2016 NFL Mock Draft: Pick-by-Pick Guide to the 1st Round
We're less than a month away from the 2016 NFL draft, which means NFL decision-makers will throw out all kinds of diversions to throw other teams off the scent of their true plans.
The pro day circuit will be winding down soon, as prospects will now only have a number of private visits and workouts to convince teams they are worthy of selection.
The biggest wild cards in every draft are the trades that happen on the fly. They're nearly impossible to predict, but no projection would be complete without them. Mock drafts are about presenting different possibilities and scenarios to spark conversation, and a handful of teams moving around in the first round will always be part of the equation.
So who moves up or down in this latest first-round forecast? How many quarterbacks come off the board in the top 10 picks? How will knee injuries impact two of this year's top defenders? Will there be a top-10 running back for the second year in a row?
1. Tennessee Titans: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil has been the popular pick here—and with good reason. Protecting their investment in quarterback Marcus Mariota should be at the top of the Titans' list of priorities in the draft, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll address the tackle spot with this pick.
Tunsil is worth the top selection, but Florida State's Jalen Ramsey is also one of the few rare talents in this draft worthy of the pick. He's a versatile playmaker with experience at both safety and corner, but his combination of athleticism and instincts could make him an instant superstar on the back end.
Ramsey would be the first defensive back taken with the first overall pick in 60 years, but he's that special of a player. The Titans could have some quality options at tackle available at the top of the second round, which could make them lean Ramsey's way here.
2. Cleveland Browns: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Cleveland's need to spend this pick on a quarterback is the worst-kept secret in the entire 2016 draft. The list of failed starters doesn't even fit on one jersey anymore, and new head coach Hue Jackson will want to take his own swing at fixing that problem for the foreseeable future.
The debate about this year's top quarterback prospect has centered on North Dakota State's Carson Wentz and Cal's Jared Goff. Goff is the more polished, experienced signal-caller, but Wentz has the upside NFL teams fall in love with this time of year. He's got all the physical tools to succeed at the next level, though it could take him a little time to acclimate to the speed of the NFL game after playing at the FCS level.
There are better overall players on the board here, but none of them will have the kind of impact a true franchise quarterback would for the Browns. They have to take a stab at one here.
3. *TRADE* Baltimore Ravens (from SD): Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
In the first projected trade of this mock draft, the Ravens jump up to grab Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil, who could easily be the top overall pick. If he doesn't go there and the Browns take a quarterback, don't be surprised if Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome gets on the phone to try to slide up a few picks to grab him.
Eugene Monroe has been inconsistent at left tackle, and protecting Joe Flacco is among the Ravens' top priorities. There are other positions of need, but filling one of their bigger ones with arguably the best player in the draft would be a win for Baltimore.
As Bleacher Report's Jason Cole recently reported, the price tag for teams to move up for non-quarterbacks could be lower than usual this year. The Ravens have multiple compensatory picks in the fourth round, which should allow them to use their third-rounder this year and possibly an additional pick in next year's draft to make the move.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Despite plenty of public statements to the contrary, the Cowboys could be in play for a quarterback at this spot. That said, they desperately need playmakers at every level on defense, and the overall value in this scenario is much better if they go that route.
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is one of the most versatile, athletic players in this entire draft class, and he's been careful not to rush his recovery from a knee injury that cost him most of the 2015 college football season. That should allow him to be ready to roll as a rookie, and if he checks out medically, he's got the talent to be a special player early in his NFL career.
Jack can cover in space, make plays in the backfield against the run and get after the passer when needed, and he was even a dynamic force as a running back for the Bruins. He could make a big impact in many different ways from Day 1 in Dallas.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Getting either Florida State's Jalen Ramsey or UCLA's Myles Jack at this pick would be a dream scenario, but even with both off the board here, the Jags should stay on the defensive side of the ball. Despite paying huge money to free agent Malik Jackson and the return of last year's top-five pick, Dante Fowler Jr., it would be tough for head coach Gus Bradley to pass up such a complete defender in Ohio State's Joey Bosa.
He might not be a flashy speed-rusher off the edge, but Bosa wins just as effectively with power and technique. He's a balanced prospect who can anchor against the run, and he sometimes drew triple-teams from opponents to try to keep him from getting to the quarterback.
With Jackson anchoring the interior and Fowler handling the explosive rushing off the edge, Bosa would be a perfect addition at the other defensive end spot, giving Bradley and the Jags a potentially dominant front line.
6. *TRADE* San Diego Chargers (from BAL): DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
The Chargers drop back a few picks in this scenario, likely adding a couple of extra selections and still ending up with a player who likely would have gotten strong consideration at their original slot.
