It is beginning to look a lot like springtime in central Ohio. The Columbus area is celebrating an exceptional showing from fans at the Ohio State spring football game a couple weeks ago. If it’s time for spring football, I know that the NFL Draft is near, as if I could forget given the fact that I’ve been doing independent NFL draft scouting since I can remember, scouting guys like T.J. Duckett and Laverneus Coles coming out of high school and seeing them hit the NFL Draft just a few years later.
Still, the weather is warm, we’re flirting with the month of May and football is roughly three months away now. This is a great time of year and a time to celebrate for anyone who loves to follow collegiate football or the NFL. The 2016 NFL Draft has the makings to be an exciting one with two pre-draft trades occurring involving the #1 and #2 overall picks, separately. Teams like the Browns, Dolphins, 49ers and Jets look to shake things up with additional trades, while New England may look to find a way back into the top 50 after forfeiting their first round selection for their participation in the infamous “Deflategate”.
Here’s my final crack at the 2016 NFL Draft:
1. Los Angeles Rams (from TEN) – Jared Goff, QB, California
While I believe Carson Wentz has the highest ceiling, Jared Goff is going to be an exceptional NFL quarterback. He’s got some foundation built around him coming into Los Angeles, having second year man Todd Gurley to hand the ball off to. The Rams gave up a lot, but they’re one of the few teams that need a QB and minimal additional help to make a deep playoff run.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (from CLE) – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
The Eagles are in love with Wentz and for good reason. He’s got a huge arm, excellent mobility and vision down field, as well as accuracy between the hash marks. This is a no-brainer.
3. San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
The smartest thing the Chargers could do here is trade down. They could trade down to pick eight and still be very likely to get one of Laremy Tunsil, DeForest Buckner or Ronnie Stanley.
In this case, likely the safest and most logical choice, Tunsil makes the most sense. The Chargers need to protect Philip Rivers who’s been around for a long time. If he keeps taking hits like he has in recent years, he won’t last much longer. DeForest Buckner or Jalen Ramsey also fill a need, but protecting your QB is top tier.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey, CB/SAF, Florida State
This is a best player available selection here depending on who you ask. I think the Cowboys would be smart to draft him as a corner with safety-style play. He’s going to be a stud regardless.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Risky? Sure. But the Jaguars could hit the field with a healthy Dante Fowler and Myles Jack coming in for 2016, making this defense all of a sudden feared from the pass rush. Jack may be the best player in the entire draft. If I’m Jacksonville, I’m rolling the dice here.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Baltimore’s defense is going to feature more of a fourth defensive lineman off the edge which Bosa is seemingly ideal for. They’ve watched Pittsburgh have success with Buckeyes defensively and could get one of their own.
7. San Francisco 49ers – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
This honestly feels like a lazy pick with the ties to Chip Kelly and Arik Armstead being drafted last year, but it actually does make a lot of sense and would really help San Francisco’s front seven immensely. Buckner’s a big man who plays well against the run, but also fails to get credit for his ability as a rusher.
8. Cleveland Browns (from PHI) – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
I think that Jack Conklin is one of the most technically sound players in the draft with the highest floors and also a high ceiling. The Browns likely trade down and still acquire Conklin here to replace Mitchell Schwartz and stockpile more picks.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
The Buccaneers need a pass rush and an upgrade at RT, but Hargreaves presents a real problem for receivers and has pretty good ball skills. The cornerback talent on the roster as a whole is lacking a consistent starter, let alone a play maker. Ronnie Stanley or Shaq Lawson make sense here as well.
10. New York Giants – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
The Giants seem to always lack offensive lineman. Eli Manning just needs another .5 second to throw the football. Stanley is not only BPA but fills a huge need, also having versatility to play either left or right tackle.
11. Chicago Bears – Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia
He needs to bulk up a bit, but he’s just the type of ROLB that the Bears need to combine with Pernell McPhee. Getting pressure on the quarterback is a must for the Bears.
12. New Orleans Saints – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
Likely the best three technique defensive tackle in the draft, the Saints are in dire need of help defensively. Ignore the reports of Paxton Lynch being traded up for. That’s bologna.
13. Miami Dolphins (from Phi) – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
This only could happen with a trade down as Elliott would not get past the Giants or Bears. Zeke gives the Dolphins a consistent three-down rusher with an extra option out of the back field for Ryan Tannehill. Losing Lamar Miller in free agency hurt the Dolphins offensively.
14. Oakland Raiders – Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
The Raiders could still use help on the weak side and what better than an exceptional athlete like Lee who is the prototype linebacker in a passing league. Add Lee in the mix with Khalil Mack, Justin Ellis, Dan Williams and Bruce Irvin and we could see a new AFC West power soon.
15. Tennessee Titans (from LAR) – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Decker is either playing LG or RT at the next level. Is it too soon to grab that position here with this many holes on a team? Possibly, but the fit is perfect as the Titans need to pave the way for DeMarco Murray to run the ball, while keeping Marcus Mariota off of his backside. There is a chance for Decker to fill in at LT on a short term basis for depth as well.
16. Detroit Lions – Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
I really love the bull rush ability that Billings brings to the table and his ability to fill holes and put interior pressure on quarterbacks. Haloti Ngata is a two down DL now and there isn’t much quality depth on the defensive line. It’s time to shut down Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Combine with former Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Lawson is a different type of pass rusher. Lawson’s issue is that he couldn’t finish plays, but he’ll get there.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Kelly, OC, Alabama
The Colts need to give Andrew Luck some help. This kid is getting beat to hell and they’re just watching. It starts with Kelly who possesses exceptional intangibles and road grading ability. He shouldn’t have too many issues in pass protection either and is the best center in a weak class. Still, you can’t put a price on an exceptional center and the Colts know that having had a Peyton Manning-Jeff Saturday combination for many years.
19. Buffalo Bills – Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Reed already has come out and stated that the Bills would be a perfect fit and I think the Bills could agree. There’s not a lot of depth on the defensive line and Kyle Williams isn’t getting any younger.
20. New York Jets – Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
It’ll be hard to pass up Ragland in the middle with pick 20. Worst case, he’s an exceptional two down player with blitzing ability. Ragland is quite the defensive thumper.
21. Washington Redskins – Karl Joseph, SAF, West Virginia
Joseph brings ball skills and fast tempo play to the DC area. Washington hasn’t had an exceptional safety since Sean Taylor.
22. Houston Texans – Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech
There’s nowhere on the defensive line that Butler can’t play and it’s possible that he doesn’t make it to pick 22. If so, he adds youth and size to the defensive line, also potentially allowing for additional Vince Wilfork reps. High potential and the Texans boost their defense while they search for additional WR help in the second or third round to combine with DeAndre Hopkins and Jaelen Strong.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Treadwell shouldn’t fall down this far with his talent, but let’s say he does. He’s off the board here as the Vikings opt to give Teddy B some options.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Josh Docston, WR, TCU
I think Doctson is quite a safe pick at 24 overall. His skillset is a top tier compliment to A.J. Green and he’s a guy that should be able to work into the rotation within his first year, if not coming out of training camp.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – William Jackson, CB, Houston
The Steelers probably won’t draft a member of the secondary because they tend to only draft pass rushers, defensive lineman and offensive lineman. But let’s just say they do. William Jackson wouldn’t be a poor choice.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Cody Whitehair, OG, Kansas State
Give me an interior lineman that can play for 10+ years at a high level late in the first round for 500, Alex. That was a terrible Jeopardy impression, but you get the point. Whitehair may be a big physically limited to excel at tackle in the NFL, but he may end up being the best interior lineman in this entire class and is a valuable commodity for a team like Seattle.
27. Green Bay Packers – Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky
I really just want the Packers to take a chance on this guy. What kind of trouble could he possibly get into in Wisconsin anyway? Keep an eye on Spence and keep him focused on the field and you’re looking at a double digit sack output by season two.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
The Chiefs need help in the defensive secondary and Apple is exceptional in man coverage. Apple will surely be able to be the top tier #2 to Marcus Peters to help give Kansas City the help they need.
29. Arizona Cardinals – A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Robinson will be an asset to any 34 defensive front seven with his ability to eat up blockers. His ability gives the Cardinals youth and depth along the defensive line.
30. Carolina Panthers – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
I think Alexander may be the best pure cover corner in the draft, but he’s still raw. A pass rusher would help, but losing Josh Norman is going to hurt. Keep Alexander close to home and whip him into shape.
31. Denver Broncos – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
The Broncos could go anywhere and have a lot of holes given their 2015 success. Let’s just say that they go up to trade for Paxton Lynch or maybe Lynch falls back. Either way, he should be the third and last quarterback drafted in the first.
(New England Patriots forfeit first round pick – Deflategate… lol)