With the NFL offseason thoroughly under way, teams have been busy bolstering their rosters with free agents. Those moves have altered the NFL landscape, filling some holes and creating new voids. The trickle-down effect will extend into the upcoming NFL draft, and thus it’s time for a second version of our mock draft projection for Round 1.
Although trades are unpredictable and can arise from out of nowhere, this draft appears to be one in which trades/player movement are an inevitability, but even the best guess at which teams will shop their picks is a shot in the dark. Rather than complicate the projection below with trade talk, we’ll stick to player evaluations, teams’ key needs and the moves they’ve made so far.
With that, the Titans are on the clock …
1. Tennessee Titans
Key Acquisitions: RB DeMarco Murray, WR Rishard Matthews, CB Brice McCain
Positions of need: OT, S, CB
The Titans select: Ole Miss LT Laremy Tunsil
There’s been a ton of noise about Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, especially after his outstanding performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. But, the Titans invested in a QB last year; now new GM Jon Robinson has to invest in the insurance. That means taking Tunsil. A move like that solidifies this offensive line, provides protection for QB Marcus Mariota and gives the Titans a potential Pro-Bowler at the key left tackle position.
2. Cleveland Browns
Key Acquisitions: C Alvin Bailey, LB Demario Davis, S Rahim Moore
Positions of need: QB, WR, RB, T, S
The Browns select: North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz
After studying Wentz the past couple of years, it’s clear he fits new coach Hue Jackson’s offense better than any quarterback in this draft. Jackson can’t know for sure if he’s going to have more margin for error with a young quarterback than a veteran under owner Jimmy Haslam, but Wentz is the type of quarterback worth taking that risk.
3. San Diego Chargers
Key Acquisitions: WR Travis Benjamin, S Dwight Lowery, NT Brandon Mebane
Positions of need: OT, S, DL
The Chargers select: Florida State CB/S Jalen Ramsey
If the Titans and Browns pass on Laremy Tunsil, the Chargers should snap him up, given that they played six different starting offensive-line combinations last year. However, with the addition of Ramsey, the secondary improves. Whether Ramsey lines up at safety or cornerback, he’s a much needed game-changer in a division that now features one of the most explosive air attacks in the NFL — the Oakland Raiders. Ramsey’s arrival slightly softens safety Eric Weddle’s departure to Baltimore.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Key Acquisitions: DE Cedric Thornton
Positions of need: DE, Secondary, RB
The Cowboys select: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa
Talking to people around the league, there’s little debate that Jerry and crew are enamored with former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. However, the addition of former Redskin RB Alfred Morris allows Jerry’s ‘Boys to look elsewhere. Bosa is more than likely the best fit at this spot. It came down to Bosa and Oregon DE/DT DeForest Buckner. Bosa won by a hair.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Key Acquisitions: DE Malik Jackson, S Tashaun Gipson, RB Chris Ivory
Positions of need: CB, OLB, OL, LB
The Jaguars select: UCLA LB Myles Jack
With Ramsey off the board, Jack is the best athlete remaining and truly the best player available. He could play any linebacker spot, strong safety or even running back — though he won’t have to given the signing of Chris Ivory and the return of T.J. Yeldon. That said, it’s not a stretch to think he could play safety next to Gipson. Either way, the Jags sunk a ton of cash into Malik Jackson and have Dante Fowler coming back after missing his entire rookie season, so don’t expect DE Joey Bosa at this spot. If somehow Ramsey or Tunsil falls to this spot, the Jags will send in their draft card for one of the two as fast as humanly possible.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Key Acquisitions: WR Mike Wallace, S Eric Weddle, TE Benjamin Watson
Positions of need: OL, DE, ILB, SS
The Ravens select: Oregon DE DeForest Buckner
This pick seems to fit hand in glove. He’s the best player left on the board and the Ravens have a need on the defensive lineman next to Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. Buckner is a powerful, violent 3-4 defensive end and would start from Day 1. Jack would be an excellent fit in this spot as well, so if the Cowboys and Jaguars pass, the former UCLA star would be in consideration for the Ravens at No. 6.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Key Acquisitions: None
Positions of need: QB, OT
The 49ers select: Cal QB Jared Goff
The 49ers have passed on local quarterbacks over the years and watched Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers win Super Bowls, attend Pro Bowls and earn MVP honors for the past 17 seasons. This doesn’t mean that Goff will be as good as either of those two, but he’s a top-notch passer who has stylistic qualities comparable to both of those stars. Will he be a fit in new coach Chip Kelly’s offense? Can the 49ers afford to pass and not find out?
