The 2016 NFL Draft is a month away and mock season is already in full swing. So it’s time to take an early look at who's going where and why.
With the Tennessee Titans already locked in with their franchise quarterback selected in last year’s draft, the storyline regarding the No. 1 overall pick is very different from last year, when it was all about whether the Buccaneers would take either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota.
We know how that turned out, so now things get a little more complex with no true consensus on who Tennessee should take. When teams look at the quarterback spot, there doesn't seem to be a consensus there, either.
So maybe uncertainty, even more than usual, is the theme this year.
1. Tennessee Titans (3-13)
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, cornerback, defensive end
Pick:Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
There are a few tantalizing options that could make sense here, but with so many needs on the roster, the Titans would be smart to simply grab the best player. More and more, it seems like that guy is Ramsey, who can be an immediate difference -maker at any spot in the secondary and even adds value as a blitzer.
Other Possibilities: Laremy Tunsil, OL, Mississippi
2. Cleveland Browns (3-13)
Biggest needs: Quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line
Pick: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
There are needs everywhere, but nowhere more glaring than at quarterback, where Johnny Manziel’s failures set the franchise back even further than it was when he was drafted. Wentz has become the hot pick for the position over the last few months, and expect that momentum to continue.
Other Possibilities: Jared Goff, QB, Cal; Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State; Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
3. San Diego Chargers (4-12)
Biggest needs: Defensive line, secondary, offensive tackle
Pick: Laremy Tunsil, OL, Mississippi
There's plenty of people who think Tunsil will go first overall, but Ramsey's name has been trending the most lately. The thought here is that no matter who goes first overall, Cleveland still goes after a quarterback, leaving the Chargers in great position to scoop up a player who could step in right away and fill a big need on either side of the ball.
Other Possibilities: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida Sate
4. Dallas Cowboys (4-12)
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, cornerback, backup quarterback
Pick: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
There's always the chance that the Cowboys go with the splash move and pick Tony Romo's successor. However, it would be
tough to pass up the chance to grab a player like Buckner here, especially in the light of the uncertainty around the future of Greg Hardy. The Oregon product would bring a dominant force at that spot without all the red flags.
Other Possibilities: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
Biggest needs: Outside linebacker, offensive line
Pick: Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
The Jags signing defensive lineman Malik Jackson was a huge coup, and the hope is last year’s first-round pick, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., recovers well fully from his knee injury. Adding Jack, a multi-talented defender who can rush the passer and be effective in coverage, would fortify that front seven even more.
Other Possibilities: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State; DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon; Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
6. Baltimore Ravens (5-11)
Biggest needs: Cornerback, edge rusher, offensive line
Pick: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The hole at cornerback is a big one, and if Vernon Hargreaves III is available, which he most likely will be, don’t be surprised if that’s the pick. But if that’s not the case, the Ravens would be wise to do the next best thing and lock up an overpowering pass rusher like Bosa who can take over a game.
Other Possibilities: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida; Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame; DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
7. San Francisco 49ers (5-11)
Biggest needs: Quarterback, offensive line, wide receiver
Pick: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Maybe Colin Kaepernick stays in San Francisco and Chip Kelly revitalizes his career. But it’s more probable that Kelly grabs a signal-caller here. Wentz might fit better in the offense, but despite some late nitpicking by scouts, Goff is still a solid pick and as accurate a quarterback that exists in the class.
Other Possibilities: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State; Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
8. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Biggest needs: Running back, offensive line, wide receiver
Pick: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
There is still the belief that grabbing a running back this high is not worth it, and that may be for most teams, but the Eagles have bungled the management of this position for consecutive years and need to rectify it. Elliott is an immediate solution.
Other Possibilities: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)
Biggest needs: Cornerback, offensive tackle, edge rusher
Pick: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
With Dirk Koetter taking over head coaching duties going into quarterback Jameis Winston’s second year, the priority should be upgrading the defense. The biggest need is at corner, and many considered Hargreaves a top-5-caliber pick at this time last year. His pure cover skills are as good as it gets.
