All but two of the first-round positions in the 2016 NFL draft are set with only the Super Bowl left to play, which gave ESPN draft guru Todd McShay an opportunity to update his predictions for the April spectacle.
McShay released his second official mock draft Wednesday on ESPN.com, and while many big names were given expected landing spots, the veteran analyst included some surprises that will certainly have football fans talking as the draft process continues to heat up.
Draft stocks will undoubtedly fluctuate in the coming weeks and months due to the combine and pro days, but McShay provided a strong foundation for what to expect moving forward.
Here is a full rundown of McShay's first-round predictions, along with further analysis regarding some of his most intriguing picks.
|1||Tennessee Titans||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State|
|2||Cleveland Browns||Jared Goff, QB, California|
|3||San Diego Chargers||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss|
|8||Miami Dolphins||Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon|
|10||New York Giants||Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville|
|11||Chicago Bears||Myles Jack, LB, UCLA|
|12||New Orleans Saints||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State|
|14||Oakland Raiders||Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss|
|15||Los Angeles Rams||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis|
|16||Detroit Lions||Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama|
|17||Atlanta Falcons||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State|
|19||Buffalo Bills||Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame|
|20||New York Jets||Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State|
|21||Washington Redskins||Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama|
|22||Houston Texans||Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech|
|23||Minnesota Vikings||Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State|
|25||Pittsburgh Steelers||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor|
|27||Green Bay Packers||Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas|
|28||Kansas City Chiefs||Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State|
|29||Arizona Cardinals||Noah Spence, LB, Eastern Kentucky|
|30||Denver Broncos||Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana|
|31||Carolina Panthers||Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson|
ESPN.com's Todd McShay
Joey Bosa: No. 1, Titans
The Tennessee Titans are a team with several needs after a 3-13 season, and McShay envisions them going the best-available-player route by selecting Ohio State pass-rusher Joey Bosa with the No. 1 overall pick.
Bosa's numbers dropped off a bit in 2015 to the tune of six sacks, as he missed some games and was double-teamed on a regular basis, but he is just two seasons removed from a campaign that saw him register 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss for the Buckeyes.
He is a truly disruptive force capable of playing in essentially every defensive system, and he would give Tennessee a potential superstar on the side of the ball to go along with quarterback Marcus Mariota on offense.
Jared Goff: No. 2, Browns
Entering the 2016 draft, all eyes will be on a trio of quarterbacks with first-round aspirations. In McShay's estimation, California's Jared Goff will come off the board first among them to the Cleveland Browns at No. 2.
Goff was dominant in 2015 with 4,714 passing yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and he has a strong body of work to boot, as he threw for 35 scores in 2014 as well.
The Browns desperately need to find a franchise signal-caller, and based on NFL Films producer Greg Cosell's comments on WGFX-FM in Nashville, Tennessee, he believes Goff fits the bill, according to NFL.com's Dan Parr: "My initial study of Goff tells me that I think (Goff is) a more natural and better overall thrower than Mariota. I think he's a better prospect than (Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback) Jameis Winston. Where he goes? I can't answer that, but from studying it preliminarily, that's how I see it with Jared Goff."
Cleveland has a new power structure in place in the front office as well as on the sideline in the form of head coach Hue Jackson, and it could use a new quarterback to boot.
Carson Wentz: No. 4, Cowboys
Casual football fans may not know much about quarterback Carson Wentz since he played at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, but that will soon change if McShay's prediction comes to pass.
According to his latest mock, Wentz is a candidate to go No. 4 overall to the Dallas Cowboys, who learned firsthand how important the quarterback position is in 2015, as they struggled mightily with Tony Romo on the shelf for much of the season.
Wentz turned some heads at the Senior Bowl, which prompted NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock to praise him, per NFL.com's College Football 24/7:
It seems as though Wentz is trailing Goff in the quarterback race due largely to the latter's history of production at the highest level of college football, but Rob Rang of CBSSports.com told Ken Carman of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland he believes the gap between them will close, according to Joe D'Aloisio of CBS Sports Radio:
Wentz is a big, mobile quarterback who seemingly has all of the tools, but he still has plenty to prove throughout the predraft process.
If the Cowboys do take him, it will speak volumes about how they view his potential since Romo is still in the fold, and the organization has other more pressing needs at the moment.
