NFL Mock Draft: The Post-Free Agency Edition
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The NFL Draft is always going to be an inexact science but as far as predicting things, you are never going to have a clearer picture than right now, the small period when NFL teams have, by and large, finished their free-agent shopping and have yet to fully engage in their misinformation campaigns to disguise their particular draft intentions.
With that in mind, it's time to take our latest snapshot of the 2016 draft, the post-free agency edition:
1. - Dallas Cowboys (trade with Tennessee Titans) - Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State - Tennessee desperately wants out of No. 1 and it has its dance partner. If anyone in this league is going to buy into hype, it's Jerry Jones and the allure of Wentz's pro-day performance this week will to be too much for Stephen Jones to talk his dad from of throwing out his back reaching for Tony Romo's heir apparent.
Wentz has taken the lead over Cal's Jared Goff as the best QB in this class, thanks to his size (6-foot-5, 238 pounds), arm strength and movement skills with some calling him a more athletic Joe Flacco.
2. - Cleveland Browns - Jared Goff, QB, California - The Browns signed RG3 this week but that's not the end of their QB hunt. Like a lot of teams, Cleveland is trying to recreate what Seattle did at the position -- carpet bomb it and rotate players in and out until you find the answer.
"We’ve been clear on the importance of improving and stabilizing the quarterback position for our franchise," Browns VP of football operations Sashi Brown explained. "We have said that the draft is and will be our primary focus,"
3. - San Diego Chargers - Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State - The versatile Ramsey is right there with UCLA linebacker Myles Jack as the best defender this year and his ability to play either corner or safety fits in well with San Diego which lost both Eric Weddle and Patrick Robinson in free agency.
4. - Tennessee Titans (trade with Dallas Cowboys) - Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss - By falling back to four new Titans general manager Jon Robinson still gets the player he wants in Tunsil without the financial commitment and expectations a No. 1 overall selection brings with it. Tunsil has solidified that he was the better athlete between he and Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley at the position and by taking him, Tennessee can kick former first-round pick Taylor Lewan over to the right side.
5. - Jacksonville Jaguars - Myles Jack, LB, UCLA - 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 Jack, perhaps the best playmaker available and the player two NFL sources say is at the top of the Eagles draft board.
6. - Baltimore Ravens - Vernon Hargreaves, DB, 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 - Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis - Colin Kaepernick is so disgruntled that the 49ers almost have to move him. That means the San Francisco is forced to reach for the third best signal caller available and at least get Chip Kelly a young QB who has the potential to be the accurate intermediate thrower he needs.
8. - Philadelphia Eagles - Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame - The Eagles believe the top tier of this draft is 10 deep and even though running back is a bigger need than tackle, forget Ezekiel Elliott because he's not in that mix. Former Ravens coach Brian Billick is fond of saying "need is the worst talent evaluator in sports," and Howie Roseman will stay true to his board. Stanley is athletic enough to start at left guard and solve the gaping hole there while sliding out to left tackle once Jason Peters is gone.
9. - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State - The Bucs need talent on the defensive line Bosa projects best in a 4-3 scheme like Tampa Bay runs. An admitted Adderall issue will not be enough to scare the Bucs off Bosa at this point.
10. - New York Giants - Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State - Conklin is a bit of a reach this high but the Giants spent the GDP of a third-world nation on defense in free agency so protecting Eli Manning moves up on the team's to-do list.
11. - Chicago Bears - Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama - The Bears could also use a left tackle and might consider trading out but Vic Fangio likes to be physical up front and Reed is a solid, two-gap option.
12. - New Orleans Saints - DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon - The Saints obviously need a ton of help on defense and Buckner has size, length, athleticism, and an ability to get after the quarterback from both the outside and the interior.
13. - Miami Dolphins - Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson - The Dolphins have the aging Cam Wake at defensive end and added Mario Williams but lost Olivier Vernon so they still need a new piece on the edge and Lawson, a pure speed guy with the requisite motor will bring a much-needed youth to the position.
