The NFL draft is only — only? — nine weeks away. Here, ladies and gentleman, is exactly what will happen during the second half of the opening round on April 28, 2016.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Alabama LB Reggie Ragland — A versatile player who should excel in that system and is a steal in this spot.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Ohio State OT Taylor Decker — Indy simply has to do a better job protecting the quarterback, especially if that quarterback is Andrew Luck and they want him to stay healthy in 2016. Decker brings good value here and is a potential Week 1 left or right tackle.
19. Buffalo Bills: Clemson DE Kevin Dodd — A lot depends on what happens in free agency with Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito, but I get the feeling they’ll keep both and invest in bolstering the defense by taking a chance on the best available player in terms of upside.
20. New York Jets: Eastern Kentucky OLB Noah Spence — This is the type of pick that could put New York’s stacked defense over the top, although I’m sure Jack Conklin would be tempting as they look to bolster the offensive line.
21. Washington Redskins: Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche — If the Redskins can get past character concerns, there’s tremendous value here. Nkemdiche could be a force upfront, helping Washington absorb some potential offseason losses.
22. Houston Texans: Michigan State QB Connor Cook — I think the Texans are (finally) this serious about a quarterback, although I suppose I wouldn’t be surprised to see them trade down here in an attempt to get Cook or another one of those second-tier quarterbacks in Round 2.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Michigan State OT Jack Conklin — Considering the shape of that line and Conklin’s abilities, this might be the most obvious pick of this entire mock draft.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Baylor DT Andrew Billings — So much depends on what happens with their receivers and defensive backs in free agency, which is why February mock drafts are ill advised (yet fun!). I ultimately think they’re good enough to go with the best player available, who in this case is Billings.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ohio State CB Eli Apple — And then Chris Berman will make a reference to the big, strong corner being the “apple” of Pittsburgh’s eye.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler — With the offensive tackle market tapped out for Round 1, they save that for later and instead bulk up the defensive front seven.
27. Green Bay Packers: Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee — Green Bay needs help at linebacker and Lee has the ability to be a true playmaker.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas State G Cody Whitehair — He’s on the rise and has a chance to be a standout interior offensive lineman for years to come. Kansas City doesn’t have a lot of holes but could use the upgrade inside.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Arizona OLB Scooby Wright — I swear it’s just coincidence that I’m keeping guys in their regions. Wright could do wonders for that inconsistent Cardinals pass rush.
30. Carolina Panthers: Auburn OT Shon Coleman — We got proof in the Super Bowl that Michael Oher just isn’t going to cut it consistently for this offense.
31. Denver Broncos: Arkansas TE Hunter Henry — A nice new weapon for whoever the quarterback is.