With the Super Bowl approaching, fans of the 28 franchises that aren’t still in the tournament are looking ahead to the 2016 NFL Draft with hopes of finding the right pieces to turn their team around. The NFL Draft has become a year-round event as fans speculate on the pro potential of their favorite college players. Free agency will certainly dictate much of what happens in the 2016 NFL Draft, but here’s my first way too early 2016 NFL Mock Draft
Tennessee Titans, No. 1- OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
The Titans used first round picks on Taylor Lewan and Marcus Mariota. Lewan and Laremy Tunsil will be protecting Mariota for the next decade.
Cleveland Browns, No. 2 – QB Jared Goff, California
Hue Jackson is in town and it appears that Johnny Manziel is on his way out. The Browns find his replacement in Jared Goff, who has all the traits of a potential franchise QB.
The Chargers could go offensive line here, but they grab a dominant five-technique to add to their young core of talented front seven defenders. Joey Bosa isn’t a great fit in a 3-4 front, but Buckner is a similarly graded prospect.
Dallas Cowboys, No. 4- DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Most pundits have the Cowboys taking Tony Romo’s successor with the No. 4 overall pick, but I personally think that would be a foolish move. Adding a premier playmaker like Bosa to their defensive line will be the push Dallas needs for a playoff surge.
Jacksonville Jaguars, No. 5- S Jalen Ramsey, FSU
Gus Bradley’s tried to model Jacksonville’s defense around the scheme he ran as defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. The Jaguars have a strong nucleus on offense, used their top 5 pick on a pass rusher last season, and now find the play-making ball-hawk in the secondary that can take the team to the next level.
Baltimore Ravens, No. 6- CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
Baltimore’s pass defense was terrible this past season as both Jimmy Smith and Ladarius Webb struggled. Mackensie Alexander is a dominant corner that will eventually take over for the aging Webb.
San Francisco 49ers, No. 7- OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
The 49ers have needs all over their roster, so filling the “biggest” need with a top-10 pick shouldn’t be their main priority. Ronnie Stanley fills a huge void on the offensive line at right tackle while Anthony Davis reconsiders retirement, and can develop as Joe Staley’s eventual successor.
Miami Dolphins, No. 8- LB Myles Jack, UCLA
Miami’s defense regressed after signing Ndamukong Suh to a mega-deal last offseason, so adding an athletic, physical linebacker that can line up at either the MIKE or WILL position will give this defense the attitude it needs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, No. 9- EDGE Shaq Lawson
The Buccaneers have some great young pieces on both sides of the ball, but they lack a dominant outside pass rusher that they can consistently rely on. Shaq Lawson provides that as the prototypical right defensive end in Tampa’s 4-3 scheme.
New York Giants, No. 10- DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Sure, we all know about the window incident, but Robert Nkemdiche is the best player available at a big position of need for the New York Giants. The Giants’ defense was porous and couldn’t get after the quarterback last year. Nkemdiche is a versatile tackle/end that will allow New York to be creative on defense.
Chicago Bears, No. 11- LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
With the Bears’ transition to a 3-4 defense, they add a stud inside linebacker in Reggie Ragland, the highly decorated ‘backer out of Alabama. Ragland is a smart, physical linebacker that will be the heart and soul of a defense for years to come.
The Saints’ defense was atrocious last season and it started up front, as they couldn’t control the line of scrimmage. Snagging the dominant 19-year old nose tackle out of Baylor forms a young, talented trio of youngsters with second year linebackers Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha.
Philadelphia Eagles, No. 13- EDGE/LB Leonard Floyd
The Eagles could look to go offensive line or quarterback here, but in a rebuild situation, they take the best available player with the highest ceiling. Jim Schwartz knows how to get the most out of “undersized” pass rushers, and with Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan attracting attention from offensive linemen, Floyd should see success early as a stand-up nine technique.
Oakland Raiders, No. 14- CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
Oakland whiffed on D.J. Hayden a few years ago and their secondary has been terrible because of it. Vernon Hargreaves is a talented corner with man-cover skills that will be the icing on a defense that appears on the verge of dominance.
