Super Bowl 50 has come and gone. Congratulations to
Peyton Manning Von Miller and the Denver Broncos for the win. It wasn’t a pretty game, but Denver’s defense is truly one of the best this league has ever seen.
That said, we are OFFICIALLY in the offseason now, and OFFICIALLY in draft mode now! Woo hoo! Celebrate!
Let’s kick things off…
The Pick: Nothing new here. Still going with Tunsil at #1 until we hear more about who the Titans might be honing in on. It simply makes too much sense to draft one of the better LT prospects to enter the draft since Joe Thomas. Protecting Mariota from both sides of the offensive line is going to be a key to his NFL success, primarily because of how he isn’t the most durable of players to begin with. This pick also helps current LT, Taylor Lewan, move back to his more natural position of RT.
Second Option: Joey Bosa’s name isn’t the hot talk of the ball of late, but he’s still regarded as the top overall talent in this year’s draft at one of the more important positions in football, and that’s huge…especially for a nondescript team like Tennessee in need of not only help at essentially every single position on that football team, but star power as well. It’s yet to be determined if Bosa will actual become a star in the NFL, but that’s the same for any player coming out, and his odds are at least greater than anyone else in this draft class (sans Laremy Tunsil…arguably).
Dark Horse: We don’t even know how much Tennessee likes Laremy Tunsil at this point. They could easily go for the longer limbed Stanley if they like his outlook more.
The Pick: It’s not the first time the Browns have selected a hopeful franchise QB in the the draft, and it won’t be the last time. But when the opportunity knocks, you have to take that risk, no matter how many times you’ve failed at pinpointing one in the past.
While there are certainly issues with Wentz, namely his footwork, ability to go through progressions, and deep ball accuracy…the fact remains that he has all the tools you look for in a QB prospect. Most 6’6 QBs are statues in the pocket, but Wentz’s mobility and speed for his size is very rare for the position. Once coaches fix his footwork and throwing motion, he could have one of the best arms in all of football.
Second Option: There are plenty of people who think Goff is still the guy Cleveland will fall in love with despite the Cinderella whirlwind surrounding Wentz right now. I don’t think that’s going to be the case in the coming weeks, but we’re still at an early stage of the draft process here. We simply don’t know which one the Browns will have chemistry with until weeks from now.
Dark Horse: Joey Bosa’s still on the board…he’s still the best player in the draft…and he’s a local favorite in Ohio. If not the need for a QB, the stars for Bosa to go here align perfectly. So one direction the Browns could go is select Bosa here, and then aim for a QB on day 2 or 3. Someone like Connor Cook, perhaps.
The Pick: San Diego is best served using the “best available” approach. They have legitimate issues across the board. In my last mock, I had them taking OT Ronnie Stanley to protect Rivers during his final years and to help get Melvin Gordon going by giving him more room to wiggle, but it’ll be hard passing on Bosa if he’s still on the board here. Truly a scenario where they need to swing for the fences.
Second Option: Ronnie Stanley would still be a great pick here. The offensive line is a complete mess, and it just so happens to be a mess that’s responsible for protecting the few assets in San Diego that actually ARE a positive for them.
Dark Horse: Rivers’ future with the team is all but secure. There have been rumblings they may look to move on from him and start fresh. If that’s the case, drafting the local Cali kid isn’t a bad route to go here.
The Pick: While I’m not in the same camp as everyone who thinks the Cowboys will take a QB here, I’m in the camp that thinks this pick is one likely to be traded down. The most likely target in a trade up this high would be for a QB…and the best on the board is Goff now that Wentz is gone.
That said, there is a distinct possibility the Cowboys will go QB here themselves. Romo’s aging body seems to be revolting against him, and there’ll be no more Manziel reunion in Texas now that he’s all but ended his career after “allegedly” beating his girlfriend (among a plethora of other issues that would’ve kept teams from signing him).
