1. Arizona Cardinals – OLB Nick Bosa (Ohio State)
The Cardinals would probably prefer to trade down and pick up multiple premium picks to fill out their thin roster, but there isn’t a can’t miss quarterback prospect in this draft, so the Cardinals might not get any offers to their liking. If they stay put, Nick Bosa seems like the obvious choice. Not only is he considered by most to be the top prospect in the draft, but he also fills a major need for the Cardinals opposite Chandler Jones, who has 41 sacks in 3 seasons since arriving in Arizona. Markus Golden, who had 12.5 sacks in 2016, managed just 2.5 sacks in 15 games between 2017-2018, in part to due injury. No Cardinal other than Jones had more than 4.5 sacks last season. Without Golden now a free agent, the Cardinals can use this opportunity to find an upgrade. If Bosa develops into the kind of player he can be, the Cardinals will have a feared pass rush duo for years to come.
2. San Francisco 49ers – DT Quinnen Williams (Alabama)
The 49ers make even more sense as a candidate to trade down with a quarterback needy team, as the top available prospect Quinnen Williams doesn’t fill a need for them, with recent first rounders DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead both coming off of strong seasons inside in the 49ers’ 4-3 defense. Their preference may be to move down into the 6-10 range, accumulate picks in the process, and address more pressing needs at cornerback or defensive end. If they stay put, they could still take Williams, despite the lack of need, or they could reach for defensive end Josh Allen or cornerback Greedy Williams. I’m putting Quinnen Williams here for now. Both Armstead and Buckner can play some defensive end, so the 49ers can figure out how to use all three. Armstead is also going into the final year of his contract in 2019.
3. New York Jets – DE Josh Allen (Kentucky)
Allen is a candidate to go 2nd overall and makes a lot of sense to the Jets at 3. The Jets are desperate for an edge rusher and Allen is a clear top-5 talent. Nick Bosa may be the higher rated prospect, but Allen was the more productive pass rusher, dominating at the highest level in the SEC. He can play defensive end for the Jets in their new 4-3 defense under Gregg Williams and could easily lead the team in sacks as a rookie. The Jets haven’t had an edge rusher with more than 7 sacks since 2013.
4. Oakland Raiders – CB Greedy Williams (LSU)
The Raiders have three first round picks this year, which is good because this is a strong defensive class and they had one of the worst defenses in the league last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used all three picks on defensive players. Josh Allen would probably be their preference here, as they try to replace Khalil Mack, but he could easily go in the top-3. Instead, the Raiders could take Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, who is likely going to be the 2nd defensive end off the board, but he might be a little bit of a reach at 4. Defensive tackles Rashan Gary and Ed Oliver could be options, but the Raiders also used two draft picks on defensive tackles last year and got good play from both of them as rookies. That leaves cornerback Greedy Williams and middle linebacker Devin White as the most likely options, with both filling significant needs. I’m giving them Williams just because cornerbacks tend to go in the top-5 more often than linebackers, but White is an option here as well.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OT Jonah Williams (Alabama)
The Buccaneers had one of the worst defenses in the league last season, but, with four defensive players coming off the board to start the draft, the Buccaneers could instead look to fill a major need on offense. Left tackle Donovan Smith turned into a decent starter in his 4th season in the league in 2018, but he struggled in his first 3 seasons and now he’s a free agent. The Buccaneers may not want to get into a bidding war for a player they watched struggle for years. Even if they do overpay to bring him back, right tackle Demar Dotson is going into his age 34 contract year. Williams has a huge upside and would be an upgrade over both.
6. New York Giants – QB Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State)
If I were projecting trades, I wouldn’t have Haskins available at 6, as some quarterback needy team, perhaps even the Giants, will trade up in order to secure the top signal caller in a weak class. The Giants took Saquon Barkley instead of a quarterback with the 2nd pick last year, a move that could still prove to be a mistake if any of the other first round quarterbacks develop into a high level quarterback and the Giants are unable to find one in subsequent drafts. Barkley is a great player, but he just had an incredible year and the Giants still went 5-11 and finished in last place. If they like Haskins, there isn’t a Saquon Barkley level player worth passing on him for this time around and they may see moving up for him as worth it.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Daniel Jones (Duke)
The Jaguars are one of those teams that could move up for Haskins. If they don’t, they could stay put and take Duke’s Daniel Jones, a high upside prospect that could rise up draft boards throughout the process. The Jaguars are expected to move on from Blake Bortles this off-season and, even if they add a veteran quarterback like Joe Flacco, they could still use a young developmental quarterback behind him.
8. Detroit Lions – MLB Devin White (LSU)
The Lions used a first round pick on a middle linebacker in 2017, taking Jarrad Davis 21st overall, but he played better at outside linebacker last season. Devin White is a good value here at 8 and gives the Lions a legitimate three down inside linebacker. He would be a nice addition to a defense that was much improved in the second half of the season in Matt Patricia’s first year in Detroit.
