Observer reporter Jonathan Jones issues his annual mock of the first round of the NFL draft:
1. Los Angeles
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California QB Jared Goff: He’s the first or the second pick in this year’s draft, but I believe the Rams keep it local and go with the Cal product. The next few months will show a strong PR campaign built around Goff to increase interest in the team moving back to the second-largest media market in the country. Does he have small hands? Yes. Should that matter? Not when you see how well he plays in the pocket under pressure.
North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz: There’s nothing more clear in this draft than the Eagles taking a quarterback at No. 2. After trading up with the Browns to ensure a passer, the Eagles are surely fine with either Goff or Wentz. Personally, I shudder at taking a small-school quarterback this high. It’s nothing against Wentz, who showed great mobility and strength during his time at North Dakota State, but the No. 2 overall pick needs to start Day 1. And I’m not sure he got enough prep against top-tier competition to be that guy immediately.
3. San Diego
Mississippi OT Laremy Tunsil: He should be at the top of every team’s draft board. He’s everything you want in an offensive tackle coming out of college. He played well in big games, he has gone against the best competition in the country and he is fluid with his hips and strong at the point of attack. The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder will also have the ability to play at right tackle across from King Dunlap for a season or two to really get prepared for being an NFL left tackle.
Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey: If Tunsil is the best player, Ramsey is right behind him. Jerry Jones sometimes can’t help himself, and guys such as Myles Jack and Ezekiel Elliott will be staring him in the face. Orlando Scandrick is coming off a busted knee but the Cowboys have been disappointing in pass coverage. The Cowboys aren’t one player away, but getting the draft’s best defensive back is a strong step to getting back to the division title.
Ohio State DE Joey Bosa: It seems like the Jaguars are always in need of a pass rusher. They signed Malik Jackson in the offseason and will get Dante Fowler Jr. back after he tore up his knee last offseason. Bosa is so dominant with his speed and power blend, and his versatility will work well down in Jacksonville. The Jaguars will have one of the most formidable pass rushes in all of football with the addition of Bosa.
Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley: Sitting in front of the Ravens here is an offensive tackle who could be every bit as good as Tunsil in the future. Baltimore also has oft-injured Eugene Monroe as its left tackle. This is basically a perfect marriage. Stanley can learn from Monroe, who possesses as much knowledge of the game as any tackle in the league.
7. San Francisco
Oregon DE DeForest Buckner: I’m not in love with this pick because of San Francisco’s 3-4 defense. I don’t know that Buckner fits that scheme all that well, but he’s clearly the best player available.
Memphis QB Paxton Lynch: Oh, you thought by the Browns trading down that they’d be out of the quarterback sweepstakes? Where have you been the past 17 years? Cleveland doesn’t know what it has in Robert Griffin III. No one does. Lynch has a 6-foot-7 frame and can read defenses well. His accuracy needs to follow.
9. Tampa Bay
Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III: The Bucs struggled mightily at cornerback last season and need help immediately. They signed Brent Grimes in the offseason and could still use another cornerback. Why not keep it in state with Hargreaves? Houston’s William Jackson is also a consideration here.
10. New York Giants
UCLA OLB Myles Jack: Jack is the most athletic player in this year’s draft. He’s an outside linebacker who can do just about anything in space, but his injury history is going to scare the top teams away. With new coach Ben McAdoo, the Giants take Jack to help a weak linebacking group.
Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd: It’s not like the Bears need another linebacker, especially with the other holes they have (hello, secondary.) But I don’t think John Fox is going to be able to help himself with Floyd sitting there at No. 11.
12. New Orleans
Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins: The top quarterbacks are off the board by No. 12. The Saints only had 31 sacks last season and in a division with Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston, they have to pressure the quarterback better. Rankins is the obvious choice for a Saints defense that needs to get better after two really bad seasons.
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott: You’ll see plenty of mocks sending the Buckeyes running back to Dallas at No. 4, but this isn’t most mocks. The Dolphins would love desperately to get Elliott and I’m granting him to them. Elliott is the most complete running back coming out of college in years. His blocking ability makes him pro-ready and a three-down back in the league. Congratulations, Miami.
Houston CB William Jackson III: It’d be easy to put Robert Nkemdiche here because of the Raiders’ reputation and their need for defensive line help. I think Nkemdiche is too toxic to take in the first round. Oakland has Sean Smith but David Amerson has had an up-and-down career. Look for corner help in Oakland.
