With the NFL Draft fast approaching, scouts are working endless hours in order to prepare for the madness that is right around the corner. Last minute changes to the big board could lead to disaster, while trade-ups and trade-downs could bring hope to a fan base. The truth is, no one really knows who the best pick will be at each selection until years down the road; and even then, it’s still a bit blurry. Plenty of people still argue over where Randy Moss should have been taken in the 1998 NFL Draft. Regardless, it is definitely a debate worth having, then and now. So as I started compiling research on the players below, I began to create my own “big board” (if you will). I’ve simulated the entire first round 159 different ways and this is my best prediction of what will go down on April 28th.
Dalton Tompkins’ 2016 NFL Mock Draft – First Round
- Tennessee Titans – Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss – OT
Tunsil is a legit “Dancing Bear” with natural feet and phenomenal technique. He only allowed two sacks in his 28 career games at Ole Miss. He’s the most NFL ready player in the draft.
- Cleveland Browns – Carson Wentz, North Dakota State – QB
Everyone knows Cleveland needs to take a hard look at the quarterback position, even with the Robert Griffin III signing. Having to choose between Goff and Wentz gets more difficult by the minute. Wentz is widely considered the prospect with the highest ceiling among all available quarterbacks.
- San Diego Chargers – Jalen Ramsey, Florida State – CB
Ramsey is a fantastic playmaker to be had in any secondary. He will provide an immediate impact on a Chargers defense that ranked 22nd in interceptions last season.
- L.A. Rams [From Dallas] – Jared Goff, Cal – QB
The Rams make the first big splash of the draft by swapping first round picks with the Cowboys (*they also send two second-round picks to Dallas). They move up to get their franchise quarterback in Goff, a maestro pocket passer who totaled 43 touchdowns last year for Cal. At this point, he seems to be the safest of the top quarterback prospects in the player pool.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack, UCLA – LB
Jack is a freak athlete at the middle linebacker position. He can track down any run play in a hurry and can cover a pass against the best receivers on the other team. His knee has been a bit of an issue throughout the draft process, but as long as everything checks out, then he is everything you want in a “Mike” linebacker and could be a perennial Pro Bowler for the Jaguars.
- Baltimore Ravens – Joey Bosa, Ohio State – DE
Bosa doesn’t standout on film, repeatedly. But he’s always around the ball and draws comparisons to J.J. Watt. So, he’s a great fit for the Ravens, who could use a plug and play defensive end like Bosa right away.
- San Francisco 49ers – DeForest Buckner, Oregon – DE
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Just a few years removed from rostering one of the best defensive units in the league, the Niners have to start somewhere. Buckner is a tackling machine for a defensive lineman, and his 6’7″, 295-pound physique says he’s ready to handle the NFL.
- Philadelphia Eagles [From Miami] – Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State – RB
After shipping DeMarco Murray to Tennessee, the Eagles waste no time in drafting his replacement. Elliot is a dynamic player and can be electric with room to run in the open field. Many scouts believe he is a complete running back with very few holes in his game.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss – WR
Treadwell often draws comparisons to Dez Bryant, and his tenacity on the field instantly confirms those comparisons. He can rise above any defender and times his jumps perfectly. Once he gets the ball in his hands, it becomes difficult to bring him down with one defender.
- Oakland Raiders [From NYG] – Vernon Hargreaves, Florida – CB
Hargreaves is the only cornerback in this year’s draft drawing legitimate Joe Haden comparisons. With that said, the Raiders will choose to trade up with the Giants here and select Hargreaves.
- Chicago Bears – A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama – DT
Robinson, a five-star recruit out of high school, was the Alabama team sack leader as a true freshman. Nick Saban has endorsed him as a great locker room leader. His heavy tackling ways could vault him into a leading role on a Bears defense looking to solve their atrocious run stopping ways.
- New Orleans Saints – Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame – OT
Stanley could have declared last year, and multiple coaches have said they would have taken him had he been in the draft pool. His football I.Q. and his durability are his two best traits and scouts love that about him. Stanley’s versatility, though, may be his ticket to success in New Orleans where he would be able to fill in at either tackle spot right away.
- Miami Dolphins [From Philadelphia] – Mackensie Alexander, Clemson – CB
After a standout freshman year at Clemson, where he earned Freshman All-American honors, Alexander’s sophomore season ended with him being named as a 3rd Team All-American. After the acknowledgements and accolades, no one would throw his way for the next two seasons. His junior and senior years combined: 0 interceptions, 11 passes defensed. A true lockdown corner, the Dolphins could do much worse trying to fill Brent Grimes’ shoes.
- New York Giants [From Oakland] – Jarran Reed, Alabama – DT
Reed has elite vision and natural instincts during pursuit of the football and at the point of impact. He is plenty strong, and can move very quickly for a 6’3”, 307-pound man. There is some concern for his off-the-field behavior, as Reed was arrested for DUI in 2014. But he has since gained plenty of praise for changing his ways from Alabama head coach Nick Saban. The Giants, after trading down, play it safe and select Reed here.
- Dallas Cowboys [From L.A.] – Paxton Lynch, Memphis – QB
After trading down with the Rams to get here at pick 15, the Cowboys will address their depth behind Tony Romo and select a unique quarterback prospect in Paxton Lynch. On film, Lynch is deceptively fast, but he missed half of his senior season due to a knee injury and was only clocked at a 4.86 40-yard dash time during the draft process. Nonetheless, once he is fully healthy, Lynch figures to be a dynamic scrambler in and around the pocket. He has elite footwork for a taller quarterback and makes great decisions with the football. Dallas is thrilled to pick a guy here that was formerly projected to go in the top five.
