It’s that time again. The best time of the year. Optimism springs eternal and all 32 teams look to draft the next young cornerstone of their franchise. The Rams and Eagles have already shaken things up and traded up to the top two spots in the draft. Here is the first and last iteration of my 2016 mock draft.
1. LA Rams: Jared Goff: QB, Cal: The Rams gave up a king’s ransom to move up and draft their franchise QB. They haven’t let the cat out of the bag and there is still speculation regarding which qb it will be, but chatter has heated up that Goff is their guy. The only other alternative is ND State Qb Carson Wentz.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz: QB, ND State: The Eagles followed the Rams’ lead and moved up to the #2 spot with the intention of getting their franchise quarterback. They invested nearly $30 million in the position but see the now disgruntled Bradford as a mere stopgap.
3. San Diego Chargers: Deforest Buckner: DE, Oregon: The Chargers have a glaring need at DE and Buckner is a great fit for the 3-4 scheme. They lost Kendall Reyes in free agency and need to add beef along the defensive front. The other possibilities here include Jalen Ramsey and Laremy Tunsil.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey: DB, FSU: With both Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory facing four game suspensions, an already suspect Cowboys defensive line is in desperate need of help. I still believe that the talented and versatile Ramsey is who the Cowboys covet. There is also talk of Buckeye Zeke Elliot, and the logical pick here would be Joey Bosa
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack: OLB, UCLA: In spite of the recent reports regarding the severity of his knee injury, I believe Jack will still be the pick here. He is versatile, athletic and is exactly what the Jags need on defense. They have already invested in the front and back lines of the defense and have Dante Fowler coming back from injury.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Joey Bosa: DE, Ohio State: Ozzie Newsome is one of the best GMs in the league when it comes to finding value in the draft. While Bosa is more of a fit for 4-3 scheme people seem to think he can play standing up in a 3-4. Terrell Suggs is getting towards the end of his career and Bosa would provide a much needed infusion of pass rushing talent.
7. San Francisco 49’ers: Larmey Tunsil: OT, Ole Miss: The 49’ers have needs across the board, and they will be happy to land arguably the best player in the draft at 7. The talk is that they have their eye on Buckner, but with him gone they will take the tackle out of ole miss. Joe Staley is getting old and Tunsil can eventually supplant him on the left side. Paxton Lynch is a possibility but talk of a slide is picking up after less than impressive combine interviews.
8. Cleveland Browns: Ronnie Stanley: OT, Notre Dame: The Browns are in rebuild mode yet again after trading out of the 2nd pick for a plethora of choices in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 drafts. They signed Robert Griffin III as a reclamation project/stop-gap. The hope is that Hue Jackson can revive his career. Simply put, the Browns need players, and Stanley could eventually supplant Joe Thomas as the team’s blindside protector. This need is exacerbated by the loss of both Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz in free agency.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves: CB, Florida: The Bucs are rumored to be, “very open” to trading down from the 9 spot. Unless Tennessee really covets at tackle I don’t see a player that a team would be jumping up to get here. Instead the Bucs will stand pat and look to improve upon a secondary that needs playmakers. The Bucs could also look at Treadwell as the eventual replacement to the aging Vincent Jackson.
10. New York Giants: Jack Conklin: OT, Michigan State: All of the pre draft chatter surrounding the Giants was focused on Georgia’s Leonard Floyd, but the Conklin rumors are starting to pick up steam. I believe that this would be the ideal fit for the Gmen. There are glaring holes on the right side of the line and he would slide in and start at RT on day one.
11. Chicago Bears: Shaq Lawson: De/Olb, Clemson: The Bears need to improve upon their defense, which recently switched to the 3-4 under Vic Fangio. Lawson would be a good fit at linebacker opposite Pernell McPhee. Other possibilities here include Leonard Floyd, Taylor Decker or Sheldon Rankins.
12. New Orleans Saints: Leonard Floyd, Olb, Georgia: The Saints had a historically bad defense last season, and all the chatter seems to be that they will look to improve upon that with the 12th pick. In spite of being cash strapped they were said to have been in on the Josh Norman sweepstakes. The value at CB just isn’t there at 12, and while I’m personally not a big Floyd fan his ceiling is sky high.
13. Miami Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliott: RB, Ohio State: The Dolphins lost Lamar Miller to free agency and have been linked to Elliott throughout the draft process. The presumptive starter is Jay Ajayi who is unproven and has some medical red flags. The Dolphins are desperate to improve their secondary, but William Jackson and Eli Apple would be a tad bit of a reach at 13.
14. Oakland Raiders: Sheldon Rankins: DT, Louisville: The Raiders most glaring need is at CB, but with Hargreaves going just one pick before them, the Raiders should opt to beef up their young and imposing defense. Rankins would provide an interior pass rush that would ease things on the impressive duo of Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack. I believe it would be too early here for Eli Apple or William Jackson.
15. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State: The Titans picked up a bevy of draft picks when they traded the #1 pick to the LA rams a couple of weeks ago. That has led to speculation that they will use some of those picks to move up and secure an offensive tackle. The o-line was atrocious last year and they need to protect Marcus Mariota. Decker could be paired with Taylor Lewan as bookend tackles to protect Mariota for years to come. The Titans have a lot of needs on defense as well, but I believe Decker is the ideal marriage of need and value.
