South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney is still our choice for the No. 1 overall pick. (AP)
With the combine complete and the franchise tag window now officially closed, here’s our latest mock draft. (Feel free to compare and contrast this one with our first one here.) With the start of free agency looming on March 11, things will continue to change as the pre-draft process moves into the next phase, one that will be highlighted with individual workouts and pro days. But for now, here’s our big board.
1. Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DL, South Carolina – There was a lot of talk about red flags around Clowney and Houston chasing after one of the quarterbacks with the top pick, but nothing has shaken our belief that the Texans are going to go with Clowney here. As we said previously, he has a chance to be a transformative defensive presence.
2. Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn – The most NFL-ready of all of the very good tackles in this draft.
3. Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – This will mark the 10th time since 2000 Jacksonville has had a top-10 pick. That’s the most in the league in that span.
4. Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida – While he won’t step into the starter’s role immediately, Bortles figures to end the quarterbacking carousel that has plagued the Browns for the last decade.
5. Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – The Raiders are in need of a quarterback and will go after whichever signal-caller is left on the board. If Bridgewater goes before the No. 5 pick, the Raiders will take whomever remains. (For what it’s worth, several reports indicate the Raiders prefer Derek Carr over Johnny Manziel, if it reaches that point.)
6. Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo – Just like we all said back in September, the second defensive player drafted in 2014 will come out of the University of Buffalo. Mack tore up the combine and did more than enough to vault ahead of the rest of the field and into the No. 6 position.
7. Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – Another guy who had a terrific combine and will get a bounce in his stock as a result. Quarterback Mike Glennon now would have a nice pair of receivers in Watkins and Vincent Jackson, and if running back Doug Martin is healthy, Tampa Bay can put together an impressive set of skill position players. Now if they could only do something about those uniforms.
8. Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA – The Vikings could go in a few directions here depending on how free agency shakes out, but Barr is considered a very good pass rusher, and if Minnesota loses Jared Allen, they could grab Barr. Quarterback Derek Carr is also a possibility here.
9. Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina – While this still feels like a bit of a reach at No. 9, Ebron had a terrific combine performance, and Buffalo is in need of an elite tight end.
10. Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State – The best corner in the draft goes to a defense that’s in need of help in the secondary.
11. Titans: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M – A few options exist for Tennessee at this spot. If one of the quarterbacks drops, they could get after him here. (Maybe they trade up a few spots, or take Carr?) But Matthews is one of the two or three best tackles in the draft, and a very safe bet.
12. Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan – The Giants need offensive line help, and Lewan is the best tackle on the board.
13. Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – St. Louis got its elite tackle with the No. 2 pick. Now the Rams get another offensive option for quarterback Sam Bradford.
14. Bears: Aaron Donald, DL, Pitt – Like Watkins and Gilbert, Donald got a post-combine jump in stock with a terrific performance. A versatile defensive linemen, he’s just the ticket for a Chicago defense that needs a jolt.
15. Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame – Nix charmed the media at the combine with some of the best lines of the week, and then went out and had an impressive on-field performance. He, Donald, Timmy Jernigan and Ra’Shede Hageman all are versatile defensive linemen who are capable of wreaking havoc from multiple spots up and down the defensive line.
16. Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal – The best wide receiver on the board makes sense for Baltimore, which struggled to find consistency in the passing game last year. Although to be fair, some of those troubles were the result of Dennis Pitta‘s injury. With Pitta re-signed and expected to be fully healthy — and the addition of a pass-catcher like Lee — those issues could be a thing of the past. If the Ravens lose one of their tackles in free agency, they could also dip into an impressive group of offensive line prospects at No. 16.
17. Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DL, Florida State – A slight reach for the preternatural Jernigan, who just became a starter this past season and as a result probably is still a little raw. But his size and speed make him a nice fit for the Dallas defense at this spot.
18. Jets: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State – A bit of a reach here, but Benjamin’s size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and catch radius make him an ideal target for the Jets passing game. He’s raw, but if he can continue to evolve as a player, he can have a terrific impact in the NFL. (If not Benjamin, look for New York to pursue another wide receiver, perhaps LSU’s Odell Beckham.)
19. Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame – Miami needs the best available offensive lineman, and Martin is just that at No. 19.
20. Cardinals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri – One of a few players who dropped in our latest mock not because of their own performance at the combine but relative to those around him, Ealy figures to provide pass rush help for the Cardinals. Arizona also could target another receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald, or some offensive line help here as well.
21. Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech – Green Bay could go in a few different directions with the No. 21 pick, but right now Amaro figures to be the replacement for Jermichael Finley.
22. Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville – Philly craves some secondary help, and it will have a few different options available at No. 22. The pick here is Pryor, but the Eagles also could be tempted to go with CB Darqueze Dennard out of Michigan State.
23. Chiefs: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU – Kansas City needs another deep threat and some secondary help, and Beckham is the choice. One of the available safeties — Pryor or Ha-Ha Clinton Dix — also could be a fit here for the Chiefs.
24. Bengals: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama – It looks like they could lose Michael Johnson in free agency, and so they might be inclined to get another defensive lineman for that big front seven, but Dix is a playmaking safety who could make an impact as a rookie on a very good, young Bengals defense. (Although you have to wonder with the way the season ended for quarterback Andy Dalton if the Bengals would be interested in bringing in a quarterback like Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo with this pick.)
25. Chargers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State – San Diego is likely in the market for the best available defensive back, and if Dennard hasn’t been taken here, he’s the one. This feels low for Dennard, but he slipped from our first mock not because of his performance at the combine — where he distinguished himself as the second-best corner on the market — but because of other maneuvers.
26. Browns (from Colts): C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama – If there’s one team that might be tempted to go for a running back in the first round (Carlos Hyde, likely), it would likely be the Browns. But Mosley has the pedigree to get the call at No. 26. They also could make a play for Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks.
27. Saints: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn – Ford is likely the best defensive end on the board at this point.
28. Panthers: Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama – Lots of different ways for Carolina to go with this pick. The Panthers lost tackle Jordan Gross to retirement, might lose wide receiver Steve Smith in free agency and could also stand to add some depth to an occasionally shaky secondary. But Kouandijo figures to step in and provide protection up front for Cam Newton.
29. Patriots: Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota – We had Hageman going to New England in our first mock draft, and we’re going to stick with him.
30. 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State – Cooks had a very good combine performance and continues to move up draft boards. Once free agency shakes out, he could ultimately find a place a lot higher on this list. For now, San Francisco goes for a speedy receiver in hopes of adding a vertical element to Colin Kaepernick‘s passing game.
31. Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame – Denver likely will need to add to its secondary depth (we had the Broncos taking Ohio State CB Bradley Roby in our first mock), and could zero in on a receiver if Eric Decker departs in free agency. But for now the pick is Tuitt, a well-regarded defensive lineman who likely has the chops to contribute fairly quickly at the NFL level.
32. Seahawks: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU – Seattle needs a receiver to open things up for the offense, and there could be a handful of intriguing prospects available at the tail end of Round 1.