*=player has had private visit/workout with team
1. Cleveland Browns – DE Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)*
Typically, the top pick in the draft is a quarterback, as a non-quarterback has gone #1 overall just 5 times in the last 19 drafts. In 3 off those instances, the team drafting #1 overall simply didn’t feel the need to upgrade at the quarterback position, as the 2000 Browns, 2006 Texans, and 2013 Chiefs all did not draft a quarterback at any point in that draft. The two exceptions were the 2008 Dolphins selecting Jake Long over Matt Ryan and drafting Chad Henne in the 2nd round and the 2014 Texans selecting Jadeveon Clowney over guys like Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr and then selecting Tom Savage in the 4th round.
The Browns figure to be the third exception. Not only is this a weak quarterback class at the top, but the Browns also select again at 12 and likely feel they can get a quarterback they like with that pick. There isn’t an obvious fit for a quarterback between 1 and 12, so it’s very possible the Browns will have the same choices of quarterbacks when they pick again as they do here. Instead, the Browns select the consensus top player in the draft, Myles Garrett, who will be an instant upgrade for the Browns at defensive end, as they transition to a 4-3 defense.
2. Carolina Panthers (TRADE) – RB Leonard Fournette (LSU)*
It’s no secret that the 49ers are looking to move down from two. With needs all over the field and no consensus #2 overall player in this draft, the 49ers likely feel they can move down into the 6-10 range, still grab a player they really like, and pick up additional picks in the process. The Panthers, meanwhile, are known to covet LSU running back Leonard Fournette and may be willing to move up to grab him. In this scenario, the Panthers send the 49ers the 3rd round compensation pick they got from losing Josh Norman last off-season (#98) and a 2018 1st round pick, which they likely think will be in the mid to late 20s, to move up from 8 to 2 to grab their feature back of the future. Jonathan Stewart is nearing the end of his time in Carolina.
3. Chicago Bears – CB Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)*
Lattimore is a strong candidate to go #2 to the 49ers because he is the best available player that fills a major need for them. The 49ers would probably prefer to move down for another player instead of taking him at 2, but, if they do take Lattimore, that would make the Bears a candidate to move down with a team like Carolina that is looking to leapfrog the Jaguars for Fournette. In this scenario, Lattimore is available and they make the easy choice and fill a huge need with this draft class’ top cornerback. I think it’s Lattimore or trade down for both the 49ers and Bears.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (TRADE) – DE Solomon Thomas (Stanford)
The Jaguars are known to covet Leonard Fournette and will probably end up with him unless someone leapfrogs them for him via draft, as the 49ers and Bears aren’t realistic candidates to draft Fournette. The Bears have Jordan Howard, who rushed for over 1000 yards as a rookie last season, and Fournette doesn’t fit the prototype of what 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan looks for in a running back. In this scenario, the Panthers leapfrog the Jaguars for Fournette, leaving the Jaguars with a tough choice. They’re known to like tight end OJ Howard, but likely feel they can get him a few picks later, so a trade down makes a lot of sense. The Bengals are a candidate to move up and grab this draft class’ second best defensive lineman, Solomon Thomas, who would fill a need for them at both defensive end (in base packages) and defensive tackle (in sub packages). He’s a great prospect, but isn’t an ideal fit for either San Francisco, Chicago, or Jacksonville because none of those teams have a big need for an interior pass rusher. The Bengals send their 2nd rounder to Jacksonville in order to move up.
5. Buffalo Bills (TRADE) – S Jamal Adams (LSU)
The trades continue, as the Titans will likely try to move down unless Lattimore falls to them. The Titans’ big needs are at cornerback, middle linebacker, and wide receiver and any player at those 3 positions would be a reach at this point. Jamal Adams is arguably the best player remaining on the board, but doesn’t fill a need for a Tennessee team that signed Johnathan Cyprien as a free agent this off-season. He would fill a need for the Bills though, as they are currently starting Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde at safety. Adams would be a day 1 starter next to Hyde, with Poyer coming in as a 3rd safety when Hyde covers the slot in sub packages. They send the Titans their second round pick to make this deal.
