NFL Mock Draft 2016: Full 1st-Round Picks and Who's Falling Down the Board
The draft can be difficult to predict because of situations like this. So many factors—health, off-field concerns, positional need—can radically affect where a player is taken in the draft. A player with a top-10 projection can slide into the 20s or lower for many reasons.
Nkemdiche is a prime example. He's a player with incredible talent who has fallen down draft boards because of poor decisions away from football. Other prospects have slid as teams dissect their weaknesses or because the perfect franchise to pick them is projected to choose someone else.
Let's take a look at this year's first round and mock the picks while taking note of some of the players who are sliding or could be on draft day.
1. Tennessee Titans: Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil
The Titans have invested in the player they hope to be their franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota. Now, they need to invest in protecting him.
Tennessee gave up more sacks (54) than any other team in the NFL last season. Mariota is mobile, but he can’t avoid every free rusher his offensive line allows. Laremy Tunsil is the consensus choice for the No. 1 overall pick because he would provide great protection for Mariota’s blind side.
Tunsil is a great athlete who won’t get beaten often and has the physical tools to match up with NFL edge-rushers. He’ll also help Tennessee’s run blocking for new running back DeMarco Murray. He’s the clear choice for the Titans.
2. Cleveland Browns: NDSU QB Carson Wentz
Carson Wentz is captivating NFL teams with his potential. His size (6'5", 237 lbs) and arm strength make him an attractive option despite having played at the FCS level.
The Browns are in desperate need of stability at quarterback, where they’ve had 24 different starters since 1999. They released former first-round pick Johnny Manziel and may be close to signing former No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III this offseason, per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. They have reportedly shown interest in trading for Colin Kaepernick, though the team’s director of football operations, Sashi Brown, said those rumors were “way over-reported,” according to ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon.
Wentz could be a gamble, but he could also become the team’s best option at the position this millennium. Will Brinson of CBS Sports has the Browns taking Wentz in his mock, saying that even if Cleveland trades for Kaepernick, “it shouldn't preclude them from finding a potential franchise quarterback in the draft.” The Browns have already bet their future on a riskier prospect in Manziel. At this point, taking Wentz would almost look safe.
3. San Diego Chargers: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa
Concerns emerged about Joey Bosa following a lackluster showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. His performance at Ohio State’s pro day seems to have eased those fears.
Bosa did more reps in the bench press and ran a faster 40-yard dash in Columbus on March 11 than he did at the combine. That performance should keep his stock from slipping too much, especially in a draft full of teams that need help getting to the quarterback.
The Chargers are one of those teams. They finished the year ranked 24th in the league with 32 sacks. They have a Pro Bowl cornerback in Jason Verrett and just signed Casey Hayward. Bosa would help create a more consistent pass rush to keep those two and the other members of the secondary from having to play coverage for too long.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey
Dallas spent last year’s first-round pick on a secondary player, and this year it could do the same thing by picking Florida State corner Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey would give Dallas an immediate influx of talent at a position of need. Morris Claiborne has largely been a disappointment since he was drafted, leaving the Cowboys looking for a true No. 1 corner. Ramsey could be that.
Josh Hyber of Sporting News writes that Ramsey may be the best player in the draft. The FSU product already has the endorsement of Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys believe they can make one more run with Tony Romo at quarterback. They need better defense to do that, and Ramsey would raise their level of play immediately.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: UCLA LB Myles Jack
The Jaguars showed significant promise on offense in 2015, ranking 14th in the league in scoring (23.5 points per game) and 10th in passing (256.8 yards per game). Defense is where Jacksonville needs help.
No player is going to do more for the Jaguars on that side of the ball than Myles Jack, the best linebacker in the draft. Jack reads plays well and makes tackles in the backfield. He can also defend running backs and tight ends in space.
Jacksonville has to upgrade its 24th-ranked defense. Jack can help the team all over the field. All five of CBSSports.com’s analysts have Jack going in the top six picks. The Jaguars should be ecstatic if he’s available at No. 5.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley
Protecting Joe Flacco is Baltimore’s top priority, especially after seeing how much trouble the offense had after Flacco went down with a torn ACL last season. The Ravens averaged just 17 points per game in the six games the he missed to end the year.
