The draft is a great time to be an NFL fan. The three-day-long event is a nice way to mitigate the long wait from that one Sunday in February until the first game in September. Optimism, yet a feeling of anxiety, swims through you, as you await the call from the podium on draft day. The buildup has been intense. You’ve read mock draft after mock draft from experts across multiple websites, magazines, etc. You hope that guy on ESPN is wrong because he has your team taking a player from a college you hate. You watched (or read about) the combine in March; depending on your opinions, you may think that stuff matters a lot, or it has a negligible effect on your perceptions of the prospects. Now you’re ready, and it’s the week of the draft. Thought after thought races through your head.
Your team could draft a player that’s a consensus, sure-fire stud who everyone wants, and you’ll feel superior to other fans because, hey! Your team did something smart!
…Or your team could reach very high for a player early, raising big questions. We could have gotten that bum in the third round. Why did we take him day one? You rationalize it by thinking that your team must know something you don’t.
Or you could just be a casual fan and learn the names of all the players on the night of the draft (you’ll only watch the first round), then forget them until August, just in time to remember the names of the early running backs who could help your fantasy team.
Regardless, now is the time to be excited. This week will affect the fates of all teams in the NFL for the next decade.
This year is especially exciting, because most experts see this as one of the most uncertain drafts in recent memory: no one knows what’s going to unfold. That means two things: 1) It should make for good television, and 2) people like me are going to make complete idiots out of themselves trying to predict what’s going to happen. So, without further ado, in my admittedly un-professional opinion, here’s what I think you should expect come draft day (and beyond)…for all 32 teams in the NFL. Hooray for inclusivity!
Picks 1 and 12 – Cleveland Browns (1-15)
The Browns are on the right track. They have 2 picks in the first round! They can pick a franchise QB with one pick and the best player available for the other. This could be the start of Cleveland’s turnaround.
You might have read that exact passage before. Or something like it, maybe.
Indeed, three times(!) in the last five drafts (2012, 2014, and 2015), the Browns have had two picks in the first round, and turned those 6 first round picks into the likes of Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Danny Shelton, and Michael Foster. It’s so bad that I actually lied, they took Cameron Erving, not Michael Foster, in the first round in 2015 (I made him up), and you didn’t even know. In all seriousness, though, 4 of those 6 players no longer play for the Cleveland Browns, and 3 are no longer on NFL rosters.
Now, Cleveland fans might read that and abandon hope. Now is not the time to do that. In none of those 3 drafts did Cleveland possess the number 1 pick. This time they do, and a guy named Myles Garrett who’s pretty special, and the consensus number 1 draft prospect. Cleveland shouldn’t overthink that pick and take him, especially considering this defense tied for second-to-last in sacks.
Still, this is Cleveland, and they’re the Browns. Will they take QB Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson? Should they? I don’t think they should. This team has serious problems across the board. Personally, I don’t think any of the QBs in this draft are pro-ready right now. Do you really want to throw Trubisky, a guy with one full year of college experience, or Watson, who has thrown 30 interceptions in his last two seasons, behind an offensive line who gave up a staggering 17 more sacks than the next worst team in that category in 2016, while throwing to a wide receiving corps whose most productive returning player is Corey Coleman? I don’t think so. But this is a quarterback’s league, and Cleveland wants to win the press conference, almost more than they want to win the actual conference (the AFC). Don’t be surprised if they take a QB at number 1 or 12.
Pick 2 – San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
The 49ers are in sad shape, having booted their last two head coaches, each after only one season, possessing Brian Hoyer as their current QB (in a passing offense that was dead last in yards last year), and a defense which gave up more total yards than any other unit in the league in 2016. Like the Browns, they have a hefty amount of needs. Should they take a QB? Well, remember when I said the Browns gave up the most in the NFL last year? The 49ers gave up the 3rd most. And their best receivers are Pierre Garcon and Bruce Ellington. Thanks, but no thanks with this QB class.
