Ben Volin’s mock NFL draft
1. Arizona Cardinals
Needs: WR, TE, G/T, DT, DE, OLB, CB
Projected pick: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Comment: The Cardinals have a ton of needs, and, frankly, quarterback isn’t anywhere near the top of the list. But quarterback is the only position that matters, and if you have a chance to take an electric athlete and playmaker like Murray, you go for it.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Needs: WR, G, DE, OLB, CB, S
Projected pick: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Comment: The 49ers have invested a lot in their defensive line: three straight first-round picks on Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas, plus a big trade and new contract for Dee Ford. But you can never have enough pass rushers, and Bosa has the potential to be dominant like his brother Joey.
3. New York Jets
Needs: WR, RB, edge rusher, OT, DT, CB
Projected pick: OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky
Comment: The Jets need another wide receiver for Sam Darnold, but this pick is far too early for one. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is tempting here, but the Jets badly need an edge rusher. They would rather Bosa fall to No. 3, but will gladly take Allen, who had 17 sacks last year.
4. Oakland Raiders
Needs: WR, TE, RB, DT, DE, LB, CB
Projected pick: DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Comment: The Raiders need a pass rusher to replace Khalil Mack, and are probably praying that either Bosa or Allen falls to No. 4. They also could use a speedy linebacker, even after signing Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict this offseason But they have a need at defensive tackle, too, and Williams is too good to pass up.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Needs: WR, RB, G, DE, LB, CB, S
Projected pick: LB Devin White, Louisiana State
Comment: The Bucs love speedy, ball-hawking linebackers, and have a hole in their lineup after losing Kwon Alexander to the 49ers. Enter White, an undersized but blazing-fast linebacker who will rack up a ton of tackles.
6. New York Giants
Needs: QB, DE, DT, LB, CB
Projected pick: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
Comment: It just doesn’t feel like the Giants are ready to move on from Eli Manning yet, and if they take a quarterback at No. 6, there would be tremendous pressure on them to play the rookie as soon as things go south with Manning. But their defensive line is a mess, and they will take the best defensive tackle or edge rusher available.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Needs: TE, OT, DT, DE, S
Projected pick: OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida
Comment: The Jaguars need reinforcements at tackle with Cam Robinson coming off a torn ACL and Jermey Parmell released for salary-cap reasons. Taylor has the size to play either tackle spot and protect the Jaguars’ shiny new investment, Nick Foles.
8. Detroit Lions
Needs: G, TE, DE, DT, S, LB
Projected pick: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
Comment: The Lions already spent big money on Trey Flowers to strengthen the defense. Now they have to put more weapons around Matthew Stafford and improve their 25th-ranked scoring offense. They signed tight end Jesse James in free agency, but that shouldn’t preclude them from taking Hockenson, one of the most complete tight ends to come out in years.
9. Buffalo Bills
Needs: OT, RB, DT, DE, CB
Projected pick: OT Jonah Williams, Alabama
Comment: The offseason has been all about putting better pieces around young quarterback Josh Allen. They signed center Mitch Morse and receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley in free agency, but still have a big hole at one of their tackle spots. Enter Williams, one of the safest picks in the draft — a plug-and-play rookie at either tackle spot.
10. Denver Broncos
Needs: QB, WR, G, TE, DE, LB, S
Projected pick: QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Comment: John Elway’s quest to find the replacement for Peyton Manning continues into its fourth year. The Broncos traded for Joe Flacco, but he’s more likely a one-year seat-warmer than a long-term answer. We’ll see whether the Broncos have to trade up to get Haskins, but he is the big, strong-armed, pocket quarterback that Elway craves.
11. Cincinnati Bengals
Needs: QB, WR, G, OT, DE, LB, S, CB
Projected pick: LB Devin Bush, Michigan
Comment: The Bengals have a ton of needs as they start over under new coach Zac Taylor. And they are a dark horse candidate to draft a quarterback, with the team’s progress seemingly stalled under Andy Dalton. But they need a linebacker after getting rid of Vontaze Burfict, and Bush makes a lot of sense as a speedy tackling machine.
