2016 NFL Mock Draft: Latest Projections Ahead of the CombineFebruary 15, 2016
2016 NFL Mock Draft: Latest Projections Ahead of the Combine
With the Super Bowl behind us, the offseason has officially started. Between now and the summer, the draft will take over the NFL world.
Draft season is upon us, but there are two events that will greatly impact the April event well before networks gather in Chicago: the combine and the main wave of free agency. Indianapolis will host the combine February 23-29, which will change the draft stock for highlight players. From a team perspective, free agency will change draft needs for a squad.
Assuming that the majority of currently slated free agents hit the open market as planned, we'll go pick-by-pick, predicting how teams would take in college prospects if the draft were held today, not two months from now. It's a nearly impossible task, but based on team need, positional value and positional strength, this is how the draft should be viewed right now.
1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
On a vertical board, Laremy Tunsil is going to be the top pick for all 32 NFL franchises. He's by far the best offensive tackle prospect we've seen since Joe Thomas, and he's a spitting image of Jonathan Ogden. The Mississippi left tackle is only a true junior, but he's ready to contribute in the NFL right away, which is amazing for any offensive lineman under the age of 25, let alone a 21-year-old.
He's only going to get better as a pass protector, and Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will also grow with a bookend pairing of Tunsil and Taylor Lewan, a 2014 first-round pick. Kicking Jeremiah Poutasi inside to guard will also get the other 21-year-old lineman on the fast track to his long-term success as an interior lineman, where he's better suited due to his inconsistencies in pass protection.
2. Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California
Johnny Manziel may never see another NFL snap again, let alone one for the Cleveland Browns. They're picking second overall for a reason: They don't have a quarterback. After shifting directions for what seems like the dozenth time in the last handful of years, Hue Jackson is now the head coach of the Browns.
Jackson's offense in Cincinnati was based off of a pick-your-poison spread approach that included packaged plays that required quick-strike ability from his passer. Jared Goff played at the University of California, where he played in a scheme that demanded the ball come out of his hand as quickly as possible. The other top quarterbacks in this class, Paxton Lynch of Memphis and Carson Wentz of North Dakota State, just don't meet Goff in that aspect.
The Browns have to take a quarterback early on, unless they somehow manage to acquire a signal-caller via a trade or shell out the cash on a lottery ticket like Sam Bradford. Goff may not be a top-two player in this class, but he is a day-one impact for a growing team that needs foundational pieces to build around.
3. San Diego Chargers: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi
Many will ask why Joey Bosa doesn't come off the board here, but the Ohio State pass-rusher is a poor fit as both a three-down 3-4 defensive end and outside linebacker. With Kendall Reyes potentially hitting free agency, the San Diego Chargers at least need to tread water as far as defensive line talent is concerned.
Defensively, the only star the Chargers have is Melvin Ingram, the undersized pass-rusher who was able to notch double-digit sacks last season. Jason Verrett, a cornerback, is on his way to being one of the better defensive backs in the league, but injuries have hurt his early-career progress, and without Eric Weddle, it's hard to tell how well the short cornerback will fare.
The addition of Robert Nkemdiche would be huge for San Diego. He would give interior pressure to combine with Ingram's edge-bending. In five years, we may see Nkemdiche on the same level as Ndamukong Suh, who signed a deal worth more than $100 million with the Miami Dolphins last free-agency cycle. No one has the solo-impact upside that Nkemdiche has, if he's motivated.
A drug arrest in his past may be holding him down on media boards, but if he's able to string together quality interviews at the combine, he could quickly become a consensus top-five pick again.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Everyone is overthinking this draft slot. Could the Dallas Cowboys be in search of a new quarterback to mold behind Tony Romo? Sure. The longer the draft cycle lasts, though, the more it seems like the Cowboys will go with an instant-impact player.
If you're Romo, do you plate your collarbone so you can hang around and get Favre'd? No. So where is Dallas best set to hit a home run? A "dying position."
Ezekiel Elliott has been NFL-ready since he took over the national championship match in early 2015, destroying an Oregon Ducks defense by way of counter runs. Elliott won't have lanes that a Mack truck can run through in the NFL, but the Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league, possibly the most elite we've seen in over a decade.
