What happens when a bunch of sports lawyers wish they were GMs? A mock draft in preparation for tonight’s first round! We hope to beat Kiper/McShay. The Rams are on the clock!
#1 Los Angeles Rams - Jared Goff, Quarterback, Cal 6’4″ 205 Junior
The great debate is over as the Rams take Cal QB Jared Goff. The decision to take Goff over Wentz comes down to the Rams belief that Goff has a higher floor, and a longer track record of success against better competition. Additionally, while Goff may be less athletic than Wentz, his ability to read defenses is far more proven than Wentz. Goff shouldn’t be asked to do too much as a rookie, as he can lean on an excellent run game. The Rams should look to provide him with some weapons later in the draft.
#2 Philadelphia Eagles - Carson Wentz, Quarterback, North Dakota State 6’5″ 237 Senior
Carson Wentz isn’t the second best player in this year’s draft. But he is the first or second best quarterback, and apparently the Eagles front office thinks a QB is what they need more than anything else, so that’s what they are going to get for the five draft picks (i.e. the No. 8, No. 77, and No. 100 picks in this year’s draft, a first-round pick in 2017, and a second-round pick in 2018) they sent to the Browns.
In Wentz, the Eagles will get a tall, athletic winner who has thrived in a pro-style offense and can throw the ball with significant accuracy and decent arm strength. The lower level of competition he faced in two years as a starter in the FCS gives rise to viable concerns about his NFL readiness, but if the Eagles are patient with him, they could have a franchise quarterback on their hands. But with Sam Bradford asking to be traded, will they have time to be patient with Wentz?
#3 San Diego Chargers - Laremy Tunsil, Tackle, Ole Miss, 6’5″ 305 Junior
This one is easy. The Chargers had one of the worst offensive lines in football last year and the draft’s top rated prospect by many who also fits a huge need just falls into the Chargers’ lap. The Chargers turned down several lucrative trade offers from teams trying to move up and grab Jalen Ramsey, but in the end, the opportunity to take a franchise-changing left tackle was too great to pass up.
#4 Dallas Cowboys - Joey Bosa, Defensive End, Ohio State, 6’6″ 276 Junior
We all know Jerry Jones is just itching to make the sexy pick and take Ezekiel Elliot at number 4. But in recent years, the Cowboys have made more reasonable, need-based picks in the first round that have given them an elite offensive line. Now it’s time to build the pass rush. My bet is that Stephen Jones temper his dad like he did in 2014 - when the Cowboys avoided the Johnny Football fiasco and took Zack Martin - and convinces him to get the best pass rusher available.
#5 Jacksonville Jaguars - Jalen Ramsey, Defensive Back, Florida State, 6’1″ 209 Junior
I know, I know. What about Prince (Amukamara)?!? Before the 2011 1st round pick was signed, many draft pundits speculated that the Jaguars would attempt to address their secondary issues in the draft by taking Ramsey. With Amukamara officially signed, the new buzz is that the Jaguars are hot on Myles Jack and a recent meeting between Jack and Jaguars management seemed to confirm those rumors.
I’m not buying it though, not for a second. I think the meeting with Jack is posturing - conducted for the sole purpose of convincing teams who actually are “all-in” on Myles Jack (and I’m thinking of the Giants in particular), that they’ll have to trade up to the top 5 to pick him. And these days, a top-5 pick costs a whole lot more than it’s worth.
But lets say those calls never come in and the Jaguars have to actually use their pick. I still think it’s a no-brainer that they choose Ramsey over Jack and here’s why: The Jaguars were 5-11 last year and are a combined 12-36 in their past three seasons. And in case you’re wondering why I used the three-year sample size, it’s because it happens to be the same period of time that David Caldwell has been the Jags GM and Gus Bradley has been their coach. In today’s NFL, 12-36 doesnt only mean you’re on the proverbial “hot seat,” it means the seat has been doused with gasoline and an army of Roman soldiers have loaded flaming arrows into their bows and taken aim directly at you. With regard to Caldwell – he’s one mistake away from being let go mid-season, regardless of its effect on the Jaguars record. Finding out that you’re first round pick needs microfracture surgery is just that sort of mistake, and that’s exactly why he’ll steer clear from Jack. Still, Bradley will insist (and Caldwell will agree) that they’ll need a player who can help them “win now.” An NFL-ready defensive stud who can play a variety of positions and addresses a position of need. Also, a player who you can justify as a solid, long-term investment. That’s why Ramsey is the pick here – he checks all the boxes. As for the Amukamara signing, I don’t think that signing an underachieving veteran to a one-year, “prove-it” deal to the market value of a 2nd-string CB is a great showing of confidence by the Jags that Amukamara is the answer to their prayers. And as for tye Jags other starting CB – just remember that Gus Bradley benched him in the middle of last year because of this (note: he’s the guy DeAndre Hopkins is torching in every single highlight). Like I said…position of need.
