Mock drafts at this point in the process are more about projecting players to slot ranges than trying to accurately predict what the teams are going to actually do come draft weekend. Here’s a tip: the teams don’t know what they’re going to do yet either.
So this mock is about expanding the realm of possibility, changing the thought horizon. These selections do not mesh with my personal choices, but reflect one way things might unfold. Remember, your favorite NFL team seldom does exactly what you want them to do or think they should do. Trust me on this, I’m a Lions fan from Cleveland. Free your mind and the rest will follow…
- Tennessee Titans – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
This seems to be the popular choice at the top, and it is for good reason. Tunsil will be the highest-rated offensive lineman I’ve scouted since Joe Thomas. The Titans must do whatever they can to ensure Marcus Mariota’s success, and giving him a premium protector on the back side certainly helps. It also moves Taylor Lewan to the right side, where he can be outstanding instead of merely average on the left.
Second round pick: Corey Coleman, WR Baylor
- Cleveland Browns – Jared Goff, QB, California
Okay, two picks in a row that look just like everyone else’s. Again, there is reason for the predominance of similarity at the top. Goff is not my first, or even my second choice at quarterback but I have a feeling the new regime in Cleveland will see things differently. I toyed with Joey Bosa here but I don’t think the Paul DePodesta model will feel that’s proper bang for its draft buck.
Second round pick: Kevin Dodd, Edge, Clemson
- San Diego Chargers – Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
This pick is predicated upon Eric Weddle flying the coop. If he goes, a position of strength immediately becomes one of the most exploitable weaknesses on the roster. I prefer Ramsey at safety, but he’s also got the potential to be an above-average cornerback. Quarterback or O-line make a lot of sense here, though I don’t see a player at either position being rated close to as high as Ramsey by NFL teams at this point. He is absolutely that well-regarded by those actually employed by the league.
Second round pick: Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn
- Dallas Cowboys – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
The rationale here: Tony Romo is aging and has a left shoulder with the structural integrity of a snack cracker. Jerry Jones won’t expect his beloved toy to be picking this high ever again, so the time is right to take Romo’s eventual successor. Keep in mind they desperately need a viable backup already, and (don’t shoot the messenger here!) Romo is no sure bet to return to his prime self. I had Joey Bosa in mind but they’ve spent their last two second round picks on pass rushing defensive ends and that’s a hefty investment. Ezekiel Elliott was the choice in the last mock I did, and that makes a lot of sense here too.
Second round pick: Emmanuel Ogbah, Edge, Oklahoma State
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Noah Spence, Edge, Eastern Kentucky
Every year there’s a wild card top 10 pick that makes everyone scratch their heads. I can’t logically explain why the Jaguars, who took a speed rusher in Dante Fowler last year with the No. 3 overall pick, would take Spence here. He’s probably about the sixth choice in my mind for this slot. Yet the Jaguars are noted believers in the size/speed metrics of success, and Spence will sit atop those metrics for all defensive players this year. Don’t forget he was the featured rusher over Joey Bosa in their one year at Ohio State together. I’m guessing Tony Khan won’t…
Second round pick: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
- Baltimore Ravens – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
At this point you are probably wondering what I’ve been drinking or inhaling. Elliott being the first Buckeye off the board and not Bosa?!? One of my biggest takeaways from my trips to the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl weeks was that the NFL folks see Elliott as truly special. Like, a better prospect than Todd Gurley. I also got the sense there is some trepidation about Bosa from inside the NFL, from what position he’s best to play to his propensity for penalties and a relative lack of upside. Elliott has no questions, and the Ravens desperately need playmakers all over the offense.
Second round pick: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
- San Francisco 49ers – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
It’s always an interesting day when you have to ask yourself, “What would Chip Kelly do?” The easy answer, of course, it to connect the Oregon dots and have Kelly select the disruptive, versatile Buckner to help shore up the defensive line. Of course the 49ers tapped that last year with Arik Armstead, but Buckner has always been the more dynamic (though streakier) performer. Having an explosive athlete who can play anywhere from the 3 to the 7 technique like Buckner gives Kelly a lot of options, and the quickest way for San Francisco to climb is to get back to being an awesome defense.
