2016 NFL Draft: Final Mock Draft, Predictions and Prospect Rankings

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Here we are.

The first day of the 2016 NFL Draft weekend is finally upon us.

It’s time to rejoice because tonight kicks off one of the most glorious and exciting weekends on the sports calendar.

Over the next three days, 253 gifted young athletes will realize their dreams of being drafted by an NFL franchise. They’ll be embraced and celebrated by fan bases who hope they can become key building blocks to a future championship.

It makes perfect sense that the NFL’s annual draft takes place in the Spring — a season of rebirth, renewal and regeneration.

This weekend marks the dawning of a new era for all 32 franchises.

The future begins now.

We’ve known for weeks that the first two picks are guaranteed to be the top two quarterbacks in the class: Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. However, it’s anybody’s guess who the Chargers will pick at No. 3 (if in fact they don’t trade down) and how the rest of the first round will unfold from there.

All along, we here at Gridiron Perspective have touted Oregon DE DeForest Buckner as the top prospect in this class. We feel he’s deserving to be the first positional player taken and the best prospect to reignite a sluggish Chargers defensive front-seven. Therefore we built the mock around the premise that Buckner will be the third pick and went from there.

Here’s a look at the final 2-round mock draft for the 2016 NFL Draft, which includes projections and predictions for the first 63 picks of this year’s proceedings, along with complete Top 10 prospect power rankings for each individual position.

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

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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.

DeForest Buckner Tops Latest 2016 NFL Draft Big Board

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The 2016 NFL draft class features its fair share of supremely talented elite prospects. However, among that special blue-chip group of big names are plenty of questions that need to be answered.

When scanning the list of top players available in the 2016 class, it won’t take long before you find some sort of red flag that jumps out.

Ohio State DE Joey Bosa and Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil—two tremendously talented juniors who have long been projected to be top-10 picks in this year’s draft—will both have to answer questions from scouts and personnel evaluators about the behavior that led to them being suspended this past season.

Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche—another widely projected top-10 pick—also has behavioral concerns stemming from an incident back in December when he fell out of the window of his hotel room and was subsequently cited with marijuana possession.

There are also substantial injury concerns surrounding two of the top defensive prospects in the class: UCLA LB Myles Jack, who tore his meniscus back in September, and Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith, who tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.

One player who scouts don’t have to be concerned about, however, is the top senior prospect in the 2016 class: Oregon DE DeForest Buckner.

Buckner is coming off a dominant final campaign in Eugene. The 6’7”, 300-pound disruptive defensive force stated a strong case for why he deserves consideration to be the top overall pick in the 2016 draft, as he totaled 10.5 sacks and 83 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss. It was a performance that earned him numerous honors and accolades, including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-American honors.

It looks like Buckner, who has all the physical qualities to develop into an elite difference-making defender at the pro level, is as good of a candidate as any to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Nevertheless, he’s going to face some stiff competition from worthy challengers such as Bosa, Tunsil, Nkemdiche and others in the coming months.

With draft weekend still over three months away, there’s still a lot that needs to be sorted out, and there plenty more key stops on the road such as the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine and numerous important pro days before that destination is reached.

At the very least, now that the deadline for eligible underclassmen to declare has passed, we can at least begin to put the pieces in place and begin analyzing, evaluating the value and projecting the pro potential of the many intriguing prospects in this year’s class.

Here’s a look at the updated big board and prospect power rankings for the 2016 NFL draft.

ACC Football 2015: Predicting the Leaders For Every Major Stat

College Football

For the past two seasons, Florida State has represented the ACC on the national stage, starting with their victory over Auburn in the 2014 BCS Championship Game and ultimately ending with a turnover-filled loss to Oregon in the same location this past January.

The Seminoles are now entering a bit of a transitional phase following the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and a host of other NFL-caliber players.

The door could be open for a team like Clemson, Georgia Tech, Duke or Louisville to step up and challenge for the ACC crown in 2015.

No matter how the conference race shakes out, though, there should be plenty of excitement around the conference this fall.

Great talent at the quarterback and receiver positions should provide for some big passing numbers. Plus, there are plenty of impact standout playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Here’s a look at the ACC players who are projected be the top performers in every major statistical category for the 2015 season.

2016 NFL Draft: Preseason Prospect Power Rankings

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For the past two months, football fans have had to hear talk about the MLB, NBA and NHL drafts. They likely miss the draft chatter that dominated the headlines for the first four months of the year when the 2015 NFL draft was one of the hottest topics in sports.

The focus may have shifted off of football lately, but with July lurking around the corner, and the kickoff weekend to the 2015 college football season looming on the horizon, it’s finally time for fans to get acquainted with the next generation of star pro prospects from the 2016 draft class.

Here’s a look at Gridiron Perspective’s complete preseason prospect power rankings for the 2016 NFL draft.