You will notice a few of these projections are the same as my last mock draft. That is because they make sense… for now. Less than five percent of you are actually reading this introduction. Thank you to those who are. These “projections” will change frequently.
1. Tennessee Titans - FSU DB Jalen Ramsey - Everyone is mocking Laremy Tunsil here. I understand the argument. I don’t consider Taylor Lewan a bad player. You can with Lewan, but the Titans cannot win with the same center and left guard combination as 2015. Those spots need to be upgraded more than tackle. However, making the case for adding quality offensive linemen, regardless of position, is a solid one. Now for Ramsey, let’s run down the checklist. Quality cornerback, check. Long and aggressive, check. Freak athlete, check. Truly versatile, check. He can be a true difference maker.
2. Cleveland Browns - North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz - Free agency and trades will dictate which teams still have quarterback needs, and as of now more teams need quarterbacks than passers available. I can see why people really like Wentz. He presents all of the buzzwords at the position and I love that he’s willing to test single coverage downfield to allow his receiver to win one on one. However, I cannot look past his tendency to freeze, hitting pause in the pocket.
3. San Diego Chargers - Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil - Philip Rivers has displayed functional mobility and an ability to win in a confined pocket. Common thought would be that Rivers’ ability to succeed in such a situation would continue to decline with age. This entire offense would improve with a better offensive line. Tunsil has an aggressive demeanor to go along with his strength and footwork.
4. Dallas Cowboys - Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott - But positional value says no running backs in the first-round? I believe Elliott is a foundation piece of an NFL offense and shines in every phase of the position. Elliott converts three yard gains into seven yard gains and might be the best blocking ball carrier we have seen. And behind the Cowboys’ offensive line? Have mercy.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - UCLA LB Myles Jack - I consider Jack the top prospect in this draft class. Jack can play like a 260 lbs power linebacker or display the agility a 230 lbs coverage specialist. He moves differently than most players at the position. Linebackers tend to play better when working behind a talented defensive line, an area where Jacksonville will continue to add talent.
6. Baltimore Ravens - Ohio State EDGE Joey Bosa - We know what Bosa brings: A pass rusher who understands his limitations and uses his explosion and power to his advantage to work through offensive linemen. He is not a bender and the real question will be, “What is Bosa’s ceiling?” For that reason, Bosa could drop a little further than this. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are both on the wrong side of 30, and Courtney Upshaw is a JAG and a free agent.
7. San Francisco 49ers - Cal QB Jared Goff - Again, the quarterback carousel will be more clear after free agency and trades. “Chip Kelly’s offense” does not require a mobile quarterback. It does require a quarterback who recognizes open receivers and gets them the football as quickly as possible.
8. Miami Dolphins - Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves - Hargreaves’ 2015 season did not match 2014, but it was far from bad or even average. I was a big Jamar Taylor fan out of Boise State, but he has not played well. Unless the team really believes in young corners Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett as full time starters, expect them to address this position early. Based on his NFL Combine, Hargreaves is just behind Jalen Ramsey in terms of athleticism.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Clemson EDGE Shaq Lawson - We know all about what Lawson and Clemson’s defensive line did this year. Lawson produced a great matchup against Ronnie Stanley this season, winning on some occasions and losing on others. He has flashes speed, power and pass rushing awareness with a variety of moves.
10. New York Giants - Oregon DL DeForest Buckner - I’m not completely sold on Buckner’s pass rushing success early on. However, I am sold on Buckner's individual traits that can result in a powerful pass rusher. Let me explain. Buckner has desired size and length. He is not slow off the football. He has strength in his hands and uses length. All of these show up as a run defender. Once he shows urgency and intent to play behind the line of scrimmage and shed against the pass, he can be a huge factor on a defense. The Giants might see a Justin Tuck comparison here.
11. Chicago Bears - Notre Dame T Ronnie Stanley - I actually liked Charles Leno Jr. coming out of Boise State as a late rounder, and he is best served as a utility offensive lineman on an NFL roster. Early in his head coaching career with the Panthers, John Fox made an investment at left in Jordan Gross. If Stanley is on the board, he needs to do the same here.
12. New Orleans Saints - Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell - Brandin Cooks, while good, is a complimentary piece of a passing game. As is Willie Snead. The Saints lack a physical element to their passing game (don’t bring up Brandon Coleman) and Treadwell shines in this area, using his size and strength both before and after the catch.
13. Philadelphia Eagles - Stanford G Joshua Garnett - I’ve been on a few local Philadelphia programs in recent weeks. One question I received was “outside of guard, what position is the biggest need.” It was difficult to answer. To me, that shows how much the Eagles need to upgrade the position, arguably at both guard spots. Garnett can be a powerful blocker and will draw the “good teammate” label.
14. Oakland Raiders - Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander - I can see why a lot of people like Alexander. In fact, many love his game. Hate it or love it, corner is now a position of size and stature. It can be difficult to find sub 5’10” corner who successfully plays the ball in contested situations. Jason Verrett was one, and Alexander needs to follow that path.
15. Los Angeles Rams - Memphis QB Paxton Lynch - With Les Snead and Jeff Fisher reportedly on the verge of signing contract extensions (Relationships!), the team MUST invest in the quarterback position. Outside of Sean Mannion, who the team took far too early, the Rams have passed on other opportunities to draft a quarterback. Lynch needs time to learn in the NFL after coming out of a rock step and release or bail offense.
