NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition

With the Super Bowl complete, and the Denver Broncos now the NFL’s reigning champions, the off season is in full swing for all 32 teams. With draft season fast approaching, it’s time for the first installment of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft. These picks are based upon who I believe these teams need to take, given their current roster and draft tendencies.

1. Tennessee Titans 

CB Jalen Ramsey (Florida St.)

The common pick here is Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil or Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, and while both would be appropriate, but the Titans have an extremely talent-deficient secondary that could use a player like Ramsey. He’s versatile enough to play outside, or as a deep safety, and with a division full of big-play receivers, having an elite cover man is necessary.

2. Cleveland Browns

QB Jared Goff (California)

Hue Jackson saw what a talented quarterback can do to a franchise when he helped Andy Dalton to a career year in 2015 in Cincinnati. With his first pick as the Browns head coach, he has the chance to do the same in Cleveland and inject life into a miserable franchise. Goff has all the tools needed to be a successful quarterback, and the Browns do have some offensive talent to build around.

3. San Diego Chargers

T Laremy Tunsil (Mississippi)

The Chargers offensive line woes continued last season, resulting in another playoff-less season. While Philip Rivers was a statistical success, the ground game left much to be desired, and even Rivers couldn’t overcome the countless pre-snap penalties. Tunsil is the draft’s most talented lineman, and in a division chock full of dominant pass rushers, San Diego would be wise to invest in the most important part of a team.

4. Dallas Cowboys

DE Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Tony Romo, while injury prone, still has plenty of good football left in him, and the Cowboys problems go far beyond the quarterback instability they suffered last season. To truly make an impact in the NFC, the Cowboys need to put forth better defense. Bosa, an other-worldly defender who can stuff the run and chase the quarterback, would inject much needed athleticism and talent into a needy defense.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

OLB Myles Jack (UCLA)

With last year’s No. 3 overall pick, DE Dante Fowler, returning, the Jaguars can focus on another part of their struggling defense. Jack is an athletic backer who can cover and chase sideline to sideline. As an added bonus, he can also play running back. Gus Bradley would be foolish to pass up such a valuable asset, despite Jack missing most of the season due to injury – quitting school and preparing for the draft after.

6. Baltimore Ravens

WR Laquon Treadwell (Mississippi)

Steve Smith may be returning, but he’s 36 years old. A duo of the physical Treadwell, paired with Breshad Perriman, last year’s first round pick and well-known speedster (who missed all of 2015), could be deadly under an offense guided by the rocket-armed Joe Flacco.

7. San Francisco 49ers

QB Carson Wentz (North Dakota State)

His ascent has been surprising, and well-documented, and the 49ers are in desperate need of better quarterback play. Colin Kaepernick has been a colossal bust, and the team does not seem committed to him as the long term starter. In a division where the two power houses have elite quarterbacks (Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer), the Niners would be wise to acquire one of their own.

8. Miami Dolphins 

LB Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame)

If not for his knee injury, he may be in the conversation for the first pick. He has the ability to play in a 3-4 or 4-3, given his speed, coverage ability, and overall on-field awareness.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

DE DeForest Buckner (Oregon)

He’s a major upgrade over William Gholston and Jacquies Smith, and he gives the Bucs a young, defensive standout to build around as they attempt to compete in a weak NFC South.

10. New York Giants

DT Robert Nkemdiche (Mississippi)

If the Giants are to return to the playoffs, then their defensive line must improve. Nkemdiche is an explosive player who provides size and strength to a lacking unit.

11. Chicago Bears

CB Eli Apple (Ohio State)

Apple is a great cover man, and has good size and athleticism to give the Bears a solid 1-2 punch at cornerback with Kyle Fuller. Doubling up on cornerback is a must in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.

12. New Orleans Saints

CB Vernon Hargreaves (Florida)

The Brandon Browner experience was a bust, and while the Delvin Breaux experiment fared far better, the Saints need a true No. 1 cornerback. Vernon is 5’11, but he can play outside or in the slot.

13. Philadelphia Eagles

QB Paxton Lynch (Memphis)

Quite the physical specimen (6’7, 245 pounds), he’s got the potential to be the franchise quarterback the Eagles have missed since Donovan McNabb. New head coach Doug Pederson doesn’t seem sold on Sam Bradford as the future, and quite frankly, he shouldn’t, and is rumored to be interested in Chase Daniel.

