With the 2015 NFL Draft in the books, it’s fun to take a look at who might be the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. There is a lot of football to be played and a lot of scouts' minds to be changed due to NFL Combine numbers (and other factors), but let's take a look at 10 players who could be the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft …
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
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Three times over the past five years, the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft has been a quarterback. It makes sense to start with the QB position in this conversation, but it might be a little strange to see three Big Ten QBs at the top of the heap. The Big Ten has come a long way in the last few years, and a lot of that is thanks to the coaching hires that have been made. The quality of players and competition are on the uptick in the Big Ten, and that will shine through in the 2016 NFL Draft.
All three of these quarterbacks have the height coveted by NFL teams, and all three possess the arm talent to play at the next level.
Jones looks like the one with the highest upside. In just a few games, he led his team to the National Championship and showed a wide array of skills in leading his team. Teams will want to see more tape on Cardale. The logjam at quarterback for Ohio State could also hurt his stock.
Cook and Hackenberg have to work on their consistency, as they both completed less than 60 percent of their passes in 2014. If either of these guys can really hone in on their craft in 2015, he could easily be the top player chosen.
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
In 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs opted to go with offensive lineman Eric Fisher as the first pick. Depending on which team has the first pick in 2016, Laremy Tunsil might make a lot of sense. As a sophomore, he was arguably the best left tackle in the Nation. As a junior, he should only get better.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
The last time a running back was picked first in the NFL Draft was 1995, and his name was Ki-Jana Carter. The value of NFL running backs has decreased in the modern-day NFL, but with Todd Gurley going 10th in the 2015 NFL Draft despite being injured, the times could be changing. It would take a special back for someone to think about taking one with the No. 1 pick. Elliott looked very special in the second half of 2014. He ran for over 200 yards in each of his last three games when his team needed him the most. He looks like the type of running back that you can build a team around.
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Bosa had 13.5 sacks and 21 TFL as a sophomore. Could he be the next J.J. Watt? He’s a high-motor guy who loves competition and produces results on the field. He needs to refine his pass rushing a bit, but he could be the first non-QB taken in the draft.
Leonard Floyd, LB/DE, Georgia
As a sophomore, Floyd had six sacks and 8.5 TFL in his first year in Jeremy Pruitt’s defense. Floyd can play LB in a 3-4 set (which he is doing at Georgia) or can play DE in a 4-3 set but would need to add more weight. He has all the tools that make the scouts drool.
Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
There are few players who have been as versatile as Jack has been in his young career at UCLA. He’s played linebacker and also running back. He was second on the team in 2014 with 87 total tackles while also running for 113 yards and three TDs (he had seven rushing TDs in 2013). Jack is a very instinctive tackler, and if he’s able to devote himself 100 percent to defense, he could go in the top 10 or higher.
Shawn Oakman, DL, Baylor
At 6’9″ and 280 pounds, Oakman is an absolute beast. We know how scouts and NFL teams value physical specimens. Oakman, though, is not just a specimen, as he also delivers on the field. He had 11 sacks and 19.5 TFL in 2014. At this point, some still label him as a project. If he puts in the time this offseason and in 2015, he will be one to watch for the 2016 Draft.
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
His numbers from 2014 don’t jump off the page at you, but don’t let that fool you. Nkemdiche has had a much bigger impact for the Ole Miss defense and has the versatility and flexibility that teams love in a lineman. Not only is he a great athlete, but he knows how to use his tools and that will make him a player that many teams will seek at the next level.