The 2016 NFL Draft is one week from today, and the draft order has already been shaken up with a series of franchise-altering trades, as the Rams and Eagles both have put themselves in a position to acquire their quarterback of the future. I have been told by one insider that there are expected to be many trades during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, teams have been very active, and many teams who have draft picks later in the first round are willing to move up to acquire a player that they covet. Also, several teams owning draft picks in the first half of round one are willing to trade down to acquire more assets, and this combination should make the trade market very active. As is tradition, it’s time for the SportSmasher.com 2016 NFL Mock Draft:
1) Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff, QB (6’4 215lbs) Cal – The Rams paid a hefty price to move into the first overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, while some believe that their target is Carson Wentz, the sources I have spoken to have no doubt that the selection will be Jared Goff. The Rams are moving to Los Angeles, they are starring on HBO’s Hard Knocks, they need a quarterback who has a chance to develop into the face of the franchise in Hollywood. Jared Goff is a California kid who will feel right at home in Los Angeles, he has all of the tools, and will be given every opportunity to succeed in a run-heavy Rams offense in 2016. I do not expect Goff to be a star right away, he will have some growing pains, but the skills are there for Goff to develop into a franchise quarterback in Los Angeles.
2) Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, QB (6’5 235lbs) North Dakota State – It was very surprising to me that the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, because they just re-signed incumbent quarterback Sam Bradford to a two-year contract worth $36 million, and then signed Chase Daniel to a three-year contract worth $21 million to serve as his backup. The Eagles apparently then fell in love with North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, and paid a king’s ransom in order to trade up to acquire him, where I assume they will let him sit and learn for a year before naming him the starter in 2017. Wentz has great size and a strong arm, he is very athletic, but he is not ready to play right away. The Eagles think he will be a future star, so they will let him sit behind Bradford and Daniel for a year, and hope he is ready to become a star in 2017.
3) San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, OT (6’5 310lbs) Ole Miss – The San Diego Chargers are in a luxury position, because based on trades, they get to select the top non-quarterback on their board. Despite the fact that the Chargers signed tackles King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale to contracts this offseason, protecting Philip Rivers has been a major concern over recent seasons, so in this scenario the Chargers land a blue chip left tackle in Laremy Tunsil. For a big man, Tunsil is an excellent athlete with great mobility, his quick feet should allow him to quickly hold his own against NFL speed rushers. If the Chargers are planning on making another run with the 34-year-old River under center, they need to protect him, and Tunsil would protect their investment in Rivers.
4) Dallas Cowboys – Ezekiel Elliot, RB (5’11 225lbs) Ohio State – The Dallas Cowboys are in win-now mode, as they are trying to win the Super Bowl with 36-year-old Tony Romo under center, and they need a player that can help them improve right away. If I were running the Cowboys, I would draft a player like safety Jalen Ramsey or defensive lineman Joey Bosa who could help my defense right away, but Jerry Jones loves flashy offensive stars and Ezekiel Elliot is going to be an NFL star right away. The Dallas Cowboys do not have much on the running back depth chart as we move towards the 2016 season, at this point often injured veteran Darren McFadden would be the starter and he would be backed up by plodding inside runner Alfred Morris. Ezekiel Elliot is an explosive runner who plays with an attitude, he is an excellent running back who can also immediately help the Cowboys in the passing game, he has the skills and intangibles to be a star right away in the NFL. I do not think Jerry Jones will be able to resist Elliot, who would be frightening behind the Cowboys offensive line, and his ability to move the chains will also help Tony Romo stay healthy.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Ramsey, DB (6’1 210lbs) Florida State – If the draft shakes out this way, it will be huge win for the Jacksonville Jaguars, because they get in my opinion the best player in the draft at fifth overall. Draft experts are split in their thinking when it comes to Jalen Ramsey’s best position, is he a cornerback or is he a safety? I think Jalen Ramsey settles in as a free safety, and is one of the best in the NFL for years to come, he is a freakish athlete who is a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Ramsey is not only excellent in coverage, but he is a great tackler, who plays with swagger and would bring that attribute to the Jaguars defense. The Jaguars are attempting to build a great defense, as evidenced by their signing of Denver Broncos Super Bowl Champion defensive lineman Malik Jackson to a massive contract, and adding a stun like Ramsey to the back seven of the defense would be another step in the right direction.
