There are plenty of rumors and speculation with the NFL Draft a week away.
Reports about which teams have interest in which players are best taken with a grain of salt. The weeks leading up to the draft often arefilled with smokescreens in an attempts to fool other teams. It usually doesn’t work, but every year there are draft picks that makefans and draft analysts shake their heads.
Teams draft to fill needsbut should almost always simply select the best player available. The temptation is to reach for a guy to fill a positional need.
Listed below is the one mistake your team cannot afford to make in the 2017 NFL Draft.
1. Cleveland Browns: Select a quarterback first overall. Even if the Browns really love North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, he could still be there when the Browns pick again at 12. Even if Trubisky is selected before then, like say No. 6 to the Jets, there is a very good chance Clemson’s Deshaun Watson or Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes will be available. Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is the consensus No. 1 player in this draft class and has to be the choice at No. 1.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Trade the No. 2 pick. The Niners might be tempted to trade out to stockpile picks, but the roster last year was such a mess, they need an immediate impact player. Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas would be a perfect fit in San Francisco’s new 4-3 defense. Passing on someone like him is something they’d regret down the road.
3. Chicago Bears: Get Alshon Jeffery’s replacement. This year’s draft class is as deep at receiver as any we’ve seen, but the Bears defense needs a serious upgrade, especially in the secondary. In a division that includes Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, that has to be the priority.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Pick a defensive player. There are several really good defensive players, especially on the line and at cornerback, but the Jags used their first five picks in last year’s draft on defense and went defense in the first round of the 2015 draft. Running back T.J. Yeldon has been slowed by injuries for two years and that’s an area the Jags should address with a player like LSU’s Leonard Fournette.
5. Los Angeles Rams: Trade into the first round. The Rams do not own a first-round pickbut shouldn'tgive up any of their few picks to get into the round. If they remain patient, they can take that best player available in the second round, where they'llpick 37th overall. There are around 50 players in this deep class with first-round grades, so the Rams could find a starter at receiver or on the offensive line.
6. New York Jets: Select a defensive lineman. If the best player available is a defensive lineman like Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, the Jets have to take him, right? No. But that goes against the need vs.BPA advice mentioned earlier. True. The Jets already have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFL and it’s not that big of a reach to pass on a top-5 player at 6 to take someone the team might have ranked seventh if it fills a need. What you don’t do is reach for the 20th-best player here, but getting a top-10 player who upgrades the position is a must.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Go offense. The Chargers signed offensive tackle Russell Okung and could still use another tackle. They could also go receiver to help upgrade that position. But as mentioned earlier, receiver is an extremely deep position and seventh overall would be too high to select a tackle in this year’s class. The Bolts helped the defensive line last year withRookie of the Year Joey Bosa and now they can improve a serious deficiency at safety with Ohio State’s Malik Hooker or LSU’s Jamal Adams.
8. Carolina Panthers: Select another defensive tackle. GM Dave Gettleman loves his big uglies, but the Panthers have to get QB Cam Newton some help. Whether that’s an offensive tackle, a running back or pass-catcher, the offense needs serious upgrades. A three-in-one playmaker like Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey or a Greg Olsen clone like Alabama TEO.J. Howard would make sense.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Pick a cornerback. The Bengals have been burned by selecting a cornerback in the first round of two of the last three drafts. William Jackson missed his entire rookie season last year and Darqueze Dennard, a 2014 pick, has entered the bust conversation. Cornerback here would be too risky, givenother areas of need, especially at linebacker where a player like Alabama’s Reuben Foster would be an ideal fit.
10. Buffalo Bills: Avoid the skill positions. The Bills had the NFL’s top rushing offense last year and were 16th in total offense. But they were just 30th in passing yards and struggled to stretch the field. Theyneed a safetyand that wouldn’t be bad pick, but 10th overall would be a prime spot to get the first receiver off the board and give Tyrod Taylor another weapon to complement Sammy Watkins.
11. New Orleans Saints: Select an offensive player. Drew Brees helms one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses andeven with the trade of Brandin Cooks to New Englandit’s still a dangerous unit. But the defense is a mess. The Saints can go defensive line here and then cornerback at 32, the pick they got from the Patriots, or vice versa.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: Pass on a cornerback. It cannot be stated enough how good this class is at cornerback, and the Eagles really need one … or two. Philadelphia did a good job in free agency to find Carson Wentz some offensive weapons. The focus in the draft has to be on the other side of the ball. The Browns actually hold the 12th pick as a return for last year’s draft trade, but the Eagles will pick 14th thanks to the deal that sent Sam Bradford to Minnesota. There are a handful of cornerbacks the Eagles can — and should — take at 14.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Reach for a quarterback. This season might be Carson Palmer's last, but the Cardinals would be ill-advised to take a quarterback at 13. They have to either go cornerback here or that best player available especially if a potential Pro Bowler falls to them. The Cardinals can use a second-day pick on a quarterback, who can learnbehind Palmer for a season.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Get impatient. The Vikings don’t pick until 48 and it can be tough watching the first round as players you like get taken off the board. But the Vikings have eight draft picks, including three on Day 2 and can still address their needs then. Their biggest need is on the offensive line, where they can get both a tackle and guard in the second and third round, and even find a running back to back up newly signed Latavius Murray.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Not address the pass rush. The Colts had one of the league’s worst pass rushes last year and have to find someone who can force opposing quarterbacks in mistakes. There are some really good receivers who might have grades that would warrant the 15th overall selection, but doing so ignores a glaring need.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Fail to replace departures. Following Steve Smith's retirement and Kamar Aiken's departure, the Ravens need a top-flight receiver to take the lead on a group led by the inconsistent Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. But even if the Ravens pass on a receiverlike Western Michigan’s Corey Davis or Washington’s John Ross, they could find a defensive back to add depth to a thin secondary.
