By Aaron Pennesi
Get ready for speculations, predictions, and intrigue – it’s Mock Draft Season!
In this mock I critically think about both what I would do and what I think the GM would do, and from those stances I try to choose the best pick. So, without further ado, let’s begin…
- Los Angeles Rams (from Tennessee Titans)
Jared Goff, QB, California
The L.A. Rams are rumored to have made the blockbuster trade to get this pick after holding a workout where Goff was highly impressive to them. They have been needing a franchise quarterback for quite some time now, and they attempt to get that here.
- Philadelphia Eagles (From Cleveland Browns)
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Philadelphia is pursuing the 2nd overall pick, and I believe they get it. The only reason they want to move up is to get a Quarterback, and that will be Wentz. Wentz is the better prospect, and he will have the opportunity to sit behind Bradford in this situation.
- San Diego Chargers
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
San Diego was the ultimate winner from the 2 move-ups ahead of them. They are sitting at #3 already possessing their franchise QB, so the fact that the only two picks ahead of them were of that position doesn’t effect them in the slightest. They will be able to take the best player they had rated on their board, and I feel that is Ramsey. Some believe they may go OL here, but there have been rumors that they don’t believe Tunsil is a fit for them. With the departure of Eric Weddle, their secondary will need a boost and adding one of the best DB prospects we’ve seen in a while in Ramsey will surely do just that.
- Dallas Cowboys
DeForest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon
Dallas should be thinking defense with this pick. With the departure of Greg Hardy and the looming suspension for Demarcus Lawrence, they are now thrusted into a situation where they need to consider adding a playmaker to their defensive line. DeForest Buckner should be the guy they look to. Bosa may be the best edge rusher available, but Buckner has position versatility that would make him an excellent addition to the ‘Boys front seven.
- Jacksonville Jaguars
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
It’s almost certain that Jacksonville will be looking to boost their defense with their first round pick, and they will be looking to go best player available. They have been talking about bolstering their front seven, and the best available will be Bosa. Bosa is a raw and exciting talent, with NFL pedigree in his blood. The Jaguars will also finally be getting last year’s first round pick Dante Fowler back, and pairing him up with Bosa could be potentially nightmarish for opposing quarterbacks.
- Baltimore Ravens
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
One of the biggest aspects to hurt the Baltimore Ravens last year was the tribulations their offensive line faced, from both injuries to lackluster play. In the position they are sitting in, they have the opportunity to add (at one point) the potential #1 overall pick who just so happens to play a position they need. I expect Ravens don’t blink at this opportunity and solidify their line with Tunsil.
- San Francisco 49ers
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
The 49ers’ roster needs help in a lot of places. When looking at their tape last year, it doesn’t take long to realize their offensive line was horrible. Every drop back for the quarterback was a potential hurry or sack. The 49ers need to select a player with this pick that will impact their play on Sunday’s right away, and they have been vocal about how they have been impressed with Stanley. They very well could go Hargreaves here as well, but Stanley could be the safer pick.
****Projected Move: New York Jets trade up and select Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. I believe the 49ers are sitting in a spot that many teams will want to trade up to, and Baalke is the main man when it comes to moving back in drafts. With the swirling rumors of Cleveland potentially interested in adding a quarterback, as well as Denver trying to trade up for one, I think it forces the hand of the Jets. The Jets, who are also in the midst of trying to deal Muhammad Wilkerson, a player who has said he would like to play in San Fran, edges out the other teams interested in this pick because of that.
- Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles)
Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State
The Cleveland Browns can go so many ways with this pick, due to the fact that their roster looks like swiss cheese. I feel the best move for them would be by selecting Elliot. First off, no one on the Browns depth chart at RB is a bona fide NFL every day starter. If they have the chance to select a talent like Elliot, they are potentially adding a franchise guy that will be a three-down back, toting the rock for their offense for years to come. Also, Robert Griffin showed in Washington that he was most successful when they were a run-first team with Alfred Morris.
***Projected Move: Miami Dolphins trade up to select Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State. Cleveland doesn’t NEED a running back, and would always benefit from trading back and adding more picks. Miami is in search of a franchise running back, and trading up for a talent like Elliot is definitely in the realm of possibility. Miami makes the jump, and gets their guy.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vernon Hargreaves, DB, Florida
Like many teams with Top Ten picks, Tampa could go multiple different ways with this selection. If Hargreaves is around during this selection he will be flying off the board. Improving their secondary with a solid player like Hargreaves would definitely improve their defense and be a smart move.
