Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett
My top-ranked cornerback in the class, Jason Verrett makes up for his lack of size with physicality, elite ball skills, and excellent FBI. Verrett is an expert at re-routing wide receivers, and his ability in press coverage is pretty comparable with Darqueze Dennard’s ability to jam wideouts. Some believe that Verrett’s lack of height has him ticketed for a career in the slot, but I view him as more of a Brent Grimes-type. I think Verrett has the ball skills and technique to be a shutdown corner in this league, but there’s also nothing wrong with him being a top-notch slot CB. The Bengals could use a guy like him at corner to help take their defense to the next level.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert
The Steelers biggest need right now is at cornerback, and I could see them going in a number of directions to fill the position in this year’s draft. Darqueze Dennard fits if the Steelers want a press-man corner to lock up No. 1 receivers one-on-one, but I think Gilbert’s speed, athleticism, and playmaking ability make him the ideal pick for the Steelers in round one.
Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan
Since Zack Martin will likely be available for the Ravens with the 17th pick, Lewan would be the closest thing to a “dream” pick for the Ravens. Then again, I’m not entirely sure if the Ravens would want to draft Lewan given his character concerns, and they might also like Martin’s versatility more. But if a player as talent as Lewan is available there, then the Ravens have to at least give him a long look. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be a solid pick for the Ravens if he’s still around, as he would be a solid starting free safety next to Matt Elam at SS. However, I think the Ravens have a bigger need at tackle than at safety.
Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater at 26
Another team hoping for Teddy. While I have the Browns picking up Derek Carr, who is my second-ranked QB behind Bridgewater, the Browns dream pick is pretty clear to me. QB is by far their biggest need right now, and they could be a playoff team with a solid starting quarterback. Bridgewater fits the bill as that guy, and the Browns shouldn’t gamble and need to take a QB at #4, especially if Bridgewater or Carr is there. But just as I did with the Texans, I’m going to get greedy with the Browns and have them taking Bridgewater with their second first-round pick. The way some people talk about Bridgewater scares me, because he could be poised for an Aaron Rodgers-style slide on draft-day if the doubters win out. And if they do, the team that finally does take him would emerge as big winners in May.
Denver Broncos: C.J. Mosley
The Denver Broncos could use a middle linebacker to replace Wesley Woodyard, who signed with the Tennessee Titans after receiving just about no re-signing interest from the Broncos, and C.J. Mosley would be amazing pick for them at 31. Mosley seems to be a little bit undervalued as a draft prospect, because he’s one of the 15 most talented prospects but ends up falling outside of the top 20 in many mock drafts. Mosley is the most well-rounded linebacker in the draft, and he’s clearly the best ILB/MLB over solid players like Yawin Smallwood and Chris Borland. His ability to excel in coverage and his leadership are two big positives, and he, Von Miller, and Danny Trevathan would form an amazing linebacker corps.
Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee
The Chiefs could really use a guard, but I’m not sure I would take one in the first round if I were them, nor would I prioritize free safety over wide receiver. Although there is plenty of depth at WR, Marqise Lee is simply too good to pass up on if he falls to the Chiefs with the 23rd pick. I don’t think Odell Beckham Jr. will make it out of the top 20, so a guy as athletic and explosive as Lee on the outside is a dream enough for Alex Smith. The Chiefs desperately need a better wide receiver across from Dwayne Bowe, and Lee would be a huge upgrade; he was an electrifying player in each of his last two seasons with the USC Trojans.
San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett
Tom Telesco would probably love to get his hands on Jason Verrett, with Darqueze Dennard probably being a close second on his wish list. The Chargers cut their losses with 2013 free-agent bust Derek Cox this offseason, so they are in the market for a No. 1 corner, especially one who is physical with opposing receivers. You can’t go wrong with Dennard or Bradley Roby if you are the Chargers, because both are very talented corners who would help fill the biggest need on this team’s roster. However, I have Verrett ranked higher than both of them on my board, so I’ll designate him as my preferred pick for the Chargers.
Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins
I had a bit of a back-and-forth in my head between Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins, but I decided that playmakers on the offensive side of the ball are more important for the Oakland Raiders. Watkins will probably be there for the Raiders with the fifth overall pick while Clowney probably won’t be, but the Raiders are pretty strong at defensive end after signing veterans Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley. The latter end is a bit of a gamble at this stage, but I like their defensive end duo more than I like their wide receivers at this point. Denarius Moore and Rod Streater aren’t bad players, but they are more WR2 and WR3s respectively than a true WR1 and WR2 combo.