The NFL Draft begins Thursday. Here’s a look at how the first round might go (*-underclassman).
1. Los Angeles Rams
Needs: QB, WR, TE, LB, DE, S
Projected pick: QB Jared Goff, California*
Outlook: The Rams want to make a splash as they return to Los Angeles. They also badly need a quarterback. And their head coach and GM need to start winning games after four straight losing seasons. Enter Goff, the lanky three-year starter at Cal who is the most pro-ready quarterback among a questionable bunch. The Rams need a lot of help around Goff, but they have mortgaged their next two drafts. Good luck.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Needs: CB, S, LB, RB, DE, QB
Projected pick: QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
Outlook: Quarterback is not nearly the Eagles’ top need; they have a decent depth chart with Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. And they badly need to add talent to the secondary of a leaky defense that finished 28th in points against, 30th in total defense, and 28th against the pass. But the Eagles haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Donovan McNabb, and they are going all-in on Wentz, who started only 23 games at the FCS level. Good luck.
3. San Diego Chargers
Needs: CB, DE, OLB, OT, TE
Projected pick: OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame*
Outlook: The Chargers can have their pick of players and can go in a number of directions. Many mock drafts have them taking Florida State cornerback/safety Jalen Ramsey, and many have Oregon pass rusher DeForest Buckner. But they need to find another tackle to protect Philip Rivers, and Stanley excels in pass coverage and can start right away on either side.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Needs: DE, LB, CB, RT, TE
Projected pick: DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Outlook: The Cowboys have a stout defensive front anchored by Tyrone Crawford, but could use another pass rusher after losing Greg Hardy and with Demarcus Lawrence facing a four-game suspension. They have a few needs elsewhere, but none as big as pass rusher, and they get the opportunity to take Bosa, the most complete defensive lineman in the draft, who can set the edge in the run game and rush from the outside or inside.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Needs: LB, CB, DT, G, TE
Projected pick: LB Myles Jack, UCLA*
Outlook: The Jaguars don’t have many immediate needs for a team coming off a 5-11 season; they have several promising young players on offense and filled many needs in free agency. But they could use an upgrade at linebacker from the aging Paul Posluszny and Dan Skuta, and Jack is an athletic freak and immediate-impact player who would be the perfect fit — assuming his knee checks out OK.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Needs: OLB, DE, ILB, WR, RB
Projected pick: DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
Outlook: The Ravens need to find Joe Flacco more help on the outside, especially with Steve Smith (Achilles’) and Breshad Perriman (foot) uncertain coming off injuries. But they’re getting old at pass rusher (Elvis Dumervil is 31 and Terrell Suggs is 33), and need a boost on the edge anyway, as Dumervil led the team with a paltry six sacks last year. Enter Buckner, a 6-foot-7-inch freak who can rush from the outside or inside.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Needs: WR, OT, G, QB, DE, ILB, CB
Projected pick: OT Laremy Tunsil, Mississippi*
Outlook: We don’t have enough space to list all of the 49ers’ draft needs; they have a ton of holes following several high-profile retirements the last few years. And they’re a wild-card team in terms of quarterback; they could make a big trade involving Colin Kaepernick, or make a play for Paxton Lynch this high. But they could also use another cornerstone offensive tackle to protect whoever is taking snaps, and Tunsil, at one time a candidate for the No. 1 pick, is a good selection.
8. Cleveland Browns
Needs: WR, OT, TE, CB, DE
Projected pick: DB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State*
Outlook: Speaking of wild cards, who knows what the Browns are going to do now that they have a bevy of picks, a new front office from Harvard, and a bad need for a quarterback? Paxton Lynch is also a candidate at this spot, though we think it’s too high for him. Instead the Browns sprint to the podium to select Ramsey, the best defensive back in the draft who can play corner or safety and would look great opposite Joe Haden.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Needs: DE, CB, C, WR, S, G
Projected pick: DE Leonard Floyd, Georgia*
Outlook: The Bucs have a promising future, with Jameis Winston throwing for more than 4,000 yards with 22 touchdowns as a rookie, athletic skill players in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Doug Martin, and budding star linebackers in Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. But they badly need to upgrade their pass rush, and Floyd, a 6-foot-6-inch edge rusher, could be a great fit once he puts on 10-15 pounds.
10. New York Giants
Needs: DE, RT, LB, WR, TE, RB, CB
Projected pick: OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State*
Outlook: The Giants spent nearly $100 million beefing up their defense in free agency with pass rusher Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and defensive tackle Damon Harrison. Now it’s time to give Eli Manning some help, and while he could use another receiver across from Odell Beckham, he badly needs an upgrade at right tackle, and Conklin, a three-year starter at Michigan State, would be a great fit.