Oregon's DeForest Buckner boasts a rare combination of size and athleticism at 6'7", 291 pounds. He's a versatile player who can line up in multiple positions along the defensive line, but his physical tools and skill set make him a perfect fit as a 5-technique lineman in a 3-4 defense.
There are a handful of positions the Chargers need to address in this year's draft, which makes the concept of trading down sensible. If they can make this kind of short drop happen, adding mid-round picks and still getting a top talent at a position of need, it would be a huge win in multiple ways for the Bolts.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Jared Goff, QB, California
It looks like Colin Kaepernick could be headed elsewhere prior to the 2016 season, and it would make sense that new head coach Chip Kelly would want to hand-pick his new quarterback. He should be able to do just that at this pick, staying in-state and grabbing Cal's Jared Goff.
Goff is the most polished, pro-ready passer in this year's draft and should warrant strong consideration from the Cleveland Browns at the second overall pick. If he drops to this pick, the 49ers would be wise to snatch him up instead of waiting on another prospect at the position or planning to stick with Blaine Gabbert for 2016.
Goff didn't have the strongest offensive line at Cal, so he's used to getting the job done under pressure. He's mentally tough and fundamentally sound, and he should be an effective starter early in his NFL career.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Just one year after handing him a fat contract, the Eagles traded running back DeMarco Murray to the Tennessee Titans for draft-pick peanuts. They also swung a deal with the Miami Dolphins to move up from the 13th overall pick in this year's first round to this spot, and they could have their eyes on Murray's replacement.
Despite the narrative that NFL teams don't value the running back position as much as they used to, last year's draft—with the Rams drafting Georgia's Todd Gurley—proved rare talents can still warrant top-10 picks. Elliott might not be quite as dynamic and explosive as Gurley, but he's not too far off.
Elliott runs with a rare blend of power, quickness, vision and patience. He's an effective receiver out of the backfield and has enough speed to turn the corner or take one to the house. The Eagles likely made this trade with a particular target in mind, and it shouldn't shock anyone if Elliott ends up being their man.
9. *TRADE* Los Angeles Rams: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
There are two kinds of NFL teams: Those who have a quarterback—and any hope of being a consistent playoff contender in the near future—and those who don't. Despite one of the league's most impressive defenses, the now-and-again Los Angeles Rams have continued to miss the playoffs, in large part because of their lack of a franchise signal-caller.
That could lead them to making a move some might consider panicking, jumping up from the No. 15 slot to get their hands on one of this year's top prospects at the position. With North Dakota State's Carson Wentz and Cal's Jared Goff off the board already in this scenario, the Rams could get nervous about another team moving ahead of them for Memphis' Paxton Lynch.
With a pair of second-round picks at their disposal, the Rams could easily use one of them to move up and secure Lynch. He's still fairly raw, but at 6'7", 244 pounds, he's got the size, athleticism and arm strength to entice NFL decision-makers. It might feel like a reach, but having a quality quarterback is just too important in today's NFL.
10. New York Giants: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
In their first offseason without Tom Coughlin at the helm since 2003, the Giants were one of the biggest spenders in free agency, addressing some of their most glaring needs with promising young playmakers like defensive end Olivier Vernon and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
One need that has still yet to be addressed is for a difference-maker in the middle of the defense at linebacker. The G-Men need an athletic playmaker who can fly downhill against the run and give them plenty of range in coverage, and Ohio State's Darron Lee is the perfect man for the job.
Lee's speed and instincts jump off the tape, and he backed that up with an impressive performance at the combine, which included a blazing 4.47-second 40-yard dash. His skill set is reminiscent of Tampa Bay's Lavonte David, making him well worth this pick.
11. Chicago Bears: A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
From his previous head-coaching stops in Denver and Carolina, John Fox knows how important it is to build defenses from front to back. He's got the makings of a promising young unit in Chicago now, but Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson could be the last piece to turn it into a potentially dominant group.
With Eddie Goldman and Will Sutton already on board, the Bears could use another massive force to anchor the front line. Robinson did just that for the Crimson Tide, helping lead one of the most dominant run defenses in the country in 2015.
Though he played nose tackle for the Tide, Robinson would fit best as a 5-technique in a 3-4 defense at the next level, which works perfectly for Chicago's needs. He's not much of a pass-rusher, but his ability to command multiple blockers and still be disruptive would create serious problems for opposing offenses trying to run the ball.
12. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
Kevin Williams has been a productive pro over his long NFL career, but the Saints need to be looking for his replacement early in this year's draft. The good news for them? This year's defensive tackle class is the deepest of any position group.
Louisville's Sheldon Rankins is a perfect fit as a 3-technique, with a rare blend of power and explosiveness. He dominated during Senior Bowl practices in January, backing up his impressive production and game tape. He was consistently disruptive against even the best competition, tallying 26.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks over the past two seasons.
Though he might be considered undersized at 6'1", 299 pounds, Rankins uses his frame to his advantage, winning with great leverage and getting better pad level than his opponent on a regular basis. He's been camped out in opposing backfields his entire college career and should continue that trend at the pro level.
13. Miami Dolphins (from PHI): Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
The Dolphins dropped down five spots in the first round after a trade with the Eagles, but they might just end up with a player they easily could have been targeting at their original pick.
Despite the addition of Byron Maxwell via that same trade, Miami still needs more youth and playmaking ability at corner. Florida's Vernon Hargreaves may experience a brief tumble out of the top 10 due to his lack of ideal size—5'10", 204 pounds—but his competitiveness and ball skills could still make him an effective cover man in the NFL.
Hargreaves is more physical than his height might suggest, as he's got a solid frame and puts it to good use. He might struggle against the league's bigger receivers, but his leaping ability and awareness allow him to play bigger than he's listed.
14. Oakland Raiders: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
General manager Reggie McKenzie bolstered an already solid offensive line by throwing big money at free-agent guard Kelechi Osemele, but the Raiders still need a young tackle to take over for veteran Donald Penn soon. If Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley falls into their lap here, it would be a no-brainer.
Widely considered one of the top tackle prospects in last year's draft class, Stanley chose to return to South Bend for the 2015 season. He smoothed out some of the rougher edges of his game, becoming an even better pass protector, and would be the best tackle in this year's draft if not for the rare athletic talent that is Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil.
The Raiders have built a promising young roster over the last few years, but a franchise left tackle who could protect the blind side of quarterback Derek Carr is one of the few missing pieces. Stanley would be the perfect choice and an absolute steal this late.
15. *TRADE* Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
It might sting for the Bucs to watch Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley come off the board just one pick ahead of them, but if they wanted him that bad, they wouldn't have moved down from the ninth overall pick with him still on the board.
Alas, in this scenario, Tampa Bay jumps at the chance to add another second-round pick from the Rams, with which they could address the right tackle spot. At this pick, they take a swing on arguably the best pure edge-rusher in the draft in Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence.
The Bucs haven't had a 10-sack season from anyone since Simeon Rice did it in 2005, and they've been desperately searching for a difference-maker who can bend the edge and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Spence's off-field issues will require plenty of deep digging, but if general manager Jason Licht is comfortable with that side of Spence, his talent is well worth the selection here.
16. Detroit Lions: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Quarterback Matthew Stafford lost his best weapon in Calvin Johnson, and he still doesn't have a true franchise left tackle protecting him. Signing free agent Marvin Jones won't replace Megatron, but the Lions could make a significant upgrade on Stafford's blind side by taking Ohio State's Taylor Decker here.
He's not quite the flashy athlete like Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil or the polished pass protector like Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley, but Decker is a powerful blocker who has the mental and physical tools to be an immediate starter at either tackle spot in the NFL.
Riley Reiff is best suited to play right tackle or even guard, and this pick would allow him to be at his best, effectively upgrading two spots on the offensive line with one pick.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Head coach Dan Quinn got his dynamic edge-rusher in last year's draft with top-10 pick Vic Beasley, but he needs a running mate to play the other bookend spot. Who better to fill that void than his former Clemson teammate, Shaq Lawson?
A productive, well-rounded prospect, Lawson is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end who can make plays in the backfield against both the run and pass. He proved to be consistently disruptive as a full-time starter in 2015, racking up 25.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks for the Tigers.
Lawson played across from another talented end in Kevin Dodd last year, and he would benefit greatly from being paired with an explosive edge-bender like Beasley at the next level. Medical concerns revealed at the combine could cause him to slip a little, but the Falcons would be wise to snatch him up if he falls to them here.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Colts fans are probably tired of seeing offensive linemen mocked to them at this pick, but that's what happens when your franchise quarterback gets battered to the point of having injuries similar to those of an auto accident victim.
Anthony Castonzo is solid enough at one tackle spot, but the other needs to be upgraded. Michigan State's Jack Conklin may lack the polish and consistency to be a starter on the left side in the NFL, but he'd be an instant improvement at the right tackle position in Indy.
