For all the fans whose teams missed the playoffs, it’s time to start looking at 2016 NFL mock drafts. After a season of disappointment, NFL homers know the weaknesses on their team quite well. So it’s natural to glance at the list of prospects and see how best to fill those holes on the roster.
The list below contains picks for the first half of the 2016 NFL Draft. It is early in the process, so I’ll make significant changes along the way, once information start to make its way into the public in the draft evaluation process.
The biggest event between now and the NFL Draft is the NFL Combine from February 23rd to February 29th in Indianapolis. Those who want special insight into the draft process should watch the Combine on the NFL Network. After it comes and goes, a lot of new information will be analyzed and the mock draft lists will change a lot.
For the time being, here are the best projections we have on draft picks on April 28 through April 30. The first three picks look easy to predict for me. After that, things get a little more speculative.
1. Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff, QB, California Bears
Jared Goff is the natural choice for the Rams. Carson Wentz might have more pure physical talent than Goff, but Jared Goff has the measurables to be the No. 1 overall pick. He is more NFL-ready than Carson Wentz, and he’s coming to a team that has a lot of pieces in place. And the Rams have the longest streak of losing seasons in the NFL (9), so they need to win now. Jeff Fisher needs to win now.
Plus, the Los Angeles Rams want to sell their team to the fans of Southern California. They’ll be competing against the Chargers for fan interest. Rolling the No. 1 pick out there each week is a boon.
More than that, Jared Goff is a California guy. Even though he played in the northern half of the state, he should be known to California college football fans. This is the perfect pick from a marketing standpoint, and it’s the perfect pick from an on-the-field standpoint. This pick should put the Rams on the map in so many different ways.
For years, the Rams have built their defense with pass rushers and defensive backs. In the last couple of years, the team has started to add weapons on offense. Todd Gurley looks like he’ll be a special player at the running back position, if he stays healthy.
What the team lacks is a franchise quarterback. The Rams think they have a franchise quarterback in Jared Goff. Now, all that’s left is to see if he can play.
1st Pick: Via the Tennessee Titans, who traded with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.
2. Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State Bisons
Carson Wentz came out of the NFL Combine with the biggest buzz. Wentz showed he had the best arm in the draft by a long shot. He is said to have wowed teams in the Q&A interviews.
Like any NFL franchise, the gulf between being a contender and being a talented-but-inconsistent team is the difference in quarterback play. Carson Wentz might take a year to arrive, but he seems like the quarterback most likely to cause a team to trade up.
The Eagles need a franchise quarterback, too. When they traded to get the 2nd pick in the draft, Howie Roseman indicated the team liked Jared Goff and Carson Wentz equally well. I imagine they have a good idea whom the Rams want and are okay with the one who’ll be left here. My guess it’s going to be Carson Wentz, and new head coach Doug Pederson is going to be happy with that option. Time for the new head coach to start a multi-year project to turn Wentz (or Goff) into a franchise quarterback.
Philly divested itself of a ton of players in the latter part of the Chip Kelly years. They have a multi-year rebuilding effort, so it makes sense to draft a young passer and give him a year to develop. The Eagles should not see themselves as a contender, even if they might stumble into a playoff chase in the NFC East. It would be delusion to assume a bad division is a ticket to the Super Bowl.
Speaking of delusional…
It is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard in a while that Sam Bradford is offended by the Eagles’ trade-up to draft a quarterback. What has Sam Bradford done to be considered a franchise quarterback? Being a Heisman Trophy winner more than half-a-decade ago?
Sam Bradford has been given more than enough time to prove he’s worth the $77 million teams have spent on his NFL services so far. He’s shown himself to be injury prone, with 3 major injuries. When on the field, he does not appear to be a difference maker. Now he’s angry he’ll have to beat out a rookie passer. Well, no matter who is drafted at No. 2, Sam Bradford was drafted higher than them. He should have the skills and veteran know-how to beat out a rookie. If not, he’s proven he’s not the franchise QB he thinks he is.
2nd Pick: Via the Cleveland Browns in a 5-for-1 trade which involved multiple 1st rounders.
The Cleveland Browns could have stayed in this spot and drafted either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, but they chose to take a 5-pick combination for a trade-down with the Eagles. The Browns did not see one of those players as a franchise QB. But then, the Browns have a long history of missing on 1st rounders.
3. San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss Rebels
Laremy Tunsil is a consensus Top 3 pick and a perfect fit for the job.
One reason the Chargers dump the ball off to Danny Woodhead 5 to 10 times a game is the inability of the Chargers offensive line to give Philip Rivers time to pass.
One reason Antonio Gates has had games where he had no production in the past couple of years is the need to max protect. Keenan Allen’s talent will be better employed if Rivers has time to drop back and read the field, letting his Pro Bowl level receiver find room.
Melvin Gordon will find more room, if Tunsil is blocking up front.
The Chargers could use a defensive stalwart and could go for help with the pass rush or defensive front here. They have an aging quarterback who needs protection, though. Only if they have a grade on a player they think is a JJ Watt-type talent will they pass on Laremy Tunsil here, because he is graded as a Top 3 player. It’s a gift to have him fall.
If Tunsil falls here, it sets up a trade-up with the Cowboys at No. 4, because they have no need of a left tackle and the pick would hold a lot of value. If not, then the Ravens would be getting a big upgrade at No. 5.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State Seminoles
Jalen Ramsey can play cornerback and safety. He might play corner in the early stages of his career, but anytime a player is big enough to play safety in the NFL, but has cover skills, I expect him to end up at safety. What that does is bolster the coverage skills of the entire defense. In this NFL, it could give the Cowboys the kind of edge they used to have in their glory days, with Darren Woodson.
As a Cowboys’ fan, I’d even be happy with the top defensive tackle, as a way of shoring up the run defense, protecting LBs like Sean Lee, and giving opposing offenses concerns besides edge rushers Greg Hardy, Demarcus Lawrence, and Randy Gregory. But if the team drafts defense high, I think they’ll look at a defensive back (which I consider a mistake).
No, I think Jerry Jones sat in the press box all last year watching an offense which, week-after-week, simply could not come up with big plays. Of all those games the team played without Tony Romo, about 80% of them would have been wins if the offense had come up with one big play, somewhere. What I took away from the Dallas Cowboys 2015 season was the team simply had no playmakers besides Romo and Dez Bryant. Sean Lee would be considered a playmaker, if he was on the field more than 50% of the time.
It’s my belief Jerry Jones takes Jalen Ramsey as a means of adding help to a defense which still needs upgrading, while planning on using that high 2nd round pick on defensive help. But knowing Jerry, he could go for a trade-down.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida Gators
2015 was a good year for the Jacksonville Jaguars, despite the lousy record. Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson showed they each have elite talent at the pro level. That doesn’t mean either turns into elite players, but the Jags finally had young players show something. If the young players on offense continue to improve and Gus Bradley can put together an average defense, this could be an entertaining team to watch for years to come.
The defense should get better simply having Dante Fowler on the field next year, but drafting DEF high would help speed up that process. With what amounts to two Top 5 picks coming aboard on the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars might be better prepared to compete in 2016. I nearly placed Jalen Ramsey here, especially after seeing the bowl game Vernon Hargreaves had. I think there’s a better chance Hargreaves becomes a shutdown corner in the NFL, though. The Jags need someone on defense who can change opposing teams’ gameplan and that’s one thing a shutdown corner can do. Gus Bradley knows the value of such players, having coached Richard Sherman in Seattle.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Joey Bosa, OLB, Ohio State Buckeyes
Joey Bosa could go anywhere in the Top 10 picks. Some experts have him as the #1 talent in the draft. Others think he should go around the 7th or 8th pick. One thing for certain is that NFL teams need pass rushers in this new era of passing. Defensive backs are great, but they’ll be exposed eventually, if the pass rush never gets to the quarterback. With such a premium on anyone who can get pressure on the QB, Joey Bosa should be drafted high.
The Baltimore Ravens need a difference maker on defense. Joey Bosa would give the team a playmaker at a position of need.
This is a lock in the 1st spot. The Titans drafted Marcus Mariota 2nd overall last year and he’s the franchise. He showed flashes of greatness in his rookie season, but also took a beating and missed games due to injuries.
The Ravens are still looking for an identity on defense, after the loss of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to retirement. Terrell Suggs has seen his better days in a Ravens’ uniform, and he might not return in 2016. The team replaced Ray Lewis with C.J. Mosely, so now it’s time to add someone on the front end of the defense.
Super Bowls are won and lost along the line of scrimmage. Teams that rush the passer can shut down offenses. If you can’t pressure the quarterback, you have zero chance of holding an opponent. It’s a matter of who dictates the action.
Joey Bosa looks like he’ll fall a bit, and the Ravens will pick up a talent.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis Tigers
Paxton Lynch is considered to have the best tools of any quarterback prospect in this year’s draft. He could go anywhere from #4 to #15, but the first couple of QBs tend to go a little higher than expected, in most drafts. Just one year removed from the Jim Harbaugh Era, the Niners need a new identity. Drafting a quarterback high is the best way to transition to a new era of the franchise. What’s more, they need the help.
Colin Kaeperick is likely gone in San Francisco, unless Trent Baalke actually hires Chip Kelly to be the head coach (and I don’t expect that). The only other reason Kaepernick might stay around is the huge salary cap figure he would represent as dead money. Also, there is the option the team goes with Blaine Gabbert and uses this pick on defense. I suspect most NFL GM’s couldn’t sleep at night with their career depending on Blaine Gabbert, so I’ll pick Paxton Lynch as a better option here.
8. Cleveland Browns – Laquan Treadwell, Mississippi State Rebels
I’m going to go out on a limb here. The Browns could use a lot of different players here. They need a quarterback desperately and might go with Paxton Lynch, if he falls. They could use any one of several defensive players.
But with Josh Gordon in his (now) annual holding pattern, they could also grab the best playmaker on the board and wait for their quarterback. This is especially true, if Lynch is off the board.
DeForest Buckner makes a lot of sense here, too. The Browns need some excitement and pop on offense. Treadwell would give the team another weapon, whoever the QB is.
Pick: Via the Philadelphia Eagles, who traded for the pick from the Miami Dolphins.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA Bruins
The Bucs had their moments on offense in 2015, with Doug Martin rejuvenating his career, Charles Sims showing he could contribute in the passing game, and Jameis Winston showing talent in an up-and-down performance. With Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the team has other young talents on offense. What they need is defense, and at almost every position. Lovie Smith couldn’t get the unit fixed in his two seasons in Tampa, which is why he is gone. (Though it was quick to pull the trigger.)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the year with Bruce Carter at the middle linebacker position. That’s scary. Bruce Carter has athleticism. In straight-ahead speed, few LBs have his burst. Force him to change direction and he’s helpless. The Bucs might get lucky and have the perfect middle linebacker fall to them. If Myles Jack falls this far, he’ll be a Buccanneer.
The rangy, athletic Myles Jack is expected to be off the board long before this pick. Many mock drafts have the Dallas Cowboys taking Jack at the #4 pick. I can see Jerry Jones doing that, because he perennially believes he’s smarter than everyone else and he can take a chance on players with injury histories. Look at his selections of Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. Look at how many times he’s gone back to the Tony Romo well. Jerry Jones is reactive, though. After this last season, though, I think Jerry Jones is going to be gun shy about injuries. I believe he passes on Myles Jack, If Myles Jack falls, he could drop a ways. Other teams behind the Cowboys have bigger needs.
10. New York Giants – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon Ducks
Speaking of DeForest Buckner, the Bucs need help rushing the passer and Buckner is the best way to build up front. At 6’7″, 300 pounds, DeForest Buckner is probably better suited to play defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Most analysts believe he can play 4-3 defense. While he does not fit the mold of a Giants DE, the team could sign a free agent DE and move Buckner to the left side. Also, the The Giants might take Emmanuel Ogbah (see below). For now, I’ll say they go with the best player available.
This would be the third straight team with a defensive end, but it’s also the third straight team which needs a pass rusher. Emmanuel Ogbah fits into the mold of a New York Giants DE. He can beat people with power and with speed. Most of all, he fills a role the team desperately needs. All three of the team’s top pass rushers hit free agency this offseason: Jason Pierre-Paul, George Selvie, and Robert Ayers. I expect to see Jerry Reese start to replenish this position, given this was the edge the Giants had in two Super Bowl campaigns.
Once again, the New York Giants are a team with plenty of needs. They could use a running back or offensive line help. Their linebacker corps and defensive backfield also need help. All in all, a lot of players are draftable with the 10th overall pick, and they Giants could very well go with the best player available. But they need a pass rusher.
11. Chicago Bears – Reggie Ragland, MLB, Alabama Crimson Tide
The Chicago Bears are a team whose identity has been defined by middle lineback: Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher. That defense needs an identity. John Fox loves good defense. Enter: Reggie Ragland.
Those who saw Reggie Ragland at Alabama have to be wondering why the star middle linebacker fell so far. Middle linebackers are like running backs in the NFL Draft these days: most teams don’t draft them in the first half of the 1st round. That’s funny, because the middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. Ray Lewis was a huge difference maker as a 1st round MLB. Urlacher led a defense that went to the Super Bowl. Even last year, Luke Kuechley keyed the Carolina Panther’s run to the Super Bowl. At a point, Reggie Ragland is going to look real nice to some team (using the 4-3 defense).
12. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State Cowboys
When a team trades their starting right defensive end in midseason, it’s either a sign they have insane depth at the position, or they have no one to play the position anyway. The New Orleans Saints traded their starting DE last season and rotated some young players the remainder of the way.
The results were predictably bad. The Saints might believe they have the future on the roster already. If not, Emmanuel Ogbah could look pretty good to them.
As I mentioned above, this is a project player with all the physical tools to be an NFL star. The Saints front office and coaching staff might not believe they have the time to wait, but they also know they need help on defense. Ogbah is a future star.
13. Cleveland Browns – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson Tigers
The Dolphins are still reeling from previous picks, like the one used on Dion Sims. Many are wondering why the team spent $100 million on Ndamukong Suh in free agency. They also have Cameron Wake returning in 2016, but he’ll be 34 and coming off a major injury.
The best way to take pressure off of Suh and squeeze the most out of Cameron Wake (and move on from Sims) is to draft a star pass rusher. Shaq Lawson gives the Dolphins that player.
This is one of those picks which could go in many directions. The Dolphins need help on the offensive line, at the skill positions, and at every level of defense. But the best way to rebuild a defense is up front. Shaq Lawson makes a lot of sense here, assuming his NFL Combine numbers are good. I’ll pencil in Lawsom going to Miami. is another option at this pick.
14. Oakland Raiders – Mackenzie Alexander, CB, Clemson Tigers
Clemson’s standout cornerback, Mackensie Alexander, is shorter (5’11”) than you want a prototypical NFL cornerback to be. Teams avoided throwing his way, so teams might not have a lot of tape on him. When Alexander saw action, he showed the ability to clamp down on receivers and close space. From what we’ve seen, he has all the makings of a top NFL corner.
The Raiders have been building a solid roster under new owner Mark Davis. Players like Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack give the team a lot of hope. Adding Mackenzie Alexander to the defense would place another playmaker on that side of the ball, continuing the transformation.
Mark Davis has to remember the days of Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes. Those were the good ole days, when the Raiders were winning Super Bowl. So Mackenzie Alexander is a little bit shorter than the classic shutdown NFL corner. The Raiders don’t worry about such things. Speed and playmaking ability count for more…a lot more.
15. Tennessee Titans – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
This pick could transform the Titans’ perennially bad offensive line. What it does is allow current LT Jeremiah Poutas to move inside to left guard. While Poutas has struggled at times at tackle, he should be more natural at the guard position. This should upgrade 2 positions on the roster.
Ronnie Stanley is likely to go anywhere in the Top 10 to a team which needs a left tackle. The difference between Stanley and Tunsil is not that great, so this could look like a bargain to a team. Anyone with a young star QB is going to want to protect their young passer. Anyone who doesn’t have a star at quarterback knows their best chance of covering up the weakness is to give that passer time. The services of players at Ronnie Stanley’s position are in high demand — always.
Pick: Via the Philadelphia Eagles.
NFL Mock Draft for the 2016 1st Round
That is a quick snapshot of the Top 10 picks, according to the needs and wants of NFL teams. Once again, the list is going to look a lot different in March, once the NFL Combine takes place and we start to hear about risers and fallers. Some knucklehead will do something or say something stupid at the Combine. A few guys will disappoint on their measurables. A couple will rise quickly through the boards with stellar workouts. It happens every year, so keep reading to see the latest 2016 NFL mock draft.