Welcome back, Forever Faithful as this is the second installment of a six part article as I breakdown picks 6 to 10 using my very own analytics. Don’t worry if you missed my predictions on the first installment (top 5 picks) as you can learn my take here.
Please keep in mind, that my mock is based on what I ‘predict’ each NFL team will actually do, rather than who I ‘believe’ they should select. So who will be on the board when the 49ers are on the clock? Check it out below. Enjoy.
6.) Baltimore Ravens
If there’s one thing about Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome it’s that he almost always selects the BPA regardless of need. In 2009, the Ravens traded up in order to secure T Michael Oher who at the time, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta labeled the ‘best player available.’ And then two years later hitting on the BPA philosophy once again with troubled but talented CB Jimmy Smith in 2011, S Matt Elam (2013), ILB C.J. Mosley (2014) and WR Breshad Perriman (2015).
So with the top three defensive players off the board, the Ravens go on the offensive by getting the best left tackle in this year’s draft in T Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss). Tunsil was in conversations to go No. 1 overall a month ago and having him fall at a position of need to the Ravens is a match made in heaven. Sure the team has LT Eugene Monroe but skipping out on a franchise book-end tackle (Tunsil) in favor of a player like DE DeForest Buckner in a heavy edge-rusher draft class would go against Newsome’s drafting principles.
Not to mention, three of the last six first-round picks by the Ravens have come out of the coveted SEC, I can’t see Newsome going in any other direction.
Selection: LT Laremy Tunsil
7.) San Francisco 49ers
What are the odds that 49ers GM Trent Baalke drafts the same or similar position with their first-round pick in back-to-back seasons? Considering that Baalke started the trend back in 2013 when he moved up for FS Eric Reid (No. 18) and then selecting DB Jimmie Ward the following season– the trend could continue as I see the team taking a four-technique defensive end for the second consecutive year.
Last year, the 49ers selected DE Arik Armstead (No. 17) in a trade down with the San Diego Chargers. This year, I see them staying in the Pac-12, specifically Oregon, and taking his college teammate DE DeForest Buckner.
Baalke is not one too shy away from conventional wisdom while going against the grain. He isn’t necessarily risk-averse but will gamble on low-risk, high-reward prospects in later rounds. However, when it comes to selecting in the first-round, Baalke usually stays true to his draft board which is why I believe Buckner will be the pick.
The 49ers need a pass-rush specialist at the four-technique. Someone who can take double-team pressure off third-year OLB Aaron Lynch on obvious passing downs. That player over the course of seven seasons has been DE Justin Smith. Sure, Armstead has shown signs of his pass-rush ability as PFF ranked him No. 1 among all 3-4 DEs in pass-rush pressure last season but the 49ers need more.
There is no guarantee that NT Ian Williams will return in 2017 while the team would then likely kick DE Quinton Dial inside. If this scenario plays out, you can be sure Baalke is already thinking one step ahead and will have Buckner lined up on the other side.
If Baalke takes Buckner I can hear it now: “Tremendous athlete, unique in terms of size for that position.12.5 sacks last 2 years, can rush”
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) April 27, 2016
Buckner checks off most of Baalke’s boxes. Proto-type size? Check. Versatility? Check. Tough? Check. Team player? Check. Check. Length? Check. Pass-rush skills? Check. Can set the edge? Check. Production? Check. Unique? Check. The only one that’s missing is versatility. But if asking Buckner if he can kick inside to a three-technique in a one-gap 4-2 nickel defense, that answer would be yes.
When Baalke was talking to us about what he sees in 3-4 DE he mentioned length (specifically) DE Chris Canty. 6-7, 320+, Buckner checks box
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) April 27, 2016
Since Baalke took over GM duties back in 2010, all of his first-round picks except Reid have came in for a pre-draft visit. In addition, Baalke has only drafted two Pac-12 kids in the first two rounds who coincidentally came out of Oregon. Those players were 2012 second-round (No. 60) RB LaMichael James and Armstead.
To think that Kelly is not in Baalke’s ear about Buckner after recruiting him to Oregon is absurd. Not to mention, that the need is there and he would be the best player available, the selection of Buckner makes sense considering what’s left on the board at No. 7.
Selection: DE DeForest Buckner (Oregon)
8. Cleveland Browns via Philadelphia Eagles
Executive VP of the Cleveland Browns Sashi Brown is very vocal about his analytical ways. This will be his first year in charge of the Browns war room and I expect Brown will make the right decision and draft his ‘shining’ new running back. That being Ohio State RB Ezekial Elliott.
It’s hard for me to think that Elliot slips through the cracks, and if Brown banks on history, then he would realize selecting the best player available is always better than reaching for need.
New Browns HC Hue Jackson is from the old school playing in a black and blue division. His cultural identity is that of a ‘bully.’ In order to play this style of smash-mouth football then he will certainly need a running back who can sustain a beating for a full 16 game schedule.
The Browns leading rusher last season was second-year RB Isaiah Crowell. He rushed for 706 yards on 185 carries while scoring four touchdowns. Not great. And while the Browns certainly need to rebuild their offensive line with the losses of RT Mitchell Schwartz (Chiefs) and All-Pro C Alex Mack (Falcons) — the selection of RT Jack Conklin or RT Ronnie Stanley aren’t a high enough value for Brown to pull the trigger as Elliot is the No. 1 rated running back in this year’s draft.
Selection: RB Ezekial Elliott (Ohio St.)
9.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Since taking over the Bucs war room in 2014, GM Jason Licht has gone offense with his first-round picks. In 2014, he drafted WR Mike Evans (No. 7) and last year he got his franchise quarterback QB Jameis Winston. So what will Licht do in 2016? How about staying on that side of the ball while solidifying the team’s offensive line.
The Bucs need to keep Winston healthy for the long-term and the selection of Michigan State T Jack Conklin will help that cause. He has the nasty mean-streak, toughness, and power that is required to play the tackle position while having enough athleticism to hit the second-level.
A true road-grader down in the trenches, Licht plays it safe while getting a body guard for Winston for the foreseeable future.
Selection: OT Jack Conklin (Michigan St.)
10.) New York Giants
Giants GM Jerry Reese has a history of selecting first-round players from either the ACC or Big East as five of his last seven first-round picks have came from those conferences. In addition, Reese is a firm believer in selecting the best player available regardless of need. If this is the case then look for them to draft pass-rusher OLB Leonard Floyd.
At 6-6, 244, Floyd has the size and length that scouts look for in an edge-rusher. In 2015, the Giants were arguably the worst team in terms of pressuring the quarterback, evident by 23 sacks. That needs to change and Floyd has the pass-rushing tools to get it done.
The Giants rarely hold pre-draft visits for their first-round targets and the fact that Floyd has not made a trip to the Big Apple should tell you something. This was a tough choice between Floyd and OLB Darron Lee (Ohio St.) but I’ll go with Floyd.
Selection: OLB Leonard Floyd (Georgia)