Other Possibilities: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame; Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
10. New York Giants (6-10)
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, secondary, wide receiver
Pick: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
The Giants fortified their defensive line in free agency. It makes sense to do the same to the offensive line in the draft. This is a team that has struggled to find a true tackle to adequately protect Eli Manning, and Stanley could fit that bill. He excels as a pass blocker and has the frame for a prototypical left tackle.
Other Possibilities: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State; Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
11. Chicago Bears (6-10)
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, running back, quarterback
Pick: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Is this the year the Bears plan for Jay Cutler’s successor? Maybe. However, Lawson is the better immediate choice. Although a minor injury somewhat diminished his effectiveness in the College Football Playoff, for the rest of his career, Lawson has been a beast.
Other Possibilities: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State; Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia; Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
12. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Biggest needs: Defensive line, linebacker, wide receiver
Pick: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
The problems for this defense are well documented, and while there are needs all over it, it never hurts to go by the tried and true cliché of building from the inside out. Robinson is a massive presence (6-4, 307) with uncommon athleticism and can play multiple spots along the line. His ceiling is high.
Other Possibilities: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama; Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
13. Miami Dolphins (6-10)
Biggest needs: Running back, edge rusher, cornerback
Pick: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
If Elliott is still here, he’d be hard to turn down. Although the Dolphins may feel satisfied with Mario Williams replacing Olivier Vernon, picking up Dodd if he is still around would be a good long-term solution at a position where you can never have enough quality depth.
Other Possibilities: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State; Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
14. Oakland Raiders (7-9)
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, inside linebacker, secondary
Pick: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
The Raiders have done a good job both in the draft and free agency of slowly putting themselves in a position to make the playoffs. There are a few ways they could go here, but snatching up Conklin, a reliable tackle from a pro-style system, could pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Other Possibilities: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
15. Los Angeles Rams (7-9)
Biggest needs: Quarterback, wide receiver, secondary
Pick: LaQuon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
The Rams are trying to sell everyone on Case Keenum as their starting quarterback. If that truly is the case, then you should see them again target the type of weapon to make his life easier. Treadwell, who suffered a gruesome leg injury as a sophomore but recovered fully, may be that guy.
Other Possibilities: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor; Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis; Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
16. Detroit Lions (7-9)
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, cornerback, inside linebacker
Pick: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
The Lions could stand to wait back on a few positions, but the most immediate need here is keeping quarterback Matthew Stafford upright, which is something the Lions didn’t do a great job of last year. Decker is a consistent performer who should be here in this spot.
Other Possibilities: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State; Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
17. Atlanta Falcons (8-8)
Biggest needs: Defensive end, secondary, linebacker
Pick: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
Dan Quinn came over from Seattle last year and pieced together a few nice wins, but needs to get his defensive footprint more deeply rooted for greater success. Lee possesses the speed to contribute right away and Quinn likely won’t be scared away by the concern some scouts have about his size.
Other Possibilities: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
18. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
Biggest needs: Offensive line, edge rusher
Pick: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
The Colts simply can’t go through another season where Andrew Luck takes the type of beating he did last year. That means they are offensive line or bust, so while Spriggs may be a bit of a reach here, you could see it if the likes of Decker, Conklin and Stanley are already off the board.
Other Possibilities: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State; Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State; Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
19. Buffalo Bills (8-8)
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, defensive line, edge rusher
Pick: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
The Bills need to address their need at offensive tackle, so that could be the pick. But a player like Floyd, who can come off the edge and provide an immediate blitzing presence, seems like the perfect fit for a Ryan brothers defense.
Other Possibilities: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
20. New York Jets (10-6)
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, offensive tackle
Pick: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
It would not be a surprise to pick up another interior defensive lineman to offset the loss of Damon Harrison in free agency, but the belief here is that the Jets would rather have someone on the edge. Spence can rush the passer from multiple fronts and could fill that role well.
