NFL Draft first-round analysis
A look at the selections and some fast analysis from Thursday's first round:
1. Houston — DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Analysis: Clowney gives the Texans an extremely talented pass rusher to put along the defensive line with JJ Watt. He'll work under new Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel - both former Bill Belichick disciples. "I'm just ready to be beside him and get to work," Clowney said of joining Watt. Clowney is the first defensive player taken first overall since 2006, when the same Texans chose Mario Williams -- also a pass rushing lineman. There were five QBs and two OTs taken first overall in past seven years.
2. St. Louis (from Washington) — OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Analysis: In Robinson, the Rams figure to give QB Sam Bradford -- who is facing pressure to produce and win -- some big-time protection. The Rams' expectation here has got to be that they just drafted a Joe Thomas-caliber tackle who will be protecting their quarterback (which they hope is Bradford) for about a decade.
3. Jacksonville — QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Analysis: Bortles' selection marks the second time the Jaguars have chosen a QB in the first round in four seasons. They chose Blaine Gabbert 11th in 2011. But there is new leadership in Jacksonville in coach Gus Bradley and David Caldwell, who now can stake their tenure on Bortles' arm.
4. Buffalo (from Cleveland) — WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Analysis: The Bills, an AFC East rival to the Patriots, surrendered the 9th overall pick and their first- and fourth-round selections in 2015 to get the fourth pick from Cleveland. Watkins brings an ability to stretch the field and be a playmaker for 2nd-year Bills QB EJ Manuel. Consider this a response to the Patriots, who loaded up their secondary with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in free agency. Watkins is just the fourth receiver to go in the first four picks in the last 10 years. (Braylon Edwards, third in 2005. Calvin Johnson, second in 2007. AJ Green, four in 2011.)
5. Oakland — LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Analysis: Mack was called the best defensive player in the draft by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. He goes to a Raiders squad that added a lot of veterans (DE Justin Tuck, LB LaMarr Woodley, DE Antonio Smith) but now finally has a core young player it can build around.
6. Atlanta — OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Analysis: Matthews brings a Hall of Fame pedigree to Atlanta. His father went to Canton after his 19-year career for the Oilers/Titans. Jake Matthews will try to emulate his bronzed dad in front of Matt Ryan, who really needed some reinforcement along the offensive line. If Matthews can replicate the success of his dad (and bring some of the fire his cousin, Clay Matthews, gives the Packers) he might be able to help Ryan stabilize as he tries to reach the very elite level of NFL QBs. "I'm looking forward to protecting him for a long time," Matthews said of Ryan.
7. Tampa Bay — WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Analysis: Former Johnny Manziel target Evans will now be new QB Tampa Josh McCown's target. The Bucs had a big need at receiver, where Vincent Jackson was the only proven option for them entering the draft. Evans will join new coach Lovie Smith in ushering in a whole new era for the Bucs. With Watkins and Evans off the board in the first seven picks, it marks the third time in 10 seasons (2004, 2007) that two receivers have been chosen in the top 10.
8. Cleveland (from Minnesota) — CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Analysis: The Browns made their second trade of the first eight picks and then again bypassed a chance to draft a QB in order to claim CB Justin Gilbert. Immediately Gilbert could pair with veteran Joe Haden to form one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL. This pick probably shows the influence of new head coach Mike Pettine, the ex-defensive coordinator of the Bills and Jets. Gilbert also provides long-term security at the position for the Browns, since Haden's contract is up after 2014.
9. Minnesota (from Buffalo via Cleveland) — OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Analysis: The Vikings, another team that needs a new quarterback, spurn the position with their top pick, just like the Browns. And like the Browns, the new head coach's past as a former defensive coordinator may have played a role in the pick. In linebacker Anthony Barr, coach Mike Zimmer likely hopes he's adding a strong backbone who can become part of the nucleus of his new team.
10. Detroit — TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Analysis: Tight end did not appear to be a major area of need for the Lions, who still have 2009 first-round pick Brandon Pettigrew and 2013 breakout Joseph Fauria. But picking Ebron probably is a reflection of new coach Jim Caldwell's desire for options on offense. Ebron joins his fellow tight ends, WR Calvin Johnson and free-agent addition Golden Tate as weapons for the heretofore underachieving Matthew Stafford. It's worth wondering if Caldwell envisions Ebron as a do-it-all tight end/H-back hybrid that he cultivated in Dallas Clark with the Colts in his last stint as a head coach.
