Can you smell it? Can you smell Mel Kiper, Jr.'s fine, if expensive, hair gel? Can you smell the not-so silent stench of Roger Goodell counting his money? Can you smell the sweat of hundreds of young "student athletes" as they prepare for the biggest moment in their young lives?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you're well aware that we are just days away from the 2016 NFL draft, which will begin Thursday in Chicago.
With the draft come the hundreds of mock drafts that will inevitably make dozens of bold predictions and get approximately 100% of them wrong. If you go take a peek at my last mock draft, which I wrote in February, you'll see exactly that. However, just because we're wrong doesn't mean we stop trying.
This particular mock is a mix of what I believe will happen and what I believe should happen. In most cases, it's the latter. However, there are some picks I can use a little bit of inside knowledge on. In those cases, I'll usually mention having the chance to talk to scouts or front office people about particular prospects.
So, after spending about two more weeks in the film room and on the phone with people around the NFL, I'm happy to give you my second mock draft of this NFL season.
1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, California
When the Rams made the decision to give up a mountain of draft picks and trade up an astounding 14 spots to grab the number one overall pick from the Tennessee Titans it was instantly clear they were making a move for a quarterback.
Initially, I expected this pick to be North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. I see him as the superior long-term NFL prospect and sources had told me that the Rams had fallen in love with the big gunslinger during the combine. I saw the initial talk that the Rams were leaning towards Goff as no more than posturing. After exchanging more phone calls and text messages with people around the league, I no longer believe that.
I'm told that there's still a chance the Rams could select Wentz, but Goff would be their pick if the draft was held today.
My opinion on Jared Goff has changed considerably since my last mock draft. Initially, I saw him as a more NFL ready quarterback who could come into the league and win right away. That's a trait I still have questions about with Wentz. However, after a disappointing combine performance,and some more time spent watching film, I'm confident that Wentz is the superior prospect.
However, that's certainly not a slight on Jared Goff. The Rams will be getting a refined passer capable of doing great things from the pocket. However, Goff lacks the pure play making ability and upside that I look for when evaluating top quarterbacks. Combine that with his slender build, and you're looking at a quarterback who I believe is the second best player at his position in this class.
The Eagles made it clear to the entire football world this week that despite the heavy investment they've made in Sam Bradford, they don't believe he's their future at the quarterback position. The franchise gave up the eighth, 77th, and 100th overall picks in the 2016 draft, their first round pick in 2017, and their second round pick in 2018. You only give up that kind of draft capitol when you're looking for a quarterback. They're getting a great one in Carson Wentz.
He's got the size, mobility, an arm to make every throw in the book. and the kind of mental aptitude that's sorely lacking in most NFL quarterbacks who come out of the draft. Playing FCS foootball means Wentz will likely take a little while to adjust to the NFL game, but when he plays I expect Wentz to be a Pro Bowl caliber starter for the next several years.
Now we're getting somewhere. This draft, like so many before it, has placed an emphasis on the quarterback position, thus greatly overvaluing it and putting players who would normally be considered middle of the first or even second round kind of talents in positions to be taken with the first two picks in the draft. Jalen Ramsey is not that kind of player.
Ramsey would be taken at or near the top of every draft in the last ten years. He's a freakish athlete who can start for the Chargers on day one, filling a void left be Eric Weddle's not-so-subtle departure earlier this off-season. Signing Dwight Lowery helps them, but adding a talent like Ramsey will put them on the path toward rebuilding one of poorer rosters in the NFL.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State Buckeyes
There's a chance Jerry Jones might just be stupid enough to reach for a quarterback here. After watching their season fall apart after Tony Romo essentially lost 2015 to multiple injuries, it would be a tempting thing to do.
However, there's simply too much talent on the board for me to honestly believe the talk of them taking a quarterback at four is more than just posturing to try and force a desperate team into a trade. If Jerry wants a quality backup quarterback that he can groom to eventually replace Romo he'll have his pick of them in the second round. Here, Bosa makes too much sense.
After losing wife-beater Greg Hardy to stupidity, the 'Boys could use defensive end depth. Bosa gives them that and more. He's perhaps the best pass-rusher in this class who many once thought would be 2016's undisputed number one pick. Questions about his character could cause him to slide, but Jerry has never been known to care much about those things if a guy can play, and there's little doubt Bosa can do that.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
Gus Bradley must be one happy son of a gun. Due to the craziness at the top of the draft and with teams so desperate to grab franchise quarterbacks, the Jaguars luck into the best overall prospect in this class.
