Let me start by saying I have no confidence in any of these picks. There’s uncertainty surrounding even Kansas City’s pick at No. 1 this year, and with as many as eight teams in the top 12 looking to trade down, the order of the first round could have a very different look by the end of Thursday night.
But, that being said, here’s my best guess at how things might play out at Radio City Music Hall:
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
It’s been reported that even Joeckel isn’t sure he’s the top target on the Chiefs’ board. KC could just as easily turn to Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher here and upset the apple cart right from the beginning. But, for the purposes of this exercise, I’ll give the Chiefs the guy with the longer track record against better competition.
2. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
There is no consensus on who the best pass rusher in this draft class is. I’m going with Jordan in this spot primarily because I’ve seen his name linked to the Jaguars the longest. Again, Fisher is a possibility here. And Jacksonville could throw a curveball and take the draft’s best CB in Alabama’s Dee Milliner.
3. OAKLAND RAIDERS: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Word is the Raiders would like to trade out of this spot. NFL draft Godfather Gil Brandt projects the Jets to trade up here and nab Milliner. If Oakland stays put, I think they’ll take Floyd to fill the void in the middle of their defensive line.
4. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
In a highly unpredictable draft, the Eagles might be the biggest wild card. Under new head coach Chip Kelly, Philly might be doing things differently than the other 31 teams in the league. But it stands to reason that o-line needs an upgrade. Again, a trade down is possible. If not, I’m giving the Eagles the best OL still on the board.
5. DETROIT LIONS: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
At the start of the offseason, Milliner almost appeared to be a lock in this spot. A pass rusher also remains a real possibility. But the Lions lost both starting tackles from 2012, and Johnson is soaring up draft boards. The thinking all three top OTs will be gone in the top five is a big part of the reason there could be so much trade activity at 2, 3 and 4.
6. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The new Browns brain trust — GM Mike Lombardi and head coach Rob Chudzinski — reportedly are not sold on incumbent QB Branden Weeden. Cleveland would love to trade down and still take Smith. But if no deal emerges, I think the Browns will stay put and take their QB of the future.
7. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Cardinals would love to get one of the three big OTs and could trade up to do just that. But if the board falls this way, former Colts OC Bruce Arians will go for the No. 1-rated guard — and perhaps the draft’s best overall player — to shore up a leaky offensive line.
8. BUFFALO BILLS: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Some believe the Bills will pull the first big shocker and draft Southern Cal QB Matt Barkley or Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib in this spot. But they could just as easily wait until the second round — or trade back into the late first round — and get one of the two QBs. So why not take the player many consider to be the draft’s most exciting offensive weapon here instead.
9. NEW YORK JETS: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The draft’s best corner’s slide ends here. After trading Darelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this week, the Jets waste little time turning in a card for the former Crimson Tide star.
10. TENNESSEE TITANS: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Two guards in the top 10? Why not? This draft isn’t likely to follow many of the conventional wisdom “rules,” and Titans head coach Mike Munchak — a Hall of Fame guard in his own right — appreciates the big uglies up front.
11. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Star Lotuleilei, DT, Utah
The Chargers badly need an OT here, and they’ll likely try to trade up to get one of the big three. If that fails, I expect new GM Tom Telesco — who cut his teeth under Bill Polian in Indy and stayed on under Ryan Grigson last year — to take the best player available. That’s Lotuleilei who was part of the early conversations about who might go No. 1 overall.
12. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Fins reportedly would love to trade down here. Miami is trying to fill its OT need by dealing for Kansas City’s Branden Albert, and they signed CB Brent Grimes in free agency to replace departed starter Sean Smith. That leaves pass rusher as the most glaring need, and Mingo could provide great value at No. 12.
13. NEW YORK JETS: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
By taking Milliner at No. 9, the Jets gamble that Mingo still will be on the board here. In my scenario, he’s not. So Rex Ryan has to settle for the athletic freak with just nine career starts from BYU. Ansah’s ceiling is as high as any player in this draft, but New York also could roll the dice on Georgia’s Jarvis Jones if they are comfortable with his medical concerns.
14. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
So many people have the monster d-lineman from Mizzou projected here that it’s almost scary to jump onboard. The fit is tremendous, however. Carolina could also look for a CB to replace retired Chris Gamble or a wide receiver to pair with the aging Steve Smith.
15. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
This could be another home for Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. But the Saints need help all over a defense that allowed the most yards in NFL history a year ago. When the draft’s top-rated safety falls into your lap, that’s a good place to start.
