They have two picks in the top 13, including the No. 2 overall pick. Obviously, the Texans have their pick of the group with the first pick, but the Rams are a team that doesn't desperately need a quarterback or a pass rusher. That puts St. Louis in a unique position to either trade the pick or make one of its strengths an even bigger strength at the top of this draft. What the Rams decide to do will dictate how the rest of the top 10 unfolds.
For the mock draft this week, Dan Kadar and I collaborated to put together two rounds of predictions. I handled the odd picks, and Dan handled the even picks. We did not include trades in order to keep the process simple.
It seems we are starting to form a bit of a consensus on how we see the first few rounds playing out.
1. Houston Texans - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
After getting rid of Matt Schaub, the Texans appear ready to draft a quarterback with the No. 1 pick. Teddy Bridgewater is our top-ranked quarterback, but Blake Bortles will give him a run for his money on draft day. Bortles is taller and one could argue he has higher developmental upside. He also has connections to Texans head coach Bill O'Brien.
2. St. Louis Rams - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Even though the Rams already have Chris Long and Robert Quinn, there's nothing wrong with drafting the best defensive end of at least the past five years. Teams can never have too many pass rushers, and Clowney would give St. Louis even more options on defense. Imagine a situation where the Rams have Clowney on the field at the same time as Long and Quinn. Scary.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars get lucky here, as Teddy Bridgewater, our top-ranked quarterback, falls to them at No. 3. He reads defenses very well, both pre- and post-snap, and has the pocket presence and accuracy to excel in Jedd Fisch's offense. This pick seems like a no-brainer, but the draft is still a month away.
4. Cleveland Browns - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
There is no certainty that the Browns will take one of the top three quarterbacks with this pick. In fact, it became less certain at the NFL owners meetings last week. Should the Browns pass up a quarterback here, Watkins offers more than the other top players. He would pair with Josh Gordon to give Cleveland one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL.
5. Oakland Raiders - Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo
The Raiders have plenty of needs, but they started to plug a few during free agency. One glaring hole on the roster is at pass rusher. Khalil Mack is an ideal fit in Oakland's defense and also one of the few premium prospects left on the board. Oakland focused a lot of attention on offense during free agency, so defense should be the focus early in the NFL Draft.
6. Atlanta Falcons - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
This is a tough draw for Atlanta. With Clowney and Mack taken, the top two defensive players are gone. Robinson is still a good player to settle on. He can start anywhere on Atlanta's line other than center. Yes, that means guard. But don't forget, Jonathan Ogden played his first season at guard.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
If the draft falls this way, the Buccaneers will be in a good spot to address the offensive line. Even after signing Anthony Collins, the Buccaneers still have a need at right tackle. Jake Matthews has experience at both tackle spots and is the most technically sound tackle in the draft.
8. Minnesota Vikings - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Manziel doesn't seem to fit Norv Turner's typical offense. Head coach Mike Zimmer referred to Manziel's pro day last week as a "sideshow." So what exactly is the fit? Easy. Manziel has a good chance to be a franchise-changing quarterback. While that can go two different ways, teams that don't have a good signal caller have to take the chance.
9. Buffalo Bills - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Despite a fair amount of depth at wide receiver, the Buffalo Bills lack a player who has the ability to be a true No. 1. Mike Evans would fix that problem. He dominates at the catch point and has enough speed to be a threat. If E.J. Manuel is going to make the jump in year two, having weapons like Evans wouldn't hurt.
Red Zone domination
10. Detroit Lions - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Although the Lions have added talent in the secondary, including Bill Bentley and Darius Slay, neither projects out as a top No. 1 cornerback like Gilbert does. He's poised to be the first cornerback drafted because of his combination of size and athleticism.
11. Tennessee Titans - Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
The Titans are transitioning to a 3-4 defense and need a big-time pass rusher at outside linebacker. Anthony Barr has the potential to be just that, though he still has a long way to go in terms of his technique. Barr's physical talent alone will make him tempting for teams in the top 15.
12. New York Giants - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Giants fans should know the drill by now on this pick. New York's offense needs playmakers. With Watkins and Evans off the board, Ebron would be an easy choice if they're looking for offense with the 12th pick. Ebron is capable of making spectacular catches and can create mismatches against linebackers and safeties.
13. St. Louis Rams - Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
This is one of those picks where need meets value. Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix is not only one of the top players on the board, but he would also happen to fill a big need for the Rams. With so many teams looking for the rare safety who can play in single high coverage, Clinton-Dix could be the answer.
