The NFL Draft is officially here.
After the Dolphins, 49ers, and Eagles shook up the draft order last month, with San Francisco trading up to the No. 3 overall pick, the Dolphins trading back to No. 12, then back up to No. 6, trading with the Eagles, we’re expected to see a new starting quarterback in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
In fact, quarterbacks are expected to go at a premium, with the first four picks of the draft possibly being at that position, depending on what the Atlanta Falcons decide to do. The Falcons restructured Matt Ryan’s contract, which keeps him in Atlanta for at least another season. However, if they believe they aren’t going to be picking this high again soon, it’s a good idea to get Ryan’s successor in a top quarterback class.
With teams addressing positional needs in free agency, the draft allows them to invest in long-term talent. Let’s take a look at how the draft could shake out this year.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Trevor Lawrence has been the No. 1 pick in his class since he stepped on the field at Clemson. The best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, Lawrence provides the Jaguars with leadership, a winning culture and a guy who can make every throw in the book. He ushers in a new era of Jaguars football under new head coach, Urban Meyer.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
New head coach Robert Saleh will also be in the market for a quarterback, since the Sam Darnold project has failed to work out. Wilson has had a meteoric rise on every draft board after a tremendous season at BYU. His ability to make accurate throws on the run, as well as his high IQ, make him the clear-cut No. 2 pick.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Dolphins, via Texans) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but looking at the quarterbacks that head coach Kyle Shanahan has worked with, Mac Jones fits that mold. The 49ers traded up with the Dolphins to get their long-term guy, securing a future after Jimmy Garroppolo. Jones had a great season at Alabama, completing 71% of his passes for 41 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The Falcons decide to stay at No. 4 and select a quarterback, and they get the one with the highest ceiling in the draft. Lance might have the strongest arm in the draft as well, and he left a great impression on new head coach Arthur Smith at his pro day. Atlanta sits Lance for a year behind Matt Ryan before moving on from him.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
After the string of quarterbacks, the Bengals decide to protect the one they already have in Joe Burrow and take Sewell, the best offensive line prospect in this draft and the best one to come out in a while. They could have gone with a pass catcher, but they instead decide to keep Burrow upright after the horrific injury he suffered last season.
6. Miami Dolphins (from Eagles) Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Miami was a team that was just on the outside of making the playoffs, so to be picking this high is a luxury. What’s a better luxury pick than the best non-quarterback prospect in the draft? Kyle Pitts is more than just a tight end; he’s an offensive weapon. Standing at 6-foot-6, 246 pounds, Pitts caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Gators last season. He can be used off the line, he can play on the outside, he can be used all over the field. A perfect weapon for Tua Tagovailoa.
7. Detroit Lions – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Lions are entering a rebuild, so they can really go any position here. Getting the best wide receiver in the draft doesn’t hurt, though. Chase sat out last season after having a legendary season at LSU, catching 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 for the national champion Tigers. He gives the Lions a new star WR after Kenny Golladay signed with the Giants.
8. Carolina Panthers – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Since the Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, it might mean that they are out of the running for one of the rookie quarterbacks. They instead decide to take an elite secondary player in Patrick Surtain. The 6-foot-2, 203 pound corner is a stingy playmaker and can give top wide receivers problems. Carolina gets a shutdown No. 1 corner to bolster their defense.
9. Denver Broncos – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Broncos also did their homework on the quarterbacks in this class, but they instead decide to stick with Drew Lock and shore up their defense instead. Parsons is the perfect modern day linebacker, with size, speed and the ability to rush the passer. He immediately elevates Denver’s defense.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
For a Cowboys defense that failed to stop anyone last season, they need all the help they can get. Jaycee Horn, who has been rising in the late stages of the draft, is exactly what they need. The big-bodied corner is a physical tackler and a great athlete, and makes a nice pairing with the young CB Trevon Diggs in Dan Quinn’s defense.
11. New York Giants – Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Giants defense has made tremendous strides since new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham took over, and they continue to give him pieces to work with. Paye is an athletic freak who can quickly develop into one of the premier pass rushers in the league.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (From Dolphins) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Eagles have gone wide receiver early in the draft the last couple years, but none of those picks have really worked out so far. The best thing to do for a young quarterback like Jalen Hurts is to get them weapons, and former Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith is the perfect option. The Heisman Trophy winner provides the Eagles with an electric playmaker and can elevate Nick Sirianni’s offense.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Justin Herbert had a stellar rookie season for the Chargers, and so the Chargers decide to protect his blind side with a big left tackle in Rashawn Slater. Slater is versatile and can play any position on the line, but the Chargers will keep him on the edge for now. Slater is athletic and excels in both run and pass blocking.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
For a team that likes to run the ball a lot, investing in the offensive line is a smart decision. Vera-Tucker is another lineman with positional versatility, being able to play both guard and tackle spots. He provides Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook more room to do damage, as well as keeping Kirk Cousins upright.
