This first 2016 NFL mock draft by me featured three top quarterbacks all gone by the eighth pick – and all of that hinges on Colin Kapernick being traded to The Denver Broncos from the San Francisco 49ers. The surprise here is Carson Wentz to the San Diego Chargers. He’s a Phillip Rivers clone and with Rivers at 34 and Kellen Clemens at 32, it’s hard to see San Diego letting Wentz get by them. That leaves the vastly underrated Paxton Lynch, who’s actual performance is better than the hype thus far – the bet here is he’s going to prove that on his pro day.
With that, here we go:
1. Tennessee Titans – Laremy Tunsil OT, Ole Miss – They drafted Taylor Lewan as the 11th pick two years ago. They could still trade down but Tunsil gives them a solid base for an OL for the future.
2. Cleveland Browns – Jared Goff, QB, California – Browns may trade down and get the LA Rams 1st and their two picks in the 2nd Round, but here I see Cal’s Goff off to Cleveland. Browns coach Hue Jackson has spent a lot of time with Goff, so I see this as the first action Cleveland takes.
3. San Diego Chargers – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State – Phil Rivers is 34 years old; the Chargers have resisted drafting a replacement for the legend, but with his signing a long term extension, and Wentz as much of a prospect more than a pencil-in starter, and with Kellen Clemens at 32 years old, Wentz is a natural fit.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey, FS, Florida State – I can’t see Jerry Jones, with his Al-Davis-like love for speed, letting the fleet, play-making, Deion Sanders-like Ramsey getting past him. Some like Ohio State’s Joey Bosa here, but I can’t see the Cowboys passing on Ramsey.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State – Some would put Miles Jack here, and that could be, but Bosa’s pro day, plus the Jags counting on the return of Dante Fowler, point to the Ohio State star.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Miles Jack, LB, UCLA – A perfect fit for the Ravens, who have a tendency to stock-pile linebackers that are great coverage specialists but have a fast first step to fill a defensive hole against the run. With Courtney Upshaw now an Atlanta Falcons LB, Jack is perfect.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis – This is contingent on the departure of Colin Kaepernick to the Denver Broncos, but with new head coach Chip Kelly absent a mobile QB who can throw well, Lynch is the best choice. His pro day is Wednesday, so let’s watch what happens – his already high stock could go into orbit and change the NFL Draft.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins) – DeForest Buckner, DE. Oregon – The Eagles have Sam Bradford, and seem committed to him as their QB, and besides, the top passers are gone already. To me, the chance to give top rated Fletcher Cox some help in Buckner is too good to pass up.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida – A lot of people would prefer Ronnie Stanley from ND here, but his Combine three cone drill was subpar and his play in space not the best. By contrast, Vernon Hargreaves III was considered the SEC’s best cornerback and has no weaknesses entering the NFL Draft.
10. New York Giants – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State – Ezekiel Elliott claims he will bring a ring to New York with the Giants; here he will get the chance to do it. Elliot could go higher to the Eagles but my feeling now is they will turn to defense, thus opening up the Giants chance to get the best RB in the 2016 NFL Draft.
11. Chicago Bears – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame – While the ND stand-out has footwork issues, the bet here is the Bears know him well enough to elect to work with his upside potential and sheer size. If he can learn to move his feet faster, Stanley will be one of the best in the NFL over time.
12. New Orleans Saints – Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss – Treadwell is a fast game play-making machine that will star in Sean Peyton’s passing attack. At 6-2, Treadwell just about fits the mold of the tall, fast receiver the Saints prefer.
13. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles) – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State – This, if it happens, will solidify Miami’s new look defense and give them the best chance they’ve had for challenging the New England Patriots. Darron Lee ran a 4.45 40 at the NFL Combine and blew away the field. A good place for Lee: Miami.
14. Oakland Raiders – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson – The addition of Shaq Lawson, paired with Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack, Sean Smith, and the other Raiders star defenders, will make Oakland the favorite to win the AFC West. Shaq lives in the offense’s backfield in college as he has a fast first step – indeed, his 40 time is 4.7! Fast for a defensive end, to be sure.
15. Los Angeles Rams – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State – Many want the returning LA Rams to make a big splash pick, but they are better off building a champion. Apple is a key element in that effort. A hitter who can run a 4.4 40, Apple is the kind of player who might give up a catch, but will not let the receiver gain another yard.
16. Detroit Lions – Sheldon Rankins, DE, Louisville – This is the best of the defensive tackles available and with his sheer power and high motor, will help the Lions interior defense.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama – Ragland may not be the faster linebacker but as the anchor for the Crimson Tide, he was every bit the enforcer. Ragland is the favorite pick of Falcons watchers and has what it takes to be the next Ray Lewis.
18. Indianapolis Colts – A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama – In the Colts 3-4 scheme, he could wind up playing some defensive end, but Robinson was the nation’s best DT coming out of high school, led Alabama in sacks his freshman year, and was one of the SEC’s best for his time at Alabama. The Colts would enjoy a massive upgrade on defense with Robinson.
19. Buffalo Bills – Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia – Linebacker is the Bills most obvious need and Floyd not only fills it well but at 6-6 also has the size to play as a defensive end.
20. New York Jets – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor – The Jets need a speed burning play-making receiver to complement their group of veterans wide-outs. Baylor star Coleman fits the bill here.
21. Washington Redskins – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State – My prediction is Conklin will give The Redskins the left tackle they need for the next five years, and more talent flexibility along the offensive line.
22. Houston Texans – Will Fuller,WR, Notre Dame – The Texans have a need for a fast wide receiver like Fuller and the NFL Combine star brings that. While not quite as fast in running receiver screens as Coleman is, Fuller can flat out fly by people.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama – Kelly is an excellent replacement for the 30 year old John Sullivan amd 11 year veteran Joe Burger. Plus. Kelly can play guard if need be but the Vikings are getting a little aged along the line and need some fresh blood.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss – Robert has just the kind of fast play and first step the Bengals need. Moreover, he’s the kind of player Marvin Lewis is not afraid to take a chance on and can get a lot of out.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson – The Steelers would not pass on the man who is as close to a true shut-down cornerback as you are going to find in the NFL Draft. The Clemson man more than fills a need for the Steelers – he will grow into a feared defender.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor – Seattle needs a young anchor for its defense and the Baylor star is that. Moreover, with the two starters at 10 and 9 years in the NFL, a youth injection is needed.
27. Green Bay Packers – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State – Brian Bulaga has been a seven year player at right tackle – Decker would be a nice addition and potential replacement for the star.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU – The Chiefs have other needs, but its hard for me to see them pass on TCU’s record-setting pass catcher. Many Chiefs watchers like him as the #2 to Jeremy Macklin and I have to agree.
New England Patriots (Forfeited)
29. Arizona Cardinals – Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky – The Cardinals had Spence in for a workout and have made defensive end a priority in this year’s draft. It is hard to see the Cards passing on him at 29.
30. Carolina Panthers – Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama – Henry gives Carolina a smash mouth, wear-you-down-all-day back that would be able to break it at any moment. The Panthers have good backs, but not a great one: enter The Heisman Trophy Winner.
31. Denver Broncos – Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech – The Broncos have to replace Malik Jackson, who went to get rich in Jacksonville. The best chance to recover from the loss is the anchor otherwise known as the four-year-starter who lived in the opponents backfield Mr. Butler at 6-4 and 323 pounds.