NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
Just over four weeks into the NFL season, it’s time to take another preliminary look at what teams may do in this April’s draft. Read on to find out where this year’s top draft-eligible talent could be headed. Note: no draft-eligible sophomores have been included in this draft, including Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, UCLA QB Brett Hundley, or Texas A&M WR Mike Evans.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville*
Blaine Gabbert continues to show Jacksonville’s brass why he is clearly not a long-term solution at quarterback, clearing the way for the team to draft Bridgewater first.
2. Oakland Raiders – DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina*
Starting left end Lamarr Houston is a stud, but a top-flight pass rusher like Clowney would go a long way towards remedying a defensive front devoid of pressure.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Greg Schiano’s defense hasn’t typically called for a third linebacker this year, but the team is set at offensive tackle and recently drafted Mike Glennon to play quarterback.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers – OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Mike Adams has been so dreadful at left tackle that the team recently traded for perennial underachiever Levi Brown, so a blindside protector looks good here.
5. New York Giants – OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
The final season of right guard Chris Snee’s contract is voidable, meaning that 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh could slide inside, where he would be better suited.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins) – OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama*
Rodger Saffold is hurt again, clearing the way for new personnel at the right tackle position; Kouandjio likely wouldn’t last until St. Louis’ next selection.
7. Minnesota Vikings – QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Boyd, who makes up for his lack of height with a strong arm and impressive scrambling ability, could prove a considerable upgrade over Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel.
8. Arizona Cardinals – LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Without value on the board along the offensive line, it would be a wise move to add Mosley to the defense alongside fellow inside linebacker Daryl Washington.
9. St. Louis Rams – FS Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama*
This may be a bit too high for Clinton-Dix, but the Rams could reach based on the recent overvaluation of safeties and the fact that they have nothing opposite T.J. McDonald.
10. Carolina Panthers – CB Bradley Roby, Ohio St.*
Ten years after drafting fellow Buckeye Chris Gamble, the Panthers could look at cornerbacks once again in an attempt to find a true number one option.
11. Philadelphia Eagles – DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame*
The Eagles currently rank 27th against the run, clearing the way for a top talent such as Nix to slide into their starting nose tackle role, a position Isaac Sopoaga occupies.
12. New York Jets – LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
While with the Seahawks, general manager John Idzik drafted Bruce Irvin significantly higher than he was projected to go; Mack could appeal to him in the same way.
13. Buffalo Bills – CB Jason Verrett, Texas Christian
At this point, Verrett’s coverage skills behind blitz-heavy defensive fronts should appeal to the Bills, who are still seeking a long-term starter opposite Stephon Gilmore.
14. Cleveland Browns – WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson*
Despite being the team’s only dangerous receiver, the Browns are investigating the possibility of further liquidating their assets by shipping Josh Gordon out of town.
15. Atlanta Falcons – OT Cameron Erving, Florida St.*
Protecting Matt Ryan should be a priority for the Falcons, who may prefer to replace disappointment Lamar Holmes with Erving before addressing their defense.
16. Dallas Cowboys – LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio St.*
Evidently unhappy with Bruce Carter, who was recently benched, the Cowboys may find a versatile, athletic option such as Shazier appealing for their new defensive front.