- New York Giants
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
The fact that Jack slid this far is solely from the caution of other teams. Jack’s injury issues is scaring teams away, but the Giants could really use help at Linebacker. With the opportunity to select a Top Five talent, and a potential star at the position, I think the Giants pull the trigger and add Jack.
- Chicago Bears
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
The Chicago Bears need help on the defensive line, and pass rush is a priority. Adding Shaq Lawson gives the Bears a player that fits well in their defensive scheme. He is a nice pass rush coming off the edge, and will bring an explosiveness to disrupt opposing run games as well.
- New Orleans Saints
Leonard Floyd, DE/LB, Georgia
It’s safe to say the New Orleans saints defense was terrible last season. Looking at their 2016 roster I can see many holes, but there are some that are bigger than the rest. When comparing those holes to the players on the draft board, I think Leonard Floyd would be an excellent selection for the Saints. New Orleans needs help off the edge, and Floyd has the versatility to do whatever they need of him. He is an excellent stepping stone forward to helping New Orleans rebuild.
- Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles)
Eli Apple, DB, Ohio State
If the Dolphins miss out on their running back, they will need to improve their secondary. Apple has the stature and footwork to be an excellent NFL corner, and has the work ethic to put in the time needed to be an asset to this team.
***Projected Move: (after trade with MIA) Cleveland Browns select Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State. Among the multiple needs the Cleveland Browns have, offensive line is definitely a high priority. They need to consider protecting their current QB who has a history of injuries. It has been said that the Browns actually have Conklin higher on their board than Stanley, so if they can still get him after moving back, they will.
- Oakland Raiders
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
The Oakland Raiders are down the path of building a solid football team, and with that, a solid defense. Adding Rankins to their front seven would give them a versatile player with the skills to produce in many ways. He joins a defense headed by another versatile player in Khalil Mack, and could be an excellent fit for Oakland.
- Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)
Jack Conklin, OL, Michigan State
With the first overall pick the Titans hinted that they were interested in improving their line for their young quarterback. After moving back, they can still continue with this strategy by adding Conklin. Some scouts have said they feel Conklin is the most polished OL prospect in the draft, and he could be a very safe addition to the Titans.
- Detroit Lions
Taylor Decker, OL, Ohio State
In this draft the Detroit Lions need to consider putting all of their picks on the line. Not by risking them, but by adding players to bolster both sides of their trenches. With franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford spending a majority of his 2015 campaign on his back, I think the most pressing issue is offensive line. Adding Decker gives them a physical brute that their line desperately needs.
- Atlanta Falcons
Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Atlanta needs to improve their linebacker situation, and Lee is the answer at #17. He brings to their roster athleticism that they are needing at the position, and a speedy athlete that is a great fit for Dan Quinn’s defense.
- Indianapolis Colts
Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
We saw a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde offense in Indianapolis between 2014 and 2015. I believe this main reason was because of the fact that Andrew Luck was getting hit, and hurried, and hit some more. Khaled Holmes is currently the starter at Center and they should look to upgrading. Kelly, the best Center in this draft, would give Indy a player who will make an impact, and could single handedly effect the play of Andy Luck in a positive way.
***Projected Move: If the Jets do not move up in this draft, I think the Denver Broncos will trade up and select Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. The moves by L.A. and Philadelphia helped skyrocket the value of Lynch. Because of this, I believe it’s only a matter of who will leapfrog up and take the QB.
- Buffalo Bills
Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky
The Bills need to improve their defensive front around Marcell Dareus. They could use help in multiple ways, and Noah Spence would be a good fit. A player with the skills to be a Top Ten talent, slipped due to off-field issues. If Spence is still on the board at #19 he would be very intriguing option to Rex Ryan.
- New York Jets
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Let me start by addressing the elephant in the room… Yes, the way I have the board falling Paxton Lynch is still available at #20 (even though I have the Jets trading up into the Top Ten to select him). The NFL Draft is all about strategy, and teams will be doing things to force other teams to make moves, and I believe that happens to the Jets. If the Jets don’t trade up for Paxton Lynch, I think it is very likely that either Cleveland will take a flier on him, or Denver will move ahead of NYJ to take him. But, if there were no other trades at all, I could also see him sliding all the way to 20 for the Jets to scoop up.
