(NFL) Here’s how the first round of the NFL Draft turned out Thursday night in New York:
1. Houston Texans
DE Javeon Clowney, South Carolina
So much for grabbing a quarterback. So much for trading the pick. The Texans opted for the obvious and grabbed the best player in the draft. Critics say Clowney mailed in his junior season when he knew he was going pro, but he remains a freak of nature who, as a pass-rushing linebacker, insists he can do all of the things Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor did. Best suited as an edge rusher in the 4-3 defense.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins)
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
With Clowney off the board, the Rams decided the best way to help quarterback Sam Bradford is with a running game, so (with the pick they acquired for the opportunity to grab Robert Griffin III) they selected the best run blocker in the draft. The third-year sophomore started 25 games the past two seasons. He can be a franchise tackle if he improves in pass protection.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The first shocker of the night. Head coach Gus Bradley is a defensive coach, but even he knows that franchises are build around quarterbacks. Many believe Bortles is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the weak group, and he’ll start training camp behind veteran Chad Henne. His big body and ability to extend plays bring comparisons with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
4. Buffalo Bills (from Cleveland Browns):
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
And the draft many couldn’t predict provides another stunner: The Bills jumped up to snare a weapon for quarterback E.J. Manuel. The most explosive receiver in the draft and the most explosive since A.J. Green entered the league, Watkins is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He had 101 catches for 1,440 yards and 12 TDs last season.
5. Oakland Raiders
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Raiders need playmakers everywhere, and they curiously passed on a wide receiver and grabbed an edge pass-rusher and big hitter. Mack followed a dominant senior season (10½ sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, 19 tackles for loss) with a terrific combine. The Raiders sent a message to Broncos’ Peyton Manning and Chargers’ Philip Rivers: Be alert.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
If they weren’t trading up for Clowney, the Falcons had to grab an offensive lineman to keep quarterback Matt Ryan upright so he can get the ball to WR Roddy White, while stretching defenses to make room for running back Stephen Jackson. The son of Hall of Fame center Bruce Matthews (and the seventh man in the family to play pro ball) is an NFL-ready left tackle. Might need some work on run blocking.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With quarterback Johnny Manziel available, the Bucs grabbed the biggest and most physical receiver in the draft to team with WR Vincent Jackson for quarterback Josh McCown. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Evans had 69 catches for 1,394 yards and 12 TDs in 2013, then topped that with a 4.53 in the 40-yard-dash at the combine. He’ll be a tough matchup for smaller cornerbacks.
8. Cleveland Browns (from Minnesota Vikings)
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Say what? Just when everyone thought the Browns had traded up to grab Johnny Football, they selected a corner(not quarter)back. But they didn’t just pass on a possible franchise passer (which they need desperately), they decided against a wide receiver for QB Band-Aid Brian Hoyer. Gilbert is the most polished defensive back in draft, with seven interceptions in 2013. He also can return kicks.
9. Minnesota Vikings
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Johnny? Johnny? Are you there, Johnny Free Fall? Another team that needs a quarterback passed on Manziel. Instead they grabbed an edge pass-rusher. Barr, compared to Broncos’ Von Miller, had a dominant senior season with 10 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, and five forced fumbles.
10. Detroit Lions
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
He’s a tight end like Saints’ Jimmy Graham is a tight end — and Graham has filed a grievance to be paid like a wide receiver. Like Graham, Ebron presents size and speed mismatches. He is the first tight end taken in the top 10 since Vernon Davis in 2006. Ebron, projected by many to fall to the Giants, had 62 catches for 973 yards and three TDs in 2013. He can’t block, but what top-tier tight ends can anymore?
11. Tennessee Titans
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Forget this pick for a second and instead focus on this: Amazingly, even though they weren’t interested, the Giants had a shot at Manziel, because another team that needed a quarterback (how many times have we said that so far?) decided instead to grab an offensive lineman with pending legal problems. Lewan dominated the Big Ten over four seasons, then wowed NFL people at the combine, but he has an assault case hanging over him.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Welcome to East Rutherford, Ben McAdoo. The Giants — who signed four offensive linemen in the offseason — chose a playmaker over protection and gift-wrapped a threat for their new offensive coordinator. Already Eli Manning’s ankle has to be feeling better. With the window on Manning closing, the Giants have given him a weapon to go with WRs Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle.
13. St. Louis Rams
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Some had him projected as a Top 10 pick, but in a wild first round, he dropped to the Rams, who chose an offensive lineman earlier in the round. Donald is a relentless pass-rusher who dominated the Senior Bowl and can play multiple positions on the line.
14. Chicago Bears
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Many believe Fuller is the best cornerback in the draft, but others wonder if he’s a secondary tweener. So, where will he play — cornerback or safety? A three-year starter who can press in coverage and play effectively in zone.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Penn State
An aging defense gets a shot in the arm with Shazier, who showed outstanding speed at the combine. Shazier was credited with 143 tackles in 2013 (sounds like some generous bookkeeping), including 22½ for losses.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Did someone duct-tape owner Jerry Jones and toss him in a closet to keep him from picking Manziel? Instead, the Cowboys took a guy who can help quarterback Tony Romo stay off that balky back and help the running game. Martin started a school-record 52 games, and has terrific athleticism to pull and trap.
