By Garrett Thornton
I love the NFL Draft. How many other sports can dominate the news cycle for weeks leading up to an off-season event? The intrigue in the draft has only increased in the social media age, with the increase in draft related content. And that is so great.
This is the time of year that every team is undefeated. Every team is selling hope for a brighter future. So many of these college kids are fulfilling a lifelong dream.
The thing that differentiates the NFL Draft and other major league sports drafts is just how many difference makers can be found in the draft. The NBA Draft feature 60 picks. Each year, only about 6-8 of those will turn into game changers for their teams, 2-4 will likely become All-Stars.
There are 253 picks in this year’s NFL Draft, nearly half of them will be called upon to start at some point during their rookie year. These are true franchise changing draft picks.
While it is impossible to correctly project all 253 draft picks in this weekends draft, I give my take on the top 32 selections in the first round.
1 – Cleveland Browns – DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Cleveland has the first pick of the draft for a reason, they are a dreadful football team. One of their lone bright spots last year was the development of wide receiver Terrelle Pryor; well he left in free agency. This team needs an infusion of talent. Garrett is the best player in the draft. The Browns could go QB here, but would likely regret that by mid season.
2 – San Francisco 49ers – QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. New General Manager John Lynch needs to put his stamp on this team in the draft, no better way than by swinging for the fences and finding your franchise quarterback. Trubisky is raw but has all the tools. The 49ers need talent in a lot of places, but you can’t win in this league without an elite quarterback. I am not sold Brian Hoyer is the answer in the bay.
3 – Chicago Bears – CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
This is another spot that Trubisky had been rumored but the Bears just gave Mike Glennon a 3-year, $45 million contract. That would be a terrible use of resources for a team that is so deplete in talent in such a tough division. The Bears have to play Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford two times each season. Getting a cornerback that can help hold those guys under control is huge.
4 – Jacksonville Jaguars – RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
The Jaguars love power backs. They already have Chris Ivory on the roster, but that won’t stop them from drafting a guy that a lot of scouts think is a generational talent. Ezekiel Elliott really changed the way running backs are looked at in the first round. Fournette could, and should be great, unfortunately no one has much faith in the Jaguars organization when it comes to developing offensive talent.
5 – Tennessee Titans – S Malik Hooker, Ohio State
Hooker is a guy that not only will play right away, he will change the entire defense. Hooker has incredible ball skills and instincts, he can cover a ton of ground, and he will anchor this defense for years to come. To draft a safety in the top 5, a team has to know that the player will be a game changer, Hooker is that guy. Honestly in the discussion for best prospect in the whole draft.
6 – New York Jets – QB DeShaun Watson, Clemson
Trubisky is all about the upside and the tools that he has. Watson is all about the intangibles, experience, and leadership that he brings to a team. The way that Watson has played on the biggest stage the past couple years against Alabama has thrust him into the spotlight. I love a guy that has an edge, and leading up to the draft Watson has been quoted by saying that teams that draft Trubisky ahead of him will regret it. That’s confidence.
7 – Los Angeles Chargers – DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford
Joey Bosa was a great pick at #3 last year. This year the Chargers will look to continue to add defensive talent. The defensive bookends of Bosa and Thomas could be nasty for years to come. What Thomas brings to the table is a great football mind, a non-stop motor, and position flexibility. The Chargers would be lucky to have him fall to 7.
8 – Carolina Panthers – RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
If Fournette was here, I think that the Panthers would jump all over it. But the consolation prize is not a bad one at all. McCaffery is such a weapon. He can be a Pro Bowl running back, a very dynamic slot receiver, and an explosive return man. McCaffery matched up with Cam Newton in the Panthers scheme is nasty.
9 – Cincinnati Bengals – DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama
A lot of draft experts have connected the Bengals with some of the more high risk prospects of the draft. I just don’t know that a top 10 pick is going for some of the bigger question marks. Jonathan Allen is a mean defensive lineman. While his shoulders have taken him off of some teams’ draft boards, rumor has it that the Bengals don’t have the same concerns. This would be a great match.
10 – Buffalo Bills – WR Mike Williams, Clemson
Sammy Watkins has been great, and then hurt, and then pretty good, and then hurt, and then average. Now the team has questions whether they are going to take the 5th year option on his rookie contract. That puts his future with the team in future. Williams can be a #2 to Watkins if Watkins can stay healthy, or take over as the primary target.
11 – New Orleans Saints – DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
The Saints have the luxury of having two 1st round draft picks. That gives them the ability to go best player available. They need to draft a cornerback early, but can do that with the 32nd pick. Here they go with a disruptive pass rusher that can dominate from both end positions. The Saints need to generate some quarterback pressure to cover other defensive inefficiencies.
12 – Cleveland Browns – TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
Garrett at #1, and the best tight end to come into the draft in years. Not a bad first round for the Browns. Howard has the rare ability to play inline as a blocker, and get down field as a receiver. The comparison has been to Greg Olsen, who is only one of the most reliable and consistent tight end targets in the league.
13 – Arizona Cardinals – QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Carson Palmer has maybe a couple good years left. Mahomes is a project that would be well suited to sit behind a veteran quarterback like Palmer. Mahomes has all the tools that you hope for in a quarterback; huge arm, leadership, ability to make any throw on the field. The Cardinals make a pick that will pay off in the next few years.
14 – Philadelphia Eagles – S Jamal Adams, LSU
The Eagles would love a running back or wide receiver here that could change their offense, and help the development of their second year quarterback. If Adams were to slip to 14, the Eagles would sprint to turn their card in. Adams is a big time playmaker and will help anchor the secondary for years to come.
