1. Jared Goff (1) to the L.A. Rams and Carson Wentz (2) to the Philadelphia Eagles were the worst kept secrets heading into Round 1 of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Rams get the co-face (Todd Gurley) of their newly located franchise in Goff who just happens to be the best quarterback prospect in this class in my humble opinion. Meanwhile, the Eagles get the signal caller they covet in Wentz who has the measurable and intelligence traits that should result in fans clamoring for him to be the starter for as long as Sam Bradford is on the roster. (More on Goff and Wentz here)
2. As a Dallas fan I was thrilled with the selection of Joey Bosa (3) by the Chargers but… more on that later. However, I don’t like the schematic fit. Bosa’s length, technique and strength at the point of attack is a great fit along the defensive line in an even man front. The Chargers are a 3-4 defense and I don’t view Bosa as a 5-technique. He’ll play as a stand-up, rush outside linebacker; but does he have the athleticism to play in space and bend the edge ala Von Miller and Justin Houston? We shall see. You can’t have enough pass rushers and the Chargers clearly aren’t satisfied with Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu. If Bosa turns out to be a Ryan Kerrigan type then this pick will be substantiated but I really think the Chargers should have addressed the offensive line for the sake of Phillip Rivers and Melvin Gordon.
3. I get my wish, Dallas is going to select Jalen Ram… Ezekiel Elliot (4). I guess Jerry Jones got tired of not making a splash. Apparently everyone likes Elliot more than me. Glass half full the Cowboys get the best running back in the 2016 class who offers 3-down capability and will take pressure off Tony Romo and his Styrofoam clavicle. Glass half empty I am pessimistic about Dallas trying to re-create the Triplets (they are in the HOF). I’m even more pessimistic about Dallas trying to recreate the success they had in 2014 by running the football down the opposition’s throat and hiding their defensive deficiencies. 2014, turned out to be the perfect storm; with Demarco Murray in a contract year workload was of no consequence, Romo had his best single season and the defense was opportunistic. But why not make the defense a strength and select not only the Top defensive prospect in the draft but arguably the best player in draft in Jalen Ramsey? Defense wins championships right? Elliot isn’t Todd Gurley or Adrian Peterson, stop fooling yourself. He doesn’t have the explosiveness or burst those two transcendent ball-carriers possess. I guess I’m prejudiced against “mesh point” backs. I don’t think he’s Le’Veon Bell either, who transformed himself from a big, every-down workhorse (superior receiver to Elliot) into a slasher with elite vision, quickness, burst and long speed (selected in Round 2 by the way). Additionally, I don’t think there’s a substantial drop off from Elliot to Derrick Henry and Devontae Booker especially when considering Dallas’ offensive line prowess (both available Day 2). Consider that Darren McFadden who had failed to rush for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons in Oakland came to Dallas as a free agent last season and finished 4th in rushing with 1,089 yards (4.6 ypc) without a healthy Tony Romo or Dez Bryant for the balance of the season. Interestingly enough the 2015 class was deeper at running back than the 2016 group yet Dallas chose not to address the position on Day 2 or 3 last year much to my chagrin (I’d be pleased with Jeremy Langford as the lead back right now). What frustrates me the most is that Dallas did not maximize the value of the 4th overall selection. I truly believe Dallas could have drafted Elliot at #6 as the Baltimore Ravens wanted to trade up to draft Ramsey and the Jaguars (at #5) weren’t in the market for running back with T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory in the fold. Frankly, I’m glad Dallas didn’t successfully trade back into Round 1 to acquire Paxton Lynch. Dallas needed to keep the assets required to make that deal despite the need at QB. Two in Day 2 out of DE Kevin Dodd, DE Noah Spence, DT Sheldon Day and CB Mackensie Alexander would cheer me up.
4. The Jaguars didn’t waste anytime selecting Jalen Ramsey (5). No brainer. He’ll play corner and be very, very good in Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme. He could be an All-Pro at safety.