Michigan State OT Jack Conklin: The Titans know their franchise rests on the arm and legs of Marcus Mariota. They got tackle Taylor Lewan two drafts ago, and I believe they’re going to sandwich the Mariota pick with another tackle. Conklin is fundamentally sound. Tennessee will continue to build around its franchise quarterback.
Ohio State OT Taylor Decker: A quick run on offensive tackles here in the middle of the first round. The Lions’ line was dreadful last season. Many will want to send a receiver to Detroit considering its history and the retirement of Calvin Johnson. I think Detroit will do the prudent thing, though, and add a solid tackle.
West Virginia S Karl Joseph: Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator in Seattle before he came to the Falcons. He knows what a hard-hitting secondary can do to opponents. There’s no safety who hits harder than Joseph.
Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence: Look at how bad that offensive line was for the Colts last season. Andrew Luck had to tap out midway through the season because of how much he was getting banged around. But the Colts have been ignoring their defense for some time, and the top tackles are off the board by now. Go get an edge rusher.
Clemson DE/OLB Shaq Lawson: No one knows Lawson better than Rex Ryan. How do I know? Well, Ryan is a defensive genius who happens to have a son who plays wide receiver at Clemson. Ryan knows everything he needs to know about Lawson, and if Lawson’s shoulder checks out, he needs to be the pick here.
20. New York Jets
Stanford G Joshua Garnett: New York doesn’t know who its quarterback is going to be next year, and I don’t see the Jets finding him in the draft at No. 20. But at least they can strengthen their offensive line with the powerful Garnett inside.
Alabama DT Jarran Reed: Washington GM Scott McCloughan is smart enough to know the value of a space-eating defensive tackle. That’s what Reed is at 6-foot-3 and 307 pounds. Reed will be invaluable stopping the run in the NFC East.
Baylor WR Corey Coleman: After giving Brock Osweiler a $72 million contract without even meeting him, the Texans better give him more people to throw to. Mocking a receiver to Houston is easy here, and the Texans will keep it local with the Baylor product.
Mississippi WR Laquon Treadwell: The Vikings have their quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, but he needs someone to throw to as well. Here’s where the receivers start coming off the board. Pair Treadwell’s 6-foot-3 body across from Stefon Diggs and watch them work.
Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard: He’s only 5-foot-10, but he knows how to run routes. That’s so crucial for receivers coming into the league out of colleges that don’t put a great emphasis on the route tree. Shepard knows it, and the Bengals will be lucky to get him.
Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander: That he didn’t get any interceptions in two seasons with the Tigers is concerning. He wasn’t thrown at much, but an elite cornerback playing in college should get a pick in two years. That doesn’t diminish all his talents, though. The Steelers need help and he’s the most trustworthy cornerback on the board.
Alabama C Ryan Kelly: The Seahawks’ offensive line was downright putrid last season. Russell Wilson was running for his life most of the time and it wasn’t by design. Seattle sent center Max Unger to the Saints when the Seahawks got Jimmy Graham, and it’s time they replaced Unger with someone competent.
27. Green Bay
Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland: I could have sworn the Packers would have taken a linebacker in the first round of last year’s draft. Since that didn’t happen (they opted for safety Damarious Randall), I’m back at it again in 2016 picking the best inside linebacker to go to them.
28. Kansas City
Alabama DT A’Shawn Robinson: Roll Tide. That’s three members of the national championship squad drafted in a row. It’s tough to believe a guy this talented is still left in the draft, but hey, that’s what the mock says. The Chiefs add some depth to a stout front seven.
Ohio State OLB Darron Lee: The Cardinals need offensive line help, but this draft is flush with it in the second and third rounds. Lee is best player available here for Bruce Arians’ team and he should be able to fly around for Arizona.
Clemson DE Kevin Dodd: I guarantee you the Panthers love this mock draft board. Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler, Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah are still available, but Carolina won’t be able to pass up Dodd. He’ll be 24 at training camp and that’s a little bit of a concern, but his 12 sacks last year as a one-season starter are eye-popping. Not only that, but he played big in big games with three sacks against Alabama in the title game. Carolina defensive line coach Eric Washington can work with him on how to better use his hands. The Panthers believe in Kony Ealy but don’t know what will happen with Charles Johnson past this season and have to find reinforcements.
Kansas State G Cody Whitehair: Panthers fans will remember how easy it was to get to Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 50, and that’s because Denver’s offensive line was not sound. The Broncos have dealt with injuries along the line for the past two years, and they’ll strengthen the interior of the line with Whitehair.