With the main portion of free agency behind us, we now have a better reading on each team’s draft strategy and the areas they will address in the draft. There was a lot of movement, and even some blockbuster trades went down. While it’s great to add some key pieces during this process, it’s even more important to follow it up with a good draft – the opportunity you get to actually build your core for the future.
The Titans have been on the clock with the 1st pick for about 2 months now, Jalen Ramsey has gained a lot of hype as of late, but is he the smart choice? We saw Cleveland take a flyer on Robert Griffin III, but will that stop them from taking a QB at #2? The directions both San Diego and Dallas go with will have a huge impact on the rest of the draft and how it falls into place. Does San Francisco go QB at 7? What about the Jets as they still haven’t re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Take a look below at how we see the 1st round unfolding. Let’s talk NFL Draft on Twitter @JonValencia_WiB.
1. Tennessee Titans: OT – Laremy Tunsil – Ole Miss
The recent trend sees Jalen Ramsey sliding up to the one spot, but I just don’t see that happening here with the Titans. Whenever you have a young, franchise QB, the priority on that team is to protect them. Players like Tunsil don’t come around everyday, so unless the Titans trade down, he is going to be the pick here.
Tunsil brings everything to the table and would provide an immediate upgrade to an offensive line that led the league in sacks allowed. Tennessee gets a franchise left tackle to protect their franchise QB.
2. Cleveland Browns: QB – Carson Wentz – North Dakota State
Even though the Browns recently signed RGIII, that doesn’t affect their draft strategy as they recognize Griffin isn’t a long-term solution, and definitely not a franchise QB. Carson Wentz has done everything right whether it was tearing up the Senior Bowl, or performing at a high level at his pro day. He has a great reputation and to me has slid over Jared Goff as the consensus #1 QB in the class.
When you’re a team who has started 25 different QBs in 15 years, you take a franchise QB when you get the chance. Wentz brings just about everything to the table including mammoth size and great athletic ability under center – very reminiscent of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. The addition of RGIII allows Wentz to sit for a little bit, then step in when he’s ready.
3. San Diego Chargers: DB – Jalen Ramsey – Florida State
Since the combine, Jalen Ramsey has steadily risen up drafts boards and is now considered by most to be the best prospect in the class. The Chargers can go a variety of ways here, but ultimately they decide to go with the player on the top of their board.
With the loss of Eric Weddle, the Chargers need to replace him as he’s been the driving force in that defense for years; who better than Ramsey? Ramsey has limitless upside and if he doesn’t workout at corner, you can always move him to safety where I feel he would be a perennial Pro Bowler. His combination of size, speed and instincts make him an elite prospect.
4. Dallas Cowboys: DE – Joey Bosa – Ohio State
Like the Chargers at 3, the Cowboys have many options here. They have an opportunity to select a future franchise QB in Jared Goff, they have stated interest in Ezekiel Elliott, or they can go after a defensive stud like Bosa or Jack.
At the end of the day, Jerry Jones goes with Ohio State’s pass rusher who brings elite pass rushing potential to the table. The defense has been the Achilles heal in Dallas for the past few seasons. The Greg Hardy experiment didn’t quite workout, so Jones brings in Bosa to make that impact getting to the QB.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: LB – Myles Jack – UCLA
With the emergence of Blake Bortles and the offense last season, the Jaguars need to continue to add defensive pieces. The front office did a tremendous job at bringing in talent during free agency, but they’re not finished yet.
Myles Jack is the total package at LB. A pure playmaker and impact player, he would add to the defensive core that features other youngsters such as Telvin Smith and Dante Fowler. Jacksonville is going to compete in 2016.
6. Baltimore Ravens: OT – Ronnie Stanley – Notre Dame
The Ravens have a few needs they need to address, but what’s more important than protecting Joe Flacco? It’s essential for Baltimore to give Flacco time when he drops back in the pocket, he’s proven before he can be among the best QB’s in the NFL, but he needs a good supporting cast around him – like he did when they won the Super Bowl back in 2013.
For most of the season, Stanley was up there with Tunsil regarding the top OT in the class. In fact, some may still make the argument that he’s more pro-ready than Tunsil is. Stanley excels in both run blocking and pass protection. He would allow the Eugene Monroe experiment to come to an end.
