It’s a deep draft for defense and the Browns end up with two of the best with their two first-round picks
It’s no secret that the Browns’ search for a franchise quarterback remains atop the to-do list, and it’s not from lack of trying. For different reasons, first-round picks Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel didn’t work out. And Robert Griffin III — signed last offseason — doesn’t look as if he’ll recapture the form that made him 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Still, despite the obvious needs, the Browns won’t force the issue as they have in the past. Instead of pulling the trigger on Mitchell Trubisky — considered the best of an average bunch — Cleveland instead uses its two first-round picks to stock a defense that ranked 31st last season, according to Football Outsiders.
Myles Garrett was a freak show at the combine, which confirmed a dominating junior season at Texas A&M. But the Browns also bolster the defensive line with Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, who slips out of the top 10 after a ho-hum combine performance.
Meanwhile, the Eagles flip the pick they got from the Vikings for Sam Bradford into one of the most explosive players in the draft: Washington burner John Ross. Philly was reportedly in the running for Brandin Cooks, but Ross could end up being the better player. A few picks later, the Ravens pass up the best tight end in O.J. Howard and instead take his Alabama teammate, inside linebacker Reuben Foster, who slips out of the top 15 after he was sent home early from the combine.
At the bottom of the first round, the Packers draft Clay Matthews 2.0 to play along side Clay Matthews 1.0, and the Steelers, in desperate need of an edge rusher, find a diamond in the rough out of Youngstown State.
1. Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: There isn’t a quarterback worthy of the No. 1 pick, so instead of forcing the issue, the Browns take the freakishly athletic Garrett, who would immediately upgrade Cleveland’s pass rush, which ranked 21st last season.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: Kyle Shanahan is the new quarterback whisperer and the 49ers are in desperate need of a quarterback. Trubisky is the best of the bunch in a decidedly less-than-spectacular class. The hope is that Shanahan, who replaces Chip Kelly, can do with Trubisky what he did with Robert Griffin III during his rookie season in Washington — and then immediately have Trubisky transition into Matt Ryan last season (skipping right over that forgettable 2013 season for RG3 and Shanny).
Jamal Adams, S, LSU: Silver lining to being terrible on both sides of the ball: It’s hard to go wrong with whomever you select. And Adams, who might be the safest pick in the draft (a fantastic combine confirmed as much), can play in the box or deep centerfield. The Bears have bigger needs at quarterback and cornerback, but they’re expected to pursue Mike Glennon and Stephon Gilmore in free agency.
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: The Jaguars are in desperate need of a pass rusher and there’s an argument that Thomas is the best defensive player in this draft. He’d join a defense that drafted Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack last season and Dante Fowler in 2015.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles)
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State: The Titans would’ve loved Adams, but they’ll settle for Lattimore, who wouldn’t take long to find his way into the starting lineup and bolster a Tennessee pass defense that ranked 26th last season. Lattimore, who has a history of hamstring injuries, suffered a hip flexor injury at the combine, which could raise concerns about his durability. That said, it’s hard to overlook his athleticism.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: We feel like we’ve seen this movie before (hi, Geno Smith!) inasmuch as the Jets took a flier on a physically gifted quarterback who needed a few years to grow into the position. It never happened with Smith, and the Geno era is officially over. Watson is better than Smith at this point in his career, but he shouldn’t be rushed onto the field. If the Jets can be patient, Watson could be worth the gamble. Not-so-fun fact: This would be the fourth quarterback the team has drafted in the last five years.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State: The Chargers were a top-10 defensive unit a season ago, and Hooker will make them better. He’ll complement 2016 first-rounder Joey Bosa, who was a terror to block when he finally ended his holdout. Bosa should be even better in 2017, which means more opportunities for the secondary — and Hooker — to capitalize on turnovers.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: The Panthers could certainly stand to bolster the offensive line, but the thought of a backfield of Cam Newton and Fournette is an intriguing one, even after Fournette had a so-so combine.
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan: The Bengals drafted Tyler Boyd last year, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the loss of Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, who had great 2016 seasons in Atlanta and Detroit. Corey Davis (6-3, 209) and he would immediately upgrade a passing offense that already includes A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Boyd.
10. Buffalo Bills
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: The temptation is to take a quarterback, but the Bills will no doubt be wary after the whole EJ Manuel debacle. Instead, Buffalo adds another wildly talented skill-position player in Mike Williams, who will join Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy to bolster an offense that finished 10th in 2016.
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: Here’s all you need to know: 30th, 32nd, 31st — that’s where the Saints’ defense has finished the last three years. So it stands to reason that they continue to add defensive playmakers early in the draft, which is why defensive end Taco Charlton — who has drawn comparisons to Chandler Jones — is the pick here.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)
Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama: Allen falls to the Browns after a pedestrian combine. There are also the multiple shoulder surgeries that could drop him out of the top 10. Still, Allen was unblockable at times at Alabama and had 28.5 sacks as a three-year starter. Cleveland has myriad needs, and bolstering the defensive line is high on the list.
