The 2016 NFL Draft is about to be underway, and I know, I know; chances are, you’re a Patriots fan, and you’re bummed out about the Patriots not having a first-round pick this year. This does not mean the draft will be boring! The first round will still be full of surprises, last-minute trades and, of course, dreams coming true. That’s what it will all be about, right? This mock draft isn’t intended to be accurate; none are. It’s intended to simply give an evaluation of what the draft could look like, where these players fall value-wise and what teams are looking for. There will be trades, there will be laughs, there will be tears, and there will be boos for Roger Goodell. It’s the 2016 NFL Draft.
1. Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff, quarterback, Cal.
Jared Goff put up sensational numbers last season; 43 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, with the picks a little high, those touchdown numbers are dazzling. Goff has shown everything he can at the college level to prove he’s ready to become an upper-tier NFL quarterback. If he can get better control of the ball, this gunslinger could be the best quarterback the Rams have had since Kurt Warner.
2. Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, quarterback, North Dakota State.
A late riser in the draft, Wentz looks to compete for a starting job with Sam Bradford this upcoming season, if the Eagles don’t trade Bradford first. The Eagles certainly could use a quarterback, as Bradford is severely overpaid as a mediocre option at the helm, and Wentz shows great poise in the pocket and has outstanding scrambling ability. If he can hold onto the football and stop fumbling it as often as he did in college, the big smile will do just fine in the league.
3. San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, tackle, Ole Miss.
Tunsil is regarded by some as the best overall player in this draft. The San Diego Chargers do have King Dunlap signed to a beefy contract, however he’s certainly not the greatest tackle in the world. Tunsil could become one of the best left tackles in the NFL, for one of the best quarterbacks in the game, Philip Rivers.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Ezekiel Elliot, running back, Ohio State.
Jerry Jones loves flash, and bringing in Elliott could set up one of the best trios in football between Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott. There’s no doubt this will be hyped up to be the next Aikman/Irvin/Smith combination. Ezekiel Elliott was a monster in college, far and away the best running back in the class, and offense sells tickets. That’s what Jerry’s World is all about.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Ramsey, cornerback, Florida State.
Jalen Ramsey may be the best overall player in the entire draft on the defensive side of the ball. Boasting a 4.41 second time in the 40 yard dash at the combine, Ramsey is lightning fast and was easily one of the best cornerbacks in all of football last season. Opposite Orlando Scandrick, these two could be one of the best duos in football.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Ronnie Stanley, tackle, Notre Dame.
The Ravens need help everywhere, and a great place to start is the trenches. Stanley is a great finesse pass blocker, and will help keep Flacco upright to throw those long bombs downfield. There are many issues to tackle with the Ravens to bring them back to their former glory, and shoring up the offensive line should always be the place to start with any team. Keep Flacco healthy, and good things will happen.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Myles Jack, linebacker, UCLA.
Myles Jack is projected by almost every mock draftee to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but I think his injuries make him fall just a tad. However, the 49ers have lost a ton of players over the years, and there’s a big hole at linebacker for them. Myles Jack, when healthy, is one of the most athletic, all-around talented linebackers the draft has seen in a long time. His knees are a huge concern, however, and could be a wasted pick if he can’t find full health. This is a huge boom-or-bust pick, but if Jack can stay healthy, he’ll fill the shoes left behind by Patrick Willis easily.
8. Cleveland Browns – Joey Bosa, defensive end, Ohio State.
The Cleveland Browns just cleaned house, bigtime. Randy Starks, Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner, all released. It’s time for the Browns to start to rebuild, and what a blessing for them that the highly touted defensive end from Ohio State falls into their lap at 8. Teams are steering slightly away due to character concerns with Joey Bosa, though his immense talent and ability to quickly get off the snap doesn’t let him fall for long. Bosa will be a big piece towards the retooling of the Cleveland defense.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jack Conklin, tackle, Michigan State.
Last year, the Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston at the very top of the draft, and he just had a pretty solid season. To help him get better, the Buccaneers here should improve their offensive line and help protect their investment in Winston. Jack Conklin should be a top-tier lineman in the NFL, and should help shore up the blindside for years to come in down in Tampa Bay.
10. New York Giants – Leonard Floyd, linebacker, Georgia.
This league is run and won with pass rushers. That’s how the Giants defeated Tom Brady twice in the Super Bowl, with a strong pass rush. That’s how the Denver Broncos just won the Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers. To bring back that pass rush prowess on defense, Leonard Floyd would be a great start. This is a quick, powerful and agile linebacker who can rush off the edge. He would be a great fit in any defense, including the Giants’.
