Assessing the first round following final pro days
Running back may be Packers’ focus
LSU’s April 5 showcase was the last major event on this year’s pro day circuit, which brings another logical waypoint to re-assess the first-round of the NFL draft board: 1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: He’s been the presumptive top pick since the college bowl season ended and may have only cemented his status after embracing his pro day — even with virtually nothing to gain by participating — and blazing another 4.6 40-yard dash time. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, no Browns player has recorded more than 14 in a season, perhaps one more reason the franchise has yet to reach a Super Bowl. Garrett has the tools to be a 20-sack guy.
2. San Francisco 49ers — Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: One of the draft’s cleaner players, Thomas is productive (8½ sacks, 14 tackles for loss in 2016) and versatile enough to move around the line of scrimmage. Despite investing their last two Round 1 picks in defensive linemen, the Niners had the worst defense in the NFL last year and could not stop anyone on the ground. Thomas could make an immediate splash as a three-down difference maker. 3. Chicago Bears — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State: The Bears haven’t really had an impact safety since Mike Brown was in his prime more than a decade ago. Hooker is a thief who could be a huge presence in a division where the ball is in the air so frequently. He had seven interceptions in 2016 (one fewer than the entire Bears defense) and returned three for TDs, one more pick-six than Chicago has managed in the past three seasons. 4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: He’s being mentioned as the
best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson was a first rounder a decade ago. Peterson led the Vikings to the playoffs four times, never with the same starting quarterback. Fournette would surely alleviate the offensive load on QB Blake Bortles, yet might even make the Jags a bona fide contender even if the franchise ultimately decides it must make a change under center.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams) — Jamal Adams, S, LSU: He blistered a 4.33 40 at the Tigers’ pro day, a spectacular time for a safety and further evidence of his ability to streak across the field to make a huge hit or break up a pass in a deep quadrant. Adams’ reputation as a leader might also make him a coveted addition to a young team that could seek a foil to QB Marcus Mariota’s understated style. 6. New York Jets — O.J.
Howard, TE, Alabama: This team hasn’t had much production from its tight ends since Dustin Keller was a first rounder in 2008. Howard could remedy that while serving as a reliable option for an offense that seems destined for a youth movement under center. He’s also got the ability to replace some of the production lost with the defection of uber-sized WR Brandon Marshall while bolstering the blocking of an O-line now in flux. 7. Los Angeles Chargers — Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama: Think new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley wouldn’t love the opportunity to deploy Allen, who gobbled up awards as the nation’s top college defender in 2016, at all points of the Bolts’ Dline in conjunction with outside rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram? Allen’s quickness will frustrate guards and centers, and he’ll win plenty of one-onone battles with most tackles — often by virtue of non-stop effort. 8. Carolina Panthers — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: His performance in the SEC was off the charts, including 32 sacks and 52 tackles for loss in three seasons. GM Dave Gettleman loves a deep and talented D-line, and that could be a bigger consideration this year after the trade of DE Kony Ealy, DE Charles Johnson’s recent back surgery and DE Julius Peppers’ age (37). And in a division with so many good quarterbacks, you can never generate enough pressure. 9. Cincinnati Bengals — Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama: He arrives at the ball like a sledgehammer, and Marvin Lewis hasn’t had a linebacker with this much sideline-to-sideline range since he coached Ray Lewis. And with Rey Maualuga already gone and Vontaze Burfict and Kevin Minter only under contract through the upcoming season, it’s a good time for Cincinnati to address the position. 10. Buffalo Bills — Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State: After Stephon Gilmore bolted to become Tom Brady’s teammate, the Bills find themselves needing premier corner in hopes of slowing Brady and Co. the next time they face New England. Lattimore emerged as a star in 2016 after overcoming a history of hamstring issues and is the most compelling talent at his position this year. 11. New Orleans Saints — Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: Probably no player has improved his draft stock more in the last three months than Reddick. He’s a highly athletic, disruptive player who posted 35½ tackles for loss and 14½ sacks over the last two seasons as a defensive end for the Owls. At 6-1, 237 pounds, he’ll be a linebacker in the NFL, but his skill set should make him a threedown player who should be an effective blitzer or edge presence in sub packages. 12. Browns (from Eagles) — Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North
Carolina: His accuracy, 70% over the last two seasons, could be the attribute that brings him home to Ohio. Trubisky’s TD-toINT ratio (36:6) over the same span also impresses. But his overall inexperience (just 13 career starts) combined with a lack of snaps taken under center means he’s unlikely to make the Dawg Pound forget about Bernie Kosar in 2017.
13. Arizona Cardinals — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan: He’s big (6-3, 213), smooth and prolific, amassing a Football Bowl Subdivision record 5,278 career receiving yards. Working on the boundary, Davis could initially be a nice complement to Larry Fitzgerald before eventually supplanting him as the team’s top target. 14. Eagles (from Vikings) — Kevin King, CB, Washington: Philly has to reload at corner,
and a 6-3, 200-pounder like King could be the right antidote in a division populated with massive receivers like Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Terrelle Pryor.