14. Oakland Raiders

CB Mackensie Alexander (Clemson)

Oakland is still recovering from the massive failure of D.J Hayden, so they take another cornerback as they continue to build up their defense. He lacks ideal size (stands at 5’11), but he’s an incredible cover man. Do not let his interception totals fool you.

15. Los Angeles Rams

T Ronnie Staley (Notre Dame)

Paxton Lynch is gone, but that doesn’t mean the Rams can’t improve their offense. Staley is an upgrade over Rob Havenstein, and he’s insurance in case Greg Robinson doesn’t improve. This selection goes a long way in protecting whoever the Rams decide to start at quarterback.

16. Detroit Lions

DT A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama)

He’s the best interior defensive lineman in the draft, and the Lions struggled on the interior last season without Suh and Fairley.

17. Atlanta Falcons

MLB Reggie Ragland (Alabama)

They could use another pass rusher opposite Vic Beasley, but with none worth taking on the board, they do the next best thing and upgrade their linebacking corps. Ragland has the ability to be the NFL’s next great linebacker.

18. Indianapolis Colts

T Jack Conklin (Michigan State)

If the Colts are serious about contending for the AFC South next season, then they need to get serious about protecting Andrew Luck, who suffered a myriad of injuries in a dissapointing campaign. Conklin is a tough, powerful blocker who can start day one.

19. Buffalo Bills

DT Jarran Reed (Alabama)

The Bills defense disappointed last season, but drafting A’Shawn Robinson’s running mate would do a good deal in returning Buffalo’s defense to its former ranks.

20. New York Jets

RB Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State)

With Chris Ivory unlikely to return, the Jets pick up the draft’s best, and most NFL ready running back. Elliot can run downhill, as well as laterally, while being advanced in pass protection schemes. Elliot is a home threat run every time he touches the ball.

21. Washington Redskins

S Karl Joseph (West Virginia)

The Redskins secondary could use an upgrade at safety over Dashon Goldson, and while Joseph is coming off a knee injury, he’s a good playmaker on the back end.

22. Houston Texans

DT Sheldon Rankins (Louisville)

Vince Wilfork’s time may be coming to a close, and even if it isn’t, the Texans need a younger, faster body on the interior of their defense if they are to make J.J Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus more effective.

23. Minnesota Vikings

WR Corey Coleman (Baylor)

To truly help Teddy Bridgewater grow into the franchise quarterback they need him to become, the Vikings should look long and hard at the home-run hitting play of Coleman, who will give the Vikings a big-play threat on the outside.

24. Cincinnati Bengals

WR Josh Doctson (TCU)

With receivers Marvin Jones, Brandon Tate, and Mohammed Sanu hitting free agency, the Bengals offense may look very different when the draft comes around. To solve this potential problem, the Bengals draft one of college’s best red zone threats.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers

TE Hunter Henry (Arkansas)

With Heath Miller announcing his retirement, finding a future tight end is a must. Henry is 6’5 and 253 pounds and would fit in with an already explosive Pittsburgh offense.

26. Seattle Seahawks

OLB Kyler Fackrell (Utah St.)

With Bruce Irvin not expected back in free agency, Seattle could use the services of an effective edge rush linebacker who, while standing 6’4, is also tremendous in pass coverage.

27. Green Bay Packers

DE Shaq Lawson (Clemson)

Lawson is a powerful rusher and the edge force Green Bay needs to get after the NFC’s elite quarterbacks. His presence will also make life easier for Clay Matthews, who has bounced around on the edge and inside linebacker last season.

28. Kansas City Chiefs

DE Kevin Dodd (Clemson)

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With potential losses at defensive end with Jaye Howard and Mike DeVito becoming free agents, the Chiefs fill a big need with a big player who was far less hyped, but just as productive, as his Clemson teammate Shaq Lawson.

29. Arizona Cardinals

C Ryan Kelly (Alabama)

Seeing Carson Palmer get thrashed the way he did in the NFC Championship should send the Cardinals management scrambling toward the best offensive lineman on the board. Kelly also has the potential to be a solid guard as well.

30. Carolina Panthers

T Taylor Decker (Ohio State)

Carolina’s biggest threat to a return trip to the Super Bowl is its offensive line. If they want to see Cam Newton fulfill his full potential, they have to protect him.

31. Denver Broncos

DT Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech)

Malik Jackson’s return to the Mile High city is very unlikely, so Denver replaces him with a powerful interior player who can split gaps and penetrate the backfield with ease.

*The New England Patriots selection lost in the DeflateGate controversy

***

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