By Peyton Gallaher
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns will begin a transition from previous defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s base 3-4 defense, into Greg Williams’s 4-3 this offseason. Therefore Paul DePodesta and the rest of the front office in Cleveland must examine the personnel up front. By inheriting the first pick this year, Cleveland also gains a chance to make that defensive transition much smoother.
Myles Garrett is a generational type of athlete. He’s fast, powerful, explosive, and gigantic. Standing at 6-foot-4, 272 pounds, Garrett’s length and athleticism allow him to blow his opposition off the line and simply reach beyond linemen to make plays on unwitting passers.
On top of his physical gifts, Garrett also possesses the capability to pick his hand up out of the dirt and stand up at outside linebacker, a trait unheard of for players his size. This is a skill that could serve as a valuable asset for Cleveland while they change defensive philosophy in 2017.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio St.
Malik Hooker is the definition of what the modern day NFL safety should look like. He has tremendous cover skills, a distinct versatility, and most importantly, he can eat up a ton of ground. In his one year as a starter in Columbus, he reeled in seven picks, demonstrating his ability to sense a play out and make something happen when the ball is in the air.
It would be a sizable reach for San Francisco to take Hooker this high based on where his stock sits. However, what the Niners are getting with this pick is what they need. Malik Hooker, barring injury, is undoubtedly going to be a fabulous pro player, and more than anything, San Fransisco needs to connect with one of these top ten picks.
3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams, SS, LSU
Jamal Adams is the answer for a Chicago secondary that was historically bad last year. A standout in man-coverage and an enthusiastic tackler, his game is defined by an intrinsic feel for football. Jamal’s active hands, loose hips, and twitchy quickness allow him to win one-on-one matchups in all different types of coverages.
The Bears desperately need a tone setter in the defensive backfield and Adams is the best in this class in that department. Bottom line: Jamal Adams is just a flat out, hellafied football player and every team in the National Football League needs those.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnothan Allen, DT, Alabama
Allen’s versatile skill set allows him to play anywhere along the defensive line. He’s got the power and technique to set the tone in the trenches as a 4-3 defensive tackle, as well as the athleticism to move outside and rush the passer as a 3-4 defensive end. Allen also has a turbocharged motor that runs for all four quarters enabling him to wear down the man across from him.
The Jags have made a big splash in the offseason, signing free agents AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell, and others, but this approach to free agency over the past few offseasons has correlated in an aging roster that needs to win now. Adding Allen into the mix with fellow youngsters Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue would be a smart move considering the cornerstones of the defensive line down in Jacksonville are beginning to age. Although this need is not immediate for Jacksonville, they shouldn’t pass on a talent like Johnothan Allen.
5. Tennessee Titans (From Rams): Corey Davis, WR, WMU
Corey Davis is the best receiver in the draft. He is miles ahead of the field and as soon as you plug in the tape, you see that. The precision of his routes, his top end speed, his leaping ability, and his field awareness allow him to create separation from defensive backs. Most receiver prospects, including many in this class, consistently present maybe one or two of these traits at best.
Davis’s talents are incredibly polished. Four years rowing the boat with PJ Fleck in Kalamazoo, Michigan saw him develop from a raw project into a master of the trade. While at Western Michigan, Corey’s 5,291 career yards broke the NCAA career receiving yardage record. The Titans need pass catchers badly and he will make any team that picks him very happy. That won’t be any different in Nashville and he will be right at home in the Music City.
6. New York Jets: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Jets are in total rebuild mode. Having cut Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, and Brandon Marshall already this offseason, it looks like New York is trying to start over with an injection of youth. Aging running back Matt Forte can’t be too far behind his fellow veterans and the Jets could be looking to replace him with one of the most talented and polarizing prospects in recent memory.
