With the NFL draft on Thursday, every team has the opportunity to find that key player that will help bring wins their way. The first round is often, though not always, where the most elite players are selected, making it the most intriguing and followed round in the entire draft.
It is impossible to know which teams love which players, as every team’s front office has its own unique philosophy on how to approach the draft, as well as their own view on the holes that must be filled for their club to improve. The most unpredictable part of the first round is the trading that always goes on during draft night. While several first round picks have been exchanged weeks ahead of the draft already, it is nearly certain that more will exchange hands during the draft itself based on how it is unraveling. Because of the unpredictability of these trades, this mock draft assumes that no further trades will be made within the first round, instead highlighting the potential players that could fill team’s weaknesses and could fall to their given slot.
Lastly, the New England Patriots were stripped of their first round pick in this year’s draft as part of their punishment for “Deflategate.” They would have been slotted between Kansas City and Arizona. Feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree!
- Los Angeles Rams — QB Jared Goff. After mortgaging their future trading for this pick, it’ll either be Goff or Wentz. Most intelligence points to Goff. Goff kicks off the new era of Rams football in Los Angeles with last year’s first round pick Todd Gurley.
- Philadelphia Eagles — QB Carson Wentz. The Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since the 2008 season, and lack the star signal-caller to lead them there. With Sam Bradford already the starter, Wentz gets a year to adjust to a higher level of performance after playing at North Dakota State. There are, however, reports that Bradford wants out of Philadelphia, making Wentz look even better.
- San Diego Chargers — CB/S Jalen Ramsey. The Chargers think about Buckner and Tunsil, but choose Ramsey, as he is a generational talent with potential to be an absolute star.
- Dallas Cowboys — DE Joey Bosa. Owner Jerry Jones is tempted to select Elliott, but with their offensive live, anyone can rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Instead they go with Bosa, who shores up their pass-rush with two of their edge rushers suspended for parts of this season.
- Jacksonville Jaguars — LB Myles Jack. The Jaguars’ offense was one of the top units in football last year, while the defense struggled mightily. Their defensive line is set with last year’s first round pick Dante Fowler coming back from injury, and the secondary is much improved after a busy offseason. The linebackers must be upgraded.
- Baltimore Ravens — OT Laremy Tunsil. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is known to select the best player available regardless of position and this year, he lucks out into having the best player available fill arguably their biggest need. QB Joe Flacco is coming off a torn ACL, forcing the Ravens to invest more heavily in his protection.
- San Francisco 49ers — OT Ronnie Stanley. With their starting tackle from last season unexpectedly retiring, the 49ers need to fill the gaping hole he leaves behind. They strongly consider Buckner here, but bank on last year’s first round pick Arik Armstead improving instead.
- Cleveland Browns — QB Paxton Lynch. The Browns gained a lot of picks with their trade back from the second slot. That trade also seemed to mean they do not see a big difference between Wentz and Lynch. Lynch has been compared to Bengals’ QB Andy Dalton, the player new HC Hue Jackson led to resounding success recently.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers — CB Vernon Hargreaves. The Buccaneers have several needs on defense, but without a single impact player in their defensive backfield, they settle on arguably the best cover player in the draft.
- New York Giants — RB Ezekiel Elliott. The Giants want to take Buckner, but would have nowhere to put him after revamping their defensive line in free agency. Instead, they take a player who will help Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. take this offense to the next level.
- Chicago Bears — DE DeForest Buckner. Bears GM Ryan Pace sprints to the podium to deliver their pick of Buckner, shocked that he fell to them in a dream scenario. Buckner has the potential to join Eddie Goldman in anchoring their defensive line for years to come.
- New Orleans Saints — OLB Leonard Floyd. The Saints defense was embarrassingly bad last year, and they have holes all over it. They settle on Floyd, an impressive physical specimen with the potential to be their Von Miller of the future.
- Miami Dolphins — DE Shaq Lawson. Losing Olivier Vernon to the Giants stings, but the Dolphins find his replacement with this pick. Lawson is a young player with a high motor and abilities trending upwards.
- Oakland Raiders — LB Reggie Ragland. The Raiders seem poised to take the next step in their rebuild and make the playoffs this season. After filling several needs in free agency, the Raiders are able to find a player who will help Khalil Mack man the middle of the field for years to come.
