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CHICAGO (AP) — For once, the key to the first round of the NFL draft doesn’t belong to the team picking first.
With the Rams and Eagles having traded up to secure the top two spots, where they have said they will take quarterbacks, it’s San Diego that likely will determine the flow on Thursday night. What will the Chargers do with the third selection?
Perhaps defensive back Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, considered one of the best athletes and most NFL-ready players available. Maybe Laremy Tunsil, the Ole Miss offensive tackle who can pile-drive blockers into submission.
Pass rushers Joey Bosa of Ohio State and DeForest Buckner of Oregon could be in the mix, too. Maybe linebacker Myles Jack of UCLA.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has not been shy about making draft-day deals, either.
“Like Tom talked about last week at his press conference,” coach Mike McCoy said in a web chat with fans, “we were looking at every scenario with trade possibilities. When those two teams traded ahead of us, that settled things down a bit. The phones weren’t ringing quite as often.
“We’re excited to get on the clock at pick No. 3.”
Dallas follows right behind San Diego, and the Cowboys could be thinking defense or even running back if Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott suits their tastes. Their offensive line is strong enough from recent drafts that selecting Tunsil is a long shot.
Then again, some scouts have rated Tunsil the top prospect in the entire crop, and left tackles are a premium commodity. So a bunch of other clubs in need of help on the O-line could be lining up to get the fourth overall pick.
Two other intriguing selections in the top 10 belong to San Francisco and Cleveland. Both could be in the market for a quarterback such as Paxton Lynch; Colin Kaepernick has said he would like out of San Francisco, and the Browns, despite adding Robert Griffin III, always are looking for a QB.
The 49ers have the seventh spot, and the Browns, after trading down from No. 2, will go eighth.
Of course, considering the mega-trades pulled off so far, the top 10 could look very different by the time Los Angeles opens the selection process. Not to mention how the rest of the 31-pick round (New England forfeited its pick in the deflated footballs saga) might go.
1. Los Angeles Rams (from Tennessee Titans) – Jared Goff, QB, California: Everything is in place in Hollywood (including a football team) to serve as a near-ideal supporting cast for a rookie passer – stud RB Todd Gurley, an ascending O-line and defense that could border on elite if paired with a competent offense. Now comes Goff to go atop the marquee. He won’t be slinging the ball like he did at Cal – at least not initially – but his accuracy, decision making and toughness will be welcome on a team that’s only been held back by subpar play at the game’s most vital position.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (from Cleveland Browns) – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State: It’s been 17 years since Philly drafted QB Donovan McNabb second overall. He sat behind Doug Pederson until he was ready to play, and that panned out OK. Like McNabb, Wentz is a strong-armed, mobile passer, and his experience in a pro-style system should ease his transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the pros. But assuming he’s not NFL-ready by Week 1, Pederson, now the Eagles’ coach, can use vets Sam Bradford – maybe? – or Chase Daniel as a bridge to Wentz.
3. San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi: The Bolts could use a jolt on defense, so DB Jalen Ramsey and DL DeForest Buckner should be strong considerations. But when your best player is a 34-year-old quarterback who’s been sacked 155 times over the last four seasons, it might be a good idea to get a new bouncer for Philip Rivers. Tunsil, arguably the top player in this draft, would theoretically keep Rivers on his feet for the remainder of his career while creating operating room for the feet of last year’s first rounder, RB Melvin Gordon, who too often had nowhere to go for the AFC’s worst run game.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State: Suspensions and free agency suggest Dallas’ pass rush may be non-existent in 2016, at least for the first month of the season. But it’s an area they should fret over Friday considering they can pick Ramsey, quite possibly the best defender coming out this year. The former track star is a freakish athlete who can play throughout the secondary, able to guard WR Odell Beckham one week and TE Jordan Reed the next. Ramsey and 2015 first rounder Byron Jones would form quite the dynamic DB duo for years to come.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: Dave Caldwell sure doesn’t sound like a general manager who might be spooked by a reportedly questionable prognosis on Jack’s surgically repaired knee. Given Jack’s ability to surgically repair a defense burned for an AFC-worst 448 points in 2015, why shouldn’t Caldwell take a chance? Like most NFL teams, Jacksonville doesn’t have a player who can range from sideline to sideline … and rush off the edge … and cover the slot … and play deep safety … and be a red-zone threat as a tailback … and return kicks …
6. Baltimore Ravens – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon: A perfect fit for a defense trying not to deteriorate. Buckner can close running lanes, get after quarterbacks, tie up blockers so aging edge rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil can get home and, as a last resort, his 6-7, 291-pound frame should get in the way of quite a few passes at the line of scrimmage.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Per usual, we’re trying to figure out what’s up in San Francisco, including the future of QB Colin Kaepernick. The Niners could certainly be a suitor for Memphis QB Paxton Lynch and have the lone playbook in the league that might feasibly allow the raw prospect to comfortably start in Week 1. But here’s what we do know: new coach Chip Kelly covets multiple running backs who can capably power his hyperkinetic offense. Elliott is a more explosive and, apparently, more durable player than former Buckeyes teammate Carlos Hyde, currently the 49ers’ starter. And Elliott’s presence would immediately make Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert or whomever is starting a more effective passer.
