NFL Mock Draft: After Tunsil, a few Round 1 surprises

1:11 | NFL
NFL draft: Here's why CB William Jackson III is rising up draft boards
Friday April 8th, 2016

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The thing about mock drafts, no matter how well they’re studied and implemented, is that they’re always second-person. We’re trying to estimate what teams will do, or what we would do if we ran those teams, with limited knowledge of the internal processes involved.

And with that in mind, here’s my first attempt of the 2016 draft season to do just that, using a combination of limited insider knowledge, reckless speculation and a basic understanding of the attributes and liabilities of the top players.

• FARRAR: The SI 50, counting down the draft’s top prospects


  • 1
    1Laremy Tunsil
    OT, Ole Miss
    It’s my opinion that Jalen Ramsey is the best overall player in this draft class, but the Titans need to reinforce their offense around Marcus Mariota, and Tunsil has a combination of pass-blocking agility and run-blocking strength that should be a perfect fit for any offense. This give would give the Titans two first-round tackles (Tunsil and 2014 first-rounder Taylor Lewan) to protect the edges for their franchise quarterback, and Lewan looks to be a better fit at right tackle based on his skill set. This combo would also give free-agent running back DeMarco Murray the edge presence he needs to succeed. There are times when I’d like to see a little more nastiness in Tunsil’s game, but he checks just about every other box.

  • 2
    2Jared Goff
    QB, Cal
    Goff is better with his overall accuracy and ability under pressure than Carson Wentz, but can be wildly erratic when he’s not consistent with his mechanics. New  coach Hue Jackson brings a well-deserved reputation as a quarterback redeemer to a franchise that desperately needs it, and I’m not convinced that the signing of Robert Griffin III really informs the Browns’ long-term plan at quarterback. Griffin might be a placeholder while Goff gets the little things together, or a backup if Goff accelerates that process.

  • 3
    3Jalen Ramsey
    CB/S, Florida State
    Yes, the Chargers lost veteran safety Eric Weddle to the Ravens. But Weddle was playing a ton of linebacker-depth snaps at this point in his career, and there was a need for a range safety in San Diego’s defensive backfield, no matter where Weddle played in 2016. Ramsey is a rare player with supreme athleticism, field awareness and toughness—I’ve compared him to the developmental versions of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the same guy. He can already play both free and strong safety, he can defend the slot, and he could be developed into a legit press boundary corner. Ramsey’s cumulative positional value is on a different level from anyone else in this draft.

  • 4
    4Joey Bosa
    DE, Ohio State
    As much as the Cowboys need a quarterback to bring up at this point, and as good as a linebacker like Myles Jack would look in their defense (think Sean Lee, but even better), I have to bow to conventional wisdom here and send Bosa to Dallas. Bosa id the best combination of run stopper and edge rusher in this class—at least at this point in his development—and while I believe he comes with a ceiling down the road, he’s got a great combination of attributes for a defense in desperate need of consistent edge pressure.

  • 5
    5Myles Jack
    LB, UCLA
    With Blake Bortles and a growing cadre of top receivers, the Jags are finally getting their offense—especially their vertical passing game—on track. Now, to compete in the AFC South after a long stretch of downtime, it’s time to turn the attention to the defense and give coach Gus Bradley a true difference-maker at the linebacker position. Inserting Jack into Jacksonville’s defense gives Bradley a guy who can fire in to tackle from the middle, play the edge and seam from the outside and cover the slot better than 90% of the linebackers currently in the NFL.

  • 6
    6Ronnie Stanley
    OT, Notre Dame
    Losing Kelechi Osemele to the Raiders was a big blow to a Ravens organization that had Osemele projected as a possible future franchise left tackle. Add in Eugene Monroe’s uncertain future with the team—he’s got an $8.7 million cap hit in 2016—and it makes a lot of sense for the Ravens to take Stanley here. If Monroe bounces back from injury, Stanley can play on the right side, and he looks like a left tackle who would need a minimum of finishing work before he’s ready to hit a roster. Stanley is nastier than Tunsil—he’s not quite as refined, but he has a great combination of power and technique with an intriguing upside.

