With the 2017 NFL draft quickly approaching, sportswriter Joshua Gollihar took a shot at predicting the first round.
Taking Myles Garrett is the clear answer with the first pick. Cleveland could then package the 12th overall pick and any of its five picks in the top 65 picks to move ahead of the New York Jets to take Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky would get a chance to be the savior for his hometown team.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ decision makers, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, are inexperienced with building a roster. The team has many needs across the board to fill. Quarterback is an option here, but with Brian Hoyer serving as a bridge option, they can address the rest of the roster. Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas from Stanford would be a great start for the new regime. Placing Thomas on the line with fellow high draft picks Arik Armstead and Deforest Buckner can solidify a very important part of the defense. Taking a quarterback like Deshone Kizer or Davis Webb at pick 34 would be a better value than reaching for one of the top three signal callers.
General manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox need to make sure that this pick works out, or both could be unemployed after this season. They need a player that can play immediately and contribute, so a quarterback would be a reach. The two players who make the most sense are safety Jamal Adams from LSU and Solomon Thomas, if he falls past San Francisco. Both are safe picks, but Adams might be the best player in the class. He is a safety who can stop the run, cover tight ends and play the back end of the defense. He also is a natural-born leader who will make everyone around him better.
This pick must be made to help a struggling Blake Bortles. With a lot of money invested on the defense, look for this pick to be either Leonard Fournette or OJ Howard. Fournette would take the pressure to throw on every down off Bortles and make defenses respect the run. Howard would give the passing game a scoring threat over the middle of the field. He is a freak athlete at the position that has not been seen since Greg Olsen.
The best thing the team could do is call the Browns and ask for the 12th, 33rd and a future second-round pick. The team is currently without a second-rounder and probably does not value a player enough to stay at five. If it stays at five, cornerback Marshon Lattimore or safety Malik Hooker would be the choice to address the team’s top need. It could then take a receiving threat like David Njoku of Miami or John Ross of Washington with the 18th selection.
New York Jets
Like Tennessee, the best option would be to trade back and collect more picks. The team should and most likely will stay away from quarterback here. OJ Howard would make a lot of sense here. However, Christian McCaffrey can be the splash pick that fits New York City. He is a four-down player that can score in any way possible. Some may consider this a reach, but this should make a struggling fan base smile.
Los Angeles Chargers
This roster does not have many holes. The poor records mostly reflect the multitude of injuries suffered in recent years. Taking Malik Hooker could give the team a playmaker in the defensive backfield that the team lost when Eric Weddle left in free agency. Causing more turnovers on defense and reducing them on offense makes this team relevant again. Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen could be the option to provide interior pass rush if they feel his shoulders are healthy.
This pick will be a running back. If Leonard Fournette falls here, the team will run his draft card to the podium. If he is gone, Christian McCaffrey is not much of a settle. The team needs to give former MVP Cam Newton some help to limit his injuries. Both players bring a different play style, but both would thrive in this offense.
The Bengals need to be careful, or a top 10 pick will become normal. The roster has been depleted on both sides of the ball. However, they can benefit from the off-the-field issues pushing a top five player down the board. Linebacker Reuben Foster would pair nicely next to Vontaze Burfict. He flies from sideline to sideline with reckless abandon, destroying everything in his way. This is a value pick that also fills a need.
Management in Buffalo clearly does not see Tyrod Taylor in its future. Even though there is not a quarterback worth taking in the top 10, taking Deshaun Watson makes a lot of sense. I do not see him being ready to play immediately, but he can sit for at least a year and develop into a starter. The team needs someone who can compete against Tom Brady or Ryan Tannehill in the division, and he can win big games.
New Orleans Saints
Defense. Defense. More defense. If linebackers Haason Reddick or Reuben Foster are here, they should take them. Both are athletic linebackers who can play the run, rush the passer and drop into coverage. Both are identity players who can set the tone for a defense that needs to improve. They can use the 32nd pick to draft a Deshone Kizer or Davis Webb to be the heir apparent to Drew Brees. Cornerback would be the more sensible pick.
Coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim have done their homework on replacing Carson Palmer. Getting the most polarizing signal caller in the class will most likely happen here. Patrick Mahomes has the potential to be Brett Favre or Jamarcus Russell. He has one of the strongest arms of a guy coming out of college has ever had, but he makes so many throws from awkward positions and comes from the spread offense that makes it hard for guys to transition to the pros.
The best-case scenario is if teams between eight and 13 fall in love with quarterbacks and Christian McCaffrey falls in their laps. If he is still there, Carson Wentz might personally announce the pick. Getting a guy who will not line up in the same position from one play to another would give this offense a much-needed playmaker. Cornerback is a position of need, but I do not see them passing on McCaffrey.
New general manager Chris Ballard has added many bodies to the front seven to beef up the pass rush. They still could use a marquis pass rusher. However, if Mike Williams of Clemson is still on the board, take him. T.Y. Hilton can take the top off the defense and score in a hurry, but he is not a possession receiver who can offer stability. Andrew Luck could use a safety blanket that turns 50/50 balls into 80/20 balls. Rumors are out there that they also want to move into the top 10 and take McCaffrey. That would be a great start for the Ballard regime.
This team is now long removed from the team that won a Super Bowl. It could use a corner opposite of Jimmy Smith, but that can be done on day two. A player who has lost popularity is running back Dalvin Cook from Florida State with questions about fumbling, injuries and off-the-field issues. However, this guy can bring back memories of Ray Rice in his prime.
