2016 NFL Draft: Updated 2-Round Mock Draft and Prospect Rankings

2016 NFL Draft, College Football, NFL, NFL Draft

Temperament, personality, desire, internal drive, work ethic, will power, character and heart — they’re the key intangibles which separate the good athletes from the great ones.

Unfortunately, those intangibles are so difficult for evaluators to measure and quantify.

Data for workout numbers such as 40-yard-dashes, bench presses and jumps of all sorts is widely available; so are game statistics for any category you could think of.

Still, these days when every  workout result, rumor, new trendy analytic of the day and hot story of the hour is broadcast out into the digital sphere for all to see, there’s still a mysterious behind-closed-doors feeling that remains surrounding the NFL Draft.

32 brain trusts are all searching for those special prospects that they can mold their organizations around for the future. None of them want to tip their hand before the proceedings start.

At all levels, coaches always trot out that line, “this game separates boys from the men.”

Well, one situation where that mantra certainly rings true is the NFL draft.

Saturdays and Sundays may only be separated by a single thin line on the calendar, but in the football world, it’s a clear dividing line. Excelling in the collegiate ranks against Kevin from chemistry class is one thing. But the NFL is a whole different rodeo. Handling the leap to the next level requires a special type of mental fortitude that only a few collegiate players possess.

It’s up to those 32 brain trusts to figure out who has it and who doesn’t.

The information accumulation phase of the process is pretty much complete. Now begins the all-important final decision-making period. This is the “separating men from boys” period for GMs, scouts, personnel evaluators and assorted front-office executives.

It’s time to hand out the grades, stack the board and prepare for a draft weekend that’s, as always, marked by both intrigue and mystery.

DeForest Buckner, the No. 1 overall prospect in this year’s class , appears destined to become the first overall pick in the 2016 festivities. Still, it’s far from a guarantee.

Tennessee could consider one of the other “Fab Five” prospects: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa, Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil, UCLA LB Myles Jack or Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey. The Titans could also entertain the idea of trading down if an offer is overwhelming enough.

We’ve got another month left to debate, dispute and draw conclusions.

For now, though, here’s my forecast and projections for every pick in the first two rounds of the 2016 NFL draft, as well as complete prospect rankings for every major position.

College Football 2016: Preseason Power-5 All-Conference Teams

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The upcoming NFL Combine will serve as a showcase for the top prospects in the 2016 NFL draft. Sadly, it will also serve as a reminder for college football fans about just how much star power departed for the pros this offseason.

Although many of the top performers from the 2015 season have left campus, fortunately, there’s still plenty of quality talent remaining at the collegiate level.

Returning standouts such as Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey, Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett and LSU RB Leonard Fournette have already ascended to star status and become household names. Plus, there are plenty of other young, up-and-coming potential breakout stars who are waiting to make a name for themselves as well this fall.

Here’s a look at the top impact players from each of the Power-5 conferences who are most deserving of preseason “All-Conference” accolades for the 2016 season.

College Football Recruiting 2016: Breaking Down the Top 10 Classes By State

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There’s no right or wrong way for a college football coaching staff to build a great recruiting class. Some coaches prefer to focus on their own backyard and make in-state recruiting the top priority, while others prefer to branch out and go searching around the nation for talent.

Those different strategies and philosophies can be seen in the top 10-ranked recruiting classes for the 2016 class.

Here’s a look at a complete breakdown by state for the top 10 classes (based on 247Sports’ Composite Team Rankings).

* Note: For this data, Washington DC is considered its own state.

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Mock Draft, Senior Bowl Edition

2016 NFL Draft, College Football, NFL, NFL Draft

The majority of the top prospects in the 2016 NFL draft may be underclassmen. However, this year’s draft class features more than its fair share of seniors who will factor into the first-round equation as well.

Some of those first-round hopefuls such as North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz, Alabama LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama DE Jarran Reed, and Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence chose to attend this week’s Senior Bowl festivities down in Mobile, Alabama, hoping to impress scouts and boost their draft stock.

Now that the underclassmen declaration deadline date has passed, and the order of the 2016 draft is just one game away from being finalized, you can sense the gathering wave of speculation on the horizon, as the mock draft silly season is almost ready to kick into full swing.

The Senior Bowl marks the true beginning of the offseason evaluation phase of the process. The next big stop will be the NFL combine, and then it’s onto the pro day/individual workout circuit.

The road to the 2016 NFL draft is sure to feature some interesting twists and turns. For now, here’s a look at the updated projections for all 63 picks in the first two rounds.

Carson Wentz Has Spotlight Shining On Him at the Senior Bowl

2016 NFL Draft, College Football, NFL, NFL Draft

When evaluating whether a college quarterback has what it takes to ultimately develop into a successful franchise-caliber player in the NFL, the list of boxes that have to be checked off on the player’s scouting report is quite a lengthy one.

