2016 replacements for first-round draft departures

Which college players will fill the shoes of their school's 2016 draft stars? Steve Palazzolo identifies the notable names.

| 6 months ago
(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

2016 replacements for first-round draft departures

While the NFL draft brings an influx of talent to the NFL, college teams are left to ponder their future without their departed superstars. Some programs simply go to the next man up in the pipeline, with “reload” the mantra over “rebuild.” Other teams are left with wide-open competitions among a number of players, while still others are left with voids that are difficult to fill for years to come.

Here’s a look at how colleges are planning to replace their first-round picks, as well as other top-name talents:

1. Jared Goff, QB, Cal

Replacement: Chase Forrest, Ross Bowers, or Zach Kline

It’s a wide open race to replace the top pick in the draft with sophomore Forrest, redshirt freshman Bowers and senior Kline all in the mix. Forrest may have the inside track after attempting 18 passes and grading at +0.5 year ago. Bowers was an Elite 11 finalist in 2014 and Kline is a former highly-touted recruit in his own right, but look for Cal to go with youth in either Forrest or Bowers.

2. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State

Replacement: Easton Stick

North Dakota State has been an FCS powerhouse in recent years, and it’s Stick’s turn to take the reins. He showed well when replacing Wentz last season, putting up comparable numbers though it did come in a pared-down offense.

3. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Replacement: Sam Hubbard

While he’s not as big as Bosa, DE Sam Hubbard will take over for Bosa at left defensive end after grading at +14.4 overall last year on 346 snaps. He was productive in his backup role, picking up seven sacks, six QB hits and nine hurries on his 186 rushes while showing well on his 145 snaps against the run.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Replacement: Curtis Samuel, Bri’onte Dunn, and Mike Weber

It will be more of a committee approach in Ohio State’s backfield in 2016 after Elliott played 820 snaps a year ago while his backups saw only 51. Samuel played in the slot last year, but he should see more time in the backfield after grading at +7.6 as a runner the last two years with 75 carries for 519 yards and seven touchdowns. Dunn heads into his senior year with limited experience, while Weber redshirted last year after ranking as one of the top high school running backs in the country in 2014.

5. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State

Replacement: Tarvarus McFadden

As a true freshman, McFadden only saw the field for 65 snaps and he was targeted once for a six-yard completion. With a 6-foot-2, 197-pound frame and five-star pedigree, McFadden has a chance to emerge as the next star in Florida State’s secondary.

6. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Replacement: Alex Bars (right tackle Mike McGlinchey moves to left tackle)

Coming off a breakout season that saw him lead the nation’s right tackles with a +23.2 overall grade, McGlinchey will directly replace Stanley at left tackle, but it’s Bars who will step in at right tackle. All 151 snaps of his career have come at left guard and he did a nice job in the run game at +2.3, showing good athleticism to lock onto targets at the second level.

7. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Replacements: Canton Kaumatule, Jalen Jelks

Jelks made the most of his 80 pass rushes last year, picking up five sacks, a QB hit and eight hurries. He showed impressive length, pass rush repertoire, and relentlessness as a redshirt freshman and he has a chance to become one of the nation’s breakout stars. Kaumatule was a five-star recruit who was eased into action last year with a nondescript 64 snaps over eight games. At 6-foot-7, 295-pounds, Kaumatule has the length and size of previous Oregon defensive ends like Buckner and Arik Armstead, among others.

8. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

Replacement: Dennis Finley, David Beedle

There’s no clean replacement on the roster, so much so that head coach Mark Dantonio essentially alerted the nation that he’s open to a graduate transfer coming into take the job. When Conklin got hurt last year, Finley replaced him and then got the start in Week 5 against Purdue, but he broke his leg in that game after playing 61 snaps in two games (-2.7 overall). Beedle is also competing for the spot after a -5.2 effort on 115 snaps at left guard last season.

9. Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

Replacement: Lorenzo Carter, Deven Bellamy

Carter was recruited as a Floyd clone and he showed great improvement after a difficult true freshman season (-7.4), finishing at +8.8 overall on 306 snaps. Bellamy has a long frame of his own, and his two-year, 426-snap sample is an impressive one (+16.6 overall, four sacks, four QB hits, 11 hurries).

10. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

Replacement: Damon Webb, Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward

There’s little experience among the candidates to replace Apple as Webb has played 109 snaps in two years, Lattimore played 84 as a redshirt freshman last season and Ward played only 21 as a true freshman last year. With Gareon Conley locked in as the starter on one side, it’s a wide open race between the three prospects.

11. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Replacement: Quincy Wilson

Wilson will start opposite next year’s first-round hopeful Jalen Tabor and given Wilson’s experience and two-year production, the Gators may not see a big drop-off, even with Hargreaves off to the NFL. Wilson has played 935 snaps at Florida, grading at +15.4 in coverage while allowing a passer rating of only 55.1 into his coverage.

12. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

Replacement: James Hearns, Drew Bailey, Kyle Shortridge

Hearns was a productive pass rusher last season, picking up three sacks, three QB hits and seven hurries on 163 attempts while Bailey graded at +3.8 on his 156 snaps. Shortridge has shown well against the run (+3.8 on 148 total snaps last two seasons) and this looks like a committee approach to replace Rankins’ great production both against the run and as a pass rusher.

13. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Replacement: Greg Little, Alex Givens, Jeremy Liggins

Chances are it’s going to be a freshman replacing Tunsil, as five-star recruit Greg Little is expected to compete for the job in fall camp while redshirt freshman Givens is in competition to start at either left or right tackle.

14. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia

Replacement: Jarrod Harper

It’s unfortunate that Joseph had to be replaced so early last season due to injury, but Harper played 521 snaps last season and showed well at +2.4 overall. He may not have Joseph’s versatile coverage ability, and 13 missed tackles on only 48 attempts over the last two years are a concern, but Harper looks poised to have a solid senior season.

15. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

Replacement: Ishmael Zamora, Quan Jones, Blake Lynch

Baylor rolls through a number of receivers every year – seven players played at least 200 snaps year ago – so expect many players to get a chance to replace Coleman’s production. Zamora caught nine passes for 132 yards a year ago while Jones has caught all six of his targets for 55 yards the last two years. Lynch redshirted last year as a freshman, and if there’s one thing this trio has in common it’s size (all listed at least 6-foot-3) — so expect Baylor to look much bigger on the outside next year.

16. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Replacement: Jamarco Jones, Branden Bowen, Grant Schmidt

Jones has made the most of his 141 career snaps, grading at +2.9 in the run game. He can create movement at the point of attack and he shows the athleticism to block on the move, perhaps adding another dimension to Ohio State’s zone running attack. Both Bowen and Schmidt redshirted last year as freshmen, so Jones has the early lead to replace Decker.

17. Keanu Neal, S, Florida

Replacement: Duke Dawson, Nick Washington, Marcell Harris

Florida has multiple options in replacing Neal, from the hard-hitting Harris (-0.8 on 179 career snaps) to cornerback/safety hybrid Dawson (+1.8 on 369 career snaps) to Washington (+0.1 on 340 snaps last two years). Dawson appears primed to replace Brian Poole in the slot, so look for Harris and Washington to battle it out on the back end opposite Marcus Mayes.

18. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Replacement: J.C. Hassenauer

Hassenauer has done a nice job on his 137 snaps over the last two years (+5.3 overall), though he did struggle when he replaced Kelly in the Texas A&M game last season (-3.3).

19. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Replacement: Austin Bryant

Clemson has two top defensive ends to replace in both Lawson and second-round pick Kevin Dodd, and Bryant is the top option to replace their production. When Lawson went down in the playoff game against Oklahoma, Bryant filled in nicely on 66 snaps, capping off a solid true freshman campaign that saw him finish at +3.8 overall on 235 snaps.

20. Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State

Replacements: Dante Booker, Justin Hilliard, Chris Worley, Nick Conner

Both outside linebacker positions are open with both Lee and Joshua Perry moving on to the NFL, so there are a number of options for both spots. Booker is the early favorite on the weak side after playing 110 snaps over the last two years, grading at +1.2. Worley has 216 snaps to his name in two years, though he’s graded at -7.3 and will likely back up Raekwon McMillian in the middle. Hilliard and Conner both redshirted as freshman last season and Hilliard is the name to watch as the former five-star recruit will likely see the field this fall.

21. Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Replacement: Torii Hunter Jr; Equanimeous St. Brown

Hunter Jr had a strong spring and he looked good when called upon last season, grading at +7.8 on his 348 snaps. He is the top candidate to replace at least some of Fuller’s production while St. Brown was a highly-touted recruit who caught his only target as a freshman a year ago for eight yards.

22. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Replacement: Deante’ Gray, Ty Slanina, Jaelan Austin

Gray missed all of 2015, but he had a strong 2014 (+12.2 on 364 snaps) and he should get plenty of targets this fall. Slanina played only four games before missing the rest of the season with an injury of his own but he’s caught 43 of his 46 targets (76.8 percent) over the last two years. Austin played 226 snaps as a true freshman last year and finished with a strong bowl game against Oregon. TCU uses a plethora of receiving options so there are sure to be even more players in the mix to replace Doctson.

23. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Replacement: Damore’ea Stringfellow, Quincy Adeboyejo, Derrick Jones

Stringfellow and Adeboyejo were already big parts of the Ole Miss passing offense as Stringfellow used his massive 6-foot-3, 229-pound frame to catch 36 passes for 504 yards while Adeboyejo contributed 38 catches for 604 yards. Expect both players to see a big increase in production while Jones could get a chance to develop as a big-play downfield threat.

