2016 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting first two rounds

1:46 | NFL
Goff, Lynch and Wentz all have chance to be first QB selected
Thursday February 11th, 2016

Seventy-seven days. That's what we have left between the time this mock goes live and the 2016 draft. 

Sounds like a long wait. After all, if we backtrack 77 days the other direction, Week 11 of the regular season would have just concluded, with the Colts, Giants and Falcons all in playoff position and the Buccaneers among the league’s hottest teams.

A lot can happen in 77 days. There is free agency to come, for one. Players officially can sign with new teams beginning on March 9—just 27 days away. 

We promise not to drop a mock draft on you every morning, but there will be a few between now and April 28. Here is the latest, covering Rounds 1 and 2.

2016 NFL Mock Draft
  • 1
    1Laremy Tunsil
    OT, Ole Miss

    The remaining list of realistic options I see here (aside from trading down) includes Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, LaQuon Treadwell and, if they like him better as a franchise left tackle, Ronnie Stanley. Are any of those players a better fit? Tunsil is a standout player at a position of obvious need. 

  • 2
    QB, Memphis

    So, our first curveball comes early. To be clear, Jared Goff remains the top-ranked QB on the SI board and very well may be the most NFL-ready. But he definitely is not the unanimous No. 1 at QB across all 32 teams, with the view that Lynch and even Carson Wentz could hold higher upside. Lynch has all the physical traits but needs seasoning. Cleveland’s new guard can give it to him by allowing him to learn behind Josh McCown. This isn’t a one-year rebuild.

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  • 3
    S, Florida State
    This mock has Ramsey–Myles Jack–Joey Bosa as the next three off the board. It is feasible to mix and match that trifecta in any combo among the Chargers, Cowboys and Jaguars. The choice at No. 3 is Ramsey because of how desperate San Diego should be for a boost in the secondary, especially with Eric Weddle exiting.

  • 4
    4Myles Jack
    LB, UCLA

    I’m still having a hard time believing the Cowboys will use this pick on a QB. Doing so almost would close the Tony Romo window—a backup quarterback isn’t getting them over the top. Jack won’t on his own, either, but his rangy, athletic game would make the Dallas defense much more formidable. 

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  • 5
    DL, Ohio State

    Strange things happen every year at the draft, but this is about as low as I can envision Bosa falling. Any of the current top four could fit him in as a defensive starter, which says something for his talent. Bosa doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of an NFL pass-rushing DE nor of a dominant interior lineman, but he bridges the gap to create a potential All-Pro.

  • 6
    6Noah Spence
    OLB, Eastern Kentucky

    A post on the Ravens’ website last week speculated that Spence could fall into Round 2. Forget it. But Baltimore could grab the edge-rushing dynamo here. Spence starred during Senior Bowl week, consistently beating tackles around the bend. Teams will have to dig into his character, but the talent is there to justify a top-10 spot.

  • 7
    QB, Cal

    Everyone’s locked into the Colin Kaepernick–Chip Kelly match for the moment. But let’s expand those horizons. Goff isn’t cut from the Kaepernick mode as a “dual-threat” QB, but he’s also not a statue—his footwork in the pocket and desire to keep his eyes downfield are both pluses. Marcus Mariota isn’t walking through that door, and Kaepernick might be walking out of it. It is Goff’s talent as a passer that really would appeal to Kelly.

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  • 8
    CB, Florida

    Hargreaves or Mackensie Alexander would be fine selections by Miami, which must find some help in the secondary. The Florida product can thrive in any coverage set and has the quickness to close on the ball—he intercepted 10 passes and broke up 27 over three seasons.

  • 9
    OT, Notre Dame

    The Buccaneers need help at several key spots on defense. So then why a tackle here? Well, for two reasons: 1. The gap between Tunsil and Stanley is small, meaning this could look like a bargain. 2. There is more depth at the pass-rushing spots and even at DB than at tackle. If Tampa Bay wants help along its O-line, this is the spot to pounce.

  • 10
    DE, Clemson

    Super Bowl 50 offered the latest reminder that a potent pass rush can undermine just about any team in the league. The Giants are lacking there, and Lawson is a force. He’s coming off a 12.5-sack, 22.5-tackle for loss season for Clemson.

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  • 11
    11Reggie Ragland
    LB, Alabama

    There’s often hesitancy to take an inside linebacker early in Round 1 (and Ragland proved at the Senior Bowl with his lethargic performance that he is an ILB, not an OLB). But this is a terrific spot for Ragland, who instantly should be a standout NFL run defender.

  • 12
    DE, Oregon

    Others are higher on Buckner than I am (he was 18th on our last Big Board). However, the Saints could get on board because Buckner projects as a 3–4 run-stuffing end, yet also can slide inside on a 4–3. For a multiple-front defense like New Orleans has, that’s promising.

