Friday, March 4, 2016

On The Clock 3.4.16: NFL Mock Draft 1.0: On Our Way To Chicago

By Alex Hale, @DaSportsGenius7

Now that the NFL Scouting Combine has wrapped up, it's time for me to finally put together my highly anticipated NFL Mock Draft.  Now this year I'm going to attempt 3, this Mock Draft is more of a rough draft to go on before Free Agency will probably change everything you see here.  One thing to note for first time readers of my mock can get a bit crazy.  Trades always happen in Mock Drafts just to spice things up.  I won't make trades with teams that have no interest in trading or it wouldn't make sense to move up.  So from Chicago, Illinois fans get ready to your seat beats folks, the NFL Draft is now open, the Tennessee Titans have the first pick and are now on the clock.

1. Tennessee Titans- OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
This pick is a foregone conclusion for the Titans.  Laremy Tunsil didn't just solidify himself as the top O-Lineman in this class, but he blew scouts away at the combine.  The Titans could go with Jalen Ramsey here as well, but the Titans know they must protect Marcus Mariota moving forward.  Moving Taylor Lewan to RT isn't a bad idea and honestly could drastically improve the O-Line with Tunsil starting right away at LT.  Tunsil shows all the skills at the position and more importantly he has the athletism to back it up.  Tunsil reminds me a bit of Trent Williams of Washington and Tyron Smith of the Cowboys.  If Tunsil can live up to that, he'll more than easily live up to the title of #1 overall pick.

2. Cleveland Browns- QB Jared Goff, California
The Browns have honestly 4 options sitting at #2.  Two options involve drafting a QB, one option is draft the best player available, the last one is trade out of #2 and get more picks.  The Browns seem to be doing the opposite of everything previous regimes have done.  That would mean the Browns won't trade down.  That leaves the best player available or drafting a QB.  Hue Jackson and Sashi Brown seem to be very insistent in their belief, find the QB.  So now we're down to Goff vs. Wentz.  The Browns by their history normally go with the upside guy who they can develop.  That would mean the Browns go with the more polished QB who has some upside.  That means Goff is the pick.  Reminder to all the "experts", Andy Dalton, the QB Hue Jackson helped develop last year, doesn't have a big arm, has 9 1/2'' hands, but he makes all the throws and is accurate.  Translation, Hue Jackson can succeed with Jared Goff and probably would prefer Goff over Wentz.  People point to the analytics favoring Wentz, but what they don't say is this is HUE JACKSON'S PICK.  Hue will live and die by his guy and won't allow Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta to force a QB he isn't as fond of.  I'm going against the almost unanimous belief, but the facts show Goff can thrive under Hue and that's who I think Hue will take.

3. San Diego Chargers- OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
Sort of a semi-shocker here.  The Chargers can go multiple routes here, trading down might be one of them, but I suspect the price tag will be too high for teams.  If that's the case, I suspect the Chargers might spend a lot of time scouting the Offensive Tackles outside of Laremy Tunsil.  Ronnie Stanley would be a good fit here, unlike Taylor Decker and Jake Conklin, Stanley can fit over at LT.  While Stanley would be a reach, he's not a huge reach as if he had come out in 2015, there was suspicion he might've gone in the Top 5.  Stanley did nothing at Notre Dame to scare scouts away.  With the Chargers obvious problems from last year on the O-Line, getting Stanley would give them a young lineman who they can build the line around for the next decade.

4. Dallas Cowboys- RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
Our first jaw dropping pick of the night.  Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys after a tragic turn of events that doomed the Cowboys 2015 hopes now own the #4 pick.  After losing DeMarco Murray to the Eagles, the Cowboys ran out Christine Michael, Joesph Randle, and ended up with Darren McFadden at RB to end the year.  As effective as McFadden was, a lot can be contributed to the amazing O-Line they've assembled.  Put one of the more talented college RBs the past decade in the backfield, imagine what Zeke Elliott could do there?  I'll make a bold prediction, if Zeke Elliott goes to Dallas, Zeke will run for 2,000 yards in his ROOKIE YEAR.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (from Jacksonville)- CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida St.- TRADE: Jacksonville trades 5th overall pick to Philadelphia for 13th overall pick, 2016 2nd and 5th, 2017 1st and 4th Round picks

The Eagles really need a better secondary and with the Ravens at #6 staring down taking Ramsey, the Eagles make an offer to Jacksonville they can't refuse to take arguably the best player in the 2016 NFL Draft Class.  The Eagles could look at a few other positions if it were to stay put, but they cannot rely on Byron Maxwell.  Ramsey could play either safety or cornerback, but I see a lot of Patrick Peterson in him.  With the size/speed ratio and the pure skills he offers, he's as sure of a CB prospect you're going to find at the top of any draft.  This is well worth the trade for an Eagles secondary that was horrific last year.

