By MIKE HERNDON
The NFL draft is tonight and you’ve no doubt seen more than a few attempts to predict how it might go. So what’s one more?
We have a pretty good idea that the first two picks are going to be quarterbacks, but which one goes first — Jared Goff or Carson Wentz? Will there be an early run on offensive tackles? Will Ezekiel Elliott buck the trend of running backs being undervalued?
Some are calling Elliott the best running back prospect to come out of college since Adrian Peterson. They may be forgetting Todd Gurley already, but Elliott is an intriguing prospect nonetheless.
No mock draft is going to get every pick right, or even most of them. Misinformation and smokescreens are the norm around the NFL in April and you can bet good money that several teams widely believed to be coveting a certain player or position have exactly the opposite in mind.
But it’s fun to try anyway, and hopefully it’s fun to read. I produced mock drafts annually for AL.com after becoming a columnist and an NFL and SEC writer in 2008. Click here to see last year’s mock or here if you want to go way back and look at one in 2009.
This year’s draft gets underway in Chicago on Thursday at 7 p.m. Central, with live coverage of Round 1 from NFL Network and ESPN. Rounds 2 and 3 follow on Friday night and the last four rounds will be held Saturday.
Who’s going where? Here’s one man’s stab at it:
1. St. Louis Rams – Jared Goff, QB, California
The Rams didn’t trade all those picks to draft an offensive tackle. The only question is which QB they like. Goff, who has thrown 78 TDs in the last two years, appears to be the most ready to step in and play early.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Forget Sam Bradford’s contract and the acquisition of Chase Daniel. The Eagles clearly made this move with an eye toward their long-term future at the most important position on the field.
- San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
With the two trades above them, the Chargers have the luxury of addressing their offensive line with Tunsil or their secondary with Jalen Ramsey. Plug-and-play left tackles come at a premium.
- Dallas Cowboys – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The Cowboys need pass rush help and Bosa is the best in this class.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Another beneficiary of the rush on quarterbacks, the Jags get a player some consider potentially the best in the class to fall into their laps.
- Baltimore Ravens – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
The defensive-minded Ravens will find it difficult to pass up a talent like Buckner at this spot.
- San Francisco 49ers – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Stanley, whom some believe rivals Tunsil as the top OL in the draft, would fill a hole at right tackle and could be groomed as Joe Staley’s ultimate replacement on the left side.
- Cleveland Browns – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Conklin’s stock is rising and he could play tackle or guard, giving new QB Robert Griffin III a fighting chance.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
The Bucs need help at corner and Hargreaves is as solid as they come.
- New York Giants – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
The Giants used a bunch of running backs last season but none of them were particularly effective. Eli Manning needs a strong ground game.
- Chicago Bears – Leonard Floyd, OLB/DE, Georgia
The once-proud Bears defense is depleted. Floyd would give it explosiveness off the edge.
- New Orleans Saints – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
Another draft, another year the Saints are desperate for defensive help.
- Miami Dolphins – Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
Jack has top-five talent, but uncertainty over the durability of his knees knocks him out the top 10. He’d be worth the risk here for Miami.
- Oakland Raiders – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Charles Woodson is retired. D.J. Hayden has been disappointing. A playmaker in the secondary would be a big help for this emerging team.
- Tennessee Titans – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
The Titans could have stayed at No.1 and taken Tunsil. Instead they can grab another solid blocker for Marcus Mariota and then figure out how to use the stash of other picks they got from the Rams.
- Detroit Lions – Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
The Lions still miss the force they once had up front in Ndamukong Suh. The disruptive Reed could pair with outside force Ziggy Ansah to give Detroit a fearsome front.
- Atlanta Falcons – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Like the Saints, the Falcons can’t get enough help on the defensive side of the ball. Clocked at 4.47 in the 40, Lee would give them another speedy playmaker.
- Indianapolis Colts – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Robert Mathis and Trent Cole aren’t getting any younger. Lawson is coming off injury but is an explosive talent, and Ryan Grigson is a best-player-available disciple.
- Buffalo Bills – Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
The Bills could use some pass rush help and Rex Ryan isn’t going to be scared off a talented player by some off-field concerns.
- New York Jets – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
With Ryan Fitzpatrick still unsigned, the Jets draft their QB of the future.
- Washington Redskins – A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
The sturdy Robinson would help the Redskins shore up the 26th-rated run defense in the league.
- Houston Texans – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
The Texans need a complement to Deandre Hopkins and Coleman has been ultra-productive.
- Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
His 4.65 40 time may scare some off, but the Vikings could use his strength and ball skills as Teddy Bridgewater continues to develop.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
With Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu gone, the Bengals need a complement to A.J. Green.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – William Jackson III, CB, Houston
The Steelers badly need help at corner and the 6-foot, 190-pound Jackson has the size and versatility they covet.
- Seattle Seahawks – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
They need help at offensive tackle, but it’ll be tough for them to pass up a top-10 talent like Nkemdiche if he falls this far due to his off-field issues.
- Green Bay Packers – Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
With B.J. Raji sitting out this season, the Packers need a big body at the point of attack. Billings is freakishly strong and can be a disruptive force.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Mackenzie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Marcus Peters performed well in his first season but now the Chiefs need to replace the departed Sean Smith on the other side.
- Arizona Cardinals – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
Kelly’s a hot name as the top center in the draft and Arizona could be a prime landing spot.
- Carolina Panthers – Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
With Josh Norman gone, the Panthers could use a CB here. With the top four off the board, however, they look to bolster their defense in another way.
- Denver Broncos – Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
They tried to re-sign Osweiler. They tried to get Kaepernick to take a reduced salary. They inquired about Bradford. They cannot go into the season with Mark Sanchez as their starter, can they?