Most of the big names in Free Agency are off the market leaving us a clearer picture for what the Draft might hold. Let’s Dive In!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since 2013, no NFL Draft expert, not Mel Kiper, Jr. (ESPN), not Todd McShay (ESPN), not Mike Mayock (NFL Network), have gotten more 1st-round selections correct than Fantasy Sharks’ very own Dan Collins.
Kiper = 1 Correct
McShay = 4 Correct
Mayock = 11 Correct
Collins = 13 Correct
Kiper = 5 Correct
McShay = 4 Correct
Mayock = 4 Correct
Collins = 11 Correct
Kiper = 6 Correct
McShay = 8 Correct
Mayock = 7 Correct
Collins = 10 Correct
Let’s get started!
1) Tennessee Titans
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
The Titans want out of the 1st pick in the 2016 Draft. One surprising team will keep them from doing that and force them to make a selection at #1 overall: the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the Browns. They are quietly showing they have interest in other prospects such as Jalen Ramsey or Myles Jack here at #2. They have made all the right moves to keep people guessing on what they are trying to do. Why? They know which quarterback they want and don’t want a team looking to trade up to get him and pick in front of them with the Titans’ pick. Teams like the 49ers and Rams could venture a trade up to this spot to get the quarterback they desire, but if they see the Browns could go elsewhere, they will wait it out to see if that quarterback falls down the board so they don’t have to pay the hefty price tag to acquire him at #1 overall.
When the Titans are on the clock with this pick, the question will be which out of three players will they choose: Laremy Tunsil, Myles Jack, or Jalen Ramsey. The Titans have wisely left those three positions as the biggest holes to fill on their roster as of this date in free agency. Each one of these players would make an impact for this football team in 2016. The question will become which player has the least amount of question marks. I believe this takes Myles Jack off the board with his knee surgery and recovery. You can’t take him with his injury history as the #1 overall selection. He may be extremely talented, but it is a lot of risk to take him this high. So the decision rests between a cornerstone left tackle or a ball-hawking corner/safety.
Then the decision rests on two factors. The first is the grade and scouting report you have created on both prospects. The second is how far this prospect is above his fellow peers at the position and whether or not a solid talent can be found later in the draft. Jalen Ramsey is a solid talent for corner/free safety, but good talent can be found in this year’s draft in the mid-rounds with players such as Vonn Bell, Karl Joseph, DeAndre Houston-Carson, T.J. Green, Jalen Mills, and Tyvis Powell at safety and numerous options at cornerback. Remember that the Bears drafted free safety Adrian Amos in the 5th round last year and he started all 16 games last season. In the left tackle department, the talent will go quickly in the early rounds and then developmental prospects will be the selections. They drafted a franchise quarterback (Mariota) last season and just added DeMarco Murray. If they want to improve in 2016 and create a solid foundation for the future, they need to draft Laremy Tunsil at left tackle with the #1 overall pick.
NFL Comparison: Tyron Smith (Dallas Cowboys)
From the first tape I watched of him, his mobility and athleticism is very elite like Smith of the Cowboys who ironically was the left tackle during DeMarco Murray’s breakout season.
2) Cleveland Browns
Jared Goff, QB, California
Even though the Browns have lost quite a few players from their team during free agency, I think they are heading down a good path. They have come out and said this will be a couple-year process to get this Browns organization to where they would like to be as a football team and franchise. They have declared they are in a rebuilding mode, treated free agency like they are in a rebuilding mode, and will draft like they are in a rebuilding mode. The Browns are building using analytics and a different approach not truly used yet in the NFL to this extent. I’m looking forward to seeing how this continues to play out as the offseason continues.
As for their draft selection, they will be drafting a quarterback at the #2 overall selection. Hue Jackson and the Browns are all-in for a developing football team and they are in a spot to select a player to mold into their franchise quarterback. Jared Goff has the tools to be a solid quarterback in the league and lead Hue Jackson’s offense. The ball placement, arm strength, and intangibles are what you are looking for in your franchise quarterback. When it is all said and done, he is the best quarterback prospect in the draft hands down.
NFL Comparison: Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
Similar body types, physical skill set, and demeanor on the football field.
