One week before festivities kick off in Chicago, here’s a look at how the first round is shaping up. Projections include an AFC team moving up the board to take a running back, and a third quarterback going in the Top 15

By Robert Klemko
April 21, 2016

A month and a half ago, I did a brief mock draft of the Top 10, after free agency made the picture a bit more clear.

My Top 10, in March:

1. Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
2. Browns: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota St.
3. Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
4. Cowboys: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
5. Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
6. Ravens: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
7. 49ers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
8. Eagles: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
9. Buccaneers: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
10. Giants: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

So what's changed? For starters, Treadwell ran himself out of the top half of the first round. But more importantly, quarterbacks skyrocketed up the board. As is always the case, many of us who cover the draft imagined a world where general managers and coaches have time and job security enough to wait a couple years, or at least a few picks, for the right passer to come along in the draft. Instead, urgency crept into the equation, and the Titans and Browns capitalized on the desperation of two franchises who’ve fallen in love with Wentz and Goff and are willing to mortgage a chunk of the future to land their man.

We should’ve seen this coming. I pledge to do better next year.

• THE MMQB: AFC Draft Needs, Fits || NFC Draft Needs, Fits

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1. Rams: Jared Goff, QB, Cal 

The team formerly known as St. Louis moves to Los Angeles and drafts the California-raised kid. This is a turning point for the Fisher/Snead management group. They inherited Sam Bradford two years into his career and were saddled with his monster contract, which remains the largest ever for an NFL rookie. There will be no room for excuses after having their choice at No. 1.

• HOW A DEAL FOR ONE GETS DONE: Peter King goes behind the scenes for the story of the huge Titans-Rams draft deal

2. Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota St. 

Why the Browns made the deal: Hue Jackson bought himself some time do develop a raw rookie passer when he jump-started the career of Robert Griffin III. It's an easy call, especially if he thinks he can mold a Paxton Lynch or a Christian Hackenberg into a legit starter, while building roster depth with Philadelphia’s picks. Why the Eagles made the deal: Doug Pederson liked Wentz enough to pull the early trigger on a deal the 49ers were likely considering.

• WHAT THE HECK ARE THE EAGLES UP TO AT QB? Andrew Brandt tries to make sense of Philadelphia’s trade, in the wake of signing two quarterbacks this offseason

3. Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

San Diego hits the lottery with a left tackle who can step in and replace King Dunlap on Day 1. In a world that doesn’t revolve around quarterbacks, either Tunsil or Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey is the No. 1 overall pick. Ramsey would be extremely tempting here; if the pick is Tunsil, expect GM Tom Telesco to spend the rest of the draft making his defensive coaches happy. Here’s another scenario: The two trades now provide certainty that both Tunsil and Ramsey will be available at 3. This raises the value of the third pick and necessarily the likelihood the Chargers will deal it to a team that loves Tunsil or Ramsey. 

4. Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

Dallas passes on Joey Bosa and adds a polished impact player to a secondary lacking one. Bosa would fit a big need here, but adding a rookie who has had off-field distractions to that locker room is asking for trouble. And it’s not as though Dallas couldn’t use Ramsey. Orlando Scandrick’s effective return from an ACL/MCL tear is no sure thing, and Brandon Carr has underperformed after signing a $50.1 million contract in 2012. Dallas could also use an upgrade at safety, which may be Ramsey’s NFL niche. It doesn’t hurt that Ramsey is also the best player available in this scenario. Don’t rule out the Cowboys reaching for Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott here.

Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is expected to be the first running back drafted, potentially as early as fourth to the Cowboys.
Andrew Weber/Getty Images

5. Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

On its surface, it looks like an odd pick in terms of need, given the Jags just broke the bank in adding Malik Jackson to the defensive line and should get a healthy Dante Fowler Jr. back from a knee injury. But Gus Bradley would use Fowler as his flex defensive end/OLB and put the larger, stronger Bosa’s hand in the dirt. The combination of Jared Odrick, Jackson, Fowler and Bosa in dime and nickel scenarios will remind Bradley of his final days as defensive coordinator in Seattle.

