Thursday, April 28, 2016

The FGR 2016 NFL Mock Draft

As has been previously noted in this space, I have been a draft nerd since ESPN first televised it on a Tuesday in 1980 and I had to fake an appendicitis to stay home from 5th grade to watch it. Since then my interest has remained fairly constant primarily because I believe that Mel Kiper is one of the best TV talkers that ESPN has ever produced. In fact, my ESPN Mount Rushmore would include Kiper, Tony Kornheiser, Mike Wilbon and Dan Patrick with honorable mention nods to Rich Eisen, Tom Jackson and Chris McKendry. (The opposite of that monument would include Mike & Mike, anyone who has ever appeared on First Take, Chris Berman, Mark May and Mike & Mike again).    

So what better way to honor Mel and this great American institution than by offering-up our own thirty-one blind swings at the pinata? The following picks are based on absolutely no research beyond a synthesizing of a half dozen other mock drafts (which were probably ripped-off from other mock drafts). What difference does it make? No one really knows what's going to happen and one trade in the top six (which is almost guaranteed this year) will blow the whole thing up anyway. In short, it's an exercise in futility and therefore right in the FGR's wheelhouse. If you detect a little Baltimore bias in some of the "analysis," there's a reason for that. Let's make some magic.   

1. Los Angeles Rams - Jared Goff, QB: The Rams have to be feeling a bit trepidatious about this pick for a couple of reasons: (1) The perennially overrated Jeff Fisher will be involved and he hasn't won more than seven games since he took the Rams job in 2012 after thoroughly underachieving in his last ten years with the Titans, and (2) the odds are that one of the two quarterbacks who will be drafted at the top is going to be a bust and, when Cleveland had the #2 pick, everyone just assumed that they would identify and promptly draft the franchise killer. Now that they have traded-out of that spot, those odds have shifted back to 50/50 between the Rams and the Eagles.

New coach. New quarterback.
Everything is going just the
way I drew it . . . uh oh. 
2. Philadelphia Eagles - Carson Wentz, QB: The Eagles continued their full throttle exodus from the Chip Kelly era by first reaching for Doug Pederson who has been described as the worst offseason coaching hire and then trading away a good chunk of their future for a quarterback who hasn't caused anyone to compare him to sure things like Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning or Eli Manning (because no one was comparing him to anyone much less talking about him as far as I can remember). This situation feels as doomed as a Game of Thrones character on a run of good luck.

3. San Diego Chargers - Jalen Ramsey, CB: Ramsey would fill a definite need for the Chargers if he had the legal and accounting skills to undo the $65M of guaranteed money they gave to a 34 year old quarterback who has won 29 games over the last four years. Short of that, he better be REALLY good at covering people.   

4. Dallas Cowboys - Joey Bosa, DE: Many have the Cowboys taking Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott here but let's be honest, that would be reckless even by Jerry Jones' standards. No one has used a top five pick on a running back since the Browns took Trent Richardson at No. 3 in 2012 (that is both a fact and an argument rolled into one). Before that, the Raiders took Darren McFadden at No. 4 in 2008 and the Saints took Reggie Bush at No. 2 in 2006 (over offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson who had a better career). In 2005, three teams thought it would be smart to go running back in the top five by picking Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson and Cadillac Williams over guys like Antrel Rolle, DeMarcus Ware and a quarterback we like to call Aaron Freakin' Rodgers. You've got to go all the way back to LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 before you can find a truly defensible top five running back pick. Jerry Jones certainly isn't going to be arrogant enough to think he can beat that trend. Right?

5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Laremy Tunsil, OT: The Jags seem to have turned things around in the draft department since the debacle that was Blaine "Flinchy" Gabbert in 2011 and Justin "Don't Judge Me By My Rap Sheet" Blackmon in 2012 so we're going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they take the best player available here. 

6. Baltimore Ravens - DeForest Buckner, DE: The better bet is probably that the Ravens will trade this pick to a team like the Titans who want to move back up but that calls for a lot of speculation (and we wouldn't want to do that in a "mock" draft). If the Ravens keep the pick, they'll probably go for Buckner because they're at their best when they get to the opposing team's quarterback and make him look more awkward and clumsy than their own quarterback. Not to mention, the T-Sizzle era in Baltimore appears to be sadly and, at the same time, mercifully coming to an end so that's a lot of sacks and attention seeking that the Ravens will have to replace.      

7. San Francisco 49ers - Ronnie Stanley, OT: Remember Blaine "Flinchy" Gabbert from the Jags two picks ago? Yeah, well he's currently the projected starter for the Niners. Build that wall Chip Kelly.