  • 13
    WR, Ole Miss

    Honestly, it’s tough to get a read on the receiver class right now. Do teams wait on the position because of the depth, or do a bunch of prospects fly off the board early because of the talent? For now, lean the former. Treadwell remains the top option—a physically dominant receiver with plus blocking traits.

  • 14
    14Mackensie Alexander
    CB, Clemson

    His height notwithstanding, the 5' 11" Alexander has the look of an eventual No. 1 NFL cornerback. I say “eventual” because college quarterbacks’ reluctance to test him combined with his limited experience (he was a redshirt sophomore in 2015) presents limited tape. When the ball was thrown his direction, Alexander clamped down on receivers, erasing space with a physical demeanor.

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  • 15
    QB, North Dakota State

    Of all the 31 teams currently in Round 1 (sorry, New England), I might argue that the Rams are most likely to take a quarterback at their current slot. The Browns might not fall in love with a QB enough to justify taking one with the No. 2 pick, the Texans could be too low to nab their future starter and there are few other obvious landing spots. But Los Angeles can open its new era by taking the high-upside Wentz, then seeing what he can do in camp.

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  • 16
    16A'Shawn Robinson
    DT, Alabama

    The knock on Robinson is that he is limited as an interior pass rusher. Well, the Lions have multiple DTs who can help there (Caraun Reid, Gabe Wright, Tyrunn Walker if he re-signs), but they’re shy on early-down bulk. Haloti Ngata walks, and Robinson replaces him as a starter.

  • 17
    LB, Notre Dame

    What to do with Smith? Is he top-10 because of his obvious talent? Day 2 because of the knee injury he suffered in Notre Dame’s bowl game? The answer will depend on which team has enough patience to wait on Smith’s health, even if it takes a season or two. Should he get all the way back, he’s exactly the type of player that Atlanta’s defense is missing.

  • 18
    18Jack Conklin
    G/T, Michigan State

    Something about this fit has made it an easy one to make in our recent mocks. Perhaps it’s that the Colts have no choice but to upgrade their offensive line after a miserable 2015 season. Or, perhaps it’s that Conklin has the wherewithal to start as a rookie at either guard or tackle. 

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  • 19
    19Jarran Reed​
    DT, Alabama

    Consider this a strong depth addition to Buffalo’s 2015 D-line as well as a plan for the future—starting DT Kyle Williams will be 33 in June, and 82% of his $8.3 million cap hit can come off the books after the 2016 season. Reed (6' 3", 311 pounds) is a load up front.

  • 20
    20Darron Lee
    LB, Ohio State

    Lee is not the prototypical edge rusher that the Jets need to find. What he is, though, is a gifted athlete who can play inside when New York runs a three-man front or step outside in a 4–3 base. Oh, and he did notch 11.0 sacks between 2014 and ’15, showing a nice burst when Ohio State turned him loose as a blitzer.

  • 21
    21Robert Nkemdiche​
    DL, Ole Miss

    Which team is going to take the shot? Nkemdiche is a top-five talent with major off-field concerns—in December, he climbed out a hotel window and then fell 15 feet, reportedly while under the influence of synthetic marijuana. But, man, his raw football talent might be unmatched in this class. He can line up just about anywhere and is a remarkable athlete. Tap into his full potential, and Washington could have a perennial All-Pro.

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  • 22
    22Ezekiel Elliott
    RB, Ohio State

    Do the Colts pounce on Elliott? How about the Jets? Or maybe a wild card like the Dolphins, at No. 8? If not, and assuming the top three QBs are gone, Houston has to take a long look. Elliott can have a Todd Gurley-like impact on an offense as a rookie. He is a three-down back with great vision and an innate desire to initiate contact.

  • 23
    Taylor Decker​
    OT, Ohio State
    Tough call here between nabbing Decker for the line or handing Teddy Bridgewater a standout receiver. But Bridgewater can’t use his receivers without more protection. And a huge bonus when it comes to Decker: He’s outstanding in the run game, which Adrian Peterson would appreciate.

  • 24
    24Andrew Billings
    DT, Baylor
    Even in mock drafts, the Bengals somehow get the draft board to fall their way. Billings can step in from Day One on the nose, next to Geno Atkins. Or, truer to Bengals form, he can ease his way into the rotation alongside Domata Peko (a cut candidate), Brandon Thompson (if he re-signs cheap) and others.

  • 25
    25Darian Thompson​
    S, Boise State
    We talked about “draft crushes” on last week’s On the Clock podcast, and Thompson was on that list for me even before he excelled at the Senior Bowl. The Boise State product was all over the field in Mobile, breaking up countless passes in drills. Adding Thompson would allow the Steelers to use hard hitter Mike Mitchell more often as an in-the-box defender.

