The NFL Scouting Combine is the best, most-active week of the NFL offseason. General managers, coaches, scouts, agents, media and business affairs types (and hangers-on) converge on Indianapolis for seven days and evaluate, talk, drink, hang out and debate. There also happens to be a bunch of draft prospects there, looking to get their dreams realized. There’s three legs to the NFL Draft Triple Crown. Senior Bowl, Combine and Pro Day. The Senior Bowl opened the window to some of these young men, and there are countless others on display this week. Going into Indianapolis, here’s my latest 2016 Mock Draft.
You know the deal. This will change. Have an issue with the picks or who I have your team selecting? Hit me at PeterSchrager@gmail.com or on Twitter @Pschrags.
1. Tennessee (3-13): Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss, Jr.
Tennessee’s first-year GM Jon Robinson could end up shopping and trading this pick to a team that wants or needs a quarterback and fears they won’t get one with their current draft position. If Tennessee keeps the pick, I’d see them going with Tunsil, the talented left tackle most often compared to Tyron Smith of the Cowboys. Tunsil was suspended by the NCAA for seven games — a bit of a red flag — but should do fine in the interview process. 2014 first-round pick Taylor Lewan could shift to right tackle and Tunsil could man the left side.
2. Cleveland (3-13): Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State, Sr.
I’ll have a better idea on what the Browns are looking to do with their quarterback situation after this week, but at the moment, believe Wentz is the guy. Free agents like Brock Osweiler and potentially Sam Bradford could be better options for Cleveland than a rookie starter, but Wentz might just fit the mold. The Senior Bowl breakout star is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, has a big arm, and is no stranger to the frigid conditions of the AFC North. Oh, and he’s surprisingly agile and quick on his feet. Hue Jackson knows his QBs. So does Pep Hamilton. If they fall in love with one of the veteran free agents or Cal’s Jared Goff, I’d trust them. But they may have a hard time denying Wentz.
3. San Diego (4-12): DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon, Sr.
Don’t be shocked. I know this is higher than where everyone else has him, but I’ve spoken to some scouts who say Buckner is the top player in this draft. He is a 6-foot-7, 290-pound pure athlete who tore up the Pac-12 this season. He had 12 tackles for a loss in just a nine-game season. Arik Armstead was a top-20 pick last year. I think Buckner goes top 10. Joey Bosa’s the bigger name, but in draft circles, many believe Buckner’s got the bigger potential.
4. Dallas (4-12): Jared Goff, QB, Cal, Jr.
Cowboys fans got a glimpse of what life without Tony Romo could be like this season, and it wasn’t pretty. There’s a chance a Johnny Manziel, a Robert Griffin III, or a Colt McCoy signs as a backup in March, but don’t be surprised if the Cowboys snag a long-term answer at quarterback, too. Goff is a big kid, a nice prospect, and has all the traits that could make the next great franchise quarterback in Big D. Let him learn under Romo, groom the next guy, and suffer no Quincy Carter/Chad Hutchinson-like drop-off.
5. Jacksonville (5-11): Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida St., Jr.
Ramsey is a guy who can do it all in a defensive backfield, matching up with small, shifty slot receivers or handling the towers like Calvin Johnson or Mike Evans. He’s a track-and-field star, can tackle, and has been one of the leaders on a very successful Florida State team for multiple seasons. Is he a safety or a corner? I’m not sure. But he’s damn good and a great fit for whatever Gus Bradley wants to do on D moving forward.
6. Baltimore (5-11): Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida, Jr.
The Ravens don’t typically have top-six picks. They’ll be happy to see either Ramsey or Hargreaves on the board. Hargreaves is a star who held two of the top wideouts in the country, Travin Dural and Laquon Treadwell, under 100 receiving yards this year. He lacks ideal size (5-foot-11), but has the instincts to be a star.
7. San Francisco (5-11): Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio St., Jr.
Bosa is in for a week of dissection in Indianapolis. Who is this guy? Both on and off the field? Is the Ohio State pass rusher the next J.J. Watt? Probably not. But he’s got an incredible first step, comes from a football family, and would make an immediate impact for a 49ers defense that’s desperate for a pass rushing talent. He’s still potentially the top pick in the draft, but I’ve also heard others who insist he’s a question mark.
