Predicting who will land where across the three-day extravaganza that is the NFL Draft is like picking the lotto numbers on a weekly basis.
It just ain’t happening!
But, it’s fun for football nerds like me to try so I have had a go at picking the top 15 for Friday morning’s (Australian time) selection process.
NFL DRAFT – Round 1
Pick 1 – Los Angeles Rams – Jared GOFF (California) QB
The Rams sensationally and boldly jumped up from pick 15 in the draft to trade with Tennessee for the top overall selection. A quarterback looms as the guaranteed selection and despite North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz seemingly the early favourite, all signs lead to hometown hero Jared Goff landing in LA at pick 1. Having played at California, Goff would be a logical and romantic selection. He ticks many boxes, but the fact he was born, raised and played in California is not enough to warrant him the No. 1 slot with the Rams. He does, however, have the skills required to become a franchise play caller.
The newly relocated Rams made the big splash to get the top pick, now they need to make it count otherwise many of the men who made the decision to trade for the pick, will soon be out the door.
Goff now seems the consensus top overall pick. At the completion of his junior season, Goff had passed for 96 career TD’s to just 35 interceptions. His pre-draft workouts were reportedly sensational but his combine numbers were far from mind-blowing. The new California team will take the California kid and ask him to be the face of the new franchise, alongside superstar sophomore Todd Gurley.
Pick 2 – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – Carson Wentz (North Dakota State) QB
Wentz is the big country kid from the tiny college with the impressive if unconvincing resume. At 6-5″ quarterback with more than handy athletic prowess and a knack for scoring with his legs, Wentz spent five successful seasons at North Dakota State University, breaking all kinds of school records. With LA not openly telling the public who they will take at one, Philadelphia traded up from eight to two, knowing that the quarterback they actually want may be gone. That tells us they’re comfortable enough with either guy. Wentz seems to be that guy and since last season’s starting quarterback Sam Bradford wanting out, Wentz will likely be the opening day starter. Wentz has toughness – typified by him continuing to play with a broken arm in college – meaning the extremely fickle Eagles fans should love this kid. Philadelphia have a relatively talented roster and the NFC East is an open division meaning a talented, playmaking QB could change the entire landscape in the city of brotherly love.
Pick 3 – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS – DeForest BUCKNER (Oregon) DE
Like cornerbacks, one of the new-age cornerstone positions in the NFL has become players with the ability to rush the passer. Buckner possesses that ability and San Diego desperately need a defensive game-wrecker. A native of Hawaii, Buckner tallied 36 sacks across his career at Oregon. The 6-7″ defensive end was awarded the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year after finishing the regular season atop the sacks column and fourth for tackles for loss. Buckner is a player who has garnered plenty of buzz as we move closer to the draft and the Chargers need some defensive help.
With Jerry Jones at the helm, anything is possible. Even a quarterback despite how much the team insists Tony Romo is still, and will continue to be, the guy. Dallas need all kinds of help on the defensive side of the ball and whilst defensive end Joey Bosa would help rush the opposition passer, Seminoles corner Jalen Ramsey is a playmaking stud. Possessing great size, speed and strength, Ramsey put together many highlight plays at Florida State and has consistently displayed his ability to be a next-level shutdown cornerback – a position that has become a necessity in the NFL. Should he develop into a shutdown CB in the mould of Patrick Peterson (they are the same size), then the Cowboys will be able to cover elite wide receivers across the league as well as one that resides in the NFC East alongside Dallas. Hello, Odell.
Pick 5 – JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – Myles JACK (UCLA) LB
California could dominate the pointy end of the draft with the Rams selecting first and another Californian-based player going inside the top five. Myles Jack had scholarship offers from all across the Pac-12 but chose UCLA to ply his trade. Due to a torn meniscus, Jack never appeared in the 2015 season but such is his talent level as a linebacker, he is seen as a player who could run a defence and call the shots whilst dishing out the boom. Jacksonville is a team I am very bullish about, they have slowly acquired a supremely talented offensive quartet with Blake Bortles, TJ Yeldon and the emerging stars on the outside in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Chris Ivory and Julius Thomas have been recent free agent signings so moving the chains and scoring points should not be an issue. Upgrading the defence is the key and whilst last year’s draft was supposed to go some way to remedying that problem, No. 3 overall pick of the 2015 draft Dante Fowler immediately went down with a torn ACL. All reports suggest Fowler will return just as the elite prospect they thought he was but adding an elite defensive end can give Jacksonville a dominant pass rush. Super Bowl-winning defensive lineman Malik Jackson joined the Jaguars from Denver on a monstrous contract and should add even more grunt to the defence. Bortles, Ivory, Robinson, Hurns and Thomas moving the ball and Jackson, Fowler and draft pick Jack should form a great interior for the D.
There are numerous talented playmakers still on the board but the best player in the draft may well be the big kid from Ole Miss. Regarded by many as the premier player in the pool, Tunsil was only weeks ago, locked in as the No.1 overall selection before LA and Philadelphia jumped up to grab the quarterbacks. This makes for Baltimore’s gain as the 140kg native of Florida can immediately stabilise the offensive line for Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco, who is coming off a torn ACL. Tunsil was a two-time All-SEC first team selection with the Runnin’ Rebels and in 2013 during his freshman season, was one of only two left tackles in America to be starting football games. Despite his primary role at left tackle and his clear ability to play the position at a premier level, Tunsil even showed his athletic prowess by catching a touchdown against Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl.
