NFL Draft 2016: Full 1st-Round Mock Draft and Key Storylines for Top Prospects

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 29, 2015

Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (5) stretches before an NCAA college football game between Mississippi and Arkansas in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
Thomas Graning/Associated Press

At this very early stage of the 2016 NFL draft process, all there is to examine are questions. Prospects have established themselves on the college stage and given scouts plenty of tape to pore over, giving the first round some shape. 

Yet look back to past drafts and take note of how drastically things changed after a workout or the scouting combine or some off-field issue that caused a top talent to fall out of the first round. Remember when ESPN.com's Mel Kiper had Damontre Moore as the No. 2 overall pick in 2013? 

A lot is going to change over the next four months, so the best way to examine the 2016 draft right now after listing the mock picks is focusing on the biggest storylines for key players. 

2016 NFL Mock Draft (Order Based on Week 16 Standings)
PickTeamSelection
1Tennessee TitansJoey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
2Cleveland BrownsJared Goff, QB, California
3San Diego ChargersLaquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
4Dallas CowboysA'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
5San Francisco 49ersPaxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
6Miami DolphinsJalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
7Jacksonville JaguarsVernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
8Baltimore RavensJaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersDeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
10New York GiantsShaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
11New Orleans SaintsSu'a Cravens, LB, USC
12Philadelphia EaglesLaremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
13Detroit LionsRonnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
14Chicago BearsEmmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
15Buffalo BillsVonn Bell, S, Ohio State
16Oakland RaidersKendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
17Indianapolis ColtsJack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
18St. Louis RamsJosh Doctson, WR, TCU
19Atlanta FalconsJonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
20Pittsburgh SteelersTre'Davious White, CB, LSU
21WashingtonMichael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
22Houston TexansCarson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
23Seattle SeahawksTaylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
24New York JetsTim Williams, LB, Alabama
25Kansas City ChiefsEzekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
26Minnesota VikingsCorey Coleman, WR, Baylor
27Green Bay PackersShilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
28Denver BroncosHunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
29Cincinnati BengalsJarran Reed, DT, Alabama
30Arizona CardinalsLeonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
31Carolina PanthersJason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Source: CBSSports.com

Note: New England Patriots forfeit their first-round pick as part of Deflategate punishment.

Kendall Fuller's Knee

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Injuries are always a huge question mark for many players coming into the draft, but perhaps no one has more to prove during the predraft workout process than Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller. 

The junior star only appeared in three games last season before having September surgery to repair a torn meniscus originally suffered during preseason. 

Rob Rang of CBS Sports noted all the ways in which Fuller had scouts drooling over his NFL potential before his injury:

He was often described as the most gifted of a family that included former Virginia Tech standouts and current NFL players Vincent, Corey and Kyle Fuller. He'd earned ACC Defensive Freshman Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 and First Team all-conference accolades after last season and currently projects as a first round pick...

One positive for Fuller is that he didn't sustain the big knee injury (torn ACL) to scare teams off. ESPN.com's Todd McShay had Fuller going in the first round, 21st overall to Indianapolis, in his initial mock draft posted on Dec. 16 because of his ability to play on the outside or in the slot. 

The medicals will be Fuller's biggest hurdle to get over during the evaluation process. Assuming he does that, there's no reason to think teams won't be itching to select him. Coming off a knee injury, it's possible the drafting team gets him at a better spot than he originally would have been taken. 

Robert Nkemdiche's Stock

Video Play Button

Like Fuller, Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has seen his stock fluctuate during the season. Unlike Fuller, Nkemdiche's draft standing has been hampered by off-field issues. 

Nkemdiche was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana by Atlanta police on Dec. 15, leading to Ole Miss suspending him for the team's Sugar Bowl matchup against Oklahoma State. 

Talent is always going to be the most important factor for teams, but player conduct and character has become more important than ever. Regardless of anyone's personal opinion about marijuana, Nkemdiche knew the laws, still decided to put himself at risk and got caught. 

There were already questions about Nkemdiche's ultimate NFL ceiling before the problem, with one AFC personnel director telling NFL.com he didn't want to touch the Ole Miss star in the top half of the first round: 

'I know he gets a ton of attention, but I'm leery ... actually, I would stand on a table and tell my franchise to not take him in the top 15 picks.' Why? The personnel director says Nkemdiche is a great talent who can overpower college players with his bull rushes and speed, but he doesn't think Nkemdiche is a natural pass rusher and said he flagged the Rebels' star numerous times for not finishing plays.

Those sentiments about Nkemdiche echo similar ones expressed by B/R draft guru Matt Miller:

It's worth noting some experts still have Nkemdiche firmly in the first-round mix. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports has him going 15th overall to Oakland, citing the sky-high ceiling as the biggest point in his favor. 

Given all the doubt and questions with Nkemdiche right now, he's not in my first-round mock. That can change over the next few months, but there's too much risk to feel comfortable slotting him in the top 31 today. 

The Small-School QB

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Quarterbacks always headline the draft, especially in the first round, and regardless of whether they are going No. 1 or 31. 

Most fans are aware of the two big names at the top, Memphis' Paxton Lynch and California's Jared Goff, but one name that keeps popping up to challenge for a mid- to late-first-round pick is North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. 

Jon Ledyard of USA Today articulated the points working in Wentz's favor with his draft stock rapidly rising:

Wentz’s rocket arm and ideal measurables have garnered him a ton of attention already in the pre-draft process, and rightfully so. The 6-6 senior shows a ton of poise in the pocket, stepping into throws to zip the ball through tight windows. Velocity isn’t an issue for Wentz, who shows generally sound mechanics to all levels of the field, displaying an arm that can make every throw.

Just from a physical standpoint, Wentz looks the part of an NFL quarterback. It's hard to find a 6'6", 235-pound athlete who can stand under center, make every throw and bring touch with accuracy. 

Wentz still has to figure out certain things, like reading a defense and how to make plays in an offense that's not timing-based. He will also be making a huge step up in competition, even more than a typical college quarterback, because North Dakota State plays FCS competition. 

While not likely to be a starter from Day 1, Wentz has all the physical tools to be worth a look for teams in the back half of the first round who can get away with stashing a rookie quarterback on the bench for a season. 

In that regard, the Houston Texans may not be the ideal fit because they will have to find a starting quarterback after going through four this season. A team like the Arizona Cardinals, who have 36-year-old Carson Palmer, would be a better match because there isn't an immediate urgency. 

Yet the draft is where teams find quarterbacks because free agency so rarely lets anyone worth having reach that point. Wentz is going to be a risk worth taking since his physical attributes are so spectacular that the developmental needs can pay off in a big way. 

Related

    Henry Ruggs III Runs 4.27-Second 40-Yard Dash

    @nfldraftscout has Bama WR going No. 21 to Eagles in latest mock draft

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Henry Ruggs III Runs 4.27-Second 40-Yard Dash

    Megan Armstrong
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Jerry Jones Open to Dez Return

    Cowboys owner won't rule out reunion: 'I’ve thought a lot about it in the shower'

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Jerry Jones Open to Dez Return

    Blake Schuster
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Brady Might Really Leave Pats

    ‘Strong buzz’ at combine is Tom Brady won’t return to Patriots, will be first QB domino to fall

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Brady Might Really Leave Pats

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report

    Jalen Hurts' 40 Time Among Top QBs at 2020 Combine

    Hurts' official time: 4.59

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Jalen Hurts' 40 Time Among Top QBs at 2020 Combine

    Blake Schuster
    via Bleacher Report