While there are still free agents to be signed and deals to be made, most of the major players have been signed, including Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, and Olivier Vernon. There have also been a couple of trades so far, and there may be more. But for now, it’s a good time to make another mock draft. Why? Because I’ve already made too many March Madness brackets and I need to go back to predicting something else that’s virtually unpredictable. Without further ado, here is my third edition mock draft.
1) Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT from Ole Miss
Unless the Titans trade down, I don’t see them taking anyone else but Laremy Tunsil. The Titans signed center Ben Jones in free agency and are visiting with guard Louis Vasquez, which leaves the only hole along the offensive line at offensive tackle. Tunsil is the best offensive line prospect since Tyron Smith and he would give the Titans not only a very formidable offensive line, but also create a young and talented bookend between Tunsil and Taylor Lewan. The opportunity is golden.
2) Cleveland Browns: Carson Wentz, QB from North Dakota State
The Browns are rumored to be on the verge of trading for estranged 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, which may or may not diminish the Browns’ desires to draft a quarterback. But until that trade does or doesn’t happen, I’m expecting head coach Hue Jackson to bank his team’s success on the athletic, strong-armed, big-handed prospect from an FCS school. Maybe Carson Wentz will work out, I don’t know. But given that it’s Cleveland, I have a good idea of which way I’d bet. Yet, as long as the Browns think they’re getting a franchise QB, who am I to judge?
3) San Diego Chargers: Ronnie Stanley, OT from Notre Dame
Signing CB Casey Hayward to accompany Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett in the secondary probably means the Chargers are confident in their defense and that means they’ll look to bulk up their offensive line in the draft. While Tunsil is clearly the superior talent, Ronnie Stanley is certainly no scrub. He has the talent to be an anchor for this line for years to come, and the Chargers could use all the protection they can get.
4) Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, CB from Florida State
The Cowboys ended up extending CB Morris Claiborne to a one-year deal and holding onto Brandon Carr despite rumors he would be cut. They feel confident in Orlando Scandrick as their number one cornerback and believe both Carr and Claiborne can be serviceable as a third cornerback for nickel packages, but sources also say that they are looking to move CB/S hybrid Byron Jones to safety full time, which makes the Jalen Ramsey pick perfect. Ramsey has ideal size and speed to keep up with the better receivers in the NFL and his primary strength is in zone coverage, which the Cowboys employ a lot of. With this addition, Dallas could roll out Scandrick and Ramsey as their starting CB’s and then move Scandrick in to the slot with Carr/Claiborne taking his place outside for nickel packages. Not to mention that Ramsey is hands down the best defensive prospect in this draft.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack, LB from UCLA
The Jaguars missed out on Bruce Irvin in free agency, and with the additions of DE Malik Jackson, CB Prince Amukamara, and S Tashaun Gipson, the Jaguars’ defense is coming together nicely. Their one remaining hole? Linebacker. Paul Posluszny is still effective in stopping the run and Telvin Smith can produce in a limited role, but Myles Jack would bring so much to this unit. He can rush the passer, glide from sideline to sideline, or play pass defense like a safety. He has the tools to play at any linebacker spot and that is something that should have Gus Bradley drooling.
6) Baltimore Ravens: Joey Bosa, DE from Ohio State
The Ravens get a gift here at pick number six, as Joey Bosa could easily be a top three choice. I’m not sure if Bosa would fit better as a stand-up rusher or with his hands in the dirt, but Baltimore would find a fit for him. Whether he bulks up to play defensive end or he follows in Terrell Suggs’ footsteps and converts to outside linebacker, Bosa would become the next great player in an always-stout Ravens defense.
7) San Francisco 49ers: Jared Goff, QB from Cal
The 49ers need a quarterback whether they trade Kaepernick or not. Goff played in a system that is very similar to Chip Kelly’s offense, frequently being asked to make checks at the line and audible out to other plays based on the defense’s front. He may not be a superior athlete, but Goff would be the best QB Kelly has had at the NFL level by far.
