NFL Mock Draft 2016: 1st-Round Projections for Top Prospects Before Combine

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NFL Mock Draft 2016: 1st-Round Projections for Top Prospects Before Combine
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Carson Wentz is one of the top names to watch at the combine.

The NFL Scouting Combine begins this week, kicking off in earnest one of the globe's biggest sporting events, and possibly the only one to capture the attention span of fans for such an extended time.

Said event is the path to the draft, where every prospect steps under the microscope for evaluation, both on the field and off it. While it might seem silly to some, prospects can make or break their careers and vary their future by millions of dollars over the course of one week before a trying wait for the draft itself.

So it goes in this era of hits and misses, where the hits can morph into a league MVP such as Cam Newton and the early-round misses could wind up in a rut like Johnny Manziel.

Before the evaluation and inevitable stock changes begin, here's a look at a mock based on team need and prospect value.

2016 NFL Mock Draft

Pick Team Player Position School
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 Jaylon Smith LB Notre Dame
11 Chicago Bears Jack Conklin OT Michigan State
12 New Orleans Saints Noah Spence DE/LB Eastern Kentucky
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 Darron Lee LB Ohio State
18 Indianapolis Colts A'Shawn Robinson DT Alabama
19 Buffalo Bills Jarran Reed DL Alabama
20 New York Jets Jonathan Bullard DE Florida
21 Washington Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss
22 Houston Texans Robert Nkemdiche DL Ole Miss
23 Minnesota Vikings Michael Thomas WR Ohio State
24 Cincinnati Bengals Emmanuel Ogbah DE Oklahoma State
25 Pittsburgh Steelers Eli Apple CB Ohio State
26 Seattle Seahawks Shaq Lawson DE/LB Clemson
27 Green Bay Packers Sheldon Rankins DT Louisville
28 Kansas City Chiefs Corey Coleman WR Baylor
29 Arizona Cardinals Leonard Floyd LB Georgia
30 Carolina Panthers Josh Doctson WR TCU
31 Denver Broncos Jason Spriggs OT Indiana

Author's projections.

Pre-Combine Notable Moves

4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State

Thanks to the emergence of someone such as former teammate Noah Spence, Ohio State's Joey Bosa doesn't have the firmest of grips on the title of best pass-rusher in the class. 

It's a label that could be up for grabs at the combine. Bosa, while long considered the best in the class, could have an off day while physical monsters with plenty of upside such as Spence and DeForest Buckner capture the minds of scouts and don't let go.

FoxSports.com's Peter Schrager provided some insight on the situation:

Not that Bosa cannot retain and lock down the slot.

Bosa comes in at 6'6", 275 pounds and looks to fit any scheme not because of flashy speed, but due to hand quickness and strength that let him drive piles back regardless of starting standing up or with his hand in the dirt.

So long as Bosa keeps his stock where it's at, he's essentially a lock for the Dallas Cowboys. The team mustered just 31 sacks last year, and now Randy Gregory has been hit with a suspension. On top of that, according to 105.3 The Fan’s Ben Rogers (via Mike Fisher of CBS DFW), the team won't bring back Greg Hardy.

In other words, the Cowboys seem done with character questions when it comes to guys who can rush the passer. And why not? Bosa might be there and do better in both areas.

12. New Orleans Saints: Noah Spence, DE/LB, Eastern Kentucky

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Noah Spence would bring a key element to the New Orleans defense.

The outcry for the New Orleans Saints to take a piece who can help the defense isn't hard to find. A simple perusing of comment sections or a Twitter search will say as much. 

Such an outcry isn't wrong, 37-year-old quarterback and unpredictable head coach Sean Payton or not. The Saints ranked 31st against the pass last year, coughing up 284.0 yards per game on average. Ditto for run defense, which came in at 129.8 yards per game.

Over the past month and change, the aforementioned Spence and Ohio State's Darron Lee have emerged and given the Saints some serious options when it comes to finding pass-rushing help.

Spence would now be the name to watch. Before, the Saints sat in a rather iffy spot with so many teams higher in the draft now looking for help, especially after Von Miller pulled in the Super Bowl MVP.

Spence, though, has a checkered off-field past that saw him move from Ohio State to Eastern Kentucky, perhaps creating a scenario in which he falls a tad. New Orleans won't complain if a guy who comes in at 6'2" and 254 pounds with elite burst off the snap and an ability to bend his way to quarterbacks unlike few others falls in its lap.

Crafting a better rush would do those mentioned numbers some good. The Saints tallied just 31 sacks last year, so getting a situational prospect who can pin his ears back and focus on one aspect of the game will work wonders.

For an embattled unit, it's one step in the right direction.

15. Los Angeles Rams: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The combine can work wonders for a potential first-round quarterback, and based on film, there seems to be little doubt that North Dakota State's Carson Wentz will shine as one of the top prospects in attendance

Wentz won't blow anyone away through numbers due to where he played, but there is a reason the hype around him continues to grow as more scouts get to work on his film. At 6'5" and 232 pounds with an arm that can make all the pro throws and a mind that can work through defenses like an open book, the only real knock is Wentz's level of collegiate competition.

As NFL.com's Lance Zierlein noted in a summary, Wentz needs time to grow, but the initial investment should easily pay off in the long run:

With a body type that is as prototypical as they come and a background in reading the entire field and working through progressions, Wentz will immediately check a couple of boxes that many college quarterbacks won’t be able to check. While his arm strength is OK, he can still make all the throws and he can make them with accuracy. His ability to escape pressure and pick up first downs with his feet will be yet another check mark in his favor. Wentz is still in a developmental phase after just two years at an FBS program, but has the mental and physical building blocks of a future, franchise quarterback. 

There aren't many teams in the top 15 who will want to wait, of course. The Cleveland Browns at No. 2 might, but Wentz certainly isn't the only option.

The Los Angeles Rams make for an interesting suitor, though. Making a move to a new home and clearly in rebuild mode, the Rams might not have an issue with another year of Nick Foles-Case Keenum purgatory if it means their flashy first-round pick can take a year to develop while the front office continues to build the roster. 

Then again, few teams allow rookies such a grace period these days. How patient the Rams will be in a new market remains to be seen, too. But if Wentz falls and the Rams pull the trigger, the front office might want to consider the patient approach—landing a potential franchise quarterback outside of the top 10 would be a huge win.

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

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