Team needs, targets: Picks 1-10

NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas breaks down the needs and likely draft targets in the first several rounds for teams in the first 10 slots.

Picks 11-20 | Picks 21-32

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs seem intent on keeping the pick and selecting a quarterback, with Florida State’s Jameis Winston appearing to be the consensus favorite, despite having the albatross hanging around his neck from his off-field issues. While some draft experts feel that the team would be better off taking the “safer” QB pick with Marcus Mariota, from a fan standpoint, Winston will probably hear his name called first. In any other year, with the defensive line in such a mess, USC’S Leonard Williams would have been my choice. They did sign George Johnson for the defensive front wall, but will need to add at least one other down lineman early, but whoever they take at quarterback, they will need to protect that passer. One possibility could be Oregon tackle Jake Fisher in the second round, as he has starting experience at both left and right tackle. They will need to address the middle linebacker spot, but might wait until the middle rounds, where blue-collar types like KansasBen Heeney or Jordan Hicks from Texas could come on board in round four. Signing oft-injured Bruce Carter is not the answer to fill the MLB spot vacated by Mason Foster bolting through free agency. Adding a safety is also a need area, but that position is lacking in depth. Could local kid Clayton Geathers from Central Florida be a round-five find?
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #1#2 #1#10 #26, 32#8 #1
Primary Needs QBROT DE      
Secondary Needs SSCB LOTMLB TB   
Depth Needs OCTE OLB      
Key Veteran Additions Trades: DE George Johnson…Signed: MLB Mason Foster
Possible First Pick JAMEIS WINSTON-Florida State-Quarterback
Tennessee Titans
The Titans are going into the draft desperate for an upgrade at quarterback. Even though the front office continues to praise Zach Mettenberger, based on his college track record, you never know what might happen with him off the field that could impact his performance on it. Rumors continue that the Titans would be interested in San Diego’s Phillip Rivers, and the Chargers QB’s recent refusal to sit down and talk a contract extension leads many to believe that the long-time starter would not mind a change of scenery. If they hold onto the pick, they have been doing plenty of homework on Marcus Mariota and will probably make the Oregon product a Titan, if a trade fails to materialize. USC’s Leonard Williams would be a nice fit, but Tennessee seems to be more intent on finding a rush end after they signed Brian Orakpo to replace Kamerion Wimbley opposite recently re-signed Derrick Morgan. The second round could see Tennessee go for a safety, as the quality at the position is lacking, but Arizona State’s Damarious Randall is definitely an upgrade over Michael Griffin and George Wilson. Signing Da’Norris Searcy away from Buffalo could make safety less of a priority in the early rounds. With Taylor Lewan moving over to left tackle, Carolina castoff Byron Bell is not the answer to fill the vacancy at right tackle. If he slides into round two, Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings might be raw, but is the best of available right tackles in this draft. Look for the team to add depth rather than a blue-chip prospect at offensive guard, unless they decide to make Andy Levitre a salary-cap casualty. Losing Alterran Verner in free agency leaves depth issues at cornerback and in the return game. Look for Auburn’s Nick Marshall to get some late-round attention there.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #2#1 #2#1 #2#1, 32 None
Primary Needs QBRE FSOG     
Secondary Needs ROTOC CB      
Depth Needs SSDT        
Key Veteran Additions Signed: OT Bryon Bell, CB Perrish Cox, OLB Brian Orakpo, TE Anthony Fasano
Possible First Pick MARCUS MARIOTA-Oregon-Quarterback
Jacksonville Jaguars
Protecting Blake Bortles in the pocket makes addressing needs across the offensive line a priority, but with the draft filled with rush ends, another big need for the Jaguars, the team will likely stay in-state and choose Florida’s Dante Fowler in the first round. They already brought in a run-stuffing linemen from Miami in Jared Odrick, but to pass on Fowler for an offensive lineman with the third choice is quite a reach, even though Iowa’s Brandon Scherff is expected to be the first blocker to be drafted, possibly within the first 10 picks. Luke Joeckel is probably going to shift to right tackle, as he’s struggled on the left side. The Jags could fill that need by making another Gator “hop on the bus” to show up in training camp – left tackle D.J. Humphries, as their second-round choice. Still, with the safety spot needing an upgrade, it might be hard to pass on Arizona State’s Damarious Randall with that second-round pick. Look for the team to show strong interest in a running back sometime during the second day of the draft, with Miami’s Duke Johnson, USC’s Javarious Allen, Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford and Northern Iowa’s David Johnson all expected to still be available. The recent signing of former Raider Stefen Wisniewski to handle center chores takes that position out of the primary need area. Davon House got a surprisingly big deal from the Jags to handle corner duties opposite Dwayne Gratz. Look for a few speedy receivers to get mid-round attention, where a once-promising prospect like Stanford’s Ty Montgomery would be a nice upgrade for both the receiving and return units.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #3#4 #3#4 #3#4 #3
