Cris Collinsworth’s final NFL mock draft for 2016
QBs go 1-2 in Cris Collinsworth's latest projection of all 31 first-rounders, with the draft's safest bet drafted at No. 3.
Cris Collinsworth’s final NFL mock draft for 2016
[Editor’s note: Cris Collinsworth correctly predicted the Rams’ trade-up for the No. 1 overall pick in his first mock draft for 2016. However, his NFL crystal ball didn’t predict the Eagles’ trade for the No. 2 spot. He’s worked off the updated first-round order to bring you his second mock draft of the year, with quarterbacks going to L.A. and Philadelphia with the first two picks.]
The 2016 NFL draft process has gotten even more interesting, with the Philadelphia Eagles trading into the No. 2 spot in the draft to get whichever quarterback the Los Angeles Rams don’t take with the top overall pick.
At Pro Football Focus headquarters, there is a healthy debate over which guy is the better quarterback. If you only study the tape, your decision would be Jared Goff out of California. But NFL decision-makers usually take the bigger, faster, and stronger-throwing quarterbacks — in case the pick goes poorly, they at least have the numbers to fall back on.
I would have guessed that North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, with his measureables and high developmental upside, would have been the first pick, but it looks like the Rams will go with Goff based on his superior game tape, which came against better competition. Potential is a powerful concept that often leads to mistakes, but the potential of Wentz is very intriguing — and if the rumors are true that the Rams are going with Goff at No. 1, the Eagles have made a huge bet based upon potential. If I were in their position, I would have, too.
Here is my projection of all 31 first-round picks in the 2016 NFL draft:
1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, California
There’s no question that Goff is the more impressive quarterback on tape, between him and Wentz. His decision-making, movement skills in the pocket and creative playmaking ability are similar to Aaron Rodgers, just without the same level of arm strength that Rodgers has. He had to play against better competition with a lesser team around him. Some of the concerns over his hand size (just over nine inches) and gripping the football go away when he’s playing in L.A. as opposed to Cleveland, but he still will have to win important football games in places like Seattle. He’s the guy most ready to play in his first year, which is important for the Rams’ organization given their relocation – they’re selling tickets, luxury boxes, energy. They’re not going to be able to go 1-15 while they develop a quarterback, they’re going to need to win games now, and Goff lets them do that.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
The Eagles are in the opposite situation with Wentz as the Rams are with Goff. Wentz has the size to hold up well in the weather conditions of the NFC East, along with incredible potential and upside that may take a few years to develop, but that’s not as big an issue for Philadelphia with Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel there. (Although I can’t possibly imagine that all three of those guys are still going to be there by opening day). I don’t think Wentz has quite the run skills of Cam Newton, but he wont be far behind, as he is a big powerful guy who will be as productive of a runner as he wants to be and as the team lets him be. That rushing ability will serve him well as he develops as a quarterback.
3. San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
I view Tunsil as the one can’t-miss prospect in this draft. Short of injury, I can’t see any scenario in which this guy isn’t a 10-to 12-year starter in the league — he has Anthony Munoz-like potential. He also is a great fit for San Diego, which has the worst pass-blocking grade in the league last season, according to PFF. QB Philip Rivers got pounded, and rookie running back Melvin Gordon found little running room — Tunsil should be able to help in both areas. If Tunsil weren’t such a perfect fit here, I do think a trade is a possibility. Per the NFL Network, every time the top two picks have been traded in previous drafts, the No. 3 pick was also dealt.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
The obvious choice here is Ohio State DE Joey Bosa, as the Cowboys have a need at the position, but I just don’t think he’s a pure, classic edge rusher — he’s more of a power player who will max out around 10 sacks per year. I only believe in spending money on two positions on defense: pass-rushers and cover corners. So in this scenario I’ll go with the cornerback-safety hybrid in Ramsey. At 6-foot-1, 208 pounds he can cover big, flex tight ends, and he’s a big hitter who can escape blocks with flair and get ball-carriers and pass-catchers on the ground. If you can’t get a good pass rush, you better be able to cover on the back end. Ramsey will help Dallas do that and bring the versatility to play either safety or cornerback.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The model we just described for Dallas of investing resources in coverage players is one option, and investing in pass-rushers up front is another. That’s what we’re going with for Jacksonville here, as teaming Bosa with 2015 No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. (who missed his rookie season due to injury) and free-agent pickup Malik Jackson (a very productive interior pass-rusher) gives them a very talented group up front. They’re going to be able to get to the QB no matter how bad things are in coverage. I think Bosa will be a fan favorite for whichever team drafts him, for his relentless effort and grind-it-out, J.J. Watt-like attitude. He will never let his teammates down. But it’s important for people to understand what he isn’t, and that’s a quick-twitch, flash-off-the-edge guy like Von Miller that most fans would love to see their football team build around.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
The team that drafts Jack is taking a little bit of a risk because of the knee injury that ended his 2015 season, but the upside for him is so big that it’s worth it. There’s no running back or tight end in the NFL that Jack couldn’t handle in coverage. The Broncos were able to limit the short passing games of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers because of the underneath coverage ability of their linebackers, and Jack is the type of player who could do the same for Baltimore. He’ll limit the quick throws, giving the pass rush time to get home. He has the potential to be an excellent sideline-to-sideline defender in that defense.
