2016 NFL Mock Draft -- Way-Too-Early Edition
With one month to go until the 2015 NFL Draft (April 30th in Chicago), I've decided to take a way-too-early look ahead to the 2016 NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to nail a mock draft minutes before it starts -- let alone 13 months beforehand. More than anything, the goal is to highlight some prospects and potential fits at this point. It's fair to say, this mock is going to look a lot different in 12 months than it does today.
Obviously one of the challenges of creating a mock draft this far in advance is that we have no idea what the draft order. Well, we have "some idea" given that the Seahawks or Patriots aren't going to be picking first overall, but you get the point.
In future updates (after the 2015 NFL Draft), the draft order used will be the inverse of our NFL power rankings until the real draft order is known.
For this update, I've used Super Bowl 50 odds from Sportsbook.ag beginning with teams with the lowest odds to the best odds to win it. In situations where two (or more) teams had identical odds, I used 2015 NFL strength of schedule as the tie-breaker. (The more difficult the schedule, the more likely they would have a worse record and hence higher pick.)
Where the order differs from the inverse order of odds to win the Super Bowl is that I made sure 12 playoff teams, six from the AFC and six from the NFC, had picks 21-32 with all eight divisions represented.
With all of that said, here is my way-too-early 2016 NFL Mock Draft:
As noted above, I used the inverse order of Super Bowl 50 odds to determine the draft order for this mock. That said, I personally believe that the Jags have taken a number of positive steps toward turning around the organization. In other words, I wouldn't be surprised if they did not have the first-overall pick.
If they do, however, the Jags could add another difference-making defensive line prospect to join Leonard Williams, the top-ranked prospect on my 2015 NFL Draft Big Board.
Per Phil Savage, one organization used Bosa's freshman campaign as a measuring stick for evaluating draft-eligible tackles in 2014 that faced Bosa in 2013. Building upon a strong freshman campaign, Bosa, whose father John was a first-round pick by the Dolphins, posted 13.5 sacks and 20.0 tackles for loss with four fumble recoveries for the national-champion Buckeyes as a true sophomore last season.
Lofty expectations come with being the top-overall recruit in the nation and some may feel that hasn't fully lived up to those expectations, but Nkemdiche has a rare combination of size, power and athleticism (as seen in the vine below). Along with USC's Williams, he was named to the 2014 AP All-American Second Team at defensive tackle and one of his strengths, like Williams, is his versatility to play multiple positions along the line.
In his two seasons as the Rebels' starting left tackle, Tunsil was named First-Team All-SEC last season after being a Second Team selection as a true freshman in 2013. Tunsil has allowed just two sacks in his two seasons with Ole Miss.
Based on PFF grades, the Bucs ranked 30th in the NFL in pass-blocking grades. After 13 games at right tackle, Demar Dotson played the last three games at left tackle for the Bucs. Adding a franchise-type left tackle to protect Jameis Winston, the top-overall pick in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft, would be a wise investment and allow the Bucs to shift Dotson back to right tackle.
A few different quarterbacks could be in play as the first-drafted quarterback in 2016. This mock has four signal-callers selected in the first half of the first round. Based on this draft order, the first three teams will have selected a quarterback with a top-three pick in the two most recent drafts -- Jacksonville (Blake Bortles), Tennessee (Mariota) and Tampa Bay (Winston).
That leaves Washington as the first team without one the team (or at least coaching staff) believes can develop into a franchise quarterback. While Washington will have the option to keep RG3 under team control in 2016, he's scheduled for free agency after the 2015 season.
If Cook had declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, I would have slotted him in behind Winston and Mariota but ahead of any other quarterbacks in the draft class. Cook has prototypical size (6-4, 220) and arm strength and all of the physical tools to be successful at the next level. Returning for his senior year should help him work on his footwork and improve his accuracy -- only 58.1 and 58.7 completion percentages over the past two seasons, respectively.
