NFL beat writer mock draft: Texas A&M’s Garrett and Stanford’s Thomas are first to go
Few people know NFL teams as well as the beat writers who cover them on a daily basis. Below, a beat writer from each of the 32 teams makes a prediction of how the first round could go Thursday night, with an explanation of their selection:
1. CLEVELAND: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer) – The Browns need to add a surefire impact player instead of taking a chance on a quarterback here. Garrett can help transform the defense and the Browns still have the picks to land a quarterback later.
2. SAN FRANCISCO: DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford (Matt Barrows, Sacramento Bee) – Thomas is just the sort of foundational player the 49ers are seeking as they revamp their roster. The only problem is he’d be the third straight defensive lineman they’ve taken in the first round, which is why a trade-down scenario makes sense too.
3. CHICAGO: FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State (Rich Campbell, Chicago Tribune) – The Bears’ 11 takeaways last season tied for the worst single-season total in league history. Hooker’s elite range and ball skills can remedy that as long as the team is comfortable with offseason hip labrum surgery.
4. JACKSONVILLE: DT Jonathan Allen, Alabama (Ryan O’Halloran, Florida Times-Union) – Louisiana State tailback Leonard Fournette makes a ton of sense here since the Jaguars desperately need to add a playmaker in the running game. But new football boss Tom Coughlin goes the safe route with the versatile Allen, who can rotate with newcomer Calais Campbell at strong-side end and also serve as an interior pass rusher on third down.
5. TENNESSEE: SS Jamal Adams, Louisiana State (Jason Wolf, The Tennessean) – A year after dealing the No. 1 overall selection to the Rams, the Titans would once again like to trade down to acquire more draft capital. But absent a deal for the fifth pick, they’re in position to go with the best available talent. Tennessee could land a much-needed wide receiver or cornerback when it picks again at 18.
6. NEW YORK JETS: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State (Brian Costello, New York Post) – The Jets have holes all over their roster, so they could go many directions here. Lattimore is the best corner in the draft and gives them a replacement for the recently jettisoned Darrelle Revis.
7. CHARGERS: WR Mike Williams, Clemson (Dan Woike, L.A. Times) – The secondary and offensive line might be the two biggest needs, but with this board, finding Philip Rivers another weapon makes too much sense. The Chargers get insurance in case Keenan Allen can’t stay healthy. And if he can, they get an impressive tandem of wideouts.
8. CAROLINA: RB Leonard Fournette, LSU (Joe Person, Charlotte Observer) – Christian McCaffrey would help the Panthers in the slot, and as a punt returner. But if the Panthers want to ensure opponents bring a safety in the box and open up the field for Cam Newton, Fournette is their man.
9. CINCINNATI: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee (Paul Dehner, Cincinnati Enquirer) – The Bengals need a pass rusher, and they love productive players from the Southeastern Conference. Barnett, Tennessee’s all-time sacks leader, checks all the boxes.
10. BUFFALO: QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina (Tim Graham, Buffalo News) – The Bills have so many needs, they would be better off trading back for more picks. They re-signed Tyrod Taylor but still must shape the organization’s long-term future at quarterback.
11. NEW ORLEANS: OLB Haason Reddick, Temple (Jeff Duncan, New Orleans Times-Picayune) – The Saints need defensive playmakers in the front seven and the versatile Reddick is one the fastest in the draft. He has the speed to rush the quarterback off the edge or cover backs and tight ends downfield.
12. CLEVELAND: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama (Jeff Schudel, News Herald) – The Browns would like Trubisky at 12, but if they can’t get him, Howard would give them an offensive weapon they did not have last year. Hue Jackson showed with Tyler Eifert at Cincinnati what he can do with a good tight end. Howard fills that role.
13. ARIZONA: ILB Reuben Foster, Alabama (Kent Somers, Arizona Republic) – They have to be tempted by quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in this scenario. But inside linebacker is a need and the Cardinals won’t be scared off by Foster’s supposed off-field issues. They feel confident veteran Karlos Dansby would be a perfect mentor.
14. PHILADELPHIA: WR John Ross, Washington (Les Bowen, Philadelphia Daily News) – Ross gives Carson Wentz a speedy target, and the two can develop together. Cornerback is a bigger need for the Eagles, but they can get one in a later round.
15. INDIANAPOLIS: OLB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA (Stephen Holder, Indianapolis Star) – The Colts’ priority this offseason has been their pass rush. They addressed it to a degree by signing Jabaal Sheard and Johnathan Hankins, but this would be as big or bigger.