11. Tennessee — OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Analysis: Another team with a need at quarterback that didn't choose a quarterback. Instead, the Titans welcome a giant offensive tackle from Michigan. Lewan has the look of a franchise-caliber blocker, who for now looks like he'll be leading the way for Jake Locker. He will join an offensive line that already includes longtime veteran Michael Roos and free-agent addition Michael Oher. But new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, a former Steelers offensive coordinator, knows that teams are built from inside out -- especially when they don't have an elite-level QB.
12. NY Giants — WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Analysis: With Hakeem Nicks gone, Beckham has a chance to step in and fill a clear need as a target of Eli Manning. If he can adapt to Tom Coughlin's offense and contribute the way he did at LSU last year, he and Victor Cruz will form a dangerous tandem as Manning's top weapons.
13. St. Louis — DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Analysis: The Rams' pre-draft flirtation with Manziel has now resulted in them bypassing him on two top-13 picks. And while they bolstered their offensive line at No. 2, they added to the heart of their defense with their second pick. Donald is strong pass rusher who will add even more punch to an already stout Rams' defensive line that also includes Chris Long and Pro Bowler Robert Quinn.
14. Chicago — DB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Analysis: Fuller fills a clear need for the Bears. He can play both cornerback and safety, and that versatility will be valuable in Chicago, which has needs at both positions. The Bears' best secondary option is probably 33-year-old Charles Tillman, so in Fuller they hope they're adding someone who will take that mantle from him and carry it for many years.
15. Pittsburgh — OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Analysis: Shazier has the look of a Steeler. The linebacker, chosen at No. 15, is a tackling machine who steps into an area of need - and formerly an area of strength - for the Steelers. Shazier has versatility to play inside or outside, where Shazier could help replace the departed LaMarr Woodley.
16. Dallas — OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
Analysis: The Cowboys let down the Twitter-sphere by not taking Manziel at No. 16, but they likely do the smart thing by selecting offensive lineman Zack Martin. He's probably not a tackle in the NFL, but adds needed depth in front of Tony Romo. … Of course, the hope of many in the NFL Twitterworld was that Jerry Jones was going to choose Manziel with this pick. That would have inevitably set off a quarterback controversy with Romo. Instead, Jones has provided insurance for Romo.
17. Baltimore — ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Analysis: Ozzie Newsome plucks a product of his alma mater, Alabama, yet again. Just as our Ben Volin predicted, the Ravens chose Mosley in what looks like a great fit. Mosley could project as the next cornerstone linebacker for the Ravens following the departure of Ray Lewis after the 2012 season.
18. NY Jets — S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Analysis: The Jets, who continually are trying to take down Tom Brady's Patriots, can't have enough weapons in their secondary. And now they have another one in Pryor. The Louisville product is versatile and can play in coverage and come up and defend the run. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock called him a "bigger Bob Sanders" after the longtime Colts defender. Expect Pryor to be a thorn in the side of Patriots receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
19. Miami — OT Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee
Analysis: The Dolphins, whose offensive line was almost completely turned over after last season, stocked up Ryan Tannehill's blockers with James. James could slide in at right tackle, opposite free-agent addition Branden Albert, or could be plugged in at guard next to center Mike Pouncey. Either way, Miami hopes he'll be a fixture in front of Tannehill.
20. New Orleans (from Arizona) — WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Analysis: The rich get richer as the Saints give Drew Brees a new weapon in Cooks. The Oregon State product has steady hands and caught 128 passes last season. He could project to replace the touches of Darren Sproles in the Saints' offense.
21. Green Bay — S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Analysis: His name might sound funny, but Clinton-Dix's game is serious. Safety was a huge need for Green Bay, and the Packers will likely put Clinton-Dix to work as a roving center-fielder-type defender to help shut down opposing passing games.
