Personally, I think it is amazing two quarterbacks in this class will be the first and second selections. Just think how different the way last year’s (superior) quarterbacks were discussed in comparison to this one. Many evaluators poked holes in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota’s games, and there was complete uncertainty until draft day if they would be the top two selections, namely with the Titans at No. 2. Fast forward to this year. From a big media perspective, these quarterbacks can seemingly do no wrong.
Goff and Wentz's evaluations have been elevated despite coming from far more uncertain collegiate situations and programs.
But that is just my opinion.
1. Los Angeles Rams - Cal QB Jared Goff - Quarterbacks will be the first and second picks in the draft for the second straight year. I had heard buzz suggesting it, but my evaluations of these passers prevented me from believing it. Mike Silver of NFL Network told the public Goff will be the Rams' selection via timely tweets before the trade, and just after a conversation with Jeff Fisher. The early part of Goff’s career could be interesting behind a young offensive line and without primary receivers.
2. Philadelphia Eagles - North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz - 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. Despite what the draft process suggested from media evaluators, more teams prefer Goff to Wentz ... but the Eagles certainly preferred the latter. Sitting for a season could allow Wentz to quicken his process. But maybe not.
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 ball. He has strength in his hands and uses length. All of these show up in run defense. Once he shows urgency and intent to play behind the line of scrimmage and shed against the pass, Buckner can become a multi-phase factor. Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane and Buckner would combine for a very intriguing Chargers front three.
4. Dallas Cowboys - FSU DB Jalen Ramsey - It is no lock for Dallas to select Ramsey, but it is likely 50-50 between Ramsey and Joey Bosa, so a team who really wants Ramsey will need to move in front of the Cowboys. I think Ramsey’s best projection is a man to man press corner on the outside, using the sideline to help. Ezekiel Elliott is an option, too, but likely as a last-case scenario.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Ohio State EDGE Joey Bosa - The Jaguars missed out on multiple edge rushers in free agency despite disruption being a major weakness of last year’s team. Bosa understands who he is as a pass rusher and is an outstanding run defender. He can pair with 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. to form a young starting tandem, and Jacksonville can build depth around them.
6. Baltimore Ravens - Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil - Here’s an interesting scenario. Say the Chargers stay at 3 and select Buckner. The Cowboys take Ramsey or Bosa. That leaves Jacksonville as a possible trade-out target for a team that might covet Tunsil (Titans?). If not, I don’t seem him making it past the Ravens, who could use a more consistent and cheaper player at left tackle than Eugene Monroe. It also fits Ozzie Newsome’s model of building from the outside-in.
7. New York Jets (trade with SF) - Memphis QB Paxton Lynch - There’s plenty of top-10 buzz with Paxton Lynch. However, not for teams currently in the top 10 (maybe the Browns if they pick up an extra first-round pick). That leaves me with the Jets or Bills. The Jets’ relationship with Mo Wilkerson seems damaged, and the 49ers have both cap space and a defensive line need. Wilkerson and pick No. 20 for pick No. 7 (and some sugar on top) makes sense for both parties. Lynch would be an exciting fit in Chan Gailey's spread offense.
8. Cleveland Browns - UCLA LB Myles Jack - I consider Jack the top prospect in this draft class. Jack can play like a 260-pound power linebacker and displays the agility of a coverage specialist from the slot. He moves differently than most players at the position. With more and more NFL offenses using tempo, alignments, and personnel packages to create mismatches, stick Jack on the field and forget about the position. Due to his 2015 PCL injury, some teams will remove Jack from consideration or place him on a sub-board, and it is only guessing as to which teams would take Jack this early. I wouldn’t be shocked if he slips into the 20s.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves - Hargreaves’ 2015 season did not match 2014, but it was far from bad or even average. There’s a lot of polish in Hargreaves' game, especially as a press-man corner. He also offers athleticism (he’s more athletic than 97 percent of NFL CBs) and is an aggressive player.
10. New York Giants - Georgia LB/EDGE Leonard Floyd - A bit of a surprise, and I could see the Giants grabbing Ezekiel Elliott. However, many beat writers have associated the Giants with the Georgia product. Floyd stands 6'6/244 and is at his best bending the edge and turning the corner when rushing the passer. Or use him as a stand-up, off-ball linebacker who blitzes or rushes in passing packages. Floyd lacks strength, there is no denying that.
11. Chicago Bears - Notre Dame T Ronnie Stanley - I actually liked Charles Leno Jr. coming out of Boise State as a late rounder, but 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 tackle in Jordan Gross. If Stanley is on the board, Fox 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. Rankins is a fit at 3-technique.
13. Miami Dolphins - CB William Jackson III - The connection here is strong. Jackson fills a position of need, and the Dolphins have seemingly displayed interest throughout the process. Another edge rusher, Shaq Lawson or Kevin Dodd, is also possible.
14. Oakland Raiders - 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 Raiders’ revamped offensive line? Have mercy.
15. Tennessee Titans - Ohio State T Taylor Decker - The Titans have ammunition to trade back into the top 10, and definitely could if they want to land Ronnie Stanley, Jack Conklin or Decker. Decker can play on the left side, but some teams could view him as a traditional, nasty right tackle who wants to play close to his frame and wrestle defenders out of the way.
