Let the Mock-ing Begin: The Post-Senior Bowl Edition
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - For the dozens of scouts and NFL personnel people on hand, Senior Bowl week is more about the practices before the game. That said, the actual affair wraps up the first meaningful exercise in the lead up to the 2016 NFL Draft and the defensive fronts proved to be the story in Mobile Saturday as the South topped the North, 27-10.
Players like Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence and Alabama defensive tackle Jarran Reed checked the necessary boxes as potential first-round picks, while the hype train continued to roll when it comes to North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, who was clearly the top quarterback prospect on hand and is now in the conversation to be the top signal caller selected come April.
(Listen to NBC Sports Draft expert Josh Norris talk NFL Draft)
For the Eagles at No. 13 overall, it should come down to quarterback versus offensive tackle and the thought of paying an oft-injured guy with limited success at the NFL level $20 million may have Howie Roseman tapping out and instead looking for the long-term solution at the game's most important position.
Wentz, along with Cal's Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch of Memphis, are the three signal callers deemed worthy of the top 13 slots, at least early in the process. The questions from there become whether one of them gets to that spot and whether the Eagles like that particular flavor.
With all of that in mind, it's time to dive in to the 2016 draft for the first time with our first mock draft, the post-Senior Bowl edition:
1. - Tennessee Titans - Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss - For the Titans, it should come down to the best left tackle in the draft, Tunsil, or perhaps Ohio State star defensive end Joey Bosa. A year after getting their perceived franchise quarterback at No. 2 overall in Marcus Mariota, the Titans are right back at the top of the process and need to get their prized signal-caller a bodyguard to keep him healthy. Tunsil is the most complete tackle and would kick former first-round pick Taylor Lewan over to the right side, giving Tennessee one of the most talented pair of bookends in the NFL.
2. - Cleveland Browns - Jared Goff, QB, California - New Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta may have a baseball background and the guy now running the football operations, Sashi Brown, may be a lawyer by trade but anyone from any walk of life can figure Johnny Manziel is history in Cleveland. So, it's time to end the Merry-go-round for good at QB for the Browns and Goff is the far safer prospect than Wentz.
3. - San Diego Chargers - Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame - The Chargers OL was a mess last season and Philip Rivers isn't getting any younger at age 34 so it's time to maximize the rest of his shelf life as an upper-echelon quarterback and that means keeping him clean on a more consistent basis. Stanley is a terrific athlete who projects as an outstanding pass protector on the left side and actually has a higher ceiling than Tunsil.
4. - Dallas Cowboys - Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State - The Cowboys could use the heir apparent to Tony Romo here but it's pretty clear that Jerry Jones has convinced himself that his club would have been a Super Bowl contender had Romo been healthy in 2015. That means he wants to win now and because Greg Hardy has likely partied himself out of North Texas, if Bosa drops to No. 4 the Cowboys would be wise to leap. Bosa projects best in a 4-3 scheme like Dallas runs and is a versatile player who can move up and down the line to take advantage of potential mismatches.
5. - Jacksonville Jaguars - Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State - Gus Bradley is a defensive-minded head coach with 12 wins over his first three years in Northeast Florida. If he doesn't want the fourth year to be his last, the defense needs to make major strides in 2016. The fist move was to use former coordinator Bob Babich as the scapegoat but the major one should be looking defense in the draft with Ramsey, a versatile ball hawk with experience at both safety and corner at the college level.
6. - Baltimore Ravens - Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida - The Ravens are in desperate need of help outside the numbers on defense and Hargreaves is an instinctive player who should hit the ground running at the NFL level.
7. - San Francisco 49ers - Myles Jack, LB, UCLA - Chip Kelly doesn't value much and believes his system is the star so maybe Trent Baalke looks defense because the franchise is going to need reinforcements on that side of the ball and Jack could develop into a three-down linebacker capable of contributing in all three phases.
8. - Miami Dolphins - Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame - The Dolphins need an impact defender at linebacker and Smith is a top-five talent, who tore up his knee in the Fiesta Bowl and underwent reconstructive surgery. You might have to wait a little bit but Smith is such a transcendent player, someone will take a chance early.
9. - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon - The Bucs need a consistent pass-rushing presence off the edge and Buckner has size, length, athleticism and an ability to get after the quarterback.
10. - New York Giants - Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson - Jason Pierre-Paul is a potential free agent and his long-term effectiveness is up in the air because of the serious hand issues. Either way the Giants need a major talent infusion on defense and it might as well start at upfront with Lawson, a pure speed guy off the edge with the requisite motor.
