Draft King Analysis|
April 19, 2016
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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Crunch time is here for the 2016 NFL Draft. We're just nine days from the start of the first round, which means the late press is on for everyone with an opinion to share and a storyline angle to spin. Some thoughts:
· It was a tumultuous last week for me with the death of my grandmother. When you run your own business, you have the joy of autonomy, but also the responsibility of having to keep things going irrespective of what is going on in your life. So you could imagine how flummoxed I was on Thursday morning to learn about the big Titans/Rams trade after I had stayed up into the early morning hours putting together a revised mock ahead of the funeral.
I woke up to see my phone blown up with messages/texts about the trade, and I had to then scramble to revise my mock to reflect the change. You'll have to understand that I didn't share the Rams' enthusiasm for having held off on the trade news on Wednesday night so as to not upstage Kobe Bryant's final NBA game.
It speaks volumes for the popularity of the NFL that a trade could upstage the retirement of a 20-year NBA superstar. Though I understand why the Rams tried to show respect, having been gone from Los Angeles for nearly the full duration of Kobe's career.
· At this point, barring a major surprise, it will be Cal QB Jared Goff and NDSU QB Carson Wentz going in the top two spots of the draft, particularly with Cleveland shopping the #2 pick to teams likely to want a top QB prospect. After the initial reaction to the Rams mega-trade was the belief that they would be taking Wentz, that was countered by several outlets who tend to have inside info all indicating that it was actually Goff -- but that a definitive decision hadn't yet been reached.
San Diego at #3 would be in a dream scenario were that to happen, with the chance to land Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil (once the projected #1 overall pick when the Titans held the selection) without having to trade up. That, in turn, would give the Cowboys a really nice setup with the entire defensive board still in place at the #4 spot, where they would potentially take Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey.
Where it would get interesting for Dallas is if San Diego at #3 went counter to the presumed course of action and snatched Ramsey off the board at that point. Dallas has one of the best offensive lines in the game today, and while perhaps Baltimore at #6 would be willing to trade up to get Tunsil, there are precious few minutes to work out such deals on draft night.
· The benefit of both Goff and Wentz going off the board at the top would in theory trickle down to Jacksonville at #5, where there have been strong indications that the Jaguars would take UCLA LB Myles Jack. But that is hardly a guarantee, particularly with the likes of Ohio State DE/OLB Joey Bosa and Oregon DL DeForest Buckner also in contention.
As for the Ravens at #6, absent a viable opportunity to move up to snag Tunsil, the possibility of being able to choose between Bosa and Buckner at that spot has to be appealing. Add in other potential choices, such as Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley, and Baltimore should be in a good position regardless of who else joins Goff and Wentz in the top five.
· Things would seem to be decidedly less predictable for the 49ers at #7 and the Eagles at #8. Both had been perceived as likely to be targeting a QB there, but unless they decide to go with Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, it seems that is unlikely to happen.
I could buy Stanley going to the 49ers, though they could just as easily target a defensive front seven player. As for the Eagles, the #8 spot would seem to mark the beginning of the range where you could realistically see Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott be selected, though they could also look for a cornerback like Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves.
· The Buccaneers at #9 would seem to be in the market for a defensive player, likely a pass-rushing DT, 4-3 DE or cornerback. I could see them being a potential trade partner for the Titans if the talk that Tennessee is looking into trading back up from #15 is true.
· If Stanley is still on the board at #10, he would seem likely to be a player of interest for the Giants. You could also make the case for the Giants taking someone like Michigan State OT Jack Conklin at that spot, and there's no guarantee that Stanley will be the second offensive tackle off the board.
· Perhaps it's unrealistic to think that Chicago will take Memphis QB Paxton Lynch at #11, particularly since Lynch could very well be gone by then and the Bears having other needs, like a blue chip 3-4 OLB. It's that fine line in this case for me between what I think a given team should do versus what they really will do.
· My typical rule of thumb is to pay extra attention when a fanbase questions a projection I've made for their team. I've said it for years -- with 32 teams in the league, it's difficult to follow all closely enough to be as plugged-in as a hardcore fan is for his or her favorite team. And with that in mind with the Saints at #12, my buddy Josh (a longtime Saints fan) let me know he really didn't like the idea of New Orleans taking Louisville DL Sheldon Rankins at that spot.
And he may be right, though I see the Saints as needing pass-rushing help on its front seven. But if it's not Rankins, perhaps Alabama DL A'Shawn Robinson or Baylor DL Andrew Billings would get the nod.
· It would seem that the Dolphins would fall into Best Player Available territory at #13. Clearly they traded down from #8 for a reason, perhaps with the belief that there would be a quality offensive tackle or cornerback at this spot. They could also consider Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland here as well.
· It stands to reason that we could see a run on DE/OLB (EDGE) players, perhaps also with Ragland in the mix, in the #16-#19 range. The Lions (#16), Falcons (#17), Colts (#18), and Bills (#19) could all potentially be in the market for a linebacker. And it stands to reason that a team trading back, perhaps moving down to the Titans spot at #15, could pull a double-drop with Indianapolis or Buffalo looking to leapfrog the rest for the linebacker they covet the most.
If you're a team that sees comparable value in the 10-12 player range compared with the 18-20 player range, it makes sense. But, as always, such a move requires a willing buyer, which will require some deft maneuvering for any team attempting to slide down the board while acquiring assets for their effort.
· Addressing the wide receiver position really deserves its own column on here, which I already have in the works. And despite being the presumptive top wideout on many boards, it's entirely possible that Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell will slide and end up not being the first WR to hear his name called on April 28. Houston at #22 would seem like a good home for Treadwell, particularly since he would seem to thrive best in a system that isn't asking him to be the top guy out of the gate.