With the first round of the NFL Draft approaching on April 28 — that’s next week already, folks — there is, as always, intrigue, starting right at the top.
Now that the Los Angeles Rams (get used to saying that — again) have mortgaged their future by trading up to No. 1 for a top quarterback, which one will it be: Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State, or Jared Goff from Cal?
Locally, will the New York Jets deal disgruntled Pro Bowler Muhammad Wilkerson and, if so, what will they get in return?
The New York Giants will look at offensive or defensive line, linebacker or secondary — unless a special running back falls.
And the Buffalo Bills? A Rex Ryan team always goes defense, but will Buffalo zag this year and select a wide receiver to team up with Sammy Watkins — or even a quarterback?
Here is one first stab at a mock draft. By next week, I will change my mind on half of these. Unless I change my mind on that:
1. Los Angeles Rams (from Tennessee): Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State. It’s either him or Goff. Stay tuned.
2. Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California. It’s either him or Wentz — unless they trade out, or decide they do not like the quarterback left over after the Rams pick.
3. San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State. The best athlete in the draft may turn out to be the best player. He doesn’t like the Deion Sanders’ comparisons. Too bad.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State. He has been mocked here by experts and fans alike for a while. He fills a need. That said, I’m not comfortable with him in this slot and could see him falling.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA. Only potential concerns about a 2015 knee injury would keep him out of the top five.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi. A big loser in the Titans-Rams trade, since he was expected to go first overall to Tennessee. This is as far as this road grader could fall.
7. San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon. The Niners are an even bigger loser in the big trade, since they were expected to take the second quarterback.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame. Eagles think long and hard about running back Ezekiel Elliott, but you can’t (or shouldn’t) pass on your future left tackle.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida. With Stanley off the board, Hargreaves, second only to Ramsey among defensive backs, is the logical choice.
10. New York Giants: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. This is a best-available-player pick who also fills a need (albeit a lesser one). Trivia question: Can you name the last three running backs the Giants took in the first round? Now try to forget David Wilson (2012), Ron Dayne (2000) and Tyrone Wheatley (1995). But Elliott is very a special three-down back, a punishing runner and blocker with speed and pass-catching ability. If Elliott gets past the Eagles, New York should not hesitate with this pick.
11. Chicago Bears: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson. At 6-foot-3 and 269 pounds. and able to rush the passer from a three-point stance or as a linebacker, Lawson could be the next monster of the Midway.
12. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville. This pick will most likely be a D-tackle.
13. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia): Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson. The Dolphins concentrated on defense all off-season.
14. Oakland Raiders: William Jackson III, CB, Houston. The Raiders will pick the corner they like best.
15. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State. The Titans trade down, get a ton of picks now and next year, and still get a left tackle. Brilliant.
16. Detroit Lions: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama. It’s either an interior lineman or a replacement for Megatron at wideout.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia. Falcons find a pass rusher to pair with Vic Beasley right in their back yard.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State. The Colts always seem to have to upgrade their offensive line. This year, they really do.
19. Buffalo Bills: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama. There is a chance a Ryan team could go offense in the first round with either wide receiver Laquon Treadwell or quarterback Paxton Lynch. There is also a chance I could be drafted. Always bet defense. Ragland is a tackling machine who is best against the run.
20. New York Jets: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. This is a dicey choice. The Broncos could move up to leap-frog the Jets. Meanwhile, if Goff gets past two, the Jets could make a dramatic move involving Wilkerson and picks to get into the top five or six. A third scenario: They pass on a quarterback altogether in favor of a pass rusher or offensive lineman who falls.
21. Washington Redskins: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky. An undeniable talent with off-field issues, which is why he left Ohio State, Spence is a wild card who could drop far in the draft.
22. Houston Texans: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi. If he falls this far, this is an easy pick.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU. A go-up-and-get-it receiver to aid Teddy Bridgewater’s development.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame. One word: Speed. And the mini-run on receivers continues.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State. Big, fast and a ballhawk. The Steelers need to address corner early.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama. A steal who fills a glaring need.
27. Green Bay Packers: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State. See above. Lee has defensive back speed.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor. The Chiefs may not be able to afford to re-sign Dontari Poe.
29.* Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama. The Cards don’t have a starting center on their roster. Trivia: The Jets did just fine picking a snapper with this pick in 2006: Nick Mangold.
30. Carolina Panthers: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor. He models his game after Steve Smith Sr., whom he mirrors in size and speed when Smith came out.
31. Denver Broncos: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson. A small cornerback who plays big. This is a value pick over need.
*New England Patriots, slated to pick 29th, forfeited the pick as the result of Deflategate.