With just a week to go until the NFL draft in Philadelphia kicks off, excitement and draft exhaustion is at an all time high.
Here’s my first stab at predicting how the first round of the draft will unfold:
1) Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
A slam dunk pick. Myles Garrett is a generational talent and the best player in the draft. He’ll immediately improve the Browns defense and become the face of the franchise.
2) San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas – DE, Stanford
Despite taking defensive lineman with their first round pick in two successive years, the 49ers are in full rebuild mode and could use talent at just about every position. They need a pass rusher and Thomas has the talent and versatility to give this defense some much needed juice.
3) Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Jamal Adams has been pick here in most mock drafts but I just don’t see the value in taking a strong safety with the third pick. Jonathan Allen was a dominant force in college and help boost the Bears defensive line which lacks top end talent.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Jags have pumped a ton of money and draft picks into their defense over the past few years but if Blake Bortles continues to play at this level, this team will never get over the hump. Adding Fournette gives them a reliable set of hands in the backfield and someone who can help alleviate the pressure off of Bortles.
5) Tennessee Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Titans cornerback group is currently headlined by Logan Ryan, Brice McCain and D’Joun Smith. Adding Marshon Lattimore would be a huge boost to Dick LeBeau’s defense and give them a true shutdown corner.
6. New York Jets – OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
The Jets may be tempted to pull the trigger on a quarterback here, but the smart move would be to find out what you have in last year’s second round pick Christian Hackenberg before investing in another passer. The Jets have a severe deficiency of blue chip talent and Howard is probably the safest player in the draft bar Myles Garrett.
7) Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Chargers have built a sneakily great defense and adding a rangy playmaker in the shape of Malik Hooker could take this team to the next level. Hooker is a ball-hawk and would thrive on the pass rush generated by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
8) Carolina Panthers – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Panthers have traditionally not invested early in defensive backs but given how porous the secondary was last year, Adams makes perfect sense here. Adams is a tone setter and will elevate the Panthers defense back to the level it was a season ago.
9) Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
This edge group is deep hence why Barnett is the third pass rusher off the board in the first nine picks. The Bengals desperately need an injection youth on the defensive line and Barnett’s speed and size makes him an excellent fit in the Bengals 4-3 defense.
10) Buffalo Bills – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Bills wide receiver group is Sammy Watkins and not much else. Given how injury-prone Watkins has been since entering the league, adding another Clemson alumni in Mike Williams would make sense. Williams is dominant in the air and provides Tyrod Taylor with a red-zone target.
11) New Orleans Saints – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Another edge rusher is taken off the board as the Saints add a much-needed presence at the position. At 6’6″, Charlton is a force to be reckoned with and I think he’s versatile enough to rush from a variety of spots on the Saints defense.
12) Cleveland Browns – Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The dream scenario for the Browns as they get their franchise quarterback with this pick. There’s been rumours that the Browns may be looking at Trubisky with the first overall pick, so the fact he falls to them at 12 will make Hue Jackson very happy indeed.
13) Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
I’m not a fan of Mahomes at all but his huge arm and play-making ability is enough to tempt Bruce Arians to get his quarterback of the future. Mahomes has seen a meteoric rise in the draft process despite how raw he is, but in this scenario he’s afforded time to sit behind Carson Palmer and learn the system.
14) Philadelphia Eagles – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
The Eagles need a cornerback and Conley has been shooting up draft boards. While he was a number two corner in college, he has the size and length to be a number one corner in the NFL.
15) Indianapolis Colts – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
The Colts have been crying out for an identity on defense for years and Foster could just provide it. Foster is a huge hitter and can provide the type of leadership most defensive coordinators crave. Off the field concerns have knocked Foster down on some boards but the Colts should pull the trigger.
16) Baltimore Ravens – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Ravens took Breshad Perriman in the first round two years ago but so far he has amounted to nothing in the NFL. Joe Flacco needs weapons and Corey Davis has the size and speed to be a number one receiver for Flacco. John Ross could be a fit here given his deep threat ability but I think he’s too similar to Perriman and Mike Wallace.
17) Washington Redskins – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Washington may have one of the worst backfields in the entire league but McCaffrey could change that. A true three down back, McCaffrey is a threat to score every time the ball is in his hands. I have no doubt McCaffrey would thrive in Jay Gruden’s offence.