***Projected Move: (after trade with NYJ) San Francisco 49ers select Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama. If the board breaks down the way I have it, the 49ers will be able to select the best ILB in the draft after moving back 13 picks. That is a huge addition and win for San Fran, who will also be selecting again at 37 and possibly 51 depending on the contents of the trade.
- Washington Redskins
Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
In the wake of their recent addition of cornerback Josh Norman, Washington will now switch their focus from stopping the pass, to stopping the run. Defensive line is the biggest need now for the Redskins, and Butler could be a beast of an addition up the middle. Some scouts see him as a raw talent, but the physical features are definitely there to be a legitimate run-stopper.
- Houston Texans
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Houston needs to find a counterpart to star receiver Deandre Hopkins, and they have the choice of the field. The Texans added strong-armed Brock Osweiler this offseason and now need a deep threat for him to uncork passes to. Fuller is the best deep threat in this draft, and he would be a perfect fit for this role.
- Minnesota Vikings
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
In the Minnesota offense they are in need of a consistent #1 pass catcher for their young QB. Some believe Treadwell could go in the top 10-15. If Minnesota has the chance to select arguably the draft’s best WR prospect they should do so without question.
- Cincinnati Bengals
Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
At this point in the draft, teams need to start considering the best player available out of their team’s needs. The departures of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left holes at wide receiver, and the questionable hands of Brandon Lafell surely doesn’t fill that void. The addition of the very athletic Josh Doctson could pair well in the passing game opposite Green.
- Pittsburgh Steelers
Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor
The Steelers have needed to draft a corner for years and seem to always look elsewhere, and I think this draft is no different given who is already off the board. It always seems like the perfect option for the Steelers ends up sliding to them, and again, this draft is no different. Steve Mclendon left the Steelers in free agency, and they need to find a new NT to replace him. Billings is an excellent talent and could fit like a glove between the Steel City’s pass rushers of Heyward and Tuitt.
- Seattle Seahawks
Cody Whitehair, OG, Kansas State
The Seattle Seahawks need to address their offensive line, there is no question about it. Because of this glaring need, they should select the best OL available. Luckily enough for them, Cody Whitehair, the best Guard in the draft, is still around for them to snag up.
- Green Bay Packers
Jonathan Bullard, DE/DT, Florida
The Packers need to add youth and athleticism to their defensive line, especially after BJ Raji’s retirement. Bullard is a freak athlete with exceptional instincts. Where he will play is a bit of a question mark, but the Packers need help both inside and outside their defensive line and Bullard can help where needed.
- Kansas City Chiefs
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Kansas City was the talk of the league at the wide receiver position this past year, and not for any good reason. Dating back to the 2013 season, Kansas City went 21 games without a touchdown reception. That streak was then broke by Jeremy Maclin, but he proved he can’t do it all. Albert Wilson is currently slotted to be the #2 receiver in Kansas City, but they need to do better than that. Coleman is the perfect fit for Andy Reid’s offense.
New England Patriots(Forfeited)
- Arizona Cardinals
Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Reed at #29 would be a steal for the Arizona Cardinals. They have a very talented roster, and the addition of Reed would give them one of the toughest defensive fronts in the NFL. Reed is a stud at stopping the run and taking up space in the middle, and the Cardinals should love the chance to put him between Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones.
- Carolina Panthers
William Jackson III, DB, Houston
The Panthers recently lost their best cornerback, Josh Norman, and it just so happened before the draft. They now have a need at DB and William Jackson would be a good selection here. The scouting report on Jackson is torn – some have him as a raw talent that needs coached up, while others have him as a top CB in this draft. Nonetheless, at #30 Carolina should definitely take the long corner.
- Denver Broncos
Robert Nkemdiche, DT/DE, Ole Miss
The Broncos are highly rumored to be moving up in the draft, and if they do so it will be for a Quarterback. If they choose not to, and stay at 31, they could very well forget their QB woes and go defense. The popularity of Nkemdiche at this pick is widespread throughout the football reporting world; especially due to the amount of talent and potential he brings to the roster hole left by Malik Jackson. If it wasn’t for off-field issues Nkemdiche very well would have been a no-doubt first rounder.
***Projected Move: (After Trade with Denver) Indianapolis Colts select Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama. With the way the board unfolded, the Colts (ironically, like the 49ers) trade back 13 picks and get their guy. It is likely that Kelly could slide this far, giving the Colts more reason to consider striking a deal and moving back.