OVERVIEW: Teams have been filling positions of need with elite athletes in the first round. As we get into the second round, teams start looking at positions that need help, but time is running out to get starters that can step in immediately and fill needs to improve the position. The wild card here is whether a team feels confident in drafting injured Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who is almost surely going to miss all of 2016 season and there are lingering questions as to whether he will ever fully recover. Prior to his injury, he was a top-five pick. Now he may end up on the board until the end of Day 2. Someone is going to pull the trigger if they trust he can plan in the future, but the question now is when that will come.
1. Cleveland – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame. Trading out of the No. 2 spot would give the impression that the Browns will be prepared to go with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. To succeed, he needs weapons and Fuller is a first-round talent who could fill the void if the team is once again without Josh Gordon.
2. Tennessee – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson. The Titans signed Pittsburgh backup Antwon Blake in free agency, but more help is needed. Once Jason McCourty went down last season, the Titans were exposed, so more depth is needed and Alexander could step in right away and become an immediate contributor.
3. Dallas – Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State. The Cowboys have been facing the career mortality of Tony Romo for some time and the time has come to start grooming a replacement. Cook has solid upside and, given that Romo is the unquestioned starter, the Cowboys could take their time much in the same way they did with Romo before he stepped into the spotlight.
4. San Diego – Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State. The Chargers added an elite left tackle in the first round. Now they address a position of need in the second round. Having lost Kendall Reyes and Ricardo Matthews without replacing them in free agency, the need is obvious and Ogbah is viewed by many as a first-round talent.
5. Baltimore – Artie Burns, CB, Miami. The Ravens have prided themselves on being a stout defense, but over the past couple of seasons they’ve been burned too often over the top. Adding safety Eric Weddle and a pressure corner like Burns could provide an immediate upgrade for a team that is making defense a priority.
6. San Francisco – Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana. The 49ers are looking to change things up in a big way with the arrival of Chip Kelly and part of that is to get younger at certain positions. Joe Staley isn’t getting any younger and with Anthony Davis’ unknown future, the Niners need to get a backup plan in place – both for the immediate question at right tackle and the long-term question at left tackle in the post-Staley era.
7. Jacksonville – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss. The Jags signed DE Malik Jackson in free agency and with the return of Dante Fowler, the outside is set. Nkemdiche has some off-field red flags but is a risk/reward pick that could make the Jags dangerous in 2016 if both he and Jaylon Ramsey (and Fowler, who missed all of 2015) bring what is expected.
8. Tampa Bay – Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State. The Bucs double down on trying to improve their woeful secondary because, with the firepower the other quarterbacks in the division bring, having a strong secondary is a must. Bell is top-rated safety in the draft (unless Jalen Ramsey is viewed as a safety) and to get him at this point would be a coup.
9. New York Giants – Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. The Giants may be in the running for Ezekiel Elliott in the first round, but the revolving door of three or four running backs the Giants routinely moved in and out of the lineup needs to stop. Henry is the bell cow to accomplish that and give the G-Men a much more consistent ground game.
10. Chicago – Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia. John Fox continues to reshape the defense in his image and getting a strong safety that can fill a void in both the pass and run game is a priority Joseph can step in and fill. Suddenly Fox’s defense is starting to have his fingerprints on it and the results are expected to show up in a big way this season.
11. Miami – Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. The Dolphins replaced Brent Grimes with Byron Maxwell, but this group was brutal in 2015 and an infusion of young talent in necessary here or the giant sums of money the Dolphins have spent on the D-line to bring in Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams will be wasted.
12. Tennessee (from Los Angeles via Philadelphia) – Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State. Marcus Mariota needs weapons at his disposal and Thomas is a tough, physical receiver to build around with 2015 second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham. Getting a player who can keep defenses honest when they’re pounding DeMarco Murray could be critical to the offense.
13. Oakland – Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA. The Raiders have been extremely active in free agency, adding Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith to the back end of the defense. Adding a versatile young defensive lineman who can play inside or outside gives Oakland yet another impressive weapon as the Raiders look to get into the legitimate playoff discussion.
14. PROPOSED TRADE: San Francisco (from Tennessee via Los Angeles) – Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma. The Niners are looking to open up the offense, and with Anquan Boldin at the end of the line, they need a playmaker. Shepard brings the speed component that, opposite of Torrey Smith, could give whoever is quarterback some deep weapons.
15. Detroit – Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State. The Lions have struggled at linebacker for years and did nothing to address it in free agency, so Correa will get the opportunity early on to make an impact, even if he may be a bit of a reach. A strong edge rusher and solid in coverage, he can make an immediate impact on a Lions defense that has struggled badly recently.
16. New Orleans – Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford. The Saints may use all of their other draft picks on defense, but unless Drew Brees can get better protection, the Saints will struggle to get back to the playoffs any time soon. Having cut Jahri Evans for cap reasons, a replacement is needed. Brees needs time to be successful and Garnett can likely step right in and help that.
