2016 NFL Mock Draft: Updated Projections, Post-Pro Bowl
As fans of the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos zero in on Super Bowl Sunday, fans across the rest of the NFL have their attentions already squarely focused on the NFL draft.
With only two teams left alive and fighting for the league's ultimate prize, the rest of the league is already hard at work trying to put together a strategy for turning this offseason into a potential title run for themselves.
With the Senior Bowl now in the rear-view mirror, NFL decision-makers should have an even clearer picture of many prospects on their boards, while the fast-approaching NFL Scouting Combine will help fill in the grey areas even more.
Here's my latest take on how the first three rounds of this year's draft could shake out.
1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
With their franchise quarterback already in place in Marcus Mariota, it makes sense for the Titans to be interested in moving down from this spot to accumulate additional picks and fill multiple needs. According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, new general manager Jon Robinson is indeed shopping the pick.
If the Titans end up staying in the top slot, Laremy Tunsil still makes the most sense. Taylor Lewan was unimpressive at left tackle and would be best suited to move to the right side, while Tunsil's rare athleticism would make him an instant improvement protecting Mariota's blind side.
2. Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California
It seems like only a matter of time before the Browns officially move on from Johnny Manziel, and they shouldn't spend this pick on anything other than a potential franchise quarterback. They should get their pick of the litter this year, and though there isn't a prospect quite as good as Jameis Winston or Mariota from last year, Jared Goff is hardly a consolation prize.
He still needs some refinement when it comes to reading defenses and not getting rattled by early pressure, but Goff has the physical tools and intangibles to develop into an effective NFL starter. Cleveland fans will be hoping he ends this awful trend.
3. San Diego Chargers: Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State
The Bolts could go in a few different directions here, but "best player available" should be their mentality at this pick. Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley should definitely merit consideration, but if the draft's best defensive player falls to them, don't be surprised if they pull the trigger on Joey Bosa.
Though he's probably a better fit in a 4-3 scheme, Bosa has the athleticism and versatility to be an impact player no matter where he lines up. Bad teams stay bad by reaching for need, and the Chargers need to avoid falling into that same trap near the top of the draft.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
The Carson Wentz hype train reached full speed during Senior Bowl week, and despite a mediocre performance in the game on Saturday, his performance during practices turned plenty of heads. He's got a big arm and took command of the team from the moment he touched the field, and he's firmly planted himself in the top-10 conversation.
The Cowboys staff coached Wentz in Mobile, and I wouldn't be shocked if Dallas came away prepared to make him its pick here. Wentz would do best in a situation where he could sit and learn behind a veteran for a while, and it would be hard to find a better fit than Dallas. Learning behind Tony Romo, then taking over behind one of the league's best offensive lines and an offense full of playmakers? Not a bad gig for the former Bison.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
The Jags need help at both safety and corner, so targeting a player who would be an instant upgrade at either spot would make plenty of sense. It would be an even better scenario if one of the most dynamic playmakers in all of college football fell right into their laps at this pick, and in this scenario, that's exactly what happens.
Jalen Ramsey moved to corner in 2015, and while his raw physical tools will allow him to make plays wherever he lines up, he projects better as a safety in the NFL. No matter where he plays, the Jags would get a much-needed ball hawk in the secondary to pair with last year's top-five pick—defensive end Dante Fowler, who missed his entire rookie season due to injury.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Similar to the Jaguars, Baltimore has needs at both levels of the secondary. But with Lardarius Webb moving from corner to safety for the 2016 season, the more gaping hole will be at corner. Thankfully, in this scenario, the Ravens get to take the top one off the board in Vernon Hargreaves.
People will knock him for his lack of ideal size—listed at 5'11", 199 pounds, and you can bet he measures even shorter at the combine—but what Hargreaves lacks in stature he more than makes up for with his skill set. He's got the instincts, ball skills and competitiveness to be a shutdown corner at the next level, something the Ravens desperately need in a division that features the likes of Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Successful NFL teams do a good job of letting the draft come to them and taking advantage when top talent falls through the cracks. That's exactly what happens to new head coach Chip Kelly and the 49ers in this scenario, as a top-five talent in Ronnie Stanley falls into their laps at No. 7 overall.
Stanley was my top-ranked offensive tackle in last year's draft class, but he returned to South Bend for another season. He's making the jump to the NFL now, and he is still one of the most polished, technically sound blockers we've seen in recent years. He would plug in as the immediate starter on the right side opposite Joe Staley.
8. Miami Dolphins: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
A knee injury ended Myles Jack's 2015 season and his UCLA career, as the dynamic two-way star chose to withdraw from school to focus on his rehab and preparing for this year's draft. But even with his injury, Jack is a rare enough talent to still be worthy of a top-10 pick, if not a top-five selection.
The Dolphins have bigger needs in the secondary, but if a rare talent like Jack falls to them at this pick, they should pounce. His versatility and ridiculous athleticism would be an immediate boost to a defense that needs more playmakers, especially in the back seven.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky
Tampa Bay has plenty of needs, most of them on the defensive side of the ball. Chief among them is the need for an explosive pass-rusher off the edge, and after a dominant performance during Senior Bowl week, Noah Spence has established himself as the best pure edge talent in this draft.
A highly touted recruit out of high school, the Ohio State transfer was nearly unblockable for the Colonels in 2015—11.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss—and it was much of the same in Mobile this past week. Though Spence will have to convince teams his off-field issues are truly behind him, there's no denying his on-field ability makes him worthy of a top-10 selection.
10. New York Giants: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
The great Giants teams of recent memory were marked by their seemingly endless stable of dynamic pass-rushers, but their depth at the position has dried up as of late. With Jason Pierre-Paul's future still up in the air, it's even more imperative the Giants look to start off the Ben McAdoo era by spending this pick on someone who can get after the passer.
Shaq Lawson was as disruptive as any edge defender in the country in 2015, racking up 10.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss for this year's national runner-up. He's a perfect fit as a 4-3 end, with the power to anchor against the run but the explosiveness to bend the edge and make plays in the backfield.
11. Chicago Bears: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
The Bears' transition to the 3-4 defense is still a work-in-progress, and adding a few more key players who are good fits for the scheme should be at the top of their wish list this offseason. Adding one of the most impressive overall athletes in the draft? Well, that's just icing on the cake.
At 6'7", 290 pounds, DeForest Buckner has a ridiculous frame and a rare combination of athleticism and power to match. His size should make him a perfect fit as a 5-technique, giving the Bears another young building block along their defensive front.
12. New Orleans Saints: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Firing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn't fix the Saints' problems on defense in 2015, and they'll need to do everything they can this offseason to give their next shot-caller on that side of the ball more talent to work with at every level. Adding a dynamic pass-rusher or cover man should be their top priority with this pick, and in this scenario, the better value lies with Mackensie Alexander.
Though some will point to the fact that he never registered an interception at Clemson, opposing quarterbacks avoided Alexander's side of the field quite often. He's physical and competitive, with the kind of attitude necessary to be a top corner in the NFL.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Doug Pederson has replaced Chip Kelly as the head man in Philly, and now the focus shifts to whether or not Sam Bradford will continue to be the Eagles signal-caller of even the near future. The veteran had an up-and-down season in 2015, and Pederson could opt to hand-pick his franchise quarterback with his first draft pick.
Paxton Lynch is still plenty raw and struggled against top competition, but there's no denying the physical tools he brings to the table. At 6'7", 245 pounds, Lynch is a massive passer with the arm strength and athleticism to develop into a special player, as long as he's able to refine his game when it comes to understanding defenses and being more consistent with his accuracy.
14. Oakland Raiders: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
The Raiders clearly have bigger needs than the linebacker position, but Jaylon Smith is a dynamic playmaker who is a top-10 talent, even though he's currently rehabbing from torn knee ligaments suffered in Notre Dame's bowl game.
Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has had a fantastic run of drafts over the last few seasons, bringing in young building blocks like Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Adding a rare talent like Smith to an already-promising, young defense would be another huge feather in the cap of McKenzie's tenure running personnel for the Raiders.
15. Los Angeles Rams: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
The Rams have managed to avoid drafting a true No. 1 receiver for far too long, and it's time for them to remedy that this year. With the top three quarterbacks off the board in this scenario, general manager Les Snead and company should shift their focus to finding that top target and lucking out by being able to grab the best pass-catcher in this draft.
At 6'2", 210 pounds, Laquon Treadwell has the size to match up with the NFL's bigger, more physical corners. And while I wouldn't expect earth-shattering timed speed from him at the combine, he plays plenty fast enough on tape to warrant being the first receiver off the board this year. No matter who is under center for the Rams as they return to Los Angeles, having Treadwell to throw to will please the QB.
16. Detroit Lions: A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
Detroit still needs an adequate replacement for Ndamukong Suh, and in this scenario, the Lions luck out by having one of the most dominant, disruptive interior defenders in the entire draft fall to them outside the top 15 picks.
As the anchor in the middle for the nation's best defensive front, A'Shawn Robinson was a key contributor in yet another national title run for the Crimson Tide. He's exactly the kind of young building block the Lions need in the middle of their defense, and to get him this late in the first round would be a huge win for head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
The Falcons spent a top-10 pick on Vic Beasley last year, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't spend this year's first-rounder on another bookend who can get after the quarterback. With Adrian Clayborn's contract expiring, Atlanta could use a young replacement who can anchor against the run but also provide consistent pressure.
At 6'3", 275 pounds, Emmanuel Ogbah has a solid frame to go with an adequate blend of both speed and power off the edge. After amassing 28 career sacks in Stillwater, he could be an instant-impact player on passing downs before developing into a three-down player for the Falcons.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
After Andrew Luck missed a significant chunk of the 2015 season with severe injuries, the Colts' prime objective this offseason should be to do everything they can to keep him protected for the 2016 season and beyond.
Getting a plug-and-play franchise tackle this late in the first round is rare, but that's just what the Colts could score if Taylor Decker is still on the board. He's made 41 consecutive starts for the Buckeyes and would be an instant and much-needed upgrade to a unit that simply didn't get the job done in both the run and pass games last year.
19. Buffalo Bills: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
If Cordy Glenn isn't re-signed this offseason, the tackle spot becomes an even bigger need for the Bills. At the very least, they'll need to upgrade at least one of their starting spots at the position, and Jason Spriggs fits the bill at this pick.
A borderline first-round possibility heading into Senior Bowl week, Spriggs was the most impressive lineman in Mobile, showing off his rare athleticism and keeping rushers at bay with his quickness and long arms. He could be an instant starter for Buffalo at either tackle spot, and his performance against some of the nation's best last week further cemented his first-round value.
20. New York Jets: Leonard Floyd, EDGE, Georgia
They already have one of the most formidable defensive fronts in the NFL, but what the Jets are still lacking is a quick, explosive pass-rusher who can bend the edge and make plays in the backfield. Few players in this draft fit that description as well as Leonard Floyd.
Floyd notched 17 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss over his three seasons in Athens, forcing five fumbles and racking up 54 quarterback pressures. Though he's a bit undersized at 6'4", 231 pounds, he's got room on his frame to add some bulk. With the likes of Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson (if he returns) plugging up the middle, a player like Floyd would clean up quite often in the backfield.
21. Washington Redskins: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi
The Redskins seem to have shored up their biggest need with the development of Kirk Cousins, which should allow them to sit back and let the draft come to them at this pick. Without too many glaring needs on the roster, Washington should be in a position to pull the trigger if a talent like Robert Nkemdiche falls to it here.
Few will argue his on-field talent, but Nkemdiche's arrest and subsequent suspension to abruptly ended his career with the Rebels just before the Sugar Bowl may be giving NFL teams some pause. Still, he's a versatile, disruptive defender with a rare blend of speed and power, and if he drops this far, a playoff team could luck out by grabbing a top-10 talent in this range.