8. Browns (from Miami Dolphins via Eagles) – Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame: At minimum, he should be an upgrade over departed free agent RT Mitchell Schwartz and bolster the protection for oft-injured QB Robert Griffin III. But Stanley would also provide a succession plan at left tackle and might even help the Browns facilitate a deal of perennial all-pro Joe Thomas, who’s been on the trade block for some time. Thomas might be the last asset Cleveland can divest for the draft picks it continues to stockpile in the franchise’s latest reboot.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: This scenario represents a bit of a tumble for Bosa, the No. 1 player on some boards heading into the scouting combine. But Tampa Bay might be an ideal home for the native Floridian. Bosa is an excellent technician, doesn’t take plays off and effectively smothers both running backs and quarterbacks. DT Gerald McCoy would certainly welcome him on his flank.
10. New York Giants – Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia: Yes, the Giants already opened their checkbook for DE Olivier Vernon and re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul. But JPP is again in prove-it mode and only under contract for 2016, which would give Floyd time to beef up his 6-6, 244-pound frame. In the interim, he could certainly bring needed fuel to DC Steve Spagnuolo’s coveted NASCAR pass rush packages considering New York had a meager 23 sacks in 2015.
11. Chicago Bears – Jack Conklin, T, Michigan State: One way to prevent another regression by QB Jay Cutler, who’s been forced to endure another offensive coordinator switch, is to fill the vacuum on his blind side.
12. New Orleans Saints – William Jackson III, CB, Houston: Their failed pursuit of CB Josh Norman tells you how the Saints regard a defense that allowed the most points in the NFL (476) last year. Jackson’s height (6 feet) would give him a fighting chance against monstrous NFC South receivers Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.
13. Dolphins (from Eagles) – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida: Tailback seems to be the spot Miami is desperate to fill, but it will have to wait unless they manage to snag Elliott. And Hargreaves is hardly a consolation prize. His ability to defend the slot is an ideal complement to newly acquired CB Byron Maxwell, who’s not as equipped to mirror quicker receivers like Sammy Watkins and Julian Edelman.
14. Oakland Raiders – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville: He’s on the short side (6-1, 299) but compensates with excellent quickness and would provide three-down interior playmaking ability to a defense that already appears set on the perimeter.
15. Titans (from Rams) – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State: He’d supply a nice dose of nasty to a line charged with better safeguarding QB Marcus Mariota and opening bigger holes for new RB DeMarco Murray. Decker appears best suited to the right side, which would allow LT Taylor Lewan to stay put.
16. Detroit Lions –Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama: A year after dumping Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Detroit doesn’t have much inside aside from 32-year-old DT Haloti Ngata. Reed is a plug-and-play type who improves the run defense and should help unleash DE Ziggy Ansah off the edge.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State: The biggest deficiency of an improving unit is a linebacker who can run make plays in space and hold up in pass coverage. Problem solved with Lee.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama: GM Ryan Grigson is determined not to reach for a player – the blue-chip tackle crop looks rather exhausted here – yet knows he must provide better blocking in front of QB Andrew Luck if he’s going to survive to sign that (minimum) $150 million contract that’s in his future.
19. Buffalo Bills – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: A high-effort player who consistently invades enemy backfields. Rex Ryan is a lover of all things Clemson but, more importantly, would appreciate a relentless edge presence to replace the disappointment Mario Williams was in 2015 when this defense woefully underachieved.
20. New York Jets – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: Given the splashy trades that have been a prologue to Thursday night, don’t be shocked to see another one executed by a club that falls in love with Lynch. But if he’s available here, the Jets should pounce given Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a long-term solution (and maybe not a short-term solution); they’re likely to find themselves in a Rams conundrum – too good to draft high, not good enough to seriously contend without a franchise QB; and have a wizened assistant in OC Chan Gailey, who could be the ideal guru for Lynch until he’s prepared to play.
21. Washington Redskins – Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor: Adding Norman last week was an unexpected bonus, but he’s always had the benefit of a strong front seven. So don’t be remotely surprised if GM Scot McCloughan drops a 311-pound anchor into his 26th-ranked run defense. Billings’ athleticism also suggests he could develop into a decent pass rusher.
22. Houston Texans – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame: Brock Osweiler has a big arm, so why not stretch it with the draft’s fastest (4.32 40 speed) receiver? Keeping opposing secondaries honest with a few fly patterns from Fuller could really soften up the rest of the field for Pro Bowl WR DeAndre Hopkins and speedy RB Lamar Miller.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi: Maybe the draft’s top receiver, Treadwell’s size (6-2, 221) could make him Minnesota’s most productive red-zone target since Randy Moss.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: His lightning speed would add a new dimension to an offense that’s already fairly diverse with WR A.J. Green, TE Tyler Eifert and a multi-faceted ground game. Cincinnati also needs to reload at wideout after losing its depth behind Green during free agency.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State: Their first round-strategy? Best. Available. Corner. This is one bad Apple, and his size (6-1, 199) and physical style should get under the skins of AFC North receivers like A.J. Green and Steve Smith while addressing a glaring need for a defense that allowed the most passing yards in the AFC in 2015.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech: Seattle has lost every starting offensive lineman from its Super Bowl title team two years ago, including LT Russell Okung this offseason. The 6-6, 316-pound Clark would be a nice rebuilding block and could become a star under the watchful eye of line coach Tom Cable.
27. Green Bay Packers – A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama: DE Mike Daniels needs some help on the Pack’s three-man front. Robinson, 21, has major upside for a defense that hasn’t finished in the top 10 since Green Bay last won the Super Bowl five years ago.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama: ILB Derrick Johnson will be 34 this year. Ragland, an excellent value here, would certainly benefit by playing alongside the graybeard backer for a year or two before becoming the main man in the middle of K.C.’s D.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi: He fills a hole with loads of ability. Fellow DL Calais Campbell can help hone Nkemdiche’s talent, while coach Bruce Arians and DB Tyrann Mathieu ensure a player with trouble in his past stays squeaky clean off the field.
30. Carolina Panthers – Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: Yes, they just cut the cord with Norman, something GM Dave Gettleman would not have done if he was worried about the cornerback position. But Carolina also has an issue at safety after opting not to re-sign Roman Harper. Joseph could be a rangier version of Bob Sanders – unfortunately, that includes the injury risk – and is probably too good to pass up.
31. Denver Broncos – Kevin Dodd, DL, Clemson: The champs land at the intersection of ability and need with Dodd, a promising talent who could prove to be better than departed Malik Jackson after an apprenticeship under DC Wade Phillips.
Note: New England Patriots were stripped of their first-round pick for their alleged role in Deflategate
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) —- Whether in St. Louis or now back in Los Angeles, the Rams are all about big trades.
They made a huge splash in their deal Thursday with the Tennessee Titans, one of the biggest draft-choice transactions in NFL history. Just like the one they pulled off four years ago with the Redskins that landed Robert Griffin III in Washington.
Of the four major pro sports in America, football features the fewest monster trades. Except, that is, when mostly draft choices are involved.
