14. EAGLES— Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: DT Fletcher Cox paced the Birds with just 6½ sacks in 2016, and Connor Barwin is now with the Rams. Barnett won’t make anyone in Philly forget Reggie White, even if he did break the Minister of Defense’s sack record with 33 in Knoxville. Barnett is a very productive, relentless player who could take this pass rush up a notch or two while limiting the exposure to what’s surely going to be a suspect group of corners. He didn’t test well at the combine in terms of athletic measurables, but his intensity and motor will surely play well for a city that loves high-effort defenders
By Steve Kelly
Here’s a pick-by-pick analysis of last night’s first round of the NFL draft:
1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: After robust rumors and heavy smoke regarding an apparent infatuation with UNC QB Mitchell Trubisky in recent weeks, Cleveland’s brain trust puts it in the fairway by taking this year’s best player with the opening selection. A 6-4, 272-pounder, Garrett averaged more than 10 sacks per season during his three years in the SEC and produced in 2016 despite playing a good chunk of the campaign with a high ankle sprain. Only the Raiders had fewer sacks than Cleveland’s 26 a year ago, and the Browns have never had a player record more than 14 since it became an official statistic in 1982. As much as the Browns do need a quarterback — stay tuned — the pass rush was nearly as big a priority in a division where the other three teams feature established passers. Slam dunk pick for Cleveland’s ongoing rebuild.
2. Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers) — Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: The Bears wanted him so badly, they were compelled to deal up one slot at the cost of three picks … likely throwing Cleveland’s plans into disarray. Trubisky showed excellent accuracy (68%), mobility, ability to cycle through progressions, decision making (30 TDs vs. 6 INTs) and consistently kept his eyes downfield as the Tar Heels’ starter in 2016. The problem is, that’s the extent of his body of work — 13 starts. Now he essentially replaces departed Jay Cutler as Chicago’s new man under center, though he’ll presumably sit behind newly signed Mike Glennon at the outset of the regular season. The Bears can easily extricate themselves from Glennon’s three-year, $45 million deal after the 2017 season.
3. 49ers (from Bears) — Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: The Niners take a defensive lineman in the first round for the third consecutive year, all of them Pac-12 products. But Thomas should be a more disruptive player than Arik Armstead or DeForest Buckner. Expect Thomas to immediately shore up San Francisco’s league-worst run defense as an interior player on base packages, then effectively hunt quarterbacks from the edge on passing downs. The 49ers’ new regime under GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan appears to be off to a good start with a blue-chip acquisition and a slew of extra picks (two in this draft and one next year).
4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: A very sensible pick. Fournette, widely regarded as the draft’s best back and one who has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson, immediately bolsters an offense that hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011. Fournette should take some pressure off Blake Bortles and give him a better chance to prove whether he is the team’s long-term answer under center in his fourth year. But even if Bortles flounders again, Fournette and an underrated defense could be enough to vault this team back to relevance.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams) — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan: Ankle surgery prevented him from performing at the combine and most of this spring. The Titans love Davis nevertheless, obviously willing to make him third-year QB Marcus Mariota’s new No. 1 target. A smooth route runner with plenty of speed, Davis will present a tough decision for defenses geared to cut down on the running lanes for Mariota and RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. There will be some questions about the level of competition Davis faced in the MAC, but his FBS record 5,278 career receiving yards cannot be discounted.
6. New York Jets — Jamal Adams, S, LSU: A logical and safe pick for a secondary that disintegrated in 2016. Adams seems most effective playing in the box and consistently blows up plays at or behind the line of scrimmage with a vengeance. But he also flashed sub-4.4 speed at his pro day and has put plenty of proof on film that he can cover effectively over the middle or in the deep half of the field. His reputation as a strong leader will also be a welcome bonus for a team that’s essentially hit the reboot button this offseason.
7. Los Angeles Chargers — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: L.A.’s newest team scores arguably this draft’s best wideout. Williams is the type of huge receiver Philip Rivers has leveraged so well in the past (think Vincent Jackson or Malcom Floyd). And assuming WR Keenan Allen can recover from last year’s knee injury, Rivers suddenly has a scary receiving corps that also includes TEs Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. And RB Melvin Gordon will also reap the benefits of so many effective pass catchers stressing secondaries.Williams’ 6-4, 218-pound frame makes him an instant red-zone threat, too.
8. Carolina Panthers — Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: The best way to reduce pressure on QB Cam Newton, who’s recovering from shoulder surgery, is apparently providing him a backfield mate who doubles as a dangerous short-area receiver while complementing aging RB Jonathan Stewart. McCaffrey is an underrated runner between the tackles and should get 20 touches a game between carries, catches and returns if he assumes departed Ted Ginn’s special teams duties. McCaffrey set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015 when he rushed for 2,019 yards and has 4,577 yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons. Could he be the next 1,000-1,000 back in the NFL?
