The NFL Combine is less than a week away. That means the draft is inching closer and mock draft season is starting to pick up. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. put out his first mock draft a month ago, before college all-star games like the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game. This week, Kiper published his 2.0 version, which is full of changes.
Jared Goff is no longer the top quarterback on his board. Joey Bosa is no longer the No. 1 pick. Noah Spence has gone from unlisted to the top 10. Kiper does acknowledge that free agency, and how teams go about addressing their respective needs, could alter everything.
Of course, for another view you should check out our latest mock draft from Dan Kadar. But below are the three most noteworthy takeaways from Kiper's latest mock draft.
Carson Wentz has overtaken Jared Goff
Everyone seems to be in agreement that the Browns plan on drafting a quarterback. It's unclear if Johnny Manziel will even play in the NFL next season, and even if he does, new Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson has made no secret of his desire to move on from him. The Browns could always go after a quarterback in free agency, but it does seem that the more prudent move would be drafting one and letting veteran Josh McCown mentor him.
The question is: who among this year's crop of quarterbacks does Jackson, a quarterbacks coach by trade, like most? A month ago, Kiper had the Browns taking California quarterback Jared Goff. This time around, he has them tabbing North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz, whom he originally had going at No. 22.
It's unclear why he flipped on the two quarterbacks. "We still have a couple of months to debate whether this will be Wentz or Jared Goff," Kiper wrote. But the Combine next week could influence the Browns' decision, especially with the news that all quarterbacks there with be participating in throwing drills.
As for Goff, Kiper thinks the Cowboys will pick him at No. 4.
It should also be noted that Kadar still has Goff as the top QB on his board and going No. 2 to the Browns. Most experts believe that to be the case as well.
Joey Bosa is tumbling a little
Listed at No. 1 last time around, Kiper now has Bosa, the Ohio State defensive end, going No. 6 to the Ravens. Bosa was overtaken at No. 1 by Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. The Titans don't need a quarterback and are already getting calls from opposing teams interested in trading up to jump past the Browns. But they do need to protect quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Titans led the league in sacks surrendered last season. If they hold onto the pick it will come as a major surprise if they don't take an offensive lineman.
But Kiper also now has Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner going ahead of Bosa, too, at No. 3 to the Chargers.
"Buckner and Joey Bosa are going to grade out similarly, so it's more about preference and fit," Kiper writes. "That said, Buckner fits pretty much everywhere."
Where Bosa winds up and which defensive end hears his name called first seem like they will be determined at the Combine. When comparing Kiper's mock draft to Kadar's it becomes obvious that Bosa, Buckner and Spence are all in the same tier right now and could wind up going in any order. Speaking of Spence ...
The rise of Noah Spence
If you don't recognize the name, you're not alone. Spence wasn't mentioned by Kiper in his first mock draft. Now Kiper has the Eastern Kentucky outside linebacker/defensive end going No. 10 to the pass rush-needy Giants (Kadar has him going to the 49ers at No. 7, after Bosa but before Buckner).
For those not familiar, here's the quick background on Spence: he was a five-star recruit out of Pennsylvania and wound up signing with Ohio State. He had a solid first two seasons there but failed a couple of drug tests in 2014 and was banned by the Big Ten. He then transferred to Eastern Kentucky, where he totaled 63 tackles and 11.5 sacks last year.
"Spence comes with off-field concerns, but also the upside to be a major force as an edge-rusher," Kiper wrote. "It'll be hard to pass on him at this point."
He could also be the type of player who puts up some monster numbers at the Combine and sees his stock climb even higher.