NFL mock draft: Johnny’s on the (top) spot

Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's impressive pro day performance helped propel him to the top Sam Farmer's latest mock draft.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

What a difference a (pro) day makes.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had a great one, consistently hitting his receivers in stride. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater did not, struggling with his timing and accuracy in a choreographed on-campus workout that NFL scouts traditionally expect to be polished and seamless.

Manziel is the top pick in this mock draft, and Bridgewater tumbles out of the first round. That’s based not only on the players’ pro day performances, but also on the seismic shift of free agency, in which teams such as Oakland and Tampa Bay addressed (at least for the time being) their pressing need for help at quarterback.

Opinions will continue to shift and evolve right up to the start of the three-day NFL draft, which begins May 8.


•1. HOUSTON — Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Manziel’s polished pro day turned a lot of heads. Bill O’Brien has worked with smaller quarterbacks and has indicated he has no concerns about that.

•2. ST. LOUIS — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: This is not a pressing need for the Rams. But they use three and sometimes four defensive ends, and Clowney could be a once-in-a-generation talent.

•3. JACKSONVILLE — Blake Bortles, QB, UCF: Quarterback Chad Henne would love to see the Jaguars take Sammy Watkins here, and they just might, although Bortles could round into a long-term answer at the position.

•4. CLEVELAND — Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Browns are sorely lacking offensive weapons, and Watkins would pair nicely with Josh Gordon.

•5. OAKLAND — Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: Having signed free agent Matt Schaub, the Raiders satisfied their immediate need for a quarterback. With 31-year-old Kevin Burnett on the back end of his career, Oakland needs another impact linebacker.

•6. ATLANTA — Greg Robinson, T, Auburn: Matt Ryan was under crushing pressure last season, and the Falcons need to upgrade in the trenches.

•7. TAMPA BAY — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: If the Buccaneers don’t take a defensive end or offensive tackle, they could go quarterback, even though they signed free agent Josh McCown. Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has known Carr since Derek was 5.

•8. MINNESOTA — Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: With Jared Allen gone, the Vikings are in desperate need of a defensive playmaker. Barr fills the bill.

•9. BUFFALO — Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M: Even though they had the No. 2 running game last season, the Bills lacked punch in short-yardage situations. A top-shelf tackle is on their wish list, as is a big receiver.

•10. DETROIT — Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: The Lions were 23rd in pass defense last season and need to address a secondary that lost safety Louis Delmas to Miami.

•11. TENNESSEE — Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: Dennard could help lessen the sting of losing cornerback Alterraun Verner. If Barr is still on the board, though, the Titans would be hard-pressed to let him slide by.

•12. N.Y. GIANTS — Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Both the Giants and Jets are interested in Ebron, the top tight end in this class and a versatile player who has drawn favorable comparisons to San Francisco’s Vernon Davis.

•13. ST. LOUIS — Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan: Jake Long suffered two torn ligaments in his right knee at the end of last season and might not be ready for the start of the 2014 season, so that further amplifies the Rams’ need for a tackle.

•14. CHICAGO — Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: Chicago had the league’s worst run defense last season, and with DT Henry Melton now in Dallas, the pressure is on to rebuild at that spot.

•15. PITTSBURGH — Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: Emmanuel Sanders (Denver) and Jerricho Cotchery (Carolina) left in free agency, meaning the Steelers are without last season’s Nos. 2 and 3 receivers. The signings of Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey aren’t likely to pick up all that slack.

•16. DALLAS — Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame: The Cowboys could play Martin at either guard spot during his rookie season, then move him to right tackle to replace Doug Free, who is in the last year of his deal.

•17. BALTIMORE — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama: The Ravens have moved Matt Elam, their top pick last season, from free safety to strong safety. That leaves a vacancy in the secondary and no clear answer about who can fill it.

•18. N.Y. JETS — Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Lee has the potential to develop into a No. 1 receiver, and the Jets need that. The addition of Eric Decker helps, although he’s more of a No. 2.

•19. MIAMI — C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: If the supply of offensive tackles has run dry — and it has in this mock — the Dolphins could reach for the best available player. They have invested a lot in linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Weaver, yet haven’t gotten big dividends.

•20. ARIZONA — Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville: The Cardinals haven’t re-signed Yeremiah Bell, one of last season’s starting safeties, and Tyrann Mathieu might not be ready for the start of the season because of a knee injury.

•21. GREEN BAY — RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: The Packers are re-making their defensive line and they’re looking for taller, more powerful guys who can move. The raw, 6-foot-6 Hageman would be a base end in the 3-4 and he could learn from Julius Peppers.

•22. PHILADELPHIA — Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: The Eagles said goodbye to DeSean Jackson and could be saying hello to the speedy Cooks, who set Pac-12 records last season with 128 receptions for 1,730 yards.

•23. KANSAS CITY — Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: For all their success, the Chiefs had an underwhelming passing attack last season. Dwayne Bowe will be 30 in September, and he’s not going to be around forever.

•24. CINCINNATI — Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: The Bengals, who lost DE Michael Johnson, need to ramp up their pass pressure, and Ealy can deliver. Cincinnati would take a hard look at an offensive tackle, but the top ones likely will be gone at this point.

•25. SAN DIEGO — Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA: A year after the Chargers used their top pick on tackle D.J. Fluker, they should be in good position to grab the best interior offensive lineman in the class.

•26. CLEVELAND — Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois: Garoppolo, who broke all of Tony Romo’s passing marks at Eastern Illinois, had a private workout with the Browns. If Cleveland is looking for a QB, Bridgewater could be an option.

•27. NEW ORLEANS — Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: The Saints haven’t re-signed longtime starting corner Jabari Greer, and Fuller could develop into a starter down the road.

•28. CAROLINA — Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State: With Steve Smith (Baltimore) and Brandon LaFell (New England) gone, the Panthers need to start rebuilding their receiving corps. The speedy and productive Benjamin averaged a touchdown every 3.6 catches for the Seminoles last season.

•29. NEW ENGLAND — Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame: Nix could learn behind Vince Wilfork, who signed a contract extension with the Patriots this week, and eventually take over as the man in the middle of that defense.

•30. SAN FRANCISCO — Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: The feisty and ultra-quick Verrett could find his way onto the field as a slot corner, replacing Carlos Rogers (Oakland), who was San Francisco’s slot corner the past three seasons.

•31. DENVER — Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State: The Broncos’ top three needs are, in order, middle linebacker, interior offensive line, and cornerback. This might be a bit early for Richburg, but he’ll get a look.

•32. SEATTLE — Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: Clinton McDonald (Tampa Bay) was a big loss for the Seahawks, who also will be on the lookout for receivers and offensive linemen. Jernigan could be a bargain here.

Sam Farmer writes for Tribune Newspapers