This week’s 81st NFL Draft and 51st for the Miami Dolphins also marks my 25th annual Official Miami Herald Mock Draft. Hallmark should make a card for that. Verse: “Your yearly picks are mellifluous, just like a song. I delight to count the ways you can be so wrong.”
Actually I did pretty well a year ago (relatively speaking), with 26 of 32 first-round picks correct overall and nine bull’s-eyes, meaning exact player to exact team — included the Dolphins’ top pick, DeVante Parker.
So I can only go downhill from there.
The whole process is a crapshoot. Even the teams with all their fancy research are just glorified guessing. Does the name Ryan Leaf ring a bell? And how did that Miami trade up to take Dion Jordan work out?
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OK, enough with the disclaimers.
Selections below do not factor in possible first-round trades, although you will see I mention a Dolphins trade up or down from the 13th spot would not surprise.
As always, our exclusive Super Bonus Draft Facts are interspersed.
We take our mock draft seriously but like to have fun, too, because how can you take too seriously something whose first name is “mock”?
All right, ready? Let’s start guessing!
1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, Cal — Angelinos were thrilled their city stole the Rams back from St. Louis, were thrilled their team traded with Tennessee for the top pick, and now are thrilled to welcome a home-state quarterback. Goff’s experience in a major conference gave him slight edge over The Other Guy.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State — Birds traded with Cleveland into the second spot to get The Other Guy, who is bigger and stronger than Goff but forged by weaker competition. This marks only seventh time QBs have gone 1-2 in a draft but third time just since 2012..
3. San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss — Because Philip Rivers was sacked 40 times last season, that’s why. Tunsil is highest-rated player on some draft boards, including Mel Kiper Jr’s.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State — The Ezekiel Elliott-loving Dolphins catch their first break here because Dallas opting to claim the prized RB would not surprise. Boys also could go with DE Joey Bosa here. But the versatile Ramsey solves a greater need.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State — Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas will be cheering as Jags claim the draft’s best pure pass-rusher and one bearing the imprimatur of a pedigreed program. Bosa once was seen as an overall No. 1 pick before minor marijuana and academic issues entered the equation.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Draft coverage bitter rivals ESPN and NFL Network will again attempt to outcoverage each other this week. Tuned into ESPN this morning and heard Jon Gruden comparing Jared Goff and Carson Wentz’s times in the 40-yard Yobern, an agility drill in which players must run 40 yards while simultaneously doing tricks with a yo-yo and impersonating Bernie Sanders. NFL Network countered with an exclusive expose’ entitled, What Price the Coif?, implicating Mel Kiper Jr.’s involvement in a Mexican cartel that trades in illegal performance-enhancing hair gel.
6. Baltimore Ravens: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon — A disrupter who is especially strong against the run, Buckner will be a major piece in Ravens’ effort to retool their defense to get back to the Ray Lewis/Ed Reed-era dominance of years past.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame — Niners need a left tackle (among other things), and Stanley is draft’s best after Tunsil.
8. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State — Earthtones got this pick from Miami via Philadelphia and, ironically, use it to snatch the one offensive player the RB-needy Dolphins would most love to have.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida — Along with Elliott, Hargreaves is another player who would be a perfect fit for the Dolphins if he falls to 13 — a much stronger possibility with Hargreaves. He’s only 5-10 but is physical and the draft’s best pure cover corner.
10. New York Giants: Myles Jack, ILB, UCLA — Another player Miami might consider if he last that long. Jack is the perfect inside LB who can attack the run, move sideline to sideline and cover like a safety. He would be a certain top-five if not for lingering concern over a past knee injury.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: New Dolphins general manager Chris Grier is in charge of Miami’s 2016 draft board and will be responsible for making all selections, VP of personnel Mike Tannenbaum tried to say with a straight face. The predraft news conference involving the two was momentarily delayed this week when Tannenbaum entangled the marionette strings attached to Grier while attempting to make the GM’s head nod vigorously.
11. Chicago Bears: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson — Yet another player the Dolphins might consider if he lasts. Lawson proved himself a super-productive tackles-for-loss machine against strong competition.
12. New Orleans Saints: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia — Could also grab a cornerback here. N’Awlins going with defense might be surest bet in first round, after Saints were next-to-last against run and pass and set NFL record for most TD passes allowed.
13. MIAMI DOLPHINS: WILLIAM JACKSON, CB, HOUSTON — I sort of doubt Miami will stay at 13. I can see them trying to trade up into the 7-8 range to select the RB Elliott — a bold move of the headline-grabbing type that is part of the Tannenbaum canon. But I also can see them anticlimactically trading down because, after Ramsey and Hargreaves no DB is worth this high a pick and likely could be gotten lower. That includes Jackson or Ohio State’s Eli Apple, both of whom might be labeled a “reach” taken this high. If the Fins do stay at 13, though — and assuming Elliott, Jack and Hargreaves are all off the board – then grabbing the best available corner here would make sense as an urgent need. Apple may well be rated slightly higher by Miami and might be a safer mock pick for me here. But Jackson is older, more mature and more ready now than the riskier Apple. Jackson looks a safer bet for the Dolphins, and Miami cannot afford a first-round misfire.
14. Oakland Raiders: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama — A very productive, great-tackling run-stopper who wills a major Raiders need.
15. Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State — Tennessee had No. 1 overall pick before the trade-down with L.A. but Titans come out strong, getting needed blocking help for second-year QB Marcus Mariota.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: With the stadium under construction with renovations, the Dolphins will stage their annual draft-day fans’ party at Nova Southeastern this Thursday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Taft University Center Arena. The event will feature free autographs from former players in a sad reminder to fans of how much better and more interesting the Dolphins used to be years ago.
16. Detroit Lions: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia — An eyebrow-raiser pick, yes, with Joseph often pegged as second-rounder. But Lions need a safety, and Joseph is this draft’s best one.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State — Falcons have made a point of trying to be a faster team defensively, and Lee had draft’s best LB 40 time.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State — Andrew Luck missing half of last season injured helps explain this pick.
19. Buffalo Bills: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville — With Mario Williams gone (to Miami) and Kyle Williams winding down, Rex Ryan needs D-line help.
20. New York Jets: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis — NYJ is forever looking for a quarterback of the future, and the 6-6 (near 6-7) Lynch is the latest to look the part. Jets fans will boo the pick, not because they don’t like it, but just out of habit.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Bitter-rival South Florida sports radio stations The Ticket Miami (790) and WQAM (560) are ramping up their commitment to draft coverage this week, unaware that, in a national poll of what would most make listeners drive screaming off a cliff into a ravine, the No. 1 answer was, “Hearing a local radio host discuss quarterback mechanics with Ron Jaworski.”
21. Washington Redskins: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama — After signing pricey free agent cornerback Josh Norman the Unmentionable Nicknames continue their push to be better on D.
22. Houston Texans: Josh Doctson, WR, Texas Christian — Might also opt for faster Baylor wideout Corey Coleman. The point is somebody to pair opposite star DeAndre Hopkins.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss — Not the fastest guy on any field, but the physical Treadwell will be a large target for Teddy Bridgewater.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor — Has 4.37 speed and can be a game-breaker. Somewhere, Andy Dalton is smiling.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Artie Burns, CB, Miami — A Miami Hurricane goes in the first round! Remember when that was commonplace? Steelers need help in secondary and could opt for Ohio State’s Eli Apple, but we’re hunching it will be Burns.
SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Some might not be aware ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. consults experts in each city for inside draft info and that I was his Miami guy until last year’s unfortunate mixup. What happened was, I slightly misheard a tip from a trusted source, and based on that, instead of reporting that Miami would select receiver DeVante Parker in the first round, Kiper reported that Miami planned to draft deceased 1950s and ‘60s TV actor Fess Parker.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama — Draft’s only 1R-quality center fits a need, because Seattle was really hurt by loss of departed Max Unger.
27. Green Bay Packers: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama — Might be the best pure run-defender in this draft, and Pack are in scramble mode after the abrupt retirement (or “hiatus”) of veteran B.J. Raji.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State — Apple, who was of interest to Miami, might need time to develop, but getting that talent this low could be a steal.
[New England Patriots: Forfeited pick – Were to pick 29th; instead Pats are only team without a 1R pick. See, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, this is what you get for surreptitiously underinflating those footballs!]
30. Arizona Cardinals: Vonn Bell, S/CB, Ohio State — Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu need help back there, and Bell is so versatile.
31. Carolina Panthers: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State — Cats will move to fill in crater left by Josh Norman’s sudden departure later. But giving opposing QBs less time to throw will help there, too.
32. Denver Broncos: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas — Champions are desperate for a quarterback, with Peyton Manning’s retirement and Brock Osweiler’s departure leaving Mark Sanchez the starter. But no QB left is worth this pick, so giving Sanchez help makes sense.