  • 7
    7Paxton Lynch
    QB, Memphis
    Yeah, this sounds nuts, especially with Wentz still on the board, but work with me here. The 49ers will likely hang on to Colin Kaepernick for one more year whether they want to or not, and GM Trent Baalke’s “smartest guy in the room” modus operandi has had him making some very unconventional moves in the draft over the last few seasons. Baalke’s draft philosophy seems to be to take as many players with athletic potential as possible and hope their upside pans out. And we’re going to find out who really wears the pants in San Francisco’s front office. I could see Chip Kelly preferring Wentz’s size and athleticism, but Lynch is a sneaky runner with experience in option concepts, and he’s an amazing deep passer. He needs development, but he’s the kind of toolsy player that could fall right into Baalke’s wheelhouse.

  • 8
    8Carson Wentz
    QB, North Dakota State
    O.K.—so the Eagles have Sam Bradford back in the fold, and new coach Doug Pederson seems to believe that backup Chase Daniel could be a starter. That’s all well and good, but given Bradford’s injury history and Daniel’s lack of history actually resembling a starter, all that talk could still lead to the Eagles taking a quarterback here. After the trade with Miami to move up from 13th to eighth in the draft order, Philly has a lot more flexibility. And in this situation, it makes sense for Wentz to sit for a while, get used to a higher level of competition and learn the intricacies of the position. Wentz has the frame, arm, mobility and competitive temperament to do more than either Bradford or Daniel in the long term.

  • 9
    9Vernon Hargreaves III
    CB, Florida
    The Bucs used combination after combination at cornerback last year and signed Brent Grimes this spring to try and firm things up, but this is a team in desperate need of a first-day starter who can take on top receivers with truly elite athletic ability. Hargreaves may come up a couple inches short on the height chart when people think of shutdown cornerbacks, but he trails outside receivers as well as anyone in this class, and he has Pro Bowl potential if he can stop getting beaten so much on deep balls and double moves.

  • 10
    10Jack Conklin
    OT, Michigan State
    Conklin is a bit of a reach here, but hey, it’s the same Giants franchise that took Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh in the first round over the last few years. Jerry Reese has proven that he has no compunction when it comes to getting the linemen he wants, and Conklin certainly fits the profile from a strength and intensity standpoint. Some believe that he’s not equipped to handle left tackle in the NFL due to a lack of agility, but I think he can do just that in a power-based offense. Worst case, Conklin projects very well to the right side, and the Giants need all the line help they can get.

  • 11
    11DeForest Buckner
    DE, Oregon
    Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio loves defensive linemen who can play multiple positions, allowing Fangio to bring different line combinations to the field with the same base personnel. Buckner fits that bill—at 6' 7" and 291 pounds, he has the speed to tear people up on the outside and the raw strength to kick inside on passing downs.

  • 12
    12Mackensie Alexander
    CB, Clemson
    The Saints gave up an NFL-record 45 touchdowns through the air last season, despite the emergence of cornerback Delvin Breaux. The hope is that Keenan Lewis is healthy enough to contribute for a full season, but if he isn’t, Alexander has the tools to start right away and work his way to the top cornerback spot. If Lewis and Breaux prove capable of manning the outside slots, Alexander is also a dynamic slot cornerback with excellent short-area speed and pattern-reading ability. Picking him here is a no-lose situation for a team that clearly needs help against the pass.

  • 13
    13Ezekiel Elliott
    RB, Ohio State
    Losing Lamar Miller to the Texans in free agency was a big mistake, but the addition of Elliott would be an enormous upgrade for an offense that needs to get stronger and more consistent in the run game. At his best, Elliot brings to mind Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson with his speed, power and agility, and to top it all off, he’s a dynamic blocker.

  • 14
    14Will Fuller
    WR, Notre Dame
    Yeah, we know. A speed receiver to the Raiders is the walking definition of cliché. But these are not Al Davis’s Raiders—they are now in the capable hands of general manager Reggie McKenzie, and the one thing quarterback Derek Carr didn’t have last year was an elite downfield receiver who could split safety coverage and tilt the field. Fuller is still working on elements of his game, but pairing him with Amari Cooper—especially with all the improvements on Oakland’s offensive line in recent years—could propel Carr into the next stratosphere.

  • 15
    WR, TCU
    Jeff Fisher has recently said that he believes Case Keenum has what it takes to be the Rams’ starting quarterback—probably with the same combination of hope and fear he had when he insisted that Greg Robinson was a top-tier left tackle. That said, the Rams shouldn’t reach if the board goes this way—they can get someone like Connor Cook or Dak Prescott later on. What the Rams’ 2016 quarterback really needs is a receiver who has the speed to scare NFL defenses, the aggressiveness to beat press coverage and the body control and catch radius to make just about any pass catchable. Doctson combines these attributes better than anyone else in the class.

