Every year, I project the top 10 picks in the NFL draft.
For each pick that I miss, I owe my son and daughter a quarter each.
And yes, I do end up paying them every year--some drafts more than others.
In any event, here goes for 2014...
1) TEXANS: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Best athlete in the draft. The only question is whether the Texans select him or trade down and collect picks from a team that is smitten with Clowney. I think they wait on a QB because Clowney is too good to pass.
2) TRADE (RAMS TO FALCONS): LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
The Rams have been waiting to trade this pick since they acquired it. St. Louis' management is smart, and is bringing in all the top players as a smoke screen to make us think they may draft at #2. I say don't buy it. They want an OT and are waiting for the best offer to then drop back. I see either the Bills, Browns, or Falcons moving up here. The Falcons have shown they are not afraid to take risks and their defense sure could use an all-pro level talent like Mack.
3) JAGUARS: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has been impressive. Last season, he rallied a lackluster Jags roster and had them for the most part competitive. Free agents considering teams have spoken highly of the Jags coaching staff--as it is tough enough to lure quality players when your team's recent success is miniscule. In any event, the Jags need a QB, but with WR Blackmon suspended and his career in doubt, I don't think they will pass up on a talent like Watkins. I would not be surprised though, if they entertain trade offers and collect a ransom to move back--someone else will grab Watkins if he is still on the board here.
4) BROWNS: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
The experts have the Browns selecting any number of players at this #4. The team has a good defense and is assembling talent on offense. WR Josh Gordon's performance last year was one of the best in NFL history considering the below average QBs who were throwing to him. As such, look for the Browns to emerge from the "we are not taking a QB" smoke screen and grab a long-term signal-caller in Bortles. I see him as a big tough guy--something that will fit this blue-collar and cold weather city well. I love Bortles' confidence, and I think a team like Cleveland is looking for that as well.
5) RAIDERS: T Greg Robinson, Auburn
Looking for a more conservative pick now that Mr. Davis is no longer making the moves, I see the Raiders going for a boring "sure thing." If Robinson is there, they take him. Experts believe he is the best long-term star at OT in this draft.
6) RAMS (From FALCONS): T Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Richer with picks after the trade, the Rams will go with the best OT on the board. If Robinson is there, they take him, but I think they will favor Lewan's nastiness over Matthews.
7) BUCCANEERS: T Jake Matthews Texas A&M
My favorite team--for better or for worse. Early projections had LB Mack still available for the Bucs here, but that is a distant memory. New head coach, Lovie Smith, is a defensive guy. They want defense help, but I think they will wait when either Lewan or Matthew is available. I see them grabbing the A&M OT. Lots of stories late on the owners pushing for Manziel, but I'd be surprised if the conservative Smith agrees to that dice roll.
8) TRADE (VIKINGS TO TITANS): QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
I think the Vikings are afraid of the risk in selecting Manziel. If Bortles is still here, they take him; otherwise they look for a trading partner. I see the Titans willing to move up and make an immediate splash with a new coach. Locker is the immediate starter, but Manziel will be taking over the spot soon enough. Titans fans will be energized for sure if this happens.
9) BILLS: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
I was between WR Evans and TE Ebron, but I think the Bills want a player who can make an immediate impact and that is Ebron. Tall and athletic, the TE will force defensive coordinators to game plan against him, which will allow the Bills to run more easily; something they want to do with their two-headed running back monster anyway.
10) LIONS: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St.
Needing secondary help and unwilling to sacrifice picks to move up for an elite talent, I see the Lions taking the best DB on their board. I like OSU's CB Gilbert, but I think they will go with an outstanding local cover guy in Dennard.
Bonus Pick: 31) BRONCOS: G Xavier Su'A-Filo, UCLA
My son's fav team is the Broncos, so I pick for them as well. They either go LB or OL here. I see Denver's strategy as maximize the chance that Peyton succeeds now, so look for them to take the best OL available and Su'A-Filo could be that.
Note: All player links are too Walter Football's scouting report. Every year, their group does an outstanding job of breaking down the players and teams.