Similar to the Browns, though, the 49ers could feel pressured to take a QB here, just because everyone wants one of those. I don’t think they will, though. This team needs just about anything they can get, so they could trade down with another team desperate for a QB, or they could just take the best player available. Depending on what the 49ers scouts think, that could be either of DLs Solomon Thomas or Jonathan Allen, or maybe a defensive back. There are plenty of those in this draft. If the first pick is a QB – be it the Browns buckling or a team trading up – Myles Garrett would be a wise choice.
Pick 3 – Chicago Bears (3-13)
The Bears gave up nearly 2,000 rushing yards in 2016, so an interior-type DL would fit here (like Allen). There’s also a chance that the first two picks are QBs (I hope, for the sake of those teams, they’re not), so the Bears could wind up with Garrett. Could you imagine, a year after Leonard Floyd fell to their laps at number 9, they get a guy like Garrett? Their defense would suddenly become feared by offensive lines around the league. Defensive back could also be a target here, for a unit that only intercepted 8 passes last year, good for a tie for the second-worst in the league.
Pick 4 – Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
Here’s a familiar sight. This is the sixth year in a row that the Jaguars have a top-5 pick. What gives? This team, for what it’s worth, does have some exciting young talent that fans can look forward to (they can’t really help it with all those early picks). They’ve spent a lot of money and draft picks on defense recently, so I think they’ll opt for an offensive choice. RB Leonard Fournette could be a target for them, considering TJ Yeldon hasn’t emerged as an every down back. Like teams before them, they could also bait a desperate team into trading up for a QB. That’s probably the best possible scenario for them.
Picks 5 and 18 – Tennessee Titans (9-7)
The Titans have the Rams to thank for picking this early. And you know what? If no QBs go in the first four picks, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, they could trade down again from here. They’d have so many picks! This is right about when teams will start getting antsy if all the QBs are still on the board, so it could happen. If not, I see them drafting a defensive back; this secondary gave up the 3rd most passing yards in 2016. Could be Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker, or Marshon Lattimore. At 18, they could go with a defensive back if they didn’t do that at 5, or they could go with a wide receiver to put opposite of Rishard Matthews.
Pick 6 – New York Jets (5-11)
The Jets are fresh off a season in which their passing offense threw a league-high 25 interceptions, so I can easily see them taking a quarterback.
…What’s that you say? The Jets already have 3 quarterbacks on their roster this year, and had 4 last year?
When has that ever stopped them from drafting quarterbacks?
The Jets QB depth chart currently consists of Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg, in some unknown order. News flash: they’re all quite bad, especially Hackenberg. I actually don’t think it’s a bad move for the Jets to take Trubisky or Watson here (if they’re still around at this point), because while none of these quarterbacks are very good NFL prospects, at least the Jets have a league-average offensive line and the likes of Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa to throw to, and on the outside chance that QB ends up being good, this team can be elevated into contention. If not, the Jets could opt for a defensive back like the ones mentioned above, after Darrelle Revis has proven not immune to father time.
Pick 7 – Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
Conventional wisdom may tell the Chargers to draft a quarterback here if Watson or Trubisky remain on the board here…heck, the could even reach for DeShone Kizer or Patrick Mahomes, because current QB Philip Rivers is 35, and who knows how much longer they’ll have him? I disagree. This team has talent, and the right choice can help them win right now.
Rivers has a shot at making the Hall of Fame someday…and this team has made the playoffs exactly once in the last seven years. They need to do what they can while they know they have a great QB. Trading down for an offensive lineman might be wise…so would taking a defensive lineman to put alongside Joey Bosa, if a guy like Allen is still on the board.
Pick 8 – Carolina Panthers (6-10)
One year after going 15-1 and losing in the Super Bowl, the Panthers find themselves on the heels of a losing season. They still have quite a bit of talent, so a good choice here can really help their playoff chances. This team is very shallow at RB, so Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey are all possibilities here. They need help at left tackle, but there probably aren’t any names worth taking at that position at this point.
