This is a mock draft where I made the selections for the teams. However, I also tried to be realistic and not go solely off my own opinions on specific players. There are trades because it’s unrealistic to not have trades.
1. Houston Texans – Blake Bortles, Quarterback.
If you were comfortable hiring Bill O’Brien, then you have to be comfortable giving him his preferred long-term option at quarterback. Bortles is landing in a great spot, even if he does need to refine certain aspects of his game, he should be able to have some success as a Week 1 starter.
2. Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, Quarterback.
The Browns didn’t stock up on picks to come out of this draft with more quarterback questions. Manziel may be a hit-or-miss prospect, but his potential upside with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should at least give the offense an identity to build around.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback.
Probably the best quarterback in the class and probably a pick that Jaguars fans will be extremely happy with. Bridgewater is an exceptional player who will give Jedd Fisch a lot of freedom. Fisch is a creative offensive coordinator who will have a top five quarterback and top five left tackle from consecutive drafts to build his offense around.
4. St. Louis Rams – Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End.
By moving back to this point, the Rams essentially guaranteed themselves one of Sammy Watkins, Jadeveon Clowney or Greg Robinson. Clowney is too talented to pass up and the potential pairing of him and Robert Quinn would be absolutely terrifying. With Michael Brockers inside also, the Rams would have an overwhelming amount of talent in the trenches. Offensive pieces can be added at a later point.
The Browns gave up their higher third round pick to move up two spots. It may be a cheaper price than what they could have got from another team, but it allowed them to get an elite prospect.
5. Detroit Lions – Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver.
The defense does need to improve and a cornerback addition would help, but the Lions trade up for a special receiver to complement Calvin Johnson. Sometimes the best defense is a stronger offense.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle.
The Falcons needed an offensive tackle and the top two were still on the board when they picked. Robinson is a freak athlete who could diversify the Falcons’ running game and give Matt Ryan the protection he needs.
7. St. Louis Rams – Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle.
After picking up an early third round pick from the Cleveland Browns, the Rams feel comfortable giving up a second round pick to jump up for Matthews. Matthews appears to have dropped behind Greg Robinson in the rankings, but he still appears to be an excellent prospect. Matthews and Jake Long would give Sam Bradford high-quality edge protection, but it would also allow them to potentially re-sign Roger Saffold to be a right guard.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Mike Evans, Wide Receiver.
Matt Cassel didn’t have a horrible season last year, so the Vikings may not feel pressured into reaching for a quarterback at this point. Instead, they can add weapons around Cassel who can make him more productive than his performances necessarily deserve. That is presuming that they re-sign him. Evans, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, Adrian Peterson and Matt Kalil is an incredible supporting cast for any quarterback. Mike Zimmer can focus on rebuilding the defense in other ways. He has proven he can build a high-quality defensive unit without expensive acquisitions.
9. Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, Edge Defender.
Physically, Mack is very impressive, but he also appears to be a very refined and versatile player. That makes him a perfect fit for the Buffalo Bills. The Bills already have an exceptional front four, but Mack would be an upgrade over Jerry Hughes as an all-around talent. Much like Clowney in St. Louis, Mack’s value would be multiplied by the talent around him.
10. New York Giants – Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle.
The Giants offensive line is an absolute mess. The interior is the main concern, but William Beatty doesn’t look like he is the answer at left tackle. Adding Lewan and moving Beatty to right tackle could improve two positions and afford Eli Manning some consistent edge protection.
The Raiders initially picked up a second round pick from the Lions to move back to this point before trading with the Giants again.
11. Tennessee Titans – C.J. Mosley, Inside Linebacker.
Ray Horton is a celebrated defensive coordinator, but he is an exceptionally aggressive coordinator who doesn’t appear to understand that he over-stresses his coverage too often. Giving Horton an inside linebacker who can cover is very important. Mosley excels playing in space and he would do that an awful lot for the Titans defense.
12. Oakland Raiders – Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Free Safety.
The Raiders may have passed on an elite prospect, but they need to add as many pieces as they can to their roster and this is a deep draft. Picking up an extra second round pick and an extra fourth round pick could give them two extra starters in this draft. Clinton-Dix was a standout performer for Alabama and a replacement for Charles Woodson, who will turn 38 next season.
The Raiders picked up a fourth round pick from the New York Giants to drop down two spots.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Eric Ebron, Tight End.
Sammy Watkins may not be joining Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams in Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers will add a mismatch player to their offense who can work the middle of the field. With Williams and Jackson stretching the field vertically, Ebron and Tim Wright would be able to line up at tight end and slot receiver to give Mike Glennon an abundance of weapons.
The Buccaneers acquired the Rams’ second round pick to drop back six spots.
14. Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle.
The Bears should focus their whole draft on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line is a priority. Donald may be undersized, 6’0″, but we’ve seen that undersized defensive tackles can be very valuable in today’s NFL. The Bears have the offensive fire power to consistently win high-scoring games. For that reason, adding a defensive tackle who offers the potential for consistent interior pressure will be very valuable within their defensive scheme.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Louis Nix, Defensive Tackle.
The Steelers can go in a number of directions and trading down could be a strong possibility considering the depth of this class and their lack of a third round pick. Louis Nix struggled last season because of injury, but his talent is exceptional when fully healthy. Nix could solidify the starting nose tackle position for the Steelers, a position that is still very important for their scheme. If Nix could start as a rookie, then the Steelers could move Steve McLendon to defensive end, where he fits better than as a starting nose tackle.
16. Philadelphia Eagles – Calvin Pryor, Safety.
When you’re starting Patrick Chung at safety, you’re at least one starter away from an adequate secondary. Chung is a major liability for the Eagles and adding Pryor would give them an immediate upgrade. With Chip Kelly on the offensive side and all of their work to retain their primary pieces, the Eagles can afford to aggressively pursue defensive additions.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Xavier Su’a-Filo, Offensive Guard.
It’s not the sexy pick, that would likely be Kelvin Benjamin at this stage, but adding a versatile offensive guard who could play in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme would be massive for the Ravens offense. It would improve the running game, solidify Joe Flacco’s pass protection and allow the Ravens to let Michael Oher leave so Kelechi Osemele can go back to right tackle. The Ravens understand the value of interior offensive linemen after last season.
18. New York Jets – Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver.
Everyone knows that the Jets are desperate for more help on the offensive side of the ball. Benjamin is considered a top receiver prospect. His size and speed combination should make him a sure-fire first rounder. Geno Smith is more than willing to push the ball down the field, so he and Benjamin should be a very good combination.
19. Miami Dolphins – Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle.
The Dolphins desperately need help on the offensive line. Even before Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito left the team, they were already starting Bryant McKinnie. Kouandjio was inconsistent in college and there are questions emerging about his health from the combine. Those questions are still unclear, so right now we’re going to presume Miami wasn’t one of the teams that failed him. On the positive side, Kouandjio is very young and very physically talented. He has the potential to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. Ryan Tannehill needs this pick to pan out.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Kony Ealy, Edge Defender.
John Abraham is ancient and Sam Acho is coming off an injury. The Cardinals need help on the outside of their defense. Ideally they’d land a starting left tackle, but they could still do that in free agency. Ealy is a very impressive athlete who would be surrounded by good athletes in the Cardinals front seven. It helps that the Cardinals appear to have a very impressive defensive staff who could help Ealy develop quickly.
21. Green Bay Packers – RaShede Hageman, Defensive Tackle.
Safety would be the ideal addition, but the top two are gone. Cornerback could be in play because Tramon Williams may be a cap casualty and Sam Shields isn’t guaranteed to return. With Datone Jones and Mike Daniels on the defensive line as potential pass rushers moving forward, the need for Hageman isn’t immediately obvious. However, the best way to compensate for a struggling secondary is with a flurry of different pass rushing options. If the franchise wants to move on from Nick Perry, then Dee Ford could be an option.
22. Dallas Cowboys – Dee Ford, Edge Defender.
The Cowboys took so many hits on their defensive line last season. Most of their problems came on the inside, but now it appears that both DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer could be moving on. Ford may fit better as a linebacker because of his size, but his talent and energy should make him too valuable to pass up in this situation.
