Alright- before showing the best picks for each team in the first round, I must make a quick disclaimer: these picks are what should happen… not what will happen. I’ve taken into account the teams’ most relevant needs and which players can best fulfill those needs. Some teams’ won’t prioritize correctly, or more likely, will overvalue certain prospects. That said, let’s take a look at what should happen this Thursday.
1 Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE Texas A&M
The Browns have needs across the board, but before considering a potential signal-caller, they’ve been desperate to find a prolific pass-rusher. Garrett has proven he has big-play ability, and his 6’5″ 272-pound frame is very hard to stop. He is strong and elusive with all the talent needed to succeed in the NFL.
2 San Francisco 49ers – Soloman Thomas, DT Stanford
The 49ers are in a similar boat as the Browns. Finishing just 1 game above the league’s worst team, they need help. I’d start with improving on the NFL’s worst run defense. The enormous Thomas can do just that. A big presence inside, he can plug gaps or even force the QB to scramble if he waits too long in the pocket. A matchup nightmare, Thomas could make waves in the NFL sooner rather than later.
3 Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams, S LSU
Speaking off poor run defense, the Bears have struggled for years with their lackluster secondary. Jamal Adams possesses extraordinary vision and can fast become a staple of Chicago’s defense. His soft hands and incredible instincts add up to a deadly combination for the Bears’ opponents.
4 Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonathan Allen, DE Alabama
This is tricky because the Jaguars have such a glaring need on defense, but QB Blake Bortles needs help in the backfield. Even though RB Leonard Fournette is on the board, I still think Allen is simply too athletic to pass up. Allen provides a daunting edge rush and his quick hands accumulated 4 turnovers in his last season with the Tide. It’ll be interesting to see how he matches up against the bigger offensive linemen, but excelling like he has in the SEC is as good as it gets.
5 Tennessee Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB Ohio State
The Titans need receivers and solid defenders to match those receivers. With such a deep secondary class, Tennessee would be foolish to pass on the best cornerback in the draft. Lattimore is a natural-born leader with an excellent man-to-man resume as a Buckeye. With so much wide receiver depth throughout the AFC South, Lattimore’s talents will be quickly utilized to help the Titans make a playoff push in 2017.
6 New York Jets – Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
I’ll tell you right now that this won’t happen… and that’s too bad. Watson is a gifted quarterback with precision passing and admirable size. I think he is the next Cam Newton and any team with a QB need will be sorry if they let him go. The Jets desperately need a quarterback of the future, as they have failed for the last decade to find a firm passer to lead their offense. No one is better than the reigning national champion Deshaun Watson.
7 Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker, S Ohio State
With one of the best offenses in the AFC, the Chargers need help on defense. Hooker was a ball hawk in his one season as a starter at OSU, hauling in 7 interceptions for 3 touchdowns. While this looks great on paper, his inexperience makes him a very high-risk pick. However, I’m sure the Chargers loved their last 1st round pick in Joey Bosa. The former Buckeye went on to win DROY honors, and L.A. can hope Hooker does the same this year.
8 Carolina Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB LSU
After an incredibly disappointing 2016 campaign, Carolina will try to bounce back in 2017. The Panthers would be delighted to see an exceptional talent in Fournette still on the board. As Jonathan Stewart struggled through injuries last year, Fournette could do more than compete for the starting job. With the potential to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, Newton and Fournette could be an exciting duo that take Carolina back to the top of the NFC South.
9 Cincinnati Bengals – Reuben Foster, ILB Alabama
This pick is tough because of the controversy surrounding Foster’s diluted sample at the NFL Combine. With the off-the-field issues becoming a problem, his draft stock could plummet. However, I’m going to take a chance and say that the Bengals throw him a bone due to their aging defense. A bright young linebacker is just what they need. Besides, with Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones and Vontaze Burfict’s character issues, Foster could fit right in.
10 Buffalo Bills – Forrest Lamp, OG Western Kentucky
The Bills need to improve in their secondary. With the top 3 prospects off the board, their best option is Gareon Conley. However, with the alleged rape allegations against him dropping his stock even further, the Bills can settle for an enormous pass-blocker. Lamp will be a Day 1 starter for this offensive line and allow the Bills to seek defensive help in rounds 2 and 3.