Conklin made 35 of his 38 career starts on the left side, so he's clearly got experience there, but he needs to improve his technique if he wants to protect the blind side of an NFL quarterback. He had a solid combine performance and could easily find himself among the top 20 picks a few weeks from now.
19. *TRADE* Pittsburgh Steelers: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
It's no secret how badly the Steelers need serious upgrades at both levels of the secondary, and they would be wise to spend their top pick to that end. It looks like they may have their sights set on one in particular, but they might not be able to sit around and hope he falls to them.
Houston's William Jackson has been building plenty of buzz throughout the predraft process, and with good reason. At 6'0", 189 pounds, he's got more size than two of the draft's top corners—Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III and Clemson's Mackensie Alexander—with the length to match. More importantly, his 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the combine proves he's not only taller, but faster than those two.
Players with Jackson's size, speed and skill set don't tend to fall far on draft day. If the Steelers decide they simply can't live without him, don't be surprised if they send a package of mid-round picks to the Bills to jump up and snag him before a team like the Jets gets a shot at him.
20. New York Jets: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
Head coach Todd Bowles has one of the league's most formidable front lines on defense—Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams—but he still lacks a versatile, athletic edge defender who can take advantage of that interior strength.
Georgia's Leonard Floyd was listed at a thin 231 pounds this past season, but weighed in a 244 at the combine, hoping to show teams he can add the quality bulk he'll need to survive in the NFL. But as a player known for his explosiveness, he'll have to also prove he can retain that ability with 13 pounds of added weight.
Floyd showed the ability to make plays in the backfield throughout his career, but his production dipped a bit in 2015. Still, he's a solid athlete who can survive in coverage and has a knack for finding his way to the ball. If he can retain his quickness with a bulkier frame, he could be a welcome addition to an already talented front seven.
21. *TRADE* Cincinnati Bengals (from WAS): Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
With no receivers off the board yet, why would the Bengals trade up for one?
For starters, they lost not one but two valuable targets in free agency—Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu—giving them a huge need for a new No. 2 target behind A.J. Green. Also, the two teams picking just ahead of them—the Texans and Vikings—each have a big need at the position.
If the price is right, don't be surprised if Cincy jumps ahead of those teams to secure a playmaker like Baylor's Corey Coleman, who would be the perfect complement to Green. Though he's undersized at just 5'11", 194 pounds, Coleman is the most explosive receiver in the class.
The Bengals have seen first-hand what a smaller but dynamic pass-catcher can do after watching the Steelers' Antonio Brown run through the AFC North at will. This could be their chance to get one of their own.
22. Houston Texans: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
If the Texans miss out on the chance to pair Baylor's Corey Coleman with DeAndre Hopkins at receiver, they could turn their attention to his Waco teammate to fill another pressing need.
Houston needs an eventual replacement in the middle for veteran Vince Wilfork, and Andrew Billings would be a perfect fit. At 6'1", 311 pounds, Billings is a massive force in the middle with rare explosiveness for his size. He's still plenty raw and struggles to find the ball too often, but he's got the physical tools all defensive line coaches would love to get their hands on.
If he can develop slowly as a rookie behind a leader like Wilfork, Billings could quickly learn to maximize his physical talent and become a key building block next to J.J. Watt.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater already has a small, shifty receiver in Stefon Diggs, but he needs a bigger, more physical target who can move the chains and give him a red-zone threat.
He's been knocked plenty over the last few weeks for his lack of timed speed, but the tape doesn't lie about Mississippi's Laquon Treadwell, who beat SEC defensive backs regularly without needing to light up the stopwatch.
With one of the league's best rushing attacks behind him, Bridgewater could finally have a legitimate No. 1 receiver to complete his array of offensive weapons.
24. *TRADE* Washington Redskins (from CIN): Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
This year's class of center prospects is solid, but Alabama's Ryan Kelly stands above the rest as a potential first-round pick. Washington's biggest need happens to be at that position, so don't be surprised if it follows in the footsteps of its NFC East Rivals, doing just what the Cowboys did when they surprised many by taking Travis Frederick in the first round of the 2013 draft.
Frederick has made the Pro Bowl the last two years, and Kelly is the kind of player who could make the same kind of immediate impact. His combination of athleticism and intelligence would make him an instant upgrade in front of quarterback Kirk Cousins, helping improve the running game and pass protection.
Taking a center this high might seem crazy to some, but it's arguably the safest pick in the entire round. If Washington is able to move back a few spots, pick up an extra pick or two and still land its guy, all the better.
