The Cowboys were awful defensively this past season when they lost either Sean Lee or Rolando McClain to injury during a game. Well, McClain happens to be an impending free agent, while Lee's durability history is quite dubious. Dallas will be searching for linebacker help and could possibly pull the trigger in the top 10, maybe even in the top five.
And yes, Myles Jack is still a first-rounder and a likely top-10 prospect. Jack injured his knee, yet he's still in play to go this high. Todd Gurley was chosen No. 10 overall despite his knee injury, and Jack got hurt so early that he'll be ready for the 2016 NFL season opener. In fact, it sounds like Jack will be ready for the Combine. He's expected to dominate in Indianapolis. If he does, he'll cement his top-five status.
Rd. 1, Pk. 14
Leonard Floyd, OLB/3-4OLB, Georgia
The Raiders were getting decent play out of Aldon Smith, but he's been suspended for an entire season. Trusting him for the long term is probably not a good idea, so they could have interest in Leonard Floyd, the top player on the board, as a replacement.
Jerrell Freeman had a terrific 2015 campaign, but he happens to be an impending free agent. Meanwhile, the rest of the Colts' inside linebackers weren't very good. Jaylon Smith is one of the top players available, so he makes a ton of sense for Indianapolis at No. 18 overall.
Smith tore up his knee, so he would've been a top-10 pick (No. 8 to Miami?) had he not done that. I think this is a good spot for him though. Remember, Todd Gurley tore his ACL and still was a top-10 choice. The difference here is that Smith probably won't be ready to play until late in 2016, but he's still too talented to pass up.
Pick change; previously Reggie Ragland, ILB
Rd. 1, Pk. 21
Su'a Cravens, OLB, USC
The Redskins have big needs at safety and linebacker, so Su'a Cravens makes a ton of sense for them. They could really use a Deone Bucannon-type player to improve their leaky defense.
Rd. 1, Pk. 30
Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
The Broncos recently re-signed Derek Wolfe. He's one of the many free agents they have this offseason. Both of their starting inside linebackers, Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan, happen to be hitting the market in March. It'll be difficult to retain both, so here's a replacement if one leaves.
Derrick Johnson's return to the lineup has been huge for Kansas City's defense, but the team has a weakness right next to Johnson. Also, it needs to be considered that Johnson just turned 33, so he doesn't have many dominant years left.
The Dolphins needed linebacker help last offseason, and many expected them to draft Denzel Perryman, but they didn't address the position. Perhaps this year, the new front office and staff will address the linebacker issue.
Jack notched 15 tackles, one interception and a pass broken up in his shortened 2015 season. He also had two carries for seven yards and a touchdown on offense. The junior suffered a knee injury in practice that ended his year early. He withdrew from UCLA early to prepare for the 2016 NFL Draft.
As a sophomore, Jack racked up 87 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, seven passes broken up, one interception and one forced fumble. While only a freshman starter in 2013, Jack became a superstar who was named the Pac-12's Offensive AND Defensive Freshman of the Year. On the defensive side of the ball, he recorded 75 tackles with 11 passes broken up and two interceptions. His pass-coverage skills for a freshman were outstanding. Jack ran for 267 yards on 38 carries (7.0 average) with seven touchdowns, too.
Jack's natural pass-coverage skills are extremely impressive. NFL evaluators are going to love what he can do in the passing game. Don't be surprised if the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder improves annually with his huge upside.
For years, the Giants have needed a play-making linebacker. Even with the knee injury, Smith is too good to pass up.
Smith has the skills to cover in the passing game and make an impact against the run. In 2015, the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder totaled 115 tackles, nine for a loss, one sack, four passes broken up and one forced fumble (he was robbed of one by the official scorer). Smith suffered a torn ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl, which could cause him to miss the beginning of the 2016 season.
Smith was all over the field for the Fighting Irish in 2014 with 112 tackles with nine tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, 3.5 sacks and two passes defended. Smith has speed and athleticism in the middle of the field with the ability to start on the inside or the outside.
