With just hours until the 2016 NFL draft it seems like the perfect time to put out my first and final mock draft. To keep things simple there will be no trades in this mock, and I will explain my reasoning for each pick. I’ll be honest, I get a little tired of seeing the same names to the same places mock after mock, so expect plenty of surprises. Like a pick? Hate a pick? Let me know in the comments. Without further ado, let’s get the Los Angeles Rams on the clock.
With the first pick, Los Angeles Rams select: Jared Goff, QB, California
It took a lot to move up, but I like this move for the Rams. Goff doesn’t have the measurables nor the athleticism of Carson Wentz, but I think he can be a special player at the next level. Watching Goff’s tape his ability to read the defense really stands out. He has the ability to move through progressions mentally while nimbly avoiding would be tacklers in a collapsing pocket. Goff excels at threading the needle on short and intermediate passes and while he’s face some criticism for his deep ball he does a good job of keeping the ball away from defenders; either his guy is coming down with it or no one will. Given the talent the Rams have on defense and at running back this ability to minimize turnovers is crucial.
With the second pick, Philadelphia Eagles select: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
The Eagles are collecting quarterbacks this offseason and Wentz looks like he’ll make a fine addition. With both Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel on the roster Wentz will have plenty of time to get up to NFL speed, and more importantly continue working out the kinks in his game. As far as measurables and work ethic Wentz checks all the boxes, he’s a big, super athletic film junkie, but his on field performance leaves something to be desired. The North Dakota State product still has major strides to make with his footwork and decision making. He still looks a little to eager to run when things breakdown, and has a nasty habit of trying to force balls into double coverage. The tools and the desire are there making Wentz an ideal project for new coach Doug Pederson as Philadelphia looks to rebound from a lackluster 2015.
With the third pick San Diego Chargers select: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
The Chargers re-signed right tackle Joe Barksdale as well as back-up swing tackle Chris Hairston, which has me thinking they pass on the top tackle prospects and go right for my favorite player in the draft, Jalen Ramsey. I don’t love the idea of Ramsey as a ‘replacement’ for Eric Weddle as they are two different people, I’d also expect Ramsey to transition to cornerback at some point as pairing him with Jason Verrett could create a devastating combo on the outside.
I also love Deforest Buckner at this spot, he’d bring a much needed pass rushing presence and fit perfectly into the Chargers scheme, but this is a deep year for defensive lineman and Ramsey is too good to pass up.
With the fourth pick Dallas Cowboys select: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
If the Cowboys want to sell jerseys Ezekiel Elliott makes more sense. But I think it would be a mistake to pass on Lynch, if the team sees him as a future franchise quarterback. Even before the Rams and Eagles made their respective trades the word around Dallas was that the Cowboys believed Lynch had the highest ceiling of the top 3 quarterbacks, and they’re not alone in that thought. Lynch is an impressive athlete, who can sling it all over the field. He looks like Brock Osweiler with Colin Kaepernick’s running ability. Lynch needs time to develop, and he’ll have it in Dallas. Give him two years under Romo and when the cap number becomes untenable and the Romo era ends Lynch can take over without the team skipping a beat. And if you really want another running back to add some excitement, why not add Georgia’s Keith Marshall in the mid rounds?
With the fifth pick Jacksonville Jaguars select: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
I wouldn’t rule out one of the top tackle prospects, but between Luke Joeckel and Kelvin Beachum they likely hope their franchise left tackle is already on the roster and can use this pick to continue their ambitious overhaul of the defense. Floyd may not be as highly rated as Joey Bosa or Shaq Lawson, but he has been climbing draft boards and could bring much needed speed to the pass rush. I envision Floyd as a longer Bruce Irvin, starting out as a role player before growing into a three down pass rushing linebacker hybrid. At 6’6 and 245 pounds he’s rail thin, but that’s why teams employ dieticians and strength coaches. If Gus Bradley believes he can get Floyd to reach hi impressive upside this is a great pick…if not I like Vernon Hargreaves as a sneaky pick. He’s a baller who can slot in at nickel to start and bump outside if Prince Amukamara can’t stay healthy or struggles to live up to his one year contract.
With the sixth pick Baltimore Ravens select: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Would the Ravens really pass on Laremy Tunsil, let alone Ronnie Stanley, Joey Bosa and Myles Jack? Probably not, but it’s hard to ignore the fit. Baltimore is at it’s best with workhorse running back who plays all three downs, and right now I don’t think they have that. Justin Forsett is coming off an injury and has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, Buck Allen showed promise, but can he carry the load? Talliafero has struggled to see the field and the team was desperate enough at the position to bring in Trent Richardson. Elliott is an immediate upgrade at a position the team has struggled to fill since Ray Rice was kicked out of the league. Elliott is a talented pass catcher, and willing pass protector with good burst and vision. Eugene Monroe can hold down the Left Tackle spot as long as he stays healthy and help can be found at guard and on defense in the later rounds.
With the seventh pick San Francisco 49ers select Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame:
After hiring Chip Kelly as their head coach the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to draft a highly athletic tackle to play on the right side and serve as an insurance policy for their pro bowl veteran left tackle, I expect the 49ers to do the same. Laremy Tunsil is the higher rated prospect, but Stanley has experience at right tackle from his days playing opposite Zack Martin and is considered the better run blocker. Anthony Davis has said he plans to apply for reinstatement, but he hasn’t yet and there’s no accounting for what sort of shape he’ll be in when he does arrive. Stanley is ready to step in and reinvigorate an offensive line that has hemorrhaged talent the past couple seasons.
