Prospect fits for 3 teams that could draft No. 1

The Browns, Titans or Chargers could potentially lock down 2016's top pick, and these three college players fit each respective team's bill.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

(AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Prospect fits for 3 teams that could draft No. 1


As the NFL season winds down, some teams are looking ahead to the playoff battle, while others are looking farther ahead to the 2016 NFL draft.

We’re taking a look at three teams poised to secure the No. 1 overall pick, and which prospects would be a great fit if they are to land it.

Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, California QB, +43.0

With Johnny Manziel getting the nod as the starter this week, and likely for the remainder of the season, the Browns are aiming to get a four game run to see what they have in him. That’s probably not enough time even if he does impress though, and the Browns could find themselves in the perfect position to select the next in a long line of potential franchise quarterbacks. They have other needs, and could go with a playmaker at wide receiver, but this is a franchise that has been crying out for a franchise quarterback since its return to Cleveland, and they simply can’t pass up a top talent at number one overall.

Memphis’ Paxton Lynch would get some consideration here too, but based on our grades he is a step behind Goff. Cal’s signal-caller was our fourth-highest graded quarterback in 2015 and is the top prospect at the position heading into the draft. He didn’t have a great supporting cast — with an offensive line that had four players with a grade below -10.0 — but he made the most out of it, grading positively on the 160 drop backs where he was under pressure. He has the downfield arm that NFL teams look for, throwing for 1,403 yards and nine touchdowns on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield. He might not be the slam-dunk prospect the next two players we’ll talk about are, but he’s the best player at a position of major need for the Browns.

Tennessee Titans: Joey Bosa, Ohio State DE, +66.7

The Titans have just one player with a positive grade on their offensive line this season, but if they find themselves at the top of the draft then they might find it tough to go offensive line with two premier defensive talents on the board. They have talent on the defensive line in defensive end Jurrell Casey (+26.1) and on the edge of their defense in linebacker Brian Orakpo (+6.5), but that shouldn’t prevent them from going defense with the top overall pick. Close as it is, Bosa would be the bigger need for that defense.

A lot of people point to his seven sacks as a lack of production, but that simply isn’t the case. On top of those seven sacks he’s registered 21 quarterback hits and 41 hurries, and has been an absolute nightmare for opposing offensive linemen in the past two seasons. Our highest-graded edge defender both this year and last, his blend of size and power has been too much for most offensive tackles to deal with. He also offers some versatility, and has been used inside on the Ohio State defense — something which offers some possibility in sub-package defense for whoever drafts him early in the first round.

San Diego Chargers: DeForest Buckner, Oregon DE, +67.7

With questions about quarterback Philip Rivers’ future, the Chargers are definitely a candidate to draft a quarterback if they have the top pick. But if they look to address needs on defense, their first look should be to the defensive line. In Kendall Reyes (-20.7), the San Diego Chargers currently have our lowest graded 3-4 defensive end in the NFL in 2015. Corey Liuget (-1.8) is better, but still comes in only 38th out of the 58 players with enough qualifying snaps at the position. Thankfully for the Chargers, there is the perfect player to change their fortunes up front available in this year’s draft, and he’s likely to come off the board very quickly.

DeForest Buckner has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Oregon Ducks at times, standing out well above Arik Armstead who went in the first round of last year’s draft. This season, Buckner has been unblockable at times, with a big year as a pass rusher as he racked up 11 sacks, 14 hits and 38 quarterback hurries. His dominance wasn’t limited to his work as a pass rusher though, as he stood out against the run too, with 32 of his 46 solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop and giving him a run stop percentage of 9.8. Most impressive about Buckner was that he did it against top opposition — getting the better of Stanford’s Joshua Garrett, widely regarded as the top interior prospect in this year’s draft.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • T. Kothe

    Just curious…what questions about Rivers’ future? He just signed an extension a couple months ago that should keep him with the Chargers, wherever they may go, until at least the end of the 2018 season. Barring injury, he should be their QB for the next several years at minimum.

