It's important to have dreams. It's especially important around the time of the NFL draft, an event that carries with it the highest of football-fan hopes. Teams and their fans spend the time leading into and out of the draft dreaming that all of the unproven young men whose names they'll call in one 48-hour period will be the answer to all of their problems and prayers.
Carl Sandburg wrote, "Nothing happens unless first we dream." He also wrote, "The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to." Neither of those quotes was about the NFL draft, but the first one could have been. Without first dreaming of what it might bring, who would watch the draft? Without first dreaming of their ideal scenarios, how would teams evaluate how they did?
With all of that in mind, we present our second "Draft Dreams" column -- a look at the dream scenario for each NFL team's first pick(s) in this year's draft. Last year's Draft Dreams column offered some pretty prescient stuff, if we do say so ourselves. So take your time with this. Some of these teams are going to wake up Sunday morning very happy. Some will spend another lonesome year talking to the moon. You never know which of your dreams may come true.
Picks Nos. 1 and 12: Cleveland Browns
Come out of the first 12 picks with Myles Garrett and a quarterback.
Two picks in the first round? How can Cleveland miss?? (**doorbell rings**) Who's there? Oh, it's just 2012, 2013 and 2015, coming to remind us how the Browns can blow two picks in the first round in the same year and whether we'd like to buy Girl Scout cookies. Whatever. Those are memories, these are dreams, and Cleveland's big dreams include Garrett as a franchise pass-rusher and Mitchell Trubisky as ... not Brandon Weeden. And thin mints. Those are the best.
Pick No. 2: San Francisco 49ers
Trade down and get John Ross.
There's a club of receivers who've thrashed the league playing for Kyle Shanahan. It meets twice a year in ... I don't know, let's say Aruba. Andre Johnson and Julio Jones picked the spot. Everybody's surprised to see Santana Moss each year. Pierre Garcon is the practical joker of the bunch. It'd make a heck of a reality show. Garcon went with Kyle to San Francisco, but Shanahan and his six-year contract have longer-term plans in mind, and Ross is the receiver of his dreams. No. 2 is too high to take him, so here's where the Niners hope Cleveland or the Jets want Trubisky bad enough to come up.
Pick No. 3: Chicago Bears
A surprise 2016 repeat drops Myles Garrett in their laps.
Remember way back in '16? When no one thought the quarterbacks were ready but everybody climbed all over each other to trade up and take them anyway? Seems like so long ago. Life comes at you fast. It doesn't look as if that'll happen this year, but hey, the Bears can dream. Maybe somebody offers the Browns a deal their pocket protectors can't refuse, Shanahan gets his wish and the draft's best player is sitting there at 3 for the Bears to gobble up. Maybe that makes everybody forget that they need a quarterback, too.
Pick No. 4: Jacksonville Jaguars
No quarterbacks go in the top three, and teams get antsy.
Jags general manager David Caldwell, nervously laboring under newly installed signs that bear oddly aggressive Tom Coughlin slogans like "Respect" and "Champions drink their own sweat" and "Earn the right to pick later in the first round for once," finds himself fielding calls from the Jets, Browns and other teams that have decided they need to come up for their quarterback. Trading down the top 10 a bit allows the Jags to take a big-time offensive playmaker like Leonard Fournette or O.J. Howard or Christian McCaffrey or whomever Coughlin wants Caldwell to take. A relief for Caldwell, since no one wants to turn in the fourth pick of the draft five minutes early.
Picks Nos. 5 and 18: Tennessee Titans
Already living the dream.
Seriously, when they dealt the No. 1 pick in last year's draft to the Rams, could they have imagined the 2017 pick the Rams were sending them would be this high? Who's got it better than the Titans, who have two top-18 picks and don't need a quarterback? Emperor Belichick is nodding approvingly from under his hooded cloak at padawan Jon Robinson's precocious mastery of The Force. Now it's up to Robinson to turn those picks into defensive cornerstones. Reuben Foster and a cornerback like Gareon Conley sound like a decent Thursday to you, Nashville?
Pick No. 6: New York Jets
Find the quarterback of their dreams.
Remember a couple of years ago when Leonard Williams fell to the Jets at this spot and they were all like, "Well, he's too good to pass up, so let's take him and figure out the rest of the plan later"? Could happen again, except this time with someone like Jonathan Allen or Solomon Thomas. And if it does, you could totally see the Jets doing the same thing they did with Williams. Problem is, they already have too many defensive linemen, and none of them can throw with any accuracy from inside the pocket. The Jets need someone more exciting than Josh McCown or Christian Hackenberg taking training camp snaps this summer. Trade down, trade up, sit tight and take Deshaun Watson ... whatever. Their dream scenario is that someday they look back on 2017 as the year they found their franchise quarterback.
