The order for the 2016 NFL draft is mostly set, so Chris Burke presents his first mock draft of the new year.
At long last, we have at least some semblance of a 2016 NFL draft order. The top 20 spots have been claimed by the non-playoff teams, while the final 11 (New England lost its Round 1 pick) will be divvied up amongst the clubs still alive.
The order used for this mock was distributed by the NFL earlier in the week, with Nos. 21–31 based on team records and strength-of-schedule tiebreakers.
A few more quick thoughts here before we wrap up:
• Connor Cook would have been my third Round 1 quarterback, had I not gone with Elliott to Houston. (Denver also could be a QB spot late, depending on what happens with Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler.) I’m more convinced at the moment that QB3 comes off the board via a team trading back into Round 1—San Francisco? Philadelphia?
• New England’s erased first-round pick is significant for that reason, too. Losing a Round 1 selection is a significant punishment on its own, but Bill Belichick loves to wheel and deal come draft time. The Patriots’ slot would have been an obvious one to toss out in a trade-down scenario.
• The player I most wanted to fit in Round 1 but didn't: USC’s Su’a Cravens. He’s a top-20 prospect, in my mind, but also a bit of a tough match in this type of exercise. The hybrid linebacker/safety could wind up playing strictly the former in the NFL. Odds are, though, there will be fewer direct fits for him because his best usage might come on a team willing to let him wander a bit.
• Look for a bunch of running backs drafted on Day 2. Alabama’s Derrick Henry has a very real chance to be gone by then, but close behind him are the likes of Devontae Booker, Kenneth Dixon, Kareem Hunt, Paul Perkins, Alex Collins and others. It's a really deep class.
• The news on Jaylon Smith’s knee injury is devastating—multiple outlets revealed that he tore his ACL and MCL in Notre Dame's bowl game. ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported earlier that Smith had a $5 million loss-of-value insurance policy in case he fell out of Round 1. Smith is probably going to cash that. Prior to the injury, he had a top-10 shot.