#6 Baltimore Ravens - Ronnie Stanley, Tackle, Notre Dame, 6’6” 312 Senior
Eugene Monroe hasn’t been the answer at left tackle since re-signing with the team two off-seasons ago. Even if Monroe is healthy Ozzie Newsome has shown a propensity to take the best available player on the board even if there is an established veteran already on the roster. When Newsome drafted Jonathan Ogden the team already had Tony Jones as an established option on the blindside. Ogden spent his rookie season at guard before sliding over to tackle. Stanley could do the same for 2016 Ravens, who lost left guard Kelechi Osemele to the Raiders during free agency. Stanley is a complete tackle both in the run and passing games and his lack of injury history and high character make this a lockdown pick for the Ravens if the defensive playmaker they so badly need (read Joey Bosa or Jalen Ramsey) is off the board.
#7 San Francisco 49ers - DeForest Buckner, Defensive End, Oregon, 6’7″ 291 Senior
The Niners had one of the league’s best defenses shattered through injuries, defections, retirements, suspensions, and rehab. A once vaunted front 7 is in dire need of a pass rusher, so this pick is pretty clear for the 49ers. Buckner should slot in well as a defensive end in their 3-4 scheme. If he bulks up a little bit, he could be a mainstay there for years and has drawn comparisons to Calais Campbell. I’m sure Chip Kelly would prefer a shiny new offensive toy, but GM Trent Baalke has a solid draft record, and should work to solidify his defense. The Niners won’t be competing in the tough NFC West this year, so they need players, not a new QB or WR.
#8 Cleveland Browns - Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Ohio State, 6’0” 225 Junior
The Browns have deficiencies all across the roster especially at the playmaking positions, so they need to adopt the best player available mantra unless they trade back again. Their offensive line was decimated during free agency, and Joe Thomas is a prime trade candidate with no guaranteed money left on his contract, so they’d likely go with one of the top 2 offensive tackles if one falls to them - but alas that’s not the case as predicted here. In the current NFL climate I don’t usually advocate for a running back in the top ten selections but Ezekiel Elliot is the complete package, and the Browns need to add pieces that will help resurrect RG3’s career without him having to do too much. The Browns drafted Duke Johnson out of Miami in the 3rd round last season, who fits the Giovani Bernard model out of the backfield. Pairing these two backs together will give the Browns a dynamic backfield and help alleviate the lack of receiving talent on the roster with the free agent departure of last year’s leading receiver Travis Benjamin and the continued suspension of the enigmatic yet uber-talented Josh Gordon.
#9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Vernon Hargreaves, Cornerback, Florida, 5’11” 204 Junior
The Bucs need help at offensive line, but their secondary is downright porous and the top offensive tackles are off the board. In a division with quarterbacks that can torch you - Brees, Ryan, and Newton - on any given play, secondary weaknesses are sure to be exploited and the Bucs saw that in spades last year. Despite concerns about his ability to handle big receivers, Hargreaves should be able to make an immediate impact on this defense and has the tools to be a consistently good NFL cornerback.
#10 New York Giants - Myles Jack, Linebacker, UCLA, 6’1″ 245 Junior
The Giants are ecstatic that Jack has fallen to them at the number 10 spot because they need help on the defensive side of the ball. Maybe Jack falls this far because of concerns about his injury history, which include a torn meniscus and surgery to repair his ACL this past September, but his elite athleticism and instincts make him one of the best players in this draft, making it hard for the Giants to pass up.
