While covering the 1956 NFL draft, Langston Hughes wrote, "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly."
All right, so maybe Hughes wasn't covering the draft. But he could have been. The Green Bay Packers that year got quarterback Bart Starr in the 17th round. Five titles later, that turned out to be one of the dream picks of all time.
NFL teams need to prepare for all possible scenarios in advance of next week's draft -- from worst-case to best-case. But while it's important to be ready for anything, it's fun to consider what would happen if things broke exactly the way you wanted them to break. Hey, you never know.
With that in mind, here's the dream scenario for each of the NFL's 32 teams in this year's draft, listed in the current order of selection:
1. Los Angeles Rams: Take QB Jared Goff and hope. The Rams' dream scenario is that the people broadcasting the draft don't keep accidentally saying, "St. Louis Rams" all weekend, and the pool of potential season-ticket buyers in the greater Los Angeles area starts to remember that the team now plays there. As for players, this was settled last week when they traded six picks for this one and a couple of late-rounders. The Rams are taking a quarterback, likely Goff, who will need to be Eli Manning or better in order to justify the price. They won't know whether they got a "dream" pick until a few years down the road.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Take QB Carson Wentz and hope. This assumes the Rams take Goff, and that the Eagles know that or else they wouldn't have traded up with Cleveland to get here. Obviously, Philly came up for a quarterback, which means they must think their roster is so good they don't need a first-round pick this year or next year to help improve it. Whether they're right or wrong, we can say the same thing about Wentz we just said about Goff. He'd better be a really good player or else this move is a franchise-wrecker.
3. San Diego Chargers: Take Laremy Tunsil and never look back. Assuming the first two picks are quarterbacks, the Chargers will be living their dream scenario. With the likes of Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, DeForest Buckner and Joey Bosa available to them, the Chargers will be able to take whichever player they think is the best one in the whole draft. Tunsil makes so much sense for them. Just because you spent to lock in King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale doesn't mean you're set at tackle. And while I understand the argument about immediacy and Philip Rivers' "window," whoever his successor is will need a blindside protector too, right?
4. Dallas Cowboys: CB/S Jalen Ramsey falls to them. The trades of the past week have been so fantastic for the teams picking Nos. 3-6, none of whom need quarterbacks. Dallas could find itself picking between Ramsey and Joey Bosa, either of whom would address their need to rebuild the Cowboys' defense for the long term. Bosa is the more immediate fit, but Ramsey is the better player, and his versatility helps their secondary long-term no matter their future needs there. It never made sense for Dallas to go quarterback here. The Rams and Eagles may have saved the Cowboys from themselves.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ramsey falls to them. We've heard a lot about Myles Jack and the Jaguars, but if Ramsey is still here at No. 5, (A) the Jags are going to be getting some calls about the pick and (B) they probably should take him. Either way, if Ramsey falls this far, it puts Jacksonville in a good spot. Prince Amukamara got only a one-year deal, and Gus Bradley still needs pieces for his defense. They're not going to let him keep going 5-11 forever.
6. Baltimore Ravens: OK, Ramsey again, but I promise this is the last time. Hey, it's not impossible, right? Say the board goes QB/QB/Tunsil/Bosa/Jack ... voila. Baltimore has a Jimmy Smith helper in the secondary for years to come. Or, again, say Baltimore gets nice offers from teams such as the Giants and Bucs, who'd love to get their hands on this guy and now might not need to overpay to move up. You could project Tunsil or Buckner here and make the Ravens happy, but Ramsey probably nets the biggest smile.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Win the Day! Forget Paxton Lynch. This is way too high for him, and just because they couldn't do what Philadelphia did doesn't mean the Niners should reach here. There will be quarterbacks later in the draft that have just as good a chance to develop into winners as Lynch does. I say coach Chip Kelly's dream is to sit right here and take Buckner, the defensive line stud he recruited to Oregon. What? Kelly's never acquired an Oregon guy before?
8. Cleveland Browns: Keep trading back! It seems clear, based on its free-agent strategy and the trade it made Wednesday, that the new group running the Browns is all about amassing picks. They're taking this thing down to the bare bones, and any quarterback they draft right now isn't going to last long enough to enjoy the theoretical payoff. I say keep dealing down and get as many second- and third-round picks as you can get. Cleveland needs roster depth right now much more than it needs Paxton Lynch.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bosa falls to them. I know, crazy, right? But play along again. Say the board goes QB/QB/Tunsil/Ramsey/Jack/Buckner/Vernon Hargreaves III/Ezekiel Elliott. Not impossible. This is the scenario that general manager Jason Licht has to keep pushing out of his mind when it pops in there because OMG it's just too perfect and I can't possibly get that lucky. But you know he has had the dream.
