NFL Mock Draft 2016: Breaking Down Early Forecast for Entire 1st Round

Mike Norris@@MikeNorrisBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2016

Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (78) loosens up prior to his team's NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Tunsil was making his first start for the season having served a seven game suspension. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

It's a new day, so that means it's time for a new NFL mock draft. There will be plenty of movement and shifting of picks between now and the first round on April 28, but it's always fun to speculate which top prospect your team will land.

Many experts believe the top pick is going to come down to Ole Miss Rebels offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Joey Bosa. As you'll see, this mock reflects just that and has the talented duo going first and second in Round 1.

Let's take a look at a team-by-team projection from the first round, some reasons why Tunsil will be the No. 1 pick and the fate of two other top athletes. 

2016 NFL Mock Draft
1Tennessee TitansLaremy TunsilOTOle Miss
2Cleveland BrownsJoey BosaDEOhio State
3San Diego ChargersLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
4Dallas CowboysJared GoffQBCalifornia
5Jacksonville JaguarsJalen RamseyCBFlorida State
6Baltimore RavensMackensie AlexanderCBClemson
7San Francisco 49ersPaxton LynchQBMemphis
8Miami DolphinsVernon Hargreaves IIICBFlorida
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersA'Shawn RobinsonDTAlabama
10New York GiantsShaq LawsonDEClemson
11Chicago BearsMyles JackOLBUCLA
12New Orleans SaintsDeForest BucknerDEOregon
13Philadelphia EaglesCarson WentzQBNDSU
14Oakland RaidersRonnie StanleyOTNotre Dame
15Los Angeles RamsCorey ColemanWRBaylor
16Detroit LionsTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
17Atlanta FalconsAndrew BillingsDTBaylor
18Indianapolis ColtsJack ConklinOTMichigan State
19Buffalo BillsJaylon SmithOLBNotre Dame
20New York JetsReggie RaglandILBAlabama
21WashingtonEli AppleCBOhio State
22Houston TexansChristian HackenbergQBPenn State
23Minnesota VikingsMichael ThomasWROhio State
24Cincinnati BengalsKenny ClarkDTUCLA
25Pittsburgh SteelersKendall FullerCBVirginia Tech
26Seattle SeahawksJosh DoctsonWRTCU
27Green Bay Packers Robert NkemdicheDTOle Miss
28Kansas City ChiefsShon ColemanOTAuburn
29Denver BroncosGermain IfediOTTexas A&M
30Arizona CardinalsLeonard FloydOLBGeorgia
31Carolina PanthersEmmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma State
N/ANew England PatriotsPick ForfeitedN/AN/A
Author's Projections

Tunsil to the Titans

Tunsil has been my top pick now for the past several weeks. He's big and athletic and plays a position that is a must-need for any successful NFL team. There is no denying that Bosa would be deserving of going No. 1 overall, but for me it comes down to one major issue with the Titans: protecting Marcus Mariota.

The former Oregon Ducks quarterback set the franchise rookie passing yards record with 2,818 yards, and he missed four games with a knee injury. Mariota has a chance to be special, and the Titans must agree since they named the No. 2 overall pick their Week 1 starter.

They also allowed 54 sacks in 2015—the most in the NFL.

Enter Tunsil, who can help protect the man Tennessee hopes will bring the franchise at least back to respectability in the near future. The 6'5", 305-pound tackle is more than just a big body. He caught a touchdown pass in Ole Miss' bowl game this year, and apparently football is not the only sport where he excels, per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:

Chase Goodbread @ChaseGoodbread

How athletic is Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil? Cody Core told me he's one of the best 5 basketball players on Rebels football roster.

Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton graded Tunsil higher than any prospect he's evaluated in five years, and Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com wrote he possesses a "rare athletic skill set" for a tackle:

On the field, Tunsil is a nimble big man with a rare athletic skill-set for the position, showing above average balance and flexibility to easily bend, handle speed and absorb power at the point of attack. He's not a perfect player, but his flaws are more nitpicking than true weaknesses and potential injuries are the only obstacles keeping Tunsil from being one of the better left tackles at the next level.

