1. New York Jets: Sam Darnold QB USC
It’s clear that if New York ends up with the top pick in the draft they had to trot out Hackenburg to see what he’s got. There is a chance that Hackenburg proves he has what it takes to be the franchise quarterback, but more than likely the Jets will use this pick on one of the top quarterbacks available.There are many in the media that consider Sam Darnold to be the next Andrew Luck with his arm talent and ability to produce in clutch situations. Maybe this pick will finally give the Jets a franchise quarterback they’ve lacked since Chad Pennington.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Arden Key DE LSU
Quarterback is a clear need as projected starter Brian Hoyer is merely a stop gap till 2018. They paid plenty of attention this past offseason towards Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garappalo and that is where I believe they go after the season. Taking a quarterback in free agency will allow the 49ers to target Key giving them and explosive edge rusher that they haven’t had since Aldon Smith.
3. Cleveland Browns: Saquan Barkley RB Penn State
Wherever Hue Jackson has gone, running the football has been paramount to his offenses. Isaiah Crowell hasn’t played bad, but he isn’t the feature back this team needs. Barkley’s combination of speed and power has allowed him to dominant since arriving at Penn State. Barkley would give the Browns an elite runner behind a talented offensive line which should only help take the pressure off whoever their quarterback is.
4. Los Angeles Rams: Tavarus McFadden CB Florida State
Adding a true number one receiver for Jared Goff would be ideal, but there may not be a true number one receiver worth a top five pick. Instead the Rams turn to reestablishing their defense as one of the best in the league. With Wade Phillips taking his defense needs man cover corners because they play so aggressive with their front seven. Phillips defense thrives by having three high caliber corners which has led the team he’s been on to drafted a corner in the first round. McFadden would also provide some insurance in case Trumaine Johnson doesn’t resign after being franchised two years in a row.
5. Chicago Bears: Connor Williams OT Texas
After moving up to get Mitchell Trubisky the Bears need to surround him with the pieces to help him succeed. Adding weapons are good but giving him protection might be even more important. Chicago is set at guard and center but both tackles have been inconsistent at best. Connor Williams is a natural athlete whose lateral quickness allows him to lock down the backside and should help keep Trubisky clean.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Rosen QB UCLA
Another year of Blake Bortels struggles and it could be finally time to move on from him, especially since the 2018 class could have at least three top rated quarterback prospects. Rosen has all the physical tools but concerns about his leadership skill are very similar to that of Connor Cook a couple years back. If those concerns can be debunked and he’s able to bounce back from injury we could see Rosen push Sam Darnold to be the first quarterback taken in the draft.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Wilkins DT Clemson
With the move to the 4-3 Seattle style defense the Chargers are still in the process of converting their defense over. The Chargers would be wise to focus on adding an interior pass rusher to allow their edge rushers more one on one opportunities. Wilkins played defensive end at Clemson in 2016, but should be even more deadly moving inside where he can win with his speed and power vs guards. A perfect 3 technique in the Chargers defense.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Allen QB Wyoming
A horrific knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater in the 2016 offseason really changed the Vikings as they traded a 1st round pick to get Sam Bradford, with some believing Bridgewater may never play again. Bradford played well at times but if the Vikings struggle as I predict they could be staring at Josh Allen who could be a more refined Patrick Mahomes. Allen would give the Vikings once again a potential young franchise quarterback they had with a healthy Bridgewater.
9. New Orleans Saints: Harold Landry DE Boston College
New Orleans knows that they need to get the defense going if they want to make a run at the playoffs focusing on the secondary in the 2017 NFL Draft, but they still lack the edge rusher to really take pressure off the defensive backs. Landry lead the nation in sacks in 2016 by using explosive quickness. Having Landry along with Cam Jordan and Sheldon Richardson only enhances their pass rush that would go along with their improved secondary.
10. Buffalo Bills: Cameron Smith LB USC
In every stop Sean McDermott’s defenses has relied on athletic linebackers who can run and make plays while the Bills defense is full of downhill thumpers. Look for the 2018 offseason for the Bills to revamp the linebacking core and that could lead to the Bills taking one of the athletic linebackers in this class. Smith has both size and speed while the ability to change directions fluidly making him a good fit for this defense.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: Derwin James S Florida State
Safety is not a huge need for the Bengals, but we’ve seen over the past several years Cincinnati doesn’t draft for need and often take players they feel are the best players for what they like to do. Derwin James is largely considered one of the best non quarterbacks in this draft so the value here could be perceived as being good. Cincinnati had success with Reggie Nelson coming up and blitzing, just imagine what they can do with James who would be a super sized version in this role.
12. Washington Redskins: Vita Vea DT Washington
Why the Redskins let Chris Baker walk is beyond me, but his departure left a big void in the middle of the Redskins defense that could exploit their poor inside linebacker play even more. Vea is very similar to another former Washington Husky in Danny Shelton but what makes Vea different is he possesses better pass rushing potential. For a man that is 6’5 332 he has good lateral agility and is very tough to block one on one. The combination of Vea, Jonathan Allen and Stacy McGee is a more impressive defensive line and be an upgrade over current projected starter Ziggy Hood.
13. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley WR Alabama
Don’t let the Jeremy Maclin signing fool you, the Ravens are still an offense that needs to add weapons. Ridley is my top rated receiver in this class and his ability to win all over the field can really help out Joe Flacco. Combined with good speed and the ability to track the ball will take advantage of Flacco’s strong arm while his quickness and acceleration can help him win underneath. Adding Ridley not only adds a weapon but gives the ravens some insurance in case Brashaud Perriman never develops into a number one receiver they hoped he would.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derrius Guice RB LSU
In 2016 Carson Wentz’s 609 passing attempts were more than they would have liked but when your having to trot out Darren Sproles as your main running back there isn’t much you can do. Adding LeGarrett Blount late in free agency will help as he gives the Eagles a between the tackle presence but they could really use an all around back similar to what Head Coach Doug Peterson enjoyed in Kansas City with Jamaal Charles. Running backs don’t often go in the first round anymore but when they do it’s because they are elite. Guice fits that bill as he’s shown in limited roles that he has what it takes to take over a game. Showing patience, burst and power he has everything a team would want out of a bell cow running back.
15. Carolina Panthers: Porter Gustin DE USC
Taking defensive lineman when they don’t have the need is nothing new for General Manager Dave Gettleman as he likes to load up along the defensive line. Combined with Julius Peppers playing on a one year deal and Charles Johnson just signing a two year deal. Adding a prospect like Gustin would give the Panthers another young dynamic rusher who in two years could be the foundation of the line with Daeshon Hall who was taken in the third round this past draft.
16. New York Giants: Mitch Hyatt OT Clemson
One of the reasons the Giants could miss out on the playoffs in 2017 is their offensives line. Both tackle positions have been a weak point with Ereck Flowers struggling since he came into the league. New York chose only to sign Chargers cast off DJ Fluker to address the issue which means it could become their top target entering the 2018 offseason. Luckily the 2018 draft looks promising at tackle and one of the top guys they could target is Clemson’s Mitch Hyatt. Hyatt has locked down the left tackle position since his arrive as a true freshman providing a blind side protector for Deshaun Watson helping the Tigers win a National Title. Adding Hyatt would allow the Giants to either move Flowers to right tackle or follow what the Rams did with Greg Robinson and ship him off in a trade.
17. Indianapolis Colts: Minkah Fitzpatrick DB Alabama
The 2017 draft was focused on improving a defense that finished at the bottom of the league in both run and pass defense statistics. While adding rangy safety Malik Hooker is big, the secondary still needs some help. Fitzpatrick has thrived as both a nickel corner and a safety at the college level providing a playmaking presence. Fitzparick could easily line up at strong safety next to Hooker giving the Colts someone who can be moved around to different situations and be a chess piece for Chuck Pagano’s defense.
18. Denver Broncos: Jack Cichey LB Wisconsin
With the 28th rated run defense you would have assumed the Broncos would have spent some time adding to the middle of their defense to help stop the run. Instead they left it practically untouched only adding interior pass rusher DeMarcus Walker and a couple of journeyman run stuffers. The hope is adding those pieces to the line will help, but also adding a run stuffer at linebacker next to the athletic Brandon Marshall would be better. Cichey was a tackling machine in 2016 for the Badgers before getting hurt, but back at 100% he should have another good year showcasing why he’s one of the 32 best players in this draft.
19. Arizona Cardinals: Jaire Alexander CB Louisville
For the longest time the Cardinals have had stud corner Patrick Peterson locking down one side, but have struggled to find someone opposite of him. Former running back turned cornerback Brandon Williams was drafted in the second round but has been slow to make an impact. If he continues to struggle the Cardinals may feel the need to find another elite corner to really take the pressure off Peterson and make their secondary the best in the league.
20. Cleveland Browns (From – Houston): Courtlan Sutton WR SMU
After drafting 6 receivers in the 2016 NFL Draft the Browns still have a need for a true number one receiver. Sure former 15th overall pick Corey Coleman has shown flashes of playmaking ability he likely will not be a guy that can win on third down and in the redzone. Sutton would give the Browns something different with his 6’4 215lb frame that would go well with the small faster receivers they currently have on the roster.
21. Miami Dolphins: Quenton Nelson G Notre Dame
Slowly but surely the Dolphins have built a quality roster that has them poised to return to the playoffs. The offense thrived late in the season when Jay Ajayi was able to provide a running presence and taking the pressure off of Ryan Tannehill. With Brandon Albert gone and Leremy Tunsil moving outside to tackle there is a huge void inside at guard. Isaac Asiata was drafted in the 5th round but adding Nelson could provide them some stability at guard and be a force in the run game with his combination of speed and power.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kalen Ballage RB Arizona State
There was plenty of discussion of the Bucs targeting Dalvin Cook in the first round to replace Doug Martin who has had his share of issues. Instead they are doubling down on Martin with plenty of positive reports coming out of OTA’s. With some questions still abound about Martin and Charles Sims contract expiring the Bucs could take the plunge on a top tier back that they can count on. Ballage is a big back but he has the ability to run between the tackles and be a force in the pass game. He’s your modern running back.
