OVERVIEW: With only a couple of weeks left until the draft, teams are honing in on the players they covet and needs that haven’t been met in free agency. There have been plenty of changes that have come since our last mock, as needs and draft buzz have risen the status of some players – particularly that of Paxton Lynch, who jumps from the end of the first round to the middle – and teams bypassing defensive tackles in the first round because of the depth at the position.
As things currently stand, this is where we see the first round of the draft stacking up and whose stock is rising and falling and, you’ll notice a trend taking place, as once again we have TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson going to the Vikings at No. 23.
1. Tennessee – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss. The Titans have two first-round linemen on their roster (Taylor Lewan and Chance Warmack), but both have been inconsistent. If Marcus Mariota is going to be the man long-term, he’s going to need better protection than the league-worst 54 sacks Tennessee allowed last year. Tunsil is the safest pick in this draft and could be a foundation piece for the next decade.
2. Cleveland – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State. There is still some question as to whether the Browns will prefer Wentz or Jared Goff (they’ve made the wrong decision before), but Wentz’s stock is on the rise and Robert Griffin III is a stop-gap solution at best. If the Browns are ever going to be respectable, they need to have a QB that can get the job done, not draft busts like Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel.
3. San Diego – Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State. If Tunsil doesn’t go No. 1, the Chargers jump on him, but we feel Ramsey is the best athlete in the draft and, while he has the skill to be a top cornerback, he could be a pre-eminent safety, which the Chargers need after allowing Eric Weddle to leave.
4. Dallas – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State. The Cowboys have made a lot of risky picks in recent years because Jerry Jones just doesn’t seem to understand that there is a risk in risk/reward players. Bosa is a relentless attacker who loves the game and will be an instant hit in Dallas, which Jerruh could use right now.
5. Jacksonville – Myles Jack, ILB, UCLA. If he gets medical clearance from the Jags, he could be the final piece of the puzzle for a defense that was at the bottom of the league all year. With the signing of DE Malik Jackson and safety Tashaun Gipson, not to mention the anticipated return of Dante Fowler, Jack could make the Jags a team to watch in 2015 because their offense was good enough last year. Improvements on the defensive side could make them a legitimate threat.
6. Baltimore – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon. A case can be made for two picks here – Buckner or Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley. Both represent a clear need for the Ravens and either can have a strong argument made on their behalf. With the release of Chris Canty and the need to improve a defense, that takes first-round precedence.
7. San Francisco – Jared Goff, QB, Cal. Regardless of what they say publicly, the fact that Colin Kaepernick is discussing a deal with Denver makes his departure seem inevitable and Blaine Gabbert is a short-term fix at best. The NFL has found a new home for the mad scientist of Philadelphia and he wants to mold a QB monster in his own image. He can’t have Marcus Mariota, so he takes another Pac 12 guy.
8. Philadelphia (from Miami) – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame. The end of the Jason Peters era is coming. He’s 34 and can’t stay healthy, so either way this looks like a position that new head coach like Doug Pederson needs. This high in the draft is time for a new regime to play it safe and Stanley is as safe a pick as any left on the board.
9. Tampa Bay – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida State. The Bucs are in a pass-happy division and, after getting rid of Darrelle Revis and Aqib Talib, the Bucs had one of the worst groups of corners in the league – not good when you play Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan six times a year.
10. New York Giants – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State. The Giants cut Will Beatty and have done nothing in free agency to give themselves a long-term solution. This could be a spot where teams would consider trying to trade up, but the Giants need to protect Eli Manning and this has become a priority.
11. Chicago – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson. This is a question that will give us an insight into what direction John Fox is going with the Bears. Having addressed linebacker in free agency, a defensive lineman is the likely landing spot for a pick and this is one of the better D-line classes in recent memory. We like Lawson as a fit, but Fox and Fangio could go with a handful of different linemen here.
12. New Orleans – Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State. The Saints have been completely overhauling their linebacker corps. The only thing missing is a young playmaker to mix into the group. 2015 starters David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber are gone and, while they’ve dabbled in free agency, the Saints need playmakers to get the team back in the playoff picture.
13. Miami (from Philadelphia) – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. The Dolphins will be crossing their fingers that this scenario happens. Elliott will need to make it past the NFC East contingent in the way, and the Dolphins would love nothing more than to see him roll into South Beach after Lamar Miller got away in free agency. Miami has addressed its other major needs in free agency and the trade market and, if Elliott falls to them, it’s an offseason windfall.
14. Oakland – Reggie Ragland, MLB, Alabama. The Raiders have been aggressive in the offseason addressing their defense. Adding an inside presence like Ragland to replace the pedestrian Curtis Lofton would make a huge difference. This could come down to Ragland or a cornerback, but with the potential of having Ragland, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin attacking quarterbacks, the Raiders could be scary.
15. Los Angeles – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. The Rams are looking to sell their fans on the idea of having to bring NFL excitement back to L.A. Personally, this is too early for Lynch to get picked. They could go Laquon Treadwell or any of a number of defensive players they need to replace the guys they lost in free agency, but they need to start the L.A. brand back up and nothing does that like selling jerseys of your new quarterback of the future.
16. Detroit – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss. The Lions could probably trade back and still land Treadwell. They added Marvin Jones in free agency, but replacing Calvin Johnson is impossible to do and would be a lot of pressure on Treadwell to replace a legend. Defensive tackle is a possibility, but the Lions may look there in the second round given the depth of the draft class.
17. Atlanta – Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia. Dan Quinn is desperate to improve the ratty defense he inherited. He added a couple of veterans – Sean Weatherspoon and Courtney Upshaw – in free agency, but will need a young playmaker to help build around in the long-term. Defensive line will get serious consideration, but Floyd could make the most immediate impact.
18. Indianapolis – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State. The Colts have tried to improve the offensive line over the last few years with extremely limited success. Decker is a steady player who could improve the O-line considerably and give Andrew Luck the protection he needs for the Colts to return to being the top dog in the AFC South.
19. Buffalo – Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson. The Bills cur Mario Williams because of his huge contract but have done nothing yet to give Rex Ryan’s little brother something to play with. The Bills have had one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL the last few years and they can’t afford to take a big backward step. Dodd is a raw prospect, but with the right teaching could develop quickly and keep the Bills having one of the game’s dominant defensive fronts.
20. New York Jets – Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M. The Jets have addressed several needs in free agency, but had to act on the fly to address left tackle. They didn’t seem to be expecting that iron man D’Brickashaw Ferguson was going to retire and quickly swung a deal with Denver to get veteran Ryan Clady. However, Clady has missed 30 games over the last three years – The Brick missed one snap in 10 years – and, while we think this may be a bit of a reach at No. 20, the Jets need insurance because Clady is no guarantee to stay healthy.
21. Washington – A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama. The Redskins’ playoff run included contributions from a lot of players. One of them was Terrance Knighton, who came to Washington on a one-year deal and left to New England in free agency. Robinson is a massive player who has football smarts and can play the 5-technique in the middle of the Redskins defensive front and can make an immediate impact. His biggest plus may be that he didn’t turn 21 until last month, giving Washington a lot of time to develop him into a budding star.
22. Houston – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor. The Texans have a star in DeAndre Hopkins taking defenders deep. Adding the fastest wide receiver in the draft to put on the other side would give the new-look Texans offense (that has already added Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller) a shot at helping the offense catch up to a defense that has been good enough to get Houston to the playoffs.
23. Minnesota – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU. The Vikings are very young at the wide receiver position – slot receiver Jarius Wright is the vested veteran. If Teddy Bridgewater is going to improve, he is going to need a deep threat that can keep defenses honest and provide a big-play option that is missing in Minnesota. Adrian Peterson may be entering his last season as a Viking, so getting weapons for Bridgewater is a must. If you’re looking for a wild card, perhaps defensive linemen like Sheldon Rankins or Jarran Reed could get consideration, but the Vikings’ need at wide receiver is obvious and Teddy needs a deep-threat weapon as the Vikings move indoors for the next 30-40 years.
24. Cincinnati – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame. The Bengals lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency and need a receiver to take some of the heat off A.J. Green. The Bengals ignored wide receiver in free agency (unless you count aging veteran Brandon LaFell) and they need to prevent constant double-teams on Green to keep the offense diverse and wide open. If they had lost just one wide receiver, they could look elsewhere. Now they can’t. Fuller drops a lot of passes but has a lot of talent.
25. Pittsburgh – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State. The Steelers tend to build through the draft and had some of the worst cornerbacks in the league last year. They were consistently burned over the top and, while they re-signed William Gay, they are coming into 2016 shorthanded and do what Pittsburgh does – pick quality players to fill the voids when they arise.
26. Seattle – Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama. The Seahawks have lost a lot of defensive talent over the last couple of season. While Reed isn’t a replacement per se for Brandon Mebane, rhe Seahawks need to replenish the defensive side of the football if they want to remain a Super Bowl contender. Reed can give them an infusion of disruptive young talent.
27. Green Bay – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville. B.J. Raji is taking a year off, at least, and the Packers need a nose tackle who can replace him. Rankins has very good feet for a big man and would likely step in immediately into a starting role, which is what the Packers need to do if they’re going to get their division title back away from Minnesota.
28. Kansas City – William Jackson, CB Houston. The Chiefs didn’t expect to lose Sean Smith to free agency and could team Jackson with 2015 first-round pick Marcus Peters to build a tandem that will be together until the start of the next decade. There are different directions the Chiefs could go, but this is the one that could help cement their chance to knock Denver off its perch. With Smith gone, cornerback is a position that they need to replace.
29. Arizona – Noah Spence, OLB/DE, Eastern Kentucky. If you went strictly on talent, Spence would be long gone by this pick, but numerous off-field issues have dropped his stock. The Cardinals have the offense to get the job done, but adding Spence to go along with Chandler Jones, whom they traded for, could make the Cardinals defense almost instantly oppressive. If Spence checks out with the coaching staff, he’s a potential steal if he gets his head right.
30. Carolina – Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State. Jared Allen retired and Charles Johnson was brought back on a greatly reduced contract, signaling that Johnson may be following Allen out of Carolina earlier than later. Ogbah can give the Panthers a pass rush they need on the edge and keep the defense as strong as it was in 2015 when the Panthers ran roughshod over the NFC.
31. Denver – Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State. The Broncos could go in several directions here and could trade the pick away to stockpile more, but the need at guard is pronounced with the release of Louis Vasquez and the loss of Evan Mathis to free agency. When you have the last pick of the first round and can get the best player at a position, you take advantage of it.