We all love mock drafts so Scout.com decided one was needed. The team publishers were tasked with making picks for the first round. That meant my job involved selecting a prospect for the Washington Redskins. Sorry, no trade downs here.
Also sorry, at least for me, involved a scenario I'm not sure happens in real life, but certainly could based on recent history. That scenario involved having to decide whether the Redskins would select Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Should the Redskins stay at 21, it's essentially a lock general manager Scot McCloughan can land a player with a need area in mind. There are defensive linemen galore with the likes of Andrew Billings and Jarran Reed potentially available. Maybe inside linebacker Reggie Ragland or wide receiver Laquon Treadwell slip. If not, then good chance center Ryan Kelly and cornerback William Jackson do. Perhaps the fast-rising safety Karl Joseph jumps all the way into the discussion.
Yet the most wild card of all scenarios involves the possibility Elliott. The Ohio State standout is typically considered no less than a top 10 selection on most public big boards. Of course, this is the era where running backs rarely hear their names called in the first round because of the somewhat disposable nature of the position.
Does running back rank among Washington's top needs? Yep and not just because Alfred Morris is gone. The argument broadly made by Breaking Burgundy's Chris Russell is for a veteran addition joining rising second-year RB Matt Jones, who has the power, hands and speed to flourish, but is coming off a rookie campaign armed with fumbles and injuries. Jones might work out his issues soon, but Elliott looks like the real deal right now.
The debate typically shouldn't be whether a team takes the "best player available" or fills a need, but the best player available who fills a need. Based on those public boards, that player would likely be Elliott, yet an imposing lineman could make a far greater impact for a needy defense. This would be a fascinating scenario for McCloughan and one that played out here. A couple of days after the fact, I cannot honestly sit here and say I made the right call. Then again, I did draft a "football player."
1. Tennessee Titans
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss – The Titans need help all over, but they must get better on the offensive line to protect the franchise in Marcus Mariota. Tunsil is the best offensive lineman in this draft and it’s not close. Jalen Ramsey is the other top contender, but he can’t help Mariota get to the next level so Tunsil is the choice.
2. Cleveland Browns
Jalen Ramsey, FS/CB, FSU – The Browns are not sold a quarterback is worth the No. 2 pick. Ramsey, who can be a stud at either safety or cornerback, is an elite-level talent, worthy of the pick. The Browns are in rebuild mode and looking for the highest level talent.
3. San Diego Chargers
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State – The Chargers are either nabbing Tunsil, Ramsey or Bosa. Bosa will help stop the run and get after the quarterback – two things the Chargers sorely need – and should be able to make an immediate impact.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Jared Goff, QB, California – The first three picks mean the Cowboys deliberate between “best player” (Ezekiel Elliott), immediate need (Noah Spence or DeForest Buckner) or long-term need (QB). We’ll go quarterback, while acknowledging that Dallas has done a great job smoke-screening their thoughts here, even regarding which of the three they like. We’ll guess Goff.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA – The Jaguars got the player that they have been targeting all offseason with Jack. He will start from Day 1 and be a key to their defensive resurgence.
6. Baltimore Ravens
DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon – It may not be their most pressing need. However, the Ravens are smart enough to take the best player on the board.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State – Concerned with the lack of improvement that Colin Kaepernick has shown over his career and eager to give Chip Kelly his “own” quarterback, the 49ers gamble on Wentz’s remarkable upside.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami)
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame – You can’t go wrong with a franchise offensive tackle early in the first round or have too many great young linemen. The Eagles will fill a premier position to help head coach Doug Pederson run his system.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss – Nightmare situation for the Bucs, who don’t have as big a need for CB as most think. Do they reach on a less talented player or roll the dice on a talented player with baggage? Jason Licht is willing to take a shot on a talented player, and pairing the outstanding natural talent of Nkemdiche with one of the best DL coaches in the NFL in Jay Hayes may be just too good an option to miss out on.
10. New York Giants
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss – With Stanley off the board, Treadwell is the second-highest rated player on the Giants’ draft board and will provide a major playmaker for a team that can’t count on Victor Cruz to come back healthy.
11. Chicago Bears
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida – The Bears have a big need at cornerback and Hargreaves is the top pure cover corner in this draft. This is an easy pick for the Bears, who will start Hargreaves from Day 1.
12. New Orleans Saints
Shaquille Lawson, DE, Clemson – Getting to the QB should be the top priority for the Saints. The team goes with Lawson hoping his late-season injury does not linger and hoping he will be the perfect bookend for Cam Jordan on the other side. He also has the frame and size to add weight and go interior if he doesn’t pan out as 4-3 D-end.
13. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia)
Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State – Lee is the best player available and linebacker is serious need in Miami; both starters and depth are issues. He can be a monster if he puts on 10-15 pounds. They also need a cornerback, but the position is deep enough in this year’s draft that they can still address that position in Round 2.
14. Oakland Raiders
Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama – The Raiders can go with a cornerback here, but they gamble with another Alabama middle linebacker in Ragland. The Raiders need a middle linebacker and he gives head coach Jack Del Rio the hard-hitting linebacker he likes, just how him and general manager Reggie McKenzie used to play the game.
15 Los Angeles Rams
Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State – The Rams need a primary wide receiver, but with Treadwell no long available, Eli Apple represents the best value at a position of need. Apple is an experienced defender with size and range. He would be a valuable tool for a secondary that lost Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod to free agency.
16. Detroit Lions
Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State – The Lions really need help at right tackle. Conklin has the talent to step in immediately. With Calvin Johnson gone, the Lions will need to help Matthew Stafford in every way possible.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State – After a strong start last year, the Falcons defense fell off a cliff. Ogbah could go a long way in sustaining a strong defense. He’s a strong, capable pass rusher but also has the versatility to step back and fulfill the duties of an outside linebacker.
18. Indianapolis Colts
Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama – Who hikes the ball to Andrew Luck has been an issue since he arrived. While projected lower in many mocks, Kelly should fix the problem immediately.
19. Buffalo Bills
Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky – The Buffalo Bills aren’t shy about taking chances on players with red flags. Spence will make an immediate impact at OLB for Buffalo and gives Rex Ryan another weapon to get after opposing quarterbacks.
20. New York Jets
Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State – With Conklin and Spence off the board, trade down anyone? Mike Maccagnan will draft best player available, tempting them to select them Sheldon Rankins, but the defensive line class is deep that Decker blends “best player available” and need. Decker can be plugged into the starting right tackle job immediately.
21. Washington Redskins
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State – Without question, the Redskins need defensive linemen and there are four great options available, including Sheldon Rankins. The thing is, Washington could use a lead running back and somehow Ezekiel Elliott, a consensus top-5 to -10 overall prospect, is still on the board. Knowing the defensive line class offers good options on Day 2, the Redskins can take the best player available at a positon of need. Rankins is no-brainer otherwise.
22. Houston Texans
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor – The Houston Texans have been focused all offseason on improving speed on the offense. Coleman will be a work in progress, but his speed and playmaking ability is too good to pass up. Adding him alongside DeAndre Hopkins and Jaelen Strong gives the Texans a strong, youthful corps of wide receivers.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Josh Doctson, WR, TCU – The Vikings filled numerous needs in free agency, starting with the offensive line (Alex Boone and Andre Smith) and on defense with LB Emmunuel Lamur and safety Michael Griffin, but their biggest need remains at wide receiver. After releasing Mike Wallace and his $11.5 million cap hit for 2016, the Vikings need a big target for Teddy Bridgewater and Doctson showed he is committed to attacking the ball in the air. It isn’t a great wide receiver class, but this is clearly the Vikings’ biggest need and their best option.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor – With Domata Peko slowing down, the Bengals get themselves a real load for division rival Maurkice Pouncey to handle in what is becoming the new blood game in the AFC North. Marvin Lewis steals the big man one pick ahead of Mike Tomlin.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
William Jackson, CB, Houston – With a gnashing of teeth in the Steelers’ war room when Billings was drafted by their division rival, the Steelers went with the more practical pick at cornerback. The 30th-ranked pass defense last year lost three of five starters to their 4-2-5 base defense, so Jackson will provide a start. He won’t be first off the bus in Cincy as Billings would have, and Jackson’s not nearly as sexy a pick, but it has a solid base in practicality.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville – The Seahawks need help along the offensive line, but defensive tackle is also a concern with long-time starter Brandon Mebane leaving via free agency. After a terrific week at the Senior Bowl and in subsequent workouts, Rankins is viewed as an ascending prospect and simply too good to pass up at this point in the draft. The depth along the offensive line could allow Seattle to wait until Day 2 to address their leaky front.
27. Green Bay Packers
A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama – B.J. Raji’s surprise choice to not play in 2016, the decision to make Datone Jones a hybrid defensive end-outside linebacker and the season-opening suspension to Mike Pennel left the Packers paper-thin up front. Robinson becomes an instant starter at defensive end.
28. Kansas City Chiefs
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis – The Kansas City Chiefs heavily scouted Lynch this past season and brought him into KC for an official visit in March. With Chiefs QB Alex Smith in his 30s, head coach Andy Reid needs to develop a young franchise quarterback. Never in their rich football history have the Chiefs drafted a first-round quarterback that ultimately became a franchise quarterback and Lynch might just be the one.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson – Trading for New England pass rusher Chandler Jones took care of one need area. The secondary remains concerning with Jerraud Powers still testing free agency and Tyrann Mathieu coming off another injury. Alexander is a sincere cover corner, but the combination of his limited size and zero interceptions at Clemson dropped his stock some.
30. Carolina Panthers
Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson – The Carolina Panthers have done an excellent job of addressing the few weaknesses in their roster prior to the draft. They are able to go in now and add the best player available, who in this case is Dodd. GM Dave Gettleman is always searching for pass rushers and, while Dodd is a little raw, the Panthers are able to allow him time to develop, play behind Charles Johnson for the 2016 season and become the future starter at the position.
31. Denver Broncos
Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech – John Elway has selected a defensive player with the Broncos first pick in each of his seasons as GM and, notwithstanding their QB quandary, the trend continues with Butler. Butler can play anywhere along the Wade Phillips’ defensive line and, working with position coach Bill Kollar, will quickly be able to plug and play in the 5-tech defensive end spot vacated by Malik Jackson.
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