Multiple options for each team at the top of the NFL draft, coupled with the handful of trades sure to go down on draft day, make mock drafts a complete and utter effort in futility—even more so this year than in most. That said, we all love to see how things might unfold on April 28… so here’s one version.
1-Titans – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Assuming the Titans don’t get an offer they can’t refuse from a QB-needy team this boils down to Tunsil or Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey. With so much invested in Marcus Mariota, makes more sense to beef up his protection. And sliding Taylor Lewan to the right side isn’t a travesty; last I checked, they let you rush the passer from both sides.
2-Browns – Jared Goff, QB, California
Even if Hue Jackson brings in RG3 the Browns are going quarterback here. Then the Browns must decide between Goff and his small hands or small-school wunderkind Carson Wentz. One of these times they have to get it right… don’t they?
3-Chargers – Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Couldn’t break much better for the Bolts, who would end up landing the best player at one of three key positions of need. If the Titans pass on Tunsil he’s the pick, and Joey Bosa is an option as well. But the secondary struggled even with Eric Weddle; now that he’s gone, the Chargers would love to plug Ramsey into that lineup hole.
4-Cowboys – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Jerry isn’t ready to mothball (or back up) Tony Romo, and if he didn’t take a running back when the need was dire last year he’s not taking Ezekiel Elliott here. Bosa, at one time the odds-on favorite to be the first player off the board, is hardly a consolation prize.
5-Jaguars – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
The offense is set, and the middle of the defensive line plugged with free agent signee Malik Jackson. Add the athletic Jack to last year’s first-round pick Dante Fowler, who missed the season with an injury, and Gus Bradley finally has some defensive personnel to play with.
6-Ravens – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
This could be a hot trade spot if either Goff or Wentz remain on the board, as you have to believe Chip Kelly is in the market. If they keep the pick, the Ravens can choose between replacing the hole free agency left in their offensive line or returning to their roots as a disruptive defensive team. With more O-line help available on Day 2, the pick here is Buckner
7-49ers – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Wentz has the athleticism but maybe not the speed-reading to be Chip Kelly’s dream QB, but one way or another he’s going to be off the board by this juncture. The Niners could certainly do worse than dealing back, filling another of their many needs, and “settling” for Paxton Lynch or Kevin Hogan later on.
8-Eagles (from MIA) – Ronnie Staley, OT, Notre Dame
While guard may be the bigger need for the Philly O-line, Staley is a natural heir to Jason Peters’ left tackle gig and the best player on the board. A trade back wouldn’t surprise, either, and if Doug Pederson really wanted to splash he could snag Ezekiel Elliott here.
9-Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
The Bucs need a pass rusher or a cover guy, and the better fit at this slot is the latter with Hargreaves staying in-state.
10-Giants – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Three NFC East teams—two of them picking ahead of the Giants—have been linked to Elliott, and the team’s inexplicable love affair with Andre Williams is another reason to think this won’t happen. But with all the money spent this offseason the franchise is clearly thinking “win now”, and no player on the board can help them more in that regard.
11-Bears – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Chicago’s biggest lineup holes are in their defensive front seven, with Lawson getting the nod over the likes of A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed. Pairing Reggie Ragland with Danny Trevathan inside is another intriguing option.
12-Saints – A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
There’s a strong temptation for the Saints to go Laquon Treadwell here, but Drew Brees can make Day Two pass catchers look good and New Orleans is transitioning to more of a running team anyway. There is so much need on the defensive side of the ball, the hope here is that the Saints are grabbing the right ‘Bama D-lineman.
13-Dolphins (from PHI) – Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
As great as the need is, Miami isn’t reaching for a guard here. Would have been interesting to see what Adam Gase would have done with Zeke, but with Elliott off the board expect the Dolphins to go defense. Eli Apple is tempting, but so is the prospect of Floyd teaming with Cameron Wake, Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh to terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
14-Raiders – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Oakland already spent big money this offseason to add Kelechi Osemele to their offensive line, but Donald Penn is 32 and Austin Howard isn’t a long-term solution. Another investment in protecting Derek Carr seems like a smart move.
