With the conclusion of Super Bowl 50 this past Sunday, the NFL off-season is officially upon us; so what better time to post a new mock draft?
We saw the season come and go in the blink of an eye as the Denver Broncos captured another Super Bowl as they took down Cam Newton and the Panthers. Teams prepare all season long in hopes to hoist the Lombardi Trophy come February. The blueprint for these championship teams typically come via consistently successful offseasons, and it all starts through the draft – where teams find their core players.
Who are the next set of players that a franchise will build their team around? Find out who they are and where they land below:
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1. Tennessee Titans – OT, Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
As much as I want to give the Titans Joey Bosa here, the best player in the class, the more I think about Tunsil here, the more it makes sense. For a team that gave up a league-high 54 sacks this past season, getting protection for their prized franchise QB is pivotal this offseason – who better to fill that void than Tunsil?
2. Cleveland Browns – QB, Jared Goff, California
Clearly the Johnny Manziel era is over in Cleveland before it ever got started. Hue Jackson enters Cleveland as the team’s new head coach, an offensive guru who will be quick to grab his guy under center. It looks like it’ll come down between Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, but I’d have to go with Goff at this point.
There’s no denying Wentz’s ceiling is higher than Goff’s, but Goff provides more of a sure thing at this point and would be a good fit in Jackson’s offense.
3. San Diego Chargers – OT, Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
The Chargers have been without a premier left tackle for sometime now. King Dunlap is solid, but more of a stopgap at this stage in his career. Both Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon are desperate for some help up front. Stanley is a balanced offensive line who shutdown nearly everyone who came his way during his college career, including Shaq Lawson.
I consider Jalen Ramsey here, but the offensive minded Mike McCoy stays in his comfort zone.
4. Dallas Cowboys – DE, Joey Bosa, Ohio State
For Bosa to slip to 4 would be the best case scenario for Dallas. Bosa is the best player in this year’s class and for the 2nd year in the row we see that player slip out of the top 3. Bosa has incredible potential as a pass rusher and brings versatility. He would fit right in along with other young guys such as Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence along that line.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – CB/S, Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
For such a young team, the Jaguars are on the rise. Blake Bortles found his groove in his 2nd season, and the defense even stepped up. Gus Bradley needs some help in the secondary and gets another great building block here in Jalen Ramsey to go along with other youngsters such as Dante Fowler and Telvin Smith.
Ramsey is an elite athlete with good cover skills and great length. He can play either corner or safety, but it probably better suited as a safety in the NFL, especially with his range. This makes just too much sense for the Jaguars.
6. Baltimore Ravens – CB, Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
The Ravens could go a few routes here, but they elect to go BPA in VHIII. Hargreaves is a dynamic corner with tremendous athleticism and ball skills. He could step in from day one and start on the outside and re-fuel a Baltimore defense that has depleted over the years.
7. San Francisco 49ers – QB, Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
Chip Kelly makes a splash with this pick, would you expect anything less? Even with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, Kelly gets his guy under center. Wentz has the mobility Kelly likes, huge size and brings exponential upside to the table.
Kaep could very well be on his way out of San Francisco this offseason, and Gabbert isn’t a starting caliber QB, despite his solid play this past season. Wentz brings a franchise QB to the Bay Area.
8. Miami Dolphins – LB, Myles Jack, UCLA
One of the most disappointing teams this past season were the Miami Dolphins – despite a talented roster, they failed to play consistent football. They could use some help back in the secondary, but Myles Jack is just too good to pass up at this point.
Despite sitting out nearly all of 2015 with a torn ACL, Jack’s knack for the ball and explosive play at the LB position keeps him in the top 10. He’ll step in and be an instant difference maker.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DT, Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Despite the criminal charges, Nkemdiche remains in my top 5 big board. His stock has took a bit of a dive, but come draft time he should be back as a consistent top 10 projection.
Nkemdiche has unbelievable skill on the defensive line. He is an exceptional pass rusher and plays good against the run as well. His versatility fits great in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 scheme. Tampa Bay gets a great tandem with Nkemdiche and Gerald McCoy along that line.