5. A week ago OT Ronnie Stanley (6) coming off the board before fellow tackle Laremy Tunsil would have been surprising but the whispers of Stanley being higher on a number of NFL teams’ draft boards started to intensify as Round 1 drew near. And then there was the hacked Twitter account that ended any chance of Tunsil being the first offensive lineman selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. Stanley is a plug and play starter that offers more polish in the run game than Tunsil and with Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville, General Manager Ozzie Newsome opts to reinforce the trenches and replace Kelechi Osemele.
6. I can’t hold Chip Kelley’s Oregon ties against him for selecting DeForest Buckner (7). Perfect 5-technique, I’m a much bigger fan of this selection than I was of Arik Armstead last season.
7. The Titans traded back into the Top 10 (with Cleveland more on that later) as I had suspected they would and they add OT Jack Conklin (8) to bookend LT Taylor Lewan. I love Conklin’s blue-collar work ethic, nastiness and competitiveness which should go a long way in keeping Marcus Mariota upright. Conklin, like Stanley, isn’t quite as adept at pass blocking as Tunsil but he’s good in pass pro, a better run blocker and comes with no off-field baggage.
8. The Bears traded up (with the Bucs) to get ahead of the New York Giants and select one of the draft’s most intriguing prospects in OLB Leonard Floyd (9). Don’t look now but the Bears continue to put the pieces to their 3-4 defense together by adding Floyd to recent acquisitions of Akiem Hicks, Jerrell Freeman, and Danny Trevathan. Floyd is a polarizing prospect but as he adds mass and functional strength to his natural length and speed he has a chance to be a game changing force off the edge. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio sees an Aldon Smith type ability long term.
9. Cornerback Eli Apple (10) looks the part but General Manager Jerry Reese reached on this one. I think he was flustered to see Conklin go at No. 8 to the Titans and the Bears slide in front of the Giants to select Leonard Floyd at No. 9. I know how bad the Giants were last season particularly against the pass so corner makes sense but I think Hargreaves, Jackson, Burns and Alexander are better players at the position. I think the G-Men should have stopped the Tunsil free-fall, draft him, plug him in at left tackle to protect Eli Manning’s blindside and move Ereck Flowers to right tackle where he would dominate.
10. The Bucs did what Dallas should have done if they were hell bent on selecting Ezekiel Elliot. They garnered additional assets and still got their man in CB Vernon Hargreaves (11). Hargreaves is a local Tampa product, with a high floor and one of the “safer” selections in the draft. Good pick by the Bucs. Even better pick considering they traded down and still got him.
11. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (12) immediately improves a historically bad defense in New Orleans. The Saints get the best 3-technique in the draft.
12. The Miami Dolphins get the “steal” of the first round in Laremy Tunsil (13). Once considered as the favorite to be selected first overall, Tunsil’s off-field baggage costs him millions of dollars in his rookie contract. However, the Dolphins should be excited to get a stalwart pass protector at left tackle. They paid Ryan Tannehill big $$$ and this pick goes a long way in keeping the quarterback on his feet. I expect Tunsil to have a mammoth “chip” on his shoulder and to become a perennial pro bowler.
13. Safety Karl Joseph (14) will be considered a reach by many but he strikes me as the type of player that is often selected on Day 2 or Day 3 and people then ask, “Why wasn’t he a first round pick?” Given the Raiders’ track record in recent seasons I’m not questioning the selection of this play-making defensive back particularly with future Hall of Famer, Charles Woodson, hanging them up.
14. Desperate for playmakers, particularly at the receiver position the Browns land my Top WR prospect in Corey Coleman (15). I think the Browns have done a remarkable job of acquiring assets once they realized that the quarterback they coveted wasn’t going to be on the board at #2. Two trades later, armed with a glut of early round selections over the next couple seasons, and having an acute understanding that they aren’t ready to win yet the Browns have gotten off to a good start to their rebuild after the exodus of veteran talent earlier this offseason. As for Coleman, what he lacks in polish he makes up for in explosiveness, hands, run-after-catch ability, and tenacity. He has Antonio Brown like suddenness with a Steve Smith Sr. temperament. With 31 TDs over his last two seasons at Baylor he is a threat to score every time he touches the football. He dominates against all levels of competition and shines in the biggest contests. With a little coaching he’s going to be a force in the NFL. He also adds something in the return game.
