With less than a month to go until the 2016 NFL Draft, it's high time I joined in the mock draft fun. The All-Star games, Scouting Combine, free agency, and many pro days are in the rear-view mirror. We still have no clue who the New York Giants are going to pick, bu we're starting to get an idea of who the prospects are, and what the Giants' roster is starting to look like.
So, of course, I decide to be ambitious with my first mock draft and will (probably incorrectly) predict the first 98 picks of the 2016 NFL draft.
Just like the real draft, we'll just be doing the first round today, and you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the second and third rounds.
The Tennessee Titans are on the clock!
The Eagles trade the eighth and 79th picks to the Titans. There would be other picks as well, likely later in the draft and future picks, but for our purposes these are the only ones that matter
The Titans have expressed a willingness to trade out of the first pick in the draft, and the Eagles have been studying the top quarterback options closely. They have Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel on the roster, Wentz gives them a potential franchise quarterback to groom for 2017 and beyond.
The Browns don't need a quarterback, they need a team. Joe Haden is one of the bright spots on their defense, but Justin Gilbert has been an unmitigated bust, and they lost Tashaun Gipson in free agency after a poor 2015. Ramsey might be a better safety than corner, but his world-class athleticism and experience at both means he is an upgrade wherever the Browns play him.
3) San Diego Chargers -- Laremy Tunsil (OT, Ole Miss)
The Chargers might be looking hard at a defensive player here, but neither Chris Hairston nor Joseph Barksdale should stop them from taking the gift of Tunsil dropping into their laps.
4) Dallas Cowboys -- Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
The smart move is probably for the Cowboys to take Jared Goff and run. They'd have a backup who might just win a game if (when) Tony Romo gets hurt, and an inexpensive successor already in-house for when he hangs up the cleats for good. But Jerry Jones seems to be doubling down on Romo. Greg Hardy is out, and Randy Gregory was not only disappointing but is suspended for the first quarter of the 2016 season. Bosa's power, motor, and hands give the Cowboys a pass rush they lack.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars -- Myles Jack (LB UCLA)
The Jags have spent more money than anyone this offseason, the crown jewel of their free agent haul being Malik Jackson. With the return of Dante Fowler Jr, the Jags should have a greatly improved defensive line. Myles Jack is a uniquely talented linebacker who would give Jacksonville an almost ridiculously athletic linebacking corps alongside Telvin Smith.
6) Baltimore Ravens -- DeForest Buckner (DT, Oregon)
Defense has always been the Ravens' calling card, but age and attrition have depleted that once fearsome unit. Buckner has the tools to be truly special, and not only is he a perfect fit in Baltimore's defense but he would get the coaching he needs to realize his potential.
7) San Francisco 49ers -- Jared Goff (QB, Cal)
Chip Kelly is probably hoping that Collin Kaepernick comes around and decides to compete with Blaine Gabbert for the 9er's starting quarterback job, but he doesn't seem to have much interest in being a 49er. Kelly's scheme seems to be a perfect fit for Kaep and they really need to address other areas of that roster, if he doesn't want to be there -- and hasn't been any good since Harbaugh was pushed out -- Goff is their best bet.
8) Philadelphia Eagles *TRADE!* Tennessee Titans -- Ronnie Stanley (OT, Notre Dame)
Tunsil has been the de facto pick for the Titans for a while now, they managed to get an extra pick while getting a tackle that might ultimately be better. Mike Mularkey's marching orders are to protect Marcus Mariota, and Stanley gives them a trio of studs on their offensive line.
9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
The Bucs signed Robert Ayers to help bolster their pass rush, but he has always been best as a complementary piece, picking up the spares after another rusher disrupts the offense. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith has historically liked defensive ends who are stout against the run, and Lawson can do both. Assuming his medical check-up is clean, this pick makes a lot of sense.
10) New York Giants -- Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia)
The way this draft fell put me squarely on the horns of a dilemma. It came down to Vernon Hargreaves and Floyd for me (and Noah Spence, since I don't give a damn about numbers from miserable conditions or when he was sick and injured. But I'll just sit out on my branch by myself). I really do like Hargreaves, and I think he could be a stud of a free safety/slot corner, basically the Tyrann Mathieu role.
