Mock Draft 4.0: Jalen Ramsey surges to No. 1 overall pick
Jalen Ramsey and Carson Wentz rise in Steve Palazzolo's latest mock of the first round.
Mock Draft 4.0: Jalen Ramsey surges to No. 1 overall pick
Draft season has taken its latest turn as the NFL Combine is now in the rearview mirror and pro days are soon to be upon us. Each step is another piece of the evaluation puzzle, though the on-field product will always be the ultimate trump card. With that said, we expect a certain level of performance when it comes to combine drills, and anything that doesn’t match up with on-field production is room for more investigation. Our evaluation process is ever-evolving, and this is just the next step before free agency throws yet another twist on draft season.
As always, this mock is based around what I would do for each team, not necessarily the buzz and hype we are hearing around the NFL.
- Tennessee Titans – Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
There is change at the top as Ramsey takes over the No. 1 spot for a number of reasons. While Ohio State’s Joey Bosa is still a favorite of ours, he’s not a perfect fit for Tennessee’s scheme, and when given the opportunity to draft a playmaker like Ramsey it’s difficult to pass that up. He’s an excellent all-around football player as he can cover, tackle and play the run. For the Titans, he will excel as a zone corner where his length and athleticism allow him to compress passing lanes as he develops his skills as a press man coverage cornerback. He has the size and length to become one of the league’s best, and given his domination at the combine, the physical attributes are there as well.
- Cleveland Browns – Jared Goff, QB, Cal
There is plenty of reason to believe that the Browns are hot on the trail of North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, but Goff’s advantage in essential quarterback traits is difficult to ignore. He reads the field quickly, moves around the pocket like a veteran, and gets the ball out of his hand with a quick release. He’s not a perfect prospect, as velocity can become an issue when forced to reset his base, but Goff’s body of work as PFF’s No. 8 quarterback in 2014 and top-rated signal caller in 2015 makes him the right choice for the Browns.
- San Diego Chargers – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
Buckner remains the choice at No. 3 for the Chargers as he’s a great fit for their 3-4 scheme. He reminds of Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals, not only in size, but also in future projection from a production standpoint. Buckner was a workhorse for Oregon, leading all interior defensive linemen with 951 snaps and playing over 100 snaps in two different games. Even with the heavy workload, he used his length to lead the nation with a +42.8 pass rush grade while ranking eighth against the run at +29.1.
- Dallas Cowboys – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Bosa falls from No. 1 to No. 4 and the Cowboys are the beneficiaries as they get the top-graded edge defender in college football over the last two years. Bosa projects as a top-notch run defender on the edge while providing a punch as a pass rusher, whether going up against tackles on the outside or kicking in to rush against guards. His +44.1 pass rush grade ranked second in the nation among edge defenders in 2015 after leading the way at +56.6 in 2014.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
The linebacker position is more valuable than ever in today’s NFL, particularly 3-down options that can cover and play the run. Jack can be just that after he led the nation’s linebackers with a coverage grade of +14.7 in 2014 before coming out in 2015 and attacking blocks in the run game better than ever. While he was limited to only 207 snaps last season, Jack’s coverage ability and potential against the run give him the required versatility of a top NFL linebacker.
- Baltimore Ravens – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Tunsil is an option for a number of teams slotted above, but they made the right choices in going with defensive playmakers. He’ll slot in nicely for Baltimore who is expected to release starting left tackle, Eugene Monroe, shortly. Tunsil was limited to only six games, but he handled a great slate of pass rushers (only five pressures on 235 pass blocking attempts) while showing his explosiveness in the run game at +12.1.
- San Francisco 49ers – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
He may be the option at No 2 overall, but Wentz is a wild card in my draft. An ideal scenario has him sitting and learning initially, perhaps with a team that has an established quarterback later in the first round, but the 49ers could also be a good situation under new head coach Chip Kelly. Wentz has the arm to thrive in a vertical passing offense, but he needs to work on his timing and decision making. The risk may be high, but Wentz’s potential is through the roof and too difficult to pass up.
- Miami Dolphins – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
We’ve started to warm up to a number of cornerbacks in the class, but Hargreaves remains the pick for the Dolphins in part because of his skillset that should match up well with the shifty receivers of the division rival New England Patriots. Hargreaves’ 2015 was a step back from his 2014 season that saw him post the top coverage grade in the nation, but his movement skills and scheme versatility make him a good fit for the Miami defense.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
A different twist on Tampa Bay’s pick as we’ve looked to the defensive side of the ball in previous mocks, but with a lot of question marks surrounding the next best edge rushers behind Bosa, the Bucs grab perhaps the top wide receiver in the draft. QB Jameis Winston already has his big targets in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, but Coleman adds another dimension to the passing game with his ability to create quick separation and pick up yards after the catch.