16. ST. LOUIS RAMS: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Rams need a safety and a wide receiver with their two first-round picks. With Vaccaro gone just one pick before them, St. Louis turns to the man rated as the draft’s No. 1 receiver for much of the offseason. There reportedly are concerns about Patterson’s work ethic and consistency, but his talent is too much for the Rams to pass up here.
17. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones just seems like a Steelers kind of player. There are concerns about a spinal stenosis condition that ended his career at Southern Cal and forced him to transfer to Georgia. Some teams also might be scared off by his poor showing at the Bulldogs’ pro day. But my guess is Pittsburgh will see the draft’s best pass rusher on tape and take him off the board as James Harrison’s replacement.
18. DALLAS COWBOYS: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Add the Cowboys to the laundry list of teams that would love to have one of the draft’s top OLs. They’re all long gone here. So Dallas — transitioning to a Tampa 2 scheme under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin — grabs the best available safety.
19. NEW YORK GIANTS: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State
There are other needs, and it’s very possible this is the landing spot for Alabama OT D.J. Fluker. But the Giants rarely pass up the chance to add to their pass rush, and Carradine seems to have passed former teammate Bjoern Werner in recent weeks.
20. CHICAGO BEARS: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
This is where the Manti Te’o watch begins. The Bears could tab the Notre Dame LB as a replacement for Brian Urlacher. But I think, instead, they’ll opt to add another piece to protect the new face of the franchise — QB Jay Cutler.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
This could be the spot for somebody coming up from the second round after a QB. But the Bengals reportedly love Lacy, and he likely represents the best value for them here.
22. ST. LOUIS RAMS: Eric Reid, S, LSU
The Rams got their WR at No. 16. They go with the best available safety here. There are also plenty of rumors St. Louis could package both of their picks to trade up, likely in pursuit of WR Tavon Austin.
23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
The Vikings are desperate for help at middle linebacker. This is right in the heart of where Te’o is expected to go off the board. Seems like a perfect fit.
24. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
It’s likely somebody — perhaps Miami at No. 12 — will take the former FSU star off the board before the Colts get on the clock. The Falcons also would love to trade up in pursuit of a CB, and they’ll likely try to get ahead of Indy to assure Rhodes is there. But if the board falls this way, I don’t think Ryan Grigson will hesitate to turn in Rhodes’ name.
25. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
With Rhodes gone, the Vikings turn to Trufant — who has two brothers playing CB in the NFL — to replace departed Antoine Winfield. Count Minnesota, with two first-rounders, among the teams that could grant one of the earlier teams’ wishes to trade down.
26. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
WR Greg Jennings signed with Minnesota in free agency, and TE JerMichael Finley’s future with the team is uncertain. So why not take the top-rated TE, a Fort Wayne native who provides Aaron Rodgers with another target in the passing game?
27. HOUSTON TEXANS: Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal
The Texans desperately need another option to take some pressure off No. 1 receiver Andre Johnson. Cal’s Keenan Allen and Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins are among the possibilities, but Woods is a fast riser with sure hands who provides the kind of safe option GMs love.
28. DENVER BRONCOS: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Once considered among the draft’s elite pass rushers, the German native’s stock has fallen in recent weeks. Denver finds itself in need of a replacement for Elvis Dumervil. however, and could be more than happy to stop the former Seminoles’ slide.
29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Who knows what is going on in the inner recesses of Bill Belichick’s mind? The Pats desperately need a WR, but I think they can wait until Round 2. Instead, I’m giving them this underrated Tar Heel. Williams can help take some of the double teams off of Vince Wilfork while serving as his heir apparent.
30. ATLANTA FALCONS: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
My guess is the Falcons won’t stay here. They’d like to move up and grab either Milliner or Rhodes, and if they’re willing to pay the price they should have plenty of opportunity. If they remain at 30, I’ll give them NFL Network draft czar Mike Mayock’s top-rated CB.
31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The reigning NFC champs have 14 picks and very few holes to fill. They could go for a safety here or package picks to trade up for Vaccaro much earlier. But San Fran has thin depth along the defensive line and is in perfect position to take a flier on the 6-foot-8 former shot put champion from Estonia with freakish athletic ability and one of the highest upsides in the draft.
32. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
The Ravens reportedly are smitten with Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. But it’s going to take a lot to move up high enough to grab him. If they stay here, the fast-rising Seminole is not a bad consolation prize.