BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis
Three weeks into the season, the NFL standings are just beginning to take shape. It’s far too early to count anyone out or crown a champion just yet, there’s plenty of season ahead. However, it’s never too early to begin looking ahead.
While the NFL Draft may be nearly eight months away, draft boards are already taking shape as top prospects and draft needs become clearer.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (Jr.)
The Jaguars have arguably the worst offense in the league and it all starts at quarterback. They nearly went without a touchdown for the first two games of the season before scoring with 2:53 left in their Week 2 matchup against Oakland.
The Jags get lucky here and are able to snag consensus top quarterback prospect Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater may not be an Andrew Luck-level prospect, but he possesses all the skills to develop into a top NFL signal-caller. The quarterback situation in Jacksonville is too dire for them to pass on the top quarterback in the draft.
2. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (Jr.)
Terrelle Pryor has looked surprisingly competent this season, but he is far from being a franchise quarterback. With the top quarterback off the board, however, this selection is easy.
Jadeveon Clowney is a once-in-a-generation prospect. There has been some criticism of Clowney’s motivation and motor this season, but his elite physical abilities and dynamic pass rushing skills make him one of the best defensive prospects to come out in a long time.
3. Cleveland Browns: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (RS So.)
With the trade of Trent Richardson, the Browns are cleaning house and starting over. With the quarterback situation in Cleveland a mess, they have to look at taking a quarterback early in the draft.
While they missed out on Bridgewater, they shouldn’t be too upset with Marcus Mariota. Mariota flashes all the abilities of a top-tier quarterback, but there are questions about how he’ll perform outside Oregon’s system. With Cleveland going through a likely long rebuilding period, Mariota will have plenty of time to be coached and developed.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Josh Freeman and Tampa Bay’s offense has struggled this season and it is only a matter of time before they make the switch to rookie Mike Glennon at the helm. If they aren’t satisfied with Glennon’s performance, this could very well be a quarterback.
An upgrade to the offensive line is the next step to improving the offense if they feel fine at quarterback.
After solidifying himself as a dominant right tackle prospect, Jake Matthews made the switch to the left side this season and has played well. Matthews would be the eventual replacement for Donald Penn, but he could immediately jump in and play on either side.
5. New York Jets: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Jets have two wins under their belt and nearly a third after losing by only three points against New England. The defense has looked solid thus far, but still lacks a dynamic pass rusher.
With a good inside pass rush of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, adding a pass-rusher like Anthony Barr would give them a highly dangerous defense to play against. Barr is only in his second season at linebacker after beginning his collegiate career at running back. The sky is the limit for him.
6. Carolina Panthers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (Jr.)
Cam Newton is in his third season and the Panthers still haven’t given him another good weapon besides Steve Smith. In Sammy Watkins, they would get that playmaker and Smith’s heir.
Watkins is a playmaking receiver that can stretch the field and make plays after the catch. He’s exactly what Newton and the Carolina offense needs to take the next step.
7. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
E.J. Manuel has played fairly well early this season. The line played well the first two games, but weaknesses were exposed after giving up eight sacks against the Jets on Sunday.
Taylor Lewan is a mauling left tackle for the Wolverines with great athleticism. While Cordy Glenn has had success at left tackle, he could jump inside or to right tackle where he could become an All-Pro. If Glenn were moved, Lewan would jump in on the left side. If not, he’ll replace Erik Pears on the right side. Either way they line up, it’s more protection of the Bills’ top investment in Manuel.
8. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (Jr.)
The Rams invested big in Jake Long this past offseason to give them a good blindside protector, but they need to lock up another offensive tackle.
Cyrus Kouandjio is a big lineman with surprising athleticism. While he plays left tackle at Alabama, Kouandjio’s best NFL position would likely be at right tackle where incumbent starter Rodger Saffold is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season.
9. Minnesota Vikings: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (RS So.)
This may be Christian Ponder’s last chance as Minnesota’s starting quarterback and if the Vikings are selecting here, they’ll likely be looking for a quarterback early in the draft.
To replace Ponder, the Vikings could grab Brett Hundley. Hundley is a big, athletic quarterback with mobility and plenty of arm talent.
He’s another guy who will face scrutiny for the system he plays in at UCLA. However, he has all the tools to become Minnesota’s quarterback of the future.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Pittsburgh has struggled early this season leading to a 0-3 start. The offense has been a big part of the early season troubles of the Steelers; however, their defense hasn’t been the dominant force we’re used to seeing either.
Nose tackle has been an issue on defense since the Steelers lost longtime starter Casey Hampton. Louis Nix is a tackle in the mold of Hampton that could finally give them a dominant presence in the middle again. Nix is a hefty lineman, listed at 342 pounds, that can take up space and control the line of scrimmage.
11. Tennessee Titans: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The Titans have gotten off to a surprising 2-1 start and are close to being 3-0. Despite the early success, Jake Locker doesn’t look like their future quarterback, especially if the Titans are picking this early.
Tajh Boyd has similar skills to Locker as he possesses good mobility, a strong arm and good short-to-intermediate accuracy, but he is a better decision-maker. Listed at 6’1″, Boyd’s height will garner some questions, but teams may be willing to overlook that thanks to his other talents.
12. Arizona Cardinals: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee (Jr.)
The Cardinals’ offensive line has played better under new coach Bruce Arians than they did last season. Still, Levi Brown is not the solution at left tackle and Eric Winston is playing on the right side on a one-year contract.
The Cardinals should grab another lineman in the first round to pair with last season’s first-round pick Jonathan Cooper once he’s healthy. Antonio Richardson is a very physical, strong tackle with good footwork. He doesn’t get as much recognition as some other tackles in this class, but he belongs in the conversation as a top tackle prospect.
13. New York Giants: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Giants fans don’t have to hit the “panic button” just yet after opening the season with three losses, but being shut out and giving up 38 points to Carolina has to be concerning.
With Dan Connor on the injured reserve, the linebacker corps is weak. They can address that weakness by adding C.J. Mosley. Mosley is like having a coach on the field and can be successful at any of the linebacker spots in a 4-3 defensive scheme.
14) Philadelphia Eagles: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (Jr.)
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman assembled a talented group of players this season to fit Kelly’s up-tempo style. The secondary, however, is still lacking quality talent.
Bradley Roby has outstanding speed, good football intelligence and enough size to play physical with receivers. Adding Roby to the lineup would possibility give the Eagles a shutdown corner and would vastly improve the defense.
15. St. Louis Rams: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State (Jr.)
If the Rams improve the offensive line with their first selection, they could choose to address the defensive line with their second selection. The Rams lack depth on their defensive line, especially at tackle.
Timmy Jernigan is a very athletic pass-rushing defensive tackle with good explosion off the line. Teamed with Chris Long, Robert Quinn and former first-round pick Michael Brockers, the Rams would have one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California (Jr.)
With Tony Romo now locked up under contract, Dallas could give him another playmaking receiver and create one of the most potent offenses in the league.
While they already have Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and 2013 third-round pick Terrence Williams, they have no one who can be a force in the slot. Marqise Lee could step in immediately and make an impact for the Cowboys.
Lee is a special talent and would be a steal in the middle of the first round. He could have an immediate impact in the slot and compete to be the top receiver on the team soon enough.
See page 2 for picks 17-32.