This was put together under the basis of predicting what the 31 teams will do, not what they should do.
1. Los Angeles Rams (from Titans)
Jared Goff, QB, Cal: Les Snead and the Rams’ brass executed just the fifth all-time trade up for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Now two of those five occurrences involve the Rams, the other time involving the selection of offensive tackle (OT) Orlando Pace. While there is a strong argument for another offensive tackle to be selected here (Laremy Tunsil), the league is predicated on QB play more than ever. With 2016 being the franchise’s first year back in L.A., the allure of a big name at quarterback paired with budding superstar Todd Gurley at running back is too enticing to relinquish.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (from Browns)
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State: It is widely reported that Goff will stay in California, and is the most pro-ready QB of the class. That leaves the FCS star, with the physical tools and high-level character as the next in line. This pick makes too much sense considering the recent hiring of a new offensive-centric coaching staff, with the security and veterans (Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel) to allow Wentz to sit and learn for a year or two.
3. San Diego Chargers
DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon: This is where things get interesting. The Chargers have needs along the offensive line and could go Tunsil here, but the interior is more of a weakness than the perimeter of the offensive front. With the loss of Eric Weddle in free agency, and a need for a running mate alongside Jason Verrett, Jalen Ramsey would be my second choice here. In the end, Buckner’s rare blend of size (6’7” 291 pounds, 34 ¾ arm length, 11 ¾ hand size), power, and age (turned 22 on March 24) will be too difficult to overlook. In a division with average-to-above average QB play (Mark Sanchez, Alex Smith, Derek Carr), the impetus on a dynamic pass rusher (which Buckner isn’t right now) shouldn’t be a detriment to how San Diego views him. Getting a Calais Campbell type of player out of the way early to aid the 2015 27th ranked run defense and free up draft capital for the interior OL and other positional needs later in the draft makes sense.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State: Ezekiel Elliott is a trending name for this slot around NFL media, but the logic for a RB here is up for debate. Elliott would have his skill-set maximized behind the league’s best offensive line, but I don’t think he is the transcendent type of talent to warrant being the selected inside the top five. Right or wrong, the NFL puts stock into its history in order to shape its future, and since 2005 five RBs have been picked inside the top five: Trent Richardson, Darren McFadden, Reggie Bush, Ronnie Brown, and Cedric Benson. Ramsey is an elite NFL athlete, dynamic playmaker on tape, and a fierce competitor. Paired with Byron Jones the Cowboys would have arguably the most athletic duo at defensive back in the NFL, and the double-dipping of DBs in the first-round would be reminiscent of how they built the league’s best offensive line.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: There are a wide range of reports on Jack’s knee, but there is not a more explosive playmaker on the board here. The Jaguars have a dynamic offense in place, and a defensive head coach in Gus Bradley who needs more weapons to employ in his defense. With last year’s first-round pick Dante Fowler returning this season to man the Leo role, Jack could slide in as the team’s nickel LB alongside Telvin Smith. Instantly, the defense in Jacksonville would have two of the most versatile and explosive linebackers in the league, and would be able to stay in nickel more readily vs pass-happy teams.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss: It would not be surprising for the godfather of general mangers to have arguably the best player in the draft fall into his lap at No. 6. Newsome has always had a good left tackle in Baltimore, and despite 29-year old Eugene Monroe playing solidly, he has missed 75% of his snaps since signing an extension in 2014. Simply put: Tunsil is too special to pass up, and the front office in Baltimore will be smart enough to act accordingly and pull the trigger.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame: Stanley possesses ideal length (35 5/8) and technique in pass protection, along with solid run blocking ability. There is a legitimate need for an upgrade at right tackle, and Stanley’s superb technique could allow for a smooth transition. San Fran’s division boasts stellar pass rushers, and paired with Joe Staley the 49ers would boast bookend tackles.
8. Cleveland Browns (from Eagles through Dolphins)
Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State: Nate Orchard, Paul Kruger, and Barkevious Mingo are a solid trio with no real premier traits between them. Bosa was one of the most disruptive players in the country over the last two seasons, and possesses elite hand usage, leverage, and positional versatility to slide inside in nickel/dime looks. In terms of physicality, swagger, and a hometown draw, there are aspects of who Bosa is that fit perfectly in the AFC North.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State: Tampa Bay has only 5.26% of their 2016 salary cap allocated to offensive tackle. Second-year pro Donovan Smith made significant strides at left tackle as the year went on, and the right side could use an upgrade. Neither Demar Dotson or Gosder Cherilus are anything more than average, and controlling the ball on offense will be critical for second-year QB Jameis Winston. Personally, I don’t view Conklin as a first-round prospect, but it’s hard to ignore the love for him from around the league.
