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.
A look at how many first-round picks were traded the last two years:
2012 - 14 of 32 slots overall
2013 - 7 of 32 (two player for pick trades)
1. Houston Texans - QB Blake Bortles, UCF
I have little doubt that Teddy Bridgewater is the top quarterback in this class, but the NFL’s obsession over size and build is real. Bortles will draw some poor man’s Andrew Luck comparisons thanks to his strong pocket movement and mannerisms, but there are some major differences between the two. Bortles is not as composed under pressure and his velocity drops when under duress.
2. Cleveland Browns (Trade via STL/WAS) - QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
It is difficult to understand any team’s mindset at this point in the process. Especially one that changes their mind so often. A report stated GM Ray Farmer preferred Marcus Mariota to any other QB in this group, but he later told the media he has a quarterback in mind at this point in the process. Rather than be patient and wait, I think owner Jimmy Haslam might push to trade up and land their guy.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
It is only a guess, but I think the Jaguars prefer Bridgewater as the top quarterback, so they might trade up to that No. 2 position to get him. One question I have with Manziel’s transition to the NFL is that he might need a receiver who consistently wins at the catch point. Mike Evans made Manziel better and Manziel made Evans better. The Jaguars do not have that, however.
4. Atlanta Falcons (Trade via STL/CLE) - Edge player Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
The Falcons have stale pass rushers and a GM who has shown he does not mind trading up for a top flight talent. The question is, does Thomas Dimitroff believe that trade and package of picks partially led to the Falcons’ poor 2013 season? Clowney is a rare talent, joining Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh Andrew Luck with that label.
5. Oakland Raiders - WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The Raiders certainly need a quarterback, but 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.
6. St. Louis Rams (Trade via ATL) - T Greg Robinson, Auburn
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 (always) 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.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs - Edge player Khalil Mack, Buffalo
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. Lovie Smith has shown that he is willing to adjust his defense in certain situations. Mack can play SLB near the line of scrimmage and help on the end of the line in pass rushing instances.
8. St. Louis Rams (Trade via MIN) - WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Expect Evans to run a fast time at the Combine, despite many questioning his speed. The big receiver has been called a long strider, and while that might be true I do believe he is quicker than given credit for. Evans’ yards after the catch are not discussed enough. He is very willing to win at the catch point and work back to his quarterback.
9. Buffalo Bills - T Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
EJ Manuel obviously should receive another season as the starter. With that said, there might be questions beyond that point. Head coach Doug Marrone has a history with the offensive line. I am a big fan of Cordy Glenn, and it appears teams view Jake Matthews at multiple spots along the front five. Some have mentioned Matthews could make a move to center. It could be true, but I do not think a team will be in a position to take Matthews if they want to do so as a center.
10. Detroit Lions - S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
I know corners are often mocked to the Lions, but coupling Clinton-Dix with Glover Quin behind a very good defensive line could help considerably. Others might question if this is too early for the Bama safety to be selected. I would not be surprised if he has a late surge like Mark Barron.