#11 Chicago Bears - Leonard Floyd, Linebacker, Georgia, 6’6″ 244 Junior
The Bears can go in a number of directions with this pick, but the opportunity to add a long, versatile edge defender like Floyd is too difficult to pass up. Chicago has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush in recent years, and with Aaron Rodgers ever looming atop the division, adding Floyd here has the “positional value” pundits smiling. Floyd has his detractors…does he have the strength to set the edge in the run game? Is he a true pass rusher or more of a blitzer from a traditional OLB position? Despite these reasonable concerns, scouts salivate over scheme-versatile LB’s who have shown the athletic traits to impact the game both as a rusher and in coverage.
#12 New Orleans Saints - Shaq Lawson, Defensive End, Clemson 6’2″ 260 Junior
Some people are suggesting the Saints use this pick on a quarterback like Paxton Lynch, but the team has a limited window left to compete for a title with Drew Brees as quarterback. Unless you’re sold on Lynch or someone else as your QB of the future (which I’m not), you don’t waste the opportunity to add a starter at this caliber pick. The Saints already attempted to add a future Brees replacement in the third round last year to no avail. Lawson’s addition, combined with free agent acquisition James Laurinaitis, should help solidify an improved 2016 LB corps with standout rookie Stephone Anthony expected to continue to improve. Though the Saints would likely have preferred an explosive pass-rusher like Leonard Floyd, Lawson’s versatility will help a defense that struggled both in coverage and pressure situations last year.
#13 Miami Dolphins - William Jackson III, Cornerback, Houston 6’0″ 189 Senior
The Dolphins lost their number one corner in Brent Grimes and traded for Byron Maxwell who struggled for the Eagles in his first year outside of the vaunted Seattle defense. The Miami defense surrendered 4000 passing yards through the air, and although they’d love to upgrade their pass rush with the aging Cameron Wake and the loss of Olivier Vernon there just isn’t the right player with Leonard Floyd and Shaq Lawson coming off the board immediately prior. Plus, a strong secondary will help the pass rush.
#14 Oakland Raiders - Corey Coleman, Wide Receiver, Baylor 5’10” 194 Junior
Many may mock this pick (see what I did there) as the Raiders have a long history of taking bad but fast wide receivers (Jacoby Ford, Darius Heyward-Bey). Coleman will prove to be the exception. Simply put, there is no better player in space in the entire draft, and Coleman can fly (sub 4.4 40 time at his pro day). Put him opposite of Amari Cooper, and Carr will have a WR duo that will cause nightmares for opposing defenses. Check out the play Coleman made vs WVU below (at the 5:00 mark). Even with Treadwell and Doctson still on the board, the Raiders couldn’t pass up Coleman’s electric playmaking ability.
#15 Tennessee Titans - Jack Conklin, Tackle, Michigan State 6’6″ 308 Junior
When the Titans were picking #1 overall, it seemed like a no-brainer that they would take the top OT on the board, Laremy Tunsil, and bump their incumbent LT, Taylor Lewan, to RT. But even having traded down to the middle of the first round, I still think that there’s enough talent remaining at OT to stick with the original plan. While there has been much discussion about taking a LT for the purpose of providing better protection for franchise QB Marcus Mariotta, I believe that the Titans are arguably more interested in bringing someone in to plow the way for their prized off-season acquisition, DeMarco Murray. Murray, a prototypical north-south power back, wasn’t able to succeed in Philadelphia, partially because his offensive line was often injured, but mostly because Chip Kelly never committed to the power running game. By giving Murray 12 million guaranteed, the Titans will want to give Murray the best chance to succeed, and that starts with bringing in a mauling offensive lineman who can control the line of scrimmage in the run game. Enter Jack Conklin – the best OT left on the board and arguably the best run blocker in the whole draft. While Conklin might need some refining in his pass blocking, his deficiencies in this area have been largely overblown and ultimately, these deficiencies will be mitigated by Mariota’s ability to move around in the pocket. Whether the Titans are employing a “best fit” philosophy or whether they’re trying to take the best player available at a position of critical need, Conklin is their man.
#16 Detroit Lions - Sheldon Rankins, Defensive Tackle, Louisville 6’1″ 299 Senior
The loss of Ndamukong Suh last March still runs deep in Detroit. But this pick isn’t rooted in need or in free agency history, rather is justified by pure value. Rankins burst onto the scene in 2015, and is revered by most as the top DT in this class. Equally adept versus the run and pass, Rankins is a “walk-in” difference maker on all 3 downs for Detroit.
