First the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans shook up the very top of the 2016 NFL draft. Now the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns have blown up the mock draft once again.
In the wake of the second major trade in the past eight days, here’s our latest projection for the first round:
1. Los Angeles Rams – North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz
The Rams secretly worked out both quarterbacks at the top of the draft – Wentz and Cal’s Jared Goff – and made the trade shortly thereafter. Some are convinced it’s Wentz. Some are convinced it’s Goff. I’d take Goff, if it were left up to me, but Snead/Fisher will make the call. If it’s Wentz, Goff will go No. 2.
2. Philadelphia Eagles – Cal QB Jared Goff
Well, the worst kept secret in football came to fruition as the Eagles traded up with the Browns to select the other quarterback. Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie visited the two quarterbacks and either he knows what the Rams are going to do or feels 100 percent comfortable with either Goff or Wentz. One thought is that it makes sense that Goff stays in California with the Rams and Wentz fits better in Philadelphia, but this is the NFL draft, nothing really ever makes any kind of sense.
3. San Diego Chargers – Ole Miss LT Laremy Tunsil
The Chargers played six offensive line combinations last season but, at a minimum, Tunsil solidifies the left tackle spot for years. Sure, the Chargers paid both of their tackles some serious cash, but Tunsil’s skill level is two or three notches above either King Dunlap or Joe Barksdale. Florida State star Jalen Ramsey will tempt GM Tom Telesco, but Tunsil should be the pick. That all said, I’m so tempted to put San Francisco or New York Jets in this spot to draft Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, but I’ll refrain … for now.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
The Mock Draft gods once said never do anything on feel, but this pick just feels right. The Cowboys running game doesn’t scare anyone. Elliott behind one of the best offensive lines in football might do it. He’s more talented than DeMarco Murray, who ran for 1,845 yards his last year in Dallas. Let’s shake up the top five and put Elliott in Dallas.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Florida State S/CB Jalen Ramsey
If this happens and Ramsey falls to Jacksonville, David Caldwell will dance a jig. And it’s not much of a stretch at all. San Diego’s offensive line was brutal at times last year, no matter how much money was invested in the tackle position. Dallas drafted a defensive back last year and the running game really needs some help. If a team trades up to No. 3 to draft Paxton Lynch, the Jaguars will have their pick of any non-QB minus one player. That’s a great situation for them.
6. Baltimore Ravens – UCLA LB Myles Jack
The medical re-check last week in Indianapolis didn’t go exceedingly well for Jack, according to some teams. Was the information release a purposeful leak by a team wanting Jack to fall? It’s the NFL draft, so nothing’s off the table. But, the Ravens don’t have a running mate for C.J. Mosley and don’t really have an option at strong safety either. Perhaps Jack can play inside in base and then play a pseudo-safety/sub-package linebacker spot in nickel and dime. No other player in this draft can do that.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Oregon DE DeForest Buckner
The 49ers could take a flyer on Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, but when they decide that he’s not worth the seventh pick, they’ll immediately call Buckner. The 3-4 DE is twice the player that last year’s first rounder Arik Armstead is and will step into the lineup immediately. The 49ers have a shot at Buckner because both star quarterbacks were selected 1-2. That pushed him down to San Francisco.
8. Cleveland Browns – Ohio State DE/OLB Joey Bosa
Now sitting at number eight, after adding two additional picks in this draft (and two in subsequent years), the Browns add arguably the best pass-rusher in this class, keeping a Buckeye in Ohio. Bosa isn’t a perfect fit in a 3-4 but the Browns were woeful on defense last year, so adding a player that can set the edge and get to the quarterback makes a ton of sense. If Bosa is snatched up by Dallas at pick No. 4, keep an eye on his Buckeye teammate Ezekiel Elliott at this spot.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III
This has been my pick for Tampa Bay since this process began and nothing has changed the selection. Even though Brent Grimes was added in free agency, it’s hard for GM Jason Licht to pass on a coach’s son, hailing from the city of Tampa.