Most mocks have the Jags going with a defender here like Myles Jack or DeForest Buckner and they very well may. However, with Dante Fowler set to return from his ACL injury and Malik Jackson coming to Northern Florida, the Jaguars will have enough defensive firepower to put up a respectable ranking by the end of this year.
The only way they make the playoffs, which I believe they could do, is if they upgrade their offense. In particular, they need to do a better job protecting Blake Bortles. I like Bortles, but he's got to do a better job protecting the football. His 18 interceptions led the NFL in interceptions last season. The easiest way to reduce that number is to protect him better is to upgrade his protection. Adding Tunsil will do just that.
6. Baltimore Ravens: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
Ozzie Newsome must just be smarter than the rest of us. Every year it seems like he's able to luck into a player who addresses exactly the thing the Ravens need to have addressed. Since losing Haloti Ngata, the Ravens haven't been able to find the game changing defensive lineman that helped build so many of the great Baltimore teams of the last decade. They'll have that player in DeForest Bucker.
Buckner is a phenom. Of all the tape I watched this year, his was some of the most impressive. Recording double digit sacks as a 5-tech defensive end is a little like hitting 40 homeruns as a pitcher. It's insane. Buckner will instantly upgrade John Harbaugh's defensive line and could become a force to be reckoned with in the AFC North for years to come.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
The 49ers want Colin Kaepernick gone, but they don't want to pay what it takes to get a deal done with the Broncos. However, I suspect they also aren't nearly as sold on Blaine Gabbert as they claim to be. If they don't trade back, they could look to upgrade their defense here with a player like Myles Jack.
However, they need to take a quarterback at some point in this draft, and if they like Paxton Lynch (which I'm told they do), giving the Browns a chance at him will scare the heck out of them. I see that fear motivating an enormous reach.
I like Paxton Lynch...a lot. He reminds me of a taller, rawer Aaron Rodgers. If he had the chance to sit for a year and learn he could become a tremendous quarterback in the NFL. However, like every other quarterback in this class, I don't believe he's worth a pick this high. He's a converted running back and a raw talent who just needs time to learn the game. He won't get that chance in San Francisco.
8. Cleveland Browns: Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
What do you know? The Browns actually got something right. By trading back from No. 2, the Browns added enormous draft capital and still have a shot to get a top quarterback if Lynch slips past San Francisco. Even if he doesn't, which is the case in this scenario, they'll still get an enormously talented player.
Jack is a gifted, versitile, and explosive defensive prospect coming off an injury last season, which could cause him to slid out of the top 10. He would instantly upgrade the Browns' miserable defense and add a blue chip talent to Hue Jackson's roster.
I initially had Jack and Hargreaves swapped. However, after assessing these coaching staffs and these teams needs, I think Jack makes more sense for Cleveland, which makes Tampa Bay go with the best player remaining on the board.
In Vernon Hargreaves III, the Bucs are getting a great, genuine weapon in their secondary. He checks all of my boxes for cornerbacks, even if he is maybe an inch or two smaller than you'd like to see out of a No. 1 corner. He's got every physical skill needed to become a Pro Bowl caliber corner. Plus, he fills an enormous need for the Bucs. This simply makes too much sense.
10. New York Giants: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
If you watched one Giants game last season, you watched them all. With better protection for Eli Manning, they could have been a playoff team. Adding Stanley will bring them a step closer to getting back into the postseason.
He's an experienced lineman with quick feet and who can protect Manning from either side of the line on day one.
11. Chicago Bears: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
John Fox loves his pass-rushing linebackers. While I'm admittedly higher on him than other analysts, I see Leonard Floyd is good fit for Fox's system, who has unique traits as a pass rusher that are hard to ignore.
He's also terribly thin which causes him to struggle at times defending the run and could cause a problem against the NFL's stronger tackles. However, at 6-foot-6, he's got room to put another ten pounds of muscle on his 244-pound frame, which will help him immensely as his NFL career progresses.
12. New Orleans Saints: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Shaq Lawson is built like a house. He's nearly perfectly built and has a mountain of physical gifts. The kid looks like a pile driver coming off the line of scrimmage. He'll be a great addition to the Saints defense as Dennis Allen tries to rebuild the mess Rob Ryan left behind.
13. Miami Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State Buckeyes
I don't believe in taking running backs in the first round. In today's NFL, it's a plug and play position where virtually any runner can get solid production if given enough carries. However, most NFL general managers are still willing to take a chance on a running back — if they believe he can be a special player. I'm told the Dolphins believe Ezekiel Elliot is exactly that.
As runners go, Elliot is one of the more complete prospects in this class. He can do everything you ask at the position and does most of it extremely well. The only concern I have with Elliot is his workload. He's got a whole heck of a lot of tread on his tires. That's always a concern when selecting a running back at or near the top of the draft.