11. Chicago Bears – Vernon Hargreaves III, cornerback, Florida.
The small cornerback from down south should make big time plays in the NFL. Hargreaves is a hawk for the ball, and with guys like Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford in the NFC North, the Bears need to improve their secondary to stay competitive. Hargreaves should give opposing quarterbacks headaches, and will have his share of interceptions throughout his career.
12. New Orleans Saints – DeForest Buckner, defensive end, Oregon.
In every draft, a big time talent falls for practically no reason. Buckner, who plays like a top-ten talent, and has the versatility to play in both the 3-4 and 4-3 defense as a pass rusher and run stopper. The Saints have wavered the past few years, and with an elite quarterback in Drew Brees, this is a team one would expect to be successful year in and year out. Buckner’s versatility in the trenches will help them regain that championship form they once had in 2009.
13. Miami Dolphins – William Jackson III, cornerback, Houston.
With some of the best ball skills in the draft, William Jackson III is a playmaker ready to tear it up in the league. This is a highly athletic, talented individual who has a knack for the ball and knows how to bring it back. Jackson is tall at 6’0” for a cornerback, so he’ll be able to help the Dolphins out against guys in the AFC East like Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett.
14. Oakland Raiders – Taylor Decker, tackle, Ohio State.
Same concept with the Buccaneers; you got a new quarterback in Derek Carr, he’s tearing up the league, you already have a solid tackle in Penn but he’s getting old. Decker brings that nastiness on the front line and will help protect Carr over the long haul, plain and simple. When you have a young quarterback and an aging line, picking up a young stud for the blind side is a no-brainer.
15. Tennessee Titans – Eli Apple, cornerback, Ohio State.
Two buckeyes back to back, and fourth in the first fifteen picks; this team was no joke in college. Eli Apple is really young and raw, but this is a team who will be willing to let Apple grow into his own. Apple is excellent in man-to-man coverage and will have one of the best cornerbacks in the league, Jason McCourty, mentoring him along the way. The sky’s the limit for Apple, and despite his rawness, there’s little doubt in his ability to shine.
16. Detroit Lions – Reggie Ragland, linebacker, Alabama.
Reggie Ragland is a big time hitter, and the Lions want to bring back that attitude to their team. Detroit’s never been a nice team, and Ragland will help bring back that nastiness on defense. He’s a versatile linebacker who can fit into any system, and playing next to all-pro backer DeAndre Levy, Ragland will fit right into the uniform.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Shaq Lawson, defensive end, Clemson.
After drafting edge-rusher Vic Beasley last year, the Falcons commit another first round pick towards their pass rush with Shaq Lawson. A part of a formidable Clemson football team last year, Lawson is a big man who already looks like an NFL player. He’s versatile, but fits best into a 4-3 scheme, which the Falcons already run under Dan Quinn’s system. Lawson should fit right in and set a hard tone for that line.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Germain Ifedi, guard, Texas A&M.
Everybody remembers the Colts being the team to beat last year, until everybody was beating them and Andrew Luck was getting pummeled to a pulp. Germain Ifedi will be a good start towards fixing the interior of that line; I’m sure the Colts would love to get a blindside protector here, but with all of the best ones taken, they have to take the best lineman available, and that’s easily Ifedi. It’ll be quite a rebuild, but it has to start somewhere.
19. Buffalo Bills – A’Shawn Robinson, defensive tackle, Alabama.
A’Shawn Robinson is a heck of a player. He’s a huge guy at just over 300 pounds, but he has the ability to pass rush as well despite his strength being defending the run. His technique isn’t perfect, and there’s a lot to work on, but he has a strong foundation as a big man in the trenches. He’ll be a good fit anywhere, and building up the trenches against Tom Brady is always a good bet towards getting a win or two in the AFC East.
20. New York Jets – Darron Lee, linebacker, Ohio State.
For the past few seasons, people have been raving about the Patriots’ crazy athletic linebacker, Jamie Collins. Other backers across the league, like Ryan Shazier, have been becoming increasing popular for their elite speed and tackling ability. With tight ends like Gronkowski, Bennett and Cameron in the division, the Jets need to match those talents with athletic freaks at linebacker. Meet Darron Lee, with his 4.47 second 40 yard dash. Crazy fast, Darron Lee falls due to questions about strength and the ability to finish the tackle, but his athleticism is far too good to pass up at this point in the first round, especially with the amount of elite tight ends in the AFC East.
