There are no guarantees in the NFL Draft every year. But this year, some of the best players seem to carry the biggest question marks.
It would be easy to claim that Jadaveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel are the most talented defensive and offensive players in the draft, respectively. While both have the talent to be stars in the NFL, both have questions about whether all of that talent will ever turn into production. Clowney is unbelievably talented, but his ambition has not yet matched his talent. Manziel is a mercurial quarterback woth immense talent, but also could end up as a Ryan Leaf-sized bust.
Here is one fan’s mock draft to go along with Thursday’s NFL Draft.
No. 1: Jadaveon Clowney, Houston Texans. If the Texans keep this pick, it’ll either be Clowney or Khalil Mack. Clowney, from South Carolina, has freakish skills, but his motor doesn’t run all out, all the time. Mack is a safer bet, but few teams play it safe with the first overall pick.
No. 2: Greg Robinson, St. Louis Rams. Most teams in the top 10 of the draft would like to trade down and the Rams are a strong trade candidate. If the Rams stay put, Robinson is the best offensive lineman in the draft. The Rams’ offensive line has seemingly always been patched together. This would give them a supreme blocker.
No. 3: Khalil Mack, Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville badly needs a flashy impact player to renew fan optimism. There isn’t a quarterback they view as worth this pick, so they’ll go with Mack, a fierce outside pass rusher. He’ll be a massive upgrade to their pedestrian defensive talent.
No. 4: Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns. This is where the intrigue in the draft starts. Cleveland could go in a number of directions. They could take one of the two skilled wide receivers or they could go for offensive line help. With the two best defensive players gone, Cleveland will take the big gamble and bet their future on Johnny Football.
No. 5: Sammy Watkins, Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are always unpredictable. Watkins gets the nod because the Raiders badly need offensive help. One of the two remaining elite offensive tackles could also land here. So could Mike Evans, the other top wide receiver.
No. 6: Jake Matthews, Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons’ prayers are answered as they get one of the two top offensive tackles without needing to trade up. Matthews will provide a quick cure for an offensive line that’s gone unaddressed in several drafts.
No. 7: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Evans will join with Vincent Jackson to give the Bucs a pair of bookend wide receivers out of the same mold. Evans is a tall receiver who can stretch the field. The Bucs now have a pair of wideouts similar to the Chicago Bears’ tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.
No. 8: Blake Bortles, Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings need a quarterback they can groom for the future. Bortles is an ideal candidate. He’s a pocket quarterback with some evasive ability. If the Vikings are patient and give him time to learn, they might have their quarterback of the future, this time.
No. 9: Taylor Lewan, Buffalo Bills. The Bills have several glaring needs. But the one most screaming to be addressed is the offensive line. There are three elite tackles in the draft and the Bills can’t let one slip by when they have this chance to make such a major upgrade.
No. 10: Justin Gilbert, Detroit Lions. Don’t be surprised if the Lions trade up, possibly to the fifth spot, to snare one of the two top receivers in the draft. If the Lions can’t get one of those receivers, they’ll likely address their need at cornerback by taking Gilbert, the best corner in this year’s draft.
No. 11: Anthony Barr, Tennessee Titans. The Titans need to inject talent into a mild defense. Barr is the best available pass rusher. He’s a major upgrade to the athleticism of the Titan defense.
No. 12: Aaron Donald, New York Giants. The Giants continue rebuilding their defensive front by taking Donald. He’s a quick interior lineman and the Giants love collecting pass rushers.
No. 13: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, St. Louis Rams. The Rams could go in any number of directions with this pick. Cornerback and receiver are among the team’s most glaring needs, but they are one of several teams that are looking to improve their safety play.
No. 14: Calvin Pryor, Chicago Bears. There’s little doubt the Bears will use this pick on a defensive player, but which position do they address? Their secondary quality has dropped off sharply in recent years. Taking Pryor renews their commitment to pass defense.
No. 15: Darqueze Dennard, Pittsburgh Steelers. Dennard is a perfect fit for Pittsburgh’s style of defense. He’s a physical cornerback who plays the run well and isn’t afraid to hit. If one of the three top tackles is still available, the Steelers would pounce and they’re also a candidate to trade up for a tackle.
No. 16: Timmy Jernigan, Dallas Cowboys. The Cowpokes would love to trade up to get Aaron Donald. Instead, they’ll settle for the next option at defensive tackle. Jernigan is another smallish defensive tackle with quickness. If the Cowboys want to get a beefier tackle, they might go with 331-pound Louis Nix.
No. 17: Jimmie Ward, Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens drafted a safety last year and they could take another this year. The Ravens could go in a number of directions on defense, or they could make an offensive splash at tight end or wide receiver.
No. 18: Eric Ebron, New York Jets. The Jets have several needs, including tight end, wide receiver and cornerback. With a serious desire to upgrade their passing game, the Jets grab Ebron. He’s a great receiver, but a negligible blocker.
No. 19: Zach Martin, Miami Dolphins. The Fins replace Richie Incognito with a Notre Damer. Talk about an upgrade.
No. 20: C.J. Mosley, Arizona Cardinals. Many people think the Cards will grab a quarterback. But they came too close to the playoffs last season to not draft an impact player. The Cards lost linebackers to free agency and Mosley would be a good run stuffer for their defense.
No. 21: Ryan Shazier, Green Bay Packers: Mosley and all the safeties the Packers hoped would last are gone, so Shazier is the best option to upgrade the defense. The Packers’ defense is in bad need of more athletes.
No. 22: Odell Beckham Jr., Philadelphia Eagles. Beckham fits well into the Eagles’ offensive scheme and replaces the big play ability of DeSean Jackson.
No. 23: Brandin Cooks, Kansas City Chiefs. If Cooks doesn’t go to the Eagles, he’ll go here. The Chiefs are in desperate need of receivers and they are looking for someone who can contribute immediately.
No. 24: Jason Verrett, Cincinnati Bengals. Verrett is a scrappy cornerback. The Bengals like their corners to play tough and Verrett fits the bill.
No. 25: Louis Nix, San Diego Chargers. Nix is an anchor-type defensive tackle who can stuff a running game as well as any defensive lineman in the draft.
No. 26: Bradley Roby, Cleveland Browns. If the Browns don’t take a quarterback with the fourth pick, they’ll take one here. If they already have their quarterback, they’ll go for a cornerback to play opposite Joe Haden.
No. 27: Dee Ford, New Orleans Saints. There will be temptations to add to the offensive arsenal, but the need for help along the defensive line will lead the Saints to draft Ford.
No. 28: Marqise Lee, Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have added some second-rate receivers to replace Steve Smith, but they need to get someone with more upside, so they add Lee.
No. 29: Joel Bitiono, New England Patriots. The Patriots are looking to beef up their line play. Bitiono is a nasty offensive tackle who fits the Patriots’ aggressive style.
No. 30: Kyle Fuller, San Francisco 49ers. The Niners could easily go for a receiver, but they love to stockpile defensive backs.
No. 31: Xavier Su’a-Filo, Denver Broncos. With the free agent loss of guard Zane Beedles, the Broncos need to fortify their front wall to protect Peyton Manning. Su’a-Filo is a mountain of a guard, with a streak of meanness.
No. 32: Cody Latimer, Seattle Seahawks. Although they’re Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks have areas where they area vulnerable. The offensive line could use upgrades and so can the receivers corps. The Hawks need to address the free agent loss of Golden Tate and they do so by drafting Latimer.