25. *TRADE* Buffalo Bills: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Re-signing Cordy Glenn takes care of the left tackle spot, but the Bills still need to upgrade the right side with a long-term solution. With Ohio State's Taylor Decker off the board just before its original slot, Buffalo could look to move back and target Indiana's Jason Spriggs to fill that role.
Spriggs isn't as polished as others in this year's crop of tackles, but he's one of the most impressive athletes in the group, with the length and quickness to handle quick speed-rushers off the edge. He's strong enough to anchor against power rushers and uses his athleticism to get to the second level quickly and eat up linebackers.
He still needs some refining when it comes to technique and consistency, but Spriggs could quickly develop into one of the better young tackles in the league, eventually moving over to the left side, if necessary.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Offensive line is easily the biggest need for the Seahawks, but they would be wise not to reach at this pick just to address that area. If the talent is better elsewhere, look for them to add a raw but promising defender like Ohio State's Eli Apple, while targeting offensive line help on Day 2.
A redshirt sophomore, Apple still has plenty of development ahead of him before he's ready to be a consistent, quality starter, but the physical tools are all there. At 6'1", 199 pounds, Apple has the size and length Seattle loves at corner, and he wouldn't be counted on immediately as a starter.
He's not as polished as a handful of other cover men in this draft, but in the right situation, Apple could easily turn into the best corner to come out of this draft.
27. Green Bay Packers: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
General manager Ted Thompson has a solid blend of veteran experience and promising young talent on his defense, but the big void on that side of the ball is at inside linebacker. Clay Matthews is at his best on the outside as a pass-rusher, and the Packers need to find a young leader who can run the show and make plays in the middle.
Alabama's Reggie Ragland is an old-school thumper who packs a punch when he gets to the ball-carrier, with better range than you might expect for a player who doesn't have the rare athleticism of others in this linebacker class.
He's not the flashiest defender in this class, but Ragland is exactly what the Green Bay defense needs and would represent solid overall value at this pick.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Kansas City struck gold last year by grabbing Defensive Rookie of the Year Marcus Peters in the latter half of the first round. But after losing Sean Smith in free agency, the Chiefs need to find a No. 2 corner to pair with Peters, and Clemson's Mackensie Alexander should be on the radar.
What Alexander lacks in size—5'10", 190 pounds—he makes up for in confidence and competitiveness, two extremely important traits at the corner position. Detractors will point to the fact that he didn't pick off a single pass in his college career, but opposing quarterbacks rarely tested Alexander, giving him limited opportunities to make those kinds of plays.
In this situation, Alexander would never be counted on as the No. 1 corner and would benefit from opponents trying to avoid Peters across the field. He would get plenty of opportunities to prove himself as a playmaker worthy of a first-round selection.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama
The Cards filled their biggest need by trading their second-round pick to the Patriots for pass-rusher Chandler Jones, which should free them up to simply look for the best value at this pick.
It's time for Arizona to start reloading with young talent along the defensive line, and this year's deep class of interior defenders should allow it to find an immediate-impact player at the position. Alabama's Jarran Reed may not be the flashy, pass-rushing type, but he's arguably the best run defender in the entire draft.
Reed helped Alabama to yet another national title by anchoring one of the most dominant defensive fronts in the nation and would be a perfect fit as a 5-technique in Arizona's 3-4 scheme.
30. Carolina Panthers: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Carolina's biggest need is at right tackle, but the value just isn't there in this scenario. Instead, it moves to the other side of the ball but stays in the trenches, bolstering its pass rush with one of the most productive sack artists in the entire draft.
Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah is tailor-made for the 4-3 end spot at 6'4", 273 pounds, and he knows how to get to the quarterback. A native of Nigeria who moved to Houston when he was nine years old, Ogbah racked up 28 sacks over his career in Stillwater.
His inconsistent motor might concern some teams, but a quality coaching staff should be able to get the best out Ogbah's talent. Playing next to the likes of Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei wouldn't hurt, either.
31. Denver Broncos: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Denver has already traded for Mark Sanchez and appears poised to acquire Colin Kaepernick, but neither veteran quarterback has looked particularly impressive in his most recent work. The Broncos could still be looking for a young signal-caller to replace the departed Brock Osweiler, which could lead them to using this pick on Michigan State's Connor Cook.
Cook's work ethic and leadership abilities have been questioned throughout the predraft process, but there's no doubt he has the physical tools to be an NFL starter. He can make all the throws and is comfortable progressing through multiple reads, and his long track record of success in East Lansing speaks for itself.
His biggest on-field issues are centered around consistency, both with mechanics and ball placement. If he can improve in those areas, Cook has what it takes to be a successful quarterback early in his pro career.