All 32 NFL teams have entered the offseason with needs to fill and will attempt to fill their respective vacancies with the best possible fit. While it seems rather simple, to pick players that fit a particular scheme or philosophy, there are teams that perennially overcomplicate the process and miss on their first-round pick.
Many believe that there are prototypes and formulas that help build winning teams, but there is no magic formula. There’s also no such thing as a prototype player as there are many ways to win football games in the NFL. In the below mock draft, I took on the role of general manager for picks 1-16 of the 2016 NFL draft. The selections are in no way a prediction but instead what I would do if I were the GM of each team.
1. Tennessee Titans, Laremy Tunsil, OT
The Titans drafted their signal-caller of the future in Marcus Mariota in last year’s draft but he took a beating in his first season in the NFL. The Titans will look to do whatever they can to keep him upright in his sophomore season and they’ll start by selecting the best tackle in the draft to protect Mariota’s blindside.
2. Cleveland Browns, Joey Bosa, DE
The Browns have yet to find their quarterback of the future and they’re going to have to continue to wait as there isn’t a quarterback worthy of this spot in the 2016 NFL draft. The Cleveland Browns should opt to take the best player available at this juncture which is Bosa. The Browns have had difficulty getting to the quarterback and stopping the run; Bosa will help them in both of the aforementioned areas.
3. San Diego Chargers, DeForest Buckner, DE
The Chargers would be wise to select Buckner with their first round selection. He’s an excellent fit in their 3-4 as a 5-technique. The chargers at times will utilize a four-man front and Buckner is versatile enough to bump down inside and generate pressure as a 3-technique. Buckner is extremely stout at the point of attack and plays with good leverage despite being 6-foot-7. His ability to clog rushing lanes will help the Chargers shore up their 27th ranked run defense.
4. Dallas Cowboys, Jarran Reed, DT
The Cowboys are a minimal pressure team that relies on its front four to get pressure on the quarterback. Reed plays with excellent leverage and does a good job of collapsing the pocket. The Cowboys finished last season ranked 23rd in run defense and desperately need a defensive tackle to help them stop the leakage up front. Reed would be an excellent addition as a 1-technique in Dallas.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars, Jalen Ramsey, FS
Ramsey is much better suited to play free safety at the next level as he has a rare ability to contribute as a true centerfielder. Ramsey will afford Jaguars the luxury of staying in their base defense as he’s able to mirror wide receivers as well. Playing Ramsey at free safety is a way to maximize his ability as he’ll have an opportunity to do a little bit of everything in the secondary. The Jaguars could greatly benefit from his versatility.
6. Baltimore Ravens, Vernon Hargreaves III, CB
The Ravens aren’t going to fill all of their needs in one offseason but they can start by drafting a pure cover corner who isn’t a walking pass interference penalty. Hargreaves has very good ball-skills and he also has the footwork necessary to get in and out of breaks with the shiftiest of wide receivers. Hargreaves teammates will appreciate his physicality, but his ability to stay in the hip pocket of wide receivers is why he’s a top-10 selection.
7. San Francisco 49ers, Corey Coleman, WR
If the 49ers wish to get back prominence they must build around Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers failed to put pieces around him in previous years but that unfortunate trend ends here as they select the best wide receiver in the 2016 draft class. Coleman can be utilized at all three wide receiver spots as well as in the backfield.
8. Miami Dolphins, Myles Jack, ILB
If Jacks slips to No.8 the Miami Dolphins must select the best linebacker in this draft class. Jack did not have a ton of tackles during his time at UCLA but that’s no indictment on his instincts. Jack often took on blocks to allow his teammates to get to the ball carrier but when asked to react and fill his respective gap, he successfully carried out his responsibilities. Jack excels in coverage and would help the Dolphins in their efforts to stop Rob Gronkowski twice a year.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Noah Spence, DE
The Buccaneers need a player that knows how to get after the quarterback, and Spence certainly knows how to get the job done. Spence is the best pure pass rusher in this draft and will certainly help the Buccaneers apply more pressure to opposing quarterbacks in 2016. Spence has the ability to get offensive tackles off balance with his speed. He’s also improving upon using his hands in order to get off of blocks.
10. New York Giants, Shaq Lawson, DE
Jason Pierre-Paul’s future with the Giants is uncertain which means the Giants are in need of a pass rusher. Lawson consistently gets off of blocks using a fantastic speed to bull rush move. His speed around the edge is also underrated as he’s very sudden off the ball which allows him to get a jump on offensive tackles.
11. Chicago Bears, Reggie Ragland, ILB
Ragland would be a perfect fit for the Bears as he has outstanding instincts and does a very good job of staying at home against misdirection. Ragland can also be sent on A-gap blitzes to make plays in the backfield. During his time at Alabama, Ragland routinely sniffed out plays before they began which enabled him to meet running backs in the hole for a loss or no gain. Ragland would help the Bears improve upon their 22nd ranked run defense.
12. New Orleans Saints, Robert Nkemdiche, DT
The Saints need help at every level of their defense, and Nkemdiche is the most talented defensive player on the board. While there are character concerns that come along with Nkemdiche, he’s also a very good athlete who is stout at the point of attack. Nkemdiche has the strength to walk offensive linemen back into the quarterback’s lap, and he also possesses the quickness to successfully shoot gaps. If he can walk the straight and narrow, Nkemdiche would be a great pick for the Saints.
13. Philadelphia Eagles, Ronnie Stanley, OT
The Eagles had difficulty keeping Sam Bradford’s jersey clean in 2015, but if Stanley is the Eagles’ selection, their offensive line would definitely be better for it. Stanley has outstanding movement skills and does a good job of mirroring speed rushers off the edge. He’s also able to hit moving targets in the second level of a defense as a run blocker. Stanley has gotten better with his hands and isn’t nearly as finesse compared to previous years. He delivers a good initial punch and shows the ability to keep defenders at bay with a combination of his strength and lateral quickness.
14. Oakland Raiders, Mackensie Alexander, CB
The Raiders have had a hole at the cornerback position for quite some time and they finally get an aggressive cornerback who excels in press-man coverage. Alexander has very good feet and he has no wasted steps in his transition. Despite the fact that Alexander is just 5-foot-10, he’s able to mirror wide receivers and break up passes even if the man he’s covering is taller than he is.
15. Los Angeles Rams, Cardale Jones, QB
The Rams need a quarterback and they get their hands on the best one in the draft at pick No. 15. Jones has everything you look for from a physical and mental aspect of the game. He made checks at the line of scrimmage at Ohio State and he went through progressions (yes even in Urban Meyer’s offense). The best part about his game is that despite being a mobile quarterback he will hang in the pocket with linemen closing in on him and deliver an absolute strike down the field. Jones has exceptional arm strength and his abilities warrant round one consideration.
16. Detroit Lions, Laquon Treadwell, WR
With Calvin Johnson opting to retire, the Lions must do everything they can to replace Johnson’s production. Treadwell is an exceptional hands catcher of the football and does a very good job of catching the football through contact. While Treadwell doesn’t have the big-play speed Johnson possessed, he is able to rack up yardage after the catch because of his instincts and toughness. While the Lions are losing out on a Hall of Fame wide receiver, they’d certainly be gaining a valuable asset in Treadwell.