by Rob Joyce
Much like last year, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of drama at the top heading into Thursday’s NFL Draft. In 2015 it was all but certain Jameis Winston would go first to the Buccaneers and Marcus Mariota second to the Titans, and that’s what happened. This year, because of the trades that have occurred, Jared Goff seems poised to go first overall to the Rams, followed by Carson Wentz to the Eagles. Beyond that, though, there are plenty of question marks remaining.
Instead of the one millionth mock draft, here are simply the five best players available as the first round ticks closer.
5) Joey Bosa, DE:
He’s seen as a starter right away, and some have him as the top overall player. An edge rusher, he in theory will be seen by fans as a double-digit sack performer, but he is also ranked first by Pro Football Focus among run defenders. At Ohio State he received plenty of double- and triple-teams and was still plenty productive. He will likely be available with the fourth, fifth or even sixth pick, a rarity for such a talented player to last that long.
4) Carson Wentz, QB:
It’s not too often an FCS quarterback is a sure-fire top two pick (the Houston Oilers last took Steve McNair third in 1995 out of Alcorn State), but alas here we are with the North Dakota State signal caller. He has great size (6-foot-6, 237 lbs.), has a strong arm and is familiar with a pro-style offense. The natural inclination against him is that he faced FCS competition. That can be somewhat overblown (the aforementioned McNair and Joe Flacco turned out fine), and the Eagles don’t have to start Wentz right away.
3) Jared Goff, QB:
The Cal product is set to make the short move to Los Angeles, where he will become the new face of the newly re-minted Rams franchise. While he isn’t the “can’t miss” prospect like Andrew Luck was in 2012, he has a very high ceiling. Mentally he is sharp, he has an NFL arm that can make all the throws, he is calm in the pocket and has mobility. He has a propensity for some turnovers, ran a spread offense in college and despite being 6-foot-4, is only 215 lbs. But given all the picks L.A. gave up to receive the first overall selection, a lot of weight will be on his shoulders.
2) Jalen Ramsey, DB:
Last month he called himself the best player in the draft, and he’s not far off. The Florida State Seminole is certainly the top playmaker available this year. Having a lockdown defensive back can change a defense, but it’s easier said than done, especially in today’s pass-happy league. He has ideal size (6-foot-1, 209 lbs.) and can be either a cornerback or a safety, having played both at FSU. While he thrives in press coverage and run support, he didn’t have an interception in 2015 (though he had 10 pass breakups). He could be the most impactful rookie of the group.
1) Laremy Tunsil, OT:
If the Titans kept the No. 1 pick, it probably would have been tackle from Ole Miss. Facing SEC defenses week after week after week, he rarely allowed pressure in pass protection due to his agility. Ideally he will become a franchise left tackle for the team that drafts him, but he can play either side of the line. There aren’t many polished linemen in the NFL, period. Finding a stud coming right out of college is even more rare, and that’s what Tunsil appears to be.