With the eighth pick Cleveland Browns select: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss:
The Browns have vowed to go best player available, though honestly if Tunsil drops this far the Titans will be chomping at the bit to trade up and snag him. But in this scenario Cleveland keeps the pick and locks down the right tackle spot vacated by Mitchell Schwartz. There might be a learning curve as Tunsil has never played on the right side before, but he’s exceptionally athletic and excels in pass protection. Top end protection will be especially crucial for a Browns team looking resurrect Robert Griffin III’s career. If Tunsil does end up off the board I would love to see them take Joey Bosa. If neither fall as they did here, another trade back could be the best course of action.
With the ninth pick Tampa Bay Buccaneers select: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Tampa Bay is surprised to see Bosa still on the board, but they will gladly take the Ohio State product. There’s been a lot of speculation that Vernon Hargreaves could be the pick, and he might, but the defensive line, specifically the defensive end spot seems like the biggest area of concern. Shaq Lawson should get some consideration, but in the end Bosa’s talents are too much to pass up. While Bosa is a better run stopper than pass rusher he’ll command attention away from stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and take some of the pressure of a secondary that was forced to try and pick up the slack for a poor pass rush in 2015.
With the tenth pick New York Giants select: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
Similar to the Ravens drafting Elliott this is less about what the team might do and more about what the team truly needs. After an offseason spending spree that saw the Giants fortify their offensive line and secondary with the likes of Jared Odrick and Janoris Jenkins, the cupboard remains uncomfortably bare across the board at linebacker. Ragland has been pushed down most mock draft because he struggles in pass coverage, but his ability to chase down running backs sideline to sideline and what he can bring as a leader to a defense that’s brought in a lot of new faces, far outweighs whether or not he can match up with TE’s in the pass game.
With the eleventh pick, Chicago Bears select, DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
Buckner’s talent says he should be a top 10 pick, but due to some scheme issues and more pressing issues with the top teams he falls to 11 where the Bears will be all too eager to take him off the board. Buckner is a perfect fit as a five technique in Vic Fangio’s defense. At 6’7, 291 pounds Buckner is a force to be reckoned with and will have an instant impact for a Bears defense still seeking playmakers.
With the twelfth pick, New Orlean Saints select, Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Given how deep this draft class is along the defensive line it might be wise for the Saints to take advantage of a weak receiver class by grabbing one of it’s top prospects. Brandon Coleman was never able command a high snap count, and with Marques Colston retired and Coby Fleener seeming to be a poor replacement for Jimmy Graham (or even Ben Watson) the Saints need another big bodied pass catcher to help Drew Brees. Doctson is still a little thin, but he’s more explosive, and a little taller than Laquon Treadwell. Doctson has hands like steel traps and excels at high pointing the ball making him a terror in the red zone, and a perfect compliment to Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead.
With the thirteenth pick, Miami Dolphins select, Myles Jack, LB/DB, UCLA
With reports that Jack’s knee injury may be worse than initially reported it’s tough to say where he’ll land or how far he might fall. The injury is said to be similar to the one suffered by Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, so perhaps the Miami medical staff will have some added insight or better understanding of what a worst case scenario could be. Jack would certainly bring some excitement to a defense that promises to be more exciting under new coordinator Vance Joseph. Whether Jack would line up as a linebacker or in the secondary will be for the Dolphins to decide, but his name has the splash that Mike Tannenbaum seems drawn to, and a versatile skill set that should please fans and coaches alike.
With the fourteenth pick, Oakland Raiders select, Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
After some solid drafting, and making good use of their ample cap space the past couple years, the Raiders are in position to take the best player available at number 14. In this case, that’s Florida cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves has the ball skills to go much higher, but his measurables (5’10, 4.50 in the 40 yard dash) could see him drop in as the league that favor taller defensive backs. The Raiders went out and signed Sean Smith, and have DJ Hayden and David Amerson on the roster, but Hargreaves is a bonafide playmaker with sticky coverage skills who should have little trouble snagging a starting spot and solidifying the back end of a defense no one will want to see in 2016.
With the fifteen pick, Tennessee Titans select, Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
While Conklin was a left tackle at Michigan State he’s expected to make his living on the right side in the NFL. In this case he makes the perfect bookend to compliment Taylor Lewan, who will get to stay on the left side if Tennessee is unable move up for Laremy Tunsil. Conklin is a big bodied hard noser blocker who will excel in the run game, which should be music to the ears of both DeMarco Murray and Marcus Mariota. As an added bonus, if in the future the Titans do want to shuffle Lewan to the right tackle spot, or Conklin struggles on the outside, his mean streak and running blocking prowess should allow him to excel inside as a guard.
With the sixteenth pick, Detroit Lions select, Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
The latest buzz on Rankins is that he won’t make it out of the top 10, though most recent projections see him going to the Saints at pick 12. The Louisville product has plenty of appeal as a scheme versatile, interior pass rusher who can create havoc in the backfield. The Lions keep him from falling out of the top half of the draft and put some fear back into the hearts of the rival NFC North quarterbacks. Rankins can have an Aaron Donald-like impact for the Lions if he’s available when they go on the clock.