Welcome to the start of the NFL Season, the Draft!
Believe it or not, the process leading up to the NFL Draft started last preseason, when all of the team scouts gathered to share the plan for collegiate scouting all across the country. They looked at offensive tackles, inside linebackers, and each and every special teams player to formulate an idea for how their team should attack the draft based only on a big board, an entire list of the top prospects of the country. Next, back at their headquarters, teams missed the playoffs, won the Super Bowl, had injuries, lacked certain depth at certain positions, players performed great, players failed to live up to potential, and everything else happened during the course of the regular season. Scouts, the front office, and the coaching staff have met before the pro days, scouting combines, and other individual training sessions, and have fully formulated a answer to the most crucial question: “team needs or individual talent?”.
Teams always approach the draft differently. However, specific positions have to be addressed in the draft, but sometimes, a player might just have so much sheer talent you can’t afford to let them pass. One example could be what the Patriots did a couple years ago. They drafted Jimmy Garoppolo. One might think to themselves “Oh yeah, quarterback is a pressing need in the first few rounds when you have a such lack of talent at the position”. However, Belichick and company saw something in the young thrower and decided that individual talent trumped team needs, and they could address it in the later rounds.
Below, I will make the decision in a mock draft of what teams I believe will take picks based on team needs, and then individual talent. Let’s get to it!
1 – Tennessee Titans (3-13 Record)
The Titans actually finished worse than their 2015 season, in which they picked 2nd behind the Bucs. The Titans lacked defense. Offense was a little better, as Mariota flashed some upside at points, and I am one of the biggest believers in Dorial Green-Beckham. Remember, they also just acquired DeMarco Murray. Say what you want about his dreadful 2015 campaign, but you cannot deny the talent he has shown in the past.
Team Needs – Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, Nose Tackle.
Pick – Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State.
This is a pick off of Team Needs. Their defense was the biggest weakness last year, especially in the passing game. Like I said before, the Offense is young, and has some upside, and they signed Murray this offseason. However, they ranked 29th, 26th, and 22nd against QB’s, WR’s, and TE’s, while their Run Defense was outstanding (ranked 6th). Ramsey is a good start to fixing their secondary. Mike Mularkey has stated that he is perfectly fine with drafting a CB #1 overall, and Ramsey has drawn many comparisons to Richard Sherman, as he is very physical off the line.
Fantasy Impact – You aren’t drafting the Titans Defense in your drafts, however they could be very good streaming and Daily options. With an excellent Run Defense, Ramsey provides some stability against the pass. Mix in some weak passing offenses in their schedule such as those in Cleveland, Detroit.
2 – Cleveland Browns (3-13 Record)
Well, just like the past some-odd years, it has been a season to forget for the Cleveland Browns. Plagued by QB decisions, a weak defense, and Manizel partying in Vegas when he had a concussion, the Browns finished off the season 3-13, which doesn’t have any silver linings. Well, maybe Gary Barnidge, but that’s about it.
Team Needs- Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Defensive End.
Pick- Jared Goff, QB, Cal.
This is a pick with 50% team needs, and 50% player talent. With a very disappointing 2015 campaign, the Browns had enough of Johnny Manizel, and released him, while singing QB Robert Griffin III shortly after. So if they just signed another QB, why draft one, when you can spend a pick attacking the WR position, one which lacks depth on their team. However, I believe the RGIII signing was to add depth to the QB position, and the fact that RGIII was told by Hue Jackson that he would have to compete with a Rookie QB in Camp should tell you their plans. Goff is a great QB, throwing well at the Combine and at the Cal Pro Day. I believe he will be selected over Carson Wentz because 1.) Hue Jackson loves him some Goff and 2.) Goff is the “safer” pick, and the Browns can’t take many risks after you look at their former QB’s
Fantasy Impact- It is hard to say what the impact of Goff could be. Again, he may lose the job to RGIII in Training Camp, but if he does, it’s hard to judge what a Rookie QB could do in the NFL. However, it doesn’t help that you are facing New England, Pittsburgh, NYJ, and Buffalo during the year. Also, unless they viciously attack the WR position in the draft, or sign someone, Gary Barnidge is his only option, and D’s don’t have to respect the run game either.
3 – San Diego Chargers (4-12 Record)
Much to the disappointment of our very own Jay Long, the Chargers had an ugly 2015 campaign. We never truly liked the team to go far to begin with, but I highly doubt anyone thought they would only obtain 4 wins. The offense looked okay, the defense looked mild at times, however most of their losses came down to the wire in the 4th Quarter or OT (ex. Pittsburgh, Green Bay), and some losses by less than 10 points. The Chargers aren’t one of the worse teams, so I predict they’ll likely attack based on Team Needs rather than an overall stud who could “save them”.