8. Cleveland Browns, Ezekiel Elliott, RB: I've pretty much bailed on reading Peter King's MMQB since they decided to turn it into an institution and he became the star of his own writing show but, for the big events like the draft, I'll check-in and this week he made it worth my while by summarizing the last five Browns' drafts thusly . . . "the Browns have made four trades involving first-round picks in the past five years, and everyone has been an abject failure. The deals netted Cleveland Phil Taylor, Brandon Weeden, Owen Marecic, Greg Little, Trent Richardson, Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel—and the only player left on the Browns is a cornerback whose days are numbered there, the terminally disappointing Gilbert. That is an amazing run of drafting ineptitude." Couldn't have said it better. The Browns haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010. Might as well take a shot at rectifying that with a Buckeye. Nowhere to go but up at this point. 

9. Tampa Bay Bucs - Vernon Hargreaves, CB: I wouldn't know Vernon Hargreaves if he knocked on my door wearing a hat that said "Hello Friend, My Name is Vernon Hargreaves" but nine out of ten mock drafts seem to think he's going to Tampa so who am I to argue?

10. N.Y. Giants - Myles Jack, LB: Jack could apparently go anywhere from 5th to 25th because he hurt his knee last year. You'd think with all of these people scrutinizing him, someone would've checked to see how serious it was. I mean did he shred an ACL or fall off a swing set and scrape it? We'll kind of split the difference and put him at #10.

Wow . . . Thanks Smokin' Jay.
11. Chicago Bears - Leonard Floyd, LB: Thanks to the two the team teams playing quarterback roulette at the top of the draft, a bunch of studs have slipped a few spots lower than they probably should. Floyd appears to be one of those guys. Lucky for the Bears that they've got that quarterback shit all figured-out. 

12. New Orleans Saints - Kevin Dodd, DE: Some are suggesting that the Saints will draft their quarterback of the future in Paxton Lynch but Drew Brees threw for 4,870 yards with 32 touchdowns and 11 picks in fifteen games last year and this will be a contract season for that hyper competitive son of a bitch. Why blow the 12th pick in the draft on the third best quarterback? Load-up on defense, try to hold the other teams under 30 per game and let Brees throw until his arm falls off.     

13. Miami Dolphins - Shaq Lawson, DE: We should have a Shaq in Miami. Just feels right.

14. Oakland Raiders - Jack Conklin, OT: Frisky young teams with promising quarterbacks like the Raiders usually reward their passer with either a flashy new receiver or an offensive lineman. The Raiders already have Amari Cooper and, considering the Carr family history of quarterbacks who start playing like avalanche survivors as the sacks pile-up, offensive tackle is definitely the way to go.

15. Tennessee Titans - Taylor Decker, OT: So what do you get for the team that needs everything except a quarterback? Well, when your best wide receiver had 32 catches for 549 yards last year, that would seem to be a position of need (I'm no expert). It appears, however, that the Titans' priority is to keep Marcus Mariota on the field for more than twelve games next season and it's hard to argue with that so we'll go offensive line here with the full expectation that they will be trading out of this pick.

16. Detroit Lions - Sheldon Rankins, DT: Over that last two seasons the Lions have lost Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and some guy named Calvin Johnson which is why they are the NFL's version of Teldar Paper ("If these guys owned a funeral parlor, nobody would die"). The good news for the Lions is that the Matthew Stafford era is almost over. The bad news is that they just wasted the career of arguably the most gifted receiver of all-time with a warm and fuzzy version of Jeff George.

17. Atlanta Falcons - Darron Lee, LB: In 2011, the Falcons traded two first round picks, a second round pick and two fourth round picks to the Browns so they could move-up and take Julio Jones with the sixth pick. As recently as last September, GM Thomas "Check-out the Cool Mountain Bike in my Office" Dimitroff declared it was "absolutely" worth it in light of the All-Pro receiver Jones has become. Hard to argue with him right? Unless you consider that the Falcons are 18-30 over the past three seasons. But hey, check-out Julio's stats from last year. Oooooh . . . shiny.

"Are you gonna leave or
do you want me to . . .
HEY! OOMPH!" Thud.
18. Indianapolis Colts - Noah Spence, DE: In 2015 the Colts produced the most dysfunctional love triangle since Sam, Diane and Frasier, and then owner Jim Irsay decided to bring it back for another season by retaining both coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson (who absolutely looks like every movie bodyguard about to get his ass kicked by a guy half his size who knows karate). After putting Pagano through that sideshow barely one year removed from rightfully canonizing him for his battle with cancer, the least they can do is draft him some players on the side of the ball that he was presumably hired to coach.

