At long last the draft is finally here. Fans will get to see the fresh faces of their teams, while hundreds of young men fulfill a childhood dream of being an NFL draft pick. This year was an interesting process as trades most likely have taken out the drama of the first few selections. It was also the year of the “anonymous scout” as player evaluations were taken to another level. This wasn’t limited to even questioning things such as a prospects prowess in the kitchen. Fortunately, that’s all over and we can focus on what really matters tonight.
While various smoke screens will surely come out leading to the main event, I figured reading too much into those wasn’t worth it. If one buys into too much of that discussion, they’d be tweaking their mock to the point it’s never released. With that said, here’s my first and final mock for the 2016 draft.
1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB California: The moment the Rams traded for the top pick, it was a given they were going quarterback. All that was left to figure out is if it would be Goff or Carson Wentz. At this point and time it seems the Rams are fully locked in Goff who I feel is the most pro ready quarterback in this draft. If for some reason that isn’t the pick, Wentz is the guy.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB North Dakota State: When you give up what the Eagles did to the Browns to move up for the second pick, there’s no way the team goes anything but quarterback. The Eagles brass has apparently been enamored with Wentz and by moving up they lock in their quarterback of the future.
3. San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S Florida State: This is the moment where draft chaos kicks in and everyone’s mock draft has the potential to be significantly altered. With Philip Rivers obviously locked in at quarterback, the Chargers knowing how the first two picks unfold now have the option to choose from any player they like. The good news for the Chargers is the prospects considered the top of this class all fit positions of need.
So basically, we’re just guessing who the top player is on the Chargers board is. My guess would be that it’s Ramsey who can either start opposite Jason Verrett or replace Eric Weddle who left in free agency. Other possibilities here include Leremy Tunsil (although the Chargers have a good amount of money already tied into tackles), Ronnie Stanley who is gaining some momentum here, Joey Bosa or my personal dark horse pick DeForest Buckner.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE Ohio State: With Ramsey (their ideal option) off the board in this scenario, I’m figuring the Cowboys pick comes down to two Ohio State players: Bosa or Ezekiel Elliott. While picking a running back like Elliott here would be a total Jerry Jones pick, they can find another back in the later rounds. However Bosa at the beginning of last college football season was projected as the first overall pick, not only has the talent but also fits a glaring weakness on the Cowboys defensive line.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack, LB UCLA: This is another scenario where a team would be doing backflips if Ramsey was available. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, that’s highly unlikely. The good news for them is, they will likely have three of the four players from a combination of Bosa, Tunsil, Buckner and Myles Jack to choose from. Despite a knee injury that has garnered some question marks I don’t think the Jaguars will be able to pass up Jack here when factoring his upside and how the team can improve the front seven.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Leremy Tunsil, T Mississippi: Despite staying put, in this scenario Ozzie Newsome wins the draft yet again. Not only is left tackle a gaping need for the Ravens, but Tunsil is considered one of the two or three best prospects in the draft and is sitting here at six. If Tunsil is gone, the pick could be a defensive end such as Bosa or Buckner, another tackle such as Ronnie Stanley or maybe even go with Vernon Hargreaves to give the secondary a boost.
7. San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner, DE Oregon: The two quarterbacks being off the board could help the 49ers here as it guarantees at least one top notch defensive prospect will be available. In this case, Buckner fits the bill. No, this isn’t due to the Chip Kelly connection but the 49ers could see past success they had with Justin Smith and Ray McDonald on the line and want to try and replicate that pairing Buckner with former college teammate Arik Armstead. Ronnie Stanley would also make sense here if the 49ers wanted to address the offensive line. However if a team is high on Paxton Lynch and feels the Browns are taking him at eight, this could be a prime trade down opportunity for the 49ers considering the various holes across the roster.
