By: Jon Balant
Follow Jon on Twitter @Jonny_Covers
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett – DE, Texas A+M
Garrett is a can’t miss prospect who provides a key piece at pass rush for the rebuilding Browns. It’s easy to think that Browns will go quarterback, but in a down year for QB prospects , Cleveland would be better off taking the playmaker who will be ready day 1, as opposed to a developmental QB who may not be ready until it’s too late for Hue Jackson, should they continue to struggle. Mitch Trubisky and/or Watson could easily be available at 12, and the Browns have the ammo via a plethora of draft picks to move back up into the top 10 if they are desperate to secure a signal caller. Garrett should be an obvious choice for the Browns at #1 overall.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas – DE, Stanford
The 49ers should also avoid the temptation of going QB, as they will likely wait another year to see if they can finally lure Kirk Cousins to the bay area. They will go with the best player available in Solomon Thomas, who fits their 4-3 scheme and will provide immediate help at pass rush as they look to retool their defense, despite some injury concerns. Many compare him to former 49er defensive end Justin Smith. This pick could also be traded, although moving back will be difficult in this draft due to the lack of top end talent, particularly at the Quarterback position. It’s tough to tell what new GM John Lynch will do with the 2nd overall selection.
3. Chicago Bears – OJ Howard – TE, Alabama
The Bears have lost a ton of playmakers over the past few years (Marshall, Forte, Bennett, and now Alshon Jeffery). They, for some odd reason, elected to pay Mike Glennon 15 million a year to be their starter. Obtaining a dynamic weapon like Howard could at least help try to justify that move. Despite the production of Zach Miller last year, the Bears could make a splash on offense with OJ Howard with the 3rd selection. Howard is 6’6” 251 pounds, but runs like a WR, posting a 4.51 40 time at the combine. The Bears could get creative with some 2 TE sets and split Howard out wide as well. At a glance this seems like quite a reach, and many have them slated to select a safety to fix their woes in the defensive backfield last season. However, GM Ryan Pace aggressively addressed DB in free agency, signing corners Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper, and veteran safety Quintin Demps. Howard is one of the best TE prospects we have seen in years, and can instantly be productive in the NFL.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU
Having loaded up on defense in free agency the past few years, the Jaguars appear to be poised to grab an offensive weapon in the draft. Fournette will arguably be BPA at 4, and will fill an immediate need at running back. He’s big at 6’0 240 pounds, but also explosive for his size. The Jaguars offense struggled mightily last year, but began to turn things around when Nathaniel Hackett replaced Greg Olson as offensive coordinator in the 2nd half of the season. Specifically, the Jaguars’ offense improved from 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game to sixth in the category in seven games under Hackett. Hackett has served as OC under now Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone in Buffalo, and back in 2013 they were 2nd in the league in rushing yards. Adding what many regard as the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson would instantly propel the Jaguars toward the top of the league in rushing yards and potentially total offense in 2017, hoping to open things up for Blake Bortles to have a bounce back season
5. Tennessee Titans – Malik Hooker – S, Ohio State
Having signed Jonathan Cypien in free agency, the Titans are pretty set at safety for the short term. However, the Titans would be hard pressed to ignore arguable BPA and not take Malik Hooker here. Hooker missed the combine and is expected to miss 2-4 months after getting surgery on his torn labrum and hernia, but the Titans would be able to ease him in since they have 2 starting safeties currently. Hooker has tremendous range and excellent ball skills, racking up 7 interceptions last season. This pick also came via highway robbery in their trade with the Rams for the #1 overall pick last year, so for what it’s worth they are in a better position to take talent over need. Corner is an easy hypothesis given their hole there, but it’s one of the deepest corner classes we’ve seen in a while, so Tennessee should be able to address this later in the draft, perhaps even with their later Day 1 selection
6. New York Jets – Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson
The Jets continue to miss on Quarterback prospects year after year. They’re approaching Cleveland Browns territory with how bad their QB scouting has been. Geno Smith is on the other New York Team now, Bryce Petty is still a project at best, and Hackenberg may be out of the league in a year or 2. Watson is likely the safest QB prospect on the board, being a proven winner against NFL caliber defenses like Alabama, having defeated them in the BCS title game back in January. The Jets could potentially trade this pick as well to move back and acquire another 2nd rounder to help fill multiple holes on their roster.