22. Cleveland (from Philadelphia) — QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Analysis: The Manziel slide finally ended. After making their third trade of the first round, the Browns took Manziel as their presumptive quarterback of the future. Manziel adds spice to the Browns organization for the first time in a long time. He joins a position that is very weak, with former Patriots backup Brian Hoyer the No. 1 option as of right now. But Manziel will have the chance to compete for the starting job. Browns fans must hope that Manziel, the third QB the team has chosen in the first round since 2007, will be the player who finally ends the franchise's historic run of futility. (Not only is Manziel the 3rd that QB Browns have chosen in 1st round since 2007. He's third QB chosen at No. 22 by Browns since 2007.)
23. Kansas City — DE Dee Ford, Auburn
Analysis: Ford is an edge rusher whose run defense has been questioned. But the Chiefs are likely looking to him to add depth to their pass rushing attack, which needs potent weapons since it must deal with Peyton Manning twice a season.
24. Cincinnati — CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Analysis: The Bengals fill a clear need with a player many saw as the best cornerback in the draft. Dennard is a cousin of Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard. The new Cincinnati defender has innate cover skills, and joins a unit of cornerbacks that will have three members 30 or older this season (Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Terence Newman).
25. San Diego — CB Jason Verrett, TCU
Analysis: San Diego, like Cincinnati, needed a cornerback and they got one here in Verrett. Though just 5-10, 189 pounds, Verrett is a tough defender and has great coverage and reaction skills. "The only thing this kid lacks is height," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. The Chargers may need to add depth to add to him in the secondary later in the draft too.
26. Philadelphia (from Indianapolis via Cleveland) — DE Marcus Smith, Louisville
Analysis: The Eagles added an edge rusher in Smith, someone who adds depth and maybe projects as a replacement for veteran Trent Cole. It's a nod to the defense from coach Chip Kelly, the offensive guru who went heavily for the offense in his first draft last year.
27. Arizona (from New Orleans) — S Deone Bucannon, Washington State
Analysis: The Cardinals would be without their two 2013 starters at safety if the season started now. So they added a new presumptive starter in Buchanan, who at 6-1, 211 pounds should be imposing to NFC West receivers. Buchanan should slide in with Tyrann Mathieu (rehabbing knee injury) and may be a replacement for free agent Yeremiah Bell.
28. Carolina — WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Analysis: The Panthers needed a playmaker badly after veterans like Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell left. So they took Benjamin in the hopes that he'll become a primary target for Cam Newton. The Florida State product caught 15 touchdowns last season.
29. New England — DL Dominique Easley, Florida
Analysis: The Florida-to-New England pipeline has been restocked with the Patriots bolstering their pass rush with Easley. His draft stock was hurt by an ACL tear last season, the second time he's suffered such an injury. But when healthy, he's a stout pass rushing threat. He's the sixth Florida player the Patriots have taken since 2006, but first since taking three in 2010.
30. San Francisco — S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
Analysis: The 49ers have had a lot of turnover in their secondary in the past two years, and in 30th overall pick Jimmy Ward they added what they hope is a cornerstone to their backfield going forward. It's the second year in a row they've drafted a safety in the first round (after Eric Reid last year). Ward is a diminutive free safety with a knack for finding the ball (seven INTs last year).
31. Denver — CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Analysis: First the Broncos signed Aqib Talib away from the Patriots. Now they've added another weapon to their backfield in Roby. Even with Talib, the Broncos needed cornerback depth, with Champ Bailey moving on and Chris Harris recovering from a knee injury. Roby is an Ohio State product with big-game experience who will need to call on that when the Broncos ask him to contribute right away.
32. Minnesota (from Seattle) — QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Analysis: The Vikings needed a QB, and by trading into the Seahawks' spot at No. 32 they snuck in before the Texans' first pick of the 2nd round, where Bill O'Brien also will be looking for a new signal caller. Bridgewater is the second QB they've drafted in the first round in four years. They chose Christian Ponder at No. 12 in 2011. Ponder is still on the roster, but he has done little to assert himself as the answer in Minnesota. Bridgewater has time to grow though, because veteran Matt Cassel is also on the roster, and Cassel can start until coach Mike Zimmer thinks Bridgewater is ready.