8) Philadelphia Eagles: Laquon Treadwell, WR from Ole Miss
Everybody thinks the Eagles traded up to the 8th spot to get a quarterback, but when you’re paying $36 million (with $26 million guaranteed) to Sam Bradford and $21 million to career backup Chase Daniel, taking a QB with your first round pick just doesn’t make any business sense. What does make sense is finally finding a number one receiving threat. Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor are both pretty good receivers and serve a role in their own right – Matthews as a red-zone threat and Agholor as a deep threat and screen guy in the slot – but 2015 proved that neither of them are top targets. Treadwell may not necessarily be the fastest receiver in the draft, but he’s got ideal size and leaping ability, as well as a catch radius that allows him to grab contested passes. He possesses a lot of similar traits to Dez Bryant, and the Eagles know firsthand just what kind of damage Bryant can do to a secondary. Adding Treadwell would give Bradford a legitimate receiving corps to throw to, assuming he can stay upright long enough to throw the ball.
9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DeForest Buckner, DE from Oregon
The Buccaneers’ addition of free agent DE Robert Ayers makes the need for a pass rusher slightly less demanding, but DeForest Buckner represents a prospect who is overflowing with potential and, short term, can contribute in various sub packages, but long term he can develop into an All-Pro defender. In Buckner, Tampa can add a potential superstar without needing immediate production from him.
10) New York Giants: Ezekiel Elliott, RB from Ohio State
Who could have predicted that kind of spending spree? Oh, put your hands down, you did not see that coming! The Giants had a ton of cap space and they certainly used it, bringing back DE Jason Pierre-Paul while also adding DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, MLB Keenan Robinson, and CB Janoris Jenkins. That took care of most of the pressing needs Big Blue had on defense. Now the Giants will look to find an every down back to take a load off Eli Manning. Ezekiel Elliott is that guy. Just as dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield as he is a runner in open space, Elliott would stoke an otherwise sad running game while keeping Rashad Jennings as a potent change of pace back for Elliott.
11) Chicago Bears: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB from Florida
The Bears also spent a lot on fortifying their defense, as they added NT Eddie Goldman, DE Akiem Hicks, and MLBs Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. The only spot they didn’t spend on was the secondary, where CB Kyle Fuller is the unquestioned number one corner. They retained Tracy Porter, but he can’t be depended upon to play on every down and might possibly even switch to safety. Adding a talented cornerback like Vernon Hargreaves would give Chicago two stellar outside corners that would make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks. Whereas Fuller can hurt you with his blinding closing speed, Hargreaves can simply jam receivers and throw them off their route. His addition would seemingly finish the restock that the Bears are trying to do on defense.
12) New Orleans Saints: A’Shawn Robinson, DT from Alabama
The Saints might switch to a 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen or they could stick to the 3-4 format that their personnel is designed for. Either way, A’Shawn Robinson would have a place. The massive defensive lineman can be disruptive in both defensive fronts and can blow up the running back or shove the pocket backwards, two impacts that the Saints sorely lacked last year. Cameron Jordan is the primary pass rusher and Hau’oli Kikaha has the potential to turn into a solid edge rusher, but Robinson can be a stabilizing presence that takes some attention off of Jordan and Kikaha.
13) Miami Dolphins: Mackensie Alexander, CB from Clemson
The Dolphins upgraded their defense by signing DE Mario Williams and acquiring both LB Kiko Alonso and CB Byron Maxwell in a trade, though they lost their top cornerback, Brent Grimes. Maxwell has talent, undoubtedly, but his 2015 campaign proved that he’s better as a number two corner. Enter Mackensie Alexander. The Clemson product won’t be an immediate star at cornerback, but he possesses the desired length and comeback speed to be effective in pass coverage.
14) Oakland Raiders: Jarran Reed, DT from Alabama
The Oakland Raiders are on to something. The offense is coming into its own with Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, and the defense will now boast a linebacking corps of Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, and Malcolm Smith, as well as an underrated but terrifyingly effective secondary. Now it’s time to beef up the defensive line. Nose tackle Dan Williams needs a partner-in-crime next to him on the line, and Jarran Reed would give Oakland an interior of pure power. While Williams is most effective in run-stuffing, Reed has the lower-body strength to walk offensive linemen backwards into the opposing quarterback, a talent that would create ample opportunities for Mack, Irvin, and DE Mario Edwards Jr. to rush the passer.
