There are three general phases on the NFL calendar when it comes to the draft. There are the initial few weeks that include prospects turning pro and playing in all-star games. Then there’s the most important phase for most players: the NFL Scouting Combine starting in late February. Finally, there’s the long slog of pro days and franchise visits that give teams one last look at prospects right up until it’s time to actually turn in the card.
As we hit Super Bowl weekend down in Atlanta, we’re officially transitioning from the first phase to the second. Already there’s a ton of players who are moving up (and down) on draft boards thanks in part to early performances at practices during events like the Senior Bowl. The jockeying is only just beginning for most but the overall picture in Nashville is starting to become a lot firmer than it once was.
So who is going where? Here’s a stab at how the draft could wind up shaking out. Order is based on current NFL standings prior to the Super Bowl:
1. Arizona Cardinals — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The team may have hired the offensive-minded Kliff Kingsbury but the Air Raid disciple knows better than anybody that to have overall team success you have to be good on both sides of the ball. Bosa is the best talent in the draft off the edge and would pair well as the yin to Chandler Jones’ yang in rushing the passer.
2. San Francisco 49ers — Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
As much as the front office has invested in the defensive line, rushing the passer still is a glaring weakness for the 49ers. Allen will help with that and provide a great weapon to stop some of the diverse offenses that inhabit the NFC West.
3. New York Jets — Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
Trading down is probably the Jets’ best course of action but it’s going to be hard to pass up on Williams, who was dominant during his brief time as a starter in Tuscaloosa. He should lineup next to Leonard Williams and form quite the tandem for new DC Gregg Williams.
4. Oakland Raiders — Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan
Turning Gary loose opposite Arden Key has to be a dream scenario for new GM Mike Mayock and the Michigan product will tick off a lot of boxes in terms of height, weight and speed. He’s not going to be the kind of force that Khalil Mack once was for the franchise but Gary's upside is off the charts.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
Bruce Arians was brought in to help Jameis Winston reach his ceiling at quarterback but in order for that to happen he’ll need to stay upright and without constant defensive pressure in his face. Enter Taylor from just down the road with the Gators, who will be highly regarded for his physical nature and ability to handle all the manner of edge rushers.
6. New York Giants — Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Eli Manning’s time in the Big Apple is limited at best and while there will still be a push to win now as a result, the franchise has to look beyond this one-year window. Enter Haskins, who will be QB1 on just about every board and ripe for the taking by the Giants.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
The Blake Bortles experiment is over and the franchise is clearly moving on. Enter Lock, who has the size and arm to be a top-10 pick and the future face of the franchise.
8. Detroit Lions — Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The national champion does not quite have the elite athleticism of some of his draft peers but he’s polished and ready to drop into just about any system. It goes without saying that the team needs somebody to generate a pass rush and Matt Patricia will be able to get the very best out of Ferrell.
9. Buffalo Bills — Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
The team knows Josh Allen is their future but they have to give him time to throw in the pocket or else him taking off on every other snap and getting injured. Dillard could be a nice cornerstone at tackle as he bulks up a bit and certainly will have no issues performing in the weather in Buffalo.
10. Denver Broncos — Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
All of the quarterbacks will get a thorough evaluation from the front office but interior lineman also is a pressing issue and Simmons’ ability jumps off the page at you. Off-the-field concerns will push him down a few boards but he’s got tremendous talent that would be a great fit in Denver.
11. Cincinnati Bengals — Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Bengals need only to look at their division rival Browns to see how a smaller Oklahoma quarterback with a history of winning can transform your franchise. Andy Dalton will be a quality bridge option to allow Murray to get some reps before being the guy long term under soon-to-be-official new head coach Zac Taylor.
12. Green Bay Packers — Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State
Sweat had a terrific week down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl and while he’s a little on the thin side, his frame and athleticism already has a ton of teams intrigued about his upside. The Packers are going to need somebody to take over for Clay Matthews and rush the quality QBs in the division and the Bulldogs star could be just the guy.
13. Miami Dolphins — Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
Williams can play either tackle position but might be best suited to slide inside to guard to help the Dolphins shore up the interior of their offensive line, which has been a weakness. He is one of the most polished products in his draft class, making him a great early option up front for Miami either way.
14. Atlanta Falcons — Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Finding a running mate/replacement for Grady Jarrett is going to be a big draft storyline in Atlanta and Wilkins makes plenty of sense in that regards. He’s got the requisite size and surprising quickness that can get up field and cause havoc.
15. Washington Redskins — D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
The franchise will probably lure a free agent to fill the quarterback vacancy that came about as a result of Alex Smith’s injury but in both the immediate and long-term future, finding a top threat at wide receiver is going to be a priority. Metcalf has the frame, speed and athleticism to be WR1 on the team even if there are plenty of other needs at the moment.
