The NFL saw the start of free agency go off with a bang. A few teams went all out and made some big signings, while others took some hits with those they lost.. Just how did some of these moves affect potential draft plans for the first round? Well, let us jump into the mock draft.
Even though I can see multiple trades happening, there will be no trades in this mock draft.
1: Tennessee Titans select: Laremy Tunsil, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi
The Titans added to the interior of their offensive line with center Ben Jones in free agency. However, they still have some issues with their tackles. Last year, Byron Bell and Taylor Lewan manned their right and left tackle position and didn’t cut it. Lewan is a good young starter but is better on the right side, while Bell is a solid backup. Drafting Tunsil solidifies their tackles and puts the others where they are more comfortable. In the 2015 NFL draft, the Titans invested a lot into quarterback Marcus Mariota — it is time to protect that investment.
Tunsil isn’t my best player in the draft, that belongs to Jalen Ramsey, who I almost had go to the Titans. The reason behind not going that way was simple. Protect your franchise quarterback and let him have the time to lead the offense. Adding Tunsil should also help create running lanes for DeMarco Murray, whom the Titans added via trade.
2: Cleveland Browns select: Carson Wentz, Quarterback, North Dakota State
The Browns have taken some hits all over, especially on the offensive line. They lost their starting right tackle and starting center. So if the Titans don’t take Tunsil, it is reasonable to see the Browns head that direction. The issue is, they also have a shot at one of the two top quarterbacks in many people’s eyes in Wentz and Jared Goff. Goff is more ready now than Wentz is, but Wentz has a much higher ceiling. The Browns are also bringing in Robert Griffin III to compete for the starting job. If they succeed in bringing him in, they can afford Wentz the short time he needs to grow and adapt to the NFL level of play.
3: San Diego Chargers select: Jalen Ramsey, Defensive Back, Florida State
The Chargers need a lot of help to get their defense up to par, but selecting my top player in the draft will help a lot. Ramsey is extremely versatile in what he can do for a defense. His ability is one that can make him the face of a defense for 10-plus years, and be feared by opposing teams. There is so much he can do to help out his team while hindering the efforts of his opponents. He is a special talent that is hard to pass up on. There are a few other players the Chargers can look at, but as said previously, Ramsey is a talent that couldn’t be passed up.
4: Dallas Cowboys select: Ezekiel Elliott, Running back, Ohio State
The Cowboys have a monster of an offensive line, and one built to run the ball. The quarterback, Tony Romo, has been banged up and he needs help taking pressure off of him. Who better to add than the clear-cut top running back in the draft? That offense goes to an all new level with Elliot carrying the rock behind that line, which probably could create running lanes for me to run through. Also, as briefly mentioned, adding Elliot should help Romo stay healthy for the season, which is big for the success of the offense.
5: Jacksonville Jaguars select: Myles Jack, Linebacker, UCLA
I am a big fan of Myles Jack and his game. On top of that, I am a firm believer that if he didn’t suffer his injury, he would be getting first overall talk. He is my second best player in the draft, not far behind Ramsey, and is a special talent. Of course, his injury does make Jack a bit of a risk, but plenty of players have returned from worse to play at a high level. The Jaguars are getting older in the middle of their linebacker corps, and Paul Posluszny doesn’t have much time left on the field. He will turn 32 a month into the season and when watching him play you can see he is declining. Picking up a special talent to replace him and make all the other pieces on that defense click is huge for the up and coming franchise.
6: Baltimore Ravens select: Joey Bosa, Pass rusher, Ohio State
The Ravens are getting older in their pass rusher department, so looking to get younger at such a vital position makes a ton of sense for them as a franchise. Some question how well Bosa fits in a 3-4 front, but I think he has answered some questions there and showed he can stand up and play rush linebacker. Plus, the Ravens have some of the best coaches for defensive line/linebackers in the NFL, so I have no doubt they can coach Bosa up and make him work in their system.
