2016 Mock Draft of The National Football League
It's that time of the year again: time for the NFL draft! It is always an exciting time, when we get to see future stars enter the league for the first time, and possibly watch on as a potential missing piece gets puts a team over the top, into contender status.
This class isn't as loaded with offensive talent as it has in previous years, however, many of these defensive players will be more than worth their pick. If you disagree, let me know who you think will go where. Mock drafts are all about debate, after all!
So without further ado, let's take a gander at my third annual NFL mock draft, and see how things shake out!
Who will be the number one overall pick in 2016?
1. Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff, Quarterback, California
After the recent blockbuster trade that gave the Rams the very first pick in the 2016 draft (in exchange for an absolute litany of draft picks), Los Angeles is going to select a passer for their team.
The question at hand is whether said quarterback will be California's Jared Goff, or Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. While the latter has been the hot name since his performance in the combine and pro day, the former appears to be more NFL-ready and will be the number one overall pick in the 2016 draft.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz, Quarterback, North Dakota State
The Eagles made the bold move to trade up with the Browns to secure the second overall pick, and the rights to whichever quarterback the Rams pass on. It was a no-nonsense move, and makes it obvious that Sam Bradford's time in Philadelphia is limited. I don't quite agree with the move in this specific case, but I do like this idea of playing aggressively to get your quarterback... Whoever he may be...
3. San Diego Chargers
Joey Bosa, Defensive End, Ohio State
The Chargers have to decide between versatile defensive back Jalen Ramsey and pass rusher Joey Bosa. Management feels that the pass rush is a more pressing need and select the latter, hoping he can wreak havoc early. Bosa will be a force, and has the potential to amass double digit sacks in his rookie season, with relative ease.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Jalen Ramsey, Cornerback/Safety, Florida State
The rumors about Dallas taking a successor to Tony Romo (or even trading up to do so) prove to be just that, as they shore up a weak spot by taking the top defensive back in this class. Jalen Ramsey will team up with Orlando Scandrick to make a formidable duo in the defensive backfield in 2016 and beyond. Ramsey can play safety as well, so that added versatility makes this an even more tempting pick.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Myles Jack, Linebacker, UCLA
The Jaguars have made it a point to improve their defense, but one position that could still use a boost is the linebacking group, as Telvin Smith needs to be paired with another solid player - he can't do it all by himself. Myles Jack is the best guy at this position in the entire class, so this should be a no-brainer. Jack will step in and give this Jaguars defense a surprisingly mean look for the 2016 season.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Laremy Tunsil, Offensive Tackle, Ole Miss
This is basically a best-case scenario for Baltimore. They need to replace left tackle Eugene Monroe, as he hasn't performed very well, and has been rumored to be on the trade block. Before the aforementioned Titans-Rams trade, there was almost no way Tunsil could fall this far. It seems like a legitimate possibility now, and would be a great blindside blocker for quarterback Joe Flacco for the next ten or fifteen years.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Vernon Hargreaves III, Cornerback, Florida
Chip Kelly's new team could go a few different ways with their first round pick. They have needs at quarterback, receiver, offensive line, and cornerback. Keeping value in mind, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III seems like the best option here. He is one of the best cover guys in this class, and can immediately step in and team with Trumaine Brock and Dontae Johnson to form a great cornerback tandem. Offensive tackle Jack Conklin could be considered here, but in the end, they decide that defense is the order of the day.
8. Cleveland Browns
Jack Conklin, Offensive Tackle, Michigan State
After trading back with the Eagles, the Browns are in a rather interesting spot. While they need a quarterback, the eighth overall spot is too early for the next top passer, Paxton Lynch. The same can be said about the receiver position, when it comes to both Josh Doctson and LaQuan Treadwell.
After losing right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in free agency (along with center Alex Mack) and the rumors of left tackle Joe Thomas being on the trade block, however, maybe it's time for an offensive lineman. Michigan State's Jack Conklin fits the bill here. He can solve the problem on the right side, as Conklin is a tremendously hard worker, who's run blocking ability far outweighs his capabilities in pass protection.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mackensie Alexander, Cornerback, Clemson
A major flaw in Tampa Bay's 2015 campaign was their porous secondary. Ravaged by injuries and disappointing play, this group was the Buc's biggest weakness a season ago. The cornerbacks were the main culprit, as Jonathon Banks (who snatched four interceptions a season before) failed to nab a single pick, and had injury issues. No cornerback really stood out from the pack (except maybe Sterling More), and this team is in desperate need of a playmaker who can take away (or at least limit) the opposing team's number one receiver.