10. New York Giants – Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley
The Giants drafted Ereck Flowers last season, but that didn’t solve the problem at left tackle. Stanley’s selection makes a ton more sense to me at No. 10 this year as opposed to Flowers at No. 9 last year. If Flowers doesn’t ever pan out, Stanley eventually becomes the team’s starting left tackle. If Flowers does, then Stanley stays on the right side and they form a strong tackle duo in front of Eli Manning.
11. Chicago Bears – Michigan State OT Jack Conklin
There’s little question the Bears could use a number of defensive pieces, especially on the defensive line, but passing on a tackle would be tough for GM Ryan Pace. Conklin can play either the left or right side. Bobby Massie is probably better suited to be on the right side and Kyle Long should bump back inside to guard. That puts Conklin at left tackle and the perfect fit at pick 11.
12. New Orleans Saints – Clemson DE Shaq Lawson
Some will argue that Lawson’s teammate Kevin Dodd has a higher ceiling, but I completely disagree. Lawson is one of the toughest and most disruptive edge players I’ve seen and he’ll fit perfectly opposite Cameron Jordan.
13. Miami Dolphins – Ohio State OLB Darron Lee
When I mocked Lee to the Dolphins in version 2.0, it felt it was a little earlier than expected. The Dolphins have guys who 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 some speed. He can play in space better than any other player remaining on the board, drop and rush when necessary. That type of player is a necessity against an offense like New England’s, a unit Miami faces twice a year.
14. Oakland Raiders – Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland
As much of a fan as I was of former Kansas star Ben Heeney last year (and still am), Ragland is the consummate 4-3 MLB and would step right into that spot in this defense. He’s a thumper with the ability to move out to the edge and play outside, if ever asked. He’s similar to Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower, in that he can play both inside and outside, in any scheme.
15. Tennessee Titans – Ohio State CB Eli Apple
The addition of Brice McCain is far from the answer at cornerback, so Apple was the first name that came to mind after the deal was consummated. He’s a young, long and rangy corner with a ton of upside who will get tested in a division with DeAndre Hopkins (Houston), the two Allens (Jacksonville) and T.Y Hilton (Indianapolis).
16. Detroit Lions – Ohio State OT Taylor Decker
This is much higher than I’d draft Decker, but Ragland, Conklin and Apple are off the board. So, Decker is the pick and he steps right in at right tackle opposite former first-rounder Riley Reiff.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Clemson DE Kevin Dodd
Dodd’s still on the board, so the Falcons make it Clemson pass rushers in consecutive years. The Falcons were miserable sacking the quarterback for a second consecutive season. Dodd, in combination with Vic Beasley, should provide a boost.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Alabama C Ryan Kelly
The Colts must address the offensive line to keep Andrew Luck upright for 2016 and beyond. Kelly or Kansas State G Cody Whitehair makes more sense and each is a better value than Indiana offensive tackle Jason Spriggs.
19. Buffalo Bills – Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah
At 6 feet 4, 273 pounds, the former Cowboy pass rusher has boom-or-bust potential. When cranked up to full volume, he can be another Ziggy Ansah. He knew he was going to declare for the draft at the end of the 2015 season, so he was dialed in all season long. Keeping him at maximum volume will be Rex Ryan’s charge in Buffalo.
20. New York Jets – Memphis QB Paxton Lynch
Even if Ryan Fitzpatrick re-signs with the Jets, GM Mike Maccagnan can’t afford to pass on the 6-7, rocket-armed signal-caller from Memphis. The Bills will consider Lynch, but in the end, they have an answer with Tyrod Taylor under center. The Jets don’t seemingly have that luxury at this point and they don’t have a long-term answer. Lynch could provide that answer.
