NFL draft first-round picks: the no-brainers, the shockers and the downright odd
An analysis of how teams fared on opening night
The first round of the NFL draft is a time for hope. Teams hope to choose players who will make an immediate impact. Players hope to use the process as a launching pad to stardom. And most fans merely hope they won’t rue the day their favorite team botched the first round. With that backdrop, let’s take a look at former college stars who inspired hope Thursday night in Philadelphia.
1. Browns. Defensive end Myles Garrett, Texas A&M. This one was a no-brainer. Regardless of Warren Sapp’s opinion, Garrett is a big-time edge rusher. He can play with his hand down as a 4-3 end or standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He had 32.5 career sacks in college, the sixth-most in SEC history. End of discussion.
2. Bears. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina. Chicago gave up a ton (the Nos. 67 and 111 picks in this draft, plus a 2018 third-rounder) to swap places with San Francisco. The Bears had better be right about Mitch.
3. 49ers. Defensive end Solomon Thomas, Stanford. New coach Kyle Shanahan has so many holes to fill. Thomas will help a porous defense. He’s smart, strong and agile. That’s the type of player Shanahan likes. And Shanahan also acquired needed picks in the trade with the Bears. Sweet.
4. Jaguars. Running back Leonard Fournette, LSU. A great running game is a quarterback’s best friend. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles needs as many friends as he can get. Fournette has that rare combination of power and speed.
5. Titans. Wide receiver Corey Davis, Western Michigan. Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota took a big step forward last season. Davis, the all-time FBS leader with 5,285 receiving yards, should help the young passer to continue to move in the right direction.
6. Jets. Safety Jamal Adams, LSU. The Jets turn to Adams, the second LSU player drafted in the top 10, to help improve an absolutely awful pass defense. Adams possesses the type of coverage skills the Jets need.
7. Chargers. Wide receiver Mike Williams, Clemson. Williams teamed with one of college football’s best quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson, at Clemson. Now he gets to work with a top-shelf NFL quarterback in Philip Rivers. Any wideout should be so lucky.
8. Panthers. Running back Christian McCaffrey, Stanford. Even as a top 10 pick, this versatile running back could wind up being one of the steals of the draft. He is the first white tailback drafted in the first round since Penn State’s John Cappelletti went 11th overall to the Rams in 1974.
9. Bengals. Wide receiver John Ross, Washington. Dude can fly. Back in March, Ross recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.22) in NFL combine history. Exactly how are opponents supposed to contain Ross and A.J. Green?
10. Chiefs. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech. Coach Andy Reid had to give up a lot, including a first-rounder in the 2018 draft, to move up and get his quarterback of the future. Mahomes, the son of a former big-league pitcher, is raw — but also so, so talented.
11. Saints. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State. The Saints got it right, selecting a corner who’s capable of playing immediately and playing well. Next up for New Orleans: Go get another 10 defensive players capable of doing the same.
12. Texans. Quarterback Deshaun Watson, Clemson. Ugh. I get that the Browns acquired a 2018 first-rounder for swapping spots with the Texans. But why do I get the feeling Browns fans will rue the day the team passed on Watson? Brown fans rue many days.
13. Cardinals. Linebacker Haason Reddick, Temple. This guy is such a force behind the line of scrimmage, he wakes up with two tackles for loss on his stat sheet. The Cardinals’ defense just got better. Reddick, whose motor matches his talent, is scary good.
14. Eagles. Defensive end Derek Barnett, Tennessee. Eagles fans once famously booed Santa Claus. They have no reason to be upset with team decision-makers about this pick. Barnett is a relentless edge rusher. He broke Reggie White’s school sack record. Chew on that.
15. Colts. Safety Malik Hooker, Ohio State. The Colts have the great Andrew Luck at quarterback, but they have to get him the ball. Indianapolis dips into that talented Buckeyes defensive backfield to bolster a secondary that, well, is in dire need of bolstering.
