2016 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Round 1's Biggest Boom-or-Bust Prospects

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2016

Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (5) runs to the line of scrimmage in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. No. 14 Mississippi won 56-15. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

There is always a certain risk that comes from the NFL draft with no player being a guaranteed star. However, there are a few top prospects who are more of a gamble than others.

Whether there are injury concerns, off-field questions or simply doubts about the ability on the field, the first round is often filled with boom-or-bust college stars. We don't know how they will perform at the next level, but the upside usually makes it worth the risk.

This year's crop features plenty of similar players, including injury risks such as Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith. Beyond that, here is a look at the latest mock draft as well as a breakdown of the more volatile prospects on the board.

2016 NFL Mock Draft
1Tennessee TitansLaremy TunsilOTOle Miss
2Cleveland BrownsCarson WentzQBNorth Dakota State
3San Diego ChargersJoey BosaDEOhio State
4Dallas CowboysJalen RamseyCBFlorida State
5Jacksonville JaguarsMyles JackOLBUCLA
6Baltimore RavensDeForest BucknerDEOregon
7San Francisco 49ersLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
8Miami DolphinsRonnie StanleyOTMiami Dolphins
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersVernon Hargreaves IIICBFlorida
10New York GiantsNoah SpenceDEEastern Kentucky
11Chicago BearsShaq LawsonDEClemson
12New Orleans SaintsA'Shawn RobinsonDTAlabama
13Philadelphia EaglesJared GoffQBCalifornia
14Oakland RaidersMackensie AlexanderCBClemson
15Los Angeles RamsPaxton LynchQBMemphis
16Detroit LionsJarran ReedDTAlabama
17Atlanta FalconsJaylon SmithOLBNotre Dame
18Indianapolis ColtsTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
19Buffalo BillsDarron LeeOLBOhio State
20New York JetsLeonard FloydOLBGeorgia
21Washington RedskinsReggie RaglandILBAlabama
22Houston TexansEzekiel ElliottRBOhio State
23Minnesota VikingsJack ConklinOTMichigan State
24Cincinnati BengalsCorey ColemanWRBaylor
25Pittsburgh SteelersEli AppleCBOhio State
26Seattle SeahawksRobert NkemdicheDTOle Miss
27Green Bay PackersSheldon RankinsDTLouisville
28Kansas City ChiefsBraxton MillerWROhio State
29Arizona CardinalsKevin DoddDEClemson
30Carolina PanthersVonn BellSOhio State
31Denver BroncosCody WhitehairOGKansas State

Notable Boom-or-Bust Prospects

Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 30: Eastern Kentucky Defensive End Noah Spence #97 of the South Team during the 2016 Resse's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 30, 2016 in Mobile, Alabama. The South defeated the North 27-16. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Gett
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Mike Mayock of NFL Network summed up the entire situation potentially facing the New York Giants with the No. 10 pick, per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:

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[The Giants are] another team, sitting at (pick No.) 10, that has to look at an edge rusher. Noah Spence could be squarely in the middle of that conversation. And the Giants typically don't take a lot of risks and he's one of the riskiest guys in the draft. But he's also one of the best edge rushers.

The talent is obvious with Noah Spence, who is as good as they come as a pass-rusher. He has elite quickness and often beats blockers around the edge, similar to Von Miller.

However, the risk comes from the off-field problems. According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Spence was banned from the Big Ten and kicked out of Ohio State after failing multiple drug tests. He was also arrested for an alcohol-related offense.

This will make Friday's interviews with teams at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis almost as important as the physical drills. He has to convince his potential employers that his problems are in the past and there won't be any more issues.

Former teammate Taylor Decker is on his side, per Dane Brugler of CBS Sports:

There are "problem" players in the draft who end up being stars—like Dez Bryant and Tyrann Mathieu—but there are also ones who never seem to get back on track, such as Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon. Selecting Spence could give the Giants an elite pass-rusher, but they need to be certain his past won't come back to haunt him.

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 28:  Mackensie Alexander #2 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after breaking up a pass against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streete
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Clemson had a dominant defense this season, and cornerback Mackensie Alexander was a big part of that. The cornerback usually lined up against an opponent's best receiver and shut him down, forcing the quarterback to look for other options.

Of course, when no one throws the ball in your direction, the stats tend to suffer. That is what happened with Alexander, who has zero career interceptions. This has led to questions about his ability to make plays on the ball.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus noted the lack of consensus around the league:

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller even explained in his scouting notebook there were multiple teams considering the cornerback to be a Day 3 selection because of  his lack of interceptions and his smaller size at 5'11", 195 pounds. These teams likely won't be drafting Alexander.

The reality of the draft is it only takes one team to make someone a first-round pick, and there should be enough teams excited by Alexander's potential to take him on the first night. He has the tools to be an elite cover corner, and even if the interceptions don't come, his ability to slow down opposing receivers should be all that matters.

Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

Sep 13, 2014; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (5) steps up to the line during the game against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Like Spence, Robert Nkemdiche will have plenty of questions to answer this week about off-field troubles. Most notably, the defensive lineman missed the Sugar Bowl after falling 15 feet out of a hotel room. Police found marijuana in the room afterward.

However, the problems continue for Nkemdiche because there are just as many question marks about his play on the field.

Albert Breer of NFL.com explained the lack of technique apparent from the tackle:

If he does contribute at a high level, it will likely come a couple of years down the line once he figures out how to use his athleticism to his benefit. Of course, if that does happen, he has the talent to be one of the best in the NFL at his position.

Like Jadeveon Clowney two years ago, Nkemdiche is an elite athlete with the strength (6'4", 296 lbs) to simply overpower opposing offensive linemen. At his best, he is one of the top prospects in the entire draft and could easily be a top-five pick on talent alone. There is a reason he was the No. 1 overall prospect in his high school class, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

His upside will probably put him in the first round, but any team that takes him will have to know his inconsistency on the field and problems off it could be permanent. 

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