11. Chicago Bears
Needs: OT, CB, QB, WR, OLB
Projected pick: OLB Shaq Lawson, Clemson*
Outlook: The Bears aren’t going anywhere until they can get Jay Cutler to put all his potential together (unlikely) or figure out a different solution at quarterback. In the meantime, second-year coach John Fox will continue to retool the defense into a 3-4 scheme, with Lawson the perfect fit to play behind Lamarr Houston and Pernell McPhee as a rookie, then take over in 2017.
12. New Orleans Saints
Needs: CB, WR, G, S, RB
Projected pick: CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida*
Outlook: The Saints could use another receiver to replace Marques Colston, and their interior offensive line needs a boost. But their most immediate need is obvious: a cornerback to improve last year’s 31st-ranked pass defense that allowed a league-worst 45 touchdown passes. Hargreaves is the second-best cornerback in the draft and a great immediate fit for the Saints.
13. Miami Dolphins
Needs: RB, TE, CB, S, DE
Projected pick: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State*
Outlook: The Dolphins badly need a starting cornerback, but with Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves off the board, none are worthy of going at 13. Instead, the Dolphins fill an immediate need on offense with Elliott, inarguably the best running back in college football. He had consecutive 1,800-yard seasons and would be a great replacement for Lamar Miller.
14. Oakland Raiders
Needs: CB, DT, MLB, WR, TE
Projected pick: DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
Outlook: The Raiders have a promising young offense with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray, and Michael Crabtree. And they were active in free agency, adding guard Kelechi Osemele, linebacker Bruce Irvin, and cornerback Sean Smith. Now they need to give Khalil Mack some help with the pass rush, and Rankins could be a much-needed interior presence.
15. Tennessee Titans
Needs: OT, CB, TE, DT, OLB, S
Projected pick: CB Eli Apple, Ohio State*
Outlook: After trading down from No. 1 and collecting a boatload of picks from the Rams, the Titans should be active on the trade market throughout the draft. It would be shocking if they remained at the 15th pick, where the board doesn’t match their biggest needs: tight end and offensive tackle. But they also need a cornerback, and Apple has great size (6-1) and a lot of potential.
16. Detroit Lions
Needs: DT, DE, OLB, WR, OT, CB
Projected pick: DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama*
Outlook: The Lions suffered a huge loss with the retirement of wide receiver Calvin Johnson, but they replaced him immediately (kind of) with Marvin Jones. Their biggest needs remain on defense, where they need to find pass-rush help opposite Ziggy Ansah and a defensive tackle to replace Ndamukong Suh. There are questions about Robinson’s maturity, but he is a top-10 talent.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Needs: OT, G, TE, OLB, S
Projected pick: OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State
Outlook: It’s win-or-else time for the Falcons front office, and after spending several high draft picks and millions of dollars in free agency on the defense in recent years, it’s time to focus again on the offense. The Falcons have a big hole at right tackle, and can boost their line immediately with Decker, a 6-foot-7-incher with the physicality to play right away.
18. Indianapolis Colts
Needs: OLB, DT, ILB, G, DE, TE, RB
Projected pick: G/T Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M*
Outlook: Everyone saw the Colts’ flaws the last two seasons: They are weak in the trenches. Most notably, they couldn’t protect the quarterback, with Andrew Luck suffering shoulder and rib injuries last year and Matt Hasselbeck getting tossed around like a rag doll each week. Ifedi is a big, powerful, versatile lineman who can play right tackle or either guard spot.
19. Buffalo Bills
Needs: LB, DE, TE, QB, WR, S
Projected pick: LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
Outlook: The Bills first and foremost need to figure out their quarterback situation — whether the answer is Tyrod Taylor or someone else (Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook are wild cards). But coach Rex Ryan needs some linebackers and pass-rush help for his defense, and can’t do much better than Ragland, the latest instinctive, three-down linebacker to come out of Alabama.
20. New York Jets
Needs: QB, OT, WR, DT, ILB
Projected pick: QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Outlook: The Jets take the bait! Ever-desperate for a quarterback, the Jets take a chance on Lynch, the lanky (almost 6-7) three-year starter from Memphis who will be over-drafted given the importance of his position and the scarcity of prospects. The Jets could badly use an offensive tackle and linebacker help, but they might as well keep picking quarterbacks until they get it right.
21. Washington Redskins
Needs: ILB, TE, C, OLB, RB, S,
Projected pick: C Ryan Kelly, Alabama
Outlook: Washington’s draft outlook changed dramatically and unexpectedly last week when it inked star cornerback Josh Norman to a five-year mega-deal, removing a major need from the board. They could use help at linebacker and tight end, but their biggest hole is at center, and Kelly is head and shoulders above the rest of the prospects and can anchor the line for years.