Unfortunately, Darren McFadden was their top tailback last season. He was still able to produce over 1,000 yards, but he's going to be 29 years old by the time Week 1 comes around, and 30 is more of a death sentence than a point of decline for backs in today's NFL.
Elliott is a 20-year-old with elite potential at the position. If he somehow lands himself in this situation, he's a shoe-in to succeed. He'd be the Rookie of the Year leader from April on.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
The Jacksonville Jaguars have yet to find "the guy" to build their defense around. Last year, their first-round pick was Dante Fowler, a pass-rusher from the University of Florida, who is a little undersized like Khalil Mack but still has the potential to play weak-side end in their 4-3 defense.
After missing his rookie year to an ACL injury, Fowler may not be the same. That means the Jaguars still need pass-rushing help, but they can't completely cut ties with their right defensive end. Joey Bosa would provide a bump in talent on the edge, but as a strong-side defensive end, he wouldn't impose on Fowler's playing time.
Born and raised in Florida, Bosa could easily become a fan favorite. He can also kick inside to 3-technique defensive tackle—where Jacksonville isn't too strong—in pass-rushing situations.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky
Noah Spence was a star at Ohio State who was forced to drop to the FCS level after he was banned from the Big Ten for multiple failed drug tests. As a pure 3-4 outside linebacker, he's the best in the class. He has the hips to turn the corner like Von Miller, which the Baltimore Ravens can use with an aging Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil combination.
Courtney Upshaw is a run-defending edge defender who should help Spence transition from the FCS to a full-time starter in a year or so, if Upshaw re-signs with the team. It seems like the Baltimore Ravens end up lucking out at least once a draft. Ozzie Newsome and Co. landing a potential All-Pro pass-rusher in their one down year fits the narrative.
In a few years, Spence may be the best player to come out of this draft class. The big question is if the NFL will forgive his past or let him be the next Justin Houston, who fell to the third round after failing a combine drug test.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
San Francisco is still recovering from losing Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement in 2015. Without either of them, the 49ers could use some help at inside linebacker. An in-state product, Myles Jack, can play any linebacker position in a 3-4 defense. Plus, he played safety, running back and rushed off the edge at times for the UCLA Bruins in his short college career.
His college career ended in September 2015, when he was a true junior. He's still recovering from his meniscus issue, but if he's ready for the combine, all doubts will be thrown out of the window. A short, athletic specimen, he's the next Bobby Wagner.
With Willis, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith gone, it's hard to say who the leader of the defense will be moving forward. Arik Armstead and Aaron Lynch are young players with talented futures, but Jack can contend for Pro Bowl lists the moment he steps onto a football field.
8. Miami Dolphins: Shaq Lawson, EDGE, Clemson
The Miami Dolphins have decided to build their defense around their defensive line. This was evident when they gave Ndamukong Suh a super deal, stealing him from the Detroit Lions last offseason. There's one problem: Outside of Suh, the future of the unit is in the air.
Cameron Wake was either ineffective or injured for the majority of 2015. Olivier Vernon, the defensive end opposite of the 34-year-old Wake, is set to hit the free-agent market, where he's going to cash in like Suh did one year previously. It's time for Miami to bring in a potential star should Wake start to decline in play again.
Shaq Lawson of Clemson was a one-year wonder after replacing Vic Beasley, who was the eighth overall pick in last year's draft class. Lawson led the FBS in tackles for loss and projects to make an impact with his burst off the line of scrimmage at the next level. He might not be an All-Pro pass-rusher, but he'll be more than worth the selection when he posts in-prime LaMarr Woodley type of numbers consistently.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
After the first tier of selections, the next prospects become bigger home run gambles. If you get the A'Shawn Robinson who played against LSU, you're taking him first overall. The problem is, the defensive tackle is inconsistent. There are game-long stretches where he's invisible due to pad level.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to be able to pressure the passer better in 2016. With the three top edge defenders off the board, they need to look inside for that pressure, but with Gerald McCoy at 3-technique, their search is limited to 1-technique jumbo players, which Robinson fits to a tee.
The St. Louis Rams have built their defense around an explosive 3-technique in Aaron Donald and a pocket-crushing 1-technique in Michael Brockers. Robinson can easily fit in Brockers' role between the guard and center, giving McCoy more of an opportunity to get after the quarterback, which should be Tampa Bay's top priority in 2016. When you turn on the heat, it makes life easier for your secondary.