L.A. Rams, No. 15- QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
Nick Foles isn’t the answer but Jeff Fisher might buy himself even more time as a head coach with the selection of Carson Wentz, a talented passer out of the FCS.
Detroit Lions, No. 16- DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
Despite the acquisition of veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the Lions defense struggled last year after losing Ndamukong Suh. They find a replacement in Sheldon Rankins, a disruptive three-technique in the mold of an Aaron Donald.
Atlanta Falcons, No. 17- WR LaQuon Treadwell, Ole Miss
The defensive talent in this draft class pushed one of the more gifted offensive players down the board. Now, With Roddy White aging, Matt Ryan gets a new dynamic weapon opposite Julio Jones. This pairing will give NFC South secondary’s nightmares.
Indianapolis Colts, No. 18- OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State
Protect Andrew Luck. Please.
Buffalo Bills, No. 19- EDGE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
Buffalo gets another pass rusher to pair with Jerry Hughes following the impending release of Mario Williams. Spence would’ve been a lock to go in the Top-5 had it not been for off-field issues that caused him to be dismissed from Ohio State. Nonetheless, he’s a dominant player that immediately upgrades the defense.
New York Jets, No. 20- LB Darron Lee, Ohio State
With Demario Davis a free agent and David Harris aging, the Jets find a new-age linebacker for Todd Bowles to mold.
Washington Redskins, No. 21- DL Jarran Reed, Alabama
Terrence Knighton is a free agent and Chris Baker is getting up there in age. Jarran Reed will slide in as a day one starter on Washington’s defensive line and has the versatility to play both odd and even techniques as an interior lineman.
Houston Texans, No. 22- QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Bill O’Brien gets his big-bodied, strong-armed QB, although it’s not Christian Hackenberg—it’s Paxton Lynch. Lynch should come in and compete for a starting job immediately behind a solid offensive line with one of the top wideouts in the game.
Minnesota Vikings, No. 23- IOL Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Protecting Teddy Bridgewater needs to be Minnesota’s No. 1 priority this offseason. He has developing weapons in young players like Stefon Diggs, Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Rudolph, but it doesn’t matter if the offensive line plays the way it has been.
The Bengals have two free agent linebackers of their own, but they take a risk on Jaylon Smith who recently suffered a knee injury that will sideline him for all of next year.
Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 25- CB Eli Apple, Ohio State
The Steelers’ secondary couldn’t stop a runny nose last year and William Gay is 187 years old. They find a building block in Ohio State’s Eli Apple, a talented and athletic cornerback.
Seattle Seahawks, No. 26- OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana
Everyone knows the Seahawks covet athleticism and with Russell Okung likely departing as a free agent, they’ll replace him with Jason Spriggs, an ideal zone-blocking tackle that converted from tight end.
Green Bay Packers, No. 27- DL Kenny Clark, UCLA
The Packers would love an inside linebacker here to move Clay Matthews back outside, but without one worthy of value, they’ll upgrade their defensive line with the quick, disruptive Kenny Clark. With Mike Neal and B.J. Raji set to become free agents, the Packers need depth along the line.
Kansas City Chiefs, No. 28- OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
After whiffing on Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, the Chiefs add Jack Conklin late in the first round. Conklin might eventually slide inside to play guard, but he projects well as a right tackle and while he’s not the flashiest or athletic “high ceiling” linemen, he doesn’t have any glaring faults.
Arizona Cardinals, No. 29- DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
A’Shawn Robinson will slide in as an interior defensive lineman for the Cardinals, an area where they’re aging. A strong run defender, Robinson is still developing as a pass rusher. He’ll likely serve as a rotational piece for a year or two as he works on his game.
Denver Broncos, No. 30- OG Joshua Garnett, Stanford
The Broncos need an upgrade in the interior of their offensive line, so they select a mauling run blocker out of Stanford that’ll help clear rushing lanes for C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. His pass protection will need some work but he should be able to start relatively early.
Carolina Panthers, No. 31- WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
Next year, Cam Newton gets Kelvin Benjamin back to pair with rookie Devin Funchess. They could look to add more in the secondary or an edge rusher, but instead, they’ll build on a strength and get a vertical threat that will make Carolina an even tougher team to defend.
New England Patriots- NO PICK, DEFLATE-GATE