19. Buffalo Bills - Reggie Ragland, LB: The Bills have only had one winning record since 2004 and have not won double digit games since 1999. They will enter the 2016 season with a head coach in Rex Ryan who only cares about offense to the extent that it gives his defense a chance to rest and a starting quarterback who likes to run but only weighs 215 pounds (ahem . . . bullshit . . . bullshit). Despite all of that, I can't find one mock draft that has them considering Paxton Lynch. At some point, don't you have to stop staring at your wife's feet and at least pretend to address that position?     

20. New York Jets - Jarran Reed, DT: The Jets would be another candidate for Lynch but they probably believe that they can win with Ryan Fitzpatrick (and they might be right) if they can ever get him signed. The way to beat the Patriots is to build a pass rush that comes straight up the middle into Tom Brady's annoying face so a defensive tackle is the pick.   

21. Washington Redskins - A'Shawn Robinson, DT: The Redskins have suddenly become one of the shrewdest teams in the league and, in related stories, up is officially down, black is white and dogs and cats have gone past living together and are now slowing down to peruse jewelry store windows and imagining a life of marital bliss that fails to account for mortgage payments, hungover little league games and verbal brawls about how to divide family time during the holidays. But I digress. Let's assume this new Redskin trend continues and they take a stud lineman to help bolster a defense that now includes Josh Norman.    

22. Houston Texans - Corey Coleman, WR: Apparently someone finally raised their hand in a meeting and said, "I'm not sure we can win with Brian Hoyer." Now that the Texans have landed Brock Osweiler, time to get someone for him to throw to besides the perpetually double-covered Deandre Hopkins. I think Laquon Treadwell is the best receiver in this draft but that's just based on his game performance against the best college defenses in the country . . . so what do I know?   

23. Minnesota Vikings - Laquon Treadwell, WR: Well that didn't take long. The one knock on Treadwell is that he only ran a 4.65 at the combine but, as someone pointed-out, Teddy Bridgewater can't throw it that far anyway so this could be a perfect fit. If you've never seen Treadwell in action, imagine Anquan Boldin with a little more playmaking ability. Yes please.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Josh Doctson, WR: The last time we saw the Bengals they were imploding against the Steelers in the playoffs. Now they're back with much of the same cast minus Vontaze "Hey What'd I do?" Burfict for the first three games and most of their depth at wide receiver which left during free agency so here you go. 

25. Pittsburgh Steelers - Eli Apple, CB: Welcome to the darkside Eli.

26. Seattle Seahawks - Germain Ifedi, OT: We are way past the point in your typical FGR mock draft where we start running out of things to say (yeah because it happened back in pick #9). Fine. No Seahawks analysis for you. Happy?  

27. Green Bay Packers - Vernon Butler, DT: As I recall, Aaron Rodgers spent the last few weeks of the regular season and much of the playoff loss to Arizona running for his life. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there are any first round caliber offensive linemen left so, when in doubt, grab a big old defensive tackle. No one ever got fired for doing that at the end of the first round.

28. Kansas City Chiefs - William Jackson, III, CB: The Chiefs really need a receiver but the only first rounder still available is Will Fuller who scouts say "drops the ball too much." Not the best trait for a professional ball catcher. When in doubt part 2, take a cornerback at the end of the first round. No one ever got fired for doing that either.

You didn't think I forgot.
29. Arizona Cardinals - Ryan Kelly, C: At some point they're going to have to address the fact that Carson Palmer is aging as gracefully as Tiger Woods. Look for a quarterback in Round 2. 

30. Carolina Panthers - Will Fuller, WR: I doubt the Panthers will take Fuller but I needed a way to use another Peter King quote that may explain why the bust rate for receivers is so high: "One personnel man said the drops are about Fuller not being a totally confident and fluid catcher of the ball, which could come with time." He just finished his third season at Notre Dame so he's been catching (or trying to catch) balls for at least six or seven years and still isn't that confident about doing it. No doubt that will improve at the pro level where the quarterbacks throw softer and the coverage is more relaxed.       

31. Denver Broncos - Chris Jones, DT: It's never good when your head coach and your general manager might be your best starting quarterback options but that's where the defending champs find themselves with Mark Sanchez at the top of their depth chart. This team is still loaded at every other position so they're not going the rookie route yet. Just need to make the defense so good that you can survive getting 13 points and 2-3 killer turnovers out of your offense.     

New England Patriots - No Pick: When you've made people despise you so much that they don't instinctively take your side against Roger Goodell, you've really accomplished something. 

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