The 2016 NFL draft is exactly a month away. The roster shuffling of the free-agent signing period has mostly subsided, and the big boards in draft headquarters around the NFL have shifted based on what happened in free agency.
The Eagles and Dolphins made a trade involving the eighth and 13th picks, and even though Chip Kelly wasn’t involved with that deal he’s still making waves in this mock draft.
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
The Titans have added skill-position players DeMarco Murray and Rishard Matthews and center Ben Jones. Now it’s time to work on Marcus Mariota’s blind side. Laremy Tunsil has some durability concerns, but allowed just two sacks in 28 collegiate games.
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Just like four years ago, Robert Griffin III and the No. 2 pick form one of the main story lines of the draft. Despite signing Griffin, the Browns still draft Carson Wentz, partly because quarterback-needy teams will be wary of making the same mistake the Redskins did in trading up to No. 2 to get Griffin. Some might wonder why the Browns are drafting a quarterback after signing Griffin, but a lot of people wondered why the Redskins drafted Kirk Cousins in 2012 after drafting Griffin. We know how that turned out.
Jalen Ramsey, FS, Florida State
The Chargers replace Eric Weddle with Jalen Ramsey, who can play any position in the secondary. A 2015 All-America who broke up 22 passes and made 15.5 tackles for loss in three seasons, Ramsey would become the first safety chosen with one of the top three picks since the Browns drafted Eric Turner second overall in 1991.
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
The Cowboys were last in the NFL with 11 takeaways in 2015. There were nine games in which they forced no turnovers. Vernon Hargreaves III can help with that. He’s a three-time First Team All-SEC member and a 2015 All-America selection. He had 10 interceptions at Florida and his 27 passes defended is the second-most in the SEC since 2005.
Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
Myles Jack missed most of the 2015 season with a torn meniscus, but he’s been putting his health concerns to rest during the pre-draft process. He hit 40 inches in the vertical leap at UCLA’s pro day. The Jaguars added Malik Jackson, Prince Amukamara and Tashaun Gipson in free agency, but didn’t address the linebacker position. In 29 games, Jack recorded 15 tackles for loss, four interceptions and 19 passes defended.
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Terrell Suggs’ health is a concern and Courtney Upshaw has been scooped up by the Falcons, so the Ravens have a need at outside linebacker. Joey Bosa forced four fumbles in 2014. He only forced one in 2015, but then again he faced a lot of double teams. Bosa had 13.5 sacks in 2014 and five in 2015 and was an All-American in both seasons. He could be converted to linebacker in the NFL and is a steal anywhere outside the top five.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
The Eagles trade away DeMarco Murray and trade up in the draft thinking they can get Ezekiel Elliott, but Chip Kelly pulls a fast one on his former team by taking Elliott. It can be argued that the 49ers have a need at running back with the underwhelming tandem of Carlos Hyde and Shaun Draughn. But Kelly is just crazy enough to draft Elliott out of spite.
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
The Eagles will switch to a 4-3 defense under new coordinator Jim Schwartz and the 6’3″, 269-pound Shaq Lawson could fit in various places in that scheme. Lawson led the FBS with 24.5 tackles for loss in 2015 and also was tied for fourth with 12 sacks. He was fourth among defensive ends with a 4.7 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.
DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
The Buccaneers defense yielded a 102.5 passer rating in 2015. Only the pathetic Saints defense allowed a higher rating. Tampa Bay signed defensive end Robert Ayers in free agency, but continues to beef up its defensive line with the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year. DeForest Buckner led the conference with 10 sacks in 2015 and also was fourth with 17 tackles for loss.
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
The Giants threw a ton of money at their defense in free agency and turn their attention toward the offense on Day 1 of the draft. They hope that Ereck Flowers, their first-round pick last year, and Ronnie Stanley can form their tackle tandem for the next decade or so. The 6’6″, 312-pound Stanley was a second-team All-American in 2015.
