By Chris Madden
The college football season has come to an end but there are two major things to look forward too; National Signing Day and the NFL Draft. So for now let’s look forward a little and go through a mock draft of the first round. I’m going to break this up into three different articles so we can go a little more in-depth with the analysis of the players. Looking at this draft class, it seems like it is a very defense filled 1st round.
For this article I have deferred to the experts in NFL Mock Drafts: Adam Schefter and Mel Kiper. To begin remember the New England Patriots will not have a first round pick so I am going to start with the 31st pick and go from there. Keep in mind there is no way to be certain about picks until the playoffs are over and we know how every team’s season ended, so this is just a mock draft:
31st Pick Carolina Panthers: Emmanuel Ogbah-DE Ole Miss
Team Needs: LT, S, WR, DE
Michael Oher isn’t what he was when he first came out of Ole Miss a few years ago, and with Cam Newton being the most important asset for the Panthers the left tackle position is vital to fill. However I don’t see a LT that will be on the board in the first round so look for the Panthers to make a different move most likely DE or S.
Emmanuel Ogbah had a strong season for the Rebels and could help a strong but improving Panther defense. Another possible pick could be Jeremy Cash (Duke Saftey) or DJ Foster (Arizona State WR) but both most likely won’t go that early.
30th Pick Arizona Cardinals: Jordan Jenkins-OLB Georgia
Team Needs: OLB, C, DE, RB
Arizona’s offensive attack is strong so look for them to attempt to strengthen the defensive front to complement their impressive secondary. This pick should be a no brainer assuming Jenkins is left on the board. His season at Georgia was great considering all of the adversity they went through this season. Count on Jenkins being the type of guy to make an immediate impact in Arizona as the 2016 season comes up.
Other pick options that make sense for Arizona would be: Shawn Oakman (Baylor DE) or Reggie Ragland (Alabama ILB). I would be shocked if Arizona didn’t spend their first round pick strengthening their defense so there are several “steals” towards the end of the round to get.
29th Pick Denver Broncos: Ezekiel Elliott-RB Ohio State
Team Needs: OT, OG, TE, RB
Don’t throw me out for saying the Broncos could use a new face at running back. CJ Anderson isn’t what he used to be and Denver is in need of some offensive rebuilding at running back and tight end. However protection has been somewhat of a problem so they could end up attempting to build up their offensive line more as well.
If he is still available I don’t see a world in which you don’t take Ezekiel Elliott. He is such a dynamic player and has shown that he can not only run between the tackles but also create space outside. Other picks for Denver would be: Pharaoh Brown (Oregon TE) or Landon Turner (North Carolina G).
28th Pick Kansas City Chiefs: Kenny Clark-DT UCLA
Team Needs: OT, DE, ILB, S
It seems like Andy Reid has what he wants on offense for the most part. Bringing in Jeremy Maclin to help receiving issues this season could mean that he is going to look towards the defensive side of the ball. Their defense needs some help, especially in the pass rush area. Clark is the perfect type of person to fill in the gaps and really bring some young leadership to this team.
27th Pick Green Bay Packers: Reggie Ragland-ILB Alabama
Team Needs: Pass rush, OT, TE
The Packers have played Clay Matthews in just about every linebacker position possible, it is time to replace the spot AJ Hawk had a few years ago and snag another freakishly quick linebacker/pass rusher. Who better than Reggie Ragland; this senior has had an incredible career at Alabama and looks to be what I think is one of the most promising careers in the NFL. His presence will be felt immediately on this defense and I guarantee whatever team lands him, won’t be sorry.
26th Pick Seattle Seahawks: Kendall Fuller-CB Virginia Tech
Team Needs: CB, WR, DT, OL
The legion of boom has slowed down quite a bit this season, starting with Kam Chancellor holding out with his contract at the beginning of the season. Their offense is fine, for the most part, but their defense needs to step it up. Fuller will provide a new face to the defensive backs in Seattle. His career at Virginia Tech was overshadowed by a below average team with lackluster results. But don’t sleep on this kid, he is the real deal and would fit into the legion of boom very well.
25th Pick Pittsburg Steelers: Eli Apple-CB Ohio State
Team Needs: CB, G, QB, S
The Steelers will take a cornerback in the first round, the question will be who? I see the Steelers going after Apple because he is one of bigger corners in the draft. Also, don’t bat an eye at the team need of QB either. We all know Big Ben won’t be there forever and he is dropping off as the years go on. I don’t think they will take one in the first round but if someone like Connor Cook (Michigan State QB) was available later on, I would take him.
24th Pick Cincinnati Bengals: Will Fuller-WR Notre Dame
Team Needs: S, WR, DT, C
The Bengals don’t have a must have pick this season. A lock down safety would be clutch to have but I really believe with this pick, they’re better off waiting until round 2 for the safety. I see them finding someone to compliment AJ Green, that person is without a doubt Will Fuller. He had a solid career at Notre Dame and was really only contained one time in the 2015 season. Other than that outing against the best corner in college football, Mackensie Alexander from Clemson, he showed an incredible ability to get open and make plays in tight windows. This is a great fit for a growing team in Cincinnati that seems to need one missing piece every season.
23rd Pick Minnesota Vikings: Josh Doctson-WR TCU
Team Needs: WR, S, OLB, OG
If you want to know what the Vikings need, watch their playoff game again. Other than maybe a new field goal holder, the Vikings are in desperate need of a key receiver. Josh Doctson is not my favorite receiver in this draft by any stretch and honestly I believe has the potential to be a huge bust. However, he is very quick and has good route running abilities as well as decent hands. He will work well with Teddy Bridgewater and could help this team move further along in later years.
22nd Pick Houston Texans: Paxton Lynch-QB Memphis
Team Needs: QB, RB, ILB, DT
There shouldn’t be any surprise that the biggest need in the lives of the Texans is someone to throw the ball. Deandre Hopkins is one of the league’s best receivers and deserves a quality quarterback to toss him the pigskin. Lynch could be that guy being that he is so high on everyone’s draft boards. Don’t be shocked if Lynch is taken before this and the Texans draft Carson Wentz, I don’t want to put him on the board so high because I honestly don’t believe in him like I do a Connor Cook or Jacoby Brissett.
The other quarterbacks offered in the top of this draft are: Jared Goff (Cal), Connor Cook (Michigan State), Carson Wentz (North Dakota State) and Jacoby Brissett (NC State).
Another option, which I am a huge fan of, is taking Ezekiel Elliott and then going for a quarterback in the second round. This would open up the option to pick up someone like Connor Cook and still get a quality running back.
21st Pick Washington Redskins: Mackensie Alexander-CB Clemson
Team Needs: C, WR, CB, DL, OT
The Redskins have found their quarterback finally in Kirk Cousins, so now the real job is protecting him. The center position is a key for the Redskins going forward, however this doesn’t seem to be a position that has solid prospects for the first round. So I see the Redskins going after someone like Alexander.
Alexander’s career at Clemson was impeccable and it is no surprise that he will be the highest taken safety in the draft this year. Alexander allowed 0 touchdowns this last season which by college football standards is unbelievable, especially for the top ranked team in the country.