Believe it or not, Wild Card Weekend signals more than the beginning of NFL postseason action—it's also a logical place for fans to start pondering which prospects their favorite teams could select on draft day.
And while the 2016 selection process is still months away, it's never too early to take a look at how the first round could shake out and profile the prospects who figure to be game-changers upon arrival.
Since the playoffs have yet to formally start, postseason teams were ordered based on their current Super Bowl odds, courtesy of Odds Shark. As one final housekeeping note, it's crucial to remember there will only be 31 picks made in the first round after the New England Patriots' selection was stripped as part of the team's Deflategate punishment.
|2016 NFL Mock Draft|
|1. Tennessee Titans||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss|
|2. Cleveland Browns||Jared Goff, QB, Cleveland Browns|
|3. San Diego Chargers||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State|
|4. Dallas Cowboys||Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss|
|5. Jacksonville Jaguars||Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson|
|6. Baltimore Ravens||Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State|
|7. San Francisco 49ers||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis|
|8. Miami Dolphins||Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida|
|9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson|
|10. New York Giants||DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon|
|11. Chicago Bears||Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss|
|12. New Orleans Saints||Myles Jack, LB, UCLA|
|13. Philadelphia Eagles||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State|
|14. Oakland Raiders||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State|
|15. St. Louis Rams||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU|
|16. Detroit Lions||Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech|
|17. Atlanta Falcons||Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State|
|18. Indianapolis Colts||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State|
|19. Buffalo Bills||Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU|
|20. New York Jets||Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia|
|21. Houston Texans||Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State|
|22. Washington Redskins||Jonathan Allen, DE Alabama|
|23. Minnesota Vikings||Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State|
|24. Cincinnati Bengals||Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State|
|25. Green Bay Packers||Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama|
|26. Kansas City Chiefs||Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame|
|27. Pittsburgh Steelers||Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee|
|28. Denver Broncos||Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State|
|29. Seattle Seahawks||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama|
|30. Carolina Panthers||Jeremy Cash, S, Duke|
|31. Arizona Cardinals||Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama|
|Source: Alec Nathan's Projections|
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell "is like a leaner Alshon Jeffery with his physical style of play and ability to outmuscle defensive backs for contested passes."
Based on his performance throughout the 2015 season, it's hard to argue with that assessment. Treadwell scorched opposing secondaries to the tune of 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns—including a 71-yard, three-touchdown effort against Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl.
"I think he’s one of the better players in the country," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said following the Aggies' showdown with Ole Miss, per SECCountry.com's David Collier. "He’s strong, he’s physical. He separated on the big play, big touchdown. He’s a heck of a football player… He’s gonna have a successful career at the next level."
All those traits make Treadwell an intriguing fit with the Dallas Cowboys. Although Dallas already has Dez Bryant in the fold as a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, the possibility of pairing him with an athletic freak like Treadwell is drool-inducing.
And considering Cowboys No. 2 receiver Terrance Williams has just one year left on his deal, adding a vertical presence of Treadwell's caliber could be a proposition that's hard for Dallas to turn down.
Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Following a lengthy period of deliberation, Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility in order to enter the NFL draft.
A redshirt sophomore, Apple finished his second season with the Buckeyes with 33 tackles, an interception and seven passes defended. All that after Apple posted 53 tackles, three interceptions and 10 defended passes in 2014.
To cap things off, Apple was named defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl in his final game with the Buckeyes.
At 6'1'' and 200 pounds, Apple has the size, speed and ball skills necessary to make an impact at corner in the NFL. The question is which team will see the 20-year-old's potential and pounce on him in the first round?
While months of scouting remain, it's hard to ignore the Oakland Raiders as a possible destination. Oakland finished the season ranked 26th in passing yards allowed per game (258.8) and right at the league average by surrendering 25 passing touchdowns.
The Raiders front seven did its job, racking up 38 sacks, but the secondary burned the Silver and Black far too often. And with one year remaining on the contracts of David Amerson and D.J. Hayden, the Raiders would be wise to select Apple and groom him as a future centerpiece of the secondary.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Put mildly, it would be a surprise if Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott isn't the first running back off the board in April.
On the heels of a sophomore campaign that saw the Buckeye bruiser rush for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns en route to a national title, Elliott posted 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground while racking up 206 yards on 27 catches.
He was also positively dominant in pass protection. According to Pro Football Focus' Ryan Jenson, "Elliott was able to complete the perfect pass blocking season as a running back. He didn’t allow a sack, hit or even a hurry on 103 pass blocking snaps."
Since Arian Foster is coming off an Achilles tear and the Houston Texans are devoid of a long-term solution at running back, Elliott is a logical pick at this juncture in the late stages of Round 1.
Even if Foster still has some juice left, it's likely not much with his age-30 season around the corner. And with his contract set to expire following the 2016 season, Elliott should be in Houston's crosshairs entering draft season.
All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.
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