10. New York Giants – WR, Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
Jaylon Smith probably makes the most sense here, but the Giants get a little bold here. After Odell Beckham, New York is very thin at receiver – Rueben Randle is set to his the free agent market, and who knows how effective Victor Cruz will be when he returns.
Treadwell is a gifted WR prospect and clearly the best at the position. Imagine a tandem of ODB and Treadwell.
11. Chicago Bears – DE, DeForest Buckner, Oregon
The Bears are desperate for some help up front on the defensive line. Buckner would be a great fit in Vic Fangio’s defense due to his strength on the outside. Buckner is has tremendous strength and length. An overall solid player who provides a sturdy presence up front.
12. New Orleans Saints – CB, Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
For the 2nd year in a row, the Saints bolstered one of the league’s worst secondaries. Brandon Browner didn’t workout which makes New Orleans even more desperate for corners. Mackensie Alexander is a great man cover corner with blazing speed. A bit raw, but the upside is worth it for the Saints.
13. Philadelphia Eagles – QB, Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Who knows what the Eagles will do here at #13, but who knows who will be under center for them in 2016. Right now it looks like they’re unlikely to bring back Sam Bradford, and they’ve even gone in desperation mode, reaching out about re-acquiring Nick Foles.
There’s no doubt that Paxton Lynch is a project, but he’s a project with tremendous upside, great size, and a rocket arm – the type of guy Doug Pederson wants under center.
14. Oakland Raiders – LB, Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
There’s no way the Raiders could pass on Jaylon Smith here. Not only does Smith bring great value in the middle of the 1st round, but he will provide a much needed difference maker in the middle of the defense with his great combination of power and speed. A great building block along with Khalil Mack.
While Smith may miss a good amount of time in 2016, he’s that good to keep his stock in the top half of the 1st round.
15. Los Angeles Rams – DE, Shaq Lawson, Clemson
If we were predicting trades in this mock draft, the Rams would likely jump a few spots to secure one of the top QBs. In this scenario, I see the Rams going BPA – and Lawson is just that, in my mind. Even though they’re stacked on the defensive line, they continue to build their defense in the trenches. With William Hayes and Eugene Sims set to hit the free agent market, along with an aging Chris Long – this actually is a justified pick.
Shaq Lawson brings great power and length to a strong Los Angeles defensive line. He brokeout in his first season as a starter as he made a living in the backfield, leading the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss. Lawson next to Aaron Donald on the line would be a great tandem.
16. Detroit Lions – DT, Andrew Billings, Baylor
The Lions would love to restore the presence on the defensive line that the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left behind this season. Both Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker are set to hit the free agent market as well.
One of the fastest rising players as the season went on, Billings plays with that bowling ball style and can provide great interior pass rush.
17. Atlanta Falcons – DE, Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
A defensive linemen goes off the board for the 3rd consecutive pick, and just one slot behind the co-Big 12 defensive player of the year as the Falcons try to improve their lackluster pass rush. This will mark the 2nd year in a row they go edge rusher after Vic Beasley had a solid rookie campaign.
Ogbah would serve as a great compliment to Beasley as he brings more of a power, strength style rather than a speed rush. Ogbah has great length and would fit right in Dan Quinn’s scheme.
18. Indianapolis Colts – RB, Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
We all know the Colts aren’t afraid to go out and get a franchise tailback. Their previous trade of Trent Richardson obviously didn’t workout and Frank Gore is a step away from retirement. Elliott is the top RB in the class who brings a good blend of power and speed. He will open up things in the passing game for Andrew Luck.
19. Buffalo Bills – DE/LB, Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
Carson Wentz stole the spotlight in Mobile during the Senior Bowl, but Noah Spence got himself a lot of recognition as well – I’ve seen him mocked as high as 9 on some mock drafts.
Spence has elite pass rusher skills and provides a great fit in Rex Ryan’s defense.
