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

2016 NFL Draft, NFL, NFL Draft, Predictions

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

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.

DeForest Buckner Tops Latest 2016 NFL Draft Big Board

2016 NFL Draft, NFL Draft

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.

Analyzing Myles Jack’s NFL Decision and Jim Mora’s Critical Comments

College Football

The blossoming period commences at different times for every great college football player. Some take a year or a few to adjust and develop to the level of competition, while others are capable of coming in and immediately making a name for themselves by making an instant impact.

Myles Jack is a member of the latter group.

Back in 2013, Jack arrived on the UCLA campus as a heralded 4-star recruit from Bellevue, Washington. He wasted little time proving to the Pac-12 what a special talent he truly was.

In his stellar debut season, the versatile 6’1’’, 245-pound running back/linebacker became the first ever player in conference history to be named both the league’s Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year.

He followed that performance up with a solid sophomore campaign, for which he once again earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

The highly-skilled two-way weapon entered the 2015 season as a preseason All-American and one of the most talked-about players in all of college football. Many analysts felt he was destined to be a future first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

Unfortunately, Jack suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice just a few days after making a game-clinching interception in the Bruins’ 24-23 win over BYU in Week 3.

After weighing his options, the standout junior came to the decision to leave UCLA and pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. He officially declared for the 2016 NFL draft with a gracious thank you message to the Bruin faithful posted on his official Twitter account.

The reaction from the UCLA fan base was one of largely positive support. However, Bruins head coach Jim Mora took a more cautious route in his comments. The former NFL coach was open and honest about how he felt Jack’s decision was “very risky.

He’s taking his chips and is shoving them in the middle. We hope that he draws a good hand. As a guy who spent half his life in the NFL, I would move with great caution. When you play in three games, and that’s all the tape they have on you your junior year, I have been in 25 draft rooms and I have never seen anybody taken off of that.

I think it is very risky to do this. Having been on that side, there is going to be a lot of speculation on exactly what he is and where he fits.

As I told Myles on Sunday, NFL teams are very, very conservative. If there is any question whatsoever, they are going to pass on you in a heartbeat. They’re going to take the sure thing. I explained that to [Myles and his mother], but I felt like they had already made their decision.

It’s not surprising that Mora tried to dissuade Jack from entering the NFL. Obviously, the UCLA defense would be much better off in 2016 with its star linebacker returning to the lineup. The fact that Mora seemingly went out of his way to characterize the decision as so risky is a bit odd, though.

There’s one quote in particular that sticks out: “When you play in three games, and that’s all the tape they have on you your junior year, I have been in 25 draft rooms and I have never seen anybody taken off of that.”

Mora may be speaking from his perspective and his personal experience in draft rooms. But there are an abundance of recent examples that dispel the overall point he’s trying to make.

In the 2015 draft alone there were numerous players who barely played or didn’t even play at all in their final collegiate seasons, as well as players who were rehabbing from serious injuries who still went on to be picked highly and earn contracts worth millions of dollars in guaranteed money.

Todd Gurley was picked 10th overall by the St. Louis Rams even though he played in just six games his junior year at Georgia and was rehabbing from a torn ACL.

Marcus Peters was picked 18th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs even though he played in just eight games at Washington before being dismissed from the program.

Cedric Ogbuehi was picked 21st overall by the Cincinnati Bengals even though he was rehabbing from a torn ACL he had suffered in Texas A&M’s bowl game.  

Dorial Green-Beckham was picked 40th overall by the Tennessee Titans even though he didn’t play in a single game as a junior after being dismissed from Missouri and denied the right to play after transferring to Oklahoma.

It’s certainly not a long shot for a player to be drafted highly even if his final season was abruptly cut short.

Just ask Sam Bradford.

After being limited to just three games during his junior season at Oklahoma due to a shoulder injury, Bradford went on to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 NFL draft. The six-year, $78-million contract he signed was the richest rookie contract in NFL history. In fairness to Mora, though, he was not in an NFL war room for the 2010 draft to witness Bradford going No. 1 overall, since he had been fired at the conclusion of the 2009 season after going 5-11 in his only season as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

Ultimately, yes, it’s clearly somewhat of a risk for Myles Jack to declare early for the NFL draft after experiencing a serious season-ending injury. But it’s not nearly the kind of against-all odds-type of risk that his now former head coach tried to paint it as.

The injured linebacker has over six months between now and the 2016 draft weekend to rehab his knee and gain back the type of dynamic speed and athleticism that made him a standout on the field.

Jack gave Mora and UCLA 29 games of great football, and he would have given the Bruins even more if it wasn’t for an unfortunate injury. The least Mora could have done is show more support for his star player’s decision to chase his dream by giving him a more positive, less critical sendoff.

College Football 2013 Freshman All-American Team

College Football

There was a time not all that long ago when it was rare to see a freshman college football player gain national notoriety. These days, though, we’ve seen many cases of freshmen coming in and making an instant impact.

In recent years, big-name stars such as Johnny Manziel, Marqise Lee, LaMichael James and Adrian Peterson all became household names during their freshman years.

This season, Florida State QB Jameis Winston has been the latest freshman to take the sport by storm.

Though Winston has been the most talked-about freshman of the year, there have been plenty of other young players who have put together outstanding debut campaigns.

Here’s a look at my 2013 College Football Freshman All-American Team.