6. New York Jets – S Malik Hooker (Ohio State)*
The Jets are likely targeting Jamal Adams, but they are so bad they can pretty much just draft the best available player and he’ll be an immediate upgrade for them regardless of position (outside of defensive lineman Jonathan Allen). Hooker is this draft class’ “other” top safety, but he could have been drafted higher than Adams if not for shoulder surgery that will keep him out until training camp. The Jets are going nowhere this season, so they can afford to be patient with a player who has been compared to Earl Thomas. He’d be a massive upgrade over both Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist. Pryor is going into the final year of his rookie deal, while Gilchrist’s status for 2017 is in doubt after rupturing his patellar tendon in December.
7. San Diego Chargers – DT Jonathan Allen (Alabama)*
The Chargers are probably interested in one of the top-2 safeties, but they’ll definitely consider Jonathan Allen at 7 if both safeties are off the board. The Chargers are moving to a 4-3 defense and lack a true 3-technique 4-3 defensive tackle and Allen is a prototypical player at that position. The Chargers drafted Joey Bosa in the first round last year, but he lines up at defensive end in base packages, while Allen is more of a pure defensive tackle. They’ll be a nightmare inside together in passing situations.
8. San Francisco 49ers (TRADE) – RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)
I mentioned earlier that Leonard Fournette doesn’t fit the Shanahan running back prototype. Well, Christian McCaffrey fits like a glove and the 49ers pick up a future first round pick moving down from 2 to 8 to grab him. Carlos Hyde is currently the 49ers’ lead back, but he’s injury prone and going into the final year of his deal and doesn’t do much as a pass catcher, which hurts him in the 49ers’ new offense. It’s no secret the new coaching staff is not sold on him, meaning he’ll likely be let go as a free agent this off-season. In 2017, he can serve as a power complement to McCaffrey, who is a speedier, quicker back with great hands out of the backfield, and then McCaffrey can be the feature back in 2018.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (TRADE) – TE OJ Howard (Alabama)*
With Fournette off the board at 4, OJ Howard becomes the likely target for the Jaguars, as they have a huge hole at tight end after trading away Julius Thomas. Howard is one of the best tight end prospects in years, but 4 would be the highest a tight end has ever gone and the Jaguars can likely get him a few picks later, which is why they traded down. In this scenario, it works out perfectly, though Howard is going to be a candidate for the Jets at 6, especially if Jamal Adams is off the board.
10. Tennessee Titans (TRADE) – WR Mike Williams (Clemson)*
I mentioned earlier that the Titans’ biggest needs are at middle linebacker, cornerback, and wide receiver. They moved down 5 spots and no players at those positions were drafted in those 5 picks, so the trade works out perfectly for Tennessee, who previously didn’t have a second round pick. Middle linebacker Reuben Foster and cornerback Marlon Humphrey are options here, but Mike Williams is someone the Titans have shown a lot of interest in and it’s very possible he’s the highest ranked player left on their board at this point. He’d fill a need instantly opposite Rishard Matthews.
11. New Orleans Saints – DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee)*
It should come as no surprise when the Saints double up on defensive players in the first round (unless they trade one of the picks to New England for cornerback Malcolm Butler). The Saints traded away wide receiver Brandin Cooks for a first round pick because they had an excess of good wide receivers and major holes on defense, particularly at cornerback and defensive end. I expect them to target those positions in the first round. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey is an option here, but reports say the Saints are targeting defensive end at 11 due to the depth of this cornerback class. Barnett fills a major need opposite Cameron Jordan, the only Saints defensive end to have more than a sack and a half last season, and they can target a cornerback at 32.