16. Carolina Panthers — Devin White, LB, LSU
There figures to be a defensive overhaul during this draft for the Panthers and while they badly need new faces in the secondary, White is too good of a talent to pass up at this point. He can fill the void left behind by Thomas Davis and next to Luke Kuechly to give Ron Rivera two of the best sideline-to-sideline backers.
17. Cleveland Browns — Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
The Browns have one of the best rosters in the league in a surprising twist but upgrading their patchwork offensive line figures to be a priority this offseason to give Baker Mayfield more time to work in the pocket. Little has the most upside of any offensive lineman in this class given his athleticism and could easily slide in as a starter at either tackle spot.
18. Minnesota Vikings — Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State
Pretty much every spot along the Vikings’ offensive line will get a chance to be upgraded this offseason and Risner has the chance to play just about everywhere and make an impact early on.
19. Tennessee Titans — Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Jurrell Casey needs somebody to take a load off him and Lawrence’s massive size and athletic ability will certainly do that when he slides in alongside the Pro Bowler. Edge rusher is another pressing concern up front but solidifying the defense up the middle is a good start for Year 2 under Mike Vrabel.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
Though his size will scare off a few teams, Bush seems like a perfect fit for the Steelers given the way he can drop into coverage and chase down opposing quarterbacks and running backs. His instincts are top notch, he’s a sure tackler and a good fit for a defense that is still looking to fill the void of Ryan Shazier after his terrible injury.
21. Seattle Seahawks — Jachai Polite, DE, Florida
Polite is smaller than most would like coming off the edge but Seattle has been a landing ground for many talented players who don’t quite tick every box in terms of height or weight. His burst is really evident when you watch him come off the edge and he’ll help boost the pass rush for the Seahawks both in the short and long term.
22. Baltimore Ravens — Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
The Ravens' current GM, David DeCosta, can pick up where predecessor Ozzie Newsome left off by having a preference for Crimson Tide players like Jacobs. He would form quite the tandem in the backfield with Lamar Jackson given his vision and ability to run all over the field, taking the pressure off the young QB while fitting in perfectly with what the team’s identity already is.o
23. Houston Texans — Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma
It goes without saying that the Texans will be investing most of their early draft capital on upgrading the offensive line in order to better protect Deshaun Watson. Ford should slide in as the starting right tackle from Day 1 and still has plenty of room to improve.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago) — Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
There was a lot of talk at the Senior Bowl about Jon Gruden’s comments about Kyler Murray but he’s long gone in this scenario. Still, the organization has given hints about moving on from Derek Carr and Jones has all the size and smarts that the head coach and GM are looking for under center.
25. Philadelphia Eagles — Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Ronald Darby is a free agent and the secondary needs upgrades either way. Baker, who won the Thorpe Award with the Bulldogs, is not the biggest guy out there but is extremely polished and knows what to do against just about any opposing wideout.
26. Indianapolis Colts — Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
No matter what happens with Pierre Desir’s impending free agency, continuing to get younger on defense with high-upside players continues to be a priority. Williams has the size you look for at the position and really attacks the football when it’s in the air, making him a good fit in Indy and terrific value at this point in the first round.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas) — Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Brown has a chance to step in and be WR1 as soon as OTAs start given how polished and fast he is. He has terrific hands and his ability to line up all over the place will be a good fit in Gruden’s system while bringing a little "Hollywood" to Sin City down the road.
28. Los Angeles Chargers — Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Oliver was one of the most heralded players in college football for what he could do as an interior lineman for the Cougars line and could make a big jump at the next level with more talent around him. He will be able to solidify the Chargers' interior against the run while likely getting to the QB more next to Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
29. Kansas City Chiefs — Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
The people in the Chiefs' front office know they have a window to win now and need as many players as they can to help shore up their defense. Murphy falls under that for sure as he’ll be able to handle a number of different assignments early as an instinctive and polished corner.
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans) — T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Jimmy Graham still has his moments in Green Bay but Hockenson will be a big addition for Aaron Rodgers with the way he finds open spaces and hauls in tough catches. His ability as a blocker will keep him on the field on every down and really add a vital element to the incoming staff’s offense.
31. New England Patriots — Oshane Ximines, DE, Old Dominion
It’s a fairly good bet that the Patriots trade out of the first round but Bill Belichick knows that you can never have too many pass rushers. Ximines can really come off the edge with his burst and still has plenty of room to grow.
32. Los Angeles Rams — Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
Even with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, pass defense was still an issue for the Rams this season and Thompson will be able to play center fielder and clean up a lot of those big plays.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.