The NFL Draft is right around the corner. Even before the weekend’s big event, there’s been several trades that have shaken up the first round.
For now, all eyes are on the Chargers as the first two selections will be Jared Goff and Casron Wentz. San Diego’s pick will likely dictate how the top ten plays out.
While there’s been some headline trades already, don’t think teams are done dealing just yet. The Titans could possibly move up for a tackle and if Ezekiel Elliot slides out of the first round, a few teams might be working the phones in order to grab him.
For this exercise, however, there won’t be any trades mocked. Here’s how I expect the first round to play out. —
1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
The Rams made the move to Los Angeles and then moved up in the draft for the face of their franchise. Goff seems like the better fit and could be a very good player in the NFL. LA has a strong defense, a young rushing star in Todd Gurley and the team has drafted eight offensive lineman the last two seasons. Now all they need is a quarterback.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
The Eagles shelled out money to Sam Bradford and Chase Daniels in the off-season, but they’re not done investing at the quarterback position. They shocked the NFL community moving up to the no.2 spot, but they hope their risk pays off and Wentz is their future QB. He’ll need some time to develop, but he has a lot of tools to succeed at the next level.
3. San Diego Chargers: Deforest Buckner, DL, Oregon
A pivot point in this draft. San Diego could go Laremy Tunsil or Jalen Ramsey, but they need help up front on defense too. Buckner is a physical specimen that can help solve their problems defending the run and creating penetration in the middle.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, CB, FSU
Jerry Jones is as unpredictable as they come. Ezekiel Elliot would make some sense or even Buckeye teammate Joey Bosa, but cornerback is a more pressing need and Ramsey is a talented defensive back that can make an immediate impact.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
There’s no question Myles Jack has immense talent, but the questions surrounding his knee has some wondering if he will slide out of the top 10. If he falls, the Giants might be waiting five spots later, but if the Jaguars medical staff feels good about his pre-draft examinations, they could be getting a dynamic defensive athlete.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens faithful would be doing backflips in this scenario. Tunsil is an incredible talent and fills a massive need. Left tackle Eugene Monroe is getting up there in age and Baltimore could steal their left tackle of the future.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Chip Kelly has taken over the 49ers and there’s a lot of work to do. San Francisco could go in a number of directions, but it never hurts to upgrade an aging offensive line. Stanley is highly thought of by scouts and draft analysts.
8. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, OSU
This was the first pick I struggled to make in this process. I believe the Browns could move down and collect more picks, because after all, they have a lot of holes. But taking a talented playmaker and hometown kid beloved by Ohio fans is a good way to keep the dog pound cheering as this long rebuild is underway.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joey Bosa, DE, OSU
The Bucs would love if Bosa falls to them at no.9. Once thought of to be the top overall selection in this draft, Tampa Bay would get a strong pass rusher to help their defense. Tackle is also a need, but unless Tunsil or Stanley are available, it would be hard to pass on Bosa.
10. New York Giants: Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia
The Giants need help on defense and would be a great fit for Floyd. His athleticism and upside make him an exciting prospect. New York needs linebacker help and this Georgia product could be a star down the road. If Jack or Elliot fall, they could land here too.
11. Chicago Bears: Shaq Lawson, DE/OLB, Clemson
It’s been awhile since Chicago had a stout defense. Lawson won’t flip their unit overnight, but he would be a tremendous boost upfront and take some pressure off the secondary.
12. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
The Saints need help on defense. No team in the history of the NFL has given up as many passing touchdowns as New Orleans did last season. Throwing salt on the wound, they couldn’t stop the run either. Allowing 4.9 yards-per-carry to opposing running backs. Rankins is a beast that can play in a 4-3 or 3-4 system. They can build from the inside out and get more help at LB or CB in the next few rounds.
13. Miami Dolphins: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
The Dolphins secondary was awful last year and they need a lot of help. Sorry fans, trading for Byron Maxwell doesn’t cut it. But Miami gets a terrific player in Hargreaves. He’s an instinctual player with long arms and good ball skills. Plug him in and you’ve upgraded.
14. Oakland Raiders: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
I would have loved to put Ezekiel Elliot in this spot, but unless Oakland moves up there’s no way he’s still around. Cornerback and defensive lineman were positions I considered, but Ragland is too good to pass up. The Raiders get a QB of their defense and the Black Hole faithful will love his style.
15. Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Protecting Marcus Mariota is priority one. Conklin isn’t an NFL ready pass protector, but he brings a nasty mean streak to the field that would help in the run game from day one. Don’t forget, Tennessee traded for Demarco Murray this off-season too. General Manger Jon Robinson has a lot of work to do, but this would be a good pick for them.
