The NFL Draft is exactly 21 days away, or three short weeks. The time between now and the moment the Browns go on the clock will feel like an eternity thanks to sheer anticipation for the big night, but we’re here to help pass the time.
To preview the draft, we’ve selected the seven teams that are set up to have the most success. Not because they have the best general manager, or that their roster is solid from top to bottom. But it’s simply based on the capital they have, from owning high picks to boasting a large volume of selections.
Top picks: Nos. 4, 35, 68, 110, 148
The Jaguars are picking in the top five for the sixth straight year, and only one of the previous five has really panned out in the NFL thus far: Jalen Ramsey. And just as in years past, the Jaguars don’t have a great deal of ammo in the draft. They simply have valuable picks, not sheer volume.
The Jaguars have the fourth pick in the first round and the third pick in the second round, giving them two selections in the top 35. It’s somewhat unclear which direction the Jaguars will go with their first pick, but considering how strong their defense is already – outside of safety – they’re likely to go offense. Leonard Fournette could be the pick there.
Unfortunately, the Jags don’t have a single extra pick in any round until the seventh, holding one in each of the first six rounds. Thanks to the fact that they’re picking early in each round, the Jaguars are set up for success this year.
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Top picks: Nos. 8, 40, 64, 98, 115
The Panthers are in a bit of uncharted territory, picking in the top 10 for just the third time since 2004. With the eighth pick, the Panthers have the opportunity to address a number of needs. They can go running back, drafting the heir to Jonathan Stewart (Leonard Fournette, anyone?), or they can take a pass rusher to add some youth to that unit. Safety is also a glaring need, as is wide receiver.
Fortunately, the Panthers don’t have to address all of these needs with their first-round pick. They also hold the 40th pick, as well as No. 64 – the return for Kony Ealy. It’ll be difficult to predict which direction the Panthers go with their first few selections, but you can probably peg their targets to running back, wide receiver, defensive end and safety.
If they can come away with at least one player at each of those spots, they should improve their overall roster a great deal.
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Top picks: Nos. 3, 36, 67, 111, 117
The Bears are once again picking in the top 10. This time, though, they hold the third overall pick, which is the highest since they took Cedric Benson fourth in 2005. Quarterback will be in play for Chicago at three, but the defense is desperate for an infusion of talent.
The Bears have to add a Day 1 starter with their first-round pick, and it’s not certain a rookie quarterback will be able to do that – especially with Chicago spending $45 million on Mike Glennon. Instead, Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore would all make a ton of sense.
If the Bears want to move up in the second or third round, it’ll be possible thanks to their capital in the fourth round. They have two of the first 10 picks in the fourth, which can be used to move up in an earlier round.
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San Francisco 49ers
Top picks: Nos. 2, 34, 66, 109
The 49ers don’t have any additional picks until the fourth round, which is when they have a compensatory selection. Until then, they have the second pick in each of the first four rounds. Although they don’t have the sheer volume or capital that the Saints or Browns have, they do pick early in each round. That’s huge, because the 34th pick is essentially a first-rounder.
They can go a number of directions with their first pick, whether it’s a quarterback or a defensive lineman like Jonathan Allen or Solomon Thomas. With Brian Hoyer in the mix, the 49ers could opt to take a quarterback in the later rounds, opting to get a defensive stud with the second overall pick.
Who knows, maybe they’ll surprise everyone and take Leonard Fournette, bolstering the offense.
Top picks: Nos. 5, 18, 83, 100
The Titans look like the winners of last year’s trade with the Rams for Jared Goff, and it shows in the first 18 picks of the 2017 draft. They hold two selections in that range, which allows them to nab starters at a couple different spots, assuming they don’t double-dip on one position.
Needing a wide receiver, safety and cornerback, we could easily see the Titans address two of those needs before the first round is over. Adding Marshon Lattimore and Corey Davis would be an ideal scenario, but there are a handful of different ways the Titans can walk away happy after Round 1.
While they don’t have a second-round pick – the result of their trade with the Browns last year – they do have two in the third round. General manager Jon Robinson has made it clear the Titans are looking to trade once again, so don’t expect those selections to stick.
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New Orleans Saints
Top picks: Nos. 11, 32, 42, 76, 103
The Saints added an additional first-round pick by trading Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, giving them two in the first 32 picks. With desperate needs in the secondary, we could see New Orleans taking a cornerback with their first two picks, or possibly a safety.
Another possibility for the 32nd pick is a quarterback who could potentially take over for Drew Brees when it’s all said and done. That is, of course, if they don’t trade that selection back to the Patriots for Malcolm Butler, which could easily happen.
In addition to two first-round picks, the Saints also have two third-round selections – the second of which also came over in the Cooks trade. Having five picks in the first three rounds sets the Saints up for big success, particularly on the defensive side of the ball – a real strength of this draft class.
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Top picks: Nos. 1, 12, 33, 52, 65, 103, 108
The Browns are absolutely loaded in the upcoming draft, just as they were in free agency. With two picks in the top 12, and five in the first 65 selections, the Browns have the chance to add a whole bunch of Day 1 starters this year.
The biggest of their 11 picks is obviously their first – the No. 1 overall selection in the draft. Myles Garrett looks like a lock to be taken with that pick, and he’d be a smart choice for the Browns. Cleveland is desperate for a defensive playmaker, and Garrett has the potential to change a franchise the way J.J. Watt did.
At 12, the Browns can look at the quarterbacks, should one of the top guys fall to them. Or if they fall in love with one, they can trade up using their bevy of mid-round picks. They have a lot of flexibility this year.