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Running commentary on the 2016 NFL Draft

Draft King Analysis
April 28, 2016
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

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Lou (4:18 a.m. CDT): With my final 2016 NFL Mock Draft locked in place, the pressure is off for me for this year's draft. If me being up at this hour seems strange to you... what can I say, welcome to my life. Insomnia is no fun, even for a night owl like me.

First things first -- if you're so inclined, check out my past NFL Draft running commentaries and/or live event experiences:

2012 (live event)

This would also be a good time to give some well-deserved praise to the Huddle Report, which provides some apples-to-apples comparisons of how many of the top players in the mock draft game have done in recent years. The real trick in finding success there is hitting on the late part of the first round, which can be a very challenging thing to do.

It took a bit of deductive reasoning to figure out what San Diego is likely to do with the #3 overall pick. This is not a minor thing, especially considering that after the presumptive selections of Cal QB Jared Goff and NDSU QB Carson Wentz in the top two spots, what the Chargers do at #3 will likely have a chain reaction to what happens in several of the picks below.

In recent days, word had spread that San Diego had been set on who it was taking at #3 overall for several weeks. The implication is that the decision dated back to before the Titans traded out from the #1 spot, where they were believed to be targeting either Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil or Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey. And it's hard to be locked in on a given player if it appears that he might not be there when you pick.

With those clues in mind, it seemed that the options were narrowed to two: Oregon DL DeForest Buckner and Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley. My thought had been that Buckner was the more likely of the two to be taken there, particularly with the perception that Tunsil was ranked on most lists ahead of Stanley.

But, as always, what most lists have is immaterial to what the team making the pick thinks. And it was noteworthy that a tweet from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report on Tuesday suggested that Stanley could be the choice.

The NFL Network's reporter in San Diego on Tuesday afternoon didn't even mention Buckner when talking about the presumptive "short list" of potential choices, and then the well-connected Mike Mayock projected Stanley there in his mock unveil last night.

Things could always change, but taking all of that information into account, I felt pretty good about adjusting my final mock to reflect Stanley at #3.

From what I've heard, Ramsey is the top guy on the Cowboys draft board, or at least was in recent times. There are apparently some internal debates in Dallas between him and Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott for the #4 pick, and Zeke could very well end up being the choice. But I've felt for some time that if the Cowboys could get Ramsey, they will. We'll find out soon enough if I'm right about that.

It slayed me to have to finally fade Myles Jack and drop him from the long-held projection of going to Jacksonville at #5 overall. I probably held onto that one for too long, but Jack is a truly great player and I'm not convinced of the sports science behind the questions regarding his right knee are on point. Oakland is a popular prediction at #14, though I ended up slotting him to the Dolphins one spot above at #13.

Then again, I'm not a doctor, nor have I seen Jack's medical chart. But I'm also extremely bullish on Joey Bosa's chances in the NFL, and the notion of the Jaguars debuting him and Dante Fowler, Jr. to their regular-season roster at the same time is extremely intriguing. Fowler was the team's top pick in 2015, but he fell victim to an injury early in the preseason process that ended his rookie season before it began.

I've been projecting Memphis QB Paxton Lynch much higher than most for some time, and it has been interesting to see others start to come around to my way of thinking on this. Supply-and-demand has created a frenzy for top QB prospects, as evidenced by the trades made by the Rams and Eagles to move up to #1 and #2 respectively in this draft to target quarterbacks.

Part of me thinks Cleveland will stay at #8 and select Lynch, but it's entirely possible that he will be gone before that becomes an option. I don't project trades since that is typically only makes things much more complicated (at the expense of accuracy, no less), but you could easily sell me on the notion of the New York Jets working a deal with the 49ers to move up from #20 to #7 to get Lynch.

It seems entirely possible that there will be a run on DE/OLB from Atlanta at #17, and the same is true for wide receivers in the #22 to #24 range with Houston, Minnesota and Cincinnati. Of course, one axiom that has held true for some time is that the further you get from the top of the draft, the less likely a team is to address a particular perceived need at a given spot.

Sleep is probably a good idea right about now. A big day awaits as the 2016 NFL Draft finally gets underway tonight. Expect this to be updated throughout the day -- more later.

Lou (1:35 p.m. CDT): Not much has changed since the early morning hours of today as far as draft expectations go. It's noteworthy that Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel kept Ramsey to San Diego at #3 in his final mock, as he has been one of the very best in the Huddle Report competition over the past several years.

However, McGinn also notes that "Bill Polian, the mentor of Chargers GM Tom Telesco, is on record calling LT Ronnie Stanley the No. 1 player in the draft."