22. Houston Texans: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
There's no denying Arian Foster's place as one of the best players in Texans history, but there's also no denying that he's not getting any younger and having trouble staying healthy. With the top three quarterbacks off the board in this scenario, Houston would do well to target Foster's replacement with this pick.
Some would likely bemoan spending a first-round pick on a running back, but outside of the quarterback spot, Houston has few needs that need immediate attention. Ezekiel Elliott is also a special player with a rare combination of power, patience, vision and explosiveness who would make life much easier for whoever ends up taking snaps for the Texans in 2016 and beyond.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Minnesota has a young franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, the NFL's top rusher in Adrian Peterson and a promising young receiver in Stefon Diggs to go along with a defense full of playmakers. What they lack is a true No. 1 pass-catcher with the size and physicality to consistently move the chains and make plays in the red zone.
At 6'3", 209 pounds, Michael Thomas has the frame NFL teams want from their top targets, with speed and athleticism that will make him a challenge for smaller corners at the next level. He's still a little rough around the edges as a prospect, but he could quickly become a big-play threat and a valuable piece of a talented Vikings offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darian Thompson, S, Boise State
The Bengals have few needs across the board, but finding a well-rounded safety who could be a plug-and-play starter should be at the top of their list, depending on what free agency does to their receiving corps.
Darian Thompson was widely regarded as a Day 2 prospect heading into the Senior Bowl, but an impressive week in Mobile has vaulted Thompson up into the late first-round conversation. He's got the balanced skill set that will allow him to make plays against both the run and pass, and his fiery demeanor would be a welcome addition to any team.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
It's no secret the Steelers need secondary help in the worst way, and corner should be their primary focus when it comes to improving that unit this offseason.
A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, Eli Apple in entering this year's draft despite having two years of eligibility remaining. He's still fairly raw as a cover man, gambling too much and still needing much refinement when it comes to technique, but Apple has the size—6'1", 198 pounds—and physical tools to entice any NFL team in the first round that needs to bolster its defensive backfield.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida
Seattle loves to keep ample depth up front, especially with versatile players who can play all up and down the defensive line. If they're looking for potentially the next Michael Bennett, the Seahawks should stop their search at Jonathan Bullard, who brings a similar skill set to the table.
At 6'3", 283 pounds, Bullard has the size to survive on the inside, but he also has the quickness and explosiveness that allow him to be effective on the edge. He's a well-rounded defender who can get after the quarterback or blow up running plays in the backfield, and he would be a perfect fit in Seattle's deep rotation of disruptive front-four players.
27. Green Bay Packers: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
Green Bay could go in multiple directions here, even just on defense. But finding a potential replacement for B.J. Raji in the middle of their defense should be near the top of the Packers' list, and Vernon Butler is a hot name picking up plenty of steam lately.
There were plenty of defensive linemen who looked impressive at the Senior Bowl this past week, but few turned more heads than Butler. The former Louisiana Tech Bulldog weighed in at 325 pounds but moved like a player 30 pounds lighter. After his strong showing in Mobile, don't be surprised if Butler creeps into the first round, and Green Bay could be the perfect landing spot.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Offensive tackle seems to be the trendy pick for the Chiefs at this spot, but if a player like Reggie Ragland falls into their lap here, they may be forced to simply go "best player available" and snag him.
He's not the freakish athlete that Myles Jack or Jaylon Smith is, but Ragland is a fiery leader in the middle who has experience rushing the passer, as well. After helping lead one of the nation's best defenses to a national title, Ragland could easily plug right in to a starting inside linebacker spot for the Chiefs, giving them a quality defender and effective leader in the middle of the defense.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama
The Cards may prefer to have a top edge-rusher fall to them here, but in this scenario, they'd be wise to avoid reaching for one and passing up some of the top talent available along the interior of the defensive line.
Jarran Reed was one of many front-line defenders who impressed in Mobile this past week, as the Alabama product showed off his powerful punch and nonstop motor. His size—6'3", 311 pounds—and skill set give him the versatility to play inside or outside, as well as in any scheme. The Cardinals would have the luxury of letting Reed play in a rotational role as a rookie before transitioning to a full-time starter later on.
30. Denver Broncos: Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Broncos in 2016 and beyond, they'll need to improve at both tackle and guard if they want to be successful on offense. Cody Whitehair has plenty of starting experience at both positions, which would make him a sensible pick here.
His lack of arm length will likely limit him to the guard spot in the NFL, but that doesn't mean Whitehair would be any less valuable to a Denver team that needs to improve its run blocking as much as its ability to protect the passer. It's not the sexiest pick, but Whitehair could be an immediate starter and develop into a mainstay on the Denver offensive line for years to come.
31. Carolina Panthers: Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Doesn't seem fair, does it?
Heading into Senior Bowl week, Braxton Miller was widely viewed as a developmental receiver prospect likely worthy of a mid-round pick. Instead, after lighting it up in Mobile all week long, Miller has vaulted himself into potential first-round consideration.
Once viewed as a gimmick-type player who could return kicks and line up in the slot on offense, Miller looked like a much more refined pass-catcher during Senior Bowl practices. His routes were fairly clean on a regular basis, and his quickness and explosiveness help create plenty of separation, which he takes advantage of after the catch. If Cam Newton gets him as a weapon next season, watch out.
|32.||CLE||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU|
|33.||TEN||Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama|
|34.||DAL||Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State|
|35.||SD||Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor|
|36.||BAL||Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh|
|37.||SF||Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor|
|38.||JAX||Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville|
|39.||TB||Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech|
|40.||NYG||Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson|
|41.||CHI||Shilique Calhoun, EDGE, Michigan State|
|42.||MIA||William Jackson III, CB, Houston|
|43.||LA (from PHI)||Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State|
|44.||OAK||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State|
|45.||LA||Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama|
|46.||DET||Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State|
|47.||NO||Vadal Alexander, G, LSU|
|48.||IND||Kyler Fackrell, EDGE, Utah State|
|49.||BUF||Joshua Perry, LB, Ohio State|
|50.||ATL||Jayron Kearse, S, Clemson|
|51.||NYJ||Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas|
|52.||HOU||Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA|
|53.||WAS||Nick Martin, OL, Notre Dame|
|54.||MIN||Su'a Cravens, OLB, USC|
|55.||CIN||Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma|
|56.||SEA||Maurice Canady, CB, Virginia|
|57.||GB||Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State|
|58.||PIT||Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State|
|59.||KC||Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M|
|60.||NE||Jordan Jenkins, EDGE, Georgia|
|61.||ARI||Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame|
|62.||DEN||Devontae Booker, RB, Utah|
|63.||CAR||Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn|
|64.||TEN||Jeremy Cash, S, Duke|
|65.||CLE||Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois|
|66.||SD||Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple|
|67.||DAL||Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas|
|68.||SF||Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU|
|69.||JAX||Artie Burns, DB, Miami (FL)|
|70.||BAL||Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State|
|71.||NYG||Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech|
|72.||CHI||Kentrell Brothers, LB, Missouri|
|73.||MIA||Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor|
|74.||TB||Justin Simmons, S, Boston College|
|75.||OAK||Harlan Miller, CB, Southeast Louisiana|
|76.||LA||Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State|
|77.||PHI (from DET)||Le'Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech|
|78.||NO||Dadi Nicolas, EDGE, Virginia Tech|
|79.||PHI||Landon Turner, G, North Carolina|
|80.||BUF||Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia|
|81.||ATL||Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford|
|82.||IND||Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA|
|83.||NYJ||John Theus, OT, Georgia|
|84.||WAS||Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers|
|85.||HOU||Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State|
|86.||MIN||Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford|
|87.||CIN||Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State|
|88.||GB||Victor Ochi, EDGE, Stony Brook|
|89.||PIT||Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State|
|90.||SEA||Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford|
|91.||KC||Adolphus Washington, DL, Ohio State|
|92.||NE||Max Tuerk, C, USC|
|93.||ARI||Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State|
|94.||DEN||Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU|
|95.||CAR||Jalen Mills, DB, LSU|