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Vance Meek’s 2016 NFL Mock Draft v 1.0
The 2015 NFL season isn’t quite over, with the Super Bowl still to be played, but for 30 teams, and their fans, its officially draft season. Looking ahead to the actual draft process inevitably brings with it the NFL mock draft. Mock drafts are plentiful at this time of the year, because it’s always interesting to get takes on who teams might target, they’re fun to put together, and anybody can do it. It’s very early (too early) to predict with any kind of accuracy what will happen in the actual selection process, but here’s my first shot at what the 2016 NFL Draft will look like. This is based on a mix of team needs, and my own rankings, rather than a straight-up prediction of what will happen.
1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil-OT: The Titans invested in a franchise quarterback last year, so it makes sense to protect him. In 2015, Marcus Mariota was sacked a lot, sitting among the league leaders. If the Titans want to compete in the AFC South, they have to keep Mariota upright and making plays. Tunsil is the best offensive lineman, and maybe the best player overall, in this draft.
2. Cleveland Browns: Joey Bosa-DE: Quarterback could be an option here, but the Browns have multiple needs, and passing on the best player available, and top player overall on many boards, isn’t the best move. Bosa is a force, and can win from several positions, and in several different ways. He already has a well-rounded skill-set and is ready made for the NFL.
3. San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey-DB: Eric Weddle is all but gone, Brandon Flowers was abysmal this season, and Jason Verrett is really good, but often injured. Ramsey is very talented, and can play cornerback or safety, and his combination of size and skill are tantalizing. It’s a passing league, and the Chargers secondary isn’t good enough.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Myles Jack-LB: Another extraordinary athlete, Jack should step in right away and start making plays for the Cowboys. Off-ball linebackers aren’t often taken this early, but Jack is a special player, and instantly improves a defense that needs to improve if they want to be serious Super Bowl contenders in 2016.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Vernon Hargreaves III-CB: The Jaguars need better cornerbacks, and Hargreaves is the top rated player at that position on the board. There may be some concerns about height, but that’s offset by his ability to play bigger than his size. He also plays the run, and isn’t afraid to make a tackle.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Ronnie Stanley-OT: The last time the Ravens used a top ten pick on a tackle, they selected Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden. That’s an unfair comparison, but Baltimore could use an All-Pro caliber tackle to protect Joe Flacco. He’s not as refined as Tunsil, but he could develop into a high-quality player.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Jared Goff-QB: The QB situation is interesting for the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick is set to make a ton of money in 2016 (though he can be cut post-June 1 for a big savings), Blaine Gabbert started most of last year, and they have a new head coach in Chip Kelly. Goff is the top passer on the board, possessing a good arm, quick release, and an ability to read defenses.
8. Miami Dolphins: DeForest Buckner-DE: Olivier Vernon is a free agent, but whether or not he’s re-signed, the Dolphins would benefit from adding another dynamic pass rusher to the defensive line. Buckner is huge powerful, and would make a nice compliment to Cameron Wake on the opposite side of the line. He plays the run well, and knows how to bully his way to the quarterback.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mackensie Alexander-CB: The Buccaneers are another team that needs help in the secondary if they want to take the next step. Like Hargreaves, he lacks ideal NFL height, but his instincts are good, and he has the attitude necessary for success, and plenty of room to get better.
10. New York Giants: Shaq Lawson-DE: It’s not hard to see that the defense cost the Giants a playoff spot last year in a division up for grabs. The defensive line is in flux, and drafting a pass rusher makes too much sense. Lawson has good strength and is not only a top pass rusher, but plays the run very well too.
11. Chicago Bears: Reggie Ragland-LB: Great linebackers have been a staple of the Bears organization for a long time, and they would like to get back to that. Ragland is a playmaking linebacker who has all the tools to be the next Bears great. He runs well, is a sound tackler, and his instincts are impeccable.
12. New Orleans Saints: Jaylon Smith-LB: The Saints defense is still the weak unit, and is in need of playmakers. Enter Jaylon Smith. A serious knee injury will have him unavailable to start the season, but once healthy, he’ll make a difference right away. He flies around the field, and has a nose for the football which makes him a top 15 pick, despite the injury.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Jarran Reed-DL: Quarterback could be an option here, but with the value not right, the Eagles add a stout defensive lineman who can hold up at the end and affect other teams’ running game. He’s not a great pass rusher, but he’s a physical player, and a solid tackler who will make plays.
14. Oakland Raiders: Darron Lee-LB: If there’s a question about speed at linebacker, Darron Lee is the answer. The Raiders could use a linebacker who can make plays all over the field, and Lee does just that. He has the speed to make plays sideline to sideline, and is good in coverage, as well as against the run.
15. Los Angeles Rams: Laquon Treadwell-WR: The Rams offense has some talent, but they could use a big-time receiver on the outside, and Treadwell fits the bill. The top receiver in the draft has good size and terrific hands. He also is excellent at going up to pluck passes out of the air over defenders.
16. Detroit Lions: Taylor Decker-OT: There could be a lot of change on the Lions offense this offseason, but regardless of those changes, the offensive line needs upgraded. Decker is a strong pass blocker with great length and strength. If Matthew Stafford is back, he’ll need time to throw, even if it’s no longer to Calvin Johnson.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Jonathan Bullard-DE: The Falcons need to be stronger up front, and look to add some size to go with the speed they drafted last year. Bullard is a big defensive end who can set the edge in the run game, while having enough moves to provide a pass rush when needed.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Ezekiel Elliott-RB: A trade back to gain extra picks and get value on the offensive line is a distinct possibility, but in this situation, with the tackle value not there, Elliott makes the most sense. He’s a top ten talent in the draft, and might be gone by this pick. He has breakaway speed, great vision, terrific balance, and is even a devastating blocker. He’s the real deal.
19. Buffalo Bills: Robert Nkemdiche-DL: Rex Ryan likes defense, and he certainly isn’t afraid to take on talented players with off-field issues. Nkemdiche had a much-publicized incident recently, but on the field, is clearly talented. He’s a terrific athlete, and with some refinement, could be a terrific interior pass rusher at the NFL level.
20. New York Jets: Leonard Floyd-LB: The Jets will look to improve their pass rush for the 2016 season, and Floyd can do that very well. He’s lightning-quick off the edge, has good length for a pass rusher, and is still developing his skills. An improved pass rush could get the Jets into the playoffs.
21. Washington Redskins: Andrew Billings-DT: Billings is a big, strong run stuffer who knows how to use his size to get to ball carriers. The Redskins defense was instrumental in their playoff trip this season, and with free agency potentially taking Terrance Knighton, Billings is a natural option to replace him.
22. Houston Texans: Carson Wentz-QB: Already a playoff contender, the Texans might be a quarterback away from being Super Bowl contenders. Wentz has all of the physical tools an NFL team could ask for. There are questions about the level of competition he faced, and his ability to adapt to a pro style offense, but he has a sky-high ceiling.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Jack Conklin-OL: A young quarterback’s best friend is his offensive line, and Teddy Bridgewater can use better friends. Conklin is a nasty blocker in the run game, though his pass blocking needs work. The Vikings could try him inside at guard, too, where they could also use help.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kenny Clark-DT: Marvin Lewis and the Bengals have a couple of ways they could go, but addressing the defensive line seems most likely. Domata Peko has been a fixture at defensive tackle, but they take his eventual replacement here. Clark is a powerful run stuffing lineman who plays hard on every play and never gives up.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple-CB: The Steelers’ needs start and end in the secondary. Thought they played better as a unit in the second half of the season, they badly need to be upgraded. Apple is a big, physical corner who will struggle early in his career, but with his size and physicality, has a very high upside.
26. Seattle Seahawks: A’Shawn Robinson-DT: A strong defensive line is a hallmark of the success of the Seahawks in recent years. With free agency set to possibly relieve them of interior linemen, grabbing the talented Robinson makes sense here. He has good quickness for a man his size, and plays the run well also.
27. Green Bay Packers: Noah Spence-LB: Aaron Rodgers and the offense make the Packers yearly playoff contenders, but their defense is the key to getting them to postseason wins. Spence is a potentially dominant pass rusher, with a quick first step and the quickness to beat blocks. His off-field issues will weigh heavily on NFL GMs.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Michael Thomas-WR: The Chiefs added Jeremy Maclin this past offseason, and the offense was much more dynamic. Adding a big receiver to put opposite Maclin only helps Alex Smith further. Thomas uses his big body well, and has the hands to bring in the contested catches.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Hunter Henry-TE: Jermaine Gresham was signed for the 2015 season, but they might not view him as the long-term answer. Henry is the top tight end in this year’s class. He’s an athlete, with good hands, and a knack for getting open. He’s not a very good blocker, but he can be a weapon in the Cardinals offense.
30. Denver Broncos: Jason Spriggs-OT: Free agency is looming, and the offensive line for the Broncos is likely to need addressing. Spriggs is big and agile, with quick feet and balance, but he may have some initial struggles, coming from a spread offense. He should eventually be a solid starter in Denver.
31. Carolina Panthers: Emmanuel Ogbah-DE: The Panthers defense is one of the league’s best, but they keep addressing it here. Ogbah put up big numbers in college, combining a big, physical frame with enough athleticism to consistently get to opposing quarterbacks. With Jason Allen’s age becoming a factor, Ogbah could get playing time early and often.