16. Detroit Lions: Kevin Dodd, DE: Clemson: The ideal scenario for the Lions would be to grab one of the offensive tackles, but with Decker going at 15 I believe they’ll look to improve their defense. Dodd was productive at Clemson and would be a nice compliment to Zigga Ansah . The Lions could look to draft Calvin Johnson’s heir apparent in Laquon Treadwell if they choose to go that route.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee: OLB, Ohio State: The Falcons had a league worst 19 sacks last season and really need to improve the talent along the defensive front. While Lee isn’t a natural pass rusher, he’s an incredibly athletic playmaker who could thrive under the teaching of Dan Quinn. Recent buzz has the Falcons looking to trade back to select Keanu Neal out of Florida. Personally, if I were the Falcons I’d swing for the fences and take Noah Spence, but I don’t see them taking the risk here.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Kelly: C, Alabama: This, in my opinion, is the easiest fit in the entire first round. The Colts offensive line was abysmal yet again, and at some point they have to dedicate resources to protecting Andrew Luck. GM Ryan Grigson has not made that a priority, so a non-essential position like WR could also be in play. The Colts also need help on the defensive line but I don’t see the value at this point in the draft.
19. Buffalo Bills: Jarran Reed: DL, Alabama: Rex Ryan is seemingly on the hot seat after just one season as the head coach of the Bills. His will publicized feud with Mario Williams left the Bills with a glaring need along the defense line. The Bills were one of the worst teams in the league in terms of getting to the QB and they need to replenish the talent along the d-line. They are said to be very high on Reed and he would provide them with talent along the defensive front.
20. New York Jets: Corey Coleman: WR, Baylor: The standoff between free agent QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets Brass has lingered up until draft day, and the Paxton Lynch to New York rumors have picked up. I don’t buy it. The Jets are in win-now mode and Lynch is at least a few years away. The Jets really could use some talent along their offensive line, but the value isn’t there with 5 o-lineman off the board. The buzz among the beat writers is that Coleman is who they covet. He would give the Jets a potent trio of wide receivers for whoever ends up throwing for them this season.
21. Washington Redskins: A’Shawn Robinson: DL, Alabama: Speculation is swirling that the Redskins are looking to trade back at this spot. I am not in the business of predicting trades, so I have them taking Robinson. Terrence Knighton left via free agency and Jason Hatcher retired, leaving d-line as a glaring need. Robinson would fit in nicely at defensive end in the 3-4. The ‘skins also have a need at FS but I don’t see the value at this spot in the draft.
22. Houston Texans: Laquon Treadwell: WR, Ole Miss: The Texans have a big need at WR opposite Deandre Hopkins and Treadwell would be a great fit. They need to provide Brock Osweiler with weapons and Treadwell could be the long term answer at the position. The Texans could look at Reggie Ragland or a safety as well.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Doctson: WR, TCU: The Vikings are said to be in the market for a WR and Doctson is the best available at 23. The Vikings could also look at Darron Lee or Reggie Ragland to improve upon their up and coming linebacking unit.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Will Fuller: WR, Notre Dame: The Bengals have a glaring need at WR with the depature of both Sanu and Jones via free agency. Fuller is a burner who would provide Andy Dalton with another explosive target in the passing game. With the loss of safety Reggie Nelson the Bengals could also look at Keaneu Neal or Karl Joseph.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple: CB, Ohio State: The Steelers have had one of the most porous secondaries in the league the past few seasons. Apple was productive at OSU and has been linked to the Steelers throughout the draft process. William Jackson out of Houston or one of the safeties are also possibilities.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Robert Nkemdiche: DE, Ole Miss: Off the field concerns have pushed Nkemdiche down draft boards, but on raw talent alone he’s one of the best prospects in the draft. The Seahawks have needs along the offensive line, but their front office does not dedicate premium resources to that position. The recent selection of Frank Clark proves that the Seahawks are ok taking chances on guys with red flags.
27. Green Bay Packers: Reggie Ragland: MLB, Alabama: Drafting a productive player like Ragland would allow the Packers to move Clay Matthews back to his natural position on the edge and improve the ILB position. The Packers lost Casey Hayward via free agency so a cornerback like William Jackson or Artie Burns could also be choices here.
28. Kansan City Chiefs: William Jackson III: CB, Houston: The Chiefs lost Shaun Smith to the division rival Raiders and could look to draft his replacement at 28. Jackson was a late riser in the draft process but would fill a big hole across from defensive rookie of the year Marcus Peters. There’s an outside chance that they could look at a QB like Paxton Lynch but my gut says they’ll go defense.
29. New England Patriots: (forfeited due to Deflategate)
30. Arizona Cardinals: Noah Spence: DE, Eastern Kentucky: The Cardinals lost their second round pick in the Chandler Jones trade, so don’t be surprised if Steve Keim looks to trade back in order to recoup draft picks. If they decide or are forced to stand pat, the Cardinals have the depth and organizational stability to take a risk on a talented but flawed player like Spence. Eventually, paired with Chandler Jones he could prove to be one of the better values in the first round.
31. Carolina Panthers: Germain Ifedi: OT, Texas A&M: The Super Bowl made it glaringly apparent that the Panthers could stand to improve along their offensive line. While Michael Oher and Mike Remmers both graded out above average throughout the course of the season, they are both in contract seasons and certainly can be improved upon. Ifedi is the best tackle left on the board and will allow the Panthers to let one or both of the aforementioned tackles walk in free agency. With the departure of Josh Norman CB has become a huge need, but there isn’t the value at this point in the first round.
32. Denver Broncos: Vernon Butler: DT, Louisiana Tech: The Broncos will be looking to replace Malik Jackson, who departed in free agency. Butler is long, strong and athletic and would fill the void left by Jackson’s departure. The Broncos could look to add a QB but I don’t see anyone who would entice John Elway enough to pull the trigger at this point.