The opening round of the NFL draft is scheduled for April 30 in Chicago with the focus on quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, plus strong groups of wide receivers and pass rushers among the top available prospects. Here’s our look at how the first round might unfold as teams balance their needs and the relative talents of the players on their draft boards:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Is it certain that this pick is Winston rather than Marcus Mariota? No. Winston’s off-field issues must be considered when making such a franchise-defining decision. But Winston is the more NFL-ready QB and it would be a significant surprise at this point if the pick is not Winston.
2. Tennesee Titans
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The guess here is that Mariota will be taken with the No. 2 pick. Whether that pick is made by the Titans or someone else — potentially the Jets, Browns, Chargers, Bears or Eagles — remains to be seen. The Titans really should come away with a QB. There’s not enough evidence to be confident that Zach Mettenberger is the answer. But that QB doesn’t necessarily need to be Mariota. If the Titans were inclined to make a trade, it could be Chargers starter Philip Rivers or the Bears’ Jay Cutler.
Draft Needs For Every Team
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Williams, DE, USC
The Jaguars would be perfectly happy if this scenario unfolds and Williams, probably the best player in the draft, falls to them at third. He is a defensive difference-maker. If Williams is gone, Jacksonville could opt for Dante Fowler.
4. Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The Raiders need to give second-year QB Derek Carr a top-notch receiver. Either Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White would suffice. It is an interesting choice. White’s jaw-dropping physical skills perhaps give him the higher ceiling. But Cooper seems like the safer pick. He does everything right and appears very likely to be a highly dependable NFL receiver.
5. Washington Redskins
Dante Fowler Jr., LB, Florida
Scot McCloughan, the Redskins’ first-year GM, undoubtedly would like to trade down as many times as he possibly can, given the number of gaping holes on the team’s roster, to pick up as many additional picks as he can, then take the best remaining of the very good pass rushers available. But that’s easier said than done. Being able to do it requires a team wanting to trade up to your spot. If the Redskins are forced to stay put and Fowler isn’t gone, he would make sense as a pass-rushing complement to Ryan Kerrigan.
6. New York Jets
Shane Ray, DE/LB, Missouri
If they don’t trade up for Mariota, adding Ray or Clemson LB Vic Beasley to the defense of new coach Todd Bowles would be a sensible move.
7. Chicago Bears
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
With WR Brandon Marshall traded to the Jets, the Bears will likely target whichever top receiver remains among Cooper and White.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson
New coach Dan Quinn gets a pass-rushing threat that his defense in Atlanta desperately needs.
9. New York Giants
Brandon Scherff, T/G, Iowa
The offensive line needs upgrading and Scherff is probably the best blocker available. The only issue is whether he’ll be a guard or a tackle. If he’s a guard, is that worth the ninth overall selection?
10. St. Louis Rams
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The draft’s top available CB rounds out the top 10.
11. Minnesota Vikings
Andrus Peat, T, Stanford
Whether the Vikings keep RB Adrian Peterson or not, the offensive line needs work and Peat can be a dependable player right away. Taking WR DeVante Parker out of Louisville also would be a consideration.
12. Cleveland Browns
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
If the Browns don’t package the 12th and 19th picks to move up for a franchise QB, getting a dynamic WR to help the QBs they already have makes sense. Parker could become the No. 1 receiver that the Josh Gordon-less Cleveland offense lacks.
13. New Orleans Saints
Randy Gregory, LB, Nebraska
Gregory didn’t exactly endear himself to those in New Orleans by referring to the city as “pretty boring” on social media. No matter. If he can get to opposing QBs with regularity, the Saints and their followers will forgive him for the slight.
14. Miami Dolphins
Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
The Dolphins give QB Ryan Tannehill a potential big-play receiver.
15. San Francisco 49ers
Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon
The Niners begin retooling their defense with a potentially dominant player in the front seven.
16. Houston Texans
Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Houston adds the CB who made only 10 collegiate starts but showed plenty of promise to be a potential NFL standout.
17. San Diego Chargers
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
If Philip Rivers stays, he needs a runner to help keep opposing defenses honest. Gurley would be just that, provided that his recovery from his torn ACL goes smoothly.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
La’el Collins, T, LSU
Kansas City adds a powerful blocker who could end up playing either guard or right tackle.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo)
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Cleveland bolsters its defensive front with the second of its two first-round selections.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Coach Chip Kelly has demonstrated his unpredictability throughout his first offseason when having final say over player-related decisions. He might try to trade up for Marcus Mariota. He might not. If he stays put, getting the draft’s top available safety would further fortify a defense that added LB Kiko Alonso and CB Byron Maxwell earlier in the offseason.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
T.J. Clemmings, T, Pittsburgh
Cincinnati gets better on the offensive line.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The secondary needs help with the retirements of CB Ike Taylor and S Troy Polamalu. Johnson could step right in at CB.
23. Detroit Lions
Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Detroit lost not only Ndamukong Suh but also fellow DT Nick Fairley in free agency. The Lions traded for Haloti Ngata and adding Brown as well might give them a chance of remaining somewhere close to last season’s level on defense.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Bud Dupree, LB, Kentucky
Arizona adds a very athletic defender who could develop into an extremely disruptive pass rusher.
25. Carolina Panthers
D.J. Humphries, T, Florida
Carolina’s offensive line needs more work than the Panthers did in free agency.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Baltimore gets a CB who could contribute immediately.
27. Dallas Cowboys
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Cowboys lost NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray in free agency and probably have not done enough yet to replace him. Gordon could step in and thrive immediately running behind the Dallas offensive line.
28. Denver Broncos
Ereck Flowers, T, Miami
Denver fortifies QB Peyton Manning’s offensive line.
29. Indianapolis Colts
Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Indianapolis makes a move to help its run defense.
30. Green Bay Packers
Eli Harold, LB, Virginia
The secondary might be a more pressing need for the Packers but Harold is a good value for this pick, as a potentially productive pass rusher.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle)
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami
The Saints get a speedster at receiver with the pick obtained from Seattle in the Jimmy Graham trade.
32. New England Patriots
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
No one in this draft is going to step in and replace CB Darrelle Revis but the Patriots get help at the position with Jones.
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