Primary Needs RETB        
Secondary Needs OLBOG LOTWR     
Depth Needs CBOC FS      
Key Veteran Additions Signed: OC Stefen Wisniewski, SS Sergio Brown, CB Davon House, OLB Dan Skuta, TE Julius Thomas, DE Jared Odrick, OT Jeremy Parnell
Possible First Pick DANTE FOWLER-Florida-Rush End/Strong-side Outside Linebacker
Oakland Raiders
With Derek Carr firmly in place as the team’s quarterback of the future, the Raiders have a pleasant problem – do they give Carr a go-to receiver like Amari Cooper or Kevin White, or do they opt to terrorize opposing quarterbacks by selecting USC’s Leonard Williams to team up with last year’s first-round find, Khalil Mack on the defensive front wall? My money would go after the Trojans’ lineman, hoping that Williams’ teammate, Nelson Agholor was available when their turn to pick comes up in round two. The signing of enigmatic receiver Michael Crabtree to team with James Jones lessens the need for a Cooper or White with the first pick and a player like Williams easily becomes the Silver & Black’s next version of Richard Seymour – a player who can line up anywhere on the front wall. The offensive line needs an interior upgrade more than at the tackle position, but they might have to wait until the third round. If they want a swingman that could eventually replaced 32-year old Donald Penn at tackle while providing depth at guard, Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi, recovering from knee woes, might drop out of the first two rounds because of the injury. Later in the draft, look for the secondary and more depth at receiver to fill some depth issues. Michigan State’s Tony Lippett, who has experience at receiver and cornerback is a possible mid-round target and Western Oregon’s Tyrell Williams and soon-to-be converted quarterback Nick Marshall might be nice fits in the later stages of the draft.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #4#3 #4#3 #4#3 #4
Primary Needs WRDE OG      
Secondary Needs DTILB SS      
Depth Needs LOTCB WR2FS CB   
Key Veteran Additions Signed: WR Michael Crabtree, TB Trent Richardson, QB Christian Ponder, ILB Curtis Lofton, NG Dan Williams, OLB Malcolm Smith, FB Roy Helu, OC Rodney Hudson
Possible First Pick LEONARD WILLIAMS-Southern California-Defensive End/Tackle
Washington Redskins
It will be very interesting to see what Washington would do if Marcus Mariota happens to slide to them in the first round. Logic says they get their card with his name on it up to the podium in an instant, but logic has never been an operative word in the Redskins’ front office. It is no secret that Jay Gruden is not a Robert Griffin III fan and the quarterback’s act, as if he is royalty, seems to have worn out his welcome in the coach’s room and locker room. Still, they paid a very hefty price to get the rights to the former Baylor passer and might not be willing to admit to that monumental mistake. RG III certainly had the receiving tools to work with, but it would not be surprising to see them add another pass catcher, as Andre Roberts failed to fill the slot receiver spot with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon getting the bulk of the receiving opportunities. While the team replaced Barry Cofield at nose guard with Terrance Knighton, and Chris Culliver takes over right corner duties as free agent signee Dashon Goldson was an over-priced addition found wanting after the Bucs traded him. With Brian Orakpo gone to Tennessee, a rush end/outside linebacker is sorely needed and that will probably be filled by either Missouri’s Shane Ray or Clemson’s Vic Beasley, but if either USC’s Leonard Williams or Dante Fowler slide to the fifth choice, they are much better alternatives. Look for a cornerback to join the team in the mid rounds, or possibly earlier. Culliver joined the team through free agency, but DeAngelo Hall is still trying to recover from two Achilles tendon tears, putting his season in jeopardy. Florida State’s Ronald Darby and Utah’s Eric Rowe are potential round two corner candidates, but that pick might be better served bringing a trap blocker like guards A.J. Cann or Laken Tomlinson into the fold. A pass-catching big back in the later rounds to fill the void by Roy Helu’s departure is also a depth need.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #5#6 #5#6 #5#6 #5
Primary Needs REROG NGFS     
Secondary Needs SSWR OCROT OLB   
Depth Needs CBFB QBTE     
Key Veteran Additions Trade: SS Dashon Goldson…Signed: FS Jeron Johnson, CB Chris Culliver, NT Terrance Knighton, DT Stephen Paea, DE Ricky Jean-Francois
Possible First Pick VICTOR BEASLEY-Clemson-Rush End/Outside Linebacker
New York Jets
