With the NFL Draft just 28 days away, and free agency far behind us, teams are looking to fill holes and needs with fresh talent.
Some teams are looking to build for the future, like the San Francisco 49ers. Then there are teams ready to pounce, like the team across the Bay, the Oakland Raiders.
On April 28 when Commissioner Roger Goodell starts the draft, teams will decide whether they take the best player available or fill a need that could keep them afloat for a few years.
Do they take a chance with the amazing talent with character concerns? Or go with the safe pick who has a higher floor than ceiling?
I’ve taken it upon myself to make their decisions for them, by filling needs and taking into account scheme fits and losses from free agency, and also by dropping some players out of the first round due to injury problems, like Notre Dame standout linebacker Jaylon Smith.
With all that said, the Tennessee Titans are on the clock.
1. Tennessee Titans – Laremy Tunsil, OT Ole Miss
Tennessee drafted their franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second pick in last year’s draft. Now it’s time to protect him. Tunsil is the best offensive lineman in the draft and one of the five best players in the draft. Has rare athleticism and foot quickness for a man his size, which is needed to protect his quarterback against elite edge rushers. Mariota should feel comfortable in the pocket with Tunsil on the left and Tyler Lewan on the right.
2. Cleveland Browns – Carson Wentz, QB North Dakota State
It’s pick your poison with your quarterback selection this year. It’s pretty much who fits the team’s system better, and Carson Wentz fits Hue Jackson system the best as a strong-armed QB who has better than average foot movement. Jackson has the ability to coach players with lesser arm talent to All-Pro type seasons, like Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. He also excelled as the quarterback coach for Joe Flacco, a small-school player like Wentz with a strong arm and mobility.
3. San Diego Chargers – Jalen Ramsey, DB Florida State
The Chargers just lost their captain of the secondary, Safety Eric Weddle, to free agency, leaving a glaring need. Toward the end of last season, the Chargers were forced to play wide receiver Dontrelle Inman in the secondary due to injuries. There isn’t a better fit than Ramsey, who can play either the safety or cornerback position, similar to another Florida State defensive back they drafted in 2006, Antonio Cromartie.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Myles Jack, LB UCLA
Jack is as versatile as they come, he can play all three linebacker positions as well as the pass rushing EDGE spot. He even played some running back and was both the Pac-12 offensive and defensive freshman of the year, see he’s versatile. He suffered a meniscus injury early last season, but it doesn’t look to affect his draft stock. He’s the best healthy linebacker in this class, who adds depth and playmaking to an already strong linebacking corps in Dallas.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Joey Bosa, DE Ohio State
The Jaguars are building their defensive line, taking edge rusher Dante Fowler with the third pick last year and signing Malik Jackson to a 6-year, $85 million dollar contract this year. The addition of Bosa makes their front seven and pass rush of the future very dangerous, and if this year’ws Super Bowl 50 proves anything, getting after the quarterback wins championships.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Ronnie Stanley, OT Notre Dame
The Baltimore Ravens just extended Quarterback Joe Flacco’s contract til 2021. It would be best to invest this selection into someone who can protect his blindside for the duration of the contract. Staley is a prototypical left tackle with perfect size and length; throw in some quality foot work and you have a starter, making it an easy choice for Ozzie Newsome.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Jared Goff, QB California
Who knows what the 49ers will do at quarterback, with reports that Kaepernick wants out and that the Broncos are making a push for the incumbent QB. Kaepernick may fit new Head Coach Chip Kelly’s offense better than anyone in the league, but it seems his days are down in San Francisco. Goff should be the pick here, new coach, new me, I mean, new quarterback. He gives the 49ers the hometown hero quarterback they’ve wanted since they passed on Aaron Rodgers.
8. Philadelphia Eagles – DeForest Buckner, DL Oregon
The Eagles go best player available here, Buckner is my best interior defensive lineman, and they have reason to. The defensive line market is booming, just ask Malik Jackson. The Eagles have a player that is more productive in Fletcher Cox, who will be a free agent at the end of the year. Cox could bolt in free agency to try and grab the big bucks. Drafting Buckner gives them a backup plan and a very talented player with high upside in this draft to keep their D-line respectable.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB Florida
Hargreaves has the best footwork in this draft. He can play zone and man, and has a knack for making plays on the football. He’s been a starter in the SEC since he was a true freshman, and held his own. He would sure up the secondary for Tampa Bay with newly acquired Brent Grimes.
