With the NFL Scouting Combine in the rear-view mirror and pro day season on the horizon, ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. released his third 2016 NFL mock draft Tuesday.
While the top couple of picks remained the same in comparison to his second mock, there was significant movement involving other players, including Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith dropping from No. 11 to outside of the first round due to concerns regarding his knee.
Smith wasn't the only big name to experience a fall, though, as highly touted California quarterback Jared Goff continued to slide as well.
As the 2016 NFL draft picture continues to become a bit clearer, here is a full rundown of Kiper's first-round predictions, along with further analysis on some of the most intriguing selections.
|1||Tennessee Titans||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss|
|2||Cleveland Browns||Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State|
|3||San Diego Chargers||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||Jared Goff, QB, California|
|8||Miami Dolphins||Myles Jack, LB, UCLA|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida|
|10||New York Giants||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson|
|11||Chicago Bears||Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia|
|12||New Orleans Saints||Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State|
|14||Oakland Raiders||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State|
|15||Los Angeles Rams||Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss|
|16||Detroit Lions||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama|
|17||Atlanta Falcons||Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State|
|19||Buffalo Bills||Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss|
|20||New York Jets||Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State|
|21||Washington Redskins||Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama|
|22||Houston Texans||Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame|
|23||Minnesota Vikings||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky|
|25||Pittsburgh Steelers||William Jackson III, CB, Houston|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech|
|27||Green Bay Packers||Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State|
|28||Kansas City Chiefs||Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama|
|29||Arizona Cardinals||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State|
|30||Carolina Panthers||Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State|
|31||Denver Broncos||Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana|
Laremy Tunsil No. 1 Overall to Titans
Laremy Tunsil remained at the top of Kiper's mock Tuesday, and a big move made by the Titans on Monday may have had something to do with it.
Tennessee reportedly agreed to acquire running back DeMarco Murray from the Philadelphia Eagles, according to ESPN.com's Adam Schefter and Ed Werder, and Tunsil would be both an ideal lead blocker for him and blindside protector for young quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Ole Miss product's status as the potential top pick was also bolstered at the combine where he turned in a strong performance.
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, talent evaluators were hugely impressed by the skill set he possesses at 6'5" and 310 pounds:
Heard more gushing about #OleMiss OL Laremy Tunsil than any player today. Scouts have never seen a big man bend like that. Freak athlete— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 26, 2016
That included NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock, who has no doubts about Tunsil's status as an elite prospect, according to Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official website:
Mayock said Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil was "poetry in motion" in workouts. "As advertised" he said— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) February 27, 2016
While Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com stopped short of guaranteeing Tunsil will be the top selection, he was comfortable suggesting he won't have to wait long before he hears his name called:
Barring unknown injury or character info, there are two prospects I feel comfortable saying are top-5 locks: Laremy Tunsil and Jalen Ramsey.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 2, 2016
Tennessee has the basis for a potentially prolific offense, and swinging 2014 first-round pick Taylor Lewan to right tackle with Tunsil serving as the left tackle could go a long way toward solidifying the line.
If Tunsil develops as expected, then the Titans may not be far away from competing in the relatively weak AFC South.
Carson Wentz No. 2 Overall to Browns
Carson Wentz ascended to No. 1 quarterback status in Kiper's previous mock, and his fantastic showing at the NFL Scouting Combine allowed him to stay there in mock No. 3.
Kiper has the North Dakota State gunslinger going second overall to the quarterback-needy Cleveland Browns, and the hype train behind the talented signal-caller is seemingly more populated than ever before.
Wentz excelled in essentially all areas at the combine, which led Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com to report that he is getting compared to one of the NFL's most purely talented quarterbacks already:
1. Carson Wentz won the week. Aced his interviews. Aced his workouts. Multiple teams told me the Andrew Luck comparisons not that far off.— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) February 29, 2016
Former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden sees something special in Wentz as well, and he believes NFL teams are salivating at the opportunity to take him, according to ESPN Monday Night:
Gruden on Carson Wentz. pic.twitter.com/FSLOcvou4Y— ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) March 2, 2016
While it comes as no surprise that the Browns are in the market for a quarterback considering their current situation with journeyman Josh McCown and the soon-to-be-released Johnny Manziel, head coach Hue Jackson essentially confirmed it.
Per ESPN 850 WKNR (via the team's official website), Jackson has made finding a top-flight quarterback one of his main priorities: "We're going to take every shot we can to find a franchise quarterback. My goal is to put a quarterback on this football team that our fans, that this city can be proud of and call their own because he'll be a guy that plays well week in and week out."
Cleveland should have the pick of the litter at the quarterback position, barring another team trading into the No. 1 spot.
That puts a lot of pressure on the decision-makers to pick the right one since another misstep could set the franchise back several more years.
Wentz and Goff appear to be the top candidates, but based on his physical tools and winning pedigree, Kiper is of the belief that the former has pulled ahead.
Jared Goff No. 7 Overall to 49ers
After mocking Goff to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 4 in his second mock draft, Kiper reversed course and dropped the productive quarterback to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 7 Tuesday.
While Goff put up eye-popping numbers in college, there are some concerns about his measurables following the combine, despite an excellent showing in the passing drills.
According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt, Goff's small hand size is uncommon of first-round quarterbacks:
Jared Goff has 9" hands Of the 37 QBs drafted in 1st round since 2003 only 2 had 9" hands or smaller: Tannehill (2012) and Losman (2004)— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 2, 2016
Smaller hands tend to scare teams away due to the increased chances of fumbling, but as pointed out by ESPN's Mike Clay, Goff's shortcomings athletically could hurt his stock as well:
Jared Goff vs. combine QBs:— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) February 28, 2016
Worst vertical, small hands, slow short shuttle
Below avg. broad jump
Mid-pack 3 Cone, 40
Despite that, some remain convinced that Goff is the best quarterback in the class, including NFL Network's Bucky Brooks:
Provided Goff does fall, though, it could hugely benefit a team in need of a quarterback, which the Niners may ultimately prove to be.
With rumors that Colin Kaepernick wants out of San Francisco, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Goff may turn out to be an ideal option for the 49ers and new head coach Chip Kelly, if he is available.
The 49ers made a mistake when they passed on another Cal quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, during the 2005 NFL draft, and that certainly isn't a miscue they want to repeat.
It is impossible to say at this point if Goff will ever reach a level comparable to Rodgers, but there do seem to be some parallels, especially if Goff unexpectedly falls.
Goff's accuracy and intelligence could be a great fit for Kelly's fast-paced offense, so it is difficult to envision the Niners passing him up if he is there for the taking with the seventh pick.
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