Final 2016 NFL mock draft with player comparisons

By Scott Carasik
Courtesy of Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports

Every year, I do a mock draft for The Huddle Report. Heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s no different. The following is my final mock draft on where I believe players will be selected. This draft is all about matching the players with the teams that make the most sense for their needs, situations and based on the information we know.

Each prospect is matched up with player comparisons. We’re looking at two things here: Who they compare to best as an athlete and who they look like on the field of play.

This isn’t to say that their comparison is who they are or what their max potential is. It’s just an idea to give you how they play and what their athleticism compares to.

Here’s how I see things shaking out in Round 1 of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Note: I do not project trades. I do however project players who might look a little lower or higher based on potential trades.

1. Los Angeles Rams: QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State

Rule No. 1 of running an NFL franchise: If you don’t have a good quarterback, GET ONE. In the case of the Rams, they haven’t really had a quarterback in two or three years since Sam Bradford started getting hit with his knee injuries. Carson Wentz may not be the ideal franchise quarterback, but in this draft, he’s the best one available and should be able to succeed in Los Angeles.

2. Philadelphia Eagles: QB Jared Goff, California

Jared Goff Cal, 49ers NFL Draft, 2016 NFL Draft

The Eagles have the same situation going on that the Rams do. They don’t have a quarterback, and they need one. Just like the Rams, they traded up to get their guy. Doug Pederson runs a scheme very similar to Andy Reid’s, and because of that, Jared Goff should be the ideal quarterback for his scheme. Goff has great footwork and reads defenses effectively.

3. San Diego Chargers: OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

The Chargers have some talent on the offensive line with Orlando Franklin and D.J. Fluker at guard, Joe Barksdale at right tackle and Chris Watt at center. However, they have a terrible and overpaid King Dunlap playing left tackle. They need to improve their line by getting someone to protect the blind side for Rivers. Laremy Tunsil has ridiculous potential and good athleticism.

4. Dallas Cowboys: CB/S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

The first thought for the Cowboys was running back. But then I realized that the Cowboys haven’t taken a running back in the first round since Felix Jones, and before that it was Emmitt Smith. It doesn’t make sense, given their poor secondary, to pass up on a big upgrade in Jalen Ramsey. He’s an ideal fit and true playmaker as someone to start at free safety and then slide to nickel cornerback on passing downs.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Myles Jack, UCLA

One of the worst kept secrets out there is how much Jacksonville loves Myles Jack. He’s an ideal fit for their middle linebacker role and someone who should start right away over Paul Posluzny. Jack’s fit allows Gus Bradley to have someone similar to Bobby Wagner leading his defense and teaming with Telvin Smith at the second level.

6. Baltimore Ravens: DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon

The Ravens lost Chris Canty this offseason and need to replace him in the starting lineup. Their lineups have always been at their best when they have a massive Oregon defensive lineman in them. DeForest Buckner should feel right at home in the 3-4 scheme that the Ravens run and should be able to help keep Courtney Upshaw clean in the middle with his ability to eat double teams with ease.

7. San Francisco 49ers: OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

Ronnie Stanley didn’t time well for a player of his athleticism. That’s not a problem though, as he has more than enough athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL. Chip Kelly loves athletic offensive tackles, and with Joe Staley starting to age the 49ers need a long-term replacement. Stanley is a top pass blocker and should fit right in for Kelly’s zone scheme.

8. Cleveland Browns: QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis

Courtesy of USA Today Images

Remember the quarterback thing from earlier? That’s my personal mantra when following the draft, and NFL teams seem to agree. Paxton Lynch is the third-best quarterback in this year’s draft and has shown throughout the past two years an uncanny resemblance to Joe Flacco. Despite bringing in Robert Griffin III, the Browns should take this gunslinger in the first.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

Mike Smith loves cornerbacks who can play well in both man and zone coverage. Brent Grimes getting signed this offseason on top of the returning Al Verner and Johnthan Banks for depth is nice, but the Buccaneers need a true No. 1. Vernon Hargreaves III should bring that top talent to the Buccaneers’ cornerback situation and will allow Smith to run his defense the way he wants to.