Pick No. 7: Los Angeles Chargers
One of the top two safeties falls to them.
The ridiculously small capacity of the outdoor basketball arena in which the Chargers will play home games in 2017 does not include the field, which is regulation size and will therefore require the usual 11 players on defense. So yeah, Jahleel Addae re-signed. The Chargers still need help at safety. Their dream is that the first six picks go by without Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker both being drafted and that they end up getting one of them to be their new Eric Weddle.
Pick No. 8: Carolina Panthers
The running back of their dreams lasts until their pick.
GM Dave Gettleman's dreams probably involve Cam Newton not breaking. But once he clears that hurdle and dreams on, he's envisioning a superstar back taking Newton's handoffs. Is it Leonard Fournette? Christian McCaffrey? I can't make it out from here, but either would add an element to the Carolina offense that isn't "Save us, Cam!" And that'd be a dream come true for everybody.
Pick No. 9: Cincinnati Bengals
One of the big defensive linemen falls.
Yeah, I hear you saying they should corner the market on LSU running backs and take Leonard Fournette with Jeremy Hill in the final year of his deal. But the Friday and Saturday shopping will feature shelves and shelves full of good running backs, and that Bengals front seven isn't getting any younger. Not even their wildest dreams get Myles Garrett this far, but if Solomon Thomas or Jonathan Allen were somehow still available at No. 9, Cincy could bolster its quiet strength by plugging in one of them and starting him for a decade.
Pick No. 10: Buffalo Bills
They get their choice of pass-catchers.
What? You're expecting Sammy Watkins to get/stay healthy? Hey, I might have an opening in my fantasy league just for you. Buffalo could go cornerback here and no one would bat an eye. But what Tyrod Taylor really needs is another field-stretching option, and in this dream scenario Buffalo would be able to pick from a smorgasbord that included John Ross, Mike Williams, Corey Davis and top tight end O.J. Howard. Checking down to LeSean McCoy isn't the worst fallback plan in the world, but it can't be your offensive ethos.
Picks Nos. 11 and 32: New Orleans Saints
They get the Malcolm Butler deal done and need to use only one first-round pick on a cornerback.
As usual, the Saints could go defense with every pick and it would make sense. If they can't pry Butler from the Patriots before Thursday night, they could go cornerback with both of their first-round picks and it would make sense. But if they did get the Butler deal done, and if they somehow did it without sending the Patriots back the No. 32 pick they got in the Brandin Cooks deal, they'd have a bit more freedom to go pass-rusher at 11. The Saints dream of Butler making his next Super Bowl-winning pick in their uniform and celebrating with a teammate they drafted the same day they acquired him.
Pick No. 13: Arizona Cardinals
They find their quarterback of the future.
Arizona probably would have taken Paxton Lynch in the first round last year if he'd fallen to them, and they're in position this year to find a guy they like and can groom behind Carson Palmer for a year or two. Let's say it's Patrick Mahomes -- a project quarterback who's going to need time before he's ready. The Cardinals believe they have that time and need someone to follow Palmer whenever he's done. The second key part of the Cardinals' dream is that Palmer stays healthy and has one more really big year left in him. But that feels like the part of the dream that you're just about to get to when you wake up to use the bathroom, and then by the time you get back to bed you can't remember what you were dreaming about even though you know it was good and you were desperate to find out what was about to happen next. Hate that.
Pick No. 14: Philadelphia Eagles
They get their choice of pass-catchers.
Yes, I know I used this one already for Buffalo. Yes, I know the Eagles need a cornerback, too. No, I wouldn't consider it a bad move for them to draft Leonard Fournette or Christian McCaffrey here. But their dream scenario is to be able to select the best wide receiver in this draft, whoever they believe that is. If you think Alshon Jeffery is the long-term answer, you haven't been following him and his injury history very closely. There's a reason the Eagles were able to get Jeffery on a one-year deal. Mike Williams feels like a pick to make Carson Wentz's dreams come true.
Pick No. 15: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts need picks. The previous front office drafted Andrew Luck in 2012 and figured it didn't have to make any more picks after that. Ever. Yeah, the Colts sent in names, but look at this roster. Does it look as if they had any kind of plan? New GM Chris Ballard dreams that someone feels compelled to trade up to No. 15 for a falling pass-rusher or one of the running backs and offers them an extra pick or two to do it. Then he can go to work collecting as many early-round defensive helpers as possible for a team that needs a ton of help on defense. Nothing makes a new GM look/feel better than wheeling and dealing on draft night.
Pick No. 16: Baltimore Ravens
They get their pick of offensive linemen.
Boring, I know, and this isn't the greatest offensive line class. But there are a couple of guys who look like first-rounders, and Baltimore could stand to come away with one. Is that Cam Robinson as a Rick Wagner replacement? Is it Forrest Lamp as an immediate starter at guard? GM Ozzie Newsome will know better than I do. And while neither Ozzie nor anyone else knows exactly how Joe Flacco pulled off that postseason magic trick of his five years ago, we know the best chance of repeating it is to keep Joe on his feet.
Pick No. 17: Washington
An Ohio State defensive back falls in its lap.
Surprise! Washington needs help in the secondary! That must make it ... pretty much any year of the past decade. I have no idea who the GM is down there right now, but John Keim covers the team for us and loves his Ohio State Buckeyes, so let's get him one to cover. Safety Malik Hooker would be the ultimate dream scenario, but we could give Keim a corner like Marshon Lattimore (likely to be long gone) or Gareon Conley (whom some like more than Lattimore). If a rookie is standing up at the first DBs meeting and belting out "Hail, hail, the gang's all here," Washington will have done well.
Pick No. 19: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They get their pick of running backs.
No one knows what's going to happen with Doug Martin. Jameis Winston is out there publicly stumping for Adrian Peterson. The Bucs are set at receiver and like their tight end, and they came as close to the postseason as any team that missed it in 2016. Winston needs someone to whom he can hand off. They're sitting too low in the first round to get Leonard Fournette or Christian McCaffrey, but maybe they can trade up. Or sit and take Dalvin Cook. Whatever they do, this draft is going to look great if they can avoid moving up to pick a kicker in the second round.
Pick No. 20: Denver Broncos
One of these offensive linemen turns out to be a franchise left tackle.
John Elway can sell me on Trevor Siemian as an NFL quarterback, or even Paxton Lynch as a long-term answer. I'll listen. Elway knows his stuff, especially on quarterbacks. But he can't sell me on Donald Stephenson or Ty Sambrailo or Menelik Watson as the left tackle who'll keep his quarterback upright in 2017. So, maybe more than any other team, Denver has to hold its nose and take a tackle high in a bad tackle draft. Cam Robinson, Garett Bolles, Ryan Ramczyk ... whoever. Denver needs to find the best one it can and hope. That ain't much of an exciting dream, but Elway's already lived his share.
Pick No. 21: Detroit Lions
A premier cornerback is still there for them at 21.
This is the trade-up zone. The teams from Baltimore until about here feel like they could trade up to Indianapolis' pick to get the guy they love. The Lions would love to get a cornerback, but the dream scenario is not having to trade up because someone like Marlon Humphrey is going to get to them at pick 21. The Lions also look as if they need a running back, but they never seem to agree.
Pick No. 22: Miami Dolphins
The top linebackers tumble.
Fresh off their "Sure, we'll take him" draft of 2016, in which their franchise left tackle landed in their laps at No. 13 because of a gas mask video somebody posted right before the draft, the Dolphins believe in good first-round luck. New Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes believes in mermaids. I believe linebacker is one area in which the playoff-hopeful Dolphins are deficient, and that someone like Jarrad Davis or Zach Cunningham would fit really nicely there. If they're dreaming, though, it's of a Haason Reddick or Reuben Foster fall. Crazy? So was the idea of Laremy Tunsil at 13 -- just sayin'.
Pick No. 23: New York Giants
See Miami, above.
The Giants haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984, but I think this is the year that streak ends. Be it Jarrad Davis or Zach Cunningham, the Giants (who never trade picks) sit tight and use this pick to grab the linebacker coordinator Steve Spagnuolo considers the missing piece from a defense that ranked among the best in the league last season. "Offensive tackle!" you'll holler, and sure. But the Giants' dream continues to be that 2015 top-10 pick Ereck Flowers ends up as a top left tackle. You wonder what Carl Sandburg would say about that plan.
Pick No. 24: Oakland Raiders
The cornerback of their dreams is sitting here at 24.
Kevin King? Tre'Davious White? The Raiders need an immediate helper who can plug into their defense and contribute to the Super Bowl run they're hoping to make before they take off for Vegas. They pull the lever on the slot machine, and it comes up cornerback.
Pick No. 25: Houston Texans
See Arizona, above.
Houston doesn't have the luxury the Cardinals have of being able to draft a developmental quarterback and groom him behind a veteran starter. The quarterback they wanted rejected them for CBS, and they need someone who can help soon. So, who's the most pro-ready signal-caller in this class? Is it Deshaun Watson? Nathan Peterman? Joshua Dobbs? The mega dream is that the Patriots take this pick in exchange for Jimmy Garoppolo, but Bill Belichick isn't answering his phone on that one.
