2016 NFL Mock Draft
Last Updated: April 27, 2016 -- 9:00 p.m. CDT
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
My friends over at DraftKings (similar name but very different than what I do) have some great fantasy sports games for real cash that give you a chance to put your skills to the test in a really fun way. I strongly recommend that you try it out: no bait and switch, no nonsense, just the chance to play a game with some nice guaranteed money included. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.
New England lost its first-round pick as part of its punishment for the "Deflategate" scandal, and thus there will be only 31 first-round selections in this year's draft.
2016 NFL Mock Draft
1. Los Angeles Rams (from Tennessee) - Jared Goff, QB, California (6'4" 210) *
Lest there be any question about how important the quarterback position is in the modern NFL, the Rams gave up a remarkable volume of draft picks to move up from #15 to #1. After initial indications all seemed to reveal the Rams wanted NDSU QB Carson Wentz, there was a sharp reversal with insiders suggesting that, while the decision wasn't yet made for sure, it was actually Goff who had the edge.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (from Cleveland) - Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State (6'6" 230)
It took a double jump for Philadelphia to get from #13 to #2, but the fact the Eagles were willing to trade so much to get a crack at whomever is on the board between Goff and Wentz speaks volumes about demand for QB talent in the modern NFL. But it also says something that Cleveland, clearly in need of a QB as well despite the signing of former Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, was willing to trade down to #8.
3. San Diego Chargers - Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (6'6" 315) *
With a very good showing at the NFL Combine, Stanley helped to solidify the perception of being the second-highest rated offensive line prospect in this year's draft behind Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil. But late word from San Diego is that Stanley is the likely choice, leapfrogging Tunsil (along with the defensive field) on the Chargers draft board.
4. Dallas Cowboys - Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State (6'1" 200) *
Ramsey is an elite talent, a natural safety who moved to cornerback last season for Florida State due to the Seminoles' team needs. He was outstanding when I first saw him in 2011 while doing color commentary for a webcast of his game in Nashville with Brentwood Academy against Father Ryan High School, and in Tallahassee he developed into a special player.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State (6'5" 270) *
A pass-rushing menace with remarkable skill, Bosa has tremendous potential. I'm as bullish on Bosa's NFL chances as just about anyone who covers the draft. This is a late switch from UCLA LB Myles Jack, who had seemed to be a likely connection with the Jags until final medical reports indicated potential long-term trouble with his injured right knee.
6. Baltimore Ravens - DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon (6'7" 290)
Buckner is remarkably athletic, a mountain of a man with a quickness you wouldn't expect from someone with his size. He would be an ideal fit in Baltimore's 3-4 defensive scheme. Tunsil is also a possibility here, though it appears the Ravens are more likely to address their defensive needs here.
7. San Francisco 49ers - Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss (6'5" 305) *
Tunsil was a highly coveted prospect out of high school who started in week one of his true freshman year for the Rebels. He recovered from a broken leg suffered at the end of the 2014 season, and after sitting in an NCAA-imposed timeout in 2015, he returned for the Rebels' stretch run showing the same elite form he had prior to his injury.
The 49ers have a variety of needs, including on defense, but protecting whomever is under center this fall could prove to be the most pressing need for the team in this draft -- particularly if Tunsil somehow falls to them.
8. Cleveland Browns (from Miami via Philadelphia) - Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis (6'6" 230) *
What the Browns do here could very well depend on who falls out of the top seven as far as the high-end prospects go. But Cleveland has a QB need, and while Lynch isn't believed to be ready to start right away, the presence of Robert Griffin III could allow Lynch a chance to learn while serving as a long-term answer at quarterback.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Shaq Lawson, DE/OLB, Clemson (6'3" 270) *
Lawson is an elite pass-rushing threat, and that is a major need for the Bucs. And while you could sell me on the notion of Tampa Bay trading back depending on who falls, if they stick it makes sense that Tampa Bay would add a talent like Lawson to give their defensive line a much-needed boost.
10. New York Giants - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (6'0" 225) *
There has been more buzz late about Zeke than possibly any other prospect. And rightly so -- he is a special player with the type of game-changing skill you seldom see. Odds are that he won't actually make it this far down the line.