Second round pick: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
- Miami Dolphins – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Ndamukong Suh was always a very good player, but when he got Ezekiel Ansah to his flank in Detroit he became nearly unstoppable. Bosa isn’t as twitchy as Ziggy but he can play the same role, the powerful, tenacious edge presence who can destroy blocking schemes on his own and get to the quarterback regularly. It’s at this point where I think the decision makers would stop overthinking Bosa and just accept that’s he a damn good football player.
Second round pick: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
The Buccaneers desperately need a feature rusher to balance Gerald McCoy on the inside. While William Gholston is better than you think, he’s not the answer. Lawson offers length, mass, speed and proven results at a top program. Even though they just promoted an offensive guy in Dirk Koetter to Head Coach, nearly every pressing need on the roster comes on the defensive side of the ball. I like the concept of the pass rusher here and going with the speedy wideout or playmaking tight end on Draft Friday.
Second round pick: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
- New York Giants – Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Recent reports that Smith might not miss his whole rookie season despite his devastating knee injury are likely more a ploy by Smith’s representation to keep his draft stock simmering, but this is a player that two different NFL team sources have told me was the No. 1 overall defensive player their team scouted. The Giants have to get more athletic and dynamic on defense, and Smith certainly offers that potential even if it requires delayed gratification. The coaching change buys them a year of lowered expectations.
Second round pick: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
- Chicago Bears – Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
Ragland is tailor-made to play ILB in a 3-4 front with his bulk, instincts, power and versatility. He’s one of the best downhill linebackers to hit the draft in years, and that is the No. 1 weakness I saw all year when watching Da Bears. He organically emerged as a leader during Senior Bowl week and you can bet the Bears and Head Coach John Fox noticed that, too. Remember, the NFC North has Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy and even Joique Bell pounding the rock at Chicago successfully for years now. That has to stop and the Bears know it.
Second round pick: William Jackson, CB, Houston
- New Orleans Saints – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
What do you get a historically dreadful defense to try and help? How about a player who excelled at safety, linebacker and even slot corner at various times in college? The big question with Jack is if he can find one particular role to hang his hat upon. The Saints can use him on the weak side, as a hybrid safety/LB, or even as a speed rusher. New Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen would smile at the possibilities.
Second round pick: Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State
- Philadelphia Eagles – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Linemen of Stanley’s repute seldom fall this far in the draft. The Irish left tackle is light on his feet and incredibly well-coached, coming from a program which has produced several NFL-ready blockers. The Eagles cannot continue to count on injury-plagued Jason Peters, and little on the offense can improve until the protection for Sam Bradford (or his successor) does as well.
Second round pick: Darian Thompson, S, Boise State
- Oakland Raiders – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Lee gets lost in the deep athletic off-ball shuffle, but he definitely deserves more attention. He can cover, he can blitz, he can chase down plays from the backside without blowing contain. Size is the biggest question at just 228 pounds, but if he shows up to the Combine above 230 and runs faster than Jack–and he will–you’d better believe Lee is going in this range. The Raiders need impact talent on the back end of the defense, both LB and DB.
Second round pick: Artie Burns, CB, Miami FL
- Los Angeles Rams – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
I am in complete agreement with Bryan Perez and his mock draft from last week here. The Rams desperately need Lynch, and even though the big quarterback would greatly benefit from sitting and learning he offers so much potential that they cannot look past him. It probably shouldn’t matter much, but Lynch’s personality and style is tailor made for the new home in Los Angeles, too.
Second round pick: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
- Detroit Lions – Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
When I talked to Lions sources over the last few weeks, one overriding theme from all is that the team is acutely aware they need to get more athletic and younger up the middle of the defense. Billings definitely checks those boxes. His optimal NFL role is attacking nose tackle, and the Lions cannot depend on impending free agent Haloti Ngata (though I do expect him back) in that spot. Calvin Johnson’s speculated retirement does not change the equation in my opinion.
Second round pick: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh