Few people know NFL teams as well as the beat writers who cover them on a daily basis. Below, a beat writer from each of the 32 teams makes a prediction of how the first round could go Thursday night, with an explanation of their selection:
1. RAMS (Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times) Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State – The Rams wowed star-driven L.A. and the NFL by trading up to draft a quarterback. It will be the second time in seven years the franchise takes a quarterback No. 1. Wentz does not have the major school pedigree of the talented Jared Goff, but he played in a pro-style system and has the tools, temperament and upside worthy of the pick.
2. PHILADELPHIA, via Cleveland (Nick Fierro, Allentown Morning Call) Jared Goff, QB, California – The Eagles feel like they'll get Wentz, but they like Goff too. They say they plan to keep Sam Bradford as the starter, but clearly want to develop an elite young prospect. Philadelphia had the No. 2 pick in 1999 and selected quarterback Donovan McNabb.
3. SAN DIEGO (Michael Gehlken, San Diego Union-Tribune) Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State – This is something of a best-case scenario for the Chargers, as they'll be able to select the top available player on their board with the third pick. Ramsey is as good a bet as any, a versatile defensive back who would step in at safety for a secondary now without Eric Weddle. The club will also take a long look at DeForest Buckner.
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4. DALLAS (Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram) Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State – The Cowboys need pass-rushing help. It has been a problem for a couple of years, and it’s the team’s biggest area of need after the Greg Hardy experiment failed. Bosa is the best pass rusher in the draft.
5. JACKSONVILLE (Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union) Myles Jack, LB, UCLA – If Ramsey and Bosa are gone, the Jaguars will go with Jack. They were 24th in total defense last year, so they need to upgrade on that side of the ball. The defense will be tested early: In the Jaguars’ first four games this season, they face Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck.
6. BALTIMORE (Jeff Zrebiec, Baltimore Sun) Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi – The Ravens have prioritized finding a playmaker on either side of the ball, but they couldn’t resist getting a long-term answer at left tackle. Eugene Monroe’s ongoing injury issues have made left tackle a concern. With Joe Flacco coming off a knee injury, the Ravens need to make sure he’s protected.
7. SAN FRANCISCO (Matt Maiocco, CSNBayArea.com) DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon – Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense will put pressure on San Francisco’s defense. Buckner, who was recruited to Oregon by Kelly, probably would be the team’s best defensive lineman on Day 1.
8. CLEVELAND, via Philadelphia (Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer) Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis – This might be early for Lynch, and the Browns would like to trade down – possibly with Tennessee at 15 – to take him there. Regardless, quarterback is an area of pressing need, and Cleveland got a lot of picks to trade out of that No. 2 slot.
9. TAMPA BAY (Roy Cummings, Tampa Tribune) Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida – The Buccaneers lack talent and upside at that position, and Hargreaves provides both. In a division with four franchise quarterbacks, it’s imperative that you can knock down passes once in a while. The Buccaneers allowed quarterbacks to complete 70 percent of their passes last season.
10. N.Y. GIANTS (Jordan Raanan, NJ.com) Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia – After using their last four first-round picks on offensive players, the Giants turn to defense over taking another offensive lineman. They haven’t selected a linebacker in the first round since taking Carl Banks in 1984, but Floyd has the athleticism and explosion this linebacking corps desperately needs.
11. CHICAGO (Rich Campbell, Chicago Tribune) A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama – With Floyd off the board, the Bears fill their need for a defensive end with the massive Robinson, who oozes upside. They wait until Day 2 to pick an edge rusher and improve their speed in the front seven. The Bears might consider trading this to a team eyeing running back Ezekiel Elliott.
12. NEW ORLEANS (Jeff Duncan, New Orleans Times-Picayune) Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville – The Saints are desperate for pass-rush help. They ranked 31st in total defense and allowed an NFL record 45 TD passes last season. Great pass defense starts up front and Rankins is the best interior pass rusher in the draft.
13. MIAMI (Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun-Sentinel) Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State – The Dolphins are looking for a workhorse back, and Elliott can do it all – run with power, hit the home run, catch passes out of the backfield, and protect the quarterback.
14. OAKLAND (Vic Tafur, San Francisco Chronicle) William Jackson, CB, Houston – After taking a Houston cornerback in the first round three years ago, D.J. Hayden, the Raiders do a do-over for a bigger, faster model. The club, which is also looking for an inside linebacker, might try to trade down if given a chance.
15. TENNESSEE (John Glennon, The Tennessean) Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame – The Titans surrendered 54 sacks last season, the highest total in the league. Quarterback Marcus Mariota missed four games because of injury, and the Titans don’t want to see that happen again.