Tennessee used its No. 1 pick two years ago to take tackle Taylor Lewan, but the team can work around having too much talent at the position because Tunsil is too good to pass up.

49ers Address Quarterback Issues with Lynch

In my early mocks, Memphis Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch was slotted in at No. 2 to the Cleveland Browns. However, his stock took a hit late in the season when his team lost four of five games after an 8-0 start and he threw just three touchdowns in those losses.

However, the 6'7", 245-pounder still had a good year (3,776 yards, 28 TDs, 4 INTs), and Brugler said as much in his assessment of Lynch:

Excellent frame for the positions. Shows impressive touch and ball placement on a variety of NFL-type throws along with impressive mobility. Shows poise, mobility and pinpoint accuracy.

With continued development, Lynch could be this year's version of Blake Bortles - a prospect from the non-Power 5 conferences who checks a lot of boxes for NFL evaluators in an average quarterback class.

In fact, John Martin of Memphis' 92.9 FM ESPN said Bortles' former offensive coordinator at Central Florida, Charlie Taaffe, told him something interesting about Lynch:

John Martin @JohnMartin929

Former UCF coach now training Paxton Lynch: Lynch may have stronger arm than Blake Bortles. https://t.co/7vReU1VyLC https://t.co/OKTkbTu4sY

He's certainly not perfect, and even Brugler said he's not a "polished passer," but Lynch is good enough to go to a San Francisco 49ers team that is reeling at the position since trading Alex Smith three years ago. The Niners might be hoping for hometown boy Jared Goff of the California Golden Bears to fall in their lap, but that won't happen. After a midseason swoon, Goff bounced back with impressive numbers to finish the season and solidify himself as a top-five pick.

Lynch still has the potential to be a franchise quarterback for the Niners, as it appears things are not working out with Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert. It might take a season or two for Lynch to "get it," but in time he will.

Nkemdiche Could Fall into Perfect Situation

At one point in the season, former Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche looked like a surefire No. 1 overall draft pick. In September, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. listed the talented lineman as his top prospect:

Now up to 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, he still moves like a guy carrying about 40-50 pounds less. You saw it against Bama, when he was getting into the backfield constantly. Nkemdiche isn't just quick, though; he also has strength at the point and doesn't get eaten up by double-teams. If he stays healthy he'll end up in the top five.

However, his stock started to dip as Bosa and others elevated theirs. It hit rock bottom last month after an off-the-field incident where he reportedly fell off a 15-foot wall at a hotel, which left his status for the game uncertain. He was later suspended after he was charged with marijuana possession, per David Ching of ESPN.com.

According to Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, there were concerns even before the suspension: "Frankly though, there were scouts worried about Nkemdiche's commitment prior to the incident, which earned him a citation from Atlanta police for marijuana possession and led to Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze suspending Nkemdiche for the Sugar Bowl."

That caused me to drop him out of the first round, but in the end, as Rang points out, his talent is going to be too much for him to slip into the second round.

"Even with growing concerns about his decision-making, Nkemdiche remains in my top 10 prospects," Rang wrote. "He might just be the most gifted prospect in the country, boasting a combination of power and athleticism sure to intrigue every team in the league."

The former No. 1 overall high school recruit finished his three-year career with 81 tackles (16 for a loss) and six sacks. However, it's not all about stats. Scouts look deeper than that, such as his size and explosiveness on the snap that Kiper pointed out.

Rang said he has top-10 talent, and maybe he does, but his issues are going to keep him from going that high. Look for him to drop toward the end of the round and end up with a Green Bay Packers team that Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said needs a pass-rusher early on.

"B.J. Raji might not be re-signed, so adding a defensive tackle with mass is likely," Zierlein wrote.

If this happens, and Nkemdiche plays at the level he is capable of, the Packers could end up with the steal of the draft.

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com


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