It’s a bit later in the year than normal, but the NFL draft has returned to Radio City Music Hall. The Texans hold the top pick, while the Giants and Jets have the 12th and 18th draft slots, respectively. Not taking into account potential trades, here are amNewYork’s projections for the entire first round of the draft, which begins on Thursday night at 8 p.m. and airs on ESPN and NFL Network.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE
He’s a freak who, along with J.J. Watt, will wreak havoc on opposing O-lines.
2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT
Don’t believe the Johnny Manziel smoke screen. They need a cornerstone blocker.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sammy Watkins, WR
This pick allows them to smoothly move on from Justin Blackmon, if it comes to that.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB
They have to go quarterback here. I like others better, but Manziel is already a star.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB
Al Davis loved elite athletes. That certainly describes Mack all the way.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT
I like him better than Robinson. He’ll keep QB Matt Ryan safe for years.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Aaron Donald, DT
New coach Lovie Smith will want to continue to solidify his defense.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB
He’s my favorite of this year’s passers but should not start on Day 1.
9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR
This pick gives second-year quarterback EJ Manuel a legitimate top target.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB
Corner is a top need, and this is the current class’ best defensive back.
11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, ILB
When healthy, Mosley brings a lot to the table and will help this defense.
12. Giants: Eric Ebron, TE
With all the other primary options off the table, Ebron makes perfect sense here. He’ll give Eli a big, dynamic safety blanket in the receiving game.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S
I can see the Rams trading either pick. If they stay here, he’s a great fit.
14. Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller, CB
Time to rebuild the defense again. Fuller gets them off to a pretty good start.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Taylor Lewan, OT
They wasted enough time not protecting Ben Roethlisberger, and this is a good value.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Zack Martin, OT
Hard to hate Martin at this spot. But who knows what owner Jerry Jones will do?
17. Baltimore Ravens: Morgan Moses, OT
Three tackles in a row? It could happen. Baltimore needs a new right tackle.
18. Jets: Brandin Cooks, WR
Say goodbye to Stephen Hill. Cooks is lightning fast and should complement free-agent addition Eric Decker very well. Odell Beckham Jr. is another option here.
19. Miami Dolphins: Anthony Barr, OLB
He’s a fast pass rusher, but they’d likely rather one of the better tackles slip to them.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Pryor, S
This pick makes the Cards’ run defense downright scary. Pryor hits hard.
21. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Shazier, OLB
He will help a defense that has to be tired of getting torched by running QBs.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Beckham has the potential to replace departed DeSean Jackson as QB Nick Foles’ top wideout.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR
Could wind up as a steal after a subpar 2013 dented his draft stock.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB
A speedy cover corner like Gilbert will replenish this defense.
25. San Diego Chargers: Bradley Roby, CB
He’s an elite athlete at a position of need for San Diego.
26. Cleveland Browns: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG
He will team with the Browns’ other talented blockers to keep Manziel well protected.
27. New Orleans Saints: Stephon Tuitt, DE
The Saints’ offense doesn’t need much help, but it’s defense still does and this helps.
28. Carolina Panthers: Joel Bitonio, OT
With mass retirements across the O-line, new blood among the blockers is a must.
29. New England Patriots: Teddy Bridgewater, QB
Coach Bill Belichick is smart enough to know Tom Brady won’t play forever.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB
The Niners need to fill a void in the secondary. At 6-foot-3, he’s a monster corner.
31. Denver Broncos: Jason Verrett, CB
Getting younger in the secondary is a must, and Verrett can step in immediately.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Cody Latimer, WR
Latimer fits in with the Super Bowl champs’ mostly-West Coast Offense.