6. Ravens: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Baltimore struggled to defend intermediate passing lanes with Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley last season and couldn’t muster much of a pass rush after Terrell Suggs’ season-ending injury. Jack delivers punch in both aspects. At 6-1, 230, he projects as an inside linebacker who moves around the formation and rushes the passer regularly, a la 2012 Dannell Ellerbe. Jack’s medical recheck yielded mixed reviews, but there are reports that the doomsday diagnosis on his knee was overblown. 

7. 49ers: DeForest Buckner, DT, Oregon

Chip Kelly reunites with the defensive force he recruited to Oregon, who fills a huge need on a line seriously lacking in production and pedigree. The Niners are tempted to draft Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley here, or even Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, but they stick with filling a big need.

8. Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State 

MOCK TRADE ALERT: Browns move down to No. 13
Elliott adds some diversity to a listless offense that finished 23rd in yards rushing and takes defensive attention away from emerging young receivers DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry. The Browns make the deal because they know they can still draft Lynch at 13.

9. Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Take a good look around the NFC South and the fellas throwing the football six times a year against the Bucs: Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Drew Brees. At 5-10, Hargreaves doesn’t quite fit the mold of a top-10 overall cornerback, which is why I could see Tampa trading back with a team that would love to jump in front of the Giants and grab Ronnie Stanley or Jack Conklin, such as Tennessee or Carolina. Tampa would also give some consideration to Clemson DE Shaq Lawson at 9. If Hargreaves isn’t chosen here, he could experience a slide down to the Raiders or beyond.

10. Giants: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State  

The Giants go with a right tackle they can plug into the starting lineup in place of Marshall Newhouse. Conklin immediately improves a middle-of-the-road 4.4 yards per carry from a year ago. The league’s 32nd-ranked defense in terms of yards allowed could certainly make use of Darron Lee at linebacker, but the team spent big on defense this offseason (Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins) and can afford to splurge on the line.


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11. Bears: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville  

John Fox gives strong consideration to Shaq Lawson here, but opts against adding yet another big-bodied, untraditional edge rusher in favor of a 287-pounder who can fill a need at 3-4 DE.

12. Saints: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

The 31st-ranked defense in yards allowed adds a versatile 300-pounder with an athletic frame and few weaknesses.

13. Browns: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

MOCK TRADE ALERT: Dolphins move up to No. 8
Hue Jackson gets his quarterback, albeit an unpolished one, and a haul of additional picks to build out the roster. His defining trait as a coach is confidence in his own abilities—and he validated that thinking through his work with Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron in Cincinnati—so why not draft a project passer if it means more picks to work with?

14. Raiders: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

The Raiders are a favorite to draft a corner, and Apple is the best available. At 20 years old, Apple is unpolished and something of a project, which shouldn’t be a problem for a team that recently assembled a core of young franchise players and figures to be a contender in the next decade.

15. Titans: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Tennessee would be tempted to trade up to No. 9 to get in front of the Giants and have their pick of Conklin or Stanley, but I’ve always felt projecting trades in mocks beyond the Top 10 is a little snobbish. I can say with confidence Stanley and Conklin will be the the second and third tackles off the board. I cannot say in what order.

TCU’s Josh Docston could be the first wide receiver picked in the 2016 draft.
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

16. Lions: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Calvin Johnson’s departure leaves a big hole in Detroit’s offense. Adding Doctson begins to remedy that.

17. Falcons: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson​ 

Dan Quinn, fan of defensive line depth, adds another pass rusher in the first round for the second year in a row. Lawson isn’t your traditional bend-around-the-corner edge rusher like Vic Beasley, but Lawson was hyperproductive at Clemson, with 25.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in his final season.