Leonard Fournette has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson, among other gifted ball carriers, during his time in the Bayou. His talent is well documented dating back to his time at St. Augustine high school in New Orleans where he was the number one high school recruit in the nation. He is a physical specimen with fabulous size and speed. Fournette would be the true bell cow back that has eluded the Jets since they had Ladanian Tomlinson carrying the rock in 2010.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Soloman Thomas, DE, Stanford
Soloman Thomas is an odd case. Yeah, the bowl game this year against North Carolina shows the destructive power Soloman is capable of, but he didn’t give that type of performance game in and game out. Thomas certainly has terrific qualities like lightning quick hands, brutal strength, and a keen intuition for locating the football, but will he be able to channel his skills into snap-for-snap consistency at the next level? That is the question that defines his enigma. However, regardless of the potential risk, Thomas is soaring up draft boards around the NFL.
Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that Soloman grades out as a 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 defensive tackle in the National Football League. He is at his best using power and quickness to overwhelm less athletic guards and centers. For that reason, he should greatly improve the interior of a Chargers defensive line that is beginning to deteriorate with age. Soloman Thomas, paired with last year’s third overall pick, Joey Bosa, could be the pillars on which San Diego builds a new home in Los Angeles.
8. Carolina Panthers: Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU
Carolina rode the ground attack to Santa Clara in 2015, but they weren’t able to get it going this year and it cost them dearly. As the Panthers tumbled from grace, their once potent offense crumbled because there was no consistency in the power running schemes that Ron Rivera relies on.
Dalvin Cook can remedy this. Cook’s one cut, explosive running approach provide’s a lethal counter to Newton’s bruising, between the tackles style. Dalvin also has the talents of an elite level third down back with soft hands and a natural knack for feeling out the soft spots underneath a defense. He does everything for an offense and he would certainly take the pressure off of Cam moving forward.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Bengals regressed massively this past year and for a lot of reasons that falls on their defense. There was no type of dependability when the defense was on the field, and that cost the Bengals several close games throughout the course of the year. An easy way to alleviate some of those struggles would be to improve a pass rush that was tied for nineteenth in the league in sacks during the 2016 season.
Taco Charlton is a tailor-made pass rusher. Towering at 6-feet-6-inches, and weighing 277 pounds, Charlton is a smooth mover with tremendous strength and instincts. Using long arms and rapid ball get-off, Taco gets opposing tackles on the retreat early and finishes them off with a rip-and-stab move that he has mastered. Charlton reinforces the Bengal’s pass rush and could form a dynamic tandem opposite of pro-bowler, Carlos Dunlap.
10. Buffalo Bills: Marhson Lattimore, CB, Ohio St.
Having to replace Stephon Gillmore, who signed with division rival New England this offseason, the Bills will be looking for a fill in at corner. Marshon Lattimore comes out of Columbus as the consensus number one cover man in the class and the clear-cut choice for Buffalo if he is still available.
Lattimore is a remarkably athletic player. He has natural gifts like quickness and bounce that can’t be taught. However, where Marshon separates himself from the rest of the crop is with his technique. Lattimore’s quick hips allow him to turn and run downfield while his strong hands and cat-like balance make it difficult for wideouts to create any type of space. Marshon Lattimore is the personification of the term lockdown and will find a home alongside Ronald Darby in Buffalo’s secondary.
11. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Derek Barnett is one of the most productive players in this draft class. An SEC standout, Barnett used remarkable elasticity, strength, and willpower to re-write sack records on Rocky Top. Derek truly bends the edge better than any rusher in the class.
The Saints face Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan twice each year, and in order survive in the division they must be able to create pressure. Even though I have questions about his motor, Derek Barnett’s production off the edge is precisely what New Orleans needs. They won’t hesitate to snap him up on draft night.
