The draft is upon us. While it’s best to be on media blackout this week to avoid consuming the countless false narratives that are being floated to throw teams off the scent, or perhaps induce foolish overreactions, the myriad of possibilities also sets up great suspense and meaning to each and every twist of the first round. Matt Waldman and myself will be reacting to and analyzing every pick in real time with a ton of learned and insightful guests on our youtube channel. In the meantime, here’s a guide so you know when to have your popcorn ready:
#1 - Arizona - Everyone has been convinced for weeks, if not months, that this pick will be Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
If Murray is the pick: Start the exciting and invigorating journey into the previously unthinkable reality of a 5’10” quarterback going #1 overall, a marriage made years ago by the football gods:
If Murray is not the pick: Prepare for a draft that will send a lot of teams scrambling to adjust to a now very unpredictable first round. The 49ers could become huge winners by trading down. Teams that previously thought getting Murray was impossible can light up their phones with trade offers that will make Cardinals fans puke.
If Oakland trades up for Murray: Congratulate Steve Keim for maybe the most elaborate ruse in NFL draft history to maximize the trade value of the #1 pick
#2 - San Francisco - Everyone has been similarly convinced that this pick will be Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State. The 49ers have invested three first round picks in interior or DE/DT tweeners in the last three drafts, so many folks #1 overall player, Quinnen Williams, a DT from Alabama, is presumably not the pick in any scenario. This is probably the only truly boring slot in the first round unless the Cardinals throw us a curveball. That is unless the 49ers are using reverse reverse psychology by making it seem so certain that they want Bosa.
Use their time on the clock to replenish any beverage or food needs.
You’re a fan of a playoff team: Get another adult beverage and settle in
You’re a fan of a non-playoff team: Get some more food to calm your stomach
#3 - New York Jets - The Jets are one of the true wild cards. Ed Oliver, a freakishly talented defensive lineman from Houston could leapfrog Williams if Jets use the pick, but they are very intent on trading down. Why not Williams? The team might like their interior defensive line, led by Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson, with 2018 third-rounder Nathan Shepherd ready to break out. Oliver is a more versatile piece in some ways, but seems to make little sense if the team would pass on Williams because of depth at his position. Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen is the next best prospect at a big position of need for the Jets, but they seem to be lukewarm on him
So we could see a trade up for Williams, or for a quarterback. A few weeks ago, that quarterback would have universally been expected to be Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State. His media stock has taken a hit lately, and now Washington has been rumored to be in the market to move up, but for Duke quarterback Daniel Jones. Perhaps Washington is trying to get the Giants to waste precious draft capital moving up for Jones? Eagles and Cowboys fans, don’t touch that dial.
If the Jets use the pick: Be sad Jets fans, because this probably wasn’t the plan
If the Jets trade the pick: Keep your drink away from your mouth when the pick and trade details are announced unless you have one of those sheets of plastic over your tv that Gallagher fans used to bring to his shows
#4 - Oakland - Ian Rapoport says a surprise pick could be in store here. Of course, that assumes that we expect the Raiders to act rationally now that there’s an adult in the room after Mike Mayock was hired as general manager. It could be a quarterback. Maybe Josh Jacobs after the news that Marshawn Lynch won’t be back. Maybe Ole Miss size/speed wideout DK Metcalf to please the ghost of Al Davis? A true surprise would be something we can’t anticipate, right?
If the Raiders are rational: Williams falls into their laps, or they take Oliver for pure potential, or Allen, the “safe” edge pick, or even trade down if the Jets were unsuccessful in their bid to add more draft capital
If the Raiders “surprise” us: Keep that Sledge-o-matic sheet of plastic up over your television
#5 - Tampa Bay - The Bucs need an inside linebacker after Kwon Alexander signed with the 49ers. LSU’s Devin White has been linked to them for a long time. Williams could be too good to pass up, Allen could too if they put a premium on edge defenders. If Murray is the only quarterback gone, their phones could ring off of the hook.
