By: Christian Reilly
With only two teams still standing, the other 30 teams are gearing up for the 2016 NFL Draft, looking to upgrade their roster with the goal of reaching Super Bowl 51 in mind. Some are further along than others, but that doesn’t make this draft any less important for everyone, right? Based on needs and best available prospects, here’s my take on the first round.
1. Titans – Laremy Tunsil (OT, Ole Miss)
The Titans already have their franchise quarterback in place with Marcus Mariota. The problem is, they need to protect him which they failed miserably in doing so last season, leading to a series of minor knee injuries that are always a cause for concern. They need to look no further than Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who’s the best pass blocker in this draft with the highest upside. This would be a wise choice, Titans fans.
2. Browns – Jared Goff (QB, California)
The Browns desperately need an answer at the quarterback position, which is something they haven’t had in decades. They thought they had their answer when they selected Johnny Manziel just two years ago, but they were wrong. Selecting Goff would be the best choice for Cleveland, as the Cal signal caller is the best this draft has to offer. He needs to bulk up along with improving his accuracy, but boy, he can spin it.
3. Chargers – Ronnie Stanley (OT, Notre Dame)
The Chargers need A LOT of help, but they can’t afford to look further than the offensive line. A combination of poor play and being decimated by injuries crushed this unit (and Philip Rivers) in 2015. If they want to continue to have Rivers be their guy for the next 3-5 years, they need a polished blocker up front and Stanley would be a perfect fit. He’s the most athletic and versatile offensive lineman in this draft, with building strength being his only weakness.
4. Cowboys – Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Right now, Bosa is the best prospect in this draft, and for him to fall to the Cowboys in this spot would be an absolute steal. If this were the case, not even Jerry Jones could screw this up…
5. Jaguars – Vernon Hargreaves (DB, Florida)
The Jaguars badly need help in the secondary, and for the second consecutive year, I see them taking a Florida prospect with their first choice. Hargreaves is the best pure cover corner in this class, and his ability to make plays in the run game and get interceptions is something the Jaguars need. A long, lanky corner that Gus Bradley would love.
6. Ravens – Jalen Ramsey (DB, Florida State)
The Ravens are another team that needs secondary help, as they were one of the league leaders in passing yards allowed. Ramsey would be the ideal pick, as the Seminoles prospect has the athleticism, versatility, and cocky swagger that the Ravens adore.
7. 49ers – Myles Jack (OLB, UCLA)
The 49ers need someone alongside Navarro Bowman, and to improve next year, they can’t pass up on Jack. The UCLA star tore his ACL back in October, be should be cleared for the combine and will be ready to step in and contribute from day one.
8. Dolphins – Taylor Decker (OT/G, Ohio State)
This may be a bit of a reach, but the Dolphins continue to struggle in protecting Ryan Tannehill. With Tunsil and Stanley already off the board, there is a huge drop off after Decker in terms of offensive line depth in this draft. I don’t think the Dolphins have any choice but to select Decker at this point.
9. Buccanears – Robert Nkemdiche (DT, Ole Miss)
The Bucs fired Lovie Smith supposedly because they weren’t improving their defense. (I don’t know how true that actually is, they should just admit they wanted Dirk Koetter to be their lead man all along). Regardless, they do need to sure up their defense, and Nkemdiche would be the wise choice here. I think his off-the-field issues are being a little too dramatic, although it is something to think about. But if the Bucs want to upgrade the interior of their defensive line ASAP, Nkemdiche is the guy to do it. If he stays out of trouble, you’re looking at potentially the best player in this draft class long-term.
10. Giants – A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
The Giants need help everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, but taking a beast like Robinson to create penetration on the interior would be a good start.
11. Bears – Reggie Ragland (MLB, Alabama)
From one Crimson Tide to the next, the Tide will be rolling with draft picks. (This is about as surprising as the Patriots competing for Super Bowls yearly). The Bears need a leader on their defense in the middle, and with Raglands experience and growth during his 4 years in Nick Saban’s defense, he’s more than ready to step in and get the job done.
12. Saints – Mackensie Alexander (DB, Clemson)
Alexander only allowed one touchdown against him all season during Clemson’s 14-1 season, and along with his cover skills, he’s an exceptional tackler in open space. To say the Saints were poor in the secondary in 2015 would be an understatement, and Alexander would step in and be their best corner from day one.
13. Eagles – Jack Conklin (OT, Michigan State)
The Eagles were atrocious up front all season, and they need help in all five positions especially with Jason Peters getting closer to retirement. It would be wise for them to take a mauler like Conklin, who is terrific in run blocking and is tough as nails.