9. Cincinnati Bengals — John Ross, WR, Washington: His record 4.22 40 time at the scouting combine boosts him into the top 10 despite a concerning history of injuries (knee, shoulder). Still, Ross is more than just a track star. He’s an excellent route runner and a deadly kick returner. Even without the ball in his hands on offense, he’ll opening up space for RBs Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard and could benefit greatly himself since defenses are unlikely to start single-covering all-world WR A.J. Green.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills) — Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech:How enamored were Andy Reid and Co.? K.C. surrendered the 27th and 91st overall picks this year and 2018’s first rounder to get Mahomes. (The trade also suggests Buffalo’s interest in replacing QB Tyrod Taylor was at least somewhat overblown.) Current Kansas City QB Alex Smith remains a highly effective player who’s under contract for two more seasons. But rifle-armed Mahomes clearly has far more upside, and the Chiefs are obviously banking on that given Smith hasn’t been able to take an excellent regular-season team on a deep playoff run. Mahomes will almost certainly redshirt in 2017 as he transitions from the Red Raiders’ spread attack to a pro offense. But if he develops quickly, Kansas City could opt out of Smith’s deal next March.
11. New Orleans Saints — Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State: Perhaps a perfect scenario for the Saints, who had the NFL’s least-effective pass defense in 2016. Lattimore is widely considered the premier talent in what is a deep group of corners in this draft. He only started one year for the Buckeyes but picked off four passes last year. He’ll immediately be tested in a division that features Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston slinging the ball and will also have to prove a history of hamstring issues is behind him.
12. Houston Texans (from Philadelphia Eagles via Browns) — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Cleveland moves out of this spot for a package that includes Houston’s 2018 first rounder (the Browns also have the Texans’ Round 2 choice next year after taking on QB Brock Osweiler’s contract in a deal last month). The Texans, meanwhile, take another crack at solving their perpetual quarterback issues by obtaining Watson, the club’s first Round 1 passer since David Carr was the franchise’s first-ever pick in 2002. Watson’s intangibles are off the charts. The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist led Clemson to consecutive national championship appearances, including the school’s first title since 1981 with the Tigers’ win over Alabama in January. That’s great news for Houston, which has gone 9-7 in all three of coach Bill O’Brien’s seasons but has yet to be a real factor come playoff time. Watson must improve his downfield accuracy and decision making — and adapt to O’Brien’s demanding playbook — in order to unseat veteran Tom Savage. But like Dak Prescott a year ago, he’s joining a team that provides a top-shelf supporting cast.
13. Arizona Cardinals — Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: If the Cards were ever seriously interested in taking QB Carson Palmer’s successor in Round 1, Houston’s trade probably forced a change of direction. But Reddick is a rather nice fallback for a club that has lost five defensive starters this offseason. A 6-1, 237-pound defensive end for the Owls who made a living in enemy backfields, Reddick will probably join OLB Chandler Jones as a pass rusher in sub packages. But he also showed in sterling Senior Bowl and combine performances that he can cover players in space and might be able to play inside in base packages. A walk-on at Temple, perhaps no player has had a more meteoric rise than Reddick.
15. Indianapolis Colts — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State: An elite ball hawk, he had seven interceptions last year (the Colts had eight collectively) and returned three for scores. Shoulder and hernia surgeries sidelined Hooker the last few months, likely depressing his stock a bit. But considering his name has been mentioned with Ed Reed’s as a comparison, new Indy GM Chris Ballard is surely more than happy to snatch Hooker for a defense that needs extensive work at every level, including a pass defense that finished 27th a year ago.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: GM Ozzie Newsome, a ‘Bama alum, lands one of his precious Tide stars. Humphrey’s appeal has probably benefited from the problems that have torpedoed fellow corners Sidney Jones and Gareon Conley, and he’ll have to improve his ability to track the ball, especially ones that challenge him deep. But the son of former Alabama and NFL tailback Bobby Humphrey is an excellent athlete with ideal corner size (6-0, 197). And given John Ross’ arrival in Cincinnati, the Ravens suddenly need more corners in a division that already featured the pass-happy Steelers. Humphrey gets to ease in with a little less pressure, too, behind vets Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr.
17. Washington Redskins — Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama: It would seem shoulder issues knocked him down a bit, but this could be a heist for the ‘Skins. Allen is an every-down lineman who had 28 sacks in four seasons despite often playing on the interior. He’ll plug beautifully into Washington’s three-man front and should be an instant factor for a defense that struggled in every area in 2016 and won’t have suspended pass rusher Trent Murphy at the outset.
18. Titans — Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Southern California: The winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the country’s top defensive back in 2016, he will still need some time to refine his coverage skills — which is just fine in Nashville after the free agent arrival of CB Logan Ryan. But Jackson will be an instant game changer on special teams after posting eight return TDs during his three years with the Trojans. A truly exceptional athlete.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: Perhaps a clear case of best player on the board given the superb season Bucs TE Cameron Brate had in 2016. But Howard, who starred in the past two national championship games even though he wasn’t widely used by the Tide typically, is a definite upgrade who will help in the run game with solid blocking and, far more importantly, will give QB Jameis Winston a seam-splitting option who should reduce the load on overtaxed WR Mike Evans.
20. Denver Broncos — Garett Bolles, OT, Utah: He’s a late bloomer (Bolles will be 25 next month) but also one of the few tackles coming out this year likely to make a splash. Denver needs to replace departed LT Russell Okung and get more juice out of its running game. Bolles could allow the team to check both boxes. His nifty feet and nasty streak on the field should make him a nice bodyguard for Trevor Siemian and/or Paxton Lynch and ideal zone blocker. Bolles has blossomed after a rough childhood.
21. Detroit Lions — Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida: An every-down player, Davis’ range and leadership make him an optimal fit to a linebacking corps that recently parted with DeAndre Levy. A Lions defense that ranked 18th in 2016 certainly needed the help.
22. Miami Dolphins — Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: A new edge presence in Miami, Harris should be able to exploit the attention commanded by DT Ndamukong Suh and DE Cameron Wake. Nicknamed “Black Ice” because you don’t see him until it’s too late, Harris had 16 sacks over the past two seasons as the latest talent to emerage from Mizzou’s pass rushing pipeline.
23. New York Giants — Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi: The Giants’ first Round 1 tight end since Jeremy Shockey in 2002, Engram just made a scary receiving corps terrifying. Whether you classify Engram as a small tight end or a huge slot receiver, he’ll be a mismatch nightmare at 6-3 and 234 pounds with 4.4 40 speed. And who’s going to double him at the expense of leaving WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall in single coverage? Engram won’t be a great blocker, but that’s not what will pay his bills. Move QB Eli Manning up your fantasy draft board.
24. Oakland Raiders — Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State: After a rape accusation against him surfaced earlier this week — Conley has staunchly denied it — it didn’t seem as if he would remain a viable first-round pick. But the Raiders obviously feel comfortable assuming the off-field risk given the relative value he represents as a player at this point in Round 1. From a football perspective, he’s a needed asset for a defense that ranked 26th despite the presence of DE Khalil Mack, the NFL defensive player of the year.
25. Browns (from Texans) — Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan: He’s taken some hits during the pre-draft process. What’s his best position (safety, slot corner, running back)? Is he a difference maker after picking off one pass in his college career? What about the diluted sample at the combine that counts as a failed drug test? All of that aside, Peppers is a special athlete who provides great versatility when viewed through the optimistic prism. And give him credit for a team-first attitude after playing linebacker in 2016 because it was in the best interest of the Wolverines defense. He does a great job running down offensive players.
26. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks) — Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA: A sensible choice for the NFC champs given their inability to close out Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. McKinley will be a nice fastball opposite NFL sack champion Vic Beasley, whose 15½ takedowns were nearly half of Atlanta’s total (34) in 2016. McKinley is on the comeback from shoulder surgery, but he’s a high-motor player who further burnishes a promising young defense on the rise under Dan Quinn.
27. Bills (from City Chiefs) — Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU: He should be a Day 1 starter and projects as a very solid contributor for a team that just lost CB Stephon Gilmore to New England in free agency. New coach Sean McDermott, who specializes in defense, begins putting his imprint on a team that actually ranked a highly respectable sixth against the pass in 2016.
28. Dallas Cowboys — Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: He had 10 sacks and 13½ tackles for loss in a standout senior season for the Wolverines. The combine exposed a lack of eye-popping athletic traits for the 6-6, 277-pounder, but he’ll nevertheless be an asset for a Dallas D that needs edge presence and must generate more pressure in front of a secondary undergoing a near-complete overhaul. Charlton’s height should also allow him to bat down a fair share of passes when he can’t get to a quarterback.
29. Browns (from Green Bay Packers) — David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.): With a third choice this evening, Cleveland continues to eschew quarterbacks and takes very promising Njoku, 20, after shipping some picks to the Pack, including the top selection in Round 2. At 6-4, 246 pounds, Njoku could be next in a long line of great ‘Canes tight ends. A high school high jump champ, he may have more intriguing upside than even O.J. Howard. Njoku makes splash plays all over the field and will outrun most linebackers and plenty of safeties.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers — T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin: After their defense fell apart in the AFC Championship Game, Pittsburgh needed another difference maker on its defense. J.J. Watt’s little brother now becomes part of a special lineage of linebackers, and the Steelers will count on him to be more effective off the edge than 2013 first-round bust Jarvis Jones. Watt, who’s rather new to the position but had 11½ sacks last year for the Badgers, and Bud Dupree could form a nice tandem for the foreseeable future.
31. 49ers (from Falcons via Seahawks) —Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama: The Niners creep back into the first round as GM John Lynch swings a deal with NFC West rival Seattle. Foster joins Solomon Thomas as a new cornerstone of a revamped defense and might finally ease the surprising retirement of Patrick Willis two years ago. Foster brings thunderous hits and sideline-to-sideline range to the table and can give San Francisco a nasty identity. But after a diluted drug sample and temper tantrum at the combine — not to mention a flagged shoulder issue, per NFL Network — he’s got some things to clean up off the field.
32. Saints (from New England Patriots) — Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: He’s short on experience but enhances the protection in front of aging QB Drew Brees, 38. Ramczyk’s arrival does raise some questions. Will he play inside, or might he allow incumbent RT Zach Strief, who sometimes struggles on the edge, to kick inside. Either way, a good pick-up for the long and short run.