There is all kinds of talk about UCLA LB Myles Jack sliding to Oakland at #14. It's an obvious fit, though I opted to match him with Miami at #13, another team which is in need of a top-level linebacker prospect. Perhaps I should have flipped that with my projection of Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III to the Raiders at #14; we'll find out soon enough.

Lou (3:03 p.m. CDT): Another puzzle piece has dropped, as Peter King reports that he's hearing the Jaguars had Stanley ranked above Tunsil on their draft board. I wonder what effect Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche burying Tunsil in public at the combine for being there in Atlanta on the night of his arrest this past December after a bizarre incident involving a fall from a hotel window had.

I suspect that NFL teams probably already knew this information, since top prospects are vetted to an almost ridiculous level these days. But Nkemdiche putting Tunsil on blast like that couldn't have helped his chances any, and it made Nkemdiche look bad as well.

Normally I work out at night, especially in the spring/summer when it gets so warm here in Nashville. But I'm going to head to the gym now to get that out of the way before the real frenzy begins later tonight.

Lou (5:17 p.m. CDT): The rumor mill has picked up steam as the afternoon has gone on, which is a time-honored tradition of Day One of the NFL Draft. The Ravens might be looking to take Zeke Elliott at #6, or they might simply be looking to chum up the water to entice a team wanting Elliott to work a trade with them instead of the 49ers at #7.

This is probably a good time to address the wide receiver prospects, a group that is hardly top-heavy but which is expected to go on a run in the early 20s of the draft. I've projected a receiver to Houston at #22 and Minnesota at #23 going back to last month, as it's an obvious need for both teams. Cincinnati at #24 lost multiple wideouts to free agency, and by last night I finally came around to the thought of them getting in on the wideout action as well.

The question is: who is going where? It has been rumored that both the Bengals and Vikings want TCU WR Josh Doctson, which could prompt Cincinnati to look into trading up to ensure that they get him. But there isn't tremendous separation in the opinion of many evaluators among the top wideout prospects, from Doctson to Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell to Baylor WR Corey Coleman to Notre Dame WR Will Fuller.

I spent probably more time than I should have deliberating on the group and who could go where. Fuller just barely missed the cut for my final 2016 first-round mock, which could prove to be a mistake since he ran a 4.32 time in the 40-yard dash, and elite speed is certain held in high regard in most NFL front offices. But if he missed out on the top 31 selections, odds are he won't be on the board long when round two starts tomorrow.

Lou (6:01 p.m. CDT): Still too close to call for Dallas at #4, but this would seem to suggest the Zeke Elliott camp might be getting the late edge over the Jalen Ramsey backers. Or, alternately, this could all be an elaborate ruse. At this point you can't know for sure.

Lou (6:47 p.m. CDT): Friends are blowing up my phone, plenty of late opinions, thoughts, questions, etc. Good times. One friend who is a Miami Hurricanes fan asked me if Ohio State might tie or break the six players taken in one round record. Could very well depending on whether WR Michael Thomas and/or SS Von Bell end up going in round one. Anticipate at least five with Bosa, Zeke, CB Eli Apple, OLB Darron Lee, and OT Tyler Decker all making my final first round mock.

Also, I'll be trying to minimize my time spent on Twitter tonight. Takes the fun out of it to have the picks tipped off. The element of surprise is part of the enjoyment, kind of like the Royal Rumble. But inevitably there will be info I'll need to hunt down.

Keep in mind that the NFL Draft is a television event first and a live event second. That means some down time, multiple picks made before they are officially announced, etc. to accommodate both ESPN and the NFL Network. But it's well worth it to have competing coverage, since that in turn drives both sides to produce the best possible product.

It's kind of like this year's March Madness reveal by CBS, only the exact opposite.

Lou (6:54 p.m. CDT): For what it's worth, I had an invite to go to the Tennessee Titans draft party at Nissan Stadium, but opted against it to do this running commentary and monitor both ESPN and NFLN. Perhaps another year, particularly one where the temp isn't above 80 degrees after 7 p.m. local time.

Lou (7:05 p.m. CDT): And... we're off with the Los Angeles Rams on the clock. Condolences to St. Louis football fans, who deserved much better than what they got from the NFL. Such a great sports city.

I'm going picture-in-picture to watch as much of ESPN and NFLN as I can, trying to catch the best of what's around.

Lou (7:12 p.m. CDT): Trying to make sense of a video reportedly posted to Tunsil's verified Twitter account (and quickly deleted) showing him apparently smoking something via a water bong connected to a gas mask.