  • 26
    26Eli Apple
    CB, Ohio State
    Apple is a big (6' 1", 200), physical coverage corner who occasionally uses his hands too much. If that doesn’t sound like a Seahawks CB, I don’t know what does. Both Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead are set to be free agents, and Seattle would prefer not to repeat the Cary Williams nightmare via free agency. 

  • 27
    27Leonard Floyd
    OLB, Georgia
    Listed at 231 pounds, Floyd probably is not going to overpower many (or any?) blockers as a pass rusher. He still gets home with regularity thanks to his technique. In addition, he also has experience in all phases of the game at LB, including dropping in coverage.

  • 28
    DL, Louisville
    Rankins grabs a “DL” assignment instead of being specified as an end or tackle because he offers that versatility—likely end in a 3–4, tackle in a 4–3. Either way, he’s going to get to the quarterback. Jaye Howard and Mike DeVito are impending free agents, so the Chiefs could use another playmaker up front.

  • 29
    29Emmanuel Ogbah
    DE/LB, Oklahoma State
    For all their recent success, the Cardinals have not had a ton of luck drafting pass-rushing help (though Markus Golden did show signs of life late in the 2015 season.) Enter Ogbah, a 275-pounder who could be a missing piece. His repertoire is a work in progress, yet he still totaled 22.5 sacks over his past two seasons. The Cardinals could move him around, too.

  • 30
    30Jason Spriggs
    OT, Indiana
    If you watched even a few minutes of Super Bowl 50, you’ll understand why this pick is an offensive tackle. The Panthers boasted the league’s top-scoring offense despite starting Michael Oher and Mike Remmers; the latter was lit up by Denver when it counted most. Spriggs could slot in on either side of the line, and his quick feet would pair well with Carolina’s creative rushing scheme.

  • 31
    31Hunter Henry
    TE, Arkansas

    The Broncos have their own issues at offensive tackle (and, you know, quarterback). They bypass the line here for the draft’s best tight end, a 6' 5" mismatch-creator. He is nowhere near the blocker Vernon Davis once was, but Henry could provide the type of passing-game target Denver thought it was getting from the veteran TE.

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    NFL Draft: Round 2
    • 32
      32Josh Doctson
      WR, TCU

    • 33
      33Jeremy Cash
      S, Duke

    • 34
      34Derrick Henry
      RB, Alabama

    • 35
      35Jonathan Bullard
      DL, Florida

    • 36
      36Tyler Boyd
      WR, Pittsburgh

      Notes on the above picks: Part of me is convinced Cleveland will mimic Minnesota’s 2014 draft route—trade back within the top 10 and take a defender, then trade up late in Round 1 to get a QB. If they follow the path laid out here (QB-WR), bank on them piling up defensive guys the rest of the way. Cash may be too similar to Da’Norris Searcy, but he is a Round 1 talent with underrated range. Henry’s a value pick here, too.

      The Bullard pick emphasizes again the depth of D-line talent in this class. Ideally, I think I’d have him as a 3-tech but the Chargers can toy with it. Boyd’s going to be a stud wherever he lands.

    • 37
      37Kenny Clark
      DT, UCLA

    • 38
      38Vonn Bell
      S, Ohio State

    • 39
      39Kevin Dodd
      DE, Clemson

    • 40
      40Corey Coleman
      WR, Baylor

    • 41
      41Vernon Butler
      DL, Louisiana Tech

      Notes on the above picks: See ... defensive linemen. Clark, Dodd and Butler all figure to receive Round 1 grades from multiple teams, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the entire trio was gone before Thursday night wraps. Dodd exploded during Clemson’s run to the national title game; Butler’s a favorite among draft analysts. Give me Clark, a gifted 310-pounder who can play on the nose.

      Bell would give Gus Bradley yet another piece, adding him to earlier pick Joey Bosa and 2015 first-rounder Dante Fowler. He’ll be a handful for NFL receivers and tight ends.

      Treadwell was under consideration for the Giants at 10. Coleman is an excellent consolation prize—a 5' 10" receiver who plays big and can dominate downfield.

    • 42
      42Cody Whitehair
      G/T, Kansas State

    • 43
      43Ryan Kelly
      C, Alabama

    • 44
      44Joshua Perry
      LB, Ohio State

    • 45
      45Michael Thomas
      WR, Ohio State

    • 46
      46Kentrell Brothers
      LB, Missouri

      Notes on the above picks: This is an extremely solid quintet, consisting of five players who should compete for starting jobs in camp. Neither Whitehair nor Kelly will move the hype needle all that much, but they both could wind up with lengthy careers.

