2016 NFL Mock Draft_JL
Putting this article together each year is always an interesting exercise for me. I develop my mock based on a variety of elements that include: expert mocks, draft rumors, team needs, value picks, games and highlights I've seen and my opinions of NFL teams. Most call mock drafts an "exercise in futility" because they're very difficult to predict, but well done ones are based on educated guesses. It's impossible to create a mock that is anywhere near perfect because no one knows how each team values each prospect, and trades are always unpredictable. Despite all of this, I still enjoy predicting the draft in this article and watching it unfold live on Thursday night.
As I put my mock together this year, a few thoughts came to mind. While last year saw the lowest amount of first round trades since the turn of the century, I expect this year to have considerably more. I'm cheating a bit, since as of this writing three have already occurred, but I'd bet we see at least six on draft night. I get the sense that there will be several small move trades on Thursday. I don't think that we will see many teams flying up the board, but rather see many teams moving up or down just a few picks. From all the information I've gathered, once we get outside of the top 10 prospects, draft boards are going to vary greatly. One team's #11 guy may be the #40 on another board, and vice versa. It's going to be that crazy this year.
My confidence in my mock this year is a bit lower than the past few years, but I forge on. Two years ago I predicted 6 of 32 picks correctly. Last year I predicted 8 of 32 picks correctly. Let's continue with the upward trend. As usual, I've kept the draft order as it currently stands. If I think a trade is more likely at a specific spot, I'll give my thoughts on a potential move. For each pick I've listed my rationale, along with any alternate picks that I think are likely. Buckle up and enjoy, this round might last 5 hours this year! I'll be documenting my thoughts as the draft progresses on Twitter @jmlockowitz if you're interested in following along.
In addition to my picks, I've also included my good friend Brian's prediction for each selection. Last year he co-launched the website www.eaglesfocus.com. The website mainly covers the Philadelphia Eagles, but in anticipation of the draft he has been making one first round selection each day for the past month. At this point, things have changed, so he's provided me with an updated version of his predictions. Enjoy!
1. LA: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
The Rams aren't even willing to get me off on the right foot here by announcing the pick early (although the league has probably asked them not to). They're definitely going to take a QB, but which one is still uncertain. My feeling is they made the trade up here with Goff in mind, but wanted to do their due diligence and make sure they still felt good about the pick. I think Carson Wentz is still in consideration in the days leading up to the pick, but ultimately they choose to pass. I think Goff is more pro-ready, he was born in California, played his college ball in California (where the Rams now reside)--it just fits.
Brian's pick: Goff
2. PHI: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Heavy sigh. As an Eagles fan, I was not in favor of this trade up. I understand the reason for doing it, but I don't think the team is in the right place for it, and think they gave up too much. Either way, there's nothing that can be done now, so I will support them. I believe the Eagles will take either Goff or Wentz, whichever is remaining. The Eagles have said they like both QBs, but I think they like Wentz a little more. 0.01% of me thinks Philadelphia may be pulling the wool over everyone eyes and they'll take a non-QB. The city of Philly would erupt in riots.
Brian's pick: Wentz
3. SD: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Now the picks become more difficult. San Diego's decision comes down to an impact player on defense, or a starting left tackle for the next 10+ years. This year's draft is deep on defensive lineman, so I think the Chargers go with Tunsil here. I had this pick decided last week, but recent rumors about Tunsil have him sliding down boards due to off-the-field concerns. I still think he's the best tackle in the draft, and it's important to protect Philip Rivers for the last few years of his career. I think a trade down here is possible, but San Diego won't find any worthwhile takers.
Brian's pick: Tunsil
4. DAL: Jalen Ramsey, S/CB, Florida State
The presence of Jerry Jones automatically makes a Dallas pick this high interesting. I think Dallas has narrowed the list down to three players: Ramsey, running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa. I think Jones badly wants to draft Elliott, and I see the allure, but don't think it makes sense. Dallas' defense isn't good enough to pass on a top talent to address a running game that isn't hurting. Ramsey is a playmaker by all accounts, and can play anywhere in the secondary. While there are other players in later rounds the Cowboys can look at to secure their RB (Derrick Henry in the 2nd?) defensive line (deep this year) needs, a player of Ramsey's caliber won't be available beyond their first pick.
Brian's pick: Ramsey
5. JAX: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
If Jack was healthy, he would easily be a top-5 pick. I'm still forecasting him here, but it's a bit cloudy at this point, due to his recovery from last season's knee injury. It has been reported that the former UCLA linebacker has a degenerative condition in his knee. This has caused some teams to drop him down their boards or off of it completely, while others remain unfazed. It's hard to know where Jacksonville lies on this spectrum. There's no denying that Jack is an elite, versatile talent when healthy, and the Jaguars could use an impact linebacker. Although the Jags may be sensitive to knee injuries due to losing rookie Dante Fowler Jr. to a torn ACL in the pre-season last year, I think they view Jack as the type of player that can elevate them to Super Bowl contenders in a few years. If the knee does scare them off, I think Joey Bosa is the pick.
Brian's pick: Jack
6. BAL: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Months ago Baltimore would have thought it was crazy that they could get Bosa with the 6th pick. He was widely considered the best prospect in the draft, and almost a certainty to go in the top three. Over those months opinions have changed, and a few concerns about Bosa have cropped up. I do see this as a potential trade out slot, so it will be interesting to see who is available to the Ravens, and what they ultimately decide to do. The former Buckeye will give Baltimore a proven pass rusher, on a team that sorely needs one. Baltimore doesn't pick this high too often, so they need to make the most of it.
Brian's pick: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
7. SF: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Before the Rams and Eagles traded up, I think the Niners would have been in the market for Goff or Wentz, had they slipped down this far. With the top two QBs off the board, I think San Francisco takes a step towards solidifying their o-line by adding Stanley. Experts are mixed on what kind of pro the former Notre Dame tackle will be, but some have him rated higher than Tunsil. The 49ers have a ton of picks in this draft, so I expect them to address QB and defense on the second and third day.
Brian's pick: Stanley
8. CLE: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
It's a bit of a mystery to me what the Browns will do with this pick. I hear that they're in the market to trade down again and acquire more picks. If they are not able to do that, I think the pick is Buckner. The former Oregon Duck could go as high as three to the Chargers, or perhaps a bit lower than this. Either way, he's a massive space-eater who causes chaos up front, and can contribute against the run and the pass. I think the Browns will also be considering Ezekiel Elliott here, and Paxton Lynch should come into the conversation if they are able to move down.
Brian's pick: Joey Bosa
9. TB: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
This seems to be a pretty popular pick in the recent mock drafts that I've read. Hargreaves has been floating around this spot for the majority of the time leading up to the draft. There are a few traits that would concern me about taking the former Gator this high, but it is a pressing need for the Buccaneers. Hargreaves is a little short for my liking (5'10"), tends to get beaten on double moves and doesn't have great makeup speed. With some work, I think he could be a great slot corner in this league. Tampa Bay also has a need for a pass rusher, so they could choose to go that route with this pick.
Brian's pick: Hargreaves
10. NYG: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
The Giants did a great job of addressing defensive needs in free agency, and it continues at this pick in the draft. Linebacker always seems to be a weak spot for New York, so Ragland would go a long way to strengthen that position. He can be a dominant presence inside for the team, and although this pick feels a bit high, inside linebackers are hard to find in this draft. If one of the top two tackles slip I could see the Giants going that route, and I think Elliott is also a possibility, although the team currently has a decent rotation at that position.
Brian's pick: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
11. CHI: Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
I think there are a few directions that Chicago could go here, but I'd be surprised if it's not a defensive player, specifically in the front seven. Floyd is a big bodied (6'6", 244 lbs.) guy who can still fly (4.6 in the 40) and would best fit in a 3-4 attacking scheme, which the Bears run. For years Chicago was known for great linebacker play, and the former Bulldog would be a huge step to getting back to that reputation.
Brian's pick: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
12. NO: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
New Orleans has several holes to fill, but I think they start addressing those with one of the best pass rushers in the draft. I think Lawson has cooled a bit in some evaluators' minds, because they feel that he's nearing his ceiling as a prospect. Even if that is the case, he carries less risk than some other prospects, and safe bets aren't necessarily a bad thing in the first round of the draft. The Saints may be tempted to consider a WR here or in a trade back (I think a few teams may be interested in this slot), but the better route is to continue building up the defense with their first pick.
Brian's pick: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
13. MIA: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
This is a tough pick for me because I think it's a no-brainer if he's still there, but I'm not sure that the running back will still be available at this point. As I mentioned above, I see a few different spots that Elliott could be drafted, and there's even a chance that Miami trades up to ensure they get their guy. In today's NFL it is frowned upon to draft running backs high in the first round, but Zeke is an exception. It's not often that RBs come out as NFL-ready as he is, and the Dolphins certainly need a back who can replace the departed Lamar Miller, and take some pressure off of QB Ryan Tannehill.
