Mock Draft 6.0: Trade at No. 3 shakes up top of draft
It’s finally draft week, the evaluations are in, and it’s time for each team to unveil their draft strategy. The last two weeks have been filled with exciting developments as two teams made franchise-altering moves in order to find their respective quarterbacks of the future, while more potential deals may still be in the works near the top of the draft.
As has been the case since the beginning, this mock draft is based on what I would do as the general manager of each team, and apparently I’ve been a busy GM in recent weeks with trades re-shaping the top of the draft.
Here’s Mock Draft 6.0:
1. Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff, QB, Cal
A lot has changed since Mock Draft 5.0 and Goff moves from No. 2 to No. 1 with the Rams’ aggressive move to get their franchise quarterback. Goff is the best QB in the draft due to his pocket presence, strong work under pressure (+11.5 grade when pressured led the nation), and quick mind and release that allows him to work through multiple reads and find the open man. While there are concerns about Goff’s hand size and arm strength that is good, not great, going to Los Angeles is a good fit that should keep those concerns on the back burner for the majority of his games. Goff has the translatable skills to develop into an excellent NFL quarterback.
2. Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
After the Eagles made the move to secure the number two pick, the “other” quarterback has to be their choice and that’s Wentz. There’s a lot to like about Wentz’s game – the size, arm, and athleticism are usually the first mentions – and those tools must be built around in Philadelphia. When factoring in ball location, Wentz’s 74.4 percent accuracy percentage on “stick” throws (mostly curls and comebacks) was second-best in the draft class, but he’s struggled on over-the-shoulder throws, bubble screens, and underneath throws while showing inaccuracy in the 21-30 yard range. While his pass game timing is questionable, and he has rarely worked through multiple reads, Wentz is going to an outstanding situation in Philadelphia where he can sit and learn under a coaching staff that has experience developing many different styles of quarterback.
3. TRADE: Jacksonville Jaguars (from San Diego Chargers) – Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
In a trade that makes sense for both teams, the Jaguars secure their best fit in Ramsey and give up a third-round pick to leapfrog the Dallas Cowboys and ensure they get their guy. For San Diego, they are deciding between Ramsey and DeForest Buckner, though Buckner is likely their best fit and they feel safe moving down two spots knowing that Buckner is unlikely to be picked by the Cowboys. Ramsey’s floor is that of a versatile defensive chess piece that can play over slot (using his nation-leading run stop grade to play the run like a linebacker), cover tight ends, or even dabble at free safety. As for his ceiling, with only one full year as a true cornerback, there is still room to develop given his length and athleticism and he could still become one of the league’s best cornerbacks.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Bosa is our top player in the draft, but the QB’s and scheme fit knock him down to No. 4. The Cowboys are thrilled to add our top-graded edge defender from the last two years as Bosa projects as a strong run defender on the edge who is capable of pressuring the quarterback after he posted the nation’s top pass rush grade in 2015.
5. TRADE: San Diego Chargers (from Jacksonville Jaguars) – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
San Diego is thrilled to make this trade as Buckner is the best player to revamp their terrible defensive line and they’re in a prime spot to move down two spots while still getting him. Buckner was the top-graded interior defensive lineman in the nation in 2015, capable of pressuring the quarterback while disrupting the run with his long frame and quick hands. Buckner is similar to Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals in both frame and playing style and he’ll immediately improve San Diego’s defensive front.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
The QB carousel ensured that the Ravens would have one other elite option from which to choose and they go with Jack over Laremy Tunsil. With LB Daryl Smith moving on, Jack steps in as a three-down option on the Ravens defense, bringing his excellent coverage skills that topped the country with a +14.7 grade in 2014. Early 2015 saw Jack take his run defense to a new level, attacking and destroying blockers, before his season-ending injury. We don’t have enough information on Jack’s injury to drop him from the top ten, but that will be a huge factor in whether or not he becomes the next great three-down linebacker.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
The last elite player comes off the board in Tunsil and it’s a good fit for the 49ers and Chip Kelly. LT Joe Staley returns, but there’s a hole at right tackle that Tunsil can fill immediately and Staley may not be a good long-term fit for Kelly’s zone blocking system. Tunsil is scheme-diverse, attacking defenders in the run game with athleticism and power and he has all the tools to succeed in pass protection as he turned away an impressive slate of top edge rushers last year – Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah, Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, LSU’s Arden Key, Auburn’s Carl Lawson – to only surrender five pressures in his six games.