If Bosa, Williams, and Allen or Oliver went 2,3,4: A chance to replenish food, drink, and oxygen as White is very likely the pick, and the talk of a team trading up for Jones was pure April lying season material
If Tampa trades down: Keep that Sledge-o-matic sheet of plastic up over your television. Eagles and Cowboys fans, make sure that champagne is still chilling
#6 - New York Giants - Hopefully the Giants are still holding this pick by the time it is on the clock for the sake of their fanbase’s sanity. If that’s the case and Washington hasn’t traded up, time for some suspense.
If Jones is the pick: Laughter from 31 fanbases, tears from one
If Haskins is the pick: Thoughtful nods from 32 fanbases (I’ll say overdrafted)
If neither is the pick: Applaud Dave Gettleman (really), and Jones agent for almost convincing at least one team he was worth a premium pick. One of Allen or Oliver could be there. Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat was considered the likely pick here for weeks before his heart condition seemed to torpedo that possibility. They could take a top tier tackle (Alabama’s Jonah Williams, Washington State’s Andre Dillard, and Florida’s Jawaan Taylor) to start day one on the right side. We’re at a big fork in the road if the Giants are holding this pick and only one quarterback is gone. Fasten your seatbelts.
#7 - Jacksonville - Grandpa Coughlin is going to play it safe here. Jonah Williams seems like a lock if he’s there.
If Williams is available: Time to check your food/beverage
If Williams goes earlier: Get your a tight end is/isn’t worth a pick in the top 10, as Iowa’s two-way tight end extraordinaire TJ Hockenson is likely the pick (I’m on the “is” side)
#8 - Detroit - This one is right up there with Jets for a telegraphed trade down. There’s always the chance a quarterback is here to trade up for. Atlanta might be willing to move up for Oliver. Houston is coveting one of the top tier tackles.
Bob Quinn is happy: The pick is traded
Bob Quinn is sad: The Lions end up with Michigan off-ball linebacker Devin Bush or perhaps Hockenson as no one wants to trade up
#9 - Buffalo - This is all too familiar territory for the Bills. They will be able to get a good, but not great player at this pick. A choice like Metcalf or the first corner off of the board in a class without a clear #1 would be disappointing from a value standpoint. Hockenson or a top tier tackle would appear to be a better use of resources at this point. They could also trade down.
Best Case Scenario: Oliver or the other Josh Allen fall
Acceptable Case Scenario: Hockenson
Worst Case Scenario: Rashan Gary (aka the ghost of Shaq Lawson)
#10 - Denver - The Broncos were linked to Missouri QB Drew Lock months ago, but since then they traded for Joe Flacco and the quarterback talk has died down. This is one of the tougher picks to project in the first round
Banana in the tailpipe: Lock
Smart Banana: Bush
Green Bananas: Reach for the first safety or interior offensive lineman
#11 - Cincinnati - Could this be the draft that finally sees the Bengals take the successor to Andy Dalton? If not, Bush or White are slam dunk picks, or maybe Hockenson, or a tackle. We’re getting into the range where the picks are more dependent on previous picks, unless they are locked in on a passer.
Dalton’s real estate agent wins: Haskins
Dalton wins: Dillard or Taylor
#12 - Green Bay - The Packers could reach for the first receiver off of the board or walking mismatch tight end from Iowa Noah Fant to help Aaron Rodgers. If Hockenson is there, this is a dream scenario for them. Taking Jonah Williams to play guard would also be a win for them. No matter how it shakes out, expect this to be a pick that improves the offense.
Swinging for a single: Oklahoma OL Cody Ford
Swinging for a home run: Fant
#13 - Miami - Another quarterback watch team. Really a team that could go in just about any direction at the pick. They sorely need help on the offensive line and defensive line, but also are in long term rebuilding mode. This one will be closely watched a signal for the direction and priorities of the new regime.