6. Baltimore Ravens- DE/OLB Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Browns fans everywhere shake their heads in disbelief as Ozzie Newsome strikes again landing Bosa.  For Bosa, this is a perfect and yet ironic situation.  Bosa will go from working with Urban Meyer to working with a last name that is infamous with OSU fans.  Thing is John Harbaugh is the type of coach that will find Bosa's chip on his shoulder for slipping in the Pre-Draft process and will turn him into what people think he can be.  Although the Ravens run a 3-4, the Ravens pass rushers don't necessarily rely on pure athletic ability, they instead rely on pass rushing ability.  Bosa offers the best pass rushing skills in this class and to add with his size, the Ravens found an upgrade to losing Paul Kruger to the Browns a few years ago.  Plus Bosa would learn from Terrell Suggs...RUH ROH!

7. Buffalo Bills- QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota St- TRADE: San Francisco trades 7th overall pick to Buffalo in exchange for 19th overall pick, Buffalo 2016 2nd and 4th, 2017 1st Round picks

The entire city of Chicago is stunned when Rex Ryan and the Bills move all the way up from 19 to grab Carson Wentz.  First off I'm going to buy into the rumors of the 49ers and Connor Cook, so I could see the 49ers go into, "pick acquisition" mode.  The Bills are in need of a QB of the future as although Tyrod Taylor showed promise last year, he isn't the most durable QB.  Wentz has the size, arm, and athletic ability that the Bills have lacked at the QB position.  This is a perfect landing spot for Wentz as the Bills don't have to hand the keys over to Wentz in year one.  Wentz can come in and learn for a year and the Bills can either trade Tyrod Taylor or let him walk when he's a Free Agent.  I can totally see a dynamic combination in 2-3 yeas of Wentz throwing deep to Sammy Watkins.  That possibility if it comes to fruition could scare Patriots fans and the rest of the AFC East.

8. Miami Dolphins- CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
With Brett Grimes slowly on the decline, the Dolphins need to start looking for other options in the secondary moving forward.  A few months ago Hargreaves was my #1 CB on the board, that is until I started watching Jalen Ramsey.  That isn't a knock on Hargreaves, it's more of a compliment to Ramsey.  Hargreaves reminds a lot of people of another former Gator, Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden.  Both are around the same size and actually the same athletic skils.  But most importantly Hargreaves like Haden has a big competitive spirit that will serve him well at the next level.  He won't be scared by bigger receivers, he'll take it as a challenge and learning from someone similar in Grimes already in Miami will be a big benefit in his development.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- DE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
At this point, regardless of what anyone may speculate, if Noah Spence fell to #9, I just don't see him getting past here.  Spence not only showed at the Senior Bowl he's one of the best pass rushers in this class, but at the combine he solidified it.  Spence needs to go to a place that runs either a 3-4 or like Tampa Bay which Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith has hinted at where Tampa will have mostly 4-3 elements, but will run a 3-4 as well.  This would mean that the Buccaneers probably will want more of the edge rusher, which is what Spence is.  I honestly believe Spence is best served falling to a Chicago with Vic Fangio and their 3-4 defense to really make an immediate impact, but time will tell.

10. New York Giants- DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
I could see Buckner going even higher, but the picks before New York aren't necessarily the greatest fits for Buckner.  The Giants would be a great fit for Buckner moving forward.  Buckner offers rare size at 6'7'' 291, which in my eyes reminds me on paper of former Oregon teammate Arik Armstead.  Buckner showed in college he's more of a hand on ground pass rusher than a stand up pass rusher, which fits the Giants scheme.  With the uncertain future of Jason Pierre Paul along with lack of success from the Giants line, the Giants need to focus on getting back to what set them apart, a great D-Line that pressured the QB consistently.  Buckner will offer that skill right away and probably could play DE or even move into DT from time to time to cause potential mismatches.  This would be a dream scenario for Giants, and one I can see happening.

