Disclaimer: Mock drafts are an exercise that allows us to take a step back, ask questions, and consider possibilities and scenarios. Everyone is surprised on draft day... so certain sections of a mock draft should surprise you. Do not get caught up on accuracy. Instead, check the reasoning and weigh the probability.
1. Houston Texans
Edge player Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina - The rare talent in this class makes sense as the No. 1 pick. Don’t bring up a “poor fit in a 3-4.” Look back to 2012, when Tamba Hali only dropped on 8.6% of his snaps while Romeo Crennel was head coach.
2. Atlanta Falcons - from St. Louis (Previously pick No. 6)
Edge player Khalil Mack, Buffalo - The Falcons need to exit this draft with one of the top two edge players, but will need to trade up to nab one. The team has incorporated plenty of odd man fronts, and Mack has enough versatility to fit multiple alignments.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson - The Jaguars are guaranteed one of three prospects (Clowney, Mack and Watkins). Some will want to wait and hold out hope for Justin Blackmon. At this point, anything he offers is extra. Team officials have said as much.
4. Cleveland Browns
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M - This might seem early, but keep in mind some teams reportedly rank Evans above Watkins. The Aggie’s floor appears to be the Bucs at No. 7.
5. Oakland Raiders
DT Aaron Donald, Pitt - Interior disruption is king, and Donald can offer it next to the center or guard. The Raiders applied old band aids during free agency. Donald can be a youth injection to that defensive front.
6. St. Louis Rams - from Atlanta (Previously pick No. 2)
T Greg Robinson, Auburn - Some teams could grade Robinson as a top two talent in this class. The argument early in his career will be if Robinson should play left guard (improve left side footwork) or right tackle, the latter of which would require an adjustment.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs
WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU - There is no doubt in my mind that OBJ is a top three receiver in this class, and it is in the realm of possibility he becomes the best prospect at the position from the group. He offers a vertical style and wins in contested situations better than most receivers his size.
8. St. Louis Rams - from Minnesota (Previously pick No. 13)
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama - After picking up a few selections when trading down to No. 6, the Rams might need to use a few of those picks in order to move back up for the top defensive back in this draft. Clinton-Dix is a true free safety, roaming plenty of area, but can be physical and flashed some man coverage skills.
9. Buffalo Bills
T Jake Matthews, Texas A&M - Doug Marrone has an offensive line background. EJ Manuel did nothing to instill confidence during his first year. He needs to be kept upright and rely on a strong running game with basic passing concepts at this point in his career.
10. Detroit Lions
CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech - Despite my infatuation with Fuller, I don’t think a corner is worthy of a top-10 pick. However, I do not see another area where the Lions can go. Fuller can win in off coverage, press situations, and is a physical tackler. He could play the Lardarius Webb role in Teryl Austin’s defense.
11. Tennessee Titans
Edge player Anthony Barr, UCLA - The Titans have a good amount of talent in their front seven, which is especially fast and explosive at linebacker. The question is how it will translate to Ray Horton’s defense. Barr needs to improve his power and counter moves, but baseline talent to press the edge of the pocket and chase from the backside is there.
12. New York Giants
TE Eric Ebron, UNC - Beat writer Patricia Traina seemed confident the team will not select a tight end at No. 12. The team could invest in another defensive lineman or interior offensive lineman, but the buzz around Ebron appears to be pointing him towards a top 15 pick.
13. Minnesota Vikings - from St. Louis (Previously pick No. 8)
QB Blake Bortles, UCF - I believe the talent at the top of the draft will prevent teams from selecting a quarterback early on. However, if the Vikings can’t trade up for a defender (Khalil Mack), they could try to get the best “value” for the top quarterback on their board.
14. Chicago Bears
DT Ra'shede Hageman, Minnesota - This might be Hageman’s floor. The Minnesota product has tremendous flashes of explosiveness thanks to lower have power and strong hands. He is also adept at contesting passes at the line of scrimmage. Hageman needs to display a better anchor when losing off the snap, however. He could play the 1-technique role in Chicago.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
NT Louis Nix, Notre Dame - Louis Nix instantly upgrades the interior of the Steelers front seven. The team struggled to prevent yards on the ground on first and second down, and Nix can help put defenses in better situations. He is different than other big bodied nose tackles since Nix can play in the opponents’ backfield.