7. San Francisco 49ers: QB – Jared Goff – California
The Colin Kaepernick saga in San Francisco is still ongoing, but the end result remains an enigma. Whether or not Kaepernick is still on the roster when the draft rolls around, I still think Chip Kelly wants his own QB – that’s just the type of coach he is. He has stated to be high on Blaine Gabbert, but even Kelly is smart enough to know he’s not a starting caliber QB in the NFL – despite his ‘success’ last season.
Jared Goff is a better pure passer than Wentz, and he could serve as the quick gunslinger that Kelly wants in his fast-paced offense. San Francisco is rebuilding, so you start that process with your future franchise QB.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: CB – Vernon Hargreaves III – Florida (Dolphins)
In many mocks I see the Eagles taking Ezekiel Elliott. While that’s quite possible, especially with an old school offensive guy like Doug Pederson, I don’t think the end result of that trade with Miami which launched them up to #8 ends with a RB. Pederson is smart enough to understand that RB is the most expendable position in the game, and to trade up into the top 10 for Elliott just wouldn’t add up.
Therefore, Pederson and the Eagles take arguably the best player on the board in Vernon Hargreaves. It’s been quite sometime since the Eagles have had a game changer in the secondary – that unit has always been the weakness of that team. Hargreaves brings elite playmaking ability and ball skills to a lackluster secondary.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE – DeForest Buckner – Oregon
Even though they signed Robert Ayers, the Buccaneers are still desperate for some youth at defensive end which works out perfectly as Buckner slides all the way down to 9. Many consider Buckner a top 5 pick, but I think he slides to the end of the top 10.
Buckner is an imposing presence coming off the edge. Even at his size, he’s proven to move with good quickness. A solid all around defensive end, the Buccaneers get themselves a solid piece up front to go with Ayers and Gerald McCoy.
10. New York Giants: RB – Ezekiel Elliott – Ohio State
I’ve been calling Laquon Treadwell to the Giants for months now, and as bad as I want to give him to them here, Ben McAdoo decides to shore up New York’s running game with the best RB in the draft.
Elliott has risen up draft boards after running in the 4.4 range at the combine. He is a complete running back who excels in just about every department out of the backfield. A dynamic running back who will take New York’s offense to the next level, and take some of the pressure off Eli Manning.
11. Chicago Bears: OT – Jack Conklin – Michigan State
With all the activity from GM Ryan Pace in free agency where he added a lot of defensive talent, the Bears can now afford to address other needs. While a guy like Shaq Lawson looks like the popular pick for them, I know they recognize the need to keep Jay Cutler protected – a guy they wholeheartedly feel is still their franchise QB.
Even though they signed Bobby Massie to man the left tackle position, they could always move Kyle Long back to his natural guard position and put Conklin at right tackle – that would immediately upgrade their offensive line.
12. New Orleans Saints: WR – Laquon Treadwell – Ole Miss
I was going to follow the trend and give them defensive line here, but with Nick Fairley heading to New Orleans, I went BPA which happens to be the top WR in the class. The Saints’ WR corps struggled last season despite the emergence of Willie Snead, so Sean Payton adds yet another weapon for Drew Brees.
Treadwell isn’t the flashiest player, he doesn’t have breakaway speed or deep threat ability, but he is an extremely polished, well-rounded receiver who will make an instant impact, and for years to come. I really like the fit in New Orleans and he will be a Rookie of the Year candidate with Brees throwing him the rock.
13. Miami Dolphins: CB – William Jackson III – Houston (Eagles)
Since the combine, William Jackson III has skyrocketed up draft boards and in my eyes, has even surpassed a guy like Mackensie Alexander. While the Dolphins could go defensive end here to help ease the blow left behind by Olivier Vernon, their defensive line isn’t in terrible shape. Instead, they address corner which is the biggest need on the team.
The Dolphins traded for Byron Maxwell, but if his play is any resemblance of his future performance, Miami is in desperate need for another corner as Jamar Taylor isn’t a starting caliber CB either. Jackson plays a physical, intelligent game on the outside and has great speed to go along with his cover skills.