Mackensie Alexander has potential in spades, and can do an excellent job at the NFL level. He can be argued as the top corner in this class, as he has top-end speed and reaction skills, and plays aggressive in man-to-man coverage. Alexander can be the answer to the question of "who is your lockdown cornerback?"
10. New York Giants
Josh Doctson, Wide Receiver, TCU
The Giants lost receiver Rueben Randle to division rival Philadelphia Eagles in free agency. That, along with slot man Victor Cruz having consistent injury issues spells trouble for Eli Manning and the passing attack. Even with former LSU Tiger Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup, there's only so much he can do while facing constant double (and sometimes even triple) team coverage.
TCU's Josh Doctson (while not the most popular pick as the top receiver coming out) would be an excellent receiver to line up across from Beckham. While not a very good route runner, Doctson has incredible hands, and is more than capable of blocking in the run game. Manning would have a great time throwing up passes and watching the amazing circus catches this duo would make.
11. Chicago Bears
Andrew Billings, Defensive Tackle, Baylor
Chicago's front three is a mix of good and bad. The good was the play of both Eddie Goldman and Jarvis Jenkins. Goldman's injury shortened his effectiveness, however, and the play at nose tackle suffered because of it. Andrew Billings would be a great selection here, as he has the size (6'1" 310 pounds) to stuff up the middle of the line. He has the power and explosion to get into the backfield quickly to blow up the play. He and Goldman would make for a formidable rotation in the middle.
12. New Orleans Saints
Shaq Lawson, Defensive End, Clemson
It seems like the Saints are in need of a big pass rusher almost every year. They need a guy to start opposite Cameron Jordan (who is a solid player in his own right), as Bobby Richardson and Kasim Edebali just aren't cutting it. Shaq Lawson is arguably the best pure pass rusher in this class. He has very good agility and strength to shed blocks, and could be a nightmare for the offense when blocked one on one.
13. Miami Dolphins
Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Ohio State
Searching for a running back all season, Miami finally gets their guy here. After trying to (and failing) sign CJ Anderson and Arian Foster, the Dolphins signed a couple of role players, Isaiah Pead and Daniel Thomas. They still desperately needed a replacement for Lamar Miller, who left for the Houston Texans. After quite a bit of luck, the draft's best runner, Ezekiel Elliott falls perfectly into their laps here. Elliott has a great blend of speed, power, and vision, and will immediately be looked at as a contender for offensive rookie of the year in 2016.
14. Oakland Raiders
Jaylon Smith, Outside Linebacker, Notre Dame
With the resigning of left tackle Donald Penn, this position becomes slightly less of a pressing need (although Taylor Decker would still be a solid pick here), and the Raiders instead look to the defensive side of the ball. Jaylon Smith is one of the most talented linebackers to come out in the last couple of years. His injuries to his ACL and MCL have raised questions about his durability, but if Smith makes a recovery, he will be a steal of a mid first round pick and a stud for years to come.
15. Tennessee Titans
LaQuon Treadwell, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss
After moving down fourteen spots and collecting a great deal of draft picks in the process, the Titans can use this pick to survey their board completely, and not necessarily force it on a position of need if the value isn't there. Franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota needs targets to throw the ball to. Considering last year's second round pick Dorial Green-Beckham is still learning the ins and outs of the position, and Kendall Wright suffered through injuries last season, a receiver here may not be such a bad idea.
LaQuon Treadwell is looked at by most as the top receiver in the draft. While I personally prefer TCU's Josh Doctson, Treadwell is definitely a starting-caliber pass catcher, who can make good use of his 6'2", 210 pound frame to force his way to the ball, and gain yards after the catch. Mariota will not be disappointed with the results of lobbing up a pass in Treadwell's direction.
Which wide receiver will be selected first in 2016?
16. Detroit Lions
A'Shawn Robinson, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
The Detroit Lions have yet to replace the fantastic duo of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on the interior of the defensive line. Veteran Haloti Ngata and Caraun Reid haven't quite made the fans forget about the pair, as they disappointed in 2015. With the re-signing of Ngata, he can be used as the second tackle in a rotation, but they'll need to acquire another beast on the inside.
Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss would easily be the pick here, if it weren't for work ethic and character concerns, especially since A'Shawn Robinson can do the job just as well (if not better), and without any of those red flags. Robinson may not erase the memories of Suh and Fairley completely, but this pick would be a great step in the right direction.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Kevin Dodd, Defensive End, Clemson
After finishing the 2015 season dead last in sacks (19 all year), Atlanta definitely needs help. First round pick Vic Beasley did a solid job, notching four sacks and 20 hurries in his injury-riddled rookie season, but he needs someone else to help with pressuring the passer as well.
Clemson's Kevin Dodd can fill that role. He possesses a good combination of power and hand usage to avoid blockers. If developed correctly, Dodd has all-pro potential, which would form a scary tandem across from Beasley.
18. Indianapolis Colts
Taylor Decker, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
Due to a combination of injuries and inconsistent play, this was one of the worst offensive lines in the league. It has to be the Colts' biggest weakness, especially considering Andrew Luck's tendency to hold the football too long.
Ohio State's Taylor Decker is the pick here. He isn't necessarily a great pass blocker (partly due to his lack of athleticism), but he's great in the run game. If Decker can learn to play with better leverage, he'll do just fine as Luck's blindside protector.
19. Buffalo Bills
Jason Spriggs, Offensive Tackle, Indiana
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is in a contract year, so Buffalo needs to help him out, so he can prove himself as a franchise signal caller. Left tackle Cordy Glenn was perfectly fine last year, but he's currently working under a $13 million franchise tag. This means the Bills should find his replacement soon, if they can't sign him to a deal.
Jason Spriggs comes from Indiana as a former tight end. This gives him a leg-up in the athleticism department. Although he doesn't necessarily have great upper body strength, so he can't hold his blocks as long as other linemen can. This is balanced out, however, by his agility and his ability to run block on the second and third levels.
20. New York Jets
Reggie Ragland, Middle Linebacker, Alabama
The Jets had a great defense in 2015. They were stingy against the run, and were good in pass defense. However, more young talent is always welcomed, and a certain young linebacker would fit in pretty well.
Coming from Alabama, Reggie Ragland knows all about physical play. He is extremely reliable to make an open field tackle, and is stout against the run. He lacks great agility, making him a liability in pass coverage, but Ragland's hard-hitting style mixed with his great awareness and instincts make him a sure-fire starter in 2016 and beyond.
21. Washington Redskins
Robert Nkemdiche, Defensive Tackle, Ole Miss
The pick here would have been cornerback Eli Apple, but with the recent signing of shutdown cornerback Josh Norman from Carolina, the position seems to be fine. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton was lost in free agency to the New England Patriots, so they definitely need to find a replacement for him.
Robert Nkemdiche is a definite wildcard in this draft. He has the talent to become a beast of a defensive lineman, with his strength, agility, and block shed ability. Nkemdiche is able to find his way into the backfield consistently, and can disrupt the quarterback or stuff the run. However, he has had a plethora f off-field concerns, in addition to questions about his work ethic. If he can get his head on straight, Nkemdiche will be a steal, falling near the end of the first round.
22. Houston Texans
Hunter Henry, Tight End, Arkansas
Even after boosting their offense in free agency with the additions of quarterback Brock Osweiler (Denver), and running back Lamar Miller (Miami), wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins remains the only real pass-catching threat on the team. They need another safe, reliable target for Osweiler, considering this will be the first time he is in full control of a team.
Hunter Henry is the top tight end in this class (and arguably last year's class as well). He has the speed and quickness to be dangerous after the catch (although not quite the fastest we've ever seen). He has very reliable hands, and he could become one of the players who helps Brock Osweiler grow as a quarterback.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Corey Coleman, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Teddy Bridgewater is without a doubt, this team's franchise quarterback. They need to support him by supplying him with a cast of dangerous weapons. Of the guys currently on the roster, only Stefon Diggs (a fifth round pick last year), and Jarius Wright (better suited as a slot receiver, who admittedly, is one of my personal favorite underrated pass catchers) are worthy of starting on this team - especially after the departure of speedster Mike Wallace.
Speaking of speedsters, that is exactly what Baylor's Corey Coleman is, as he ran an incredible 4.37 at Baylor's pro day. Coleman has the hands to make all sorts of catches, and he has Desean Jackson's playmaking potential (if not greater). He still has to learn an NFL route tree, but once he gets those down, Bridgewater may have a new number one target to throw to.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Mike Thomas, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Cincinnati lost two of their top three receivers to others teams in free agency, with Mohamed Sanu joining Atlanta, and Marvin Jones going to Detroit. AJ Green is still an elite wideout, and Tyler Eifert is a great receiving tight end, but Andy Dalton needs someone to throw to opposite Green.