10. New York Giants – Mackenzie Alexander, CB Clemson
The Giants pass defense was horrible last season, which prompted them to overpay pass rusher Olivier Vernon and cornerback Janoris Jenkins in free agency. They did however lose Prince Amukamara to the Jaguars. Alexander can fill that spot, as I see him playing nickel his first year and eventually moving to the outside with Janoris Jenkins. There are questions of his ball skills, but Alexander can shut a receiver down, and if you watched the National Championship game, it’s easy to see how much he was missed.
11. Chicago Bears – Shaq Lawson, DE Clemson
The Bears are building a solid defense. They grabbed Pernell McPhee last year in free agency and this year snagged inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. Drafting Lawson gives them another pass rusher to go along with McPhee to create havoc on the quarterback.
12. New Orleans Saints – Sheldon Rankins, DL Louisville
In my mind, Rankins is the second-best interior pass rusher behind Buckner. He’s scheme versatile and has a quickness that gives him the advantage in one-on-one matchups. He can thrive as a 3-4 defensive end or the three technique in the 4-3, and would be a great pairing on the struggling Saints defensive line.
13. Miami Dolphins – Ezekiel Elliot, RB Ohio State
The Dolphins are able to breathe a sigh of relief, as they were probably sweating that another team would take Elliot before they had the chance to, and were questioning if Byron Marshall and Kiko Alonso were worth moving down for in the draft. They get a star running back to take pressure off Ryan Tannehill and makes their offense that much more explosive.
14. Oakland Raiders – Reggie Ragland, MLB Alabama
The Raiders have filled multiple holes on this defense, but they are missing is a leader in the middle. Ragland has led the Alabama defense for the past two years and just last year to a National Championship. He’s great against the run and has made improvements to his pass coverage, taking on star Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. The SEC Defensive Player of the year will be a welcome addition to the Silver and Black.
15. Los Angeles Rams – Paxton Lynch, QB Memphis
Case Keenum is the Los Angeles Rams quarterback, and if they’re trying to sell tickets in Hollywood they need more QB than that. Lynch should be the pick here. It would be best to see how Keenum does to start the season, but if he struggles you put in the strong-armed mobile quarterback who has the upside of Ben Roethlisberger.
16. Detroit Lions – Laquan Treadwell, WR Ole Miss
Calvin Johnson has retired and the Detroit offense will struggle without him. Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate will soon learn how important he was. So with this pick, the Lions try to replace him, giving Stafford a weapon who can go up and get the ball when in the air. Don’t be surprised if he’s not the only wide receiver taken by the Lions in this draft. They need a lot to replace Megatron.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Darron Lee, OLB Ohio State
The Falcons’ weakside linebacker was Philip Wheeler last season, so you know they struggled a bit in that department. Lee is an instant upgrade. He’s strong against the run and the pass and can get after the quarterback if needed too. His speed gives the defense the luxury of keeping their base defense on the field as he can cover running back, tight ends and slot receivers.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Taylor Decker, OT Ohio State
The Colts need to protect quarterback Andrew Luck, like really, they need to protect him. He was injured for most of last year and cost the Colts a chance at the playoffs. I’m sure Luck would appreciate the pick of Decker, which gives him two solid tackles protecting him, and his ribs would thank the front office as well for not allowing them to be crushed on a weekly basis.
19. Buffalo Bills – Kevin Dodd, DE Clemson
The Bills cut former first-round pick Mario Williams after not living up to his contract last season. Kevin Dodd would be a great replacement. He lined up across Shaq Lawson at Clemson and was sometimes the forgotten man on that defense, but in the National Championship game made a name for himself by getting to the quarterback three times. His motor and pass rushing skills will be welcomed to the Bills defense.
