The 2016 NFL draft order is closer to being determined following Sunday's conclusion to Wild Card Weekend.
Four teams were eliminated ahead of the divisional round and joined the other 20 whose draft slots had already been determined. The remainder of the playoffs will decide where the current elite teams wind up picking, based on record and strength of schedule as a tiebreaker.
One trend that emerged from the Wild Card Round was highlighted by CBSSports.com's Will Brinson:
Alex Smith > Brian Hoyer Ben Roethlisberger > AJ McCarron Russell Wilson > Teddy Bridgewater Aaron Rodgers > Kirk Cousins— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 11, 2016
That is to say the better quarterbacks guided their teams to victories—all on the road. For those in need at the most important position, the 2016 draft will be a pressure cooker and could feature a trade near the top.
Here is a look at the updated draft order for the first round, followed by some analysis as to what to expect when the first 31 picks are made. Bear in mind the New England Patriots won't have their first-rounder as part of the punishment for Deflategate.
|3||San Diego Chargers|
|7||San Francisco 49ers|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|10||New York Giants|
|12||New Orleans Saints|
|15||St. Louis Rams|
|20||New York Jets|
|27||Green Bay Packers|
|28||Kansas City Chiefs|
2016 NFL Draft 1st-Round Analysis
There are three top-tier prospects at the key positions of left tackle, quarterback and edge defensive player who will make the top of the draft interesting to witness.
Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is an intriguing option for the Tennessee Titans, as he could provide franchise QB Marcus Mariota with a possible perennial Pro Bowler to protect his blind side. The Titans could also opt for Ohio State's Joey Bosa, whose schematic versatility makes him particularly attractive.
Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski believes Tunsil is the best fit for Tennessee:
Laremy Tunsil to Titans with No. 1 overall pick? Makes the most sense to me.— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) January 3, 2016
The Cleveland Browns may be in the market for yet another QB since they can't trust Johnny Manziel off the field, which makes California product Jared Goff a logical choice.
On the other hand, Cleveland's porous defense could use a stud like Bosa on the edge. The team has Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Manziel under contract for another two years. For once, the QB position wasn't the root of the Browns' woes in 2015, which leaves the Browns with a tough choice.
Bruce Hooley of ESPN Cleveland is among those who wants to see the Browns draft Bosa:
Best thing that could happen to #Browns in draft, Titans take LT Laremy Tunsil, leaving Joey Bosa on board. Take best player/not best QB— Bruce Hooley (@BHOOLZ) January 4, 2016
Since Goff figures to be a hot commodity among teams that need a franchise passer, a trade-up scenario could well take place. Tennessee may even shop its pick to anyone who offers enough to move to the top.
Players who could challenge Tunsil and Goff to go first at their respective positions are Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and Memphis signal-caller Paxton Lynch.
Stanley seems like a surer bet to unseat Tunsil, based on Lynch's woeful loss to Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl and Goff's excellent finish to the season. Goff threw 19 touchdowns to only one interception over his final four games.
A couple of defensive backs in Florida State star Jalen Ramsey and Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III could make a case for themselves in the top five. Ramsey has the versatility to play cornerback or safety, whereas Hargreaves is undersized (5'11", 199 lbs) but can play in the slot or outside.
Who is the best prospect in the 2016 NFL draft?
Knee injuries to Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith—the latter tore his left ACL and MCL—have shaken up the linebacker spot. Both could have easily gone in the top 10 and may still go that high, but health and how much of an impact each can make right away will go a long way in determining their stocks.
Running backs seldom go in the opening round these days, but Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott may be the exception to that rule.
"Ezekiel Elliott is one of my favorite players in the draft. No risk, high reward," said one AFC executive, per NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis and Lance Zierlein.
Similar to what Todd Gurley did for the St. Louis Rams this past season as a top draft choice, Elliott could provide an instant spark for any offense. He is a huge X-factor, along with Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.
The undeniably gifted man in the trenches was suspended for the Sugar Bowl following an arrest and therefore is drawing an off-field red flag. If some team feels comfortable enough with him, though, Nkemdiche could still salvage a spot in the top 10—or even the top five.