10. New York Giants
Sheldon Rankins, DL, Louisville: As it stands today, the Giants’ depth chart has 670 pounds of defensive tackle pegged as starters in Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins. Having a rotational piece on the interior who can get after the QB would be extremely beneficial, and would allow for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to trot out one heck of a NASCAR package on passing downs.
11. Chicago Bears
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida: Head coach John Fox knows the value of cornerbacks as well as anyone from his time in Denver, and in a division boasting the best QB in the league stopping the pass is paramount. With just 5.90% of their 2016 salary cap allocated to cornerback (24th in the league), there are signs of Hargreaves fitting nicely in The Windy City. Either as an outside or nickel CB, Hargreaves would give a major boost to a defense that in 2015 was 30th in interceptions (8).
12. New Orleans Saints
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: Whether the Saints stick around to pick Lynch here to groom behind Brees, or a team (DEN) trades up for him, it’s hard to fathom him falling much further. Similar to Brock Osweiler in terms of size and skill-set, Lynch’s value nearly halfway through the first-round is too high to allow fall much further.
13. Miami Dolphins (from Eagles)
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Miami needs a replacement for the departed Lamar Miller to pair alongside their power runner in Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins have 1.25% of their ’16 salary cap allocated to the RB position (31st in the NFL), and could really benefit from Elliott’s complete game, particularly in pass protection.
14. Oakland Raiders
Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: First big surprise of the round. Joseph has some of the best tape for a defensive back in the class in terms of well-roundedness, nuance, and technique. Add in his immense physicality and renown leadership, and you have a rare safety prospect. One of the analysts I most respect regarding DB play had a bold take on the Mountaineer:
Karl Joseph best overall DB in draft..versatile,competitive, run support, blitz, tackle, zone pattern recognition, man skills, ball skills.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) March 14, 2016
Even with soon-to-be 33-year old safety Reggie Nelson signed for next season, there is a hole at the other safety spot. An injection of youth is desperately needed in the backend of Oakland’s defense, and Joseph could be the replacement for Charles Woodson long-term.
15. Tennessee Titans (from Rams)
Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State: For my money Decker is OT3 in this draft after Tunsil and Stanley, so the value here is solid. Add in the instant upgrade he would be over Byron Bell at RT, and even Taylor Lewan at LT and it is a homerun pick. Ensuring franchise QB Marcus Mariota doesn’t take the pounding he did last season is paramount.
16. Detroit Lions
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: Adding a defensive end who can play the run as well as Lawson can with his technical proficiency as a pass rusher provides excellent value in the middle of round one. Paired with Ezekiel Ansah, the Lions would have two well-rounded players to set the edges, and get after the quarterbacks in their division. Look out for Darron Lee or Leonard Floyd here as well.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia: A premier athlete as a run and chase WLB/nickel LB who can double as blitzing threat would add much-needed juice to the Falcons’ front seven. Floyd is a hot commodity around league circles and may not be around for Atlanta, but if he is, head coach Dan Quinn will likely pound the table for the Georgia product.
18. Indianapolis Colts
Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama: The Colts lost starting ILB Jerrell Freeman in free agency, and have soon-to-be 33-year old D’Qwell Jackson as the other starter in their 3-4 base front. Adding another highly instinctual, physical presence in the middle with underrated range would help prevent a major drop off in the middle of the defense next season. In a division with opponents who upgraded their backfields (Lamar Miller HOU, Chris Ivory JAX, DeMarco Murray TEN) stopping the run is of heightened importance. Ragland is the best run-defending LB in the draft.
19. Buffalo Bills
Kevin Dodd, DL, Clemson: Dodd exploded onto the scene last season, and possesses a big-time motor to go along with rare explosiveness. Dodd could start at LDE in the Bills 4-3 base look, and slide all around the front in nickel/dime fronts. Rex Ryan’s familiarity with Clemson football doesn’t hurt this projection either.
20. New York Jets
Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State: In a division with two mobile QBs, and an offense that spreads you out (NE) more often than not, having versatile LBs who can run and cover is pivotal. Right now the Jets simply don’t have that aside from journeyman LB Bruce Carter. Defensive stalwart David Harris is 32-years old, and while still a productive player, needs a running mate on passing downs. Lee blew up the combine and displayed freakish athleticism (4.47 40, 35 vert, 4.20 short shuttle, 11’01” broad jump), and replaced fellow freak of nature Ryan Shazier admirably on the Buckeye defense in 2014 and 2015. It’s tough to envision Lee slipping much further than this.