Pick 9 – Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1)
The Bengals are easily the most complete team in the top 10, so their targets are a little less clear. I could see them taking WR Mike Williams here, as this receiving corps struggled a bit in the absence of AJ Green. A linebacker like Reuben Foster would also be a nice fit for a team that finished in the bottom half in rushing yards allowed last year, and whose linebacking corps consists of the suspension-prone Vontaze Burfict and so-so talents like Kevin Minter and Marquis Flowers.
Pick 10 – Buffalo Bills (7-9)
The Bills are coming off their 10th losing season in the last 12 years, and since they play in the same division as the Patriots, they need to make something happen here. This is a team that’s starving for receiver talent: Sammy Watkins is injury prone and the team might not pick up his 5th year option, and behind him, there’s, well, not much (to put it nicely). If Mike Williams is still on the board, he’d make a good investment. Other wide receivers like Corey Davis and John Ross could be reach options. They just need to get someone who can catch balls, because making Tyrod Taylor throw to people like Greg Salas, Marquis Goodwin, and Justin Hunter again is just not fair.
Picks 11 and 32 – New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Good grief. Drew Brees keeps on trucking, and the Saints can’t seem to put a decent defense on the field. They’ve ranked in the bottom 5 in points allowed in four of the last five years (they made the playoffs the one year they didn’t), while ranking in the top 5 in total offensive yards in 10 of Brees’ 11 years with the team (they ranked 6th the one year they didn’t). Obviously, the Saints will be taking a defensive player here (or they’ll trade down and take one), the question is who. Lattimore, Hooker, and Adams are all great choices if they make it this far. If they don’t, a linebacker like Foster or Haason Reddick would suffice. Or just about anything else on defense. Seriously.
Pick 13 – Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1)
This team ranked 9th in total offense in 2016 and 2nd in total defense, so they’re not beyond hope. Heading into last year, it was clear that their strength was in their receiving corps, with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown leading the way. My, how things have changed. Floyd was cut midseason after a DUI, John Brown struggled to stay healthy, and Larry Fitzgerald will be 34 by the start of the season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he retires following it. For these reasons, wide receiver is a pretty good way to go for them. Looking for Carson Palmer’s predecessor at QB might be prudent, but at this point, Watson and Trubisky are probably gone, and I do not think it’s at all worth it to take Kizer or Mahomes this early. Maybe they should draft a kicker.
Pick 14 – Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
The Eagles have a pretty decent core on offense, minus running back, so if they opt for an offensive talent, Fournette, Cook, and McCaffrey are options. But I think it’s much more likely that they look at defensive back because their current starters there are Patrick Robinson, a 29 year-old who has never been a bona fide starter, and Jalen Mills, a seventh round pick last year. Yuck. By now, the DBs I’ve mentioned at length in this article are probably gone, so Gareon Conley, Kevin King, and Marlon Humphrey, who make up the next wave of talent at the position, are all potential options. Conley is a question mark: he’s very recently been accused of rape, and while he and his lawyers have denied the allegations and the timing is suspect, teams might end up steering clear.
Pick 15 – Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
The offensive line in front of Andrew Luck has been perpetually bad, so reaching for an offensive lineman wouldn’t be a bad move. It’s also decently likely that they target a linebacker; maybe Riddick or Charles Harris, because this linebacking corps does not look good at the moment. Running back is also a possibility here. I know Frank Gore is immortal, but…he’s…going to be 34 by next year…oh, geez, Frank Gore just ran for another 1,000 yards when I was typing that.
Pick 16 – Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
The Ravens have a pretty well-rounded roster, so they could go in a variety of directions. Wide receiver could be one of them, given how Mike Wallace isn’t a desirable number 1 and Breshad Perriman has struggled to get on, and stay on, the field. Ross or Davis could still be available. An addition at linebacker could be on the horizon, but they might be content with CJ Mosely, Terrell Suggs, and a few rolls of the dice. A cornerback could also be a good choice: Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr don’t exactly leave opposing quarterbacks shaking.
Pick 17 – Washington Redskins (8-7-1)
This team really needs help in their front seven and at safety. They gave up the fifth most rushing TDs and the fifth most total yards on defense last year. Jarrad Davis could be an option here to slow down rushing offenses, and run an occasional blitz up the middle to disrupt the passing game. A safety mentioned earlier, if still around, would be a good move too, or a guy like Jabrill Peppers. It’s doubtful that one of the top defensive lineman would linger this far, though.