    • MD_in_MD

      Yeah, really. He’s putting up ridiculous numbers too. QB is probably the ONLY position the Chargers don’t have to worry about right now. They could draft a prospect in like round 5 or 6, but certainly not in rounds 1,2, or 3.

    • David Howell

      I can’t see him leaving, but I think that if he was willing to move – and I think he would be willing to move if the location was right (which is how the Tennessee trade story began, as Nissan Stadium is literally two hours up the Interstate from his hometown) – I’d be all for my Chargers seeking a big trade deal. We’re not winning a ring with him, so why not cash in if we can?

      If he’s willing to move anywhere for a ring after being so badly let down this year and knowing his time is running short, that would make him enormously tempting to “one QB away” teams – the Jets spring immediately to mind, but I can’t possibly imagine him wanting to play in the northeast. If he’s actually itching to be back in the south, could the Falcons be in play with Matt Ryan’s stunning regression? I don’t think they could win a ring with Rivers, but Atlanta is a short flight hop away from Rivers’ hometown airport, so…

      • crosseyedlemon

        Good observations David. I think travel distance becomes a non issue quickly when your dealing with contracts in the multi million dollar range. Not sure the Falcons could be in play but I suspect the Ravens would be very interested in Rivers if Flacco’s recovery didn’t go well.

        • David Howell

          I think for Rivers it’s about bringing up his family in a cosy conservative environment – this is a guy with numerous kids homeschooled by his wife, who endorsed Santorum in the last electoral cycle, and in that context, the idea of him being far from open to an LA relocation makes deceptive sense.

          Baltimore wouldn’t make sense (and besides, Flacco has a backloaded monstrosity of a contract), but Houston would, and the Texans might be in play. Would they be a championship contender if you added a franchise QB to the Hopkins/Watt combo they already have? I think they would. They’d certainly be the best team in the division (even if Luck bounces back, there’s a lot of aging stars on that win-now roster who could regress drastically if they haven’t already).

          So, for me, Houston makes sense – a one QB away team in one of the “reddest” NFL cities. (And it also has direct flights to Rivers’ hometown airport Huntsville-Decatur.) If he doesn’t play out his deal in SD (and I think he will), I think that’s his likeliest destination.

  • crosseyedlemon

    A mock draft article this early must mean the staff is bored with writing “What’s wrong with my QB” articles about Colin Kaepernick every 3 weeks.

  • Jason Cornett

    What ever happened to taking the best prospect? It shouldn’t matter which team has the pick….take the kid who’s the best prospect! Period!!!

    • crosseyedlemon

      What if the best prospect is a punter? Is a GM really going to risk his career hoping he has found another Ray Guy?

    • crashby89

      Common sense says its not that cut and dry. Team need can change who is viewed as the best prospect. Some have Goff as #1 on big board but is there any chance the Titans take Goff if they have that option?

  • Buzzman69

    Stupid to think the Chargers should draft anything other than OL in a draft heavy with good OL prospects. Tunsil looks awfully good to me.

    • Vitor

      Problem is that is very hard to predict how college O-lineman will translate to pro and how long they will need to adapt to it. Most of top draft OL picks in recent years have been busts

      Since the Chargers have a lot of problems on the D-Line and this is a position easier to pick a player that will make an instant impact, I’d wait for the next rounds to pick someone to protect Rivers

  • Jackson

    I like the pick of DeForest Buckner, even if it is at number 3. He is a beast that nobody seams to know about. However, saying the Chargers have questions about the Future of Philip Rivers is kind of ludicrous. I mean, you yourselves put him consistantly in the top ten amongst QB’s.

  • Vitor

    Bosa is a 4-3 DE, right? Could he play in a 3-4 defense? It’s only a dream, but would be sweet if the Ravens managed to grab him…

    • David Howell

      Probably fits best as a 4-3 DE, yes. At over 270 pounds before he enters an NFL conditioning programme, though, I could see him fitting in as a one-gap 3-4 DE along the lines of Cameron Jordan, and he could fit with teams who run both odd and even fronts – including the Chargers.