Flacco’s greatest asset is his ability to throw the deep ball, but the Ravens have to give him time to let plays develop downfield. Stanley would be able to keep edge-rushers at bay longer and let Flacco take his shots.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Cal QB Jared Goff
Cal’s Jared Goff has slid down draft boards slightly since the start of the evaluation process, in part because of the surge of Wentz.
If Wentz goes to Cleveland, San Francisco is the team most likely to take Goff. He was an efficient passer at Cal, and Colin Kaepernick wants out of the Bay area. If the 49ers elect to trade him, Goff would be a good fit for Chip Kelly’s spread offense coming from the Bear Raid in Cal.
Should the 49ers hold onto Kaepernick or pick someone else, Goff could slide as far as the Rams’ pick at No. 15. It would be best for him, and quite possibly for San Francisco, for the 49ers to take him at No. 7.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
DeMarco Murray’s departure leaves a sizable hole in the Eagles' backfield. Fortunately for them, Ezekiel Elliott is likely to be available when they pick at No. 8.
Elliott is widely regarded as the best running back in this year’s draft, and he could be a three-down player for Philadelphia as a rookie. He could fulfill the longing for a feature back that the Eagles have had since trading away LeSean McCoy.
NFL analyst Brian Baldinger thinks Elliott could be the best player in the draft. That is probably a stretch, but he is probably the best running back to come out of college in recent years not named Todd Gurley. If he makes it past the Cowboys at No. 4, the Eagles would do well to select him.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Vernon Hargreaves III was part of one of the best defenses in the country at Florida. He’s likely to be available when his hometown team, Tampa Bay, picks ninth.
The Bucs need a shutdown corner in a division where they have to play Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin and Brandin Cooks twice per year. Hargreaves has the speed to match up with those players and boost a pass defense that allowed 7.5 yards per attempt in 2015.
NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein compares Hargreaves to Browns cornerback Joe Haden, another small corner and former Gator with great coverage skills. Haden has made the Pro Bowl and become one of the most respected corners in the league. If the Bucs think Hargreaves can justify that comparison, they should take him.
10. New York Giants: Oregon DE DeForest Buckner
The Giants have been their best in recent years when they have boasted one of the best pass rushes in the league. Last season, however, they failed to hit the quarterback at all. They were dead last in the league in pass defense (299 yards per game) and 30th in sacks (23).
Enter Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, who recorded 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss last season. Buckner’s 6’7”, 291-pound frame gives him the ability to overpower opposing tackles. An NFC scout told Lance Zierlein that Buckner is more talented than Calais Campbell and Arik Armstead were when they came out of college.
He slid to No. 10 in this mock because of the way that picks unfolded in the rest of the top 10, and that could happen on draft day as well. However, Buckner has the talent to be a top-seven pick.
11. Chicago Bears: Alabama DT A’Shawn Robinson
A’Shawn Robinson is not easily moved, and thus he is able to create havoc in the run game, as blockers can’t create lanes for ball-carriers. Chicago needs someone who can do that.
SB Nation’s Dan Kadar also has Robinson as the Bears’ pick, and it makes sense. Their run defense was No. 22 in the league, and they ranked 26th in yards allowed per attempt. Robinson could step right in and make an immediate impact.
12. New Orleans Saints: Clemson DE Shaq Lawson
The Saints were second to last in passing, rushing and total defense in 2015. A player such as Shaq Lawson will help them in multiple ways.
Lawson was one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the country last year. Other teams would be forced to run the ball away from his side of the field when playing New Orleans. He isn’t the most physically gifted pass-rusher, but he could help the Saints in that area as well.
13. Miami Dolphins: Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander
The Dolphins are in the market for a corner after releasing Brent Grimes earlier this month. They were 21st in the league in passing yards allowed last season, and they have to face Brandon Marshall and Sammy Watkins twice per year. Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander would be a great selection for them.
Alexander’s absence in the second half of the Tigers’ national championship bout with Alabama was one of the reasons Clemson lost that game. He can significantly limit an opposing team’s passing attack, which is a plus when you play in the same division as Tom Brady.
Many analysts have the Dolphins taking Hargreaves. If he’s still available at that point, that would be a good pick. But he will likely be off the board, in which case Alexander would be the top option.
