Chiefs

The Star’s NFL mock draft, version 3.0

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked by Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche during a game last year.
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked by Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche during a game last year. The Associated Press

This is the third of four in The Star’s series of NFL first-round draft projections. Here are the first and second mock drafts. The Star will also release a day-of mock on April 28.

A quick disclaimer: Each mock is based on individual film work, research and recent transactions.

1. Los Angeles Rams: QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State

The Rams didn’t surrender a bounty of picks to come away with anything but a quarterback. Many are speculating they’ll go with Jared Goff, and that might end up being the case, but Wentz throws a pretty ball and has plus athleticism and intangibles, so he’s the pick — for now.

2. Philadelphia Eagles: QB Jared Goff, California

The Eagles also surrendered a boatload of picks to solidify their quarterback situation. With Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel already in the fold, whoever they pick here will have the luxury of learning for a bit. Goff is a nice fit; he throws with anticipation and has some of the traits needed in a West Coast system.

3. San Diego Chargers: DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon

The Chargers need offensive line help, so Laremy Tunsil is a popular pick here, but they recently signed King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale to big deals, plus Tunsil has some injury concerns and isn’t the dominating run blocker they need. What they need is defensive help, particularly in the secondary and along the defensive line, and Buckner — who has the look of a classic 3-4 defensive lineman — fits the bill. A trade down might be in order.

4. Dallas Cowboys: DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State

What a scenario for the Cowboys, who have some great options on the board. A running back like Ezekiel Elliott would be a sexy pick, and so would a cornerback like Jalen Ramsey. But again, pass rushers are critical in today’s NFL, and Bosa is a versatile, complete player who plays hard and was super productive in college.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB/S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Ramsey’s combination of size and athleticism makes him a really nice fit for Gus Bradley’s scheme. His lack of collegiate ball production is a small concern, but he has Pro Bowl potential and could easily go higher than this. Players like Laremy Tunsil or Myles Jack would be nice fits, too. Jack might slide because of concerns about his knee, however.

6. Baltimore Ravens: LT Laremy Tunsil, Mississippi

An ideal situation for the Ravens, who need left tackle help and have the best player at the position (and a guy who was considered a No. 1 pick at one point) left on the board. The Ravens recently named Eugene Monroe their starter at left tackle for 2016, but it has been a contentious relationship, and general manager Ozzie Newsome isn’t afraid to take the best player available, no matter what.

7. San Francisco 49ers: QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis

New coach Chip Kelly might not want to waste any time getting a young quarterback he can groom into the fold. Lynch has tremendous physical skills, and he’s probably a nice fit for his offense, too. Myles Jack would be a great fit here, but the concerns about his knee might push him out of the top 10.

8. Cleveland Browns: ILB Myles Jack, UCLA

The Browns would have to think long and hard about Lynch here, but in this scenario, he’s gone. So they could reasonably take the best player left on the board in Jack, a do-it-all dynamo at linebacker, provided they are comfortable with the health of his knee.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

Most don’t have Ogbah going this high, and he may not. But the Bucs need a 4-3 edge rusher, and Ogbah is a physical freak who blew up the combine, recorded 17  1/2 tackles for loss and 13 sacks as a junior in 2015 and has the look of a player who’d be a perfect fit in that scheme.

10. New York Giants: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

The success of the Rams’ Todd Gurley might prod teams to take a shot on a super-talented running back in the top 10. Provided that’s the case, it might be tough for the Giants to pass on Elliott, a gifted runner who can run with power, sprint away from defenses and block.

11. Chicago Bears: OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Floyd boasts good size (6-4, 244) with impressive athleticism. In a draft with very few edge rushers for a 3-4 scheme, the Bears might have a hard time passing on a player with his traits.

12. New Orleans Saints: DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

The Saints need pass-rush help up the middle, and Rankins — who lit it up during the Senior Bowl — fits the bill as a gap-shooting disruptor. He racked up 13 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2015.

13. Miami Dolphins: CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

Hargreaves is a workout monster with good college tape. He has good physical skills, and a natural feel for the position, plus he fills a need for the Dolphins.

14. Oakland Raiders: CB William Jackson III, Houston

The Raiders added Sean Smith in the offseason, but they could still use some quality depth here. Jackson is an aggressive corner with ball skills; he’d form an interesting tandem with Smith, as the Raiders try to replicate the success the Chiefs had in 2015 by flanking the steady Smith with a ballhawk who takes chances.

15. Tennessee Titans: OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State

The Titans need to get some weapons for Marcus Mariota, but the best way to protect their young quarterback is by adding to a big, physical offensive line. Conklin fits the bill; he’s a classic Big Ten lineman with nastiness who best projects to right tackle, where there’s a need.

16. Detroit Lions: OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

The Lions might consider adding an end to complement star Ziggy Ansah, but they’ve been looking to upgrade at left tackle for a while now, and Stanley — a classic left tackle with terrific feet — is truly an ideal pick.

17. Atlanta Falcons: LB Darron Lee, Ohio State

Lee is a great athlete with sideline-to-sideline speed and three-down ability. There’s a real need here for the Falcons, and it could wind up coming down to Lee or Reggie Ragland, a throwback linebacker with less coverage skills.

