More than anything, the 2016 NFL Draft lacks consensus. There are quite a few wild cards at play that hold the keys to the draft. As much as draft nicks will pretend to know the future, all of that could be thrown out the door in the first ten minutes of the draft. At the top of it all is the Titans, who have been shrouded in mystery for months.
The word on the rumor mill is, of course, that the Titans have been looking to trade out of the pick for months. Typically, teams will only be willing to trade up that high if they are looking for a quarterback. Those few teams that need a quarterback, the Browns, 49ers, Rams, Jets, and Broncos, are in particularly desperate situations this year. It’s unlikely that anyone is willing to give up the haul that the Redskins did years ago; Goff and Wentz aren’t nearly the prospects that Luck and Griffin were. If those teams do come knocking, and history tells us they will, whether the Titans are willing to settle for a cheaper price, someone gets desperate, or if they like Tunsil or Ramsey enough, will have ripples through the entire draft.
1. Tennessee Titans-Jalen Ramsey, Cornerback
Almost unanimously, draft pundits have been projecting Tunsil to go first for months. In the past weeks, there has been growing buzz around the Titans potentially taking Ramsey at number one. Reportedly, they have always wanted to take him and initially wanted to trade back to do so. In this scenario, Dick LeBeau gets a versatile chess piece to wreak havoc in their porous secondary.
2. Cleveland Browns-Carson Wentz, Quarterback
Don’t for a second believe that signing RGIII has anything to do with the second overall pick in the draft. The Browns, like so many times before, need a new signal caller to build around in yet another rebuild. Wentz gives them a big armed passer to match up with the other top quarterbacks in the division.
3. San Diego Chargers-Laremy Tunsil, Offensive Tackle
If Tunsil is available here, the Chargers will sprint his name up to the podium without a second of hesitation. Last season, their porous offensive line was an eternally open door. Tunsil is a franchise left tackle that compares favorably to anyone that has come out in the last five years. He will immediately fortify that line and give Philip Rivers a chance to make a playoff run.
4. Dallas Cowboys-Joey Bosa, Defensive End
As much as I believe the Cowboys would be horribly misguided to take anything other than a quarterback here, we’ll take Jerry Jones at his word when he says the team won’t draft one here. Instead, the team adds the draft’s top pass rusher to fill one of the many holes in their defense. Bosa will be an instant impact player for an aging Cowboys team.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars-Myles Jack, Linebacker
The once lost Jaguars have done a nice job of building a strong offensive nucleus in the early rounds of the draft. They now need to look to do the same on the defensive side. Jack, provided that he returns to full health, is able to make tackles from sideline to sideline and cover well enough to make some teams believe that he can play safety.
6. Baltimore Ravens-DeForest Buckner, Defensive End
Like the Cowboys, don’t expect the Ravens to be picking this high again for years. Ozzie Newsome has built one of the consistently strong organizations in the league. The team is a strong candidate to move down for one of the quarterback needy teams. The team has a glaring need in the secondary, but no player left on the board is worth passing on Buckner, who will help the secondary by strengthening the Ravens pass rush.
7. San Francisco 49ers-Jared Goff, Quarterback
Even though he may fit Chip Kelly’s system well, expect Colin Kaepernick to be on the move before the draft; he’s a problem, not a solution, and this team needs as many picks as it can get to rebuild. Goff is a terrific fit for Kelly’s offense, with above average mobility, good accuracy, and most importantly quick decision making.
8. Philadelphia Eagles-Vernon Hargreaves, Cornerback
There is a few different ways that the Eagles could go with this pick, but in this scenario they fill what has been a need for years. After Byron Maxwell busted out of Philadelphia last year, the team is once again in need of a number one corner. Ignore Hargreaves height; he plays much bigger than that number and has the ability to cover top receivers and take them out of the game.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Shaw Lawson, Defensive End
The Bucs have a lot of needs to fill on their young defense, so there are a lot of directions that they could go with this pick. Lawson is the most explosive of the top pass rushers in this draft, and gives the team an answer to the top quarterbacks in the division. Paired with Kwon Alexander, Lawson gives the team a building block for a rebuilding defensive unit.