- New York Giants – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
It’s a similar situation for the Giants who would like to grab an edge rusher here, but Rankins is a great fit on the inside to pair with nose tackle Johnathan Hankins. Rankins’ two-year production is spectacular as he graded at +55.4 in 2014 to rank second among all interior defensive linemen before a +42.3 effort placed him 16th overall in 2015. He’s just as comfortable lining head up on a blocker as he is shooting gaps, and that versatile disruptive presence will be a much-needed upgrade for the Giants’ defense.
- Chicago Bears – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
With RB Matt Forte getting released, need and value match up well for the Bears as they get one of the best all-around players in the draft. Elliott posted the third overall grade among the nation’s running backs, showing well as a runner, receiver, and pass blocker while adding some lead blocking to the mix as well. He can cut on a dime and he maximizes runs by finishing well through contact, so expect Elliott to become an immediate three-down option at the next level.
- New Orleans Saints – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
The entire defense needs help and Lawson adds a stout presence against the run that can also get after the passer. His +21.9 run grade finished second to only Bosa while adding a +25.9 pass rush grade that ranked 17th in the nation. His progression is only beginning as he played a productive 329 snaps in 2014 before seeing the field for 760 last fall.
- Philadelphia Eagles – William Jackson III, CB, Houston
The first-round hype will continue for Jackson, who was a PFF favorite well before he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at 6-feet tall at the combine. His size and movement skills project him as a future No. 1 corner, even though there may be some growing pains along the way. In a division with Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham, a 6-foot corner with speed and the No. 3 coverage grade in college football last season makes for a good fit.
- Oakland Raiders – Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
Another PFF favorite, Jones may have as much upside as any player in the draft. His +54.2 overall grade ranked fourth among interior defensive linemen last season, including a +36.5 pass rush grade that ranked second. He’s extremely strong at the point of attack, prompting our analysts to bring up New York Jets DE Leonard Williams as a comparable player. Throw in Jones’ 1.70 10-yard split at 310 pounds, and the burst and strength give him a rare combination that could make him one of the better players to come out of the draft.
- Los Angeles Rams – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Still in need of a quarterback, there are no other signal callers worth reaching for at this point, so the Rams will add one of the best receivers in the draft. Doctson had the op receiving grade in the nation last year at +28.9 despite playing only 582 snaps. He’s coming of a great all-around combine as he showed the same size and speed combination that allowed him to dominate down the field while regularly hauling in spectacular catches with his long frame.
- Detroit Lions – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
The pick remains the same for the Lions as they bring in Stanley who graded at +9.6 as a pass blocker and +9.3 in the run game. He’s better as a pass blocker as he moves well to mirror opposing rushers but he’ll struggle with power in the running game. Stanley surrendered only 13 pressures on 458 attempts last season and he can step right into Detroit’s revolving door at right tackle while potentially pushing LT Riley Reiff out the door in the coming years.
- Atlanta Falcons – Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
Adding a complement to WR Julio Jones is a must for Atlanta this offseason and Carroo is one of the more underrated options in the draft. He dominated in only 363 snaps last season, grading at +15.0 as a receiver and averaging 4.11 yards per route, good for second in the nation. While he can be inconsistent snap to snap, he’s shown good burst and separation skills, while dropping only two of 96 catchable passes the last two years. Carroo adds a valuable piece to the Atlanta offense.
- Indianapolis Colts – Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky
Another wild card in this draft, Spence may be off a number of team boards due to off-field concerns and an underwhelming combine, but a draft devoid of elite edge rushers may push him back into the first round. The Colts are lacking any burst off the edge, but with capable run-stopping outside linebackers on the roster, this may be the perfect spot for Spence to ease in as a situational pass rusher as he develops against the run. He dominated Senior Bowl week while notching eight pressures in two games against FBS competition.
- Buffalo Bills – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
One of my favorite scheme matches in the first round, Conklin fits the mauling, run-blocking profile that head coach Rex Ryan is looking for. He’s ranked fourth as a run blocker each of the last two years and he finished 2015 with only 11 pressures surrendered on 416 attempts. Buffalo’s power scheme perfectly matches Conklin’s skillset.
- New York Jets – Shilique Calhoun, OLB, Michigan State
Seemingly forever in the market for an edge rusher, the Jets grab Calhoun who has been as disruptive off the edge as any non-Bosa in the draft. His +46.0 pass rush grade led all edge players in 2015 after ranking fifth in 2014 at +38.5. Though his run defense took a step back last year, Calhoun has the potential to be the top pass rushing edge defender in the draft.