8. Cleveland Browns: Ronnie Stanley, T Notre Dame: Since trading down, there has been more and more talk about the Browns interest in Paxton Lynch here. However, my guess is that’s more of a smokescreen so somebody could trade with them if anything else. The new Browns brass realizes the team has holes on both sides of the ball and is gathering as many assets as possible to address them in coming years.
If they do keep the pick and the draft goes according to plan, I would think Stanley is the pick here. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz left and free agency and Joe Thomas is still fantastic, but odds are he won’t be around to see the finished product of this attempted Browns rebuild. Some feel Stanley is the best tackle in the class and there is a change he might not even make it this far. If Stanley isn’t the pick, Vernon Hargreaves, another lineman such as Jack Conklin, Joey Bosa if here, Lynch if the interest is real or Ezekiel Elliott could be in play.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Leonard Floyd, DE Georgia: Regardless, this pick for the Buccaneers is going to be made in an attempt to boost pass defense. While my guess is it will be an edge rusher such as Floyd, Shaq Lawson or an interior force such as Sheldon Rankins, it very well could be Vernon Hargreaves to boost the secondary. Outside of Gerald McCoy, the Buccaneers haven’t had much of a consistent pass rush in recent years. In a division with Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, that’s much needed. Floyd seems to be held in much more esteem by NFL teams than some in the draft community, so a top ten selection wouldn’t be surprising at this point.
10. New York Giants: Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State: Based on how the mock has shaped up, this would be the first “surprise” of the draft. However, the Giants don’t have a truly established back and Jerry Reese is known to go best available player and in the eyes of many, that would be Elliott at this point. Based on the best available player logic, Hargreaves could be the pick if available to add depth to the secondary while players like Myles Jack, Ronnie Stanley, Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd (the presumptive favorite if available) also are in play if they make it to this point.
11. Chicago Bears: Shaq Lawson, DE Clemson: For a few years now, it seems as if the Bears having issues on the defensive line and generating a pass rush. The good news for them is that an edge rusher should be there for them and in this case it’s Lawson. At this point, Lawson provides some nice value as well as his stock has been climbing since everything went well at his recent medical recheck in Indianapolis. Other players who could be considered here are Sheldon Rankins, Jarran Reed and maybe even Elliott if he made it this far.
12. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT Louisville: Considering where the depth of this class is and that the Saints couldn’t stop a nose bleed last year, going defense would probably be the safe bet here. Rankins would be a nice get here as he has the skills to be a disruptive interior force at the next level. Edge rushers such as Shaq Lawson could be a possibility here along with Vernon Hargreaves who the Saints might not of previously thought would make it to this point.
13. Miami Dolphins: Vernon Hargreaves, CB Florida: If Ezekiel Elliott is available when the Dolphins are picking, he might as well have his agent reserve a table for him at King of Diamonds because he’ll be the guy. However, barring trading up that’s unlikely. While they might be willing to move up, the Dolphins best bet may be to actually stay put considering their needs in the secondary. At this point, Byron Maxwell (acquired when trading down with the Eagles) is the only known starting corner so it would make sense to pounce on Hargreaves considering some feel he could be well off the board by this point. Other players that the Dolphins could take here besides Elliott include William Jackson, Eli Apple and Jack Conklin. If Myles Jack due to the medical red flags somehow makes it here, the Dolphins are also said to have interest.
14. Oakland Raiders: Jarran Reed, DT Alabama: The Raiders filled a ton of needs this offseason, but could still use a disruptive interior presence. In this scenario, Reed would be able to provide value and has the potential to play the role. The Raiders might consider another interior lineman along the lines of Sheldon Rankins or Robert Nkemiche, corners such as William Jackson or Eli Apple and don’t rule out Ezekiel Elliott if he is still there. Another name to watch is linebacker Darron Lee.
15. Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin, T Michigan State: When you have a young quarterback, it’s essential to protect the investment and that’s what I’d guess the Titans do here. Conklin could be long gone by this point, but in this scenario he makes it much to the Titans excitement. I’m assuming this pick is going to be a tackle regardless of if Conklin is here or not, so in that case Taylor Decker is probably the next best available. If Leremy Tunsil starts falling, don’t be surprised if the Titans potentially use some of the capital they’ve built up in their recent trades to go up and snatch him either.