3) San Diego Chargers
DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
The Chargers were decisive this offseason by addressing their key needs early. Re-signing two tackles (RT Joe Barksdale, OT Chris Hairston), a wide receiver to complement Keenan Allen in Travis Benjamin, cornerback in Casey Hayward, and a free safety in Dwight Lowery. These signings suggest they have confidence in their offensive line when healthy and will target a center (say Ryan Kelly in the 2nd round) to complete the starting unit. Signing free safety Lowery really makes it very interesting for them to invest in Ramsey here at #3 overall. They have two solid corners with Flowers and Verrett and wouldn’t need to use this pick to add another corner. It doesn’t necessarily make sense for the Chargers to invest in a player and positions that they already have covered for 2016 and the immediate future.
They have really set themselves up to attack a certain position with their first overall selection, which is their defensive line. Two players will be available here at this selection that will be a big plus and solidify a position of need for this Chargers defense. Right now, it will come down to DeForest Buckner and Joey Bosa for the San Diego Chargers at #3 overall. Both can play 3-4 defensive end and be a playmaker along the defensive line. Most scouts including myself believe that Buckner is a better fit for a 3-4 defense than Bosa, and has a higher ceiling in this specific scheme position. He is a monster in stature at 6’7″, 291 pounds and has all the tools to be an elite defensive lineman in this league.
I believe DeForest Buckner will be the selection for the Chargers at #3 overall unless a team trades up to this position. Why you ask? If a team such as the San Francisco 49ers or St. Louis Rams believe that the Cowboys are looking at quarterback for their #4 pick, they could have discussions to move up to this spot to grab Carson Wentz. The Jaguars could also be in play if they believe the Cowboys would take Myles Jack with their selection. The Chargers’ draft position could be where the first trade of the night occurs.
NFL Comparison: Calais Campbell
Similar physical stature and talent along the edge of a 3-4 defense.
4) Dallas Cowboys
Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State
If Jerry Jones thinks he truly has a shot at competing for a Super Bowl next year with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant healthy, he cannot draft a quarterback with this selection. I repeat, he cannot draft a quarterback with this selection. His best option would be to take one with their early 2nd round pick or move back into the late 1st round to draft a quarterback (Connor Cook, Dak Prescott, Christian Hackenberg). They may even be able to wait until the top of the 3rd round or trade back into the 2nd round and draft a decent developmental quarterback (Jacoby Brissett, Brandon Allen, Cardale Jones).
This decision for me rests between four players: Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, or Myles Jack. Drafting a running back this high is a little dangerous. Here is a list of running backs taken in the top five in the past 10 years: Trent Richardson (2012), Darren McFadden (2008), and Reggie Bush (2006). Not a great track record for those three guys. Adrian Peterson wasn’t even drafted until #7 overall. This class has some talent at running back and I wait to grab one, maybe even two later in this draft.
I pass on Jalen Ramsey because you could argue that Byron Jones and Jalen Ramsey have similar traits, so why draft the same player in consecutive years? They recently drafted Morris Claiborne very high in 2012 at #6 and he has yet to turn into a stud cornerback. Key Stats: The Dallas secondary ranked 5th in pass defense last year, so I would argue that this is a strength of the Cowboys. On the other hand, Dallas was ranked 25th in sacks last season, as this seems to be more of a weakness than the pass defense. The pass defense for Dallas in 2016 will improve more with good pass-rushers than adding another corner/safety.
This leaves Joey Bosa or Myles Jack, a tough decision to make indeed. First, I examined the linebackers for Dallas in 2016. Rolando McClain, Sean Lee, and Anthony Hitchens aren’t a bad combination. Good enough to let Joey Bosa be the pick here over Myles Jack. The depth chart for the defensive line is shaky at best. Rod Marinelli’s defense thrives on getting pressure on the quarterback. He doesn’t have enough talent in his defensive line rotation to have that pressure consistently. Joey Bosa is extremely versatile and can play 4-3 DE on early downs and 4-3 DT on passing downs. Imagine at the end of the season when it’s third down and long for an opposing team and the Cowboys bring out the defensive line of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory at defensive end, while Joey Bosa is rushing as defensive tackle. That’s some youth and explosive players coming after the quarterback.
NFL Comparison: Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks)
He can play in multiple positions along the defensive line and is constantly putting pressure on the quarterback.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Short and Sweet: This pick would have been Jalen Ramsey until they signed Tashaun Gipson at free safety. They also signed Prince Amukamara also taking away the possibility of Gus Bradley using Ramsey as a cornerback early in his career. They attacked every layer on defense in free agency except linebacker. Adding Myles Jack may be icing on the cake to this new scary defense in Jacksonville. On paper, they seem to have created a monster, but time will tell.
NFL Comparison: Lavonte David (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Similar body builds, fluid athletes in space, instincts to pursue and find the ball from sideline to sideline.
