by Matt Luppino
The draft is tonight, and as a Bucs fan (don’t ask), I am excited to see what the first overall pick brings. But what will happen after that pick? Here are my predictions for the first round, including a big trade that has major effects later in the draft.
#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State
Simple enough: the Bucs need a franchise quarterback now, and Winston is the most NFL ready quarterback on the board. This pick is just about wrapped up.
#2 Tennessee Titans
Leonard Williams, Defensive End, USC
Some people could see Tennessee taking Mariota, but I think offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhut would prefer more of a pocket passer. With Zach Mettenberger getting his shot, the Titans take the top player in the draft.
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars
Dante Fowler Jr., Pass Rusher, Florida
The Jags will be upset to see Williams off the board, but they can still get an effective pass rusher in Fowler, an explosive athlete off the edge. Look for him to make an immediate impact.
#4 Cleveland Browns (From Oakland)
Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon
With Washington and the Jets upcoming with QB issues of their own, Cleveland pulls the trigger and trades their two first round picks for their chance to try out Mariota, who will compete with Johnny Manziel for the starting role, but has a safer track record for sure. The media circus that will ensue…
#5 Washington Redskins
Randy Gregory, Pass Rusher, Nebraska
Washington needs a pass rusher, and in spite of his marijuana possession a few weeks back, Gregory is the best fit at this spot.
#6 New York Jets
Vic Beasley, Pass Rusher, Clemson
New head coach Todd Bowles, like his predecessor Rex Ryan, loves to blitz. Another freak athlete in Beasley from the outside linebacker position could help free up Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson on the inside, and vice versa.
#7 Chicago Bears
Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Boy, would Chicago be ecstatic to see Cooper fall to them at 7. He would set in and immediately fill the role of the traded Brandon Marshall, opposite of rising star Alshon Jeffrey. This would be a perfect fit.
#8 Atlanta Falcons
Shane Ray, Defensive End, Missouri
Also recently arrested on marijuana possession, Ray’s stock has dropped a bit. But Atlanta’s hole in the pass rush is too deep to pass on a proven sack artist.
#9 New York Giants
Brandon Sherff, Guard, Iowa
With Scherff, the Giants line gets a lot stronger. Keep Manning upright with weapons like Odell Bechkam and the returning Victor Cruz, and the Giants could be dangerous on offense.
#10 St. Louis Rams
Kevin White, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Frankly, ever since the dynamic duo of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce all those years ago, the Rams have struggled at wide receiver. White gives them the chance to turn their fortunes around for newly acquired Nick Foles, who loves throwing the deep ball.
#11 Minnesota Vikings
Todd Gurley, Running Back, Georgia
Gurley’s stock has been rising quickly now that his surgically repaired knee has been cleared by doctors. He could go to Minnesota amidst rumors of Adrian Peterson being traded away. Gurley is a very similar runner, and could see success as a focal point in a young offense with second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
#12 Oakland Raiders (from Cleveland)
Danny Shelton, Defensive Tackle, Washington
With the two picks acquired from the trade I predicted with Cleveland, Oakland needs to add depth. With the wide receiver class particularly strong this season, I see them turning to the run stuffing Shelton to kick-start a rather weak defense.
#13 New Orleans Saints
DeVante Parker, Wide Receiver, Louisville
After trading away both TE Jimmy Graham and WR Kenny Stills, Drew Brees does not have many weapons around him. Receiver is a must for them this draft, and with many teams looking for receivers between now and their 31st pick from Seattle, the Saints pull the trigger now on Parker.
#14 Miami Dolphins
Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Washington
The first corner comes off the board in Peters at 14. When Tom Brady is in your division, you need a strong secondary, and Miami could desperately use the help.
#15 San Francisco 49ers
Arik Armstead, Defensive Lineman, Oregon
With Justin Smith considering retirement, the Niners are desperate for D-Line help. Whether or not that happens, Armstead will be an asset with his ability to play both inside and outside on the line.
#16 Houston Texans
Dorial Green-Beckham, Wide Receiver, Missouri
With Andre Johnson shipped off to Indy, Houston needs another receiver opposite DeAndre Hopkins. The tall and explosive Green-Beckham would fit nicely here, but the question is, will it be Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett throwing him the ball come fall?