21. Washington – Sheldon Rankins, defensive tackle, Louisville.
Rankins can play all over the defensive line, and after losing Terrance Knighton to the Patriots this offseason, Washington is missing some beef up front. Rankins bring the size of a defensive tackle with the athleticism of a 3-4 defensive end, which is perfect for Washington’s 3-4 scheme. Rankins will fit in nicely here, and should be successful next to guys like Ryan Kerrigan.
22. Houston Texans – Josh Doctson, wide reciever, TCU.
Josh Doctson is a big receiver, and there are plenty of question as to who will go first. Will Fuller possesses elite speed, but his hands are questionable. There are no breakaway #1 receivers in the draft, but with DeAndre Hopkins already on the team, Doctson will fill in nicely at #2 and will help Brock Osweiler fit into Bill O’Brien’s offensive scheme.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Joshua Garnett, guard, Stanford.
Last season, Teddy Bridgewater got destroyed game in and game out by defensive lines due to extremely poor offensive line play. They absolutely have to work on that line and keep Bridgewater upright, because when he is, he has the potential to be one of the top young quarterbacks in the league. Garnett will help solidify the inside, easily the weakest area of their line.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Chris Jones, defensive tackle, Mississippi State.
Interior pass rushers are always hard to find and very exciting to have on your team. Chris Jones shows a great jump off of the ball, and has huge size to fill out his run stopping game as well. His technique could use a lot of work, but the potential is there, and he’s a flashy guy to watch on film. The AFC North has always been a tough division, and the Bengals have to overcome their playoff slump; getting a good interior pass rusher could help them get hold of Flacco and Roethlisberger.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Karl Joseph, safety, West Virginia.
Karl Joseph would be a top ten pick if he didn’t tear his ACL last season. However, at this point, so many people come back from ACL tears and play will, so there’s no reason to think Joseph won’t be successful after he fully recovers. Joseph is a freak on the back end, and after Polamalu retired, they’ve lacked that attitude on the back end. He’s a small safety, but he has huge playmaking ability to pick off the football.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Kevin Dodd, defensive end, Clemson.
The Seahawks need offensive line help, but Dodd is too much of a talent to pass up this late. He hasn’t played a ton of snaps in college, which is why he falls to the late end of the first round, but when he is on the field, he’s impressed big time. He got a sack in each of his last five games of his college career, and there’s nothing wrong with building up that pass rush even more, especially with Bruce Irvin heading to Oakland.
27. Green Bay Packers – Andrew Billings, nose tackle, Baylor.
The Packers have some solid defensive linemen already, headed by the beast Mike Daniels, but depth is very, very important along that line. Meet Andrew Billings, all 311 pounds of him. The big run stuffer can plug up the middle of any line, and will replace the production lost by B.J. Raji’s retirement.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Corey Coleman, wide reciever, Baylor.
Coleman is the type of receiver who looks like a slot guy due to his size, but has the athletic ability to play outside as well, a lot like the Patriots’ Julian Edelman. He’s extremely quick and fast off of the line, making it hard to jam him if corners aren’t quick enough. The Chiefs could use more wide receivers outside of Jeremy Maclin and Albert Wilson, and Coleman will be a solid pickup.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Nkemdiche, defensive tackle, Ole Miss.
Nkemdiche has been highly touted throughout his college career, being the number-one ranked high school footballer when he committed to Ole Miss. Since then, he has impressed big time with elite athleticism, but character issues have caused him to fall. However, these issues matched with his ability to get after the quarterback keep him in the first round, as teams are not so wary on him as they are with others, such as Shawn Oakman. The Cardinals aren’t desperate for defensive line help, especially after getting Chandler Jones, however Nkemdiche is too good of a talent to pass up this late.
30. Carolina Panthers – Will Fuller, wide receiver, Notre Dame.
Many people thing Will Fuller is the best wide receiver in the draft, but his high amount of drops in college make it hard for teams to want to draft him. However, Fuller has the ability to get past defenders, and with Cam Newton’s cannon arm, his speed will come in great handy. They already have some big targets with Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, so now Ted Ginn will have a running mate downfield with Will Fuller.
31. Denver Broncos – Paxton Lynch, quarterback, Memphis.
Paxton Lynch could become a really good quarterback, but isn’t quite ready to start right away. However, his potential is very high, so there’s a good chance he still goes in the first round. If Lynch is already gone, I’d imagine the Broncos take Connor Cook. After being shafted by Brock Osweiler signing with Houston, the Broncos enter the season with Mark Sanchez as their starter. He may very well still be the starter, but having Paxton Lynch behind him to develop and to step in if (when) things go wrong with Sanchez will make Broncos fans feel a lot calmer about their sudden quarterback dilemma.
Thomas Goodale is a Staff Writer for The Comment.