Selected First-Team All-SEC in both of his years in Gainesville, Hargreaves is the top cornerback prospect eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft. After Hargreaves' freshman season, NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has compared Hargreaves to ex-Gator Joe Haden. Hargreaves led the Gators with three interceptions as a true freshman and added three more last season despite offenses often looking the opposite direction.
What a three-game run it was for Cardale Jones to close the 2014 college football season! There was some debate whether or not he should strike while the iron was hot and declare himself eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft, but he ultimately decided to return and gain more experience. Returning to Columbus with J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller complicates matters, but one excecutive told Fox Sports: "Maybe he would have gone in the second round, but I think it's just as likely we could have gone in the top 10 or 15. Look at that body, that arm -- and look at his competition (in the 2015 draft)."
Had Stanley decided not to return to Notre Dame, there is a good chance that he would have been the first offensive lineman selected in this year's draft. Stanley started his (redshirt) freshman season at right tackle and took over for Zack Martin at left tackle in 2014. Stanley possesses the length and agility teams want in a left tackle and Matt Kalil, who is coming off a disappointing season, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016.
With the size of a nose tackle (6-4, 320), Robinson has played both nose tackle and defensive end for the Crimson Tide. As a freshman, he actually led Alabama with 5.5 sacks. Starting nose tackle Ian Williams will be a free agent in 2016.
A gruesome (broken) ankle injury ended his season in early November, but Treadwell appears to be recovering well and expects to be 100 percent in the summer and he's currently running routes "against air." Treadwell, who turns 20 in June, has a great combination of size (6-2, 229), strength and athleticism.
With Philip Rivers entering the final year of his contract, it's certainly possible that he will have already played his final game as a Charger by the time the 2016 NFL Draft rolls around. That said, I expect both sides to come to an agreement to keep Rivers in San Diego -- or Los Angeles? If they don't, however, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg or Cal's Jared Goff would make sense.
Younger brother of Kyle Fuller, who was selected in the first round by the Bears in 2014, Kendall has started all but of his 26 games with Virginia Tech and has a total of eight interceptions and 26 pass breakups in his two seasons. Although the Chargers have Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett under team control through the 2018 season, you can never have too many cornerbacks.
After a strong freshman season (2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions), Hackenberg threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (12) as a sophomore and his Y/A and completion percentages dropped from 7.54 to 6.15 and 58.9 to 55.8 percent, respectively. A new coaching staff (Bill O'Brien departed for the NFL), loss of his best receiver (Allen Robinson) and poor offensive line play (44 sacks vs. 21 in 2013) all contributed to his regression in year two. With a bounce-back season, Hackenberg, who has prototypical tools, could certainly be the top signal-caller off the board.
The Bills have loaded up on offensive skill-position players (LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay), but a big question mark remains at quarterback. If the Bills are going to make a push to take control of the AFC East from Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots, they need much better play at quarterback. As a true sophomore, the 6-foot-4 Goff threw for 3,973 yards with 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.
Boyd has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in both of his seasons at Pitt and has racked up 163 receptions for 2,435 yards and 15 touchdowns in his two seasons. Only 190 pounds at 6-foot-2, Boyd would benefit from adding some weight and strength, but Boyd has excellent ball skills, body control and athleticism to be the Saints No. 1 wide receiver opposite Brandin Cooks.
A rare two-way player, Jack was named the Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2013. Jack played less offense as a sophomore, but he finished second on the team last season in tackles (88) behind Eric Kendricks, who won the Butkus award.
Ramsey has played both cornerback and safety and took over Lamarcus Joyner's "Star" role last season. A five-star recruit out of high school, Ramsey was named to the 2014 AP All-American Second Team last season. Ramsey led the team in pass breakups (12) and finished second in tackles for loss (9.5), sacks (3.0) and interceptions (two). He also finished fourth in tackles (79) and had two forced fumbles.
The Bengals really struggled to get to the quarterback last season as no team had fewer sacks than the Bengals (20). Although he is a bit raw, Oakman is a physical freak at 6-foot-9 and 290 pounds and posted 11.0 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss last season for the Bears.