A few different receivers can fit the bill here, but Michael Thomas has the size and catch radius a passer like Dalton would like to have. He isn't terribly fast, but has great size (6'3", 210 pounds), reliable hands, which allows him to be counted on when the offense needs him.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
Eli Apple, Cornerback, Ohio State
The Steelers lack solid talent at the cornerback position. Their top player is William Gay, who is 31 years old. Pittsburgh lost Brandon Boykin to Carolina, and recently cut ties with Cortez Allen. This team definitely needs to restock in this area.
Eli Apple is a big, physical corner, who could throw off quarterback-receiver timing fairly often. Possessing great size (6'1", 200 pounds), and great athleticism (he ran a 4.40 in the 40 at the combine), he's aggressive and tenacious. While he very well could draw more penalties than others in this class, Apple has enough upside to convince teams it'll be worth it in the end.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Shonn Coleman, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
After losing offensive tackle Russell Okung in free agency, Seattle definitely needs to improve their line. Strong pass blocking would be preferred, but run blocking is a greater necessity for this style of offense.
Shonn Coleman doesn't have elite strength, but he's a talented run blocker. He has great toughness and loves to compete. Until he develops his pass blocking game some more, Coleman can move inside to guard, which is another need for Seattle.
27. Green Bay Packers
Jarran Reed, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
Green Bay needs a nose tackle to come in and be able to start right away. BJ Raji is no longer with the team, and they don't have a suitable replacement for him. In a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle is extremely important along the defensive line.
Jarran Reed would be capable of filling in immediately, and doing a fine job as well. He has great size (6'3", 311 pounds), and is a force when it comes to defending the run. Reed doesn't offer much as a pass rusher, but all he needs to do is take up blockers, so linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers can run around and make plays.
28. Kansas City Chiefs
Cody Whitehair, Offensive Guard, Kansas State
Inconsistent play and injuries have made this a much weaker offensive line than the Chiefs would like. Guard Ben Grubbs was arguably their best lineman in 2015, yet he's 32 years old and missed nine games last season.
Cody Whitehair is the best guard in this draft class. A former offensive tackle, he has the versatility to play any position along the line. Whitehair is great in pass protection, and he plays with excellent awareness and instincts.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Noah Spence, Outside Linebacker, Eastern Kentucky
Arizona needs a pass rush, as they don't have a standout guy. They did make a trade for Chandler Jones from New England, but another rusher could put this defense over the top.
Noah Spence has tremendous pass rush ability, as he is agile and can avoid blockers very well. However, he has some drug-related issues, which have caused him to slide down to the 29th pick. If any coach can help him through these issues, and become a better overall football player, it's Arizona head coach Bruce Arians.
30. Carolina Panthers
Kendall Fuller, Cornerback, TCU
Other than Cam Newton, Carolina is known for their defense, The retirement of Jared Allen opens up quite a hole at the defensive end position, but the recent loss of Josh Norman to Washington is even worse. Losing an all-pro cornerback hurts, and the Panthers need to fill that hole right away.
Kendall Fuller from TCU is the man for the job here. He has good (but not fantastic) speed, and has great ball skills. He also plays physically, contributing to run defense, He has the look of a big-time player in the NFL. He could grow into the number one role, and eventually become a top 10 player at his position.
31. Denver Broncos
Connor Cook, Quarterback, Michigan State
The Denver Broncos won the super bowl with subpar quarterback play. Knowing this, it shouldn't be too much of a problem when they lose the two passers who played last season... Until you realize Mark Sanchez would be their starter if the season began today. The Colin Kaepernick trade isn't going to go through, so Denver's best bet would be to select a quarterback in the draft.
Ironically enough, Memphis passer Paxton Lynch (known by most to be the third best quarterback in this class) falls to Denver... Who passes on him as well. The Broncos instead elect to go with Connor Cook from Michigan State. He doesn't have Lynch's athleticism, but Cook is much better at reading the defense, and is more pro-ready. While he might not have the upside of someone like Jared Goff, Connor Cook has plenty of potential and can become Denver's franchise quarterback for the next decade.