7. San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
This pick gives new Niners coach Chip Kelly another former Oregon Duck, and Buckner fills a need as a defensive end in their 3-4 base defense. He is an imposing player at 6-7, 291 pounds, with power, length and slippery quickness to disrupt both in the running game and as a pass-rusher. His presence inside and ability to occupy multiple blockers will open up one-on-one opportunities for the Niners’ edge rushers — an area of weakness for them last season. He can get swallowed up by double teams on occasion, but at his best in the NFL he should be a very disruptive player who provides the type of interior pressure that makes QBs uncomfortable by removing their space to move up in the pocket.
8. Cleveland Browns: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
Even given the presence of Joe Haden, whose recovery from ankle surgery could potentially cause him to miss Cleveland’s season opener, the Browns have some concerns at the cornerback position, and Hargreaves is one of the best in this year’s class. I worry a little bit about his deep recovery speed, but he is explosive (as demonstrated by his excellent 39-inch vertical and 130-inch broad jumps at the combine) and loves being physical with opposing wide receivers. He had 10 interceptions during his time at Florida, evidence of his ball skills, and while he slipped in PFF coverage grades as a junior to No. 71 in the nation, he ranked No. 2 as a true sophomore in 2014.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
I think Rankins has the chance to be one of the stars of this draft. His lack of prototypical size at the D-tackle position is going to scare some people off, but as we’ve seen recently from the likes of Geno Atkins, Aaron Donald and Malik Jackson, elite quickness from inside pass-rushers can make superstars out of the outside pass-rushers because the quarterback can no longer step up in the pocket. Rankins has that type of elite quickness, and in 2014 he graded as the second-best interior defensive lineman in all of college football. His pass-rush ability would help take pressure off of the Bucs’ pass coverage, which ranked dead-last in PFF grades last season.
10. New York Giants: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
This is one of the picks I’m sticking with from my first mock draft. To me, Coleman is clearly the best wide receiver prospect in this class. His high drop rate concerns me, and I don’t know that he’ll make his living going over the middle, but he is absolutely electric on the outside with his short-area quickness and top-end speed. The Giants have to surround QB Eli Manning with playmakers other than Odell Beckham Jr., and defenses are going to have a really hard time covering Coleman one-on-one on the outside if they double-cover ODB. Coleman is outstanding at releasing from bump and run coverage, and he has the open-field running ability to take underneath throws and turn them into big gains.
11. Chicago Bears: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
This pick allows the Bears to stop playing shuffleboard along the offensive line. Left tackle is one of the cornerstone position in the NFL, and for the first time in a long time the Bears will be able to say that they are covered at that spot. It will also give them options on what to do with Kyle Long, likely moving him inside at guard. I’m not sure that Bobby Massie can hold up at right tackle, but regardless, this pick helps Chicago’s line in both the short and long term. Stanley doesn’t have the elite athleticism of Tunsil, but he still possesses excellent quickness in pass protection and as a run-blocker getting to the next level, and he’ll be one of the league’s best left tackles by his second year in the league.
12. New Orleans Saints: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
This was the hardest pick I had to make. I desperately wanted to put a wide receiver in at this position to give Drew Brees some added help, and I was tempted to take Josh Doctson out of TCU. But the Saints have a real need at corner. Brandon Browner earned the worst CB grade in the NFL last year before being cut this offseason, and overall the Saints had the second-worst PFF coverage grade. Alexander has great versatility, with the quickness to play either inside covering the slot, or outside. I think we’d see the Saints play Alexander in the slot early on.
13. Miami Dolphins: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Elliott is the type of running back who can immediately take pressure off of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He’s one of the few backs I’ve seen in recent drafts that you feel comfortable handing the ball to, throwing the ball to and having him stay in and block (he allowed just one pressure in pass protection in 2015). In today’s spread offenses in college, it’s just difficult to find guys coming out like that anymore. Miami still has weaknesses at the guard position that they need to address, but that’s something they can do in later rounds — and sometimes the best way to protect your quarterback is to run the football. Elliott would be a great replacement for departed free agent Lamar Miller, having ranked No. 1 in yards after contact per attempt in 2015 among this year’s RB class.
