AP draft predictions
AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK — Six of the first eight teams selecting in Thursday night’s draft, barring trades that almost surely will come, need quarterbacks.
So why does our mock draft have only one QB going in the opening eight spots? Read on:
1. Houston (2-14)
Despite flopping from AFC South power to worst in league, Texans aren’t that far away talent-wise. New coach Bill O’Brien gets good start on rebuilding with best overall player.
JADAVEON CLOWNEY, DE, SOUTH CAROLINA
2. St. Louis (7-9), from Washington
Rams wouldn’t mind trading out of here, a pick they got in 2012 Robert Griffin III deal. If they keep it, they get different kind of RG: road grader.
GREG ROBINSON, OT, AUBURN
3. Jacksonville (4-12)
Gus Bradley has cut his teeth as a defensive master. Now he gets fierce pass rusher who could go at linebacker or end.
KHALIL MACK, LB-DE, BUFFALO
4. Cleveland (4-12)
If new front office regime makes this pick, it will make sense. If owner Jimmy Haslam insists on high-profile QB with Heisman Trophy in his collection, all bets are off.
SAMMY WATKINS, WR, CLEMSON
5. Oakland (4-12)
Having acquired Matt Schaub from Houston, Oakland’s QB issues are no longer front and center. Except that these are the Raiders, so …
JOHNNY MANZIEL, QB, TEXAS A&M
6. Atlanta (4-12)
Falcons badly need some protection for QB Matt Ryan, and there still are two ready-for-prime-time blockers available. They take one with NFL bloodlines.
JAKE MATTHEWS, OT, TEXAS A&M
7. Tampa Bay (4-12)
Sometimes by now, there’s a fall-off in talent from the very elite. Not in this draft, so Bucs help passing game with yet another Aggie.
MIKE EVANS, WR, TEXAS A&M
8. Minnesota (5-10-1)
Vikings will be tempted to add young quarterback, but with Christian Ponder flop still fresh in their minds, they go defense.
ANTHONY BARR, LB, UCLA
9. Buffalo (6-10)
Bills were hoping for Evans, also will consider other wideouts from deep class, then opt for just what coach Doug Marrone likes most: a rugged offensive lineman.
TAYLOR LEWAN, OT, MICHIGAN
10. Detroit (7-9)
Cornerback or safety to deal with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler four times a season? If Lions stay put, they have choice of best at either position.
JUSTIN GILBERT, CB, OKLAHOMA STATE
11. Tennessee (7-9)
With Titans needing playmaker in secondary, best safety in this draft, from a winning program no less, is available.
HA HA CLINTON-DIX, S, ALABAMA
12. New York Giants (7-9)
With fans chanting for receiver or tight end, Giants do what they so often have done in last two decades: bolster defense with a stud.
AARON DONALD, DT, PITTSBURGH
13. St. Louis (7-9)
Having added Robinson to trenches, Rams boost receiving corps once again — they took speedy Tavon Austin in first round last year.
ODELL BECKHAM JR., WR, LSU
14. Chicago (8-8)
Bears coveted Donald and also had their eyes on Gilbert. But there’s another top-notch defensive back left, and they grab him.
DARQUEZE DENNARD, CB, MICHIGAN STATE
15. Pittsburgh (8-8)
An aging team that needs a highly successful draft, Steelers concentrate on defense early and bolster linebacking corps.
C.J. MOSLEY, LB, ALABAMA
16. Dallas (8-8)
Cowboys have look of last-place team, especially on defense. Time to work on that area with a pass rusher.
TIM JERNIGAN, DT, FLORIDA STATE
17. Baltimore (8-8)
Baltimore’s offensive line has been inconsistent, but with top three tackles gone, GM Ozzie Newsome has to decide if a guard is worth this spot.
ZACK MARTIN, G, NOTRE DAME
18. New York Jets (8-8)
Jets didn’t expect best tight end in class to be on board, so they switch from defensive back considerations and grab …
ERIC EBRON, TE, NORTH CAROLINA
19. Miami (8-8)
Offensive line was mess even without bullying scandal. Ravens took guy Miami really sought, so Dolphins move on to …
XAVIER SU’A-FILO, G, UCLA
20. Arizona (10-6)
Carson Palmer’s heir, someone just as tall and solidly built, becomes second quarterback chosen.
BLAKE BORTLES, QB, CENTRAL FLORIDA
21. Green Bay (8-7-1)
The way Clay Matthews keeps getting nicked, Packers need another playmaker at linebacker. They have other defensive needs, too, with LB first spot addressed.
RYAN SHAZIER, LB, OHIO STATE
22. Philadelphia (10-6)
Chip Kelly’s speed-em-up offense gets another product from Beaver state, although not from his former team in Eugene.
BRANDIN COOKS, WR, OREGON STATE
23. Kansas City (11-5)
Chiefs must decide whether to address offensive line or receiver. Believing they can get good wideout later on, they go for …
CYRUS KOUANDJIO, G-T, ALABAMA
24. Cincinnati (11-5)
Michael Johnson left for Tampa, Geno Atkins comes off major injury, and one of top talents remaining happens to play D-line.
KONY EARLY, DE, MISSOURI
25. San Diego (9-7)
Cornerback with decent size, good athletic ability and strong coverage skills would help San Diego match up better with Peyton Manning.
KYLE FULLER, CB, VIRGINIA TECH
26. Cleveland, from Indianapolis (4-12)
Now Browns grab that “quarterback of the future.”
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, QB, LOUISVILLE
27. New Orleans (11-5)
Coordinator Rob Ryan wants difference maker on defense. Head coach Sean Payton is an offense-trained guy. Guess who wins.
MARQISE LEE, WR, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
28. Carolina (12-4)
Panthers sigh big-time when Lee goes off the board, then fill one of voids on offensive line with Jordan Gross retiring.
MORGAN MOSES, OT, VIRGINIA
29. New England (12-4)
So you think Bill Belichick is ready to draft and groom someone to replace Tom Brady. We don’t. Not yet.
DEE FORD, DE, AUBURN
30. San Francisco (12-4)
Best player on board comes into action here.
CALVIN PRYOR, S, LOUISVILLE
31. Denver (13-3)
Broncos need to address offensive line for as long as Manning remains the quarterback. But drop-off there is too severe, so they also go for best player available.
LOUIS NIX, DT, NOTRE DAME
32. Seattle (13-3)
Pity Seahawks for having to pick last? Not quite, because they fill major hole with …
KELVIN BENJAMIN, WR, FLORIDA STATE