10. New York Giants: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Linebacker has been a weakness of the New York Giants for the better part of a decade. It's finally time to address the position early on in the draft. The Giants are a family-run organization that has given plenty of time for staffs to establish themselves—some may argue even too much time. Under new head coach Ben McAdoo, who was previously the offensive coordinator, there will be no pressure to win immediately.
Jaylon Smith was a star linebacker at Notre Dame before he tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Smith likely won't be ready to play in Week 1, but he and Myles Jack, who should be off the board when New York picks in the double digits, are the clear-cut best off-the-ball linebackers.
Smith is athletic and well-rounded. He might even be able to blitz off the edge on the line of scrimmage in third-down situations. As long as he keeps his eyes out of the backfield, a trait that can be coached, then he has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL.
11. Chicago Bears: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Surprisingly, the Chicago Bears didn't end up in the dumpster of the NFL in their first year under John Fox. They were the Vegas favorite to land the first overall pick early on in the 2015 season but nearly did enough to make a playoff push.
One reason everyone assumed Chicago was going to fail heading into 2015? Its defense. Vic Fangio's 3-4 transition is going to be rough based on the bare cupboard he was given when he took the defensive coordinator job.
Jalen Ramsey can play either safety or cornerback—two positions the Bears could use help at. Many mock drafts have tabbed the Florida State defensive back as a top-five pick, but his track background might be overstated. Between the top three cornerbacks in this class, including Florida's Vernon Hargreaves and Clemson's Mackensie Alexander, don't be surprised if he has the lesser of combine performances.
Ramsey may not have the elite athleticism to be a top cornerback selection, but he has the length at 6'1", and the Bears are looking for functional bodies over all-stars.
12. New Orleans Saints: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
New Orleans needs to take the best defensive player available. The Saints had the worst personnel defensively in the league last year because they lacked cornerstones. They need to draft one early on in the 2016 draft.
They can use help on every level of their defense, but because of their cap situation and because of failed defensive investments and the cost of keeping Drew Brees, they don't have many options to improve their team other than through the draft. If DeForest Buckner of Oregon is on the board, they should make a move.
Buckner was a 5-technique defensive end in college, but Cameron Jordan was a 3-4 defensive end early on in his NFL career, too, and he's done fine transitioning to a 4-3 defense, earning double-digit sacks this past season. With his guidance, Buckner should be able to hang around at defensive end, with the potential to play undertackle.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
We've seen over and over again that NFL franchises can't pass up the temptation to take a quarterback if they don't have one. Sam Bradford is a free agent. Mark Sanchez isn't going to be the face of an NFL team in 2016, and he's the only passer currently under contract in Philadelphia.
Paxton Lynch is the logical selection here, even with all of the recent Carson Wentz hype. Wentz played at an FCS school and has the same, if not lesser, tools than Lynch, who tore an SEC defense to shreds in possibly his program's biggest win ever. Doug Pederson finds his mix of Alex Smith, the mobile quarterback he groomed in Kansas City, and Brett Favre, whom he backed up in Green Bay.
14. Oakland Raiders: Sheldon Rankins, DL, Louisville
The future of the Oakland Raiders offense is set. Derek Carr to Amari Cooper seems like a combo that will last well into the 2020s. With an improved offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott off the board, there's really no point in the team looking offensively with its first selection.
The Raiders have their star edge defender in Khalil Mack, who had a breakout sophomore season. The Buffalo product has Oakland's edge pressure locked up, and Mario Edwards looks to develop into the force opposite of Mack at defensive end.
What the team needs on the defensive line is an interior penetrator. Sheldon Rankins of Louisville is a Kawaan Short clone who can start on day one as a 3-technique defensive tackle in the Raiders' 4-3 defense. Rankins has the explosive power off the line of scrimmage and the technique and the countermoves to win one-on-one, and if they begin to double the bursty player, that opens up worlds in which Mack and Edwards can thrive.
