2016 NFL Draft: Mocking the Top 10 Picks
The 2015 NFL season took another step toward the finish line this past weekend, and with next week’s Divisional Round in the playoffs we’ll get even closer to another intense NFL off-season. That includes what should be a rather 2016 NFL Draft, which boasts some elite talent and as always, could have numerous teams thinking about taking the plunge for a new quarterback early in round one.
The Tennessee Titans picking first overall rules a quarterback out to get the draft rolling, however, unless Tennessee opts to trade down to a desperate team. That could happen, but we’re not in the business of predicting draft day trades – especially in January. Taking an early look at the top third of the 2016 NFL Draft is worth our time, though. Let’s keep it light for now, as there is so much that can happen over the next four months, and see what the first 10 teams could do with their first round pick in April:
1. Tennessee Titans – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Tennessee drafted Marcus Mariota last year, so they won’t need to spend the top pick on a passer the second time around. They definitely lack talent, though, so they could trade down to stockpile picks, or they could address issues on the offensive and defensive lines. Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa is probably in play, but Tennessee’s defense is already improving, so I think protecting their huge investment (Mariota) should take the cake here. Tunsil is the top left tackle prospect in this year’s draft, so he makes good sense to get the ball rolling in April.
2. Cleveland Browns – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
With Johnny Manziel looking less and less likely to stick in Cleveland and a new regime coming in to take over, it’s very likely the Browns spend their #2 overall draft choice on a new franchise passer. Lynch has the size, pocket presence and arm strength you look for, and was also a natural leader at Memphis. He looks like a fairly safe pick that also offers considerable upside. He’s also not the distraction or project than Manziel is/was. Cleveland could also opt for Jared Goff or Connor Cook, but a quarterback at this spot is rather likely, on way or another.
3. San Diego Chargers – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
San Diego was mostly fine offensively last year had it not been for a rough run of injuries. They surely need to address an increasingly diminished offensive line and Melvin Gordon certainly looks like a bust through one season, but they badly need to shore up a defensive line that helped the team to a paltry 32 sacks and couldn’t stop the run to save their lives. Bosa is a beast in terms of rushing the passer and has the strength and toughness to also help against the run. It’s also going to be tough to pass on a talent of his magnitude if he does fall to this post, regardless of need.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Jared Goff, QB, California
Tony Romo is 36 and going on dead. Fantastic when healthy, Romo has had more seasons ruined by injury that Cowboys fans would like to recall and can no longer be trusted as the long-term option beyond 2016. He’ll be back and fine for next season, but the Cowboys did not have a quality insurance plan and it blew up in their face. Dallas also has defensive needs and probably needs to get a legit running back, but they need to think both solid backup and long-term franchise quarterback answer in this year’s draft. Unless they think Johnny Manziel is their guy and can get him on the cheap, they need to take someone like Goff here.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
The Jaguars made major strides in 2015, but oddly seemed stuck in a rut defensively at times. There are numerous areas where they can improve, but landing a talented ball hawk that can turn games around in the defensive backfield is certainly one they will have to consider. Fourth overall is rather high for a cornerback or safety, but Ramsey is a true ball hawk who brings versatility and play-making to the table. With their offense locked up, the Jags need to get a big impact talent for the defense. Ramsey could be that guy.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
There’s no doubt a sagging Ravens defense struggled to defend the pass in 2015, but it’s quite arguable they need help on offense even more. The Ravens struggled to keep up with teams on offense in 2015, and while that had a lot to do with injuries, it also had a good amount to do with the talent they had at their disposal. Breshad Perriman never even played a down in his rookie season and now he and Steve Smith (torn Achilles) will again be counted on as the top two wide receivers. It’d be nice if that worked out, but the Ravens may not have the luxury to cross their fingers they both are healthy and effective. Instead, they should pluck the draft’s top receiver prospect (Treadwell) off the board.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
I’m personally not a huge believer in Cook, but he’s flashed brilliance at the college level and there is a great need for talented passers in the NFL. San Francisco is certainly a team that could take the dive for a passing upgrade early in the 2016 NFL Draft, as they appear dead set on cutting ties with the regressing Colin Kaepernick. Cook could possibly start from day one, but they also still have Blaine Gabbert to lean on in case he’s not ready. Still, with quarterback being their most glaring weakness on paper, this is a solid place for the new regime to start.
8. Miami Dolphins – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Miami was supposed to be vastly improved on the defensive side of the ball after bringing in star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh this past off-season. Suh alone could not overcome a dysfunctional locker room and a defensive system the players reportedly hated. The Fins slowly improved over the course of the season, but were still abused through the air on the year (allowed 250 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns). Adding another talented corner to help improve their pass defense could be the way to go for them.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
Lovie Smith got canned recently because he didn’t do enough to turn the Buccaneers into a feared defense. There was some minor progress, but the Bucs still tied for 14th in the league with just 38 sacks. They weren’t terrible, but it’s clearly a spot they can improve in. If Bucker is around at the eighth pick, Tampa Bay needs to seriously consider injecting some youth and upside into their pass rush.
10. New York Giants – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
The Giants are starting over at the top after asking Tom Coughlin to step down, but one big thing they need to do beyond switching who calls the shots is get more out of their pass rush. Lawson is a fierce presence on the edge and could end up playing a key role – even as a rookie – in helping turn the G-Men’s defensive line back into a real force.