Clowney going No. 1 not a done deal
The one thing we know about the 2014 NFL draft, which begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, is the same thing we know about any draft: It will not — can not — turn out the way anyone predicts. You'd have just as much luck as nailing a March Madness bracket for that cool billion.
One trade, one unexpected pick, and the ripples can be felt for the next 15 or so selections in the first round. And trades there will be at Radio City Music Hall, as teams will assuredly jockey. On top of that, there will be news coming out over the next 24 hours that may make the below obsolete.
This we know: The Bills are looking for help on both sides of the ball; bet offense. The Giants need to shore up their offensive line, although a pass-catching tight end or defensive tackle are equally compelling. The Jets need playmakers on offense or a press corner, while the New England Patriots will address their defensive interior or suddenly thin tight end ranks.
With all that in mind, here is a no-trades Draft Eve mock draft:
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina. This pick should be Clowney, but it's not a done deal The questions: Will Houston keep him? Trade down to a team wanting Clowney? Select Clowney for another team, and then make a post-selection swap?
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. Watkins is a special talent. Offensive tackle Greg Robinson is also a possibility, or a trade down if the Texans pass on Clowney or a team gets desperate for Watkins or one of the QBs.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo. A fierce overall linebacker, Mack could even go No. 1.
4. Cleveland Browns: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. Watkins would be the pick if available. Johnny Manziel is also a strong possibility.
5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn. If Watkins, Mack and Evans are off the board, bet all you’ve got the Raiders try to trade down, and will probably succeed.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M. If the Falcons can't find a way to trade up for Clowney and Mack is gone, offensive tackle is the pick. Keep an eye out for the Falcons drafting a player the Texans want, then working out a predetermined trade a la Eli Manning and Philip Rivers in 2004.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. The wild-card player is the wild card of the draft. He goes anywhere from No. 1 to No. 26. He's that polarizing.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. The Vikings could have one of four QBs to choose from. They get their top guy — unless they throw the dice like other teams that will look for a signal caller in the second round or trade back into the first late.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan. Buffalo will definitely take a tackle. Or tight end. Or wide receiver. Or inside linebacker. Or . . . In this mock, Lewan is the clear choice.
10. Detroit Lions: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU. Late riser completes an impressive receiving corps. Don't rule out secondary help.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama. Mosley's position in the draft — including whether he is even selected in the first round — will depend on medical evaluations.
12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. Don't be surprised if the Giants try to trade up (Oakland?) to land one of the big three tackles. Zack Martin also makes sense here. If not, Donald would be a steal at this point.
13. St. Louis Rams: Hasean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama. The Rams are primed to wheel and deal, but are in desperate need of safety help.
14. Chicago Bears: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri. A disruptive pass rusher, there are rumblings teams will want Ealy to beef up and slide inside as a defensive tackle, which would fit the Bears.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. Easy selection marrying need and value.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA. Here is a tease that makes more and more sense: If Manziel is on the board, bet on the Cowboys taking him.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame. And there goes the last of the Big Four offensive linemen.
18. New York Jets: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State. More than anything else, the Jets need explosive playmakers. Though undersized, Cooks is just that. Cornerback also a strong consideration.
19. Miami Dolphins: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State. His value as a ballhawk and return man is too much to pass up, and grabbing a much-needed offensive lineman here would be a reach. The Dolphins are candidates to move up or down.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State. This spot makes sense for Carr. So does the team. But this is also the dividing line where teams at the top of the second round needing quarterbacks could trade back into the first.
21. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. Unbelievable tools and fills a glaring need, but the lack of better production in college gives pause.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC. Eagles could be trading up to replace the departed DeSean Jackson.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville. With a deep receiver class, the Chiefs can get a pass catcher in later rounds.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State. A sideline-to-sideline linebacker. Cornerback also in play.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. If any of the top four cornerbacks are available, one of them should be the pick.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. The slide ends here for the quarterback widely assumed to a be No. 1 overall pick earlier in the draft process.
27. New Orleans Saints: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. Great size and production. A pass rusher such as Auburn's Dee Ford also a strong possibility.
28. Carolina Panthers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama. If he checks out medically (knee), then this is an easy selection.
29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix, DT/NT, Notre Dame. The Vince Wilfork Era is winding down.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. With an abundance of picks, expect the Niners to trade up for one of the upper tier WRs or CBs.
31. Denver Broncos: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA. Yes, the Broncos need defensive help — we all saw the Super Bowl — but the interior offensive line cupboard is bare.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Stephon Tuitt, DT/DE, Notre Dame. Depending on how the draft falls, wide receiver or tight end will be strong options.
Other first selections:
34. Washington Redskins: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech. The pass-catching Amaro would give RG III another potent weapon.
59. Indianapolis Colts: Marcus Martin, C, USC. Safety is also an option for the Colts with this late first pick.