15. Los Angeles Rams: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
In 2013, the St. Louis Rams drafted Tavon Austin in the first round after years of the team kicking the can at the receiver position. Last year, the West Virginia product finally started to come on, with his main threat being in the counter run game. The Rams, who now are moving to Los Angeles, still need a traditional receiver.
Laquon Treadwell is about as traditional as pass-catchers come. He was a blue-chip prospect heading to the University of Mississippi, and he met the expectations set out for him. He's essentially Dez Bryant with a slower projected 40-yard dash.
Treadwell aggressively attacks balls and then fights for every extra yard possible after the catch. Early-career Anquan Boldin production shouldn't be out of the question—should Los Angeles manage to land a quarterback.
16. Detroit Lions: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Ronnie Stanley isn't a starting-caliber offensive tackle at this point in his career. He does have Pro Bowl left tackle potential, though, which makes his valuation tough to gauge. How high do you take someone who will either see the bench or growing pains for two seasons?
The Arizona Cardinals drafted D.J. Humphries in the second tier of prospects last season with the 24th overall pick. Expect Stanley to come off the board in the same range.
Riley Reiff is a fine offensive tackle, but he's better suited for the right side of the line, where the Detroit Lions are lacking talent. As long as the Lions are willing to trust Stanley just enough to hang as Matthew Stafford's blindside bookend, the Notre Dame product could see this pick as his draft-day floor.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Julio Jones is such a talented receiver that Atlanta's receiving unit gets overlooked. Sure, Roddy White used to be among the second-tier wideouts in the NFL, but age (34) is catching up to him quickly, and a quality No. 2 receiver is nowhere to be found on the roster.
Matt Ryan is limited to timing passes in the deeper portion of the field. He's never going to toast a defense with his arm. Josh Doctson of TCU compares to Keenan Allen, the premier route-runner in San Diego. Doctson may not be a combine stud, but the senior is consistent and talented, which is what the Falcons need right now. More than anything, they need a complementary piece over a boom-bust project.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
The Indianapolis Colts have a bad offensive line, and it's been like this since the team drafted Andrew Luck. At some point, the Colts have to help their quarterback, especially considering the fact that his contract is expiring soon. The receivers they have put around him are nice, but it's hard for him to play with those toys when he's injured on the sideline.
Taylor Decker of Ohio State is second in this draft class in terms of NFL-ready offensive tackles, only behind Laremy Tunsil. He's long and strong with some limited athleticism. He's a right tackle on day one with the potential to move to left tackle, but his floor is high, as he should be a decade-starter in the league.
If he does stick around as a left tackle, an Andrew Whitworth comparison will ring true. Whitworth, who plays in Ohio for the Cincinnati Bengals, is the poster boy for functional, long left tackles performing to the level of the dancing-bear types.
19. Buffalo Bills: Cody Whitehair, IOL, Kansas State
The Buffalo Bills don't have enough money to go around right now. It's now a virtual lock that Mario Williams, a fringe Hall of Fame pass-rusher, will be cut this offseason by the team, even though the Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware cuts in recent years blew up in the laps of their previous franchises.
Another free agent set to walk is Richie Incognito, whom the public knows best as the guard involved in the Bullygate scandal in Miami. If Buffalo wants to keep the same level of talent on its offensive line so it doesn't regress on both sides of the line in one offseason, the smart move would be to draft the plug-and-play Cody Whitehair.
Whitehair was a college left tackle who moved inside during the Senior Bowl in January. The Bills' run game is complex, but the former Wildcat has Zack Martin potential.
20. New York Jets: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
The New York Jets had a top-five defense in the league last year without a premier pass-rusher, the top position on that side of the ball. They also nearly made the playoffs without having a franchise quarterback, the most important position in the NFL and maybe all sports.
There are no first-round pass-rushers after the top three, so this position may force the Jets' hand into taking a passer. Carson Wentz has his issues, coming out of a lower-level college, displaying slow reads, flashing stuck-in-the-mud feet and coming from run-backed offense, but he does have positives.
Wentz is mobile, tall (measuring in at 6'5" at the Senior Bowl) and has seen success as a leader of a championship squad, even if it was in the FCS for North Dakota State. His development could be the push beyond Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is a free agent, that New York desperately needs offensively.
