2016 First-Round Mock Draft, Picks 17-31




17. Atlanta Falcons, Jaylon Smith, OLB

Smith is still recovering from a knee injury as he tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. However, Smith is an exceptional talent and he should not get past the Falcons at No. 17 if team doctors like the way his knee is healing. The Falcons need a linebacker who triggers quickly and can consistently make impact plays. Smith could eventually become what they need once he’s healthy.

18. Indianapolis Colts, Taylor Decker, OT

Decker would be a perfect fit for the Colts as he’s capable of playing left or right tackle. Teams are bringing speed rushers off of the right and left side of the line of scrimmage and it’s more important than ever to have bookend tackles. Decker does an outstanding job of generating a surge up front in the run game and he also has movement skills necessary to mirror speedy edge rushers in the passing game. Selecting Decker would go a long way toward helping the Colts protect Andrew Luck and bolster their run game.

19. Buffalo Bills, Jack Conklin, OT

The Bills must improve their offensive line as their previous draft picks at the position have not worked out. Conklin plays with outstanding physicality and does a good job of maintaining blocks. Conklin  plays with a mean streak as he consistently plays through the whistle. Despite not being the most agile offensive lineman, he routinely plays well against speed due to his ability to set up quickly and mirror defenders.

20. New York Jets, Cody Whitehair, OG

Many believe Whitehair to be the most versatile interior lineman in the draft as he is capable of playing both guard spots center and right tackle. Whitehair performed admirably at left tackle for Kansas State in 2015. Whitehair is precise with his aiming points as his hand placement is typically very good. He also keeps his feet moving once engaged which allows him to consistently redirect pass rushers and keep his quarterback out of harm’s way.

21. Washington Redskins, Tyler Boyd, WR

If Kirk Cousins is the quarterback of the future for Redskins, it is important that they give him the weapons necessary to put points on the board. Boyd would be a big time threat on the perimeter as he is a very good hands catcher and is able to fight through contact to make spectacular catches. Like Corey Coleman, Boyd also possesses the ability to motion into the backfield and take carries as a running back. Boyd has the ability to catch the 50-50 ball and he would compliment Desean Jackson well.

22. Houston Texans, Ezekiel Elliot, RB

Elliot would help the Texans run game immensely. Elliot is a big back who has game-breaking speed. While he’s able to lower his pad level and punish defenders in the secondary, he’s also proven that he’s able to make defenders miss in space. Elliot also has very good hands and is able to make plays in the short, intermediate and deep passing game. Elliot is one of the best running back prospects to come along in recent years and selecting him would go a long way toward helping the Texans keep the chains moving on offense.

23. Minnesota Vikings, Darian Thompson, FS

While the lines between strong safety and free safety are becoming more blurred than ever before, the Vikings must come to grips with the fact that Harrison Smith is more strong safety than free safety. Thompson has better feet and can pattern match wide receivers if asked to do so. He also has better range and is always around the football. Thompson will give the Vikings defense greater flexibility.

24. Cincinnati Bengals, Josh Doctson, WR

The Bengals could potentially lose wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency and they’ll need to add talent at the position. Doctson gives the Bengals a “Z” receiver to line up on the opposite side of A.J. Green. Doctson tracks the football well down the field and does a very good job of creating separation. Doctson also shows late hands which makes it difficult for defensive backs to know when the ball is coming.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers, Jalen Mills, FS

Mills could instantly make the Steelers defense better due to his ability to cover as well as get to the spot when asked to get off of the hash and make plays on the football. Mills is also an exceptional tackler.  Mills would make the Steelers’ defense multiple and teams would no longer be able to take advantage of their secondary with 11 personnel as Mills can also fill in as a nickel back. The Steelers must improve the back end of their defense and selecting Mills is a great first step toward the aforementioned goal.

26. Seattle Seahawks, Andrew Billings, DT

Brandon Mebane is an impending free agent and the Seahawks need to find talent along the interior of their defensive line.  Thankfully Andrew Billings drops directly into the Seahawks’ lap at No. 26. Billings has a very quick first step which allowed him to rack up 15 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2015.  Billings is very disruptive and the Seahawks defense will only improve after taking him here.

27. Green Bay Packers, Darron Lee, ILB

The selection of Lee could potentially allow Matthews to return to outside linebacker where he is most comfortable. Lee has tremendous athleticism as he is a former safety. He came to Ohio State at just 195 pounds but is now up to 235 pounds and has maintained all of his speed. Lee has proven to be an exceptional tackler in space and has shown that he is capable of covering tight ends as well as slot receivers.

28. Kansas City Chiefs, Jonathan Bullard, DE

The Chiefs must make certain that they have a talented front capable of eating up blocks and stopping the run going into the 2016 season. Bullard is very stout at the point of attack and is capable of taking on multiple blocks in order to clog rushing lanes. He’s also shown that he is able to get off of blocks and get to the ball carrier.

29. Arizona Cardinals, Victor Ochi, OLB

The Cardinals need a pass-rusher  and they get one in Ochi who is the most complete 3-4 outside linebacker at this point in the draft. Not only can he get after the quarterback but he does not get moved off the spot against the run. Ochi does a tremendous job setting the edge and he’s shown that he can shed blockers and get to the football. Many knock his level of competition, but he possesses a number of traits that transfer over to the NFL.

30. Carolina Panthers, Will Fuller, WR

Kelvin Benjamin went down with a knee injury in the preseason but Cam Newton’s play was able to mask the deficiencies of the receiving corps up until the Super Bowl. During the Super Bowl, it became apparent that the Panthers were lacking dependable receiving options. Will Fuller will be a great compliment to Kelvin Benjamin for years to come.

31. Denver Broncos, A’Shawn Robinson, DE

Malik Jackson is set to enter free agency and he will likely receive more money on the open market than the Broncos are able to pay him. Broncos should look to Robinson to fill the void left by Jackson. Robinson played multiple positions across Alabama’s defensive front and was effective against the run and was able to collapse the pocket when asked to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

 

 

Brandon Howard joined the Sports Talk Florida team to cover the Miami Dolphins in April 2017 and will work diligently to provide daily Dolphins content and give accurate analysis of the roster, coaching and front office. Last season, Howard was the curator of content for Miami Dolphins Wire/ USA Today while aggregating high school sports results in Broward and Palm Beach counties for the Sun Sentinel. Prior to moving to South Florida Howard developed NFL content for Pro Player Insiders while covering the Cleveland Browns from 2014-2015. Howard, a Columbus, Ohio native graduated from West Virginia in 2004 in Athletic Coaching and Education. He also was a scholarship track and field athlete and walk-on football player. Howard was the 2003 Big East Long and IC4A long jump Champion and was a provisional national qualifier in the event. He also maintained his status as a member of the Athletic Director Academic Honor Roll during his time as a Mountaineer.