6) Baltimore Ravens – Ronnie Stanley, OT (6’5 312lbs) Notre Dame – Joe Flacco is the face of the Baltimore Ravens franchise, but the team needs to protect their star quarterback, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL in week 11 and missed the rest of the 2015 NFL season. The Ravens offensive line struggled during the 2015 NFL campaign, and they lost their best player Kelechi Osemele during free agency, so it is clear that the team needs to upgrade that unit in the draft. Ronnie Stanley is a good athlete for his size with long arms, he projects as a starting left tackle for years to come, who would be a perfect fit for protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside.
7) San Francisco 49ers – Joey Bosa, DE (6’5 270lbs) Ohio State – There are some who believe that the 49ers will reach for a quarterback here, but I cannot see it, I think that Chip Kelly tries to get Colin Kaepernick’s career back on the right track and selects a developmental quarterback later in the draft. In this scenario, the 49ers land the Joey Bosa, who many scouts (including Todd McShay) have ranked as the top prospect in the draft. There have been some questions about Bosa’s off –field behavior, which causes him to slip a bit, but the 49ers get a relentless and versatile defensive lineman with the seventh overall pick. Following the retirement of Justin Smith, and the release of Ray McDonald due to off-field behavior, the 49ers need to rebuild their defensive line and they get a great piece in Bosa.
8) Cleveland Browns – DeForest Buckner, DE (6’7 290lbs) Oregon – The Browns signed quarterback Robert Griffin III this offseason, and since they were not enamored with any of the quarterback prospects at the top of the draft, they elected to trade down and obtain a wealth of draft picks from the Philadelphia Eagles. While I was tempted to have the Browns select wide receiver Laquan Treadwell here, since receiver is such a huge need, they can address that need later in the draft. The Browns select the best player available here, and add DeForest Buckner, a massive defensive lineman who should represent an instant upgrade for the Browns defense. The Browns new regime needs talent, because the roster currently lacks it from top-to-bottom, so the addition of the best player available makes plenty of sense.
9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jack Conklin, OT (6’5 308lbs) Michigan State – Protect your investment. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston with the first overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, and after an impressive rookie season, the Bucs are expected to improve dramatically in 2016. One area for concern is the offensive line, which struggled in 2015, and must be improved in order to keep Winston healthy and upright. Conklin has good athleticism, long arms and is a draft prospect who has been on the rise in recent weeks. With Conklin on one side of the offensive line, and 2015 second round pick Donovan Smith locked in on the other, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have excellent bookends to protect Jameis Winston for the foreseeable future.
10) New York Giants – Laquon Treadwell, WR (6’2 220lbs) Ole Miss – The New York Giants need another weapon on offense opposite the spectacular Odell Beckham Jr, and while they should finally get Victor Cruz back from a knee injury that cost him most of the 2013 season and all of the 2014 season, his health is a huge question mark at best. Scouts question if Treadwell will ever be a true number one, and think he will be more of a possession receiver, but that is exactly what the Giants need opposite Beckham. Treadwell uses his big frame and long arms to box out defenders, he has great hands, and he knows how to make big plays after the catch. The Giants have been interested in Treadwell throughout the draft process, and if they like what they saw, they could snag him to pair with Beckham and create a pair of dangerous weapons for Eli Manning. P.S. I hear the Tennessee Titans like cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, a swap with the Giants could make sense, and the Giants could still get Treadwell at #15.
11) Chicago Bears – Jarran Reed, DT/DE (6’3 307lbs) Alabama – The Bears invested a lot of money in improving their defense during free agency, they signed linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan, but their defense is still a work in progress and needs more help up front. Jarran Reed is the best interior run defender in the draft, he has an incredible motor and is extremely tough, he has been called the tone-setter of the incredible 2015 Alabama defensive unit. The Bears have been tied to Reed throughout the draft process, and pairing Reed with 2015 second round pick Eddie Goldman will free up the Bears new linebackers to make plays, while making it very difficult to run on the Chicago defense. The Bears have been tied to Reed throughout the draft process.
12) New Orleans Saints – Myles Jack, OLB (6’1 245lbs) UCLA – The Saints were terrible defensively in 2015, and need all the help they can get on that side of the ball, and in this scenario they land one of the best defenders in the draft class in Myles Jack. I started thinking about Myles Jack at the fourth pick of the draft with the Dallas Cowboys, and believe he is in consideration for the Jacksonville Jaguars at pick number five, but in this projection Jack falls into the Saints laps at pick number twelve due to concerns about a knee injury that he is still recovering from during the draft process. Jack should be cleared to practice by the start of training camp, he is one of the best cover linebackers that you will ever see, and his speed and explosiveness will be a perfect fit on the Saints defense. You could argue that the Saints have bigger needs on the defensive line, but if a three down linebacker as talented as Jack falls into their laps, he is too good to pass up.
