1. Houston Texans: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M**
With the first mock draft I made mid-season, I pegged Johnny Football going to the Texans with the top pick. At the time, it was an unrealistic scenario. I thought Manziel had the highest ceiling amongst quarterbacks, but his personality and size would ultimately keep him out of consideration this high.
That said, NFL front offices are falling for Johnny Manziel and his stock couldn't be higher entering the early portion of the draft process. I still think Jadeveon Clowney is the best player, but Manziel will also be a star in the NFL. New Texans head coach Bill O'Brien has spoken about his impressions of Manziel and the praise seemed genuine. The first-overall pick is still up in the air, but this is a pick that could elevate the Texans to relevance quickly. Manziel's ability to make plays with his arm and his legs would bring a lot of excitement to an offense that needs a new spark.
2. St. Louis Rams (f/ WSH): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
I've had St. Louis taking Matthews for months now. The Rams added Jake Long in the offseason, and he performed pretty well, but the other side of the offensive line is still a liability. Jeff Fisher had his team playing good football toward the end of the season. If they could add another top lineman to anchor the right side and get Sam Bradford back, healthy with a final season to prove himself, St. Louis could be in prime position to challenge for the postseason.
They could also look at adding a quarterback or Sammy Watkins, but Matthews may be the safest pick in the draft.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina*
This would be a dream scenario for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They've been in desperate need of a franchise quarterback for close to a decade now, but Clowney gives them exactly what they need on defense. He's a game-changer who can't be stopped in many one-on-one situations. There are quarterbacks that will be available later in the draft that would still be likely improvements over the players they have now at the position.
4. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville*
Cleveland has two first round picks in this year's draft. They will likely take a quarterback with one of them. Bridgewater's stock has been taking some hits in the last few weeks. While I've never thought of him as the top quarterback, it's still surprising, seeing as how it really hasn't been because of his ability or play on the field. Called into question has been his leadership tendencies and how his personality will adjust to the NFL.
He excelled at Louisville, but didn't perform at his best when they played some of their tougher opponents. Despite all the questions, he may have the best arm in the draft right now.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson*
I've been bouncing around with the Raiders pick for weeks. In my defense, the Raiders have been one of the hardest teams to project in recent years. With a lot of needs on both sides of the football, they could go a lot of different ways. With not a lot of depth for the top-tier quarterbacks, they might elect to let somebody fall to them in the second round to get their signal-caller of the future. Adding a threat like Watkins would make whoever that quarterback is better and give them an elite pass-catching option.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA*
Atlanta expected to be a Super Bowl contender this season. Its lack of success has been partially due to injuries, but the Falcons' defense also fell flat. Barr is far and away the best linebacker in this draft class and would instantly help one of the NFL's worst ranked defenses.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn*
Despite Auburn's huge success this season, I'm not sure many expected Greg Robinson to actually declare for the draft. Robinson's stock has been soaring this season alongside Auburn's return to prominence. His addition to the draft only deepens what is one of the best years for offensive lineman in recent memory. Is Mike Glennon the future in Tampa Bay? The verdict's still out but giving him protection is the only way to know for sure.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida*
Minnesota is in desperate need of some consistency at quarterback. Matt Cassel has performed admirably as a placeholder but neither Christian Ponder nor Josh Freeman will likely be on the team next season. Bortles has all the tools you look for in a franchise quarterback. His stock has been on the rise all season, and recently some draft experts have had him targeted as high as their top quarterback on their boards. High praise for a tough kid with a great work ethic.
9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M**
The Bills made some strong strides during the 2013 season, and it seems like they might have found something special in E.J. Manuel. If they intend for him to thrive in the NFL, it'd be smart to give him some viable weapons. Evans is a big, physical, and deceivingly quick for his size. He could be a star as a possession receiver in the league.
10. Detroit Lions: Marqise Lee, WR, USC*
Calvin Johnson is the most dynamic offensive threat in football today. Beyond him however, the Lions didn't have another receiver on the roster compile 500 receiving yards. Lee is a speedster with good hands, adding a few pounds could make him a potentially elite option. Adding his agility with a play-maker like Calvin, could make Megatron even better. And if Johnson were to ever get injured, this pick would give them another capable player so it wouldn't be a season-ender for the entire team.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Titans could use a lot of different positions to try and infuse new energy into their team. However, the staple for them has always been defense, and they need a player that can be a field general. Mosley has been a leader for Alabama since his freshman season, he could help add some stability and a level of accountability to their group of linebackers.