8. Cleveland Browns – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
This is where the draft can turn a number of different ways. The next group of players are comparable and position and scheme fit will have a major impact on the way the draft shakes out. For Cleveland, adding another playmaker will make life easier for Robert Griffin III and their future franchise quarterback. Coleman can separate as well as any receiver in the class, he has the deep speed and ball skills to be a downfield threat, and he’s dynamic after the catch as evidenced by a gaudy 4.88 yards/route before the Baylor quarterback position was decimated by injuries.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
I’ve slotted Hargreaves in there in multiple mock drafts and it’s his movement skills, scheme diversity and ball skills that make him an attractive option for the Bucs. He adds a playmaking option on the back end and Tampa Bay is hoping to get more of the 2014 Hargreaves that posted the second-best coverage grade in the nation.
10. New York Giants – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
The Giants can go in a number of different directions, and despite their efforts to revamp their defense in free agency, they still lack an interior penetrator along the defensive line. Enter Rankins who can handle blockers when lined up head up or he can create disruption when shooting gaps, adding even more versatility to a now-loaded New York defensive line. Rankins’ on-field production has been outstanding the last two years, finishing with the third-highest overall grade among interior defensive linemen in 2014 and 16th in 2015.
11. Chicago Bears – Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
Jones brings as much potential as any interior defensive lineman as he was extremely productive (second-best pass rush grade) but there’s still room for improvement when it comes to technique and effort level. His strength is immediately evident on tape, as is his burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s also relatively inexperienced, playing just over 1,000 snaps the last two years, but posting a two-year grade in Buckner’s neighborhood. He’ll add more depth to the Chicago defensive line and we may be talking about him as one of the draft’s best players in a few years.
12. New Orleans Saints – William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Perhaps the best pure cornerback in the draft, Jackson is similar to Jones in that he was productive on the field (second-best coverage grade in the class), but he’s still learning and should continue to improve. Jackson’s six-foot frame and sub-4.4 speed allow him to compensate for any technique mistakes as he showed impressive makeup speed and ball skills during his time at Houston. His movement skills allow him to play any coverage, though a man-heavy scheme will likely lead to an easier transition to the NFL. There may be a few rough patches, but Jackson has a chance to be an excellent player in the next few years.
13. Miami Dolphins – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
This seems to be Miami’s dream scenario as Elliott represents a natural replacement for the departed Lamar Miller. Elliott is a three-down running back, capable of catching passes out of the backfield while pass protecting as well as any running back in the class (surrendered only on pressure on 102 pass block attempts in 2015). As a runner, Elliott is scheme-diverse and he always maximizes the work of his offensive line so the top-graded running back in the class is a good fit for Miami.
14. Oakland Raiders – Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Floyd, and he may go even higher by the time Thursday rolls around. While he’s built like an edge rusher, Georgia used him in more of a traditional linebacker role early in 2015 and he took to it well. That adds more versatility to his game, but even if he’s used as a pure edge rusher, he has the length and athleticism to excel after grading as our top 3-4 outside linebacker in 2015 and posting the fifth-best pass rush grade among all edge rushers.
15. Tennessee Titans – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
After moving from No. 1 to No. 15, the Titans are in prime position to reload the roster with a plethora of top picks over the next two years. They want to get the running game going and bringing in Conklin to play right tackle is a good start after two monster years of grading, particularly as a run blocker (fourth in the nation each of the last two years). He may struggle early on in pass protection, but he’s still been sound in that department and at the very least, the Titans will have two solid offensive tackles in Conklin and Taylor Lewan.
16. Detroit Lions – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
In a marriage of need and value, Stanley is one of the top players available and he can step in at right tackle for the Lions while possibly moving over to the left side when Riley Reiff’s contract is up. Stanley is not the most powerful run blocker (19th-best run block grade in class), but he’s a smooth pass protector and he’s rarely been beaten cleanly over the last two years.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Even with the signing of Mohamed Sanu, the Falcons can use another playmaker for their passing game and Doctson brings a big-play threat and perhaps the best deep receiver in the draft. His body control is outstanding, leading to a number of spectacular catches down the field and putting him on the field with Julio Jones and Sanu can be a game changer for the Falcons offense that struggled to find an option to complement Jones last season. Doctson had the highest receiving grade among all receivers despite a late-season injury in 2015.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Shaq Lawson, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Colts have tried a number of options on the edge in recent years, but Lawson may be the answer. Their hybrid scheme will make it look like a defensive end or an outside linebacker at times, but regardless of name, Lawson is a stout run defender (second-best grade vs. run in nation) and his +25.9 pass rush grade ranked ninth in the draft class.
19. Buffalo Bills – Shilique Calhoun, OLB, Michigan State
A twist from where previous mocks have gone, there are a number of one-dimensional edge rushers that struggle against the run and one-dimensional interior defensive linemen that struggle getting after the quarterback. Calhoun is the former, and those players will likely take precedent as the first round unfolds. Calhoun posted the second-best pass rushing grade in the nation after ranking third in 2014, so despite his issues against the run, he upgrades Buffalo’s edge rush as the rest of his game develops.
