USA TODAY Sports Weekly
FORECASTING TOP 10 NFL DRAFT PICKS
Browns could be looking to choose QB again
With 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams already home for the winter, what better time than the present to start looking ahead to the 2016 draft?
Our first mock draft looks at how the top 10 could unfold:
1. Tennessee Titans — Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi: At this early stage, Ohio State DE Joey Bosa is widely regarded as the draft’s premier player. However, his ability to penetrate would be wasted as a down lineman in coordinator Dick LeBeau’s scheme, and it’s not clear if Bosa can handle a conversion to outside linebacker. And all that aside, the Titans’ top priority really should be taking better care of QB Marcus Mariota, who, despite his mobility, was sacked 38 times in 12 starts as a rookie. So enter Tunsil, the type of bodyguard you want on a team that faces J.J. Watt twice a year.
2. Cleveland Browns — Jared Goff, QB, California: It’s pretty clear Johnny Manziel is on his way out of Cleveland, and that means the Browns will almost surely pick a passer in the first round for the third time since 2012 (and fifth since the franchise’s reboot in 1999). Goff isn’t the second coming of fellow Cal product Aaron Rodgers, but he has good size and accuracy and enough mobility, and he had a touchdown-to-interception ratio that was better than 3-to-1 as a three-year starter in college. And with willing tutor Josh McCown signed for two more years, coach Hue Jackson wouldn’t have to rush Goff into the starting lineup.
3. San Diego Chargers — Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State: It has become apparent what kind of impact a player such as Tyrann Mathieu can have in the pass-centric NFL. Ramsey will draw those kind of comparisons given his ability to cover receivers outside and in the slot or even play safety. The Chargers, who are moving on from FS Eric Weddle and face a slew of talented pass catchers in the AFC West, certainly look like an ideal home for Ramsey.
He’d fit perfectly in Rod Marinelli’s defense, which needs its front four to create pressure, would form a formidable young tandem opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and would save the Cowboys from re-signing Greg Hardy.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: An elite athlete who could find a role in any scheme, Jack played linebacker (inside and outside), slot corner and safety, and he even moonlighted as a running back and return man for the Bruins. He is exactly the kind of playmaker the Jags need after allowing the most points in the AFC in 2015. Jack’s varied skills could make him a combination of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Bruce Irvin, the outstanding linebackers Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley enjoyed as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, and allow him to be a factor as a pass rusher, run stopper or pass defender. And with 2015 first-rounder Dante Fowler also set to debut in 2016 — like Jack, he’s coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament — the Jaguars defense might approach what Bradley has long envisioned.
6. Baltimore Ravens — Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi: The Ravens could go in any number of directions, including tackle, cornerback or edge rusher. But let’s give them Treadwell, who could be a long-term complement to 2015 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, a more explosive receiver than Treadwell but probably not as polished.
7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon: No, Chip Kelly won’t be picking the players anymore, but this is a scenario in which a former Duck would make sense. Buckner might be even better than the Niners’ 2015 first-rounder, DE Arik Armstead, his former teammate in Eugene. Buckner’s ability to solidly defend the run and pass would make him a welcome addition in a division with so many varied offenses.
8. Miami Dolphins — Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: If a pass rusher worthy of the pick is there, it makes sense given Cameron Wake’s age and Achilles rehab and Olivier Vernon’s potential departure in free agency. But the Dolphins brought in a sharp offensive mind with the hiring of coach Adam Gase, who inherits an inconsistent rushing attack. Elliott looks like the whole package, which Gase should appreciate after spending last season with Matt Forte on the Chicago Bears. And with Miami’s leading runner, Lamar Miller, headed to free agency, Elliott also would fill a need.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame: The Bucs struggled with injuries and inexperience on the offensive line in 2015. Maybe Demar Dotson returns to form in 2016, and maybe Donovan Smith improves after a rocky rookie year. But a strong case can be made that Stanley is a better option than either of them. And does it really make sense to take any risks with Jameis Winston’s well-being?
10. New York Giants — Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida: GM Jerry Reese knows he must fix a defense that allowed the most yards overall and most through the air in 2015 if he wants to keep his job. Hargreaves is a sensible option in a division in which the ball’s in the air so much.
Next week: Mock draft for the full first round.