The 2016 NFL Draft is severely lacking in star power, but it more than makes up for it in depth. One of the deepest drafts in recent memory, this class is loaded with great defensive lineman, cornerbacks, wide receivers and running backs. While I could see a number of draft scenarios, (the Browns at 8 are desperate to move down, as are the Redskins at 21), I decided not to predict any trades.
1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB – California –With their move to the west coast, the Rams take Cal’s excellent signal caller in the hopes he becomes their franchise QB for the next decade. Goff has great feet, incredible accuracy doesn’t get flustered easily and can make every throw. The biggest concern facing Goff is the reputation that Air Raid quarterback prospects fail at the next level, but Goff seems to be more prepared than those before him. I’m not too concerned, and it appears that the Rams aren’t either.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB – North Dakota State – I only saw a few games from Wentz in college, and while I liked what I saw, I still have some questions about how well he will transition from the FCS level to the NFL. Wentz has a high ceiling, perhaps higher than Goff’s, but his floor is lower too. Add in all the picks the Eagles gave up, this is a very high risk pick, but the reward could be worth it if Wentz can make a Tony Romo like transition.
3. San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, OT – Ole Miss – San Diego’s offensive line really struggled to protect Philip Rivers last season, and the running game was virtually non-existent as well. While it can be fun to watch Rivers throw temper tantrums on the field, the Chargers know they must protect him better this season, and they need to open more holes for last year’s first round pick, RB Melvin Gordon. While Jalen Ramsey will garner some consideration at this spot, Tunsil has long been regarded as the best offensive lineman in the draft, and he should be a no-brainer selection for the Chargers.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE – Ohio State – The Cowboys can go in a lot of different directions here. Despite adding Alfred Morris in free agency, Ezekiel Elliott is an intriguing option. The secondary could also use some help, so Jalen Ramsey would make sense as a first day starter at either cornerback or safety. But I’m going to go with a player who entered last college football season as the best prospect, and a player who should have a very successful NFL career. Bosa is the son of former NFL defensive lineman John Bosa, and he played under one of the best coaches in college football in Urban Meyer. Bosa can rush the passer, stop the run and cause less headaches than Greg Hardy.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S – Florida State – According to many scouts and analysts, Ramsey is the best player in this draft. He can play corner or safety, isn’t afraid to come up and tackle, and is one of the draft’s top overall athletes. While he has work to do when it comes to actually playing to the ball in the air, that’s something he can learn with time. The Jaguars could go LB Myles Jack here, but his knee injury could be too much of a risk this high. Ramsey is much safer, and should help a weak Jags secondary from day one, ideally at CB.
6. Baltimore Ravens: DeForest Buckner, DE – Oregon – Everything you hear about Buckner is about how well he uses his hands, which is usually something that younger players neglect during their college years. Buckner is far from a speed demon (he ran a 5.05 40-yard dash at the Combine), but he possesses impressive athleticism for some his size (6’7”, 291 pounds). Buckner is great at shedding blocks and using his hands to cause havoc in the backfield.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Ronnie Stanley, OT – Notre Dame – Stanley has been flying up draft boards in recent weeks. He has great feet and played in an offense that has produced some good offensive players in recent years. Loaded with potential, Chip Kelly should begin his reign in San Francisco by drafting his franchise left tackle.
8. Cleveland Browns: Jack Conklin, OT – Michigan State – The Browns would love to trade down here to help facilitate their rebuild, and Miami and New Orleans have been teams rumored to want to move up. But since I’m not projecting trades in this mock, I’ll take an offensive lineman to help protect RG3. I don’t think Memphis QB Paxton Lynch is worthy of being selected in the top ten, and while I think there’s a chance the Browns take a QB later in the draft, perhaps Lynch with the 32nd overall pick, protecting RG3 and whoever their future QB becomes should be their top priority. Conklin is a nasty, physical lineman who will fit right in with the Browns.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB – Florida – Perhaps the best pure cover corner in the draft, Hargreaves has been dinged in recent weeks for being too small to be a legit number one corner in the NFL. I’ve watched every game of Hargreaves career, and while his size is a slight concern, I think it is being overblown. He’s excellent in man-to-man situations, isn’t afraid to play press coverage, loves to hit and has been a starter his entire career at Florida. Matched up with the best of the best in the SEC for three years, and won the majority of his battles during his time in Gainesville.
10. New York Giants: Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB – Georgia — The Giants need pass rush help and the dynamic Leonard Floyd can provide just that. While he is your prototypical tweener, Floyd has the speed to be a ferocious pass rusher, and in a draft class lacking in top pass rushing talent, he is hard to pass up.