It is no secret that the deposed front office made a drastic mistake investing in Geno Smith. If the football gods smile and Marcus Mariota is still available when this pick comes around, the new staff and front office can make an immediate statement to fans that yes, a big change in team culture is on the way. Most expect Iowa’s Brandon Scherff to be in New York next season wearing a Giants’ uniform, but considering that the Jets have an aging Willie Colon at left guard and D’Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle, the Hawkeye could end up in a green uniform with the sixth pick rather than a blue one with the ninth choice. The team did sign James Carpenter for the right side of the line and with Chris Johnson getting cut, the brass has to realize that Pats castoff Stevan Ridley is not the most durable back in their stable and Chris Ivory is really nothing more than depth material. With the recent clean bill of health issued on Todd Gurley, if the Jets really want to make a splash on draft day and get their fans back in the stadium next year, the franchise back might be the “glass slipper” for the team’s backfield. Later in the draft, Max Valles, Jordan Hicks and Jeff Luc might get the call to help fill some needs at inside linebacker. Valles could also be a sleeper addition for their outside linebacker needs and also has experience as a rush end, making him a player with a high ceiling level.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #6#5 #6#5 NoneNone #6, 7
Primary Needs QBOLB RB      
Secondary Needs ILBOG OT      
Depth Needs FSTE        
Key Veteran Additions Trade: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Brandon Marshall…Signed: ILB Joe Mays, TB Stevan Ridley, ILB Erin Henderson, OT Corey Hilliard; DT Kevin Vickerson, OT James Brewer, DE Steven Bowen, CB Antonio Cromartie, CB Darrelle Revis; OG James Csarpenter, CB Buster Skrine
Possible First Pick TODD GURLEY-Georgia-Tailback
Chicago Bears
The Bears are probably going to concentrate on offensive line additions, as they need at least one more tackle and guard for the front wall. Will Montgomery replaces aging Roberto Garza at center, but they could be in play for South Carolina’s A.J. Cann, who can play either guard or center, or Duke’s Laken Tomlinson, for a much-needed interior upgrade in round two. While it is unlikely that Marcus Mariota will slide to the Bears with their seventh pick, quarterback Jay Cutler is probably on a short leash this season, as the new regime has made no secret they are not pleased with the high-priced passer’s meltdown last year. Gone is one of Cutler’s favorite targets, Brandon Marshall, leaving the Bears the opportunity to use their first pick on a number one-type receiver like Amari Cooper or Kevin White. They need a big upgrade in the secondary, but there are no defensive backs worthy of a number seven choice, leaving early draft concentration on offense. Losing Stephen Paea to Washington will make nose guard a priority, but that spot could be filled in the mid rounds, where Rice’s Christian Covington seems to be over injury woes and rising on draft boards. They brought in Jarvis Jenkins, but he’s more suited to play in a 4-3 scheme. A young safety to groom behind recent rental Antrel Rolle could also be a mid-round need, with local kid Ibraheim Campbell of Northwestern a potential third-/fourth-round target. Linebacker depth is needed, but by signing Mason Foster to play in the middle, they Bears could shift needs to the outside for that unit.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #7#7 #7#7 #6#7 None
Primary Needs WRFS CBNG ROTQB  
Secondary Needs TEOC LOTILB DEOG  
Depth Needs DTOLB        
Key Veteran Additions Signed: TE Bear Pascoe, SS Antrel Rolle, TB Jacquizz Rodgers, CB Alan Ball, ILB Mason Foster, DE Pernell McPhee, WR Eddie Royal, OLB/DE Sam Acho
Possible First Pick AMARI COOPER-Alabama-Wide Receiver
Atlanta Falcons
It is no secret that ever since John Abraham became a former Falcon, Atlanta was suddenly found wanting for a pass rusher. While the team was in on Missouri’s Shane Ray (foot/toe) and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory (failed drug test) earlier in the draft season, the team might turn their attention to using the eighth pick on Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree. Yes, there are holes in his game, especially in run force, but unless the team is convinced that Gregory can toe the line, they will haggle over this pick right up until they have to pick. Gregory still seems to be the best bet among the trio from a potential basis, but with a need at tailback they could stay local and opt for Georgia’s big back, Todd Gurley. The secondary needs a big upgrade, mostly at safety, but there actually are no first-round talents available and they could wait until the third round and gamble on Samford’s Jaquiski Tartt as a solution at either free or strong safety. In the early portion of the draft, look for an addition at cornerback, with Oregon State’s Steven Nelson and Utah’s Eric Rowe, both hard hitters, getting early-round consideration. One other area that needs to be addressed is the offensive line. Injuries to Jake Matthews, Sam Baker (since cut) and Lester Holmes has potential early-round targets emerging from South Carolina’s A.J. Cann for an interior spot or a tackle like Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson in the third-round area. They could also take a chance that Texas A&M’S Cedric Ogbuehi could still be available, but recent progress from knee surgery likely makes him a second-round target by other teams. The Falcons signed Brooks Reed and Jason Durant, but combined they don’t cover the loss of Sean Weatherspoon at linebacker and at the least more depth is needed there.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #8#10 #9#8 #10#9 #8, 32