#17 Atlanta Falcons - Darron Lee, Linebacker, Ohio State. 6’1″ 232 Redshirt Sophomore
When Drew Brees and Cam Newton are your division competitors, you need a versatile linebacker to match up with receivers and rush the quarterback. Lee has that range and can cover and blitz for the Falcons defense. The Falcons might have hoped to help their secondary here but Lee is a better value at this spot than a safety.
#18 Indianapolis Colts - Taylor Decker, Tackle, Ohio State 6’7 315 Senior
In order for the Colts offense to be successful, Andrew Luck has to be successful. Actually, let me rephrase that – in order for the Colts offensive to be successful, Andrew Luck just has to be – as in be healthy, be able to not get pressured and/or knocked down over 1/3rd of the time he drops back to pass (36%), and be able to rely on his running game. The revolving door at RT had a lot to do with the above problems as nearly 75% of all pressures on Andrew Luck last year came from the right-side of the line. Decker is the best offensive lineman left on the board and would slot in perfectly as a book-end to LT Anthony Castonzo. Decker’s strength as a run-blocker should also help revive the Colts run game by helping to solidify the edge, which will help Frank Gore sell his trademark counter that he made a living on in San Francisco. And looking forward, should Decker end up developing more than the Colts expect, he could conceivably provide a reasonably inexpensive alternative to Costanzo at LT, who will be 31 when his current contract expires.
#19 Buffalo Bills - Jarran Reed, Defensive Tackle, Alabama 6’3” 311 Senior
Rex Ryan defenses are built up front, and pairing Jarran Reed with Marcell Dareus would help create an imposing front line. With 111 tackles over his last two seasons at Alabama, Reed would provide Buffalo with an athletic defensive tackle capable of doing more than just occupying blocks. Adding Reed to the defensive line rotation helps prepare the team for the eventual decline of 33-year old Pro Bowl DT Kyle Williams.
#20 New York Jets - Noah Spence, Linebacker, Eastern Kentucky 6’3” 261 Redshirt Junior
One of the few weak spots on the Jets defensive roster in 2015 was their outside pass rush, and Spence fits that bill. His talent is undoubted and the marijuana issues that created questions about his character and work ethic while at Ohio State seem to be in the rearview mirror after, according to reports, sending his 20 previous drug test results to all 32 clubs - which apparently came back clean. As a First Team All-Big Ten selection his sophomore season while still at Ohio State, and recording 22.5 tackles for loss with 13.5 sacks last season at Eastern Kentucky, Spence has the ability to make the Jets defense that much better. While it’s conceivable that the Jets take a quarterback in this spot, with the suspension of division rival Tom Brady and their aging roster, the time is now for the Jets to make a major playoff push and Spence is a player that can make an immediate impact.
#21 Washington Redskins - A’Shawn Robinson, Defensive Tackle, Alabama 6’4″ 307 Junior
Washington’s signing of Josh Norman solved a serious need at cornerback for the Redskins. Now they can focus on their defensive line, and A’Shawn Robinson fits that role nicely. A consensus All-American and finalist for the Outland Trophy, Robinson has a body built to succeed as an interior lineman in the NFL. His powerful lower half make it tough for offensive lineman to move him off a spot, and he has the power to toss aside a one-on-one block and the size to eat up several blocks and allow the linebackers to run free.
#22 Houston Texans - Josh Doctson, Wide Receiver, TCU 6’4″ 190 Senior
While the 2015 Houston Texans squad boasted one of the league’s most explosive defenses, the other side of the ball was considerably more stagnant. The Texans have already invested a considerable chunk of change towards rectifying their offensive deficiencies this off-season, bringing in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller to galvanize their offensive efforts, which for much of last year, operated under a more simplistic philosophy (of handing off twice and then throwing it up to DeAndre Hopkins and hoping for the best). With Doctson, the Texans get arguably the draft’s best athlete who can absolutely match Hopkins and Miller’s explosion and create match-up problems in the outside and in the slot. Bringing in a gunslinger (and an underrated athlete) as their starting QB and having three skill position players who all run sub-4.5 40 yard dashes (Doctson technically clocked in at a 4.5 in the combine, but I’m giving him the .01 benefit of the doubt) seems like a good way of ensuring that the 2016 Texans squad will be explosive on both sides of the ball.