Brian's pick: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
14. OAK: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
This slot is a very intriguing spot to me for a few reasons. 1) As I mentioned in my intro, we're now into the beginning stages of the murkiness of the draft--each team's boards have just begun to really differentiate from one another's and this will continue through the rest of this round. 2) We're approaching what I feel is a drop-off in talent at a few positions (OL, CB, LB) and the beginning stages of potential runs at other positions (DL, WR). 3) The Raiders' needs match up ridiculously well with the players available to them--I'd argue that four or their top five needs can be addressed here without reaching. So, what does that mean? I think Oakland will field several offers from teams in the mid-high teens, and may very well choose to trade back. If they stand pat, Conklin is the choice. He's not very far behind Tunsil and Stanley in my eyes.
Brian's pick: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
15. TEN: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
It's well-known that the Titans need an offensive tackle to protect their potential-savior Marcus Mariota. Everyone expected them to take Tunsil with the first pick, until they fleeced the Rams and procured several picks in the next two drafts. GM Jon Robinson has stated that he's looking into moving up in the draft, and he certainly has the ammo to do so. I think the move would be for one of the top three tackles (Tunsil, Stanley, Conklin), depending on how the draft shakes out. I think the most likely is for Conklin, because it may only necessitate moving up a few spots. It will be really interesting to see what a trade would look like between the Titans and Raiders if Conklin is still there at 14. But Tennessee has many other holes, so if the tackles are gone and the pick is at 15, Eli Apple it is. The tall and long corner will provide talent at a position this squad sorely needs.
Brian's pick: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
16. DET: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Defensive line is a position of need for the Lions, and if the draft falls similar to how I've predicted it, they'll have their pick of quite a few worthy prospects. I've landed on Robinson, in part because he'll come in and instantly be part of a rotation, but has much room to grow. He also played different spots along the defensive line at Alabama, and could likely do that if needed at the pro-level.
Brian's pick: Reggie Ragland
17. ATL: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Atlanta Head Coach Dan Quinn is attempting to build a dominant defense down in Georgia, similar to the one that he had during his time in Seattle, but progress has been slow. One of the key aspects to Seattle's dominance is a ferocious pass rush. Last year the Falcons drafted Vic Beasley, and this year they draft his partner on the other side. Dodd didn't really grab scouts' eyes until this past season, especially in the playoffs when he was a force to be reckoned with. He may take some time to adjust, but his ceiling is very high.
Brian's pick: Shaq Lawson
18. IND: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
At this point, you're probably wondering if Ohio State's entire team might be drafted in the first round. That won't happen, but they may approach some records for drafted players this year. Indianapolis' most pressing needs are on defense and the offensive line. I've seen several mocks predicting OT Taylor Decker here, but that feels like a reach to me. It may be a reach that Indy is willing to take to protect Andrew Luck, but it would be wiser to not reach at this time in the draft. Lee may not be the best fit in the Colts 3-4 defense, but he's the best linebacker left, and after he bulks up a bit, the team should be able to find a spot for him in their starting lineup.
Brian's pick: Leonard Floyd
19. BUF: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
Rex Ryan's defense is always looking for a new addition to the front seven, and Rankins feels like a great fit. He played in a three man front while at Louisville, but should be comfortable in a three or four man front. I could see Rankins being drafted a bit higher, but wouldn't expect him to fall much further than this.
Brian's pick: A'Shawn Robinson
20. NYJ: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
It should be interesting to see where Lynch is selected this year. I don't think it's possible he makes it out of the first round, but there is a chance he could slip further than this. I've seen mocks that have him going near the top 10, and others not going until the last pick in the round. I'm settling somewhere in-between with the Jets, a team who may possibly need a long-term solution at the position, if they don't believe Bryce Petty is the answer. I think the other option here is defensive line, but if Lynch does make it this far, it may be tough for the Jets to pass on him.
Brian's pick: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
21. WAS: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
I think Washington can go in a few directions here, but they need to add an impact target for QB Kirk Cousins if he's going to be successful. DeSean Jackson is only good for deep throws, and Pierre Garcon would likely be voted by his peers as the biggest baby in the league. Treadwell would be a good complement to both, because despite his lack of speed, he's a strong route runner who wins contested catches. He would be a great asset for Cousins to work with on the outside, and help the young QB grow.
Brian's pick: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
22. HOU: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
The Texans badly need a receiver to work opposite of stud DeAndre Hopkins, and I think that Coleman is the perfect companion. While Hopkins works absent of elite speed, Coleman is a burner. After signing QB Brock Osweiler to a huge deal, it's important that the team surrounds him with weapons. This may not be Houston's most pressing need, but it would make sense to address it with this pick. A few other WRs could also be an option here, but I like Coleman best.
Brian's pick: Coleman
23. MIN: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
It's odd to go the first 20 picks with no receivers taken, then project three in a row, but that's how I see this playing out. Minnesota is another team in need of a weapon on the outside for their young QB, Teddy Bridgewater. Teddy has begun to make some strides and I feel WR is the most pressing need for the Vikings at this time. I'd be surprised if they don't take the top wideout on their board with this pick.
