2016 NFL Mock Draft: Projections for Top Prospects as Free Agency Continues

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2016 NFL Mock Draft: Projections for Top Prospects as Free Agency Continues
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Free agency has the power to change the complexion of the NFL draft. 

Teams generally like to make their draft decisions in secrecy, but money talks. Where teams spend their money and just how willing they are to spend money can be pretty good indicators of what a team's draft will look like. 

For instance, before free agency began, it was easy to pencil the New York Giants in as a team that would spend the No. 10 pick on a defensive lineman. After watching them sign Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon to big-money deals, it feels a lot less likely they will be looking to spend more resources on improving the front. 

Here's the first-round order and projections followed by a look at some of the teams whose free-agency moves have added intrigue to their first-round picks. 

2016 NFL Mock Draft
Pick Team Player Position School
1 Tennessee Titans Laremy Tunsil OT Ole Miss
2 Cleveland Browns Carson Wentz QB North Dakota State
3 San Diego Chargers Jalen Ramsey CB/S Florida State
4 Dallas Cowboys Joey Bosa DL Ohio State
5 Jacksonville Jaguars Myles Jack LB UCLA
6 Baltimore Ravens DeForest Buckner DL Oregon
7 San Francisco 49ers Jared Goff QB Cal
8 Philadelphia Eagles Vernon Hargreaves CB Florida
9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Shaq Lawson EDGE Clemson
10 New York Giants Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss
11 Chicago Bears Ronnie Stanley OT Notre Dame
12 New Orleans Saints A'Shawn Robinson DT Alabama
13 Miami Dolphins Ezekiel Elliott RB Ohio State
14 Oakland Raiders Jack Conklin OT Michigan State
15 Los Angeles Rams Paxton Lynch QB Memphis
16 Detroit Lions Sheldon Rankins DL Louisville
17 Atlanta Falcons Darron Lee LB Ohio State
18 Indianapolis Colts Emmanuel Ogbah EDGE Oklahoma State
19 Buffalo Bills Kevin Dodd DL Clemson
20 New York Jets Noah Spence EDGE Eastern Kentucky
21 Washington Jarran Reed DL Alabama
22 Houston Texans Kenny Clark DL UCLA
23 Minnesota Vikings Taylor Decker OT Ohio State
24 Cincinnati Bengals Michael Thomas WR Ohio State
25 Pittsburgh Steelers Eli Apple CB Ohio State
26 Seattle Seahawks Germain Ifedi OT Texas A&M
27 Green Bay Packers Reggie Ragland ILB Alabama
28 Kansas City Chiefs Andrew Billings DL Baylor
29 Arizona Cardinals Jonathan Bullard DL Florida
30 Carolina Panthers Jayron Kearse S Clemson
31 Denver Broncos Cody Whitehair OG Kansas State

Author's Projections

 

San Francisco 49ers: Potential Kaepernick Departure Opens Door for Jared Goff

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jared Goff

Right now, the argument against the 49ers taking a quarterback is that they love Blaine Gabbert

Yes, the same Blaine Gabbert who was exiled as a former first-round pick from Jacksonville. Granted, the former Missouri Tiger had some positives in his time as a starter for San Francisco last season. He finished the season with 2,031 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight games. 

For what it's worth, new head coach Chip Kelly said he's still evaluating the players on his roster, which includes Gabbert, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I really believe in a clean slate,” Kelly said. “What we can garner from the tape is ‘What they can do physically? What’s their skill set? Can they throw an intermediate out route? Can they throw a deep ball? Can they escape a rush?’ Those things when you’re looking at a quarterback."

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. Meanwhile, the Colin Kaepernick situation only appears to be getting worse. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported there's mutual interest between Browns head coach Hue Jackson and the Niners quarterback.

She also reported the Browns would be willing to part with a third-round selection to acquire him.  

Even if Kaepernick doesn't get traded to Cleveland, it would appear his days in San Francisco are over. In this scenario, that would put the organization at a crossroads at No. 7. Take Jared Goff, who may be the best quarterback in the draft, or stick with Gabbert?

Gabbert may have flashed some potential last season, but Goff's ceiling is even higher.

The Niners weren't a player for Brock Osweiler and don't appear to be in the running for any other free-agent options at the position. That's as clear a sign as any that they could be targeting quarterback with their first pick.  

 

New York Giants: Free-Agency Spending Spree Opens Up Best-Player-Available Approach

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Laquon Treadwell

The New York Giants were among the most aggressive teams in the opening days of free agency. According to Spotrac, the G-Men were the NFL's biggest spenders, bringing in a class that included Janoris Jenkins on top of Harrison and Vernon:

The Giants might not be done spending, either. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, New York has also hosted left tackle Russell Okung for a visit. 

With that in mind, it's clear the Giants are willing to splurge in free agency to fill holes and leave few glaring weaknesses that they would have to address in the draft. 

However, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller still sees one spot that could be addressed with the Giants' No. 10 pick:

Miller also considers Laquon Treadwell to be the most NFL-ready receiver in this year's class. With a ton of money invested in an immediate turnaround, it seems like that would be important to the Giants. 

Quarterback Eli Manning isn't getting any younger. If the Giants offense is going to take the next step, it must find someone else who can get open and threaten opposing defenses opposite of Odell Beckham Jr. 

Treadwell would do just that and should be the pick now that the team has adequately addressed the defensive front seven by other means. 

 

Miami Dolphins: Lamar Miller Replacement May Be Found Early

As noted in the above video, the Dolphins have been among the most active and interesting teams in the offseason. They've made moves since the beginning of free agency, and not all of them have been home runs. 

They watched Vernon walk to New York, but they softened that blow by inking defensive end Mario Williams to a two-year deal

They also pulled the first major trade of the draft when they swapped the eighth pick for the Philadelphia Eagles' No. 13 pick in a deal that also netted them Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso. 

Vernon wasn't the only big-name free agent who left South Beach, though. Running back Lamar Miller wanted to be a feature back and went off to Houston on a four-year deal

Replacing Miller isn't going to be done via free agency, though. That's something Miami needs to address in the draft. With the Dolphins' new draft slot, Ezekiel Elliott might be just what the Dolphins need to make some of their offseason moves make a little more sense. 

Pro Football Focus noted the Dolphins would be getting a rare talent in terms of being an all-around back:

If there wasn't so much hesitation for teams to take a running back in the top 10, the Dolphins may have been a threat to take Elliott at No. 8. If they can get him at No. 13 while adding veterans in Maxwell and Alonso, they could be one of the draft's biggest winners. 

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