17. Washington Redskins: Not improve the front seven. The Redskins had the NFL’s fifth-worst defense last year and have to find a playmaker on that side of the ball. It may be more flashy to get a running back or receiver, but the best thing to help Kirk Cousins and the offense will be a defense that can get off the field.
18. Tennessee Titans: Not find a deep threat for Marcus Mariota. The Titans own two first-round picks and should find a playmaker on either side of the ball. One of those picks, most likely the second one at 18th overall, has to be on a receiver who can stretch the field.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Reach for a safety. LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker will be off the board at this point, and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is not be a great fit for Tampa'sdefense. The Bucs would be better off finding a complementary receiver for Mike Evans or a dynamic playmaker out of the backfieldand getting their safety, like Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu, in the second round.
20. Denver Broncos: Fail to upgrade the offensive line. It’s nosecret Denver’s biggest need is at tackle and 20th overall would be a perfect spot for one to come off the board. The Broncos will have their pick here from among Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, Alabama’s Cam Robinson and Utah’s Garett Bolles.
21. Detroit Lions: Not get someone to complement Ezekiel Ansah. The Lions have to find someone to take the pressure off Ansah, who had 14 1/2 sacks in 2015. An ankle injury slowed him last season, but his two sacks in 13 games werelargely because there was no one on the other side. Kerry Hyder led the team with eight sacks from the middle, so the Lions have to find another edge rusher in someone like Missouri’s Charles Harris, UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley or Michigan’s Taco Charlton.
22. Miami Dolphins: Not taking the best player available. This may seem obvious, but often teams reach to fill a need. The Dolphins have several spots they can upgrade, so whether they get a guard, linebacker, defensive back or defensive lineman here, they just have to make sure the playerimproves the roster.
23. New York Giants: Not protect Eli Manning. While a tackle like Bolles would be ideal, protecting Manning doesn’t necessarily mean selecting an offensive lineman. The Giants had a putrid running game last year, so running back could be an option if they have someone here they like. Improving the ground game would alleviate some of the pressure on Manning. The Giants also need a solid all-around tight end, but taking one at 23 would be quite a reach. Ashland’s Adam Shaheen could be an option on Day 2.
24. Oakland Raiders: Pick any offensive player. There undoubtedly will be some really good offensive players available when the Raiders pick at 24, but theirdefense was abysmal outside of Player of the Year Khalil Mack. They have to go defense here, and a linebacker would be ideal.
25. Houston Texans: Pick any defensive player. The Texans had the NFL’s top defense last year, even with two-time Player of the Year J.J. Watt missing most of the season. The pick at 25 has to be offense, whether that’s a quarterback to become the face of the franchise or someone to fill a glaring need at right tackle.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Not upgrade the secondary. Who knows how much longer Richard Sherman will be with the Seahawks. Seattle expects Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas back and have Kam Chancellorbut needs a lockdown corner opposite Sherman. The Seahawks don’t necessarily need to get that cornerback in the first roundbut have to address the position with one of four picks in the first three rounds.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Draft a quarterback. There are several mock drafts that have the Chiefs taking a QB in the first round. That likely won’t and shouldn'thappen. First, it’s just not something the Chiefs do. They've selected just three quarterbacks in the first round, the last time in 1983 (Todd Blackledgeseventh overall). Plus,Alex Smith, 32, got to his second Pro Bowl last year and the focus in the first round has to be on finding him another weapon.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Go offense. The Cowboys already have the NFL’s best offensive line and top young quarterback-running back tandem. But the defense leavesa lot to be desire, especially the pass rush. Off-field issues have hampered the Cowboys at the position, so finding someone who can get to the quarterback has to be the choice in a draft loaded with edge rushers.
29. Green Bay Packers: Select a running back. The Packers could use a running back, but it wouldbe a mistake to get him in the first round. The Packers really need upgrades at inside linebacker and safety, and they’ll have their choice of players at 29th. If Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is here, he could provide help at both positions.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Take a wide receiver. With the uncertainty of suspended Martavis Bryant this season, there might be a temptation to get a receiver at the bottom of the first round. The Steelers have to resist the temptation — and probably will. They do a very good job drafting the right players and should use the 30th pick to find defensive help.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Not getting defensive line help. Vic Beasley is a playmaker up front,but the Falcons have to get him help. They got linebackers De'Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones last yearbut haveto find interior line help early this year. Whether it's Michigan State’s Malik McDowell, Florida’s Caleb Brantley or Clemson’s Carlos Watkins, the Falconshave to get someone to occupy blockers so playmakers like Beasley and Jones can do their thing.
32.New England Patriots: Wait until the third round to pick. Because of trades for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy, the Patriots’ first pickwould be 72nd overall. That’s too long to wait, even for the defending Super Bowl champions. The Pats likely won’t try to get into the first round, nor should they, but expect them to move around some pieces to get a second-round pick.