NFL mock draft: Who teams will (and who they should) take

Jadeveon Clowney, teddy bridgewater and johnny manziel
Jadeveon Clowney, teddy bridgewater and johnny manziel

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.

Flame on.

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. 

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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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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