17. Baltimore Ravens
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The next Ray Lewis? Unlikely. But he’ll give the Ravens defense a leader in the middle. Mosley is a ball-hawk who can play inside or on the weak side. He had 102 tackles, nine for loss, and is versatile. He can blitz, play the run and drop into coverage. At 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds, he’ll need to bulk up. He’s had five surgeries (mostly clean-ups) but has never missed a game.
Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Better not mic-up Rex Ryan during training camp, because this guy is a thumper who will have the Jets head coach gleefully cussing up a storm when he starts hitting people. The best strong safety prospect in draft, Pryor doesn’t shy from playing in the box to stuff the run, and he’s fast enough to match up with tight ends. How hard does he hit? He forced seven fumbles last two seasons.
19. Miami Dolphins
Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
A dull selection for a pretty crazy first round, but the Dolphins, hurting up front after a lousy season and a bullying scandal that poisoned linemen, were forced to draft for need. So, they picked someone reliable: James started 49 games at left tackle, and in a 2013 matchup, he held No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney without a sack.
20. New Orleans Saints (from Arizona Cardinals)
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Head coach Sean Payton treated himself to an offensive weapon to replace running back Darren Sproles, who is now with the Eagles. Cooks is the same type of player as Sproles — a little guy who will get the ball in space and — poof! — disappear. He’ll be a ridiculously tough matchup out of the slot. He caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 TDs last year. Can return kicks, too.
21. Green Bay Packers
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
With good ball skills and tackling chops, Clinton-Dix also has enough speed to play center field. At 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, he’ll team with strong safety Morgan Burnett to give the Packers the ability to choke off deep balls. A two-year starter, Clinton-Dix had seven interceptions and nine passes defended in those 25 games.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles)
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
And the long national nightmare — well, 2 hours and 43 minutes, anyway — ended when the wheeling-and-dealing Browns coaxed the late-round pick from the Eagles (who wanted to move back) and grabbed the undisciplined gunslinger. Is the Browns’ long search for a franchise quarterback finally over? Maybe, if they can keep him from becoming a cartoon character. And be careful when you run, Johnny. That’s a physical division.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
At 240 pounds, he’s going to need to add weight to be a successful pass-rushing linebacker in the NFL. But he was Auburn’s best pass rusher, finishing with 10½ sacks and 14½ tackles for losses last year. He’ll help a defense that faded after the Chiefs’ fast start last season. The Chiefs passed on Marqise Lee and Darqueze Dennard to take a guy to hunt Broncos QB Peyton Manning.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Many thought he would go earlier, but with all of the jockeying and unpredictable picks, Dennard tumbled into head coach Marvin Lewis’ lap. Dennard doesn’t have great speed (4.51) or size (5-foot-11, 200 pounds), but he can cover, which will allow the Bengals to be aggressive on defense. The kid is a baller, plain and simple.
25. San Diego Chargers
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
He doesn’t have size, but he might be the perfect slot cover guy. When matched up against Odell Beckham Jr. (selected by the Jets at No. 18), he held him to one catch.
26. Philadelphia Eagles
Marcus Smith, LB, Louisville
Who? With wide receiver Marqise Lee sitting there, the Eagles (after trading down) filled another need — a pass rusher. But this appears to be a first-round reach and a bet on a guy’s potential. Smith was a high school quarterback who was turned into a pass rusher and had 14.5 sacks as a college senior. He’s likely to play in passing situations, then grow into a bigger role.
27. Arizona Cardinals
Deone Buchanan, S, Washington State
Another sleeper who didn’t make the first round of most mock drafts, but he started gathering first-round buzz in the two weeks before the draft. He is an old-school player who likes to hit. His likely role is at strong safety, and he’ll play special teams, too.
28. Carolina Panthers
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
He’ll be an immediate red-zone threat at 6-foot-5 with an 83-inch wingspan. He caught 15 TD passes last season and he’ll be too much for most cornerbacks to handle, but the Panthers should worry about his weight (240 pounds), too, because Benjamin can’t afford to get any bigger.
29. New England Patriots
Dominique Easley, DE, Florida
A typical Bill Belichick selection — a purely effort guy who will need polish. There are red flags, too: He’s had ACL surgery on both knees. When he’s healthy, though, he’s quick off the ball. Within seconds of the selection, Patriots NT Vince Wilfork tweeted that he was “lovin’ this pick.” The question is: Will Wilfork, in a contract snit, play alongside the kid or eventually force a trade?
30. San Francisco 49ers
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
His size kept him from being considered one of the top safeties, but he has shown excellent coverage skills, along with being a dependable run-stopper. He had seven interceptions last season.
31. Denver Broncos
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Coach John Fox had better be sure, because there are a lot of question marks here. Roby led the Big Ten in passes defensed two years ago and looked to be on the verge of becoming the shutdown corner that would have put him in the top half of the draft. But he suffered a big dropoff last season, which also was marred by a suspension and off-field problems. He might have the talent to be a No. 1 cornerback, but needs to get his head straight.
32. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks)
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Remember when Bridgewater was projected as the first pick in the draft? That was before he bombed on his pro day, when he was nervous and erratic and decided not to wear his gloves. The Vikings need a quarterback to give Adrian Peterson some help, so they ducked back into the first round to grab one. But which Bridgewater did they get: The calm kid who put up big numbers at Louisville, or the twitchy guy who threw wobbly passes in his workouts?