12. Cleveland Browns (From Eagles): Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama
Due to an altercation with a hospital employee in Indianapolis, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster did not participate in the combine. This hurts his stock a little, but the faltering Browns should not pass on a talent like Foster. Self-labeled as the “human missile”, Reuben is a devastating force at middle linebacker. With a vicious approach to the game, Foster has abnormal athleticism and instincts. The Browns, starved for talent, should take Reuben Foster and continue to build their front seven with a great value selection.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
What happened to the Cardinal’s receiving core? Going into the 2016-17 season, they were heralded as one of the better units in football. However, the suspension and subsequent release of Michael Floyd, regression of John Brown, and ever looming age of Larry Fitzgerald have opened up the pass catchers in the desert to speculation.
Mike Williams can catalyze the Cardinal’s aerial attack so it may reach it’s once high-flying potency. A basketball player in his youth, Williams has an intuitive ability to locate the ball in the air, bounce over defenders, and come down with mind-bending catches. Mike Williams would provide the target that Carson Palmer needs to restore Lombardi dreams in Phoenix.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (From Vikings): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
The Eagles offense showed spurts of real promise under the direction of Doug Pederson in the 2016-17 season, but wandered off into extended bouts of wild inconsistency throughout the year. The primary explanation for this, outside of the natural growing pains of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, was Philadelphia’s sputtering ground game.
Christian McCaffrey comes out of the backfield at Stanford touting versatility seldom seen since Reggie Bush. With spectacular vision, agility, anticipation, and boucneabillity, McCaffrey is able to slice a defense wide open with a single well placed cut. Additionally, Christian excels not only as a ball carrier, but as an above average pass catcher and return man. The Eagles’ coaching staff would have a field day thinking up all of the unique and creative ways to feed Christian McCaffrey the rock for years to come.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
Takkarist McKinley exemplifies what toughness is. On and off the field, McKinley’s mentality of persistence and tenacity has directed his life’s journey. From living on the streets to becoming a top NFL prospect, Takkarist (affectionately known as “Tak”) has proven his metal. In-between the lines, McKinley consistently exhibited tremendous twitch, agility, and an adept slipperiness as an edge rusher.
However, Takkarist’s most valuable trait is his effort. In my film study of Tak, I never once saw him take a play off, and on every snap, he gave 200% effort until the whistle blew. That trait is invaluable in the National Football League. Takkarist McKinley is the physical representation of grit and the Colts need players like him to improve their pillow-soft defense.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple
Haason Reddick is the type of player that gets the scouting community really excited. Instantly, Reddick electrifies on tape, combining supreme effort and ability to dispose of anyone who challenges him. In his final season at Temple, Haason proved he is the type of edge player that can create havoc against the run or pass.
Reddick also boasts remarkable versatility, starting life at Temple as a defensive back, but seeing time at all three levels of the defense during his time in Philly. Haason Reddick is the type of player that great Baltimore defenses have been shaped around for over a decade now. Raven’s general manager Ozzie Newsome will be salivating at the chance to get the next All-Pro Raven’s defender.
17. Washington Team: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan St.
Malik McDowell flashed top ten talent during his tenure at Michigan State. At times, McDowell would simply overbear some of the nation’s top blockers with length, raw power, and an explosive first step. He has the tools to give a team production against the run or the pass from anywhere on the defensive line.
However, although McDowell’s ability is outstanding, there are lingering questions about his attitude due to bouts of lackadaisical play during Sparty’s disappointing 2016-17 season. Despite that, Washington is desperately in need of an interior force on defense, and Malik McDowell has the best chance of being that.
18. Tennessee Titans: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
The Titans have built a foundation that is ready to take a step forward into playoff contention. With budding stars like Marcus Mariota, Avery Williamson, and Jack Conklin on the roster, the future is bright in the Music City. That said, Tennessee has a few defined weak spots. One of those holes lies in the secondary. The addition of Logan Ryan in free agency should tie up one of the corner spots, but the introduction of another cover-man will be crucial to the Titan’s success.
Teez Tabor, although testing atrociously throughout the draft process, is assuredly one of the best corners in this draft class. Tabor, with next-level hand-eye coordination, prototypical size, and top end closing burst, is able to disrupt passes both underneath and over the top of the defense. These traits allow Teez to play the role of a ball hawk, as he recorded nine interceptions during his three years at Florida. Tabor’s tape does the talking for him, not a sub-par forty time or two. The Titans should benefit immediately from Teez Tabor’s presence in their secondary.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio St.
