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.
16. Dallas Cowboys
G Zack Martin, Notre Dame - The Cowboys added Travis Frederick in the first-round last year. The two guard spots could still be upgraded, however. Some might view Martin as a tackle, and he might play that spot if Doug Free is not on the roster next season, but the Notre Dame product is an excellent guard prospect.
17. Baltimore Ravens
S Jimmie Ward, NIU - I prefer Ward over Calvin Pryor, and he fits what the ravens are looking for opposite Matt Elam. Ward wins in similar ways to Kenny Vaccaro, but is also comfortable roaming the deeper third of the field.
18. New York Jets
S Calvin Pryor, Louisville - This could easily be a corner, but I think Rex might covet Pryor’s aggressive style and experience disrupting at the catch point. That isn’t to say that time at free safety was positive, but there were some flashes. Pryor needs to improve his tackling in the open field.
19. Miami Dolphins
T Taylor Lewan, Michigan - I have no idea if Lewan’s off-field matters will impact his draft selection. That will range from team to team. I don’t think Lewan is athletic laterally as he tested linearly, and he tends to overset on the outside which allows inside moves. I don’t think Lewan has experience at right tackle, which could make things interesting.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Edge player Dee Ford, Auburn - John Abraham is old, and the rest of the Cardinals’ edge rushers are just “guys.” Ford might not be a full-time player until he anticipates reach blocks better, but he offers tremendous flexibility to turn the corner as a pass rusher and flashed hand use against Texas A&M and Missouri.
21. Green Bay Packers
CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State - This might be worst case scenario for the Packers. Gilbert is a bit tight in his movements when mirroring breaking routes, but was able to catch up in the NFL thanks to athleticism. Can that translate?
22. Philadelphia Eagles
ILB CJ Mosley, Alabama - I know inside linebacker is not consistently mentioned as one of the Eagles’ needs, but Demeco Ryans can be cut after this season thanks to a large cap number and Mosley offers so much range. He would not come off the field.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
G Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA - The Chiefs need someone to start opposite Jeff Allen. Su’a-Filo moves so well for a guard and is not afraid to find unoccupied defenders until the play is over.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State - I debated corner here, but realized the Bengals might move Burfict to inside backer next year with Rey Maualuga's contract up. Shazier would offer so much range and explosiveness from the weakside. He could play early in certain packages.
25. San Diego Chargers
26. Cleveland Browns - from Indianapolis
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M - No one knows who the Browns will covet at quarterback. Derek Carr could easily be the second quarterback selected. With that said, Manziel could reunite with Mike Evans and have a strong vertical threat in Josh Gordon.
27. New Orleans Saints
C/G Marcus Martin, USC - A surprise name, perhaps. The Saints need to exit this draft with a starting center, and potentially could need one or two guards after next season due to cuts. Most teams might covet Weston Richburg, but the Saints could view Martin as a starter at either interior spot.
28. Carolina Panthers
T Morgan Moses, Virginia - The Panthers need offensive line help in a bad way. Moses has right tackle experience but most recently started on the left side. He does not bend at the knees to absorb and redirect, but Moses has a ridiculous wingspan and shut down a number of quality rushers this year.
29. New England Patriots
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville - Crazier things have happened. Bridgewater wins in similar ways to Tom Brady, namely pocket movement, eye level, and dominating the short to intermediate levels of the field. The team’s offensive dynamic would not need to be changed when Teddy takes over.
30. San Francisco 49ers
CB Jason Verrett, TCU - Verrett could be the top corner in this class and plays the ball better at the catch point than any other prospect, thanks to his vision and aggressiveness. I believe Verrett can play on the edge as well as the slot.
31. Denver Broncos
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State - Wes Welker’s contract is up after this season. Cooks played on the inside and out while with the Beavers and could generate a Victor Cruz comparison… but is two inches shorter. He wins on the ground thanks to burst, explosiveness and acceleration.
32. Seattle Seahawks
OL Joel Bitonio, Nevada - Bitonio is viewed by a tackle and guard by multiple teams. He shut down a number of quality rushers at Nevada this season, like Barr and Demarcus Lawrence. I’ve been told his rise throughout the process was “Kyle Long-like.”