  • 16
    OT, Ohio State
    There’s a need to replace Calvin Johnson’s production in Detroit’s offense, but another obvious issue is that Matthew Stafford has taken more sacks than ever over the last couple years. Detroit has been fairly aggressive about trying to fix this problem, but it needs to find the true left tackle who will allow Riley Reiff to kick over to the right side. Decker, the 2015 Big Ten Lineman of the Year, isn’t a lead-pipe lock to start on the left side from day one, but he’s a tough, experienced blocker who could overcome a few physical deficits (like his short arms) to shore up Stafford’s blind side over time.

  • 17
    OLB, Alabama
    The Falcons need help at edge rusher and linebacker, so let’s give head coach Dan Quinn two fixes in one. Ragland is a great inside linebacker who can play some outside in a base defense, but he also hits the edge and rushes the passer very well in sub-packages. At 6' 1", he’s a little short to be a full-time LEO rusher, but Quinn is one of the most creative defensive minds in the league, and he’d have a ball with Ragland’s versatility.

  • 18
    DE, Clemson
    Colts owner Jim Irsay decided to bring coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson back after Indy’s disappointing season. Many thought (and still think) that Grigson may be in over his head, but the Colts are where they are with this, and it’s time for Grigson to make up for some of his previous personnel missteps. Taking pass rusher Bjoern Werner in the first round of the 2013 draft was perhaps his biggest whiff, and now that Werner has been waived, it’s time to give Pagano a real edge rusher who can also stop the run. Lawson, who can play edge and five-tech out of two- and three-point stances, looks to be a perfect fit for Pagano’s flexible fronts.

  • 19
    DT, Louisiana Tech
    After a first-year debacle in Buffalo, Rex Ryan has said that he wants more of the types of players that work best in his defensive concepts. That’s not entirely fair, as Ryan and his staff tried some square peg/round hole thinking in year one that really didn’t work out. But when you look at the prototypical Ryan lineman, Butler is an ideal fit. He brings a huge push and impressive power everywhere from over the nose tackle to out at five-tech end, and at 6' 4" and 323 pounds, Butler has all the height/weight/speed basics down pat. At his best, Butler reminds me of Muhammad Wilkerson, who the Jets took in the first round in 2011, when Ryan was at the helm.

  • 20
    20Corey Coleman
    WR, Baylor
    D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s surprise retirement puts the Jets in a weird game of musical chairs, with all the top tackle prospects gone in this draft, and guys like Jason Spriggs and Le’Raven Clark probably available later. GM Mike Maccagnan still needs to go best player available, and now the cap space should be there for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to return. Let’s give Fitzpatrick a deep target in the first round—he was a decent deep thrower last season, and the current tandem of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker brings a different set of skills to the table. Coleman is a guy who will take awhile to get the hang of an NFL route tree, but he creates instant separation with his downfield speed and ability to sink into zones. A receiver of his type would bring a new dimension to a Jets passing game that is finally coming around.

  • 21
    21A’Shawn Robinson​
    DT, Alabama
    Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan subscribes to the theory that you can never have too many young players with dominant physical traits. McCloughan is also well aware that Washington’s run defense was a real problem up the middle last year. Robinson would help that issue right away—he has experience as a two-gap monster who occupies blocks and slips off to spike run plays. And if you go back to Robinson’s 2013 tape, you’ll see him penetrating and pursuing more as a one-gap attacker. An underrated potential three-down guy, Robinson is the right scheme away from really turning it on.

  • 22
    22Laquon Treadwell
    WR, Ole Miss
    The story of the Texans’ passing offense last year was the story of DeAndre Hopkins and Everybody Else. Hopkins amassed 111 catches on 192 targets for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns, and the guy in second place was Nate Washington, with 47 catches on 94 targets for 658 yards and four scores. Given Houston’s recurrent quarterback issues (hopefully now solved with the acquisition of Brock Osweiler), it would behoove Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith to give their high-priced signal-caller a bit more help. Treadwell is a big, strong receiver whose speed issues are overcooked—he works well to slip into zones, and he gets open downfield more consistently than people think. Teaming him with Hopkins would create a dangerous one-two punch for enemy defenses.