12. Green Bay Packers
Needs: TE, G, RB, LB, S
Projected pick: G/T Cody Ford, Oklahoma
Comment: The draft board doesn’t quite fit the Packers’ needs here. The top two linebackers are gone, and this pick is a little too high for a running back, safety, or tight end Noah Fant. But every team can always use more offensive line help, and the Packers draft a versatile player in Ford, an unusual athlete for his size (329 pounds).
13. Miami Dolphins
Needs: QB, OT, G, TE, DE, DT, CB
Projected pick: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Comment: The Dolphins are rebuilding, and could go in a million directions. They are a team to watch in case Kyler Murray drops, but I don’t think they’ll be in on the other quarterbacks. Finding a pass rusher is a must, with Cam Wake gone and Charles Harris struggling. Ferrell is a safe, consistent edge presence who can rush the passer or defend the run — perfect for Brian Flores’s new defense.
14. Atlanta Falcons
Needs: G, RB, CB, LB, DT
Projected pick: CB Greedy Williams, Louisiana State
Comment: The Falcons have to beef up their 25th-ranked scoring defense to match their top-10 offense. Defensive tackle is one need, and Clemson’s Christian Wilkins is an awfully tempting choice here. But the Falcons have a bigger need at cornerback. Dan Quinn loves those lanky, press-man cornerbacks, and Williams would be a solid fit in the Falcons’ scheme.
15. Washington Redskins
Needs: QB, WR, G/C, TE, CB, DT, S
Projected pick: QB Drew Lock, Missouri
Comment: Alex Smith probably is done playing football, so the Redskins need to find a new quarterback, even after trading for Case Keenum. They should be in on Murray, Haskins, and Josh Rosen, but ultimately will land on Lock, who has a strong arm and will be locked into a cost-effective four-year deal. Washington also loves making a splash with receivers in the first round, so Mississippi’s D.K. Metcalf feels like a possibility here.
16. Carolina Panthers
Needs: WR, G, TE, RB, DE, CB
Projected pick: DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
Comment: The Panthers are looking to add more weapons on offense to surround Cam Newton, and could use help in the secondary. But their pass rush has a big hole after losing Julius Peppers to retirement, and Gary is a great talent, dropping to 16 only because of a reported shoulder injury that could hamper him as a rookie but isn’t supposed to be a long-term issue.
17. New York Giants (from Cleveland)
Needs: QB, DE, DT, LB, CB
Projected pick: DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Comment: Giants again bypass a quarterback, opting to improve their defense rather than finding someone to put the heat on Eli Manning. A recently reported heart issue led several teams to downgrade Sweat or even remove him from their boards completely, but the Giants need pass-rushing help, and they get a top-eight talent at No. 17.
18. Minnesota Vikings
Needs: G, TE, DE, S
Projected pick: TE Noah Fant, Iowa
Comment: The Vikings’ 19th-ranked scoring offense was one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL last season. They badly need interior offensive line help, but those players can be found in the middle rounds. The Vikings still have Kyle Rudolph at tight end, but he is nearing the end, and Fant is an elite athlete and receiver.
19. Tennessee Titans
Needs: TE, DT, edge rusher, LB
Projected pick: DE/OLB Brian Burns, Florida State
Comment: The Titans need to improve their offense, but that falls mostly on Marcus Mariota. They also need to improve their pass rush, even after signing Cam Wake in free agency, and Burns would be a solid fit. He’s not polished against the run yet, but has great speed and can be a situational pass rusher right away.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
Needs: WR, OT, TE, DE, LB, CB
Projected pick: CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple
Comment: The Steelers need a replacement for wide receiver Antonio Brown, but they have a tremendous track record of finding talent in the second round and later in the draft. The defense needs more work at all three levels, and they go for the best defensive player available — in this case Ya-Sin, who had a great week at the Senior Bowl and could be one of the small-school gems of the draft.
21. Seattle Seahawks
Needs: G, DE, DT, LB, CB, S
Projected pick: CB Byron Murphy, Washington
Comment: The Seahawks desperately need a pass rusher after trading Frank Clark. And with two first-round picks in the 20s, they are a candidate to trade up and snag one. But in this draft, with all of the top pass rushers off the board, they fill another need at cornerback. Murphy has the size the Seahawks covet, and gets bonus points for being a local kid.