14. Oakland Raiders: Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky
I've been told by scouts and personnel people over and over again that Noah Spence's off-field issues will cause him to fall out of the draft. There's no doubting he's got demons to work his way through. Spence has issues with drugs, which caused him to be kicked out of Ohio State. However, he's also got enormous talent.
He's the best edge rusher in this class, bar none. Without the off-field issues, he would undoubtedly be a top-five pick. With them, I'm still comfortable placing him in the top 15.
The Raiders re-signed Aldon Smith, but won't have him at their disposal until he comes off suspension in the second half of the season. Adding Spence to their roster would allow them to replace Smith immediately and have an additional rush linebacker going forward.
As their division rival Denver Broncos showed this season, there's no such thing as having too many pass rushers. If Jack Del Rio can get Spence's off-field issues under control, the Raiders would be adding Spence to a pass-rushing group full of young talent like Smith and Khalil Mack. That's a lethal group.
15. Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
The Titans were desperate to move out of the No. 1 overall pick for good reason. Offensive line is their top priority and while I'm sure Russ Grimm and company would have loved to add Laremy Tunsil to their roster, there's plenty of talented offensive linemen in this class who can help protect Marcus Mariota.
Conklin is a prototypically built tackle with great technique who could be plugged in on the right side immediately and contribute as a starter. In a year or two, he could be ready to move to the left side and become an anchor on Mariota's blind side.
16. Detroit Lions: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
NFL fans have been spoiled in the last few years. The past few draft classes have produced great wide receiver talent. However, the 2016 class isn't nearly as deep at the position. But there are 4-5 players worth taking a flyer on in the top round. For me, Laquon Treadwell is the leader of that pack.
He's not a fast guy. In fact, he didn't run a 40-yard-dash at the combine and reportedly posted a 40-time in the low 4.6's at his pro day. However, what he lacks in speed he makes up for in ball skills and route running ability.
There's some talk that the Lions could grab a defensive tackle like Jarran Reed here, but the loss of Calvin Johnson necessitates an additional receiver. Treadwell gives them a big talented threat at the position.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
This just makes too much sense. The Falcons' defense last season could have used a versatile player like Lee who can do most everything you look for in a linebacker and he fits Dan Quinn's defensive system to a tee. If he's on the board at 17, he'll be the pick.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
If the Colts are ever going to be the team I think they can be, it's going to have to come almost exclusivity thanks to Andrew Luck's right arm. Despite his injury plagued 2015 campaign, where he was mostly ineffective when he did play, I still think he has the talent to become an all-time great at the position. But, the Colts must protect him better.
While they need more help on the interior of their line, Decker is by far the best o-lineman on the board here. If he's available, the Colts could plug him in at right tackle and have their starter at that position for the next decade.
19. Buffalo Bills: Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Mississippi
You know a guy has off-field issues when the first picture of him that comes up in a google image search is his most recent mugshot. However, when has Rex Ryan been known to care much about off-field issues? As far as I can remember, the answer is never.
Nkemdiche is a talented 3-tech defensive tackle with a mountain of physical skills, which will entice a coach like Ryan to take him in as a project player. He hasn't had the kind of production you'd like to see in a first round pick, but his talent is clear on tape.
20. NY Jets: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
This is a pick I've had locked in for awhile now. Ragland's a thumper at linebacker who could fill a hole for the Jets in the middle of their defense. There are some concerns about his weight, but I see Ragland as an old-school throwback middle linebacker who can come into Todd Bowles' system and contribute instantly.
21. Washington: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Washington has needed help along the interior of their defensive line for some time now. After a failed experiment with former Bronco Terrance Knighton, Reed could be just what the doctor ordered for Jay Gruden's defense.
He's an excellent run defender and capable pass rusher who can fill up the middle with his massive 307-pound frame.
22. Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
As mentioned previously, this class is thin on receivers. However, there are four teams in the 20's who I'm told would all like to take one high in the draft. So, let's give one to them: starting with the Houston Texans.
The Texans made one of the biggest moves of this off-season when they signed quarterback Brock Osweiler to a long-term contract. Now, adding a talented weapon like Coleman to compliment DeAndre Hopkins makes sense.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
If there's anything I'm sure of in this draft, it's that the Minnesota Vikings will grab a receiver in the first two rounds. They need to add weapons for Teddy Bridgewater if he's going to become the player I believe he can be. I initially had Will Fuller slotted here, but Doctson is a better fit for Minnesota. He's a pure technician who put up massive numbers at TCU.
