Mock drafts at this point on the calendar are clearly preliminary.
Teams are still putting their draft boards together, and there’s plenty of work to be done in that regard. The NFL Scouting Combine and pro days that follow will give teams time to meet with prospects one on one, while free agency will also shape roster needs.
Still, with the deadline for underclassmen to declare and the Senior Bowl now complete, a clearer picture of what might happen this spring is starting to take shape.
Here is The Buffalo News’ first projection of the draft season:
1. Cleveland Browns. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M. The Browns need a quarterback, but have another first-round pick. Instead of potentially reaching here, they take the consensus top player available. Garrett is a stud pass rusher and would be a piece to build a defense around.
2. San Francisco 49ers. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina. Trubisky has only one season of starting experience in college, but possesses the arm strength and accuracy of a future starter. With expected new coach Kyle Shanahan taking over, he’ll likely want to start fresh at quarterback.
3. Chicago Bears. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State. Like the two teams ahead of them, the Bears could also use a quarterback. They could opt to wait and see if a prospect they like starts slipping down the board, then try to move up into the bottom of the first round with their second-round pick and extra fourth-round pick they got from the Bills as trade chips. Hooker is NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s second-ranked player in the draft.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars. Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama. Allen might have been a first-round pick last year, but returned for another season with the Crimson Tide. He projects as an elite run defender who can play all three downs because of his versatility.
5. Tennessee Titans (from the L.A. Rams). Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio St. A second member of the Buckeyes’ secondary goes in the top five. Lattimore should provide immediate help to a defense that ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass.
6. New York Jets. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. Don’t believe the hype about quarterbacks falling out of the first round this year. They tend to always get overdrafted because of the importance of the position. Watson likely helped his stock with an amazing performance in Clemson’s victory over Alabama in the national championship. The Jets are exactly like the Bills in that they are going nowhere until identifying a franchise quarterback.
7. Los Angeles Chargers. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin. New coach Anthony Lynn will likely want to get more protection for quarterback Philip Rivers and a catalyst for the run game. Ramczyk has just one season of top-level college football experience, but dominated for the Badgers. His medicals at the scouting combine will need to come back clean.
8. Carolina Panthers. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. Jonathan Stewart deals with injuries annually and carries a big price tag. The Panthers could move on from him and open up some cap space while finding a suitable replacement in Fournette.
9. Cincinnati Bengals. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama. NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein says upgrading the athleticism at linebacker will be a priority for the Bengals. Foster checks that box, with the toughness to play the run and speed to defend the pass.
10. Buffalo Bills. Jamal Adams, S, LSU. The biggest question here is what happens at quarterback. If the Bills bring back Tyrod Taylor, it means they’re not entering into a total rebuild and should try and find an immediate contributor. Adams would be just that in the secondary. Another option would be to add another wide receiver to pair with Sammy Watkins – either Western Michigan’s Corey Davis or Clemson’s Mike Williams would fit that bill. Adams looks to be a complete prospect, with solid intangibles, an ability to play against the run and the explosiveness teams look for in a top-10 pick.
11. New Orleans Saints. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU. When don’t the Saints need to address their defense? White is a four-year starter for the Tigers who can solidify his spot in the top half of the first round with a good showing in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. There is an obvious appeal to keeping the LSU product in state.
12. Cleveland Browns. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame. It’s time for the Browns to take a shot. With the pick they acquired last year from the Philadelphia Eagles, the Browns go for Kizer, who has the physical tools teams look for, but could benefit from sitting behind a veteran at the start of his career.
13. Arizona Cardinals. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington. The Cardinals like to use man coverage and Jones excels at that, so it looks like a good match. Pairing him with Patrick Peterson would give Arizona a solid one-two punch at cornerback.
14. Indianapolis Colts. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida St. Frank Gore had a 1,000-yard season in 2016, but at age 33, he’s well past a running back’s prime. Cook could pair with Gore for a year or so before taking over the full-time job as the featured back.
15. Philadelphia Eagles. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson. The Eagles made a great trade with the Vikings to acquire a first-round pick, giving up quarterback Sam Bradford. Quarterback Carson Wentz had a promising rookie season, so it makes sense to add another weapon for him. Williams plays with an edge and has the size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) to become a true No. 1 receiver.
16. Baltimore Ravens. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. Veteran receiver Steve Smith retired, leaving a hole at wideout. Davis didn’t play against the top competition in college, but can line up anywhere and has the size (6-3, 213). NFL teams covet at receiver.
17. Washington Redskins. Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford. Thomas particularly stood out in Stanford’s win over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year has a relentless work ethic.
18. Tennessee Titans. John Ross, WR, Washington. Ross might be the best deep threat in the draft. He made 81 catches for 1,150 yards and a whopping 17 touchdowns in 2016. He would instantly be a weapon for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida. Playing in a division with Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan means a team needs to be strong in the secondary. The Buccaneers had good success in drafting a Gators cornerback in 2016 with Vernon Hargreaves, so why not go back to the well.
20. Denver Broncos. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama. If Paxton Lynch ends up winning the quarterback competition, a top-flight tight end would become his new best friend. Howard had a solid week at the Senior Bowl and leads a strong class of tight ends.
21. Detroit Lions. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee. Barnett could benefit from a good showing at the scouting combine, because the biggest questions about him at the moment are about his athleticism.
22. Miami Dolphins. David Njoku, TE, Miami. He’s not the finished product that Howard is because he started only nine games over two years, but Njoku has the physical traits that could make him a future Pro Bowler. A former high school receiver and high jump champion, he’s one of the best athletes in the class.
23. New York Giants. Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan. Peppers is a polarizing prospect because there are questions about whether he’s big enough to play linebacker in the NFL. He’s a great athlete, though, so it only takes one team to believe they have a spot for him.
24. Oakland Raiders. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida. The Gators’ secondary has been loaded with NFL prospects lately, and Wilson – who earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors in 2016 – joins that list, thanks in large part to his size (6-1, 213).
25. Houston Texans. Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky. The Texans’ biggest need is at quarterback, but with the top three off the board in this scenario, there doesn’t seem to be a match. Lamp played offensive tackle in college, but should transition into a Day One starter inside.
26. Seattle Seahawks. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. says McDowell should be a top-five pick based on talent, but his production and desire did not match up. That sounds like the type of challenge Pete Carroll would love to take on.
27. Kansas City Chiefs. Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida. The biggest question Davis must answer is whether he can stay healthy at the NFL level. The Chiefs need to start thinking about Derrick Johnson’s successor.
28. Dallas Cowboys. Charles Harris, DE, Missouri. Harris has the kind of first step that should make him a productive pass rusher at the next level, filling the Cowboys’ biggest need.
29. Green Bay Packers. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama. He’s just a redshirt sophomore, but Humphrey stands 6-1, a big selling point for cornerbacks in today’s NFL. He’s got track-star speed and terrific bloodlines – his father, Bobby, was a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos at running back.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers. Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA. McKinley projects as an outside linebacker in the NFL, and has plenty of speed coming off the edge. He needs some work against the run, but could be a pass-rush specialist early in his career.
31. Atlanta Falcons. Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama. As a pure pass rusher, Williams might be behind only Garrett in this year’s class. His off-the-field red flags, however, could drop him out of the first round entirely.
32. New England Patriots. Garett Bolles, OT, Utah. Bolles has only one season of major college football experience, but has the size, strength and intelligence to be a starter in the NFL.