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. Don’t take these guesses as “X player is projected in the first-round.” It is too early to make such a statement. I suggest using early mocks as watch lists.
1. Tennessee Titans - FSU DB Jalen Ramsey - Everyone is mocking Laremy Tunsil here. For years it has been accepted that left tackle is the most important offensive line position. In the past, it seemed all of the top pass rushers played opposite the left tackle. That played into the importance of the position. Now pass rushers are deployed from all different alignments. Basically I’m trying to explain why tackle will not be the pick here, since Tennessee’s interior seemed to struggle just as much as the edge. The Titans likely want to trade this pick, but a versatile, aggressive defensive back with size and athleticism is not a bad consolation.
2. Cleveland Browns - Cal QB Jared Goff - New head coach Hue Jackson already stated the team will take a quarterback if one is worthy of the second selection. The question if one will be, or even if one will be forced. Just thinking out loud here, but I’m interested in what the process of labeling grades to quarterbacks is like with each team. I’m not sure how a quarterback needy team could list a quarterback at a random ranking like, say, No. 7. If a passer is listed that highly, they are either a quality starter or not, right? If so, they should be atop the board.
3. San Diego Chargers - Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil - Philip Rivers has also displayed functional mobility and an ability to win in a confined pocket. Common thought would be that Rivers’ ability to succeed in such a situation would continue to decline with age. This entire offense would improve with a better offensive line. Tunsil has an aggressive demeanor to go along with his athleticism.
4. Dallas Cowboys - Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell - Treadwell and Dez Bryant on the same team? Why?.... Why not. Terrance Williams’ contract is up after 2016 and he is an average talent at best. Jason Witten is very close to transitioning from Dad Running to Dad Power Walking. Treadwell is an ultra-physical receiver both before and after the catch.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Ohio State EDGE Joey Bosa - But they took an edge rusher last year?... So. The Jaguars will likely lose three edge rushers this offseason (Clemons played 675 snaps, Branch played 616 and Davis played 250) and were in dire need of pass rushing productivity this year. Bosa is all explosion and power, shedding his opposition with strength and extension. He is one of the best run defending edge players I have seen.
6. Baltimore Ravens - Notre Dame T Ronnie Stanley - Eugene Monroe only turns 29 in April, but he has only played in 17 games over the last two seasons. The Ravens cannot count on him to play a full season. On top of that, Kelechi Osemele is a free agent and 2016 is the final year of Ricky Wagner’s deal. Getting a talented left tackle in a rookie deal is a great proposition.
7. San Francisco 49ers - Baylor WR Corey Coleman - This pick will test Chip Kelly’s and Trent Baalke’s roster relationship. Coleman checks in under 6’0”, and Kelly has leaned towards size at the position. However, I think Coleman plays bigger than his size and obviously offers speed and yards after catch capabilities. The 49ers’ offense needs a jolt, and Coleman would offer it. Especially if the 49ers sign Sam Bradford.
8. Miami Dolphins - Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves - Hargreaves’ 2015 season did not match 2014, but it was far from bad or even average. I was a big Jamar Taylor fan out of Boise State, but he has not played well. Unless the team really believes in young corners Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett as full time starters, expect them to address this position early.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander - I can see why a lot of people like Alexander. In fact, many love his game. Hate it or love it, corner is now a position of size and stature. It can be difficult to find sub 5’10” corner who successfully plays the ball in contested situations. Jason Verrett was one, and Alexander needs to follow that path.
10. New York Giants - 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. The Giants might see a Justin Tuck comparison here.
11. Chicago Bears - UCLA LB Myles Jack - As of now, I consider Jack the top prospect in this draft class. Jack can play like a 260 lbs power linebacker or move like a 230 lbs coverage specialist. He moves differently than most players at the position. John Fox has invested in linebackers throughout his coaching career. Jack is on track to participate in the Combine.
12. New Orleans Saints - Ohio State CB Eli Apple - Apple is not frequently discussed among first round prospects at this time, but that could change throughout the process. The Saints have on solid corner in Dalvin Breaux and a player to fill the slot in Damian Swann. Apple would fill that other outside corner position.
13. Philadelphia Eagles - Kansas State OL Cody Whitehair - Two straight drafts without an offensive lineman selected. Color me shocked that the Eagles struggled to run the ball or protect their stationary quarterback for stretches of the season. Matt Tobin was a liability as a pass blocker. Whitehair played tackle at Kansas State but I’ve seen many project him as a guard.
14. Oakland Raiders - Alabama LB Reggie Ragland - Linebacker offers the most talent in this draft class, and Ragland is certainly near the top of the list. I like Ben Heeney, one of the Raiders’ young linebackers, but talents like Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith should not prevent a team from attempting to upgrade the position. Ragland is an assignment sound football player.
15. Los Angeles Rams - North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz - Writing “Los Angeles” was weird. GM Les Snead recently mentioned that the “analytics” pointed to Case Keenum “playing like a top-10 quarterback at one point.” There is no way he can believe that. Wentz has a lot of talent, but I wonder if his evaluation has “peaked” with the media before the process has even started. His skills will be on display at the Senior Bowl.
