NFL mock draft 7.0: Final projection for first round – USA TODAY
6 months ago Comments Off on NFL mock draft 7.0: Final projection for first round – USA TODAY
Russ Lande breaks down his top QB picks in the 2016 draft.
USA TODAY Sports
The 2016 NFL draft is finally here. The pre-event blockbuster trades and free agent maneuvers are done – we think – so time to forecast the first round one final time.
1. Los Angeles Rams (from Tennessee Titans) – Jared Goff, QB, California: Everything is in place in Hollywood (including a football team) to serve as a near-ideal supporting cast for a rookie passer – stud RB Todd Gurley, an ascending O-line and defense that could border on elite if paired with a competent offense. Now comes Goff to go atop the marquee. He won’t be slinging the ball like he did at Cal – at least not initially – but his accuracy, decision making and toughness will be welcome on a team that’s only been held back by subpar play at the game’s most vital position.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (from Cleveland Browns) – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State: It’s been 17 years since Philly drafted QB Donovan McNabb second overall. He sat behind Doug Pederson until he was ready to play, and that panned out OK. Like McNabb, Wentz is a strong-armed, mobile passer, and his experience in a pro-style system should ease his transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the pros. But assuming he’s not NFL-ready by Week 1, Pederson, now the Eagles’ coach, can use vets Sam Bradford – maybe? – or Chase Daniel as a bridge to Wentz.
3. San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi: The Bolts could use a jolt on defense, so DB Jalen Ramsey and DL DeForest Buckner should be strong considerations. But when your best player is a 34-year-old quarterback who’s been sacked 155 times over the last four seasons, it might be a good idea to get a new bouncer for Philip Rivers. Tunsil, arguably the top player in this draft, would theoretically keep Rivers on his feet for the remainder of his career while creating operating room for the feet of last year’s first rounder, RB Melvin Gordon, who too often had nowhere to go for the AFC’s worst run game.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State: Suspensions and free agency suggest Dallas’ pass rush may be non-existent in 2016, at least for the first month of the season. But it’s an area they should fret over Friday considering they can pick Ramsey, quite possibly the best defender coming out this year. The former track star is a freakish athlete who can play throughout the secondary, able to guard WR Odell Beckham one week and TE Jordan Reed the next. Ramsey and 2015 first rounder Byron Jones would form quite the dynamic DB duo for years to come.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: Dave Caldwell sure doesn’t sound like a general manager who might be spooked by a reportedly questionable prognosis on Jack’s surgically repaired knee. Given Jack’s ability to surgically repair a defense burned for an AFC-worst 448 points in 2015, why shouldn’t Caldwell take a chance? Like most NFL teams, Jacksonville doesn’t have a player who can range from sideline to sideline … and rush off the edge … and cover the slot … and play deep safety … and be a red-zone threat as a tailback … and return kicks …
6. Baltimore Ravens – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon: A perfect fit for a defense trying not to deteriorate. Buckner can close running lanes, get after quarterbacks, tie up blockers so aging edge rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil can get home and, as a last resort, his 6-7, 291-pound frame should get in the way of quite a few passes at the line of scrimmage.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Per usual, we’re trying to figure out what’s up in San Francisco, including the future of QB Colin Kaepernick. The Niners could certainly be a suitor for Memphis QB Paxton Lynch and have the lone playbook in the league that might feasibly allow the raw prospect to comfortably start in Week 1. But here’s what we do know: new coach Chip Kelly covets multiple running backs who can capably power his hyperkinetic offense. Elliott is a more explosive and, apparently, more durable player than former Buckeyes teammate Carlos Hyde, currently the 49ers’ starter. And Elliott’s presence would immediately make Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert or whomever is starting a more effective passer.
8. Browns (from Miami Dolphins via Eagles) – Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame: At minimum, he should be an upgrade over departed free agent RT Mitchell Schwartz and bolster the protection for oft-injured QB Robert Griffin III. But Stanley would also provide a succession plan at left tackle and might even help the Browns facilitate a deal of perennial all-pro Joe Thomas, who’s been on the trade block for some time. Thomas might be the last asset Cleveland can divest for the draft picks it continues to stockpile in the franchise’s latest reboot.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: This scenario represents a bit of a tumble for Bosa, the No. 1 player on some boards heading into the scouting combine. But Tampa Bay might be an ideal home for the native Floridian. Bosa is an excellent technician, doesn’t take plays off and effectively smothers both running backs and quarterbacks. DT Gerald McCoy would certainly welcome him on his flank.
10. New York Giants – Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia: Yes, the Giants already opened their checkbook for DE Olivier Vernon and re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul. But JPP is again in prove-it mode and only under contract for 2016, which would give Floyd time to beef up his 6-6, 244-pound frame. In the interim, he could certainly bring needed fuel to DC Steve Spagnuolo’s coveted NASCAR pass rush packages considering New York had a meager 23 sacks in 2015.
11. Chicago Bears – Jack Conklin, T, Michigan State: One way to prevent another regression by QB Jay Cutler, who’s been forced to endure another offensive coordinator switch, is to fill the vacuum on his blind side.