20. New York Jets – Leonard Floyd, OLB Georgia
The Jets’ best pass rushers are their interior defensive linemen, and they still have Calvin Pace starting. So yeah, they could use some edge help. Floyd would be a nice addition, he should be able to get after the passer easily with the defensive front he’d have in front of him in New York. His energy and athleticism will make the Jets defense that much better.
21. Washington – A’Shawn Robinson, DL Alabama
They say A’Shawn Robinson is 20 years old, but he looks more like my dad. What I’m saying is dude’s a grown man. He’s strong against the run and can play all defensive line positions in Washington’s 3-4 defense. Last season I was shocked when Washington did not take Leonard Williams. So not only is this a great pick, but it fills a need on their defense.
22. Houston Texans – Corey Coleman, WR Baylor
Last year the Texans offense consisted of DeAndre Hopkins and that’s it. Hopkins was the only weapon on that offense and still managed 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns. Getting Coleman will help out newly-acquired quarterback Brock Osweiler and take pressure off Hopkins. Add in Lamar Miller and the possibility of Jaelen Strong progressing, this will be one scary offense to pair with an already vaunted defense.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Josh Doctson, WR TCU
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t pass the ball deep that much, which makes sense as to why they cut Mike Wallace. Doctson would be a good replacement and a better fit in the Vikings offense. He makes spectacular catches and will fit as a good number two to Stefon Diggs. Doctson will succeed more as a possession receiver.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Will Fuller, WR Notre Dame
The Bengals should give Andy Dalton another weapon on offense, and a big play receiver like Will Fuller would fit nicely next to AJ Green and Tyler Eifert. The Bengals lost two receivers in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency, so they could use more help.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – William Jackson III, CB Houston
I couldn’t tell you who was the Steelers starting cornerback was last season. Jackson gives the Steelers a qualified starter in that secondary. He has size, speed, and playmaking skills that the Steeler defense love.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Jack Conklin, OT Michigan State
The Seahawks lost Russell Okung to Denver, and before that he’d been hurt throughout his career in Seattle. Jack Conklin can come in and play either right or left tackle, and looks to be an upgrade. Conklin may not be the most athletic, but he outworks his opponents and uses his strength and technique to his advantage.
27. Green Bay Packers – Andrew Billings, NT Baylor
The Packers lost B.J. Raji to retirement this offseason, but were looking to go in a more athletic route at nose tackle anyway. Billings is as stout at stopping the run as he is quick-footed to create pressure inside. It’s not everyday that you see a playmaking nose tackle with his size and quickness.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Eli Apple, CB Ohio State
The Chiefs lost Sean Smith to the rival Oakland Raiders. Smith made the Chiefs secondary legit after sitting out due to a suspension in the beginning of the season. Once he returned the Chiefs became one of the best defenses in the NFL. Apple won’t be Smith but will be a good compliment next to Defensive Rookie of the Year, Marcus Peters.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Nkemdiche, DT Ole Miss
Nkemdiche falls due to character concerns and lack of production, but he has all of the potential in the world. He’s crazy athletic and has all the tools to be one of the best five players in this year’s draft if he gets his head together. The Cardinals give him the best chance to succeed, as they’ve been known to take chances on players with troubled pasts with success like Tyrann Mathieu, for example.
30. Carolina Panthers – Vonn Bell, DB Ohio State
Bell is this year’s Demarious Randall; he has the ability to play cornerback in the NFL. Last year the NFC Champions didn’t have the best secondary, the with their top player being Josh Norman. Both safety and cornerback are needs for the Panthers, and Bell will help at either.
31. Denver Broncos – Vernon Butler, DL Louisiana Tech
John Elway has a lot of work to do. The Super Bowl Champions have many needs after losing a raft of players to free agency. Butler fills the need of defensive lineman after losing Jackson to the Jaguars. He has shot up draft boards with his athleticism and size and the fact that he can play all three positions along the defensive line for the Broncos. He’s also drawn a lot of comparisons to the Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson.
Note: The New England Patriots will forfeit their pick as a league-imposed sanction for their role in the football deflation scandal.