A look at the best draft prospects still on the board, according to NFL.com.
Two years ago, Andrew Norton and I tried our hands at an NFL mock draft, alternating through the 32 picks of the first round, and did reasonably well. We even out-performed some of the most notable draft experts and their own mock efforts. Last year, we invited two more Buccaneers.com contributors, Joe Kania and Casey Phillips, to take part in our little roundtable exercise…and the wheels promptly came flying off. It was not a good performance. Not at all.
Now, if you happen to review our mock from last year, you'll see this wasn't really Joe or Casey's fault. Our entire mock got derailed early and never came close to finding the track again. I got the only pick right in the whole thing, and that's because I was gifted with the first selection and, well, you all remember how that went. It was a pretty easy choice.
In other words, we're not holding last year's disaster against anyone in particular, and everyone has been invited back to attempt a much better outcome in 2016. Perhaps the best part is that the Buccaneers' pick, at #9, is much more mysterious than it was a year ago, so that should be fun for the mock drafter who draws that slot.
And that would be Mr. Kania, who in our random draw got the top pick, and thus #9 as well. I will go second, Andrew third and Casey fourth, which also means that Casey gets the small bonus of only having to make seven picks, thanks to the New England Patriots' forfeited selection.
Our goal will be to predict what each team currently in each draft slot will do. We will not be predicting any trades, though we will all feel free to mention the possibility of a deal when it's our turn to pick, if we feel strongly enough about it. You know, for a little extra credit when it's all said and done.
One more important note: Please keep in mind that these are our own opinions. They will occasionally be fabulously wrong, but more importantly they are never intended to reflect the opinions of Jason Licht, Dirk Koetter or anybody who will actually be making non-mock picks on April 28. This is most important to remember when considering that ninth pick we're all so eager to hear.
Alright, my fellow mockers, any last words before we begin?
Joe Kania:Last year I tried to throw out a few curveballs, which failed miserably. I had Kevin White going go the Jaguars at No. 3, which obviously wasn't the case. The team picked Dante Fowler instead and had two of their wideouts surpass the 1,000-yard mark. It seemed like a good idea at the time? With one Mock Draft Roundtable under my belt, I hope to be much improved in 2016.* *
Andrew Norton: Scott and I had a surprisingly accurate showing in Year 1, I technically "won" Year 2… I guess what I mean to say is 'Watch your back Daniel Jeremiah, I'm coming for you.' Let's do this.
Scott Smith: Considering this is our "fourth annual" mock draft, Andrew, I think you're a little off on your year count. Whatever…on to Part I, wherein we will cover the first eight picks of the first round. Stay tuned in the days to come for the remainder of our Buccaneers.com Mock Draft.
1. Los Angeles Rams: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State (Joe Kania's pick)
All signs point to the Rams taking a quarterback first overall; it's really just a matter of which passer they prefer. There are three potential first-round quarterbacks in this year's draft, and despite playing for a smaller school, many believe Wentz is the best of the group, edging out Cal's Jared Goff and Memphis' Paxton Lynch. The Rams have a lot of good pieces in place: a running back who won Rookie of the Year, a strong defense led by one of the best linemen in the game and a handful of productive wide receivers. They need to find the guy at quarterback, though. The fact that they finished 7-9 without a productive starter is impressive by itself. If they hit on the right quarterback, they could find themselves in the mix for a playoff spot next season. Wentz finished his college career with a 153.9 passer rating, according to Sports Illustrated, and threw 45 touchdowns compared to just 14 interceptions. I don't mind that he played against lesser competition because he played with lesser competition too. The Rams really like someone to move all the way up from No. 15 to No. 1. I believe that someone is Wentz.* *
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Jared Goff, QB, California (Scott Smith's pick)
Full disclosure: We started this mock draft process early last week, and thus I initially made this pick for the Cleveland Browns. I reluctantly went with Goff, even though I had a feeling the Browns would punt their long-term QB issue to next year (if you don't believe me, watch last Tuesday's Insider Live). Along came the Eagles to save me. Wednesday's blockbuster trade made it pretty clear that QBs are going 1-2, so the only question is the order. Since I didn't get a chance to establish that order, all I can do is take the second guy. If it goes Goff-Wentz, I'm going to demand partial credit. I should get it; I'm a pretty big deal around here.