21. Washington Redskins
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss: Both current starting receivers Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon have their contracts coming off the books in 2017, leaving a massive void behind them on the depth chart. Additionally, there is no jump ball type of threat at the receiver position. Paired with three speedster types, and a dynamic tight end in Jordan Reed would give Kirk Cousins massive firepower to earn the lengthy contract he desires. Plus, Treadwell’s spectacular blocking ability will likely resonate with GM Scot McCloughan’s affinity for physicality and toughness.
22. Houston Texans
Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama: It will be tough for Houston to pass on such an explosive receiver like Corey Coleman here, but I would argue that solidifying the interior of the offensive line will do just as much if not more to aid in Brock Osweiler’s success. Kelly’s tape is fantastic, and there is a massive hole at center on the roster. Ensuring Osweiler has a clean pocket in front of him to step up into, plus more running lanes for Lamar Miller will go a long way to another playoff birth for the Texans.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Josh Doctson, WR, TCU: Adding weapons on the outside portions of the field for Teddy Bridgewater to compliment the presence of Stefon Diggs makes too much sense for this pick not to happen. Minnesota only has 3.76% of their ’16 cap (27th in the NFL) allotted to the WR position, so spending premium draft capital here makes sense from a financial perspective as well.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: This would be a dream scenario for the Bengals considering Coleman can come in opposite of superstar WR AJ Green and rarely ever see double coverage. With the electricity of Coleman neighboring the refinement of Green this offense will be a nightmare for defenses in 2016, and augment QB AJ Dalton’s development nicely.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
William Jackson III, CB, Houston: Pittsburgh hasn’t picked a defensive back in the first-round since Troy Polamalu in 2003, but enough is enough already. The Steelers ranked 30th in pass defense in 2015, and have 3.32% of their ’16 salary cap counting towards CB in 2016 (29th in the NFL). Jackson possesses very good ball skills, and has the coveted height/speed combo (6’0”/4.37 40) that the NFL desires. The addition of WJIII would go a long way in stopping AJ Green and the Bengals for the division crown.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss: Few front offices have the security that GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll possess in Seattle. Even with Nkemdiche’s off-field concerns, this organization is well-suited to take on the risk with potential for big-time gains on the backend. Nkemdiche has freaky movement skills, and would be able to learn from an elite player with a similar skill-set in Michael Bennett. With a strong veteran core in the locker room to help guide the former No. 1 overall high school recruit to maturity, this would be a judicious gamble.
27. Green Bay Packers
Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama: I have Reed going before his Alabama teammate A’Shawn Robinson here, and the fit couldn’t be any better for Green Bay’s defensive front. Reed is nearly immovable due to his length, strength, and leverage abilities. The Packers’ front is predicated on having hulking DL who can control the point of attack, and Reed is very good in this area. Filling perhaps the team’s biggest need with such great value here is outstanding.
28. Kansas City Chiefs
A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama: The Chiefs would likely jump at Robinson if he’s available here, especially given the retirement of DL Mike DeVito. Robinson appears to just be scratching the surface of his potential, and is already a very good run defender.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Keanu Neal, S, Florida: Arizona is rumored to look heavily at grabbing a defensive back in RD1, and with two safeties (DJ Swearinger and Tony Jefferson) slated to hit free agency in 2017 it makes sense. Neal is a vicious hitter inside the box, and is a plus athlete (38 vert, 11’00” broad) with good range. Arizona loves to get creative with their defensive backs, and Neal would allow them to continue in that direction.
30. Carolina Panthers
Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State: With the loss of star CB Josh Norman in free agency, the need for cornerback is even greater than it already was. Apple presents tremendous value here, and at 6’1” 199 with a 4.40 40 he fits the mold of first-round CB material.
31. Denver Broncos
Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State: Jones has some reported off the field concerns stemming from his family situation, but in Denver he would be far away from distractions, and in the hands of a premier defensive coach. Furthermore, he would be in an attacking style of defense that would allow him to align as a shaded player, enhancing his freakish explosiveness. The Broncos signed Jared Crick as a stopgap defensive lineman after the loss of Malik Jackson, but the front needs more juice. To go along with Derek Wolfe, Jones can enter the DL rotation and provide much-needed disruption from the interior. Denver won the Super Bowl largely based off of their interior pressure, and Jones here would be a steal.