#23 Minnesota Vikings - Laquon Treadwell, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss 6’2″ 221 Junior
The run on WR’s started a tad earlier than expected, and skipped right over the guy who many assumed would be the first WR off the board for most of this draft process. The knock on Treadwell (speed) is legitimate; but his game is chock-full of high level traits that more than make up for it. He has an advanced understanding of body positioning and control, to go along with a fierce attitude, both at the catch point and in the blocking game. Scouts call Treadwell’s blocking ability Hines Ward-esque.
#24 Cincinnati Bengals - Karl Joseph, Safety, West Virginia 5’11” 197 Senior
While the Bengals could certainly use a receiver at this juncture, the run on receiver leaves the 1st round depth at the position lackluster at this point. Unless they trade up or favor WR Will Fuller of Notre Dame, the back of their defense, especially the safety position, is the focus. After losing Reggie Nelson in free agency, safety has become a position of need. Although Joseph suffered a torn ACL during his senior year, he should be ready to go early in the season, while the re-signed Taylor Mays and the crop of other young safeties on the roster should be able to hold down the fort until Joseph is fully healthy.
#25 Pittsburgh Steelers - Eli Apple, Cornerback, Ohio State 6’1” 198 Redshirt Sophomore
The Steelers are perilously thin at CB and haven’t a true lockdown corner since Ike Taylor retired. Eli Apple provides great value with the 25th overall pick as an athletic corner with size who can eventually match up against the top receivers in the AFC North - mainly AJ Green. The Steelers begin the process of building back up there historically vaunted defense.
#26 Seattle Seahawks - Germain Ifedi, Tackle, Texas A&M 6’5″ 324, Senior
The Seahawks desperately need help on the O-line. After watching Russell Wilson scramble around the field like Ricky Bobby trying to put out an imaginary fire and losing Russell Okung to the Broncos this offseason, the Seahawks continue to build the O-line by taking the only remaining offensive lineman with a first round grade. Bringing in J’Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell are hardly long term options on the line for Seattle, and Ifedi certainly has all the physical traits you’d want in a offensive lineman. He’s a bit raw technique wise but worst case scenario, Seattle can move him to guard.
#27 Green Bay Packers - Chris Jones, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State 6’6″ 310 Junior
The Packers have a ton of need across their front 7, after expending prime resources on the secondary in recent years (Clinton-Dix, Randall, Rollins, etc.). Chris Jones has been flying under the radar in media circles, but my hunch is that the NFL decision makers have caught on. Jones is a disruptive force who can play all across the defensive line. He’s tailor-made for a 3-4 front, with his long arms that will allow him to keep blockers at bay while controlling multiple gaps. Jones has been criticized for “running hot and cold.” Green Bay is gambling that he runs hot in the cold for years to come.
#28 Kansas City Chiefs - Vonn Bell, Safety, Ohio State 5’10” 199 Junior
The chiefs quietly need to shore up the safety position and Vonn Bell provides solid value at this point in the draft. While they were hoping Karl Joseph would still be here, they grab the next best safety in Vonn Bell. With the retirement of Hussain Abdullah, and Tyvon Branch departing for Arizona, the Chiefs add another playmaker in the center of their secondary.
#29 Arizona Cardinals - Ryan Kelly, Center, Alabama 6’4″ 311 Senior
Cardinals GM Steve Keim couldn’t get to the phone fast enough to call in this pick, representing a rare chance late in the first round to match good value and team need. Kelly is an instant upgrade over current starter AQ Shipley, and should give the Cardinals one of the top offensive lines in the NFL. The Cardinals weren’t expecting Kelly to be here and had contemplated trading down but were ecstatic to get their man.
#30 Carolina Panthers - Artie Burns, Cornerback, Miami 6’0″ 193 Junior
Burns is a bit raw and therefore a risk this high, but he has great athleticism and potential. He’s a ball hawk that plays hard on the field, though he’s a bit unrefined and needs coaching. With Josh Norman’s departure, the Panthers need a CB, and they have a chance to grab one with a high upside here.
#31 Denver Broncos - Reggie Ragland, Middle Linebacker, Alabama 6’1″ 247 Senior
The Broncos surprise everyone and don’t go with a QB, despite Lynch and Cook being on the board. Denver needs to fill the holes left in its defense by departing free agents. Ragland was a surprise to be on the board at this point and Denver grabs him to be a quick replacement for Danny Trevathan, and an immediate starter. Denver also has a lot of draft capital, so they can move up in the second round if they feel like there is a good place to grab a QB.