11. Chicago Bears: Myles Jack, LB – UCLA – Perhaps the best athlete in this draft, it’s a shame a knee injury not only cut short his career in college, but could also cause him to slide in this year’s draft. He’s a physical specimen, played safety, linebacker and running back for the Bruins, and as long as his knee holds up, he’ll be an impact player in the NFL.
12. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT – Louisville – Dreadful. Laughable. Just a few words that could describe the Saints defense last season. The biggest issue is on the defensive line. A unit that couldn’t stop the run or pressure the quarterback. Not a great combination. Rankins is far from a household name, but he is lightning quick, stout against the run and athletic enough to get to the quarterback. He’d be a great building block for a Saints defense that needs a major facelift.
13. Miami Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliott, RB – Ohio State – Running backs going in the first round is becoming more and more rare, but Elliott checks every box NFL teams are looking for in an RB. Fast, agile, patient, good out of the backfield and a very good pass blocker. While his attitude was called into question when he went on a tirade after losing to Michigan State last season, it was more his desire to win and wanting the ball than him being a bad guy. The Dolphins let Lamar Miller leave for Houston in free agency, and after missing out on C.J. Anderson, they will be overjoyed if Elliott is still on the board at 13. Trading up is a definite possibility for the Fins. They want Elliott.
14. Oakland Raiders: William Jackson III, CB – Houston – Jackson is what every NFL team is now looking for in their cornerbacks. Tall, long arms and physical. While not as polished as Hargreaves or as balanced overall as Ramsey, Jackson should be the second corner of the board, and the Raiders will have two imposing corners for teams to deal with in Jackson and free agent addition Sean Smith.
15. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Decker, OT – Ohio State – A mainstay for the Buckeyes, Decker and Lewan can be the bookend tackles that protect QB Marcus Mariota for a long time in Nashville. While he can be vulnerable to speed rushers at times, Decker is an experienced and crafty tackle who always seems to find a way to get the job done.
16. Detroit Lions: Jarran Reed, DT – Alabama – While there are some concerns he will only be a two-down player in the NFL, Reed’s elite run stopping skills are hard to ignore. The Lions allowed opposing running backs to average 4.2 yards per carry last season, and with Haloti Ngata regressing, Reed would be a valuable addition to the Lions defensive front.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, OLB – Ohio State – Lee is the sideline to sideline linebacker the Falcons desperately need. His speed allows him to cover a lot of ground and stop the run, while also helping out in the passing game. Will fit perfectly in head coach Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Shaq Lawson, DE – Clemson – The Colts are desperate for offensive line help, so a trade to move up could be on the cards. If they stay at 18 and Tunsil, Stanley, Conklin and Decker are gone, Alabama center Ryan Kelly is a definite possibility. Kelly should be a ten year starter at either center or guard. However, Shaq Lawson is a great value and the Colts are also in need of a pass rusher, and Lawson certainly fits the bill.
19. Buffalo Bills: Chris Jones, DT – Mississippi State – A late bloomer, Jones didn’t even dedicate himself to football until late in high school career, and he still has so much potential that he is rising up draft boards across the league. Jones is still working on the finer points of his game, such as using his hands, staying low and reading plays, but his raw abilities and freakish size are tantalizing. Especially in the hands of a defensive coach like Rex Ryan.
20. New York Jets: Eli Apple, CB – Ohio State – I can’t lie. I have no idea what direction the Jets are going to go in, and honestly I don’t think they know either. They could go QB, OT, DL, LB, CB or S. I’m going to go with a corner here knowing how much Todd Bowles relies on his corners to play on an island, and Apple is a great talent. With Antonio Cromartie gone, Apple could step right in and fill his shoes.
21. Washington Redskins: Reggie Ragland, MLB – Alabama – While I think defensive line is a bigger need for the Redskins, this draft is loaded with talented defensive lineman. I think there’s a better than 50 percent chance GM Scot McCloughan trades down from this spot, but if he does stay, the best run stuffing linebacker in the draft is a pretty nice prize. Moreso when you consider the Redskins were atrocious defending the run last season, allowing 4.8 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Ragland might not be the best athlete at the linebacker position, but he reads the game better than anyone else, and he can absolutely lay the wood. DT Andrew Billings from Baylor is the other option here, and if the Redskins trade down, keep an eye on safeties Karl Joseph from WVU and Keanu Neal from Florida.