8. Philadelphia Eagles (trade with Miami Dolphins)
Key Acquisitions: G Brandon Brooks, S Rodney McLeod, ILB Nigel Bradham
Positions of need: CB, OL, QB, RB
The Eagles select: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
The Eagles will eventually find that Eric Rowe is a safety and there was a reason that the Bills weren’t concerned about losing Leodis McKelvin. So, it wouldn’t be surprising if Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III isn’t getting heavy consideration. But, it’s hard to pass on a true, 20-22 carry a game, do-it-all stud running back like Elliott.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key Acquisitions: G JR Sweezy, DE Robert Ayers, CB Brent Grimes
Positions of need: DE, C, CB, S
The Bucs select: Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III
The former Gator returns home to Tampa and locks down a CB spot opposite newly signed Brent Grimes. He’s as smooth and competitive as any corner I’ve studied over the past three or four years. From Day 1, he should step in, start and be a stalwart at that position for the next seven to nine years.
10. New York Giants
Key Acquisitions: NT Damon Harrison, DE Olivier Vernon, CB Janoris Jenkins
Positions of need: OL, ILB, FS, DE
The Giants select: Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland
The additions of Harrison, Vernon and Jenkins proved one thing – the Giants still need a thumper in the middle of the defense. Ragland is that, even if he’s a two-down shop-wrecker initially. He’ll eventually evolve into a three-down player in the future.
11. Chicago Bears
Key Acquisitions: DE Akiem Hicks, LB Jerrell Freeman, LB Danny Trevathan
Positions of need: Interior OL, TE, Edge rusher, OT
The Bears select: Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley
Former Arizona Cardinal Bobby Massie was signed to play tackle, but he’s not the long-term answer on the left side. Draft Stanley, move Massie to right tackle, then move Kyle Long back inside to guard. It’s tempting to add an edge rusher here, but other than Leonard Floyd, there really isn’t a dynamic 3-4 edge rusher worthy of this spot.
12. New Orleans Saints
Key Acquisitions: TE Coby Fleener
Positions of need: DL/Edge rusher, Interior OL, WR, CB
The Saints select: Clemson DE Shaq Lawson
In this division, it’s imperative to have an edge presence and the Saints don’t have that at all. Outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha is the team’s best in that category, but Lawson gives them a presence out on the edge. He’s tough, long and can physically take over a game. He, quite frankly, is a type of player this defense hasn’t had in years.
13. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia)
Key Acquisitions: DE Mario Williams, ILB KIko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell
Positions of need: OT, OLB, Young edge rusher
The Dolphins select: Ohio State OLB Darron Lee
This feels extremely early for Lee, but the Dolphins have no players at outside linebacker. They have guys that have played the position before, but they’re all playing checkers out in space as Lee plays chess. He gives this defense some flexibility, youth and speed. He can play in space better than any other player remaining on the board, drop and rush when necessary. As such, his speed and versatility make him the right fit at this spot.
14. Oakland Raiders
Key Acquisitions: OL Kelechi Osemele, OLB Bruce Irvin, CB Sean Smith
Positions of need: OT, S, CB, Interior DL
The Raiders select: Michigan State OT Jack Conklin
The addition of Sean Smith at one corner doesn’t solve the issue at the position, but it’s enough of a Band-Aid, combined with the hope that former first-round pick D.J. Hayden can come around. The Raiders’ offensive tackle position isn’t one to write home about and Conklin is a tough, nasty and athletic edge protector at left or right tackle.
