First mock for the 2016 NFL Draft. No frills or fluff here (aka fancy imagery). Just straight up picks and some speculation. As I do more and more studying and film watching in the coming weeks, I’ll get into more skill specific analysis in future posts.
1) Laremy Tunsil (OT / Ole Mis
- I know, it’s not a sexy pick, and I also know it’s a popular pick among many mock drafters out there right now (I.E. I’m being boring by going with the boring majority, which is…boring), but it’s the right pick to make. The success of the Titans will hinge on Marcus Mariota; more specifically, his health. He’s shown that he’s not very durable if he takes too many hits. They have Taylor Lewan on board at LT right now, but based on some advanced statistics via Pro Football Focus, he’s better off shifting back to RT.
2) Joey Bosa (Edge / Ohio St.)
- The only real question marks with Bosa are some of his off-field issues (marijuana related) and which position/defensive scheme will be ideal for him in the NFL. Other than that? That’s pretty much it, and those “issues” aren’t even that bad to begin with. Bosa is an ideal NFL pass rusher who also excels at stopping the run. He’s quick, powerful, and often needed 2 to 3 players to slow him down at the collegiate level. For the Browns? DE isn’t a huge priority for them heading into the offseason, but he’s a local product…and at the end of the day, giving Browns fans any semblance of remote happiness and/or contentment is needed.
3) Ronnie Stanley (OT / Notre Dame)
- The San Di…errr…LA (?) Chargers are a mess. They have an aging QB who’s on his last legs, a terrible O and D line, inconsistent LBs, and they’re also about to lose two of their best players, free agents Antonio Gates (TE) and Eric Weddle (S). They could essentially go anywhere with this pick and come away with a difference maker at a position of need, but I’ll have them nab Ronnie Stanley to give Rivers some blindside help during his “swan song” seasons and help give more running room for Melvin Gordon, who had a disastrous rookie season with practically no where to run.
4) Laquon Treadwell (WR / Ole Miss)
- I’ve watched a lot of film on Treadwell…and I’m absolutely impressed with everything I see. He truly looks like a star in the making. And he performed as well as he did at Ole Miss despite shoddy QB play. So give him a QB like Tony Romo? The sky’s the limit. He doesn’t have elite speed or quickness, but his speed is still above average, and he’s incredibly shifty and knows how to constantly make players miss him in open space. Seems to have no trouble releasing from a press at the line of scrimmage, and he absolutely loves throwing his body into people to set up the run. He’s equally a vertical threat as he is a threat running intermediate routes and running after the catch. His size is also an advantage, as he’ll be able to nab most jump balls from DBs. Very solid hands no matter the situation. So for Dallas, if it’s a matter of drafting a QB for the future or drafting a player who can help now and also has star potential, I go with the later every single time. He’ll be especially scary across the field from Dez Bryant.
5) Jalen Ramsey (DB / Florida St.)
- There’s a debate as to who the better DB is in this draft class…Jalen Ramsey or Vernon Hargreaves III. If you’re going for CB, I think the scale tilts towards Hargreaves III. But if you have an exotic defensive and could also use a safety, then Ramsey is going to be the better fit. At heart, he’s a instinctive ballhawk who makes big plays, and that’s why I’d like to see a team draft him who’ll use him as a safety.
6) De’Forest Bucker (DL / Oregon)
- De’Forest Bucker could be a DT or DE in a 4-3 front, or ideally a DE in a 3-4 front. For the Ravens, they’ve been a defense oriented team for the entirety of their existence, and I think adding Buckner will help them get back on the right track. He excels at both stuffing the run and rushing the passer…and when you have DE prospects who are two-way players like that, they don’t tend to fall far.
7) Jared Goff (QB / California)
- Chip Kelly is on board now, and there’s talk he could help resurrect Colin Kaepernick’s career given his success with Mariota and that specific style of QB at Oregon…but I don’t see that as being very realistic. He’s already alienated himself from the locker room, and at the end of the day, if you don’t have the smarts and mentality to be an NFL QB…it’s just not going to work. So I’d look for them to draft Goff in hopes of him being the future while giving Kaepernick one last try to prove everyone wrong while Goff waits in the wings.
8) Vernon Hargreaves III (CB / Florida)
- No one on the Dolphins is very safe right now…not even QB Ryan Tannehill. Adam Gase was brought in as head coach, and his offensive genius will likely dictate the way their draft ends up panning out. That said, I think it’ll be wise for them to draft an elite CB early here to help them and their shoddy looking secondary. You can score all you want, but if you can’t at least slow down a passing attack in today’s NFL, you’ll never get anywhere.
