The majority of NFL teams will head into the draft with a strategy of sticking to their board and taking the best player available rather than reaching to fill a need.
But what if a combination of value, need, and scheme fell together perfectly?
AFC | NFC
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Cardinals are going to keep Carson Palmer as their starting quarterback next season, but that may be it. While Watson’s intangibles are ideal, he is going to need some time to adapt to the pro game and Bruce Arians will be more than willing to have patience with him if it means another decade of good quarterback play.
Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
Returning the heavy majority of their NFC championship roster, along the line of scrimmage is the only place needing an obvious upgrade. Teaming Lawson with defending NFL sack champion Vic Beasley would create a dangerous set of book ends for the Falcons.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Not drafting a defensive end to learn from the veteran duo of Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson would be a major waste for the Panthers. Barnett is a well-rounded pass-rusher that could be eased into the rotation and strengthen the defensive line for years to come.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
There’s no real obvious answer to what the Bears should do with the third overall pick, however they’ll have an easy decision to make if Awuzie is still there at the top of the second. The 6-footer can play on an island and could be the Bears future shutdown specialist in their rebuilding defense.
Obi Melifonwu, DB, Connecticut
The Cowboys could definitely use a pass-rusher, but the really good ones may already be gone at pick No. 28. They also need secondary help and the ultra-athletic Melifonwu can play either cornerback or safety, depending on their needs.
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Why not pick a local guy? Charlton has been moving up draft boards since the season ended and could be a perfect fit opposite Ziggy Ansah.
Green Bay Packers
Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The Packers took UCLA’s Kenny Clark to play defensive tackle in last year’s draft, and after the departure of Julius Peppers, another Bruins product could slide right in. McKinley may drop due to a recent shoulder surgery, which would be ideal for Green Bay.
Los Angeles Rams
Chad Hansen, WR, California
The Rams don’t have a first-round pick and should likely take whoever the best defensive back or offensive lineman is with their 37th overall pick. In the third round, however, adding Jared Goff’s former teammate Hansen seems like an ideal fit to give the quarterback a familiar target as he continues to progress.
Desmond King, DB, Iowa
Like the Rams, Minnesota is without a first-round selection, making their first pick at No. 48. Their secondary is almost complete, but lacks a ball-hawking safety to pair with Harrison Smith. Likely transitioning from cornerback to safety in the NFL, King has the ball skills to get a few more turnovers for the Vikings.
New Orleans Saints
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
The Saints need at least one cornerback and one pass-rusher in the draft – thankfully they have multiple picks. If pass-rusher is the answer at No. 11, scooping up Louisiana native White at 32 would give the Saints a quality cover man who should be a local fan favorite.
New York Giants
Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin
The Giants are still kicking themselves for passing on Laremy Tunsil last spring and desperately need help on the line if they are going to revive the running game and keep Eli Manning upright. Ramczyk is the typical Wisconsin offensive line product; uses good technique, has toughness, and can play multiple positions.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Likely the most versatile back in this year’s draft, McCaffrey could learn the nuances of being a receiving back in the NFL from Darren Sproles while giving Carson Wentz a dangerous check-down option for the future.
San Francisco 49ers
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
There may not be a super obvious choice for John Lynch drafting his first player, but Thomas is certainly an option. Given Lynch’s connection to Stanford and the 49ers’ desire to bring Bill Walsh back into the fold, making Thomas the new designated pass-rusher is a great fit.
Kevin King, CB, Washington
With Richard Sherman potentially being traded, adding a physical, 6-foot-3 cornerback who played college ball in the state is a no-brainer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
It seems like Doug Martin’s days are numbered in Tampa with his recent suspension nullifying his guaranteed money. Cook played with Jameis Winston at FSU and could be the ideal runner to put behind him in the Bucs’ backfield.
Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
Having lost Chris Baker in free agency and needing some pass-rush help, adding McDowell could fill two needs in Washington. He can play as a three-technique if needed and has a unique rushing style that could be tricky for opposing offenses to handle.
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