6) Baltimore Ravens
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Two important facts to know about the Ravens and their pick here at #6 overall. First, they haven’t drafted in the top 10 since 2003 when they drafted Terrell Suggs 10th overall. Second, they haven’t drafted a cornerback in the first two rounds since 2009 (Lardarius Webb) and 2011 (Jimmy Smith). Lardarius Webb is making the transition to safety alongside Eric Weddle, and Jimmy Smith is a starting cornerback without a running mate on the other side of the field. It is time for the Ravens to get younger in their secondary.
Jalen Ramsey would fit well in Baltimore for years to come. He would be a solid cornerback for this aggressive defense for the short time, and possibly the long-term answer at free safety when Eric Weddle retires. This would be a great selection for the Ravens and I expect them to pull the trigger if he is on the board.
NFL Comparison: Tyrann Mathieu
Hard to find a good match but I picked Mathieu, a versatile defensive back that can play corner, slot, or safety.
7) San Francisco 49ers
Carson Wentz, QB, South Dakota State
Currently, the Broncos are not willing to pay the high price that the 49ers are asking for Colin Kaepernick. The issue may not even be if Kaepernick is traded to Denver, the issue will be Kaepernick’s contract that needs to be restructured to fit within the Broncos’ salary cap. After the signing of Okung to a cheap deal for 1 year, they are looking to trade Clady or release him that will open up around $9 million which helps open up the space for Kaepernick. The Browns on the other hand have the salary cap space to take on Kaepernick’s numbers. The question they have to decide is do they want to go older at QB with a 28-year-old quarterback or should they stick to their plan of creating a new younger foundation for the Browns? Kaepernick has said he respects Hue Jackson as a coach and would prefer playing for him if traded. We shall see.
This pick cannot be truly figured out until we know what the 49ers are going to do with their quarterback situation. I believe they draft a quarterback in this draft, the question will be whether that will come with this first selection in the 1st round, or later in the draft if Kaepernick stays (let’s say Vernon Adams in the 5th). With reports saying that the 49ers will continue to work on trading him, I have to place a quarterback here for San Francisco. My NFL comparison is ironic seeing that Chip Kelly chose him last season to be his quarterback in Philadelphia.
My NFL Comparison: Sam Bradford (Philadelphia Eagles)
A lot of hype leading up to the draft, question marks overlooked, seen by many as the a great quarterback prospect, does have talent to be an above average quarterback.
8) Philadelphia Eagles
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
After the trade sending Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins went down, the kicker was the Eagles switched from #13 into the #8 position in the draft. The Eagles and general manager Howie Roseman have said that after the top 10, the talent drops off. The Eagles are the intriguing team in the top 10 because their offseason process has been so interesting, they could go anywhere with this pick. Here are the top 5 players on my board currently that I think the Eagles will have to decide between here at #8: Ezekiel Elliott, Ronnie Stanley, Vernon Hargreaves, Laquon Treadwell, and Jack Conklin.
How do I narrow down these choices? The Eagles drafted a wide receiver last year in Nelson Agholor and wouldn’t go back-to-back years with wide receiver. They also have Jordan Matthews and Chris Givens. Ronnie Stanley doesn’t make sense to me simply because they just paid Lane Johnson a lot of money to be the left tackle of the future after Jason Peters leaves. Drafting Stanley and overpaying for a right tackle wouldn’t be wise for a player that should be playing left tackle in the NFL. Vernon Hargreaves will most likely be passed on after the signings of Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, and Nolan Carroll, they also have young talent in Eric Rowe, Jaylen Watkins, and JaCorey Shepherd. Jim Schwartz has always viewed corners as second fiddle to a good defensive line.
This leaves Ezekiel Elliott and Jack Conklin as my two choices. Your thoughts may be “Why Jack Conklin? You just explained why Ronnie Stanley could not be a choice, so how is Conklin an option?” Conklin could step in for a year or two playing guard in Philadelphia before moving out to right tackle, where he can play very well while Stanley wouldn’t do as well as a guard. The option is there and would make sense for the Eagles. When it comes down to it, I can’t pass on Ezekiel Elliott’s potential to be a franchise-changing running back. The fun part would be to take the player that Dallas could have had at #4, and take the player the Giants could possibly be eyeing at #10 overall. Elliott would be a great fit in Doug Pederson’s offense as he’ll take pressure off the quarterback.
NFL Comparison: Arian Foster (Current Free Agent)
Non-injured younger version of course, can win with the run game, pass-catching, and protect the quarterback, can carry an offense.