Draft King Analysis|
March 24, 2016
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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We're a little more than one month out from the draft, and a considerable fog remains in place at the top of the draft board. Sometimes things fall into place rather smoothly, like Luck/Griffin in 2012 or Winston/Mariota last year.
This is not lining up to be one of those types of drafts, though.
At the top, the prevailing line of thought is Tennessee using the top pick to select Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil. I suspect that will be the action taken if the Titans keep the selection, but that is hardly etched in stone at this point.
In an alternative line of thought, Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com reports that the Titans would not only prefer to trade down and take Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey, they would actually take him with the first pick. A move like that would be highly unusual relative to the history of the top pick, but the NFL has tilted strongly in recent years in favor of teams with strong passing games -- and defenses that are strong against the pass.
The game has changed.
Ramsey is a Nashville-area product who projects best as a safety but also showed the ability to play cornerback at a high level last season when asked to do so by Florida State. I've mentioned before that I did color commentary for the broadcast of one of Ramsey's games when he was a junior with Brentwood Academy in 2011, and while he was an excellent player at that point, he took his game to another level in Tallahassee.
With the way things have played out in free agency, it seems that the Titans are in position to potentially take either Ramsey or Tunsil, which gives them options -- something you want to have when you're likely to be fielding several late offers from teams looking to move to the top of the draft board.
At the same time, there is an expectation that Ramsey could quite possibly be available for the Jaguars at the #5 spot. Something that really jumped out at me was a tweet earlier this month by Jim Wyatt, a fellow Father Ryan High School grad, who noted a tidbit from a conference call with Mel Kiper about Ramsey.
It's hard to envision Ramsey sliding past Jacksonville at #5, so if the Titans will be trading down with the intention of landing Ramsey, moving below that spot would seem to go from calculated risk to long shot as far as landing him goes.
Despite today's signing of former Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, Cleveland at #2 still seems all but a lock to take a quarterback, with North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz appearing to have the edge over Cal QB Jared Goff and the rest of the field. While this could be a smokescreen, I tend to believe it at this point, even though we are in the heart of misdirection season.
The concern for the Browns has to be that a QB-hungry team will leapfrog them, offering the reported king's ransom needed to convince the Titans to trade down. But there is some luck on Cleveland's side in that regard with San Diego (#3), Dallas (#4), Jacksonville (#5) and Baltimore (#6) all being relatively secure at starting QB for 2016.
The 49ers at #7 could use a quarterback, and at this point I have them projected to take Goff, though their uncertain situation with QB Colin Kaepernick makes it difficult to fully gauge their likely plan. The Eagles, who traded up from #13 to #8, could potentially make a play for a QB, though it has been speculated that they might select Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott there.
The Elliott-to-Philly projection is based in part from comments made by GM Howie Roseman on Monday questioning the theory that you can find a top-level RB prospect in rounds five, six or seven. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean the Eagles will target Elliott at #8, though it seems entirely possible that they could.
While there are plenty of examples of RB diamond-in-the-rough types in recent years, there is a strong recent history of RBs from rounds two and three who have found strong NFL success. A partial list: Le'Veon Bell, Frank Gore, Jeremy Hill, Eddie Lacy, LeSean McCoy, and DeMarco Murray. The days of three RBs going in the top five spots, which happened in 2005, are long gone.
In short, while Roseman's comments suggest that a running back could be in play at #8, it's not necessarily an indication that he would target one there versus angling for one on day two of the draft. But, either way, there is an argument to be made for using a high pick on the right running back in the right system.
UCLA LB Myles Jack remains a popular high projection, particularly so for a traditional linebacker and not a hybrid 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE "EDGE" pass-rusher. Jack is dynamic and talented, and while a knee injury ended his 2015 season early with the Bruins, there is plenty of buzz that he will be one of the first defensive players to come off the board. Baltimore at #6 seems like a good fit -- though the Ravens might not have the chance to draft him without trading up.
I've linked Memphis QB Paxton Lynch to the Chicago Bears at #11 for some time. That's not a pick that would be made for 2016, not with Jay Cutler on the team. But Lynch is a prospect who would likely thrive best without being thrown into the proverbial fire right away, and with such a limited supply of available quarterback prospects, the Bears would be well-served to start planning now for life after Cutler.
Of course, the Bears could also really use a top-level 3-4 defensive end, and a talent like Oregon DE DeForest Buckner would likely trump a quarterback prospect as far as Chicago's team needs go should be fall to them at #11. That might be an unrealistic wish, but there is also the possibility of the Bears trading up to get Buckner should he still be on the board once the first five picks have come and gone.