16. Detroit Lions: Taylor Decker, OT, OSU
Matthew Stafford would love to have another weapon to replace Calvin Johnson, but he also needs help up front. Detroit can’t let their star QB continue to take a beating week in and week out. Defensive line could be a possibility depending on who’s available on Thursday night.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, LB, OSU
Dan Quinn wants to transform his defense and desperately needs a run around linebacker. Lee brings speed, versatility and athleticism to Atlanta as they rebuild on the defensive side.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Jarren Reed, DT, Alabama
The Colts would love to get Tunsil, Stanley, Conklin or Decker, but they are all off the board. Indy could move up, because protecting Andrew Luck has to be at the forefront of Ryan Grigson’s draft plans. In this scenario, though, the Colts go to their second biggest need along the defensive line. Reed would come in and start from day one.
19. Buffalo Bills: Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Mississippi
The first big draft curveball comes from no other than Rex Ryan. This is a pick that’s been talked about by too many draft analysts and insiders with knowledge of the situation. Where there’s smoke there’s fire and Nkemdiche is a terrific talent. Whether he can put it all together is up to him, but this is a good fit for both sides.
20. New York Jets: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Some believe the Jets could go QB here, but would New York reach for Memphis QB Paxton Lynch? With the players in that locker room lobbying for Ryan Fitzpatrick’s return along with Bryce Petty already on the roster, the Jets go to the defensive side. Jackson is a rising prospect with a lot of talent. He would could learn a lot from Darrelle Revis and develop into a great player in the NFL.
21. Washington Redskins: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
If you’ve never watched Karl Joseph’s highlights on YouTube, it’s worth your time. He’s a hard hitting, physical, athlete that plays with a reckless abandonment. His frame is on the smaller side, which concerns some teams. Washington’s secondary would be much improved adding Joseph and the recently signed Josh Norman.
22. Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
The consensus pegs wide receiver as the biggest need for Houston and they’re in luck, because no one has selected one to this point. you could make a case for several different players here, but Coleman makes the most sense. DeAndre Hopkins needs a sidekick, so why not add a speed burner like Coleman for new QB Brock Osweiler’s big arm. Bill O’Briens offense will see a dramatic improvement after this off-season.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
Much like the Texans, Minnesota needs help at wide receiver too. The Vikings stole Stefon Diggs in the fifth-round last year, so adding another weapon for Teddy Bridgewater and their 31st ranked passing offense is important. Treadwell would provide an Anquan Boldin-type security blanket for their young QB.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
The run on receiver continues. The Bengals still have AJ Green, but lost Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu to free agency. Doctson can play inside or outside and tracks the ball well downfield. Andy Dalton wouldn’t complain about adding another offensive weapon.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, OSU
The Steelers need help on defense, particularly in the secondary. I believe they’ll take the best cornerback on their draft board. Apple has a lot of talent and great size for the position. Mackensie Alexander is a possibility or Karl Joseph if the Redskins pass.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
The Seahawks offensive line is a total disaster. Russell Wilson needs to be protected and this is clearly the biggest hole that needs to be filled. Offensive tackle could be addressed in the second round, but Seattle would get a terrific player in Kelly that has Pro Bowl potential. One of the safest picks in this draft class.
One potential trade scenario would be sending this selection to Cleveland for All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas. Browns continue to get draft assets, Seattle improves their line and Wilson’s blindside. Win-win.
27. Green Bay Packers: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
The Packers would love for Ragland to slide this far, but it’s not going to happen. Linebacker is still a big need, but it would be hard for Ted Thompson to pass on a player like Robinson. The Alabama product is violent, powerful and has a ton of upside.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Kansas City could add a receiver, but with Treadwell, Coleman and Doctson off the board, they turn to fill the need left by Sean Smith and give promising CB Marcus Peters a partner in the secondary. Alexander isn’t the best athlete, but his instincts are terrific.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Only a matter of time before a team falls in love with Lynch. Arizona would be a great spot for him to land. He sits back and becomes the heir to Carson Palmer, allowing Bruce Arians — who loves tall, big armed quarterbacks — to develop him. Despite trading for Chandler Jones, defensive end could be the pick here too.
30. Carolina Panthers: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Most expect a cornerback here, especially after Josh Norman’s unexpected exit, but I believe Carolina will be looking to add another pass rusher. Some believe Dodd is even better than his Tigers running mate Lawson and could help take pressure off their secondary.
31. Denver Broncos: Deion Jones, LB, LSU
The defending champs could go in several directions. I considered Ohio State safety Vonn Bell here too, but that’s a little bit of a reach in my opinion. Deion Jones is a new-age linebacker that has blazing speed and unique coverage skills. With Danny Tevathon now in Chicago, John Elway could help fill that void.
** The New England Patriots forfeited their first-round draft selection as part of the deflategate punishment.
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