The NFL Draft will be here in about three weeks, so I had to put together a mock draft of the first round. I'm no draftnik, but I'm also a firm believer that mock drafts are just glorified crapshoots. No one outside of any team's front office really knows who is going to end up where, so feel free take this mock draft with a grain of salt.
1. Tennessee Titans: OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
The Titans should seriously consider trading down, but if they're unable to move down, I'd take Tunsil. Being able to move Taylor Lewan to the right side after he struggled protecting Marcus Mariota's blind side would upgrade the Titans' tackle positions on both sides of the line.
2. Cleveland Brown: QB Carson Wentz, NDSU
If the Browns take a quarterback here, I don't see them taking Jared Goff. AFC North quarterbacks need to be able to play in tough weather, and Goff's relatively small hands could turn Cleveland off from taking a chance on the signal-caller.
3. San Diego Chargers: DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
Many people want to see the Chargers replace the departed Eric Weddle at free safety, but with the signing of Dwight Lowery, San Diego has a bigger pressing need on the defensive line. Paired opposite Corey Liuget and alongside newly acquired Brandon Mebane, Buckner would immediately give San Diego firepower up front.
4. Dallas Cowboys: DB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
Dallas already has the pieces in place on offense, and selecting defensive back Byron Jones in the first round of the 2015 draft, though a good choice, has yet to solidify the Cowboys' secondary. Trotting two Swiss Army Knives (in Jones and Ramsey) into the defensive backfield would give Dallas one of the most versatile and explosive secondaries in football.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
Like the Cowboys, the Jaguars are relatively set on offense. Teams that draft this high generally use their picks to fill a direct position of need. With Ramsey off the board, the best defensive back remaining is Florida corner Hargreaves, who wouldn't need to travel far to join his new team. With Dante Fowler set to return from an ACL tear, the Jaguars could see two exciting new playmakers taking the field, alongside newly acquired Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson.
6. Baltimore Ravens: OLB Myles Jack, UCLA
As a Bengal fan, I really hope this doesn't happen. Jack is one of the most talented players in the draft. If he's able to bounce back from his knee injury, Jack could become the next staple of the Ravens' defense. I was looking forward to seeing the end of the Ravens' pass rush, with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil getting up there in age. Selecting Jack in the draft would make me fear Baltimore's defense like I did just two or three years ago. If the Ravens don't end up taking Jack, I'll still be concerned, because Ozzie Newsome is a mastermind. Newsome's five most recent top 20 picks are as follows: C.J. Mosley, Joe Flacco, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs (who was selected sixth overall) and Jamal Lewis. Newsome can't do wrong here.
7. San Francisco 49ers: DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Former Bengals linebacker Ahmad Brooks is getting up there in age, and he may be best suited as a situational pass-rusher. Bringing in Bosa, who has been touted very highly by fans and analysts as one of the top edge prospects in the draft, would give the Niners a nice complement opposite up-and-coming linebacker Aaron Lynch. Some would argue that the 49ers need a quarterback, and while I agree, I don't envision Chip Kelly selecting a quarterback this early in the draft. I could even see him not take a signal-caller and let the quarterback situation play out like it did in Washington last year, just hoping for the best.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
Is there a better fit for a top 10 prospect than Elliot to the Eagles? I really like DeForest Buckner in San Diego, but Elliot in Philly may be even better. After trading away DeMarco Murray to the Titans, the Eagles need to find a bell cow running back. Clearly, Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles are not the answer in Philadelphia. Taking the best running back in the draft should all but guarantee an improved running game in 2016.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson
Dodd is a very raw player, but his size and abilities should put him high on teams' draft boards. The Buccaneers have desperate for an edge rusher since the days of Simeon Rice in 2006, so there's a good chance they'll look for their next edge player on Day 1 of the draft.
10. New York Giants: OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
I don't think Stanley will make it past the Bears in the draft, but I could easily see the Giants nabbing him before Chicago has a chance to pick him. New York has quietly attempted to build an offensive line composed of first-round picks, a strategy notably used by their divisional rival Dallas Cowboys. Adding Stanley would give the Giants two first round tackles, a first round guard and a second round center. Maybe they'll finish the line off right then and there in the second round. Ultimately, Eli Manning needs protection. Adding Stanley would give the Giants a huge boost on the offensive line, where former Bengals backup Marshall Newhouse is currently starting at right tackle.
11. Chicago Bears: OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
With Stanley off the board, the Bears are forced to take a defensive player, seeing as how picking a tackle here would be a huge reach. Former Georgia Leonard Floyd is perfectly suited for Chicago. He'd have an immediate chance to start opposite Pernell McPhee and could potentially give the Bears one of football's best edge rushing duos.