- Washington Redskins – Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Boasting a strong all-around game, Ragland was one of a number of standouts in Alabama’s front-7, grading well against the run (+13.2) and in coverage (+9.8) while successfully blitzing and rushing off the edge at times (+7.7). With one of the worst inside linebacker situations in the NFL, Washington will be watching all of the linebacker prospects very closely.
- Houston Texans – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
We have Treadwell going lower than most as his separation skills were unimpressive on tape (other than slant routes) and his downfield ball skills are inconsistent. He’s still a very good player, but perhaps not the blue chip that everyone assumed heading into the process. He’ll complement WR DeAndre Hopkins’ well-rounded game, adding a possession and red zone threat as the Texans’ search for their quarterback of the future.
- Minnesota Vikings – Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
The more we’ve watched Thomas, the more we’ve liked, as the former Buckeye separates better than most in the class and he’ll add a necessary intermediate threat to the Minnesota offense. He plays fast, gets on corners quickly, and handles press well, so while Thomas may not be the flashiest pick in the draft, he’s a valuable weapon for Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Jonathan Bullard, DE/DT, Florida
Just as we said in the last mock, a nose tackle would be a great fit for the Bengals here, but Bullard’s early down production and position versatility is too much to pass up. He can play base defensive end while sprinkling inside at times, bringing excellent play against the run as he led all interior defensive linemen at +50.5 in 2015. He’s not as productive as you’d like as a pass rusher, but he did improve to +7.7 last season and a strong showing at the combine may bode well for him in this department.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
Even before longtime tight end Heath Miller announced his retirement, the Steelers were in the market for his replacement so nabbing the best option in the draft makes a lot of sense. The sure-handed Henry has only dropped two of 90 catchable passes the last two years, and he has the size and speed to stretch the middle of the field for an already-loaded Pittsburgh passing attack.
- Seattle Seahawks – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Perhaps a risky and somewhat redundant play for Seattle, but Nkemdiche has the potential to become the best interior pass rusher in the draft. He ranked ninth in the nation in that department last year at +23.4, while improving against the run at +11.7. He can play a similar role as Bullard, albeit with different skillsets, as a base defensive end and interior rusher in the mold of current Seahawk, Michael Bennett.
- Green Bay Packers – Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
Floyd’s six-five, 244-pound frame will draw plenty of interest around the league, especially after a strong combine that saw him show good lower body explosion and speed. He’s likely a pure edge defender at the next level, though some teams may be intrigued by the versatility he showed last season as a traditional linebacker. For Green Bay, he’ll play on the edge where he can use his developing pass rush skills that ranked fifth in the draft class at +28.9. Floyd also ranked fifth against the run at +18.4, as the frame, athleticism and production all match up into a prospect with a lot of potential at the next level.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Alexander is best in press man coverage and no team played more man coverage than Kansas City last season. He doesn’t have the coveted six-foot height, but Alexander has strong movement skills to mirror receivers off the line of scrimmage. While he didn’t post a great grade (+2.7 in coverage), he was forced to play a lot of “off” coverage with little underneath help last season in Clemson’s scheme, but his work as a press corner fits what the Chiefs like to do defensively, especially with Sean Smith hitting free agency.
- Arizona Cardinals – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Apple’s situation is similar to Alexander’s as he best fits in a press man coverage scheme, though he does boast the prototypical 6-foot-1 frame. He’s physical in coverage, if not grabby, though he locks onto receivers as well as any cornerback in the class when he plays press. The problem for Apple is finding the ball in the air, something he rarely does, making him susceptible to back shoulder throws. He’s also a sloppy open field tackler and inconsistent “off” coverage cornerback, but Arizona’s scheme that played the fifth-most man coverage in the NFL should be able to play to his strengths.
- Carolina Panthers – Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
A polarizing player, Ogbah posted the third-best pass rushing grade in the draft class at +41.9, before turning heads at the combine with top-three finishes in the vertical and broad jumps and the 40-yard dash. He was underwhelming as a run defender, but his length figures to give him a chance at the next level. Ogbah’s size, burst, and production make him a valuable option at the back end of the first round.
- Denver Broncos – Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
Whitehair ranked fourth in the nation among offensive tackles at +35.8 overall in 2014 and followed it up by leading the nation at +40.9 last year. He’ll move to guard at the next level where he won’t be a mauler, but his movement skills and ability to sustain blocks will be a perfect match for Denver’s zone-blocking scheme.
*No first-round pick for the New England Patriots