As Senior Bowl practices overtake the NFL landscape this week, I wanted to put together a pre-Senior Bowl Mock Draft to serve as a baseline. The insights below come from weeks of being in various NFL buildings, thousands of texts with NFL talent evaluators, and smoke screens galore from agents, coaches, and those in the scouting community.
You know the deal. This will change. Have an issue with the picks or who I have your team selecting? Hit me at PeterSchrager@gmail.com or on Twitter @Pschrags.
1. Tennessee (3-13): Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss, Jr.
Tennessee’s first-year GM Job Robinson could end up shopping and trading this pick to a team that wants or needs a quarterback and fears they won’t get one with their current draft position. If Tennessee keeps the pick, I’d see them going with Tunsil, the talented left tackle most often compared to Tyron Smith of the Cowboys. Tunsil was suspended by the NCAA for seven games — a bit of a red flag — but should do fine in the interview process.
2. Cleveland (3-13): Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State, Sr.
Oh, think this is crazy? Just wait until after this week of Senior Bowl practices where you see Carson Wentz compared to some of the better prospects of the past few years. Wentz is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, has a big arm, and will be the only top quarterback playing in Mobile. Oh, and he’s surprisingly agile and quick on his feet. I had an NFL talent evaluator compare him to a "big, strong-armed Alex Smith." He’ll be the belle of the ball at the Senior Bowl, and when it’s all said and done, could be the first quarterback selected. Hue Jackson knows his QBs. So does Pep Hamilton. If they fall in love with Jared Goff, fine — that’s the safer pick. But they may have a hard time denying Wentz.
3. San Diego (4-12): Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio St., Jr.
If the Titans go OL and the Browns do, indeed, go with a quarterback, Bosa should be a perfect fit for the Chargers. Is the Ohio Stat pass rusher the next JJ Watt? Probably not. But he’s got an incredible first step, comes from a football family, and would make an immediate impact in the pass-happy AFC West.
4. Dallas (4-12): Jared Goff, QB, Cal, Jr.
Cowboys fans got a glimpse of what life without Tony Romo could be like this season, and it wasn’t pretty. There’s a chance a Johnny Manziel, a Robert Griffin III, or a Colt McCoy signs as a backup in March, but don’t be surprised if the Cowboys snag a long-term answer at quarterback, too. Goff is a big kid, a nice prospect, and has all the traits that could make the next great franchise quarterback in Big D.
5. Jacksonville (5-11): Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida St., Jr.
Ramsey is a guy who can do it all in a defensive backfield, matching up with small, shifty slot receivers or handling the towers like Calvin Johnson or Mike Evans. He’s a track-and-field star, can tackle, and has been one of the leaders on a very successful Florida State team for multiple seasons. Is he a safety or a corner? I’m not sure. But he’s damn good and a great fit for whatever Gus Bradley wants to do on D, moving forward.
6. Baltimore (5-11): Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida, Jr.
The Ravens don’t typically have top 6 picks. They’ll be happy to see either Ramsey or Hargreaves III on the board. Hargreaves is a star who held two of the top wideouts in the country — Travin Dural and Laquon Treadwell — under 100 receiving yards this year. He lacks ideal size (5-foot-11), but has the instincts to be a star.
7. San Francisco (5-11): Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss, Jr.
Yes, there’s a chance the 49ers go with a quarterback here, and Carson Wentz is a North Dakota native, like 49ers GM Trent Baalke. But with Anquan Boldin a free agent, wide receiver is a big need, too. Treadwell recovered from a bad injury and had a strong 2015. He’s not a huge target, but he’s a gamebreaker.
8. Miami (6-10): Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA, Jr.
Jack is the Draft’s biggest wildcard. If his rehab from a torn ACL continues to progress — as I’m told it will — he’ll be a top-10 selection. The Dolphins have Ndamukong Suh on the inside, Cam Wake as a pass rusher, and will likely try to bring back promising Olivier Vernon this March. In a division owned by Tom Brady, you can never have enough top defensive talent up front.