#17 San Diego Chargers
Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin
How to entice Philip Rivers to stay in San Diego? A rushing attack to keep defenses honest would be a good start, though an offensive line and pass rush are also huge needs for the Chargers. Either way, hard to scoff at Gordon’s resume, coming off one of the best rushing seasons in NCAA history.
#18 Kansas City Chiefs
Trae Waynes, Cornerback, Michigan State
Similar to Miami before, guarding Peyton Manning and potentially Philip Rivers takes some talented corners. But Waynes has big game experience from his Big Ten games at Michigan State, and has the skills to lock down top receivers.
#19 Oakland Raiders (from CLE from BUF)
Landon Collins, Strong Safety, Alabama
Could justify a receiver here as well, but adding Michael Crabtree can delay this pick to later rounds. Instead, with Charles Woodson not getting any younger, taking the top safety on the board will improve this defense mightily and immediately.
#20 Philadelphia Eagles
Jaelen Strong, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
Chip Kelly loves tall, athletic receivers, as well as Pac-12 players. Check and check, and Sam Bradford adds a new toy to throw to.
#21 Cincinatti Bengals
Alvin Dupree, Pass Rusher, Kentucky
His name has been as high as sixth on recent drafts, but should teams look past the marijuana charges on Ray and Gregory, this is where Dupree could end up. Not that Cincy will complain: they need rush help badly, and Dupree is the best available for a while.
#22 Pittsburgh Steelers
Shaq Thompson, Outside Linebacker, Washington
Another team that will need some help at linebacker is Pittsburgh, and the Steelers are getting an athlete. Not only is Thompson a great linebacker, but he also took snaps at running back for the Huskies.
#23 Detroit Lions
Malcom Brown, Defensive Tackle, Detroit
Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are gone, so with both of last year’s starters gone, this is probably a position where help is needed. Insert a 320-pund All-American. We are done here.
#24 Arizona Cardinals
Andrus Peat, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
If Peat gets past the Rams at 10, he could drop hard through the middle picks where skill positions and defenders are higher priorities. The Cardinals could use a running back, but reaching for Duke Johnson may not be wise here. Peat will be helpful on the line which struggled a bit last year, leading to Carson Palmer’s knee injury.
#25 Carolina Panthers
DJ Humphries, Offensive Tackle, Florida
Speaking of teams with O-line problems, just ask Cam Newton. For his sake, the Panthers need a lineman here.
#26 Baltimore Ravens
Phillip Dorsett, Wide Receiver, Miami
With Torrey Smith gone for San Fran and Steve Smith at 35 the best returning receiver, the deep field threat is needed one more. That is exactly what Dorsett can do for a team with 4.33 speed.
#27 Dallas Cowboys
Eddie Goldman, Defensive Tackle, Florida State
As good as the Cowboy offensive line is, the defensive line cannot say the same. Goldman played a large part in a dominating Seminole defense, so he would be a nice addition for the Cowboys late in the first round.
#28 Denver Broncos
La’el Collins, Offensive Tackle, LSU
Also with some trouble with the law right now, but Collins is the best lineman on the board for the Broncos at 28, and Peyton needs time in the pocket to be his typical surgeon self.
#29 Indianapolis Colts
Cameron Erving, Center, Florida State
Indy is young on offense and is already really good. Defensive line is another issue that needs to be addressed, but here, filling their only true hole at center is also a priority.
#30 Green Bay Packers
Byron Jones, Cornerback, Connecticut
Theme developing: you need corners to stop good passing teams. Green Bay has four games a year against Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler, so Jones, who hugely impressed with his combine performance, is a fit here.
#31 New Orleans Saints (from Seattle)
Eric Kendricks, Middle Linebacker, UCLA
Another big need for the Saints is in the middle of their defense. Enter Kendricks, the top MLB on the board. Not a bad takeaway from the Graham trade.
#32 New England Patriots
Ronald Darby, Cornerback, Florida State
New England won the Super Bowl thanks to their cornerbacks Hero Malcolm Butler may return, but Darrelle Revis and Aqib Talib are gone, so the Pats need to deal with their absences now. Darby fills the need.
For other mock drafts, click here.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Matt Luppino