Pick 19 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
It would appear that the Buccaneers still have faith in Doug Martin, and with talented weapons around, it’s doubtful that the Bucs take an offensive skill player here. I think that they will go with a defensive player, as their defense was decidedly mediocre against all phases last year. Takkarist McKinley wouldn’t be such a bad fit. Peppers could also go here. There’s not really a bad route for the Bucs to go as far as defensive talent is concerned.
Pick 20 – Denver Broncos (9-7)
The Broncos’ offensive line had their struggles last season, so I think a Forrest Lamp or a Ryan Ramczyk could go well here. In fact, if this offensive line gets good, this could be a scary team next year, boasting an incredible defense with excellent offensive skill players. They just kind of have to hope Trevor Siemian stays competent.
Pick 21 – Detroit Lions (9-7)
After a decade of irrelevance (to be kind), the Lions have turned in winning seasons in three of the last six years. However, their point differential of -12 suggests they weren’t that good last year. What can they do to improve? I think they should draft a cornerback. DJ Hayden has had a very disappointing career no matter where he’s been, so King, Humphrey, or maybe guys like Tre’Davious White, Adoree’ Jackson, and Quincy Wilson are all potential talented options that can replace him and make this defense look much more desirable.
Pick 22 – Miami Dolphins (10-6)
The Dolphins were not expected at all to win double digit games, especially after starting the year 1-4; however, like the Lions, their point differential suggests a bit of luck (-17). To improve, they need to shore up what was one of the worst run defenses in the league last year (30th in yards allowed). A linebacker to put alongside Kiko Alonso would be good; McKinley, or maybe TJ Watt. I’d proceed with caution on the latter option, though, as he’s more name than substance, as he only has one year of collegiate starting experience under his belt.
Pick 23 – New York Giants (10-6)
This defense was 2nd in the league in points allowed last year, and they’ve kept the major pieces. I give them credit: their defense was historically bad in 2015, so they went out and bought a new one. Really. Altogether, this team doesn’t have any absolutely glaring holes that need to be filled right away, so this could be a situation where they simply take the best player available. If Kizer or Mahomes are still on the board, they could also trade down with a team that really wants to overpay for a day-two value quarterback.
Pick 24 – Oakland Raiders (12-4)
It’s a shame this team’s hopes for a playoff run were torpedoed when Derek Carr went down late last year. I mean, this looked like a high school team without Carr at the helm. That’s not to say this team is bad; it’s actually quite good. At some point in the draft (not here) they could look into picking up a backup that would look, well, better than Connor Cook. Here, though, I suspect we’ll be seeing the best defensive player available go. As said before, there are plenty of mid-to-late first round value corners that will probably be around.
Pick 25 – Houston Texans (9-7)
If Mahomes or Kizer survive to this point, don’t be surprised at all to see them go here, because the Texans are one heck of a team with one bizarre quarterback situation. Still, these two are such middling prospects that I’m not even sure if they’d make a good return on the investment, even given the state of the team. Brock Osweiler proved that it was possible to be surrounded by a superb supporting cast and still be one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. This guy was so bad that the Texans willingly traded him and a high draft pick for a worse draft pick. And it was a good move! I bet the Texans would have dealt him for a half-eaten PB&J. Houston might also invest in their offensive line because there isn’t a whole lot this team can do to make their defense better.
Pick 26 – Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
The Seahawks have a good team. Except for their offensive line. That unit is atrocious. Pro Football Focus had this unit ranked dead last in the NFL in all-around blocking. So, expect to see a lineman like Ramczyk, Lamp, or even Cam Robinson go here. If not, since the Legion of Boom might lose Richard Sherman via trade at some point before next season, the Seahawks could use this pick on one of the bevy of corners that should go in this range.
