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. The team has a new starting center in Ben Jones and has shown interest in blockers with starting right tackle experience. 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 - Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil - I still think the Browns end up with Colin Kaepernick, so keep that in mind with this selection. Just looking over the Browns’ roster for this mock… it is a total mess. I don’t see a playmaker on either side of the ball unless Josh Gordon is reinstated. I know Joe Thomas remains a stud, but the Browns’ offensive line will have a new look this season. I bet many teams consider Tunsil one of the top two or three prospects in this draft.
3. San Diego Chargers - 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. Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane and Buckner would combine for a very intriguing front three.
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 200 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 continues 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 - North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz - The remainder of 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. I don’t think “mobile” is necessary for the offense Chip Kelly wants to deploy, but the lack of a QB threat did impact the team’s running game on “read” actions. Wentz offers that mobility.
8. Philadelphia Eagles - Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves - Hargreaves’ 2015 season did not match 2014, but it was far from bad or even average. The Eagles might value size and length at corner that Hargreaves does not offer. That is tough to know at this moment. But Hargreaves does offer athleticism (he’s more athletic than 97 percent of NFL CBs) and is an aggressive player.
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. The Bucs added Robert Ayers, but from what I can tell the guaranteed money ends after year one.
10. New York Giants - Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell - The Giants seem to be out of the edge rusher sweepstakes with the signing of Olivier Vernon. Offensively, they have one playmaker. Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the best receivers in the league, but the team needs something else. Another threat. Treadwell is extremely physical before and after the catch and would be a great complement.
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. Bobby Massie should play right tackle with Kyle Long shifting back inside to guard.
12. New Orleans Saints - 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. Honestly, I am unaware of any scheme limitations the Saints deploy, so Rankins is a fit as 3-technique.
13. Miami Dolphins - Clemson EDGE Kevin Dodd - Multiple national NFL evaluators rank Dodd over teammate Shaq Lawson and are projecting him time be selected higher in the draft. I cannot do that, but a top 15 selection seems to be a legitimate conversation. Dodd offers a little bit of everything: some hand use, some bend, some strength, some movement. The Dolphins need young edge talent.
14. Oakland Raiders - 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. The Raiders could use a thumper at the second level.
15. Los Angeles Rams - Cal QB Jared Goff - Again, the quarterback carousel will be more clear after the last wave of free agency and trades. The Rams seem okay with entering the season with Case Keenum as the starter. Goff mastered Cal’s scheme and produced some of the more ridiculous downfield bucket throws you will ever see.
16. Detroit Lions - Michigan State OL Jack Conklin - By multiple accounts, the NFL is higher on Conklin than many media evaluators. Conklin tested like an average athlete but has an athletic background with plenty of starting tape out there for evaluators while playing in a “pro style” system. The Lions could need two new starting tackles after the 2016 season.
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 - 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. With Rex Ryan playing such a big role in Mo Wilkerson’s career with the Jets, why not give him a similar player?
20. New York Jets - Ohio State T Taylor Decker - The Jets offensive line could look very different after the 2016 season, and there was already talk of replacing both tackles this offseason. Decker is a true mauler who likes to play close to his body thanks to a strong grip and is always looking to finish plays.
21. Washington Redskins - 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. I am unaware if the Redskins use size thresholds for the position, and if so it would likely eliminate Alexander.
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. A receiver like Michael Thomas makes a lot of sense here, too.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers - Boise State EDGE Kamalei Correa - 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. I don’t love Correa’s game, but he has his cheerleaders in the NFL.
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 - 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.
29. Arizona Cardinals - Alabama C Ryan Kelly - This center class is loaded, but Kelly is the best of the bunch and a top 32 talent. The Cardinals gave up way too much pressure against Carolina and Carson Palmer is not getting more mobile. The team’s downfield routes can take time to develop. Kelly is a plug and play starter.
30. Carolina Panthers - Georgia EDGE Leonard Floyd - A bit of a surprise. Floyd stands 6-6/244 lbs and is at his best bending the edge and turning the corner when rushing the passer. He lacks strength, there is no denying that. Floyd can be used as a sub-package player his first year, hopefully continue to grow his frame and game and work into a starting role.
31. Denver Broncos - Memphis QB Paxton Lynch - Lynch needs time to learn in the NFL after coming out of a rock step and release or bail offense. Luckily, he would have that time with the Broncos. Very little of Lynch’s offense is translatable to the NFL, in my opinion, but he does have a strong arm and mobility. A rookie contract with a fifth year option seems to be a route that fits with the Broncos’ current quarterback mentality.
(The Patriots’ first-round pick is forfeited)