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Contemplating San Diego's choices at #3 overall

Draft King Analysis
April 25, 2016
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

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In a week where the NFL should be celebrating the latest group of new talent joining its ranks, a huge distraction has popped up with the decision today by a federal appeals court to reinstate the league's four-game suspension of Patriots QB Tom Brady.

As you might imagine, this has elicited some strongly-worded style responses, particularly those who feel that Brady was unfairly targeted. But, as the court noted in its 2-1 ruling, the court's role wasn't to determine whether Brady was innocent or guilty, but instead "whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act."

While there is an obvious emotional reaction to the suspension of a beloved star quarterback, the NFLPA agreed to the current rules that provide the NFL Commissioner so much power regarding player discipline in the Collective Bargaining Agreement of 2011. That CBA runs through 2021, so don't expect any changes on that front anytime soon, particularly in light of today's ruling.

I've spent more time than I probably should have over the past several days mulling over what the San Diego Chargers could potentially do with the #3 overall pick. With it looking like Cal QB Jared Goff and NDSU QB Carson Wentz going #1 and #2 respectively to Los Angeles and Philadelphia, it gives the Chargers a crack at whomever they want from the non-QB pool of draft-eligible players.

At this point, it appears likely that the Chargers will select either Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil, Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey, or Oregon DL DeForest Buckner at the #3 spot. There is plenty of chatter out there as of late linking Ramsey to San Diego at #3, and in theory he would be a useful addition to help replace FS Eric Weddle, who signed with Baltimore as a free agent earlier this year.

At the same time, if you're San Diego and you want Tunsil, the money play is to leak and hint strongly at Ramsey, with whispers out of Dallas suggesting that the Cowboys have Ramsey at their top of their draft board. It would seem unlikely that the Cowboys would trade up only to double-cross you by promptly trading down with, say, Baltimore at #6, and offensive line is not a need for Dallas.

In short: you float the Ramsey rumors, see if the Cowboys will give you something to make it worth your while to trade down, and either pull the trigger or play it safe and take Tunsil at #3. When Minnesota coaxed Cleveland into a similar #4 to #3 trade prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, the Vikings landed the Browns' fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks in that draft. So there is precedent for such a move under the current CBA, though whether San Diego is fishing for a trade or legitimately pondering Ramsey remains in question.

If in fact the Chargers want Ramsey and select him at #3, it places Dallas in an interesting position at #4. The aforementioned potential trade-up by Baltimore to nab Tunsil would become a possibility for Dallas at that point, but that would effectively be flipping one game of poker for another, particularly if the Cowboys are also eyeing Ohio State DE/OLB Joey Bosa or UCLA LB Myles Jack as the next-best option below Ramsey.

While there has been widespread speculation connecting Jack to the Jaguars at #5, nothing is certain with these sorts of things. And while there were indications earlier in the process suggesting that Dallas wasn't especially high on Bosa, as of late that talk has quieted, particularly with Dallas now facing the daunting task of playing the first four games of the 2016 season with neither Randy Gregory or DeMarcus Lawrence due to their respective league suspensions for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Moreover, with the volatile and controversial Greg Hardy still unsigned as of this writing, the Cowboys will face some serious challenges filling their 4-3 defensive end spot to start the season. And while a top five pick should never be made because of a relatively short-term need, there is a very real risk that another failed piss test could cause Dallas to lose either Gregory or Lawrence for a full season.

To what degree both the short-term reality and the long-term risk factor into Dallas' plans, if any at all, remains to be seen.

Speaking of failed piss tests, earlier today Adam Schefter reported that no one tested positive for a banned substance at the 2016 NFL Combine. I would like to think that today's players are savvy enough to know how a failed test could cause them serious harm in both draft position and money earned, though it seems nearly every year that at least a few players are tripped up by the non-surprise drug test which combine participants are required to take.

I'm intrigued by the possibilities surrounding Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, a real wild card in his draft as the likely third QB to be taken after Goff and Wentz. Curiously, late last week Lynch's agent Leigh Steinberg took ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay to task over McShay's evaluation of Lynch as an NFL prospect. It seemed like a massive overreaction and it looked particularly bad when Steinberg attacked McShay's background.

If you want to take issue with an assessment or opinion, that is fine. But to attack someone like McShay, who really knows his stuff and simply was giving his honest prognostication, and do so not over the substance of his statement but because of his work history... it comes across as both tacky and a touch desperate, at least in my estimation.

I never played, coached, or scouted (beyond game prep for University of Evansville football radio broadcasts in 1996 and 1997) on the college or NFL level, either. Does that make my bullish outlook on Lynch's chances less credible? Should I be called out for thinking he has a good chance of going in the Top 10 of the draft?

You can't have it both ways. Though, unlike McShay, I'm an analyst much more than a player evaluator, since my ultimate goal is projecting what is most likely to happen versus what I think should happen. But if you're going to disregard what McShay said because of his background, it's only fair that you do the same as well with what I have written and said in support of Lynch's NFL chances. Otherwise it's hard to see much validity with that argument.

As for where Lynch will go, I still see him going to the Browns at #8 overall as a valid projection, though I might have to fade that when I produce my final 2016 NFL Mock Draft on Wednesday night. But for teams with aging QBs who might not be around for 2017, like say Chicago at #11, Lynch seems like a bona fide player to target if a given organization feels he will be a good fit.

And if Lynch does end up sliding out of the first half of the first round, teams like the Cardinals and Broncos with similar long-term QB needs could easily end up being tempted to trade up to snatch Lynch off the board. And with all due respect to Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott and Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg and Michigan State QB Connor Cook, in my estimation there is a considerable drop from Lynch to that next tier of QB prospects.

In short, it would surprise me greatly if Lynch somehow ended up sliding all the way out of round one. Supply-and-demand economics is a reality in the NFL as in any other business, much like how paradoxically there should be some great day two value picks at defensive tackle thanks to the 2016 defensive line class being so deep.

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