22. Houston Texans
Needs: WR, C, TE, DT, S, LB
Projected pick: WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame*
Outlook: The Texans got their quarterback this offseason in Brock Osweiler, and now need to surround him with talent. Having a top-three receiver in DeAndre Hopkins will help, but now it’s time to get Osweiler a home-run threat, and none is better than the speedy Fuller, who clocked the fastest 40 time by a receiver at the draft combine (4.35) and caught 14 touchdown passes last year.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Needs: WR, G, DE, S, OLB
Projected pick: WR Laquon Treadwell, Mississippi*
Outlook: The Vikings could use more pass-rush help, and Clemson’s Kevin Dodd or Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah will be tempting here. But they badly need to get Teddy Bridgewater a wide receiver; he has only Jarius Wright, Stefon Diggs, and first-round bust Cordarrelle Patterson. Treadwell has the big body (6-2, 221) that the Vikings covet.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Needs: WR, DE, CB, S, OT
Projected pick: WR Corey Coleman, Baylor*
Outlook: A wide receiver run! The Bengals need another pass rusher to develop, and their secondary is getting a bit long in the tooth, but wide receiver is an obvious need after they lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency (and added only Brandon LaFell). Coleman is a speedster who caught 20 touchdown passes last year and will be a nice complement to LaFell and A.J. Green.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
Needs: CB, NT, TE, OT, OLB, S
Projected pick: S Keanu Neal, Florida*
Outlook: The Steelers should once again have one of the best offenses in the NFL, with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell leading the way. But their secondary has been a mess for several years (ranked 30th last year), and it’s high time for them to replace former strong safety Troy Polamalu. Neal is a great fit as a physical, in-the-box safety.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Needs: OT, RB, C, DT, OLB, CB
Projected pick: OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana
Outlook: The Seahawks need pass-rushing help across the line, and it’s tempting to take Kevin Dodd, Jonathan Bullard, or Robert Nkemdiche here. But Russell Wilson took 45 sacks last year (his third straight year with 40-plus), and the Seahawks could use Spriggs, an athletic tackle with a big frame, to help protect Wilson’s blind side and keep him healthy.
27. Green Bay Packers
Needs: ILB, OLB, RB, DT, TE, G
Projected pick: DT Kenny Clark, UCLA*
Outlook: The Packers defense was a bit leaky in 2015, finishing 21st against the run and allowing 4.5 yards per carry. With nose tackle Letroy Guion more suited for a backup role, the Packers would do well to take Clark, an excellent 6-foot-2-inch, 314-pound line-clogging run defender who had an excellent combine and totaled six sacks last season.
28. Kansas City Chiefs
Needs: WR, G, OLB, DE, ILB, CB
Projected pick: LB Darron Lee, Ohio State*
Outlook: The Chiefs are perpetually looking for a wide receiver, but they can grab one in a later round. They need interior line help, but this pick is a little too high to take the available guards. Instead they grab Lee, a speedy, versatile linebacker who can rush the passer or drop into coverage and can be groomed to replace inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, who turns 34 this year.
29. New England Patriots
Needs: RB, OT, DT, CB, DE, WR
Projected pick: Forfeited
Outlook: The Patriots could use a swing guard/tackle like Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair here. Six-foot-2-inch TCU receiver Josh Doctson would look good in their offense. Versatile Florida defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard could provide good depth at several positions. Houston’s William Jackson could be groomed to be a No. 2 cornerback. Instead, the Patriots will miss out on several talented players.
30. Arizona Cardinals
Needs: G, OLB, WR, QB, CB
Projected pick: OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
Outlook: Carson Palmer isn’t going to play forever, so the Cardinals need to start thinking about drafting a quarterback, perhaps as soon as this year. But they have more immediate needs with their first-round pick, most notably at 3-4 edge rusher, even with the addition of Chandler Jones. Spence had drug suspensions in college but is high-risk/high-reward after playing great at the Senior Bowl.
31. Carolina Panthers
Needs: OT, CB, DE, RB, DE, S
Projected pick: DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson
Outlook: Last year’s NFC champions have a surprising number of holes, especially at cornerback after they dumped Josh Norman last week. But if that taught us anything, it’s that the Panthers value the front seven the most, and the 6-foot-5-inch Dodd, who happens to be a local kid, would be a great fit for a team that needs another edge rusher opposite Kony Ealy.
32. Denver Broncos
Needs: QB, G, OLB, ILB, S
Projected pick: QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
Outlook: The Broncos need help along the interior offensive line, could use an edge pass rusher to develop behind 33-year-old DeMarcus Ware, and need to replace departed inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. But they also need a quarterback, and even if they trade for Colin Kaepernick, they will still take a shot on Cook, the three-year starter and winningest QB in Michigan State history.