16. Detroit Lions - Michigan State OL Jack Conklin - By multiple accounts, the NFL is higher on Conklin than many media evaluators. In fact, many have projected Conklin to the 49ers at No. 7. Conklin tested like an average athlete but has an athletic background with plenty of starting tape in a “pro style” system. With LT Riley Reiff entering his contract year, the Lions could need two new starting tackles after the 2016 season. Alabama C Ryan Kelly is another possibility.
17. Atlanta Falcons - Alabama LB Reggie Ragland - I was probably too critical of 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 Falcons still lack speed at linebacker so Darron Lee is also an option, but Ragland might be the most sensible choice. Shaq Lawson is also a possibility.
18. Indianapolis Colts - Clemson EDGE Shaq Lawson - We know all about what Lawson and Clemson’s defensive line did last year. Lawson produced a great matchup with Ronnie Stanley, winning on some occasions and losing on others. He has flashes speed, power and pass-rushing awareness with a variety of moves on top of great athleticism. Personally, I think Lawson really helped Kevin Dodd’s evaluation due to the attention he attracted on the left side.
19. Buffalo Bills - Mississippi State DL Chris Jones - Jones’ projection on draft weekend is another interesting one. I could see him land as top-20 pick. Jones’ top tape is awesome, and Rex Ryan might believe he can extract that high quality tape on a consistent basis.
20. San Francisco 49ers (trade with NYJ) - Baylor WR Corey Coleman - This pick is from the previous projected trade with the Jets. The 49ers need a playmaker on offense. With Chip Kelly’s offense focused on recognizing the open receiver in a timely manner, accurate passes lead to yards after catch. There is no better run after catch receiver, or big play threat, in this class than Corey Coleman. I am so excited to see Coleman develop in the NFL. If the 49ers want a larger receiver who also offers YAC, Michael Thomas could be the pick.
21. Washington Redskins - Alabama DL Jarran Reed - Scot McCloughan insinuated he already has a target in mind at this selection. One name who stands above the rest. Wanting tough and physical players, Reed makes a ton of sense. He is a load to move off of the line as a nose tackle and can offer some upfield ability thanks to outstanding strength. Jonathan Bullard is also an option to replace the departed Jason Hatcher.
22. Houston Texans - 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 great athleticism and can help the Texans fill one of their defensive line spots and create a unique sub-package with J.J. Watt, Bullard, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. A receiver, like Will Fuller, has been the suggestion by nearly everyone.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell - There’s a real chance Treadwell is drafted in the second round, but his fit here makes so much sense. Treadwell is the type of possession receiver teams should pursue, winning with physicality and contact both before and after the catch. He can also be a downfield receiver thanks to his ball skills and size. That area of the field is not limited to fast receivers.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - 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. The Bengals have great receiving weapons in A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but adding a talent like Doctson would take it to the next level.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers - West Virginia S Karl Joseph - Many are mocking a variety of corners to the Steelers. I understand it. I also understand edge rusher projections. But most of all, I think Joseph’s game fits what the team wants to deploy. He and Mike Mitchell might be a bit repetitive at free safety, but Joseph is at his best roaming the back half and attacking downfield targets with timing at the catch point.
26. Seattle Seahawks - Alabama C Ryan Kelly - This center class is loaded, but Kelly is the best of the bunch and a top 32 talent. Center play -- offensive line play, in general -- constricted Seattle’s offense at times last season. It can be presumed that Russell Wilson had to take on more pre-snap responsibility after the team traded Max Unger.
27. Green Bay Packers - UCLA DL Kenny Clark - The Packers are taking a defensive lineman early in this draft. Andrew Billings, A’Shawn Robinson and Clark are the three still on the board here that seemingly fit the Packers’ mentality. Based on buzz I have heard, the NFL likes Clark more than many media evaluators.
28. Kansas City Chiefs - Ohio State LB Darron Lee - This mock has Lee “dropping” a bit, but that is only due to me not finding a fit earlier. Lee would play an inside linebacker role for the Chiefs, as they have very little next to or behind an aging Derrick Johnson. Lee occupied a hybrid linebacker-safety role at Ohio State, and his calling card is athleticism.
29. Arizona Cardinals - CB T.J. Green, Clemson - Based on buzz, I expect Green to come off the board as a cornerback earlier than teammate Mackensie Alexander, despite Alexander having far more experience at the position. Green is a very good athlete and possesses the height and length teams want at corner. Not to say he can’t be a safety, but look at the transition the Packers made with Demarious Randall last year.
30. Carolina Panthers - 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. The Panthers do not have a true upfield disruptor along their interior outside of Kawann Short. Butler can work as an outstanding depth piece and grow into a starting role, depending on how the Panthers hand out their money. Kevin Dodd is an option on the edge, but I would hate for it to happen.
31. Denver Broncos - Indiana T Jason Spriggs - This would mean five offensive tackles are selected in the first round, but Spriggs’ athletic profile to go along with a strong Senior Bowl make him a worthy candidate for a team who prioritizes movement along the offensive line. The Broncos got it done last year with backup offensive linemen, but that is not a challenge they hope to face again.
60. New England Patriots - EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland - The early entrant from Maryland has flown under the radar a bit. Ngakoue has a great motor and obvious awareness to know when the quarterback is climbing the pocket, altering his target point accordingly.
61. New England Patriots - RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech - I absolutely love Kenneth Dixon’s game. Most think he’s a complementary back, and he can absolutely run the wheel routes New England asks of their pass catchers. However, I believe Dixon is much more. He has the skills to be the focal point of a backfield, as he creates yards on his own.