11. Chicago Bears - Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia (6'5" 245) *
Floyd had a good showing at the NFL Combine, particularly in running a 4.60 40-yard dash. He is one of several strong options that the Bears will be able to consider here to fill a 3-4 OLB (EDGE rusher) need spot.
12. New Orleans Saints - Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville (6'1" 300)
Rankins has moved up draft boards since his strong showing at the Senior Bowl, and he built on that with a positive showing in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine. Rankins would presumably fill a 3-4 DE role with the Saints.
13. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia) - Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (6'1" 230) *
Concerns about the knee injury that Jack suffered early last season for UCLA are going to cause him to slide according to late indications. He would be an outstanding addition to a linebacking group that could use an infusion of talent.
14. Oakland Raiders - Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida (5'11" 200) *
A five-star prospect out of high school, Hargreaves lived up to the billing, thrice named All-SEC and twice an All-American. While not having ideal height for the position, Hargreaves has proven that he has the goods to match up against the best wide receivers the SEC has to offer.
15. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles) - Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State (6'6" 320) *
It's astonishing in hindsight to see that not a single FBS school offered Conklin a scholarship out of high school. He was a grayshirt walk-on for the Spartans in 2012 who had a freshman All-American season in 2013 and two solid years after that.
16. Detroit Lions - Jarran Reed, NT, Alabama (6'3" 305)
Alabama has had a very stout run defense over the past few seasons, and Reed played a major part in making that front seven so great in 2014 and 2015. After a strong showing at the NFL Combine, Reed has worked himself into position to be a likely first-round selection.
17. Atlanta Falcons - Darron Lee, DE/OLB, Ohio State (6'2" 235) *
Lee excelled as part of an outstanding front seven in Columbus, and his solid showing at the NFL Combine might help him to edge out other similarly-talented pass rushers.
It's entirely possible that the Falcons will start a run on DE/OLB "EDGE" players, and they should have several viable options at the position from which to choose.
18. Indianapolis Colts - Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State (6'7" 315)
The Colts absolutely must give Andrew Luck better protection, and while the Colts under the current regime have struggled to find offensive linemen who are a good fit, they can't give up on that effort. Decker excelled as part of an excellent Buckeyes team, and perhaps he could be the answer the Colts are looking for to protect Luck's blind side.
19. Buffalo Bills - Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss (6'4" 295) *
With Mario Williams having left town, there is a clear need for a new pass-rushing DE/OLB lineman. And while off-the-field concerns could cost Nkemdiche a chance to be a first-round pick, late rumblings out of Buffalo are strongly suggesting that the Bills could opt to take a chance on him at this point in the draft. A superstar prospect out of high school, Nkemdiche has tremendous talent, enough so to allow him to overcome the non-football related concerns that have surrounded him on at least some draft boards.
20. New York Jets - Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky (6'2" 250)
Spence was a breakout star in Mobile over Senior Bowl week, showing that he still has every bit of the skill that made him a five-star recruit who ended up at Ohio State. Drug issues cost him his spot in Columbus, but he found a second chance at FCS (I-AA) Eastern Kentucky, where he dodged off-the-field distractions and excelled against overmatched competition.
Linebacker is a need for the Jets, and it wouldn't surprise me if they traded up a few spots to leapfrog teams like the Falcons and Bills who could also be looking to draft a DE/OLB.
21. Washington Redskins - Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State (6'1" 200) *
Apple was a highly-touted prospect going into the Combine, but he took advantage of the setting to wow scouts and see his projected draft position move upward. He would be a solid addition to the Redskins' secondary and likely would be asked to contribute right away.
22. Houston Texans - Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor (5'11" 195) *
The Texans shelled out some big cash to land free agent QB Brock Osweiler from Denver, and it only makes sense to give him as many weapons to work with as possible. Coleman, who is already quite familiar with football in the Lone Star State, posted a blistering 4.37 40-yard-dash at his pro day, and he could end up pushing Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell for the distinction of being the first wide receiver off the board in 2016.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Josh Doctson, WR, TCU (6'4" 190)
Stefon Diggs was a breakout rookie star for the Vikings in 2015, a mid-round pick who came into the league long on potential but low on a guaranteed downside. He developed well down the stretch, but he can't do it alone. Mike Wallace did not pan out at receiver for Minnesota, and there should be an opportunity for Doctson to contribute out of the gate if he ends up being selected by the Vikings here.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss (6'2" 215) *
You would think the Bengals would prefer not to be on the tail end of a run on wide receivers, but their need at the position combined with the depth of players in this range makes it a viable option. Though it has been reported that both Minnesota and Cincinnati are both interested in Doctson, which if true could motivate the Bengals to trade up.
