Welp, so much for all those mock drafts.
Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went first and second to the Rams and Eagles, but the ensuing domino effect went against just about every projection we in the media could muster. The end result was one hell of a fun first round. There were surprises, trades, some so-called reaches, and there were some shocking falls, but in the end, a few teams ended up with some really interesting players. Here are a few fits that I found the most intriguing.
Joey Bosa to the San Diego Chargers
Despite the Chargers' obvious need for pass rush help, this was still a pretty surprising pick. Maybe it was because we'd heard whispers and rumors of an impending Bosa drop into the teens or worse, or maybe we just got too used to the idea of the Chargers taking Jalen Ramsey or Laremy Tunsil. But the surprise doesn't necessarily make Bosa a bad pick.
Bosa has a prototypical frame as a 3-4 outside linebacker and could even kick inside in some looks to rush against guards. He plays with power, extremely high effort, excellent athleticism, and he racked up 26 sacks and 50.5 tackles for a loss in his career at Ohio State. The Chargers are getting a game-changing type of pass rusher for their defense -- not to mention a really strong run defender.
Bosa looks like a piece that will add to a growing nucleus of talent on that side of the ball for the San Diego. Put Bosa on the field with Melvin Ingram, Cory Liuget, Jeremiah Attaochu, Denzel Perryman, Jason Verrett, and the newly signed Casey Hayward and Brandon Mebane, and that's a solid looking group.
The Chargers needed to beef up their defense, that much was clear. Bosa wasn't the first guy that came to mind pre-draft but the fit makes a ton of sense. Plus he's a three-down guy.
Ezekiel Elliot to the Dallas Cowboys
Okay, this wasn't terribly surprising, and the fit is obvious. I still really like it now that it's a reality, and while you could argue for days about the value of a running back this early in the draft, this could be one of those situations where the product is worth the cost.
It's all about identity for the Cowboys. They've spent ridiculous amounts of draft capital on their offensive line over the past few years and at their best, they're a ball control running team that leans on their bell cow back. Control the clock. Get first downs. Provide balance. We saw it in 2014. DeMarco Murray just hammered on opposing fronts, softened them up, and forced them to dedicate resources to stopping him. This allowed Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to pick teams apart through the air. It's the equation Dallas clearly wants to get back to. It's the design.
It all fell apart last year with the departure of Murray and injuries to Romo and Bryant, but with a stud running back like Elliot, it's not to imagine Dallas returning to the top of the standings in the NFC East ... even with a less than ideal situation on defense. Heck, part of the reason you get Elliot is in the hopes he'll help keep your defense off the field more.
Jalen Ramsey to the Jacksonville Jaguars
When Bosa went to the Chargers and Elliot to the Cowboys, I pictured Gus Bradley doing cartwheels in the Jacksonville war room. Ramsey is an elite prospect at two positions, really -- cornerback and safety -- and the Jags plan to use him in a variety of roles, primarily as an outside corner and nickelback. Bradley knows what a shutdown cornerback can do for his defense from his time coordinating Richard Sherman and the Seahawks defense. A guy like Ramsey -- at 6'2, 209 pounds and able to run a 4.4 40 with a 41.5-inch vertical -- has the potential to make the right side of the field (where almost all quarterbacks want to go to first) an afterthought. This affects timing, makes opponents more one-dimensional and augments the pass rush.
Oh, did I mention the pass rush? Jacksonville just so happened to lock up Malik Jackson in free agency and are getting Dante Fowler, last year's third overall pick, back into their rotation. They also added Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara. This team has talent on defense. Now it's up to Bradley to utilize it.
I realize it's been said frequently over the past several seasons, but the Jags really do look like a team ready to break out, and Jalen Ramsey looks like a capstone piece that could make defense with talent turn into a defense that produces.
DeForest Buckner to the San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are getting back to the ass-kicking identity that helped them get to three straight NFC Championship games in the not too distant past. That's the goal anyway, and as the old cliche goes, it all starts in the trenches.