Brian's pick: Laquon Treadwell
24. CIN: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
It's possible that we see our fourth straight WR taken here, but I think the Bengals choose to strengthen their defensive line instead. After the departures of Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu, the Bengals will need to address the position at some point in the draft, but I believe they'll choose to do it later. If they choose a WR here, I think the pick is Notre Dame's Will Fuller (who will also be in play the previous few picks). In Reed, Cincinnati picks up an elite run defender to help anchor their line immediately.
Brian's pick: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
25. PIT: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
The Steelers had a pretty weak secondary last season, so I expect them to address that need in the first round, if it makes sense. I see Jackson as a prospect who could be drafted in this range, and would be a good fit at CB for Pittsburgh. I think there are a few other corners who could be in play at this spot, as well as a safety (Karl Joseph), but think ultimately Jackson winds up being the pick.
Brian's pick: Artie Burns, CB, Miami
26. SEA: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
I feel like this is the type of pick that is right up Seattle's alley. Nkemdiche is a former number one recruit out of high school, and at one point was considered a top prospect in the draft. Off-field concerns have pushed him down draft boards, not to mention the fact that he's a weird dude who wants a pet panther. The Seattle organization is run differently than most, and Pete Carroll has proven to be great at handling many different personalities, allowing them to flourish. I only see a few teams who will think the former Rebel is worth the headache in the first round, and Seattle is one of them. Many experts will say offensive line is the most pressing need, but the Seahawks have an odd approach to that position. I think they address OL here if a prospect slips, or they may potentially trade back into the second round to address it. The Seahawks are big on drafting lineman later in the draft and letting coach Tom Cable work to develop them.
Brian's pick: Darron Lee
27. GB: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
I've seen Decker much higher than this in almost all mock drafts, so I'm going out on a limb here. I think Decker belongs in this range, rather than the teens, and he fits nicely here at 27 to Green Bay. The Packers have a few lineman on expiring contracts, and could use an infusion of youth to protect Aaron Rodgers. Decker has the right build, but does have his share of weaknesses, which makes him best suited for a career at right tackle. I see the Packers most pressing need at linebacker, but think any of the ones I haven't currently mocked would be a reach here. Tight end Hunter Henry may also be in play if Green Bay is looking to add more weapons for Rodgers.
Brian's pick: Jarran Reed
28. KC: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
After losing starting cornerback Sean Smith in free agency, and having so much success with last year's first round corner Marcus Peters, I think the Chiefs go back to the well and select Alexander in this slot. The pick is a bit of a projection because Alexander came out after his redshirt sophomore year, so he may not be ready to start instantly. In two years as a starter in college he failed to record an interception, which is a bit odd. But Alexander is a competitor who does not lack confidence. The Chiefs are also in need of a WR, so that could be the pick here. Ultimately, I think they choose to go corner again, and if this pick pans out, they will have one of the top corner pairs for years to come.
Brian's pick: William Jackson III
29. ARI: Robert Kelly, C, Alabama
I feel odd placing a center in the first round of my mock draft, but it sounds like there are a few teams who could pull the trigger on Kelly on Thursday night. The Cardinals were one of the best teams in the league last year, which is the reason they don't have many weaknesses. One of them happens to be center, so drafting the best one in this year's class doesn't sound like a bad idea. Kelly is the kind of guy you can plug into your starting lineup immediately, and rely on for the next 10 years. We are in the hot zone of teams with high second day picks looking to get back into the first for a QB, so keep an eye on a possible move back.
Brian's pick: Paxton Lynch
30. CAR: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
I think this pick is a bit of a wildcard, but I'm going with my gut. The Panthers have a few needs that could be addressed in this spot, but I feel it comes down to a pass rusher or a cornerback (due to Josh Norman's departure). Carolina's philosophy is built on pressuring the quarterback, which aids the secondary. Due to that, I think they go with the pass rusher, and I see Spence as the best one still on the board. Spence has slid due to off-the-field issues, but he seems to have overcome them. He is a little light for an end, so he will need to bulk up, but luckily the Panthers won't need him to start right away.
Brian's pick: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
31. DEN: Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
With the last pick of the first round (we're probably into Friday morning at this point), I see the Broncos addressing their offensive line. I would be lying if I said I had any idea what Denver plans on doing with their starting QB position this coming season. They could draft a rookie here (Cook or Hackenburg), draft one later, trade for a QB (Kaepernick or Bradford), sign a free agent (Hoyer or Fitzpatrick), adopt a QB (is that possible?). Either way, I can't bring myself to mock a QB to them. So I choose Whitehair, a versatile lineman who can play guard, or possibly tackle if needed.
Brian's pick: Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State