We are under two weeks away from the premier event of the NFL offseason, and things are starting to heat up. The brightest stars of the 2016 college football season will align in Philadelphia soon to learn their fate for the upcoming NFL season.
And with the draft comes mock drafting season, and I’ve taken a stab at trying to predict the top 32 picks this year. Here we go.
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
There really is nothing complicated about this. Garrett is the best player in this draft class by a wide distance, and is way too talented for the Browns to pass up on. This should be a no-brainer.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
A lot of people think teams could be scared off by his lingering injury concerns, but Hooker is the second best player in this draft. The 49ers as a team have holes to fill all over and Hooker can solidify one of those.
3. Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Bears were third last in the NFC and seventh last in the NFL last season in pass defense. The linebacking group John Fox has to work with is actually pretty stable, but Chicago desperately needs to fix the backend. With Hooker off the board, Adams is the best safety available.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
It looks like the Jaguars are committed to giving the Blake Bortles experiment a little bit more time. A platoon of Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon simply won’t cut it for support in the run game. Fournette is exactly what the Jaguars need to take some pressure off of a struggling quarterback.
5. Tennessee Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Finishing 30th in the league in pass defense is not going to cut it for Tennessee. The top of this draft is loaded with secondary talent, and Lattimore will be the next one to hear his name called.
6. New York Jets – DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Trying to figure out the Jets’ quarterback situation seems an impossible task now. Yet again, they’ll have to try to rebuild it through the draft. I think that Kizer is the best quarterback in this class. He has issues with his footwork at times, but he has a cannon for an arm and his pros outweigh the cons.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Let’s take a quick moment to imagine Joey Bosa on one side, Jonathan Allen on the other, and Gus Bradley coaching both of them up. Defensive end is not the biggest need for the Chargers, but if the Alabama stud actually slips this far I don’t see how they can pass on him.
8. Carolina Panthers – Soloman Thomas, DE, Stanford
We’ve reached the defensive end portion of our draft, and the Carolina Panthers will keep the train chugging forward. Thomas is arguably a more complete player than even Allen, but scouts seem to like Allen. Thomas is a game-wrecker who could go nice on the opposite side of Kony Ealy.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett has been rocketing up draft boards in recent weeks, and for good reason. He’s quick around the outside and has except hands. After a disastrous free agency, Cincinnati can start to rebuild the defense here.
10. Buffalo Bills – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Sammy Watkins hasn’t played all 16 games in a season since his rookie year, and he only appeared in just eight games last season. The Bills are lacking a clear #1 receiver right now, and Davis could come straight into the team to fill that role.
11. New Orleans Saints – Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
I absolutely love Reuben Foster’s game. He has speed, and he’s a thunderous hitter and will improve any defense he plays in. New Orleans will welcome the Alabama stud with open arms to their defense with more holes than Swiss cheese.
12. Cleveland Browns – Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
After taking Garrett first overall, the Browns can feel comfortable going back to the offense with their other first round selection. Similar to the Jets, the Browns just need to keep plugging away at drafting quarterbacks and hope one of them works out. Trubisky has a good release and is very accurate on short passes, and well known quarterback whisperer Hue Jackson will work well with him.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
Can a duck pull a truck? That was a famous Quincy Wilson quote from his time at Florida, and they could be finding out soon in the desert. The cornerback situation in Arizona is Patrick Peterson and then a whole lot of confusion without a bonafide #2 man. Wilson fills the void.
14. Philadelphia Eagles – Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
This might be a little bit of a reach, but with Wilson off the board the Eagles are kind of forced into this pick. Our resident Eagles fan Tristan Fitzpatrick has been crying out for a cornerback for a long time. White is the best available corner, and should be taken.
15. Indianapolis Colts – Takkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA
The talent on this defense is a barren wasteland for the most part. A guy who can play outside linebacker or defensive end with blazing speed to get after the quarterback would be welcomed with open arms in Indianapolis.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Linebacking wasn’t one of the big weaknesses for the Ravens last season, but the unexpected retirement of 2016 leading tackler Zachary Orr means there is a hole that needs to be plugged.
17. Washington Redskins – Hasson Reddick, LB, Temple
Ryan Kerrigan is one of the best linebackers in the league, but he needs help. It becomes a hat trick of linebackers taken at 15-17 as Washington beefs up the middle.
18. Tennessee Titans – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Williams is a good fit for the Tennessee offense. The quarterback and running backs are in place but Delaine Walker is still the best target Marcus Mariota has to throw at. Williams has good acceleration and nice hands to provide a matchup nightmare on the outside.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Speaking of system fits for young quarterbacks, Christian McCaffrey lines up perfectly for Tampa. The offense just needs a little bit of balance with a running game to go alongside Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson as the star wide receivers. McCaffrey is an explosive playmaker that will automatically make Tampa’s offense one of the most potent in the league.
20. Denver Broncos – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Broncos allowed their array of quarterbacks to be sacked a total of 40 times last season, which says it all. The best offensive tackle in the class should slot in nicely.
21. Detroit Lions – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The only thing a rotating backfield of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick got the Lions last year was finishing 30th in rushing yards. Cook is a home run hitter of a running back, capable of reaching the end zone on every carry. If Cook is available at this spot, Bob Quinn needs to sprint the draft card into Roger Goodell.
22. Miami Dolphins – Budda Baker, S, Washington
The frightening defensive line the Dolphins have assembled led to teams trying to pass the ball to beat Miami last season. Throw Baker into the mix and the defense becomes much more balanced.
23. New York Giants – DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
It’s time for the Giants to start planning for life after Eli Manning. Drafting a quarterback with lots of room to improve but also a lot of raw talent would be the perfect solution. Watson can learn behind Manning for the foreseeable future, and eventually become the man under center for the Giants.
24. Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Even with game wrecker Khalil Mack spearheading the group, the Raiders finished dead last in the NFL in sacks last season. The team had 25, and 11 of those came from Mack. This team is sorely lacking a pass rusher to take pressure off of Mack, and Charlton falling this far is a gift from the heavens.
25. Houston Texans – Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
The Texans managed to unload Brock Osweiler’s inexcusable contract to Cleveland, but they still need a man to lead their offense. Mahomes is about as raw as they come out of college but if he can even be a little bit better than Osweiler was last season, the Texans could be in good shape with their defense.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
The achilles heel for Seattle for a while now has been the offensive line, and particularly the interior of it. The signing of Luke Joeckel is a low risk one to help the tackle position, but the guards need work. Lamp is a contender for best name of this draft and will be blocking for Russell Wilson soon.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – John Ross, WR, Washington
Tyreek Hill showed us all last season how he can change a game in one play with his lightning speed. Adding another guy on the outside with that kind of speed can’t hurt, especially when tight end Travis Kelce was the leading receiver last season.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Dallas proved last year they are willing to take guys they might have to wait on with injury when they took Jaylon Smith from Notre Dame. With an overall young core, they can wait on a project like Jones.
29. Green Bay Packers – Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
I see this as a direct replacement for Micah Hyde. The Packers need a safety to replace him, and Peppers has enough versatility to help Green Bay in other areas.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
As long as Mike Tomlin is setting up the defense I don’t see Pittsburgh ever getting over Tom Brady’s Patriots in the AFC, but Jackson could be a building block to their secondary.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
This defense is slowly transforming into a force to be reckoned with. Getting a prolific pass rusher to go on the opposite side of Vic Beasley is the next step in the process.
32. New Orleans Saints – DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
The Saints added a thumper at linebacker earlier in this draft, and now they can throw in a game changing defensive end to go into their rapidly improving defense.