The Patriots are all but guaranteed to influence the 2017 NFL Draft in a huge way. Even though they hold the No. 32 pick -- the last in the first round -- the Patriots have the ultimate bargaining chip in Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s going to be a swing guy for plenty of draft boards, depending on where he goes between now and draft night.
But even if the Patriots stand pat, they’re still in a great spot. New England is loaded after winning Super Bowl LI and will get a great selection of quality players late in the first round.
One option would be snagging Stanford running back/game changer/underrated Pacific Time football player Christian McCaffrey. Going offense in the first round hasn’t always panned out perfectly for Bill Belichick, but McCaffrey is a perfect fit for the Pats roster.
He immediately improves their special teams and he’s a capable runner in addition to a receiver out of the backfield. That’s the bread and butter for New England.
Now they get to butter the bread a little thicker.
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: I watched some quarterbacks this week and it really hits home what a project it will be for Hue Jackson to develop one of the top prospects in this class. If there is pressure on the Browns to be good now, it really might make more sense to pull the trigger on Jimmy Garappolo and go with two defenders via their other top picks.
Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: The Shanahan system has long been built on a guy who can throw on the run and make smart decisions. Trubisky needs to work on his deep ball but he has a strong arm and his ability to throw on the run is seriously underrated.
Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama: So much depends on how the Bears approach free agency, and they have invested plenty on the defensive line in the past, but grabbing Allen gives them an anchor in the front seven that they badly need.
Jamal Adams, S, LSU: This isn’t an ideal top-10 setup for the Jaguars, but the Jags have had plenty of chances in the top 10, so it’s hard to feel sorry for them. The defense is really coming along and putting Adams in the defensive backfield only benefits this team further. There isn’t anyone at a position of need worth taking here.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles)
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State: Fluid athlete who improves the secondary for Tennessee. The Titans also need to find a wideout, but can do so later in the draft courtesy of the Jared Goff trade, which right now doesn’t look great for the Rams.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: The Jets are probably about to embark on a rebuild, but they also have a front office and coaching staff facing heat while holding absolutely zero cards when it comes to a quarterback. There’s a very good chance the Jets decide to draft a signal caller and bring in a veteran. If they whiff in free agency, they need someone who isn’t a project, and Watson has tons of production against strong defenses in college.
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State: The Chargers are moving cities and dealing with a closing window for franchise quarterback Philip Rivers, so no one is really paying attention to the unit they’re building on defense. Hooker is a ballhawk who would only build on the play-making side of things for the Chargers.
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: Pretty good spot for Carolina in this draft. No one wants to follow up the Super Bowl with a top-10 pick, but between Garrett, Thomas and Derek Barnett they’re going to get a top-tier pass rusher, which is exactly what the franchise needs. It’s easy to see Dave Gettleman falling in love with Thomas.
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan: Cincinnati’s offense suffered last season because it lost complementary players to A.J. Green. Between Tyler Boyd having another year and Davis being prepared to step in immediately, the Bengals could see a quick bounce-back.
10. Buffalo Bills
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: There is actually good case for cutting LeSean McCoy so we’ll play this one through and see how it shakes up the draft. The one thing to consider on McCoy is Sean McDermott, who was in Philadelphia for multiple years with Shady.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: The Saints should figure out what Mickey Loomis was doing when the Pelicans traded for DeMarcus Cousins and make him do the exact same thing during the draft. Or just grab the best pass rusher on the board. Sean Payton has made no bones about wanting pressure from the front.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan: Pick a position, any position. The Browns need players all over the place. If they come out of this draft with Jarrett, Peppers and a trade of No. 34 to grab Garoppolo we’re yelling about them as big-time winners during the draft season. Man, there are so many different ways the Browns’ draft can turn this year.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: Big, strong and (maybe?) fast. This is the same spot where the Cardinals drafted Michael Floyd in 2013. The circumstances are much different, though, because instead of becoming the complement for Larry Fitzgerald, Williams has to become the replacement. No one will match Fitz coming out of college (or what he did in Arizona) but Williams will help the offense right away and works nicely with Fitzgerald and John Brown.
14. *Indianapolis Colts
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: Chris Ballard could go in a different direction with this pick and I wouldn’t blame him. Going running back in the first round of your first draft as GM has the potential to backfire very quickly. It also has the potential to pay off in a big way. If the Colts become more physical on the ground and are able to ease the load on Andrew Luck they’ll improve as a team rapidly.