Lou (7:17 p.m. CDT): Goff goes #1 to Los Angeles, to the surprise of almost no one. Waiting now for the all-but-certain selection of Wentz by Philadelphia at #2 overall.

Also, notice how Mel Kiper referred to the FCS level of Division I football as "I-AA", the name it had for years before it was ridiculously renamed in true NCAA buffoon fashion. I still write it as FCS (I-AA) or something to that effect on here, not because I'm stubborn (which I am) but because I want to provide clarity to my readers.

Lou (7:24 p.m. CDT): And it's Wentz to Philadelphia, as expected. Now the real drama begins...

Lou (7:30 p.m. CDT): San Diego swerved us all, going with Bosa at #3. Love the pick as Bosa would have been the top player on my Top 100 list if I made one, though I don't do those. Keeps the Dallas "Elliott or Ramsey" debate alive down to the wire.

Also, apparently my NFLN feed is slightly faster than ESPN, as I saw Bosa celebrating in the PIP box before I heard Commissioner Goodell announce it. Sticking with ESPN using the commercial-free to the top of the hour gimmick for the short-term now, sans PIP.

Lou (7:40 p.m. CDT): Apparently the whispers that the Cowboys were leaning Elliott late were on point, as Zeke went to Dallas at #4. That won't help my Huddle Report score since I had given Ramsey the nod. Alas. But I love the potential for that Cowboys offense in 2016. Should be fun to watch, if nothing else.

Lou (7:46 p.m. CDT): Five years ago in Nashville, I did color commentary for the webcast of one of Jalen Ramsey's high school games for Brentwood Academy. Tonight he's a top five pick and heading to Jacksonville. I'm happy for him, good guy from all indications. Plus he'll get to play in his hometown at least once a year as long as he's a member of the Jaguars.

Lou (7:55 p.m. CDT): Stanley goes to Baltimore at #6. Finally ESPN is addressing the Tunsil gas mask video, about time guys. Dirty tactics on draft night, like something Frank Underwood would do to an opponent on House of Cards. Jon Gruden is bitching about social media, but it's not like Tunsil posted the video, right?

Lou (7:59 p.m. CDT): Trying to find out more about the Tunsil story on Twitter and just had the 49ers pick spoiled for me, as it's Buckner. Great pick but a brutal spoiler. Really takes the piss reading the news before it's announced.

Lou (8:02 p.m. CDT): Well this is interesting -- Tennessee has traded up to #8 with the Browns. Tunsil is still on the board. Sadly, the state of Tennessee doesn't exactly have progressive views on cannabis (nor does the NFL for that matter), but the Titans getting the guy they might have taken at #1 without giving up their second-rounder... I like it.

Or, alternately, it could be a surprise and they'll go with someone like Michigan State OT Jack Conklin.

Lou (8:05 p.m. CDT): And it's Conklin to Tennessee! Great story with him, completely overlooked coming out of high school but quickly developing into a top-level offensive tackle prospect.

Lou (8:13 p.m. CDT): Another trade-up with Chicago jumping past the Giants, which might imply Tunsil. Could also be Hargreaves or DE/OLB -- in other words, hard to know.

A buddy of mine asked me what I thought of the Titans' move, and I told him I love it. Didn't have to give up the #33 pick, either.

Lou (8:22 p.m. CDT): Back-to-back picks made by teams trading up to get players I had projected lower, as after Conklin to Tennessee it's Georgia DE/OLB Leonard Floyd to Chicago.

And now the Giants go cornerback, but it's not Hargreaves -- it's Ohio State CB Eli Apple. This is a surprise both from a team need and a perceived value standpoint. That's three Buckeyes in the top ten, by the way.

Lou (8:29 p.m. CDT): Plenty of mocks had Hargreaves to Tampa Bay at #9, and I had them connected at one point as well, but he is there for the Buccaneers at #11 and goes off the board to them. In a draft with so much defensive line talent, not necessarily a bad move by Tampa Bay to go Hargreaves here and perhaps target a DL in round two.

Lou (8:42 p.m. CDT): Nailed it with Louisville DL Sheldon Rankins to the Saints. And now, finally, Tunsil comes off the board, falling to Miami all the way down at #13.

It irked me earlier to hear Kurt Warner on NFLN compare Tunsil to Randy Gregory. Tunsil never failed a drug test at Ole Miss and passed his piss test at the NFL combine -- something Gregory failed to do. If the video posted earlier really is several years old, and if his Twitter account really was hacked to post it, it makes me *very* curious about who was behind it.