15-Rams – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
The Rams still don’t have anyone to throw the ball to him, but unless they’re sold on Paxton Lynch here the better route would be to snare the draft’s top pass catcher here and look to upgrade Case Keenum on Day Two.
16-Lions – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Even after signing Marvin Jones in free agency the Lions would have been more than happy to replace Calvin Johnson with Treadwell had he slipped one more spot. Instead, Detroit keeps Conklin in-state to give Matthew Stafford more time to find Megatron’s replacements.
17-Falcons – Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Maybe not the high-profile pass rusher the Falcons were hoping for, but Dodd does more than enough to upgrade Atlanta’s glaring weakness in the pass-rushing department.
18-Colts – Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
Indy would dearly love Decker or Conklin to fall into their lap, but that doesn’t seem likely—nor does a reach for Jason Spriggs or guards Josh Garnett or Cody Whitehair. That leaves the Colts to address one of their many defensive needs, and Lee immediately upgrades their linebacking corps.
19-Bills – Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Rex Ryan loves his pass rushers, and Ogbah has all the tools to give him what he needs—as well as replacing what Mario Williams brought to the table when he felt like playing.
20-Jets – Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky
Rex Ryan takes the choirboy and leaves the trouble child for his former team? Spence gives Todd Bowles a pass rusher who can make both his base pass rush and blitz packages that much more effective—if he can convince the Jets the issues that led to him leaving Ohio State are in his rear-view mirror.
21-Redskins – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Washington appears committed to Kirk Cousins, so it makes sense to give him an elite target to work with. Coleman has drawn comparisons to Antonio Brown, which is a very nice upside; at minimum he gives Cousins a DeSean Jackson-like playmaker—without the baggage.
22-Texans – Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Houston addressed its most pressing needs—quarterback and running back—via free agency, leaving offensive tackle as the biggest hole on its roster. Spriggs and Whitehair still seem like reaches, so the Texans add to a position of strength with Reed, who can learn alongside JJ Watt and ultimately replace Vince Wilfork in the middle of their defensive line.
23-Vikings – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Minnesota addressed Teddy Bridgewater’s protection via free agency; now they give him a target capable of making the contested catch.
24-Bengals – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
It’s a deep draft at defensive tackle, which is how Rankins lasted this long. While Cincy could go with a cornerback like Mackensie Alexander or Eli Apple—they seem to be on an every-two-years plan for taking corners in the first round—the opportunity to carry on the tradition of Domata Peko and Geno Atkins up front seems too good to pass up.
25-Steelers – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Pittsburgh needs secondary help, and in this scenario they have a choice between Alexander and Eli Apple.
26-Seahawks – Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
Seattle isn’t likely to be scared off by Nkemdiche’s off-the-field red flags, and his on-the-field play is exactly what that defense likes.
27-Packers – Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Drafting Ragland allows the Packers to move Clay Matthews back outside, upgrading them at both positions.
28-Chiefs – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
After hitting on Marcus Peters in the first round last year, free agency losses have the Chiefs returning to that same position well this time around.
29-Cardinals – William Jackson, CB, Houston
Wanted to go off the board and give the Cards Alabama C Ryan Kelly to fill their lone offensive need. But after seeing their defense struggle following the injury to Tyrann Mathieu, the addition of another talented cornerback is the better value play.
30-Panthers – Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Trying to protect Cam Newton with Michael Oher and Mike Remmers didn’t work out so well, and while Spriggs needs work as a run blocker there’s a significant drop in pass-blocking tackles after he’s off the board. The fun fantasy pick would be pairing Cam with Derrick Henry.
31-Broncos – Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech
Sure, the Broncos could go with Paxton Lynch here, if Gary Kubiak thinks he’s a potential franchise quarterback. But last year’s defense-first recipe worked, and after upgrading the offensive line via free agency and retaining CJ Anderson expect the Broncos to use this pick to solidify that Super Bowl-winning defense… then look for the next Brock Osweiler on Day Two.