11 New Orleans Saints – Mike Williams, WR Clemson
With a real need at defense, I chose Williams to replace Brandin Cooks at receiver following the trade with the New England Patriots in the offseason. With so many defensive backs taken, I would expect the Saints to press their luck on the defense and give Drew Brees another speedy option to throw to. With this pick, Williams and Michael Thomas could be one of the best receiving duos in the country in 4 or 5 years.
12 Cleveland Browns – Mitchell Trubisky, QB North Carolina
Many think Trubisky will be the first QB off the board with this pick, but I have the Jets claiming a more talented Watson with pick 6. Regardless, the Browns desperately need a quarterback that can lead Cleveland out of the huge hole they’ve created. It’ll be a long process, and Trubisky is a young, unproven prospect. But look for the Browns to roll the dice on the strong dual-threat quarterback.
13 Arizona Cardinals – Haason Reddick, ILB Temple
Here is where we transition from rebuilding to playoff contention. The Cardinals have a lot of weapons with a 37-year-old quarterback. If either Watson or Trubisky is still available, I expect Arizona to pick them up here. If not, Reddick is an underrated utility man that can plug gaps and become a long-term solution for a stout defense. Reddick has an innate ability to disrupt plays with a pass rush as well as drop back in zone. With the linebacker position covered, the Cardinals can look for Carson Palmer’s backup and more receiving options in later rounds.
14 Philadelphia Eagles – Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford
McCaffrey is a perfect fit for Philadelphia. He has the size of Lesean McCoy and the quickness of Darren Sproles. The Eagles love a pass-catching back, and McCaffrey has shown his versatility time and time again at Stanford. A proven winner, the Eagles can’t go wrong with this man on their roster.
15 Indianapolis Colts – Derek Barnett, DE Tennessee
The Colts have said they’re looking to improve in the trenches, so the next best defensive end is Barnett. That’s not a knock on him either; he’s a talent edge-rusher with great snap anticipation that can improve a below-par pass defense for the Colts. His size and athleticism will set him apart in this draft class. Plus, you gotta love SEC experience.
16 Baltimore Ravens – O.J. Howard, TE Alabama
An unconventional TE, Howard is a strong receiver with great hands who can hold his own on the block too. While the Ravens continue to age and trend in the wrong direction, Howard could hopefully be a viable option for Joe Flacco for years to come. Anything can happen in the Baltimore green room, and Howard is a safe pick with eyes toward the future.
17 Washington Redskins – Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State
With the carousel of running backs going around in Washington, what could be better than adding a national champion with unstoppable juke moves and quickness? Cook is known for his vision and acceleration and can do amazing things in open space. He’s a perfect fit for the Redskins’ spread offense and this pick lets the management focus on defense for the remainder of the draft. Perhaps they could even trade their soon-to-be backup running backs for better picks.
18 Tennessee Titans – Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan
Let’s hope they don’t go with John Ross. Yeah, I know he broke the combine record and whatever. Had you heard of him before that? No, of course not. Instead, go with a perennial top WR pick with Davis and solve the issue of not having a true #1 receiver. Marcus Mariota and Davis could be an exciting tandem that can work together throughout their illustrious careers.
19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Takkarist McKinley, DE UCLA
McKinley is a fiery kid with explosive snap anticipation. He uses his wide frame to his advantage and has a never-quit attitude. As long as he doesn’t run himself out of gas, his ability to disrupt the pocket and stop the run could be monumental for the Tampa Bay defense.
20 Denver Broncos – Cam Robinson, OT Alabama
Robinson is a powerful run-blocker that is everything the Broncos need. Denver loves size and heart, and Robinson has plenty of both. As the John Outland Trophy winner for best interior lineman, expect Robinson to fill a much needed role in the trenches for the Broncos as they try to get back in the postseason.
21 Detroit Lions – Charles Harris, OLB Missouri
With so many needs at the defensive end of the ball, Harris can solve a lot of problems. He can play anywhere on the line, or lay back as a linebacker. His size and quickness coupled with outstanding IQ will be a valuable asset to the Lions’ crippled run defense. If Detroit wants to make waves in the postseason, expect a few of their top picks to help out their defense.
22 Miami Dolphins – Jarrad Davis, ILB Florida
The Dolphins’ run defense ranked 30th last year, and though they were able to acquire Lawrence Timmons, the addition of Davis makes for scary opposition for the competing backs. Not only can Davis stop the run, he has great hands and can run man-to-man with slot receivers to shut down passing attacks as well. Davis will feel right at home if he stays in Florida.