13) Miami Dolphins – Vernon Hargreaves, CB (5’11 205lbs) Florida – Another team that gets extremely lucky in this mock draft, the Dolphins have major issues in their secondary, and in this scenario the best cover corner in the draft class falls into their lap. The Dolphins traded for cornerback Byron Maxwell from the Eagles this offseason, but he struggled in Philly, and is dealing with shoulder issues. Enter Vernon Hargreaves, who slides a little bit because he did not blow anyone away with his speed during the draft process, but who is excellent in coverage. Hargreaves has great mirror skills and knows how to read a quarterback, he excels in both zone and man coverage, and his jumping ability and ball skills caused ten interceptions over three years at Florida.
14) Oakland Raiders – Sheldon Rankins, DT (6’1 300lbs) Louisville – You could argue that no team improved as much during the 2016 offseason than the Oakland Raiders, after several key signings at key positions, many are picking the Raiders to win the AFC West. There is no doubt that the Raiders need to improve the middle of their defense, and they do so with this pick, selecting relentless Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. An extremely quick defensive tackle, who plays with a high motor, Rankins is excellent as a run defender but also excels as a pass rusher. The addition of Rankins would be another young building block for a greatly improved Raiders defense as they look to become a force in the AFC.
15) Tennessee Titans – Leonard Floyd, OLB/DE (6’6 245lbs) Georgia – The Tennessee Titans traded down to this pick, and got plenty in return from the Los Angeles Rams for their troubles, and as they look to build a talent-rich roster they are likely in best player available mode. The Titans did not have much of a pass rush in 2015, and one of the hottest players in the 2016 NFL Draft is Georgia pass rusher Leonard Floyd, who is physical freak that needs some development to reach his high ceiling. Floyd’s athleticism will make him an excellent situational pass rusher right away, he needs to add some strength and bulk to become an every down player and hold up against the run, but he should have major impact as a pass rusher right away.
16) Detroit Lions – Corey Coleman, WR (5’11 195lbs) Baylor – All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson retired and put the Lions in a huge bind, and although the team signed Marvin Jones from the Cincinnati Bengals, there is still a huge hole to fill at wide receiver in the Detroit offense. Corey Coleman is a wide receiver on the rise, he is exceptionally quick, and knows how to make big plays with the ball in his hands as evidenced by his ridiculous 2015 numbers (74 receptions for 1363 yards and 20 touchdowns). While Corey Coleman is not a big wide receiver, adding him to a passing attack which includes Golden Tate and Marvin Jones makes a lot of sense, and a gamebreaker is exactly what strong-armed quarterback Matthew Stafford needs after the surprising retirement of Megatron.
17) Atlanta Falcons – Reggie Ragland, MLB (6’1 247lbs) Alabama – I thought about giving the Atlanta Falcons a pass rusher out of Clemson for the second year in a row, and going with Shaq Lawson who is surprisingly still on the board, but the Falcons may be okay at defensive end after signing Adrian Clayborn and Derrick Shelby in free agency to go with the development of Vic Beasley. Instead, the Falcons bolster their linebacker corps, and draft the highly productive Reggie Ragland. The only middle linebacker on the Falcons roster is Paul Worrilow, so in this scenario they select Ragland to man the middle of their defense, Ragland is a complete football player with an excellent combination of size, speed and power for the position.
18) Indianapolis Colts – Taylor Decker, OT (6’7 310lbs) Ohio State – The Indianapolis Colts neglected to acquire any offensive linemen of note in the draft or free agency over the past few seasons, and it cost them dearly, as a shoulder injury to quarterback Andrew Luck caused their 2015 season to implode. The team has to protect the face of their franchise, and drafting Taylor Decker would be a step in the right direction, Decker can play either tackle spot who is probably a better fit on the right side in the NFL. Decker is an excellent run blocker, he is tough, and selecting him would seem to be a no-brainer for the Colts if he is still on the board at eighteen.
19) Buffalo Bills – Shaq Lawson, DE (6’3 270lbs) Clemson – I thought about Shaq Lawson as early as the New York Giants with the tenth pick in the draft, but slight concerns about a shoulder injury cause him to slide a bit, and fall into the laps of the Buffalo Bills. Mario Williams left Buffalo as a free agent, and the team could use another presence at defensive end, Lawson was an extremely productive player against both the run and the pass who is also an incredible team leader. Rex Ryan is very familiar with Lawson, his son played with Lawson at Clemson, and Ryan attended Clemson’s games so he knows what Lawson brings to the table.
