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The Times' NFL mock draft: Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil goes first

The Times' NFL mock draft: Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil goes first
Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil hits a pad during a drill at the NFL scouting combine onFeb. 26. (Gregory Payan / Associated Press)

In the NFL, defense is king.

The Denver Broncos made a strong case for that in the Super Bowl, at least, when their smothering defense dropped a sledgehammer on Cam Newton and the high-scoring Carolina Panthers.

And this class of draft prospects is loaded with defensive talent.

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"It's a defensive draft," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "Best interior defensive line I've seen maybe since I started doing this.

"We're seeing with the Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos what started about five years ago, which is all the NFL teams are talking about: We've got to find people on defense that can affect the pass offense, because it's a pass-first league."

In this, the Times' first mock draft of the off-season, eight defensive linemen are selected — and that's with talented Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence dropping out of the first round because of character concerns, and New England not getting a pick because of Deflategate.

This mock also features three quarterbacks, two running backs, and one ultra-versatile player — UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, who could line up at virtually any position on the field.

1. TENNESSEE — Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi: The Titans will try to trade down, but they need help protecting Marcus Mariota, who was sacked 38 times in 12 games.

2. CLEVELAND — Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State: The Browns have gone through 24 starting quarterbacks since 1999. Wentz has a tremendous arm and good mobility.

3. SAN DIEGO — DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon: The Chargers, who allowed the third-most plays of 20 or more yards, need to get more pressure on the passer.

4. DALLAS — Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: The Cowboys need to move past the Greg Hardy fiasco, and Randy Gregory's career is already off on the wrong foot.

5. JACKSONVILLE — Jalen Ramsey, FS, Florida State: The Jaguars will be all about drafting defenders, and need help both up front and on the back end.

Jalen Ramsey has the skill set to play cornerback, but he’ll be more impactful as an NFL safety. San Diego needs to replace Eric Weddle, who signed with the Ravens as a free agent. Ramsey is the best player in the 2016 draft and might become an immediate superstar if put in the right scheme. Team needs: DL, S, OL, DE
Jalen Ramsey has the skill set to play cornerback, but he’ll be more impactful as an NFL safety. San Diego needs to replace Eric Weddle, who signed with the Ravens as a free agent. Ramsey is the best player in the 2016 draft and might become an immediate superstar if put in the right scheme. Team needs: DL, S, OL, DE (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

6. BALTIMORE — Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida: The Ravens allowed 30 touchdown passes last season, the most in team history.

7. SAN FRANCISCO — Jared Goff, QB, California: The 49ers need to close the book on the Colin Kaepernick era, and they do that with a player from across the bay.

8. MIAMI — Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: Jack could go sooner — maybe to Dallas — but he's a good fit for a Dolphins team sorely in need of defenders.

9. TAMPA BAY — Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame: The Buccaneers have more pressing needs on defense, but they also need a right tackle to protect the Jameis Winston investment.

10. N.Y. GIANTS — A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama: The Giants were 32nd in total defense last season, and are desperate to find a way to opposing quarterbacks.

11. CHICAGO — Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: The Bears finished the 2015 season with one active defensive lineman who was with them in training camp.

12. NEW ORLEANS — Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville: Defense continues to be a problem for the Saints, who surrendered an NFL-record 45 touchdown passes last season.

13. PHILADELPHIA — Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State: Now that the Eagles have extended quarterback Sam Bradford, they need to do a better job of protecting him.

14. OAKLAND — Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State: Charles Woodson has retired, and D.J. Hayden hasn't panned out. Cornerback is atop the Raiders' wish list.

15. RAMS — Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: The Rams, who had the league's worst passing offense last season, need help at both quarterback and receiver.

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch looks to throw a pass during a drill at the NFL scouting combine on Feb. 27.
Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch looks to throw a pass during a drill at the NFL scouting combine on Feb. 27. (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

16. DETROIT — Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State: Matthew Stafford was sacked a combined 89 times the last two seasons, the worst two-season stretch of his career.

17. ATLANTA — Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State: Lee might help the Falcons bump up their pass rush after they finished with a league-low 19 sacks last season.

18. INDIANAPOLIS — Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana: According to NFL.com, Colts quarterbacks have been hit a league-high 450 times since the team picked Andrew Luck first in 2012.

19. BUFFALO — Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss: The Bills have a more pressing need for offensive linemen, but if the troubled Nkemdiche falls this far, Coach Rex Ryan will have a hard time resisting.

20. N.Y. JETS — Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: The Jets need an upgrade at running back, and Elliott — or maybe Heisman winner Derrick Henry — would work here.

21. WASHINGTON — Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA: The Redskins need help at all three levels of their defense, but mostly up front. The athletic Clark would be a good fit.

UCLA defensive lineman Kenny Clark performs a drill at the NFL scouting combine on Feb. 28.
UCLA defensive lineman Kenny Clark performs a drill at the NFL scouting combine on Feb. 28. (Gregory Payan / Associated Press)

22. HOUSTON — Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: The Texans need a replacement for longtime standout Arian Foster, who was recently let go and hadn't played a complete season since 2012. They can wait to take a quarterback.

23. MINNESOTA — Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss: The Vikings hit it big with fifth-rounder Stefon Diggs last year. Treadwell is the top receiver in this class.

24. CINCINNATI — Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: The Bengals need a receiver, but they're also graying at cornerback. Fuller would be a solid and safe pick.

25. PITTSBURGH — Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State: The Steelers need help throughout the secondary, but the top corners are off the board. Tight end is also a consideration.

26. SEATTLE — Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State: Russell Wilson was sacked 31 times in the first eight games before the line was reshuffled. Don't rule out cornerback here, either.

27. GREEN BAY — Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas: Henry, who didn't have a drop in 2015, would be another reliable target for Aaron Rodgers.

28. KANSAS CITY — Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: The Chiefs have more pressing needs along the offensive and defensive lines, but they also could use another receiver to complement Jeremy Maclin.

29. NEW ENGLAND — Pick forfeited.

30. ARIZONA — Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama: The Cardinals need an eventual replacement for Lyle Sendlein. This could be a spot for University of Houston cornerback William Jackson.

31. CAROLINA — Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida: Good as the team was, the Panthers didn't get consistent productivity from their defensive ends last season.

32. DENVER — Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn: The Broncos were down to their fourth and fifth offensive tackles in 2015 … but somehow they made it work.

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer

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