Second Option: Dallas would certainly be taking advantage of their unique position of having a high pick by taking a future franchise QB here…but there’s always the flip side of the coin. They could also take advantage of the high pick by bringing in a talented player who could immediately help their push for a Super Bowl while Romo is still able to crawl out onto the field. That very well could be Jalen Ramsey. The uber athletic Ramsey could be the perfect addition to last year’s first round pack, Byron Jones, in the secondary.
Dark Horse: I had Treadwell going here in my last mock draft, and while that’s not as much of a possibility at this point, I still think it could happen…or at the very least, Dallas should strongly consider it. Outside of Dez Bryant, this team simply doesn’t have many toys for Romo to play with. Terrence Williams is an average #2 receiver at best. Putting Treadwell across the filed from Dez will give Dallas two receivers capable of 2,800 yards and 16 TDs between them. That’s how ready I think Treadwell is to play in the NFL, and how dynamic I think that duo could be together.
The Pick: The Jaguars have avoided addressing their secondary for far enough. It’s time to get them the type of ballhawks who work perfectly in Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme, ala when his defense was at its best in Seattle with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor roaming the field. Ramsey has a ways to go before he can be put on the pedestal as those two, but his upside is also greater than either of them if he pans out. When he puts on the burners, he gets to top end speed in the blink of an eye. His greatest assist is his ability to make up yardage with that acceleration and gazelle like running ability. Also should be noted that he was a star track and fielder in college, namely the broad jumper. I’m curious to see if he can match, or exceed, Byron Jones’ ridiculous broad jump a year ago at the Combine.
Second Option: Yes, defending the pass is Jacksonville’s greatest need…but the versatile, superiorly athletic Myles Jack actually helps that need as a Will Linebacker who’s apt in press coverage and can keep up with WRs in the open field.
Dark Horse: Luke Joeckel just isn’t cutting it at LT. If they Jaguars want to focus on the side of the ball that’s already successful and taking the league by storm, they could draft Stanley to give Bortles so much needed blindside protection.
The Pick: This is a very intriguing pick. Baltimore doesn’t have as many needs as a team like San Diego, but they’re also a team that could literally pick for help at about any position (sans QB). Their once dominant defense has slowed down in recent years due to retirement and nagging injuries for their elderly folk. Perhaps the biggest hit over the years has been to their secondary, so drafting Hargreaves here makes a lot of sense to give Jimmy Smith some much needed help in the secondary.
Second Option: Eugene Monroe has been a bust at LT. Should they choose to cut ties, they’ll need a replacement at LT.
Dark Horse: Last year’s first rounder, Breshad Perriman, has yet to play a game in the NFL. One might think they’ll avoid going WR early in anticipation of Perriman making his entrance, but I wouldn’t put it past them to also nab Treadwell and head into the 2016 season with two fresh targets for Joe Flacco.
The Pick: With both Wentz and Goff off the board, conventional wisdom would suggest that newly minted head coach Chip Kelly tabs the next best QB available here…aka Paxton Lynch. Not so sure that’ll be the case, though. Forget about Kaepernick. We’re not even going to talk about that guy. His days in the S of F (?) are over. There’s actually a legitimate chance Chip will try to get away with using Blaine Gabbert for as long as he can. Gabbert’s make-up and style of play could actually be quite useable in a Chip Kelly offense. A bandaid situation, if you will…especially when one of the best players at Oregon is sitting on the board waiting to be taken. He may not have control over personnel anymore, but you’re kidding yourself if you think Chip doesn’t ultimately have the biggest say over this pick here. Also worth noting, this would pair Buckner with former Oregon teammate Arik Amsted on the other end of the line. So I mean…come on. IT’S CHIP KELLY. Oregon. OREGON!
Second Option: Chip loves to run the ball, and to do that, they’ll need some help on the O-Line.
Dark Horse: Going back to Chip loving to run the ball…I could easily see him going for Ezekiel Elliot here. Not that Carlos Hyde is a slouch, but when it was finally his turn to shine this past season after Frank Gore left for Indy, he failed to make an impression other than an impressive Week 1 game versus the Minnesota Vikings. Mostly due to injuries, granted, but he was a huge disappointment non the less.