Pick 27 – Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
No surprise to see the Chiefs here; good team, but they have the refrigerated mayonnaise equivalent of a quarterback playing under center for them. There are rumors that Kansas City is looking at one of the lower-tier guys like Kizer and Mahomes to take here. Of course, I’m not sold on either personally. The Chiefs boast a tremendous secondary that intercepted more passes than any other team last year, but their run defense is suspect, so a linebacker would be a smart choice. Maybe Smith or McKinley, if one of them is available.
Pick 28 – Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
The Cowboys rode the best offensive line unit in the league to being the no. 1 seed in the NFC, only to get booted in their first game. Their most pressing need is definitely at cornerback. Brandon Carr is gone, and what’s left looks like Morris Claiborne and Anthony Brown. Brown had some nice moments last year as a 6th round rookie, but he looks to have the ceiling of a nickel option. So any of the names mentioned earlier for cornerback would make sense here.
Pick 29 – Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Aaron Rodgers is a living god, but the lack of a real running game and a sub-par defense caught up to the Packers in the NFC Championship last year. It’s kind of bizarre how this defense can’t pick it up, considering they’ve drafted defensive players in the first round five years in a row. Will they make it six? I don’t doubt it, actually. There could still be some names mentioned earlier on the board at cornerback, or maybe Jourdan Lewis or Chidobe Awuzi. They could also go with a front seven guy; just about any position works defensively. This defense needs help, and this time, the front office needs to get it right, before they waste the rest of Rodgers’ career.
Pick 30 – Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
The Steelers have expressed interest in drafting Ben Roethlisberger’s predecessor after he contemplated retirement this offseason. At the risk of sounding like a broken record again, I won’t express my doubts further about this class. I think it would be smarter for Pittsburgh to go after a wide receiver. Martavis Bryant can’t seem to do this, and besides him and Antonio Brown…who’s there? Eli Rogers? Sammie Coats? Jesse James? Ross and Davis are legit options if they fall this far.
Pick 31 – Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Aside from making a meme out of themselves for completely blowing the Super Bowl, the Falcons actually had one heck of a year. The sour ending is rightfully enough to make people forget that, though. I see the Falcons taking the best defensive player available here, which is probably going to be a cornerback. Lewis, Awuzi, or a sliding Conley might be good adds for a secondary that struggled at times against the pass. This defense is under quite the youth movement and I’d expect that to continue.
Pick 37 – Los Angeles Rams (4-12)
The Rams are not in good shape right now. The defense is pretty good: on offense, it’s a different story. They have a young quarterback who needed a year to sit and learn to adjust from a spread offense to a pro-style offense, but Case Keenum did what everyone expected him to do: be bad at playing quarterback, so Goff (the young guy) had to come in prematurely behind one of the league’s worst offensive line, throwing to arguably the league’s worst receiving corps. Hey, at least they have Todd Gurley!
The Rams don’t pick until the second round because they traded up to get Goff, and there’s really no debate: they need to draft offense, either linemen or receivers, and they need to do it now. They have nothing. If they want to salvage Goff’s development, this is the course of action to take.
Pick 48 – Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
The Vikings traded their first round pick for Sam Bradford, but hey! He did well! Nobody (myself included) expected he’d do well, let alone play better than Teddy Bridgewater ever has. The Vikes need help on defensive line and offensive line, and I’d give preference to the latter. This line massively struggled at run blocking, with the offense finishing last in the NFL in yards per carry, despite having a talented running back in Jerrick McKinnon. If any of the names mentioned earlier slide out of the first round they’d be good choices.
Pick 72 – New England Patriots (14-2)
Despite the fact that I attend Boston College, you should know that I am not a Patriots fan. So, I say this with unbiased confidence: this team is stacked. Like, everywhere. I’m not kidding. Think of a position, and the Patriots are probably set there. So what will they do this late, now that they sent their first rounder to New Orleans for Brandin Cooks? Probably take the best player available. This team has no real glaring holes, so there’s no need for them to nibble.
And there you have it! You’re now ready for the draft. Or maybe you were before reading this, that’s cool too. I wish you and your team good luck: may they choose players to your liking. Happy drafting.