8. Miami (6-10): Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA, Jr.
Jack is the draft’s biggest wild card. If his rehab from a torn meniscus continues to progress, as I’m told it will, he’ll be a top-10 selection. The Dolphins have Ndamukong Suh on the inside, Cam Wake as a pass rusher, and likely will try to bring back promising Olivier Vernon this March. In a division owned by Tom Brady, you can never have enough top defensive talent up front.
9. Tampa Bay (6-10): Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame, Jr.
Stanley’s the real deal. Behind Tunsil, he’s the left tackle I have my eye on. The Buccaneers like the two linemen they drafted in the second round a year ago, Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, but still can use another franchise cornerstone to protect their number one asset, Jameis Winston. The Bucs would love to add an elite pass rusher, but Stanley’s the guy to take at 9 if the draft plays out this way.
10. N.Y. Giants (6-10): Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
There will be nearly a dozen players out of Ohio State drafted in the first 100 picks. Lee is second on my list behind Bosa and could be the best of all of them at the next level. He’s a bit small on first sight and doesn’t look like a traditional NFL linebacker (235 pounds), but Lee flies all over the field and can rush the quarterback. Once upon a time, the Giants had impact guys all over their defense. Those days feel like forever ago. One scout told me he’s a "better Lavonte David." You’ll take that, Giants fans.
11. Chicago (6-10): Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
Spence is one of the biggest wild cards in the draft. I know some teams already list him as a top-10 guy, while others believe the jury is still out. The Bears need not only pass rushers, but defensive help all over its front seven. Spence was the eye-opening talent of Senior Bowl Week. More important than the skills the former Ohio State player displayed on the field was his demeanor in interviews with teams. Spence has a big week ahead — he has a history with drugs that’s been well chronicled — in which he’ll be answering questions for days. If he can get through those questions, he’s a top-15 pick.
12. New Orleans (7-9): Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville, Sr.
If Spence was the star of Senior Bowl week on the defensive side of the ball, Rankins was a close second. Though he didn’t play in the actual game, Rankins manhandled opponents all week in practice and showed that he has the potential to be the Aaron Donald of this draft class. At 6-2, 305 pounds, Rankins can move. A great fit for what New Orleans is looking to do up front.
13. Philadelphia (7-9): Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson, Jr.
If this were a better cornerback draft, I’d have the Eagles going with one, here. But it’s not, and I don’t see one worthy of being in the top 15 after the first two are taken. The Eagles are good up front, but you can never have enough pass rush. Lawson brings it off the edge and was virtually unstoppable this year. He was all over the field in the college football playoff games.
14. Oakland (7-9): Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame, Jr.
The Raiders have one franchise cornerstone on defense in Khalil Mack. Smith would be a steal at 14, and the ultimate "long-term play." They may need to exhibit a bit of patience on this one, but the payoff could be worth it in the end. Smith suffered a bad injury in the Fiesta Bowl and his recovery time is still a bit of an unknown at the moment. He could be out for the first several weeks of the 2016 season. If and when healthy, Smith can rush the quarterback, stop the run, drop into coverage and lead a team. He’s a star — healthy in April or not.
15. Los Angeles (7-9): Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State, Sr.
I’d hold off on the Peyton Manning to the Rams stuff for now. Instead, I’d look at the draft. I know everyone else has Paxton Lynch as their third QB in this year’s class, but I’d advise you to circle this mock draft now, put it away somewhere and remember this prediction. I’ve had Cook going in the top 20 since August. He didn’t do anything over the past six months that should impact that.
16. Detroit (7-9): Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State, Jr.
Ogbah is an interesting one. He had 11 sacks as a sophomore because of his freakish athleticism. He then doubled down and had 13 sacks in 2015, even though he was a focus of opposing offenses’ blocking schemes. New GM Bob Quinn is a scout’s scout. I think Ogbah, relatively clean from top to bottom, is a solid pick here.
17. Atlanta (8-8): Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama, Sr.
The Jaguars coaching staff used Ragland as an outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, but I don’t think that’s the right fit. The Falcons are desperate for some help up the middle on that Dan Quinn defense. If Bobby Wagner was that guy for Quinn in Seattle, there’s a chance Ragland can be that dude for him in Atlanta. Ferocious player who Nick Saban loved; he’d be a great fit.