7: San Francisco 49ers select: Jared Goff, Quarterback, Cal
The 49ers are in a bit of a standstill currently with their quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick wants to be traded, and on April 1st, his entire base salary ($11.9 million) for the upcoming season becomes guaranteed. So they will likely trade him before that deadline, and the only team wanting him is the Broncos. However, that would leave the 49ers with Blaine Gabbert as their starter, and that isn’t a good thing for the future of the franchise. Goff is more pro-ready than any of the other quarterbacks in the draft, and can execute Chip Kelly’s offense really well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 49ers try to jump up and get Goff if they feel that the Browns may be a legit threat to take him.
8: Philadelphia Eagles (after trade) select: Vernon Hargreaves III, Cornerback, Florida
The big detriment to Hargreaves is his size, which is understandable. He is better built for a slot corner, which isn’t a first round investment. However, the Eagles need a lot of help in their secondary still, and Hargreaves has a ton of talent that can make up for his lack of size. Personally, I think the Eagles want Ezekiel Elliott and hope he falls, or they try to trade up if they don’t think he will slide down the board. Also, the only reason this trade is in here is because it was made to start free agency.
9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select: DeForest Buckner, Defensive Line, Oregon
The Bucs need some help on their defensive line, especially after addressing other areas of need in free agency. They also need help on their offensive line, especially in finding a young offensive tackle. Buckner is a really good player with a ridiculously high ceiling, and the best player on the board that is left. I nearly went with Stanley, but there is a big drop off in ability and potential from Buckner to Stanley.
10: New York Giants select: Ronnie Stanley, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame
The Giants had a NFL guard playing left tackle last year and it did not work out one bit for them. Drafting Stanley gives them a viable tackle option while letting them kick that true offensive guard, Ereck Flowers, into guard where he should have been the whole time. The Giants need a lot of help, but Stanley is the best player on the board that can help them from day one.
11: Chicago Bears select: Leonard Floyd, Rush Linebacker, Georgia
The Bears were smart in free agency. They didn’t really break the bank for anyone, but made solid signings and re-signings to help address areas of need. However, they need some help getting after the quarterback from their 3-4 defensive front. Floyd has shown he can execute in that scheme. Plus he gives head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a rusher like they had in Von Miller and Aldon Smith, respectively, for their previous teams. To put the cherry on top, Floyd immediately upgrades over Lamarr Houston.
12: New Orleans Saints select: A'Shawn Robinson, Defensive Line, Alabama
Robinson is the second best pure defensive lineman in the draft, meaning he can play with his hand on the ground in a 3-4 or 4-3 front. He is extremely versatile with scheme and what he brings to the table. The Saints really are missing a player like Robinson on their front line. I almost went with Robinson’s teammate Jarran Reed, but his limitations as a pass rusher compared to Robinson made the pick easy.
13: Miami Dolphins (after trade) select: Mackensie Alexander, Cornerback, Clemson
The Dolphins need a lot of help in their secondary, primarily at cornerback. They lack quality talent there and have to find help. Alexander is one of the best corners in the draft, despite his zero takeaways. Actually, it helps show how little opposing team’s targeted him because of how good he was. He allowed no touchdowns and under a 30% completion percentage. Many can spout the no turnovers, but I’d much rather have no turnovers, no touchdowns and less than 30% comp rate allowed, than someone who picks off at least four passes a year and allowed multiple touchdowns and 50% or more passes his way to be completed. Just look at the big dogs in the Dolphins division — they need a big boost to their cornerback talent.
14: Oakland Raiders select: Sheldon Rankins, Defensive Line, Louisville
The Raiders were smart spenders in free agency. They bolstered their offensive line, which is essential in the AFC west, brought in pass rush help and secondary help. There are few needy areas, but one of them is on the defensive line. Rankins adds depth to their defensive line, as he can play any of the positions in the 4-3 front, despite what his size may suggest. What he brings mostly is interior pass rushing ability, which is lacking from the Raiders. Adding the interior pass rush will help their edge rushers.
