Column: The Times’ NFL mock draft: Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil goes first
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.
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.
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.
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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