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Mel Kiper's First 2016 Mock Draft

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ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mel Kiper's 2016 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

By Mel Kiper



Welcome to another draft season. I've been ranking this class officially on the site since May, but I know many of you don't consider draft season officially underway until mock drafts start popping up.



A few reminders at this (very) early stage in the game. For one, NFL personnel folks are still really early in their evaluations. Nobody has a draft board yet, and we still have postseason all-star games, combine testing, medicals, and indvidual workouts to get through. Drafting for need isn't a great idea in most cases -- GMs really do mean it most of the time when they say "We took the best player available" -- and I'm especially leery of making need the big issue here. Every team has at least a dozen (or twice that) roster moves to make, and there's also free agency. "Need" isn't a clear term yet. Lastly, there could still be an underclassmen or two who decides to jump into the draft. That said, off we go.


A player with an asterisk next to his name has a year of eligibility remaining. Two asterisks implies two years.




1. Tennessee Titans


*Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio St.

Getting the best defensive lineman in any draft really transcends need. Every team wants great D-lineman, and Bosa has the upside of a star. He's a dominant pass-rusher who piled up 51.0 tackles for loss over three seasons despite running into a steady supply of double-teams, and he's also outstanding against the run. You can move him around on the line at will. The son of a former first-round pick, he comes in ready to contribute.




2. Cleveland Browns


*Jared Goff, QB, Cal

It goes without saying the Browns need to take a hard look at quarterbacks, and Hue Jackson should have the chance to start fresh with someone other than Johnny Manziel. Goff has tremendous talent and upside. He's shown off an NFL arm since he arrived at Cal, and has a great mind for the game. He's also shown how resilient he can be, growing with and leading that team at Cal, which would be a great trait in Cleveland.




3. San Diego Chargers


*Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Ken Whisenhunt is back at offensive coordinator for the Chargers, and the immediate need for this team is going to be figuring out a way to keep Phillip Rivers upright. Injuries have decimated the Chargers' offensive line, and adding Tunsil means they get an immediate starter. This kid is a flat-out gifted left tackle prospect, the kind of player who could go No. 1 overall to Tennessee. Get him here and you're pleased.




4. Dallas Cowboys


DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

It's rare to find a team picking No. 4 overall that can genuinely say "We're in win-now mode." But the Cowboys get a healthy Tony Romo back and that's a fair statement. If Greg Hardy isn't back, Buckner is a great fit. You get a 6-foot-7, 290-pound defensive end who can put a tackle on skates right into his own quarterback. The No. 1 thing you love about Buckner: major motor. He plays hard. He could have been taken relatively early last year, but came back and put an exclamation point on it.




5. Jacksonville Jaguars


*Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida St.

The best player available here, Ramsey is a great corner or a great safety, a fit in any secondary given his skill set and incredible athleticism. Those athlete credentials? Well, consider that he's long-jumping at roughly an Olympic level in, essentially, a second sport that he really can't commit to full time. A worthy top-five talent in the secondary.




6. Baltimore Ravens


*Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

In another year Stanley would be worthy to be the first offensive tackle taken, but Tunsil gets the nod in this class. Stanley was a gifted but inconsistent player last year, and he decided to go back, which is going to work out well for him. This year, the talent is still obvious, but he was better technically and it showed. Baltimore can't pass on a potential left tackle with Stanley's upside here given the state of the O-line, not to mention with Joe Flacco coming back from an injury.




7. San Francisco 49ers


*Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

This is a spot where you can see quarterback coming into play -- or a number of positions given what happened to this roster over the last 12 months -- but if the 49ers decide to build around a QB currently on the roster with the hopes of being more competitive in 2016 (something starting a rookie QB won't help) then Treadwell could really help the offense. He has a ton of experience as a true No. 1 and against top defenses, and brings size, hands, physicality and potential for early returns.




8. Miami Dolphins


*Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Lawson led college football in tackles for loss with 25.5, and Miami should add another edge rusher because Olivier Vernon is about to become extremely expensive if he can even be kept around as an unrestricted free agent. Lawson is just extremely consistent in his ability to beat tackles and makes plays.




9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers


*Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

This is just a truly gifted cover man, with the ability to press or play off and really just mirror a pass-catcher all over the place. He's been doing it since he arrived in Gainesville. The Bucs do have a need at cornerback, but there isn't a team in the NFL who wouldn't want this kind of talent on the roster.




10. New York Giants


*Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

I'll hear for the 100th time that the Giants don't draft linebackers in the first round. I'll point out that this is a good year to consider it, not just because they've had far too many draft misses in recent years, but because Jack isn't your classic downhill run-stuffer -- the guy can flat-out cover, and he epitomizes what teams need at least one of in 2016. He's a special talent and should be on their board.