11. Chicago Bears- MLB Darron Lee, Ohio State
The Bears are lacking a ILB presence in Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense.  During the combine, Darron Lee shocked a lot of scouts with his pure athletic ability, drawing comparisons to Steelers LB Ryan Shazier.  While those might be well warranted, this is still a bit high for Lee.  I do believe at the same time the Bears fit very well for Lee and its a place where he can thrive.  Lee would more than likely be the Bears secret weapon that can stop the running game or even when needed, rush the passer.  In the NFC North that kind of a linebacker comes in handy against Teddy Bridgewater/Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

12. New Orleans Saints- CB Eli Apple, Ohio State
Our first shocker of the night.  The Saints have a horrific secondary and need desperate help and will make a desperate reach at 12.  Eli Apple might've been one of the biggest winners of the Combine, showing not only the athletic skills are for real, but he has the ability to do all the technical things that are required at the CB position.  With the raw talent and potential that Apple possesses, someone is bound to reach and why not the one team that desperately needs secondary help?

13. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Philadelphia)- DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson
After trading down from #5 and getting a kings ransom for it, the Jaguars add another pass rusher that will go opposite of Dante Fowler Jr., their #1 pick last year.  While Fowler is coming off ACL injury and missing last year, Lawson is a great guy to have opposite in Gus Bradley's 4-3 scheme.  Lawson obviously has shown the athletic ability, but more importantly on film has shown power in his pass rushing technique that even impressed me.  That could really help him going forward in a 4-3 with his size.  If the Jaguars play this right, Lawson and Fowler could create havoc for offenses for the next 5-10 years.

14. Oakland Raiders- DE/OLB Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
After going through the Aldon Smith experiment ending in Smith getting suspended for a year thanks to violating the drug policy again, the Raiders could be looking in the draft someone to go opposite the emerging superstar that is Khalil Mack.  Enter Ogbah who stunned people at the combine.  Having the fastest 40 time at 4.63, the best vertical at 35.5'' and best broad jump at 121'' stunned critics who didn't see his explosiveness.  Most had Ogbah, who is 6'4'' 273 as a 4-3 DE, this now opens the door for teams to really start viewing him potentially as a 3-4 OLB.  The Raiders need another explosive pass rusher opposite Mack next year and I don't expect them to pay one in Free Agency.  Ogbah makes sense for them and better yet, with teams focused on Mack, Ogbah might surprise people in year one if the Raiders use him right.

15. Los Angeles Rams- QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
No doubt the Rams absolutely need a QB as Nick Foles declined after being traded from Philly.  The Rams have playmakers on offense, but nobody to facilitate it.  Lynch is the intriguing QB in this class for his size and arm strength.  He will need some polish when he gets into the NFL, but he has the main tools needed to succeed in the NFL.  My biggest knock on Lynch is under the big lights in games that mattered in college, Lynch never stepped up to the challenge.  He's not only going to have to do that in the NFL, but he'll have to do that in one of the biggest markets in the NFL.  Jeff Fisher will have a major project in his hands if he's to finally get past that .500 threshold that he's known to never get past on the Rams.

16. Detroit Lions- WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State
This pick is the wild card of the draft, with Calvin Johnson pulling a Barry Sanders, leaving in his prime, the Lions are backed into an area they didn't expect to be.  The Lions really need help in their front 7, but now that Megatron has left town, there's now a glaring hole at WR.  Michael Thomas was by far my biggest winner of all the WRs at the combine.  He showed he's going to be a big physical receiver at the NFL level, giving me the feeling I might be watching the next Brandon Marshall here.  Golden Tate is a small speedy receiver who can make plays, but Matthew Stafford needs a big physical receiver.  They could go with Treadwell here, but Treadwell didn't run the 40 at the combine which sort of sets him back on my board.  Expect this pick could change by Mock Draft 2.0.

17. Atlanta Falcons- OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State
The Falcons are in an odd spot like Detroit, where you can't predict the pick.  But I think they do need to address the O-Line as Jake Matthews hasn't developed as hoped.  At this point the top two Tackles are off the board and the Falcons might have to reach, but with a lot of pieces on this team already in place, they can afford it for a guy who is high character and has the frame to project as a starting tackle in the NFL.  Decker was quite possibly the heart and soul of the Ohio State line that helped pave the way for Zeke Elliott to thrive at OSU.  Decker didn't really stand out at the combine, but was solid.  The biggest strength he has is he's a tough, technically sound OT.  While right now he's probably best suited at RT, if they can put him in the right strength and conditioning program, Decker could eventually move over and thrive on the left side.