9. Buffalo Bills – DT Rashan Gary (Michigan)
Long-time Bill Kyle Williams is retiring ahead of what would have been his age 36 season in 2019, but this is a good year to have a need at defensive tackle in the draft. Rashan Gary is a top-5 talent, but falls because of lack of need for the position among many of the teams in the top-8. The Bills will consider both him and Ed Oliver, but Gary seems to be the higher rated of the two right now. He would rotate with 2018 free agent acquisition Star Lotulelei and 2018 3rd round pick Harrison Phillips.
10. Denver Broncos – OT Jawaan Taylor (Florida)
With Jared Veldheer heading to free agency and possibly retirement ahead of what would be his age 32 season in 2019, the Broncos have a major hole at right tackle. They drafted an offensive tackle in the first round in 2017 in Garret Bolles, who has been a serviceable, but underwhelming left tackle in 2 seasons in the league, but this is a position they could easily address early in the draft again. If Taylor and Bolles both develop, they could be a talented bookend tackle duo. The Broncos could also look to move up for a quarterback if they decide they like one. Case Keenum is a free agent next off-season and does not look like the long-term answer.
11. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Cody Ford (Oklahoma)
The Bengals used a first round pick on an offensive lineman last year, taking center Billy Price with the 21st overall pick, but they need to continue building their offensive line. They could use upgrades at both right guard and right tackle and Ford can play both spots, though I expect he’d be given a chance at right tackle first. He could also gives them insurance for left tackle Cordy Glenn, who has missed 19 of 48 games over the past 3 seasons.
12. Green Bay Packers – OLB Clelin Ferrell (Clemson)
Clelin Ferrell could go to a few different teams in the top-10 and this is probably his floor. The Packers got a breakout year from 3rd year outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who had 10.5 sacks, including 5.5 in 7 starts, but they didn’t have a single other edge rusher with more than 3.5 sacks. Clay Matthews looked like a shell of his former self and likely won’t be brought back in a starting role as a free agent for his age 33 season in 2019, while Nick Perry has had just 8.5 sacks in 21 games in 2 seasons since signing a 5-year, 59 million dollar deal and might not be brought back at a non-guaranteed 10.75 million dollar salary.
13. Miami Dolphins – QB Drew Lock (Missouri)
The Dolphins are another team that could move up for a quarterback. If they stay put at 13, I could see them taking a quarterback like Drew Lock or even Kyler Murray, though I’m hesitant to put Murray in the first round until he guarantees he’s going to be playing football instead of baseball. The Dolphins seem likely to move on from Ryan Tannehill and his 18.75 million dollar non-guaranteed salary. With cap problems and several needs to address in free agency, the Dolphins could use a cheap young quarterback.
14. Atlanta Falcons – DT Ed Oliver (Houston)
Ed Oliver could easily go in the top-10 based on talent, but this is a strong defensive tackle class and there wasn’t an obvious fit for him in the top-10, with Rashan Gary going 9th to the Bills. The Falcons wouldn’t complain, as they have a massive need at defensive tackle next to Grady Jarrett, who will undoubtedly be franchise tagged as a free agent this off-season. If Oliver can develop into a high level player and Jarrett signs long-term, they’d be one of the best defensive tackle duos in the league.
15. Washington Redskins – MLB Devin Bush (Michigan)
The Redskins have a solid defense, but could use an upgrade on Mason Foster at middle linebacker. Bush profiles as a three down linebacker and can also rush the passer off the edge and blitz effectively. He’ll be a great fit in the Redskins 3-4 defense.
16. Carolina Panthers – DE Jachai Polite (Florida)
Mario Addison and Julius Peppers led Panther defensive ends in snaps in 2018, but they’re going into their age 32 and age 39 seasons respectively and the Panthers have next to no depth behind them. They could use a high pick on an edge rusher.
17. Cleveland Browns – DT Jeffery Simmons (Mississippi State)
The Browns need to upgrade starting defensive tackle Trevon Coley, who is arguably their weakest starter on defense. Fortunately, this is a good year to need a defensive tackle. Jeffery Simmons is a good value at 17. He’s a top-5 talent who slides because of off-the-field issues. Browns GM John Dorsey has been willing to overlook off-the-field issues in the past.
18. Minnesota Vikings – DT Christian Wilkins (Clemson)
Sheldon Richardson had a solid year in 2018, but he was only signed to a one-year deal and the Vikings don’t have much depth behind him, with Tom Johnson also not under contract for 2019, his age 35 season. They could dip into this deep defensive tackle class.