14. Chicago Bears - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Bears have added several pieces on the defensive line, but still need one more on the interior to finish it off. Enter Donald, the player many consider the top defensive tackle in the draft. Donald can get into the backfield in a hurry and help give Chicago one of the most disruptive front fours in football.
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15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Off-the-field issues aside, Taylor Lewan has first-round talent and will likely be drafted accordingly. He has outstanding physical traits to play offensive tackle but still needs to work on cleaning up his technique, especially against inside pass-rush moves. The Steelers need to address the offensive line again, and the value is right with this pick.
16. Dallas Cowboys - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
DeMarcus Ware is gone and Anthony Spencer hasn't been brought back yet. That leaves the Cowboys to rely on George Selvie, who finally had a breakout year in 2013, and Tyrone Crawford, who was injured all of last season. Even if Crawford comes back fine and Selvie plays well, having a third pass rusher would boost the defense. Ealy is a versatile player, able to play traditional end, move inside and he's athletic enough to be a linebacker.
17. Baltimore Ravens - Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Ravens were lucky enough to keep Eugene Monroe, but Michael Oher left in free agency, leaving a hole at offensive tackle. Cyrus Kouandjio has some injury concerns, but he improved a lot in 2013 and should still be drafted in the first round.
18. New York Jets - Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Although the Jets signed Eric Decker in free agency, they should still strongly consider adding a wide receiver in the draft. While the depth of the position is good this year, other receivers don't provide the playmaking that Beckham does. Beckham's speed is impressive and he can make defenders miss after the catch.
19. Miami Dolphins - Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
The interior of Miami's offensive line is a bit of a mess. Protecting Ryan Tannehill has to be a priority, and Xavier Su'a-Filo is one of the top players available.
20. Arizona Cardinals - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
While Patrick Peterson has matured into one of the league's best cornerbacks and the team signed Antonio Cromartie, having three good corners is becoming a necessity. The Cardinals may have more pressing needs, but Dennard could give them an incredible trio in the defensive backfield.
21. Green Bay Packers - C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
This is an ideal scenario for the Packers. Inside linebacker has been an issue in Green Bay for the last few seasons, and C.J. Mosley is a borderline top-10 talent in this class. Positional value causes him to slide to the Packers, who wouldn't waste much time turning in this pick.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Earl Wolff didn't exactly impress in somewhat limited duty for the Eagles as a rookie. Pryor is a big-impact safety who can set the tone for the secondary. He unleashes bigger hits than any safety in the draft this year and has good hands in coverage.
23. Kansas City Chiefs - Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Chiefs are reportedly not in on the DeSean Jackson sweepstakes, but they are taking their need at wide receiver seriously. A receiver like Marqise Lee could be in play with the 23rd pick. Lee is dangerous with the ball in his hands but struggled with injuries and drops as a junior. He still has the potential to be a game-breaker.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Leon Hall is returning from a torn Achilles, and players like Adam Jones and Terence Newman are both over 30 years old. With the top pass rushers gone, the Bengals wouldn't be stretching to take a corner like Fuller. He's an aggressive cornerback with some versatility.
25. San Diego Chargers - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
On draft night, the team that decides to draft Jason Verrett despite his lack of ideal size will be getting a steal. He's the best cornerback in the draft, and if he were a few inches taller, he would be a lock for the top 15. San Diego won't complain if he's still available at 25, though.
26. Cleveland Browns - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Carr is the first of several quarterbacks the Browns will privately work out, starting Monday. Browns coach Mike Pettine called Carr "the best natural thrower as far as arm strength" in the draft. If the Browns pass on a quarterback with the fourth pick, they could aggressively target a player like Carr.
27. New Orleans Saints - Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State
Pass rush should still be a priority for the Saints on draft weekend. Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is one of the best edge rushers available in the draft. He could make a smooth transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 because of his comfortability in space and ability to bend the edge.
28. Carolina Panthers - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Drafting for need in the first round is often a bad move. For the Carolina Panthers, it's practically become a necessity. Fortunately for Carolina, the receiver position is loaded in the draft this year. Cooks may not be the biggest wideout, but he's a playmaker with good hands. He can stretch the field vertically but is just as good working crosses, slants and other short routes.
29. New England Patriots - Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
New England needs to continue to find talent along the defensive line. Ra'Shede Hageman is versatile enough to play multiple spots in the Patriots' defense. He hasn't maxed out his physical potential just yet, but he has plenty of room to grow.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Both Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers are gone and Chris Culliver was recently arrested. If the 49ers don't move up, Roby would be a good pickup at this point in the draft. He's a fast, athletic cornerback with size. His junior season didn't live up to the preseason hype, but a real argument can be made that Roby has more talent than any cornerback in this year's draft.