Lou (8:57 p.m. CDT): Oakland took WVU safety Karl Joseph at #14, making him the first player to go who I projected outside the first round. Was a borderline guy IMO in a glut at safety, but a talented athlete. And now the Browns fill a wide receiver need at #15, making Baylor WR Corey Coleman the first wideout to go in this draft.

Lou (9:04 p.m. CDT): Ohio State OT Tyler Decker went to Detroit at #16, a sensible pick, and quite possibly the player the Colts would have taken at #18 had he fallen two more spots.

And now it appears that Tunsil's Instagram account has been hacked. What a nightmare for him on what should have been a joyous night.

Lou (9:11 p.m. CDT): It's another safety off the board at Atlanta goes with Florida's Keanu Neal at #17, and now the Colts go with Alabama C Ryan Kelly at #18. Thought long and hard about moving him up there late, but I figured the Colts would take Decker if he had fallen.

Lou (9:21 p.m. CDT): Shaq Lawson to Buffalo at #19 was a great pickup for the Bills. Outstanding player who I thought could go off the board in the top ten. I had him going to the Bills until my final redo last night. It's frustrating when something like that happens, like a bad decision by a contestant on The Price Is Right making an errant switch in the Race Game.

Now the question is: will the Jets get Lynch at #20 without having had to trade up to get him?

Lou (9:26 p.m. CDT): Lynch remains on the board, as the Jets instead opt for Lee, filling the edge rusher need that I thought might be filled by Eastern Kentucky OLB Noah Spence. That makes five Buckeyes off the board in the top 20.

Meanwhile, I had this brought to my attention, purportedly from Tunsil's agent. I'm sympathetic to Tunsil's plight, but this ridiculous, disorganized, and off-base response is an insult to the intelligence of everyone who reads it.

I mean, if you pitched that as a sketch comedy bit, it would be rejected for sounding too preposterous. Ugh.

Lou (9:32 p.m. CDT): And the Texans opted to move up one spot, trading up with Washington to take Fuller at #21. Really should have worked him into my final mock somehow, since his superb 40-yard-dash time really boosted him, as it usually does. His questionable hands made me think perhaps he would slide, but instead he became the second WR to come off the board.

Lou (9:49 p.m. CDT): People are blowing me up over the Tunsil stuff. Cincinnati ended up on the outside looking in with the run of receivers, with the Redskins nabbing Doctson at #22 and the Vikings having Treadwell fall into their lap at #23. But that could provide opportunities elsewhere for the Bengals...

Lou (9:56 p.m. CDT): Interesting that the Bengals went with Houston CB William Jackson III at #24. Would seem to be sticking it to the Steelers one pick below, which is where I projected Jackson would go. And so instead of Jackson, it's Miami CB Artie Burns selected by the Steelers at #25. Opinions on Burns varied considerably based on what I heard, but it's for sure a pick at a need position for Pittsburgh.

Lou (10:05 p.m. CDT): Denver gave up a third-rounder to jump five spots and draft Lynch at #26. Love the pick for them. Haven't understood the knocks on Lynch at all, besides him being raw and not a viable candidate to start right away, at least in theory. If it's true that the Broncos had him as the top QB on their list, that is a tremendous value pickup for them.

Lou (10:19 p.m. CDT): With their pick of the many interior defensive linemen still on the board, along with Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland and UCLA LB Myles Jack, the Packers opted to go with UCLA NT Kenny Clark at #27. And, from there, the 49ers traded up into the bottom part of the first round for Stanford OG Joshua Garnett at #28. That move is being highly criticized/questioned by pundits both on TV and online, particularly considering they gave up a fourth and a sixth to move up nine spots from #37.

Lou (10:30 p.m. CDT): At long last, Nkemdiche comes off the board at #29 with Arizona. Getting far away from the southeast United States might be the best thing possible for him. We shall see.

Something to keep in mind with Myles Jack -- he has a $5 million insurance policy that pays off if he's not a first-round pick. Of course, with only 31 first-round picks this year due to the Patriots being stripped of theirs, I wonder what happens if he is the first player taken tomorrow at #32? Did they even contemplate such a scenario when they drew up the policy?

Lou (10:48 p.m. CDT): And rounding out the first round was Carolina taking Louisiana Tech DL Vernon Butler at #30 and another team-to-player hit for me as Seattle selected Texas A&M OL Germain Ifedi with the final pick of the first round at #31.

And now, time to decompress a bit. There are some seriously talented defensive linemen who will be available at the top of round two tomorrow. Interesting first round, to be sure, on a night that was at times chaotic with the Tunsil saga and surprisingly seemed to follow expected trends, including the run on wide receivers that happened in the early 20s of the draft.

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