Absent that, Treadwell is another strong option. Treadwell showed remarkable skill at wide receiver for the Rebels, and though he suffered a gruesome leg injury in 2014, Treadwell returned last year and looked to have made a full recovery. He's not a speedster, but he is a talented receiver who is also an outstanding blocker.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers - William Jackson III, CB, Houston (6'0" 190)
A junior college transfer who excelled for Houston in 2014 and 2015, Jackson's blistering 4.37 40-yard-dash time at the combine gave his chances of going in round one of the 2016 NFL Draft a huge boost. His 23 pass breakups in 2015 led the nation (at least on the FCS level), and while there are concerns about perceived mental lapses, there is no question that Jackson has the physical goods to potentially develop into a top-level cornerback.
26. Seattle Seahawks - Germain Ifedi, OL, Texas A&M (6'5" 325) *
There are any number of directions that Seattle could take with this pick, but addressing offensive line need with Ifedi makes as much sense as any scenario here. The knocks on him are more about technique than ability, and with the right coaching he could become an excellent addition to the Seahawks' offensive line.
27. Green Bay Packers - Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama (6'1" 250)
The 2015 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Ragland has plenty of experience from his time in Tuscaloosa, where he led the Crimson Tide in tackles in his senior season. After weighing in at a hefty 259 pounds at the Senior Bowl, which raised some eyebrows, Ragland dropped 12 pounds between then and the NFL Combine. If he can stay lean, he has the potential to do some great things in the NFL.
28. Kansas City Chiefs - Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech (6'4" 325)
A dominating presence even in a draft very deep with defensive tackle talent, Butler excelled in Shreveport over the past two seasons, showing a remarkable knack for making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Butler is a very talented athlete who gives a consistent strong effort. The knocks on him are mostly mechanical in nature, and with the proper coaching and support staff, he has the capacity to do some impressive things at the next level.
You could also make the case for Mississippi State DL Chris Jones here, ditto for filling other need positions, such as Clemson's Mackensie Alexander at cornerback or Notre Dame's Will Fuller at wide receiver. Moreover, with that variety of options in play, the Chiefs could be tempted to trade down with one of the teams that inevitably will be anxious to move up from the top section of the second round.
If it plays out this way, Butler would become the first defensive player in Louisiana Tech history to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
New England Patriots - Forfeited
It's interesting to be at the NFL Draft in person, as I was in 2012, when a team's forfeited pick is quietly skipped. The NFL draws as little attention to it as possible. This is part of the punishment that the Patriots received from the NFL as part of the Deflategate scandal.
29. Arizona Cardinals - Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama (6'4" 310)
The 2015 Rimington Award winner as the best center in college football, Kelly has a very good chance of being the first interior offensive lineman drafted in 2016. An outstanding blocker, Kelly would fill a major need for Arizona, even if the Cardinals see taking him here as a bit of a stretch. But from all indications he had a good overall showing at the combine, and if he can stay healthy, he could pay dividends for Arizona for years to come.
30. Carolina Panthers - Kevin Dodd, DE/OLB, Clemson (6'5" 275) *
With Mario Williams leaving town, there is a clear need for a new pass-rushing DE/OLB (EDGE) lineman. Dodd had 23.5 tackles for loss (including 12 sacks) for the Tigers in 2015, and while lining up opposite from Shaq Lawson might have helped his production, he emerged as a bona fide potential first-round prospect in his own right.
31. Denver Broncos - A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama (6'3" 310) *
Denver faces the challenge that most Super Bowl winners encounter, having to reload after having several key free agents poached. That included DE Malik Jackson, who Jacksonville gave $42 million guaranteed to in order to lure him away from the Broncos. Robinson would help soften the blow of that loss, himself a key cog in a ridiculously talented front seven defense that stymied one opposing offense after another in Tuscaloosa.
* indicates player with NCAA eligibility for 2016 who relinquished it to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft