Times NFL columnist Sam Farmer covers NFL draft 2014 live from New York's Radio City Music Hall.
1. Houston: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, 6-5, 266. Pair him with All-Pro defensive tackle J.J. Watt, and the Texans have a dynamic duo that’s almost unblockable. Watch out, Andrew Luck. Although his productivity tailed off in 2013, a year earlier he was the definition of a defensive beast. He finished sixth in Heisman voting in 2012 and was Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC after collecting 54 tackles (23 1/2 for loss) and 13 sacks. He had three forced fumbles that season and knocked down a pair of passes.
2. St. Louis: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn, 6-5, 332. Jeff Fisher had never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round. The Rams were desperate, with Jake Long coming off a knee injury, and Rodger Saffold switching to guard. An All-American and All-SEC pick in 2013, Robinson had 172 knockdown blocks last season and helped pave the way for a pair of Tigers running backs to rush for 1,000 yards. That’s just the third time in school history two backs have gained 1,000 yards in the same season.
3. Jacksonville: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida, 6-5, 232. First curveball: Jaguars pass on Johnny Manziel and grab a 6-foot-5 quarterback who has been compared to Ben Roethlisberger. Bortles, the second quarterback in Central Florida history with multiple 3,000-yard seasons, is compared to Roethlisberger because of his ability to shake off would-be tacklers and extend plays.
4. Cleveland (via trade with Buffalo): Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson, 6-1, 211. The Browns traded their No. 9 pick and their 2015 first and fourth round selections to get a explosive playmaking receiver for second-year QB EJ Manuel, last year’s first-round pick. Watkins was phenomenal as a freshman, dropped off a bit as a sophomore, then came on strong again last season with 101 catches for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. He reeled in 16 catches in the Orange Bowl, helping lift Clemson over Ohio State.
5. Oakland: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo, 6-3, 251. The Raiders recently signed Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, but they needed to ramp up their pass rush in a division where the Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs made the playoffs. A three-time All-MAC standout, Mack led his team in tackling each of his last two years and in 2013 dominated with 13 pass breakups, three interceptions (two of which he returned for touchdowns) and five forced fumbles.
6. Atlanta: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M, 6-3, 308. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked 44 times last season. The Falcons have to protect their franchise, and their tackles are either injured or ineffective. Matthews is the son of Hall of Fame tackle Bruce Matthews, and the cousin of Green Bay Packers star linebacker Clay Matthews. Although he doesn’t have the quick feet of former Aggies tackle Luke Joeckel, a top pick last season, Matthews is stronger and more aggressive.
7. Tampa Bay: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M, 6-5, 231. Buccaneers now have 6-foot-5 bookends in Evans and Vincent Jackson. And Josh McCown stays at quarterback for the moment. One of the reasons Johnny Manziel looked so good is he was throwing to Evans, who caught everything in his ZIP code. Evans started all 26 games he played in at Texas A&M, finishing with 151 receptions for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns.
8. Cleveland (via trade with Minnesota): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State, 6-0, 202. The Browns swap picks with the Vikings to grab the best shutdown corner on the board. Is Kevin Costner running Cleveland’s draft? Gilbert led the Big 12 with seven interceptions in 2013, returning two for touchdowns. In his college career, he returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns, one shy of the NCAA record held by Clemson’s C.J. Spiller (2006-09) and Houston’s Tyron Carrier (2008-11).
9. Minnesota (via trade with Cleveland): Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA, 6-5, 255. New Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer passes on a quarterback and instead gets someone who leaves quarterbacks quaking in their cleats. A converted F-back (running back/tight end hybrid), Barr quickly developed into a dominant force on defense for the Bruins. In 2013, he had 65 tackles (20 for loss) and 10 sacks. He also forced five fumbles.
10. Detroit: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina, 6-4, 250. Ebron got engaged earlier Thursday on the top of the Empire State Building, then he got a job that will pay for that diamond ring. Regarded as raw but teeming with potential, Ebron set single-season school records for tight ends in 2013 with 62 catches for 973 yards. He has been compared to San Francisco’s Vernon Davis.
11. Tennessee: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan, 6-7, 309. Can never have too many good tackles, but this move was somewhat surprising because that’s not an area of acute need for Titans. Lewan, who played tackle for the first time as a senior in high school, has great size and potential, although many regard him as a character risk. He’s due in court May 19 and is expected to be charged with one count of aggravated assault and two counts of assault and battery stemming from an alleged early-morning fight in December.
12. New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU, 5-11, 198. Eli Manning needed some good news after last season. Beckham, an all-purpose-yardage machine, is a burner who can also return kickoffs. A first-team All-SEC pick, Beckham won the 2013 Paul Hornung Award as college football’s most versatile player. He set the Tigers’ single-season record for all-purpose yardage with 2,222.
13. St. Louis: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh, 6-1, 285. Bad news for opposing quarterbacks in the NFC West. Donald, Robert Quinn and Chris Long form a Bermuda Triangle of pass rushers. Although regarded as undersized, Donald was a dominating force at the position in college. He led the nation with a per-game average of 1.6 sacks and 2.4 tackles for loss.
14. Chicago: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech, 6-0, 190. Fuller will be a sponge, learning everything he can from Charles Tillman. Hard-hitting Fuller is the younger brother of Lions WR Corey Fuller. Fuller’s family is loaded with NFL experience. One older brother, Corey, is a receiver for Detroit, and another, Vincent, was a defensive back for Tennessee for six seasons. Younger brother, Kendall, is a rising-star cornerback at Virginia Tech. Kyle played cornerback in college, but also played linebacker and safety.