19. Tennessee Titans – OLB Montez Sweat (Mississippi State)
The Titans used a 2nd round pick on Harold Landry last year, but they need a long-term bookend for him. Brian Orakpo just retired ahead of what would have been his age 33 season and the declining Derrick Morgan is a 30-year-old free agent this off-season.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB DeAndre Baker (Georgia)
The Steelers benched 2016 1st round pick Artie Burns and barely played him in the second half of the season, but that didn’t help their cornerback issues, as veteran journeyman Coty Sensabaugh and 2017 3rd round pick Cameron Sutton both struggled. Baker gives them an upgrade on free agent Coty Sensabaugh and insurance in case Joe Haden leaves as a free agent next off-season.
21. Seattle Seahawks – OT Greg Little (Mississippi)
The Seahawks used a first round pick on Germain Ifedi in 2016, but he’s struggled in 3 seasons in the league and it might be time for the Seahawks to give up on him, or at least move him inside at guard. Greg Little would be an immediate upgrade at right tackle and is a good value at 21. The 6-6 325 pounder fits what the Seahawks like in an offensive lineman and could ultimately move to left tackle in a few years, as Duane Brown is going into his age 34 season.
22. Baltimore Ravens – WR AJ Brown (Mississippi)
The Ravens can’t keep giving Lamar Jackson 15-20 carries per game and expect him to last the whole season, so they’re going to have to open up their passing game over the off-season. Unfortunately, John Brown is a free agent, Michael Crabtree could be a cap casualty, and Willie Snead is a free agent next off-season. Without a true #1 receiver, they could use a high pick on a wide receiver. This isn’t a good wide receiver class at the top, but this is around where I expect the first wideout to come off the board.
23. Houston Texans – TE Noah Fant (Iowa)
When Will Fuller and Keke Coutee are healthy, the Texans will have a talented trio of wide receivers, but they need a pass catching threat over the middle at tight end. They’ll have a couple tight end options to choose from late in the first round, so that’s a direction they could go.
24. Oakland Raiders – DE Brian Burns (Florida State)
The Raiders got this pick for Khalil Mack, so it would make sense for them to use it on his replacement, assuming they don’t go defensive end at 4. Brian Burns is undersized, but has a big upside and could immediately be the Raiders’ best pass rusher.
25. Philadelphia Eagles – DT Dre’Mont Jones (Ohio State)
Fletcher Cox is one of the best defensive players in the game, but Haloti Ngata is a 35-year-old free agent this off-season and Timmy Jernigan just missed most of the season after off-season back surgery. Jernigan definitely has bounce back potential in 2019 if healthy, but the Eagles like to rotate defensive linemen and, without many other pressing needs, could dip into this deep defensive tackle class. Jones gives them insurance for Jernigan and could potentially form a dangerous trio with Jernigan and Cox.
26. Indianapolis Colts – DT Jerry Tillery (Notre Dame)
The Colts’ defense exceeded expectations this season, but they could use more talent, especially on the defensive line. Denico Autry and Margus Hunt were a solid defensive tackle duo, but the latter is a 32-year-old free agent this off-season and they don’t have much depth behind them. This is yet another team that could take a defensive tackle in the first round.
27. Oakland Raiders – S Deionte Thompson (Alabama)
The Raiders used a first round pick on Karl Joseph in 2016, but, despite decent play in his first two seasons, Jon Gruden decided he didn’t want Joseph to remain a starter in 2018, opting instead to use washed up veterans like Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson. Both are free agents this off-season, so the Raiders could look to the draft for another safety to compete with Karl Joseph and 2016 undrafted free agent Erik Harris, who also strangely saw action ahead of Joseph in 2018.
28. Los Angeles Chargers – MLB Mack Wilson (Alabama)
The Chargers’ 7 defensive back strategy worked against the Ravens, but it was largely out of necessity, with their top-3 linebackers Denzel Perryman, Jatavis Brown, and Kyzir White out with injuries. Brown and White will be back in 2019, but Perryman is a free agent. If he isn’t retained, the Chargers could look to the draft to replace him.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – CB Byron Murphy (Washington)
The Chiefs could upgrade at cornerback, where both Steven Nelson and Orlando Scandrick are free agents this off-season. Kendall Fuller is probably their best cornerback, but he only has one year left on his deal.
30. Green Bay Packers – S Johnathan Abram (Mississippi State)
The Packers weirdly traded HaHa Clinton-Dix to the Redskins at the deadline and subsequently had terrible safety play for the remainder of the season. They could address this with their other first round pick.
31. Los Angeles Rams – DT Dexter Lawrence (Clemson)
Ndamukong Suh had a solid year, but he was only signed to a one-year deal and the Rams might not be able to bring him back for cap reasons. They could find his replacement through the draft.
32. New England Patriots – DE Zach Allen (Boston College)
Even if the Patriots retain Trey Flowers in free agency, they need another defensive end. Zach Allen has the size that Belichick likes in a defensive end at 6-5 285 and can also line up inside in passing situations.