It dawned on me earlier this week that I have not actually done a full first round mock yet this year. To correct that apparently grave mistake, I wanted to test out a few of my most recent theories on who ends up where by running through the entire first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that all of these picks are what I would do if I were the GM of each team, not necessarily what I think the real GMs will do when draft day rolls around in April.
1) Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
I understand the argument for trying to avoid paying for two franchise offensive tackles at the same time a few years from now, but with the salary cap rising every season, it really should not be that hard to pay both Tunsil and Taylor Lewan simultaneously.
2) Browns: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
Now that Robert Griffin III is a Brown, it seems like Hue Jackson is bringing him in as a high upside veteran that can get this franchise through a season or two while they restock with talent at other positions. Tashaun Gipson left in free agency, which means there is now a gaping hole at the free safety position - a hole I intend to fill with Jalen Ramsey. Quarterback is obviously still priority number one, but I think the signing of Griffin gives this organization a chance to look for a developmental signal caller on the second day of the draft. Paxton Lynch at pick 32, anyone?
3) Chargers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
I totally get the lust for Ramsey here from Chargers fans if he were still available. He has a strong case to be the best player in this whole class, after all, but San Diego's biggest problem is not at safety. They can't stop the run and can't pressure the passer up the gut. The Chargers already had a great safety in Eric Weddle and still could not do anything on defense, so how could I possibly expect that to change with Ramsey? He is as good of a free safety prospect as you will ever see, but if the Chargers can't stop the run, he will essentially be irrelevant anyway. Buckner can be the guy to shut down that run game, but he can also be the guy to get after the quarterback from any spot on the line. If you want your front seven to get a lot better in a hurry, this is the DE for you.
4) Cowboys: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Wentz is not one of the 10 best players in this class, but he does fill a massive future need for this Cowboys roster. I realize that Dallas is in "win now" mode, but the only reason why they couldn't "win now" last season was because they did not have a backup quarterback that could man the fort while Tony Romo was hurt.
I think Wentz is at least talented enough to give Dallas some immediate wins in an emergency situation, but if he is allowed to develop on the bench for a couple of years, he really could do some special things for this franchise. If I am the Cowboys GM, I am confident in my ability to still get some key pieces in the next few rounds to get us over the hump while my fourth overall pick is used for making sure that we can keep getting over that hump for the next 15 years.
5) Jaguars: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Now that Jaylon Smith's health is clouded by a scary injury, Myles Jack is far and away the best linebacker in this class. Telvin Smith is one hell of a Will Backer, but Jacksonville could stand to find an upgrade at the Mike and Sam spots. Jack is so obscenely athletic that he could play either one of those positions, and whenever Paul Posluszny moves on, the Jack-Smith combo at Mike and Will would arguably be the league's best.
6) Ravens: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The Ravens need to find an edge rusher for the future. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will not be on the team much longer, considering their age and/or health status, so getting a guy like Bosa to come in and energize this pass rush would be huge.
7) 49ers: Jared Goff, QB, California
I have no idea what to make of the quarterback situation in San Francisco. Colin Kaepernick wants out, Blaine Gabbert is still an enigma, and we have yet to see how Chip Kelly's system will actually mesh with their current personnel. Jared Goff might need some time to sit on the bench and develop if he were going to a traditional pro-style offense, but that's not what Chip likes to run. Goff, coming from the spread in college, would feel right at home in this offense. I still think there is a good chance that Kaep is traded before the opening week of the season, so I'm electing to grab my real quarterback of the future right now in order to have a plan for when that trade eventually happens.
8) Eagles: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
This was a really tough decision for me. Vernon Hargreaves obviously would have filled the immediate need at cornerback, but I see him as more of an off-corner than a press corner. Jim Schwartz tends to prefer more press-oriented coverage schemes, so naturally Hargreaves isn't the best fit here. Elliott, however, is a great fit. Ryan Mathews isn't the worst starting running back in the world, but I do not have a ton of confidence in his ability to stay healthy in the long term. I think Elliott can shoulder the load while Mathews provides some complementary explosive plays here and there. The stronger the run game is in Philly, the easier it will be for Sam Bradford to guide this offense to its full potential.
9) Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Okay, now Hargreaves finally comes off the board. His game compares favorably to a young Brent Grimes, who happens to be the corner that will be playing across from him in Tampa Bay. If his production matches that of Grimes in his earlier years, the Bucs will be getting one hell of a DB.
10) Giants: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Marshall Newhouse is the projected starter at right tackle this season, so that's something that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later. I actually thought that Ereck Flowers graded out to be more of a (top tier) right tackle than a true left tackle when he was coming out of Miami, so I'll kick him back over to the right side in this scenario and slide Stanley right into his more natural position on the left. That's a mighty fine OT tandem we've got here.
11) Bears: Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
The signings of Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, and Jerrell Freeman take a little bit of pressure off of the need to bulk up the front seven with the 11th overall pick, so instead I'm going to go after one of the few true flamethrowers off the edge in this class. He and Pernell McPhee complement each other's skillsets very well.
12) Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
I really only like Rankins as a pure 3-technique defensive tackle rather than as a 5-technique defensive end like he was used at Louisville, and luckily for me that is exactly how he would be used in New Orleans. Putting him right next to Cam Jordan would be fun as hell to watch in third and long situations. He's a pretty darn strong run defender on the interior when not having to deal with long-armed offensive tackles on the edges, too.
13) Dolphins: Cody Whitehair, OG/C, Kansas State
This is probably the very, very top of Cody Whitehair's potential draft range, but as the fake GM of the Dolphins, I really did not want to risk losing out on the best guard prospect in this class (in my opinion). Ryan Tannehill simply will not survive much longer if Miami doesn't fix their issues with handling interior pressure. At the end of the day, you really cannot put too high of a price on a clean pocket and wide open cut back lanes, so I'm comfortable with the pick.
14) Raiders: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
I almost put Darron Lee in Miami, but Whitehair was a higher priority for me considering the Dolphins' offensive line woes last season. That is fortunate for Oakland, who now gets Lee as their Will linebacker of the future behind Khalil Mack, Mario Edwards Jr., and Dan Williams. Considering how much talent is now in that front seven, Lee will be free to roam as he pleases and make big plays with his incredible speed. This is a guy who can clear 100 tackles easily every season if he is put in the right situation, and the Raiders certainly qualify as that.
15) Rams: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Josh Docston has size, body control, and outrageous ball skills...three things that no other receiver on the Rams roster can currently say they already have in one package. I'm tempted to pull the trigger on a quarterback here, but no rookie passer will have much success on this team anyway unless they get some more weapons to work with. Doctson, Todd Gurley, and Tavon Austin would be a good enough group of skill position players for me to feel comfortable taking a young developmental QB on day two.
16) Lions: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
The Lions have multiple needs that can be addressed at this pick, but I really like Spriggs here. He's athletic, he's got length, and he was well-coached in a pro style system. He can step in on day one and play right tackle, or possibly even play left tackle if Detroit wants to move Riley Reiff over to the right side. Whatever they decide to do with him, Spriggs can handle it. Does Matt Stafford really want Michael Ola to be his right tackle when he's got Clay Matthews, Anthony Barr, and Pernell McPhee screaming off that edge six times a year? Yeah...I didn't think so either.
17) Falcons: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
This is basically the worst case scenario for Atlanta because they need linebackers like a fish needs water, but unfortunately there are no linebackers left on the board that are worth this pick (unless your doctors like Jaylon Smith's chances at recovery). Tight end is the next biggest need I have down on my chart, so I'm getting the best one in this class. This would be way early for Hunter Henry under any other circumstance, but since trading down is not allowed in this mock, I am kind of forced to pull that trigger.