16. DETROIT (Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press) Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson – The Lions would be tempted to fill their need at right tackle in this scenario with Michigan State’s Jack Conklin, but Lawson provides more impact and the Lions have as big a need at defensive end with only three edge rushers on their roster. He’d probably play as a rotational backup as a rookie and give the Lions a nice 1-2 punch with Ziggy Ansah going forward.
17. ATLANTA (D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama – The Falcons need an enforcer in the middle of their defense. They gave up 20 rushing touchdowns last season, tied for the most in the league. Instincts, nastiness and tackling ability are qualities the Falcons covet.
18. INDIANAPOLIS (Mike Chappell, Indysportscentral.com) Taylor Decker, T, Ohio State – Since Andrew Luck got to Indianapolis, the Colts have been trying to fix their offensive line. They allowed more quarterback hits last year than any team in the league, and they simply have to protect their franchise.
19. BUFFALO (Tyler Dunne, Buffalo News) Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky – Rex Ryan loves granting second chances to players just like Spence, the best edge rusher left on the board. A pass rush opposite Jerry Hughes is exactly what this defense needs after a franchise-low 21 sacks last season.
20. N.Y. JETS (Brian Costello, New York Post) Jack Conklin, T, Michigan State – The Jets desperately need an infusion of youth on their offensive line. Ryan Clady will replace the retired left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson this year, but he is not a long-term answer. The Jets could use Conklin at right guard or tackle in 2016, then hope he can move to left tackle down the line.
21. WASHINGTON (Liz Clarke, Washington Post) Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor – The Redskins’ defense was a liability down the stretch. They didn’t get remotely enough pressure up front. General Manager Scot McCloughan believes you build teams in the trenches, and Billings would be a good fit.
22. HOUSTON (John McClain, Houston Chronicle) Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor – The Texans want a receiver with speed to stretch a defense. The explosive Coleman runs the 40 in 4.3 seconds and scored 20 touchdowns as a junior last season despite losing two starting quarterbacks with injuries.
23. MINNESOTA (Mark Craig, Minneapolis Star Tribune) Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi – For the Vikings, finding a No. 1 receiver is the top priority and something the team didn’t address in free agency, where offensive line was the focus. Treadwell would give Teddy Bridgewater the physical, deep-ball mismatch the team has lacked for years.
24. CINCINNATI (Paul Dehner, Cincinnati Enquirer) Josh Doctson, WR, Texas Christian – The Bengals must fill the void left by Mo Sanu and Marvin Jones leaving in free agency. Doctson’s ability to go high and pull in the contested catch makes him a natural fit next to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert.
25. PITTSBURGH (Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State – The Steelers are desperate for help in the secondary, specifically at cornerback. Apple fits the bill and can start as a rookie. He would be the first cornerback the Steelers have taken in the opening round since Chad Scott in 1997.
26. SEATTLE (Bob Condotta, Seattle Times) Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama – The Seahawks entered the off-season needing some reinforcements on the offensive line and the team’s situation up front grew even more curious during free agency when Seattle lost starting guard J.R. Sweezy and left tackle Russell Okung. Some evaluators see Kelly as either a center or guard. The Seahawks are expected to add several offensive linemen in the draft.
27. GREEN BAY (Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette) Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State – The Packers are moving Clay Matthews back outside, so they need an inside linebacker who can run and cover. The club is also in the market for pass rushers and a replacement for nose tackle B.J. Raji.
28. KANSAS CITY (Terez Paylor, Kansas City Star) Kevin Dodd, DL/OLB, Clemson – Dodd is the best player on the board at this point, and the Chiefs might welcome his talent and versatility. Dodd had a breakout 2015, and he has the frame and athleticism to chip in at defensive tackle, defensive end and outside linebacker while shoring up their bets at each position. You can never have enough pass rushers in today’s NFL.
29. NEW ENGLAND – Forfeited pick
30. ARIZONA (Kent Somers, Arizona Republic) Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Mississippi – The Cardinals have a veteran group of defensive linemen who could mentor a young player with character concerns. This position is not a need for them, but Nkemdiche might be too talented to pass up. Calais Campbell is in the last year of his contract, so maybe this could be a move for the future.
31. CAROLINA (Joe Person, Charlotte Observer) Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State – As tempting as Derrick Henry would be for the Panthers’ ground game, and as much as GM Dave Gettleman loves defensive tackles, Carolina needs an edge rusher more. Kony Ealy is emerging,, but Charles Johnson is aging. Ogbah was the Big 12 defensive player of the year last fall.
32. DENVER (Troy Renck, Denver Post) Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama – Reed profiles more as a run stuffer, but under Bill Kollar as the Broncos’ defensive line coach, he could develop into a more versatile player. With the Broncos unsure if they will pick up Sylvester Williams’ fifth-year option, Reed provides important depth now and later.