Primary Needs RETB FSCB     
Secondary Needs OGOT ILBOLB     
Depth Needs TEWR DT      
Key Veteran Additions Signed: TE Tony Moeki, TE Jacob Tamme, DE Adrian Clayborn, DE/OLB Brooks Reed, OLB Justin Durant, TB Antone Smith
Possible First Pick RANDY GREGORY-Nebraska-Defensive Rush End
New York Giants
Losing Antrel Rolle to the Bears and with Quintin Demps unsigned, it leaves the Giants with untested Cooper Taylor and Nat Behre manning both safety positions. Neither of those youngsters are regarded as solutions to the secondary problems, but with the Giants not really excited about Alabama’s Landon Collins as a first-round answer to fill one of those huge voids, they will probably look for a safety later in the draft, with Arizona State’s Damarious Randall a prime second-round target, especially since unsigned Stevie Brown is being wooed by Houston. If either cornerbacks Eric Rowe or Byron Jones slide into the second round, New York could convert either back to their former homes at safety. The first-round pick will be used on a big body, more so on offense than defense. The Giants have been linked to Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, who can easily be an upgrade at either left tackle or guard, allowing the team to place Justin Pugh at his more suitable right tackle slot, or possibly inside at guard, if recent signee Marshall Newhouse can return to the promise he showed earlier in his career. Other first-round targets could be LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins, Washington’s Danny Shelton, to bring impact to a suspect interior defensive line or rush end Randy Gregory, if the team is convinced they Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore are not capable partners for unsigned Jason Pierre-Paul at defensive end. Shelton might be the long shot, as the Giants are not nearly as desperate at defensive tackle with the emergence of Johnathan Hankins. It will all depend upon if the front office thinks that signee Kendrick Ellis has something left in the tank to contribute. Linebacker has been a seasons-long problem area for New York, especially with oft-injured Jon Beason spending more time in the doctor’s office the last few years. They signed Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas, but they are strictly depth additions and can’t be considered viable starting solutions at strong-side outside linebacker. Look for a sleeper pick like Kyle Emanuel or Chattanooga’s Dallas Tull to get mid-/late-round draft consideration.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #9#8 #10#9 #8#10 #9, 28
Primary Needs OGFS SSDT MLB   
Secondary Needs SOLBDE TE      
Depth Needs RBFB WRPK     
Key Veteran Additions Signed: CB Josh Gordy, DE George Selvie, DT Kendrick Ellis, LB J.T. Thomas, OLB Jonathan Casillas, WR/KR Dwayne Harris, OT Marshall Newhouse, TB Shane Vereen
Possible First Pick BRANDON SCHERFF-Iowa-Offensive Tackle/Guard
St. Louis Rams
This could be make or break for the Rams coaching staff and front office. Having drafted at least 10 players in three of the five previous drafts, they are left with lots of talent on every unit but the offensive line. Still, there is a glaring hole at quarterback after trading oft-injured Sam Bradford. You can not be drinking the Jeff Fisher “Kool Aid” in regards to him stating that Nick Foles is the answer at QB. Look for the team to grab Baylor’s Bryce Petty in the second round, as I don’t see the Rams having enough ammo to trade up for a possible play for Marcus Mariota, as has been rumored. No, it will be a draft where the Rams should use the bulk of their six picks on offensive linemen. If Iowa’s Brandon Scherff slides past the two New York teams, St. Louis will not hesitate to scoop him up and plant him at left guard. La’el Collins is also a possibility, but more so for the left guard spot, as last year’s find, Greg Robinson, is established at left tackle. Grabbing either player would allow Rodger Saffold to return to right tackle duties. If both linemen are off the board, the team could wait to see if Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings or Oregon’s Jake Fisher are available in the second round. Mid-to-late round line targets could be local kid Mitch Morse (Missouri) and a sleeper at Florida, Max Garcia, who could be a late-round find to challenge Barrett Jones at center while providing depth at tackle. Even with volatile Kenny Britt returning at receiver, the team is still waiting for others to emerge. If either Amari Cooper or Kevin White happens to drop to 10, the Rams take the “best available athlete” approach in round one. They could use more depth at linebacker and might make a play for Michigan’s Jake Ryan or Virginia’s sleeper, Max Valles, later during Day 3 proceedings.
RoundsRD1 RD2RD3 RD4RD5 RD6RD7
Selections #10#9 #8#20 None#39 #10
Primary Needs OGOC OT      
Secondary Needs QBWR ILB      
Depth Needs TBDT OLBCB     
Key Veteran Additions Signed: DE/SOLB Akeem Ayers
Possible First Pick KEVIN WHITE-West Virginia-Wide Receiver (other options could be Amari Cooper or Louisville’s DeVante Parker if White is gone)

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