updated 11-6 (order accurate through Week 8)
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
New coach, new quarterback. That’s how it works. Greg Schiano has destroyed his reputation in Tampa and the Bucs will almost certainly be starting over from scratch in 2014. Bridgewater is not a slam dunk to go No. 1 overall, but he remains my top-rated quarterback and should be considered the favorite.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Marcus Mariota – QB – Oregon
If he can’t land Bridgewater, will GM David Caldwell gamble on the next best quarterback? Momentum is building for Mariota, but he is a long way from being a sure thing. Accuracy is a valid concern, and definitely isn’t the type of rookie that will come in and immediate fix things for the Jaguars.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Zach Mettenberger – QB – LSU
I think it’s fair to wonder if Rick Spielman will be making this selection. He’s been with Minnesota since 2006 and, aside from talking Brett Favre out of retirement, his quarterback decisions have been a mess. Either way, Josh Freeman isn’t the answer. Mettenberger won’t receive the hype of athletes like Mariota or Manziel, but he’s the best traditional pocket passer in the class and possibly the most NFL ready quarterback.
4. New York Giants – Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
This is a dream scenario for the Giants, as one of the few teams picking near the top that probably won’t consider a quarterback. Clowney is a stud who would be a perfect complement to Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants could also be a prime candidate to trade down, especially if one of the top quarterbacks is still on the board.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
This would be a no-brainer for the Steelers who absolutely must find a way to protect Ben Roethlisberger. In fact, it’s going to be difficult for them to justify not selecting an offensive lineman no matter where they end up drafting. Matthews is the cream of the crop, but there should be at least four or five other offensive linemen selected in the first round.
6. St. Louis Rams – Anthony Barr – LB – UCLA
Barr may not fill a glaring hole for the Rams but he’s the top prospect on the board and would be tough to pass up. He’s this year’s Dion Jordan and can rush the passer with his hand on the ground in the 4-3 or line up at strong-side linebacker as a pass-rusher or drop in coverage. His versatility will be an asset wherever he winds up.
7. Atlanta Falcons – Cyrus Kouandjio – OT – Alabama
Priority No. 1 is protecting Matt Ryan, and the Falcons have failed to do so this year. No matter how many times the Falcons have tried to convince themselves that Sam Baker is an elite left tackle, he just isn’t up for the job. And in Baker’s absence, Lamar Holmes proved he isn’t the answer either. Kouandjio is young (he’s still only 20) but he is ready for the NFL and has potential develop into an elite lineman in all aspects of the game.
8. Houston Texans – C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
After losing Cushing again, the Texans are woefully undermanned at linebacker. Mosley would be an ideal addition to the Texans defense as insurance against the injury-prone Cushing, and also for his elite coverage skills – an area in which the Texans linebackers as lacking.
9. Philadelphia Eagles – Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
Chip Kelly’s offense needs weapons, and DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper aren’t even close to enough to make it all run smoothly. A healthy Jeremy Maclin would help, but he’s an unrestricted free agent after the season. Even if Maclin returns, adding a third weapon like Watkins could allow the Eagles offense to take off.
10. Buffalo Bills – Tiny Richardson – OT – Tennessee
The Bills have put together a decent offensive line, but EJ Manuel would benefit improved protection on the right side. Tiny Richardson would be a significant upgrade over Erik Pears at right tackle and would pair with Cordy Glenn to give the Bills to quality young linemen to build around.
11. Cleveland Browns – Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M
The Browns need a quarterback but they seem to be playing their way out of the competition for one. With two first round picks they can trade up, but only if someone else is willing to part with the opportunity to land one. Mike Evans’ potential has been questioned by some due to his speed, but I’ll take a receiver who can compete in traffic over a speedster any day.
12. St. Louis Rams – Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
Rodger Saffold is an unrestricted free agent and would probably prefer to sign with a team that will give him a chance at left tackle. If he leaves, the Rams must find an adequate replacement immediately. Lewan is having a somewhat disappointing senior year and his stock may be slipping slightly, but he still has obvious first round talent and could be an immediate asset at right tackle in St. Louis.
13. Miami Dolphins – Jason Verrett – CB – TCU
The Dolphins spend second and third round picks on cornerbacks last year, but don’t assume that means their secondary issues are solved. Verrett is slightly undersized but has been a consistent playmaker in TCU’s secondary. He’s a ball hawk who has the raw athleticism to potentially emerge as a shutdown corner.
14. Baltimore Ravens – Ra’Shede Hageman – DT – Minnesota
The Ravens would benefit from improved depth along the defensive line and Hageman is the perfect fit for a hybrid defense. He’s among the most versatile linemen in this year’s class with rare athleticism for a guy who primarily lines up at defensive tackle.
15. Tennessee Titans – Louis Nix – DT – Notre Dame
Despite an inconsistent season, Nix remains a viable first round target due to his size and athleticism. The Titans have depth on the defensive line, but they’re still looking for the perfect complement to Jurrell Casey. Nix’s size and ability to eat up space makes him a nice fit.
16. Oakland Raiders – Timmy Jernigan – DT – Florida State
Jernigan is in his first year as a starter and his production has been up and down, but he’s a freak athlete for an interior lineman. The Raiders front seven is a mess and Jernigan would be significant upgrade over veteran Pat Sims.