Mock drafts are a blast. I write them up, and you flamethrow me after reading them. It's fun for everyone involved.
But as I see it, there often are problems when people do mock drafts. Too often they blur the lines between what they think teams will do and what they think teams should do.
So we'll solve that problem with a handy double shot: both things in one side-by-side list. Sometimes the picks will align. We realize that teams are smart, too, and often have the best idea of what they need. But we also have a few thoughts of the way this thing should go on May 8.
In this first-round mock draft, you get the best of both worlds. And that means twice the feedback of how terrible I am — at football, at life, whatever.
|Pick||Team||Who they will take||Who they should take||Explanation|
|1||Houston Texans||South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney||I know that esteemed beat writer John McClain says it's Johnny Manziel for now (and has said QB first the entire process). But I still believe Clowney will be too hard to pass up here.|
|2||St. Louis Rams (from Redskins)||Auburn OT Greg Robinson||Clemson WR Sammy Watkins||If a team is not drafting Watkins because it used a first-round pick last year on Tavon Austin and then signed Kenny Britt to a contract this season, its priorities are messed up. That said, Robinson and Jake Matthews could be great ones.|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Clemson WR Sammy Watkins||Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater||Maybe we're wrong, but the precocious Bridgewater might be the leader Gus Bradley could use for his ascending team, and there's no pressure to start him immediately. Then again, Watkins is one of our favorite players in this draft.|
|4||Cleveland Browns||Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews||Auburn OT Greg Robinson||The Browns do the right thing? Look, if you're in love with Derek Carr, then fine ... take him at 26, or thereabouts. But please, for the love of all good things, don't reach for him here. Don't believe they will. Either Matthews or Robinson would be a hit.|
|5||Oakland Raiders||Central Florida QB Blake Bortles||Buffalo LB Khalil Mack||The Raiders need a QB, so they take one. Is he the franchise savior? No. There is chatter the Raiders might go way off the grid here. I know, shocker, right?|
|6||Atlanta Falcons||Buffalo LB Khalil Mack||Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews||We actually like the Mack fit, if he's there. The Falcons were one of the worst teams rushing the passer without the benefit of the blitz last season. If Mack is not there, Matthews would add the skill they need up front.|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Texas A&M WR Mike Evans||Michigan OT Taylor Lewan||Evans might not be the receiver everyone is making him out to be, but an Evans-Vincent Jackson combo would rival the Bears' WRs as the most physical combination going and give Josh McCown two similar types of targets. Lewan would give them more blocking help and nastiness. A win either way.|
|8||Minnesota Vikings||UCLA LB Anthony Barr||Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel||We admit: We just want to see what a Manziel-Mike Zimmer-Adrian Peterson-Cordarrelle Patterson-Norv Turner situation would produce. It would be fascinating and get people pumped about the Vikings again.|
|9||Buffalo Bills||Michigan OT Taylor Lewan||Texas A&M WR Mike Evans||If you're going to support your almost-rookie quarterback (considering how much time EJ Manuel missed last season), then you need to help him out, and either a right tackle (Lewan) or a seam-stretching receiver (Evans) would achieve just that.|
|10||Detroit Lions||Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||UCLA LB Anthony Barr||We're not quite as jacked on Clinton-Dix as everyone, and this pick feels like it's a bit too needs-based. Barr fits what the Lions do not have (and actually have said they needed): a pass-rushing linebacker opposite Ziggy Ansah. Maybe they surprise and take the right guy here.|
|11||Tennessee Titans||Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert||Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert||Too easy. You lose your top corner, Alterraun Verner, to free agency and your new defensive coordinator is one of the most aggressive, blitz-happy play callers out there. The Titans need a man-cover ace, and Gilbert is the guy.|
|12||New York Giants||Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald||Pittsbugh DT Aaron Donald||Once more, fiction and reality intersect. The Giants have been big middle-class players in free agency, helping rebuild the core of the roster. Smart stuff. But they need more help on the defensive front with Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck gone.|
|13||St. Louis Rams||Louisville S Calvin Pryor||Alabama LB C.J. Mosley||We're higher on Mosley than others and not as high on Pryor as some. The Rams need a safety more than they need a linebacker, per se, and Mosley might not be best on the strong side, which is where he would play here. But he can cover tight ends and be a more disciplined answer to Alec Ogletree on the other side. The Rams could lay claim to the best front seven in football.|
|14||Chicago Bears||Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman||Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard|| |
GM Phil Emery might be disappointed if he was left to pick from the options on the left side of the equation. Our choice, Dennard, might not excite Emery enough, however, even though it's a need position and a good value. We say he rolls the dice on the scary — both good and bad — Hageman.