10. New York Giants: No one steals Leonard Floyd from them. Georgia's Floyd is the defensive player the Giants crave, and they're just hoping the 49ers, Browns or Bucs don't snake him away before they can snag him. If they did, they likely could console themselves with Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (whom they'd have to consider taking anyway if he and Floyd were both there). But they've spent a good amount of time imagining Floyd all over their blitz packages, and they'd like to pick him.
11. Chicago Bears: The Giants take Hargreaves and pass on Floyd. Chicago needs a pass-rusher too and is thought to like Floyd. He's got tantalizing upside, and while he may not be as polished a prospect as some others in this first round, in no one's draft dreams are they sitting around asking each other, "Which of these Clemson defensive ends do we think is better?"
12. New Orleans Saints: Everyone in front of them panics about the Hargreaves measurables. Bourbon Street on Ash Wednesday morning looks better than the Saints' secondary, which allowed an opponents' passer rating of 116.2 last season. To put that in perspective, Seattle's Russell Wilson led the league with a passer rating of 110.1. What that means is, on average, every week, the best quarterback in the league was whoever was playing the Saints. They'd love it if all 11 teams in front of them thought Hargreaves was too small or slow. This is Christmas and he's their Red Ryder BB gun.
13. Miami Dolphins: Elliott slips. This offseason has been about two things for the Dolphins: Intentionally ruining their defensive line for some reason and desperately trying to find a running back. If Elliott starts to slide, expect the Dolphins to get antsy and maybe even try to move up a spot or two to make sure to get him. They could use a corner too, but Elliott solves a problem whose solution they have been seeking intently.
14. Oakland Raiders: Either the Saints' one or the Dolphins' one, take your pick. The Raiders would love to get their hands on either of the guys mentioned in the two blurbs right in front of this one. Yeah, they signed Sean Smith, but they still need cornerback depth and Hargreaves would be a great long-range pick. And yeah, they have Latavius Murray, but does anyone really get the sense they're all the way sold on him as the guy long-term? Oakland would do backflips if either Elliott or Hargreaves made it this far.
15. Tennessee Titans: Trade back up for their tackle. Tennessee didn't want to take Tunsil at No. 1. Or at least, they didn't want him as badly as they wanted the truckload of picks the Rams offered. But they now have three second-rounders and the ammo to get back into the top 10 and take someone such as Ronnie Stanley. If the Niners, Browns or Bucs want to move down, this could be a simple move for the Titans, who are quietly having a really impressive offseason.
16. Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson announces right before the draft that he was just kidding. Hey, these are dream scenarios. Broken-winged birds and all that. But assuming that dream won't come true and Johnson stays retired, the Lions need to establish a new identity on offense. That could mean Elliott if he gets this far, or a receiver such as Laquon Treadwell. But maaaan, that's a lot of pressure to put on a rookie receiver. "Hey, kid. Welcome. We have No. 81 available if you want it. Thoughts?"
17. Atlanta Falcons: Get the Clemson band back together. Maybe Charlie Brown finally gets to kick that football without Lucy snatching it away at the last second. Maybe this next lottery ticket I buy is finally the one. Maybe this is the year the Falcons can rush the passer. Hey, we're dreaming here. Shaq Lawson had to sit behind Vic Beasley at Clemson. Put the two of them together on the same defense with back-to-back first-round picks and maybe they'll push each other to be something special together. Maybe.
18. Indianapolis Colts: One of the big offensive linemen drops to them. Jack Conklin? Taylor Decker? Heck, the Colts would do well to stay put and take Alabama center Ryan Kelly. Snagging an offensive lineman at this spot isn't as spicy as what they did last year when they took receiver Phillip Dorsett. But given the current state of their lines, the Colts would do well to heed Proposition Joe's advice to Stringer Bell and "keep it boring."
19. Buffalo Bills: Rex Ryan snags one of his kid's friends. Rex's son Seth plays for Clemson, which means there's no college team the Bills coach knows better. With Kevin Dodd and possibly Shaq Lawson still on the board, Donald Trump's new opening act could choose a player he knows well and make the Bills' pass rush great again.
20. New York Jets: Hope everybody else doesn't go cuckoo for quarterback. If Kevin Seifert's five-quarterbacks-in the-first-round scenario comes true, all bets are off and a lot of really good players are going to fall into a lot of teams' laps. That could push a needed pass-rusher or tackle down to this spot, but the best thing for the Jets would be if the No. 3 quarterback in the draft were still available here. Lynch makes so much more sense at this spot than he does in the top 10, and the Jets still need a guy for the long term. They dream of league-wide sanity. Sadly, their dream may be the most farfetched of all.
