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Vance Meek’s 2016 NFL Mock Draft v 2.0
With the 2016 NFL Combine in the books, it’s a logical time to re-evaluate the previous NFL mock draft and make the necessary changes. Game tape is still the king in terms of projecting a player to the NFL, but the Combine serves as a good way to confirm some things seen in game action, or send a scout back to the tape to see if something was missed. With that in mind, here’s a post-Combine thought on the way things could work out, as always, based on my own rankings and thoughts on what teams should do, and not a reflection on what they will do because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to figure out NFL teams. (If you’d like to compare this to version 1.0, you can find it here.)
1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT: This pick is unlikely to change, barring a trade. Protecting Marcus Mariota is a must if the Titans want to compete in the AFC South. Tunsil had a terrific workout in Indianapolis, and cemented himself as the best tackle, and possibly the best player overall, in the draft.
2. Cleveland Browns: Carson Wentz, QB: The quarterback class of 2016 isn’t a strong one overall, and even Wentz isn’t without question marks, but he has all the physical tools to be a franchise passer. Number two overall is high, but it might be necessary if they really like Wentz, and they certainly have made it clear that quarterback is a priority.
3. San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, DB: The Chargers could go in a couple of ways, but Ramsey is arguably the best player in the draft, and he certainly fits a need in San Diego (and beyond). Whether he plays at safety or at corner, he upgrades the Charger secondary, a unit that has struggled in the past few years.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE: Bosa didn’t blow up the combine, and some are using that to drop him down boards, but one glance at his tape shows a player who can take over a game. Defense has been an issue for Dallas, and adding a pass rusher who can get consistent pressure could help get them back on track to being a contender.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack, LB: Off-ball linebackers don’t often go this high in the draft, but Jack has the potential to be a special player. His combination of size, speed, and ability will have scouts drooling, and his tape shows him to be a really good football player. The sky is the limit for him.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Ronnie Stanley, OT: A trade-back is very possible here, with needs both up front, and on the defense. Stanley is a solid pick if they hold here, though. He’s big and strong, with good footwork and a solid base. Keeping Joe Flacco protected will be key if the Ravens want to keep up with the top teams in the AFC North.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB: Every analyst and his/her brother is mocking a passer to the Niners here, but it would be a reach. Getting a potential shutdown corner is the better value pick, and helps a defense that ranked near the bottom in passing yards allowed and interceptions. Hargreaves might start right away.
8. Miami Dolphins: Shaq Lawson, DE: The Dolphins might use their franchise tag on Olivier Vernon, but you can never have too many pass rushers, even if they do. If they don’t tag Vernon, they can definitely use a player of Lawson’s caliber. He’s strong enough to hold up against the run, but has a nice set of pass rush moves as well.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mackensie Alexander, CB: Secondary help is badly needed in Tampa, and they’ll likely need to address it more than once. Alexander is a terrific athlete, with the quickness to stay with any receiver. The Bucs are another team that could be interested in trading down if the draft falls this way.
10. New York Giants: Noah Spence, DE: The Giants had questions on the front four even before free agency. With free agents galore at defensive end, adding a pure pass rusher is a good idea. Spence has huge red flags off the field, but he’s got the potential to be a stud if he has all of his issues behind him.
11. Chicago Bears: DeForest Buckner, DE: Rebuilding the defense is an absolute must for Chicago going forward. They have changed over to a 3-4 defense, but lack the personel to run it efficiently. Buckner would be a huge and powerful presence up front, with ridiculous length, and a very high ceiling.
12. New Orleans Saints: Laquon Treadwell, WR: With Marques Colston gone, the Saints suddenly have a need at WR for a big, strong receiver. Enter Treadwell. Though he didn’t shine at the Combine, tape shows him as the best receiver in the draft, in possession of a good frame, and a tremendous set of hands.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Jack Conklin, OT: Quarterback will be tempting here, but this spot is still too high for the remaining options. Getting a potential 10-year starter at tackle is a solid second option, especially with Jason Peters nearing the end of his career. He and Lane Johnson would be a pretty solid set of bookends for the future.
14. Oakland Raiders: Ezekiel Elliott, RB: Elliott is one of the most talented overall players in the entire draft. Running back isn’t a high-value position, and it’s not even Oakland’s biggest need, but he is too good to let go by. He’s a terrific runner, a good receiver, and a devastating blocker. A Derek Carr, Elliot, Amari Cooper triumvirate is going to be good.
15. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB: The Rams simply can’t go into 2016 with Case Keenum at quarterback if they expect to compete in a difficult NFC North. Goff has legitimate questions about his build and his small hands, but he’s ready to start right away, and has impressive poise in the pocket.
16. Detroit Lions: Taylor Decker, OT: Matthew Stafford has had some big seasons, and if the Lions want to maximize what he can do, especially with Calvin Johnson gone, he needs protection. Decker has good size and is a polished lineman who is an immediate upgrade to a porous unit that has to be improved.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, LB: One of the players who blew up the NFL Combine, Lee showed off ridiculous athleticism, while his game tape shows a player who just gets things done. He flies to the ball, and has the skillset to be solid in coverage as well. He’s a top talent who’d go higher if not for positional bias.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Cody Whitehair, OG: The Colts got hammered for taking a receiver in round one last year, instead of addressing the lines, especially when Andrew Luck proceeded to get hurt. Whitehair is NFL-ready and will start right away at guard. He’s a smart player with plenty of experience to lean on.
19. Buffalo Bills: Sheldon Rankins, DT: The strength of the Bills team has long been the front four, but 2015 was not a banner year. Adding another talented body is necessary. Rankins is a versatile player who moves well and can generate pressure, while still being effective against the run.
20. New York Jets: Reggie Ragland, LB: The Jets seem destined to pick a linebacker at this spot, either the pass rushing kind, or Ragland. Ragland isn’t blazing fast, but he is instinctive, moves quickly through traffic, and is a terrific finisher. His ability to avoid blocks makes him play faster than he’ll show in workouts.
21. Washington Redskins: Jarran Reed, DL: Reed is another player who could go much higher. He’s a force in the middle, using his strength and leverage to dominate blockers and shut down running games. He is ready to start right away, and should be a starter in Washington for a long time.
22. Houston Texans: Connor Cook, QB: Cook is not my third ranked quarterback, but he’s more NFL-ready and Bill O’Brien wants to win now. He has NFL size and arm, and plenty of experience as a starter, but needs to work on his poise under pressure. The AFC South is up for grabs, and a good quarterback could put Houston in the driver’s seat.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Su’a Cravens, LB: A former safety, Cravens made the move to linebacker and thrived. He’s a tough player with excellent instincts who knows how to fight through blocks and make the play. He’s a great athlete whose talents will be maximized by Mike Zimmer.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR: If the Bengals lose receiver Marvin Jones to free agency, a replacement will be needed, and Doctson would make a more-than-adequate one. He combines good size, with off-the-charts athleticism, and a tremendous catch radius. They could also address the interior here, but likely can get value there in round two.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB: The Steelers don’t often take cornerbacks this early in the draft, but it is too big a need to pass on this year. The secondary, overall, was lackluster, and several guys are free agents. Apple has good size and physicality, but is raw. His upside is high, however, and he could wind up being a steal.
26. Seattle Seahawks: William Jackson III, CB: The secondary might not be the biggest weakness for the Seahaws, but finding a good cornerback across from Richard Sherman certainly is a plus. He’s a great athlete who has the desired length for the NFL. He had a great Combine and could skyrocket up boards.
27. Green Bay Packers: Leonard Floyd, LB: The Packers should look to add a pass rusher in this draft, and Floyd fits the bill here. He’s long and quick, with good speed off the edge and stronger hands than one might think. Green Bay has been trying to build a championship defense, and guys who can sack the quarterback are needed.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: A’Shawn Robinson, DL: There are a number of pending free agents in Kansas City, especially on the defense, so they’ll likely draft some replacements. Robinson did not have a good Combine, but his raw talent could get him drafted much earlier than this. He’ll play early on.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Shilique Calhoun, LB: Another team looking for edge rushers, the Cardinals grab Calhoun here. He played defensive end in college, but should have no problem in a 3-4. He has terrific speed and closes on quarterbacks quickly, using his length and experience to his advantage.
30. Carolina Panthers: Jason Spriggs, OT: The starting duo for the Panthers played very well during the regular season, but were exposed against Denver’s pass rushers. Drafting a young tackle to groom for the future makes too much sense here. Spriggs is athletic for his size, and blocks well in both the run and passing games.
31. Denver Broncos: Vernon Butler, DL: Money could be an issue for the Broncos, and they could need help on the defensive line. Butler is huge, but plays like a man much lighter. He moves well in all directions and can generate his own pass rush, as well as being solid against the run. He has a terrific Senior Bowl.
Vance Meek can be found @vancemeek on Twitter.