17. Indianapolis – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama. The Colts have been struggling badly along the offensive line and they take a cue from the Cowboys a few years back, adding an elite center who can step right in to go along with tackle Germain Ifedi in the first round. Andrew Luck is the future of the franchise and protecting him needs to be a draft priority.
18. Buffalo – Joshua Perry, OLB, Ohio State. The Bills linebackers were weak in 2015 and they didn’t add any veterans in free agency, making this pick a must to help them compete at a higher level. Combining Perry with first-round DE Shaq Lawson, the Bills defense gets a big step closer to approaching the potential of being a dominant group.
19. Atlanta – Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida. Dan Quinn’s reshaping of the Falcons defense takes another step forward, adding a defensive end that can replace Adrian Clayborn. Combined with first-round outside linebacker Darron Lee, Quinn’s defense will look a little more like the Seattle defense that made him a household name.
20. New York Jets – Su'a Cravens, OLB/S, USC. The Jets are aging at linebacker and Cravens is a fast-rising prospect whose athleticism stands out. With the versatility to be a speed linebacker or an oppressive safety, he gives the Jets some strong options for their defense to improve in 2016.
21. Houston – Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford. Houston’s defense has been good enough to get the Texans to back-to-back 9-7 records with a suspect offense. Having taken a wide receiver in the first round, Bill O’Brien gets a downfield tight end to diversify the offense.
22. Washington – Keanu Neal, S, Florida. Safety was identified as a need early on the process. After cutting Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson, they hope the combination of Neal and free agent David Bruton will fill that void.
23. Minnesota – Deion Jones, OLB, LSU. The Vikings like speed players on defense who make plays – Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter have been brought in under Mike Zimmer’s watch. Jones fits that role. Last season, he blew up, recording 100 tackles, 13½ tackles for a loss, five sacks and two interceptions. Coming from the same scheme that got the Vikings interested in Hunter, they’re familiar with Jones’ style of play and how he fits in the Vikings’ system. With an outside position expected to open next year with the retirement of Chad Greenway, Jones can get a year in the system and be ready to compete for either a starting job or as a significant role player.
24. Cincinnati – Vernon Butler, NT, Louisiana Tech. The Bengals already have a solid pair of linemen in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, and nose tackle Domata Peko is entering his 11th season. Butler is a run-stuffer that demands double coverage and will be groomed to step in when Peko hits the end of the line, which is coming sooner than later.
25. Seattle – Vadal Alexander, G, LSU. The Seahawks lost starters Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy in free agency, but the elite tackles in this year’s class are gone. Alexander is an elite guard who could step in immediately for Sweezy to help protect Russell Wilson better than he was last year.
26. Green Bay – Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Missouri. Mike McCarthy wants to move Clay Matthews back to the outside full-time and getting an instinctive inside tackling machine goes a long way to getting that accomplished. Green Bay tends to build from within and Brothers is the type of player whose style fits in well with what the Packers do.
27. Pittsburgh – Shilique Calhoun, OLB/DE, Michigan State. The Steelers always look for players with position versatility and Calhoun is one who can fit into an immediate role as both a linebacker and defensive end who can be disruptive and make an impact behind the veteran LBs who are starting to show the signs of age.
28. Kansas City – Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt. The Chiefs got a lot of production out of Jeremy Maclin last year, but he was a lone wolf in the passing offense. Boyd has a solid skill set with quick acceleration off the line. He can be a nice complementary receiver to Maclin and TE Travis Kelce and help get the most out of Alex Smith and keep defenses honest in packing the box on Jamaal Charles.
29. New England – Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama. Aside from Malcolm Butler, the Patriots cornerbacks are a hot mess that needs improving if the Patriots are to keep their stranglehold atop the AFC East. If they’re going to do that, adding talent to the back end of the defense is imperative and Jones is the best cornerback left on the board.
30. New England (from Arizona) – Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn. The Patriots tend to address their needs before players get too old or too expensive. Veteran tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon are both entering the final years of their contracts and it’s unlikely the Pats will re-sign both. Coleman can spend a year learning and prepare to start in 2017.
31. Carolina – Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU. The Panthers were exposed by the Mike & Mike tackle tandem (Oher and Remmers) in the Super Bowl and will need to upgrade the position. The Panthers have a target on their backs after dominating the NFC last year, so having a backup plan in place will be necessary for the Panthers to stay on top and keep Cam Newton healthy.
32. Denver – Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State. The Broncos saw Peyton Manning retire and Brock Osweiler leave in free agency. If they sign Colin Kaepernick, this pick may go in the direction of fellow Nittany Lion DE Ryan Nassib, but John Elway needs a quarterback to develop quickly because Mark Sanchez isn’t the answer.