The college football season is over, and the NFL’s is winding down, but NFL Draft season is year round, and it’s about to enter its best stretch of the season.
So before the draft order is set in stone and the All-Star games, combines, pro days and free agency get underway, let’s establish the needs for each team and who — at this moment in time — they should select with their first-round pick.
So while yes, it’s foolhardy to think that the order will stay this way — there will be trades upon trades before draft day actually comes — this exercise, the first of many, should prove useful for understanding what every team is looking to do come April:
1 Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett – 4-3 DE – Texas A&M
The Browns have many needs, but the pass rush is a massive one and, even in this draft chock full of elite pass rushers, Garrett can be considered a generational talent. There isn’t a better player in this draft and the Browns shouldn’t overthink this.
Needs: Defensive line, quarterback, interior offensive line
San Francisco 49ers
Mitch Trubisky – QB – North Carolina
This is a tough one to call, as the 49ers have neither a general manager nor head coach, but the need for a quarterback will surely be there in 2017 and in this class, while many are close, no one is better than Trubisky.
Needs: Quarterback, linebacker, offensive line, defensive line
Jonathan Allen – 4-3 DT / 3-4 DE – Alabama
The Bears could well go quarterback here, but Allen is clearly the second-best player in this class — it’s not the sexiest pick, but it’s the right football decision.
Jamal Adams – S – LSU
You can never have enough talent in the secondary and Adams is a notch better than the rest of the class in the defensive backfield and can be an immediate impact player at strong safety.
Tennessee Titans (via L.A. Rams)
Jalen Tabor – CB – Florida
Many think this could be a destination for Marlon Humphrey, Alabama’s highly rated cornerback, as the Titans have a glaring need at cornerback, but Tabor is the better of the two prospects (and it’s not even that close — Humphrey might be the third or fourth corner selected in this draft) and is immediately ready to play. Tabor does get burned sometimes because of overaggressiveness, but that’s a good problem to have in a young rookie — he’s anything but incapable. He was the top CB prospect coming into the season — the second coming of Jalen Ramsey— so while there were several risers around him, there’s no reason to believe he’s not still the top CB prospect, and pre-draft workouts will bear that out.
New York Jets
Leonard Fournette – RB – LSU
The Jets really need to draft a quarterback, but after selecting Christian Hackenberg in the second round last year (!!!) and with both coach and general manager on the hot seat, selecting another quarterback — particularly one that might not be ready to start and be successful on day one (Kizer, Watson) could only turn up the burners. What the Jets really need is a splash, and landing Fournette would certainly make waves.
Ryan Ramczyk – OT – Wisconsin
The former Division III player is going to jump Cam Robinson and be the top offensive tackle taken in the draft. No one, including Ramczyk would have guessed that a year ago.
Dalvin Cook – RB – Florida State
Look for a trade-down here, as the Panthers need an offensive lineman desperately and wouldn’t want to select anyone but Ramczyk with this pick, particularly with Mike McGlinchey looking like he’s going to return to Notre Dame for his senior season.
I’m picking Cook to go here because of what it could do for the Carolina offense in lieu of a good offensive line. Clemson receiver Mike Williams would also be an intriguing selection, but an upgrade at running back is more important than one at receiver, for now.
Derek Barnett – 4-3 DE – Tennessee
So long as no one trades up to the No. 8 pick to select him, the Bengals would be thrilled to have Barnett fall to them at No. 9. The Vol has an incredible motor, and while it would be attractive to take Reuben Foster here, Cincinnati can’t afford to give Michael Johnson 800 snaps again in 2017. This has to be a pass rusher.
Malik Hooker – S – Ohio State
Hooker’s elite ball skills have earned him a first-round grade and comparisons to the great Ed Reed. What more is there to consider?