23. Detroit Lions: Peter Kalambayi DE Stanford
Saw what you want about Ezekiel Ansah having a down year, but the Lions have nobody else to rush the passer allowing the opposing teams were able to double him on a regular basis. Detroit desperately needs to find someone to to help Ansah out and could turn to a what looks to be a talented edge class with some top end talent. Kalambayi plays the OLB in the Cardinal 3-4 defense but looks to have the ability to fit within a 4-3 especially as a pass rush specialist early on.
24. Tennessee Titans: Josh Sweat OLB Florida State
The 2017 Draft was all about the offense for the Titans but they could swing back to the defense to put the finishing touches on an emerging defense. Brian Orakpo and Derek Morgan have given them an edge presence at outside linebacker but Kevin Dodd hasn’t lived up to his top 40 draft slot. Add in that there isn’t anyone in that fourth pass rushing role who could eventually replace either or both Orakpo or Morgan when their contracts expire in the next couple of years.
25. Atlanta Falcons: Billy Price G/C Ohio State
The one true weakness for the Falcons high powered offense was a right guard where Chris Chester couldn’t get it done and wasn’t resigned. Sean Harlow was drafted in the fourth round but I personally don’t have high hopes for his chances to fill the hole successfully. Price would give the Falcons an athletic right guard for their zone blocking scheme and complete an underrated offensive line. Price will be moving to center this upcoming year, so his ability to play both guard and center should help if Alex Mack has more injury issues.
26. Buffalo Bills (From – Kansas City): Mark Andrews TE Oklahoma
Tight ends have always been a big part of new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s scheme lead to plenty of OJ Howard speculation in mock drafts leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft. Starter Charles Clay has been solid but not the weapon many they thought he’d be. Buffalo needs to add more weapons to Sammie Watkins and Zay Jones they could turn to the top tight end in this class in Andrews. Andrews is at his best running routes against linebackers and safeties and can control the middle of the field allowing Watkins to work downfield and Jones outside.
27. Dallas Cowboys: James Washington WR Oklahoma State
Looking to continue to build this offense around Dak Prescott the Cowboys could look back to Oklahoma State where they landed Dez Bryant. I wouldn’t say that receiver is the Cowboys biggest need, but Washington could be perceived as a good value here and be too tough to pass up. Washington thrives working downfield providing big plays with his explosive speed which could take some attention away from Dez and help an already good running game.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson LB Texas
Malik Jefferson’s speed and tackling ability make him the perfect fit for what the Steelers liked in their athletic 3-4 defense. Since letting Lawrence Timmons walk and promoted from within there is still a hole within the unit which is important as Shazier has struggled to stay healthy. Not to mention Jefferson brings an added pass rush element that can be utilized on zone blitzes.
29. Seattle Seahawks: Tyrell Crosby OT Oregon
Look for the Seahawks to continue to draft offensive lineman as they cycle through players so they can keep their money invested in the unit low and use that money elsewhere, something they’ve done to keep their high priced defenders together. Crosby is a good athlete who use to playing in a zone heavy scheme. With experience playing both right and left tackle it gives this unit some flexibility as he could be the replacement for George Fant if he continues to struggle. Or if the Seahawks don’t resign Justin Britt they could move Ethan Pocic inside and have Crosby play right tackle.
30.Oakland Raiders: Bradley Chubb DE North Carolina State
While Khalil Mack is a complete stud, the Raiders finished at the bottom of the NFL in total sacks. Sure having Mario Edwards get hurt was a factor there, but they really lacked anyone to rush off the edge opposite of Mack. Chubb is a long athletic linebacker that can be used on pass rushing downs initially before eventually developing into a full time player in a year or two. This also allows Bruce Irvin to play more against the run and utilize his speed there.
31. Green Bay Packers: Christian Kirk WR Texas A&M
At one point the Packers were considered to have one of the best trios of receivers with Nelson, Adams and Cobb. However Nelson hasn’t returned to his old self after an injury, while Adams and Cobb have slipped the past couple of years. With Adams entering a contract year it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Packers let him walk as they often do. Kirk could slide right into this unit and be the chain mover they need. Kirk thrives in short areas using his quickness and burst to create separation while also having the speed to get downfield. Can you imagine trying to cover him with his quickness when Aaron Rodgers is in his scramble mode?
32. New England Patriots: Jordan Thomas CB Oklahoma
There was plenty of speculation on the Patriots moving Malcolm Butler in a trade with the Saints leading up to the draft. The Patriots ended up keeping Butler but he becomes a free agent next offseason and likely will move on. That leaves a big hole opposite of newly signed Stephon Gillmore. Jordan Thomas has the size and movement skills needed to play man coverage and provide a specific role which the Patriots want out of their defenders.