18. Indianapolis Colts: DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson

The Colts’ pass rush has been dormant for quite a while, and Lawson is a nice fit as a 3-4 edge rusher. He has the size and physical ability to be an impact player. Keep an eye on an offensive lineman here, too.

19. Buffalo Bills: DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson

Dodd blew up in 2015 by recording 23  1/2 tackles for loss and 12 sacks for the No. 2 team in the country. The Bills could add some pass-rush juice by teaming him up with edge rusher Jerry Hughes.

20. New York Jets: CB Eli Apple, Ohio State

The Jets might be wise to look at a quarterback here; perhaps someone like Christian Hackenberg would fit the bill. But that would be a reach, and Jets coach Todd Bowles loves his corners; making someone like Apple — who is big (6-1, 199), fast and and still growing as a player — an intriguing choice.

21. Washington: DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Washington had a need at corner, but with Josh Norman potentially in the mix, the need shifts to the interior defensive line, where there’s little young, ascending talent. Luckily for Washington, they have a ton of players to choose from, and the best of the bunch is probably Robinson, a big body with size who can line up anywhere in their 3-4 front.

22. Houston Texans: WR Corey Coleman, Baylor

Coleman boasts outstanding speed and quickness, which will make him a difficult cover with DeAndre Hopkins attracting so much attention on the other side.

23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Laquon Treadwell, Mississippi

The Vikings lack a true possession receiver, and they’ll have a chance to pick among the best of the bunch. Also keep an eye on TCU receiver Josh Doctson here; both players have strong hands and route-running ability.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Josh Doctson, Texas Christian

The Bengals have a hole at wide receiver with the free-agent departures of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, but they can fill it by taking either Treadwell or Doctson. Both are plug-and-play types with NFL ability.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame

The Steelers could use some secondary help, but there’s not a lot of guys left that can provide first-round value there. Perhaps another edge rusher would help, but again, the value might not be there. So why not add to an already explosive offense? Giving Ben Roethlisberger another elite deep threat in Will Fuller would be unfair.

26. Seattle Seahawks: LT Taylor Decker, Ohio State

There are some very good players remaining on the board for the Seahawks, who need help along the offensive and defensive lines. But Decker might be the best of the bunch remaining; he’s a nasty Big 10 lineman who can help protect Russell Wilson’s blindside.

27. Green Bay Packers: DT Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech

The Packers have a need at inside linebacker, and Reggie Ragland could be a fit, but they may not place the value on that position that other teams do. They could also use help along the defensive line, and a promising interior rusher like Butler could fit the bill.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche, Mississippi

Mock draft 2.0 had Chris Jones going to the Chiefs, and he’s still available here, but let’s switch things up some. The first-round corners (Ramsey, Hargreaves, Apple and Jackson) are off the board, and while they could upgrade at inside linebacker with Reggie Ragland, the Chiefs may not place the same emphasis on the position as other teams, and they cut the last Alabama inside linebacker they selected — 2013 fourth-rounder Nico Johnson, who didn’t last two full seasons with the team.

Maybe receiver finally gets a look, but the first-round talents — Fuller, Treadwell, Coleman and Doctson — are all off the board, too. A safety like West Virginia’s Karl Joseph or Ohio State’s Vonn Bell, but general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid believe in building a team up front, and are willing to invest premium picks to do so.

So that leave a few options. Edge rusher like Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun or Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence could fit, and so might run-stuffers like Alabama’s Jarran Reed and Baylor’s Andrew Billings. But with the way teams are throwing the ball now, first-round defensive linemen need to be pass rushers to get maximum value out of the pick, and somebody like Nkemdiche — a superbly-gifted interior lineman whose motor runs hot and cold and has off-field concerns but is arguably one of the most talented players in the draft — would be tempting.

If the Chiefs are trying to win now (they are), and believe they have a strong locker room culture to nurture a sometimes-troubled player (they probably do), rotating a player like Nkemdiche into an already-strong defensive front makes a lot of sense. It would also hedge their bets if Dontari Poe’s back flares up again this season, or he chooses to bolt in free-agency in 2017.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, talked to the media recently to discuss the goals of becoming a better team.

29. Arizona Cardinals: DT Chris Jones, Mississippi State

Jones’ sack number (2  1/2 ) in 2015 was underwhelming, but he’s a big guy (6-6, 310 pounds) with plus athleticism for his size. He’s still raw, but he’s got the physical traits to be a good pass rusher who can line up all across the interior.

30. Carolina Panthers: OT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

The Panthers might be tempted to upgrade at tackle after Mike Remmers struggled in Super Bowl 50, so somebody like Ifedi could be a good fit. Ifedi is a massive guy (6-6, 324) with plus athleticism whose technique needs work. If he gets good coaching, he could be a solid NFL starter at tackle or guard.,

31. Denver Broncos: QB Connor Cook, Michigan State

The Broncos have a need at quarterback, and Cook has experience in a pro-style system. If the Broncos are comfortable with his leadership traits, he could potentially come in and play immediately.

NOTE: The Patriots’ first-round pick has been forfeited by the NFL

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