16. Detroit Lions - Alabama DL A’Shawn Robinson - It seems big media members, and likely the NFL, loves Robinson’s game. I see a big, stout run defender who does not offer very much as an upfield disruptor or pass rusher. Maybe he can be Michael Brockers, but I see adequate to above average run defenders signed every year off the street. I don’t hate Robinson’s game, I just don’t love it like others.
17. Atlanta Falcons - Ohio State LB Darron Lee - The Falcons need an infusion of speed on defense. Lee can get into spots other linebackers cannot because of his speed. Yes, he missed some tackles and plays this season, and those tend to stand out. Hopefully those do not cloud evaluations.
18. Indianapolis Colts - Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott - Elliott can be a foundation piece of an NFL offense. There are so many occasions where he turns three yard runs into 10 yard gains due to a combination of vision, quickness, balance and strength. On top of that, Elliott is a solid receiver and can play on all three downs. He might be the best blocking ball carrier I’ve seen.
19. Buffalo Bills - 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.
20. New York Jets - Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith - A team with patience will select Jaylon Smith in the first-round. At this time we do not have details regarding Smith’s injury, but it is viewed as serious. He covers plenty of ground and appeared more aggressive at the point of attack this season. The Jets’ linebackers seemed to allow a high number of first downs this year based on positioning and a lack of speed. Smith could help fix that.
21. Washington Redskins - Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche - Jason Hatcher is a pivotal piece of Washington’s front seven. He turns 34 in July. Yes, Nkemdiche will be a talking point throughout the process, and the NFL will have far more information than the public, just like with every prospect. Nkemdiche has displayed uncommon explosion and power from a variety of alignments.
22. Houston Texans - Memphis QB Paxton Lynch - It is extremely early, but Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are the two quarterbacks trending “up.” Lynch put together a few outstanding performances, like the one against Ole Miss. At some point teams will need to move on from the likes of Brian Hoyer and take a stab at a quarterback, even though there is a chance it might miss. Any quarterback who goes to Houston will have the benefit of throwing to Nuk Hopkins.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Ohio State OL Taylor Decker - Decker recently pulled out of the Senior Bowl. The Vikings need an infusion of aggressiveness and nastiness, and Decker plays until the whistle and sometimes beyond. He is working with LeCharles Bentley pre-draft, which has helped a number of prospects and players.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Georgia LB Leonard Floyd - The Bengals need a shot of athleticism at linebacker. Floyd played more at the second level this season and also possesses pass rushing ability thanks to flexibility and bend. He could be used as the Bengals’ third edge rusher on sub downs.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers - EKU EDGE Noah Spence - I would not argue with anyone who ranks Spence as the second best edge rusher in this class. In fact, I likely agree. He combines explosion with power and is not afraid to work through his opponent or around them. Off field issues led to his dismissal at Ohio State, but what if those aren’t “issues” anymore?
26. Seattle Seahawks - Louisville DL Sheldon Rankins - I think Rankins dominates the Senior Bowl. He is a true upfield disruptor who is smooth, quick and versatile with his hands to win the balance advantage. I’ll go as far to say that Rankins could be this year’s Kawann Short.
27. Green Bay Packers - Baylor DL Andrew Billings - There will be a long discussion about Billings’ best alignment. He might not be a true 1 or 0 technique on base downs, and therefore might not be big enough to play that role for the Packers. But where this falls right now, I would find it difficult for the team to pass on this level of disruption. Billings was great this season until an ankle injury slowed him down for a few weeks.
28. Kansas City Chiefs - Ohio State LB Joshua Perry - Honestly, I kind of forced a linebacker here. Perry, LSU’s Deion Jones, Missouri’s Kendell Beckwith and others could be well thought of among scouts. Derrick Johnson is a free agent and is also 33 years old.
29. Arizona Cardinals - Oklahoma State EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah - Compared to others, I have a lot of questions about Ogbah’s projection. Markus Golden has transitioned well to the NFL, but more young edge talent is needed. The Cardinals relied on Dwight Freeney in a number of situations. The Cardinals have done wonders with picks others have questioned (John Brown, Deone Bucannon and Rodney Gunter, among others.)
30. Denver Broncos - Florida EDGE/DL Jonathan Bullard - Malik Jackson is about to get paid in free agency. The Broncos locked up Derek Wolfe for a few years. You know I loved Malik out of Tennessee and I don’t like Bullard as much, but he does offer somewhat similar outside to inside ability, winning from both alignments as a run defender and pass rusher.
31. Carolina Panthers - Clemson EDGE Kevin Dodd - The Panthers have to upgrade their edge rushers this offseason. It will likely be their No. 1 priority. Charles Johnson and Jared Allen are likely gone. Dodd was close to dominant down the stretch. He won with hand use, separation and even showed he can turn the corner to take a tighter path to the quarterback.
(The Patriots’ first-round pick is forfeited)