12. Cleveland Browns – QB Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina)*
The Browns pass on a quarterback at 1 and still get their guy at 12. A team could move up ahead of them to grab Trubisky, but the only teams in the top-11 that I think have a chance to draft a quarterback are Jacksonville at 4, the Jets at 6, and the Chargers at 7 and I don’t see any of those as likely. Trubisky has the upside to be a franchise quarterback, but his lack of experience will keep teams from seeing him as an elite quarterback prospect. At this time last year, he was struggling to win the starting job at North Carolina, so teams will be wary about investing a high pick in him. The Browns have a big enough need to take the plunge at 12 though and are known to like him.
13. Arizona Cardinals – QB Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech)*
The Cardinals are in an interesting position in the first round. They won 13 games in 2015 and were much better than their 7-8-1 record suggested last season, but they suffered many losses on defense this off-season and, with Carson Palmer going into his age 38 season, their championship window might have closed. They could select a non-quarterback in the first round who can contribute instantly, like middle linebacker Reuben Foster, middle linebacker Haason Reddick, or cornerback Marlon Humphrey, try to win in 2017, and then address the quarterback position in 2018. Or, they could take a quarterback of the future like Pat Mahomes, who has great upside, the best arm in the draft, and is known to be liked by head coach Bruce Arians. Drafting Mahomes wouldn’t be an admission that they aren’t trying to compete in 2017, but it will make doing so harder. Both the coaching staff and the front office have pretty good job security at the moment though, so they may be willing to take the risk and pull the trigger on a quarterback.
14. Philadelphia Eagles – DE Takkarist McKinley (UCLA)
Connor Barwin was released this off-season because he was set to make a significant amount of money and wasn’t a good fit in Philadelphia’s 4-3 defense in 2016. They need a long-term complement to Brandon Graham, as free agent acquisition Chris Long is just a stopgap at best going into his age 32 season and Vinny Curry lines up inside at defensive tackle in most passing situations. McKinley would be a much better fit for their defense than Barwin.
15. Indianapolis Colts – CB Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)
The Colts didn’t do much to upgrade their defense in the draft in 2016, focusing on the offensive line instead, and it showed, as the Colts’ aging defense couldn’t stop anyone in 2016. I expect defense to be the focus for the Colts in the draft this year, with few needs on offense and needs on all 3 levels of the defense. Humphrey could easily be seen as the top rated defensive player left on the board and would fill a huge need at cornerback opposite Vontae Davis, where the inexperienced Rashaan Melvin is currently penciled in as the starter.
16. Baltimore Ravens – OT Cam Robinson (Alabama)*
The Ravens took an offensive tackle in the first round last year, but they could easily do so again this year, after losing Ricky Wagner to the Lions in free agency. They have some internal options they like, but they’re also really known to like Cam Robinson, who went to the University of Alabama, Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome’s alma mater. There’s a good chance he’ll be seen as the best available remaining player that makes sense, though there are a lot of different ways this pick could go, including wide receiver (John Ross or Corey Davis).
17. Washington Redskins – MLB Haason Reddick (Temple)*
Middle linebacker was a major issue for the Redskins this season. They addressed it in free agency with Zach Brown, but he was only signed to a one-year deal and they could use an upgrade at the other middle linebacker position as well. Reddick is a rising prospect that the Redskins are known to like. He’s a versatile player who can also line up as an edge rusher in passing situations, which is good for the Redskins, who like to drop safety Su’a Cravens down to middle linebacker in sub packages. Reddick could be a Jamie Collins type player in the NFL and makes a lot of sense here.