18. Indianapolis Colts- OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
The Colts lets all face it have a terrible defense that really lacks any young pass rushers.  Floyd is a name that is flying up draft boards after a strong combine.  Floyd is probably this year's big, lengthy, athletic linebacker that people are intrigued by.  At 6'6'' 244, he is more than ideal to play in Chuck Pagano's 3-4 scheme and under the right training program could really emerge as that young star pass rusher they desperately lack.  The big knock on Floyd is that he's very skinny.  He needs to add more bulk to hold up at that position or else he could end up like Barkevious Mingo and other failed pass rushing prospects.

19. San Francisco 49ers (from Buffalo)- OLB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
Fans might get upset over the 49ers trading down, but if the 49ers could get that price tag for #7 and land Smith, Chip Kelly and Trent Balke could be on their way to turning around a franchise that completely collapsed after they fired Jim Harbaugh.  The 49ers will probably have to wait a year until they can see what they got in Smith, but if I'm the 49ers and I trust Chip Kelly, I stay patient with him and allow him to take a guy they may not see for a year.  The 49ers would be buying talent over durability concerns.  It's a risk worth taking if I'm them.

20. New York Jets- RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
You just don't know with the New York Jets what they're up to.  The Jets head into the offseason with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory now entering Free Agency, so the Jets have a glaring hole at the RB position.  Henry shocked me with his 40 time and was solid everywhere in the combine.  Henry solidified himself as a potential late 1st Round pick.  The Jets saw what an effective running back does for their team and will most definitely try to take one of the top RBs if they can't sign one in Free Agency.  Henry has rare size/speed combination you don't see in RBs anymore.  I fear with Henry he may turn out to be another Trent Richardson, who sometimes misses the openings right in front of him.  He needs to rely on his vision moving forward over trusting his big size and power will always prevail.

21. Washington Redskins- CB Mackenzie Alexander, Clemson
Alexander might've been the most entertaining interview of the Combine, one thing showed in it, the kid doesn't lack confidence.  Alexander claimed that he was the best cornerback in this class and teams would regret not drafting him.  I gotta admit he may sound a bit cocky with that be he's prepared to back up those statements.  Other than Chris Culliver and DeAngelo Hall, the Redskins really don't have much of anyone that has the raw ability at CB.  While Alexander may be small, I fully expect his confidence and enthusiasm will energize the team that drafts him.  On top of that, Alexander might need a year to get used to the NFL lifestyle and having a DeAngelo Hall teach him will only benefit him going forward.

22. Houston Texans- QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
This one will shock people, but it wouldn't shock me in the slightest.  The Texans do need a Quarterback and for Christian Hackenberg's sake he's praying his former Penn State coach Bill O'Brien will take him in one of the first two rounds or else he might really slip in this draft.  Hackenberg had a great Freshman year under O'Brien and his pro style offense, but under James Franklin and his more spread offense and a weak O-Line, Hackenberg expectedly declined.  The past few years should be overlooked as long as the team that drafts him runs a pro style offense.  The Texans make sense and I expect Hackenberg under the right coaching will thrive in the NFL.

23. Minnesota Vikings- WR LaQuon Treadwell, Ole Miss
The Vikings may have struck gold yet again in the draft, getting another top talent because of the Pre Draft process knocking down players because of failures in certain drills.  Treadwell is tall and more importantly knows how to go up and fight for the ball.  Treadwell's speed is a bit of a concern but  in the AFC North, playing in Green Bay and Chicago potentially in the cold, what matters more is the way a receiver attacks the ball in the air.  You see it with Jordy Nelson on Green Bay, Calvin Johnson and Detroit, and formerly Brandon Marshall in Chicago.  On top of that Teddy Bridgewater isn't a guy who is going to throw the furthest, he's going to be the most accurate, so he'll need a physical WR and that is Treadwell.

24. Cincinnati Bengals- WR Braxton Miller, Ohio State
With the Bengals set to lose Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones to Free Agency, the Bengals will most likely target a WR to put opposite AJ Green.  Braxton Miller might be the most dynamic WR in this class and maybe the WR with the biggest upside.  While disappointed in his 40 time at the combine, Miller blew people away in the agility drills to make up for it.  Miller is around 6'0'' 200, so he isn't undersized, but he doesn't have ideal size.  What the logic of the Bengals pick here will be is if the WR they take is a playmaker or not.  Miller will be a playmaker at the next level and playing opposite AJ Green will possibly make a dynamic duo at WR to go with Tyler Eifert at TE.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers- CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
The Steelers have one big problem on their team, they have an achilles heel in their secondary.  The Steelers last year selected OSU CB Doran Grant in the 4th round, but later put him on Practice Squad and then later put him on the active squad and only played him in 3 games.  It's obvious the Steelers need to address this early in the draft and Fuller is the best CB in the draft left on the board.  Fuller carries around a swagger fitting of what the Steelers team has right now.  He has good instincts and he trusts them.  He should fit in nicely with the Steelers.