15. Indianapolis Colts — Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA: Both of Indy’s top pass rushers from 2016, Erik Walden (free agent) and Robert Mathis (retired), are gone, and the defense needed to get younger on the edge anyway. McKinley is relentless in his pursuit of quarterbacks and plenty athletic, a nice combination at this position. 16. Baltimore Ravens — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: As USA TODAY Sports NFL columnist Jarrett Bell notes, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome doesn’t exactly have the Midas touch when it comes to picking receivers. But Williams could change that for a team that struggled to find the end zone in 2016 and now must fill the void created by Steve Smith’s retirement. 17. Washington Redskins — Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan: His ability to defend the slot, play linebacker in sub packages and theoretically ease into a starting role on the back end seems to be the kind of skill set a team that finished 25th defending the pass could use. And don’t rule out the possibility of Peppers getting some touches on an evolving offense that could use more splash plays out of the backfield. 18. Titans — John Ross, WR, Washington: He and his 4.22 40 speed just seem like a seamless fit for a team that loves to run the ball — and could benefit from Ross’ ability to stretch defenses — and also needs a shiftier target to complement Mariota’s preferred option, TE Delanie Walker. 19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Garett Bolles, OT, Utah: Nothing should be more important to the Bucs than safeguarding QB Jameis Winston. And though revamping the running game is one way to do that, Tampa can dip into a deep tailback
class later. First, GM Jason Licht should lock down Winston’s blind side, which has too often been exposed by Donovan Smith’s struggles as a pass blocker. It might be time to move him inside and put a more nimble player like Bolles at left tackle. 20. Denver Broncos — Ryan
Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: LT Russell Okung left in free agency, and the Broncos don’t appear to have an in-house replacement of similar ability. They need to shore up the blocking if QBs Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch are going to have solid opportunities to continue their development. 21. Detroit Lions — Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: No team in the NFC had fewer sacks than Detroit’s 26. Harris is lightning quick off the edge and could take some game plan focus off DE Ziggy Ansah, who had a horrible 2016 season. 22. Miami Dolphins — Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State: Only the Browns allowed more TD passes among AFC teams in
2016 than Miami’s 30. Taking Conley would give the Dolphins’ nickel package an immediate boost while he matures into a potential No. 1 corner. 23. New York Giants — Da
vid Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.): A gifted 20-year-old who’s poised to extend the Hurricanes’ proud lineage at the position. A New Jersey native, Njoku could stop the revolving door the Giants have had at tight end since Jeremy Shockey’s heyday while making teams pay for double covering WR Odell Beckham Jr. 24. Oakland Raiders — Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida: The Raiders are in desperate need of a talent infusion at the second level of their 26th-ranked defense. Davis is an athlete and leader who should quickly become the kind of core player who never has to leave the field. 25. Houston Texans — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: With Tony Romo apparently no longer an option, the Texans must now look to an alternative solution for their perpetual quarterbacking issues. Hous-
ton is good enough to allow Watson to acclimate behind Tom Savage and could even shield him from too much responsibility if he was pressed into service as a rookie.
26. Seattle Seahawks — Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky: Offensive line maestro Tom Cable could try Lamp at his college position, tackle, or line him up at guard, where many scouts project he’ll thrive in the NFL. Regardless of where he played, Lamp would strengthen one of the league’s least effective lines.
27. Kansas City Chiefs — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Ala
bama: Opponents have no reason to challenge CB Marcus Peters when they can pile up the profits targeting the other side of Kansas City’s secondary. Humphrey’s could help stop the bleeding as a No. 2 corner before possibly harnessing his talents and becoming a performer close to Peters’ caliber. 28. Dallas Cowboys — Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU: Time to start replenishing a second-
ary agency. that was White decimatedcould immedi-by free ately challenging for a starting position while also contributing right away as a dangerous punt returner. 29. Green Bay Packers — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: He could stabilize a ground game that was derailed by Eddie Lacy’s inconsistency and injuries. Cook is an accomplished runner and receiver capable of doing everything in the Pack’s playbook while allowing Ty Montgomery to slide into the change-of-pace role that might better serve a converted receiver.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers — Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: His buzz continues to build after his own impressive pro day showing. Mahomes has all the physical gifts that make NFL coaches salivate. But he also might need two full years to learn how a pro offense operates. This could be the perfect scenario given Ben Roethlisberger’s age (35), retirement musings (which he’s finally put to rest for 2017) and propensity to get injured. 31. Atlanta Falcons — Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: OLB Vic Beasley paced the NFL in 2016 with 15½ sacks but no teammate had more than five — a problem that was accentuated when the Falcons failed to generate any heat on Tom Brady during the Patriots’ Super Bowl comeback. Charlton registered 10 sacks last year, and his 6-6 frame enables him to bat down balls when he can’t reach quarterbacks.
32. Saints (from New England Patriots) — Christian
McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: Sure, it would make sense for the Saints to continue rebuilding their defense. But with WR Brandin Cooks and RB Tim Hightower now gone, could they resist picking up a weapon like McCaffrey, who will rekindle memories of Reggie Bush in New Orleans. Not only might he be optimal as aging QB Drew Brees looks to spread the field underneath, but McCaffrey could ignite a return game that’s given the Saints little spark lately.
Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen goes through pre-draft workout drills. Allen is expected to be the first defensive tackle taken in the NFL draft and will likely be a top 10 pick.
Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes had an excellent pro day and has moved up the draft board. He could be a fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 30 as an understudy to Ben Roethlisberger.