Adrenaline shot for Miami fans: a quarterback
Slow and steady: Anybody else
#14 - Atlanta - This team wants Oliver, but would likely settle for Clemson DT Christian Wilkins if a trade up is too expensive. A guard or the first corner off of the board is possible here too
Wake me up I’m dreaming: Oliver
Back in reality: Wilkins
#15 - Washington - Are they even still here? Is this where Oakland takes Florida State EDGE Brian Burns, who some have falling into the 20s, and others have in the top 10? If Washington still has the pick, do they end up with Jones or another quarterback anyway? Corner or interior offensive line are both in play too. This is also the point that Sweat could be a best player available for just about anyone.
At least the Caps won the Cup last year: Washington traded this pick
Snyder was saved from himself: Washington exercises this pick
#16 - Carolina - The Panthers are also a team to watch for in an earlier trade up, likely for one of the top tier tackles. If they don’t do that and none of the top tackles fall, adding help on the edge of the defense makes sense. This is about the point in the draft where we will learn if a team’s medical staff cleared Sweat when each pick is announced. Michigan EDGE Rashan Gary would be a consideration, but he was recently diagnosed with a torn labrum. Burns could still be here. Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell doesn’t have the high athletic ceiling of that trio, but would be a fine pick.
Totally predictable: OL or EDGE
What are they doing?: Anything else
#17 - New York Giants (from Cleveland) - If Jones is still there and the Giants take him, they will look smart for their patience, but if they liked him so much, why not at 6? Haskins could still be on the board. Sweat, a consideration at 6 before more negative news about his heart, could be there. Edge rusher, corner, even safety, this is a pick with about as wide a range of possibilities as you see from a non-playoff team, in part because they have another one.
Giants fans don’t care who this pick is: Jones was the pick at 6
Giants fans care who this pick is: Jones wasn’t the pick at 6
#18 - Minnesota - Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. This is deep enough in the first round that taking the first interior offensive lineman like NC State’s Garrett Bradbury or Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom makes a ton of sense. A player like Wilkins or his teammate and fellow DT Dexter Lawrence are in play too
Rick Spielman is sleeping in his office: a Cornerback
Kirk Cousins isn’t getting any sleep: Anything but an offensive lineman
#19 - Tennessee - About here we’ll be watching more closely for the first wide receiver. Metcalf’s name comes up again, and this is about the earliest we could see Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, a speed receiver whose surgically repaired foot apparently checked out ok recently. Somewhere around here is when Mississippi State DL Jeffery Simmons - who might have been a top 10 pick before tearing his ACL earlier in the offseason - gets onto our watch list. Edge rush and interior offensive line are possible too.
Fantasy football players wake up: a wide receiver
Fantasy football players hit the snooze button: anyone else
#20 - Pittsburgh - The Steelers have a lot of needs for a team that barely missed the playoffs last year. Corner (LSU’s Greedy Williams, Washington’s Byron Murphy, Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin), edge (Burns or Sweat if they fall, Ferrell if they don’t), a receiver (Metcalf? Brown?), safety (Maryland’s Darnell Savage or really their pick of the bunch) all make sense. So does an inside linebacker, but Bush and White are probably long gone by now.
Let’s play it safe since top athletes have been misses: Ya-Sin or Michigan EDGE Chase Winovich
What my Steelers fan neurosis tells me will happen: Ya-Sin or Winovich
#21 - Seattle - This pick’s outlook changes a little with the Seahawks adding #29, but they have been considered a strong candidate to trade down, perhaps even to get a pittance from a team that is slated to choose a few picks later. If they do stay at 21, edge (or any pass rush) is obvious need, but so is tight end, and arguably wide receiver. With the extra first they are in a perfect position to a risk/reward pick like Gary, Simmons, or Sweat.
