Optimum Scouting’s first 2016 NFL mock draft of the 2015 NFL season features FOUR quarterbacks in round one, an optimistic view of a passer class that has more questions than answers thus far. Along with four passers, the first round includes two Baylor studs in the top-25, multiple Ohio State Buckeyes and Ole Miss Rebels, and two AAC prospects in round one.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State*
If the Jaguars do finish the season atop the draft, it’s hard to imagine Gus Bradley returning as head coach, and potential most of the front office goes with him. With Blake Bortles flashing, quarterback isn’t an issue. Adding the draft’s best defender, who can fit multiple defenses, is the safe bet.
- Detroit Lions – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss*
It’s tough to peg exactly what the Lions need, as many of their problems simply stem from inconsistency rather than a substantial lack in talent. That said, they should target the best player available. Offensive tackle (Stanely or Tunsil) may be an option, but Nkemdiche is the better prospect.
- Baltimore Ravens – Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State*
The Ravens are more talented than their record indicates, and they’ll have the chance to take an elite prospect for the future. Injuries have plagued the Ravens defense, and the secondary has severely struggled. Jalen Ramsey, the best defensive back prospect since Eric Berry, and could give the Ravens their newest Ed Reed.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Alex Smith deserves to shoulder ample blame for the Chiefs struggles, but the offensive line clearly needs some upgrading. Stanley is as pro-ready technique-wise as any offensive tackle in recent draft history, and can be a plug-and-play starter. Jared Goff would fit best if they look for a quarterback.
- Tennessee Titans – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
The Titans had the opportunity to take Leonard Williams in last year’s draft, but opted for Marcus Mariota instead (wisely). Buckner can be the long-term five-technique this team needs. He’s an athletic monster of a front-seven player, but needs to produce more as a pass-rusher.
- Chicago Bears – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss*
Though fans should be clamoring for a new quarterback, Jay Cutler is likely the team’s passer for the 2016 too. Tunsil, arguably a better offensive tackle prospect than Ronnie Staney, will finally get to play his junior season, and should cement himself quickly as a top-5 prospect.
- Washington Redskins – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida*
The Redskins new front office has put a premium on clear starters and safer prospects. Hargreaves has consistently displayed high-level man cornerback skills, and his play should translate easily to the NFL level. He and Breshaud Breeland could form a very effective duo against the NFC East’s receivers for the future.
- Houston Texans – Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
There are plenty of off-field, leadership, and character question marks with Connor Cook, but this is the team fit that is the most likely for the quarterback. He’s played remarkably well this season, making four or five throws a game that are wowing NFL plays. Despite his off-field issues, the Texans and Bill O’Brien may prefer Cook over Christian Hackenberg.
- New Orleans Saints – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss*
Marques Colston has remained productive this season, but his time as the Saints leading receiver is coming to a close. Treadwell can slide in as the new starter for Drew Brees (Garrett Grayson) and take the load off of Brandin Cooks.
- Cleveland Browns – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis*
I wrote about Lynch three weeks ago and why the bandwagon should pick up soon. After beating Ole Miss (and playing very well in the process), Lynch is a Heisman contender and a top quarterback prospect. He’s not a flash in the pan passer; he’s a legitimate future NFLer.
- San Francisco 49ers – Jared Goff, QB, California*
Colin Kaepernick has had some ups and downs this year, but he’s clearly not going to be worth his contract next season and appears destined to be a quarterback on a team other than the 49ers. Jared Goff can stay on the west coast and inherit a talented offense.
- San Diego Chargers – Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor*
The draft’s best nose tackle, Billings is remarkably unmovable against double teams, rip move’s well against one on one match-ups, and finishes in the backfield at a high level. The Chargers need to add to their front seven, and Billings is the perfect fit.
- Seattle Seahawks – Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M*
It’s unclear what the long-term plan for Russell Okung is and whether Garry Gilliam is a long-term option at tackle. Ifedi is a talented blocker with plus feet and strength/control at the second level. It’s a bit high for Ifedi, but it’s a need and his upside dictates the pick.
- Tampa Bay Bucs – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Even after spending two high draft picks on offensive linemen last year, they still need to add talent to their offense. Decker is a long-time left tackle, and is a better option there than Donovan Smith.
- St. Louis Rams – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
The Rams have struggled mightily in finding solid receivers in the draft, but they can’t afford to pass at this point. Doctson is an awesome in-air finisher and long-speed receiver, and could give this team a Josh Gordon-like impact player.
- Oakland Raiders – Jaylon Smith, ILB, Notre Dame*
While it’s not a major need, adding Jaylon Smith to a budding defense in Oakland could really make this front seven special. Jaylon Smith needs talent around and in-front of him, but with that, he could quickly emerge as one of the NFL’s best linebackers.