15: Los Angeles Rams select: Laquon Treadwell, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss
The Rams need offensive help, all over. They’re a mess on offense, and defensively, they had to part ways with some quality talent. Adding the top receiver in the draft in Treadwell helps bolster their offense in a big way. However, there is a lot more work left to do for the Rams and their offense.
16: Detroit Lions select: Jack Conklin, Offensive Tackle, Michigan State
The Lions seem to need help on their offensive line every year, and this year is no different. Now, they do have some quality talent on their line, but are missing a piece or two to put it all together. There is another offensive tackle that I have higher than Conklin, but Conklin is a better fit for the Lions scheme and style of play they want from their tackles. Conklin is a solid player, who can plug and play from day one. He should be the final piece for the Lions to solidify that line, which is needed now more than ever after the loss of Calvin Johnson.
17: Atlanta Falcons select: Shaq Lawson, Defensive Line, Clemson
The Falcons need a lot of help getting after the quarterback, so taking the top-rated pass rusher at this point was the obvious choice. There are other areas the Falcons need to address, but pass rusher is so vital, and made even bigger thanks to what happened during the Super Bowl. Lawson can move from right to left defensive end, and start opposite of Vic Beasley. Pairing those two gives the Falcons a good Batman and Robin duo of pass rushers.
18: Indianapolis Colts select: Darron Lee, Linebacker, Ohio State
The Colts need lots of help on defense, so adding a player that can do multiple things isn’t a bad way to start. Lee can play inside or outside linebacker, and the Colts need to get help at both spots, as well as get younger. With the multiple aging vets the Colts have on defense, they need to take advantage of getting a young player who can soak in information from all the years of experience.
19: Buffalo Bills select: Taylor Decker, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
The Bills need to clear up their offensive line. They have a quality starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, but don’t have the necessary talent up front to keep him safe. In fact, of their projected starting offensive line, only two are quality starters in my book, and both on the inside of their line. Decker can immediately upgrade either tackle spot for the Bills.
20: New Yorl Jets select: Noah Spence, Edge Rusher, Eastern Kentucky
If you haven’t caught on by now, having pass rushers is extremely important. The reigning Super Bowl champions have four quality pass rushers, and used them to win the big game. The Jets need that quality of talent to get after quarterbacks, especially with one of the teams they face in division. Spence is one of the top players in the draft, but some off-field character stuff sees him tumble just a bit. Todd Bowles is the kind of coach who can work out those kind of kinks and make a player work. Spence to the Jets is like a match made in heaven. Jets get a rusher, and Spence gets to play behind one of the best 3-4 defensive lines in the NFL.
21: Washington Redskins select: Jarran Reed, Defensive Line, Alabama
There is a small void in Washington’s defensive line, particularly in the middle. They need a two-gap run stopper to fill that void, and the best one in the draft happens to be Reed. Now, Reed is a limited player, with little to offer as a pass rusher, but he can stop the run better than anyone else in the draft. He is a force to reckon with, and he may be small for a nose tackle, but he has the strength, ability and intelligence to make up for that and excel at the position.
22: Houston Texans select: Ryan Kelly, Center, Alabama
The Texans have few glaring holes that need to be filled. One of them is on their offensive line at center after losing Ben Jones in free agency. Kelly is the top center in the draft, and the only one I have a first round grade on. He fits really well into the scheme and would be snapping to the Texans new quarterback.
23: Minnesota Vikings select: Josh Doctson, Wide Receiver, TCU
The Vikings have to get more offensive help. They have tried in the last couple years to get viable targets for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but the free agent investments have not worked out. They have a good, young, growing receiver in Stefon Diggs, but need someone to pair him with. I like what Doctson brings to the table, but find him to be a borderline first round pick. With this pick, I reached a little for need, because come draft time, I think the Vikings will be looking to trade down.
24: Cincinnati Bengals select: Corey Coleman, Wide Receiver, Baylor
A.J. Green is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and the Bengals finally got some pieces to help him out. The issue is, they lost a couple of those pieces on the free agent market, so they need to replenish their receiver corps. Coleman has first round talent in my opinion, but concerns are there with his size. He would be limited to certain roles on offense, but his ability would be a boost to a Bengals offense, which now needs help.