Rd. 1, Pk. 20
Leonard Floyd, OLB/3-4OLB, Georgia
In speaking with sources, they don't think that Mike Maccagnan's very partial to taking a running back in the first round of an NFL Draft. The Jets were scouting the quarterbacks and edge rushers aggressively at this year's college all-star games. Without a quarterback worthy of this pick, New York can address the edge rush and get Todd Bowles a pass-rusher.
Floyd totaled 74 tackles with 10.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks in 2015. He is a speedy defender who is just scratching the surface of his potential. Floyd is a natural pass-rusher with agility and a knack for getting to the quarterback. His ability to bend around the corner is extremely rare.
In 2014, the sophomore had 55 tackles with six sacks, two forced fumbles and 8.5 tackles for a loss. Floyd's run defense was a liability, and it caused him to get benched for a short time. He totaled 55 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks in 2013. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder played at Hargrave Military Academy for a season after high school.
Pick change; previously Taylor Decker, OT
Rd. 1, Pk. 27
Scooby Wright III, ILB/3-4OLB/OLB, Arizona
The Packers have to improve their middle linebackers, and Wright would also give them an edge rusher to help fill the void when Julius Peppers is done.
Wright missed most of 2015, finishing the year with 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. In the season opener, he suffered a knee injury - a lateral meniscus tear - that he underwent surgery for. Wright came back after missing only two games, but he clearly rushed back and wasn't the same. Wright sprained his foot in his first game back - a loss to UCLA - and didn't played the rest of the regular season. In the bowl game against New Mexico, Wright collected 15 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and two sacks.
Wright took college football by storm in 2014. The 6-foot-1, 246-pounder was a pass-rushing force for the Wildcats and one of the top defenders in the Pac-12. He had 14 sacks with 163 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles for the year. Wright is an instinctive linebacker and was all over the field for Arizona. In 2013, he notched 83 tackles with 9.5 for a loss and an interception.
Pick change; previously Hunter Henry, TE
Rd. 1, Pk. 29
Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
The Cardinals got with the best player available and grab a special athlete to pair with Kevin Minter.
In 2015, Lee totaled 66 tackles with 11 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two passes broken up, two forced fumbles and one interception - returned 41 yards for a touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder was the Buckeyes' replacement for Ryan Shazier in 2014, and while Lee wasn't as good as Shazier, Lee had a superb debut for Ohio State with plenty of upside to make strides in the future. He totaled 81 tackles with 16.5 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up, two interceptions and 7.5 sacks for the season.
After setting a record for touchdown passes allowed, the Saints need to improve their pass defense. Ngakoue would improve their ability to get after the quarterback with an edge rusher to go on the other side from Cam Jordan and Hau'Oli Kikaha.
Another player who sources said has impressed them and has his stock is up is Ngakoue. He destroyed Redskins guard Brandon Scherff in 2014. Ngakoue also looked good against Michigan State's Jack Conklin and Ohio State's Taylor Decker while holding his own against Saints' first-rounder Andrus Peat. That season, Ngakoue recorded 37 tackles, 13.5 for a loss and six sacks.
Ngakoue totaled 38 tackles, 15 for a loss, 13.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one pass breakup in 2015. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder looks like a good outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense.
Rd. 2, Pk. 17
Su'a Cravens, OLB, USC
The Colts lack talent on their defense. Here is a play-maker who can help them at linebacker or safety.
In 2015, Cravens totaled 86 tackles, 15 for a loss, 5.5 sacks, six passes broken up, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. He recorded 68 tackles with 17 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three interceptions and nine passes broken up in 2014. Cravens was moved from safety to linebacker that season, but that looks like a better fit for him in the NFL anyhow.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder is physical, strong and quick. As a freshman, he totaled 52 tackles with four interceptions, one pass batted and a forced fumble. Cravens was named a Freshman All-American and a All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
The Redskins could use young talent in the middle of their defense, and Brothers is a great fit for Joe Barry. He can play inside linebacker in a 3-4, but also could be the Will (weakside) linebacker when Barry wants to play Tampa 2.
Brothers made a huge impact in 2015, recording 152 tackles, 12 for a loss, two interceptions, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, three passes batted and a blocked punt. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder was one of the top tacklers in the SEC in 2014, recording 122 tackles alongside one sack and four passes broken up. He had a decent Senior Bowl week.