  • 23
    Noah Spence
    DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky
    Spence would be a top-15 (maybe top-10) talent without the off-field issues that got him kicked out of Ohio State, but he’s seemed to put his life back together, and he’s among the best edge rushers in this draft class. The Vikings, who saw Everson Griffen lead the team with 10.5 sacks last season, have a lot of players who can get pressure, but Spence would bring an entirely new level of potential for quarterback takedowns with his speed, power and ability to scoot around the edge. Yes, the Vikings need major help at receiver and on the offensive line, but they can pick that up later in the draft. Spence is a rare talent.

  • 24
    24Sterling Shepard
    WR, Oklahoma
    With Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones departing in free agency, the Bengals are in danger of sending out A.J. Green and the Pips against opposing secondaries in 2016. Selecting Shepard would give Cincinnati two receivers in one—not only is he a very credible outside man, but he has the potential to dominate in the slot. He’s an undersized but very physical receiver who should fit right in.

  • 25
    25Joshua Garnett​
    G, Stanford
    The Steelers struck gold with a Stanford guard in Devid DeCastro in 2012, so why not go back to the same vein? Garnett is unquestionably the most physically dominating guard in this class, and he may be the most intimidating lineman overall. An earth-mover who excels in man-blocking and basic zone concepts, Garnett would be a perfect fit for the Steelers’ power run game, and over time, he looks to be an elite pass blocker as well, once he gets a few technique fixes together.

  • 26
    26Andrew Billings
    DT, Baylor
    Yes, the Seahawks’ offensive line is probably the worst position group in the NFL. But if you think Pete Carroll and John Schneider are going to draft for need, or draft in a conventional fashion at all, you haven’t been paying attention. Billings would bring a rare combination of skills to a defensive line that’s already off the hook. A weightlifting monster built like a very large bowling ball, Billings brings a surprising and enticing level of speed and agility to the table to go along with his strength. Carroll could plug Billings in everywhere from one-tech nose to five-tech mauler, depending on the package.

  • 27
    27Darron Lee
    LB, Ohio State
    Mike McCarthy has said that a focus of Green Bay’s defense this season will be to get Clay Matthews back to the edge. Green Bay has had to move Matthews inside due to personnel deficiencies, but the pass rush has suffered, and Lee would bring an entirely new level of versatility to the middle of Dom Capers’s defense. You can line Lee up everywhere from strongside linebacker to the slot, and he’ll perform at a high level. He’s the prototype of the modern linebacker, who must provide more range than pure power, and he’d be a great fit in this scheme.

  • 28
    28William Jackson III
    CB, Houston
    Last season, the Chiefs got a steal in first-round cornerback Marcus Peters, and with Sean Smith off to the Raiders, there’s a need for another young cornerback to keep that going. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton loves tough cornerbacks who aren’t afraid to be aggressive, and Jackson is the kind of defender who will mirror his receiver from press coverage to the boundary downfield. He doesn’t have a burner gear, but he’d be a great asset in this defense.

  • 29
    29Robert Nkemdiche
    DL, Ole Miss
    A multi-gap monster who will drop down a lot of boards due to off-field issues and his own admission that he doesn’t always play with complete intensity, Nkemdiche still has more than enough good tape for some team to take a shot on him in the bottom of the first round. Steve Keim and Brice Arians have proven that they’ll take chances on questionable players if they like what they hear, and Nkemdiche could be a defining player in Arizona’s hybrid fronts.

  • 30
    30Derrick Henry
    RB, Alabama
    O.K., enemy defenses—deal with this. You have Cam Newton, you have Jonathan Stewart and now, you have the 6' 3", 247-pound Heisman Trophy winner to deal with. That’s a backfield that will dole out a lot of pain, both mentally and physically. Henry is more agile than the average big back, but his primary attribute is his ability to just trash opposing front sevens with his downhill power. This is as perfect a scheme fit as there is in this class, and Henry could elevate himself to the Panthers’ lead dog sooner than later.

  • 31
    31Cody Whitehair
    T/G, Kansas State
    The Broncos have a few decisions to make on offense.o Obviously, problem No. 1 is their need for a franchise quarterback, but there’s also the possibility of the team moving on from veteran Ryan Clady and kicking Ty Sambrailo to left tackle. If Clady sticks around and stays healthy, there are still needs along that line. Whitehair projects well at guard or right tackle, but he’s really an ideal guard at the next level: practiced, tough, and an asset to his NFL team from day one.

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