The NFL draft remains the most necessary gamble of all time in sports.
Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't have a choice but to pick between quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Early returns suggest both will work out. Other top-tier prospects such as defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and wide receiver Kevin White, though, got off to rough starts thanks to the injury bug.
Those guys have plenty of time to turn it around, sure. But they serve as just the latest examples of the draft being the ultimate gamble, even after the research, scouts zipping around the nation and lack of sleep.
The 2016 class will feature all the same things, which isn't bad for an outsider looking in at the action. In the early throes of the process, here's how the draft projects to shake out.
2016 NFL Mock Draft
|1||Tennessee Titans||Laremy Tunsil||OT||Ole Miss|
|2||Cleveland Browns||Jared Goff||QB||California|
|3||San Diego Chargers||Ronnie Stanley||OT||Notre Dame|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||Joey Bosa||DL||Ohio State|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jalen Ramsey||CB/S||Florida State|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Mackensie Alexander||CB||Clemson|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||Myles Jack||LB||UCLA|
|8||Miami Dolphins||Reggie Ragland||LB||Alabama|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||DeForest Buckner||DE||Oregon|
|10||New York Giants||Leonard Floyd||LB||Georgia|
|11||Chicago Bears||Jack Conklin||OT||Michigan State|
|12||New Orleans Saints||Paxton Lynch||QB||Memphis|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Taylor Decker||OT||Ohio State|
|14||Oakland Raiders||Vernon Hargreaves III||CB||Florida|
|15||Los Angeles Rams||Carson Wentz||QB||North Dakota State|
|16||Detroit Lions||Ezekiel Elliott||RB||Ohio State|
|17||Atlanta Falcons||Shilique Calhoun||DE||Michigan State|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||A'Shawn Robinson||DT||Alabama|
|19||Buffalo Bills||Jarran Reed||DL||Alabama|
|20||New York Jets||Shaq Lawson||DE||Clemson|
|21||Washington||Laquon Treadwell||WR||Ole Miss|
|22||Houston Texans||Sheldon Rankins||DT||Louisville|
|23||Minnesota Vikings||Michael Thomas||WR||Ohio State|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Emmanuel Ogbah||DE||Oklahoma State|
|25||Green Bay Packers||Robert Nkemdiche||DL||Ole Miss|
|26||Kansas City Chiefs||Corey Coleman||WR||Baylor|
|27||Pittsburgh Steelers||Kendall Fuller||CB||Virginia Tech|
|28||Seattle Seahawks||Noah Spence||DE/LB||Eastern Kentucky|
|29||Denver Broncos||Jason Spriggs||OT||Indiana|
|30||Arizona Cardinals||Jaylon Smith||LB||Notre Dame|
|31||Carolina Panthers||Eli Apple||CB||Ohio State|
Breaking Down Notable Picks
1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
The Tennessee Titans were the team to land Mariota.
Great, but they didn't do much for him. None of Mariota's wideouts eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, and the offensive line let up 38 sacks. Taylor Lewan did well on the left side, but Byron Bell started eight games at right tackle and ranked as Pro Football Focus' 43rd tackle in the league. Jeremiah Poutasi started the other eight and ranked 46th.
So while it might be boring, the Titans need to draft the top tackle in the class. This year, it's Laremy Tunsil from the Ole Miss Rebels, a 6'5", 305-pound mauler who looks every bit the part of a pro tackle on either side of the line.
Rarely do offensive linemen look as good out of the gate as Tunsil. Believe it or not, offensive tackle continues to suffer by the year from the same spread offenses that make most rookie quarterbacks ill-prepared for the pro level.
Not with Tunsil, though. He's an old-school freak athlete for his size who recognizes stunts and combos and more in pass protection and can get to the second level to punish linebackers in the running game.
Maybe it's boring. But having top-tier players on both edges of the line will do nothing short of ensure Mariota's peace of mind.
8. Miami Dolphins: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Linebackers in the top 10 have mixed reactions most years.
Expect this to be the case with the Alabama Crimson Tide's Reggie Ragland, the 2015 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Ragland doesn't have the most impressive numbers from a testing standpoint. He's not a versatile linebacker who will blow you away with numbers, nor will he flash a vast array of pass-rushing moves before slamming into quarterbacks.
As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller noted, though, sometimes it goes beyond the numbers:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
I hope NFL GMs don't overthink Reggie Ragland's 40 time (prob 4.8). He's a missile at ILB. Top 15 talent. (CC: @ChicagoBears)2016-1-18 19:59:05
Numbers don't seem to apply to Ragland, who projects to fit well on the inside of any scheme. He rarely takes a bad first step and is one of those linebackers who somehow, someway, is always around the football.
The Miami Dolphins understand what a linebacker like that can do for a defense. While the line up front boasts Ndamukong Suh and others, the linebackers look like a hodgepodge of names in need of a few upgrades, if not a leader outright.
Ragland can be all of those things at once right out of the gate.
14. Oakland Raiders: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
This continues to shape up as a tough year for defensive backs to break through.
There are three main names at the top, with Mackensie Alexander from the Clemson Tigers, Jalen Ramsey of the Florida State Seminoles and former Florida Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III all seemingly fighting for the top slot.
Not that the Oakland Raiders will complain.
Oakland's losing the legendary Charles Woodson this offseason. Even with him, the defense ranked only 26th against the pass while allowing 24.9 points per game. The unit doesn't have a surefire player stepping in at safety, and the depth outside of DJ Hayden and David Amerson at corner could use a boost.
It's Hargreaves who falls in this scenario, which isn't such a bad thing based on a write-up by CBS Sports' Rob Rang. After praising his ability to read a quarterback's eyes and coverage traits, Rang detailed Hargreaves' willingness to shutter the run:
Scouts will also appreciate that unlike some of the other highly regarded defensive backs throughout the country, Hargreaves is far from just a cover corner. He's very aggressive in run support, fighting his way through blocks and showing zero hesitation in taking on bigger ballcarriers. On most occasions, Hargreaves makes the effective stop, often significantly cutting short the yards gained in impressive fashion.
Hargreaves seems like the complete package. At one point during the season, folks didn't bat an eye at considering him a top-five pick.
Maybe his 5'11", 199-pound frame has something to do with the hesitation. But like Ragland above, numbers only mean so much when looking at NFL prospects. Hargreaves has instant contributor with high upside written all over him.