April 20--The 2014 NFL Draft will take place May 8-10. Here is The Star's third projection of the first round. You can find the second version here.
1. Houston Texans: DE Jadeveon Clowney, 6-5, 266, South Carolina
Houston may want a quarterback here, and if they can engineer a trade down, I expect them to take Bortles. But in the meantime, Clowney is the safe bet to go No. 1.
2. St. Louis Rams: OT Jake Matthews, 6-5, 308, Texas A&M
Some regard Greg Robinson as the better prospect, but Matthews has proven his versatility and you shouldn't discount his bloodlines. He has a very high floor and should be, at the very worst, a solid NFL starter.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Khalil Mack, 6-2, 251, Buffalo
Mack can rush the passer and holds his own in coverage. With his plus intangibles, he's one of the safest picks in the draft -- something that can't be said for any of the quarterbacks.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Blake Bortles, 6-5, 232, UCF
Sammy Watkins and Greg Robinson will be tempting, but the Browns get their pick of quarterbacks. Bortles needs more seasoning, but he has the tools to be lead a franchise.
5. Oakland Raiders: WR Sammy Watkins, 6-1, 211, Clemson
Watkins is a proven playmaker and vertical threat who will help their Raiders in their efforts to win now. Greg Robinson is also an option, but Watkins is the draft's cleanest prospect.
6. Atlanta Falcons: OT Greg Robinson, 6-5, 332, Auburn
Robinson has some work to do in pass protection -- he wasn't asked to do it a ton in Auburn's run-heavy offense -- but he's a mauler in running game and has the athleticism to become a Pro Bowl tackle.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans, 6-5, 231, Texas A&M
His rare size and ball skills will be tough to pass on. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is also an option, because he's tailor-made for the new Bucs coach Lovie Smith'sTampa-2 scheme.
8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Teddy Bridgewater, 6-2, 214, Louisville
Norv Turner can mold a smart, accurate quarterback like Bridgewater. ESPN's Todd McShay says Turner also likes Manziel, but Manziel doesn't fit the physical profile of the type of quarterbacks Turner prefers.
9. Buffalo Bills: OT Taylor Lewan, 6-7, 309, Michigan
He'll solidify the edges and help keep E.J. Manuel upright, though North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron could also help their young quarterback.
10. Detroit Lions: OLB Anthony Barr, 6-4, 255, UCLA
Detroit loves to rush the passer and Barr has great upside. If Mike Evans falls here, he'd also be in play. They might also jump at Calvin Pryor, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Darqueze Dennard or Justin Gilbert.
11. Tennessee Titans: TE Eric Ebron, 6-4, 250, UNC
Ebron add some juice to Ken Whisenhunt's offense, thanks to his athleticism and playmaking ability. He and Delanie Walker could form a formidable duo in the middle of the field.
12. New York Giants: DT Aaron Donald, 6-1, 285, Pittsburgh
Donald fills a major need and is quick and disruptive. If the Bucs take him, the Giants would also be fine if Lewan or Ebron fell. Both would fill major needs.
13. St. Louis Rams: CB Darqueze Dennard, 5-11, 199, Mich. St.
A press-man corner who fits Gregg Williams' scheme. The Rams could also go for a more athletic cornerback like Justin Gilbert or a centerfield free safety like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
14. Chicago Bears: S Calvin Pryor, 5-11, 207, Louisville
A playmaker who packs a wallop and fills a need. Donald is also in play if he falls.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Justin Gilbert, 6-0, 202, Okla. St.
Brings athleticism, ball skills and some sorely-needed youth to the position in Pittsburgh. Dennard would work, too.
16. Dallas Cowboys: QB Johnny Manziel, 6-0, 207, Texas A&M
Tony Romo is 34, and Jerry Jones can sell tickets here. Jones simply can't help himself sometimes, and keeping the homestate hero in Texas would be a major coup, especially if this boom-or-bust prospect harnesses his unique gifts at the next level.
17. Baltimore Ravens: S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, 6-1, 218, Alabama
A natural centerfield-type would complement Matt Elam quite well. A middle linebacker like C.J. Mosley or a smart, versatile lineman like Zack Martin would also work.