20. New York Jets – LB, Leonard Floyd, Georgia
The Jets fall two spots short of snagging Ezekiel Elliott, but they take a solid consolation prize in Leonard Floyd. Floyd has displayed great pass rushing ability at Georgia, but will need some polishing in the NFL.
21. Washington Redskins – LB, Reggie Ragland, Alabama
The Redskins get a huge steal in Reggie Ragland. The linebacker out of Alabama is a thumper in the middle with great instincts and ability. Not a 3 down player, but he can do an array of things on defense and brings good leadership. Great fit in the 3-4.
22. Houston Texans – NT, A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
The Texans are in a rough spot here, with a glaring need at QB, but none worth taking here. The key to a successful 3-4 defense is a good anchor in the middle of the defensive line. Vince Wilfork is ineffective at this stage of his career and Robinson is good value at this pick. The stout defensive linemen out of Alabama plays with a lot of power and excels in run defense.
23. Minnesota Vikings – OT, Taylor Decker, Ohio State
It’s been musical chairs on the offensive line for Minnesota the past couple years. Phil Loadholt is a health liability at this stage of his career and Matt Kalil isn’t a consistent blindside tackle for Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings elect to take Taylor Decker over Jack Conklin based on his mammoth size and huge upside.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – DT, Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
With no glaring needs, the Bengals take one the players with their stock on the rise. Sheldon Rankins would provide Cincinnati with another interior pass rusher opposite Geno Atkins – a lethal combination in a competitive AFC North division.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB, Eli Apple, Ohio State
The secondary remains a glaring weakness for the Steelers. While I don’t personally have a 1st round grade on Apple, he’s the guy in the next tier of corners I think they would take. At 6’1”, Apple offers great size and length at the position. Still a bit raw, he does have great potential.
26. Seattle Seahawks – OT, Jack Conklin, Michigan State
The Seahawks failed to give Russell Wilson consistent protection this past season. Jack Conklin is a solid, sturdy offensive linemen who would provide a consistent presence at left tackle – a huge need with Russell Okung set to test the free agent market.
27. Green Bay Packers – LB/S, Su’a Cravens, USC
There’s no doubt that Cravens is undersized, but I could see Green Bay buying into how the Cardinals utilized Deone Buchanon and trying to implement that into their own defense. Cravens does a little bit of everything and would bring a breath of fresh air to Green Bay’s defense.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – WR, Michael Thomas, Ohio State
At pick 28, we see only the 2nd WR go off the board. After Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs don’t have many options in the passing game. Thomas is a similar receiver to Maclin and the type of player Andy Reid looks for.
29. Arizona Cardinals – DL, Jarran Reed, Alabama
There’s no prototype in the Cardinals defense which means Jarran Reed will fit wherever they want to put him. He’d likely fill in at defensive end opposite Calais Campbell – a position that lacks youth and is arguably the team’s biggest need. Reed is a huge steal at 29 – a projected top 15 pick in most mocks.
30. Carolina Panthers – OT, Jason Spriggs, Indiana
The bright spot at losing the Super Bowl is your biggest weakness is exposed on the biggest stage. Carolina’s offensive line struggled mightily against a top tier Denver defense. Michael Oher was solid in the regular season, but not a sturdy blindside tackle for Cam Newton.
While still a bit raw, Jason Spriggs has the potential to be a Pro Bowler at left tackle with great size and power. Needs a bit of polishing, but he finds himself in a good situation in Carolina.
31. Denver Broncos – G, Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Not the sexy pick for the Super Bowl champs, but it’s clear the Broncos need help along the offensive line. Whitehair is pro-ready and can start from day one. The consensus top guard in this year’s draft class.
Top 10 Remaining Prospects:
1. WR, Corey Coleman, Baylor
2. DT, Kenny Clark, UCLA
3. CB, Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
4. DE, Kevin Dodd, Clemson
5. DL, Jonathan Bullard, Florida
6. DL, Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
7. WR, Josh Docston, TCU
8. DE, Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
9. LB, Darron Lee, Ohio State
10. LB, Scooby Wright, Arizona