Other Possibilities: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
21. Washington Redskins (9-7)
Biggest needs: Interior lines, secondary
Pick: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
This is a team that can stand to get stronger up the middle on either side of the ball, and Reed would be a perfect fit to do that on defense. A bull-strong run-stuffer, Reed may not be here at this spot. If he is, there’s likely to be other solid options at the position worth grabbing.
Other Possibilities: Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor
22. Houston Texans (9-7)
Biggest needs: Wide receiver, offensive tackle
Pick: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Like several teams immediately ahead of it, the Texans would love a little help at offensive tackle, but there are some other needs to fill, too. Another stud wide receiver opposite DeAndre Hopkins would work, and Fuller is definitely that, a speedster who had an extremely productive 2015.
Other Possibilities: Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech; Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor; Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
23. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
Biggest needs: Wide receiver, offensive tackle
Pick: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
The Vikings have been frantically looking to find more weapons for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater ever since he came into the league. That could continue here, as Doctson is a big target that can line up on the other side of Stefon Diggs and strengthen that wide receiver corps.
Other Possibilities: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
24. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
Biggest needs: Wide receiver, defensive tackle
Pick: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Free agency gutted the weapons around All-Pro wideout A.J. Green, so the Bengals would be smart to take a receiver here in a draft that isn’t as deep at the position. Coleman was productive in college and is one of the fastest receivers in the class.
Other Possibilities: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor; Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
25. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
Biggest needs: Secondary, linebacker
Pick: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
While players like Ramsey and Hargreaves have garnered the most early hype, Jackson has picked up steam later on in the process and would be a terrific addition to a Steelers team that desperately needs a boost at corner. Jackson has the height (6-0) and speed (4.37 40 at the Combine) that teams drool over.
Other Possibilities: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State; Vonn Bell, FS, Ohio State
26. Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
Biggest needs: Cornerback, both lines
Pick: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Some key personnel losses on defense make that the priority this draft, and the thought here is that Pete Carroll will go after one of the several good corners who should be here. Apple has the height (6-1) Carroll loves and possesses a good combination of physicality and cover skills.
Other Possibilities: William Jackson III, CB, Houston; Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
27. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Biggest needs: Inside Linebacker, tight end, defensive line
Pick: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
There’s a good chance Ragland is gone by this point (the Raiders, in particular, seem like a good landing spot), but if he is not, then he makes too much sense not to take. This would allow the Packers to keep Clay Matthews on the outside and Ragland would be a nearly seamless fit both schematically and for the type of skill set he provides.
Other Possibilities: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
28. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, cornerback, wide receiver
Pick: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
The Chiefs could stand to get a younger pass rusher, and the search for another receiver never ends in Kansas City, but it wouldn’t hurt to add depth at corner. That leaves a player like Alexander, who plays with the type of confidence and swagger you’re looking for in that position.
Other Possibilities: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
29. Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
Biggest needs: Interior defensive line, outside linebacker
Pick: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
Opinions can vary widely on Rankins, who could very easily go 15-18 spots higher. That said, he’s someone who could see a late drop depending on how others view players like Robinson, Reed and others. If the Cardinals do choose to grab someone of that ilk, they’d be lucky to get Rankins this late.
Other Possibilities: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama; Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
30. Carolina Panthers (15-1)
Biggest needs: Offensive tackle, defensive end
Pick: Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
The question is whether or not the Panthers are scarred enough from the protection issues in the Super Bowl to pass on a good defensive end who might still be available. The thought here is that yes, they are, and Clark will still be on the board for the taking.
Other Possibilities: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
31. Denver Broncos (12-4)
Biggest needs: Quarterback, defensive tackle, inside linebacker
Pick: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Don’t think John Elway was simply going to let Brock Osweiler go and throw all his eggs in the Mark Sanchez basket. Lynch is a player that was well thought of earlier in the process and has seen his stock drop just enough to be a realistic option here. He might not be a Week 1 starter, but can be groomed for the spot.
Other Possibilities: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Note: There are only 31 picks in the first round because New England forfeited its selection as part of the punishment associated with the Deflategate scandal.
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.