22. Baltimore Ravens
Needs: WR, RB, G, DL, edge rusher, LB, CB
Projected pick: DL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
Comment: The Ravens are rebuilding their defense after letting their best linebacker (C.J. Mosley) and two top pass rushers (Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs) leave in free agency. The Ravens probably would prefer a true edge rusher here, but Jones has the speed to be a great interior pass rusher and the size to be a force on the end in the run game.
23. Houston Texans
Needs: OT, G, TE, CB, DT
Projected pick: OT Andre Dillard, Washington State
Comment: The Texans have Deshaun Watson coming into his own as a superstar, and a veteran defense that has only one or two years left together. The one major hole is on the offensive line, and the Texans snag Dillard, perhaps the best pass blocker in the draft, to be a Day 1 starter at either tackle spot.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago)
Needs: WR, TE, RB, DE, LB, CB
Projected pick: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
Comment: The Raiders have needs across the board, but one of their most glaring is at running back, with Marshawn Lynch retiring and no obvious fill-in candidate on the roster. Enter Jacobs, a three-down running back who averaged 5.3 yards per carry last year, caught 20 passes, and scored 14 touchdowns for the Tide.
25. Philadelphia Eagles
Needs: G, RB, DE, LB, CB, DT
Projected pick: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Comment: The Eagles have a glaring hole at middle linebacker, but there isn’t a great candidate here, and they can still find a starter in the second or third round. Instead they draft Wilkins, a Framingham native, to replace Timmy Jernigan and be a disrupter in the middle of the defense.
26. Indianapolis Colts
Needs: G/T, WR, edge rusher, DT, CB
Projected pick: DL Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
Comment: It’s tempting to mock a wide receiver here to give Andrew Luck another weapon. But the Colts’ biggest needs are on defense, especially cornerback and defensive line. They stay in-state to nab Tillery, who has the size and length to play inside or on the edge.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)
Needs: WR, TE, QB, RB, DE, LB, CB
Projected pick: WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi
Comment: Sure, the Raiders just spent big money on Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams in free agency. But they still need depth at receiver, and they race to the podium to draft Metcalf, a big, physical deep threat who was the talk of the Combine. This is one pick that Al Davis would have loved.
28. Los Angeles Chargers
Needs: OT, G, TE, DT, LB, CB, S
Projected pick: S Darnell Savage, Maryland
Comment: The Chargers are a dark horse for a quarterback — a drafted player or Josh Rosen — but here they stick to their most immediate need and go with Savage, who can replace departed free safety Jahleel Addae. Savage can play center field or slot cornerback. An offensive lineman is a possibility here, too.
29. Seattle Seahawks (from Kansas City)
Needs: G, DE, DT, LB, CB, S
Projected pick: DE Zach Allen, Boston College
Comment: This is probably a reach for Allen, who is more likely a second-round prospect. But the Seahawks don’t pick again until the third round (84th), and desperately need a defensive end to replace Frank Clark. Allen is big and physical and would be a good fit in Pete Carroll’s defense. The Seahawks need to swing some trades and collect more picks.
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans)
Needs: WR, TE, G, RB, LB, S
Projected pick: WR N’Keal Harry
Comment: After shoring up the offensive line with the 12th pick, the Packers use their second first-rounder to get another weapon for Aaron Rodgers. Harry has great size (6-2, 228) and excels at back-shoulder throws, which just happens to be Rodgers’s specialty.
31. Los Angeles Rams
Needs: G, C, LB, CB, DT, DE
Projected pick: G/C Garrett Bradbury
Comment: The Rams could use defensive line help after letting Ndamukong Suh leave in free agency. But they also need to beef up that offensive line in front of Jared Goff, and Bradbury is an athletic guard/center who can start right away.
32. New England Patriots
Needs: WR, TE, OT, DE, LB, QB
Projected pick: DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
Comment: Quarterback! Wide receiver! Tight end! Those are the picks that everyone is expecting from the Patriots. Which means, of course, that the Patriots will take a defensive tackle. It’s not the biggest need, but Simmons was a sure-fire first-rounder who will fall in the draft after tearing an ACL in February. A classic Bill Belichick pick.