14. Oakland Raiders: DT – A’Shawn Robinson – Alabama
This was a very tough call for the Raiders. There’s a heap of defensive linemen on the board, and I was even tempted to give them a linebacker like Ragland or even Jaylon Smith. Ultimately, A’Shawn Robinson is the guy here. Oakland is clearly a team on the rise, but they still need help on defense. Every great defense tends to have an anchor up front on the offensive line, which is exactly what Robinson is.
While better suited in a 3-4 scheme, Robinson is athletic enough and skilled enough to play in Oakland’s 4-3 – a team that prefers bigger interior linemen anyway. Robinson has arguably the most potential of any defensive linemen in the draft and can take the Raiders’ defense to the next level.
15. Los Angeles Rams: QB – Paxton Lynch – Memphis
The Rams are a team I’m really not sure the route they’re going to take in the 1st round. Even though Les Snead has stated he’s content with Case Keenum as the starting QB, that’s not good enough. Even if he wants Keenum to start for the next season or so, that won’t result in wins. However, it will be great for Lynch’s progression as it will allow him to sit instead of being thrown into the fire right off the bat.
Lynch is extremely raw, but he also brings enormous upside. The biggest QB in the draft give LA their QB of the future and yet another headline as they’ll be featured on Hard Knocks this preseason.
16. Detroit Lions: OT – Taylor Decker – Ohio State
The Lions are disappointed to miss out on Jack Conklin, but they’ll be happy to ‘settle’ for Taylor Decker as the consolation prize. Decker is still a bit raw, but he brings great upside to the table. He has great length and size – he will fit right in with Detroit.
With the sudden retirement of Calvin Johnson, the Lions need to add anything they can to help Matthew Stafford succeed moving forward. They signed Marvin Jones to give him another weapon, but now they need to shore up that lackluster offensive line.
17. Atlanta Falcons: DE – Shaq Lawson – Clemson
Even with their defensive additions through free agency, Dan Quinn is committed on adding young pass rushers. Shaq Lawson is great value at this spot in the 1st round and would be a great compliment to former Clemson teammate, Vic Beasley.
Lawson made a living in the backfield this past season, leading the nation in tackles for loss. He is a big, well-rounded defensive end who can rush the passer and do a good job at setting the edge against the run.
18. Indianapolis Colts: LB – Reggie Ragland – Alabama
The Colts can go a variety of ways here. With no offensive linemen worth taking here, they can take advantage of the stacked defensive line class, add a pass rusher, go with value in Mackensie Alexander.
Bottom-line, they need help all over the defense, and a leader at that. Ragland was the heart and soul of those tough Alabama defenses the past two seasons. D’Qwell Jackson isn’t getting any younger, and Nate Irving isn’t a viable starting option. Ragland provides flexibility in the Colts’ hybrid defensive scheme.
19. Buffalo Bills: DT – Robert Nkemdiche – Ole Miss
Even though the Bills could use a WR like Corey Coleman, I think Rex Ryan is committed to adding defensive talent – like he has already stated. Nkemdiche will fall to the mid-late 1st round range due to character concerns and off the field issues. Regardless, he is still a top 5 talent in this draft and the Bills get a steal here.
Rex Ryan will have no trouble taking a risk with Nkemdiche based on the possible upside and talent level he brings. Nkemdiche has a non-stop motor and is among the best interior pass rushers in the draft. You would have liked to see more production at Ole Miss, but if you watch that tape, that won’t matter.
20. New York Jets: QB – Connor Cook – Michigan State
As more time passes, the chances of Ryan Fitzpatrick returning to the Jets looks more bleak everyday. You know the Jets don’t want to go into next season with Geno Smith as the starting QB which leads to the Connor Cook pick.
While Cook isn’t projected to go this high in the 1st round, every year we see teams reaching on QBs in hopes that they’ll be their future franchise QB, and the Jets fall victim to that this year. Probably not the popular pick that Jets fans are hoping for, but it won’t always be. Cook plays the game hard and high playing style will be respected in the Big Apple.
21. Washington Redskins: CB – Mackensie Alexander – Clemson
The Redskins could use help back in the secondary and up front on the defensive line, so they elect to go BPA here in Mackensie Alexander as he still fills a need at corner.
Alexander would bring another dynamic to Washington’s defense. He has tremendous speed and is among the best man cover corners in the draft. Still a bit raw, he has a very high ceiling.