12. New York Giants: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
It's been a while since the Giants have had a solid linebacking group. They took a shot at acquiring Jon Beason for peanuts during the season, but he never really shined in New York. Khalil Mack might be the most complete defender in this draft. He can cover in space, tackle at the line, and possesses good athleticism.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama*
If there's been one weakness on the Rams' defense the past few seasons, it's been the secondary. Their defense has actually become one of the most talented groups in the league, and success shouldn't be too far off if they can address a few key spots. Clinton-Dix is the best safety in this draft. He's a ballhawk, and a leader among defensive backs.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State*
On talent alone, Jernigan should be a top-10 pick. Unfortunately, defensive tackles have had a trend of falling later in drafts; it's not the sexiest pick to make. Chicago needs to add more interior defenders and Jernigan is a big guy who should plug up holes early in his career.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Secondary is a real need for the Steelers. Keeping mostly the same unit together for a lot of years and without the infusion of youth and speed, they've become slow and vulnerable. Gilbert could potentially be the top corner in this class and has the ability to develop into a true shut-down corner.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame*
The Cowboys defense was hurting by the end of the 2013 season and with Jason Hatcher on the way out, Dallas needs some life on the defensive line. Adding a player like Stephon Tuitt, who many scouts say reminds them of Richard Seymour, could go a long way toward revitalizing its defensive line.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State*
Big money invested in quarterback Joe Flacco, they have about 20 million reasons per season to get him some help on offense. The Ravens did recently bring in Gary Kubiak as their new offensive coordinator and their focus will likely be on bringing more options to their offensive attack. Benjamin is a big target, he uses his size well, and brings some speed and leaping ability to along with it. He could become the red-zone target they lost when Anquan Boldin went to San Francisco.
18. New York Jets: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State*
The New York Jets have been in transition for several seasons now. They've done well, adding several nice pieces on the defensive side and taking Geno Smith as their potential QB for the future. What they really lack is offensive weapons right now. Robinson is big, fast and produced well against tough opponents.
19. Miami Dolphins: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*
The Dolphins need better bookends on their offensive line, and should be searching for a future anchor, especially after losing Jake Long last offseason. A strong year for offensive tackles, Lewan would've been a stand-out last season, but his decision to stay another year at Michigan makes him fall. If he fell to Miami, I think they'd be glad to take him.
20. Arizona Cardinals: A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Carson Palmer has been bouncing from team to team the past few seasons, but seems to have finally found a good spot in Arizona. Despite their success, they did miss the playoffs and Palmer is already 34 years old. The Cardinals might not be able to pass up a chance to grab a signal-caller for the future if one falls to them in the 20s.
I've been spending a lot of time recently watching tape on all the quarterbacks in this class and the more I see from McCarron, the more I believe in the hype. During his time at 'Bama, McCarron has elevated himself into one of the top leaders on the field.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame*
A real impact player inside, Nix is a space-eater with top level quickness for a big guy. The Packers need help a lot of help on defense, they were ranked 24th against the pass and 25th against the run this season. A new anchor up front would be a good first step toward revitalizing their front seven.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Eagles would like to keep their receiving corps intact but it's unlikely to happen with both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin looking for new deals. There's a good chance they'll lose Maclin in free agency, and whether that happens or not, they would benefit from bringing a dynamic threat like Matthews on board. Matthews has been one of the most consistent WRs in college over the past few seasons. He should be a hot commodity come draft day.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina*
Ebron is a freak athlete and has been on the rise all season. His skill-set would create a lot more versatility in the Chiefs pass attack. He'd be the best tight end they've had since Tony Gonzalez.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Terrence Newman and Adam Jones get to see a lot of playing time for the Bengals, and for the Bengals, it hasn't necessarily been a good thing. They need a long-term solution in the secondary, someone who can tandem with Dre Kirkpatrick moving forward. Dennard is a complete corner, he can play in any scheme, and should be able to start quickly into his NFL career.
25. San Diego Chargers: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
San Diego has lost a lot of playmakers in its defense the past few seasons. A lot of scouts are in love with Murphy. He's a very intelligent player, with good intangibles that just seems to be involved in every defensive play at Stanford.