10. New York Giants-Ronnie Stanley, Offensive Tackle
A year after reaching for Ereck Flowers in the first round, offensive line still a huge need for the Giants. At Eli Manning’s age, the team needs to make his protection their first priority. Stanley is still a little raw, but he is powerful and athletic and can develop into a franchise left tackle.
11. Chicago Bears-Noah Spence, Defensive End
The Bears did a nice job of filling some of their needs with sensibly priced options in free agency. The offensive line and secondary are still problems, but Spence is one of the top talents in the draft and immediately upgrades the teams absent pass rush. Spence is a smooth, agile defender that will also help out in run defense. There are obvious character concerns here, but John Fox will feel confident that he can work through them.
12. New Orleans Saints-Sheldon Rankins, Defensive Tackle
The entire Saints defense is a need. The unit was historically inept last year, allowing the second most yards per play since 1970. The team doesn’t need to get cute about needs and just needs to add quality players. In a class loaded with talent at defensive tackle, Sheldon Rankins could be the best of the bunch. Rankins is massive and able to dominate blockers and disrupt the opponents run game.
13. Miami Dolphins-Ezekiel Elliot, Running Back
While the narrative about the value of the running back position is starting to fade away, teams will still be wary to select one early after the disappointing rookie season of Melvin Gordon. That could cause Elliot to slide. Elliot is a much better prospect than Gordon, however, and has been touted as the best back to come out since Adrian Peterson. The Dolphins, who have been aggressively shopping for a running back this offseason will happily take Elliot here.
14. Oakland Raiders-William Jackson, Cornerback
The Raiders have scored big on their early round draft picks with names like Khalil Mack, Derick Carr, Amari Cooper, and Gabe Jackson all looking like franchise players already. After years of rebuilding, the team has to be expected to win this year. Jackson is a long, rangy corner that is physical enough to disrupt receivers at the line. These types of guys tend to slide up draft boards as the process goes on.
15. Los Angeles Rams-LaQuan Treadwell, Wide Receiver
While quarterback should be circled, starred, and highlighted as the teams biggest hole, there isn’t a solution left in the draft. Instead, look for the team to find a weapon to help whoever is starting at quarterback. Despite all of the talk about Treadwell’s speed, or lack of therof, he makes sense for the Rams. With Tavon Austin serving to take the top off of defenses and exploding on gadget plays, Treadwell serves as a true number one receiver, something the Rams have lacked for years.
16. Detroit Lions-Jarran Reed, Defensive Tackle
The Lions have obvious holes on both sides of the line. Here, they go with the strength of the draft as the value is much better on the defensive side this year. Reed is punishing on the line and provides the team with a disruptive presence that the they sorely lacked after Suh left last offseason.
17. Atlanta Falcons-Leonard Floyd, Outside Linebacker
As good as Dan Quinn’s defenses can be, it became apparent as the season went on that he didn’t have the pieces to put together a consistently dominant front. Paired with last years explosive first round pick, Vic Beasley, Floyd would create a frightening combination in the pass rush for the high flying offenses of the NFC South.
18. Indianapolis Colts-Jack Conklin, Offensive Tackle
When you have a top quarterback, you have no choice but to build your team around them. Despite being gifted with a generational talent in Andrew Luck, General Manager Ryan Grigson has aggressively ignored his protection. Inevitabley, the problem got to Luck, leading to a disappointing fourth season that ended in injury. Conklin would stabilize the right side of that line and allow Luck to return to an elite level.
19. Buffalo Bills-A’Shawn Robinson, Defensive Tackle
Despite the arrival of apparent defensive guru Rex Ryan, the strength of the team, the defensive line, took a step back in 2015. Robinson would help that problem, and would provide an unstoppable complement to Marcell Darius to restore dominance to the defensive line. Robinson is a stout run defender that can punish opposing tailbacks.
20. New York Jets-Reggie Ragland, Linebacker
The hype around Ragland has been growing for months since he left Alabama. Ragland can accel in any defensive scheme, and would add to the already frightening Jets defense. The team already has too many horses on the defensive line. With the addition of Ragland, it would become downright scary.