That's not to say that Henry isn't a good player - he's great, actually - I would just have preferred to take him later than 17th overall. He can help this offense on all three downs as a blocker and reliable receiver; a steady Heath Miller-ish career is a pretty good bet for Henry's projection. There are worst things to spend a first round pick on than a young Heath Miller, I suppose.
18) Colts: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
Ryan Kelly isn't quite as good of a center prospect as Cam Erving, but he's not far off. He might not have some of the physical measurables that Erving had a year ago, but he comes into the league with much more polish. Kelly only allowed four total pressures all season long, and zero sacks against a who's who of defensive tackle talent in the SEC. Now more than ever, Indy needs to dedicate itself to keeping Andrew Luck clean and opening run lanes for an aging Frank Gore.
19) Bills: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Calhoun is being severely underrated as a hybrid DE/LB tweener at the next level. He's got better length and athleticism than Noah Spence, and his tape has been consistently great over a longer period of time. I think can come in and be an immediate contributor as a pass rusher, and he can hold the edge against the run better than most rush ends in this class as well. This is the well-rounded kind of defender that Rex Ryan has continuously turned into stars at the next level.
20) Jets: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Back to back Spartans. Gang Green needs to find an answer for their future problems at right and left tackle. Breno Giacommini was not worth his salary last season, and to be honest, he could probably be replaced by Conklin immediately anyway. Beyond him, they could be looking for a new left tackle sooner rather than later depending on how much gas D'Brickashaw Ferguson has left in the tank.
21) Redskins: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Oh look, another Ohio State player. Michael Thomas was criminally underused last season due to the sheer amount of weapons that team had on offense, but he is plenty talented enough to warrant this pick. Washington needs a big-bodied receiver that knows how to work himself open at the top of his routes, and that is the best way to describe Thomas' game. Ohio State might not have the most complicated offense in the country, but Thomas had a lot of subtlety to his route running style that speaks to his development potential as a pro. Double releases, shoulder rides, change ups in stride length - he clearly knows a lot of the little tricks in the book already.
I think he can be an impact play maker on day one for Kirk Cousins. Beyond this season, Washington will already have Pierre Garcon's replacement in-house in 2017 when his contract expires. That's planning for the future, ladies and gentlemen.
22) Texans: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Coleman is a much better player than his status as the 22nd overall selection would suggest. He happens to fall all the way down here simply because most teams that need a receiver in this draft are looking for bigger-bodied guys that can catch contested balls in the red zone and on the boundaries. "CoCo", as Baylor fans affectionately called him, is a touchdown waiting to happen. Physically, he is almost a carbon copy of Percy Harvin, except possibly even faster. If you could imagine Harvin in his prime (without the injury or personality issues) lining up next to DeAndre Hopkins, that is the kind of deadly combination we are talking about here.
Jaelen Strong is a potentially great piece to have as an up and coming boundary receiver, but passing on Coleman's immense talent and versatility is something I am simply not willing to do right now. He can line up outside, inside, as a running back, and even as both a punt and kick returner. Elite weapons that can be used on all four downs are rarer than you think in this league, so I'm perfectly fine with prioritizing talent over pure need on this one. After all, you know what's better than having two good receivers? Having three great ones.
23) Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Minnesota lucks out here as perhaps their best fit at receiver in this entire class falls right into their lap at 23. Treadwell brings the polish, reliability, and toughness that Teddy Bridgewater needs to succeed. He is practically the exact opposite kind of receiver as Mike Wallace, which is a good thing for this team. Between Treadwell and Diggs, I think the Vikings will have one of the better young receiving tandems in the league within a few years.
24) Bengals: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
The wide receiver run continues. Cincy needs more receiving talent, and they need it now. The departures of Marvin Jones and Mo Sanu must be addressed somewhere near the top of this draft, so I'm going all in on the speed merchant from Notre Dame. Yes, the hands are an issue. Yes, some qualify him as a one-trick pony. I don't need Fuller to be my "move the chains" guy, however. That's what I pay Tyler Eifert, Gio Bernard, and A.J. Green to do. If I am the GM of the Bengals, I want Fuller in my building simply for the fact that he scares the hell out of opposing defensive coordinators with his speed. The more attention he attracts from safeties, the more our other weapons will benefit. That is worth the price tag alone to me.