Pick No. 26: Seattle Seahawks
Somebody deals them a better pick than this for Richard Sherman.
Seahawks fans can dream all they want about the team wising up and investing a high-end resource or two in the offensive line. Not gonna happen. QB Russell Wilson is destined to spend his career terrified and limping. And if he doesn't like it, he should take a look at what's going on with Sherman, who's apparently dreaming of playing somewhere else. Maybe the top corners go off the board so quickly in the first round that someone decides to meet Seattle's demands, and the Seahawks can move up from 26 to draft Sherman's replacement. It all seems weird to me, but there they are in the playoffs every year with basketball players at left tackle.
Pick No. 27: Kansas City Chiefs
They find the eventual replacement for their veteran ... linebacker.
Aha, tricked you! You thought I was going to say quarterback and I said linebacker instead. Don't you feel silly? No? Well, all right then. You shouldn't. The Chiefs could totally go quarterback here and make their post-Alex Smith dreams come true. But they have post-Derrick Johnson dreams, too, and if someone like Reuben Foster were to start to slide into the middle of the first round, the Chiefs would make a lot of sense as a team to trade up to get him. If not, someone like Zach Cunningham. The Chiefs can do whatever they want with this pick. They're fine.
Pick No. 28: Dallas Cowboys
They find a bell-cow running back in the first round and a franchise QB in the fourth.
Oh wait. That was last year's Dallas draft. And, to be honest, well beyond any dream the Cowboys might have been dreaming this time a year ago. This year, the Cowboys still need a pass-rusher and a bunch of help in the secondary, so their dream is that someone like Derek Barnett or Charles Harris falls all the way down here and the cornerback of their dreams (Adoree' Jackson?) is one they can get in the second round. And if it doesn't go well, they can shout, "Remember last year's draft?!" and everybody will smile and nod.
Pick No. 29: Green Bay Packers
The top running backs fall.
They could go with Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael again, but why are we doing this to Aaron Rodgers? The Packers need to address the running back position in this year's draft, and while they don't need to do it in the first round, they sure would love it if someone like Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook were available when it came time for them to pick or trade up.
Pick No. 30: Pittsburgh Steelers
They find their future franchise quarterback.
Throw the Steelers into this mix, too -- teams that are set at quarterback for now but have to be wondering about the future. Ben Roethlisberger already was hinting about retirement earlier this offseason. If the quarterbacks in this class are all developmental guys, then the Steelers are in the same position as Arizona. They can pick a guy and groom him behind Ben. Let's say their dream scenario is to come out of the first two rounds with a quarterback they like and a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker like Ryan Anderson or Tyus Bowser.
Pick No. 31: Atlanta Falcons
They wake up and find out they really did hold that lead in the Super Bowl.
Yeah, the past three months have been a bad dream for the Falcons, who have to bounce back right away or forever fight the label of one-hit wonders who blew their big chance. They need to keep adding impact pieces on defense, since they have all the pieces on offense and just have to make sure things keep humming without Kyle Shanahan. Atlanta's dream pick, every year it seems, would be a pass-rusher. Give them Taco Charlton or Jordan Willis here, and maybe they can start to dream a little brighter again.
Pick No. 37: Los Angeles Rams
A first-round wide receiver tumbles into the second.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, teams get scared off by Corey Davis' medicals. The Rams should pounce on the kind of offensive playmaker who'll make QB Jared Goff's life easier. They spent this year's first-rounder trading up for Goff last year, so now all of their dreams are tied to his success. New coach Sean McVay is just excited to have a bunch of new players who are closer to his own age.
Pick No. 48: Minnesota Vikings
The offensive lineman of their dreams falls into the middle of the second round.
The Vikings spent this year's first-round pick last September on Sam Bradford, then watched in horror as no one they used at tackle was able to protect him and they flushed a 5-0 start. They spent big in free agency on so-so solutions and need something sustainable if they're going to do anything before Bradford continues his tour of the league in 2018. Minnesota would love it if someone like Temple's Dion Dawkins or Indiana's Dan Feeney were sitting there when it was finally its turn to pick.
Pick No. 72: New England Patriots
The Saints give them their pick back from Malcolm Butler.
The Patriots' March response to winning the Super Bowl was to act as if they're trying to win two Super Bowls this coming year. They signed big-money free agents. They traded their first-round pick for Brandin Cooks and their second-round pick for Kony Ealy. It's as if coach Bill Belichick has plans to spend the first two days of the draft at Mar-a-Lago or something. Anyway, if they can get the No. 32 pick back from the Saints for Butler, at least they'll have something to do on Thursday night. Even if that's just to trade the pick again and pick up an extra third-rounder. Belichick has weird dreams.