The NFL draft starts Thursday night and there is still much that has yet to crystallize. There are questions about where and how early the quarterbacks — largely seen as lackluster — will be selected. There will be a question of how Gareon Conley will be affected by a sexual assault allegation.
But there will also be actual picks, starting at 8 p.m. tomorrow night. And, as things stand right now, here’s a best-guess as to how the order will shake out.
1. Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Cleveland gets the draft’s potentially most dominant pass rusher. Cleveland’s QB need will have to wait just a little while longer. There is no justification for taking one first. It must be Garrett. He has too much promise to pass up.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
If a draft-night trade for Kirk Cousins can’t be pulled off, the QB issue can wait a year. The Niners can make a run at Cousins next offseason or they might be in position to draft USC’s Sam Darnold or UCLA’s Josh Rosen. In the meantime, they get by with Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley at QB and take the best available player. That’s Thomas.
3. Chicago Bears
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Chicago could opt here for either of the fantastic safeties — Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker. But the Bears instead go with the draft’s top cornerback.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Jacksonville gets a workhorse runner who can be the centerpiece of the offense, taking some pressure off QB Blake Bortles. That’s something Bortles desperately needs.
5. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with Titans)
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The Browns move up from No. 12 and get their guy at QB, then cross their fingers and hope it works out. The Titans move down and amass additional picks, something that has worked well for them.
6. New York Jets
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Jets are in a tough spot. Seeing how things go with their young QBs this season and then addressing the issue, if needed, in next year’s draft might be prudent. But GM Mike Maccagnan and Coach Todd Bowles are too far into their reign to be that patient. They get the draft’s most proven QB.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The first of the two superb safeties comes off the board.
8. Carolina Panthers
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
With Fournette not available, Carolina opts to make it two straight safeties. This might be a little early to go with Christian McCaffrey but he’s certainly an option if the Panthers are in RB-only mode here.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
His issues at the NFL scouting combine don’t change the fact that he’s a very good player. He would fit in very well on the Cincinnati defense.
10. Buffalo Bills
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The draft’s top wide receiver just makes the top 10. The Bills stuck with Tyrod Taylor at QB and they give him some help.
11. New Orleans Saints
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
New Orleans, as usual, is in the position of having to do something about its defense. The Saints have not been able to acquire Malcolm Butler from the Patriots. So they get a cornerback in the draft instead.
12. Tennessee Titans (projected trade with Browns)
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Titans move down and look at the best available cornerbacks and wide receivers. They address the wideout situation first.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
The end of Carson Palmer’s career hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s in sight. Mahomes lands in a very good situation, playing for Coach Bruce Arians and waiting a little while as Palmer’s understudy.
14. Philadelphia Eagles
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The abundance of running backs available in this draft enables the Eagles to get a pass rusher here, knowing they can add a productive runner later on.
15. Indianapolis Colts
Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Allen could go earlier. The Colts would be fortunate if he falls to them here.
16. Baltimore Ravens
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Howard, likewise, has a chance to be taken sooner. The Ravens get a playmaker at tight end if he remains available.
17. Washington Redskins
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins. But there also is a need at running back, and McCaffrey’s versatility adds considerably to the offense.
18. Tennessee Titans
Kevin King, CB, Washington
Tennessee, after getting its wide receiver earlier, goes cornerback this time and completes a productive first round.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook becomes the third running back taken and gives the Buccaneers a potentially reliable runner to help QB Jameis Winston entering his third season.
20. Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk, T, Wisconsin
Whether it’s Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch at QB, the offensive line must be fortified. This would be a good step in that direction.
21. Detroit Lions
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Detroit goes with a very promising defender who could be a consideration for teams picking earlier in the opening round.
22. Miami Dolphins
Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
Miami has devoted plenty of draft resources to improving its offensive line in recent years. Getting Lamp at this point still would be a wise move. He’s a prospective Pro Bowler in the eyes of some draft analysts.
23. New York Giants
Cam Robinson, T, Alabama
The Giants opt for offensive line help and go with Robinson over Garett Bolles.
24. Oakland Raiders
Garett Bolles, T, Utah
Oakland is another team that has been unafraid to devote considerable resources to its offensive line.
25. Houston Texans
Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
A QB such as DeShone Kizer or Nathan Peterman could be in play here after Houston missed out on adding Tony Romo. But the Texans do have some needs on their formidable defense and get a cornerback following the departure of A.J. Bouye in free agency.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
He would be a very good value at this point.
27. Kansas City Chiefs
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
A QB or RB would be intriguing. But for now, the Chiefs add to their defense.
28. Dallas Cowboys
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Dallas addresses its glaring need in the secondary.
29. Green Bay Packers
T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin
Has there ever been a defensive player named Watt from Wisconsin who can’t play? How can the Packers pass him up?
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
David Njoku, TE, Miami
The draft’s second-best tight end gives QB Ben Roethlisberger another option in the Pittsburgh offense.
31. Atlanta Falcons
Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The defending NFC champs were young and, by season’s end, improving on defense. But the Falcons still could use more help on that side of the ball.
32. New Orleans Saints
John Ross, WR, Washington
New Orleans gets the speedster to help compensate for the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Patriots.