7. San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Allen – DT/DE, Alabama
It’s no secret that the Chargers covet Malik Hooker as a replacement for Eric Weddle at Free Safety. Assuming he’s gone, they could go with Jamal Adams, however Allen could play DE in their 3-4 scheme, and parlaying Allen with Joey Bosa would wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks and allow them to challenge the Raiders stout offensive line. Allen won the Bednarik trophy as the country’s top defensive player, and is 2nd all-time in Alabama history with 28 sacks. He’s a versatile player and can play a variety of techniques and positions. “I can play effectively at a 6-tech, 9-tech, a 3-[tech],” Allen said at the combine. “I’ve been working on my drops, I can drop in the flat if needed. I can do a lot of things and do them equally well for a team.” Philip Rivers’ years are numbered and the Chargers should look to bolster their defense and compete in the AFC West this season.
8. Carolina Panthers – Christian McCaffrey – RB/WR, Stanford
Jonathan Stewart is 30 years old and has struggled with injuries throughout his career. Adding a dynamic playmaker like McCaffery would instantly improve the Panthers offense, which has typically lacked playmakers aside from Quarterback Cam Newton. McCaffery is a dynamic weapon that can line up all over the field, playing slot receiver as well as coming out of the backfield. Many have slated McCaffery as a top 10 pick and has reportedly been guaranteed picks by teams picking in the teens, so it’s hard to imagine he makes it any further than 8th overall. He’s not an every down RB but could easily be an every down player due to his versatility.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Jamal Adams – S, LSU
The Bengals just extended SS Shawn Williams last offseason, however if Jamal Adams were to fall this far they would have no choice but to run up to the board and make this selection. Adams would be an instant upgrade over Williams and would fit nicely alongside FS George Iloka. He could also play some nickel to be eased in as well. This pick would add to an already very deep secondary in Cincinnati, an area that has typically been a strong point for their defense.
10. Buffalo Bills – Mike Williams – WR, Clemson
The Bills have been known for taking offensive playmakers in the first round of drafts, and could once again target a Clemson receiver with the 10th overall selection. Sammy Watkins has been marred by injuries, and they lost Robert Woods in free agency, so Williams could provide a breath of fresh air for Tyrod Taylor and the Bills offense. Should Watkins be able to stay healthy, the Bills would have a tremendous 1-2 punch and combo of speed and size at the receiver position. Williams is a tremendous jump ball receiver like Alshon Jeffery that would benefit from Tyrod Taylor’s strong arm and ability to extend plays with his feet and create deep jump ball situations. He may struggle to separate in the NFL due to his lack of speed, but his size and vertical jump will allow him to create plays in the air and provide mismatches against smaller DB’s.
11. New Orleans Saints – Derek Barnett – DE/OLB, Tennessee
The Saints need help at pass rush and Derek Barnett would help fill this need. They also have another first round pick at #32 via the Patriots and the Brandin Cooks trade, so they will be able to address other holes later on Day 1. Barnett is an intriguing prospect who broke Reggie White’s all-time sack record at Tennessee, lining up primarily as a 4-3 End. He may be more of a 3-4 OLB in the NFL, and may need to put on some weight to play 4-3 End at the next level.
