Congratulations to the Denver Broncos for winning Super Bowl 50. Now onto the offseason where hope abounds for teams looking to hoist the trophy in 2017. In Mock Draft 1.0, I spend time addressing each team’s three biggest needs heading into the offseason. Let’s go ahead and get ready for 20 the 16-2017 season with a look at the 2016 NFL Draft! Let’s Dive In!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since 2013, no NFL Draft expert, not Mel Kiper, Jr. (ESPN), not Todd McShay (ESPN), not Mike Mayock (NFL Network), have gotten more 1st-round selections correct than Fantasy Sharks’ very own Dan Collins.
Kiper = 1 Correct
McShay = 4 Correct
Mayock = 11 Correct
Collins = 13 Correct
Kiper = 5 Correct
McShay = 4 Correct
Mayock = 4 Correct
Collins = 11 Correct
Kiper = 6 Correct
McShay = 8 Correct
Mayock = 7 Correct
Collins = 10 Correct
Let’s get started!
1) Tennessee Titans
3 Biggest Needs: OT, RB, CB/NT
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
I have a really bad feeling that Mike Mularky could be one-and-done as the Titans’ head coach after this season. The Titans may have felt the pressure of waiting too long to hire a coach and chose Mularky for some consistency for Marcus Mariota. Nonetheless, he and new GM Jon Robinson have a lot of work to do to get this team back to a competitive state.
The first order of business is to take care of your young star franchise quarterback. Taylor Lewan showed this year he is not capable of being a left tackle and protecting the quarterback. He should be moved to right tackle and allowed to get his “mean streak” and attitude into the run game. This is the reason I have put Laremy Tunsil as their selection for the #1 overall pick. He is the ideal selection to make sure Marcus Mariota takes less hits in 2016.
Another way to help your quarterback is to develop a run game. Let’s be honest, any of the guys on the current roster at running back aren’t helping Mariota. They need some fresh blood on the depth chart and a player that can be a true #1 back to complement the young quarterback. I placed nose tackle and cornerback as a tie depending on two key factors. Sammie Lee Hill, their current nose tackle, is hitting free agency and if not signed, would leave a huge hole to fill in the middle of the line.
Jason McCourty’s 2016 position is the deciding factor if cornerback takes the #3 spot as one of the Titans biggest needs. Jason’s brother Devin, changed his position with the Patriots from cornerback to free safety, which has been a great transition. Would Jason do the same and allow the Titans to move on from Michael Griffin at free safety?
One more note: I don’t see anybody trading up to this spot due to this draft not having a true “Franchise Quarterback.” There are no high caliber quarterbacks worthy of giving away future high picks for in this draft. All of these quarterbacks have potential, but are not truly NFL-ready “Day 1” starters like you would want if trading up for the #1 overall pick.
2) Cleveland Browns
3 Biggest Needs: QB, WR, ILB
Jared Goff, QB, California
First of all, hiring Hue Jackson is the best thing Cleveland has done in the past decade. He’s a quality coach and person that gives the Browns an opportunity to develop and grow into a respectable team year after year. I hope the Browns give him more than a year or two to turn this roster around.
The Browns have indicated they plan to drop Johnny Manziel. This is why Jared Goff is the selection here at #2 overall. I’m glad scouts, and NFL people are starting to slow down on the Paxton Lynch hype train as the top overall quarterback. Now everyone is on the Carson Wentz hype train, which will be a fun ride heading into Draft Day. Goff is easily the best quarterback in this class compared to Lynch, Cook, and right now ahead of Wentz by a little. Hue Jackson will like his West Coast style and gladly take him as his future quarterback.
The passing game was a disaster this past season due to lack of talent on the outside. They do not have a wide receiver on the roster that is a true #1 possession receiver that can help a quarterback. They desperately need more talent at wide receiver to take any strides forward with this offense. Could Josh Gordon make an impact for next season?