|15||Pittsburgh Steelers||Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard||Ohio State CB Bradley Roby||I think their need at corner trumps everything, but I am guessing they would not go that direction if Gilbert and Dennard are off the board. Still, Roby could be one of the 20 best players in this draft when it's all said and done.|
|16||Dallas Cowboys||Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan||Notre Dame OG-OT Zack Martin||I hate their options here but resist the temptation to force defense because Jernigan is not the 16th best player available (and because he's something of a Henry Melton clone), even with the defensive front being such a wasteland. Martin is a huge upgrade over both projected starting guards and can replace Doug Free at right tackle in a year.|
|17||Baltimore Ravens||Notre Dame OT Zack Martin||Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Martin is an Ozzie Newsome type of player and would give the Ravens their starting right tackle. Clinton-Dix would be a decent fallback and a nice SEC-proven combination at safety with Matt Elam.|
|18||New York Jets||North Carolina TE Eric Ebron||LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.||An almost can't-lose scenario for the Jets. Either way, they add a much needed target with separation ability in a unit that severly lacks it.|
|19||Miami Dolphins||UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo||UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo||We're giving the Dolphins some credit here. They almost feel obligated to upgrade their offensive line in three regards — talent, versatility and character — and this would represent all three. Best value at 19? Perhaps not, and this might be a trade-down spot for a team angling to move up for a QB. But it would be a rock-solid pick in our minds.|
|20||Arizona Cardinals||Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller||Fresno State QB Derek Carr||Fuller appeals to the Cardinals because he's big and athletic, and provides depth with Patrick Peterson a year removed from free agency. (Plus, for good measure, Bruce Arians is a Hokie.) But we'd be tempted here to roll the dice on Carr, who could sit for as long as needed behind Carson Palmer and has the arm strength Arians covets in a quarterback.|
|21||Green Bay Packers||Alabama LB C.J. Mosley||North Carolina TE Eric Ebron||We actually like the first scenario better, but having used Mosley on the "should take" list previously, we'll switch to another need, which is at tight end. Either way, one of two sore spots gets a boost.|
|22||Philadelphia Eagles||Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks||Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks||Yes, the defense needs help, but there is no need to reach here. The loss of DeSean Jackson, while necessary in Chip Kelly's mind, creates a speed void — one which Cooks would fill perfectly, keeping Kelly's Pac-12 talent scoop alive and well.|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.||USC WR Marqise Lee||We like both players, although Beckham > Lee. We might be wrong about Lee, whose 2013 season raised some questions about his NFL ceiling. But he's an ideal fit in a West Coast scheme and would be a nice No. 2 option — albeit one lacking deep speed — opposite Dwayne Bowe. Still, Lee plays faster than he times.|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Auburn DE Dee Ford||Central Florida QB Blake Bortles||OK, is Blake Bortles falling to 24? Nah, likely not. But we think that he should be a mid-to-late first-round pick based on his body of work and need of refinement, and there would be quite the intriguing situation with Andy Dalton's contract coming up. Again, likely? No. But a trade would work. Short of that, we think Ford might be the actual pick.|
|25||San Diego Chargers||Ohio State CB Bradley Roby||Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III||Either pick looks like a winner, although one that carries risk. Neither played to expectations last season, but the Chargers are so thin at both spots, that Nix or Roby would be Day 1 starters and instant upgrades. Sean Lissemore isn't a starting-caliber nose tackle. Not in the NFL, certainly.|
|26||Cleveland Browns (from Colts)||Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater||Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo||In our "should take" minds, they'd be trading up to No. 19 and snagging Bortles or Carr so the Dolphins can take Su'a-Filo here, which would harmonize the universe and not make the Browns look like they are playing out the script of "Draft Day" that the NFL likely rejected. But in lieu of that, and in dire need for a quarterback here, they'll settle for Garoppolo, in whom they have shown a lot of interest. Hey, we're not perfect.|
|27||New Orleans Saints||Missouri OLB-DE Kony Ealy||Auburn OLB-DE Dee Ford||Rob Ryan would run from Metarie to Bourbon Street and buy drinks for everyone if he could get another pass rusher such as Ealy or Ford.|
|28||Carolina Panthers||Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson||Virginia OT Morgan Moses||Taking a receiver, such as Lee, would put a lot of pressure on him "replacing Steve Smith," so the guess is that the Panthers shift to their other glaring need: left tackle. Yes, Jordan Gross will be hard to replace, too, but he wasn't the best player in Panthers franchise history|
|29||New England Patriots||Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel||Louisville S Calvin Pryor||The Internet would break. Johnny to the Patriots! Not so fast. Yes, they brought him in for a visit, and oh boy, the thought of him playing for Bill Belichick would be incredible. But the guess is that the Patriots would trade down to a team high in Round 2 that still needs a quarterback. Can you imagine Belichick and BIll O'Brien cooking this up so that the Texans get Clowney and Manziel? Oh, my beloved goodness.|
|30||San Francisco||USC WR Marqise Lee||Minnesota DL Ra'Shede Hageman||In both scenarios, we project them a highly rated "need" position that represents great value. The 49ers are set up to have a banner draft, but we expect them to consider moving up at some point along the way. A cornerback also would make sense — someone such as Fuller.|
|31||Denver Broncos||Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier||Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin||We love Shazier and could see him being a four-down player (defense and special teams) immediately for whatever team drafts him. But if he's not available, Benjamin could be a nice addition for a team that has to start thinking about WR depth with Eric Decker gone and Demaryius Thomas' contract situation unresolved.|
|32||Seattle Seahawks||Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin||Missouri DE Kony Ealy||Cliff Avril is in the final year of his deal, and Ealy is the kind of versatile, playmaking defender they love in Seattle. But Benjamin tempts the Seahawks, too, and he'd be a perfect project for a team that always could use another big, physical receiver to battle in the NFC West.|
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