18) Tennessee Titans – John Ross, WR, Washington
The Titans desperately need more talent at the receiver position and John Ross is a speed demon that will burn most defensive backs in the league. Ross will bring big play ability to the Titans and Marcus Mariota should be licking his chops at the prospect.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Another player who has been plagued by off the field concerns, Cook’s draft stock has been falling but the Bucs should end his fall. On tape, Cook is explosive and could take this offense to another level. Doug Martin fell off a cliff last year and Cook will be a reliable set of hands.
20) Denver Broncos – Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Reddick is a do-it-all linebacker that is the perfect chess piece for a defense like Denver’s. With DeMarcus Ware retiring, Denver could use some more depth in the pass rush department and while Reddick will likely start at inside linebacker, his athleticism and versatility should allow Teryl Austin to be creative with his scheme.
21) Detroit Lions – Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
The Lions need a running back but I think they’ll target Joe Mixon in the second. Meanwhile, they desperately need another linebacker following the release of the unreliable DeAndre Levy. Davis is a prototypical outside linebacker with the ability to cover in space and able to drop his pads and make an impact when tackling.
22) Miami Dolphins – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
The Dolphins take advantage of this deep cornerback class and pick up Quincy Wilson to aid them against AFC East rival Tom Brady. I did consider Budda Baker at this position given the Fins have Byron Maxwell established as their number one corner but Wilson has the desired size for the position and exciting potential.
23) New York Giants – David Njoku, TE, Miami
The Giants have gone full on win now mode to get Eli another ring in his latter years and adding a freak athlete with the speed and size to provide chaos in the middle of the field has to be tempting. Njoku may not be polished but his athleticism is off the charts and gives this offense the potential to be the best in the NFL.
24) Oakland Raiders – Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
The soon to be Las Vegas Raiders are crying out for an inside linebacker to strengthen their defense. The Raiders have a dearth of talent at the middle linebacker position with Ben Heeney currently slated to start.
25. Houston Texans – DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. Do I need anymore justification for the Texans selecting a quarterback than those two names? In reality, the Texans will probably have to move up in the draft to secure their quarterback but Watson is the most pro-ready passer in this class and gives the Texans a better chance to win than Savage and Weeden.
26) Seattle Seahawks – Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
No position group in the NFL is as depressing as the Seahawks offensive line. Seattle drafted Germain Ifedi in the first round last year but still need help at offensive tackle. Bolles is probably the most natural left tackle in this class and he’ll be a huge upgrade over George Fant and Gary Gilliam.
27) Kansas City Chiefs – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
I considered DeShone Kizer at this spot but I think Andy Reid gives Alex Smith one more year and loads up elsewhere instead. Marcus Peters is a top five corner in the NFL but the Chiefs don’t have much else outside him. Humphrey is the perfect number two corner and the Chiefs add another weapon to this scary defense.
28) Dallas Cowboys – Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Dallas and more speficially Rod Marinelli have done a remarkable job with this defense given the pieces they’ve been handed. Dallas has a bunch of rotational pieces but lack a bona-fide starter at defensive end opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. I personally love Harris’ game and his hybrid blend of speed and burst is the exact type Marinelli would get the best out of.
29) Green Bay Packers – Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
The Packers could easily take a corner at this spot but I think the opportunity to add a road grader like Lamp will be too much to pass up. Adding Lamp would give the Packers one of the best offensive lines in the league and can only help Aaron Rodgers and the run game. Given how deep the corner class is, they’ll be able to address that issue in the second round.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
The defensive line play for the Steelers last year was pretty good with rookie Javon Hargreave excelling at nose tackle and Cameron Heyward continuing to be one of the better 3-4 ends in the league. But the Steelers lack depth on the line and the chance to add a player of McDowell’s talent at 30 is too much.
31) Atlanta Falcons – Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The Falcons still need to add a pass rush despite the presence of Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett on the defense. McKinley has a relentless motor and while he may be a little undersized at 6’2″, he makes up for it with his effort and he should provide Atlanta with some much-needed pass rush.
32) New Orleans Saints – Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
With the last pick of the round, the Saints double down on defense and add a tenacious slot corner who will start right away. A pure cover corner, White will help patch up the porous Saints secondary.