The Pick: Miami’s LB unit is a train wreck. They’ve invested quite a bit on their D-Line (and will continue to do so this offseason by attempting to re-sign Olivier Vernon), and now’s the time to try and either fix their LB corps, or their secondary. It’ll be tempting for them to go offense with new head coach Adam Gase running the show, but they’d be wise to stay the course on setting their defense straight. Myles Jack would be a big step in the right direction. The uber athletic freak will fly all over the field and make plays for whoever drafts him. Hey may not have the smarts you’d want from a LB (yet), and some say he needed more time at UCLA to put together a better resume, but you can’t teach his physical attributes and ability to shadow receivers when called upon to do so. He could be one of the league’s best Will (cover) LBs from day one from sheer ability and instinct alone.
Second Option: Like I mentioned, Adam Gase is in charge now…and he’s the type of offensive genius who will likely be in new GM Chris Grier’s ear to grab Stanley if he falls this far.
Dark Horse: Lamar Miller is a free agent heading into the offseason, and despite revamping the coaching staff, a fresh start will probably be best for him after being underutilized in Miami. This could leave the door open for Elliot.
The Pick: An ideal scenario for Tampa Bay if I’ve ever seen one. If Stanley falls to #9, there’s a 99% chance they run up to the podium themselves and scream the pick into the microphone. Protecting Jameis Winston is key moving forward, and they simply can’t afford to not take advantage of a situation where an elite OT prospect falls to them.
Second Option: Noah Spence skyrocketed up draft boards after his stellar Senior Bowl week. For a team looking to add players who can rush the QB, Noah could be a great fit.
Dark Horse: If Stanley doesn’t fall to this pick, I wouldn’t put it past them to reach for Conklin to ensure Winston has more protection going forward.
The Pick: Drafting a defensive player would be easy, as NY has a lot of needs on that side of the ball. But they have a real opportunity here to make their great offense even greater with a running back like Ezekiel Elliot. Personally, I don’t know why we’re not talking about Elliot like he’s a sure thing to go in the first top 12 picks. He’s everything you want in a 4 down back. Running, pass catching, pass protection…he’s a swiss army knife who’s going to plow over people. Add that to a team sport’n Odell Beckham Jr.? Yes, please. Rashad Jennings is a decent RB, but he’s not making anyone blush. Elliot would be an ideal improvement.
Second Option: Piggybacking off the thought of making their offense great, they could use a better receiver across the line from Beckham. Treadwell would be a fantastic second target for Eli Manning.
Dark Horse: If the Giants really want to make waves, they’ll go for a player who was once thought to be a top 3 pick before tearing up his knee in his Bowl game. There are reports that Smith will actually be ready to play in 2016 from week 1. While I think that’s far too optimistic at this point, the thought of him even playing in 2016 will likely ensure a team in this range of the draft taking a shot at him as long as their confident it won’t be a long term, lingering issue after teams dive into his medical report.
11) Bears — Laquon Treadwell (WR / Ole Miss)
- Much like Baltimore, Chicago could head into 2016 with 2 rookie WRs.
12) Saints — Noah Spence (DE / Eastern Kentucky)
- With Sean Payton still in NO, I think they won’t hit reset on this team quite yet and look to add the best available help on defense instead of drafting Brees’ eventual replacement.
13) Eagles — Paxton Lynch (QB / Memphis)
- Ironic that they’d finally find their potential franchise QB now that Chip Kelly is gone.
14) Raiders — Sheldon Rankins (DL / Louisville)
- Sheldon Rankins is making a name for himself much like Aaron Donald did a few years ago at the Senior Bowl when he began to catapult up draft boards. A team like Oakland who’s added some very nice pieces on the edge over the past couple of years could use his explosion up the middle.
15) Rams — Jaylon Smith (LB / Notre Dame)
- The Rams risked their pick last year on an elite player who blew out his knee late in the year (Todd Gurley), so I see know reason why they wouldn’t do the same again after having a lot of success with it.
