The Carolina Panthers are starting Michael Oher at left tackle — a free agent cut by the Tennessee Titans last February. His cap hit for this season is $2.4m.
At right tackle they’re starting Mike Remmers — an undrafted free agent from 2012. He’s 26-years-old and already on his sixth NFL team. He was snatched from the Rams practise squad. His cap hit for this season is $585,000.
Cam Newton is generally well protected. The Panthers gave up 33 sacks during the regular season — the same number as the much vaunted Dallas Cowboys O-line and 13 fewer than the Seahawks.
Carolina are built to win in the trenches and they’re doing it without first round offensive tackles. The Seahawks have to consider a similar path.
Ryan Kalil (center) and Trai Turner (right guard) are Carolina’s two best offensive linemen. Kalil is a pillar of consistency, the unquestioned leader up front. Turner is the ultra-talented, physical guard playing next to him.
This is the strength of the unit.
The Seahawks might attempt to emulate the Panthers by producing a consistently performing O-line built in the same way.
A lot of teams don’t even rush the edge against Russell Wilson. They play contain knowing if they create interior pressure Wilson will scramble straight into the waiting arms of a defensive end. Keeping the pocket clean from the inside is crucial and could be the priority going forward.
Seattle can deal with speed. Tom Cable recently told the local media only one edge rusher in the entire NFL can beat Garry Gilliam with speed. They aren’t built to defend the Kawann Short’s and Aaron Donald’s they end up facing annually. That’s a problem.
This mock draft is based around this thought process. Find a long term solution at center to avoid the kind of mistakes that dogged the start of the 2015 season. Provide toughness, grit and athleticism to the guard positions and develop partnerships that can grow together over the next 4-5 years.
They can find a tackle — just as Carolina did with Oher and Remmers. If they have to plug in a Phil Loadholt in free agency — so be it. If they have to take on a major project like La’Raven Clark in rounds 3-4 — so be it. If they have to lean on a Fahn Cooper drafted even later — so be it.
This projection is all about the interior O-line and finding a solution to Seattle’s biggest off-season priority — improved play in the trenches.
#1 Tennessee — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
They already have two top-11 picks on their offensive line (Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack). They have Marcus Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham to build around. It’s time to add a defensive focal point.
#2 Cleveland — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. He’s big, mobile, accurate and led a Memphis team to a winning season against the odds. A poor man’s Cam Newton.
#3 San Diego — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
He missed most of the 2015 season but played well against Texas A&M’s explosive pass-rusher Myles Garrett.
#4 Dallas — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
The Cowboys take the opportunity to draft Wentz after working with him at the Senior Bowl. The heir apparent to Tony Romo.
#5 Jacksonville — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
The Jags welcome back Dante Fowler in 2016 and pair him with their answer to Michael Bennett. Buckner is a disruptive force that can line up inside and out.
#6 Baltimore — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Length, speed and smarts. NFL teams will view Apple as an ideal corner prospect to develop. He keeps everything in front and doesn’t get beat deep.
**TRADE** #7 Philadelphia — Jared Goff (QB, California)
The Niners give Colin Kaepernick another shot and trade with the Eagles. Philly turns the page on the Chip Kelly era by giving Doug Pederson his own QB.
#8 Miami — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
The Dolphins need to improve their secondary. Alexander is a fiery competitor who loves to talk. He plays above his listed size.
#9 Tampa Bay — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
He’ll need to convince teams about his character, but there’s no denying his talent. The Buccs lack a dynamic compliment to Gerald McCoy.
#10 New York Giants — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
A superb athlete, Jack can play any linebacker position. The Giants need to improve their second level defense.
#11 Chicago — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
He drops a bit due to injury but not too far. Smith is an exceptional player and someone you can truly build around on defense. He could be the top talent in the draft.
#12 New Orleans — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
He had a fantastic Senior Bowl and probably did enough to warrant a grade in this range. There isn’t another player like Spence in this class.
**TRADE** #13 San Francisco — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
After moving down six spots, the Niners bring in a new tackle. With Anthony Davis retired and Alex Boone likely departing — they need to repair that O-line.
#14 Oakland — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
He’s a tweener. Does he have the hips and quicks to match up with elite suddenness? Or is he a permanent safety?
#15 Los Angeles — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
The Rams disappoint their fans by failing to land a quarterback. They do add one of the best players in the draft — Lee is a 4.4 runner with great instinct.
#16 Detroit — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
He’s overrated but admittedly there is some pass-pro upside. Someone will take a shot. He doesn’t get to the second level or play with an edge.
#17 Atlanta — Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
Their defense is still pretty powder puff. Rankins was a winner in Mobile and fills a big hole for the Falcons.
#18 Indianapolis — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Just a hard-nosed, blue-collar tough guy who fought his way into this range as a walk-on at MSU. Not an amazing athlete — but someone teams will love.
#19 Buffalo — Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia)
A tall, thin linebacker suited to the 3-4. He could easily be another Aaron Maybin. The Bills do need to find players that fit the Rex Ryan scheme.
#20 New York Jets — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
He could be a superstar in New York. Chris Ivory is a free agent and went off the boil in 2015 after a good start.
#21 Washington — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
Scot McCloughan wanted to make Washington tough in the trenches. His first pick in 2015 was a big, hard-nosed, athletic guard. His first pick in 2016 is a big, hard-nosed, run-stuffing D-liner.
#22 Houston — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
Fuller is a dynamite playmaker. Picking this late limits their ability to get at the QB’s. Whoever starts at QB might as well throw to Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins.