25: Pittsburgh Steelers select: Andrew Billings, Defensive Line, Baylor
The Steelers lost their force in the middle of their defensive line and are looking to get help there. Billings fits the bill, and for Baylor’s pro day, the Steelers sent everyone and their mothers to go watch Billings. They seem to love the kid, and he fits with what they want very well. If Billings is there for Pittsburgh come draft day, you have to assume they are going to jump.
26: Seattle Seahawks select: Cody Whitehair, Offensive Guard, Kansas State
Offensive line play for the Seahawks last year wasn’t very good, especially in pass protection. They also lost a couple of their starters in free agency — one at tackle and another at guard. So, saying they need help is a bit of an understatement, because not only do they need to replace those two, they need to find depth and could stand to upgrade a couple of other spots on their starting line. Whitehair is the best pure guard prospect in the draft, and better than any offensive tackle at this point in the draft. While Seattle needs to find an answer at left tackle, getting a plug and play guard is the better option here than reaching for a tackle.
27: Green Bay Packers select: Reggie Ragland, Linebacker, Alabama
When I watch Ragland, I think of the Packers. He just seems to fit their style perfectly, and is the type of inside linebacker they like. They need some help in the middle of their linebacker corps, and getting help would allow Clay Matthews to move back outside, where he should be. The Packers just lack quality talent in the middle, which is part of why Matthews was moved inside in the first place. Ragland is a good, quality talent. There are some concerns with him in coverage, but those can be coached up, or covered by play design.
28: Kansas City Chiefs select: Eli Apple, Cornerback, Ohio State
The Chiefs lost their top corner in Sean Smith, but the play of Marcus Peters probably gave them reason to be comfortable with it. However, the Chiefs are not left with no one opposite Peters. They have a quality No. 3 corner in Jamell Fleming, and Phillip Gaines is good depth, but neither of those two should be full time starters. Many others are higher on Apple than I am, and have him as one of the top two corners. I find him to be a late first round talent, which is where he is going here. Putting him opposite of Peters, should give the Chiefs a dynamic duo at cornerback, provided Apple grows as a player.
29: Arizona Cardinals select: Hunter Henry, Tight End, Arkansas
Helping out their passing attack wouldn’t be a bad move for the Cardinals. Neither would helping out their running game. One of the positions that helps that is tight end. Henry gives the Cardinals a serious threat at tight end, and he can stay in to block too. Henry is the top tight end in a weak class, and well worth a late first round pick, especially for a team with no real glaring holes. They had one — pass rusher — but they pulled off a trade to land Chandler Jones, who is one of the better young pass rushers in the NFL. Getting healthy at the position should help. Those helping out their pass rush is what got me to tight end for the Cardinals.
30: Carolina Panthers select: Jason Spriggs, Offensive Tackle, Indiana
The Panthers made it to the Super Bowl with bad offensive tackle play, but that bad tackle play lead to them losing the Super Bowl. Both tackles got completely owned by the opposing team’s pass rush, who punished Cam Newton all game long. So, there is no question that the Panthers have to address this and take an offensive tackle or two in the draft, and probably early in the draft. Spriggs is the best one on the board. He isn’t the best fit with the Panthers system, but he has a lot of room to grow into the system. He is young and athletic, which is an upgrade at right tackle from day one.
31: Denver Broncos select: Paxton Lynch, Quarterback, Memphis
The Broncos lost both of their starting quarterbacks in just a few days. Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset with his retirement, while Brock Osweiler wanted a clean start and out from behind the shadows of legends, so he bolted to Houston. This left Denver in a sticky situation at quarterback, with only Trevor Siemian on the roster. They went out and traded for Mark Sanchez to compete, and likely be the backup quarterback. The Broncos also have been trying to pull off a trade with San Francisco for Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has his entire base salary, $11.9 million, becomes guaranteed on April 1st, so expect a deal before then if it comes down.