12. New Orleans Saints: DT A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
Robinson, an extremely versatile interior defensive lineman, would be a huge help for New Orleans' defensive line, which saw itself consistently manhandled by opposing offensive lines in 2015. Though the Saints added Nick Fairley in free agency, only Cameron Jordan is currently penciled in as a starter on New Orleans' defensive line. Robinson could play at either interior spot, likely pairing up with Fairley; he'd make a significant impact early for a team that desperately needs it.
13. Miami Dolphins: CB Eli Apple, Ohio State
It's actually pretty amazing that three Ohio State prospects could come off the board before the Bengals even have a chance to make a selection in this year's draft. Moving on from Brent Grimes leaves corner as one of Miami's biggest needs. The Dolphins haven't been able to find a permanent starter at corner since landing lockdown corners Vontae Davis and Sean Smith in the 2009 draft. Hopefully Apple will be able to be that lockdown corner Miami has been looking for.
14. Oakland Raiders: MLB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
For a club which has been one of the most ridiculed franchises since 2000, the Oakland Raiders are quickly assembling a quality team. Oakland is set on offense, so the Raiders will likely draft a ton of defenders in late April. While there are more pressing needs in the secondary, the additions of Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson give Oakland the flexibilty to take a player they hope can solidify what could be the most exciting linebacking corps in football. With Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack, Malcolm Smith, Ragland and even Khalil Mack in the rotation, the Raiders would be loaded.
15. Los Angeles Rams: QB Jared Goff, California
Typing "Los Angeles Rams" is still weird to me. Anyways, would there be a better fit for Jared Goff? Okay, I'll give San Francisco. Regardless, being able to play in a state with great weather in at least nine games every year, as well as in neighboring Arizona for a tenth game, would be great for Goff, whose small hands could scare teams away in the draft. While he grew up in northern California, which I'd argue is more like Oregon or Washington than southern California, Goff is still a California kid, and he would be an easy face to sell in Los Angeles, where people aren't too excited about football.
16. Detroit Lions: DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Character concerns could lower Nkemdiche's stock, but I don't buy those rumors for one minute. I could see a team like the Lions, who need an eventual replacement for Haloti Ngata, groom the young defensive tackle behind a veteran, hoping the rookie will be able to learn a thing or two about football and the life of an NFL player from a guy who has been through it all. Taking Nkemdiche fill a big hole at defensive tackle for the Lions, both schematically and physically. (See what I did there?)
17. Atlanta Falcons: OLB Darron Lee, Ohio State
Mark that as four Buckeyes being drafted before Cincinnati even has a shot at its first draft pick. Though I don't see all four Buckeyes coming off the board this soon as an absolute guarantee, it's certainly a possibility, which is just downright astounding. Moving on. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has gone on record saying that he wants faster linebackers. Darron Lee could be at or near the top of his draft board, so Quinn would gladly bring him into town with the 17th overall selection.
18. Indianapolis Colts: DT Jarran Reed, Alabama
Many would argue that the Colts need help along the offensive line, but I just don't see them taking an offensive lineman in the first round. Anthony Castonzo is under contract until 2019, and Indianapolis is still waiting to see whether Jack Mewhort pans out at right tackle. The more pressing need: anywhere on the defensive side of the ball. Though Indy needs an edge player, I think there's a better chance they take a guy like Reed, immediately upgrading what was last year's eighth-worst run defense.
19. Buffalo Bills: DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
Sheldon Rankins, at 6-foot-1, 299 pounds, may be small in stature, but he's one of the best interior linemen in this year's draft class. And considering how similar he is in size to Bills legend Kyle Williams (6-foot-1, 303 pounds), whose days as a Bill are likely winding down, I could totally see Buffalo taking him with the 19th overall pick. Buffalo may have more pressing needs, but being able to take a player who perfectly fits in your scheme and is one of the best players available in the draft trumps any needs outside of quarterback.
20. New York Jets: OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
Could this be the year the Jets finally select D'Brickshaw Ferguson's successor? Ferguson, at 32 years old, will be paid nearly $30 million over the next two years. He's in a similar situation as Andrew Whitworth in that he'll be New York's blindside protector for the next two years, but it's hard to see him in New York for any longer than the next two years, barring a massive pay cut. Conklin could start his career at right tackle and make his way over to left tackle over time, similar to what Tyron Smith did in Dallas. The Jets may need a linebacker, but with Jaylon Smith, who may not ever see a football field again, left as the top linebacker on the board, they'll have to wait until later rounds.