Physical measurables such as size, arm strength, accuracy and athleticism are givens. So are mental intangibles such as Football IQ, pocket awareness, work ethic, locker-room leadership ability, a winning pedigree and overall toughness are all key facets of the overall evaluation.

It’s rare that a quarterback prospect receives a check mark in every box.

North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz is one of the special few who does.

Not only does the 6’5’’, 235-pound Wentz have the desired size, athleticism and arm talent that you look for in a top-tier quarterback prospect; he also possesses the critical mental intangibles to become a successful starter and face of the franchise-type of leader at the next level.

Scouts and personnel evaluators have loved what they’ve seen from the passer over the last two seasons, as he’s led the Bison to back-to-back FCS national championships. The only uncertainty that makes Wentz’s projection to the pros a bit trickier than the average top quarterback prospect is the level of competition he faced at the collegiate level.

North Dakota State is the most dominant and most talked-about FCS program in the country. That doesn’t change the fact that the Missouri Valley Conference is still the Missouri Valley Conference. 

Shaking the stigma that comes along with being a “small-school quarterback” isn’t easy.

Luckily for Wentz, he’ll finally get the opportunity to show that he belongs in the same conversation as the other top senior prospects in the 2016 NFL draft when he takes part in the annual Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Alabama this week.

Though it serves as an important audition for every player in attendance, it feels like Wentz has a little something extra riding on his performance.

The only other senior quarterback with first-round aspirations: Michigan State’s Connor Cook, chose not to attend the festivities. That means that the spotlight will be shining squarely on Wentz as he looks to make a memorable impression on scouts.

Heading into the offseason, the strong-armed signal-caller generated plenty of buzz and momentum within the scouting community. It’s time for Wentz to turn that intrigue into excitement by producing a big showing at down in Mobile.

 

Attendance for the First Annual Cure Bowl Wasn’t Great

College Football, College Football 2015, College Football News

To say that the showdown between the  5-7 San Jose Spartans and the 6-6 Georgia State Panthers in the first annual Cure Bowl didn’t turn out to be a marquee matchup that drew considerable interest and quality ticket sales would unsurprisingly be a bit of an understatement.

Sadly, the old “if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to see it” philosophical thought can be used to describe the actual turnout for the game at the 70,000-seat Citrus Bowl, which the Spartans won 27-19.

The official announced attendance for the inaugural game may have been 18,536. However, even that rather lackluster total seems to be just a bit exaggerated.

The “there are way too many bowls” folks just got another feather to add to their caps.

 

2016 NFL Draft: Mock Draft, Volume 1

2016 NFL Draft, College Football, NFL Draft

With the college football regular season complete and the 14th Sunday of the NFL regular season now in the books, it’s a good time to put together the first mock draft for the 2016 NFL Draft and an updated edition of the prospect power rankings.

There’s still a month left for underclassmen to declare their eligibility for the 2016 draft, and a lot will change between now and draft weekend.

For now, here are the current projections for the first round of the draft.

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Mock Draft

1 – Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
2 – Cleveland Browns: Joey Bosa, DE Ohio State
3 – San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State
4 – Baltimore Ravens: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
5 – San Francisco 49ers: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
6 – Dallas Cowboys: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
7 – Detroit Lions: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
8 – Miami Dolphins: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
9 – Jacksonville Jaguars: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
10 – Chicago Bears: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
11 – St. Louis Rams: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
12 – New Orleans Saints: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
13 – New York Giants: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
15 – Atlanta Falcons: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
16 – Oakland Raiders: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
17 – Philadelphia Eagles: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
18 – Buffalo Bills: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
19 – Houston Texans: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
20 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Desmond King, CB, Iowa
21 – New York Jets: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
22 – Minnesota Vikings: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
23 – Kansas City Chiefs: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
24 – Seattle Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OL, Texas A&M
25 – Washington Redskins: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
26 – Indianapolis Colts: Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
27 – Green Bay Packers: Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
28 – Denver Broncos: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
29 – Cincinnati Bengals: Su’a Cravens, LB, USC
30 – Arizona Cardinals: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
31 – Carolina Panthers: Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor

Updated Prospect Power Rankings

*Asterisks denote underclassmen

The Top 5 Quarterbacks

1 – Jared Goff, Cal*

  1. Paxton Lynch, Memphis*
  2. Connor Cook, Michigan State
  3. Cardale Jones, Ohio State*
  4. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State*

 

The Top 5 Running Backs

1 – Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State*

  1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama*
  2. Devontae Booker, Utah
  3. Alex Collins, Arkansas*
  4. Kareem Hunt, Toledo*

 

The Top 5 Wide Receivers

1 – Michael Thomas, Ohio State*

  1. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss*
  2. Corey Coleman, Baylor*
  3. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh*
  4. Josh Doctson, TCU

 

 

The Top 5 Tight Ends

1 – Hunter Henry, Arkansas*

  1. Evan Engram, Ole Miss*
  2. OJ Howard, Alabama*
  3. Jordan Leggett, Clemson*
  4. Austin Hooper, Stanford*

 