14. Oakland Raiders: Ohio State CB Eli Apple
The early run on corners continues as Oakland snatches Eli Apple. The 6’1” corner has ideal size for the position. The Raiders need depth in the secondary to complement their devastating pass rush.
Apple’s stock has risen following a strong showing at the combine. Being selected in the top 15 and being third off the board at a deep position in this draft would be an accomplishment for him.
15. Los Angeles Rams: Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
The Rams have their answer at running back in Todd Gurley, but they need a more dynamic passing game to take advantage of teams that try to put a safety in the box against him. That’s why they should pick Laquon Treadwell, the top-rated receiver in this draft.
Treadwell is big, strong and fast, and he showed with his performances alongside Bo Wallace in 2014 that he can make any quarterback look good.
The Rams may be tempted to reach for a quarterback here. Many mock drafts have them taking one. They can’t afford to botch their first draft pick after moving to Los Angeles, though, and a passer will be available in the second round. Take the sure thing in Treadwell.
16. Detroit Lions: Michigan State OT Jack Conklin
The Lions have said more than once that they need better offensive line play, ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein reports. The answer to that problem could come to them in the form of Michigan State’s Jack Conklin.
Conklin is projected to go in the middle of the first round or possibly higher depending on how much teams think they need a left tackle. The Lions would be getting a deal if they land him at No 16.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Georgia LB Leonard Floyd
Atlanta needs help at every level of its defense—defensive line, linebacker and safety. Its choice with the 17th pick may come down to the best player available. In this mock, that’s Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd.
Floyd has the frame and athleticism to be a terror for opposing offenses. He has speed to chase down ball-carriers in open space, keep up with receivers in coverage or rush the quarterback. That sort of talent is something the Falcons have sorely lacked at his position in recent years. They can make amends for that with this pick.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Alabama DT Jarran Reed
Another team that can’t stop the run, the Colts select the other run-stuffing Alabama defensive tackle in this draft, Jarran Reed. Indianapolis allowed 122 rushing yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry last season. Reed will help plug up some of the holes that opposing running backs found so easily in 2015.
Reed has slipped down as far as No. 21 in the mock draft of NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah. There are so many solid defensive linemen in this draft that he could fall all the way down to the mid-20s depending on who teams value most. In this mock, however, he stays in the top 20.
19. Buffalo Bills: Baylor DT Andrew Billings
Big 12 offenses dreaded facing Andrew Billings because the Baylor defensive tackle disrupted everything his opponents tried to do. That sounds like the kind of anchor Rex Ryan wants for his defense.
Billings is strong and effective at stopping the run and rushing the passer. His ability to get into the backfield and create havoc would open up opportunities for the rest of Buffalo’s defenders to make plays as well.
20. New York Jets: Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence
Draft analysts seem to be in agreement that the Jets are most likely to take a pass-rusher, and the most talented one remaining in this mock is Noah Spence.
Spence had two failed drug tests at Ohio State, which is why he transferred to Eastern Kentucky. Were it not for that, he may have been one of the highest-projected pass-rushers in this year’s draft. If the Jets aren’t comfortable taking him this high because of off-field concerns, they should try to trade back and grab him close to the end of the first round.
21. Washington: Alabama LB Reggie Ragland
Reggie Ragland has fallen further in this mock because teams that may have been interested in him like the Saints and Falcons either had other more pressing needs or chose someone else at the same position. He could end up being a top-15 pick depending on how earlier picks go.
Washington would be a solid fit for Ragland if the team just lets him be a run-stopper. He can be exposed when he has to play in space, but few players in this draft are better at stuffing the inside running game.
22. Houston Texans: TCU WR Josh Doctson
The Texans should be looking for a receiving threat to take attention away from DeAndre Hopkins, and Josh Doctson would be great in that role.
The TCU wide receiver can run a diverse set of routes and is skilled at going up for jump balls deep downfield. Houston could put the ball up for Doctson on deep routes and in the red zone, which would create more space for Hopkins to operate on intermediate routes.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Baylor WR Corey Coleman
Another talented Big 12 receiver, Corey Coleman is a dynamic threat in the open field, which would add another dimension to the Minnesota offense.