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington: The Cardinals need help in the secondary and Jones is a rangy cornerback who plays like a receiver when the ball is in the air. He’s been compared to Marcus Peters, the Chiefs’ 2015 first-round pick.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)
John Ross, WR, Washington: It’s no secret that the Eagles are on the hunt for a playmaking wide receiver. They’ve been linked to Saints WR Brandin Cooks but Ross could be an upgrade. He’s only 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, but what he doesn’t have in height, he makes up for in burst and elusiveness. Ross had 17 receiving touchdowns last season and is also a threat on special teams, averaging 24.4 yards as a kick returner during his career. Oh, and he ran a all-time best 4.22 40-yard dash at the combine.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: Thanks in part to Ryan Grigson’s mismanagement, the Colts have many needs, Barnett fills an obvious one. He was stout against the run throughout his college career, but his 34 career sacks — including a best-in-the-nation 13 in 2016 — show that he evolved during his three years with the Vols.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama: Game-changing inside linebacker that plays with an edge? Foster, who was sent home early from the combine, would be a perfect fit in Baltimore. He’s a top-10 talent and the Ravens won’t be bothered by what Foster describes as a “misunderstanding” that led to his early dismissal in Indy.
Jabrill Peppers, S-LB, Michigan: Peppers is a safety-linebacker hybrid who fills an obvious need in the Redskins’ secondary. He’s so versatile, in fact, that some scouts think he can play on both sides of the ball, and return kicks too.
18. Tennessee Titans
Budda Baker, S, Washington: With the cornerback need taken care of with Lattimore, Baker makes a lot of sense here, assuming the Titans can find a playmaking wide receiver in free agency or through a trade.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: The Bucs have a glaring need in the backfield and should Cook fall this far, expect them to spring to the podium to submit his name. The dynamic Cook — who can dazzle as both a runner and a receiver — could go a long way in making life easier for Jameis Winston.
20. Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: The Broncos’ offensive line ranked 24th in pass protection and Ramczyk will change that. The task becomes even more important as the Broncos continue their youth movement at quarterback. Last year, it was Trevor Siemian, and in 201717 it could be 2016 first-rounder Paxton’s Lynch time to lead the offense.
21. Detroit Lions
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: Reddick is a former walk-on who showed up at Temple weighing 185 pounds. He blazed a 4.52 40 at the combine and that, coupled with a dominant 2016 season (9.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss), has NFL teams taking notice.
22. Miami Dolphins
Takkarist McKinley, OLB/DE, UCLA: An exceptional athlete who is still rough around the edges, McKinley registered nine sacks last season and for a Dolphins team that ranked 31st in pass rush a year ago, McKinley fills an obvious need. Offseason surgery will keep McKinley sidelines until late summer, but he’ll be worth the wait.
23. New York Giants
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: The Giants had just one skill-position player with a positive grade by the end of last season (surprise of surprises, it was Odell Beckham Jr.), which is a clear sign that they need to surround Eli Manning with more playmakers. Victor Cruz is gone and the expectation is that Sterling Shepard will improve, but a playmaking tight end wouldn’t hurt either. If Howard is still on the board here, the Giants won’t hesitate to take him.
24. Oakland Raiders
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: The Raiders ranked 25th in pass defense last season and Humphrey is considered one of the most physical cornerbacks in the draft. His father, Bobby Humphrey, was a first-round draft pick of the Broncos in 1989.
25. Houston Texans
Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama: Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes is an option here — because, well, Brock Osweiler — but Robinson is the less risky choice and fills another big need on this team: The offensive line. Only tackle Duane Brown and center Greg Mancz had positive grades last season, according to PFF, and Robinson’s skills, especially in the running game, would be a welcome addition in Houston.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida: Offensive line makes sense here, but Wilson is a physical cornerback who is also good in run defense. At 6-1, 211, more than one scout thinks Wilson’s future could be at safety.
27. Kansas City Chiefs
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State: With Derrick Johnson set to turn 35 next season, McMillian is an athletic playmaker who could provide a smooth transition once Johnson calls it a career. Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham is also an option here, but a lackluster combine could have personnel types revisiting his game tape.
28. Dallas Cowboys
Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn: For as good as the Cowboys were a season ago — mostly due to the emergence of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott — the defensive was average and the defensive line was only slightly better. Lawson racked up nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss last season, and has an explosive first step. He’s also strong as an ox, as evidenced by his combine-best 35 reps of 225 pounds.
29. Green Bay Packers
T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin: With Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Datone Jones headed for free agency, the Packers are in the market for pass rushers. And what’s better than having one Clay Matthews? Having two — Watt (yep, he’s J.J.’s younger brother) has drawn comparisons to Matthews. Measuring 6-5, 243, Watt ran a 4.69 40 at the combine, and finished last season with 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State: Rivers bolstered his stock at the combine, which follows an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. And in case there’s any doubt about the Steelers’ interest, know this: The team formally interviewed Rivers at both events. The team also has been known to take fliers on small-school players, most recently, 2016 third-round pick defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who started 13 games last season.
31. Atlanta Falcons
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: The Falcons lacked a pass rush for much of 2016 (though you wouldn’t have known it to watch them terrorize Tom Brady for two-plus quarters in the Super Bowl) and Harris adds that to a young defense that got better as the season progressed.
David Njoku, TE, Miami: Martellus Bennett is headed for free agency and Rob Gronkowski is again coming off an injury. Njoku is an unfinished product but his athleticism is through the roof. So while his route running needs work, he has speed to stretch the field and open things up for the other Patriots’ pass catchers.
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