21. Washington: No receivers go in the top 20. You could see Washington going for offensive or defensive line here, but where's the fun in that? These are dreams. They should be exciting. (And yes, I know I said the opposite about the Colts, but that was three blurbs ago. Things change.) Wouldn't it be fun for Washington to get to pick from Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Will Fuller and whatever other wide receivers are available in this draft? Give Kirk Cousins the extra weapon he needs to really take them to the cleaners in next offseason's contract negotiations? Dream big, Scot McCloughan.
22. Houston Texans: No receivers go in the top 21. This is the spot for the receiver run, and Houston should be a part of it. If they do take a wideout, they want speed, and Fuller ran the fastest 40 among the receivers at the combine. So maybe that's the dream. Or Doctson. I don't know much about coach Bill O'Brien's dreams except that apparently Brock Osweiler used to be in them.
23. Minnesota Vikings: No receivers go in the top ... You get the point. Teddy Bridgewater's continued development is going to require more passing-game threats than he had last season. Teddy dreams of a world in which opposing defenses aren't able to focus extra coverage onto Stefon Diggs. Teddy's dreams aren't crazy. There should be a receiver here who can make him happy.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: All those other teams pass on Treadwell. I'm going to say this is the end of the receiver run (even though I think Pittsburgh could theoretically continue it), but Treadwell is pro-ready and makes a lot of sense as the No. 2 wide receiver opposite A.J. Green. The Bengals are one of these teams that can afford the kind of luxury that drafting a No. 2 wide receiver in the first round represents. Remember, last year's Bengals first-rounder didn't play at all, and they went 12-4.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: The cornerbacks fall. Hargreaves probably isn't realistic here even for dream scenarios. But if everybody's going to go quarterback-crazy and wide receiver-crazy, the Steelers could find someone such as William Jackson here. Or Eli Apple, who's got the best name of anyone in the first round. If the Bengals draft Doctson and the Steelers take Apple, you could come up with some cool puns about how an Apple a day keeps the Doctson away. I don't know. Needs work, but you get it.
26. Seattle Seahawks: The offensive linemen fall. Lots of people think the Seahawks should sit here and take Ryan Kelly. And it would be hard to fault them for that. But their line needs help all over, and the dream scenario is that someone such as Decker or Conklin falls to this spot and get good tackle value late in the first round. Man, it's hard to make the offensive line blurbs snappy when you've already used the Prop Joe line.
27. Green Bay Packers: Reggie Ragland drops to this spot. Perfect fit. Solid player. Leader. Champion. Lets you keep Clay Matthews outside. Inside linebacker tends to be a bit of an undervalued position in the first round these days, and a lot of teams have had success finding these in the second. But Ragland is everything the Packers need, and they'd go to bed happy Thursday night if they found him here at 27.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Pittsburgh doesn't take the cornerback they want. Kansas City needs a Sean Smith replacement for the long term. Apple has the size to help him be that, and he makes a lot of sense if he's there. Chiefs fans are probably dreaming about one of the wide receivers here, and it'd be hard to blame them. But they're going to be about the running game and defense as long as they're leaning on Alex Smith. They need guys who can cover.
29. Arizona Cardinals: I honestly don't think they care. Like the Bengals, the Cardinals last year drafted an offensive lineman they didn't plan to use as a rookie. Their roster is so deep, they can actually do the thing all these other teams lie and say they do: Take the best player available. Could they use a cornerback or an offensive lineman at some point? Sure. But whatever. They're cool. If Lynch slips here and they think he's the truth, why not take him and groom him as a Carson Palmer replacement? The teams picking down here are, generally, in real good spots in the big picture.
30. Carolina Panthers: Everybody forgets what a good player Laquon Treadwell is. The thirst for speed could push a bunch of receivers ahead of Treadwell, and if he's here for Carolina at this point, the NFC champs would be thrilled. He plays faster than his 40 time and is ready to help right away. Get Kelvin Benjamin back and add a guy like this, QB Cam Newton might finally have that MVP-caliber season. Wait. What?
31. Denver Broncos: Lynch falls all the way down here. At this point, this seems doubtful. But with Osweiler having walked out the door and Mark Sanchez having walked in, John Elway has to be thinking about the future at quarterback. So his dream scenario is to have a quarterback available here in whom he believes. Maybe that's Lynch. Maybe it's Christian Hackenberg or Connor Cook. Whatever. The Broncos are one of the teams hoping all the quarterbacks don't go too soon.
60. New England Patriots: Noah Spence falls far enough for them to get him. As big a Langston Hughes fan as coach Bill Belichick surely is, not even the Patriots' wildest dreams still feature an NFL decision to return them their first-round pick. So they have back-to-back picks late in the second, and they could move up to the middle part of the round to take a guy they really like. Belichick trusts and believes in Urban Meyer, and Meyer believes in Spence, a first-round talent whose stock has dropped due to past drug issues. He's a potential dream replacement for Chandler Jones.