Team Needs – Offensive Tackle, Center, Nose Tackle.
Pick – Laremy Tunsil.
The Chargers should be grateful that Tunsil could fall this far, as he makes a very strong consideration for the top prospect in this draft. However, due to the Browns and Titans’ needs of different positions, the Chargers will obtain the top prospect in this year’s draft class. They failed to protect Rivers last year, as he found himself on his butt 40 times, which is the second-most of his career. Tunsil can fix that immediately, in my opinion, as he showed us his sheer quickness, agility, and overall power at his Pro Days and Scouting Combine.
Fantasy Impact – Offensive Tackles rarely improve the Fantasy situations of an offense. However, if the Chargers can get some weapons on both Offense and Defense, you have to respect Rivers a bit more.
4 – Dallas Cowboys (4-12 Record)
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t follow up their fantastic team that was a play removed from going to the NFC Championship. Instead of following up that season with another playoff-bound 2015 season, they suffered some crucial injuries with Romo, Dez Bryant, along with a horrendous running game and an okay-at-best Cowboys Defense.
Team Needs – WR, HB, LB.
Pick – Ezekiel Elliot, HB, Ohio State.
This is a tough pick. Sources have confirmed that CB Jalen Ramsey is the #1 prospect on the Cowboys’ Big Board, however I don’t think he’ll fall to the 4-spot. Many believe that North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz will be selected here, provided a quality backup for Tony Romo. Others could point that the ‘Boys could draft a WR, adding depth to a weak position. Some say they’ll just take Joey Bosa and hope for the best. However, I feel differently about where Jerry Jones will lean. In Late March, Jones sent a contingent of coaches to Ohio State to have private, individual workouts with the athletes. Although Elliot isn’t the only top prospect from OSU, however Jones has publicly stated that they won’t draft a QB, that they have confidence Romo will be under center for the next 4-5 years. I highly doubt they’ll let Elliot fall, and the Alfred Morris signing shouldn’t draw them away from the prospect.
Fantasy Impact- This is where it gets interesting. If I am right about the Cowboys taking Elliot, then he’ll have fantasy relevance almost immediately. Why? He’s running behind arguably the best offensive line in all of Football, and the Cowboys will be facing the Browns, 49ers, Eagles, and Giants, all who have weak run-stopping defenses. I like Elliot as a breakout candidate for 2016.
5 – Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11 Record)
You never want a 5-11 record as an organization, however there is plenty of reason for the Jaguars to be optimistic. They have a good coach, a very underrated D, and good, young, weapons on offense. The future is looking bright, and they can cement this with a great pick here at the 5 spot.
Team Needs- Left Tackle, Safety, Edge Rusher.
Pick – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State.
This is a spot where the Jags improve their young, underrated defense with a single pick, and hope that some O-Line and Offensive talent can be had during the next rounds and days. Remember, the Jaguars still have Dante Fowler Jr., one of the top prospects in the 2015 draft, and if it weren’t for an ACL tear in early Training Camp last year, I believe he would have dominated last year in the very weak AFC South. A Joey Bosa-Dante Fowler combination is lethal, and something that they can’t pass up on.
Fantasy Impact – I already really liked the Jaguars defense this year, and this adds on to my love for their defense. Bosa may not put their defense into consideration as a Top-Tier option, however any solid D that plays Indianapolis, Tennessee, Houston, Detroit, Oakland and Chicago should be considered on some weeks during other byes, or for streaming or daily purposes.
6 – Baltimore Ravens (5-11 Record)
The main reason why the Ravens did not excel was mostly due to injuries to key players. Some HB’s were hurt, Joe Flacco was injured, and Steve Smith was hurt as well. They got off to a bad start, and they didn’t finish well either. However, the team at full health isn’t a 5-11 team, so the Ravens can go anywhere but up.
Team Needs – Cornerback, Wide Receiver, Linebacker.
Pick – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA.
This is a pick where the prospect outweighs the team needs, but it helps. The Ravens’ needs should center around the CB position, and Vernon Hargreaves is an excellent pick, and could immediately help them in the secondary. However, you cannot deny the pure talent of Myles Jack, and with his pure speed and ability to get to the QB, many believe that he is one of, if not the top prospect in the draft.
Fantasy Impact- Even though Jack is one of the top prospects, I do not believe the Ravens D will have any fantasy relevance. They play in a division with a ton of offensive talent (NOT the Browns), and their secondary lacks talent to where not even Jack can save the entire defense as a whole, unless they attack many defensive positions. He could have relevance in an IDP format, where the rest of the Ravens defense will not matter.
