It's that time of year to start pouring out our fictitious mock drafts that will have absolutely no relevance on what is actually going to happen in late-April. But everyone loves mock drafts anyway, right? I know I do. I know Jeremy Reisman doesn't. This year I recruited our own Chris Lemieux to help me put together a few mock drafts early in the year to help lighten the load, so this will be the first of several to come. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did. Let's get started.
1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Reno: Taylor Lewan has been a great addition to the Titans, but the rest of that offensive line is abysmal. The name of the game is protecting the quarterback, and normally I don’t like taking a tackle this high, but Laremy Tunsil is special. I have him ranked No. 1 on my early big board, so the Titans manage to pick the best player available, while addressing their top need. I’m sure Marcus Mariota will be over the moon with this pick.
2. Cleveland Browns: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Lemieux: Jared Goff's the sexy quarterback pick out there right now but I think we'll see Paxton's star rise soon. A lot of scouts were praising this guy as the top quarterback of the class, and he did great things at Memphis this year. Given that the Browns got Hue Jackson, I see a lot of what Lynch has right now appealing to that kind of offense that Jackson runs and he could easily be The Guy for the first year Cleveland Browns coach. Lynch does need a little work on his passing game, but that's to be said of any rookie quarterback these days.
3. San Diego Chargers: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Reno: Yikes. What happened to the Chargers? Isn't that the same team that pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Lions early in the season? Here are the four teams the Chargers beat this year: Detroit, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Miami. And what's Mike McCoy's prize for such an awful season? A contract extension! I was not a fan of the Melvin Gordon pick last year, but if this scenario turns out to be true, I'm sure San Diego will make a bee-line to the podium to select Joey Bosa, who is an absolute no-brainer here.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
Lemieux: Much will be on the Cowboys to look for the future beyond Tony Romo, but that's not the most immediate need. There's plenty on the defense that needs to get shored up and plenty of expiring contracts and aging veterans that need to be taken care of and/or replaced. Mr. Jones can start with some playmaking pizzazz and grab Myles Jack. Myles is pro-ready if he recovers adequately from his season-ending knee injury, and boast perhaps some of the most impressive athleticism in this draft. He's well-rounded in all parts of the linebacking game, and the only mark against him is that aforementioned injury.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
Reno: The Jaguars' secondary was absolute garbage last year and ranked 31st in pass defense via Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. They could really use some help at both the cornerback and safety position, so lucky for them, Jalen Ramsey is still on the board and he can fit either need. Ramsey's playmaking ability is on another level and it would be very remiss of Jacksonville to pass up on this opportunity.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Lemieux: There's a few good corners this year, and that suits teams near the top of this draft just fine. Like the Jaguars, the Ravens were consistently burned in the secondary. The defense could easily find comfort in drafting Vernon Hargreaves out of Florida, putting him opposite of Jimmy Smith and moving Lardarius Webb to safety. Hargreaves is a real menace at pass disruption and can play off-man coverage well. He won't be as flexible or as highly touted as Ramsey, but he's still very well regarded going into this draft.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Jared Goff, QB, California
Reno: I'm loving this NFC West Mount Rushmore of Carroll, Arians, Fisher and now Chip Kelly. If Kelly learned anything from his previous stint with the Eagles, it's that you cannot win with an average QB like Mark Sanchez or Sam Bradford. Who knows, maybe he can turn Colin Kaepernick into a solid starter like many believed he would be, but at the very least there needs to be a real QB competition in San Francisco. Ideally, Chip would select Paxton Lynch here because of his mobility and arm strength, but I could see Jared Goff succeeding in his system as well.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Lemieux: The Fins have a dire need for middle and strongside linebackers, but I think they can play their cards right and hold out for the early second round before pulling the trigger, given the depth of the position in this draft (and the fact that Myles Jack is off the board). The offensive line talent is right there staring them in the face.
Ronnie Stanley would provide immediate relief for Ryan Tannehill in the pursuit of not getting sacked, and seeing as Adam Gase has to pin his hopes on making that whole pot of gumbo work if he wants to remain employed for long, it would behoove him to grab the best protection he can find. The Notre Dame tackle has some work to do on his stance and blocking angles, but he's a physical specimen through and through.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Reno: There is a long grocery list of needs for the Bucs and you could really go just about anywhere here. Offensive tackle, defensive end and anywhere in the secondary would probably be considered their top needs, so picking the best edge rusher not named Joey Bosa would go a long way when paired up with Gerald McCoy. Shaq Lawson is a terror off the edge and was the cornerstone of Clemson's strong, fast and athletic defense.
10. New York Giants: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
Lemieux: You get a pass rusher! And you get a pass rusher! The Giants haven't drafted a defensive player in the first round since 2011 when they took Prince Amukamara from Nebraska. And yet, even with two of the top pass rushers off the board, the Giants could be sitting pretty with Oregon senior DeForest Buckner. A defensive stud from Oregon? Yes Patricia, it's possible. He's big, real big, and he can make a mess of things for a passing offense real quick. The Giants have a laundry list of needs on defense, but this is a good start.