26. Cleveland Browns (f/ IND): Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
Regardless of running back or quarterback, the Browns need to take a look at their interior offensive line. They ranked 27th in the league at running the football, with players like Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, that shouldn't be the case. Jackson has been a monster at Mississippi State and could end up being the first guard taken in the draft.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota*
The Saints will be looking to add help inside; it's been one of the weaker spots on the defense. Hageman is a monster in the middle and could play multiple roles for the Saints up front. They've needed help getting at opposing quarterbacks and Hageman could make an impact his rookie season.
28. Carolina Panthers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama*
It doesn't feel like that long ago that the Panthers drafted Jordan Gross, but don't look now, he's already 33-years old. He may retire this offseason, but even if he returns, it's time to look for his eventual replacement, and someone who can start on the other side of the offensive line. Kouandjio may have the most physical gifts of the offensive linemen in this class.
29. New England Patriots: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State**
Talk about doing a lot with a little. Tom Brady led his Patriots to another successful season, but if you would've said last year that it'd be possible without Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, most would've called you crazy. The Pats will definitely look to give him a better and more consistent option in the offseason.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida*
San Francisco is rock solid all around the board. They have a great balance of veteran leadership and youth on their roster at a lot of positions. One of the few positions they don't have much depth at, is at cornerback. Purifoy is big, athletic and could play a lot of different roles for the 49ers on defense and special teams.
31. Denver Broncos: Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
Denver's once vaunted secondary is old and have been injury-riddled. They need to address the cornerback position at some point soon, it's been the only true weakness on their team this season.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
What's left for the team that seemingly has it all figured out? They have the league's top defense and a young, dynamic group of players on offense. Amaro has really been rocketing up the charts in the last few weeks. When all is said and done, there's an outside shot he's the first tight end drafted in May. He has the potential to be a Rob Gronkowski type of red zone threat.
33. Houston Texans: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Drafting Manziel would be a huge undertaking for the Texans organization. Truthfully, no matter who they end up looking at to be their quarterback for the future, they really need to address the right tackle spot. Derek Newton was never a long-term solution at the position, and beyond him, they don't have very much.
Martin is a quick and powerful lineman, his versatility would prove very useful for any mobile quarterback looking to roam around (or outside) the pocket. His experience and leadership should help him translate to being a starter in the NFL early in his career. He's another player who's Senior Bowl performance will only help elevate his status come draft day.
34. Washington Redskins: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville*
Washington's first pick of the draft and they don't have the luxury to draft anything other than need. After Clinton-Dix, the safety pool runs pretty thin, but Pryor had a stellar season at Louisville and might make it to the first round.
35. Cleveland Browns: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
Cleveland pulled off one of the more clever trades in recent memory by shipping off Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first round pick. While Richardson has been mostly a bust, his departure still leaves a hole for the Browns at running back. Carlos Hyde is one of the few workhorse backs in the draft and it might be in the cards that he stays put in Ohio.
36. Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Derek, the younger brother of David, has been sky-rocketing up the charts with elite play in his senior season. He's versatile, works hard, possesses an accurate arm and he can make all the throws.
37. Atlanta Falcons: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Atlanta needs help in on its defensive line. Taking Barr would be a great first step for the Falcons, but they still need to create pressure and help create space for a player like Barr to be effective. Donald's stock has been steadily rising, and his time at the Senior Bowl only increased his value. He could end up being a first rounder when all is said and done.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State*
Lovie Smith will use one of his first two picks on improving the defense. The Bucs had one of the worst pass attacks in the NFL last season. Bringing in new blood at defensive end will be one of Tampa Bay's top priorities.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Mettenberger's tearing his ACL should prevent him from rocketing up the charts. He has elite arm strength, depending on how his interviews with teams go and if he can get healthy in time for pro days. He could still find himself as one of the top QBs drafted. After everything we've seen from a lot of the college quarterbacks this season, I think Mettenberger's skill-set may end up translating best to the NFL.
40. Minnesota Vikings: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State*
It's no secret the Vikings' defense has fallen off in recent seasons. They're in need more leadership at the linebacker spot. A tackling machine, Shazier would help stabilize a defense in desperate need of new blood.