16) Lions — Vernon Butler (DT / Louisiana Tech)
- There have been rumblings that Detroit absolutely loves Butler. They were probably hoping he’d fall to round 2, but that’s not happening at this point.
17) Falcons — Eli Apple (CB / Ohio St.)
- Much like Jaguars’ head coach Gus Bradley will look to emulate his former secondary from his days in Seattle, Dan Quinn will likely look to do the same in Atlanta.
18) Colts — Jack Conklin (OT / Michigan St.)
- The Colts saw a reality where Andrew Luck was hurt, and it was worse than they could ever have imagined. Well, until Matt Hasselbeck took over and almost got them into the playoffs somehow…but that’s besides the point. Look for Indy to booster their protection for Luck.
19) Bills — A’Shawn Robinson (DL / Alabama)
- Mario Williams is as good as gone after a disastrous year from what is otherwise an outstanding defensive line in Buffalo. Robinson could help bring it back to its proper glory.
20) Jets— Reggie Ragland (ILB / Alabama)
- The Jets are in need of LBs, big time. The cupboard doesn’t even have crumbs in it. Look for them to snatch up Ragland if he falls this low.
21) R Words— Mackensie Alexander (CB / Clemson)
- If Conklin were still on the board, I could see a case for selecting him, but fixing up that weak secondary will be a big priority this offseason in Washington.
22) Texans — Christian Hackenberg (QB / Penn St.)
- If a team loves a QB enough, they simply have to bite the bullet and go for it. And I truly do believe Bill O’Brien loves his former star pupil from Penn St. Enough so not to risk losing out on him in round 2.
- The Vikings have bigger needs, but they could look to bolster the offensive line if a prospect like Nkemdiche falls to them. You can never have too much depth on the defensive line, especially for a head coach like Mike Zimmer who take pride in shutting down the run…which was actually a struggle for Minnesota this past season.
24) Bengals — Andrew Billings (DT / Baylor)
- Geno Atkins could use someone better than Peko next to him to help take some pressure off. Billings fits the bill (accidental puns are the best).
25) Steelers — Kendall Fuller (CB / Virginia Tech)
- After having his name throw around as a top 15 draft pick, Kendall Fuller tore his knee earlier in the season…but his stock has fallen more than other players who hurt themselves later on in the year. I think he’ll get his name back on track as the draft approaches. His abilities for the position are greater than his brother, who currently plays for the Chicago Bears and was a round 1 draft pick.
26) Seahawks — Taylor Decker (OT / Ohio St.)
- Russell Wilson may be at his best when running for his life, but the game plan shouldn’t be to run for his life. Finding him protection is a must.
27) Packers — Josh Doctson (WR / TCU)
- Somehow the Packers ranked near the bottom of the league in passing yards this past season. That’s hard to do when Aaron Rodgers is your QB. Time to finally draft a WR in round 1, GB.
28) Chiefs — Shaq Lawson (DE / Clemson)
- Standout pass rusher at Clemson would be a steal for KC here.
Patriots — Forfeits Pick
29) Cardinals — Kevin Dodd (DE / Clemson)
- Back to back Clemson picks. Dodd isn’t as refined as Lawson, but people are projecting bigs things for him in the NFL.
30) Panthers — Leonard Floyd (OLB / Georgia)
- Pass rusher from Georgia to help spell Thomas Davis during his twilight years.
31) Broncos — Jarran Reed (DT / Alabama)
- Congrats to the Super Bowl Champs. Here’s a nice run stopping plug in the middle for you…as if you needed to get any better on defense…
Next off the board:
Braxton Miller (WR / Ohio St.)
Cody Whitehair (OG / Kansas St.)
Corey Colemon (WR / Baylor)
Jason Spriggs (OT / Indiana)
Will Fuller (WR / Notre Dame)
Michael Thomas (WR / Ohio St.)
Darron Lee (OLB / Ohio St.)
Su’a Cravens (SS/OLB / USC)
Emmanuel Ogbah (DE / Oklahoma St.)