Please note, I do not claim to be an expert on every team’s schemes and needs, but I do ask questions. As I say every year, if the draft was predictable we would not tune into the event. You should be surprised by some of these selections. The point is to work through scenarios and present options, not accuracy.
1. Houston Texans - DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
If you do not have a quarterback, you have to go and get one. With that said, I think Texans' head coach Bill O’Brien waits until the second day, or trades back in to the first-round, to get his quarterback. That passer could be A.J. McCarron, but that is solely a guess.
Romeo Crennel’s odd front defense (I am attempting to stay away from 3-4/4-3) has been categorized as “traditional” in the past, but he told reporters he expects to be more versatile moving forward. Regardless, Clowney’s talent should not be limited to a specific scheme. He converts speed to power at a ridiculous level.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins) - T Greg Robinson, Auburn
After hearing some of the buzz over the last two weeks, I would be surprised if Robinson is not the first offensive lineman selected in May. The NFL obsesses with upside, and even though I prefer Texas A&M's Matthews as a player right now, the draft is not focused on the following season’s success.
Robinson was asked to make a number of blocks when crashing down and getting to the second level, which he did at a high level. Robinson makes some blocks look absurdly easy, gaining leverage with strength that starts from the ground up. I wish there were more individual pass protection opportunities out in space, but Robinson is a great athlete for his size.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Run to the podium. I do not understand the questions surrounding Bridgewater. In fact, I believe we will laugh at the criticisms in a few years. His combination of pocket movement, eye level, timing and placement is top notch. Some will criticize his vertical route passing, but that is an overrated aspect to quarterback evaluations. Short to intermediate velocity and placement is far more important. In fact, I think Bridgewater was asked to throw with more touch on deeper balls, but that is solely a guess.
4. Cleveland Browns - QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
There has already been buzz linking Manziel to the Browns, and even more noting the Browns have thoroughly done their homework on this group of passers. Manziel is truly a unique evaluation. His pocket movement is his gift and his curse. The improvisational style Manziel displays is similar to Tony Romo’s, but Manziel takes it to another level. Manziel might frequently elongate plays, but he can be a very quick decision maker once buying himself time and space.
The Aggie improved as a passer this season, and this article, via Greg Peshek, charts every one of Manziel’s throws from this season. It helps illustrate the areas of the field where he succeeds.
5. Oakland Raiders - QB Blake Bortles, UCF
The Raiders have plenty of self-evaluating to do this offseason. Obviously they have plenty of needs, but the quickest way to turn around a team’s success is with a quarterback. Not that I consider them similar prospects, but Manziel might remind the Raider’s staff too much of Terrelle Pryor, in terms of improvisational style.
Bortles fits the NFL mold. Honestly, I do not care about this part of his evaluation, but teams absolutely will. I like Bortles, but do not love him. There are some poor man’s Andrew Luck nuances to his game, but there is a clear gap between Bortles and the Colts’ quarterback.
6. Atlanta Falcons - Edge player Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Let me start by saying I understand and recognize GM Thomas Dimitroff’s unwillingness to select prospects with blemishes on their off-field record. I also think he might loosen this stance a bit after the team’s 2013 season.
Mack was suspended for the opening game of the 2012 season, so that could impact his evaluation. Not for me. Mack is so versatile, since he wins in a variety of different ways and alignments. His leverage and power as a rusher to keep his opposition on skates is outstanding. The Falcons would only grow their multiple defensive front with the inclusion of Mack. He is a better prospect than Anthony Barr.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs - Edge player Anthony Barr, UCLA
I am critical of Barr, but despite saying he is not as good of a prospect as Mack he will still wind up near my top-10. We know where he wins: as an edge rusher with speed. He can dominate once generating an advantage in terms of angle and upfield quickness.
Things break down when Barr’s initial line and momentum is stopped. He lacks hand use and counter moves. We can mention he has only spent two seasons on the defensive side of the ball, but I am evaluating what I see. He can play an on-line of scrimmage linebacker/edge rushing role for the Bucs.
8. Minnesota Vikings - QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
Carr and Norv Turner would be fun to watch. The Fresno State product will frustrate and wow his fan base all in the same game. Carr does not throw from a balanced base on a consistent basis, but his arm hits throws at every level of the field with touch and velocity.
I also think it is lazy to not draft Carr because of his older brother, David. They are different prospects.
9. Buffalo Bills - WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
I know the Bills have selected multiple receivers in recent years, namely TJ Graham, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. Watkins is on a different level. He is clearly the top receiver in the class due to his combination of explosion and ability to win at every level of the field. I would not worry that over 57 percent of his catches were recorded at the line of scrimmage.
10. Detroit Lions - CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Dennard will remain my top corner on the board, even if he runs a slower forty than other prospects at the position. Also, I do not understand questioning if Dennard can play off coverage. Why would you want to line a corner up, who thrives in press man, in off coverage more than 25 percent of the time? Know where prospects win and use them in that capacity.