23 New York Giants – Ryan Ramczyk, OT Wisconsin
The Giants couldn’t dream of a better pick. With a huge need for a left tackle, why not a huge Ramczyk to protect Eli Manning’s blindside? A veteran at the position, Ramczyk excelled for Wisconsin in his senior season and his skills should translate well to the next level. His strong arms and quick feet will make it incredibly difficult for defensive ends to get to Manning. And we all know what Manning can do when given so much time in the pocket…
24 Oakland Raiders – Marlon Humphrey, CB Alabama
What better way to sure up a porous secondary than with the 5th Alabama player taken in the first round? With so much press coverage for Bama’s big men, Humphrey has flown under the radar as a ball-hawking corner. His speed will match up with the best receivers and it’ll be hard for QBs to thread the needle through his lightning-quick hands. Another perfect pick that Oakland needs to take advantage of.
25 Houston Texans – Patrick Mahomes, QB Texas Tech
Patrick Mahomes. The hometown kid. After a tumultuous offseason in which they let Brock Osweiler go, the Texans need a new man to lead their offense. No one would know Mahomes better than a Texas team with a QB need. Voila. Here’s to hoping Mahomes is ready to step up and compete for the starting job, but being thrown into the fire too early could be detrimental to the organization.
26 Seattle Seahawks – Garett Bolles, OT Utah
Seattle needs help on the offensive line. Period. They should take the best one available. Bolles has great footwork and can move laterally to stop the quickest of pass-rushers. Giving Russell Wilson time to throw to his many targets will improve an already impressive attack. Hopefully, the extra few seconds will also give running back Thomas Rawls enough time to break free more often.
27 Kansas City Chiefs – Kevin King, CB Washington
More defensive help on the way! The insanely fat King came out of nowhere last year to show what he’s capable of. Leading the Huskies to their first College Football Playoff proves he knows how to win. If the Chiefs want nothing more than a solid CB to match up with the fast WRs of the AFC West, look no further than Kevin King.
28 Dallas Cowboys – Tre’Davious White, CB LSU
Another corner goes to Dallas. After losing a multitude of defensive backs in free agency, White’s leadership could fit in nicely. He has the speed to go one-on-one with the best of the NFC East, as well as can learn from a Super Bowl contending team. There’s a lot of pressure to win in Dallas, but so is there at LSU. White will be ready to handle the attention that comes with donning that blue star.
29 Green Bay Packers – Adoree’ Jackson, CB USC
After a horrendous year at cornerback, Green Bay will very likely target the best available at this point in the draft. Jackson has been a highly-touted prospect since high school, and America should be excited to see what he can bring to the NFL. The Packers can look forward to his tight man-to-man defense, and picks-a-plenty.
30 Pittsburgh Steelers – John Ross, WR Washington
I know, I know. I said Ross is overrated. Well, the Steelers still need more receiver threats. If anyone can go out and catch the deep ball, it’s this man. If nothing else, his speed can spread the defense and free up space for Antonio Brown and company. With Martavius Bryant still indefinitely suspended, the Steelers would be wise to firm up their most prized position. Later, look for them to draft a quality backup for Roethlisberger.
31 Atlanta Falcons – Taco Charlton, DE Michigan
If there’s anything the Super Bowl taught Atlanta, it’s that they need more pass-rushers. Enter Taco Charlton. One of the most prolific defensive ends in the Big Ten, Charlton can make an immediate impact on the line for Atlanta. With the extra threat to help keep opposing quarterbacks at bay, the Falcons can make another run at their first title.
32 New Orleans Saints – Quincy Wilson, CB Florida
Finally, the 6th and final CB selected in the first round goes to the Saints. After selecting a talented receiver with their first pick, a quality corner can help their struggling pass defense. Look for them to build on this in later rounds as they try to find ways to solve the offensive firepower of the NFC South.
Other Players to Watch:
Malik McDowell, DT Michigan State
Zach Cunningham, ILB Vanderbilt
David Njoku, TE Miami
T.J. Watt, OLB Wisconsin
Budda Baker, S Washington
Jourdan Lewis, CB Michigan
Deshone Kizer, QB Notre Dame
Gareon Conley, CB Ohio State
Alvin Kamara, RB Tennessee
Evan Engram, TE Ole Miss