Defensively, the rush defense was poor again last season and may see improvement alone with a new defensive coordinator for next season. I see them attacking the inside linebacker position with Karlos Dansby being 34 and their other players on the depth chart being average players at best. They need an athletic middle linebacker to pair with Dansby to help cover more area on the field. This will help their poor run defense along with new coaching.
3) San Diego Chargers
3 Biggest Needs: OL, WR, DL
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
I hope the San Diego Chargers do not go with their “future franchise quarterback” here or attempt to trade up to get one. Philip Rivers is only 34 years old and signed a four-year deal before last season. This pick will decide the mindset and direction for the Chargers 2017 season. If they draft a quarterback here, they are telling the team that they are not looking to win now, but develop for the future. This team should have been in contention for the playoffs but injuries derailed them. They can get a quarterback with potential in the mid-rounds this year.
The Chargers hold the key to how the rest of the 1st round shakes out. I say this especially due to the many areas the Chargers will need to address heading into free agency. The offensive line struggled. Injuries really were a huge issue this past season and they need to address their depth and talent this offseason. They haven’t found a replacement at center since Nick Hardwick retired. A steady center would help with the overall improvement of the line in 2016. This is why Stanley is the Chargers’ pick. He could step into one of the tackle positions for 2016 and the future.
As of right now, they have two capable receivers on the roster, one is a #2 receiver being forced to play as a #1 in Keenan Allen; and the other is Stevie Johnson who is an older slot receiver. How is Philip Rivers supposed to lead an offense if those are the only weapons he has?
Another issue may be the defensive line. They lack a lot of talent there already and they may lose some players to free agency. They will need to attack the position heavily in free agency to adjust. Another position to watch is free safety as Eric Weddle played his last game in a San Diego Chargers uniform. They could go multiple ways here with players that can fill big holes such as Ronnie Stanley on the offensive line, Joey Bosa on the defensive line, Laquon Treadwell at wide receiver, or even Jalen Ramsey at free safety. They hold the key to the domino effect that will determine the Top 10 of the Draft.
4) Dallas Cowboys
3 Biggest Needs: DL, RB, QB
Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State
If Tony Romo and Dez Bryant had been healthy this season, the Cowboys would have been the NFC East champions. The NFL is a crazy world as we see the Cowboys picking fourth overall. If everyone is healthy, this is a playoff team. They need help at several positions this offseason, including a solid backup quarterback or two of them, youth and talent on the defensive line, and some secondary depth.
If Joey Bosa is here on draft day, there is no way the Cowboys pass on him, period. Rod Marinelli will pound the table hard to get the versatile Bosa. Why? The defensive line is easily the biggest need heading into the 2016 season. They have a lot of free agents hitting the market along the defensive line and don’t have any young talent at the position.
We know they also need a great back in order to exploit that offensive line effectively. They obviously won’t take a running back at #4 overall, but could trade down with a team like the Rams who need a quarterback and grab Ezekiel Elliot at #15 for better value. They could also wait until the 2nd round and get a back like Derrick Henry. They didn’t get a running back in the 2015 draft and payed the price this season when they didn’t have the talent there to carry the offense when Tony Romo went down.
Speaking of Romo, they have to invest in a future quarterback due to Romo’s (35) and injury history. They could surprise us and take a player like Carson Wentz here to secure their future, even though they could take one in the mid-rounds and develop him at a cheaper price. I personally don’t see how the Cowboys and Jerry Jones would use their #4 overall pick on a quarterback that likely won’t play in 2016. Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent that the Cowboys’ scouting department found and has worked out well for them.