10. New York Giants: DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

The New York Giants need to add someone to their interior pass-rush rotation with Johnthan Hankins and Damon Harrison while also adding some ability to rotate outside in some sets. While Robert Nkemdiche isn’t my personal favorite in this draft, the Giants should love him for what they would perceive as an explosive, versatile talent — similar to the Jags and Alualu.

11. Chicago Bears: DL/EDGE Joey Bosa, Ohio State

The Chicago Bears have a great setup for their front-seven right now with Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman playing inside linebacker and Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman at the other two defensive line spots. Pernell McPhee at one edge spot doesn’t hurt either. However, they can’t pass on the on-field talent that Joey Bosa has and should find a role for him.

12. New Orleans Saints: OL Jack Conklin, Michigan State

The Saints do something every single season that makes me think, “What in the world are they doing reaching for that guy?” This year, that guy is Jack Conklin. He’s a horrible pass blocker, but he plays a role they need — right guard. Conklin has been getting a lot of buzz lately about being a first round pick despite his mid-second round talent level.

13. Miami Dolphins: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

Courtesy of USA Today Images

The one major hole on the Miami Dolphins offense is at running back. Despite starting Lamar Miller last year and having him perform like one of the best running backs in the NFL (when he touched the ball), they let him walk. After trading down this offseason with the Eagles and picking up Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell, they can go best player available here with Ezekiel Elliott, the talented Ohio State rusher.

14. Oakland Raiders: LB Darron Lee, Ohio State

When looking at Oakland’s defense, one spot really stands out that needs some work: middle linebacker. Sure, Ben Heeney is a good athlete and Malcolm Smith is a solid weak-side linebacker, but with Darron Lee in the middle of that defense, the Raiders should be able to run their coverage concepts the way they are designed to run.

15. Tennessee Titans: EDGE Shaq Lawson, Clemson

The Titans are a team that, despite picking No. 1 overall initially, don’t look to have a simple, true No. 1 need. That’s why they traded down to 15 and picked up a ton of picks. Because of that, they should just go with the best player available at every pick. In this situation, Shaq Lawson fits the bill. The Clemson rusher should rotate with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo as a rookie.

16. Detroit Lions: OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State

The Detroit Lions need someone who can start at either left or right tackle. Riley Reiff does a great job now as a left tackle, but he’s best on the right side. Bringing in Taylor Decker would allow Reiff to play his more natural right tackle spot, as Decker plays left tackle. Providing Matt Stafford protection up front should mitigate some of the losses Detroit experienced this offseason.

17. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE/LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Leonard Floyd is a polarizing prospect, but the Falcons need some help at linebacker and edge rusher. This should help out both spots. Floyd has seen comparisons to everyone from Dion Jordan to Jamie Collins, but his ideal fit is likely a role similar to what Julian Peterson used to play for the San Francisco 49ers. Falcons fans should enjoy keeping the hometown talent in Atlanta.

18. Indianapolis Colts: DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

A'Shawn Robinson, 2016 NFL Mock draft

The Colts’ nose tackle situation is one of the worst in the NFL. Zach Kerr is solid depth and rotational talent, but they don’t really have anyone else who plays well in their 1-gap role. A’Shawn Robinson from Alabama should to be a good fit up front as a nose tackle on some downs and a true pass rusher on others. He eats doubles well and can penetrate effectively.

19. Buffalo Bills: DL Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

The Buffalo Bills need to find a long-term replacement for Kyle Williams, who is almost 33 and nearing the end of his career. Sheldon Rankins plays the same 3-technique role that Williams does and is arguably the best one in the draft in that role. Rankins’ quick burst off the line reminds me of Geno Atkins and should prove useful in passing sets.

20. New York Jets: EDGE Noah Spence, Western Kentucky

When Sheldon Richardson is penciled in as a starting outside linebacker, something is wrong here. Richardson needs to be moved back inside to the defensive line, and to do that, the Jets need to take a legitimate edge defender. Noah Spence has questions regarding his off-field demeanor and character but is an ideal fit at outside linebacker in the defense Todd Bowles runs.