12. New Orleans Saints – William Jackson III, CB, Houston: Their failed pursuit of CB Josh Norman tells you how the Saints regard a defense that allowed the most points in the NFL (476) last year. Jackson’s height (6 feet) would give him a fighting chance against monstrous NFC South receivers Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.
13. Dolphins (from Eagles) – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida: Tailback seems to be the spot Miami is desperate to fill, but it will have to wait unless they manage to snag Elliott. And Hargreaves is hardly a consolation prize. His ability to defend the slot is an ideal complement to newly acquired CB Byron Maxwell, who’s not as equipped to mirror quicker receivers like Sammy Watkins and Julian Edelman.
14. Oakland Raiders – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville: He’s on the short side (6-1, 299) but compensates with excellent quickness and would provide three-down interior playmaking ability to a defense that already appears set on the perimeter.
15. Titans (from Rams) – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State: He’d supply a nice dose of nasty to a line charged with better safeguarding QB Marcus Mariota and opening bigger holes for new RB DeMarco Murray. Decker appears best suited to the right side, which would allow LT Taylor Lewan to stay put.
16. Detroit Lions –Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama: A year after dumping Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Detroit doesn’t have much inside aside from 32-year-old DT Haloti Ngata. Reed is a plug-and-play type who improves the run defense and should help unleash DE Ziggy Ansah off the edge.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State: The biggest deficiency of an improving unit is a linebacker who can run make plays in space and hold up in pass coverage. Problem solved with Lee.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama: GM Ryan Grigson is determined not to reach for a player – the blue-chip tackle crop looks rather exhausted here – yet knows he must provide better blocking in front of QB Andrew Luck if he’s going to survive to sign that (minimum) $150 million contract that’s in his future.
19. Buffalo Bills – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: A high-effort player who consistently invades enemy backfields. Rex Ryan is a lover of all things Clemson but, more importantly, would appreciate a relentless edge presence to replace the disappointment Mario Williams was in 2015 when this defense woefully underachieved.
20. New York Jets – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: Given the splashy trades that have been a prologue to Thursday night, don’t be shocked to see another one executed by a club that falls in love with Lynch. But if he’s available here, the Jets should pounce given Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a long-term solution (and maybe not a short-term solution); they’re likely to find themselves in a Rams conundrum – too good to draft high, not good enough to seriously contend without a franchise QB; and have a wizened assistant in OC Chan Gailey, who could be the ideal guru for Lynch until he’s prepared to play.
21. Washington Redskins – Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor: Adding Norman last week was an unexpected bonus, but he’s always had the benefit of a strong front seven. So don’t be remotely surprised if GM Scot McCloughan drops a 311-pound anchor into his 26th-ranked run defense. Billings’ athleticism also suggests he could develop into a decent pass rusher.
22. Houston Texans – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame: Brock Osweiler has a big arm, so why not stretch it with the draft’s fastest (4.32 40 speed) receiver? Keeping opposing secondaries honest with a few fly patterns from Fuller could really soften up the rest of the field for Pro Bowl WR DeAndre Hopkins and speedy RB Lamar Miller.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi: Maybe the draft’s top receiver, Treadwell’s size (6-2, 221) could make him Minnesota’s most productive red-zone target since Randy Moss.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: His lightning speed would add a new dimension to an offense that’s already fairly diverse with WR A.J. Green, TE Tyler Eifert and a multi-faceted ground game. Cincinnati also needs to reload at wideout after losing its depth behind Green during free agency.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State: Their first round-strategy? Best. Available. Corner. This is one bad Apple, and his size (6-1, 199) and physical style should get under the skins of AFC North receivers like A.J. Green and Steve Smith while addressing a glaring need for a defense that allowed the most passing yards in the AFC in 2015.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech: Seattle has lost every starting offensive lineman from its Super Bowl title team two years ago, including LT Russell Okung this offseason. The 6-6, 316-pound Clark would be a nice rebuilding block and could become a star under the watchful eye of line coach Tom Cable.
27. Green Bay Packers – A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama: DE Mike Daniels needs some help on the Pack’s three-man front. Robinson, 21, has major upside for a defense that hasn’t finished in the top 10 since Green Bay last won the Super Bowl five years ago.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama: ILB Derrick Johnson will be 34 this year. Ragland, an excellent value here, would certainly benefit by playing alongside the graybeard backer for a year or two before becoming the main man in the middle of K.C.’s D.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi: He fills a hole with loads of ability. Fellow DL Calais Campbell can help hone Nkemdiche’s talent, while coach Bruce Arians and DB Tyrann Mathieu ensure a player with trouble in his past stays squeaky clean off the field.
30. Carolina Panthers – Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: Yes, they just cut the cord with Norman, something GM Dave Gettleman would not have done if he was worried about the cornerback position. But Carolina also has an issue at safety after opting not to re-sign Roman Harper. Joseph could be a rangier version of Bob Sanders – unfortunately, that includes the injury risk – and is probably too good to pass up.
31. Denver Broncos – Kevin Dodd, DL, Clemson: The champs land at the intersection of ability and need with Dodd, a promising talent who could prove to be better than departed Malik Jackson after an apprenticeship under DC Wade Phillips.
Note: New England Patriots were stripped of their first-round pick for their alleged role in Deflategate
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
NFL mock draft 7.0: Final projection for first round – USA TODAY