15. Los Angeles Rams
Key Acquisitions: DE Quinton Coples, CB Coty Sensabaugh
Positions of need: QB, MLB, DB, WR, C
The Rams select: Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
Star power. The Rams have spent plenty of picks on the receiver position over the past few years and quite frankly it’s not panned out. Treadwell, combined with RB Todd Gurley, gives the Rams a dynamic duo to build on in the Rams’ first year in L.A.
16. Detroit Lions
Key Acquisitions: WR Marvin Jones, S Tavon Wilson
Positions of need: OT, MLB, CB
The Lions select: Ohio State CB Eli Apple
This is a complete upside and potential pick. He’s young (only 20), long, fast and can play press- and off-coverage. Regardless, something tells me that if Treadwell is on the board, the Lions will take a long look at him in GM Bob Quinn’s first draft. If he’s gone, Apple makes a ton of sense for the Lions at a key position in this division.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Key Acquisitions: WR Mohamed Sanu, C Alex Mack
Positions of need: Edge rusher, LB, S, G
The Falcons select: Clemson DE Kevin Dodd
Last year, the Falcons selected a Clemson edge rusher Vic Beasley, so it doesn’t seem quite right going back to the well. That said, selecting Dodd here strikes me as the best fit for this defense. Don’t misunderstand; this isn’t just about fit. He has the characteristics to be special, but needs improvement with his pass-rush technique. Dodd, combined with Beasley, can start to reap some dividends down the road for the Falcons defense.
18. Indianapolis Colts
Key Acquisitions: RB Robert Turbin
Positions of need: G, C, T, ILB
The Colts select: Kansas State G Cody Whitehair
If there’s a line in Vegas on this selection, it’s probably heavily weighted on the offensive line. The Colts have drafted five offensive linemen over the past six years that are still with the team and this group still needs a makeover. Whitehair provides that and he becomes the Logan Mankins-like building block at the guard position.
19. Buffalo Bills
Key Acquisitions: S Robert Blanton
Positions of need: DE, OT, OLB, S
The Bills select: Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah
At 6-foot-4, 273 pounds, the former Oklahoma State pass-rusher has boom-or-bust potential. When cranked up to full volume he can be another Ziggy Ansah. Seemingly knowing he was going to declare for the draft at the end of the 2015 season, he was dialed in all season long. Keeping him at maximum volume will be Rex Ryan’s charge in Buffalo.
20. New York Jets
Key Acquisitions: RB Matt Forte, DT Jarvis Jenkins
Positions of need: OT, ILB, OLB, QB
The Jets select: Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd
Up close, this is an impressive looking team but the one other thing that stood out, more than anything else, was that it didn’t have any speed or electricity off the edge. Floyd would provide that, if nothing else. He’s wafer thin and can slip contact, instead of taking it square on. But, he can create havoc at a spot with little depth and youth.
21. Washington Redskins
Key Acquisitions: DE Stephen Paea, DE Kendall Reyes
Positions of need: DL, C, CB, ILB
The Redskins select: Alabama DE/DT Jarran Reed
Reed is the best run-stuffing defensive lineman in this draft and seemingly fits for this defense better than any other DL in this draft class. He’s not a great pass-rusher, but he can be a solid pocket-pushing interior player. The good news, if there’s any choosing at No. 21, is that the Redskins should have their pick of interior defenders. With all the names still on this board, Reed’s versatility and explosiveness make him the right pick.
22. Houston Texans
Key Acquisitions: QB Brock Osweiler, RB Lamar Miller, G Jeff Allen
Positions of need: Speed, Interior OL, DE
The Texans select: Notre Dame WR Will Fuller
Given my affiliation with the Texas, thanks to the Washington Post staff for taking the reins and selecting this one. Fuller plus DeAndre Hopkins plus Lamar Miller plus Brock Osweiler? This team won’t get shut out in playoff games in the future, that’s for sure.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Key Acquisitions: G Alex Boone, T Andre Smith, LB Emmanuel Lamur
Positions of need: WR, OL
The Vikings select: Baylor WR Corey Coleman
The only hesitation with Coleman is that he’s not yet a complete receiver, more like a young Mike Wallace. If the Vikings had a bona fide 80-plus catch receiver on the roster, Coleman would be an even better fit initially. Regardless, Coleman may still become the team’s No. 1 receiver immediately out of the chute.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Key Acquisitions: None
Positions of need: WR, OLB, OL
The Bengals select: Pitt WR Tyler Boyd
This just feels way too simple. The Bengals have a need. They lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency. Boyd would complement A.J. Green well. QB Andy Dalton would get another weapon in the arsenal alongside Green and TE Tyler Eifert. Easy, right? Right???