After selecting Florida corner Vernon Hargreaves in last year’s draft, the Bucs are still very weak in the secondary. Couple that with the fact that Brent Grimes is turning 34 this year and the other three quarterbacks in the division are of an MVP caliber and Tampa Bay needs to reevaluate where they stand at corner.
Gareon Conley is able to use his frame and his footwork to get exterior leverage, trap a receiver against the boundary, and narrow throwing lanes into oblivion. He may not be fully NFL ready on day one, but Conley’s upside is too promising for the Buccaneers to pass on.
20. Denver Broncos: OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
The Broncos are officially done with their superbowl honeymoon and they need to refresh their roster. Having drafted a quarterback in the first round last year in Paxton Lynch, it would be smart for John Elway to give his young gunslinger a safety blanket.
OJ Howard is the most athleticly gifted tight end since Mercedes Lewis. His speed, hand size, frame, and catch radius make him a matchup nightmare in the middle of the field. He is simply too big for safeties and too fast for linebackers. Howard is also a terrific blocker as he consistently handled the SEC’s best talent when asked to while at Alabama. This should help the Broncos against the likes of Khalil Mack, Justin Houston, Joey Bosa and other top tier pass rushers in the AFC West. The Broncos offense surely needs a spark moving forward and OJ Howard can be that.
21. Detroit Lions: Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri
The Lions only recordered twenty-five sacks during the 2016-17 season which was the second lowest total in the NFL. They desperately need an edge presence opposite of Ziggy Ansah, and Charles Harris can provide them with that.
Harris, a long striding outside linebacker from Missouri, shines as a passrusher because of his latteral agility, speed to power conversion, and a wicked spin move. Charles is also a willing and capable run defender. Charles Harris could be a remedy for Detroit’s pass rushing woes and would reinforce the Lions’ run defense next to last year’s second round draft selection, A’shawn Robinson.
22. Miami Dolphins: Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Tim Williams conjured up flashes of the late great Derick Thomas at times over the last three years at Alabama. Because of his lightning ball get off, wide arsenal of pass rushing moves, and gravity defying dip, Williams jumps out at as a potential superstar in the league. However, Williams will fall on draft night because of some personal issues and his inabillity to do much other than presure quarterbacks.
Despite the potential turn offs, the Dolphins need pass rushers more than anything. Cameron Wake has lead the charge for a long time now and he will need some help if the Fins are to unseat Tom Brady from his thrown atop the NFC East. Williams can give Miami QB pressures and he can give them a lot of them.
23. New York Giants: Forrest Lamp, OT, Western Kentucky
Forrest Lamp is smart, tough, nasty, nimble, and flexible. He is everything you could ask for in an offensive lineman. I fully believe Forrest is the most NFL-ready offensive lineman in this class and the Giants have been woeful up front over the last couple of seasons. New York, with weapons on offense and an elite defense, is on the precipice of serious contention, and Forrest Lamp could be the final piece in the puzzle.
24. Oakland Raiders: Kevin King, CB, Washington
Kevin King has been a meteoric riser during the last couple of weeks. The reason for King’s sudden assention is in part of his fabulous size, physicallity, and abillity to make highlights happen. Oakland isn’t in a position where they are having to deal with many glaring roster holes, but the Raiders have a potential Achilles heal in the secondary. David Amerson and Sean Smith aren’t getting any younger, and adding a corner like King would be a savvy move.
25. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The choice of 37-year-old quarterback, Tony Romo, to pursue broadcasting has left the Texan’s without many options at the quarterback position. Houston put a lot of eggs in the Romo basket, trading the previous starter, Brock Osweiler, to the Browns earlier this offseason. Now that Romo isn’t an option, the Texans need to find a quarterback and they need to find one quickly.
