1. Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
When you invest the second overall pick in a quarterback like the Titans did last season, the next step is investing the first overall pick in a tackle to protect Marcus Mariota. Tunsil is the best one available and the first player off the board.
2. Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California
The Browns signed Robert Griffin III, but their recent track record redeeming quarterbacks can’t leave them feeling comfortable about their chances. Goff is the quarterback readiest to step in and play, and that’s what the Browns need – and have needed for quite a while – somebody to do.
3. Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
The Chargers could go in any number of directions on defense with this pick: Myles Jack and DeForest Buckner in particular are tempting. But Ramsey is a playmaker unlike any other available at defensive back in this draft, and the rare safety prospect worthy of a top ten selection.
4. Cowboys: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
This pick is the toughest to call, and will set the tone for the Cowboys franchise and the rest of the first round. Wentz can sit behind Romo for a time. It’s hard for the Cowboys to pass up defensive talent at this spot, but it might be equally hard for them to predict the next time they’ll have a shot at a quarterback this high in the draft.
5. Jaguars: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Investing in offense in the draft has paid huge dividends for Jacksonville, and now it’s time for them to start matching that with the defense until they aren’t picking inside the top five anymore. Jack is as explosive a defensive talent as there is in this class – as long as his knee is recovered.
6. Ravens: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The Ravens might want to look at offensive tackle with this pick, but Ronnie Stanley isn’t the equal of Bosa as a prospect. The Ravens have always been about getting it done on defense, and Terrell Suggs isn’t getting any younger. Bosa will keep their pass rush alive for years to come.
7. 49ers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
Call it a coincidence. No Chip Kelly isn’t calling the shots in San Francisco, but Trent Baalke is. And last year Baalke picked Arik Armstead, a towering defensive lineman from Oregon. Make it a double.
8. Eagles: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
It will be tempting to look at the draft to fix what Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray didn’t and take Vernon Hargreaves or Ezekiel Elliot here. Stanley gives the Eagles line depth they definitely need at the moment, and the starting tackle they’ll need when Jason Peters can’t get on the field.
9. Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
Which lets the Buccaneers nab Hargreaves, as talented a cover corner as you’re going to find in the 2016 draft. His height might scare some teams away, but there’s no replacing talent. The last time Tampa Bay was good it was all about their defense, with names like Ronde Barber and John Lynch in the secondary. Recreating those days sounds pretty good.
10. Giants: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
The Giants have looked to the offensive line constantly in recent drafts and unfortunately, don’t yet have a reason to stop. They did a nice job shoring up their defensive line – and Jason Pierre-Paul looks recovered. Some help at the wide receiver position, now absent Reuben Randle and still awaiting Victor Cruz, might be needed, but this is a little too high.
11. Bears: Shaq Lawson, OLB, Clemson
There are a couple ways the Bears could go here, including looking at Elliot to replace departed franchise back Matt Forte. Don’t rule out Hargreaves If he’s still on the board either. In the end, a good pass-rusher makes everyone else on the defense better, and that’s what they’ll aim for by selecting Lawson a year after we thought they might take his teammate, Vic Beasley.
12. Saints: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
The Saints allowed an NFL record 45 touchdown passes last season. Screams cornerback, right? It screams pass rush, and the Saints have to ignore their itchy-offensive weapon drafting trigger fingers here and make Clemson defenders go off the board back-to-back.
13. Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State
We’ve said a couple teams might take Elliot, here’s one that will.The Dolphins, who could potentially could have looked at Elliot eighth before trading that pick to Philadelphia, will be happy to snatch up the well-rounded running back here after losing Lamar Miller in free agency. It’s a bold strategy, but Ryan Tannehill didn’t need less weapons.
14. Raiders: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
We’re used to saying Oakland can draft the best player available, but usually it’s because they need help everywhere. Now it’s quite the opposite, and the Raiders can focus on adding young playmakers to a team slowly becoming full of them. Offensive tackle is another option, but the talent worthy of this draft selection lies on defense.
15. Rams: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
The Rams totally view Case Keenum as their quarterback of the future. Absolutely. Lynch will just provide some needed insurance at the position. Teams have failed to hold Los Angeles’ interest before, and it won’t be any easier to get fans to come out and watch a heated position battle between Keenum and Nick Foles.
16. Lions: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Having their pick of wide receivers to replace Calvin Johnson will be tempting. So will shoring up the offensive line with “chuck it up to Calvin” no longer available as a play. Robinson provides a monster in the middle if they opt to continue the search for Ndamukong Suh’s successor.
17. Falcons: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Give Dan Quinn a new toy to play with and see if he won’t do you proud. The Falcons went as their offense did last season: flying high for six or seven weeks before crashing and burning in a way we haven’t often seen as the turnovers piled up. Defense breeds consistency, and Ragland is as consistent a quarterback of the defense as they come.
18. Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
After a disastrous season in Indianapolis, protecting Andrew Luck is priority number one, which will put the Colts in a tough spot if Decker is gone at this point. This isn’t 2015, and the first round projections aren’t filling up with 10 offensive tackles. A pass-rusher would be useful too, and you might see them look that direction if one of the Clemson duo is still here and a tackle isn’t.
19. Bills: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
Rex Ryan took in his Pro Day, which is always a good sign. Any need you can place on the Bills is overshadowed by the team need for discipline, after last year’s poor showing of penalties. Lining up one of the receivers in this draft as another weapon for Tyrod Taylor will be a tempting choice, but the Bills defense has always been their strength, and Ryan can figure out how to maximize Floyd’s talent.
20. Jets: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
The Jets have probably had their eye on both Floyd and Ragland, but if neither is available here they could look for Antonio Cromartie’s successor. They ignored their lack of need on the defensive line to select Leonard Williams last year, but could they do so again for their choice of the talent remaining? Trading for Ryan Clady makes offensive line less of a pressing need in the wake of D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s retirement.
21. Redskins: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Washington might be tempted to look at cornerback here as well, as more and more talented wide receivers find their way into the NFC East. They’ve never been a team to shy away from defensive potential, and Billings has loads of it, at just 21 years old. Getting to the quarterback before he throws will stop the pass just as well as a deflection.
22. Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
A couple months ago, you could have listed several needs for Houston at this position: quarterback, running back…but they’ve done a great job patching those in free agency and giving themselves a better opportunity to select the best players available. Let new qb Brock Osweiler get all the weapons he can, and let the run on wide receivers commence.
23. Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
Don’t get too excited Teddy Bridgewater, this hasn’t happened yet. While Stefon Diggs’ emergence was nice, Cordarelle Patterson has completely disappeared as an offensive weapon. The Vikings have their quarterback, finally, in Bridgewater. Giving him places to put the ball is just the next step in becoming a multifaceted offense for the first time since Brett Favre was in town.
24. Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Suddenly a strength for the Bengals is a glaring weakness, as this off-season saw Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu depart. That’s over 1,000 yards off the table for the Bengals, though they remain in good hands with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. Fortunately, their position in the draft is just right to nab a target that keeps Andy Dalton’s progress progressing.
25. Steelers: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Every year we ask, could this be the year the Steelers draft a cornerback first? Maybe! It’s been since 1997. The last time they took a defensive back first – 2003, Troy Polamalu, 16th – it sure turned out well. Nobody is expecting that out of Jackson, but he’s been rising up the draft boards and Mike Tomlin was on hand to take in his pro day.
26. Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OL, Texas A&M
Regardless of the streak Russell Wilson ended the season on, the Seahawks line was a big reason neither the run nor passing game could ever find consistency. Their early-season struggles returned in the playoffs. When they survived the first round because of a shanked field goal against the Vikings, they had managed just 226 yards of offense. Projections on Ifedi, a Freshman All-American at guard and All-SEC player at right tackle, are split between the two positions in the pros.
27. Packers: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
The Packers had a pretty great run with their last Ohio State linebacker: A.J. Hawk. Even without that history, Lee is a steal here for a team focused on value and steals in the draft. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve had a linebacker exodus lately either.
28. Chiefs: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Sean Smith’s departure means the Chiefs might be looking for a corner in the first round for the second year in a row. Marcus Peters’ first season was a great success. Their pre-Jeremy Maclin wide receiver woes were well documented, and they’re in a prime spot here to take a look at someone like Notre Dame’s Will Fuller as well.
29. Cardinals: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
The Cardinals have brought in Spence and Ole Miss tackle Robert Nkemdiche for visits, two players with character concerns that might be impacting their stock. Spence’s is probably headed in the right direction however, as the one-time Ohio State pass-rusher focused on obtaining his degree and proving his talent – and commitment – to NFL scouts at Eastern Kentucky.
30. Panthers: Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
The Panthers made out lucky with some undrafted free agents along the line last year, but if they want to maintain their success it’d be good to slot in a player with a little higher draft value. Clark played left tackle his last three years at Texas Tech, and while the Red Raiders’ offense might never be confused with Carolina’s, he could be the long term answer there for the Panthers.
31. Broncos: Jaylon Smith, OLB, Notre Dame
As Super Bowl Champions, and with the Patriots absent from this draft for their role in Deflategate, it’s the Broncos right to sit back and take a player with tremendous potential at the end of the first round. Sure, they might like Paxton Lynch if he’s here, but that seems more unlikely every day. If Smith didn’t have his injury concerns, he’d be off the board long before here. He is a big risk, but the Broncos can let him sit on defense and reap the reward.