14. Oakland Raiders: Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia
Probably one of my favorite players to watch in the league right now is New England’s Jamie Collins. He’s a big athlete playing linebacker who can do anything — defend the run, cover, and he’s a big hitter. I think Floyd is going to bring some of the same skill set to the NFL. He ranked second only to Joey Bosa in PFF’s edge defender grades last season. He can play on and off the ball, rush the passer off the edge and drop into coverage when needed. He is a bit long-legged, which hurts him when having to make quick changes-of-direction, but these speed guys like Collins, Ryan Shazier and Floyd just make your defense look completely different with their ability to run inside-out.
15. Tennesse Titans: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
I think Conklin could fit right in at right tackle for the Titans, opposite left tackle Taylor Lewan. Conklin was a left tackle for the Spartans, grading out as the No. 3 tackle in PFF grades in both 2014 and 2015, but he profiles as more of a right tackle in the NFL due to his level of physicality and his ability to maul opponents in the running game. It’s worth noting that he held up well in pass protection, too, however, having allowed just 25 total pressures and four sacks over the last two years. The Titans wind up with an excellent tackle pairing in this scenario, even after trading out of the No. 1 pick.
16. Detroit Lions: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Nkemdiche has the athleticism to play anywhere along the defensive line, which is rare for a player who weighs over 290 pounds. I think he’d slot in right away as an interior rusher in Detroit’s defensive front, providing a nice complement to edge rusher Ziggy Ansah. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata isn’t going to play forever, and Nkemdiche would immediately strengthen the position. His ability to split double teams is outstanding, and I love that he plays low, taking advantage of his strength and quickness. The big question marks with Nkemdiche are off the field.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
The Falcons join the Seahawks and Jaguars as teams that play the most Cover-3 matchup zone, and in that scheme you can’t get enough pass-rushers to get pressure from your front four. Lawson is the right man for the job, and he’d get to play alongside his old Clemson teammate Vic Beasley. What I remember of that defense is how fast they played – the Tigers looked like they were running the 100-meter dash on every play. That’s the formula they have in Seattle with their Cover-3 defense, with disruptive edge rushers Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark, and it’s what I’m sure the Falcons are trying to recreate here.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
The Colts are a team that has to be built around pass protection. Andrew Luck is similar to Ben Roethlisberger in that he is a big, strong-armed QB who likes to hold the ball a long time and makes plays down the field. With Decker at right tackle opposite LT Anthony Castonzo, Indianapolis can buy Luck enough time to make things happen with their playmaking receivers down the field. After last year’s injuries to Luck, the Colts have to realize that their first priority is to keep their franchise QB healthy and upright in the pocket, and in this scenario Decker is the best pass protector on the board.
19. Buffalo Bills: Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky
In general, Buffalo’s defensive line was a disappointment last season, and PFF’s lowest-graded pass-rusher among edge players, Mario Williams, is now with the Dolphins. Spence has some off-field question marks concerning his departure from Ohio State, as he finished out his college career at Eastern Kentucky, but his abilities as a pass-rusher coming off the edge and his all-out effort and hustle would play well in head coach Rex Ryan’s defense.
20. New York Jets: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Jets head coach Todd Bowles’ formula as defensive coordinator for Arizona was playing man-to-man coverage and bringing pressure by taking a lot of chances with blitz-heavy packages. That’s why Jackson seems to be the right fit at this spot – he has great physical skills, great height for the position and excellent deep speed, having run a 4.37-second 40-yard dash time. He still has a lot to learn – don’t be surprised if double moves give him problems in the NFL — but his size should help against bigger receivers and he has the tools to develop into a good NFL corner. The Jets could use some help at the position.
21. Washington Redskins: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Washington has a major need at the inside linebacker position, and Ragland can be plugged inside to alleviate that. I enjoy watching him play. He ran a 4.7 40 and possesses plenty of athleticism to make plays as a rusher or in coverage, and I love the way he can wiggle in and out of holes to make run stops. He’s a run-stuffer, plain and simple, which makes him a better fit than the other linebacker who could come off the board in this range, Darron Lee of Ohio State, who is much more of a speed/cover linebacker.