12. Cleveland Browns – Mitchell Trubisky – QB, UNC
The Browns get lucky here and have the QB they are debating 1st overall stay available for them at #12. If Watson were to go at 6 to the Jets, don’t rule out the Browns using some of their excess picks to move back up to secure Trubisky. Trubisky played in a spread offense and has a lot to learn to succeed at the next level. The Browns, as usual, are desperate to find their franchise QB and have the extra picks to try again here in the first round of the 2017 draft.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Mahomes II – QB, Texas Tech
Carson Palmer struggled mightily last year, and at age 37, appears to be breaking down. Mahomes has an incredibly strong arm and could fit in nicely with the Cardinals high flying passing attack. He needs work on mechanics, and is reckless when scrambling in the open field, which could drive Bruce Arians crazy. As long as Palmer is healthy and at least playing serviceable quarterback, Mahomes would not be expected to start right away. However, it would provide the Cardinals with an insurance policy at QB with some upside, as well as a developmental QB to groom down the line for when Palmer retires.
14. Philadelphia Eagles – Charles Harris – DE, Missouri
The Eagles, despite how much they’ve invested into their Defensive Line, still have a glaring need at pass rush. They’ve cut ties with Connor Barwin who no longer fit after switching back to a 4-3, Vinny Curry is not living up to his massive contract, and the Marcus Smith project has been a failure. With the draft being in Philly there is a lot of pressure from the fans to land another offensive playmaker, but they’ve invested a lot into WR in free agency, and the 2 top RB’s should be long gone off the board. It goes against their philosophy to go RB in the first round anyway – the last time this happened was the year the 4 creators of this site were born (1986 – Keith Byars). Joe Douglas’s influence shouldn’t change this. Jim Schwartz will be pleased with the Eagles selection here at 14. His low blitz % and focus on generating front 4 pressure will require the Eagles to seek a playmaking pass rusher in Harris. Harris is an explosive edge rusher who will get work primarily on passing downs his first few years as a rookie, or until he improves in the run game. He’s a bit small and didn’t perform well at the combine, but his speed should allow him to create plays in Schwartz’s Wide 9 scheme.
15. Indianapolis Colts – TJ Watt – DE/OLB, Wisconsin
Watt’s stock has climbed as of late and could help provide much needed help at edge rusher for the Colts. Jabaal Sheard was benched last season and they need a stud playmaker. They would likely go Harris here, but if the Eagles go that route at 14 could snag Watt with the next pick. He has brand name value being the younger brother of JJ Watt. He’s a bit raw, having red shirted as a TE and playing only 1 year for Wisconsin, but has a good pedigree and performed well for the Badgers last season.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Cam Robinson – OT, Alabama
Ozzie Newsome is an Alabama alum and has a track record of targeting Crimson Tide prospects. They are reportedly interested in adding an offensive lineman after losing Ricky Wagner in free agency, and Cam Robinson will likely be the best one on the board when the Ravens are on the clock. It’s not a great OL class, but Robinson likely won’t make it into the 20’s due to the position he plays, and where he played it.
17. Washington Redskins – Marshon Lattimore – CB, Ohio State
The Redskins need to address Corner across the field from Josh Norman. Gareon Conley would be an obvious choice here, but his free fall among boards in light of the recent rape allegations could leave him going undrafted entirely. The Redskins could still tap into Ohio State’s talented defensive backfield, however, and grab Lattimore with the 17th selection.
18. Tennessee Titans – Marlon Humphrey – CB, Alabama
The Titans get their Corner at 18 with their 2nd pick in the first round. Humphrey is athletic and would fill an immediate need at corner for the Titans. He will need to work on his mechanics in order to play at the next level.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Dalvin Cook – RB, Florida State
Doug Martin is suspended for 4 games and has been inconsistent throughout his 5-year career. Cook is a dynamic back who could instantly be productive. His character concerns may scare teams away, however that did not stop the Buccaneers from taking fellow FSU alum Jameis Winston. Cook also had a horrid combine performance, but his excellent field vision should allow him to product at the next level. The Bucs have made adding playmakers a priority, signing Desean Jackson in free agency. Perhaps the Bucs see value in Cook with their 19th selection.
20. Denver Broncos – Garrett Bolles – OT, Utah
Broncos have major issues at the Tackle position and could fill that need with Garrett Bolles.