For the second straight year, the Niners took a behemoth Oregon defensive end. Trent Baalke has reunited DeForest Buckner with his former teammate Arik Armstead ostensibly to create the most badass looking defensive line imaginable. Both players' closest NFL comps point directly to Calais Campbell, a player of underrated import because of the job he's called upon to do: create sacks for other people.
Both Buckner and Armstead, in a perfect world, are disruptors on the highest level, playing with physicality and explosiveness on the snap and generally just being a pain in the ass to block. This in turn frees up outside linebackers and blitzers to come in and hit opposing quarterbacks in unmolested. The thing about Buckner though is that he can create sacks and tackles-for-a-loss for himself, and he's starting his pro career as a much better pass rusher than Armstead was last year.
Bottom line -- I love the fit because it adds toughness up front for the Niners with the added bonus of a high-ceiling pass rusher. I think it will help free up guys like Aaron Lynch and Eli Harold to do more in 2016, as well.
Analyzing DeForest Buckner and the top defensive tackles
Leonard Floyd to the Chicago Bears
Mike Mayock made an interesting comment after this pick was announced, comparing Floyd to Aldon Smith, a player that Bears' defensive coordinator Vic Fangio got a lot of production out of back when both were together in San Francisco. Chicago clearly felt strongly enough about Floyd to move up the board and get him, so perhaps that theory holds some water.
They're not the same player, but with some of the pieces that the Bears are adding on defense, Floyd may be able to play a very similar role. With Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young in front of him, Floyd will start out as a situational rusher. He's got a different style -- faster, more explosive -- than those three guys, and could carve out a role early on.
The jury will likely be out on this pick for a while, but I could see Floyd adding a new element to that Bears defense that they don't really have at the moment.
Karl Joseph to the Oakland Raiders
The Raiders just keep adding solid pieces to their defense. After signing Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith in free agency, the next priority was addressing the safety position. They did that with the signing of Reggie Nelson, but took it up a notch by using their first-rounder on Karl Joseph.
He's a physical and tenacious hitter with strong coverage ability and a nose for the football. He fits the take-no-prisoners identity that Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton are trying to establish for their defense.
Keanu Neal to the Atlanta Falcons
I wonder if it's a coincidence that Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn both took defensive backs with their first picks this year. Coming from Seattle, where they each enjoyed coaching one of the best secondaries in the NFL, they both surely understand the importance of each in their similar systems.
"The strong safety position is a critical one for us," said Quinn after making the selection. He's seen Kam Chancellor dominate games first hand.
I'm not saying that Keanu Neal is Chancellor, but you have to think that in this case, Quinn is looking for his own version of that player. He's an identity guy. An attitude guy. His ferocity is going to be infectious.
Will Fuller to the Houston Texans
I only have one thing to say about this: opposing defenses will legitimately have to scheme up ways to protect against the deep ball when they face the Texans, and a lot more than they would against a normal team. With Nuk Hopkins and now Fuller on the field, those defensive adjustments will have an impact for the rest of Houston's offense.
Josh Doctson to Washington
Maybe Kirk Cousins will never be a superstar. Maybe he'll never be elite. Maybe he can't do it on his own. Maybe Washington should just surround him with a bunch of stud playmakers on offense. That seems to be the plan.
DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, and now Josh Doctson, who is as solid and well-rounded of a receiver as there is in this class.
Robert Nkemdiche to the Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals wanted to upgrade their pass rush this offseason and they did it. Traded for Chandler Jones. Drafted Robert Nkemdiche. Off-field red flags aside, Nkemdiche is a guy that can get after quarterbacks. For need and value, this is an awesome pick. The Cardinals' defense just got that much better, which is probably pretty scary to the rest of the NFC West.
Vernon Butler to the Carolina Panthers
Damn, talk about doubling down on your identity. For a team that already had probably the best defensive line in the NFL last year, I can't imagine what they'll look like with a talented guy like Butler added in.
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That's just a handful of the most interesting picks from the first round, but there's sure to be dozens more as the draft continues, especially with some of the players still left on the board.