9) Mackensie Alexander (CB / Clemson)
- The Buccs are also a team under the new direction of an offensive minded head coach…and just like the Dolphins, I also expect them to shore up their secondary with a potential shutdown corner in Mackenzie Alexander despite the new focus on offense. He’s a guy who’s stock seems to be everywhere right now…but from the onset here, I don’t think he’s going to fall very far on day 1 of the draft.
10) Robert Nkemdiche (DL / Ole Miss)
- Simply put, Jason Pierre-Paul’s days as an outstanding push rusher are over with his mangled fingers not allowing him to be the player he once was. Pure edge rushers like Shaq Lawson or Emmanuel Ogbah would be great picks to replace him, especially given the fact that the Giants ranked dead last in total sacks this season…but Nkemdiche’s talent will be hard to resit here. The only reason he falls this low is out of growing concern for his off the field issues, otherwise he’s easily a top 3 pick. He’s a pure bullrusher who uses his incredible God given strength and athleticism to cause havoc for opposing offensive linemen. Once he learns more skill technique to add to his extraordinary bullish style of play, watch out.
11) Myles Jack (OLB / UCLA)
- If there’s one thing that’s a constant tradition in Chicago, it’s their long history of amazing linebackers. Now I’m not saying Myles Jack will be a HoF like many before him, but his athletic abilities are absolutely off the charts. He’s versatile enough to also play safety and RB in the NFL if need be. If not for his season ending injury early in the year, we might have been talking about a top 5 pick here.
12) Shaq Lawson (DE / Clemson)
- Shaq Lawson is a powerful, violent pass rusher who’d bring some edge presence to a what feels like an always awful Saints defense. Lawson is versatile enough to play DE in either a 3 or 4 man front, making him an attractive option for practically every team in the league.
13) Paxton Lynch (QB / Memphis)
- The Eagles finally get to draft their QB of the future with Chip Kelly gone. Ironic. Lynch has the physical attributes to be a big time QB someday, but he comes from a smaller school (Memphis) and could take awhile to adjust to the NFL.
14) Jack Conklin (OT / Michigan St.)
- The Raiders have an excellent opportunity to beef up a defense that could be elite in a few short years under head coach Jack Del Rio, but with both of their starting OTs heading into free agency this offseason (Donald Penn and Khalif Barnes), they’d be wise to draft some insurance to help keep Derek Carr upright.
15) Carson Wentz (QB / North Dakota St.)
- Another QB from a small school (North Dakota St. Don’t believe me? Look at the crowd in the photo above…). Wentz is just beginning to shoot up draft boards. He’s a big, physical QB who can make all the NFL throws. So any team that’s looking for a new franchise QB will be pegged to potentially draft Wentz once Goff and Lynch are gone.
16) Emmanuel Ogbah (DE / Oklahoma St.)
- Look at this guy…look at him! Ogbah is a physical specimen who would be an ideal pairing with Ezekiel Ansah on the ends. Taylor Decker would be an option here with the way Matthew Stafford was constantly pressured this past season, but moving forward, I expect the Lions to focus on making their defensive unite a strong point.
17) Taylor Decker (OT / Ohio St.)
- Jake Matthews has been underwhelming his first couple of seasons in the league, Jake Long’s one year deal didn’t amount to much, and both of their RTs will be heading into free agency. Adding an OT just makes sense here if there’s a good one still available.
18) Kendall Fuller (CB / Virginia Tech)
- Another, “early season ending injury, could’ve gone earlier” draft prospect. Fuller was once considered to be a top CB prospect right along with the likes of Ramsey and Hargreaves…but alas, a torn meniscus set back his draft stock. Once we get to the combine, he has a legitimate shot of elevating himself back into top 10 consideration. Could be one of the most athletic CBs in the NFL. For the Colts specifically, their star defensive player, CB Vontae Davis, virtually no help in the secondary. While this team’s success rides on Andrew Luck, their defense has shown to be a sore spot the past few years. They need to keep shoring up talent on that side of the ball and let the offense figure itself out with Luck at the helm. Though drafting a RB like Ezekiel Elliot will look mighty appealing here…
19) Jonathan Allen (DE / Alabama)
- Despite the legitimate talent on Buffalo’s defensive line this season, they underperformed in a big way, ranking 31st in the league in sacks (only behind the New York Giants). And with Mario Williams likely to be cut this offseason, they better plan on finding a quality replacement early on in the draft here.
