With the NFL Combine in the rear-view mirror, we now know more about this year's crop of rookie prospects. Of course all the free agency dominoes have yet to fall, though the few that have do paint a clearer picture as to what positions we can expect teams to target in this year's draft.
With that in mind, Mel Kiper published his latest mock draft on Tuesday, one based off new information gathered from the Combine. This is Kiper's third version, and, as usual, it's chock full of changes. Below are the three biggest takeaways, but as always be sure to check out our latest mock draft from Dan Kadar.
Carson Wentz to the Browns is looking like a sure thing
For one, the Titans' trade for DeMarco Murray makes it clear that Tennessee would like to bolster its running attack. There's no better way to do so than by adding the best offensive lineman on the market: Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.
"I'm certain the Titans will continue to shop this (No. 1) pick, but it could be difficult to get a good offer," Kiper wrote.
If that's the case, Wentz, the North Dakota State quarterback whose physical tools impressed teams at the Combine, will certainly be available for the Browns at No. 2. Kiper said it's not a guarantee that Cleveland drafts a quarterback, but it's hard to envision a QB coach like Hue Jackson passing up on Wentz. That's how Kiper sees it playing out, as does Kadar along with 63 percent of the mock drafts out there.
Interestingly, Kiper has California QB Jared Goff going at No. 7 to the 49ers, who have yet to make a decision on what to do with Colin Kaepernick. Goff did everything right at the Combine, and even looked better than Wentz during the throwing portion. The problem: his small hands are scaring off some teams (no, seriously). He'll still projected to go in the top 10, and San Francisco — where Chip Kelly is looking to put his own imprint on the franchise — could be an interesting landing spot.
NFL Draft: How every team can avoid screwing up in the 1st round
Noah Spence is down, Shaq Lawson is up after the Combine
Last time around, Kiper had the talented but mercurial linebacker/defensive end Noah Spence going No. 10 to the Giants. Now, Kiper has knocked Spence down all the way to the Bengals at No. 24. Although Kiper didn't give a reason for the drop, it's safe to assume Spence's Combine performance didn't help his cause.
However, Spence's "shaky interviews" are more worrisome. Spence, who failed a couple of drug tests while at Ohio State and was banned by the Big Ten before landing at Eastern Kentucky, needs to prove to teams that he's matured.
Another notable prospect who fell was Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who went from No. 11 in Kiper's last mock draft to out of the first round. Smith suffered a serious knee injury in January's Fiesta Bowl and underwent extensive medical testing at the Combine. "The one common denominator is every team's told me it's bad, on the knee," NFL Network's Mike Mayock said about Smith.
On the other hand, Shaq Lawson has jumped up the draft boards. Currently, Kiper has the Clemson defensive end replacing Spence at No. 10 and ending up with the Giants.
"Even if Jason Pierre-Paul were to return, the Giants would be wise to add pass-rushing talent, and Lawson is a good fit here," Kiper writes. "Like JPP, he's also underrated as a complete defensive end in that he's good against the run."
Soon after Kiper released his mock draft, the Giants did re-sign Pierre-Paul. But Lawson is still a coveted prospect. Last season, he had 12.5 sacks for national runner-up Clemson. He also impressed at the Combine, where he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash and 4.21 20-yard shuttle, both excellent times for a 6'3, 269-pound lineman. Lawson could offer a team like the Giants the same production as Spence, but he doesn't come with the off-the-field question marks.
Another player Kiper has soaring up his draft board is Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker. He has him going at No. 18 to the Colts, a 13-spot leap from the last time.
Free agency can change everything
The Jets have the No. 20 pick in the draft, and according to Kiper, "If Ryan Fitzpatrick leaves, this is a dark horse spot for a QB." He adds a similar note about the Texans, who are reportedly chasing Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler. Kiper also has the Chargers drafting an offensive lineman No. 3 overall (Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley) even though they just came to terms on a four-year deal with offensive tackle Joe Barksdale. A lot can change over the next week, and only then will we know what teams truly need.
For example, if the Jets do lose Chris Ivory, it could be hard for them to pass up Ohio State running Ezekiel Elliott at No. 20, where Kiper has him going right now. And how aggressive will the Broncos be if Osweiler does indeed sign with the Texans?
As of now, we don't know the answer to any of these questions. We will in a few days, though. And then we can have some real fun with these mock drafts.