15. *Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)
Ryan Ramcyzk, OL, Wisconsin: This goes against the grain for Philly based on what the Eagles need, but if Jason Peters is released (a reasonable possibility if he won’t rework his deal) they have to develop more depth behind Lane Johnson, who could be at risk for further missed games.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Tim Williams, LB, Alabama: Ozzie Newsome loves him some Alabama players, and even though Williams has some major red flags he also has a ton of pass-rushing talent. There is a very good case for calling him one-dimensional, but that one dimension helps the Ravens in terms of getting after the passer. There are definitely some off-field issues here.
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama: Fall-in-the-lap situation for Washington, which lands a thumping middle linebacker capable of playing from the first day. This is a tricky draft for the Redskins, who also are going to need a lot of help at wide receiver with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon likely to leave.
18. Tennessee Titans
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: Jon Robinson should be beaming after the way this first round has gone for him. Landing a No. 1 wide receiver would be an ideal situation, but there’s no need to force things and now he’s walking out of Thursday with a pair of defense studs after landing the best name in the draft to bolster his defensive line.
John Ross, WR, Washington: The Buccaneers are just about there when it comes to the offense. How they address the Doug Martin situation in free agency -- whether he’s released and/or replaced -- will go a long way toward determining how they’re going to draft. Either way, adding a burner across from Mike Evans will only help Jameis Winston.
20. Denver Broncos
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: The Broncos are rebuilding this offense in a different way this year, with Mike McCoy returning and Paxton Lynch expected to get serious run under center. Getting Lynch protection will be key but the Broncos could stand to hand him another weapon too and Howard would fit the bill.
21. Detroit Lions
Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama: The Lions are in a weird spot in terms of their offensive line, because both Riley Reiff and Larry Warford could walk into free agency. That’s a single side of the offensive line -- Laken Tomlinson should be able to step up, but if they lose both guys talent is needed immediately.
22. Miami Dolphins
Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky: Trading Branden Albert to the Jaguars allows the Dolphins to kick Laremy Tunsil to tackle, but it also opens up a hole at guard. Drafting Lamp falls in line with the way they’ve built this offense in years past and would allow them to be physical in the running game again.
23. New York Giants
Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State: The Giants are facing a situation where a couple of guys on the front line could bolt, which means going out and getting a pass rusher and a front-line defensive tackle in free agency and the draft. This gives them one of those answers.
24. Oakland Raiders
Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida: The fast defensive tackle with the fast first step would be paired alongside Khalil Mack on this defensive line and the Raiders might suddenly have a defense that could put some serious pressure on opponents.
25. Houston Texans
Takkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA: Not necessarily a position of “need” per se, but you can’t find a Brock Osweiler replacement at this point anyway. McKinley only makes a filthy pass rush that much more dangerous.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Garrett Bolles, OL, Utah: It’s just hard to imagine the Seahawks investing in anything other than offensive line early on this year given how badly the line struggled to protect Russell Wilson in 2016.
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: Hyper-athletic guy who would really fit the mold of fast-flying outside linebackers in this defense. He can play down or standing up (but looks better in the latter) and would help the Chiefs pass rush.
28. Dallas Cowboys
Teez Tabor, CB, Florida: Dallas is in really good shape for 2017 on offense but it desperately needs help on the backside from a defensive perspective. Adding a talented corner late in the first round helps in a big way.
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: Pretty nice little haul for these two NFC stalwarts, landing a pair of talented corners late in the first round because of how things shook out.
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU: Not necessarily a position of need, but still a pick that helps the Steelers improve a young defense that has only gotten better over the past two years. Depth at corner will give Keith Butler some room to play and at least an excuse for covering Chris Hogan.
31. Atlanta Falcons
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: The defense tired out against the Patriots and couldn’t produce any more pass rush against Tom Brady. The result was a loss in the Super Bowl. You can bet Dan Quinn will remember come draft time.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: The Patriots will ultimately trade out of this spot if there are multiple quarterbacks on the board (or if they land a high pick from someone who wants Garoppolo), but this pick just makes too much sense. Tom Brady getting another backfield weapon capable of jailbreaking it frequently feels unfair.