Paxton Lynch: No. 15, Rams
With Goff and Wentz off the board, McShay mocked Memphis signal-caller Paxton Lynch to one of the NFL's most quarterback-needy teams at No. 15, the Los Angeles Rams.
Quarterback play was the biggest thing that held the Rams back in 2015, as Nick Foles and Case Keenum did little to supplement a great running game and a talented defense.
That makes Lynch a very real possibility for L.A. if he is available with the 15th pick, and FanDuel writer and former NFL cornerback Brian Witherspoon believes it is a pick that could pay big dividends:
Another year of Whose the best QB comparison. Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch. To me it's cut and dry that Lynch is the better QB hands down.— Brian Witherspoon (@Spoony29) January 23, 2016
Lynch is a huge, physical specimen at 6'7", with the ability to run and throw it deep, but he certainly seems to be a project of sorts since he is raw in certain areas.
He may have to sit and learn for at least one year before receiving significant playing time, which is something he admitted to being fine with on ESPN Radio 103.3 KESN-FM's Afternoon Show with Cowlishaw and Mosley (h/t SportsDayDFW.com):
I'd be more than OK with doing whatever was best for me and the team and whatever team I got picked up by. When I first got to school, I didn't want to redshirt or anything. I thought I could go in there and play, but I realized later on down the road as I grew up and matured, I realized that redshirting is a good thing. You get a chance to sit back and learn what you need to learn and take care of your business off the field. I know if I got to sit behind somebody like a veteran quarterback, whoever it may be, I know that that would be a great learning experience to develop me mentally and physically in the game, give me a year just to sit back and see how you handle things professionally.
The Rams need an answer at quarterback as soon as possible, but there may not be an immediate fix available to them at No. 15.
If they're willing to wait and develop Lynch into a potential star, though, he could turn out to be one of the draft's biggest steals.
Jaylon Smith: No. 19, Bills
Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith is easily among the most talented all-around prospects in the 2016 NFL draft class, but a torn ACL and MCL suffered in the Fiesta Bowl has left his status in doubt.
According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, however, sources indicate he will be ready for the start of the 2016 campaign:
If that is the case, then one can only assume his stock will rebound to some degree. As far as McShay is concerned, though, a drop is still likely, which prompted him to slot Smith at No. 19 overall to the Buffalo Bills.
No team in major American professional sports has a longer playoff drought than the Bills at 16 years. They need immediate help in order to improve from 2015's 8-8 mark, and if Miller's sources are accurate, then Smith may provide just that.
A lack of quality linebackers contributed heavily to Buffalo's defensive drop-off in 2015, as it ranked 19th in total yardage allowed and 15th in points allowed.
The Bills and head coach Rex Ryan need a take-charge, playmaking linebacker, and Smith would be a perfect fit for that role.
Braxton Miller: No. 24, Bengals
Perhaps the biggest shocker of McShay's second mock draft is his elevation of Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller into the first round to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 24.
Miller spent just one season at wideout for OSU after three campaigns as a quarterback, and he showed some flashes of brilliance with 25 catches for 340 yards, 43 rushes for 261 yards and four total touchdowns.
The Senior Bowl represented an opportunity for Miller to prove himself at the position, and he didn't disappoint in the practice portion.
According to Jeff Cavanaugh of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, his athleticism stood out from the rest of the pack in a big way:
Other wideouts dont compare to Braxton Miller in agility drills. Amazing athlete. #SeniorBowl— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) January 26, 2016
He also showed a great understanding of the nuances that come with being a wide receiver, per Jeff Risdon of ESPN 96.1 FM:
Braxton Miller = filthy routes. Think Golden Tate with 2 more inches and 20 more pounds, they move the same— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) January 26, 2016
The Bengals have several weapons on offense, but with wide receiver Marvin Jones set to hit free agency, they could certainly use a complement to stud wideout A.J. Green.
With Green working the deep routes and Miller using his speed and quickness to help quarterback Andy Dalton pick apart opposing defenses underneath, the addition of the former Buckeye could add an entirely different dimension to Cincinnati's offense.
Taking Miller in the first would be a massive gamble due to his lack of experience, but it could pay off in a big way.
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