3. San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, T, Ole Miss (Andrew Norton's pick)
QBs going back-to-back is a great position for the Chargers to be in, because they can take the highest person on their draft board. It's not such a great position for mock drafters, because we have no idea which prospect that is. DE Joey Bosa, DB Jalen Ramsey and OT Laremy Tunsil all makes sense here and fit the Chargers' needs. My guess is that the Chargers brass had a little party after the Rams-Titans trade*, knowing that it was now pretty likely that the best tackle in the draft, Tunsil, would fall to them. Phillip Rivers was sacked just 30 times in 2013 (4th-fewest in the NFL), but 77 times over the last two seasons. Rivers is not getting any younger and protecting their signal-caller should be San Diego's top priority.
*I think I'll use my "potential trade" card for the Chargers in the QB-QB scenario, I'm sure they'll field a few offers from teams who love Tunsil or Ramsey.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State (Casey Phillips's pick)
Well Andrew I bet the Chargers weren't the only ones having a party when news of that trade broke. Since it's assumed the Rams made that trade to select a quarterback, that forces another position player to fall at least one spot. I think this means Dallas is debating between selecting Bosa or Ramsey. Either player has the potential to make a big difference to the defense, but my bet is the Boys go with Ramsey. The team was already giving last year's selection, Byron Jones, a look at safety, so taking Ramsey could make that move permanent and having both players gives the team much more flexibility and versatility in their secondary. Ramsey has the playmaking ability to create the turnovers the Cowboys so desperately need.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Joe Kania's pick)
This was a tricky one for me. Last year the Jaguars used the No. 3 overall pick on a defensive end when they selected Dante Fowler, but nobody really knows what Fowler's got after he missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. Part of me wants to take Myles Jack, who I feel is the best overall player still available. But another part of me has flashbacks to Super Bowl 50 and I'm reminded of the type of impact that a devastating pass rush can have. I can't resist the temptation to pair up Bosa and Fowler a few years, at least. Just when I said I wasn't throwing any more curve balls.* *
6. Baltimore Ravens: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (Scott Smith's pick)
Well, Joe, I fear your "curveball" is going to be like Bugs Bunny's infamous slow ball, perplexing the entire lineup. Here I was waiting for you to take Jack so that I could slot Bosa in to the Ravens' 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker and address their top need. With Terrell Suggs out last year and Haloti Ngata in Detroit, the Ravens just didn't have as ferocious of a pass-rush as usual, and I was hoping Bosa could make an instant impact. Fortunately, there's a pretty nice consolation prize sitting there in Oregon's Buckner, who can play one of the interior-line positions in that 3-4 and help that pass-rush from the inside out instead. I'd have to think that Jack is a real option here, too; in the real thing, I have a hard time believing he'll fall past the first six picks.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (Andrew Norton's pick)
Myles Jack likely won't fall out of the Top 5, but if he does, don't expect him to fall out of the Top 7. Had Jack gone to the Jags and Bosa to the Ravens as mentioned above by Scott, I'd have probably made the first big splash of our mock draft by giving the 49ers a receiver to complement Torrey Smith. BUT a fortunate DE run has laid the best LB (and arguably the best athlete) in the draft right at my feet. Jack fits the scheme for the 49ers and gives them an incredible 1-2 punch at inside linebacker next to Navarro Bowman. San Francisco has a lot of holes on offense, but in this scenario, Jack is far too good to pass up.
8. Cleveland Browns: Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame (Casey Phillips's pick)
I was so prepared to nail pick eight for the Eagles with Ezekiel Elliott, then another crazy trade happened that left me debating a few options. The option I would like to choose is another trade down by the Browns to continue stock-piling picks and potentially grab Paxton Lynch later in the first round. But since that would be breaking the mock draft rules, I think it would be in the Browns' best interest to shore up that offensive line. When it comes to pass protecting, Stanley is about as pro-ready as you could hope for, plus he has experience at both tackle positions. If RGIII does end up being their quarterback of choice, clearly keeping him healthy should be the prime objective. Plus, the Browns have lost Alex Mack and Geoff Schwartz and might even want flexibility to trade Joe Thomas.
(Part 2 of the Fourth Annual Buccaneers.com Mock Draft, beginning with the Buccaneers' pick at #9, will be posted on Tuesday.)