25) Steelers: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
With Steve McLendon now in New York, the Steelers are in need of a good young nose tackle. Bonus points if that nose tackle also shows the ability to rush the passer a bit so he can be more useful in Pittsburgh's predominantly nickel defense. Billings, Heyward, and Tuitt would be one hell of a defensive line.
26) Seahawks: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Part of being a good GM is giving your coaches the types of players they actually want to coach, and the Seahawks staff has repeatedly emphasized tools and talent over polish. Robert Nkemdiche has incredible physical tools that flashed on tape consistently, and that is something that Seattle could easily mold into an All-Pro type of defensive tackle within a few years. Oh, and this coaching staff has already proven multiple times that they know how to control and guide players with questionable decision-making skills. If Nkemdiche was clean off the field the Seahawks would never have had a snowball's chance in hell at drafting him anyway, so I consider this a stroke of luck.
27) Packers: Jarran Reed, DE/DT, Alabama
Green Bay has a gaping hole at inside linebacker, but I really don't like any ILBs at this pick right now (no, not even Ragland). The Packers could use help at either defensive end or nose tackle, and luckily for me, Jarran Reed can play both.
28) Chiefs: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Sean Smith is gone, so finding a new starting corner to play opposite Marcus Peters is a huge priority. Jackson has the desired length, fluidity, and ball skills to operate as a press corner in this scheme, but he's got great footwork and explosiveness to play well off coverage, too. With both of these guys in the lineup for at least the next four years together, KC would have a very, very bright future at corner.
29) Cardinals: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
The Cardinals already have all of the pieces they need to make a serious run at a championship now that Chandler Jones is in town, so I'm looking to the future with this pick. Christian Hackenberg is the perfect quarterback to be developed by Bruce Arians. He's big, he's athletic, and he's got a huge arm. More importantly, he's the most mentally advanced quarterback in this class. I think his accuracy issues are already drastically improving as he continues to fix his footwork. In a year or two when Carson Palmer retires, the Cardinals would instantly have their new franchise quarterback ready to step in and play. The fifth year option in rookie contracts is also incredibly valuable when it comes to managing the cap around expensive quarterback extensions, so that's a big plus.
30) Panthers: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
The Panthers' offensive line somehow played exceptionally well in 2015 despite not looking all that great on paper before the season started. However, offensive tackle could still stand to be reinforced for the future considering Michael Oher only has one year left on his contract. Taylor Decker is a perfect lineman for the Panthers. He's huge, he's tough as nails, and he down blocks better than anyone else in this class. If you want a hole opened in a hurry on a power run call, Decker is your guy. He doesn't have the most nimble feet in the world, but in Carolina's run-heavy offense that doesn't seem to matter quite as much anyway. I think he could be an excellent swing tackle for this team in 2016 before taking over the starting left tackle role from Oher in 2017 and beyond.
31) Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
This is pure desperation, and I'm willing to admit that. Under no circumstances do I think that Paxton Lynch is ready to start in 2016. That being said, if the Broncos are willing to sit through a year of Mark Sanchez's bumbling around the field, Lynch might be ready by 2017. At least he has a physical skillset that is worth taking a gamble on...or rather a better physical skillset than Connor Cook, I suppose.
So there you have it, BRB. That is the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft as I see it today. The Jaguars get an All-Pro kind of linebacker, the Titans get an offensive tackle that may or may not slow down J.J. Watt, the Colts finally solve their problems with handling interior pressure, and the Texans add a four-down weapon with the ability to break opposing teams all by himself. Which AFC South first rounder did you like the most, and if the draft board actually shook out this way would you also have taken Corey Coleman with the 22nd overall pick?