16. Detroit Lions - Alabama DL A’Shawn Robinson - The NFL already likes and will continue to like Robinson’s projection more than I do. I see a big, stout run defender who does not offer very much as an upfield disruptor or pass rusher. Maybe he can be Michael Brockers, but I see adequate to above average run defenders signed every year off the street. The Lions do need help along the interior, and as you have read, it can greatly impact linebacker success.
17. Atlanta Falcons - Ohio State LB Darron Lee - The Falcons have to invest in linebacker, and the 2016 and 2017 classes both offer talent at the position. Yes, Lee missed some tackles this season, but I think his agility put him in plays others might not reach. Improvements to the interior of the defensive line would also help. He frequently played a hybrid safety/linebacker role. If Lee is not the pick early, I could see Deion Jones a round or two later.
18. Indianapolis Colts - Eastern Kentucky EDGE Noah Spence - The Colts have a history of giving players, who had some trouble in college, second chances in the NFL, but usually in the later rounds. Spence fills a significant need, however. He combines explosion with power and is not afraid to work through his opponent or around them. Spence tested like an average to above average athlete.
19. Buffalo Bills - Louisville DL Sheldon Rankins - Interior disruption is king, and Rankins offers it more than any other player in this class. He is so aware as a pass rusher and uses counter moves with intent. Play him next to the guard and next to the center and watch good things happen. He’s also a very good athlete.
20. New York Jets - Alabama LB Reggie Ragland - So here it is, I was probably too critical on Ragland earlier in the process. At the very least, my questions about his athleticism were answered at the NFL Combine. I was expecting a poor athlete and we saw an average to a slightly below average one instead. Evaluators I respect believe Ragland can stay on the field in every situation.
21. Washington Redskins - Louisiana Tech DL Vernon Butler - I see so much Mo Wilkerson in Butler’s game. Butler can play either interior spot and even a 5 technique role in odd man fronts. He displays intent with his hands and is slippery when working around blockers. In this defense, he can replace the aging Jason Hatcher, who has been great for Washington. I love Butler’s game, although wondering why he tested like a poor athlete is a valid question.
22. Houston Texans - Baylor WR Corey Coleman - I think Coleman plays bigger than his size and obviously offers speed and yards after catch capabilities. It is interesting, because the WVU game shows an evaluator everything in terms of getting off the line versus press, while the Oklahoma State contest displays the opposite. The Texans have an outstanding receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, and Coleman’s skillset would complement Nuk’s very well.
23. Minnesota Vikings - TCU WR Josh Doctson - All Josh Doctson did was show up at the NFL Combine, go through an entire workout and test like the top athlete at the position. We all love his ability to make contested catches, floating in the air with outstanding body control. His routes are further ahead than given credit for. Teddy needs a receiver like Doctson.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Baylor DL Andrew Billings - There will be a long discussion about Billings’ best alignment. He might not be a true 1 or 0 technique on base downs. He shows very good mobility for an interior lineman in a number of games, and I would not be surprised to see Billings moved around in the NFL. The Bengals need to move on from Domata Peko, and Billings would offer much more upfield disruption. Although the Bengals do like to bring a DE inside in subpackage sets.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers - Michigan State EDGE Shilique Calhoun - Despite taking an edge player in the first round last year, the Steelers still need to add talent at the position. James Harrison was arguably their best edge rusher last year. Calhoun might not fit the squatty, stocky build that has been linked with the Steelers, but he is a straight line player with length and intensity to attempt counter moves.
26. Seattle Seahawks - Florida EDGE/DL Jonathan Bullard - Bullard, who wants to play defensive tackle, can be utilized in a similar way to Malik Jackson. The Florida defensive lineman surprised me with his athleticism (he’s a great athlete) and can help the Seahawks generate interior disruption.
27. Green Bay Packers - Alabama DL Jarran Reed - Who knows what the Packers are doing… They could go with an inside linebacker to allow Clay Matthews to move to the edge. Or they could continue to add bodies up front with a few impending free agents along the defensive interior. We know Reed holds up well against the run, and he has more upfield ability than his teammate A’Shawn Robinson.
28. Kansas City Chiefs - Mississippi State DL Chris Jones - Jones has a lot of natural ability, and the Chiefs have done really well with front seven players who entered the NFL with that same label. With Jaye Howard and Mike DeVito likely gone, Jones can play a variety of different alignments for Kansas City.
29. Arizona Cardinals - Oklahoma State EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah - Compared to others, I have a lot of questions about Ogbah’s projection. Markus Golden has transitioned well to the NFL, but more young edge talent is needed. The Cardinals relied on Dwight Freeney in a number of situations. The Cardinals have done wonders with picks others have questioned (John Brown, Deone Bucannon and Rodney Gunter, among others.)
30. Carolina Panthers - Clemson EDGE Kevin Dodd - The Panthers have to upgrade their edge rushers this offseason. It will likely be their No. 1 priority. Charles Johnson and Jared Allen are gone. Dodd was close to dominant down the stretch. He won with hand use, separation and even showed he can (somewhat) turn the corner to take a tighter path to the quarterback.
31. Denver Broncos - Indiana T Jason Spriggs - Teams will have many different names as their No. 3 tackle on the board, but Spriggs’ athletic profile to go along with a strong Senior Bowl make him the likeliest candidate. The Broncos got it done last year with backup offensive linemen, but that is not a challenge they hope to face.
(The Patriots’ first-round pick is forfeited)