If that trade goes down or not, you can expect the Broncos to look for a quarterback early in the draft. They really like Paxton Lynch, and when watching him, it is easy to see why. Getting Kaepernick would give them a starter, while grooming Lynch. Even if they don’t land Kaepernick, they have Sanchez who can award the coaching staff time to work and groom Lynch. There are a few other areas the Broncos could go here, like defensive line, but the defensive line class is extremely deep, and they likely can get a starter in round two who would be a first round choice in a normal year. The quarterback class is deep, so snagging one of the top three would be the smart thing to do.
1: Cleveland Browns select: Will Fuller, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
3: Dallas Cowboys select: Robert Nkemdiche, Defensive Line, Ole Miss
4: San Diego Chargers select: Kenny Clark, Defensive Line, UCLA
6: San Francisco 49ers select: Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
7: Jacksonville Jaguars select: Kevin Dodd, Defensive Line, Clemson
10: Chicago Bears select: Connor Cook, Quarterback, Michigan State
11: Miami Dolphins select: Jonathan Bullard, Defensive Line, Florida
12: Los Angeles Rams (from trade) select: Jaylon Smith, Linebacker, Notre Dame
13: Oakland Raiders select: Derrick Henry, Running Back, Alabama
14: Los Angeles Rams select: Vonn Bell, Safety, Ohio State
16: New Orleans Saints select: Shilique Calhoun, Defensive Line, Michigan State
18: Buffalo Bills select: Joshua Perry, Linebacker, Ohio State
19: Atlanta Falcons select: Austin Hooper, Tight End, Stanford
21: Houston Texans select: Nick Martin, Interior Offensive Line, Notre Dame
26: Green Bay Packers select: Nick Vannett, Tight End, Ohio State
27: Pittsburgh Steelers select: Xavien Howard, Cornerback, Baylor
30: Arizona Cardinals select: Charles Tapper, Defensive Line, Oklahoma
1: Tennessee Titans Select: Sheldon Day, Defensive Line, Notre Dame
2: Cleveland Browns Select: John Theus, Offensive Linemen, Georgia
3: San Diego Chargers Select: Jack Allen, Center, Michigan State
5: San Francisco 49ers select: Zack Sanchez, Cornerback, Oklahoma
7: Baltimore Ravens select: Braxton Miller, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
9: Chicago Bears select: Sebastian Tretola, Offensive Guard, Arkansas
10: Miami Dolphins select: Jalen Mills, Safety, LSU
13: Los Angeles Rams select: Christian Hackenberg, Quarterback, Penn State
15: New Orleans Saints select: Jerrell Adams, Tight End, South Carolina
16: Philadelphia Eagles select: Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Mississippi State
18: Atlanta Falcons select: Javon Hargrave, Defensive Line, South Carolina
20: New York Jets select: Vadal Alexander, Offensive Line, LSU
21: Washington Redskins select: Kenneth Dixon, Running Back, Louisiana Tech
23: Minnesota Vikings select: Harlan Miller, Cornerback, Southeastern Louisiana
24: Cincinnati Bengals select: Carl Nassib, Defensive Line, Penn State
26: Pittsburgh Steelers select: Kenny Lawler, Wide Receiver, Cal
28: New England Patriots select: Jordan Payton, Wide Receiver, UCLA
29: Arizona Cardinals select: Cyrus Jones, Cornerback, Alabama
30: Carolina Panthers select: T.J. Green, Safety, Clemson
31: Denver Broncos select: Connor McGovern, Offensive Guard, Missouri
Even though they potentially have a starter at left guard, with Ty Sambrailo moving inside, McGovern is built to play left guard in a zone scheme. At worst, he improves depth and creates more competition.
32: Detroit Lions select: Kolby Listenbee, Wide Receiver, TCU
33: New England Patriots select: Kamalei Correa, Rush Linebacker, Boise State
34: Seattle Seahawks select: Malcolm Mitchell, Wide Receiver, Georgia
If not for injury, Higbee would be getting talked about as the best tight end in the draft. He is great, with a lot of potential. He just has to get healthy and stay healthy to have his impact be felt.
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