And certainly in recent times, except for when the Rams are involved.
St. Louis’ grab bag for sending the second overall spot in 2012 to the Redskins was plentiful, including No. 6 overall that year, plus two more first-rounders and a second-rounder. St. Louis didn’t exactly turn around the franchise with its selections: defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, running backs Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy; linebacker Alex Ogletree; tackle Greg Robinson; receiver Stedman Bailey; and offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins.
Only Brockers, Ogletree and Jenkins made much of an impact, and Jenkins left for the Giants in free agency this year. Meanwhile, the Rams have gone 27-36-1 since that deal.
The Redskins, of course, got an Offensive Rookie of the Year performance and an NFC East title out of RG3 in 2012, but he’s been injured and benched since, and now is with Cleveland.
Tennessee, meanwhile, now has the bevy of picks, something new general manager Jon Robinson, who previously worked in New England, foresees being transformational for the franchise.
“That’s the philosophy and the team-building process I cut my teeth on and that I came up in,” he said Thursday, “and I’m taking that same approach. It’s worked out pretty well for those guys up there.”
How did some other massive draft deals work out for the parties?
DALLAS AND MINNESOTA
Unquestionably the greatest heist in NFL trade annals.
Dallas already was 0-5 in 1989 while shopping star running back Herschel Walker, by far the Cowboys’ most sellable commodity. Minnesota was thinking Super Bowl and that Walker would be the final piece on a championship roster.
Basically, the Cowboys sent Walker, their third-round and 10th-round picks in 1990, and their third pick in 1991 to the Vikings for running back Darrin Nelson, cornerback Issiac Holt, linebackers Jesse Solomon and David Howard, defensive end Alex Stewart and Minnesota’s 1990 first-, second- and sixth-round picks in 1990.
But Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson had no intention of holding onto most of those veterans. Each of them had a draft pick attached so if Dallas released the player before Feb. 1, 1990, it would get those draft choices instead.
Most of the players were, indeed, cut — Nelson never even reported and was dealt to the Chargers for a second-round and a sixth-round selection.
Among those the Cowboys took with the draft choices: career rushing leader Emmitt Smith; stud DT Russell Maryland; ace safety Darren Woodson; solid cornerback Kevin Smith; and special teams standout Clayton Holmes.
Dallas won three Super Bowls in a four-season span after that. Minnesota still hasn’t sniffed another Super Bowl.
NEW ORLEANS AND WASHINGTON
Theater of the absurd, courtesy of Mike Ditka.
In 1999, then coaching New Orleans, Ditka was so enamored of Texas running back Ricky Williams that he moved the Saints up to fifth overall. In return, he sent all seven of the Saints’ selections, beginning with the 12th overall slot, plus a first-round and third-round choice the next year, to Washington. Then Ditka allegedly lit up a cigar and headed for the golf course.
Williams was a good, not great, player for the Saints, hardly worth an entire collection of picks. The Redskins wound up, through other moves, getting cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker LaVar Arrington.
Who got the best of that one? Washington and Denver: Bailey built Hall of Fame numbers with both franchises.
NEW YORK GIANTS AND SAN DIEGO
This one doesn’t have the quantity, but, boy, the quality.
Eli Manning was top dog in 2004, but his family didn’t want San Diego taking him with the first overall selection. The Chargers seemingly called the Mannings’ bluff and took him anyway, and Eli couldn’t have been more sour or dour when he came on stage at Radio City Music Hall to be greeted by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Three picks later, though, the Giants announced they’d acquired Manning in exchange for another highly regarded college QB, Philip Rivers. Suddenly, Eli was all smiles.
It turned out to be a great deal for New York as Manning has led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles and also could be Hall of Fame material. Rivers has been a long-time star for the Chargers, even though they don’t have a Lombardi Trophy in their possession.
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report. FILE – In this Oct. 13, 1989 file photo, former Dallas Cowboys running back Herschel Walker smiles as he is introduced at a news conference to announce the trade of five players and seven draft choices by the Minnesota Vikings for the leading NFC rusher, in Bloomington, Minn. The Los Angeles Rams made a huge splash in their deal with the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, April 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)