11. - Chicago Bears - A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama - Vic Fangio likes to be physical up front and Robinson is the top interior option available.
12. - New Orleans Saints - Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State - Wentz will be in the conversation at No. 2 overall but Cleveland is not the type of strong organization that can take the chance on a small school QB, who has played against lesser competition. Even though the Saints need a ton of help on defense, snaring Wentz as the heir apparent to Drew Brees will be too tough to pass on.
13. - Philadelphia Eagles - Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis - Frame it with whatever context you want, I'm not giving a QB who is 25-37-1 as an NFL starter $20 million a year. The coaching change gives the Eagles a small opportunity to reboot at the position and they should take it with Lynch, who has the highest ceiling of the three top options..
14. - Oakland Raiders - Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson - The Raiders certainly need help outside on defense and Alexander, although undersized, is a great man-to-man coverage option.
15. - St. Louis Rams - Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State - The Rams are not moving forward with Case Keenum and they're not going back to Nick Foles. It's always a bad idea to reach for need but when that need is at the most important position it becomes a little easier. Cook hurt himself by skipping the Senior Bowl but he still has time to rebound.
16. - Detroit Lions - Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State - The Lions' offensive line needs bolstering and Decker is polished enough to step in and handle right tackle from Day 1.
17. - Atlanta Falcons - Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson - Dan Quinn wants to keep building up his front seven to duplicate what he once had in Seattle. Dodd is Zack Martin-like safe at this spot, a scheme versatile prospect with a solid football IQ.
18. - Indianapolis Colts - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State - It's time for Ryan Grigson to put the Trent Richardson fiasco in the rear-view mirror and finally get Andrew Luck a bell-cow back. "Feeding" Elliott in Indy will make things a lot easier on Luck.
19. - Buffalo Bills - Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss - The off-the-field issues are a real concern but the Bills will be moving on from Mario Williams and need to bolster things up front. Nkemdiche is a top-10 talent and Rex Ryan is willing to take risks.
20. - New York Jets - Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama - Todd Bowles would love to have a more physical presence in the middle of his defense and the powerful Ragland fits that mold.
21. - Washington Redskins - Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor - A point of attack guy who can push the pocket a bit, Billings would be a solid fit in the middle of the 'Skins line.
22. - Houston Texans - Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama - With the top quarterbacks off the board, Houston turns toward helping the interior of its already impressive defense and Reed is the kind of two-gap type who could make things even easier for J.J. Watt.
23. - Minnesota Vikings - Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss - The Vikings need a legit WR1 for the improving Teddy Bridgewater and Treadwell is a big receiver who can high point the football and be a real weapon on 50-50 balls down the field.
24. - Cincinnati Bengals - Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor - Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are good, complimentary receivers set to hit the open market. Both figure to get overpaid unless Cincinnati works out team-friendly deals so the better option may be looking toward the draft to get A.J. Green a new running mate.
25. - Pittsburgh Steelers - Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State - The corner position has been a mess in Pittsburgh for a few years now and getting a tough-minded, proven producer like Apple could have the team trending in the right direction again.
26. - Seattle Seahawks - Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State - Russell Okung seems bent on proving himself as an agent and the veteran Seahawks left tackle is likely on his way out the door in Seattle. Already a weakness on the team with Okung, the offensive line is a natural spot for John Schneider to target.
27. - Green Bay Packers - Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn - When healthy the Packers tackles are average and you saw what happened this season when a pedestrian player like David Bakhtiari went down with injury. Green Bay needs reinforcements to better protect Aaron Rodgers and they need athletic ones like Coleman.
28. - Kansas City Chiefs - Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State - Jeremy Maclin was a Godsend for Kansas City but the team still finished just 30th in the NFL in passing. Pairing Thomas with Maclin and tight end Travis Kelce could finally give the team all the weapons they need.
29. - Arizona Cardinals - Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky - If Championship Sunday proved anything, it was the fact that you are ahead of the game defensively if you can get to the quarterback with your four-man rush. No team in football blitzes more than the Cardinals and while part of that is certainly aggression, it's also because their best natural pass rusher was the aging Dwight Freeney, who wasn't even brought on board until October. Spence was kicked out of Ohio State for using Ecstasy and would be a top-15 talent without the issues.
30. - Denver Broncos - Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana - Most would put a second-round grade on Spriggs but the Broncos were so bad at right tackle this season, they could make the leap here.
31. - Carolina Panthers - Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State - Three ACLs and now a broken forearm make you realize that Thomas Davis is human so why not go best available for the presumptive Super Bowl champs and add a playmaker like Lee to Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson?
-Note: The New England Patriots have no pick in the first round due to league penalties related to DeflateGate.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen