NFL Mock Draft 2016: Complete 1st-Round Predictions Before NFL Honors

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2016

Noah Spence has already made a name for himself early in the 2016 NFL draft process.
Noah Spence has already made a name for himself early in the 2016 NFL draft process.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The NFL sets aside the time to honor the best the league has to offer Saturday before the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers hit the Super Bowl on Sunday.

While an incredible showcase, the majority of the league remains elbow-deep in the fresh draft process, trying to find the next set of players who will make it to the NFL Honors—if not the Super Bowl.

The biggest checkpoint the 2016 class has passed so far was the Senior Bowl, where big-name players furthered their agenda and several unknowns made a few handfuls of millions.

That was just the beginning. Before settling down to appreciate what the league already has, here's a look at what it's about to get.

2016 NFL Mock Draft

PickTeamPlayerPositionSchool
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 SaintsPaxton LynchQBMemphis
13Philadelphia EaglesTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
14Oakland RaidersVernon Hargreaves IIICBFlorida
15Los Angeles RamsCarson WentzQBNorth Dakota State
16Detroit LionsEzekiel ElliottRBOhio State
17Atlanta FalconsShilique CalhounDEMichigan State
18Indianapolis ColtsA'Shawn RobinsonDTAlabama
19Buffalo BillsJarran ReedDLAlabama
20New York JetsNoah SpenceDE/LBEastern Kentucky
21WashingtonLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
22Houston TexansRobert NkemdicheDLOle Miss
23Minnesota VikingsMichael ThomasWROhio State
24Cincinnati BengalsEmmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma State
25Pittsburgh SteelersKendall FullerCBVirginia Tech
26Seattle SeahawksShaq LawsonDE/LBClemson
27Green Bay PackersSheldon RankinsDTLouisville
28Kansas City ChiefsCorey ColemanWRBaylor
29Arizona CardinalsLeonard FloydLBGeorgia
30Denver BroncosJason SpriggsOTIndiana
31Carolina PanthersEli AppleCBOhio State
Author's projections.

Notable Picks Before NFL Honors

1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Laremy Tunsil is easily the draft's best tackle.
Laremy Tunsil is easily the draft's best tackle.Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Folks might want the Tennessee Titans to post an attractive move at the top of the draft to keep things interesting, but for the front office, it might be wise to get as boring as can be. 

Boring would be Ole Miss' Laremy Tunsil. He's the best offensive tackle in the class and would come in and start on either side of the line right away after bullying his way through SEC competition with no major red flags on his tape.

For an expert such as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, the impending rookie looks like he compares to some of the NFL's best. He compared Tunsil to Tryon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys on The Pick Is in podcast, according to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread:

I believe Laremy Tunsil is the next Tyron Smith. Laremy Tunsil to me is going to be the best left tackle in the league, or one of the top two, within three years. He's got the good arm length, that certainly helps, but what I love about him is that he came in as a five-star prospect and played at that level from the very moment he came into the SEC.

That's the type of player the Titans should want in front of quarterback Marcus Mariota, who took 38 sacks last year behind a miserable line. Said line allowed 54 sacks total when Zach Mettenberger and Alex Tanney had to see snaps as well.

For Tennessee, priority No. 1 should center on protecting Mariota. Grabbing a potential franchise tackle while waiting on other spots isn't asking too much in return.

10. New York Giants: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

A serious injury can only derail a can't-miss prospect's stock so much. 

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith is a great case study on this point. Smith unfortunately tore up his knee in his team's bowl game, possibly ruining the stock of one of the best linebackers to enter the draft in five years or more.

Except according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, teams aren't letting the stock slip too much:

The top-ranked linebacker in this class, Jaylon Smith, is still a lock to go top-15, according to team sources. Smith, who tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl, is already back rehabbing two times a day, according to sources close to the player. One team to keep an eye on is the New Orleans Saints. I'm told there is a lot of like for him at weak-side linebacker on their board.

Smith would have to reach the New Orleans Saints for that to come to fruition, of course.

The bottom line here is pretty simple. A sideline-to-sideline enforcer who can sniff out the run and also incredibly resemble a safety in coverage won't see an injury ruin his stock. Few like Smith ever come around.

A team such as the New York Giants won't mind waiting on Smith, should he need to miss time as he recovers. The defense, which ranked last against the pass and 24th against the rush, needs a leader at linebacker who can shore up the entire corps while making the jobs of those behind it much easier.

Smith would do this as soon as he's capable. Taking an injured linebacker isn't the most wow-worthy move for fans, but those folks would be lining up for jerseys once Smith actually hit the field and made a difference.

20. New York Jets: Noah Spence, DE/LB, Eastern Kentucky

Spence won't have a problem continuing to wow scouts.
Spence won't have a problem continuing to wow scouts.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Maybe the biggest winner of the Senior Bowl was Noah Spence, who appears to a first-round lock after scouts finally got to see him up close and personal for the first time in a while. 

The description says Eastern Kentucky, where Spence of course dominated, but folks will better remember Spence as a force of nature for the Ohio State Buckeyes before a few off-field issues caught up with him and forced his move.

So long as Spence assures the NFL he's past his problems, he'll go in the first round. A small sampling of notes from the Senior Bowl says it all. Check one by CollegeFootball 24/7, which captured the thoughts of Mike Mayock:

Or look at one from Marcus Mosher, who detailed a note by ESPN's Louis Riddick:

Not every team will give Spence a pass after a wild collegiate ride, but few will be able to dismiss his on-field talent.

The New York Jets look like a sound fit if Spence cannot boost his stock out of the 20 range. For all the credit the Jets get as a defensive-minded franchise, the defense only tallied 39 sacks last year. That only looks decent because Muhammad Wilkerson played out of his mind and grabbed 12.

Adding a weapon such as Spence to a versatile front means another major issue opposing offenses have to worry about. He can line up anywhere and apply pressure, meaning the Jets would get an incredible value given the slot.

Stats courtesy of NFL.com and are accurate as of Saturday. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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