Jared Goff, QB, California
Jay Cutler had a career-best 92.3 passer rating with Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator in 2015. Gase is the Dolphins coach now, and the Bears need to find an eventual replacement for Cutler, who will be 33 next season and has reached the playoffs just once in his 10-year career. Jared Goff will be the first quarterback drafted from Cal since the Bears’ oldest rival took Aaron Rodgers in 2005.
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
The Saints did little to address their defense in free agency. Among the unit’s many woeful statistics is 4.9 yards allowed per carry, worst in the NFL. The Saints begin rebuilding their defense up front. The 6’1″, 299-pound Sheldon Rankins can stop the run and also be disruptive (13 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2015).
Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
The Dolphins are picking 13th instead of eighth as part of the deal that brought cornerback Byron Maxwell to Miami. Maxwell is a wild card, however, after his disappointing year with the Eagles and the Dolphins have little depth behind him at cornerback. Eli Apple (6’1″, 199 pounds) has decent size for the position. He intercepted four passes, broke up 17 passes and had 17.5 tackles for loss in two years at Ohio State.
Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama
The Raiders really could use a middle linebacker in their 4-3 defense after releasing Curtis Lofton, but Reggie Ragland will slide down a lot of boards because of his anemic 13 bench-press reps at his pro day. Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith highlight the Raiders’ free-agent class on defense, and in the draft they beef up the front with the 6’3″, 307-pound Jarran Reed, a second-team All-SEC pick in 2015.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
The Rams lack a true No. 1 wide receiver. They knocked it out of the park with Todd Gurley in the 2015 draft and hope to do the same at another skill position with Laquon Treadwell. The 6’2″, 211-pound Treadwell was third in the SEC with 82 receptions last season and led the conference with 1,153 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns.
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi
The Lions went from the third-ranked defense in points allowed and second-ranked defense in yards allowed in 2014 to 23rd and 18th, respectively, last season. They just weren’t the same without a controversial defensive tackle. Robert Nkemdiche comes with a few red flags, but the Lions prevent him from falling too far in the first round and Mississippi players go back-to-back in the draft for the first time since Michael Oher and Peria Jerry in 2009.
DE Robert Nkemdiche has met with four teams thus far: Chargers, Lions, Raiders, Redskins. All at NFL combine.
— Paul Maland (@FantasyProsNFL) March 21, 2016
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
The Falcons were last in the league with 19 sacks in 2015. Emmanuel Ogbah led the Big 12 with 12.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in 2015, sharing the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year honors with Andrew Billings of Baylor. Ogbah also set a school record with 19 quarterback hurries last year. The Falcons hope that he can help Vic Beasley get after the quarterback.
Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
The Big 12 co-Defensive Players of the Year go back-to-back as the Colts address a defense that was in the bottom 10 against the run, against the pass and overall in 2015. Cornerback Patrick Robinson is the only defensive piece the Colts have added in free agency. Andrew Billings had 15 tackles for loss in 2015 and could be the nose tackle in the Colts’ 3-4 defense.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Defensive end Mario Williams and outside linebacker Nigel Bradham are gone mainly because they weren’t scheme fits. A’Shawn Robinson comes from a base 3-4 defense at Alabama and had 22 tackles for loss in three years there. The 6’4″, 307-pounder lined up at various positions on the defensive line and was a consensus All-American in 2015.
Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
The Jets get someone who can help protect the quarterback, whoever that quarterback turns out to be. Pro Football Focus ranked the Jets offensive line 26th in the NFL, down from 13th in 2014. Jack Conklin, who started as a walk-on at Michigan State, earned a scholarship in 2013 and started 12 games at left tackle last year. He was fourth among offensive linemen with a 5.00 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.
Kiper says Michigan State T Jack Conklin would make sense for Jets at 20 if he falls to that spot.
— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) February 22, 2016
Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
Terrance Knighton remains unsigned. While the 6’4″, 323-pound Vernon Butler is about 30 pounds lighter than Pot Roast, he’s a lot younger and he had 10 tackles for loss, three sacks and eight quarterback hurries in 2015. He earned First-Team All-Conference USA honors.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
The Texans signed Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, and round out their skill-position upgrade with the top remaining wide receiver on the board. Corey Coleman caught 74 passes for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015. DeAndre Hopkins led the Texans with 111 receptions last year. Their second-leading receiver, Nate Washington, caught only 47 and now he’s a Patriot. The Texans hope Coleman can provide more production from receivers not named Hopkins.
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Mike Wallace is gone. He’ll be 30 next season and isn’t the vertical threat that he was earlier in his career. Will Fuller led all receivers with a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine, one-hundredth of a second faster than Wallace ran in 2009. The 6’0″, 186-pound Fuller averaged 20.3 yards on his 62 receptions last season and caught 29 touchdown passes in his last two years at Notre Dame.
Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
At some point the Bengals might decide that Vontaze Burfict isn’t worth the headaches, and they get some value with Darron Lee dropping to No. 24. Lee was the top linebacker at the combine with a 4.47 40-yard dash and 133-inch broad jump. After taking over for Ryan Shazier, Lee made 27 tackles for loss, had 11 sacks and three interceptions in two seasons.
William Jackson III, CB, Houston
The Steelers try to shore up their 30th-ranked pass defense by drafting a cornerback in the first round for the first time since Chad Scott in 1998. William Jackson III led the nation with 23 pass breakups in 2015 and returned two of his five interceptions for touchdowns. He was the third-fastest cornerback at the combine with a 4.37 40 and according to NFL.com allowed just 40 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed over the past two years.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Mackensie Alexander proclaimed himself the best cornerback in the draft at the combine despite not intercepting a pass in two years at Clemson. He wouldn’t be the only cocky cornerback in Seattle. That lack of interceptions might have something to do with teams not throwing the ball his way. He yielded a 29.6 percent completion rate and no touchdowns, according to NFL.com. Alexander broke up 11 passes in two seasons and was named First-Team All-ACC in 2015.
Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
The SEC Defensive Player of the Year’s free fall ends here. Reggie Ragland is just what the Packers need, allowing them to move Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker. Ragland made 17.5 tackles for loss in four seasons and broke up 10 passes in 2015. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix worked out pretty well, and the Packers again tap Alabama to strengthen the interior of their defense.
Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
The Chiefs need to replace Justin Houston, who will likely sit out the 2016 season with an ACL injury. Floyd had 17 sacks in three seasons at Georgia and was a combine star, performing in the top five at the linebacker position in the 40 (4.6), vertical leap (39.5) and broad jump (127.0). His 6’6″ height is eye candy for scouts, but the Chiefs will want to do something about that 244 on the scale.
Jalen Mills, FS, LSU
Rashad Johnson went to the Titans, and the Cardinals try to plug that hole by taking a chance on a defensive back from LSU with character concerns. Sound familiar? Tyrann Mathieu helped the Cardinals reach the NFC title game with an All-Pro season in 2015, and the Cardinals hope for similar success with Jalen Mills even if Mills is a cornerback/safety tweener. Mills’ position can be questioned but his toughness can’t. Despite breaking his leg and tearing ankle ligaments in August he made 30 tackles in six games last season.
Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Super Bowl 50 notwithstanding, Pro Football Focus ranked the Panthers’ offensive line second in the NFL in 2015. Mike Remmers and Michael Oher had very little to do with that, however. Taylor Decker, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, should push those ham-and-eggers for a job at one of the tackle spots. The 6’7″, 310-pounder seems to be pegged as a right tackle at the next level.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
— Charley Casserly (@CharleyCasserly) March 24, 2016
Perhaps the Texans did the Broncos a favor by signing away Brock Osweiler. Lynch would have been on Houston’s radar at No. 22 had Osweiler stayed in Denver. The 6’7″, 244-pound Lynch increased his output of touchdown passes in three years at Memphis, going from nine to 22 to 28, and decreased his interceptions (10/9/4). This pick would change if the Broncos get Colin Kaepernick, but Carson Wentz didn’t play at the highest collegiate level and Jared Goff was 13-23 as a starter. There’s a chance Lynch could turn out to be the top quarterback in this class.