22. Houston Texans: WR – Corey Coleman – Baylor
While they need some defensive youth, Texans brass is going to do everything in their power to make sure their investment in Brock Osweiler succeeds. Corey Coleman is good value here as the 2nd WR off the board all the way at 22.
Coleman brings another dynamic to the Texans offense. He can lineup on the outside or in the slot, stretch the field or make plays on short routes. He has blazing speed and would provide a great compliment to DeAndre Hopkins.
23. Minnesota Vikings: LB – Darron Lee – Ohio State
The Vikings decide to shore up their LB corps as they get another young linebacker to go along with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Lee would be a great compliment at the weakside linebacker position. He blew up at the combine with his great showing in the 40 yard dash.
Lee’s speed would be coveted in Minnesota’s defense. His film isn’t the best, but at the very least he can excel as a coverage linebacker while Barr serves as the pass rusher. Mike Zimmer is all about the defense, so he adds even more youth and talent to that unit.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: WR – Michael Thomas – Ohio State
After losing both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones to free agency, the Bengals are desperate for a compliment to A.J. Green. The team has already expressed interest in the in-state WR out of Ohio State.
Michael Thomas isn’t the flashiest, but he does everything right and is solid in every facet of the game.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB – Eli Apple – Ohio State
Every mock I do slates Eli Apple to Pittsburgh. The Steelers need help at the corner position with William Gay and Cortez Allen the current starters, solid players, but an upgrade is necessary.
Apple solidified his 1st round status with a great combine. He has the size, speed and upside that make him a great pick here for Pittsburgh. While still a bit raw, he demonstrates the traits necessary to succeed in man, zone and press coverage.
26. Seattle Seahawks: DT – Sheldon Rankins – Louisville
Seahawks fans rejoice as the talented interior linemen Sheldon Rankins slips all the way to 26. They are desperate for help on the offensive line, but they holdout until the 2nd round and go BPA here.
Brandon Mebane departs to play in San Diego which leaves a big hole at defensive tackle. Rankins would be a great fit in Seattle. An extremely disruptive interior linemen who would add much needed youth up front for Seattle.
27. Green Bay Packers: DL – Jarran Reed – Alabama
With B.J. Raji’s sudden retirement, that makes defensive linemen in even higher demand for the Green Bay Packers. Reed is a sound, solid linemen who would be a great fit in Green Bay’s defense.
Reed is among the best run stoppers in the draft, and his pass rushing game is still developing. A safe pick here for the Packers with an Alabama d-linemen.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: DL – Andrew Billings – Baylor
He may not be the best fit in a 3-4 scheme, but Andy Reid doesn’t care. You know Reid loves his linemen, and Billings is tremendous value this late in the 1st round.
Billings plays with a non-stop motor and has drawn comparisons to guys like Aaron Donald and Jurrell Casey due to his “bowling ball” playing style. The Chiefs fill a need here and get good value pick in the process.
29. Arizona Cardinals: LB – Leonard Floyd – Georgia
Even with their acquisition of Chandler Jones, the Cardinals could stand to add more pass rush. Floyd is still raw as a pass rushing prospect, but he’s flashes a lot of potential at Georgia. He brings tremendous length and has the speed and instincts to cover tight ends and even wide receivers – a trait that will be coveted by a team like Arizona.
30. Carolina Panthers: DE – Noah Spence – Eastern Kentucky
The runner up this season could really use an upgrade at left tackle as we saw that area exposed in the Super Bowl, but they can’t help but upgrade their pass rush. Charles Johnson is getting up there in age, so Carolina gets his eventual replacement to compliment Kony Ealy on the edge,
Noah Spence has been projected all over the first round, but he slips all the way down to Carolina’s pick. Spence may slip due to off-field concerns, but he hasn’t had any negative run-ins since his days at Ohio State. His unlimited upside makes him a great pick here for the Panthers.
31. Denver Broncos: G – Cody Whitehair – Kansas State
The Super Bowl champions get the short end of the stick in the 1st round as they see all QBs worth a 1st round pick go off the board. They did a solid job at solidifying their bookends through free agency, adding Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson, but they still need an upgrade on the interior.
Whitehair is a sturdy interior linemen who excels as both a pass blocker and run blocker. Not the sexy pick from the Super Bowl champions, but definitely a safe, necessary one.