Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Breaking down the top six picks

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Texans

Some scouts soured on his work ethic, but Clowney out of South Carolina was considered the draft's best player. A 6-foot-5, 266-pound physical freak, Clowney has an exceptional first step and inside move. ESPN's Jon Gruden compared him to Cardinals OLB John Abraham. He's not the best fit for its scheme, but Houston believes he can play outside linebacker on early downs and be a difference-making pass rusher with Pro Bowl DE J.J. Watt. He's the first defensive player taken No. 1 overall since Houston took DE Mario Williams in 2006. "No matter what people say about me, I'm going to take my game to the next level," Clowney said.

2. Greg Robinson, LT, Rams

The Rams must be confident in QB Sam Bradford, passing up several quarterbacks to select an athletic tackle to protect Bradford's blind side, combining a major talent with a major need. Robinson, a key cog in Auburn's running game, needs to improve his pass protection, but ESPN analyst Ray Lewis says Robinson reminds him of his Hall of Fame former Ravens teammate, LT Jonathan Ogden. "He has that type of potential," Lewis said. Robinson could follow Ogden's path, starting his career at left guard before moving over. Robinson's selection marked the first time the SEC had the top two picks in the common-era draft, ESPN said.

3. Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars

The first stunner pick of the draft, with the former UCF star becoming the Jaguars' next attempt at getting a franchise QB. At 6 feet 4, 230 pounds, he often draws comparisons to Steelers improvisational QB Ben Roethlisberger for his size and style. Bortles helped put UCF football on the map, leading it to an upset over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, where he was the offensive MVP. ESPN's Jon Gruden said he expects "a lot of great things ahead" for Bortles. Said Bortles: "I had no idea what was going to happen. Just indescribable." And who would've ever thought UCF would be the only state of Florida school to have a pick in the top 20?

4. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

The Bills made a bold move, working a trade with the Browns to move up five spots to take Watkins, the best receiver in the draft. The Bills, which gave up their first- and fourth-rounders in 2015, will team up the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Watkins with former Bucs WR Mike Williams, who was acquired in the offseason, which should put a smile on the face of QB EJ Manuel. The pick, however, could mean veteran WR Stevie Johnson is on the trading block. Watkins, a Fort Myers native, set Clemson records for catches (240) and 100-yard receiving games (15) in just three seasons. "Great move by Buffalo," ESPN's Jon Gruden said.

5. Khalil Mack, LB, Raiders

Mack went from an unknown who had just two college scholarship offers to nearly unstoppable at Buffalo, becoming a finalist for the 2013 Butkus Award (top linebacker). Mack didn't play in a big conference, but ESPN's Mel Kiper said he established himself as a top-five pick with his spectacular performance against Ohio State last year with 9½ tackles, 2½ sacks and an interception return for a touchdown. With a blend of strength and speed, Mack set school records for sacks (28½), tackles for loss and forced fumbles (16) while playing a hybrid role in a 3-4 scheme, lining up standing up and with his hand down off the edge.

6. Jake Matthews, LT, Falcons

Thought to be one of the safest picks in the draft, Matthews also has bloodlines on his side. He was selected higher than his father, Hall of Fame guard Bruce Matthews (ninth, Oilers 1983), uncle Clay Jr. (12th, Browns, 1978) and cousin Clay III (26th, Packers, 2009). A four-year starter at Texas A&M, Matthews will go from protecting the scrambling Johnny Manziel to pocket-passing Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan. A versatile lineman, Matthews is thought to be a more finished product than No. 2 pick Greg Robinson. "This kid has a tremendous future," ESPN's Jon Gruden said.

Joe Smith, Times staff writer

     
 
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