7 – San Francisco 49ers (5-11 Record)
It’s hard to imagine that this team made it to the NFC Championship three years ago. Yes, many players retired on Defense, and Colin Kaepernick was downright ugly, but it is still hard to believe that 3 years ago, they were playing at an Elite level. They fired Jim Tomsula, and now are looking to get back to levels close to those of 3+ years ago with new HC Chip Kelly.
Team Needs- Quarterback, Center, Wide Receiver, Linebacker.
Pick- Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State.
I do not believe the 49ers should take a QB at this spot, but I am never a fan of drafting QB’s early in both fantasy and real life drafts. I think the biggest issue at hand for the Niners is their defense, but I don’t believe that they’ll think they can win with Kaepernick under center, and Denver not biting at any trades. Wentz is definitely NFL-ready, but the reason I have him here is that he is not battle-tested, mostly playing against other D-II schools, and Goff has played multiple seasons in the Pac-12, one of the hardest D-1 conferences. I think the Browns see that.
Fantasy Impact- I am staying away from Wentz in both DFS and Season-Long leagues. I don’t believe that he’ll be fantastic out of the gate, and how could you be, as Wentz will be put to the test immediately, facing the mighty defenses of St. Louis, Seattle, and Arizona twice a year? No thanks.
8 – Philadelphia Eagles (7-9 Record)
Again, after missing the playoffs by a close margin, the Eagles fired Chip Kelly, and made some other front office decisions, and other player signings and cuts, including the whole situation with DeMarco Murray, who is now a Titan. The Eagles know they can get to the playoffs with a team they have know, and if they improve in some areas, they can make it to a Division Title, but likely a Wild Card spot.
Team Needs – Cornerback, Running Back, Guard.
Pick – Derrick Henry, HB, Alabama.
Oh man, an Alabama Heisman winner in the first round! What on Earth could possibly go wrong? All jokes aside, the Heisman-winner Henry has drawn many comparisons to Marshawn Lynch, as Henry is everything you want if you want Power-HB’s, and that could work as a nice supplemental option to the Mobile QB of Sam Bradford. Rumors are surfacing that the Eagles are looking to draft Goff or Wentz, and if they do not move up, I do not see them taking Paxton Lynch at this spot.
Fantasy Impact – Henry could have an immediate impact as a power-back, however it is hard to tell how good he will be. The NFC East lacks in good Run D’s, so you don’t have to worry too much about his schedule, but the O-Line is the biggest question for Henry. Unless the Eagles attack the position in the draft, just look at what the O-Line did for DeMarco Murray last season.
9 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10 Record)
The Bucs definitely improved a great deal this season compared to last season, and the future is looking bright with some great young Offensive weapons, Mike Evans looks good, a defense that can be great with the right picks, and that’s where I think the Bucs will attack the first round and their first pick.
Team Needs- Cornerback, Safety, Defensive End/Tackle.
Pick- DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon.
The pick makes sense based off of team needs, and how to best improve their defense. The Bucs have already addressed those team needs at the CB and S position over the offseason, and Buckner will be a great addition. If they do select Buckner, the presence of him and Gerald McCoy will definitely be a pain for opposing Defensive Ends. Buckner is a great prospect, and not only can he fit in almost any NFL system, his size and speed is lethal. Doesn’t have too much strength, however he has proven it doesn’t matter.
Fantasy Impact- Just like with Myles Jack, this addition will help the Bucs greatly in real life, but it won’t transform the Bucs into a viable fantasy option, however Buckner could prove to be a breakout star in many IDP Leagues.
10 – New York (Football) Giants (6-10 Record)
It always looks like it is going to be a good year for the Giants, until it doesn’t. Many things went right for the G-Men, but their defense wasn’t very good, however their offense showed much upside. Under new HC Ben McAdoo, the Giants’ offense, in my opinion, will be one of the best in the League next year, and if they can fix their defense, they might be able to sneak into the playoffs.
Team Needs – Offensive Tackle, Linebacker, Safety.
Pick – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida.
This is a pure example of Talent outweighing Team Needs. Hargreaves is the second-best CB behind Ramsey, and at the #11 overall pick, this should be considered a steal. The NYG’s O-Line should always be improved, however their defense, and mainly secondary, is the prime focus. Hargreaves will help improve their Defensive Backs greatly.
Fantasy Impact- Again, we are dealing with a stellar addition that will help out the Giants a lot in real life, however except for (maybe) IDP’s, we shouldn’t be too high on the Giants in our fantasy lineups at the D/ST positon.
Alright guys! Hopefully you enjoyed the first part of our NFL Draft series. If you disagreed with a pick, or have a suggestion, or if you completely agree with me, feel free to leave a comment below! Stay tuned for the rest of the first round next week, and once I am done with the first round, I will move on to “Overall Prospects” who weren’t selected in the first round. These prospects will mostly have Fantasy relevance.
Alright, go read a book!
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @ohuhave12.