16. Detroit Lions: Vernon Butler, DT Louisiana Tech: With a new front office in place, it’s always hard to determine how they will operate in their first draft. For the Lions, my guess is new general manager will go by their board. In this case, that happens to also fit a need as while not really discussed, Butler could be a very realistic possibility here. The Lions have met with him multiple times through the draft process and many have compared Butler to Muhammad Wilkerson which is far from a bad thing.
Another plus for the Lions is they might be able to trade down a few spots if Butler is the player they covet as well. Others that figure to be in play at this pick if they are available include Jarran Reed, Darron Lee, Sheldon Rankins, Ryan Kelly (my dark horse selection) and Jack Conklin.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, LB Ohio State: Last year the Falcons got a fantastic fit for their defense when Vic Beasley managed to fall their way. This year, I see it happening again with Lee who checks off all the boxes in what they could use in a linebacker. If available Lee certainly figures to be the pick but in the case he isn’t, the Falcons could look at another pass rusher who is available or an interior presence such as Vernon Butler or Jonathan Bullard.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, T Ohio State: It’s always a good idea to protect prized investments but despite that, the Colts still have issues upfront. They paid the price last year as Andrew Luck missed most of the season with various injuries. Decker figures to go around this point, so he is not only a decent value but fits a need. If a tackle isn’t the pick, the Colts could consider an edge rusher such as Noah Spence or a run stopper in Andrew Billings as the team is in need of someone who can clog the middle.
19. Buffalo Bills: Reggie Ragland, LB Alabama: For having a defensive oriented coach in Rex Ryan, the Bills didn’t get a whole lot of production from their linebackers in 2015. At this point, Ragland is not only one of the best players’ available but would also fit a need and scheme wise looks like he would be a good fit for Ryan in Buffalo. If Ragland isn’t in play for the Bills, they would be interested if Darron Lee made it to them. If a defensive tackle such as Jarran Reed slipped, the Bills surely would take a look as well. That scenario makes Robert Nkemdiche very interesting here as Ryan is a coach that could get the best out of him.
20. New York Jets: Paxton Lynch, QB Memphis: Lynch may not make it to 20, but one way or another a team like the Jets who are in the quarterback market will find a way to land him. The team could use some tackle help, so players such as German Ifedi and Jason Spriggs are options. Considering Vernon Butler is often linked to a player the Jets are shopping around in Muhammad Wilkerson, there might be some interest there as well if he’s around.
21. Washington Redskins: Ryan Kelly, C Alabama: Kelly has seen his stock rise drastically in recent weeks and there is now a chance this pick could be around his floor. The Redskins would be ecstatic to see him here as they could really use some help at the position as they continue to shore up their offensive line. The team needs help on the other side of the ball in the trenches as well, so a defensive tackle such as A’Shawn Robinson is also a possibility here.