Myles Jack is yet another linebacker who excels in coverage, something many teams covet.




11. Chicago Bears


Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

The Bears have a tradition of great linebackers in the middle, from Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher -- who is coming for my hair. Ragland can be the next one, and not only can he be an immediate starter in the middle, he can do so with some system familiarity coming out of Nick Saban's 304 defense.




12. New Orleans Saints


*A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

The Saints really need to add another 3-4 defensive end and Robinson fits the bill. In fact, the 6-foot-3, 313-pounder is an immediate starter who combines great awareness and strength to make plays and hold the point in the run game, as well as the ability to push the pocket. There isn't a place where the Saints can go wrong adding talent on defense.




13. Philadelphia Eagles


*Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss

Whether Nkemdiche is a great fit in Philly depends a little bit on what kind of system the new coaching staff will want to run, but with Cedric Thornton an unrestricted free agent, they'd be wise to add another talented piece to the D-line puzzle to take some pressure off Fletcher Cox, who has turned into an absolute star. Nkemdiche has that potential -- he's a top-5 talent, really -- but will need to maintain his focus off the field.




14. Oakland Raiders


*Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan St.

The Raiders have their quarterback of the future, but they could also lose a pair of tackles in free agency, and even then they'd be wise to get some immediate insurance out of the draft. Conklin has been a steady force on the MSU line for three years and is great at limiting pressure and also getting after it in the run game.




15. Los Angeles Rams


*Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

The Rams are arguably at square one at the QB position, which is a shame given the talent elsewhere on the roster. Do I think Lynch is a Week 1 starter? Absolutely not. Do I think he has significant upside and would be a potential starter in Year 2 with a roster still on the rise? Sure. St. Louis will have their eyes open in free agency and the trade market for immediate help, but Lynch could be the future.




16. Detroit Lions


Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama

Detroit's defense began to round into form during the second half of the season, but they were a mess early on as they adjusted to life without Ndamukong Suh, Reed is a player who makes you better against the run right away. He plays with leverage, can wreck running lanes along the interior of the D-line, and frees up others to make plays.




17. Atlanta Falcons


*Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

Shaq Lawson led the nation in tackles for loss, but Dodd was right there with him, No. 2 in the nation, and a constant presence in the backfield. The Falcons added pass-rush help with Vic Beasley last year, but is Beasley an every-down player? At 275 points, Dodd has the frame to hold up against the run and should help a D-line that lacks depth.




18. Indianapolis Colts


Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio St.

Suffice to say the Colts should come out of this draft with at least one offensive lineman capable of stepping in early. Decker has a ton of experience -- he could have entered the draft last year and landed late in Round 1 -- and could be your Week 1 starter at left tackle in Indy. Conklin is another option if Decker went off the board first.




19. Buffalo Bills


*Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama

Will there be a tandem under more pressure to see improvement out a defense than the Ryan brothers in Buffalo? It's probably not close. Allen is a get at this slot ; he's a versatile D-lineman with the frame to win with quickness on occasion but also push the pocket from the interior. The Bills are going to need to re-tool on the D-line even beyond the draft, and Allen would be a solid addition.




20. New York Jets


*Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

By now, everyone knows that Smith suffered a knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl, and there's at least the possibility he won't play football in 2016. That said, I'm not exaggerating on the kid's behalf when I say he was arguably the best player in this entire draft. This front office will assess the risk, but they also have showed they like to take the best player available, and Smith is an absolute monster if he's back -- a Pro Bowl-caliber talent even if he loses half a step. It's a fluid situation, but it's mock 1.0 and I want to reflect his talent level.



The knee injury Jaylon Smith suffered in the Fiesta Bowl is a setback, but the tape shows one of the top few players in the draft.




21. Washington Redskins


**Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

Alexander has legit man-to-man coverage ability, but he needs technical work and is going to show some rough edges during his rookie year. But all cornerbacks do, and Alexander has a ton of upside. He's just a hair over 5-foot-10, so he's not a jump-ball winner, but he's powerful, and will make plays in coverage and attacking the line of scrimmage.




22. Houston Texans


Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota St.

If you saw Wentz throwing it around in the SEC or Pac-12, you'd think he looked like a big-time QB prospect. At 6-foot-6 and nearly 235 pounds, he has a big arm, serious mobility and shows a willingness to be patient, move in the pocket, and keep his eyes down the field as things move around him. This is a guy who could be in the top-10 mix after the Senior Bowl and combine. Houston might end up thrilled if he's around this late.