20) Reggie Ragland (ILB / Alabama)
- The Jets are in need of a LB overhaul if you ask me. Time to match the intensity of that amazing defensive front. Ragland is an ideal 3-4 ILB and will be a solid addition to a team looking to make some waves next season.
21) Ezekiel Elliot (RB / Ohio St.)
- Ezekiel Elliot is the best RB in this draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he rose into the top 10…ala last year’s top RB prospect, Todd Gurley. While not as talented as Gurley, Elliot is an absolute animal with the football. As a Vikings fan whose grown up watching AP run through the poor, foolish saps who tried getting in is way in the while at full steam…I congratulate the fans of whichever team ends up getting this fine, young player. It’ll be a treat.
22) A’Shawn Robinson (DL / Alabama)
- The Texans are probably hoping Wentz falls here. There’s no team in greater need of a franchise QB. But with him off the board, they could look to improve their front 3 and help take some pressure off of JJ Watt.
23) Jaylon Smith (OLB / Notre Dame)
- Jaylon Smith was one of the elite prospects of this draft class before a devastating ACL and LCL tear during the Fiesta Bowl weeks ago. This means that whichever team ends up taking him won’t be seeing his services until the 2017 season. Normally, this would be devastating for a draft prospect…but Jaylon Smith is so good that there’s bound to be a playoff team who gets their hands on him near the end of the 1st round to make great use of in the future…and I think the Vikings could be that team. They do need immediate help on offense, with either a big bodied WR for Teddy Bridgewater to throw to or some desperately needed help along the offensive line with both Phil Loadholt’s (starting RT) and Matt Kalil’s (starting LT) future in doubt…but I don’t think head coach Mike Zimmer or GM Rick Spielman will look past the opportunity of adding one of the best LB prospects of all time if he falls here, especially since the Vikings also need more depth at LB and an eventual replacement for Chad Greenway. That said, if Conklin or Decker fall here, they’re likely the pick. The Vikings simply cannot afford to miss out on any of the best OT prospects in this draft if they fall here.
24) Jarran Reed (DT / Alabama)
- Geno Atkins is one of the best in the game, but he needs some talent next to him to really let him loose. Reed would help eat up a ton of space.
25) Eli Apple (CB / Ohio St.)
- Eli Apple is a young prospect who some say is coming out too early, but the talent is evident, and a team like Pittsburgh who’s in desperate need of help in the secondary will be bound to take him in the late first round.
26) Jason Spriggs (OT / Indiana)
- Some think Spriggs will be a day 2 pick come draft night, but I’m looking forward to the combine to see if he has the best results there out of any OT in the draft with his athletic qualities for the position. If so, he stock will begin to stoar.
27) Michael Thomas (WR / Ohio St.)
- The Packers have a great WR corps, but they could really use a legitimate #2 WR and putt Cobb back in the slot. Jordy Nelson and Michael Thomas and Randall Cobb oh my! If this unit can’t get Aaron Rodgers back to his old ways, nothing will.
28) Josh Doctson (WR / TCU)
- Study hands, great after the catch, good route runner…these are the qualities a QB like Alex Smith needs to have in his WRs…especially if you’re going to have Brad Childress and his “kick @ss offense” start calling plays for your team on offense. Sorry, bitter Vikings fan here. He signed my hat once, and I’m embarrassed to wear it in person. There’s also the issue of unadulterated rage…
29) Derrick Henry (RB / Alabama)
- May be a bit early for him, but you have to think head coach Gary Kubiak would love to return to a power run game that Henry would be ideal for. Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson are no slouches…but Henry’s in a league of his own compared to those two.
30) Austin Johnson (NT / Penn St.)
- The Cards are a pretty complete team. I struggled with who they should aim for here. This pick will likely change in the future, but for now, I’ll give them NT Austin Johnson to help plug up the middle.
31) Will Fuller (WR / Notre Dame)
- It’s amazing to think just how good the Panthers could be if they had better receivers. Getting Kelvin Benjamin back next season will be huge, but I think they’ll be looking for some quality targets in the draft here as well. Fuller was a surprising entry into the draft, but he could end up going pretty high. He’s a legitimate vertical threat who would be ideal for Newton’s rocket arm…but there’s a caveat. Current Panthers WR Ted Ginn is extremely talented, but he’s had trouble with dropped passes throughout his career. Well, the same sadly holds true for Fuller. So that could get old fast in Carolina.
32) Nothing. Nothing but a Super Bowl Trophy…
- The Patriots will lose their first round pick due to “Deflategate”…but surprise! They’ll likely win the Super Bowl anyway. Yes, it still hurts to lose the pick, but fans can sit at home satisfied that they at least won yet another title.
Until next time…