20) New York Jets – A’Shawn Robinson, DT (6’4 307lbs) Alabama – The New York Jets surprisingly let massive nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison leave as a free agent to the rival New York Giants, and unless they replace him, their stout run defense could pay for it. A’Shawn Robinson is a massive nose tackle, who was the centerpiece of Alabama’s defense, and who would replace Harrison better than any other player in this draft class. Robinson needs to give full effort on every snap, but he is huge and powerful, and would fit in perfectly at nose tackle in the Jets defensive scheme.
21) Washington Redskins –Chris Jones, DT/DE (6’6 310lbs) Mississippi State – The Washington Redskins won the NFC East in 2016, but need more playmakers on defense in order to reach the next level, and Chris Jones has the potential to develop into a difference maker on the defensive line. Jones has great size, length and athleticism, he is disruptive and has a ton of raw ability. It will take some coaching and commitment in the weight room for Jones to reach his full potential, but his ceiling is extremely high, and with his size and athletic ability he could develop into a steal down the road.
22) Houston Texans – Josh Doctson, WR (6’2 205lbs) TCU – The Texans have made Brock Osweiler their franchise quarterback, and have one incredible weapon for him in the passing game in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, however the Texans need to provide him with other weapons in the passing game to give Osweiler his best chance to succeed. Doctson was extremely productive at TCU, catching 79 passes for 1327 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015, he is a big target with excellent hands who would excel opposite from the speedy Hopkins in the Texans offense.
23) Minnesota Vikings – Will Fuller, WR (6’ 185lbs) Notre Dame – If Teddy Bridgewater is going to take his game to the next level, and become an NFL superstar, he needs more weapons in the passing game. While wide receiver Stephon Diggs looks to be one of the steals of the 2015 NFL Draft (round 5), Bridgewater needs a deep threat, and that is exactly where Will Fuller excels. Fuller needs to add strength to help him fight off press coverage, and he needs to improve focus as he dropped too many balls over his college career, but he is a burner who quickly changes direction to get open on the fly. The Vikings needs a deep threat, and Fuller fits the bill, although he must improve his frustrating dropped passes.
24) Cincinnati Bengals – Robert Nkemdiche, DT (6’4 295lbs) Ole Miss – The Bengals need a wide receiver, but with Doctson and Fuller coming off the board as the two previous selections, they can take the best player available and gamble on Robert Nkemdiche. The Bengals have a history of gambles paying off, so they are not afraid of the red flags surrounding Nkemdiche, who is the most talented defensive lineman in the draft based on skill alone. Robert Nkemdiche has a long frame and great athleticism for his size, he is incredibly quick and ran a 4.87 40-yard-dash at the combine while showing a 35” vertical despite weighing 295lbs. If it was not for concerns off the field, like the fact that he was arrested for marijuana possession after falling out of a fourth floor hotel window or the fact that he wants to buy a pet panther with his first NFL paycheck, Robert Nkemdiche would be a top ten pick.
25) Pittsburgh Steelers – William Jackson III, CB (6’ 190lbs) Houston – The Pittsburgh Steelers may be an improved secondary away from being a Super Bowl contender, and they get an excellent cornerback in this scenario, as William Jackson III lands in their laps. William Jackson III has great good size and great length for the position, coupled with elite speed, and was highly productive at Houston where he led college football with 28 pass breakups. The Steelers need a corner, and Jackson III fills that need, a perfect fit.
26) Seattle Seahawks – Germain Ifedi, OT (6’6 325lbs) Texas A&M – The Seattle Seahawks need to protect Russell Wilson and solidify the offensive line, and there is no doubt that Germain Ifedi would be a welcomed addition to this unit, he certainly looks the part of an All-Pro NFL right tackle. Ifedi is huge, he has long arms and is very quick, and some time in an NFL weight room will help him add strength. Germain Ifedi needs coaching, he lacks consistency at times, and needs to improve his technique. The raw talent is there, and he is worth the gamble for the Seahawks, where will have the opportunity to develop.