26. Seattle Seahawks- WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
The Seahawks are poised to lose Jonathan Kearse in Free Agency this offseason and might look to replace him here.  They do have Paul Richardson who was selected in the 2nd Round, but he's done nothing to prove he's worth developing as a starter.  Fuller had an outstanding combine, blowing scouts away on his 40 time at 4.32.  Fuller will need more polish as a WR, but his raw athletic skills allow him to blow past coverage and separate himself downfield.  Doug Baldwin last year established him as Wilson's go-to reliable target and I think Fuller could emerge as Wilson's downfield threat and that will definitely come in handy to helping establish Thomas Rawls as Marshawn Lynch's full time replacement.

27. Green Bay Packers- ILB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
The Packers have talked about moving Clay Matthews back to OLB, leaving an opening at ILB.  Great teams like the Packers always add the best players available.  Ragland is a great ILB prospect that the Packers would love to add to their team next year.  On top of that Ragland is an old school type linebacker who loves to take on runners.  That is a perfect fit for a team that needs those types of players to play in the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field.  Expect Ragland to start and make an impact from Day One in Green Bay.

28. Kansas City Chiefs- DE Jonathan Bullard, Florida
Quite possibly the most versatile defensive lineman in this draft class.  Like former Gators before him, Bullard has the size 6'3'' 285 to play DE in the 3-4, but also explosiveness off the snap to probably make an impact in a 4-3 defense.  With the Chiefs possibly losing Mike DeVito in Free Agency this offseason, the Chiefs may look to upgrade at this position.  They also have needs at OL and may look to add another WR.  But if they lose DeVito, the Chiefs need to address this position first because the Chiefs strengths lay in an effective defense.

29. Arizona Cardinals- S Keanu Neal, Florida
The Cardinals need help in the secondary, especially at the SS position.  Rashad Johnson can't get the job done forever.  Neal is the type of safety that a WR doesn't want to see coming towards him full force.  To go with his prototype type for the position, Neal I think could eventually develop into another TJ Ward, which is exactly what the Cardinals need opposite from Tyron Matthieu at safety.  I also think for the type of 3-4 defense that Arians' staff runs, Neal could be a safety he can send in on a blitz to give opposing QBs another guy to worry about.  This pick may be a slight reach, but for what he is as a safety, he just fits the Cardinals to me.

30. Carolina Panthers- DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson
While most people at Clemson talked about Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd really has shown a lot of talent in Lawson's shadow.  At 6'5'' 280, Dodd fits the mold of a 4-3 DE with his athletic ability.  With that athletic ability he shows the natural skills to get pressure off the edge and after Carolina released Charles Johnson they will probably look more at the D-Line here at 30.  Dodd should be able to slide right into Carolina's top notch defense and become an impact player right away.  I do think the Panthers could look to the O-Line as they probably can't rely on Michael Oher forever, but the best prospect is Jake Conklin from Michigan State and he projects more as a RT, so I'd pass on him here.

31. Denver Broncos- DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
At this point if you're the Broncos you're looking for adding talent at positions they will probably lose in Free Agency.  I fully expect Malik Jackson to leave via free agency and would expect the Broncos to zero in on the best Defensive Lineman available.  Rankins probably won't last this long, but if he does I probably wouldn't hesitate to draft Rankins here if I'm Denver.  While Rankins is a bit undersized to probably play in the NFL full time in the interior positions, I do think Rankins could fit as an effective 3-4 DE.  Rankins offers good pass rushing skills and explosiveness for his size and the Broncos coaching staff will definitely make the most out of his talents.

*New England forfeited their 1st Round pick

Now understand as we get into Mock 2.0 and 3.0, these picks can change.  Free Agency can change a teams needs and the pick I'll mock would change.  Also in the next month I'll have more in-depth evaluations along with NFL Player comparisons for the picks in Mock 2.0 and by Mock 3.0, I'll add Round 2 with brief explanations on each pick.  Expect Mock 2.0 by the end of March and Mock 3.0 the week of the NFL Draft.

It's the sport whose season never ends...the offseason is getting into full swing and I advise fans keep their hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times because this roller coaster is going to be crazy!

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