22. Houston Texans: Corey Coleman, WR – Baylor – The yin to DeAndre Hopkins’ yang, Coleman would be a terrific addition to the Texans offense that is now being handed over to Brock Osweiler. Coleman is cat-quick, has phenomenal change of direction skills, and can absolutely fly. Team him with the bigger, more physical Hopkins, and you have quite the duo in H-Town.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR – Ole Miss – Perhaps the best red zone target in the draft, Treadwell is an absolute force inside the 20. A huge frame mixed with excellent jumping ability makes him a nightmare matchup in and around the endzone, while he is fast enough and physical enough to get separation as well. The Vikings are desperate for playmakers on the outside to help Teddy Bridgewater, and Treadwell would be a great place to start.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR – TCU – I know, three wide receivers in a row is strange to see, but it could very well happen. Just like the Texans and Vikings, the Bengals are in serious need of a WR. Cincinnati is looking to replace Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, both of whom left in free agency, and Josh Doctson would fit in nicely opposite A.J. Green. Doctson can stretch the field, and is excellent at attacking the ball at its highest point. His route running could use some work, but he’s an elite talent and will be another excellent target for the Red Rifle.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mackensie Alexander, CB – Clemson – Opponents paid Alexander the greatest compliment you can show a cornerback last season; they refused to throw the ball his way. While he didn’t record a single interception, Alexander is a true student of the game, and was phenomenal for Clemson in 2015-16. Alexander is a lot like new Redskins CB Josh Norman in his ability to agitate his opponents while also shutting them down. The Steelers and their fans will love him.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Kelly, C – Alabama – The Seahawks traded C Max Unger for TE Jimmy Graham last season, and safe to say the trade didn’t exactly work out for Seattle. The team performed better without Graham in the lineup, and they were unable to replace the hole Unger left in the middle of the offensive line. Kelly is a tremendous player, can play center and guard, and played in a great college offense at Alabama.
27. Green Bay Packers: Andrew Billings, DT – Baylor – Some teams love Billings, and other teams aren’t exactly sure if he shows enough effort or consistency. But there aren’t questions about his talent. Billings can dominate games at times, but he does have a habit of disappearing as well. I chalk some of that up to the fast paced, wide open, pass happy offenses in the Big XII, where it is commonplace to see teams run 80-90 plays a game. Billings has unnatural quickness for someone his size, and he’s the perfect replacement for B.J. Raji at nose tackle for the Packers.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Artie Burns, CB – Miami (FL) – A guy who once had aspirations to compete in the Olympics in the hurdles, Burns is a burner who can cover even the fastest receivers. A late riser in the draft process, teams love his blazing speed and his long frame, and he should be a nice compliment to last year’s first round pick, 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Marcus Peters.
29. Arizona Cardinals: J. Green, CB/S – Clemson – Reporters in Phoenix seem convinced that Clemson defensive back T.J. Green will be the pick with the 29th overall pick, and who am I to argue? Green is a tremendous athlete who can play both corner and safety, although most scouts see him as a corner at the NFL level. Arizona’s defense took a huge hit when they lost Tyrann Mathieu late in the season, so help in the secondary is a must for the Cards.
30. Carolina Panthers: Kevin Dodd, DE – Clemson – For a few weeks in March, Dodd was being mocked to teams in the top ten. While his talent is without question, there are those wondering if he is just a one-year wonder and whether his success was due to opposing offenses focusing more on linemate Shaq Lawson.
31. Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB – Memphis – Mark Sanchez is the starting QB for the Broncos right now. That’s not going to get the job done if Denver really wants to repeat as Super Bowl champs. With a potential trade for 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick in limbo, the Broncos would have to be pretty excited to have Lynch fall to them. Lynch was an under-the-radar recruit coming out of high school, who eventually blossomed at Memphis under the tutelage of new Hokies head coach Justine Fuente. Lynch is terrific rolling out and throwing on the move, which is exactly what Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak wants in his signal caller. This would be a dream scenario for Denver, although trades on Thursday night could see him go much earlier.
Best Players Heading Into Round 2 (in no particular order)…
- A’Shawn Robinson, DT – Alabama
- Vonn Bell, S – Ohio State
- Will Fuller, WR – Notre Dame
- Karl Joseph, S – West Virginia
- Michael Thomas, WR – Ohio State
- Germain Ifedi, OT – Texas A&M
- Vernon Butler, DT – Louisiana Tech
- Keanu Neal, S – Florida
- Noah Spence, OLB – Eastern Kentucky
- Kendall Fuller, CB – Virginia Tech
- Emmanuel Ogbah, DE – Oklahoma State
Follow Robert Bode on Twitter and his picks throughout the draft.