20. New York Jets – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
The Jets love to play man coverage and that’s where Alexander’s movement skills allow him to excel. He can mirror opposing receivers, and those skills will be important in a division with the New England Patriots and their shifty wide receivers. Even though he had help from inaccurate quarterback play, Alexander allowed on 33.3 percent of passes to be completed into his coverage, best in the draft class.
21. Washington Redskins – Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
This is been the pick for Washington for most mocks and it’s a good fit to shore up the middle of their defense. Ragland is a sound run defender and while there are questions about his contributions in nickel defense due to athleticism concerns, he’s capable of playing short zones and he can dabble as a movable chess piece as a blitzer after finishing eighth among linebackers with a +10.0 pass rush grade in 2015.
22. Houston Texans – Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Another common selection in previous mocks, Shepard brings his shifty route running to Houston to provide a complement to DeAndre Hopkins and an important weapon for new QB Brock Osweiler. Shepard’s +27.8 receiving grade ranked second in the nation last season and while he did most of his work from the slot (66 catches, 1,015 yards), he’s capable of winning on the outside as well.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
There are a number of wide receiver options remaining on the board, but Thomas is the best fit for Minnesota and QB Teddy Bridgewater. Thomas suffered through poor quarterback play at Ohio State, but he can create separation as well as any wide receiver in the class, and that should open up the much-needed intermediate passing game for the Vikings’ offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Jonathan Bullard, DE/DT, Florida
I’ve been back and forth between Bullard and an interior defensive lineman for the Bengals, but Bullard brings strong run-stopping ability as a base defensive end in their scheme to go with upside rushing the passer from the interior. He led the nation with a run stopping grade of +51.5 while ranking second in run stop percentage at 12.1 percent, so he’s capable of both disrupting and finishing plays.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Few defensive backs could put together a better 240-play sample than Joseph’s work in 2015 before an injury ended his season, but he showed intriguing ability to make plays from a variety of places on the field. He’s likely best when working downhill as a box safety and using his range in short zones, but he’s also had success playing man coverage and playing center field, making him the draft’s most versatile safety. His 17 missed tackles in 2014 are cause for concern, but Joseph’s playmaking ability is too much to pass up.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
Whitehair has not made it to Seattle in previous mock drafts, but this is a great scenario for the Seahawks as they snag the tackle-convert and slot him right into their weak offensive line. Whitehair was the top-graded tackle in the nation in 2015 after finishing seventh in 2014 and while there’s a chance he could try to stick at tackle at the next level, guard is likely the best fit. He’s technically sound and he uses his strong hands and balance to get into great position in both the running game and in pass protection, and he’ll be a good fit for Seattle’s zone blocking scheme.
27. Green Bay Packers – Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
The draft lines up well for Green Bay to add Billings whose strength at the point of attack is among the best in the class. Billings can push the pocket in the pass game while blowing up run plays with his power, though he can do a better job of learning to use his hands to shed blocks. His overall grades ranked 13th and 15th in the nation each of the last two years, so if he can improve in a couple of key areas, he has the potential to be a game-changer in the middle of the Packers’ defense.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Apple is not a first-round prospect for every team, but his man coverage skills will be perfect for Kansas City who played more man than any team in the league last season. His 6-foot frame and 4.4 speed allow him to stick with receivers as well as any cornerback in the class, he just has to work to find the ball better when it’s in the air and his physical nature could get him in trouble in the early going. With Sean Smith departing, Apple fills an important hole opposite last year’s NFL defensive rookie of the year, Marcus Peters.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Noah Spence, OLB, Ohio State
Even with Chandler Jones coming to town and Markus Golden emerging on the edge last season, Spence’s pass rush potential is too much to pass up. He’s one of the draft’s biggest wild cards as off-field concerns could drop him quite a bit, but he dominated Senior Bowl week and he’s one of the few edge rushers to show the ability to threaten opposing offensive tackles on every rush. Like Calhoun, Spence has work to do as a run defender, but he can contribute immediately as a designated pass rusher while allowing Jones to move around the formation to create matchup problems for opposing offenses.
30. Carolina Panthers – Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Another one-dimensional pass rusher, Ogbah used his “rip” move to post the third-best pass rushing grade in the class at +38.4. With Charles Johnson aging, the Panthers need to re-load on the defensive front and Ogbah can slot in right away as a pass rush specialist while he works to improve his work against the run (+1.7, 71st in the class among edge defenders). With CB Josh Norman moving on, the Panthers would love to grab a cornerback, but after the five first-round corners, the value is lacking until the third round and any cornerback selection at this point would be a massive risk.
31. Denver Broncos – Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
Head coach Gary Kubiak’s offense works best with a strong pass-catching tight end, and the sure-handed Henry fits in well. He posted the top receiving grade in the nation among tight ends and he didn’t drop a pass on 51 catchable opportunities all year. Henry immediately becomes Denver’s top receiving option at the position.
*No first round pick for the New England Patriots