21. Washington Redskins-Andrew Billings, Defensive Tackle
The Redskins don’t have too many glaring needs and could go in a few directions with this pick. Scott McLaughin has quietly done an excellent job of filling this roster with solid starters. In this scenario, they find a replacement for Terrance Knighton on the defensive line. Billings is a strong, but raw nose tackle that can shore up the Redskins run defense.
22. Houston Texans-Corey Coleman, Wide Receiver
The Texans have heavily invested in the defense for many years in the early rounds of the draft. This has lead to one of the best defenses in the league, but the offense has held the team back for years. This offseason, the team has added valuable pieces like Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller to that offense. Coleman is an explosive vertical threat that would provide a frightening complement to DeAndre Hopkins.
23. Minnesota Vikings-Josh Doctson, Wide Receiver
Expect a run on wide receivers around this point in the draft. After an exciting rookie campaign, Teddy Bridgewater was disappointing in his second season, in part due because he was handcuffed by his lack of receiving talent. While Steffon Diggs was a nice surprise his rookie year, Doctson fills the need for a number one receiver.
24. Cincinnati Bengals- Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver
After four years of frustrating disappointment, Andy Dalton broke out last year in large part due to his stellar supporting cast. However, this offseason his pillaged the team of two starting receivers and their offensive coordinator. The team needs to invest highly in order to achieve similar results next year. The Bengals reportedly think highly of Thomas, who would provide a strong second option to AJ Green.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers-Mackensie Alexander, Cornerback
The direction seems obvious for the Steelers, who have been held back by their lack of talent in the secondary for years. When the team was winning titles, they were lead by a dominant secondary. Despite the fact that he did not record an interception in college, Alexander is a fluid, strong, athletic corner that could be a number one option with a year of development.
26. Seattle Seahawks-Taylor Decker, Offensive Tackle
Early in the season, Russell Wilson was running for his life behind an abysmal offensive line. This situation has been made all the worse by the departure of Russell Okung, the only bright spot on that line. With the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the team will need to rely on the passing game all the more, making the need for increased protection even more apparent. Decker isn’t a true left tackle, but he is a huge, powerful presence that could help stabilize their offensive line.
27. Green Bay Packers-Darron Lee, Linebacker
In this scenario, the Packers benefit from the slide of one of the drafts better defensive players. The team has an obvious hole at outside linebacker after a season in which Clay Matthews was forced to move outside and play out of his primary position. Lee solves that problem. Lee is hugely athletic and can create problems blitzing, in the run game, as well as in coverage.
28. Kansas City Chiefs-Paxton Lynch,Quarterback
Surprised? Don’t be. While Kansas City thinks highly of glorified game manager Alex Smith, he is already thirty one years old and isn’t a long-term solution at the position. Remember, when Donavin McNabb, a much better player, was a similar age Andy Reid drafted his presumptive successor in Kevin Kolb at a similar position in the draft. Lynch is a project, but his mobility would work well in this offense and his arm talent would give the Chiefs more freedom than with Smith.
29. Arizona Cardinals-Emmanuel Ogbah, Defensive End
The Cardinals may have the most complete roster of any team in the league, but entered the offseason with one glaring need: pass rusher. This problem was partially solved when the team traded for Chandler Jones in March, but they still could use more help in the area. Pairing Jones with Ogbah would create a dominant combination that would frighten opposing teams as much as their secondary.
30. Carolina Panthers-Eli Apple, Cornerback
The Panthers benefited massively from the breakout of Josh Norman last season, but they lack a suitable option as a second outside corner. Apple is the kind of corner that teams love: long, fast, and aggressive on the line of scrimmage. If he lasts this long, expect the Panthers to jump on the opportunity to take him. The team could also look to find a better answer at left tackle than Michael Oher.
31. Denver Broncos-Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
Don’t expect the Broncos to get too desperate in their pursuit of a new franchise quarterback. John Elway knows after last season that he only needs competent play at the position to go far in the playoffs. He has shown this offseason that he isn’t willing to reach or overpay for an average signal caller. Instead, Elway finds another way to make a splash by finding a way to draft a top five talent in the class at the tail end of the first round. While early reports suggest that Smith will miss his rookie year, the Broncos are deep enough to wait for a talent of his caliber.