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

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2016

Florida's Vernon Hargreaves used the combine to his advantage by boosting his stock.
Florida's Vernon Hargreaves used the combine to his advantage by boosting his stock.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

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

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 SaintsNoah SpenceDE/LBEastern Kentucky
13Philadelphia EaglesTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
14Oakland RaidersVernon Hargreaves IIICBFlorida
15Los Angeles RamsCarson WentzQBNorth Dakota State
16Detroit LionsLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
17Atlanta FalconsDarron LeeLBOhio State
18Indianapolis ColtsA'Shawn RobinsonDTAlabama
19Buffalo BillsJarran ReedDLAlabama
20New York JetsJonathan BullardDEFlorida
21WashingtonMichael ThomasWROhio State
22Houston TexansRobert NkemdicheDLOle Miss
23Minnesota VikingsJosh DoctsonWRTCU
24Cincinnati BengalsEmmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma State
25Pittsburgh SteelersEli AppleCBOhio State
26Seattle SeahawksEzekiel ElliottRBOhio State
27Green Bay PackersSheldon RankinsDTLouisville
28Kansas City ChiefsCorey ColemanWRBaylor
29Arizona CardinalsLeonard FloydLBGeorgia
30Carolina PanthersShaq LawsonLBClemson
31Denver BroncosJason SpriggsOTIndiana
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

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

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

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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