Even in a year when the quarterbacks don’t appear to be slam-dunk naturals to make it big in the NFL, that’s where the focus will be when the draft begins Thursday night in Chicago. The Rams and Eagles mortgaged a whole chunk of their futures with huge deals to get the top two selections, and they’re determined to find their franchise QB.
Barring more trades, a mock look at Thursday night’s first round:
1. Los Angeles (7-9) (from Tennessee)
Jared Goff or Carson Wentz? Regardless, the Rams’ megatrade was straight out of Hollywood, which makes lots of sense for their first big move after the big move from St. Louis.
JARED GOFF, QB, CALIFORNIA
2. Philadelphia (7-9) (from Cleveland)
No one can tell us the Eagles didn’t know which passer they would get when they made this deal. He could sit and learn for a while here, too.
CARSON WENTZ, QB, NORTH DAKOTA STATE
3. San Diego (4-12)
The Chargers need help on both lines, yet passing up a top overall talent in this crop won’t happen. Aid for the secondary in …
JALEN RAMSEY, S-CB, FLORIDA STATE
4. Dallas (4-12)
Dallas would have loved getting Ramsey, but now looks elsewhere. Lots of holes to fill here, starting with a pass rusher with run-thwarting skills and attitude.
JOEY BOSA, DE, OHIO STATE
5. Jacksonville (5-11)
Though defense is the Jaguars’ major priority, they can’t bypass the top-rated offensive lineman in this year’s class.
LAREMY TUNSIL, OT, MISSISSIPPI
6. Baltimore (5-11)
GM Ozzie Newsome knows all about game-changing linebackers, and while there have been some injury issues connected with this prospect, the upside approaches the Ray Lewis/Terrell Suggs level.
MYLES JACK, LB, UCLA
7. San Francisco (5-11)
New coach Chip Kelly would like a building block for his offense before the Niners address many needs on defense.
RONNIE STANLEY, OT, NOTRE DAME
8. Cleveland (3-13) (from Miami through Philadelphia)
The Browns will consider going quarterback here, then back off when they recognize the quality running back from down the highway is worth more in this spot.
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, OHIO STATE
9. Tampa Bay (6-10)
Just like the Browns, the Buccaneers stay in-state for a solid cover cornerback to help rebuild a porous secondary.
VERNON HARGREAVES III, CB, FLORIDA
10. New York Giants (6-10)
Giants GM Jerry Reese has done well with SEC wide receivers, and there’s one on the board that has to be tempting. But this is too soon, so he goes for help on the O-line.
JACK CONKLIN, OT, MICHIGAN STATE
11. Chicago (6-10)
Chicago has its choice of helpers for a defense that needs some serious upgrading. With several ways the Bears can go, try …
DEFOREST BUCKNER, DE, OREGON
12. New Orleans (7-9)
The Saints won’t do any marching anywhere without a stingier defense.
SHELDON RANKINS, DT, LOUISVILLE
13. Miami (from Philadelphia) (6-10)
Miami probably hoped Elliott would fall this far. Instead, it will look for an RB in a later round. So the defense gets addressed with one of two Clemson players. Make it …
SHAQ LAWSON, DE, CLEMSON
14. Oakland (7-9)
With the strong job GM Reggie McKenzie has done rebuilding this roster, this isn’t a critical draft for the rising Raiders. Help in the secondary is the next step.
WILLIAM JACKSON III, CB, HOUSTON
15. Tennessee (3-13) (from Los Angeles)
The first of all the picks the Titans acquired in the Rams trade will be devoted to more and better protection for QB Marcus Mariota.
TAYLOR DECKER, OT, OHIO STATE
16. Detroit (7-9)
Although boosting the offensive line is a priority, Detroit will get a better value here with an Alabama trench player.
A’SHAWN ROBINSON, DT, ALABAMA
17. Atlanta (8-8)
Coach Dan Quinn enjoyed working with so many stars on his Seattle defense. He needs to boost the Falcons’ D.
LEONARD FLOYD, LB, GEORGIA
18. Indianapolis (8-8)
Offensive line help is the main need. The problem is, the top blockers are gone. So the Colts turn to another weak area.
REGGIE RAGLAND, LB, ALABAMA
19. Buffalo (8-8)
The run continues on Alabama products. Rex Ryan gets one as he tries to turn around an underachieving unit.
JARRAN REED, DT, ALABAMA
20. New York Jets 10-6)
D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s retirement and the uncertainty of Ryan Clady’s health as a possible replacement has the Jets seeking O-line help. But with top blockers gone, aid for the secondary comes.
ELI APPLE, CB, OHIO STATE
21. Washington (9-7)
Defensive needs would seem to override anywhere else for the surprise NFC East champions.
DARRON LEE, LB, OHIO STATE
22. Houston (9-7)
How fortunate for a team in need of a wide receiver that the top two in the draft remain on the board.
LAQUON TREADWELL, WR, MISSISSIPPI
23. Minnesota (11-5)
Vikings might have coveted Treadwell for their receiving corps, but they get another playmaker.
JOSH DOCTSON, WR, TCU
24. Cincinnati (12-4)
The run on receivers lasts one more spot as the Bengals seek to fill some holes created by free agency.
WILL FULLER, WR, NOTRE DAME
25. Pittsburgh (10-6)
Dick LeBeau might be long gone, but the Steel Curtain still features lots of his looks. Helping it along …
KEVIN DODD, DE, CLEMSON
26. Seattle (10-6)
Pete Carroll has no problem working with, well, players who had problems in college. The Seahawks get an immense talent with off-field issues.
ROBERT NKEMDICHE, DT, MISSISSIPPI
27. Green Bay (10-6)
The absence of B.J. Raji and the availability of an instant replacement has Packers skipping top tight end to take …
ANDREW BILLINGS, NT, BAYLOR
28. Kansas City (11-5)
Sean Smith left in free agency and Hussain Abdullah retired. Urgent need in secondary for KC.
MACKENSIE ALEXANDER, CB, CLEMSON
New England (12-4) (forfeited)
The “Deflategate” scandal toll.
29. Arizona (13-3)
Only one center in this crop is worth a first-round choice. Lo and behold, the Cardinals need a snapper.
RYAN KELLY, C, NOTRE DAME
30. Carolina (15-1)
With not much worth a first-round pick remaining at cornerback, the Panthers grab a safety who could help immediately.
KARL JOSEPH, S, WEST VIRGINIA
31. Denver (12-4)
So, will John Elway call Peyton Manning before making this pick? After all, it will be the potential successor to the retired great.
PAXTON LYNCH, QB, MEMPHIS
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