NFL Mock Draft 2016: Prospects Who Will Shape Complexion of 1st Round

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2016

Where Jared Goff comes off the board changes the first round in dramatic fashion.
Where Jared Goff comes off the board changes the first round in dramatic fashion.Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

It takes one franchise going off script to change the entire outlook of an NFL draft.

Look at 2014. Most didn't expect running back Todd Gurley to come off the board as high as No. 10. He did, though, and just like that, there was a slight rush, with Melvin Gordon coming off the board five picks later.

While a mild example, one can see how a draft has ebbs and flows based on players making surprise appearances. This is especially important at critical positions such as quarterback, where one guy coming off the board forces several teams to rearrange their entire approaches.

Whether it's position, injury, off-field issues or a simple reach, prospects always change how one projects a draft to go. It's part of the fun. Here's a mock and analysis of some of those draft-busting prospects.

 

2016 NFL Mock Draft

PickTeamPlayerPositionSchool
1Tennessee TitansLaremy TunsilOTOle Miss
2Cleveland BrownsJared GoffQBCalifornia
3San Diego ChargersRonnie StanleyOTNotre Dame
4Dallas CowboysJoey BosaDLOhio State
5Jacksonville JaguarsJalen RamseyCB/SFlorida State
6Baltimore RavensMackensie AlexanderCBClemson
7San Francisco 49ersMyles JackLBUCLA
8Miami DolphinsReggie RaglandLBAlabama
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersDeForest BucknerDEOregon
10New York GiantsJaylon SmithLBNotre Dame
11Chicago BearsJack ConklinOTMichigan State
12New Orleans SaintsPaxton LynchQBMemphis
13Philadelphia EaglesTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
14Oakland RaidersVernon Hargreaves IIICBFlorida
15Los Angeles RamsCarson WentzQBNorth Dakota State
16Detroit LionsEzekiel ElliottRBOhio State
17Atlanta FalconsShilique CalhounDEMichigan State
18Indianapolis ColtsA'Shawn RobinsonDTAlabama
19Buffalo BillsJarran ReedDLAlabama
20New York JetsNoah SpenceDE/LBEastern Kentucky
21WashingtonLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
22Houston TexansRobert NkemdicheDLOle Miss
23Minnesota VikingsMichael ThomasWROhio State
24Cincinnati BengalsEmmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma State
25Pittsburgh SteelersEli AppleCBOhio State
26Seattle SeahawksShaq LawsonDE/LBClemson
27Green Bay PackersSheldon RankinsDTLouisville
28Kansas City ChiefsCorey ColemanWRBaylor
29Arizona CardinalsLeonard FloydLBGeorgia
30Carolina PanthersJosh DoctsonWRTCU
31Denver BroncosJason SpriggsOTIndiana
Author's projections.

 

Outlook-Changing Prospects

2. Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California

Is Jared Goff the first quarterback off the board in a few months?

It's honestly quite difficult to tell this early in the process, with Paxton Lynch and Carson Wentz making strong pushes for the title, too.

For now, the spotlight falls on Goff, though, who comes in at 6'4" and 215 pounds and completed 64.5 percent of his passes last year with 43 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.

Goff's name won't stop coming up in conversations including the Cleveland Browns, either, as a note by ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi revealed:

The Browns, of course, are in the market for a quarterback, given the Johnny Manziel drama and the fact that new head coach Hue Jackson might not want to lean on a veteran such as Josh McCown.

If that's the case, Goff looks like the quarterback to come off the board. His doing so will create a noticeable ripple effect on the rest of the round, especially in this class, as some franchises could feel they might be able to wait on the position with no prospect really standing out.

But if Goff comes off the board, that outlook will change in quite a hurry, and things will get interesting. It all comes down to whether the Browns really want to go out and get themselves a potential franchise quarterback.

 

10. New York Giants: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Injured superstar prospects always throw the process for a loop. 

There isn't a better example than Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith this year. Most franchises in their right minds would want a scheme-versatile linebacker who can make sideline-to-sideline plays, rush the passer and drop back into coverage with some of the best coverage skills seen on a linebacker in three years or more.

Most also wouldn't want to deal with a guy who unfortunately shredded his knee in a bowl game.

It really comes down to a team like the New York Giants in the top 10. Leaning on a hodgepodge of names such as J.T. Thomas in the linebacking corps saw the Giants finish the season ranked dead last against the pass and 24th against the rush.

One look at Smith's bottom line by NFL.com's Lance Zierlein should have the Giants rubbing their hands together:

In this day and age of "tweeners" being labeled "hybrid" players, Smith is the rare commodity who is truly hybrid in the sense that he has the athleticism, speed and physical makeup to play any linebacker spot in either the 3­-4 or the 4-­3. Smith was productive but slightly miscast in the middle of the Notre Dame defense and is better suited to play in space as a 4­-3 outside linebacker. However, his length and upfield burst could draw the attention of a 3-­4 team looking to transition him into a rush linebacker while utilizing his rare cover skills.

If the Giants decide they want a leader of the unit, a game-changing presence from a big-play and leadership ability, Smith is the guy.

Given the importance of linebackers who can rush the passer and drop into coverage, this move would create a rather large fallout, as teams might not expect the injured Smith to come off the board in the top 10.

 

20. New York Jets: Noah Spence, DE/LB, Eastern Kentucky

Noah Spence captured the minds of the NFL at the Scouting Combine.
Noah Spence captured the minds of the NFL at the Scouting Combine.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Say hello to the wild card. 

Most should know Noah Spence from when he wreaked havoc on the Big Ten as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes. He wound up at Eastern Kentucky after off-field issues, making him a majorly unpredictable element of the class. 

One note by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller said it all, though: 

Von Miller remains fresh on the minds of everyone after he brought home the Super Bowl MVP award this past Sunday, so it's not hard to see why a prospect of Spence's caliber could shake things up in such a big way.

For now, Spence looks like a sound fit with the New York Jets. The once-heralded defense mustered just 39 sacks this past season, a number simply not good enough in a division belonging to Tom Brady.

Spence's presence would change things in a hurry. He can rush the passer from unpredictable spots and make the lives of those around him easier by disrupting the timing of an offense.

One has to wonder just how high Spence will soar during the draft process, or if his off-field issues from the past will really make an impact. The situation easily makes him the player most capable of changing the first round on his own.

It takes just one team to see the elite talent and allow Spence to disrupt both on the field and in the draft process. Every team will likely have a "Spence" button in the draft war room, one the folks in charge have to punch when he comes off the board. If he leaves the pool, there will be a tidal wave of change as teams attempt to adapt.

 

Stats courtesy of NFL.com and are accurate as of Monday. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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