24. William Jackson III, CB, Houston

Replacement: Howard Wilson

Wilson should get the first shot to replace Jackson as he has 429 snaps under his belt over the last two years. He’s surrendered 30 catches on 54 targets to go with four interceptions and four passes defensed during that time.

25. Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Replacement: Sheldrick Redwine, Michael Jackson

Redwine played 102 snaps last season as a true freshman, grading at -0.8 overall but +0.7 in coverage. Jackson was also a true freshman and he only saw action on 32 snaps in two different games. They’re listed at 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-2 respectively so Miami has a chance to replace Burns with some length on the outside.

26. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Replacement: Riley Ferguson, Jason Stewart, Brady Davis

Formerly committed to Tennessee, Ferguson appears to be the front-runner coming out of spring practice after he transferred from junior college. Stewart redshirted last year as a senior after throwing only four passes in 2014 while Davis is a redshirt freshman, so it’s an inexperienced group looking to replace Lynch.

27. Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA

Replacement: Eli Ankou, Matt Dickerson

Ankou was a valuable part of the UCLA defensive line rotation last year, especially after Eddie Vanderdoes went down in the opener. He finished at +11.1 overall, including +9.8 as a pass rusher on his 520 snaps, while Dickerson graded at +3.5 on 565 snaps.

28. Josh Garnett, G, Stanford

Replacement: Brandon Fanaika

Fanaika is the favorite to replace the top run-blocking guard in the FBS as the rising sophomore has 86 snaps of experience, grading at -1.2. With LT Kyle Murphy also on to the NFL and center Graham Shuler retiring, it’s going to be a completely new look for Stanford’s offensive line.

29. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

Replacement: Breeland Speaks, Isaac Gross

Ole Miss has plenty of experience on their defensive line as Speaks played a strong 468 snaps last season (+11.1 overall) while Gross is undersized but he was productive on his 405 snaps in 2014 (+6.3 overall). Expect a heavy rotation as Ole Miss has seven returning defensive linemen who played at least 100 snaps a year ago, not including Gross who was limited to five.

30. Vernon Butler, DT, Carolina Panthers

Replacement: Courtney Wallace, Jordan Bradford, Hakim Gray

Wallace brings great size to the defensive line rotation at 6-foot-2, 335 pounds and he saw 190 snaps as a true freshman last season (+0.2). Bradford brings a different body type to the mix at 6-foot 2, 270 pounds, and he eased in with 136 snaps (-1.5) as a true freshman. Gray has played only 71 total snaps over the last two years and all three players figure to rotate heavily while trying to replace Butler.

31. Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M

Replacement: Koda Martin, Justin Dworaczyk

Martin saw 77 snaps last year as a redshirt freshman (-1.3) while Dworaczyk redshirted last year as a true freshman. Texas A&M has to replace both starting tackles from last year’s squad.

Other notable replacements:

1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Replacement: Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris

Both true freshmen a year ago, Scarbrough and Harris were highly-recruited running backs and they’re primed to carry the workload in place of Henry. Scarbrough played 29 snaps last season, grading at +1.9 as a runner while Harris saw the field for 99 snaps while grading at -3.3 overall.

2. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Replacement: Tyler O’Connor

O’Connor is heading into his senior season and Michigan State fans already got a taste of his game after Cook when down to injury late in the season. O’Connor graded at -0.4 on his 100 snaps, though he flashed a strong arm, so he could surprise in 2016.

3. Jaylon Smith, OLB, Notre Dame
Replacement: Te’von Coney, Asmar Bilal

Replacing Smith’s athleticism is a difficult proposition, but Coney should get the first crack at it after a -0.3 performance on 61 snaps as a true freshman. Bilal was in the same class but did not see time last year. Notre Dame needs improved linebacker play from all three spots in order to replace Smith’s impact.

4. Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
Replacement: Jayon Brown, Isaako Savaiinaea, Mique Juarez

Brown and Saviinaea helped to replace Jack last year after he went down, grading at -7.2 and +4.4 respectively. Brown in particular had a rough time down the stretch with four negatively-graded games. Keep an eye on Juarez, a five-star recruit who has already drawn comparisons to Jack.

5. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Replacement: Shaun Dion Hamilton, Keith Holcombe, Adonis Thomas

Reuben Foster is already locked in at one inside linebacker spot, and he is next in line to steal Ragland’s headlines as Alabama’s top linebacker. As for replacing Ragland, Hamilton has the most experience with 264 snaps and a +4.7 overall grade in his two years. Holcombe played only 30 snaps as a redshirt freshman last year while Thomas redshirted as a true freshman.


| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.