- Miami Dolphins – Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia*
Without question, the Dolphins biggest need is at guard, but they won’t target that position in the first-round. But aside from that, adding more linebacker talent should be a must, as outside of Jelani Jenkins, it’s hard to get excited about this unit. Floyd is better suited as a 4-3 linebacker who can be a better pass-rushing version of Alec Ogletree.
- Dallas Cowboys – Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State*
Dallas is onto Christine Michael to helm their rushing attack, but it’s unlikely he’s the long-term answer at the position. And more importantly, with Tony Romo’s career winding down, the offense needs a running threat to carry the load with a newer (younger?) passer at the helm. Elliott is the second best runner in the country, behind only Leonard Fournette.
- New York Giants – Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA*
Clark has emerged as one of the nation’s best interior defensive linemen, and his length and positioning in the run game could make him a fit at multiple defensive line spots, including a 5-technique role. While defensive tackle isn’t a major need for the Giants, they consistently look to add the best player available and want to keep their defensive line strong.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech*
Though his knee injury will keep him out the rest of the season, he can enter the 2016 NFL Draft as a junior and still likely secure a first-round pick. The Eagles biggest needs are at guard and center, but they likely won’t look there in round one. Fuller can push Eric Rowe to a safety/nickel role full time and battle with Nolan Carroll for a starting spot for the future.
- Buffalo Bills – Su’a Cravens, OLB, USC*
Despite Tyrod Taylor’s play, the Bills should be linked to quarterbacks throughout the draft process. And in the late first-round, both Cardale Jones and Christian Hackenberg, once thought of as top passers, may be available. But if Rex Ryan has the pull that it appears, I’d guess the Bills go defense and bulk up their front-seven even further.
- Indianapolis Colts – A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama*
Indianapolis has struck gold with both David Parry and Henry Anderson on the defensive line, but adding a massive nose tackle like Robinson could solidify their defensive line rotation. Robinson, not a sexy interior presence but one who holds ground remarkably well and is active in throwing lanes.
- Minnesota Vikings – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor*
Kendall Wright was a top-20 pick coming out of Baylor just three years ago. Corey Coleman has already broken his single-season record for touchdown receptions in a season, just seven weeks into the year. Coleman, reminding of a shorter Julio Jones type receiver, offers vertical acceleration and awesome athleticism as a post-catch runner.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Will Jackson, CB, Houston
There’s no question the Steelers are in desperate need of cornerback help after the season, and they’ll like target corners in free agency and the draft. They’ll have options in the draft, but Will Jackson fits the type of long, press-capable corner they need, as Cortez Allen hasn’t emerged in that role. Jackson isn’t without some concern, but his length, turn and run top-end speed, and timing at the catch-point make him a solid first-rounder.
- Arizona Cardinals – Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State*
Christian Hackenberg has struggled since Bill O’Brien left for the NFL, but he’s not without supporters at the NFL level. Hackenberg’s best NFL comparison is Carson Palmer, so what better fit than him developing behind Palmer for a year or two before taking over Bruce Arians offense?
- New York Jets – Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA*
Despite the injury and leaving UCLA early, Myles Jack should remain a first-round player and could go much higher than 26th once he fully checks out from his injury. The Jets could use some youth at pass-rusher, and pairing Jack with Lorenzo Mauldin for the future should keep the Jets pass-rush a strength, both inside and out.
- Atlanta Falcons – Jalen Mills, S, LSU
Despite their strong play, the Falcons defense needs to continue to get younger and versatile in Dan Quinn’s defense. Jalen Mills can offer value at multiple defensive back spots, and has the requisite length and range to slide into the type safety Dan Quinn needs.
- Carolina Panthers – Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State*
While the Panthers have invested in receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess early in back to back drafts, they will continue to need support for Cam Newton in the passing game. Ted Ginn is currently the team’s only vertical threat, and that doesn’t look in-line to change in 2016. Adding Thomas gives Cam three unique weapons, and the Panthers can boast arguably the best young passing attack for the future.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
It’s been stated repeatedly, but the Bengals boast one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. Without a clear need anywhere in the starting lineup, the Bengals can once again draft best player available. Calhoun is a plus-fit for their defense.
- Denver Broncos – Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State
Even though Brock Osweiler has gotten plenty of attention as the heir apparent to Peyton Manning, there’s a strong chance that Denver may go quarterback here if one fits Gary Kubiak’s system. Both Connor Cook (trade up) and Paxton Lynch both do. If they don’t go quarterback, taking another high impact defensive player can keep this defense the best in the NFL.
- Green Bay Packers – Adolphis Washington, DT, Ohio State
While their defensive line is a strength, the Packers need to add depth and youth to their front-three. Washington plays a host of positions for the Buckeyes, and could slide into either DE spot for the Packers as a reliable set-up defensive lineman. He’s under-appreciated on the Buckeyes defense, but he’s a first-round prospect.
