Jacksonville Jaguars — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Jacksonville’s woes don’t figure to end at any point. The problems start with the quarterback, where Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne have been the two worst in the league for years. A “face-of-the-franchise” signal-caller like Bridgewater will be the centerpiece of the rebuilding effort. In a draft with the deepest class of QB’s in recent memory, Bridgewater stands above the rest. Although he doesn’t have any skills that are considered elite, his intelligence, decision-making, strength, accurate arm and athleticism combine for an immediate NFL starter.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Bucs had high hopes entering the season, but injuries decimated the skill positions on offense, and quarterback Josh Freeman did not have the bounce-back season many had hoped for. Instead, Freeman is now a benchwarmer for the Minnesota Vikings, leaving Vincent Jackson and Mike Glennon as the only notable players on a porous offense. The defense is actually alright, especially against the run. Clowney is far and away the best player in the draft, and the only way he doesn’t go to the Bucs here is via a trade. An elite pass rusher is the only missing ingredient from this defense and would be exactly what Tampa Bay needs to get back to their smash-mouth, physical style that took them to the Super Bowl over a decade ago.
Minnesota Vikings — Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The signing of Josh Freeman signifies the end of the Christian Ponder era in Minnesota. However, after Freeman’s cringe-worthy debut for the Purple People Eaters, it is clear that their franchise QB is not on this roster at the moment. Enter Mariota. The redshirt sophomore phenom is skyrocketing up draft boards and is now being ranked even higher than Teddy Bridgewater. Mariota’s 95.5 Total Quarterback Rating is tops in the nation and better than all of the last four Heisman-winning quarterbacks. He has elite athleticism comparable to Robert Griffin III, and this season he has added the ability to throw deep passes down the sidelines. Bridgewater is considered more of a sure thing, and thus more likely to go number one. But Mariota has the highest upside of any offensive player in the draft and has a chance to leapfrog into the number one spot.
New York Giants — Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Through the first six games of the season, New York was historically awful, even giving the Jaguars a run for their money as worst in the league. They seemed to have turned it around a bit, although their only two wins have come against a demoralized Vikings team and a beat-up Eagles team. Their point differential and unbalanced team composition are the makeup for a terrible team, and they need to add some great role players to contend next year. A franchise left tackle like Matthews would help protect Eli Manning, restore the capacity to utilize Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks and rejuvenate the worst running game in football. A playmaker on defense is also a possibility, but I expect NY to look to improve an offense that earlier in the season got shut out by the Carolina Panthers.
Houston Texans — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
This would be the pick if the season ended today and no trades were made, but I don’t expect it to actually shape up this way. Houston needs a quarterback, but with Mariota and Bridgewater off the board, there is no player worthy of a top five pick. I expect Houston to trade down and go after someone like Brett Hundley, Tajh Boyd or Johnny Manziel. However, all this considered, Watkins would be a solid pick for the Texans here. An explosive playmaker on offense, Watkins has the potential of an elite number one to take the place of the slowing Andre Johnson. He does incredible things after the catch and is showing the technical ability to be a reliable, go-to threat.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 29th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Art by Vicky Kohatsu of the Daily Nexus.