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
Key Acquisitions: TE Ladarius Green, T Ryan Harris
Positions of need: CB, OT, TE, NT
The Steelers select: Baylor DT Andrew Billings
Ultimately, there isn’t a true nose tackle in the first two rounds of the draft, but there are a boat load of defensive linemen worthy of the No. 25 spot. Billings appears to be a better fit for a 4-3, but at this point, the Steelers won’t find a better interior lineman for their scheme. Head coach Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert got a good look at Billings at his Pro Day last week and liked what they saw.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Key Acquisitions: T Bradley Sowell, OL J’Marcus Webb
Positions of need: DT, G, T
The Seahawks select: Ohio State T Taylor Decker
QB Russell Wilson was outstanding in 2015, but he spent the majority of the year fleeing from the pass rush. The Seahawks don’t truly have a foundation piece in the offensive line, especially so after losing J.R. Sweezy in free agency. Ultimately, Decker is a right tackle, but there are holes at either tackle position, so he should start immediately.
27. Green Bay Packers
Key Acquisitions: None
Positions of need: OLB, DE, Pass-catching TE
The Packers select: Boise State OLB Kamalei Correa
This is a stretch, in some sense, at outside linebacker, but the Packers have a need at the position. Clay Matthews can play either ILB or OLB but Julius Peppers can’t play for the next five years. Correa can do a little bit of everything and has advanced pass-rushing skills for a young player.
28. Kansas City Chiefs
Key Acquisitions: OT Mitchell Schwartz
Positions of need: CB, OLB, WR, ILB
The Chiefs select: Houston CB Will Jackson
Long and rangy, Jackson’s 4.3 40-yard dash got the public’s attention, but NFL scouts have known about him for a while. His length, ball skills and recovery speed are valued in a secondary that lacks a game changing talent. With Justin Houston’s injury now putting him on the shelf for the next 6-to-12 months, keep an eye on mercurial pass-rusher Noah Spence as well.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Key Acquisitions: CB Tyvon Branch
Positions of need: DT, S, C
The Cardinals select: Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins
Rankins is the best available player on the board, pure and simple. He should have been off the board well before now, but the teams picking ahead of the Cardinals just didn’t match up. GM Steve Keim can’t pass on this interior disruptor and, this is key, he can rush the passer effectively from the interior.
30. Carolina Panthers
Key Acquisitions: NT Paul Soliai
Positions of need: OT, DE, RB
The Panthers select: Indiana OT Jason Spriggs
MVP QB Cam Newton and the rest of his offensive skill players covered up issues at the tackle position … until Super Bowl 50. The Broncos edge players exposed the Panthers edge protectors and made it clear that Carolina needed help. Spriggs might be the best athlete at the position. He’s not a consistent work of art yet and that’s what keeps him waiting on draft night.
31. Denver Broncos
Key Acquisitions: OT Russell Okung, OT Donald Stephenson, QB Mark Sanchez
Positions of need: QB, OT, ILB
The Broncos select: Memphis QB Paxton Lynch
If the Broncos don’t make another move this offseason at the position, it feels as if Lynch is a lock at this spot. If the Broncos sign Robert Griffin III or trade for Colin Kaepernick, don’t be surprised if a QB-starved team trades up, a la Minnesota in 2014 for Teddy Bridgewater, to select Lynch. It might seem odd to see Lynch this far down the board, but if he gets bypassed by the Rams at No. 15 and perhaps the Bills at No. 19, no other team is truly in the market for a QB until this spot.