Vikings brass chose to visit his pro day instead of Fuller's. That's for a reason. He's a good scheme fit for them, even if I might be personally higher on Fuller.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Speak of the devil! Our little run on receivers comes to an end with the Bengals grabbing a Robin to A.J. Green's Batman. Fuller is far from a complete receiver. He has below average hands and is far from an elite route runner, but boy is he fast. He ran a 4.32 at the NFL combine and he plays like a guy who would run that kind of time.
Adding him to the opposite side of the field to stretch defenses vertically while A.J. does his thing on the opposite side has to be an intriguing thought for Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Every year I find players in the draft I really like that not many others are talking about. Last year, I fell in love with T.J. Clemmings. This year, I've fallen in love Eli Apple. He's got ideal size and length for the position and is maybe the most competitive ball-hawk in this class.
The Steelers secondary last year was bad...really, really bad. Then 39-year-old Peyton Manning was even able to make them look silly at times during the Steelers' divisional round playoff game in Denver. Adding Apple to the unit would go a long way towards getting Pittsburgh back to the Super Bowl.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
For months, I was adamant the Seahawks needed to upgrade their offensive line with this pick. They still might select someone like Cody Whitehair or Jason Spriggs, but if Billings falls to them, going with best player available would make sense.
Billings has the kind of talent you rarely see from a nose tackle.He's a 311-pound bonafide playmaker. He turned 21 just a month ago and some scouts I've talked to are concerned about bringing someone so young into the league. However, in Seattle, a locker room filled with leaders, I believe Billings would thrive.
27. Green Bay Packers: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
I went back and forth on this pick trying to decide between Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas — who I think could help a recieving corps that struggled mightily last season in the absence of Jordy Nelson — and Emmanuel Ogbah, who I believe could dramatically improve Green Bay's pass rush despite the tricky scheme fit. Hunter Henry feels like a good compromise candidate.
The Packers desperately need to add additional weapons for Aaron Rodgers. When Nelson went down with an ACL prior to the start of last season, the Packers passing game lost it's only weapon who could reliably gain separation.
Adding a pass-catching threat in the middle of the field will do wonders for this team. Henry is far and away the best tight end in this draft. He's a complete tight end with virtually zero weaknesses at the position. We could look back on this pick as the steal of this draft a few years down the road.
28. Kansas City Chiefs, William Jackson, CB, Houston
The Chiefs lucked out. Most mocks have Jackson gone by this point in the proceedings. Here, however, they get a shot at a player who fills a tremendous need for Andy Reid's squad. Some would put Clemson's Mackensie Alexander in this slot. I can't. Alexander isn't even among my top 50 players in this class.
Jackson is a quick footed lengthy corner with a smooth backpedal who in a year or two could easily become a quality starting cornerback for the Chiefs.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
The Cardinals very well might take a quarterback here. In fact, If I were in their front office, I would argue for it strongly. However, having Vernon Butler on the board changes that a bit. The Cardinals are thin on the interior of their defensive line and desperately need to improve their pass rush.
Building Bruce Arians' defense from the inside out is a good place to start. Butler is an athletic big man who consistently makes plays. He'd be a great addition to this team.
30. Carolina Panthers: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
After making the decision to remove their franchise tag on Josh Norman and allow him to sign a monster contract with Washington, the defending NFC champions won't have to wait long to find his replacement.
Many aren't as high on Fuller as I am, but the Panthers brought him in for a visit last week and according to Scout.com's own Brandon Croce, they can afford to let him recover from a knee injury he suffered last season. If they grab him, they're getting a tremendous ball-hawking corner.
31. Denver Broncos: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Let me make something clear: I'm not a fan of Connor Cook. While he's capable of throwing some beautiful balls, and his time as a starter has done plenty to fill up his stat sheet, he's inaccurate on short to intermediate routes and has a tendency to force the ball far too often. He reminds me of Jay Cutler with a weaker arm. He's got a ton of tools, but I've never seen him be able to put all of those tools together. Furthermore, despite what some have said, the questions surrounding Cook's inability to win a captain's C on his team are legitimate. There are simply too many negatives for me to fall in love with the kid.
However, the Broncos are in a really tough spot. Barring a trade for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the defending Super Bowl champions don't have many other options at quarterback. With just Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian currently on the roster, Denver might have to take a chance.
If not, Emmanuel Ogbah might be an option for them. Or, they might consider trading back. n this scenario, the Broncos will have to hope that they can turn the flashes of brilliance Cook has shown at Michigan State into consistent play from under center.
***NOTE: The New England Patriots do not have a first round pick in this year's daft due to the NFL's punishment against the organization for "DeflateGate"***
Jake Marsing is the Broncos Beat Writer for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @JakeDMarsing
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