Two months worth of projection went up in smoke just two weeks prior to the draft, and now one of the biggest questions in the first round after pick No. 1 is how low Laremy Tunsil will go.
The blockbuster trade the Rams and Titans swung last week dramatically shook up the top of the draft’s first round and figures to again put the top-rated quarterbacks center stage when the festivities open in Chicago on the night of April 28. But if there was an obvious non-winner in the deal that put the relocated Rams in position to deliver a new star to the star-obsessed Los Angeles market, it was Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, who had been the presumed favorite to go first overall to Tennessee.
Instead, about two months worth of projection went up in smoke just two weeks prior to the draft, and now one of the secondary questions in the first round is how low Laremy will go. Some have him sliding comfortably into San Diego’s No. 3 slot, but I’ve got his wait taking twice that long, with Baltimore stopping his slide at No. 6. That’ll cost him some salary, but the Ravens have been a first-class organization, and Baltimore seems poised to make 2016 a bounce-back season.
What once seemed fairly clear at the top of this draft is now wonderfully murky. As it should be, given the intrigue and melodrama that surrounds almost everything associated with the NFL these days. Forget everything you thought you knew in this mock draft season, because the storylines have just been substantially reset. Here’s my second attempt at mocking out the first round, with the picking now just 10 days away.
Many seem to think San Diego will be the team that benefits from Laremy Tunsil not going at No. 1 now that the Titans traded with the Rams. But the Chargers have poured a lot of money into their offensive line, and Ramsey is too tempting as an elite and versatile talent in the secondary. Getting the highest-graded player on its board at No. 3 is a pretty appealing scenario for San Diego.
Would the Cowboys consider moving up to No. 2 to select Goff, or perhaps opt to stay put and hope he falls to them? Jerry Jones reportedly “loved” what he saw of Goff at a private workout on Saturday, so you can’t rule out Dallas making that kind of splash. But the odds are probably still heavily against it, and in Jack the Cowboys would be adding an athletic and instinctive playmaker to a defense that doesn’t have nearly enough of those.
Like defensive lineman Leonard Williams surprisingly lasting until the Jets at No. 6 in last year’s draft, Tunsil slides a bit this year, and the Ravens are the big winners in this scenario. Tunsil’s arrival means Baltimore doesn’t have to rely on oft-injured Eugene Monroe at left tackle.
The Eagles are high on Elliott’s potential for instant impact as a rookie, and I’d be shocked if he’s not their pick, even with Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley still available to address a need position. And Philly likely knows that if it passes on Elliott, chances are good he’ll be facing the Eagles twice a year with the Giants, who select two picks later.
The Saints’ defense was abysmal once again in 2015, ranking 31st overall and getting gouged through the air. Rankins is the best defensive tackle in a DT-rich draft, and he has pass rushing skills that would fit perfectly in the 4–3 scheme that will be run by new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
Miami enjoys some draft-night fortuity and sees the top-rated cornerback fall to its lucky No. 13 slot. With Brent Grimes let go last month, the Dolphins now have their starter opposite ex-Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell.
The draft-pick-rich Titans could still be on the move back up into the top 10 if they choose to target Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley as their long-term answer at left tackle. But if they stay put, taking Conklin would allow them to leave Taylor Lewan on the left side and plug Conklin in as a day one starter at right tackle.
Lee gives the Falcons a versatile and polished player who can stay on the field for all three downs and does most everything well enough to upgrade Atlanta’s defense. Taking a defensive tackle to aid a run defense that was gouged for 20 touchdowns last season makes sense as well, but Lee adds the pass rush potential the Falcons sorely lack.
Fix the offensive line and the Colts may go a long way toward ensuring quarterback Andrew Luck never has to endure another inconsistent, injury-shortened season like he did in 2015. Kelly is the draft’s finest center prospect, but he could play early at any of the line’s three interior positions.
This is the right fit of draft value and need for the Jets and Lynch to make a marriage of it. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets signed at some point, but he’s still a short-term option. Unless the Jets really believe they can entrust the future to Geno Smith—and I don’t think that’s the case—investing in Lynch’s intriguing upside would be a shrewd move. He’ll have the time he needs to develop under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, and the Jets might finally have their long-sought franchise QB.
Washington’s 31st-ranked run defense was woeful last season, and that front has to get more physical and aggressive. That makes Reed an obvious candidate to land in D.C., although options such as Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings and Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland are likely on the radar screen as well.
The Vikings’ strong off-season work continues when they find the draft’s top-rated receiver waiting for them in the bottom third of the round. Treadwell isn’t the ideal deep threat, but he’s an ideal possession receiver who knows how to find the football in a crowd and will greatly aid Teddy Bridgewater’s game in the red zone.
The Bengals find their speed threat in Coleman, helping offset the loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. Coleman has a skill set very different from Andy Dalton’s other two favorite targets, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. He has struggled at times with drops, but he can take the top off a defense with his straight-line burst.
This just in: The Steelers need help at cornerback. Apple has the size and coverage chops to play right away in the NFL, and the Steelers won’t hesitate to pick themselves some first-round fruit at a position they haven’t addressed that high in almost two decades.
Offensive tackle is the more obvious position of need for Seattle with Russell Okung’s departure, but I don’t see any prospect who isn’t at least a slight reach at No. 26 (not that the Seahawks always go conventional in the first round anyway). Billings is an athletic and stout presence in the defensive interior, and he’s one of the highest-rated players left in the round.
If there’s a cornerback here the Chiefs feel strongly about, that’s the natural pick given the loss of veteran cover man Sean Smith to Oakland in free agency. But Justin Houston’s knee injury and Tamba Hali’s age could nudge the Chiefs toward taking the best available pass rusher.
The Cardinals could use help at free safety, but the temptation of a talent like Nkemdiche strikes me as the kind of move Bruce Arians and Steve Keim would be willing to gamble on. Arizona has gone down the path of drafting a character risk in recent years and been rewarded for the faith it showed (see Tyrann Mathieu).
If they’re getting nervous on the quarterback front, the Broncos could make Michigan State’s Connor Cook the fourth passer to crack the first round. But John Elway doesn’t flinch much these days, and his track record in Denver is to go for defense in the first round. Jones carries a first-round grade and adds another weapon to a defensive line that lost Malik Jackson in free agency.