The Top 5 Offensive Tackles

1 – Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss*

  1. Taylor Decker, Ohio State
  2. Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame*
  3. Jack Conklin, Michigan State*
  4. Spencer Drango, Baylor

 

The Top 5 Interior Offensive Linemen

1 – Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M*

  1. Vadal Alexander, LSU
  2. Joshua Garnett, Stanford
  3. Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas
  4. Jack Allen, Michigan State

 

 

The Top 5 Defensive Tackles

1 – Andrew Billings, Baylor*

  1. A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama*
  2. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss*
  3. Maliek Collins, Nebraska*
  4. Kenny Clark, UCLA*

 

The Top 5 Defensive Ends

1 – Joey Bosa, Ohio State*

  1. DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  2. Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State*
  3. Shawn Oakman, Baylor
  4. Shaq Lawson, Clemson*

 

The Top 5 Linebackers

1 – Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame*

  1. Reggie Ragland, Alabama
  2. Myles Jack, UCLA*
  3. Su’a Cravens, USC*
  4. Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland*

 

 

The Top 10 Cornerbacks

1 – Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida*

  1. Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech*
  2. Mackensie Alexander, Clemson*
  3. Desmond King, Iowa*
  4. Cameron Sutton, Tennessee*

 

The Top 5 Safeties

1 – Jalen Ramsey, Florida State*

  1. Jayron Kearse, Clemson*
  2. Vonn Bell, Ohio State*
  3. Darian Thompson, Boise State
  4. Jeremy Cash, Duke

Henry, McCaffery and Watson Announced as 2015 Heisman Finalists

2015 Heisman, College Football, College Football 2015, Uncategorized

The stretch run of the 2015 Heisman race will include just three contenders: Alabama RB Derrick Henry, Stanford RB Christian McCaffery and Clemson QB Deshaun Watson.

Though he’s not a true slam-dunk no-brainer pick to win the award, Henry will arrive in New York City as the presumptive favorite, following a regular season campaign in which he totaled over 2,000 yards of offense and scored 23 touchdowns for the No. 2-ranked Tide.

Watson and McCaffery are both viable candidates as well. The Clemson QB is the face of the No. 1-ranked undefeated Tigers, while Stanford’s do-it-all playmaker—who ranks first nationally with 286 all-purpose yards per game—propelled the Cardinal to 11 wins and a Pac-12 title.

Big Ten Championship Game Preview: Comparative Statistical Analysis For Iowa vs. Michigan State

College Football

Midseason Comparative Statistical Analysis of College Football’s Top 10 Teams

College Football

The midpoint of a football season is a time that calls for both reflection and projection.

At this point in the 2015 college football season, every FBS team in the country is at least halfway through their regular season schedule. There’s now enough to data and statistics to begin figuring out every team’s strengths and weaknesses and measure how the top team’s stack up against each other from a purely statistical standpoint.

Here at Gridiron Perspective, we use a certain power stat formula to attempt to get as close to a complete statistical description of a team as possible by measuring overall offensive production (scoring, efficiency, explosiveness), overall defensive prowess, special teams play and basic fundamentals for success (penalties, time of possession and turnover margin).

For each team, we analyze 30 key power stats and see how each team measures up against the national average on an eight-tier, eight-point scale ranging from elite to inferior.

If a team ranks in the top 16 nationally in a given stat, it’s awarded four power points; if it ranks 17-32, it’s awarded three points; 33-48 gets two points) and 49-64 gets one point. If it ranks below the national average in a certain stat, it’s penalized in descending order of each of the final four tiers: 65-80 (-1 point), 81-96 (-2 points), 97-112 (-3 points), 113-128 (-4 points).

Each team’s offense and defense is each measured in 11 key statistical areas: Yards Per Game, Points Per Game, Average Yards Per Play, Total Plays of 10 Yards or More, Total Plays of 20 Yards or More, First Downs Per Game, Total Touchdowns Scored, 3rd Down Conversion Percentage, Sacks Allowed/Created Per Game and Tackles For Loss Allowed/Created Per Game.

For Special Teams, there are five main stats analyzed: Average Kickoff Yardage, Average Punt Yardage, Average Kickoff Return Yardage, Average Punt Return Average and Field Goal Conversion Percentage.

Finally, the “Fundamentals” category measures a team’s Penalties Per Game, Average Time of Possession Per Game and Overall Turnover Margin.

It’s certainly not a perfect formula, since it doesn’t take into account quality of competition. That obviously matters when comparing a team like Utah, which has already beaten four teams that have at some point been ranked in the AP Top 25 this season, and Ohio State, which has only beaten one.

What it does do, however, is give a good indication of what a team’s main strengths and weakness truly are, and how the team stacks up overall on a national scale.

As the season goes on, the more data can be collected and analyzed and a more complete statistical picture of each team will start to take shape. For now, here’s a look at how the top 10 teams in the current AP Poll stack up in the midseason power stat comparative analysis.

*Note: All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com