14. Raiders – DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
The Raiders still need help defensively, and a pass rusher would be a good start. The more tape I watch on Buckner, the more I like. He’s a huge athlete that has a knack for getting in the backfield and being disruptive. This choice would only help free Khalil Mack that much more. Scary.
15. Rams – Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
This might be a gamble, but the Rams can’t afford to finish 8-8 in 2016 and miss the playoffs again with that phenomenal defense they have. They can afford to take a gamble on a quarterback that has size, athleticism, and a high upside. Lynch needs to fine tune his mechanics and his overall feel for the position, but the talent is there.
16. Lions – Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
The Lions need help on the defensive line, and Reed would be a nice fit. I’m not sure he’s the best available player in this spot, but based on need, the Lions would be a perfect landing spot for this disruptive force.
17. Falcons – Jaylon Smith (MLB, Notre Dame)
If it weren’t for the knee injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl, Smith would be a top-5 pick. When healthy, he may be the best athlete in this class playing linebacker. In terms of ceiling, the Patrick Willis comparisons are very appropriate. There’s nothing this guy can’t do, and only injuries will slow him down. Again, when healthy, he’s the best linebacker in this class. Hands down. This would be a steal for Dan Quinn and the Falcons.
18. Colts – Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
Elliott would be a huge addition to a Colts offense that lacks star power outside of Andrew Luck. No disrespect to Frank Gore, and this is only because of Gore’s age, but Elliott would be the difference maker at this position that the Colts have been lacking for quite some time.
19. Bills – Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia)
The Bills need an outside linebacker, and with the organization planning to cut the high paid Mario Williams, Floyd would fit the bill.
20. Jets – Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
Treadwell is the best receiver in this class, period. The fact that I have him slipping all the way down here to 20 is astonishing. With Brandon Marshall aging a bit, the Jets could use another weapon on offense that would be ready to take over as the go-to- guy in the near future. Treadwell is a star in the making, as this would significantly improve the Jets and could very well make them a playoff team next year.
21. Redskins – Kendall Fuller (DB, Virginia Tech)
The Redskins secondary was god awful in 2015, and that came back to haunt them in the wild card round of the playoffs when Aaron Rodgers picked them apart with zero wide receivers who could get open all year. If that doesn’t explain anything, then I don’t know what will.
22. Texans – Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
Yeah, Brian Hoyer stinks and the Texans need a quarterback. Wentz has a cannon and I’m a believer in this guy. Worth the risk.
23. Vikings – Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
The emergence of Stefon Diggs certainly helped Teddy Bridgewater, but they need more than just Diggs on the outside. If Thomas falls here, this would be a steal. I think he’s a future number 1 receiver that has enormous upside.
24. Bengals – Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
Billings was a monster for Baylor this year, and he has the quickness and burst up the middle that you just don’t see from guys his size. Put him next to Geno Atkins and boy, do you have yourself a monster of an interior.
25. Steelers – Eli Apple (DB, Ohio State)
This would be an ideal pick for the Steelers, who were one of a handful of teams that were bad in the secondary. Apple has a huge ceiling, and is one of the most underrated prospects in this draft.
26. Seahawks – Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
You want to talk about steals? My goodness, Shaq Lawson falling all the way to Seattle would just be a game-changer the Legion of Boom. Getting more help rushing the passer would be dynamite for this defense, something they truly lacked in 2015.
27. Packers – Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
For those of you that were hiding under a rock during the 2015 NFL season, the Packers need wide receiver help, desperately. The addition of a burner like Coleman alongside Randall Cobb and the return of Jordy Nelson would do wonders for Aaron Rodgers and this Packers offense moving forward.
28. Chiefs – Josh Doctson (WR, TCU)
A true possession receiver that has unbelievable hands couldn’t be a better fit in the Chiefs offense. Doctson will help move the chains for a methodical Andy Reid and Alex Smith offense.
29. Cardinals – Noah Spence (OLB, Eastern Kentucky)
The Cardinals have a history of taking chances on guys that had off-the-field issues that panned out. Cough, Tyrann Mathieu, cough cough. Spence was kicked out of the Ohio State program for repeatedly failed drug tests, and transferred to Eastern Kentucky and was a man amongst boys in the lower tier of Division 1. This would be a great fit for Spence and the Cardinals.
30. Broncos – Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)
Their defense has no holes, and the remaining of their skill position players are set. The one weakness perhaps would be the running back position, where the shifty Perkins would be a great fit in Gary Kubiak’s offense would his exceptional feet and vision.
31. Panthers – Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
The Panthers still need help at the wide receiver position, despite the likes of Corey Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, and Devin Funchess overachieving. With the return of the big leaping Kelvin Benjamin, Fuller would be the deep threat the Panthers need that could take their offense to another level under Cam Newton. Yeah, that wouldn’t be fair.