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'16 Combine: Defensive line good, deep



INDIANAPOLIS – The Jaguars may be looking for a defensive lineman in April – and in fact, they may be looking for more than one.

To hear NFL Media Analyst Mike Mayock tell it, that's not a bad thing.

Mayock, one of the most respected NFL draft analysts, on his annual pre-scouting combine conference call Tuesday called the '16 defensive line class the best he has seen in his time analyzing/projecting drafts.

The class is particularly strong on the interior, with players such as DeForest Buckner of Oregon, Sheldon Rankins of Louisville, Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss and Jarran Reed of Alabama among six or seven players at the position who could be selected in the first round.

"You can wait until the third or fourth round this year and get a player who would have had a first- or second-round grade in past seasons," Mayock said in a Tuesday conference call held in advance of the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, which will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium through Monday.

"If you're a team that needs a defensive tackle, you can chase some other things first and circle back and get your guy."

Of Buckner, whose stock among analysts is rising, Mayock said, "I think he's special. I think he's a stud."

Edge rusher generally is considered a more pressing offseason need for the Jaguars than tackle. That area isn't considered as deep as tackle, but players such as Joey Bosa of Ohio State and Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky are considered Top 10-to-15 possibilities.

Mayock also mentioned secondary among draft-day possibilities for the Jaguars.

"I think they have to be looking at [Florida State cornerback/safety] Jalen Ramsey and [Florida cornerback] Vernon Hargreaves [III] and figuring out where those guys fit," Mayock said. "I think they need a center, but I think you can address that later or move one of those other guys like [right guard] Brandon Linder.

"They have to be looking at the edge guys: Bosa … will he fall to them? Buckner? You know all of the names, but Jalen Ramsey, Bosa, Hargreaves ... those are all logical conversations at No. 5."

Also on Tuesday:

*Mayock projected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott as likely the lone first-round running back in the draft, projecting Alabama running back and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry early in the second round. He said Elliott's lateral quickness, jump cuts, acceleration and burst are the difference in the two players, adding that he likes Henry but not as a first-round player. …

*Mayock said UCLA linebacker Myles Jack played more physically in his final collegiate season this past season than previously. "I saw a guy who was a finesse player early in his career turn into a true linebacker this year," Mayock said, noting that Jack looks like a Top 10 selection. "I think he'll be a high-level player," Mayock said. …

*Mayock also said there may not be as big a difference between Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil and the draft's second-rated offensive tackle, Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame, as many believe. Many project Tunsil as the top overall selection to Tennessee. …

*Mayock also called Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith "as exciting a linebacker prospect as I've seen since [Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker] Luke Kuechly." Mayock said Smith could have been the No. 1 overall selection had he not sustained a serious knee injury late in his final collegiate season. Mayock noted that much about Smith's status will depend on the medical evaluation at the combine this week, adding that he could still be a Top 15 selection if his knee is evaluated as a "clean anterior cruciate ligament" tear. …

*Mayock said combine week will be particularly important for Nkemdiche of Ole Miss and Spence of Eastern Kentucky. Mayock said Nkemdiche has more upside than any player in the draft and would be a consideration for the No. 1 overall selection if not for off-field issues and inconsistency. Spence is among the draft's best pass rushers, but was dismissed from Ohio State for off-field issues. …

*Mayock said of the 2016 wide-receiver class, "I don't think it's a great wide receiver class this year." The last two wide receiver classes were considered particularly strong. …

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