22. Houston Texans: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is the best player on this offense, but he needs help. Like Hopkins, Doctson is tremendous at adjusting to the football. You can see that he’s been well-coached by the way he comes back to the football – he’s a technician as a route-runner. Even though he’s not a blazer, Doctson is a very impressive open-field runner and often makes tacklers looks silly. With both Hopkins and Doctson, the Texans would have two of the best contested ball catchers in the league to give help to their new quarterback Brock Osweiler.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
This is a non-traditional pick for Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer, but I’m going to do it anyway. Jones is a huge guy with poor technique who I think Zimmer can coach into a first-class player. When he plays with proper technique and stays low, he is really difficult to handle. He flashed his athleticism often at Mississippi State, and actually ended up with the second-best pass-rush grade among interior linemen last season. The longer he’s around Zimmer, the better he’ll get. Jones is just too big, too athletic and too rare to slide out of the first round.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
I’ve seen a ton of Fuller from watching Notre Dame these last few seasons, and he is one of the fastest players I’ve seen in college football. It seemed like he would come down with at least one deep ball every game, even against the best competition, so it’s no surprise he ranked No. 1 in the nation in deep-ball catch rate this season. His speed is a game-changer, both on deep routes and in taking screens and hitches for big gains after the catch, and NFL defenses would have a hard time covering him one-on-one with A.J. Green drawing more attention on the other side.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Our PFF analysts are worried about Apple’s ability to play in a zone-heavy scheme like the one Pittsburgh used last season, but perhaps the presence of an excellent cover corner like Apple would encourage the team to play more man coverage. Either way, cornerback is a big need for the Steelers, and Apple is the best one available here. He is very tough and physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage, and has good-enough speed and quickness to upgrade this position group for Pittsburgh.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
I had Kelly going to the Seahawks in my first mock draft, and I’ll reiterate here that I continue to think center is an underrated position in the NFL. Seattle’s offensive line has been a problem area the last couple of years, and last offseason’s trade sending center Max Unger to New Orleans for Jimmy Graham made things worse. I think Kelly would help in a big way, as he has the size and strength to hold up in pass protection and allow QB Russell Wilson to step up in the pocket when he needs to, but also the quickness to get to the second level in Seattle’s zone-heavy running game.
27. Green Bay Packers: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
I would love to take injured Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith here — it’d be like trading the No. 27 overall pick in this draft for a top-10 pick in 2017 — but I’m too chicken to not get a player at this spot who can help the team in 2016. So instead I’ll go with Billings, who fills a need at nose tackle following B.J. Raji’s retirement. He is a hammer in the running game who would protect the Packers’ inside linebackers by keeping blockers off of them, as that was a problem position for Green Bay last year (and Clay Matthews is being moved from middle linebacker back to an edge-rushing role). Billings was also surprisingly effective as a pass-rusher for Baylor, producing 30 total pressures, including five sacks, in 2015.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Kansas City isn’t a downfield-throwing team – QB Alex Smith tied for the shortest average depth of throw in the league last season — so Treadwell is the perfect fit here. Treadwell ran a slow 40 time at his pro day, and that dropped him down many boards, but there’s no denying his size, run-after-catch ability, and knack for coming down with contested catches. The Chiefs will be throwing a lot of slants and fades — routes on which receivers typically don’t get a ton of separation and have to come down with difficult catches — and Treadwell is the man for that job. He’d be a top-10 pick if he were just a bit quicker.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Shilique Calhoun, OLB, Michigan State
Even after trading for New England’s Chandler Jones, the Cardinals could afford to add more pass-rush ability coming off the edge. I think that Calhoun is the most gifted edge rusher in this class, after earning the second-best pass-rush grade among edge defenders in the nation last season, and he has the potential to be a double-digit sack guy for years to come in the NFL. I said this in my first mock draft, but if he were 275 pounds, as opposed to being 251, he’d be a top-five pick in this draft.
30. Carolina Panthers: Kevin Dodd, DE/OLB, Clemson
I tried to find a cornerback for the Panthers here, now that Josh Norman is an unrestricted free agent. (Quick aside: I have a feeling the organization might believe that Norman’s success was in large part due to head coach Ron Rivera’s defensive scheme, which contributed to their not wanting to meet Norman’s huge salary demands.) But there wasn’t a great value on the board in this scenario, and they can help their secondary by adding more pass rush. At 6-5, 275, Dodd has more length than his Clemson teammate Shaq Lawson, which is what NFL coaches love to see in pass-rushers, allowing them to ward off the punch of offensive tackles. Dodd also has great lean turning the corner. He had one sack in Clemson’s national semifinal win over Oklahoma and three more in the title game loss to Alabama.
31. Denver Broncos: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
The tackle position was problematic for Denver last season, and the team no longer has Peyton Manning’s quick passes to cover for its pass-protection issues. Between free-agent pickup Russell Okung and Spriggs, the Broncos are on their way to improving the position. Spriggs has some issues with his technique that he’ll need to improve, but he is simply too good of an athlete to leave out of the first round. He also held up well in pass protection at Indiana, earning the fourth-best pass-blocking efficiency score (PFF’s measurement of how frequently a lineman allows pressure, with a heavier weighting towards sacks) in this year’s draft class. He gave up just 12 total pressures in all of 2015.