Deshaun Watson is the best available signal caller for Houston. A proven winner, Watson surpasses technical limitations with confidence, intelligence, and natural arm talent. Despite the flaws in his throwing mechanics, when it counts, Deshaun consistently puts the football where it needs to be. Watson will need to clean up some of the faults in his throwing mechanics to reach his full potential in the Nation Football League, but who would be a better teacher than Bill O’Brien?
26. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Tom Cable is one of the best offensive line coaches in the league, but not even he could get much out of Seattle’s front last year. They have to get better this season and the addition of Cam Robinson would be a big step towards improvement. Robinson is a super athlete with a spectacular frame. Because of this, he can play both guard and tackle effectively. His skill as a run blocker could upgrade a Seahawk rushing attack that wavered this past season.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
All-time franchise tackle leader, Derrick Johnson, is near (if not at) the end of his career and Kansas City will be in need of a replacement. Although the Chiefs feel alright about Justin March-Lilard and Ramik Wilson as the future pairing in the middle of their defense, Zach Cunningham would be a huge upgrade over both.
He is a versatile, instinctive, lengthy, and athletic linebacker that can stuff the run and bolster a defense with his cover skills. A player of Cunningham’s makeup could balance out Kansas City’s opportunistic defense that leaned too heavily on forcing turnovers last year as he will provide a constant presence on every snap.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas St.
The Cowboy’s defense was in large part covered up by an offense that consistently dominated time of possession last season. However, in order to get over the hump and reach a Super Bowl this year, Dallas will have to field a better compliment to Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and the rest of the Cowboy’s offense. Willis is a honed pass rusher that excels because of his physicality, field awareness, and closing speed. He would be a great edition to a Dallas pass rush that was without much bite this past year.
29. Green Bay Packers: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
A savage competitor, Jourdan Lewis is at his best scrapping in press coverage. His tremendous ball skills and athleticism enable him to get up in the air and make plays on fifty/fifty balls that few defensive backs can make. The Green Bay secondary was ravaged by opposing quarterbacks all of the last season, and Lewis would patch a few cracks in the Packers’ backend instantly.
*A domestic violence claim could see Lewis fall off of a lot of team’s boards if there is validity to the allegations. Lewis has pleaded not guilty.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jabril Peppers, S/LB, Michigan
I have affectionately labeled Jabril Peppers as a “Jack Back”. He doesn’t have a real position, so I made one up for him. Peppers is a combination safety, linebacker, slot corner, do-it-all player that no one really knows what to do with. However, at the end of the day, he’s going to find a way to make plays for whatever team drafts him. Pittsburgh needs a tone setter in their secondary and Peppers fits the application.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Garett Bolles, T, Utah
The Falcons’ front office has done a masterful job of turning around a roster that seemed doomed to the purgatory that is mediocrity in professional sports. By carefully bandaging the deficiencies of their roster, Atlanta rose up from being a .500 team, into the pantheon of serious Super Bowl contenders in the short space of one season. However, some of the bandaids, like veteran guard Chris Chester, are now in need of replacement.
With Chester’s retirement this offseason a big hole was punched in Atlanta’s offensive line. Garett Bolles, an uber-athletic lineman with a nasty streak, can be a like-for -like replacement for Chester if not an upgrade. He played tackle his one year at Utah, but I believe Bolles translates to the league as a guard and a good one at that. The addition of a talented blocker will be important for the Falcon’s as they try to protect Matt Ryan in Steve Sarkisian’s new offense this season.
32. New Orleans Saints (From Patriots): John Ross, WR, Washington
After dealing standout receiver Brandon Cooks to the Patriots for the rights to this pick, New Orleans will be in the market for another burner on the perimeter. With scorching 4.22 speed, John Ross is just that. When he flips into top gear, Ross creates separation from defensive backs with unbelievable ease. He may even be an upgrade over Cooks and Drew Breese will surely appreciate that.