16. Ravens. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Alabama. The Ravens have to get back to being the Ravens, which means dominating on defense. The past two seasons, Baltimore gave up 30 and 28 touchdown passes, respectively, the worst performances in team history.
17. Redskins. Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, Alabama. Although the Redskins are a mess in the front office and on the field, even they couldn’t botch this one. Allen, who attended high school near the team’s Northern Virginia training facility, fills a big need on the defensive line.
18. Titans. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, USC. Titans fans should be very happy with their team’s performance in the first round. After adding Davis at No. 5, the Titans get some help on defense and in the return game. Jackson played a big role in USC’s revival. Fight on!
19. Buccaneers. Tight end O.J. Howard, Alabama. The Buccaneers totally believe in Jameis Winston. They proved it again here by selecting a pass-catching tight end to help their young quarterback. Howard possesses the speed and size to be a matchup nightmare.
20. Broncos. Offensive tackle Garett Bolles, Utah. No one needs to tell Broncos boss John Elway that strong line play is a key to effective QB play. Bolles is the first offensive lineman the Broncos have selected in the first round since Ryan Clady in 2008. That worked out OK.
21. Lions. Inside linebacker Jarrad Davis, Florida. Despite missing four games because of injuries, Davis still ranked among the Gators’ leaders in tackles and tackles for loss. The Lions are counting on him to provide a boost to a defense that must get better.
22. Dolphins. Defensive end Charles Harris, Missouri. Harris makes things happen off the edge: He had 28 QB knockdowns. With Pro Bowler Cameron Wake approaching the end of his career, the Dolphins acquired someone to groom as his eventual replacement.
23. Giants. Tight end Evan Engram, Ole Miss. The Giants have an abundance of riches in their receiving corps. Engram is more like a big wideout than a tight end. He joins wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard. Eli Manning should be pleased.
24. Raiders. Cornerback Gareon Conley, Ohio State. Conley became the third Buckeyes defensive back to be drafted in the opening round. He has been accused of raping a woman in Cleveland, but he has not been arrested and no charges have been filed.
25. Browns. Defensive back Jabrill Peppers, Michigan. Well, the Browns gave new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams some impressive tools to work with. After kicking off the draft by selecting Garrett, Cleveland at this spot brings in help for the secondary.
26. Falcons. Defensive end Takkarist McKinley, UCLA. The Falcons traded with the Seattle Seahawks to get a pass rusher. Vic Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks last season. No other Atlanta player had more than 4.5 sacks. That was obvious in the Super Bowl.
27. Bills. Cornerback Tre’Davious White, LSU. White and former teammate Jamal Adams, selected by the Jets with the sixth overall pick, were part of an LSU defense that gave up only 16 touchdowns last season — the fewest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
28. Cowboys. Defensive end Taco Charlton, Michigan. Set at quarterback, running back and at every spot along the offensive line, the Cowboys need to build their defense. Dallas adds a player who consistently set the edge for Michigan and made plays. Jer-ruh was smiling.
29. Browns. Tight end David Njoku, Miami. To be fair, Njoku is a good football player. He impressed at Miami. That established, how could the Browns make three first-round selections and not take a quarterback? Last time we checked, it’s still a QB league. The Browns need one.
30. Steelers. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt, Wisconsin. Pittsburgh got J.J. Watt’s little brother. T.J. won’t dominate opponents like his big bro, but he’ll make his share of big plays. And remember: The Steelers like linebackers who know how to get to the quarterback.
31. 49ers. Inside linebacker Reuben Foster, Alabama. San Francisco got pushed around too much on defense. That’s why coach Shanahan selected defensive end Solomon Thomas at third overall and Foster, Alabama’s fourth first-round pick in this draft, right here.
32. Saints. Offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin. Drew Brees is still going strong after all these years. But at 38, the Saints need to do everything they can to protect him. Ramczyk was either at the top or near it on most draft boards.