18. Tennessee Titans – CB Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado)*
As I mentioned earlier, cornerback, wide receiver, and middle linebacker are the Titans’ biggest needs. The Titans addressed wide receiver earlier with Mike Williams and Haason Reddick went a pick earlier to the Redskins, so it’s between middle linebacker Reuben Foster and one of the cornerbacks. Foster is definitely a possibility, but I went with a cornerback because it’s a bigger need, especially after the Titans released Jason McCourty. Awuzie is someone the Titans are known to be interested in and he makes sense for them at 18. He can start at cornerback day 1 opposite free agent acquisition Logan Ryan.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State)*
Concerns about his off-the-field history and his underwhelming combine have knocked Dalvin Cook down to 3rd on the running back totem pole, but the Buccaneers are known to be very interested and might be his floor at 19. Doug Martin and Charles Sims both struggled last season and neither is a lock to be with the team beyond 2017. Martin has voided all remaining guaranteed money on the 5-year deal he signed last off-season, while Sims is going into the final year of his rookie deal. Cook can split carries with Martin as a rookie and take over as the feature back in 2018 and beyond.
20. Denver Broncos – OT Garett Bolles (Utah)*
The Broncos lost Russell Okung in free agency to the Chargers and replaced him with Menelik Watson, an injury prone swing tackle caliber talent who struggled when pressed into duty in Oakland over the first 4 seasons of his career. Currently Watson is penciled in as a starting offensive tackle, with Donald Stephenson, another mediocre player, who struggled mightily as the Broncos’ starting right tackle in 2016. It’s a huge position of need for the Broncos and a position they could definitely address in the first round. Bolles is the consensus top left tackle prospect in this draft class, with Cam Robinson being more of a pure right tackle.
21. Detroit Lions – MLB Reuben Foster (Alabama)*
DeAndre Levy was signed to a massive extension after the 2014 season, but he barely gave the Lions anything in 2015 and 2016, playing in just 5 games total thanks to injury. The Lions decided to cut their losses and release him this off-season, but that has left them very thin at linebacker. Tahir Whitehead is the best linebacker currently on their roster and he’s best as a pure base package run stopper. Reuben Foster falls because of a failed combine drug test, but the Lions at might be his floor. They are known to be interested in him, even despite the failed test, and he’s a top-10 talent on tape.
22. Miami Dolphins – G Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky)
The Dolphins are moving last year’s first round pick, Laremy Tunsil, back to his natural position at left tackle, following the trade of incumbent left tackle Branden Albert to the Jaguars. That leaves them really thin at guard, where mediocre veterans Ted Larsen and Jermon Bushrod are currently penciled in as the starters. Lamp would be an immediate upgrade over both and would likely start week 1 at one of the two guard spots. A small school kid, Lamp’s stock is rising and he will likely be taken in the first round. Given that guard is their biggest need, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Dolphins took him at 22.
23. New York Giants – TE David Njoku (Miami)*
The Giants’ defense led the way for them last season, as they made the playoffs and won 11 games. However, they need multiple position upgrades on offense. I’ve had a quarterback here in the past because Eli Manning is going into his age 37 season and coming off one of the worst seasons in his career, but the Giants haven’t worked out any of the top quarterbacks so that doesn’t seem likely anymore. Instead, they give Eli Manning a new weapon to work with and take a player they have been very interested in throughout the process. Njoku would be a big upgrade on Will Tye at tight end and would fit the Giants’ pass heavy offense well.
24. Oakland Raiders – MLB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)
The Raiders entered the off-season with big needs at middle linebacker and outside linebacker, with mediocre veterans Perry Riley and Malcolm Smith hitting free agency this off-season. The Raiders signed Jelani Jenkins to plug a hole outside, but he was only signed to a one-year deal, so he’s not a long-term solution. Inside, they have done nothing this off-season and unproven 2015 5th round pick Ben Heeney is penciled in at the top of the depth chart. Cunningham can play both inside and outside and would be an instant upgrade over Heeney.
25. Houston Texans – QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)*
The Texans were able to pawn off Brock Osweiler on the Browns for the price of a 2018 2nd round pick, but are stuck with Tom Savage as their starting quarterback now, with Tony Romo opting for retirement rather than potentially signing with the Texans. They are likely to look at quarterbacks in the first round and they take Deshaun Watson here. He’ll probably be the 3rd quarterback off the board behind Trubisky and Mahomes and would probably sit as a rookie behind Savage, at least to begin the season, but he’s worth the risk for the Texans at 25.
