Part of the fun of trying to figure out what 32 groups of secretive people are going to do with millions of their bosses’ dollars is that they aren’t going to tell you the truth about it until afterward.
And so it is with the NFL draft, which every year is preceded by storylines and rumors that turn out to be nothing more than smokescreens by teams hoping to keep their competitors away from the player they want in the first round.
Even otherwise reliable sources can lead reporters astray — all’s fair in the draft and war.
Do we believe that Arizona is prepared to trade Josh Rosen and draft Kyler Murray No. 1? Do we believe that the New York Giants are in love with Daniel Jones? Are teams really taking Montez Sweat off their boards due to his previously undiagnosed heart condition?
We’ll find out Thursday, when the draft begins in Nashville. In the meantime, here is one man’s completely unscientific, semi-educated guess as to how it might go down, trying to ignore the smokescreens and focusing on talent and team needs.
And yes, I understand that it’s 4/20. And no, I haven’t been smoking anything.
- Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma. All the noise has been that Kliff Kingsbury is infatuated with Murray’s skills. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cardinals traded out here, but smokescreens aren’t really necessary when you have the first pick.
2. San Francisco 49ers — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State. If Murray goes No. 1 as expected, a player considered by many to be the best overall prospect in the draft falls neatly into John Lynch’s lap.
3. New York Jets – Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky. The Jets would reportedly love to trade down. If they don’t, look for them to bolster their pass rush.
4. Oakland Raiders – Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama. The Raiders have spent a lot of money on their offense this offseason. Williams could give them an anchor for their defense who can push the pocket to help their pass rush.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. The Buccaneers are expected to part ways with Gerald McCoy and Oliver would give them an active replacement.
6. New York Giants – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State. The Giants have made a lot of noise about not drafting a quarterback here, which probably means they will. I’m being a contrarian here, but do we really believe Daniel Jones is the top QB on their board?
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama. Most mocks have Williams as the second or third offensive lineman off the board, but the tape doesn’t lie. The Jaguars have had good success with another former Alabama lineman, Cam Robinson.
8. Detroit Lions – Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State. The Lions get an absolute freak of an athlete – a 6-foot-6, 260-pounder who runs 4.4 – to pair with Trey Flowers in their pass rush. A heart condition diagnosed at the combine may cause him to drop.
9. Buffalo Bills – Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida. Taylor would give the Bills a road-grader for an offense that is still built around the run.
10. Denver Broncos – T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa. If John Elway is serious in his determination to roll with Joe Flacco, it makes sense to add a weapon in a position that Flacco loved targeting in Baltimore.
11. Cincinnati Bengals – Devin White, LB, LSU. The Bengals need help in the defensive front seven and the best linebacker in the draft falls to them.
12. Green Bay Packers – Devin Bush, LB, Michigan. With Clay Matthews packed off to L.A., the Packers will be looking to add playmakers to its defense.
13. Miami Dolphins – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri. The Dolphins have a lot of needs, which makes it tough for them to trade up to fill their biggest one. Instead, they wait for the strong-armed Lock to fall to them.
14. Atlanta Falcons – Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson. If last year’s injury-riddled season taught the Falcons anything, it’s that you can never have too many bodies on defense.
15. Washington Redskins – Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma. The Redskins could be in the quarterback market here, but any signal-caller they put on the field is going to need more weapons than they currently have.
16. Carolina Panthers – Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State. The Panthers need help on the offensive line, making a guy who is likely the best pass-blocking tackle in the draft impossible to pass up here.
17. New York Giants – Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan. Another reason for the Giants to get their quarterback early is that there will still be a ton of defensive talent on the board at 17.
18. Minnesota Vikings – Garrett Bradberry, C, North Carolina State. The Vikings need offensive line help and Bradberry gives them a versatile interior presence to help solidify the front.
19. Tennessee Titans – Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. Cameron Wake, whom the Titans just signed away from Miami, is 37 years old. Ferrell would give them a more dependable force off the edge.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. The Steelers signed Steven Nelson from Kansas City to fill a need a cornerback, but you can never have too many. Williams has great size and cover skills.
21. Seattle Seahawks – Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State. He’s rehabbing a torn ACL, or he wouldn’t still be on the board, but Simmons would give the Seahawks a top-10 talent with which to restock its defensive front.
22. Baltimore Ravens — D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss. He was the second-best receiver on his own team at Ole Miss, but he looks like the Incredible Hulk and runs like a gazelle. And the Ravens have to throw sometime.
23. Houston Texans – Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma. The Texans must add O-line help to limit the hits on Deshaun Watson and could consider moving up to do so. If Ford falls to them, they won’t have to.
24. Oakland Raiders – Byron Murphy, CB, Washington. The Raiders continue restocking a barren defense with a former receiver who has developed into a strong man corner.
25. Philadelphia Eagles – Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia. A feisty corner who is strong in press coverage, Baker would help solidify the Eagles’ secondary.
26. Indianapolis Colts – Brian Burns, DE, Florida State. Suddenly, the Colts don’t have a lot of holes. With a 6-6 frame and 4.5 speed, Burns gives them another athlete on defense.
27. Oakland Raiders – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa. In a strong year for tight ends, the Raiders can afford to wait until their third first-round pick to take a replacement for Jared Cook.
28. Los Angeles Chargers – Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson. A third first-rounder off the national champions’ defensive line, Lawrence is a 340-pound gap-plugger who is tough to move off the point of attack.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple. The Chiefs’ secondary was a sieve last season and they lost Steven Nelson and Eric Berry. Ya-Sin is a raw talent who could develop into a star.
30. Green Bay Packers – A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss. The Packers have professed confidence in the young receivers they have alongside Devante Adams, but Brown gives them another versatile weapon who has been extremely productive.
31. Los Angeles Rams – Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame. With Ndamukong Suh’s departure, the 6-6, 295-pound Tillery would give the Rams another physical inside presence alongside Aaron Donald.
32. New England Patriots – Daniel Jones, QB, Duke. The Patriots tried to groom Tom Brady’s successor in Jimmy Garoppolo but the timing didn’t work out. With Brady now 41, it’s time to find another understudy.
(Photo from 2016 NFL draft: swimfinfan/Wikimedia Commons)