I hereby present to you my annual mock draft. In this draft, I did not project trades and just went with who I would believe is the likely pick assuming nobody moves up or down in the first round.
Of course, we know that draft-day trades happen and I would expect at least a couple in the first round. Feel free to mock me about that fact if you wish!
Seriously, though, this is my stab at what I believe teams will be looking for come draft day. I tried to keep in mind the teams that tend to go for the best player available versus drafting for need.
Let us move on to my not-so-educated guesses.
1. Cleveland: Myles Garrett, DE/OLB
I believe the Browns will go with the best player available in the draft. Though Hue Jackson may like Mitchell Trubisky, even he will realize that the Browns need more than just Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey to create plays on defense. Garrett’s pass rushing ability is just too good to pass up.
2. San Francisco: Solomon Thomas, DE
It wouldn’t surprise me if John Lynch goes with the best player available in the draft to start things off. Torres may be the best pass rusher available behind only Garrett and the Niners need all the defensive playmakers they can get.
3. Chicago: Marshon Lattimore, CB
I believe the Bears would prefer to trade down, but since I’m not projecting trades, they’ll go with need and cornerback is where they need help. Lattimore is the best cornerback in the draft, thus he’s the pick.
4. Jacksonville: Jonathan Allen, DE/DT
I really thought about the Jags taking Leonard Fournette, but Allen is a highly-rated prospect who has drawn comparisons to Fletcher Cox. So I suspect Jacksonville will be swayed by that talent and go with Allen.
5. Tennessee: Mike Williams, WR
Though it’s possible the Titans could go with a cornerback first, it’s a deep class at the position and the Titans really need a play-making wide receiver. Though he’ll need to work on his route running, he could provide a boost to the offense.
6. New York Jets: Malik Hooker, S
Though I gave some thought to the Jets drafting a quarterback, they should get better value by taking one early in the second round. And though safety isn’t the Jets’ biggest need, Hooker is the best safety in the draft and would fit the “always best player available” philosophy the Jets seem to employ.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Corey Davis, WR
Though there are plenty of defensive ends available, the Chargers have to be concerned about the serious injuries Keenan Allen suffered in back-to-back seasons. Davis would give the Chargers a red-zone threat and help out Phillip Rivers.
8. Carolina: Leonard Fournette, RB
I can’t see the Panthers passing up on Fournette if he falls to them. Jonathan Stewart isn’t getting any younger and Fournette is the perfect player to add to take some of the load away. And being part of a backfield pairing would mean Fournette doesn’t have to take on a big workload as a rookie.
9. Cincinnati: Forrest Lamp, OT/OG
Lamp is arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft. Though it might seem a bit high to take him, the Bengals lost two O-linemen in free agency and need somebody in the mix to replace them.
10. Buffalo: Jamal Adams, S
The Bills are another team I believe would like to trade down. Again, though, I am projecting no trades, so with the Bills standing pat, they go for need and take the best safety available at this point.
11. New Orleans: John Ross, WR
Perhaps the Saints go with defense with their first pick, but Ross would not only give the Saints a playmaker at receiver and somebody who could be utilized as a return man. The Saints might have signed Ted Ginn Jr., but Ross would give the Saints somebody who could replace Ginn down the road.
12. Cleveland: Mitchell Trubisky, QB
As it turns out, my mock drafting results in the Browns getting Trubisky after all. Though it may be true that a couple of teams who draft before No. 12 overall need a quarterback, I’m not picturing any of them taking one in the first round. So Hue Jackson gets his man.
13. Arizona: Reuben Foster, ILB
The Cardinals need help at inside linebacker and Foster just happens to be the best inside linebacker in the draft. He seems to be the type of player that Bruce Arians likes, too.
14. Philadelphia: Taco Charlton, DE
The Eagles are a team likely to go with the best player available and Charlton is a good fit for a 4-3 scheme. The Eagles do have some players who could start ahead of him, giving him time to develop.
15. Indianapolis: Malik McDowell, DT
If Chris Ballard wants to focus on the lines first, McDowell is a good player to add to the defensive line. A trade down for an offensive lineman is a possibility, but again, I’m not considering trades in my mock draft.
16. Baltimore: Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB
McKinley is arguably the best pass rusher still on the board. This pick makes sense for two reasons: The Ravens need a pass rusher and Ozzie Newsome tends to lean the best player available with his drafts.
17. Washington: Jabrill Peppers, ILB/S
Peppers is drawing comparisons to Eric Weddle and that may be enough to sway Washington into selecting him and fill one of their biggest needs.
18. Tennessee: Marlon Humphrey, CB
As it turns out, my mock drafting means that the Titans are able to take a cornerback in the first round. Humphrey, the best available cornerback at this point, has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Smith.
19. Tampa Bay: Caleb Brantley, DT
Given that the Buccaneers seem to be focusing more on positional need, they go with their biggest need, and that’s the defensive line.
20. Denver: Christian McCaffrey, RB
All I’m going to say is you don’t need to be mocking me for this pick, do you?
21. Detroit: Hasson Reddick, DE/LB
Reddick is thought to be a better fit as a 4-3 WILL in the NFL, but that should fit the bill for what the Lions need on defense.
22. Miami: Charles Harris, DE/OLB
The Dolphins need somebody to develop as the eventual replacement for Cameron Wake and Harris is the best edge rusher available who fits a 4-3 defensive scheme.
23. New York Giants: Ryan Ramczyk, OT
The first offensive tackle goes off the board, with the Giants taking a player who could be groomed to replace Ereck Flowers on the left side.
24. Oakland: Gareon Conley, CB
Conley is drawing comparisons to Aqib Talib. If Conley matches Talib from a talent standpoint, Reggie McKenzie will be very happy.
25. Houston: O.J. Howard, TE
You would think quarterback would be the pick but I’m betting on the Texans waiting another round and getting themselves the best tight end in the draft.
26. Seattle: Garret Bolles, OT
Bolles seems to be getting more love from draft pundits lately and he’s a good fit for a zone blocking scheme, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he goes to the Seahawks.
27. Kansas City: Tre’Davious White, CB
The Chiefs have Marcus Peters but are still looking for the right player to put opposite him. White is the best cornerback left on the board.
28. Dallas: Derek Barnett, DE/OLB
Though the Cowboys need plenty of help in the secondary, they need a pass rusher, too, and Barnett represents better value at this point. Dallas can take advantage of the deep class of cornerbacks with their second-round pick.
29. Green Bay: Dalvin Cook, RB
Ted Thompson’s philosophy of taking the best player available in the draft holds true here. Besides, the Packers need a running back to pair with Ty Montgomery.
30. Pittsburgh: David Njoku, TE
Another team that focuses on the best player available and Njoku is arguably that player. Besides, a playmaking tight end is something the Steelers are looking for after Lardarius Green hasn’t worked out as hoped.
31. Atlanta: Dan Feeney, OG
Some might argue that it’s one round too early to take Feeney, but it would fit with the Falcons’ philosophy of sticking to the board to find the right player. Besides, Feeney would be in a good position because the Falcons will return the rest of their line.
32. New Orleans: Budda Baker, S
I debated for a while about what the Saints would do and decided they will go for defense. And the secondary makes the most sense for New Orleans to address, thus Baker is the pick.