26. Seattle Seahawks – CB Kevin King (Washington)
The Seahawks have had success drafting defensive backs in the middle rounds and coaching them up in Pete Carroll’s time in Seattle, but this year they might take a cornerback early, possibly as early as the first round. Deshawn Shead, who played well last season as the starter opposite Richard Sherman, is likely to miss the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, so they need a new #2 cornerback. King can be that immediately and take over as the #1 cornerback long-term with Richard Sherman’s relationship with the team souring. He might not be traded this off-season or next off-season, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be with the Seahawks beyond the final year of his contract in 2018. King has been compared to Sherman and fits what they look for in a corner at 6-3 200.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – WR John Ross (Washington)
The Chiefs got a steal with Tyreek Hill in the 5th round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he’s not a true every down wide receiver. He’s a major weapon as a return man, as a runner out of the backfield, and on screens, but the Chiefs could use another downfield wide receiver, especially with Jeremy Maclin coming off of a down year. If Maclin continues to struggle, he won’t be back in 2018, owed 11 million non-guaranteed. Ross can be a long-term #1 wide receiver for the Chiefs, something they’ve lacked for a few years.
28. Dallas Cowboys – CB Obi Melifonwu (Connecticut)*
The Cowboys lost cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and safeties JJ Wilcox and Barry Church in free agency this off-season, leaving them thin at both positions. Melifonwu can play both positions and has a chance to sneak into the end of the first round after a strong pre-draft process. The Cowboys will likely start the 6-4 224 pounder at cornerback, but his best pro position figures to be safety.
29. Green Bay Packers – CB Gareon Conley (Ohio State)
The Packers lost Casey Hayward last off-season and Micah Hyde and Sam Shields this off-season, leaving them very thin at cornerback, They used a first and second round pick on a cornerback just two years ago, taking Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, but both struggled mightily in 2016 and they really lack depth behind them, with Ladarius Gunter and Davon House penciled in as the next two guys on the depth chart. The Packers could easily address the cornerback position early in a very good cornerback draft.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – MLB Jabrill Peppers (Michigan)
Jabrill Peppers is going to be one of the most interesting prospects to watch leading up to the draft. Peppers was a Heisman finalist, playing linebacker, safety, cornerback, running back, and returning kicks for the University of Michigan this season, but doesn’t have a clear position on either side of the ball in the NFL. Most expect the 5-11 213 pounder to be a hybrid safety/linebacker in the NFL, but his lack of size for a linebacker and lack of ball skills for a safety complicate matters. Ultimately, it only takes one team to fall in love with him and most still expect him to go in the first round. With the Steelers, he can be a sub package linebacker inside with Ryan Shazier, provide depth at safety and cornerback in base packages, return kicks, and play some running back and slot receiver on offense. They are known to be interested in him.
31. Atlanta Falcons – DE Charles Harris (Missouri)*
Despite Vic Beasley’s league leading 15.5 sacks, the Falcons finished in the bottom half of the league with just 34 sacks as a team in 2016. Dwight Freeney was their primary edge rusher opposite Beasley in sub packages and he’s a free agent right now, coming off of a 3-sack season and going into his age 37 season. Even if he’s brought back, he’s obviously not a long-term solution for the Falcons. With few needs, the Falcons could easily take a defensive end at the end of the first round.
32. New Orleans Saints – CB Adoree Jackson (USC)
As mentioned earlier, the Saints likely feel they can wait on a cornerback more than a defensive end, so they took a defensive end at 11 and focus on cornerback at 32. There’s been a little bit of a run on cornerbacks late in the first round (3 of the last 6 picks), but the Saints can still get a good cornerback at 32. There’s also a possibility that the Saints trade this pick to the Patriots for Malcolm Butler, which would serve the same purpose as drafting Jackson. The Saints really need at upgrade at cornerback.