18. New York Jets: WR Odell Beckham Jr, 5-11, 198, LSU
Jets can use his all-around skills on special teams, too. He's probably a little more versatile than Oregon State'sBrandin Cooks, though Cooks could easily go here, as well.
19. Miami Dolphins: OT Zack Martin, 6-4, 308, Notre Dame
A clean prospect with tons of versatility who also fills a major need for the Dolphins. Mosley would also be in play after the Dolphins received middling play at middle linebacker last season.
20. Arizona Cardinals: OLB Ryan Shazier, 6-1, 237, Ohio St.
Is fast, rangy and can infuse some youth at the position. If one of the top three quarterbacks fall here, the Cardinals might have a hard time passing them up --Carson Palmer turns 35 this season.
21. Green Bay Packers: ILB C.J. Mosley, 6-2, 234, Alabama
Is the best player on the board, plus he's versatile and smart. The Packers will gladly stick him next to A.J. Hawk and watch him grow. A safety like Clinton-Dix or Pryor is also in play if they fall
22. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Marqise Lee, 6-0, 192, USC
Chip Kelly knows better than to pass on this playmaker, but Cooks is also in play. Truthfully, the Eagles can go in a number of directions, including pass rusher and cornerback.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Brandin Cooks, 5-9, 189, Oregon St.
Cooks does his best work out of the slot and can stretch the field, two things that will make him a valuable asset to Chiefs coach Andy Reid. And as draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah noted Thursday, Cooks brings energy and can stretch the field, two things Reid loves. He's also smart, which means he has a chance to pick up Reid's complicated offense somewhat quickly.
Now, to be fair, I'm not sure Chiefs general manager John Dorsey would take a player of Cooks' size in the first round -- I've gotten the sense Dorsey prefers bigger players everywhere. But Cooks is comfortable working the middle, despite his size, and boasts legit athleticism. He could be an impact player in the right system.
A tight end, pass rusher, offensive lineman and cornerback are all in play here, and so is a safety if Pryor or Clinton-Dix somehow fall this far. This isn't a bad position to be in, at all -- no matter how the board plays out, chances are the Chiefs can take an impact player here at a position of need.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Bradley Roby, 5-11, 194, Ohio St.
Was inconsistent in 2013 but has the athleticism to be a star. The Bengals could also chase a pass rusher like Mizzou's Kony Ealy or Auburn'sDee Ford.
25. San Diego Chargers: DT Louis Nix III, 6-2, 331, Notre Dame
Gregarious big man can anchor the Chargers' 3-4 defense. This is a nice fit, but it wouldn't be a surprise if the Chargers took a cornerback or pass rusher.
26. Cleveland Browns: WR Kelvin Benjamin, 6-5, 240, Florida State
After the Browns take Bortles No. 4 overall, here's his big, rangy possession receiver to pair with explosive No. 1 wideout Josh Gordon. With newly-signed Ben Tate toting the rock and tight end Jordan Cameron terrorizing teams over the middle, Bortles will have everything he needs to acclimate to the league.
27. New Orleans Saints: DE Dee Ford, 6-2, 252, Auburn
Rex Ryan knows how to use a pure pass rusher like Ford, and he'll put him in position to make an impact immediately.
28. Carolina Panthers: OT Joel Bitonio, 6-4, 302, Nevada
A fast-riser who can help protect quarterback Cam Newton. Newton would also benefit from a receiver, but all of the top ones are off the board.
29. New England Patriots: DT Ra'Shede Hageman, 6-5, 318, Minnesota
Bill Belichick can get the most out of this gifted-but-raw tackle. The Patriots starting interior linemen are well over 30.
30. San Francisco 49ers: CB Jason Verrett, 5-9, 189, Texas Christian
He may be small at 5-feet-9, but he's fast, tough and instinctive. A receiver wouldn't be a bad bet, either.
31. Denver Broncos: OLB Kyle Van Noy, 6-3, 243, BYU
The Broncos need pass-rush insurance for DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the edge. They'll have their choice of Van Noy, Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu and Boise State'sDemarcus Lawrence.
32. Seattle Seahawks: OT Morgan Moses, 6-6, 314, Virginia
Moses can step right in and help solidify the right tackle position. The Seahawks might also look for a defensive lineman after losing a couple of key players there during free agency.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to [email protected]. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor
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