15. Pittsburgh: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State, 6-1, 237. Linebacker wasn’t Pittsburgh’s biggest area of need, but Shazier can shine in Dick LeBeau’s defense. Lots of teams love Shazier. A team captain for the Buckeyes, Shazier was a Butkus Award finalist in 2013 when he led the Big Ten in tackles and tackles for loss. In 13 games at weakside linebacker, he broke up four passes and forced four fumbles.
16. Dallas: Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame, 6-4, 308. Cowboys also pass on quarterback Johnny Manziel or some help for their last-ranked defense, and take the most versatile offensive lineman in the class. A rare two-time team captain for the Irish, Martin was the longest-tenured starter in the history of Notre Dame football with 52 starts. Except for two appearances at right tackle, he anchored the left tackle spot throughout his career at the school.
17. Baltimore: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama, 6-2, 234. The Ravens are looking for their next Ray Lewis, and they decide that safety can wait. The smallish Mosley had a string of injuries in college. A finalist for both the Lombardi and Nagurski awards last season, Mosley was Alabama’s leading tackler for each of the last two years. He had 108 tackles last season, with five pass breakups and a forced fumble.
18. New York Jets: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville, 5-11, 207. The Jets passed on a receiver and cornerback – two areas of more pressing need – to get a physical safety who can help set a menacing tone. In 2013, Pryor had 69 tackles (5 1/2 for loss), three interceptions and two forced fumbles. A violent hitter, Pryor once knocked out opponents in three consecutive games.
19. Miami: Ja’Wuan James, T, Tennessee, 6-6, 311. Dolphins needed a tackle, and this one started 49 games at right tackle, most of any offensive lineman in school history. James, an honorable mention All-SEC pick last season, was among his team's four captains. His "blocking-consistency" grade of 87.3% was third best in the conference.
20. New Orleans: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State, 5-10, 189. With Lance Moore and Darren Sproles gone, the Saints need offensive playmakers, and this guy knows how to stretch the field. Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best wideout last season rolling up 1,730 yards on 128 catches, 16 for touchdowns.
21. Green Bay: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama, 6-1, 208. The Packers, who took Eddie Lacy last year, went back to the Alabama well. Green Bay addresses its No. 1 need with a center fielder. Clinton-Dix is widely regarded as the best safety in the draft. He played in 11 games last season with nine starts at free safety. He received a suspension for accepting a short-term loan of less than $500 from an assistant coach, and suffered a knee injury against Auburn last November but was able to play in the Sugar Bowl.
22. Cleveland (via trade with Philadelphia): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M, 6-0, 207. The scenario works out beautifully for the Browns. Manziel, whom they considered at No. 4, tumbled all the way to them. The elusive and improvisational Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, led the Aggies to a 20-6 record in replacing NFL-bound quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins.
23. Kansas City: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn, 6-2, 252. A bit of a surprising pick for the Chiefs, who had more pressing needs at receiver and on the offensive line, but Ford will help them get after QBs. Ford, who couldn’t work out at the combine because of a back issue, started the final 11 games last season, contributing 29 tackles (14 1/2 for loss) and 10 1/2 sacks.
24. Cincinnati: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State, 5-11, 199. Outstanding bump-and-run corner who slid farther down the board than most expected. Bengals corners are injured or aging. Won the Thorpe Award as college football’s best defensive back. A three-year starter, Dennard surrendered just three catches of 15 yards or longer during the entire 2013 season. He broke up 14 passes and had four interceptions.
25. San Diego: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU, 5-10, 189. The Chargers were ranked 29th against the pass last season, and Verrett, although small, is so fundamentally sound scouts have to search for flaws. Despite struggling with injuries as a senior, Verrett shared Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a true shutdown corner. He played most of last seaosn with a torn labrum in his shoulder, which was surgically repaired in March.
26. Philadelphia (via trade with Cleveland): Marcus Smith, LB, Louisville, 6-3, 251. The versatile Smith has played at all the linebacker spots. The Eagles needed a corner, wide receiver and pass rusher – and they got the latter.
27. Arizona: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State, 6-1, 211. With Tyrann Mathieu recovering from a knee injury, and Yeremiah Bell unsigned, safety was the No. 1 need for the Cardinals. A big-hitter who is ideal as a special-teams player, he finished his college career with 15 interceptions and 384 tackles.
28. Carolina: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State, 6-5, 240. With Steve Smith gone, the Panthers are desperate for receivers. Benjamin is raw, but he’s big and strong and can out jump corners. The primary target for Heisman winner Jameis Winston last season, his 83-inch wingspan helped him finish the season with 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns.
29. New England: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida, 6-2, 288. Once again, Bill Belichick does something unconventional. The talented Easley had two torn knee ligaments in a span of 22 months. He's a relentless interior defender who is undersized but has great technique.
30. San Francisco: Jimmie Ward, DB, Northern Illinois, 5-11, 193. Ward, his school’s leading tackler, can play safety or cornerback. He could replace Carlos Rogers as San Francisco’s slot corner. Although undersized for a safety, his 38-inch vertical leap, aggressive style and ability to read and react make up for any weaknesses.
31. Denver: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State, 5-11, 194. Broncos picked up cornerback Aqib Talib in free agency, but they needed another corner, especially with Chris Harris coming off a knee injury. Roby was suspended for the 2013 season opener but wound up starting 11 of 12 games. He scored a touchdown on a blocked punt against Northwestern and returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown against Illinois. Didn’t play in the Orange Bowl because of a bone bruise in his knee.
32.Minnesota (via trade with Seattle): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville, 6-2, 212. Bridgewater fits Norv Turner’s system in Minnesota. He’s the QB most ready to make a contribution right away. Many scouts agree he's prepared to step in and play right away after he was highly accurate and effective in Louisville’s pro-style offense. In 2013, he threw for 3,970 yards and 31 touchdowns while completing 70.96% of his passes.