1. Houston: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
It’s no secret the Texans desire to begin a new era with a franchise quarterback. GM Rick Smith is scheduled to scout every major quarterback prospect eligible for the draft during his bowl trip schedule. The smart money says Bridgewater will be the chosen one.
2. St. Louis (From Washington): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Widely regarded as the safest player in the upcoming draft, Matthews is an instant plug-and-play starter with potential to be one of the elite talents at his position. Despite the big-ticket free agent acquisition of Jake Long last off-season, the Rams were paper-thin once he went down. The combination of Long/Matthews would be beneficial for quarterback Sam Bradford, who has missed 15 games over the past three seasons.
3. Jacksonville: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
The Jaguars said no to “Tebowmania,” but the temptation of “Johnny Football” will be too great to pass up, as Manziel offers a skillset superior to that of Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert and can generate the type of excitement that can help rejuvenate a fan-base that was one of the worst in the league in terms of attendance.
4. Cleveland: QB Brett Hundley, UCLA
Continuity has been a rarity in Cleveland. Four different head coaches, four different general managers and 11 different starting quarterbacks over the past six years…stop the madness! There is no quarterback currently on the roster worthy of building around. Hundley offers dual-threat capability and the highest upside of any quarterback in the draft, if he opts to declare.
5. Oakland: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Slotted with the fifth pick, the Raiders could very well be on the outside looking in on top quarterback prospects. That would make the organization a potential suitor for Mike Vick’s services and instead turn to Clowney. Once considered the consensus No.1 overall pick and the two-time All American possesses the bad boy persona that fits the Raiders image perfectly.
6. Atlanta: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan State
Finishing the season with Lamar Holmes and Jeremy Trueblood as your starting tackles is a good way to get your franchise quarterback beat up and/or injured. Sam Baker may be better off suited for right tackle after undergoing season-ending knee surgery. Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times this past season and the constant pressure resulted in a career-high 17 interceptions. Lewan plugs a gapping hole here.
7. Tampa Bay: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
A phenomenal talent, Barr might be the most impressive athlete of any player in the draft and would serve as the perfect antidote to the Bucs anemic pass rush. With the firings of GM Mark Dominik and HC Greg Schiano, the organization will push the reset button once again and clean house. Barr is an ideal building block piece for whoever inherits the reigns.
8. Minnesota: WR Marqise Lee, USC
At this stage of the game, the Vikings will weigh whether any of the quarterbacks remaining are an upgrade over the in-house trio of Ponder/Cassel/Freeman. The more appealing option seems to create a dynamic young receiving duo, pairing Lee with Cordarrelle Patterson. However, who throws them ball remains a mystery at this point.
9. Buffalo: OT Cameron Erving, Florida State
If the Bills want to see EJ Manuel on the field more in 2014, they will need to protect him better. With left tackle Cordy Glenn striving in pass protection this past season, the long-armed Erving could slide into right tackle, where Erik Pears was a liability this year. Glenn will be eligible for free agency in two seasons and could command booku dollars. Erving provides an upgrade, depth and long-term insurance at a key position.
10. Detroit: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
The Lions cornerbacks have been porous for years. The selection of Dennard would instantly make him the team’s best corner and provide a major upgrade in an area of huge concern. Look for Dennard to prove his worth as the best cornerback in this year’s draft class during the week of Senior Bowl practices.
*Note: Underclassmen have until January 15th to declare for the NFL Draft.