Pick 7 – SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – Ronnie STANLEY (Notre Dame) OT
New San Francisco coach Chip Kelly no longer has total control of the football operations like he did in Philadelphia, which likely means Stanley will land in the Bay Area at seven. Should Kelly have the final say, I would expect him to try and make a splash selection but Stanley stacks up on all fronts. He can solidify the offensive line for yet-to-determined QB and also push the pocket for talented running back Carlos Hyde. The Niners have numerous holes on the roster but plugging in Stanley immediately locks away and provides stability to one of the games most important positions.
A speculative pick but one that would make sense in Cleveland. There are numerous gaping holes in the Browns roster but Elliott is a generational talent that can do plenty of everything out of the backfield. A tremendous ball carrier with excellent wiggle and elusiveness, the National Championship winner from Ohio State can also step up and block for the quarterback as well as catch the ball, using an array of routes rarely seen from a tailback. The Dawg Pound could use the help of any of Joey Bosa, Leonard Floyd or even quarterback Paxton Lynch and even seeing them trade out of this position on draft day would not surprise.
In fact, anything the Browns do should not surprise – except maybe seeing them nail the pick! I do expect Cleveland to try & trade out of this pick.
Pick 9 – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – Vernon HARGREAVES (Florida) CB
Everything seemingly slots into place for the Bucs and Hargreaves. Yes, Tampa added a talented corner in Brent Grimes on a two-year, $17 million dollar deal but drafting the former Gator gives the Pirates two lockdown cover men on the outside. Many say Hargreaves has legitimate claims on being the best defensive player in the pool. A phenomenal track athlete in high school, Hargreaves developed into a three-time All-SEC first-team performer in Gainsville. A truly remarkable achievement given the abundance of talent spread across the Southeastern Conference. At 6-0″, he may have a tough time checking the NFL’s biggest wideouts but his quickness, ball-hawking skills and tenacity will make him a Pro-Bowl calibre defensive back.
Pick 10 – NEW YORK GIANTS – Leonard FLOYD (Georgia) LB
Floyd had the speed and explosiveness that few others possess at his position. The Giants had a historically bad defence last season so anything they select at pick 10 should be an improvement. The Georgian is a big, big man at outside linebacker and has been a promising talent since his freshman season when he led the Bulldogs in sacks. His most recent collegiate season was not laced with gaudy stat lines but he clearly possesses a talent at OLB. New York need a star on defence and should Jason Pierre-Paul return to somewhere near his best, Floyd might be an excellent right-hand man.
Pick 11 – CHICAGO BEARS – Joey BOSA (Ohio State) DE
Bosa has clear, undoubted talent and would be a welcome addition to any of the teams drafting in the top few slots. Chicago would be thrilled to acquire Bosa at pick 11 as his habit for disrupting the opposing passing game is a considerable ability. Another first-round selection from Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes, Bosa possesses supreme size and strength to play at the next level. Bosa comes from magnificent stock as his father, John, played three years in the NFL whilst his younger brother Nick is committed to follow him to Columbus and likely the pros.
Pick 12 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – Eli APPLE (Ohio State) CB
Once again, Ohio State are in the game. Apple has gathered considerable momentum late in the draft process and the Saints, like the G-Men, need serious help on defence. After signing and releasing Brandon Browner, Apple can come in and cover an opposing wideout for a decade. He was the defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl and looks to have as much scope for improvement as any player selected above or below him. Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton can put up points regardless of the talent they have around them but there is no hiding the fact the Saints need some defensive stars.
Pick 13 – MIAMI DOLPHINS – Jack CONKLIN (Michigan State) OT
This Spartan is a big, solid, consistent O-lineman who is suited to both left and right tackle. Conklin can help Dolphins $100m man Ryan Tannehill and his growth as a franchise QB. A rare athlete for a man who is nearly 200cm and 150kg, Conklin is a rock-solid selection on a team littered with talented yet sometimes inconsistent players. Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, DaVante Parker and Jordan Cameron can make plays
RR is an outstanding interior linebacker who’s instincts and ability to snuff out the big play make him a valuable asset on any defence. Coached up by the legendary Nick Saban at Alabama, Ragland is well-versed in the New England Patriots style of ‘do your job’ football. Khalil Mack is the electrifying big play defensive stud and providing Aldon Smith returns from his suspension, Ragland can become the third elite weapon on a vastly improving Raiders squad.
One of the more valuable talents in the draft, Nkemdiche has multiple off-field issues that come with his drafting. On the gridiron, he is an elite force rushing the passer from inside. His performance in Ole Miss’s signature road win against eventual champion Alabama signified his top-class talents but he has struggled to maintain his effort and concentration. Some teams will undoubtedly have him off their radar completely. The big defensive tackle could be worth $100 million should he get his act completely together as he already has a rap sheet and history of marijuana use and possession.