Welcome to another draft season. I've been ranking this class officially on the site since May, but I know many of you don't consider draft season officially underway until mock drafts start popping up.
A few reminders at this (very) early stage in the game. For one, NFL personnel folks are still really early in their evaluations. Nobody has a draft board yet, and we still have postseason all-star games, combine testing, medicals and individual workouts to get through. Drafting for need isn't a great idea in most cases -- GMs really do mean it most of the time when they say, "We took the best player available" -- and I'm especially leery of making need the big issue here. Every team has at least a dozen roster moves to make (and for some, twice that), and there's also free agency. "Need" isn't a clear term yet. Lastly, there could still be an underclassmen or two who decides to jump into the draft. That said, off we go.
A player with an asterisk next to his name has a year of eligibility remaining. Two asterisks implies two years.
*Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio St.
Getting the best defensive lineman in any draft really transcends need. Every team wants great D-linemen, and Bosa has the upside of a star. He's a dominant pass-rusher who piled up 51.0 tackles for loss over three seasons despite running into a steady supply of double-teams, and he's also outstanding against the run. You can move him around on the line at will. The son of a former first-round pick, he comes in ready to contribute.
*Jared Goff, QB, Cal
It goes without saying the Browns need to take a hard look at quarterbacks, and Hue Jackson should have the chance to start fresh with someone other than Johnny Manziel. Goff has tremendous talent and upside. He has shown off an NFL arm since he arrived at Cal and has a great mind for the game. He has also shown how resilient he can be, growing with and leading that team at Cal, which would be a great trait in Cleveland.
*Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Ken Whisenhunt is back at offensive coordinator for the Chargers, and the immediate need for this team is going to be figuring out a way to keep Philip Rivers upright. Injuries have decimated the Chargers' offensive line, and adding Tunsil means they get an immediate starter. This kid is a flat-out gifted left tackle prospect, the kind of player who could go No. 1 overall to Tennessee. Get him here and you'll be pleased.
DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
It's rare to find a team picking No. 4 overall that can genuinely say, "We're in win-now mode." But the Cowboys get a healthy Tony Romo back, so that's a fair statement. If Greg Hardy isn't back, Buckner is a great fit. You get a 6-foot-7, 290-pound defensive end who can put a tackle on skates right into his own quarterback. The No. 1 thing you love about Buckner: major motor. He plays hard. He could have been taken relatively early last year, but came back and put an exclamation point on it.
*Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida St.
The best player available here, Ramsey is a great corner or a great safety, a fit in any secondary given his skill set and incredible athleticism. Those athlete credentials? Well, consider that he's long-jumping at roughly an Olympic level in, essentially, a second sport that he really can't commit to full-time. A worthy top-five talent in the secondary.