NFL Draft 2017: Panthers preview
The 2017 NFL Draft is about a week away, but much remains in question as to which top prospects will go where – and when.
I’ve projected the Panthers’ picks twice now, but what about the rest of the league?
Here’s what I think every team will do in the first round:
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, defensive end, Texas A&M
This is really a no-brainer for the Browns (who could still somehow find a way to screw it up). Garrett is without a doubt the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, and can be an immediate game-changer.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, defensive end, Stanford
The 49ers have been overhauled, and a complete and versatile piece in a major defensive role would be a great piece for any new coach to have. Thomas can play inside techniques as well as outside and has the talent to make a day-1 impact.
3. Chicago Bears: Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, Ohio State
This is a popular pick for Chicago, although questions about Lattimore’s hamstring issues come up nearly as often. Still, Lattimore’s physicality and athleticism make him a must-get piece for the Bears. Another popular pick for the Bears here is Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, running back, LSU
Jacksonville’s heavy interest in Fournette’s power-back style is matched by their need for an offensive playmaker. Fournette fits the bill.
5. Tennessee Titans: O.J. Howard, tight end, Alabama
O.J. Howard would give Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota an easy and talented receiving target, and his blocking skills can help Mariota on the run. Howard is the player who could help elevate this offense. This pick could also be Clemson’s Mike Williams.
6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, safety, LSU
It would be very tempting for the Jets to go quarterback here, but Adams may be just too good of a prospect to pass up with their first pick as the team tries to rebuild across the board.
7. San Diego Chargers: Malik Hooker, safety, Ohio State
Perhaps the best possible fit for a Chargers team looking to push its defense to the next level is a playmaker like Hooker, whose length, athleticism and skills in coverage make him a near-certain top-10 pick.
8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, running back, Stanford
The Panthers need immediate change on offense after a dismal 2016 season. McCaffrey would be both a top-10 running back and a top-10 receiver prospect, and the Panthers will get two for the price of one – and be able to use him all over the field offensively.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Charles Harris, defensive end, Missouri
Harris’ stock has soared in recent weeks and he could arguably be a better NFL player than Derek Barnett – a popular choice at this pick. The Bengals need a pass-rusher and Harris is as fluid as he is athletic.
10. Buffalo Bills: Mitchell Trubisky, quarterback, North Carolina
The Bills need a quarterback, and they’ve been courting Trubisky heavily in the past few weeks.
11. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, defensive end, Tennessee
Barnett is a highly efficient pass rusher who could bring some teeth to the Saints’ defense.
12. Cleveland Browns: Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech
This pick could easily be Deshaun Watson of Clemson, but regardless, the Browns need a quarterback. This is a good place to get one.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jabrill Peppers, safety, Michigan
The Cardinals lost safety Tony Jefferson in free agency. With Peppers, they get back a prolific safety as well player who can be used literally all over the field – something this team would certainly implement under Bruce Arians’ creativity.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Gareon Conley, cornerback, Ohio State
Conley is one of the better corner prospects in this draft, and Philadelphia needs one badly. Conley will be here at No. 14, but will be gone by No. 43 – this is the time to snag him.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle, Wisconsin
The Colts need to stock their offensive line, and Ramzcyk is one of only a few tackle prospects who could go in the first round. This pick could also be exchanged for a pass-rusher, another high area of need.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Takk McKinley, linebacker/defensive end, UCLA
McKinley could fit the enormous need the Ravens have for an outside linebacker/edge rusher hybrid – he has the perfect combination of size and speed for such a role.
17. Washington: Dalvin Cook, running back, Florida State
Cook is an incredibly dynamic running back prospect with both the ability to be an every-down back as well as a receiving threat. Washington needs a player like this in its offensive system.
18. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, wide receiver, Western Michigan
Davis is probably the best receiving prospect in the draft (although this pick could also be Clemson’s Williams). This just continues to stock the targets for Mariota.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joe Mixon, running back, Oklahoma
Mixon on the field is probably one of the best – if not the best – in the running backs class. He also was caught on tape punching a woman and breaking her jaw in college, and received a one-year suspension, community service and probation. Tampa Bay took a chance on quarterback Jameis Winston amid heavy off-the-field concerns, so it seems possible they could do the same with Mixon. Tampa Bay would probably prefer Cook if still available.
20. Denver Broncos: Haason Reddick, linebacker, Temple
It’s actually pretty likely that Reddick is gone before this, but the Broncos want another quality linebacker and would hit the lottery if Reddick is here at No. 20.
21. Detroit Lions: Reuben Foster, linebacker, Alabama
This pick could switch with Denver and the Lions could get Reddick instead, but whichever ’backer they pick will be a very welcome addition to the defense. If the Lions can overlook Foster’s off-field issues he could be a bargain.
22. Miami Dolphins: Forrest Lamp, guard, Western Kentucky
The Dolphins need to add some depth at guard and Lamp is probably the only first-rounder to consider. Miami is a good candidate for a trade back, as well, and another popular pick for the team via draft analysts is Alabama’s Allen.
23. New York Giants: Garett Bolles, tackle, Utah
The Giants really blew it on Ereck Flowers last season, and need a tackle transplant. Bolles is a little nasty and could give quarterback Eli Manning’s protection some edge.
24. Oakland Raiders: T.J. Watt, linebacker, Wisconsin
Watt isn’t just here because his famous brother boosts his stock – he’s actually this good. Oakland badly needs an edge at linebacker and Watt’s athleticism offers an intriguing option.
25. Houston Texans: DeShaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson
This pick could easily be Mahomes (projected earlier to Cleveland), but regardless, the Texans really need a quarterback after the Brock Osweiler fiasco.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Kevin King, cornerback, Washington
This seems like a no-brainer. Seattle can continue to add to its strong defense with a local prospect Seahawks fans love.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Jarrad Davis, linebacker, Florida
The Chiefs need some help at linebacker, and Davis might be a solid match here. Kansas City could also be a viable trade partner for a team.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Obi Melifonwu, safety, UConn
If Melifonwu is around at this time, it’s an easy sell for Dallas – the Cowboys need a safety, and Melifonwu is about as athletic they get.
29. Green Bay Packers: Chidobe Awuzie, defensive back, Colorado
This almost seems too perfect for the Packers, who lost safety/nickel corner hybrid Micah Hyde in free agency. Awuzie is probably the best in the draft as this type of hybrid player, and is still quite under the radar.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: David Njoku, tight end, Miami
Pittsburgh wants another receiving threat, and Njoku’s ability in that regard would lend a fearsome combination with Antonio Brown. This pick could also be Clemson’s Williams.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Derek Rivers, defensive end, Youngstown State
Don’t let the small-school reputation fool you – Rivers is an absolute monster off the edge. The Falcons need help in their pass-rush and Rivers could be a bargain.
32. New Orleans Saints: Chris Godwin, wide receiver, Penn State
After trading Brandin Cooks to New England, the Saints need to turn some focus on their receiving room. Godwin is one of the best receivers in this draft class and can run anything on the route tree.