18. Colts: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Colts pass on offensive line (again) for a linebacker/safety who brings needed speed and playmaking ability to a defense lacking it. If this happens, expect Ryan Grigson to spend the next few rounds making his offensive line coach happy. The other natural fit here is Alabama center Ryan Kelly.

• AFC DRAFT NEEDS AND BEST FITS: Benoit and Staples break down the AFC side of the draft board

19. Bills: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky

As he is wont to do, Rex Ryan takes on a guy with a suspect off-field résumé. The Bills produced just 21 sacks last season, fewest in franchise history. Buffalo should consider drafting a linebacker or an interior linemen here as well.

20. Jets: Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia

The guy the Bills should’ve picked ends up in New York and figures to contribute immediately in place of Trevor Reilly. The Jets would consider Florida safety Keanu Neal at 20.

21. Washington: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

The extremely experienced Ragland would contribute immediately and could anchor the interior of Washington’s defense for years to come. 

• INSIDE THE FILM ROOM: Andy Benoit breaks down tape with Reggie Ragland

22. Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

Houston keeps the best receiver on the board in Texas, providing a necessary supplement to DeAndre Hopkins and another weapon for newly acquired QB Brock Osweiler. With 4.37 speed, Coleman complements the big-bodied Hopkins very well.

23. Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

The Vikings are comfortable adding the comparatively slow Treadwell to a wide receiver group including emerging burners Stefon Diggs and Jarius Wright. At 6-3, Treadwell brings a big body to pair with the smaller frames of Diggs and Wright.

24. Bengals: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

With Mohamed Sanu in Atlanta and Marvin Jones in Detroit, wide receiver becomes a priority for the Bengals in a draft rich with late-first-round talent at the position. I think the Bengals would prioritize Coleman over Fuller, but would be happy with either.

• NFC DRAFT NEEDS AND BEST FITS: Benoit and Staples break down the NFC side of the draft board

25. Steelers: William Jackson III, CB, Houston

It’s very possible Jackson would be gone by the time the Steelers pick, which would force them to consider Kendall Fuller, Artie Burns and Mackensie Alexander. This is a position of need for Pittsburgh, and frankly, most of the league. Jackson is seen as a player who can perform in the slot or on the boundary.

26. Seahawks: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Seattle’s projected starting tackles at the moment are Bradley Sowell and Garry Gilliam. Powell hasn’t started a game since 2013, and while Gilliam showed promise in his first season as a starter, he’s no sure thing. I’d propose a scenario in which the Seahawks trade up and grab Stanley or Conklin, but history says John Schneider is more likely to trade back in the draft than sacrifice picks to move up in the first.

Robert Nkemdiche is a top 10 talent but likely to fall due to off-field question marks.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

27. Packers: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

What better team to ground the troubled Ole Miss defensive lineman than a perennial contender based in Nowhere, Wis. Ted Thompson needs a 3-4 defensive end, and were it not for his spotty off-field record, Nkemdiche has the talent to be a top-10 pick. This could very well be the steal of the draft. The Packers would also consider Alabama DT Jarran Reed here.

• IS A KICKER WORTH A HIGH PICK? Jenny Vrentas on Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo, who could go as earlier than any kicker in a decade

28. Chiefs: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

A deep draft for defensive backs works out nicely for Kansas City, which adds a pro-ready corner opposite Marcus Peters.

29. Cardinals: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

Dodd has just one year of dominance on the résumé with 12.5 sacks in 2015 but he would improve Arizona’s pass rush, one of its only flaws last season. 

30. Panthers: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana

Addressing the offensive line and providing some competition for Mike Remmers at right tackle will be a priority in this draft for the Panthers, who were exposed in pass protection when it mattered most. Spriggs is extremely athletic and, despite coming from a college spread offense, is an accomplished run blocker.

31. Broncos: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn St.

The Broncos consider Connor Cook here but ultimately go with Hackenberg, who has the opportunity to absorb an offense while sitting behind Mark Sanchez.

*The NFL stripped the Patriots of their first-round pick as part of the punishment for Deflategate.

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