16. BALTIMORE: WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan (Jeff Zrebiec, Baltimore Sun) – Ideally, the Ravens would find a top pass rusher sitting there at 16, but with Barnett, McKinley and Reddick all gone, they add a much-needed playmaker for Joe Flacco. Ozzie Newsome hasn’t had much success with first-round wide receivers, but Davis has all the qualities of a future No. 1 receiver.
17. WASHINGTON: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford (Master Tesfatsion, Washington Post) – The Redskins could use depth along the defensive line, but they just need to add talent. Period. McCaffrey gives them a versatile weapon as a running back and wide receiver, plus he’s a threat on special teams as a returner.
18. TENNESSEE: OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky (Wolf, The Tennessean) – Surprise! With the top three wideouts off the board, the Titans still go offense, selecting the former Western Kentucky offensive tackle with an eye toward starting him at guard. He’s a stud in pass protection and as a run blocker, and provides tremendous versatility.
19. TAMPA BAY: RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State (Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times) – Doug Martin will miss the first three games serving a suspension for PEDs, his contract is no longer guaranteed, he’s been hurt three out of five years and the team won’t commit to him. Although a defensive player would fill a bigger need, Cook, a former teammate of Jameis Winston, would give the Bucs an explosive, three-down back and bring balance to the offense.
20. DENVER: OT Garett Bolles, Utah (Mike Klis, 9News) – The Broncos have a crying need for a left tackle, and Bolles is better than the other two top tackles in this draft, Cam Robinson and Ryan Ramczyk.
21. DETROIT: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan (Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press) – The Lions finished 31st in sacks and need to ramp up their pass rush. They like Charlton and Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis. They like Charlton’s length at left defensive end, even though linebacker is a bigger need.
22. MIAMI: DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State (Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun-Sentinel) – The Dolphins were one of the NFL’s worst teams when it came to stopping the run. McDowell has the talent to be an NFL starter if someone can motivate him to play every snap.
23. N.Y. GIANTS: TE David Njoku, Miami (Tom Rock, Newsday) – Eli Manning began his career with an athletic, seam-busting tight end taken in the first round from The U. He can come to the end of his career with one too. The Giants signed Rhett Ellison to handle the blocking duties of the position. Now they’ll add Njoku to handle the pass-catching part, force teams out of the Cover-2s that kept Odell Beckham Jr. in check in 2016, and be another big red-zone target. Njoku is everything general manager Jerry Reese thought Adrien Robinson would be when he called him “the JPP of tight ends” in 2012. The only difference is that he actually is.
24. OAKLAND: ILB Jarrad Davis, Florida (Vic Tafur, San Francisco Chronicle) – GM Reggie McKenzie has always thought he can fill linebacker needs late in draft or in free agency, but this match is too good to pass up. Davis can play sideline to sideline, and the Raiders’ defense needs playmakers.
25. HOUSTON: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech (John McClain, Houston Chronicle) – With Tom Savage entrenched as the starter, Mahomes will be given time to develop. They like his arm, movement skills and leadership ability.
26. SEATTLE: CB Kevin King, Washington (Bob Condotta, Seattle Times) – At 6 feet 3, King is the kind of big corner Pete Carroll covets. He would help a secondary that could be in transition.
27. KANSAS CITY: QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson (Terez Paylor, Kansas City Star) – Winner with a pedigree who has a little Donovan McNabb in him. He can sit and learn behind Alex Smith and solidify the QB position for years to come.
28. DALLAS: DE Charles Harris, Missouri (Charean Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram) – The Cowboys will take the best defensive end or cornerback on the board at 28, assuming they stay put. Of their 30 national visitors, only two were offensive players. They have not made a secret about how much they like Harris.
29. GREEN BAY: OLB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin. (Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette) – The Packers’ greatest needs are on defense, and nothing helps that side of the ball more than a pass rusher. Watt is a high-effort player whose physical testing and inexperience – he switched from tight end to outside linebacker only two years ago – suggest he has some upside too.
30. PITTSBURGH: SS Jabrill Peppers, Michigan (Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) – The Steelers are looking for playmakers in the secondary who can cover the field. With so much sub package, Peppers would be the ideal fifth DB for now.
31. ATLANTA: DE Carl Lawson, Auburn (D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) – The Falcons must continue to improve their pass rush. Lawson has the speed that teams covet. Atlanta needs someone to rush opposite of Vic Beasley.
32. NEW ORLEANS: CB Tre’Davious White, LSU (Larry Holder, New Orleans Times-Picayune) – Sean Payton has made it no secret the Saints need to add multiple cornerbacks. This pick might actually be used to trade with New England for CB Malcolm Butler. If not, White makes sense for the Saints at a position of need.