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Monday, March 31, 2014
NFL Draft: The Top Five

By Pat McManamon

The first five choices in the NFL draft remain up in the air, with three quarterbacks, two linebackers, two offensive tackles and a receiver all considered a possibility for the Houston Texans, the St. Louis Rams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cleveland Browns or the Oakland Raiders. What will happen? Check back in May.

Until then, the five NFL Nation reporters from each of the top five teams will get together periodically to offer their thoughts on what they would do. Your comments are welcome.

Here's the first look:

1. Texans: Tania Ganguli picks Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. Of all of them, this is the player most worthy of the top pick. His talent is transcendent and the Texans need another pass-rusher. If they aren't sold on Clowney, I'd trade this pick to someone who is.

2. Rams: Nick Wagoner picks Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. I would give strong consideration to one of the top two offensive tackles but this is a rare opportunity to get the No. 1 receiver the Rams have lacked since Torry Holt's heyday. Since the Rams also have the 13th pick, I'd look to address the offensive line then. Of course, trading down would also be a possibility.

3. Jaguars: Mike DiRocco picks Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo. There's a lot of temptation to take one of the quarterbacks, but general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley don't believe any of them are ready to play right away. Despite adding players to the defense in free agency -- ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and linebacker Dekoda Watson -- the Jaguars still need a lot of help. Mack has the versatility to rush the passer and play in coverage. Plus, the defense needs to get faster and Mack fits that bill, too.

4. Browns: Pat McManamon picks Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. The first three picks from the ESPN.com reporters have put the Browns guy in a bind. Their preferred draft order should read Watkins, Mack, Clowney, but all three are gone. (If I'm the Browns and this happens, I might pull a Bill Belichcik, throw a hissy fit, trade out of the pick and take Craig Powell, Jr.) The three top guys on my board are gone. Which leaves Greg Robinson or a quarterback. Though none of the quarterbacks are exciting, Bortles has the size and arm strength and best potential of the three. I'm picking for the future, a selection that cements Brian Hoyer as the starter.

5. Raiders: Paul Gutierrez picks Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M. Well, this is not at all how I thought this would go. The Raiders need a playmaker, a Watkins-type for newly acquired Matt Schaub to throw the ball to in this revamped offense. But since he's gone, if I had my druthers, I'd trade down and pick up Mike Evans to become Schaub's Andre Johnson 2.0. But since we're not trading in this particular exercise, I suppose I could just gamble and use the pick on Evans, right? Thing is, those two stud tackles are still there and Matthews could be the best player in the entire draft, regardless of position. You build a team on the lines, so I'm going with Matthews at No. 5 for the Raiders to continue their "reconstruction" … for now.