31. Denver Broncos - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
After an aggressive free agency, the Broncos don't have a ton of needs left on either side of the ball. Linebacker could definitely be considered a need, though, and Ryan Shazier is one of the top players left on the board.
32. Seattle Seahawks - Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Moses could easily slide into Breno Giacomini's spot at right tackle and likely prove to be an upgrade. He's a physical blocker with imposing size. Some speedier rushers give Moses trouble, but his length and ability to play either side of the line can't be ignored.
33. Houston Texans - Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
The Texans could look to add another pass rusher early in the draft. Auburn's Dee Ford may end up making the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL due to his size. He has a shot at the first round and should be a top-40 pick at the least.
34. Washington Redskins - Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
The Redskins made a few key moves in free agency, namely on defense. That allows them to target pieces for the offense. While offensive line upgrades would be helpful, Robert Griffin III still needs more playmaking receivers. Moncrief has first-round talent, but never put up the stats partly because of Ole Miss' quarterback play last season. He's the type of player who the Redskins probably hoped Leonard Hankerson would turn into.
35. Cleveland Browns - Zack Martin, G, Notre Dame
This draft is playing out perfectly for the Cleveland Browns. They land a dynamic wide receiver in Sammy Watkins, a potential quarterback of the future in Derek Carr and an upgrade on the interior of the offensive line in Zack Martin.
36. Oakland Raiders - Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
If the Raiders don't take a quarterback with their first pick in the draft, they could be weighing it with this selection. Although passing on one would be difficult, they signed Matt Schaub to start him. They're likely to draft a quarterback this year, but what's the real difference in developing a player taken in the third compared to the second? Passing on a quarterback here allows Oakland to bring in a very good receiver in Adams who has as much potential as any in this class.
37. Atlanta Falcons - Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Obviously the Falcons' top two needs are at offensive tackle and defensive end, but Atlanta could also use an upgrade at safety. There's not much value in taking a pass rusher with this pick, but Jimmie Ward is definitely worth the pick.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Should the Buccaneers miss on Watkins or pass on Evans in the first round, Benjamin is nice consolation. While he's fairly similar in style to Vincent Jackson, that seems to work fine for the Bears with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars - Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The Jaguars added a ton of depth on the defensive line but could still use a one-technique defensive tackle. If Louis Nix III is available at this spot, Jacksonville would have a hard time passing on him.
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40. Minnesota Vikings - Lamarcus Joyner, S/CB, Florida State
Joyner would be a wild card for any good defensive coach. The Vikings have a coach in Mike Zimmer who would know how to take advantage of Joyner's versatility. He can line up in the slot as a corner, patrol the deep half as a safety and even blitz the quarterback.
41. Buffalo Bills - Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
After adding a weapon to the passing game in round one, the Bills get some value at offensive tackle in round two. Antonio Richardson didn't have a great year in Tennessee, but he still has room to develop and could play right tackle for the Bills.
42. Tennessee Titans - Stephon Tuitt, DE/DT, Notre Dame
The Titans have added several pieces to a defense that is transitioning to a 3-4 under Ray Horton. The addition of Tuitt, along with Barr in the first round, would finish it off for Tennessee. Tuitt has become an underrated draft prospect. He's a hybrid end who can push offensive tackles around.
43. New York Giants - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Free agency opened up some holes on New York's defensive line. Timmy Jernigan is nice value here. He has some positional versatility as well.
44. St. Louis Rams - Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Which would have a bigger impact for St. Louis next season: a third-tier offensive tackle like Jack Mewhort or a wide receiver like Matthews? Matthews is a better version of Brian Quick. He plays a little faster, he's a little more athletic and his hands are better.
45. Detroit Lions - Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
The Lions have a big need at safety, and there is quite a drop-off at the position after Deone Bucannon. Bucannon is a hard hitter but has plenty of range in coverage. He may end up outperforming some of the safeties who get drafted before him.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers - Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Exum just looks like a classic Steelers cornerback. Able to play corner or safety, Exum can deliver hard hits but has good hands for a corner. If he would have been healthy last season, he would have been a first-round pick.
47. Dallas Cowboys - Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
The Cowboys should be drafting multiple defensive linemen on the first two days of the draft. Dominique Easley won't be ready for Week 1 because of his knee injury, but he has the potential to be the best defensive player in this draft not named Clowney if he gets healthy.