Do you have a plan?: Fant
You do have a plan!: Sweat or Simmons
#22 - Baltimore - Surely the Ravens realize they need better receivers than Chris Moore and Willie Snead IV? Center is also a sore spot, so along with Bradbury, Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy comes into play here. Edge rusher is also a consideration after the team lost two in free agency this offseason. Josh Jacobs also had a visit here…
As if Ozzie never left: Burns falls into their lap
We miss Ozzie: Another tight end
#23 - Houston - The Texans need corners and offensive linemen, and not in that order. If they haven’t successfully traded up for a tackle, they could settle for Kansas State’s Dalton Risner or Washington’s Kaleb McGary here, or take Alabama State's Tytus Howard in the first "who?" of the first round. They could also scoop up Ford or potentially take the first corner off of the board here.
Pray for Deshaun Watson: Anything but an offensive lineman
Still Pray for Deshaun Watson: An offensive lineman, because they’ll likely start as a rookie
#24 - Oakland (from Chicago) - This is going to be Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, right? Really it could be just about any position on defense. With another pick at 27 we are getting into the Raiders segment of the first round, the part of the plot when we see what is supposed to justify trading Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack
What justifies trading Mack: A risk/reward pass rusher (Burns, Sweat, Simmons)
A good pick that will be slammed: Jacobs
What Gruden will do: Take someone none of have going until the 3rd round
#25 - Philadelphia - In line with their modus operandi would be a defensive lineman, perhaps one of the Clemson duo or Simmons. Offensive line is not out of the question, nor is a speed receiver (Brown), or any number of safeties.
In Howie We Trust: A trench player
Howie We’re Losing Trust: Jacobs
#26 - Indianapolis - Chris Ballard thinks one of their targets should be there, and the reality that there could be a surprise player falling to them here such as Burns or Sweat. They seem to be taking the patient route, so a longer view pick like a wide receiver or Gary/Simmons could in play. Notre Dame DL Jerry Tillery is a name that could sneak into the first about now. They could take a corner. The 5-10 teams choosing before the Colts will determine this pick
The Tortoise: Simmons
The Hare: Wilkins/Tillery
#27 - Oakland (from Dallas) - Back to the Raiders very exclusive war room. The plan will have come into focus by now. We’ll know if Mike Mayock has any say into the picks, and whether to respect the Raiders plan
Mayock has clout: A pick that should have been taken 10-15 picks ago
Mayock is being ignored: Another offensive tackle
#28 - Los Angeles Chargers - An interior defensive lineman is the target here. Wilkins is the best case scenario, but getting his teammate Lawrence or Tillery would be acceptable. Longer shots are quarterback, safety, or guard.
Don’t mess this up: a defensive tackle
You messed this up: a quarterback
#29 - Seattle (from Kansas City) - What do the Seahawks do with their newfound riches? A replacement for the now Chief Frank Clark would be a good idea, maybe even going back to Michigan to get Gary. Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. is another name to listen for at the end of the first.
What we want: A Clark replacement or help for Russell Wilson in the passing game
What they’ll do: Trade down (again)
#30 - Green Bay (from New Orleans) - There have been a few mocks that have put a falling quarterback here. If Aaron Rodgers is truly following the career arc of Brett Favre, then that is the poetic twist. Just like at 12, offensive line, tight end, or receiver are the top priorities, although this pick has a twist with the possibility of a falling pass rusher.
Overthinking it: a quarterback
No brainer: Anyone that makes Rodgers job easier
#31 - Los Angeles Rams - Are you still awake? We are and we’re excited to see what the Rams have in store to not fall by the wayside in the year after a Super Bowl loss like so many other teams have.
Nailed it: An instant starter on the interior OL
Let’s go to the judges cards: Reload on interior DL
#32 - New England - The inscrutable Belichick. A trade up is possible. A Brady replacement in a few years. A Gronkowski replacement this year. A player that the Patriots have higher on their board than anyone else like so many of their second round picks. A corner. A player that no expected to be on the board. The last pick of the first is the most unpredictable
Are we still laughing at Gettleman, Elway, or Gruden?: None of the above, just fearing Belichick