- New England Patriots – Maurice Canady, CB, Virginia
Cornerback hasn’t proved to be as much of an issue as initially thought to start the season, largely thanks to Malcolm Butler, but it’s still a position that needs upgrading. Though the last time the Patriots went with a Virginia cornerback (Ras-I Dowling) it didn’t work, Canady is a long, athletic and highly impressing cornerback who can easily supplant the often inconsistent Logan Ryan.
FINAL 2015 NFL Mock Draft
- Tampa Bay Bucs – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
It’s become clear Jameis Winston is the pick for the Bucs. The next questions are whether he’ll be the opening day starter, which seems likely, and if he’ll be able to overcome his off-field issues to be a leader of a franchise, which is very much unknown.
- Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Browns and Jets are the two potential trade-up options. I’ve heard the Jets have legitimate interest, but don’t want to succumb to the Titans high demands. The Titans would like to squeeze a third first-rounder from the Browns, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Finally, I’ve been told that Ken Whisenhunt may have sold himself on Mariota. Not sure exactly what to believe, other than all three are real possibilities.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida
Fowler is viewed highly by most teams, and would be a plug-and-play starter at outside linebacker for the Jaguars. This could be a trade down target. The most interesting one I’ve heard: Falcons move to #3 to get Fowler, Jaguars move to #8 and take either an edge like Vic Beasley or running back Todd Gurley.
- TRADE: San Francisco 49ers – Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Bold pick here, but I’ve been told not only are the Raiders looking to trade down to get an extra second-rounder, but also the 49ers want to get into the top-five. Williams makes the most sense and it’d be a savvy move for a 49ers team that doesn’t have many gaping needs after 5-technique. But it could be for an offensive player as well (Todd Gurley, DeVante Parker, Amari Cooper)
- Washington Redskins – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
If they can’t get Dante Fowler or hold Leonard Williams up for auction, the Redskins will be in a tough spot. Edge is possible like Dupree or Beasley, offensive line is possible like Brandon Scherff, but I don’t think Amari Cooper falls past the top-6, and the Redskins could use another receiver.
- New York Jets – Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky
The Jets don’t have any serious needs, and if they can’t get Mariota, they’re especially tough to figure out. Receiver and edge fit the value here. Dupree fits the type of edge player that Todd Bowles likes.
- Chicago Bears – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Amari Cooper may be higher than Kevin White on their board, and if he’s here he’d be the pick. If not, they’ll probably stay at receiver and take Kevin White. Danny Shelton and Alvin Dupree two other possibilities.
- Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Atlanta’s tough to peg, especially since two of their top pass-rushers, Randy Gregory and Shane Ray, have fallen off. Beasley fits what Dan Quinn wants for the “LEO” position. Brandon Scherff could be an option as well, but likely not Todd Gurley.
- New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OT/OG, Iowa
I’ve mocked Andrus Peat here many times before, and I think he’s a far better fit than Scherff. Peat can play left tackle, kick Beatty to right tackle, shift Justin Pugh to guard, and improve this offensive line at three spots. Scherff seems like a guard/tackle in-betweener (like Justin Pugh). But, the Giants did like Zach Martin a lot last year, and Scherff is the 2015 version of him.
- St. Louis Rams – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (FL)
Similar to Scherff, I don’t love the fit for the Rams and Ereck Flowers, but I can get the rationale. With Greg Robinson playing well at left guard but struggling mightily at left tackle, it’s unclear what his best position may be. Flowers can play left tackle (keeping Robinson inside), right tackle (opposite Robinson) or right guard (a need) for this team.
- Minnesota Vikings – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Pairing Parker up with Teddy Bridgewater and addressing a huge need seems to make this pick a no-brainer. However, I wouldn’t rule out Trae Waynes or even Andrus Peat. A trade-down also possible. But Parker makes the most sense if he’s here.
- Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
If the Browns don’t trade up to get Marcus Mariota, they’ll add a nose tackle with one of their two first-rounders. Shelton at 12 or Malcom Brown at 19 both fit. If Shelton’s here, he’s the perfect Phil Taylor replacement.
- New Orleans Saints – Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
If not for his most recent off-field issue, I’d put La’el Collins of LSU here, but he’s a near lock to be out of round one at this point. If Vic Beasley’s here, I think he’s the pick. If not, Perriman gives this team the help it needs at receiver.
- TRADE: San Diego Chargers – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Miami is linked to Todd Gurley, but I’ve heard San Diego covets him more. And with the 49ers at 15 (if they don’t trade up) and Texans at 16 both expressing some interest, the Chargers need to move above both to get their guy. The Dolphins get back a 3rd rounder in exchange.
