NFL Draft 2016: 1st-Round Mock Draft and Scouting Combine Storylines to Watch

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2016

Draft prospect Carson Wentz of North Dakota State.
Draft prospect Carson Wentz of North Dakota State.Associated Press

Out with the old and in with the new.

That's what the NFL Scouting Combine is all about. This is a league that gives the best and brightest a chance. The best young players are about to get a chance to show what they can do—at least when it comes to running around in their shorts and lifting weights—and the NFL powerbrokers and decision-makers are about to take notice.

2016 NFL Mock Draft
1Tennessee TitansLaremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
2Cleveland BrownsCarson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
3San Diego ChargersJalen Ramsey, S/CB, Florida State
4Dallas CowboysDeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
5Jacksonville JaguarsJoey Bosa, DE Ohio State
6Baltimore RavensRonnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
7San Francisco 49ersJared Goff, QB, California
8Miami DolphinsLaquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersMyles Jack, LB, UCLA
10New York GiantsSheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
11Chicago BearsVernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
12New Orleans SaintsNoah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
13Philadelphia EaglesPaxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
14Oakland RaidersJaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
15Los Angeles RamsTaylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
16Detroit LionsAndrew Billings, DT, Baylor
17Atlanta FalconsShaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
18Indianapolis ColtsA'Shawn Robinson, DE/DT, Alabama
19Buffalo BillsEmmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
20New York JetsReggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
21WashingtonJarran Reed, DT, Alabama
22Houston TexansConnor Cook, QB, Michigan State
23Minnesota VikingsBraxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
24Cincinnati BengalsCorey Coleman, WR, Baylor
25Pittsburgh SteelersKendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
26Seattle SeahawksJack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
27Green Bay PackersDarron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
28Kansas City ChiefsRobert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
29Arizona CardinalsLeonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
30Carolina PanthersKevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
31Denver BroncosEli Apple, CB Ohio State
Silverman selections

The start of the combine is the start of a new season in the NFL. It's not the start of the official league year (that comes March 9), but the Denver Broncos have put their Super Bowl 50 victory in the history books and now it's time to move on.

One of the top storylines revolves around the quarterbacks. One quarterback, Carson Wentz of North Dakota State, has already moved to the top of most mock drafts. Wentz was recently compared to Andrew Luck by draft expert Mike Mayock:

Mike Mayock compared Carson Wentz to Andrew Luck on Tuesday.

— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) February 23, 2016

Wentz had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl when he faced an upgrade in the level of competition. He should perform well in the passing drills, which will only help his status.

However, the most interesting aspect of the combine for Wentz will likely be his interview sessions with the coaches, scouts and media. Wentz appears to be a sharp, well-spoken individual, but the pressure will be on in Indianapolis. It's a test, and he's going to have to do well to cement his position.

Cardale Jones has a chance to upgrade his status an the NFL Scouting Combine.
Cardale Jones has a chance to upgrade his status an the NFL Scouting Combine.Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Speaking of quarterbacks, Ohio State's Cardale Jones is going to get an opportunity to show off his arm strength and accuracy. Jones, of course, took over as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback late in the 2014 season as a result of injuries. He made the most of his opportunity, exceeded all expectations and led Ohio State to the national championship.

While Jones was given the starting job at the start of the 2015 season by head coach Urban Meyer, he could not hold onto his job. Nevertheless, Jones made himself available in the draft, and he is ranked as the seventh-best quarterback by CBS Sports.

A likely fourth- or fifth-round choice, Jones has remarkable arm strength and is going to get a chance to show that aspect of his game off in Indianapolis. He has a chance to earn an opportunity. He may not go in the first or second round, but that doesn't mean he won't convince the right coach or scout that he has a legitimate future.

Pre-combine buzz: "Post combine the buzz will be about Cardale Jones & Christian Hackenberg having all the tools, for someone to coach up."

— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) February 23, 2016

Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey is an excellent player and a remarkable athlete. He has a chance to put on a big show when it comes to running and jumping, and that should only enhance his status as one of the top players in this draft. CBS Sports has him rated as the third-best prospect in the draft, and he appears to be ready to move to the next level and become a star.

Outside linebacker Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky may have had a tumultuous college career after failing drug tests while at Ohio State, but he did show an excellent burst and ability to get to the quarterback at Eastern Kentucky. He was even better at the Senior Bowl, as he appeared to be one of the most explosive pass-rushers in Mobile, Alabama.

Noah Spence dips his inside shoulder while accelerating through the block. And he strips the ball

— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 22, 2016

Spence is going to have to convince the decision-makers that he has outgrown his youthful problems. If he can do that, he could become one of the most effective rookies in the league next year. If he can't, his draft status could drop precipitously.

Wentz, Jones, Ramsey and Spence provide four of the storylines at the start of the combine. There will be many more as the weekend progresses.