15) Los Angeles Rams: Paxton Lynch, QB from Memphis
The Nick Foles experiment is decidedly finished. The Rams have a top ten defense and a budding superstar running back in Todd Gurley, and while a receiving corps of Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, and Brian Quick may not excite you, it’s enough to supplement Gurley. They just need a QB to throw the ball. Paxton Lynch offers an immediate upgrade who has the pocket mobility to buy himself time. His strong arm could be useful in finally developing Austin’s deep threat capabilities and his threat as a scrambler would only amplify Gurley’s impact as well.
16) Detroit Lions: Josh Doctson, WR from TCU
The Lions added WR Marvin Jones to combine with Golden Tate, but the hole left after Calvin Johnson’s retirement is still gaping. Josh Doctson doesn’t offer much in relief of that hole either, but it’s more in the sense of bundling up on receivers and hoping there are enough options to work. Doctson is best at going straight up and catching contested passes, which is the one skill that Detroit will miss the most about Johnson. Doctson’s ceiling is unclear, but he could develop into a legitimate number one option if given time.
17) Atlanta Falcons: Shaq Lawson, DE from Clemson
Yes, Shaq Lawson gets the chance to reunite with his former college teammate Vic Beasley and give head coach Dan Quinn two potential-laden, athletic edge rushers. The impact won’t be seen in the first year, but that was never the plan for Quinn and the Falcons. In two or three years, though, the combination of Beasley and Lawson will be giving opposing quarterbacks nightmares.
18) Indianapolis Colts: Jack Conklin, OT from Michigan State
The Indianapolis Colts may have finally learned the importance of protecting Andrew Luck. Jack Conklin, a three-time All-American in college, would be a vast improvement at left tackle and allow Anthony Castonzo to switch to right tackle, giving Luck a solid bookend to work behind.
19) Buffalo Bills: Darron Lee, OLB from Ohio State
Now that Mario Williams is gone, head coach Rex Ryan will be looking for pass rushers of all shapes and sizes to fill the void. DE Jerry Hughes and NT Marcell Dareus will become the focal points, but Darron Lee could easily come in as a situational pass rusher and help create havoc in the backfield. His combine performance showed that the linebacker has more explosive speed than his game tape indicated, and that makes him a desirable target for a guy like Ryan.
20) New York Jets: Noah Spence, DE from Eastern Kentucky
Similar to the Bills, the Jets would do well to add some edge rushers. They managed to keep DE Muhammad Wilkerson and the loss of NT Damon Harrison doesn’t hurt that much due to the fact that they still have DE’s Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson. But their linebackers seem to be lacking in pass rushing talent. Noah Spence has primarily played defensive end in a 4-3 defense but he has all of the abilities to make a switch to an outside linebacker in a blitz happy 3-4 defense like the one the Jets use. Spence has some serious character issues, but head coach Todd Bowles probably believes that the culture he’s established in the locker room can straighten out such a naturally gifted player.
21) Washington Redskins: Kendall Fuller, CB from Virginia Tech
The Redskins are surprisingly stacked at most positions, leaving the secondary as their primary concern. Kendall Fuller, little brother of Bears standout Kyle, would make a formidable cornerback tandem with Bashaud Breeland. Fuller thrives on his ability to hang behind receivers and then drive toward the ball once it’s thrown his way, which would pair nicely with the tight, physical style of coverage that Breeland uses.
22) Houston Texans: Andrew Billings, DT from Baylor
The Houston Texans found their quarterback in Brock Osweiler. Their biggest need was filled rather effortlessly. The rest of the roster is ready to compete, so anything going forward will basically just be adding icing to the cake. That’s why it’s such a potentially scary idea to imagine a defensive line featuring JJ Watt, Vince Wilfork, and Andrew Billings, the gigantic space-eater from Baylor. That line, coupled with linebackers the likes of Brian Cushing, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and Benardrick McKinney, could create one of the NFL’s best defenses this year.
23) Minnesota Vikings: Taylor Decker, OT from Ohio State
The Vikings, much like the Colts, need to figure out their offensive line. Specifically, what’s up with Matt Kalil? Should he stay at left tackle or would he benefit from a switch to right? Either way, Taylor Decker can play left or right and would give Minnesota some stability, as Decker demonstrated ironman durability in college.
24) Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Thomas, WR from Ohio State
The Bengals lost both WR’s Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu and they need someone to catch passes opposite of AJ Green. Michael Thomas is a big-bodied possession receiver with a very high ceiling who could very well be an instant upgrade over Jones and Sanu.
25) Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB from Ohio State
William Gay can only be so effective for so long. The 31 year old cornerback looks to be the Steelers’ number two corner opposite of Cortez Allen, which can’t make Pittsburgh happy. Eli Apple would be a good addition for a team whose secondary is severely lacking. Apple’s fundamentals may not be outstanding yet, but he has ideal size and speed to make up for it in most cases. The Steelers coaches will need to hone his technique going forward, but he can still be productive from the start.
26) Seattle Seahawks: Derrick Henry, RB from Alabama
Marshawn Lynch’s retirement leaves a beast of a hole in the Seattle backfield to fill. Thomas Rawls looked good in his rookie year while filling in for the injured Lynch, but Seattle probably doesn’t trust him as their primary back. Derrick Henry brings with him the same downhill, physical style of running that made Lynch so effective, and Henry wowed scouts at the Combine with a 4.54 40-yard dash despite weighing in at 247 lbs. The biggest concern with Henry is that his intense workload in his Heisman-winning year at Alabama may have cut his NFL shelf life considerably, but the Seahawks could easily find success with a Henry-Rawls tandem without having to alter much of their gameplan.
27) Green Bay Packers: Reggie Ragland, MLB from Alabama
Clay Matthews is moving back to outside linebacker and that once again creates a need at the inside linebacker spots for Green Bay. Reggie Ragland is a player that has the ability to take on runners and shoot through gaps, as well as stepping on the gas and getting after the passer. Ragland would finally give Green Bay a complimentary blitzer to Matthews.
28) Kansas City Chiefs: Cody Whitehair, OG from Kansas State
The Chiefs are still rebuilding their offensive line and, though they signed RT Mitchell Schwartz in free agency, their interior line still needs help, especially if Jamaal Charles is expected to have much success in his recovery from a torn ACL. Cody Whitehair is widely considered to be the best interior line prospect in this draft and he would help this line come together.
29) Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Dodd, DE from Clemson
The Cardinals’ top priority this offseason was upgrading their pass rush after they utterly failed to pressure Cam Newton in the NFC Championship game. They traded OG Jonathan Cooper and a 2nd round pick to acquire Chandler Jones, the Patriots’ leading pass rusher from 2015, but why stop there? At his current weight, Kevin Dodd would likely fit in as a defensive end for Arizona, but he could cut his weight and become a situational pass rushing outside linebacker. Either way, the Cardinals could find a way to use the high-motor pass rusher that finished the 2015 campaign with at least one sack in the last 5 consecutive games.
30) New England Patriots: This pick has been forfeited due to the Patriots’ involvement in the Deflategate scandal
31) Carolina Panthers: Corey Coleman, WR from Baylor
Sure, the Panthers may have gotten good (enough) results from the trio of Ted Ginn Jr., Jerricho Cotchery, and Corey Brown last season, but the receiving corps still needs some work. Getting Kelvin Benjamin back will be a major help, as his physical presence on the outside allows Cam Newton to challenge defenders up high and inside the numbers. Devin Funchess came on late, and could be a productive presence in the slot. Adding the fastest receiver in the draft, Corey Coleman, would give Newton a deep threat that can take the top off of a defense or catch the ball on a screen and make something happen. Coleman’s presence would significantly upgrade Carolina’s only real weakness.
32) Denver Broncos: Connor Cook, QB from Michigan State
I don’t care what you say, Mark Sanchez is not going to be the starter for the reigning Super Bowl champions. John Elway isn’t that bad of a general manager and Gary Kubiak doesn’t hate himself enough to do that. Brock Osweiler was supposed to be the heir apparent to Peyton Manning, but a lowball offer to the impending free agent resulted in Osweiler heading elsewhere. Sanchez isn’t a terrible backup quarterback, but he’s a terrible option to start. Connor Cook, despite all of the completely bogus questions about his leadership skills, is the most refined passer not named Jared Goff and his ability to play through a shoulder injury and still lead his team to wins shows his grit. In Kubiak’s offense, Cook wouldn’t be required to be a field general; he would just have to make accurate passes and move the chains until the offense finds its way into the endzone. So, basically, he would just need to do exactly what he did at Michigan State. He’s a good pick here at the end of the first round.