15. New England Patriots – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Patriots are fortunate a player of Waddle’s caliber falls to them, as they desperately need skill position players. Waddle is a dynamic receiver who can do it all. He can beat corners with speed, elite route running and great hands. He gives Cam Newton a favorite target on the outside.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley had a microdiscectomy recently, and until we know the severity of the injury, he is a first round talent. The Cardinals take a chance on him here, and it pays off. Farley is a tall, long, stingy corner who likes to tackle and be physical. He replaces Patrick Peterson on the outside for the Cardinals’ defense.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Jon Gruden continues to add pieces to his defense. Owusu-Koramoah, who is more like a safety than a linebacker, can play both positions, similar to Isaiah Simmons last season. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Notre Dame product is a missile in the defensive backfield, and he can fly all over the field and make tackles.
18. Miami Dolphins – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Dolphins have a good defense, right now, but just cut Kyle Van Noy and traded Shaq Lawson, so they have to get help at the linebacker spot. There’s no better player than the Nagurski Award winner in Zaven Collins. A disruptor who can also rush the passer, the Dolphins defense goes from good to great.
19. Washington Football Team – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
For a team that made the playoffs last season, the Washington Football Team doesn’t have too many holes on their roster. They decide to go with Darrisaw, a mauler at right tackle and a guy who never takes a snap off.
20. Chicago Bears – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The Bears got their short-term quarterback in Andy Dalton, so they go with an offensive tackle to protect him. Jenkins is another blocker who likes to play mean, excelling in pass protection and blocking defenders well through the whistle.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
The Colts are thin at the receiver spot outside of Michael Pittman Jr., so they decide to get Carson Wentz some new weapons in his new home. Toney has all the tools to be a great receiver in the NFL, with great hands, speed and quick lateral ability.
22. Tennessee Titans – Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia
For a Titans team that needs to find someone to rush the passer, having Azeez Ojulari fall to them at No. 22 is a gift. Ojulari is one of the best in this class, with a knack for good pass rush moves. He can also play a little outside linebacker as well.
23. New York Jets (from Seattle) – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
After landing their franchise quarterback, the Jets double back and grab a shutdown corner late in the first round. Newsome is one of the best cover corners in the draft, and he will love playing for Robert Saleh in New York. Things are looking up for the Jets.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
This pick has been a popular one, and Steelers fans should be thrilled. After losing James Conner to the Cardinals, Pittsburgh comes in and gets their new RB1 for the next couple of years. Harris can do it all out of the backfield, and he makes the Steelers offense almost unstoppable.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Jaguars decide to surround their new franchise quarterback with more weapons, taking the dangerous Bateman. They signed Marvin Jones Jr. to a big contract, but they add Bateman here, who can beat defenses in multiple ways.
26. Cleveland Browns – Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State
Oweh has only been playing football for a couple years, but his athleticism and high ceiling make him well worth the pick for the Browns. He’s still got a ways to go in learning how to play football, but he learns from Myles Garrett and helps form a nightmare of a pass rush attack in Cleveland.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
The Ravens desperately need to get Lamar Jackson some pass catchers. Marshall had a tremendous pro day, and his tape speaks for itself. He caught 48 passes for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns as the number one receiver for LSU last season.
28. New Orleans Saints – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The Saints don’t necessarily need a safety, but Moehrig’s talent is too much to pass up on. A ballhawk who can hit hard, Moehrig would make a great safety pairing in New Orleans with Marcus Williams, who decided to re-sign with the Saints in the offseason.
29. Green Bay Packers – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Davis has been a high riser on boards recently, and only secured his first round stature with a great pro day. An elite athlete who makes the right plays, Davis immediately makes the Packers’ defense much better.
30. Buffalo Bills – Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
If it weren’t for his history of injuries, we could be talking about Jaelan Phillips as a top 10 prospect. As it is, though, he lands in Buffalo just at the end of the first round. Phillips is an elite athlete with great pass rushing skills, seemingly in the backfield every play.
31. Baltimore Ravens (from Kansas City) – Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
The Ravens acquire this pick from the Chiefs after sending them Pro Bowl OT Orlando Brown, so they will need to get his replacement after getting a pass catcher with their earlier pick. Radunz is a nasty lineman who excelled protecting Trey Lance in Fargo.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
The Super Bowl champion Buccaneers can really afford to go with whatever pick they want here, so they go with an elite running back prospect. Williams has it all: size, speed, power, balance and much more. He might be the best running back prospect in the draft.