21. Washington Redskins: Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama
Jarran Reed is limited but talented. The Alabama defensive tackle has short arms at 32 inches, so he's eliminated from the 5-technique conversation. He doesn't have the lower-body explosion to be a three-down 1-technique or a 3-technique. That leaves him as a 0-technique nose tackle, which is a fine role, but one that typically doesn't find itself on the field in nickel and dime looks.
The Washington Redskins are in search of a nose tackle now that Terrance Knighton is on schedule to be let go. Reed is a day-one starter in the Redskins' base defense, which few prospects in this range can make the claim for.
Reed has strong hands that wear down offensive linemen in one-on-one situations. He also has a strong anchor that will give Washington a block of granite in the center of its defense.
22. Houston Texans: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Bill O'Brien has spent an impressive amount of time as a head coach without having to handcuff himself to a quarterback. That's going to have to change if he wants any job security heading into 2017, on the off chance his Houston Texans don't make the playoffs or are in another one-and-done situation.
Houston hired O'Brien to be a quarterback guru, and he doesn't have a quarterback. The best quarterback on the board is Connor Cook, who has a bit of Blake Bortles in his game. Any quarterback whose last name isn't Hoyer, Savage or Daniels should be applauded as this selection. If Cook is gone but Christian Hackenberg, whom O'Brien coached at Penn State, is on the board, I'd still take my chances on betting that the franchise takes a swing on a passer.
Cook was the top senior quarterback for the majority of the season, until Carson Wentz's bandwagon started filling up after the FCS championship. He has experience in a dropback system and has an NFL-standard frame and arm, which are positives for traditionalists like O'Brien. Those traits are harder and harder to find in college football.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Teddy Bridgewater is going to need some help. Mike Wallace is losing his legs as a speed receiver. Charles Johnson isn't the sleeper receiver we thought he could be heading into the 2015 season. Cordarrelle Patterson went from hero to zero quickly as one of the Minnesota Vikings' 2013 first-round picks.
Outside of Stefon Diggs, there's really no consistent receiver for Bridgewater to even consider. The Vikings need to strike while the iron is hot, before Bridgewater is on his second contract. They need a contributing receiver right now, and Michael Thomas can fill that role.
He's not a speed demon like his former teammate Devin Smith, but he's a more well-rounded target. Bridgewater lacks an elite arm anyway, which is part of the reason why the Wallace and Patterson additions aren't entirely the faults of the individual receivers. Thomas is better suited for Bridgewater's skill set, and he could quickly become the top or second target in the offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor
Cincinnati's approach to team building is via the draft. Rarely are the Bengals choosing the option to give big money to an outside free agent. Because of that, the issue of what to do at 1-technique can be complicated. Domata Peko is over the 30-year-old mark and could use a replacement in the recent future. Keeping 3-technique Geno Atkins clean should be how the Bengals defense is structured, and that starts at nose tackle.
Andrew Billings is a good option in this situation. The Baylor tackle is only 19 years old and is as strong as an ox. He doesn't have great penetration skills, but with Atkins on the roster, Cincinnati won't ask him to do much work in the backfield. Instead, his assignments will be to anchor in the run game, where he thrives.
As long as the Bengals can sit on a first-round pick for a year—something they do better than just about every other franchise in the NFL—then this pick is a slam dunk in a long-term view.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
The NFL's trending toward longer cornerbacks, but the Pittsburgh Steelers don't seem to mind, judging by their trade for Brandon Boykin and the drafting of Senquez Golson. That doesn't mean they couldn't use help at the position, though.
Vernon Hargreaves is a short cornerback but a quality one. He's not put to par with Jason Verrett a few years ago, but the Florida cornerback does more than enough on tape to warrant a first-round pick. He does have some issues with tackling, which appear in the Tennessee tape of the 2015 season, but he can improve on that at the next level.
If Hargreaves does manage to slip this far, this is his floor. He may be a top-10 talent teams will overlook, but Pittsburgh should fixate its eyes.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Jason Spriggs is one of a handful of left tackle prospects in this draft class. The Seattle Seahawks have Russell Okung, their left tackle since 2010, slated to hit the open market, and it's not like their porous offensive line could afford a downgrade at any position.