Coleman can play outside or inside and even line up in the backfield. When opponents crowd the box to slow down Adrian Peterson, Coleman can get behind the defense. He’ll also draw attention away from Cordarrelle Patterson. Coleman would bring the same big-play ability to the offense that Percy Harvin once did, without the off-field concerns.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Notre Dame WR Will Fuller
Will Fuller was the fastest wide receiver at the combine, running a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash. He would be a dangerous weapon across from A.J. Green.
The Bengals got better offensively in 2015 thanks to the improvements of Andy Dalton and the passing game. Now that they have lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, they need someone to make up for that production. Fuller is a big-play threat who can do that by outrunning defenders.
Fuller is a popular pick in other mocks for the Bengals, including that of SB Nation’s Dan Kadar. This seems to be the area in the first round where he is going to land.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Houston CB William Jackson
Ike Taylor’s retirement left the Steelers thin at cornerback last season. Second-round pick Senquez Golson has some promise, but the Steelers need to team him with another solid young corner.
William Jackson is likely to be available when Pittsburgh picks. He would upgrade the secondary and give the Steelers a respectable duo at that position that they can depend on for years to come. Most analysts have Pittsburgh picking a corner here. For once, the organization should listen to the media.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Ohio State OT Taylor Decker
The departure of former first-rounder Russell Okung in free agency means Seattle needs to address pass protection in the draft. The difficulty for the Seahawks will be finding a tackle this late in the first round who can start right away.
Ohio State’s Taylor Decker has all the physical tools to be that player. At 6’7” and 310 pounds, he has a great frame. Questions will linger over whether he can be a quality left tackle, or if his place is on the right side. The surest prospects will have long been off the board by the time Seattle picks, but Decker would be a good selection for them.
27. Green Bay Packers: Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins
Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins is projected as a top-20 pick by SB Nation’s Dan Kadar and other analysts, and he could easily go that high. However, it’s possible he could fall this far if the other teams with needs at defensive tackle decide they like Reed, Billings and Robinson more, which is what happened in this mock.
If that’s what happens, Rankins would be a great pick for Green Bay. The Packers would get one of the top defensive tackles in the draft to bolster a run defense that was 21st in the league (119.1 yards per game).
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche
The stock of Robert Nkemdiche has fallen dramatically since he was initially projected as a top-10 pick. He is now projected to go as late as the final pick in the first round because of an arrest for marijuana possession.
The Chiefs would have loved to grab a cornerback here, but Pittsburgh’s selection of Jackson took the last one with first-round talent off the board. Getting the opportunity to draft a top-10-level talent, however, should more than make up for that. In Nkemdiche, the Chiefs would get the steal of the first round.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Alabama C Ryan Kelly
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports is one of many analysts who project Arizona to take Ryan Kelly. The Alabama product is the best center in the draft, and right around the Cardinals pick at No. 29 is where teams can get him without overreaching.
The Cardinals may want to trade back to grab Kelly a few picks later, but choosing him here to firm up the interior of their line is a respectable move.
30. Carolina Panthers: Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah
It’s tempting to say the Panthers should take an offensive tackle in the first round after the Broncos harassed Cam Newton in the Super Bowl. That’s what Pete Prisco, among other writers, has Carolina doing.
But Carolina faces the same issue as Seattle, which is that the immediate difference-makers at that position will be gone by the time it picks. While the Seahawks can make do with Taylor Decker, it would be a reach for Carolina to take Le’Raven Clark or another tackle with this pick.
Instead, the Panthers should either trade back for a tackle in the early second round or take the best player available. In this case, that’s Emmanuel Ogbah. He is a relentless pass-rusher and would fit right in with Carolina’s dominant front seven.
31. Denver Broncos: Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler
The defending Super Bowl champions are in a strange position. The best quarterback on their roster is Mark Sanchez. They could spend their first-rounder on a quarterback like Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook, but they proved last year their defense can win games with an average quarterback.
Instead of sinking a first-round pick into a project who may not deliver in the end, why not reinforce what made them great last season? Malik Jackson’s departure leaves an opening for Vernon Butler to come in and get playing time immediately as a 3-4 defensive end. The Louisiana Tech product can occupy blockers and let Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware roam free to make plays in the backfield.