*Update: D'Brickshaw Feguson announced his retirement on Friday. I feel just a little bit smarter now.
21. Washington Redskins: C Ryan Kelly, Alabama
Taking guard Brandon Scherff with the sixth overall pick in last year's draft showed Redskins fans that general manager Scot McCloughan isn't afriad of selecting an offensive lineman early. With a pressing need at center, Washington could easily decide to take Kelly. The NFC East loves taking offensive linemen early, and being able to upgrade at center could help Kirk Cousins feel even more comfortable in Jay Gruden's offense.
22. Houston Texans: S Karl Joseph, West Virginia
I'm not buying the "Texans need a wide receiver narrative," as taking a pass-catcher this high in the draft would be admitting defeat on 2013 draft selections Jalen Strong and Keith Mumphrey, selected in the third and fifth round respectively. Rather, I could definitely envision Houston taking either an offensive tackle, tight end or defensive back. Hard-hitting Karl Joseph makes a ton of sense here, as he would be an immediate starter in the Texans secondary.
23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
I can already hear Bengal fans railing my mock draft due to the fact that the first wide receiver doesn't come off the board until the 23rd pick, but that's just how I feel about this year's wide receiver class. Mike Zimmer's team doesn't have many pressing needs, and though wide receiver isn't an immediate need, an infusion of young talent certainly wouldn't hurt. Stephon Diggs and Treadwell would be a nice one-two punch for Teddy Bridgewater.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: DT Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
Butler's name is gaining tons of momentum as a potential Bengals first-rounder. I can get on board; I had him as the Bengals' first round pick in a mock draft I did a few days ago. Honestly, Butler is at or near the top of my draft board when you get past the top 10-15 prospects. At 6-foot-4, 323 pounds, he's nearly identical to Domata Peko (6-foot-3, 322 pounds). Add in the fact that Butler is explosive, can play both the run and the pass and won't turn 22 until June and you've got yourself a solid first round pick. I could see the Bengals taking one wide receiver in the second or third round and another later in the draft, similar to what they did with Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in 2012.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
William Gay is somehow still in Pittsburgh's starting lineup, which speaks volumes about the team's offense-first, outside linebacker second and everything else third mindset when it comes to building a roster. Seeing Mackensie Alexander fall this far in the draft would be a dream come true for Kevin Colbert. I've talked about the Steelers long enough; on to the next pick.
26. Seattle Seahawks: OLB Shaq Lawson, Clemson
The stars align for the Seahawks, who need a replacement for recently departed Bruce Irvin. Lawson may not currently be completely ready to start as Seattle's outside linebacker, as Irvin's coverage role expanded through his years in Seattle, but he's versatile enough to play outside linebacker or defensive end, potentially even kicking inside on passing downs. The Seahawks are smart enough to figure out what they'll do with Lawson on their own; all I know is that he's a guy who they can likely do a ton with.
27. Green Bay Packers: OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Cody Whitehair has "Green Bay Packers" written all over him. With both Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang set to hit free agency after this season, the Packers will need to draft at least one guard to be the next man up. Whitehair, who has been touted one of the safest picks in this year's draft class, should be that guy.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
Spence would fit great as an outside linebacker in the Chiefs' 3-4 scheme. Tamba Hali is getting up there in age, and Justin Houston's injury leaves room for doubt. Despite the off-field issues, Spence's ability to overcome those obstacles supposedly has teams excited. He'd be a great successor to Hali, and he could make an immediate impact if needed.
29. Arizona Cardinals: CB William Jackson III, Houston
Justin Bethel, who A.J. Green torched when the Bengals faced the Cardinals, is clearly not Arizona's answer at corner opposite Patrick Peterson. Tyrann Matthieu is a great player, but he plays more slot corner and safety than he plays on the outside. Adding Jackson, whose draft stock jumped quickly with a spectacular combine, would be a great move for Arizona.
30. Carolina Panthers: DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
The Panthers cut and brought back Charles Johnson one one of the team-friendliest deals of the offseason, but it's time to select his replacement. Ogbah would fit in the Panthers' 4-3 defense, and paired up opposite Super Bowl standout Kony Ealy, he could help Carolina's defensive line become one of football's best.
31. Denver Broncos: QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Colin Kaepernick will not be a member of the Broncos next season. It's just not going to happen. Mark Sanchez is clearly not the answer either, so Lynch has become a very popular selection for Denver. Built similarly to former Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler, Lynch is gaining more and more momentum after a solid pro day. If the Broncos aren't able to persuade Ryan Fitzpatrick to take a decreased salary for increased chances of hoisting a Lombardi trophy, their odds of drafting a signal-caller in the early rounds are very high.