OVERVIEW: The draft has been turned on its head over the last week or so as both Tennessee and Cleveland have traded out of the first two picks in the draft, opening the door for quarterbacks to go 1-2 in the first round – a prospect that didn’t seem possible earlier this month and has put the draft into reset mode. With Jared Goff and Carson Wentz the presumptive first and second picks of draft, the jockeying for position will begin and could spawn numerous other trades as players teams didn’t think would be available are suddenly back on the table. Here’s how we see the new-look draft falling.
(NOTE: We are projecting a trade which fits perfectly on the draft value chart, as San Francisco trades the seventh pick of the draft to Tennessee and receives the 15th and 45th pick (the 14th pick of the second round) in return.)
1. Los Angeles (from Tennessee) – Jared Goff, QB, Cal. The Rams made the big move to take a quarterback and the current rumor is that G.M. Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher fell in love with Goff’s workout in miserable weather conditions. The team needs to hit on this pick because they gave up a king’s ransom to get him. A case can be made for both – Fisher earned his coaching stripes with a small-college quaterback (Steve McNair) before – but we’re going with Goff as the choice here.
2. Philadelphia (from Cleveland) – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State. There would seem to be a strong conviction that the Eagles know who the Rams are going to take because such a move would indicate that Philly didn’t move up to the No. 2 spot and give up that many picks in order to land the Rams’ leftovers. With Sam Bradford under contract on a two-year deal in which $11 million has already been paid out and $22 million is guaranteed, the Eagles can take their time to get Wentz up to speed, which may be just what he needs to succeed in a tough town.
3. San Diego – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss. This is likely going to come down to one of two players – Tunsil or defensive back Jaylon Ramsey. While we believe Ramsey is the best athlete in the draft, locking down a bookend left tackle for a decade may well make the difference here. Teams don’t often get the chance to land an elite left tackle, so while this isn’t a lead-pipe lock, Tunsil looks like the pick. You couldn’t go wrong with either.
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. Jalen Ramsey will be hard to pass up, but the Cowboys’ most pressing need is generating a pass rush.
5. Jacksonville – Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State. The Jaguars are going to make some noise this year. We’ve already seen the ascent of the Jacksonville offense. Adding Ramsey to a new-look defense that will include free agent signing Malik Jackson and the return of Dante Fowler, the third pick in last year’s draft, and the Jags are going to be a team to keep an eye on as a legitimate sleeper in the AFC.
6. Baltimore – DeForest Buckner, DE, Clemson. If Tunsil is still on the board, he would be very hard for Ozzie Newsome to pass up. But the Ravens cut veteran Chris Canty and did nothing in free agency to address the position, creating a vacancy on the defensive front that Buckner could step in and address immediately. He has the talent to be a Day One starter and give the Ravens a much-needed disruptive infusion of youth on the defensive front.
7. PROJECTED TRADE: Tennessee (from San Francisco) – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame. The Titans complete their draft fleecing of the Rams by trading the first-round pick and one of the two second-round picks they acquired to get back in the top 10 to take the offensive lineman they need and were going to use on Tunsil. Stanley has been compared favorably to D’Brickashaw Ferguson and could allow Tennessee to move former first-rounder Taylor Lewan to right tackle to better protect Marcus Mariota, who was beaten up last season. There is a slight chance Tunsil may still be here.
8. Cleveland (from Philadelphia via Miami) – Myles Jack, ILB, UCLA. The Browns seem happy with the prospect of going with Robert Griffin III in the short term, so the idea becomes adding talent with the additional picks they’ve acquired to address both sides of the ball. 2015 starting inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson are both gone and, while the Browns dabbled in free agency to add veteran talent, Jack is an impact player who should start from Day 1 if he received decent medical reports from team doctors.
9. Tampa Bay – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida State. The Bucs are in a pass-happy division and, after getting rid of Darrelle Revis and Aqib Talib the past couple of years, the Bucs had some of the worst group of corners in the league in 2015 – 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. Running back Ezekiel Elliott will get a long look here, but keeping Eli upright is the top priority.
11. Chicago – Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia. John Fox was a round peg in a square hole when he came to the Bears with a 3-4 scheme and 4-3 personnel. Perhaps nowhere was his defense more exploited than at linebacker, where nobody appeared to be a glove fit. That will all change this year. Having already added former Bronco Danny Trevathan in free agency, the Bears have turned a weakness into a strength in a very short period of time.