48. Baltimore Ravens - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Ed Dickson remains a free agent, so that should tell you a little bit about what the Ravens think of him. If he's ultimately not brought back, Amaro would be a nice pickup. He's a big athlete at tight end with an impressive catch radius.
49. New York Jets - Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
No matter who is under center for the Jets, he's going to need better protection than New York had a year ago. The interior of the offensive line should be the focus. Gabe Jackson is a technically sound guard who excels in pass protection.
50. Miami Dolphins - Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
Admission: This mock draft was written before the Dolphins signed Knowshon Moreno. At the time this seemed like a good choice. Now? Not so much.
51. Chicago Bears - Victor Hampton, CB, South Carolina
The Bears passed on a cornerback in the first round of this mock and need to address the position on day two. If not for his size, Victor Hampton might be more highly regarded. He has excellent ball skills and is tenacious at the point of attack.
52. Arizona Cardinals - Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
How soon is too soon to draft a backup or developmental quarterback? That is something the Cardinals will weigh this May. Carson Palmer obviously isn't the long-term answer for Arizona, so this pick shouldn't be viewed as a reach for a quarterback. Garoppolo has the quickest release of any quarterback in the draft this year and good accuracy. If he can improve his arm strength a little bit, he can be that long-term quarterback the Cardinals need.
53. Green Bay Packers - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Tight end isn't necessarily a pressing need for the Packers, but if a player of Austin Seferian-Jenkins' caliber is on the board at pick 53, he should be considered. Seferian-Jenkins has shed weight since the end of the season in an effort to get more explosive, and as long as he checks out medically, he should be second-rounder.
54. Philadelphia Eagles - Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
There is not a lot of sexiness to Landry's game. He's not a classic 6'5 receiver, nor does he have breakaway speed. But Landry can do all the little things better than most receivers in the draft this year. He enjoys blocking, playing special teams and going over the middle. Above all that, though, Landry has very good hands. In many ways, he's similar to a lot of the unheralded receivers Chip Kelly had at Oregon.
55. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
Finding one more linebacker could take Cincinnati's front seven to the next level. It's not their biggest need, but the Bengals don't have a ton of holes to fill. Kyle Van Noy is an excellent value at this pick.
56. San Francisco 49ers - Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Although Robinson does a lot of things similar to the receivers already on San Francisco's offense, his value here is good. Robinson is a physical athlete who can go up and bring down difficult catches.
57. San Diego Chargers - Jeremiah Attaochu, LB, Georgia Tech
The Chargers are always looking to upgrade the pass rush. Jeremiah Attaochu excels at rushing the passer and his skill set should translate to a 3-4 scheme. Maybe he can be the pass rusher the Chargers have been chasing.
58. New Orleans Saints - Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
The Saints need a good cornerback opposite Keenan Lewis. Breeland, a surprise draft entrant, is a smooth athlete with good size. He can run with most wide receivers and knows when to high-point the ball to break up a pass. He's a classic "if he stayed a year he'd be a first-rounder" type of prospect.
59. Indianapolis Colts - Craig Loston, S, LSU
With quite a few holes to fill, the Colts will be missing the first-round pick they lost in the Trent Richardson trade. They could go a number of directions with this pick, but safety seems like a reasonable place to start. Craig Loston wasn't dominant this season, but the potential is there for him to be a solid starter if he puts everything together.
60. Carolina Panthers - Joel Bitonio, OT/G, Nevada
If the Panthers can come out of the first two rounds of the draft with a starting wide receiver and offensive tackle, it should be considered a good draft. While some think Bitonio is more of a guard in the NFL, he's just good enough to stick on the outside.
61. San Francisco 49ers - Marcus Martin, C, USC
The 49ers need to bring in some competition at center. Why not look in their backyard at one of the top center prospects in this class? Marcus Martin had an outstanding junior season and decided to leave school early. He and Weston Richburg will be battling to be the top center off the board.
62. New England Patriots - Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
That's right, a tight end for the Patriots. Niklas is too good and has too much potential to pass up with this pick in the draft. Eventually he should be able to do a lot of the same things that Rob Gronkowski does.
63. Denver Broncos - Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
Bringing in Aqib Talib was a start, but the Broncos could use another cornerback. Andre Hal plays a physical style but still needs to refine his game a bit.
64. Seattle Seahawks - Brandon Thomas, OT/G, Clemson
Thomas plays with the type of toughness that makes him a good candidate to move from offensive tackle to guard. He can dominate at the point of attack and can easily push defenders around.