2016 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects Ahead of Free Agency

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2016 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects Ahead of Free Agency
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Florida's Vernon Hargreaves used the combine to his advantage by boosting his stock.

Trying to keep up with the NFL this time of year is like trying to beat Georgia's Keith Marshall in a foot race.

Marshall ran the fastest 40-yard dash in Indianapolis this year, clocking in at 4.31 seconds. No Chris Johnson, but fast. 

With pro and college factors to think about, observers might have a hard time keeping pace. This is where mock drafts come into play as an all-encompassing tool that measures both team need and prospect stock before simulating how the league would act in a given scenario.

Here's an updated look as the focus now switches to free agents.

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 Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss
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 Michael Thomas WR Ohio State
22 Houston Texans Robert Nkemdiche DL Ole Miss
23 Minnesota Vikings Josh Doctson WR TCU
24 Cincinnati Bengals Emmanuel Ogbah DE Oklahoma State
25 Pittsburgh Steelers Eli Apple CB Ohio State
26 Seattle Seahawks Ezekiel Elliott RB Ohio State
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 Shaq Lawson LB Clemson
31 Denver Broncos Jason Spriggs OT Indiana

Author's projections

Notable Projections That Impact Free Agency

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

Joey Bosa couldn't have had a much better combine, drawing eerie comparisons in the process.

Bosa went into the event as a known commodity after wreaking havoc at Ohio State as a pass-rusher. He put relentless pressure on quarterbacks and boosted his stock into top-10 territory even before the impressive showing in Indianapolis.

Now, well, just look at a comparison summarized by NFL on ESPN:

Expecting a prospect to turn into the next J.J. Watt is silly, but it's valid to look at the numbers and give a shake of the head—though Watt weighed in more than 20 pounds heavier than Bosa

Still, with those numbers added to Bosa's film, it's not hard to see why teams might fall in love. Bosa can line up at most spots and create pressure based on the situation.

A team like the Dallas Cowboys has had eyes on Bosa for a long time now coming off a season in which the defense managed just 31 sacks. With Greg Hardy gone and perhaps not wanting to take another risk on the market, finally adding some young foundation blocks makes sense.

Bosa isn't the perfect fix right out of the gates, but he's a large step in the right direction for a team that has to start thinking more about the future.

14. Oakland Raiders: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Darron Cummings/Associated Press
Vernon Hargreaves put on a show in positional drills to affirm his stock.

Commonly cited as a Joe Haden lookalike, Vernon Hargreaves III out of Florida had work to do at the combine if he was going to keep pace with other notable defensive backs such as Jalen Ramsey and Mackensie Alexander.

Hargreaves hit it out of the park, measuring in big for his position at 5'10" and 204 pounds while still posting a 4.50 40-yard dash with a 39-inch vertical jump and 130-inch broad jump.

Folks might have wanted to see better sheer speed numbers from the Florida product, but at the end of the day, the performance on the field is what remains most important. A post-combine endorsement by ESPN.com's Todd McShay says it all for Hargreaves' stock:

While I saw a little tightness in his hips during drills, Hargreaves' excellent ball skills and exceptional foot quickness were on display for talent evaluators on Monday. The best pure cover corner in this class, Hargreaves has the quickness and fluidity to play man-to-man coverage at the next level. Even though his 40 time doesn't line up, I still think Hargreaves is worthy of a top-10 pick.

Even so, Hargreaves doesn't figure to land among the first 10 selected. Quarterback-needy teams will pull the trigger as always, and in a defensive-minded draft, the sheer amount of quality pass-rushers will have corners shuffling down the board a tad.

Such a scenario would play right into the hands of the Oakland Raiders. Coach Jack Del Rio's unit coughed up the 26th-most passing yards per game on average last year, Charles Woodson leading the unit or not.

Now Woodson is gone, leaving the task to D. J. Hayden, David Amerson and others. Those two have plenty of upside left in the tank, but it's not even close to enough in today's league.

Should the Raiders choose the draft over other avenues for improvement in this area, Hargreaves is the obvious pick.

17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Darron Cummings/Associated Press
Darron Lee's elite numbers have the NFL buzzing.

Darron Lee isn't Bosa by any means, but the talented linebacker has climbed higher than most compared to his starting stock position.

Lee put on an absolute show at the combine, weighing in at 6'1" and 232 pounds, ranking among the best at his position in the 40-yard dash (4.47 seconds), vertical jump (35.5 inches), broad jump (133.0 inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.20 seconds).

Numbers in a workout aren't everything, of course, but a note by CollegeFootball 24/7 certainly puts things into stark perspective: 

The proverbial cat is out of the bag now. The numbers will ensure Lee gets as much attention as possible, which might ruin draft plans for teams that had him as a potential gem to grab in the first round.

On film, Lee puts every bit of that shocking athleticism to great use while weaving his way to quarterbacks. Scouts and teams didn't necessarily need the numbers to know what Lee could do, regardless of whether some label him as undersized.

A team such as the Atlanta Falcons at No. 17 have to hope Lee's stock isn't too high now. The Falcons have been one of the main teams to watch when it comes to drafting an edge-rusher this year after tallying all of 19 sacks last season.

Adding Lee to the mix with Vic Beasley and others will help the unit continue to turn around, though now the Falcons have to sweat it out more than usual while waiting to waltz to the podium—especially if the free-agency approach is to wait and grab a guy like Lee in the draft.

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

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