22. Houston Texans: Will Fuller, WR Notre Dame: Receiver is a position of personal preference and that’s how Fuller (who many pundits have as the 4th or 5th best wideout available) is the first one taken here. The Texans are in the market for a deep threat that could complement DeAndre Hopkins and not many in this draft are in Fuller’s class when it comes to speed. Corey Coleman would also fit the bill as a receiver who can win vertically, so he’s one to keep an eye on.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Doctson, WR TCU: While they’ve said all options are on the table, many are expecting the Vikings to go receiver here. Doctson fits the mold of what the Vikings could use as he’s a bigger wideout who can win in both intermediate and vertical areas of the field. The other option at this pick will likely be Laquon Treadwell who many feel is the best wideout in this class. Considering the Vikings could use some depth on the defensive line, Robert Nkemdiche would also make a lot of sense here.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Corey Coleman, WR Baylor: After losing both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency, the Bengals receiving corps is suddenly slim outside of A.J. Green. With big play ability and loads of upside, Coleman seems like a great fit to compliment Green on the outside. If Coleman isn’t the pick here, the Bengals also seem very intrigued by Doctson (if he gets by Minnesota) or could address their defensive tackle need if they feel this class has depth at receiver.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: William Jackson, CB Houston: In need of a cornerback, somehow the Steelers do it again. Jackson has the size and speed teams covet while also being very productive during his time at Houston. It wouldn’t be surprising if he was long gone by this point. If that is the case, the Steelers could build through the trenches taking Andrew Billings who would be a tremendous boost at their glaring nose tackle need. Other defensive backs such as Eli Apple, Kendall Fuller, Karl Joseph (my dark horse candidate) and Keanu Neal also should be in the discussion.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Robert Nkemdiche, DL Mississippi: One of few cons to being as good as the Seahawks have been in recent years is that you can’t resign everyone. That was seen in the pass rush which wasn’t as effective in past years and also has an impact on how the “Legion of Boom” performs. In comes Nkemdiche who on pure talent alone is easily a top ten pick but due to concerns about character could be available here. The Seahawks aren’t ones to shy away from eccentric personalities, so with what both sides can do for each other, this would be a perfect draft day marriage. The Seahawks could also consider an offensive lineman such as German Ifedi or another interior defensive lineman such as Jonathan Bullard.
27. Green Bay Packers: Andrew Billings, DT Baylor: The defensive line isn’t a pressing need for the Packers, but in a draft with an abundance of talent there, it’s not a bad time to address it. With B.J. Raji’s sudden retirement, the Packers need some help along the interior and Billings would be a great value if he managed to fall here. The Packers could also consider other defensive lineman here such as a Jonathan Bullard or Vernon Butler if they were here. Don’t rule out them selecting T.J. Green either as his versatility to the secondary could be very enticing.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Laquon Treadwell, WR Mississippi: With no clear option to start opposite Jeremy Maclin, Treadwell would make sense if he was available for the Chiefs here. However, there is a decent chance that isn’t the case. Considering Andy Reid’s penchant for developing quarterbacks, Paxton Lynch if here could be in play as Alex Smith is now in his thirties. Another name that hasn’t been mentioned a whole lot in the first round discussion would be Cody Whitehair. There is a chance he could end up as a late first rounder and the Chiefs might value the versatility he could bring to their offensive line.
29. Arizona Cardinals: T.J. Green, CB/S Clemson: Just a few months ago, Green was the third most talked about defensive back prospect from his own college team. Now there is a good chance he’s the first of the three selected. So what marks the recent change? Well, teams aren’t going to pass up on versatile defensive backs who check in at 6’2” and run a 4.34 forty. The Cardinals are a team who appreciate the possible dimensions Green could add, so he’s my pick here. Other options for the Cardinals include offensive lineman such as Ryan Kelly or Cody Whitehair along with Keanu Neal who could provide safety help.
30. Carolina Panthers: Kevin Dodd, DE Clemson: While waiting for this pick, all the talk will be about finding a replacement for Josh Norman. However, it’s worth noting that the Panthers didn’t exactly select Norman or their other corners with early picks. Instead, they built up their front seven and that’s what I’d guess they do here. Dodd could be well off the board by now, but would provide depth as an edge rusher with Charles Johnson who is only signed for one year. Obviously corners such as William Jackson would be in play, but don’t rule out Laquon Treadwell if he makes it here.
31. Denver Broncos: Karl Joseph, S West Virginia: Yes, the Broncos are obviously in need of a quarterback. But it’s highly unlikely unless he is still available around where 27 or 28 that they trade up and take Paxton Lynch. Assuming Lynch is gone by then, I have the Broncos sticking to their board and taking Joseph who could be long gone by this point. Joseph to many is viewed as the top safety in the draft and could provide valuable depth in an already strong secondary. Players such as Andrew Billings or German Ifedi could also draw consideration here if available.