21. Washington Redskins – Alabama DE/DT Jarran Reed
There’s no change in the pick from version 2.0 for the Redskins, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Alabama DE/DT A’Shawn Robinson or even Ole Miss DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche drafted in this slot. As Alabama teammate Ryan Kelly is off the board, drafting Reed or a DE of his ilk makes the most sense at this spot.
22. Houston Texans – Alabama DE/DT A’Shawn Robinson
Whoa! Curve ball thrown at me from the Post staff making this selection. But, it seems to make some sense, although it won’t make the Texans proletariat happy. Everyone and their brother is thinking that the Texans must draft offense, but there’s a definitive hole opposite J.J. Watt at defensive end. Robinson won’t be a significant factor rushing the passer, but if Jadeveon Clowney is fully healthy, the Texans have three studs (Watt, Clowney and Whitney Mercilus) to provide the pass rush.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
The Vikings might not have thought Treadwell would be on the board at this point, but he is and he’s the selection. If the Vikings truly have a wide receiver for Teddy Bridgewater in their sights, there are plenty of them; in fact, all of them still on the board. TCU’s Josh Doctson would satisfy the receiver itch as well, but Treadwell is a perfect fit in this offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Notre Dame WR Will Fuller
Fuller’s ability to get deep down field replaces what Marvin Jones did for them prior to leaving for Detroit. If it’s not Fuller in this spot, it should be Baylor WR Corey Coleman or Doctson. Either one would fit.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Houston CB Will Jackson
The Steelers struggled all season at cornerback and that’s made Jackson a significant priority for Mike Tomlin and company. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, Tomlin and DB coach Carnell Lake were all on hand for Jackson’s pro day and showed a ton of interest in the Cougar defensive back.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins
This is no indication of the player that Rankins is and will become in the future. Rankins can absolutely play and the Seahawks have to be jumping for joy that he’s still on the board. A wild card to watch at this spot is Ole Miss DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche. He’s a unique guy whose personality would flourish in Seattle under head coach Pete Carroll, whereas it might be stifled elsewhere.
27. Green Bay Packers – Eastern Kentucky OLB Noah Spence
Spence has a checkered past and it’ll keep plenty of teams from writing his name on the card. But, the Packers are fairly desperate to find anyone on the edge that can rush the quarterback. Even if the Packers leave Clay Matthews on the outside, Julius Peppers won’t play for much longer. Spence is a more explosive, dynamic edge player as opposed to Boise State OLB Kamalei Correa, who I pegged here in mock draft version 2.0.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – TCU WR Josh Doctson
The Chiefs have plenty of offensive weapons, but really only one threat at wide receiver. Doctson is a more complete receiver than Baylor’s Corey Coleman and provides more of a fit opposite Jeremy Maclin than Coleman does. He’s a big-play threat, but most importantly, he’s a contested 50/50 ball receiver who can thrive in the red zone.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Ole Miss DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche
Drafting Nkemdiche is simply addressing a need with the best player available. Cornerback is seemingly a more distinct need, but I don’t like the value of any cornerback at this spot. Regardless, Nkemdiche could be a three-down interior lineman in the near future, so GM Steve Keim pulls the trigger on one of the most polarizing picks in this first round.
30. Carolina Panthers – Indiana T Jason Spriggs
We all saw the Super Bowl. There is no more pressing need for the Panthers than a tackle, right side or left. The Panthers survived with Mike Remmers and Michael Oher all season, but that won’t happen again. Shoot, it didn’t happen in the Super Bowl, so expect GM David Gettleman to take the athletic offensive lineman out of Indiana.
31. Denver Broncos – Michigan State QB Connor Cook
The Spartan signal-caller won some big time games at MSU, but struggled a bit as a senior. In Denver, though, all he has to do is let the defense win games. He can manage the game and that’s really all that head coach Gary Kubiak really, truly wants anyway. Cook seems to be a fit in Denver and answers the team’s most significant question mark. Is he the starter right away? He might have to be, given the situation, with Mark Sanchez as their current top QB.