- TRADE: Oakland Raiders – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
IF the Raiders trade down here, it’s hard to say who they’ll pick. But, I know they’d like to add an instant contributor at defensive end and receiver in this draft. By trading down, they’ll have this pick and two seconds to fill those two spots.
- TRADE: Carolina Panthers – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Panthers are desperate for an offensive lineman. I’ve had them trading up before for DJ Humphries (also high on their board), but if Peat is within striking distance, I think he’s their guy. Houston doesn’t have any major needs to fill at 16.
- TRADE: Miami Dolphins – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
If the Dolphins stay at 14, Waynes might be their guy there too. Waynes or Kevin Johnson could be their top cornerback, but I’m leaning in favor of Waynes. DeVante Parker could intrigue them in a trade-up (instead of this trade down) too.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Cameron Erving, OC, Florida State
I’ve heard receiver, edge rusher, safety, cornerback and offensive line are all options for this pick. Erving can replace Rodney Hudson as the team’s new center seamlessly. If not Erving, I think Kevin Johnson would be the pick.
- Cleveland Browns (via BUF) – Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami (FL)
After nose tackle, it’s unclear what the Browns covet as their next need. Right tackle’s in play, but unless Ereck Flowers is here, I don’t see it. Melvin Gordon is tossed around, but Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West have ample talent. Dorsett can be their new vertical threat, and he’s going somewhere in round one.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Eric Rowe, CB/S, Utah
It’s impossible to gauge what Chip Kelly’s thinking, but Eric Rowe makes too much sense. He’s played both safety positions (both could be needs for Philadelphia long-term) and has the length to play cornerback for Chip. Jake Fisher in play as well. Damarious Randall may “fit”, but he’s not worth the value, and maybe is the target in a trade back.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Jake Fisher, OG/OT, Oregon
Offensive tackle or defensive tackle seem like the two most likely options for Cincinnati. Jake Fisher gets the nod as the pick, but Cedric Ogbuehi and TJ Clemmings may also intrigue, as would Ereck Flowers if he’s here.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The top cornerback on their board, the Steelers would be thrilled if Johnson fell to here. The Dolphins and Chiefs both have interest, but this may be the lowest Johnson goes.
- Detroit Lions – Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas
After letting Ndamukong Suh and CJ Mosley go on the defensive line, the Lions added Haloti Ngata but still need another top defensive tackle talent. Keeping the defensive line a strength would be wise, and Brown can maintain that. DJ Humphries may be an option as well.
- Arizona Cardinals – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
I think Melvin Gordon will be here at 24. After investing in their offensive line this off-season, Gordon thrive behind it. Cornerback (Trae Waynes, Byron Jones) and offensive tackle (DJ Humphries) could be options here as well.
- TRADE: Houston Texans – Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Whether the Texans trade down or not, a receiver like Agholor (or Phillip Dorsett) may intrigue. I think cornerback would be a better position to address, and they’ll have options at 16 or 25. Also, a top edge talent (Shane Ray?) may be in play too.
- Baltimore Ravens – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Ravens have a major need at receiver, and if Breshad Perriman is available, I think he’d really entice. But Marcus Peters is very high on their board, and he’s my pick if he’s available. Phillip Dorsett and Devin Smith could also be options.
- Dallas Cowboys – Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
I’m shocked and a bit disappointed by this pick, but if Randy Gregory is available for the Cowboys, I’ll be very surprised if he’s not their selection. He could play end or linebacker for this defense…if he can stay on the field and mature.
- Denver Broncos – TJ Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
The Broncos are looking to add a top offensive line prospect that can play guard this year to replace Orlando Franklin and potentially slide to right tackle long-term. Clemmings offers exactly that, and is a worthy top-32 pick in this draft.
- Indianapolis Colts – DJ Humphries, OT, Florida
Nose tackle is their biggest need, so Jordan Phillips of Oklahoma and Carl Davis of Iowa are both options. But with DJ Humphries here, a guy they feel can be a left tackle in the NFL, he may be too good to pass up.
- Green Bay Packers – Byron Jones, CB, UConn
Jones got a ton of buzz after his NFL Combine, but I think top-20 hype was a bit too much. He’s more of a second-round guy on film, and maybe best at safety. But the Packers are desperate for a bounder cornerback, and Jones fits the measurables and athletic ability to fill that role.
- New Orleans Saints (via SEA) – Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State
The buzz is that Mario Edwards might be a top-25 pick. I don’t see it on film, and I don’t see a team between 20 and 26 that make sense. That being said, he’s an upside guy with 5-technique capabilities, and the feeling is he’s a round one guy.
- New England Patriots – AJ Cann, OG, South Carolina
The Patriots are highly likely to trade back at this pick, and maybe for a team looking to pounce on Shane Ray, Landon Collins, Donovan Smith, or Jalen Collins. But regardless where they’re picking, Cann is a strong fit and viewed as a top-40 prospect.