23. Minnesota Vikings


Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

The Vikings are moving indoors and Teddy Bridgewater has a chance to really take off. Do the Vikings want to pay Mike Wallace another $11.5 million to be a part of it? They have Stefon Diggs, but Doctson gives them another weapon, a guy who can stretch the field, win after the catch, and a reliable set of hands.




24. Cincinnati Bengals


*Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame


A.J. Green is locked up for a while, but both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are free agents, so the Bengals could be looking to add another weapon in the passing game to go with Green and Tyler Eifert. Fuller is a dynamo on the deep ball, and can make a cornerback look slow when the ball is in the air. He can be a weapon after the catch as well. The knock: needs more consistency with the hands. But he can help this team.




25. Pittsburgh Steelers


*Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

The Steelers have been a mess on the back end for much of the season, and could add multiple cornerbacks in the draft. (Remember they will get back Senquez Golson, however.) Fuller comes from a line of NFL players (his brother is a cornerback for the Bears) and has tremendous talent. He missed much of 2015 after trying to play through a cartilage injury in his knee, but should be in great shape for the draft process.




26. Seattle Seahawks


**Eli Apple, CB, Ohio St.


The next two guys to come off the board would also be worth considering, because age is now a concern on the interior of that defensive line, but a long, physical cornerback who is a fearless tackler is a great fit for Pete Carroll. Yes, the secondary is a strength in Seattle, but it's impossible to have too many corners who can play, and one injury changes the depth equation in a heartbeat.




27. Green Bay Packers


*Austin Johnson, DT, Penn St.

Other guys got more of the attention on the defensive line for the Nittany Lions, but Johnson is the top prospect. Green Bay heads into an offseason where B.J. Raji will become an unrestricted free agent and turns 30 this summer. Some youthful talent on the interior of the line would be a good thing, and Johnson fits the bill.




28. Kansas City Chiefs


*Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA

Clark is a powerful defensive tackle who can hold the point against a double team and keep linebackers roaming free, but will also flash some explosiveness and make plays in the backfield on his own -- and he can just out-muscle blockers one on one. The Chiefs could use more help for Dontari Poe, who happens to be entering the last year of his current deal in 2016.




29. Denver Broncos


*Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio St.

There's a good chance the Broncos will evolve into a team that truly wants to win with the run game in 2016, and while they do have some options on the roster, Elliott isn't just a great fit, he's also the best player on the board at this point. He has vision, runs behind his pads, can turn a small crease into a big gain, catches the ball with ease, and is one of the best blocking tailbacks I've ever seen.




30. Arizona Cardinals


*Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

The Cardinals could use another pass-rusher, and Floyd has the explosiveness to be a special one. He has a lean frame, but he can get tackles off balance and is the kind of edge defender that can get quarterbacks to speed up their internal clock. I'd like to see him play a little more physical, but on a good team that is trying to protect leads, Floyd can help.




31. Carolina Panthers


*Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma St.

For a physical freak who has improved in each year at Oklahoma State, this slot may look WAY too low in a couple of months. Ogbah is an awesome size/quickness combination and can also play a power game and push blockers backward. He's also shown he can play in space a little bit. He's be a great get this far down the board.


*There will be only 31 picks in the first round in 2016, with New England's first-round pick forfeited.

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Kiper downgrades Giants 2015 draft:

ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is out with annual re-grading of the 2015 NFL Draft [ESPN Insider]. When it comes to the New York Giants Kiper doesn't appear to like the team's draft class quite as much as he did immediately after the draft.

Kiper's New Grade: C+
Kiper's Post-Draft Grade: B-

Kiper writes:

I know
was able to step in this season, but he struggled for the most part. I wrote then: "While the pick made sense, I had Flowers at No. 27 overall on my final Big Board, so for me this wasn't a 'best player available' situation." In a nutshell, the Giants reached on Flowers and have to hope he develops into the kind of player that can stick at left tackle. I see that as a major question.
is a good player I think people need to be patient with given all that he was asked to do. After those two, it's hard to say who could break through based on early returns. Again, I saw Flowers as a first-rounder; I just thought it was a bit rich that early.

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Can't really disagree with what he has to say.


None of the players drafted had a major impact on the year, although Collins atleast brought some consistency to the secondary.


It's one of those draft classes that will either produce three or four starters (Collins, Flowers, George, and maybe Davis develops into a decent WR) in the next few seasons or most of these players will be gone in the same time.

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Reese will take Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss for several reasons:


1) Weird name

2) Defensive line

3) Not a linebacker

4) Graded worse than their spot

5) Has some character issues that will guarantee he becomes a bust.

6) Ole Miss, that's where Eli went.


Smartest guy in the room, right here -----> jerry-reese.jpg

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