#23 Minnesota — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Maybe Coleman won’t rise into the top-10 where he belongs? He’s still an awesome lineman. He should go much earlier than this.
#24 Cincinnati — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
He just makes fantastic plays. He’s a better athlete than people realise. He’d make a terrific compliment to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert.
#25 Pittsburgh — Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
The Steelers are always willing to draft an outside linebacker in round one. Jarvis Jones has been a disappointment.
#26 Seattle — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
The best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. He matches Seattle’s desire for toughness in the trenches. He’s wildly underrated and not too far behind his brother Zack. He’s going to be a top-40 pick.
#27 Green Bay — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
Country strong, big defensive tackle that can play the nose and do some pass-rushing. Could switch between NT and DE in Green Bay’s scheme.
#28 Kansas City — Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
The Chiefs might lose Jaye Howard in free agency and can plug Butler straight in as a 3-4 DE. Length, power, size and athleticism.
#29 Denver — Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
Tall, athletic offensive tackles generally go early. Spriggs is a bit of a project. The Broncos might need to replace Ryan Clady.
#30 Arizona — Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
He will move inside to guard or center. In this scenario, the Cardinals draft him to be their long term answer at center.
#31 Carolina — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
With reports of a possible 4.6-4.7 in the forty yard dash, Treadwell drops a bit. He’ll still be a productive and consistent receiver at the next level.
#32 Cleveland — Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
A dynamic weapon to compliment Josh Gordon and Gary Barnidge.
#33 Tennessee — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
Tough inside linebacker — ideal for their 3-4 defense.
#34 Dallas — Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
Doesn’t it seem inevitable? He’s a good fit for their scheme.
#35 San Diego — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
Overrated defensive tackle who switches to DE in San Diego’s 3-4.
#36 Baltimore — Darian Thompson (S, Boise State)
They need to upgrade at safety and Thompson stood out at the Senior Bowl.
#37 San Francisco — Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson)
His get-off isn’t good enough but he knows how to get to the QB.
#38 Miami — Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
More of a power end and not quite as quick-twitch as Dodd.
#39 Jacksonville — Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
Overrated corner with poor tackling form. Athletic but needs coaching up.
#40 New York Giants — Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)
Dynamic interior rusher. Washington is streaky and needs to be more consistent.
#41 Chicago — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Hampered by an injury, Fuller could drop into the first half of round two.
#42 Tampa Bay — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
With excellent length and ball skills, Jackson could be a big riser.
#43 Los Angeles — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
A big target with surprising agility. He could go earlier.
#44 Oakland — Su’a Cravens (S, USC)
They need to rebuild their secondary. Cravens is a versatile defender.
#45 Los Angeles — Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
Capable of playing tackle or guard, the hulking Ifedi has a ton of upside.
#46 Detroit — Vonn Bell (S, Ohio State)
Another good value safety pick in round two and a need for the Lions.
#47 New Orleans — Kenny Clark (DT, UCLA)
The Saints need a disruptive nose tackle.
#48 Indianapolis — Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida)
His get-off is superb but is he special enough to go earlier?
#49 Buffalo — Jihad Ward (DT, Illinois)
Long, physical defensive lineman that can play end for Rex Ryan.
#50 Atlanta — Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah)
The Falcons can try and mould him into a big-hitting safety/linebacker hybrid.
#51 New York Jets — Nick Vannett (TE, Ohio State)
Arguably the best all-round TE in the class. The Jets keep adding weapons.
#52 Houston — Christian Hackenburg (QB, Penn State)
Bill O’Brien takes a chance on his former protégé.
#53 Washington — Jordan Jenkins (LB, Georgia)
Jenkins had a nice week in Mobile and works into Washington’s pass rush rotation.
#54 Minnesota — De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
A safety net target for Teddy Bridgewater, Wilson is similar to Kelvin Benjamin.
#55 Cincinnati — Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
The Bengals like these tough, athletic linebackers. Striker is a playmaker.
#56 Seattle — Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Ultra-fast prospect with speed to burn. The type of LB the Seahawks covet.
#57 Green Bay — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
He’s too good to last this long. It’d be an absolute steal for the Packers.
#58 Pittsburgh — Zack Sanchez (CB, Oklahoma)
They need to do something about that secondary. Sanchez is a ball-hawk.
#59 Kansas City — Xavien Howard (CB, Baylor)
What a talent. He’d make a great partner for Marcus Peters. One to watch.
#60 New England — Sterling Shephard (WR, Oklahoma)
Mr. Consistent and could be a production machine for the Patriots.
#61 Arizona — Kamalei Correa (DE, Boise State)
Athletic edge rusher ideally suited to OLB in the 3-4.
#62 Denver — Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
Capable of playing end or tackle, Tapper is a productive and polished pass-rusher.
#63 Carolina — Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Oklahoma State)
A little bit raw and maybe a little overrated. This is a nice spot for him.
R1 — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
An instant starter who provides consistency, power and technique.
R2 — Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Elite speed and range at the WILL or SAM.
R3 — Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)
An ideal compliment to Thomas Rawls.
R3 — Joe Dahl (G, Washington State)
Looked at home at right guard next to Nick Martin in Mobile.
R4 — Sebastien Tretola (G, Arkansas)
Massive left guard with plus mobility for his enormous size.
R5 — James Bradberry (CB, Samford)
Tall, long corner project as per usual in round five.
R6 — Travis Feeney (LB, Washington)
Instant special teams value.
R7 — Marquez North (WR, Tennessee)
Former four-star recruit with all the tools.
R7 — Ronald Blair III (DE, Appalachian State)
Versatile pass rusher. Lives in the backfield.