15. Offensive tackle Taylor Decker (16) and center/guard Ryan Kelly (18) make a lot of sense for the Lions and Colts respectively. Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck took a beating last season and both franchises need to build from the inside-out. Sandwiched between those two picks the Atlanta Falcons take SS Keanu Neal (17). Neal is an exciting big-hitter with under-appreciated coverage ability but the Falcons should have paired Shaq Lawson with Vic Beasley.
16. Defensive end/outside linebacker Shaq Lawson (19) is headed to Buffalo. You can never have enough pass rushers and Mario Williams is down in South Beach now. Rex Ryan goes defense AGAIN! No surprise there. I like Mike Mayock’s comp. to Brian Orakpo and Tamba Hali. Like Orakpo and Hali, Lawson should never find himself in coverage outside of the rare occasion he drops into the flat in a zone blitz. Very RARE.
17. The Jets add LB Darron Lee (20) and effectively add more speed and athleticism to a physically imposing defense. Lee is Ryan Shazier 2.0. Now add a replacement for “Snacks” Harrison and re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick so the Jets’ fans can have some piece of mind.
18. The Texans were clearly hell-bent on adding a speedy complement to Nuk by taking WR Will Fuller (21). I admit, very good landing spot for him but I think a reach in the 1st round (see here) as speed is the only thing he brings to the table. With no Jalen Ramsey in the mix how does Dallas defend Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson (22) now? Doctson projects as a number 1 and will make parting with Jackson and Garcon in the future a lot less painless. Finally, Teddy Ballgame gets a target outside the numbers with a substantial catch radius in Laquon Teadwell (23). Treadwell also brings a “Michael Irvin/Playmakerish” type intensity between the lines that should fit nicely into the culture Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has installed in Minnesota.
19. The run on receivers results in the Bengals taking yet another cornerback in William Jackson III (24) instead of replacing Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Not a bad consolation prize at all. I like him more than Eli Apple and just as much as Vernon Hargreaves. The Steelers select CB Artie Burns (25) and continue their recent trend of selecting superior athletes on the defensive side of the ball (Ryan Shazier, Bud Drupree). Dupree and Burns are very raw but if the Steelers believe their coaching staff can tap into their potential Pittsburgh is going to have a really good defensive unit to pair with all that offensive fire power for a very long time. Recent history suggests Miami (FL) prospects are better in the pros than they are in college (Calais Campbell, Sam Shields, Olivier Vernon, etc.). Thanks Al Golden.
20. Not for lack of trying the Broncos “end up” with Paxton Lynch (26). He’s boom or bust as far as I am concerned and the understandably desperate John Elway pulled the trigger on a trade to move up and select the Memphis signal caller. Too many of his pass attempts occurred at the line of scrimmage for my liking but his skill set does work well with head coach Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme. Boots, waggles, strong arm and athleticism… meh… they could do worse. Expect a lot of the pistol formation.
21. Time to get BIG. Green Bay takes DT Kenny Clark (27) to replace B.J. Raji. The 49ers trade (with Kansas City Chiefs) back into the bottom of the first round to select OG Joshua Garnett (28) to replace Alex Boone (and Mike Iupati further removed). Robert Nkemdiche (29) in Arizona with Calais Campbell is scary if he’s as good as CPGM Drew says (see here) he is. I don’t like his lack of production but I love Bruce Arians. Coach em’ hard. The Panthers stick to the script and get there hands on the best nose tackle in the draft in Vernon Butler (30) despite having Kawan Short and Star Lotulelei under contract. I think they would have been better served selecting someone to protect Cam Newton but I love Butler’s talent. The Seahawks finish Day 1 of the 2016 NFL Draft by adding OT/OG Germain Ifedi (31) just what the doctor ordered. So much talent along the offensive line has either walked or been traded out of Seattle. Time to make it a positional group of strength once again. That starts with selecting Ifedi.
And… Myles Jack and his knee continue to wait…