- Detroit Lions – Josh Doctson, TCU – WR
After starting his college career at Wyoming, Doctson transferred to TCU. It was there where he played three seasons and finished second on the school’s all-time record board for receptions and yards. He definitely has that “lead” receiver mentality and will go way up to pluck any ball thrown his way. On film, his smooth vertical route running really does stand out, and the Lions will be swayed that way with the 16th overall pick.
- Atlanta Falcons – Reggie Ragland, Alabama – LB
After last season, Ragland became a legend in Tuscaloosa, as he joined Derrick Thomas and Cornelius Bennett as the only Alabama players ever to be unanimously selected as First-Team All-Americans. Ragland has strong gap integrity and will meet all comers who try and block him. The Falcons would have a dynamic core of interior linebackers if they took him here.
- Indianapolis Colts – Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky – OLB
After being banned from the Big Ten in 2014, Spence transferred to the FCS where he dominated the opposition, compiling 22.5 tackles-for-loss and 13.5 sacks. Obviously, the question here isn’t about Spence’s talent, but rather his decision making off the field. After publicly admitting that he sought treatment for an ecstasy addiction that got out of hand, surely teams will have to think long and hard about the potential risk/reward. Indianapolis doesn’t have to think that hard about potentially boosting their defense back to their division-winning ways.
- Buffalo Bills – Will Fuller, Notre Dame – WR
Fuller wanted to return for his senior season at Notre Dame, but decided to declare for the draft after thinking it through. After leading the team with 62 receptions, 1,258 yards, and 14 touchdowns, Fuller was named team MVP in 2015. He also ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine, potentially boosting his stock even more. I’d say he made the right choice, and the Bills will too if they select Fuller here.
- New York Jets – Darron Lee, Ohio State – LB
At 6’1”, 232-pounds, Lee is a bit undersized to man the helm in the middle of a NFL defense. However, he could be the best pass covering weak side linebacker prospect in the draft. He burst onto the national scene during last year’s championship run for the Buckeyes. He was named Defensive MVP for his performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Jets would be best served taking Lee as the 20th pick off the board here.
- Washington Redskins – Sheldon Rankins, Louisville – DT
Rankins stands at 6’1” and weighs 300 pounds. He has a very compact, powerful build about him, and he never seems to be too low to the ground. He moves well in space and flashes often on tape. Rankins’ violent hands and versatility as a one-or-two gap player makes him an intriguing prospect at the next level.
- Houston Texans – Corey Coleman, Baylor – WR
A freak athlete with blazing speed, Coleman represents a big time playmaking threat when he gets the ball in his hands. He finished first in the nation with 20 receiving touchdowns in 2015. Houston scoops up one of Waco’s heroes.
- Minnesota Vikings – Jack Conklin, Michigan State – OT
Conklin isn’t a supreme athlete by any means, but he stands tall at 6’6” and 308 pounds. His closest NFL player comparison is Jon Runyan. Conklin is considered to be extremely tough, though, and his power and consistency can’t be understated. He should go on to be a solid contributor as a pro.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Andrew Billings, Baylor – DT
Billings has elite power, as he’s a former state champion power lifter, and he finished fourth at the combine with 31 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds. The Bengals could use another disruptive force on their defensive line to get after division rival quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Eli Apple, Ohio State – CB
Apple has great overall size for a corner, at 6’1”, 200 pounds, and his long arms allow him to be physical with receivers at the point of attack. He has clean footwork and is outstanding at press coverage. Apple would be a great fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- Seattle Seahawks – William Jackson, Houston – CB
Jackson ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the combine and his solid size and length will benefit him at the next level. He also has good ball skills for a defensive back, and fantastic recovery speed to boot. Seattle gets another playmaking corner.
- Green Bay Packers – Leonard Floyd, Georgia – OLB
The 6’6” Floyd is painfully lean at 245 pounds and probably couldn’t be relied upon as an every down player until he puts some weight on. But Floyd is a pass-rush specialist who could thrive in a limited role right away.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Chris Jones, Mississippi State – DT
A standout junior season vaulted Jones up multiple big boards across the league as soon as he declared as an early entrant for the draft. His 6’6”, 310-pound frame would be welcomed by the Chiefs front line.
- Arizona Cardinals – Shaq Lawson, Clemson – DE
In 2015, Lawson was a consensus All-American selection and he also helped guide Clemson to an appearance in the NCAA Championship game against Alabama. With a strong pedigree and blue chip status since his high school days, Lawson will make his mark on the Cardinals defensive front.
- Carolina Panthers – Derrick Henry, Alabama – RB
The 2015 Heisman trophy winner gets picked up by a Carolina team that could use a youthful spark to their running game. Henry is a 6’3”, 245-pound beast of a specimen. His 4.54 40-yard dash and 37-inch vertical really impressed at the combine, which was just enough to push him up into the first round.
- Denver Broncos – Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss – DT
A player with concerns off the field, Nkemdiche could have been a top 15 pick but a lack of production also aided in his slide to the last pick of the first round. But his physique and brute force alone could cause him to become an impact starter on the defensive line down the road.