9. Tampa Bay (6-10): DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon, Sr.
The 6-foot-7, 290-pound athlete tore up the Pac-12 this season. He had 12 tackles for a loss in just a nine-game season. Arik Armstead was a top 20 pick last year. I think Buckner goes top 10. Tampa’s desperate for some help with the pass rush. Buckner’s a good get here.
10. N.Y. Giants (6-10): Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame, Jr.
Remember when the Giants had linebackers? Elite defenses? Smith is a star. He suffered a bad injury in the Fiesta Bowl and his recovery time is a bit of an unknown at the moment. He can rush the quarterback, stop the run, drop into coverage, and lead a team. He’s a star — healthy in April or not.
11. Chicago (6-10): Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson, Jr.
The Bears need pass rushers and defensive help in the front seven. Lawson brings it off the edge and was virtually unstoppable this year. He was all over the field in the college football playoff games. He’s got a motor, good brains, and a desire to be great.
12. New Orleans (7-9): A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama, Jr.
Robinson’s not as celebrated as Jarran Reed, his teammate, but could end up being a better pro. He’s 6-foot-3, 320 pounds and is actually much lighter on his feet than you’d expect. Talented inside and plays angry. Saints fans would love him.
13. Philadelphia (7-9): Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame, Jr.
Stanley’s the real deal. Behind Tunsil, he’s the left tackle I have my eye on. Jason Peters is one of the greatest of his generation; he’s not the long-term answer in Philly. Stanley could be that guy or be the man on the right.
14. Oakland (7-9): Mackensie Alexander, DB, Clemson, Jr.
Alexander is 5-foot-10, has the swagger and confidence of a top NFL cornerback, and has handled some of college football’s top receivers, including Notre Dame first-round talent Will Fuller. No. 1 cornerback is rapidly becoming one of the most important positions on the entire roster. The Raiders have talent, but need a true No. 1. Alexander can be that guy.
15. Los Angeles (7-9): Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis, Jr.
Want a big responsibility for a kid who starred in the … American Athletic Conference? How about being the hope and future of the NFL’s LA franchise? I think Lynch is up for it. Can he play? Yes. And that’s all that matters. He’s big with a 6-foot-7 frame, needs to put on a little weight, and surprisingly mobile. He also is a great kid and a charismatic one at that. He could end up going before Wentz and ending up in either Dallas or San Francisco, too.
16. Detroit (7-9): Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State, Jr.
The Lions have a Pro Bowl defensive end in Ziggy Ansah. The other three starters on their D-Line are free agents. Ogbah scored 11 sacks as a sophomore because of his freakish athleticism. He had 13 in 2015 even though he was a focus of opposing offenses’ blocking schemes. New GM Bob Quinn is a scout’s scout. I think Ogbah — relatively clean from top to bottom — is a solid pick.
17. Atlanta (8-8): Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama, Sr.
The Falcons are desperate for some help up the middle on that Dan Quinn defense. If Bobby Wagner was that guy for Quinn in Seattle, there’s a chance Ragland can be that dude for him in Atlanta. Ferocious player who Nick Saban loved, he’d be a great fit.
18. Indianapolis (8-8): Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio St., Sr.
Decker moves well despite being 6 feet 7. He’s a first-round pick, can complement Anthony Costanzo on that Indy offensive line and is a rock-solid player. More O-Line play is needed. Lots more. Top needs: OL, pass rusher, CB
Rex Ryan’s defense in Buffalo this year has performed worse than Jim Schwartz’s did the previous season. I’d be surprised if Mario Williams is back as a Bill next year, too, with his contract and production this season. Lee is small for an NFL linebacker (235 pounds), but flies all over the field and can rush the quarterback. Good fit for a Buffalo team that’s still just a few pieces away from competing in the AFC East.