14. - Oakland Raiders - Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson - The Raiders certainly need help outside the numbers on defense and Alexander, although undersized, is a great man-to-man coverage option who fits the need.
15. - St. Louis Rams - Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss - The Rams desperately need a QB here but the early run makes that untenable unless they want to reach for a Connor Cook and that's not advisable. Treadwell isn't terribly explosive but is the most well-rounded receiver in the draft and fills another significant need.
16. - Detroit Lions - Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State - Marvin Jones isn't enough to replace Calvin Johnson but his signing at least opens up options and snaring Decker to help alleviate the issues at left tackle seems like the prudent move.
17. - Atlanta Falcons - A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama - Dan Quinn wants to keep building up his front seven to duplicate what he once had in Seattle. Robinson proved he was the top interior option at the Senior Bowl and really excels when occupying blockers.
18. - Indianapolis Colts - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State - Most have pegged Elliott to the Eagles at No. 8 but he's simply not a generational-type talent like an Adrian Peterson or even a Todd Gurley. He'll land in Indy where Ryan Grigson needs to put the Trent Richardson fiasco in the rear-view mirror and finally get Andrew Luck a legitimate bell-cow back. Frank Gore is 32 and averaged just 3.7 yards per carry last season.
19. - Buffalo Bills - Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson - The Ryans are quickly losing their reps as defensive geniuses so bringing in Dodd, a Zack Martin-like safe pick is a good idea. The "lesser" of the Clemson DEs is a hard worker with a solid football IQ.
20. - New York Jets - Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville - The Jets lost Snacks Harrison in free agency and could be shopping Mo Wilkerson because of his price tag. If that's the end game, you need replacements and Rankins is a fast-riser who is scheme versatile as an interior pass rusher.
21. - Washington Redskins - Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State - Getting a potential difference maker at corner like the Voorhees, NJ native would be tough to pass up here for the Redskins.
22. - Houston Texans - Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor - The WR run starts here. The best way to make Brock Osweiler s success is to surround him with skill-position talent. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the top three receivers in football and if you keep Coleman in-state, Houston will be well on its way to having one of the best duos in the game.
23. - Minnesota Vikings - Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame - The Vikings need a legit WR1 for the improving Teddy Bridgewater and Fuller is the one explosive, pop-the-top receiver in this draft with legit 4.33 speed. He's also pretty darn good with the ball in his hands on manufactured touches. The knock is inconsistent hands but the Vikings almost have to take the chance here.
24. - Cincinnati Bengals - Josh Doctson, WR, TCU - Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones were good, complimentary receivers next to the dynamic A.J. Green. Doctson has the ceiling to be even better.
25. - Pittsburgh Steelers - William Jackson, CB, Houston - The corner position has been a mess in Pittsburgh for a few years now and getting a long, speedy player like Jackson could have the team trending in the right direction again.
26. - Seattle Seahawks - Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana - Most would put a second-round grade on Spriggs but he's tremendously athletic and the offensive line is an even bigger need than usual in Seattle with Russell Okung now in Denver.
27. - Green Bay Packers - Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama - Time to stop the nonsense of moving Clay Matthews inside. Most project Ragland as a 4-3 mike but the Pack can stick him in the middle of the 3-4 and finally enjoy a more physical presence.
28. - Kansas City Chiefs - Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State - With Justin Houston's health now in question, getting another athletic outside option is great value here.
29. - Arizona Cardinals - Ryan Kelly, OC, Alabama - The Cards have really upgraded their O-Line over the past two seasons but still have one glaring hole right in the middle. Why not fix it with the draft's best center?
30. - Carolina Panthers - Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State - When Jared Allen rode off into his overcast sunset, that opened up a pass-rushing spot and Ogbah, while he doesn't have the elite first step, is a really nice choice this late in the process.
31. - Denver Broncos - Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss - The off-the-field issues are a real concern with Nkemdiche but he's a top-10 talent and if he does fall this far, John Elway gets the perfect replacement for Malik Jackson.
-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