12. New Orleans – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville. The Saints need a ton of help on defense and could go in any of a few directions with this pick, but all of them appear to be defense when it comes to making a first-round selection. The Saints need help at outside linebacker and in the secondary, but it all starts up front. The fact that former Viking Kevin Williams was a starting defensive tackle for the Saints speaks to the lack of depth the team had there last year and Rankins would be expected to be an immediate starter.
13. Miami (from Philadelphia) – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. The Dolphins will be crossing their fingers that this scenario happens. He’ll 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. Given how often his name is being mentioned earlier than this, the Dolphins would be giddy if he lands here.
14. Oakland – Reggie Ragland, MLB, Alabama. The Raiders have been aggressive in the offseason, and addressing their defense and 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 the potential of having Ragland, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin attacking quarterbacks for the Raiders could be scary.
15. PROJECTED TRADE: San Francisco (from Tennessee via Los Angeles) – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. The 49er have made it clear that the new Chip Kelly regime doesn’t see Colin Kaepernick as a piece of their future and nobody views Blaine Gabbert as a long-term solution. Kelly once again misses out on a Pac-10 QB he wants, but Lynch has a big upside and has been a rising prospect ever since the Combine. Dropping down a few spots, adding a second-round pick and landing their QB of the future in the process instead of reaching for him with the seventh pick makes this a trade that makes too much sense for both teams involved.
16. Detroit – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State. The Lions could look at wide receiver here because replacing Calvin Johnson isn’t going to be easy, but the drop-off at offensive tackle starts once Decker comes off the board. Ideally, the Lions want to move Riley Reiff back to right tackle and solidify an offensive line that needs to upgrade because Matthew Stafford can’t continue to take the beating he has over the last few years.
17. Atlanta – Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State. 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 Lee could make the most immediate impact.
18. Indianapolis – Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M. The Colts have tried to improve the offensive line over the last few years with extremely limited success. Ifedi is a veteran of the SEC wars 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. It may be a bit of a stretch, but the dropoff at offensive tackle doesn’t allow the Colts to wait another round.
19. Buffalo – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson. The Bills cut 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. Lawson was very strong against both the pass and the run and would be a significant piece in replacing Super Mario without a dropoff.
20. New York Jets – Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas. The Jets have addressed several needs in free agency, from running back to offensive line to defensive line to linebacker – all of which were front-burner needs at some point in the offseason. I don’t love this pick, but whoever ends up being the quarterback for the Jets will need a playmaking tight end to stretch the middle seam of the defense. This may be a little high for Henry to go, but he is the most athletically gifted tight end in the draft and could give the Jets an immediate boost they need to further balance the offense.
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 five-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 DeAndre Hopkins as a star 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. With wide receivers expected to come flying off the board here, the Texans add a Percy Harvin-style Swiss Army knife that can complement Hopkins.
23. Minnesota – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss. The Vikings are very young at the wide receiver position. Treadwell has been viewed as the most NFL ready wide receiver for some time and, while the Vikings aren’t necessarily locked and loaded at the position, it would appear that the stars are aligning in that direction. If Treadwell is gone, Josh Doctson would likely be the next option, but, if Teddy Bridgewater is going to show the kind of improvement that is expected of him, he needs a downfield threat capable of making big plays and be a red zone threat – two areas of the game in which Treadwell excels. This would be an ideal scenario for the Vikings as they look to defend their division title by adding strength to the offense to catch up with the improvement the defense has made under head coach Mike Zimmer.
24. Cincinnati – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU. 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 Bengals offense diverse and wide open. If they had lost just one wide receiver, they could look elsewhere. Now they can’t. Doctson is a big-play receiver who can put on more pressure in the red zone.
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 seasons and, while Reed isn’t a replacement per se for Brandon Mebane, the 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 – Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor. B.J. Raji is taking a year off (at least) and the Packers need a nose tackle who can replace him. Billings is a space eater and 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 positions the Chiefs could go in, but this is the one that could help cement their chance to knock Denver off its perch and, with Smith gone, that 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 since 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, and the Cardinals defense could become almost instantly oppressive. If Spence checks out with the coaching staff, he’s a potential steal if he gets his head right.
30. Carolina – Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson. 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. Dodd 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.