20. N.Y. Jets (10-6): Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio St., Jr.
Elliott has been described as the best blocking running back in all of football. He can also run quite a bit. I had a scout tell me he’s a Top 5 pick, but even with Todd Gurley’s success, I’m not sure I can put a running back much higher than here. Especially with the needs other teams have. The Jets would be a great fit.
21. Washington (9-7): Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State, Jr.
The Redskins are desperate for some young talent in their defensive backfield. Apple’s tough, fast, and has great ball skills. A New Jersey native, the 6-foot-1 cornerback improved in 2016 from a solid 2015 season. First-round pick.
22. Houston (9-7): Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State, Jr.
I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t work out like this. Chip Kelly doesn’t get Marcus Mariota and just because O’Brien and Hackenberg had great success, it doesn’t make him a first round pick. Well, in my world, it does. I can’t see Hoyer or Weeden as the quarterback of the future, here. Hackenberg? Yes.
23. Minnesota (11-5): Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State, Jr.
Conklin’s a gamer. Whether he’s a tackle or guard at the next level will be figured out in due time. The Vikings offensive line played better than many expected they would this year, but there’s still a long way to go. Conklin comes in as a guy who can start Week 1 somewhere along the line.
24. Cincinnati (12-4): Su’a Cravens, S, USC, Jr.
Cravens can be a Deone Bucannon type who roams as either safety, play the nickel and dig in as a linebacker at the next level. There have been Troy Polamalu comparisons his entire career at USC. That’s a stretch, but not that far off. The Bengals defensive backfield isn’t getting any younger. Cravens feels like a guy who’ll play 12 years in the league and be a pest for Steelers and Ravens fans for every single one of them.
25. Pittsburgh (10-6): Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss, Jr.
Here’s a top-5 talent who will undoubtedly slip because of off the field red flags. There have been a bunch of non-football issues already with Nkemdiche, which will scare teams off. But I also know the scouting community is absolutely in love with the kid’s size (6-5, 296 pounds), speed and potential. Dominant player with some off-the-field questions. I think a team will roll the dice. If he slips to 25? Forget about it.
26. Seattle (10-6): Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn, Jr.
The Seahawks offensive line was destroyed by the Panthers in the Divisional Round. The way Kawaan Short disrupted things in the first quarter was the stuff clinics use as case studies. There needs to be some help up front. If Russell Okung leaves, the O-line becomes an even bigger area of need. Coleman’s story is awesome. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and missed two full years of football before getting back on the field … and dominating the SEC in 2015.
27. Green Bay (10-6): Jarran Reed, DT Alabama, Senior
Reed is your big run-stuffing defensive tackle who can play either inside or outside on certain formations. Not a big pass rush guy, but a big plugger on the line. Green Bay’s defense finished the season strong and the unit beefed up in the draft last year. Here’s another potential long-term starter.
28. Kansas City (11-5): Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor, 5-10, Junior
Coleman is a talent. He scored 20 touchdowns in the first two months of the season and has lights out speed. Alex Smith and that offense got going down the stretch in 2015, but there’s still room for a few more weapons. Coleman’s a steal at 28.
29. Arizona (13-3): Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida, Senior
The Cardinals defensive line isn’t a young one. Bullard is 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, and can get to the quarterback. Smart player, too. He’s a first-round guy.
*30. Denver (12-4): Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama, Senior
Center is the biggest area of need for the Broncos and they can find themselves a ten-year guy sitting there at 29. I like Kelly the most of this year’s batch, though I know some scouts who are bigger on Nick Martin out of Notre Dame.
*31. Carolina (15-1): Tyvis Powell, S, Ohio State, Jr.
Powell will make some heads turn this week in Mobile, and should get first-round love. A 6-foot-3 safety who shows up on all of the Ohio State film, he could be the punishing guy in the Panthers’ defensive backfield that would be the cherry on top of a legit defense.