21. Washington NFL Team: LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Perry Riley is a competent starter for Washington, but it truly needs an ideal starting middle linebacker for its 3-4 defense. Reggie Ragland comes from an Alabama scheme that’s very similar to what Joe Barry runs in Washington. Ragland should come right in, start and lead that defense to a better showing in 2016. His value may not be til a late-1st, but this is close enough to be ok.

22. Houston Texans: DL Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech

The Texans’ defensive line features J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork and then no one else up front with them. Vernon Butler has drawn comparisons to Mohammed Wilkerson in how he plays and how he is built athletically. If the Texans can get him here, they would have a steal up that would give them three disruptive players right up front to open things up for their linebacking corps to make plays.

23. Minnesota Vikings: WR Josh Doctson, Texas Christian

Josh Doctson TCU

Despite investments into Cordarrelle Patterson and other wide receivers, the only legit wide receiver on the Vikings roster is Stephon Diggs. They need someone to come in and be a true No. 1 that will help Teddy Bridgewater. Josh Doctson is a unique talent who has the tools to really help the third-year quarterback take that next step to greatness.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: WR LaQuon Treadwell, Ole Miss

LaQuon Treadwell isn’t the ideal athlete for wide receiver nor is he an ideal prospect as a whole. What he is, however, is a true gamer that makes his team better. The Cincinnati Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mo Sanu this offseason and need someone to be a No. 2 to complement A.J. Green. Treadwell would be a steal here who should vastly improve an already good Bengals offense.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB William Jackson, Houston

William Gay should not still be a starting cornerback in the Steelers’ defense. They also should take someone who can be a long-term No. 1 for their scheme. William Jackson from Houston is one of the top cornerbacks in this draft and should be a great fit for the defense in Pittsburgh. He’ll start out as the No. 2 corner but should get bumped up pretty quickly.

26. Seattle Seahawks: OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana

The Seattle Seahawks love taking players with high-SPARQ scores and athleticism.  Jason Spriggs definitely falls into that category and has the potential to be a long-term starting left tackle in the NFL. The Seahawks have solid fits at left guard with Justin Britt and right tackle with Garry Gilliam. Spriggs should give them someone who can help protect Russell Wilson with that pairing.

27. Green Bay Packers: NT Andrew Billings, Baylor

The Packers need an upgrade in the middle of their defense to team with Letroy Guion this year and eventually usurp him for the starting role. Andrew Billings from Baylor is an athletic two-gap player who can control the center of an offensive line. The Packers interior linebackers should play cleaner football with Billings in the middle of the defense long term.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Eli Apple, Ohio State

Eli Apple

The Chiefs did just take a first round cornerback in the 2015 draft in Marcus Peters, but they need a long-term complement for Peters who’s better than Phillip Gaines and Steven Nelson. Eli Apple would instantly come in and start for the Chiefs on the right side. Teaming Peters and Apple together should help that front seven create more pressure for coverage sacks.

29. Arizona Cardinals: C Ryan Kelly, Alabama

Arizona’s center situation should have been remedied by taking Jonathan Cooper in the top 10 a few years ago. Unfortunately, Cooper was traded away this past offseason to the Patriots for Chandler Jones. Ryan Kelly is the ideal fit for the Cardinals line and should be a solidifying force joining Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, Evan Mathis and D.J. Humphries.

30. Carolina Panthers: DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson

It’s amazing what going against Alabama in a National Championship Game will do for a player’s stock, especially when they dominate the way Kevin Dodd did. Dodd is a fun player to watch against lesser competition, but it’s tough to really project him to a ton of different NFL schemes. The Panthers would be his best fit, as he’s an ideal guy to learn from and replace Charles Johnson.

31. Denver Broncos: QB Connor Cook, Michigan State

Again, look at their quarterback situation after Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler left for Houston. They don’t have a good one. The Broncos should take one here in the first round. Connor Cook may not be an ideal fit for every team, but he’s a Jay Cutler-type who makes some bad decisions to go with his good decisions. As long as his shoulder checks out, this should be the pick here.