The Eagles gave the Cowboys this pick, a third and a fourth round pick for a sixth round pick and their first round pick.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Jimmy Ward, Safety.
The Chiefs have one major flaw on the defensive side of the ball: Free safety. Kendrick Lewis is one of the worst safeties in the NFL, while the rest of the secondary and front seven is littered with talent. Ward isn’t an Earl Thomas type of player, but he is versatile enough that he and Eric Berry could make a lot of plays together in that situation. The Chiefs don’t need special from the safety spot, they just need good enough so Peyton Manning and other top quarterbacks don’t have an immediate matchup advantage on every snap.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Justin Gilbert, Cornerback.
The Bengals have a loaded roster and they could go in a variety of different directions. However, they have a lot of question marks at the cornerback position. They are very old and star slot defender Leon Hall is coming off his second torn Achilles injury. Gilbert is a big player, impressive all around athlete with standout ball skills. He needs to be coached up, so he’s landing in a good spot even without Mike Zimmer.
25. San Diego Chargers – Jason Verrett, Cornerback.
Verrett may not go in the first round because of his height, but he is an exceptional talent who plays much bigger than he measures. In a division where Peyton Manning is throwing passes to Wes Welker, having a cornerback who could star in the slot isn’t exactly a negative either. Verrett is versatile and he brings an aggression to the run game that the Chargers should value.
26. Cleveland Browns – Odell Beckham Jr, Wide Receiver.
With Manziel at quarterback, Joe Thomas at left tackle, Josh Gordon at receiver and Jordan Cameron at tight end, the Browns have the makings of a very dangerous offense. They need running back help, but that won’t come in the first round. Instead, they add a dynamic receiver who should be the perfect complement to Gordon and Cameron. Beckham is very, very similar to Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
27. New Orleans Saints – Bashaud Breeland, Cornerback.
The Saints made an incredible investment in free agency last offseason when they landed Keenan Lewis from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Breeland isn’t too dissimilar to Lewis as he plays aggressively on the field. He didn’t measure well at the combine, but on the field he showed off some traits that were reminiscent of Richard Sherman. That’s not to say he will be as good as Sherman, but the Saints don’t need him to be THAT good.
28. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr, Quarterback.
They didn’t reach early in the draft, but once the opportunity to add a starter to replace Matt Cassel as the best quarterback in town came along they had to take it. The Vikings give up a second and third this year, with a fourth in next year’s draft. They still need a lot on the defensive side of the ball, but Mike Zimmer has proven for a very long time that he can get more out of players than seemingly any coach in the NFL.
29. New England Patriots – Jace Amaro, Tight End.
It’s too perfect really. Jace Amaro arrives to fill the Aaron Hernandez role when Rob Gronkowski is healthy or be a starter if Gronkowski is sidelined. Tom Brady showed notable decline last season, he needs as many weapons as he can get.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback.
Some expect Dennard to go very high in this draft, but I personally think he will be fortunate to go in the first round. He is very grabby down the field, but should benefit from the 49ers’ scheme that will give him a lot of safety help. Picking for the 49ers is tough because they have such a deep roster. A guard such as David Yankey appears like a perfect fit, but with Mike Iupati eventually returning from his knee injury and Alex Boone already in place it seems unlikely.
31. Denver Broncos – Anthony Barr, Edge Defender.
Barr is a physical freak who will likely go before this point. However, his final year in college was very underwhelming and that development he needs isn’t guaranteed to happen. Barr would get playing time early on unless Von Miller comes back from his torn ACL quicker than expected. The Broncos need to improve the offensive line and will likely have to replace Eric Decker, but adding a potential successor for Shaun Philips is important also.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Zack Martin, Offensive Guard.
The Seahawks desperately need a consistent starter at the left guard spot. Russell Wilson was running for his life too often last year and Marshawn Lynch was making defenders miss in the backfield too often. Zack Martin was a college left tackle whose size suggests he will have to move inside. He has the quickness and balance to be an impressive left guard for Seattle alongside Russell Okung in pass protection and as part of the zone blocking scheme in the run game.
You can abuse Cian Fahey for his awful selections at @Cianaf on twitter.