15 – Indianapolis Colts – OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
Andrew Luck is an elite quarterback. The biggest problem is that he can’t stay on the field for 16 games because he is constantly beat on. The offensive line has been terrible the past few years and the Colts will look to stop the bleeding a bit by going with a high upside tackle in the first round.
16 – Baltimore Ravens – WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Mike Wallace, Michael Campanaro, and Breshad Perriman are the Ravens top receivers. That just won’t get it done. Davis can be a number one receiver that can dominate possessions and demand attention from the defense which will open it up for the run game.
17 – Washington Redskins – LB Haason Reddick, Temple
Haason Reddick is one of the most versatile prospects in this draft, and the Redskins would be shocked and excited if he were available at #17. Reddick could be a rush end, a stand up linebacker, or a hybrid pass rusher that can disrupt every play. The Redskins need playmakers in the front seven and Reddick would make an impact Week One.
18 – Tennessee Titans – WR John Ross, Washington
Marcus Mariota is emerging as a quality NFL quarterback. The next step for this franchise is to surround him with weapons. Ross broke the 40-yard dash record at the combine and can stretch the field. If Ross can stay healthy after multiple knee injuries, he will be a steal mid way through the first round.
19 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Doug Martin has flashed brilliance, but then a few weeks later looked like a backup. He is currently serving a suspension and will miss the first three games of the season. Cook would step in Week one and be a feature back. This is a great situation for Cook and the Bucs.
20 – Denver Broncos – OT Garett Bolles, Utah
You can’t analyze the needs in this draft without realizing just how badly the Broncos need offensive line help. Bolles has some questions off the field, and is 25 years old, but he would be a day one starter for a line that desperately needs his athleticism and technique.
21 – Detroit Lions – CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
The Lions could go in a lot of different direction with this pick but I think they would be intrigued with adding a cornerback with the size and skill that Humphrey has. The Lions have Slay and Hayden, but they play in a division that is very pass heavy. Humphrey would carve out a very nice role for himself in Detroit.
22 – Miami Dolphins – OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
Lamp was a relative unknown before the Senior Bowl, where he was the standout offensive lineman of the group. Lamp played left tackle at Western Kentucky, but projects to be an interior offensive lineman in the NFL. Jay Ajayi broke out as a quality running back in 2016 and would be well serve to have a more solid offensive line.
23 – New York Giants – TE David Njoku, Miami
I really don’t think that Njoku falls this far, just so happens to be the way that my draft falls. Njoku would be a great fit in a pass-heavy offense in the Big Apple. Eli Manning would be incredibly happy with a receiving corps of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, and Njoku.
24 – Oakland Raiders – LB Jarrad Davis, Florida
Davis is a guy that has started to shoot up draft boards. This is a linebacker that will make his impact felt early in his career. The Raiders look to be heading to an agreement to bring in Marshawn Lynch as their running back, so they will go defense in the first round on Thursday.
25 – Houston Texans – QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
So many people are talking about how there may only be 1 or 2 quarterbacks taken in the first round. That is ludicrous. The quarterback position has never been more valuable and there are so many teams in the league that need a boost at that position. The Texans take a boom-or-bust prospect in Kizer for one simple reason, they need a quarterback.
26 – Seattle Seahawks – CB Kevin King, Washington
King played his college ball in Seattle, now he will play his professional ball in Seattle as well. King was the second best corner for the Huskies, but he is healthy and will be drafted a round or two sooner than Sydney Jones. King would be a huge addition to the Legion of Boom.
27 – Kansas City Chiefs – DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Kansas City has been rumored to have interest in a quarterback but with the top 4 off the board, they won’t go that direction. The Chiefs could trade out of the first round, but if they stay put they should take a swing for the fences. McDowell is big time talent, but has had some effort issues in his time at Michigan State. This would be one of the ideal landing spots for McDowell.
28 – Dallas Cowboys – DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
The Cowboys need secondary and pass rush help more than anything else in this draft. With cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Kevin King still on the board, I was tempted to go that way. In the end, I think cornerback is a deeper position and the Cowboys could get a quality starter in Round 2. Takk had an impressive combine, running a 4.59 40-yard dash. In comparison, that was faster than top wide receiver prospect Mike Williams, and faster than any top QB prospect in the draft. McKinley may not be ready Week One after a shoulder surgery post-combine, but will be a disruptive pass rusher as a rookie.
29 – Green Bay Packers – DE T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
The brother of J.J. Watt, T.J., is about to be drafted and the Packers would be an outstanding spot for Watt to land. The question a lot of people have is, would T.J. Watt be a first round draft pick if his last name were Johnson, or Smith? I’m not sure. His combine workout was good, and he is a talented rush end, but we’ll see if he can live up to his last name.
30 – Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Rueben Foster, Alabama
There are two major questions surrounding Foster. The first is his injury history. His shoulders have chronic issues, and he plays at 100% all of the time which leaves him open to injuries. The second question is the dilute drug test that is being reported. It isn’t technically a “failed” drug test, but it puts him into the NFL Drug program, and it raises major questions. Pittsburgh has a veteran defense that can take Foster under their wing and help him succeed.
31 – Atlanta Falcons – DE Charles Harris, Missouri
In my opinion, Harris is one of the safest picks in this draft. While he does not have the elite speed or the physical traits that some of the top prospects have, but he is consistent and can be dominant. Harris will make a team in the first round very happy with his addition.
32 – New Orleans Saints – QB Davis Webb, California
A 5th quarterback in the first round?? Crazy, right? Not really. Webb doesn’t deserve to be a first round draft pick but he may be a first round selection. The 5th year on the rookie contract is worth something to teams and someone may try to trade up into this spot to ensure that they could draft a project quarterback that is under contract for 5 years.