      Coming back with Thomas at 45 gets the Rams a game-breaking threat, even if he falls shy of the top receiver tier. Ditto on the defensive side for Oakland (Perry) and Detroit (Brothers), which land impact prospects. Perry on the strong side could help round out the Raiders’ front seven, while Brothers can be a Stephen Tulloch replacement—now or in 2017.

    • 47
      47Kendall Fuller
      CB, Virginia Tech

    • 48
      48Su'a Cravens
      LB, USC

    • 49
      49Spencer Drango
      OT, Baylor

    • 50
      50Braxton Miller
      WR, Ohio State

    • 51
      51Shilique Calhoun
      DE/OLB, Michigan State

      Notes on the above picks: Even if he’s now viewed as strictly a linebacker, somewhat limiting his stock, Cravens at 48 is thievery. The Colts could use him on the weak side, inside or as a nickel defender. If Fuller comes back 100% healthy from the knee injury that sidelined him in September, he’ll outperform the 47th spot, as well.

      Drango probably winds up inside, but I’d give him a shot at tackle first. He appears to have an advanced understanding for how to play there.

      Two Big Ten guys to round out this group of five: Miller as the new No. 2 receiver behind Julio Jones, Calhoun as a versatile chess piece to play outside in Todd Bowles’s creative defense.

    • 52
      52Christian Hackenberg
      QB, Penn State

    • 53
      53Deion Jones
      LB, LSU

    • 54
      54Miles Killebrew
      S, Southern Utah

    • 55
      55William Jackson
      CB, Houston

    • 56
      56Chris Jones
      DL, Mississippi State

      Notes on the above picks: The Texans couldn’t pass on a QB again, right? I’m more than high enough on Cook to give the thumbs up for him here, but it’s easier to connect the Hackenberg-to-Bill O’Brien dots. Don’t rule out Cardale Jones, either. While he has a lot of work to do, his huge arm and mobility would make him intriguing in the O’Brien attack.

      A handful of guys being undervalued behind Hackenberg here. Jones opened some more eyes with his play at the Senior Bowl—he moves like a running back playing linebacker. Killebrew did well for himself in Mobile, too. That Jackson had to bail on the event due to injury was a shame; he would have stood out among a so-so cornerback crop. And Jones ... well, I’m confused why more people are not talking about him. He has the quickness off the ball to be a one-gap monster, and the Seahawks would place extra value on his versatility.

    • 57
      57Nick Vannett
      TE, Ohio State

    • 58
      58Joshua Garnett
      G, Stanford

    • 59
      59Sterling Shepard
      WR, Oklahoma

    • 60
      60Jordan Jenkins
      OLB, Georgia

    • 61
      61Christian Westernman
      OL, Arizona State

      Vannett didn’'t always get a chance to show it in Columbus, but he’s the movable TE that Green Bay is missing. The Ohio State product was another Senior Bowl stud. Garnett is also on the list. He was, hands down, among the most impressive linemen throughout the week of practices.

      And Shepard? He was named the Senior Bowl’s top wide receiver by scouts in attendance. (Miller probably should have won, not to take anything away from what Shepard did.) The 5' 10" receiver is a crisp route runner and has steel traps for hands. He would have been a great fit for the Patriots’ first selection at 60. Instead, with Shepard gone and no OTs really standing out here, they add some extra bulk to their linebacking corps. Jenkins’s best position is hard to pin down, but he could make an impact as a 4-3 end or pass-rushing OLB, or as a 3-4 OLB.

      Westerman is a capable mover along the interior. The Cardinals might be in need of a center and a guard, so taking a prospect who can handle either makes for a savvy play.

    • 62
      62Carl Nassib
      DE, Penn State

    • 63
      63Connor Cook
      QB, Michigan State

If Kony Ealy continues to play as he did in the Super Bowl, Carolina’s need at end is less severe. But it’s a need regardless. Nassib would produce as part of a rotation, with room to grow into more.

As for Cook, I’m of the belief that Denver will take a quarterback somewhere even if it keeps Peyton Manning or (more likely) Brock Osweiler. Gary Kubiak should see in Cook moldable qualities, including that he can thread the needle while on the move. Cook’s current situation is a tricky one. There is too much negative chatter about his personality to ignore, but how much of it is being pushed by teams hoping to see him drop? In this class, I still peg him as a Round 1 candidate, right in step with Wentz from a talent perspective.

Another one I still haven’t quite figured out: Shawn Oakman. The Senior Bowl MVP thanks to two sacks and a forced fumble, he probably gets a call somewhere on Day 2 (if not Day 1, should some front office roll the dice). The problem, as always, is that it’s so hit or miss with him. He showed up on game day in Mobile but was a non-factor during the all-important practices.

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