that need to be addressed and he needs to get back to being the more consistent tackler he was last year, but he has incredible ability and there appears to be an element of playing to avoid getting hurt. When he is on, he is still a dominant corner and had he declared last year, he would have been my top eligible corner. The ability is there; he just needs to get back to it and the Eagles address a need at a nice value.
22. Chicago Bears - Jason Verrett, CB TCU
The Bears need to work to replace some aging players on defense and revitalize their defense. Verrett excels with his vision, playing facing the quarterback and his ability to break on the ball. His size hurts him in terms of being able to cover some opponents but he is not afraid to hit people and seems like an extremely similar player in terms of style as Charles Tillman.
23. Miami Dolphins - Antonio Richardson, OT Tennessee
The left tackle position has been hotly debated since the draft last year when the Dolphins traded up and chose Dion Jordan over Lane Johnson. The Miami offensive line has had a lot of issues on and off the field, but really need to lock down someone who can protect Ryan Tannehill. Richardson is a mammoth offensive tackle who can get caught with how he shifts his weight, but just gets the job done.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Ryan Shazier, OLB Ohio State
Shazier gives the Bengals what they have been missing the past few years on defense; speed, range and the ability to cover in passing range. Vontaze Burfict is better suited to play middle linebacker while Rey Maualuga can play two downs at strong side linebacker while Shazier comes in at the weak side spot. He can blitz, which fits the aggressive mindset of the Bengals defense, but his ability to chase down plays next to Burfict as well as giving them a great coverage linebacker would be huge.
25. Cleveland Browns (From Indianapolis) - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Washington
The Browns have their quarterback in Smith and have a great receiver in Josh Gordon and a good tight end in Jordan Cameron, though he is best utilized in space rather than inline. Head coach Rob Chudzinski loves the tight end position and has always put a premium value on it, so having another great tight end is ideal for what their offense wants to do. Jenkins at 6’7″ 276lbs gives them a dominant inline presence that can help them power openings in the running game but looks like a power forward running down the field and can go up and high point the ball. As a third option behind Gordon and Cameron, he becomes a dangerous weapon.
26. New England Patriots - Jace Amaro, TE Texas Tech
With the loss of Aaron Hernandez and the injury to Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots are awfully thin at tight end. The hope is that Gronk can recover and come back, so if he can and does, Amaro is a fantastic complement in the Hernandez role. He knows how to get open, make plays and is a threat after the catch. If Gronk can recover and return, they have the same type of threat they had when he and Hernandez were working at full capacity. The Patriots are substantially better at drafting tight ends than wide receivers, so they might as well go that route as they try to get more weapons for Tom Brady.
27. Carolina Panthers - Marqise Lee, WR USC
Since Cam Newton has been in Carolina, he has not really had a great receiver other than Steve Smith who is getting old in a hurry. Injuries and quarterback inconsistency have made some forget just how dominant Lee was last year and while he needs to eliminate some drops, he is electric with the ball in his hands and has a terrific first step with the ability to go all the way. The Panthers defense is great, but that offense needs to get much better.
28. San Francisco 49ers - Louis Nix III, DT Notre Dame
This certainly was not the year Nix anticipated for the Irish as injuries slowed him down and he had a down year. Still, he has opted to declare and hopes to show off what he can do in workouts. The 49ers are never one to shy away from defensive line talent and their defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has shown the ability to use all shapes and sizes. Nix can come in and rotate with Ian Williams who is currently on injured reserve and they keep a strong defensive line rotation.
29. New Orleans Saints - Jeremiah Attaochu, DE Georgia Tech
The Saints are still working to finish their transition to a 3-4 defense under Rob Ryan. They like what they have in Junior Galette on one side as a pass rusher, but Parys Haralson was brought in as a stop gap measure. Attaochu has experience both as a defensive end and outside linebacker who can rush the passer and his speed on the outside would be a welcome asset in a division with two quarterbacks who not move all that well in the pocket.
30. Kansas City Chiefs - Davante Adams, WR Fresno State
Alex Smith may not be a great quarterback so much as he is a facilitator, but he needs weapons to get the ball aside from Jamaal Charles. Adams was a terrific player with size and strength matched with Derek Carr and he still has additional potential to get even better with more time. The Chiefs can use all of the offensive fire power they can find with that defense as dominant as it has been.
31. Denver Broncos - Kyle Van Noy, OLB BYU
With the Broncos trying to get to the Super Bowl, they need defensive players that are not only able to fit their scheme but are ready to contribute immediately. Van Noy has fits both areas and would be a great fit in Denver because of his versatility and athleticism. He has shown the ability to play the run, rush the passer, jam tight ends and move around to different spots. Van Noy also gives them youth and depth to keep rushing the passer and rotating linebackers. He has been just a terrific, instinctive football player the last few years and coaches should love him.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Gabe Jackson, OG Mississippi State
The Seahawks are loaded with talent and while they could address a number of areas, they may want to upgrade the guard position. With the way they love to run the football, Jackson would provide them a mauler who is terrific in pass protection. He could play the left guard spot and allow them to run downhill with Marshawn Lynch and their collection of big backs, which should only make Russell Wilson more effective on play action.