The Kirk Cousins contract situation has caused fans so much stress and the organization a lot of money. The overwhelming thought is that he joins San Francisco next offseason to reunite with Kyle Shanahan. The best thing to do to prepare for that is to draft Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes if they are available. This could allow either to develop into a starter-caliber player to prevent a mediocre 2018 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cameron Brate was a very welcome surprise in the passing attack last year. With the addition of Desean Jackson to be a vertical threat, tight end David Njoku could make this a perennial offense. Mike Evans can continue to dominate on the outside. Dirk Koetter can now utilize two tight end sets to create mismatches.
The offensive line is the biggest need for this team. The hopeful situation is that interior lineman Forrest Lamp falls to them. He offers versatility and is a swing guard who can fill in at each tackle position. His game is similar to Dallas Cowboy All-Pro guard Zack Martin. If the two best tight ends are gone, Evan Engram could be a wild card here. He offers mismatch nightmares at 230 pounds with wide receiver speed. Add him to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Trevor Siemian can quickly develop into a more than capable starter.
With all the attention at linebacker going to Reuben Foster and Haason Reddick, in my mind, the best linebacker falls here. Jarrad Davis from Florida does everything that Foster and Reddick can do. Limited health during the draft process has caused him to fly under the radar. He will be the starting inside linebacker from day one and has multiple-Pro Bowl potential.
Last year, the Dolphins benefited from Laremy Tunsil’s draft day slide. He is now kicking out to left tackle to replace departing Branden Albert. This leaves a whole on the offensive line. The dream pick here is Forrest Lamp. The most likely pick could be either of two linemen, Garrett Bolles or Ryan Ramcyzk. Linebacker is an option if Davis falls here, but that seems unlikely.
New York Giants
Cam Robinson of Alabama is a sensible pick, but I am thinking they address the skill positions. With Brandon Marshall on a two-year deal and beginning to age, Evan Engram makes a lot of sense here. He can control the middle of the field in the quick-rhythm passing game. When Marshall leaves, he can be plugged into his role on the outside. Engram offers size that is too big for defensive backs and speed that is too quick for linebackers. The Ole Miss connection of Manning and Engram would get a chance twice a year at beating rival Dak Prescott.
Adding Marshawn Lynch takes them out of reaching for a running back here. With a defense that was awful against the pass, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie would be perfect. Awuzie shut down receivers from every team he faced. The best way to defend the pass is to have a guy create pressure on the quarterback and defensive backs to clamp down on receivers. Khalil Mack and Awuzie can cause many turnovers together.
Picking this late takes them out of the conversation for Trubisky, Watson and Mahomes. They would have to trade up at least ahead of Arizona at 13 for the Mahomes, whom they love. Losing a second-round pick in dumping Brock Osweiler. They will have to address the offensive line and take Cam Robinson, Ramcyzk or Garrett Bolles.
Seattle rarely stays put. The Seahawks have discussed trading back to 31 with Atlanta. A team looking to secure a quarterback could trade here ahead of Kansas City from the early second round. If they stay put or move slightly back, defensive backs Obi Melifonwu or Budda Baker should be the choice. With Richard Sherman’s future in question and a lack of depth, they could use some scheme versatile players. Melifonwu is an athletic specimen who can play corner or eventually replace Kam Chancellor at safety. Baker could immediately play slot corner or fill in at safety when injury occurs.
Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid seems to have tapped out all that Alex Smith can offer. Davis Webb out of Cal would fit this offense perfectly. He has the arm strength to spin the ball in the cold and wind in Arrowhead Stadium and the football IQ to run the West Coast offense. Evan Engram also makes a lot of sense here with a lack of playmakers outside of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
The Dallas Cowboys get extremely lucky here. They get tremendous value and fill a gaping need at pass rusher by taking Derek Barnett. He will fall because of poor numbers at the combine and pro day. However, his production was great in the SEC against pro-ready offensive linemen. They can address the secondary on day two, where a lot of talent will remain.
Green Bay Packers
A plug-and-play defensive back is the obvious choice here. However, Eddie Lacy is gone. The current starter is a converted wide receiver. Alvin Kamara of Tennessee would give this offense a second dimension it desperately needs. He is a one-cut back who can run with power and speed. He is excellent as receiver out of the backfield. A running back makes this offense as scary as ever.
Losing Lawrence Timmons in free agency and James Harrison being close to retirement makes pass rusher a huge need. Taco Charlton fills the void. He is a tall, hand-in-the-dirt lineman who can set the edge against the rush and get after opposing quarterbacks. He and Bud Dupree can form into a formidable pass-rush duo. Finding Ben Roethlisberger an apprentice is also in play.
If a pass rusher like Charles Harris is still available when Seattle is on the clock, Dan Quinn would be more than willing to trade up and take him. Harris would pair nicely opposite of Vic Beasley. Winston, Newton and Brees better learn to get rid of the ball against rival Atlanta.
Ole Miss Prospects
After Engram goes, it could be a while before another Rebel has his name called. Damore’ea Stringfellow and DJ Jones are locks to be drafted. Jones will be plugged into the nose tackle role as a run stopper who is athletic and instinctive to stop screen plays. Stringfellow is a mystery. He has all the tools to be a Kelvin Benjamin-style receiver, but he has never put it all together. His ceiling is high, but his floor is very low. Fadol Brown and Quincy Adeboyejo will go late on day three.