If Okung does walk, they'll need to take a project tackle in the first round. Spriggs has the athleticism of a player like Lane Johnson, who was drafted in the top five in a weak draft class. The Indiana bookend might rise beyond this range after the combine, but as it stands today, this is one of the healthier predictions of the draft.
Seattle has put an emphasis on athletic linemen in the past, which is why it has moved multiple projects from the defensive line over to offense in recent years. The time for a project tackle has passed, though. The Seahawks now need a blindside bookend, and options are limited, even in the first round.
27. Green Bay Packers: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Reggie Ragland's athleticism might be overrated, but he's still a quality linebacker. Some might spin the fact that he played defensive end at times for Alabama as the team putting its most athletic player in spots to make a bigger impact based on in-game situations, but the truth is, he isn't fluid enough to keep up in coverage, which likely was the catalyst into dropping him on the line of scrimmage.
Still, he can be a fine "Sam" linebacker in a 4-3 defense or as an inside linebacker in a 3-4. The Green Bay Packers had to move Clay Matthews over to inside linebacker, since they punted on the position for too many years in a row. Matthews needs to get back to outside linebacker, especially since Julius Peppers is aging and Mike Neal and Nick Perry's contracts have expired.
If the addition of Ragland isn't enough, the full-time move to pass-rusher for Matthews should earn a nod of approval from Packers fans.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Eli Apple has talented movement skills, but the redshirt sophomore is still super green. Standing at 6'0", he's second on the list of jumbo cornerbacks after Jalen Ramsey, who may be a safety at the next level. A projected combine standout, look for the Ohio State Buckeye to rise over the next month while the media digs into the 20-year-old's tape.
Sean Smith, a 6'3" cornerback, is on an expiring contract. Starting opposite of Smith last year was Marcus Peters, a rookie who looked like a young Charles Woodson at 6'0". The player who would jump up into Smith's slot right now looks to be Phillip Gaines, another 6-footer. Gaines, though, hasn't had the success in two years that Peters saw in one.
The defensive backfield, like the offensive line, isn't a unit that can have a hole. You're only as strong as your weakest link in those spots, as teams will scheme around targeting specific players or zones. Apple can step up and mask a weakness, should Smith leave, right away.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State
The Arizona Cardinals have some good two-gapping defensive linemen, most notably Calais Campbell. What they need, though, is a penetrating defensive lineman. In the late first round, a player who should be on everyone's lists is Chris Jones of Mississippi State.
Jones was a blue-chip recruit who showed his athleticism as a freshman, when he made All-American lists. He followed that up with a sophomore slump, but his junior season of 2015 was his first successful one as a full-time starter.
He's listed at 6'6" and has the explosion of Muhammad Wilkerson. Teams will gamble on the raw skill of this 21-year-old hitting, but he could definitely be a top-10 player in this class in a redraft situation around the time first-round picks sign their second contracts.
30. Carolina Panthers: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
If you were able to catch the Super Bowl, you noticed Carolina's struggling bookends going face-to-face with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Something has to change for the Panthers up front. Their defense is great, and they'll return Kelvin Benjamin to the wideout unit next year. On paper, this pick is locked up.
Jack Conklin struggles at times with being athletically gifted enough to face the best of the best, but as long as he isn't allowing Miller to run circles around him at right tackle, he's an improvement in Charlotte. The former walk-on has had to work for everything he has, including a scholarship and starting role at Michigan State.
Giving Cam Newton just a little more time could have completely changed how we're talking about the Panthers right now. Hopefully, it opened up the front office's eyes enough to the problem that it'll address it and find a new offensive tackle.
31. Denver Broncos: Joshua Garnett, IOL, Stanford
Joshua Garnett is one of the best guard prospects to come through the draft process in a while. The guard was a monster at Stanford, where the Cardinal's power-run offense almost pulled together enough games to get into the College Football Playoff and earn Christian McCaffrey a Heisman Trophy, but both of those goals fell just short.
Under Gary Kubiak, the Denver Broncos will need more gap-blockers. Behind Cody Whitehair, who played tackle at Kansas State, Garnett is the best option. Interior offensive line is a point of stress for Denver, as it has few weaknesses, assuming the Broncos are able to re-sign Brock Osweiler at quarterback.
Garnett is a bully, and that's what the doctor ordered for the transitioning offense.