Ultimately, I'm giving credence to the importance of Reese being in Georgia for Leonard Floyd's Pro Day, and quite frankly, I've wanted a tall linebacker who can rush and cover for a couple years now (I think folks will remember Raptor being particularly vocal about Dion Jones and Anthony Barr). The Giants love length, versatility, and explosiveness in their defenders, and Floyd has all of those in spades, and his traits would give Spags a lot of options for "multiple" fronts.
I'm penciling Floyd in as the "WILL" linebacker, though Landon Collins might have more of that role in practice. In Spags' 4-3 under and 3-4 alignments, putting Floyd at the "WILL" position gives him a bit more protection from the defensive line than Devon Kennard, who's stouter frame lends itself to setting the edge in the run game and dealing directly with offensive linemen. Also, the possibilities of Floyd's lightning quick inside move or ability to bend the edge in combination with JPP or Olivier Vernon are really fun to think about.
The Giants have set themselves up to go in a variety of directions here, and Hargreaves, Treadwell, or even Jack Conklin wouldn't surprise me.
11) Chicago Bears -- Vernon Hargreaves III (CB, Florida)
The Bears might have been hoping that Floyd would slip to them, but they're in a good spot to get a top-10 talent in Hargreaves. They could use an upgrade to their pass rush, but Hargreaves provides help from the back end.
12) New Orleans Saints -- Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
The Saints traded away Jimmy Graham last year and lost Marques Colston this year. They may be transitioning to a more traditional run-based offense for Drew Brees' last years and life after, but they still need a reliable target for him in the now. Treadwell is that, and his brutal blocking fits nicely in New Orleans' offense as well.
13) Miami Dolphins -- Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
The Dolphins let Lamar Miller walk in free agency, but there were concerns going back to the draft about Jay Ajayi's knee. Elliott is the top offensive weapon in this draft and is the all-around player Miami needs.
14) Oakland Raiders -- Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
The Raiders have quietly rebuilt their team from the mess it was at the end of Al Davis' life, and might be ready to take the AFC West crown from the Denver Broncos. Rankins is arguably the best player available at this point, and his pass rush from the inside could make for a devastating combination with Khalil Mack.
15) Los Angeles Rams -- Ryan Kelly (OC, Alabama)
The Rams really could use a quarterback, but Paxton Lynch is more of a developmental prospect while Christian Hackenberg and Connor Cook are flawed. They could also use a "Number 1" receiver, but there really isn't one here, though Josh Doctson could surprise. Instead, they'll build around their most dynamic offensive piece, Todd Gurley. Kelly was the centerpiece of an Alabama offensive line that paved the way for Derrick Henry's Heisman campaign, and now he'll do the same for Gurley.
16) Detroit Lions -- Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
The Lions replaced Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley with Haloti Ngata last year. And while Ngata is still a good player, he's getting toward the twilight of his career. Billings was miscast as a nose tackle in Baylor's 3-4 defense and is a much better fit as a 3-technique in a four-man line. His power, motor, and ability to disrupt will be a big boost to the Lions' defense.
17) Atlanta Falcons -- Reggie Ragland (ILB, Alabama)
Falcons fans probably had lofty dreams when Dan Quinn left Seattle to become Atlanta's new head coach. But that defense won't be turned around in just one season. Ragland isn't as athletic as CJ Mosley was, but he's still a good linebacker prospect and can quarterback the Falcon's defense.
18) Indianapolis Colts -- Jack Conklin (OT, Michigan State)
When your 240-pound franchise quarterback goes down with a lacerated kidney, you might just have protection problems. Conklin isn't the most skilled pass protector, but he has the tools NFL coaches are looking for, and his mauling mentality is something the Colts need up front.
19) Buffalo Bills -- Noah Spence (EDGE, Eastern Kentucky)
This is a Rex Ryan team, so it seems fairly likely that the pick will be a defender. Spence might be the top edge rusher in this draft class, but he slips due to character questions. Spence gives the Bills a dangerous speed rusher off the edge, and the Ryans have never shied away from a potential problem child.
20) New York Jets -- Mackenzie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
Noah Spence is a popular name here but the Bills picked the Jets' pocket on this one. So they get a running mate for Darrelle Revis in Alexander. He is a confident and athletic corner with speed to burn, but he slips due to size and a lack of turnovers (granted, it's tough to get an interception if they aren't throwing at you).
21) Washington Redskins -- A'Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
With Terrance Knighton signing in New England, Washington needs a new centerpiece for their defensive line. Robinson is big and powerful, with the upside to become an impressive player. At the very least he can man the important nose tackle position in their 3-4 defense.
22) Houston Texans -- Hunter Henry (TE, Arkansas)
The Texans added who they hope to be their franchise quarterback in Brock Osweiler, and a running back to go with DeAndre Hopkins. Helping them both out is Hunter Henry, who catches just about everything thrown to him and should be a good enough blocker to help in the run game.
23) Minnesota Vikings -- Josh Doctson (WR, TCU)
Doctson could wind up going much higher than this, receivers who combine tremendous production with top of the class testing tend to be risers. He might have a bit of a learning curve coming out of a spread offense, but Doctson was productive despite being the undisputed top receiving threat. He's the kind of receiver Teddy Bridgewater needs to take the next step.
24) Cincinnati Bengals -- Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
The Bengals lost both their second and third receivers in free agency, so they need another threat opposite A.J. Green. Coleman is one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the draft. He's a threat to score any time he touches the ball, and could cause some serious headaches for defenses across from Green.
25) Pittsburgh Steelers -- William Jackson III (CB, Houston)
It's just odd to think that the Steelers have to rebuild their defense. They have some nice pieces in the front 7 with Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier -- and they have to hope Bud Dupree realizes his athletic potential. Jackson is a long and athletic, as well as being one of the top cover corners in the draft.
26) Seattle Seahawks -- Cody Whitehair (OL, Kansas State)
The Seahawks built their Super Bowl teams on the strength of their running game, with Russell Wilson doing enough to make defenses pay for stacking the box to stop Marshawn Lynch. That offensive line has degraded over the last couple years, and Whitehair has the ability to play nearly any position on it, though he'd likely be best inside.
27) Green Bay Packers -- Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
B.J. Raji, the Packers' nose tackle, retired this offseason creating a big hole in their defensive front (no pun intended). While Raji might have been overrated the last couple seasons, the importance of a nose tackle to a 3-4 defense can't be overstated. There is some doubt whether Reed has the ceiling of A'Shawn Robinson or if he will ever become a consistent pass-rushing threat, but he is pro-ready and powerful enough to command double teams and be the rock in the middle of that defensive line.
28) Kansas City Chiefs -- Darron Lee (OLB, Ohio State)
Lee managed to slip through the cracks a bit because he's a bit undersized, but his athleticism can't be overlooked. The Chiefs are thankful, however, because Justin Houston's surprising ACL surgery will take him off the field for 2016, and they need a pass rushing threat across from Tamba Hali. Add in Lee's ability to cover and chase down running backs and this a great value.
29) Arizona Cardinals -- Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson)
Dodd looks much better on the field than he tested, and that's what knocked him down the draft. However, he has the size and strength to play defensive end and the agility and bend to play outside linebacker for the Cardinals, depending on the call for that particular play.
30) Carolina Panthers -- Jason Spriggs (OT, Indiana)
Spriggs leaped up draft boards with an impressive performance at Senior Bowl practices and against the formidable defensive linemen in the game. He has the feet, arms, and temperament to be a starting offensive tackle in the NFL, all he needs is the coaching to put it all together.
31) Denver Broncos -- Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Oklahoma State)
Ogbah is a long, powerful, and tested surprisingly well -- in some events -- at the combine. His size and power will fit well at defensive end in a Broncos defense that just lost Malik Jackson. Ogbah doesn't have the bend or agility that classic 4-3 ends have, but that's what DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are for.