27) Green Bay Packers – Vernon Butler, DT (6’3 320lbs) Louisiana Tech – Defensive lineman B.J. Raji surprisingly retired this offseason, and the Packers could certainly use a player that could help fill that huge void, one player who could step right in and do so is massive defensive lineman Vernon Butler. A player that is huge and very strong, but also possesses good quickness, and is surprisingly athletic for a player with his body mass. The Packers need to get stronger up front without Raji, and Butler would be a solid addition, who will instantly upgrade the Packers run defense.
28) Kansas City Chiefs – Eli Apple, CB (6’1 200lbs) Ohio State – The Chiefs lost cornerback Sean Smith to the rival Oakland Raiders as a free agent, and they need another player opposite 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year Marcus Peters, who is an absolute stud. Eli Apple would be a great fit, the Chiefs like long cornerbacks, and Apple has great length and excellent speed for his size (4.40 40-yard-dash). The cornerback opposite Peters will get tested a lot on 2016, and Apple should be able to step right in, and make the passing game difficult for opposing offenses.
29) Arizona Cardinals – Kamalei Correa, OLB (6’3 245lbs) Boise State – The Arizona Cardinals had no pass rush in 2015, and they paid for it come playoff time, but they have already made progress in upgrading this weakness in trading for Chandler Jones from the New England Patriots. Although 201 5 second round Markus Golden looks like a keeper who will be a productive pass rusher, the Cardinals need more players who can rush the passer as part of a rotation, so Kamalei Correa makes a lot of sense. A fast rising prospect, Correa would be an excellent situational pass rusher as a rookie, due to his explosive speed off the edge and burst. He was highly productive at Boise State, with 19.0 sacks over the last two years, and he could get pressure on opposing quarterbacks on passing downs come playoff time.
30) Carolina Panthers – Artie Burns, CB (6’ 195lbs) Miami – The Carolina Panthers are in desperate need of a cornerback, now that they have rescinded the franchise tag on star cornerback Josh Norman, who will leave the team as an unrestricted free agent. Artie Burns is a cornerback who’s stock is on the rise, he is very athletic, and used his extremely long arms to go up and get six interceptions in 2015. He needs to sure up his technique, but the skill is there, and the Panthers are now desperate for a corner.
31) Denver Broncos – Ryan Kelly, OC/OG (6’4 311lbs) Alabama – The Denver Broncos need to improve the offensive line, and Ryan Kelly is clearly the top rated interior lineman on my board, he can start immediately at guard or center and allow the Broncos to shift around other players to solidify the offensive line in front of whoever is starting at quarterback in week one. Mark Sanchez? The Broncos need a long term solution at quarterback after the retirement of Peyton Manning and the defection of Brock Osweiler to the Houston Texans, but unless they want to take Paxton Lynch as a developmental quarterback there are no options here and they may as well wait until round two. I’ve been told that Ryan Kelly will not get out of the first round, and know for a fact that the Washington Redskins have heavy interest with the twenty-first pick, so do not be surprised if Kelly is long gone by this point.
Best Players Available:
Darron Lee, OLB – Ohio State
Vonn Bell, S – Ohio State
Karl Joseph, S – West Virginia
Andrew Billings, DT – Baylor
Kevin Dodd, DE – Clemson
Kendall Fuller, CB – Virginia Tech
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE – Oklahoma State
Jonathan Bullard, DL – Florida
Paxton Lynch, QB – Memphis
Xavier Howard, CB – Baylor
Hunter Henry, TE – Arkansas
Cody Whitehair, OG – Kansas State
Derrick Henry, RB – Alabama
Tyler Boyd, WR – Pitt
Michael Thomas, WR – Ohio State
Shon Coleman, OT – Auburn
Kenny Clark, DT – UCLA
Noah Spence, DE – Eastern Kentucky
Jason Spriggs, OT – Indiana
Darian Thompson, S – Boise State
Yannick Ngakoue, DE/OLB – Maryland
Kenneth Dixon, RB – Louisiana Tech
Su’a Cravens, S/OLB – USC
Jerrell Adams, TE – South Carolina
Christian Westerman, OG – Arizona State
Sheldon Day, DE/DT – Notre Dame
Kyler Fackrell, OLB – Utah State
Alex Collins, RB – Arkansas
Jalen Mills, S – LSU
Connor Cook, QB – Michigan State
Nick Martin, OC – Notre Dame
Jeremy Cash, S – Duke
Joshua Garnett, OG – Duke
Christian Hackenberg, QB – Penn State
Sterling Shepard, WR – Oklahoma
Braxton Miller, WR – Ohio State
Deion Jones, LB – LSU