11. Chicago Bears: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
Reno: I almost went wide receiver here, but then I remembered Kevin White will be back next year. Then I saw how poorly Chicago's inside linebackers graded last year via Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and figured Reggie Ragland could bring back that tough, mean, run stopping mentality back to the Bears' linebacking core that they so desperately need. Bears fans will love this pick. Lions fans will not.
12. New Orleans Saints: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Lemieux: A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old. A'Shawn cannot seriously be 20 years old.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Reno: Despite drafting wide receivers in the top two rounds of two consecutive drafts, the Eagles had maybe the worst receiving corps in the NFL last year. A mediocre QB like Sam Bradford needs all the help he can get, but his WRs let him down and gave him the 3rd most dropped passes in the NFL, with significantly fewer attempts than those ahead of him. The Eagles would be very fortunate to have Treadwell fall into their laps, as many view him as the top receiving prospect in the country and maybe a top-5 talent overall.
14. Oakland Raiders: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Lemieux: Between Charles Woodson's retirement and the failure of the D.J. Hayden Project (good god! That's an amazing house music name right there), the future leaves Oakland (if they're still there by April) starving for defensive backs. Mackensie Alexander would suit them just fine. He's a little short for the position but he's athletic and aggressive and should fit right in for that flailing secondary.
15. Los Angeles Rams: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Reno: First of all, I can't think of a reason why the Rams would want to keep their awful color scheme instead of going back to yellow. Secondly, they need a quarterback. Badly. But this class is so ridiculously bad that I don't even have a QB available here that has higher than a third-round grade. It's close for me, but I like Dak Prescott and Connor Cook over Wentz, but that's a wildly unpopular opinion, and Wentz is getting a ton of first-round hype lately, so if they're fine with taking him here, then so be it. The Rams are also in need (once again) of a wide receiver and Tyler Boyd is an absolute stud anywhere you put him on the field. That's right, he can play outside, slot, running back and even throw a touchdown pass if you're into that sort of thing.
16. Detroit Lions: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Lemieux: For the record I'm completely with Alex. If you're going back to Cali then you gotta go back to the old threads.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Jonathan Bullard, DE/DT, Florida
Reno: Atlanta's pass rush was abysmal last year and accumulated the least amount of sacks in the NFL with a measly 19. I'm sure they'll have their eyes on one of the top pass rushers and Bullard's quickness and versatility will make him a tough option to pass up. Bullard's best fit in the NFL, to me, is at DT in a one-gap system. He would fit nicely in Dan Quinn's defense.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Lemieux: Andrew Luck will be in the final year of his rookie contract. I fully expect the Colts, historically inept though they may be, to get an extension worked out, and as such will look for protection to keep the bumbling Neanderthal upright. Taylor Decker may be third off the board at the position but he's as skilled as any in efficient pass protection, which plays right into Luck's needs. For Decker, this is the right spot where I anticipate he'll come off the board, the mid-to-late first round.
19. Buffalo Bills: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Reno: The Bills are absolutely furious with the Colts for selecting the top OT on their board, as they're in desperate need of a right tackle. Since I believe this is a little too high for any of the remaining tackles on the board, my next choice would be addressing the defensive tackle position. Kyle Williams turns 32 in 2016 and will cost the Bills $8 million in cap space. They can save $5 million if they choose to cut him and I love the idea of pairing Marcel Dareus up with Alabama DT, Jarran Reed.
20. New York Jets: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State
Lemieux: Tempted as they are to grab Darron Lee, I think the Jets will instead look to free agency to fill their OLB needs. Zeke is probably the best available talent on the board, and after going through a troubled backfield in 2015, some headline talent will do the Jets nicely to flesh out their offense. You've all seen Elliott in action by now. You know what he can do. Even if used in a RBBC scheme he'll be solid. This probably also means that I'm expecting the Jets to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, unless someone throws more money at him. I almost thought about them taking a QB here, but the remaining options aren't great and it'll be curious to see if they want to ever use the Bryce Petty model they picked up last year.
21. Washington Redskins: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Reno: I actually have a second-round grade on Nkemdiche, but since I like to go by what I think will happen, rather than what I would do, my gut tells me that Nkemdiche will not make it to Day 2. The Redskins have plenty of holes on their defense, but Nkemdiche can help fill an immediate need assuming he reaches his ceiling and turns into the stud defensive tackle that he can be. Washington also has Joe Barry as their defensive coordinator, so I send them my condolences.
22. Houston Texans: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Lemieux: Likewise, I don't think Carson Wentz is a first-day quarterback, although I certainly hold him a little higher than Reno from my estimation. That said, Houston is DYING for a real honest-to-God quarterback. Do they really want to go back to the dumpster-diving bogus nonsense that's got them rolling out Brian Hoyer to throw interceptions in a playoff game? It's been assumed for two years now -- two goddamn years! -- that they would be taking a quarterback. Instead, they snapped up defensive talent in Kevin Johnson and Jadeveon Clowney. Texans owner Bob McNair has said enough waiting. Bill O'Brien got the head coaching gig on the assumption he develops quarterback talent; time for him to prove it. By the way, that same quarterback talent he developed at Penn State is nowhere to be seen on any boards. And no, I don't think a reunion with Christian Hackenberg is likely.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Reno: Jaylon Smith is going to miss some time after tearing his ACL, LCL and whatever else-CL you can think of, but the Vikings can afford to wait because Smith is just too talented to slip any further. As a Lions fan, I cringe at the possibility of Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Smith all on the same defense. This would be unfair. Smith's best fit in the NFL is in a 4-3 scheme as a WILL linebacker, much like DeAndre Levy's role with the Lions.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
Lemieux: The Bengals are facing two free agencies at linebacker, and Vontaze Burfict will be gone for at least three games and a liability in how he's viewed now by referees and the commish's office. Darron Lee is suitable material for filling any holes that might come up in free agency, and he's got some great raw talent that could help keep this current Bengals run alive. His scout profile says he needs to work on "dumb, avoidable penalties" which doesn't seem to be that much of a black mark for Cincinnati.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Reno: Boy, the OSU talent just keeps on coming. How the hell did they lose to Michigan State's back-up QB? Ah well, we all need SadUrbanMeyerPizza.gif in our lives.
There aren't a ton of CBs out there worth of a first-round selection this year, but I do like what Eli Apple brings to the table. He has the size and tools to become a true shutdown cornerback and the Steelers could really use someone not named Antwon Blake on the outside. William Gay had himself a great year opposite of Blake, but he's also an unrestricted free agent and may not be with the team next year.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Lemieux: With no enticing first-round tackles remaining on the board to speak of, and LB and CB getting thin in the same area, the Seahawks' needs turns to a playmaker. You can never have enough quality wideouts in this league, and Corey Coleman fits the athletic mold that Pete Carroll likes to throw out there. He's got a few inches on Will Fuller (another speedy receiver I really like) and while Baylor guys have been a gamble for a while, I think the measurables and his athleticism will keep him in first round consideration.
27. Green Bay Packers: Kenny Clark, NT, UCLA
Reno: The popular pick for the Packers has been a nose tackle. That entirely depends on the status of BJ Raji and whether the Packers re-sign him or not. In a perfect world, the Packers would either trade up for a linebacker or have Jaylon Smith fall into their laps. Clay Matthews and his luscious golden locks are only a part of one body, and he can't run the show by himself. If Raji is indeed gone, Kenny Clark would be a nice replacement that can help add some beef and stuff the run as a nose tackle.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Lemieux: There's no great options for the Chiefs at 28, who are in dire straits for a cornerback if Sean Smith leaves in free agency and have questions on what they'll do with the defensive line. At this point though, there's nothing that inspires too much faith. Neither myself nor Reno are high up on Jack Conklin, but he seems to fit well for what Kansas City looks to accomplish in the run game. He can certainly become a compliment to Jamaal Charles.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky
Reno: As made evident by their awful Conference Championship performance, the Arizona Cardinals need to be able to rush the passer, specifically on the edge. Noah Spence might be the best pure EDGE rusher in the draft in a 3-4 scheme and has some insane bend around the corner. He has his share of off the field problems and played against weaker competition this year, but his physical tools cannot be ignored and he would be a perfect fit for the Cards.
30. Denver Broncos: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Lemieux: I think the Broncos need a right tackle the most, but they can safely wait at this point in the draft. Going on talent and the fact that the Broncos run game is rather negligible at the moment, I think taking a running back to build a committee around is the right way to go. Derrick Henry has size and strength, and I can't pin down a single game in my mind where he was running over defenders because he kept doing it in college. Nonstop. Like two goddamn years in a row. SB Nation's CFB community calls him El Tractorcito. I'm a little hesitant about Alabama running backs who get a massive workload dumped on them, and Derrick Henry's Heisman campaign was a great display in using up the miles on his body in the name of a cynical award so Nick Saban can keep bringing in recruits. That said, he's...you know what, just look at Henry. Look at him, goddammit. That's Mark Ingram in the letterman jacket.
31. Carolina Panthers: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Reno: Michael Oher is really bad. I mean he's terrible. How is he still a starter in the NFL? Yet, the rest of that Panthers O-line is still straight up dominating. Imagine if they had a serviceable left tackle to complete the ensemble. Jason Spriggs is probably not ready to play LT in the NFL just yet, but he's a great athlete with a tremendous amount of upside and can immediately step in and be just as bad as Michael Oher. The Panthers are going to be just fine.