18. Indianapolis (8-8): Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio St., Sr.
Decker moves well despite being 6-foot-7. He’s a first-round pick, can complement Anthony Castonzo on that Indy offensive line and is a rock-solid player. More offensive line help is needed for Indianapolis. Lots more.
19. Buffalo (8-8): Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State, Jr.
Whether he’s a tackle or guard at the next level will be figured out in due time. The Bills could have some moving parts on that offensive line this off-season, and they’d be wise to draft the best one available. Conklin can play right away. Nasty.
20. N.Y. Jets (10-6): Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio St., Jr.
Elliott has been described as the best blocking running back in the entire draft. He can also run quite a bit. I had a scout tell me he’s a top-five pick, but even with Todd Gurley’s success, I’m not sure I can put a running back much higher than here. Especially with the needs other teams have. The Jets would be a great fit.
21. Washington (9-7): Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State, Jr.
After the top 20, we may see some of the other cornerbacks fly off the board. The Redskins are desperate for some young talent in their defensive backfield. Apple’s tough, fast and has great ball skills. A New Jersey native, the 6-foot-1 cornerback improved in his junior season. Good fit, here.
22. Houston (9-7): A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama, Jr.
Everyone’s going to assume the Texans go with a quarterback (most likely Christian Hackenberg), but I can see them beefing up their interior defensive line. Robinson’s an interesting prospect, to be certain. He’s 6-foot-3, 320 pounds and is actually much lighter on his feet than you’d expect. Talented inside and plays angry.
23. Minnesota (11-5): Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss, Jr.
Treadwell’s the most fascinating prospect in this entire draft class. I am downright intrigued to see where he ends up in April. He’s a crisp route runner who does it all on tape. He produces. But he will be underwhelming in the 40-yard dash and the vertical and broad jump this week in Indianapolis. This will be your classic case of production vs. measurables. And for that reason, he may slip all the way to No. 23.
24. Cincinnati (12-4): Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor, Jr.
Both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are free agents, and even if one is back or both are, I could see Cincinnati grabbing another impact wide receiver with this pick. Coleman had 74 receptions for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, and will test better than Treadwell. His season was cut short with an injury, but he should be fine come Week 1.
25. Pittsburgh (10-6): Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech, Jr.
Fuller comes from a long line of Fullers who have succeeded in the NFL. He’s 6-0, 190 pounds and was a stud at Virginia Tech before an injury cut his 2015 season short. Good pedigree. Strong player. A need for Pittsburgh.
The Seahawks offensive line got manhandled by the Panthers in the divisional round and Russell Okung’s future is in the air. Look for Seattle to beef up the line, and Whitehair, who could play tackle or center, may be the guy. He played well — not great — at the Senior Bowl. Should be a late-first, early second-round guy.
27. Green Bay (10-6): Jarran Reed, DT Alabama, Sr.
Reed is your big run-stuffing defensive tackle who can play either inside or outside on certain formations. Not a big pass rush guy, but a big plugger on the line. Green Bay’s defense finished the season strong and the unit beefed up in the draft last year. Here’s another potential long-term starter.
28. Kansas City (11-5): Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia, Jr.
Floyd is 6-4, 230 pounds and can move. He led Georgia in sacks three years in a row and showed a variety of polished moves to get to the quarterback last season. He’s more of a finished product than others coming off the edge in this class and can contribute right away. Look for Kansas City to get some more outside pass rush help.
29. Arizona (13-3): Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis, Jr.
I’ve got Lynch falling to 29. Carson Palmer is the quarterback for the immediate future, but why not take a gamble on a long-term successor? Lynch is 6-foot-7 and has all the physical tools, but didn’t particularly play well in his bowl game. Is he the next Carson Palmer? Or the next Dan McGwire? Teams want to find out.
Alexander is 5-foot-10, has the swagger and confidence of a top NFL cornerback, and has handled some of college football’s top receivers, including Notre Dame first-round talent Will Fuller. The downside? He didn’t have an interception his entire career at Clemson. Alexander could go as high as top 15 or fall out of the first round. Combine week will be big.
31. Denver (12-4): Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama, Sr.
I like Kelly the most of this year’s batch of centers, though I know some scouts who are bigger on Nick Martin out of Notre Dame. A lot of this pick will depend on what the Broncos do (or don’t do) in free agency.