Cincinnati Bengals beat writer Jay Morrison takes a stab at predicting how the first round of the NFL Draft will play out tonight.
1. Houston – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The reward-to-risk ratio is too great to pass on, especially when you have J.J. Watt as a mentor and defensive line bookend.
2. St. Louis – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Rams also need a dynamic wide receiver, but they can still find one at 13. And head coach Jeff Fisher goes way back with the Matthews family, having coached Jake’s dad Bruce, a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
3. Jacksonville – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Of all the needs the Jaguars have, selling tickets is right near the top. And if there is anything Johnny Football is guaranteed to do, it’s create interest and excitement.
4. Cleveland – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The gamble here isn’t whether Watkins will emerge as a star, it’s whether the Browns can pass on a quarterback and still get a good one at 26. (Hint: They can).
5. Oakland – Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo
The Raiders need a receiver, too, but Mack presents too much value at this spot.
6. Atlanta – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times last year, 16 more than his previous high.
7. Tampa Bay – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Even before the Buccaneers traded Mike Williams to Buffalo they were likely to target a wide receiver in this spot. Now it’s a lock.
8. Minnesota – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Seems strange for Mike Zimmer’s first draft pick as an NFL head coach to be an offensive guy, but its clearly the Vikings biggest need.
9. Buffalo – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bills have a lot invested in quarterback E.J. Manuel, so this move makes the most sense.
10. Detroit – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Even with one of the best defensive lines in the league, the Lions were among the worst against the pass thanks to a dreadful secondary.
11. Tennessee – Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Barr has been sliding down a lot of draft boards, but not this one. And not the Titans’.
12. New York Giants – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Bengals are the only team to take a tight end in the first round since 2009 – actually doing so twice – and this would make Ebron the highest TE taken since Veron Davis in 2006 (sixth overall). But he’s worth it.
13. St. Louis –Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
He’s took good to pass up even though the Rams still need to find a receiver. There will be plenty more the next time they pick, but there won’t be a safety as good as Clinton-Dix.
14. Chicago – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Bears, who ranked next to last in sacks last year, already bolstered the defensive line in free agency (LaMarr Houston, Jared Allen), but they’ll continue to do so here.
15. Pittsburgh – Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Paired with Antonio Brown, he will give Ben Roethlisberger two big-play threats.
16. Dallas – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Cowboys haven’t taken a defensive lineman with their first pick in nine years (Anthony Spencer), which is exactly why they need to do so here.
17. Baltimore – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Ravens took a safety with their first pick last year as well (Matt Elam), which is just further testament to the greatness of Ed Reed and the hole he left behind.
18. New York Jets –Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Jets need secondary help, and Dennard is arguably the top corner in the draft.
19. Miami – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Versatile and a difference maker, Martin is exactly what the Dolphins need to help jumpstart a running game that ranked 26th in the league last year.
20. Arizona –Marquise Lee, WR, USC
The Cardinals have more pressing needs, especially on the offensive line, but Lee would be a great complement, and eventual replacement, for Larry Fitzgerald.
21. Green Bay – C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Packers are already loaded with play-makers on offense, so adding one like Mosley to the defense certainly makes sense.
22. Philadelpia – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly loves speed, and there is no greater need than at receiver with DeSean Jackson now in Washington and Jeremy Maclin coming off a knee injury.
23. Kansas City – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Wide receiver is the Chiefs’ biggest need, and they don’t have a second-round pick due to the Alex Smith trade last year.
24. Cincinnati – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
While the Bengals don’t have any huge immediate needs, they need to get younger at corner. Dre Kirkpatrick, the team’s first-round pick in 2012, is not exactly a sure tackler, whereas Fuller is a big, physical presence.
25. San Diego – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
As if signing a contract for millions of dollars isn’t great enough, Hageman gets to go from Minnesota to San Diego. And the Chargers get to fill one of their biggest needs.
26. Cleveland – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Bridgewater is no sure bet, but sooner or later the Browns have to hit on a first-round quarterback, don’t they? Don’t they!
27. New Orleans – Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
If Latimer is taken on the first day, the Jefferson High School grad from Dayton will be the first IU player drafted in the first round since 1994 (Thomas Lewis).
28. Carolina – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
No team has a greater need at any position than the Panthers have at receiver. Lucky for them it’s an extremely deep draft for pass catchers.
29. New England – Xavier Su’a Filo, G, UCLA
The Patriots have not drafted a guard since 2009, but Su’a Filo is good enough to end that trend.
30. San Francisco – Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
With Aldon Smith’s future in limbo, the 49ers certainly could use an explosive pass rusher such as Lawrence.
31. Denver – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Coming off a Super Bowl run, the Broncos obviously don’t have many holes, so Verrett is more of a depth pick. But you can never have enough defensive backs when you get into a lot of offensive shootouts the way the Broncos tend to do.
32. Seattle – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
His speed and pass-rushing abilities will be a perfect fit for the defending champions.