Jerry and the Cowboys know they can win now if Romo and Bryant are healthy on offense and their defense continues to improve. I see Robert Griffin III in a Cowboys’ uniform next season on the sidelines as the backup quarterback/future quarterback. With that being said, they did coach Wentz at the Senior Bowl and may have really enjoyed it.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars
3 Biggest Needs: CB, FS, DE
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
In 2015, the offense for the Jaguars showed glimmers of hope for the future. Gus Bradley needs to show why they hired him: defense. They drafted Dante Fowler Jr. in last year’s draft, but an injury before the season started ended his season. He will be healthy and ready to go in 2016 and will help their pass rush which was very poor this season. They need to add more talent at defensive end to put more pressure on the quarterback even with Fowler coming back from injury, which is why defensive end is a top-3 need.
The biggest issue for 2016 has to be the secondary. They are a .500 team next season or will be competing for the playoffs if their secondary improves. They need players that can make plays and give their young offense more opportunities to score. This is why Jalen Ramsey is the perfect selection for them here at #5 overall. Bradley could add another piece to his puzzle and have the Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas of his former defense in Seattle. He can play corner or free safety to make an immediate impact in that secondary as a play-maker.
6) Baltimore Ravens
3 Biggest Needs: CB, FS, 3-4 OLB/WR
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
This year will go down as the worst, or one of the worst, in Ravens’ franchise history. It was a very disappointing season in which they were supposed to battle Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the AFC North title race. Instead, they end up picking in the top 10 for the first time since 2003 when they drafted Terrell Suggs at No. 10 overall.
Defensively, they only had 6 interceptions on the year and struggled to force turnovers. They need players on the back end that can help the Ravens with their turnover margin. They could move LarDarius Webb to free safety and add a new corner to improve the defense which is where I get my selection in Mackensie Alexander.
I can also see the Ravens going with a pass rusher here depending on how they view Za’Darius Smith for the future at 3-4 OLB, or if they retain Courtney Upshaw during free agency. Any wide receiver besides LaQuon Treadwell is too high here at #6 overall, but it is still a big area of need heading into the offseason. At this point in the process, I believe the Ravens go with what they are known for here and grab an elite defensive player.
7) San Francisco 49ers
3 Biggest Needs: ILB, WR, OL/CB
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
The Chip Kelly era begins in San Francisco. I will be watching this team very carefully during this offseason. They are another team that free agency will truly determine where they are going with this #7 overall selection. It seems that Chip Kelly wants to work with Kaepernick and make him the player that defenses were afraid to play just a few years ago. Quarterback is then off the charts here for the 49ers.
This leaves two critical positions for the 49ers to address this offseason. An athletic inside linebacker to pair with Navorro Bowman is important and adding a wide receiver to be the possession receiver in this offense. Anquan Boldin will likely leave to get on a playoff contending team for next season.
Cornerback is a another position to watch. The 49ers secondary lacked a solid cornerback all season and Chip’s Philadelphia defense was awful against the pass last season leaving that image and idea fresh in his mind as he tries to learn from his mistakes.
Trent Baalke is the man in charge and depending on how he approaches free agency will determine this pick. For now, my decision rests between LaQuon Treadwell and Myles Jack. I go with the wide receiver due to the nice class of free agent inside linebackers available and a weaker wide receiver free agent class.
8) Miami Dolphins
3 Biggest Needs: LB, CB, DE/OL
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Your huge free agent signing is only as good as the players that can make plays around him. Sure, Ndamukong Suh is a great player, but nobody in the second level of that defense can make plays once he draws a double team. This has to be addressed in the offseason and should be addressed via signing free agents and getting a talented linebacker here. They will most likely have the option of selecting 1-of-2 very talented linebackers here at #8 overall.
Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith are studs and will make instant impacts as long as they are healthy. Right now, it’s Myles Jack due to his recovery from a knee injury and Jaylon Smith’s more recent injury means his time of recovery may intersect with the beginning of the season. Recent news is even confirming that Jack is healthy enough to participate in the combine.
Cornerback should be priority #2 in the offseason due to their best corner’s age and lack of talent on the rest of the roster. They also have their starting defensive ends hitting free agency and Cameron Wake is getting older. I place that need tied with offensive line because both can be addressed in free agency if the Dolphins select that approach this offseason.