- Tennessee Titans — OT Jack Conklin. After trading down from the first overall pick, the Titans end up with a player at the position they originally sought. Their young franchise QB Marcus Mariota was knocked out for the season playing behind their porous offensive line.
- Detroit Lions — OT Taylor Decker. Decker is a mauler, a man able to absolutely dominate his opponents in college. The Lions consider a defensive lineman, but decide to bring in more help to an offensive line that is aging and falling apart before QB Matthew Stafford.
- Atlanta Falcons — DT A’Shawn Robinson. Falcons HC Dan Quinn is a former DC for a dominant defense, and he is still searching for ways to get this defense to another level. Pairing the giant Robinson with last year’s first round pick in Vic Beasley, he finally is making exciting progress.
- Indianapolis Colts — DT Sheldon Rankins. The Colts are tempted to reach for an offensive lineman here, but instead decide to pluck a player who can help their terrible defensive line instead. The Colts pass rush is nonexistent and they head into this season with old place-holders on the defensive line. Rankins infuses the position with youth and talent that is sorely needed.
- Buffalo Bills — LB Darron Lee. The Bills hoped that Robinson or Rankins would fall to them, but instead take Lee. Filling a big need in the middle of their defense, Lee steps into the role of defensive leader on HC Rex Ryan’s club.
- New York Jets — CB Eli Apple. The Jets are tempted to reach for Cook here, but instead take a CB who can lock down the receivers opposite Darrelle Revis. Apple is a physical corner able to help the Jets defense compensate for their low level of QB play.
- Washington — DT Jarran Reed. Washington was able to steal Josh Norman away from the Panthers, but still need to improve their defensive line. Reed is a giant space-eater with skills to match his size.
- Houston Texans — WR Corey Coleman. Now that the Texans have their franchise QB and RB, they need to add a player to take the pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins. Coleman is built for this offense, as his speed plays perfectly with Brock Osweiler’s strengths and Hopkins’ tendency to be a possession receiver.
- Minnesota Vikings — WR Laquon Treadwell. The Vikings defense is already one of the best young units in the game, and now they bring in help for Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson. Treadwell has been compared to DeAndre Hopkins, a best-case scenario for the Vikings with this pick.
- Cincinnati Bengals — WR Josh Doctson. The Bengals lost two key receivers to free agency this year, leaving a hole opposite AJ Green. Doctson slides in perfectly, allowing Dalton and the Bengals offense to never miss a beat.
- Pittsburgh Steelers — CB William Jackson III. The Steelers have been not-so-subtly in love with Jackson III since the combine, sending representatives to every one of his showcases. He fits well into the tough defensive tradition in Pittsburgh, also filling a major need.
- Seattle Seahawks — OT Germain Ifedi. The Seahawks offensive lines was among the worst last season before losing two of their stronger starters to free agency. Ifedi is a reach, as he is very unpolished and raw, but Seattle has no choice if they want to help Russell Wilson carry the team.
- Green Bay Packers — DT Andrew Billings. The Packers consider reaching for a MLB, but decide that this can wait for later rounds. Instead they take Billings, a strong run defender and big space-eater, also filling a major need following BJ Raji’s sudden retirement.
- Kansas City Chiefs — DE Kevin Dodd. The Chiefs were one of the better teams during the second half of last season even without Jamaal Charles, indisputably their best player. Dodd is considered by many to be a better player than his college teammate Shaq Lawson, who went to Miami with the thirteenth pick here.
- Arizona Cardinals — S Karl Joseph. The Cardinals lost their starting safety to free agency this offseason, leaving a hole next to star Tyrann Mathieu, who is returning from a serious knee injury. Joseph is projected as a punishing hitter over the middle and a strong tackler, making him a great piece for HC Bruce Arians to play around with.
- Carolina Panthers — DE Emmanuel Ogbah. The Panthers consider CB Mackensie Alexander and RB Derrick Henry here, but decide to find Charles Johnson’s replacement instead. Besides, this is considered a deep CB and RB draft with several later prospects expected to make strong impacts for their teams.
- Denver Broncos — QB Connor Cook. The defending champs nearly select DT Vernon Butler to replace Malik Jackson, but instead decide they have no chance to win with Mark Sanchez starting at QB. Though this is a reach for Cook, they cannot afford to watch another team select him before their next pick. Even Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are not good enough to carry Sanchez on a deep playoff run at this point.