Pick change; previously Jalin Marshall, WR
Rd. 3, Pk. 31
Antonio Morrison, ILB/OLB, Florida
The Broncos could use inside linebacker talent, and Morrison is a nice value here.
In 2015, Morrison totaled 103 tackles with 12 for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and a pass breakup. He suffered a serious knee injury in spring practice that required surgery, and most players miss a year after that kind of injury, but Morrison (6-0, 232) made a record-setting recovery to play in 2015.
Morrison totaled 101 tackles with six tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, one sack, one pass broken up and one interception in 2014. He improved as the season progressed and is a tough run defender.
Morrison still has room for improvement in pass coverage and needs to get bigger for NFL blockers.
This is another interesting pick considering the circumstances the Jaguars are under. Generally, I would never criticize a team for taking an offensive lineman a little early to protect their young QB. This year though, I think a bit differently. To me, Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley is an enigma. Last year, I thought he may have been good enough to be the top tackle off the board, before Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat or Ereck Flowers, but he didn't do anything on the field to impress me this past season and I don't see him as a potential top-five pick anymore. However, Myles Jack is definitely a potential top-five pick, even coming off a season-ending knee injury. If he can impress teams in the interview process, the athleticism on his tape speaks for itself. In addition, the second-biggest, and potentially biggest future need for the Jaguars is at linebacker. Both Dan Skuta and Paul Posluszny have been disappointments and can be cut for nothing before June 1, 2016.
The Falcons started out hot, but over time showed their flaws however it was a good first season for Dan Quinn. Last year's first round pick Vic Beasley showed his abilities but needs more consistency which should come with time. The Falcons could be in the market for receiver help if White moves on or retires. Also Atlanta could use some help front especially inside. However, even with the potential severity of the knee injury Smith is much too talented to pass up at this point in the draft. Smith is a Patrick Willis clone able to play all three downs, in any defense. Smith can cover sideline to sideline in either man or zone. Smith is a very underrated pass rusher from the middle of the field. Smith also attacks the gaps in the run game with proper angles and fits. Atlanta will have to do their due diligence when the medical comes around, but if they feel comfortable the pay off could be huge down the line.
The Saints need help everywhere on their defense so any pick would not be a bad pick for them. The Saints drafted two linebackers last year in Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha. Both of these young players are future building blocks. However, Dannell Ellerbe and David Hawthorne could not stay healthy or contribute much of anything. New Orleans needs another pass rusher off the edge which it will receive with the pick of Floyd. Floyd has the ability to go much higher than this based upon his combine. Floyd experimented some at inside linebacker this year but is better suited for the role of a pass rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4. He could stand to add some bulk which would help him in setting the edge in the running game and to work on his drops in coverage something he did not do a lot of at Georgia. Overall a steal for New Orleans at this spot.
After a hot start to his best season of his young career Andy Dalton watched his team lose in disgraceful manor on the bench after fracturing his thumb, after that loss the Bengals are going to need a lot in order to bounce back from that loss. Darron Lee could potential be that, The Bengals have few needs at safety, linebacker, and wide receiver positions and Lee is chosen here because of the Bengals dire need for another linebacker, Lee has been compared to his college teammate Ryan Shazier and if he plays like him Lee will bring this defense to the next level and maybe get the Bengals a playoff win.
Last season the Jets drafted Leonard Williams who looks like a future pro bowler, and also added Lorenzo Mauldin in the third round who seemed to be a solid player in his limited playing time. Calvin Pace is way past his prime and should be allowed to move on. The Jets could stand to look offensive line since D'Brickashaw Ferguson has been declining over the last few years and Breno Giacomini has been no better than average at right tackle. Also the Jets could look into a tight end here such as Hunter Henry from Arkansas. But the Jets are all about defense and if Bowles and company want to roll the dice on the best pass rusher arguably in the draft then they could be rewarded big time. Spence was looking like a high first rounder for Ohio State before getting dismissed from the team Spence resurfaced with Eastern Kentucky this past year dominating at the lower level, he was also able to keep clean from trouble. Spence is one of the most natural pass rushers in the draft, if he can keep himself out of trouble he can easily be a 12-15 sack player in the NFL.