21. Detroit Lions – Hassan Riddick – LB, Temple
Riddick is a tremendous athlete who performed well at the combine. The Lions are pretty well equipped at linebacker but Riddick would likely be BPA on a lot of boards if he falls into the 20’s.
22. Miami Dolphins – Jabril Peppers – S/LB, Michigan
The Dolphins are reportedly focusing on drafting high character players, and Peppers would fil that description. It’s unclear what exactly he will be in the NFL, but the Dolphins have needs both at safety and linebacker so he could be a day 1 starter for them.
23. New York Giants – Reuben Foster – LB, Alabama
Reuben Foster shouldn’t fall this far based on talent and pedigree, however with his failed drug test and medical concerns it’s possible that he lasts into the 20’s. The Giants would not be able to resist obvious BPA here, having a need at ILB. They have touted BJ Goodson who is currently listed the starter on their depth chart, however he only played 13 defensive snaps last season. Foster could immediately start for the Giants if healthy. Foster was a monster at Alabama and if healthy could easily be a top 5 talent in this draft.
24. Oakland Raiders – Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
The now Las Vegas Raiders will look to add a CB in the draft. It’s hard to go wrong with defensive backs from LSU.
25. Houston Texans – DeShone Kizer – QB, Notre Dame
The Texans can tout Tom Savage all they want, but the fact of the matter is they need to address the QB position after the failed Brock Osweiler experiment and Tony Romo announcing his retirement. Kizer could start day 1 for the Texans.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Adoree Jackson – CB, USC
Seattle can add a dynamic corner and eventual replacement for Richard Sherman, whom they are reportedly actively shopping. Pete Carroll could be inclined to lobby for Jackson who comes from the school where he formerly coached.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Forrest Lamp – OG, Western Kentucky
Andy Reid is known for drafting offensive linemen in the first round, and Lamp would provide an upgrade for them at guard.
28. Dallas Cowboys – John Ross – WR, Washington
John Ross could only fall this far due to medical reasons. The Cowboys need a true downfield threat to line up alongside Dez Bryant, and John Ross could fill this need. It would be wise Dallas to fill holes on defense, losing key pieces in free agency and not adding anyone aside from Nolan Carroll. However their options for studs on defense are limited this late in the first round, and could be better off adding to an already potent offense. Ross is expected to miss the entire offseason program due to surgery on his labrum, but could be eased into the offense upon his return and become a key playmaker for the Cowboys down the stretch. Terrance Williams has been a disappointment and Ross would could easily be an upgrade at WR2. Playing on turf in the Jerrydome 8 games a year would maximize his speed and skillset as well.
29. Green Bay Packers – Joe Mixon – RB, Oklahoma
Where Joe Mixon is drafted is a complete mystery in light of the video footage of his assault on a woman, however his talent his undeniable. Equally as undeniable is the Green Bay’s need for a running back, with converted WR Ty Montgomery currently listed atop their depth chart. With the off the field concerns it would be better for Mixon to go to a smaller market/city such as Green Bay.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan
Corey Davis abused opposing DB’s in college, but the level of competition in the MAC raises questions as to his ability to translate at the NFL level. The Steelers have an excellent track record of drafting wide outs, and it’s worth noting that Antonio Brown came from the same conference – granted he was a diamond in the rough find in the 6th round of the 2010 draft. Perhaps the Steelers are confident they can mold another WR from that conference and provide an additional playmaker for Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have struggled at WR2 with Martavis Bryant continually being suspended for drug policy violations. Bryant has just been reinstated, however it would be prudent for the Steelers to continue to add to their WR pipeline in case Bryant isn’t the same player or gets suspended again.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Taco Charlton – DE, Michigan
Falcons need help at pass rush and if Taco Charlton falls this far they should take him with the 31st overall selection.
32. New Orleans Saints – David Njoku – TE, Miami
The Saints could use this extra 1st round pick to grab a new weapon for Drew Brees. Coby Fleener hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since going to New Orleans, and Brees has an excellent track record with athletic Tight Ends.