NFL Draft 2016: Notable Predictions from Top Experts Around the Web

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2016

Paxton Lynch takes center stage in expert predictions.
Paxton Lynch takes center stage in expert predictions.Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

NFL mock draft season is in full swing.

With the Senior Bowl already complete, the downhill snowball that is the season with plenty of major landmarks on the way down the mountain hits full speed, with the NFL Scouting Combine the next big thing to capture the attention of the globe.

As such, mock drafts continue to fly off the shelves faster than a Kanye West album (should it ever come out). While some view mock drafts as a fun way to pass the time, keeping in mind they also happen to serve as a great resource for information.

Mainly this pertains to the stock market and what teams want. But keep in mind these are experts with connections. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the most notable predictions from top experts.


Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated

No. 6, Baltimore Ravens: Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky

Noah Spence raised his stock by blowing up the Senior Bowl.
Noah Spence raised his stock by blowing up the Senior Bowl.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Chris Burke might just be ahead of the curve with this one.

Noah Spence, formerly of the Ohio State Buckeyes, is one of the draft's most controversial players. He didn't have much of a problem brutalizing the Big Ten while he was around, but he had to leave the program after multiple off-field incidents.

For Burke, though, the red flags aren't enough to keep Spence out of the top 10:

A post on the Ravens’ website last week speculated that Spence could fall into Round 2. Forget it. But Baltimore could grab the edge-rushing dynamo here. Spence starred during Senior Bowl week, consistently beating tackles around the bend. Teams will have to dig into his character, but the talent is there to justify a top-10 spot.

It's hard to argue. Spence hit the Senior Bowl and came away as the most impressive name there. He's a freak athlete who can bend and twist his way to quarterbacks after an elite burst off the snap.

The fit here makes sense, too. The Baltimore Ravens haven't drafted well in years, and it's beginning to show on the field each season. The once-respected defense mustered just 37 sacks last year, and Elvis Dumervil could use an effective complement to help the unit.

In fact, Dumervil might be Spence's best comparison. The pick makes sense for Baltimore, so long as the off-field stuff checks out in interviews. He'll put on a show in any workout.


Todd McShay, ESPN

No. 2, Cleveland Browns: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

So there it is.

It seems like the conclusion of the college football season brought about a quarterback carousel of sorts as to which prospect comes off the board first. The consensus seems to be that new head coach Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns will take a quarterback, but the who continues to change.

Some days it looks like California's Jared Goff; others, the spot belongs to Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. This time around, at least for ESPN's Todd McShay, it's all about Memphis' Paxton Lynch:

Lynch has been an extremely efficient passer for the Tigers this season (69.0 completion rate, 28 TDs vs. 3 INTs) -- and he showed up in a big way against Memphis' best opponent (Ole Miss). He has not yet declared for the draft -- and I still have a lot of work to do on him in terms of analyzing his work ethic, leadership skills, mental makeup and durability history -- but Lynch has the physical skills to develop into a good starting NFL QB, which Cleveland needs.

This is an on-paper analysis that does quite well because Lynch passes the "look" requirement of an NFL quarterback in incredible fashion, coming in at 6'7" and 245 pounds. Not only did Lynch compile the strong pass numbers McShay mentions, he ran for 239 yards last year and totaled 17 rushing scores over three seasons.

Cam Newton winning MVP helps Lynch. It's a strong indication the league continues to shift more in the direction of quarterbacks who can extend plays or make them with their feet.

Lynch can do that, and while he looks like a work in progress, McShay and many others will continue to slot him as the first quarterback off the board for the upside. Given Jackson's work with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, a pairing with Lynch makes plenty of sense.


Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

No. 20, New York Jets: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Maybe the biggest thing folks look for in a mock draft right now is where the first running back comes off the board. Said first running back will be Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott, but the where is a bit trickier.

For Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, No. 20 with the New York Jets makes sense based on how the Jets have acted in recent years and how the board falls:

That’s what you need to know about what the New York Jets will do in the first round. In 2015, they surprised everyone by selecting Leonard Williams at a position that already featured studs Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. It’s not about needs for the Jets, but instead about accumulating as much talent as possible. It just so happens that the best player available here happens to fill a need.

There isn't much of an argument here. Elliott is far and away the best back in the class, a dual-threat monster who won't come off the field in any situation. He ran for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns last season and caught 27 or more passes in each of his last two seasons, showing how viable he can be as a receiver.

The Jets might boast Chris Ivory and a hodgepodge of names after him on the depth chart, but the veteran only managed 1,070 yards and seven scores, and the team tallied just 4.2 yards per carry and 11 total scores.

New York needs better balance. It gets it with a player like Elliott, an immediate upgrade. Of the potential Elliott destinations, the Jets might be the perfect fit in the first round.


Stats courtesy of and are accurate as of Saturday. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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