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.