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.

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Wide Receiver Rankings Following Combine Workouts

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Following the conclusion of each day of the 2016 NFL Combine, prospect rankings for every position group that performed that day will be updated and published. These version of player rankings will include only players at the position that were invited to Indianapolis.

Here’s a look at the updated prospect rankings, including the top five overall prospects, for the wide receivers following their workouts at the 2016 NFL Combine.

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Quarterback Rankings Following Combine Workouts

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Following the conclusion of each day of the 2016 NFL Combine, prospect rankings for every position group that performed that day will be updated and published. These version of player rankings will include only players at the position that were invited to Indianapolis.

Here’s a look at the updated prospect rankings, including the top five overall prospects, for the quarterbacks following their workouts at the 2016 NFL Combine.

Physical measurements and results from every test that the top five players participated in are included.

Remember to Follow Gridiron Perspective on Twitter @GridironP

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Offensive Linemen Rankings After Combine Workouts

2016 NFL Draft

Following the conclusion of each day of the 2016 NFL Combine, prospect rankings for every position group that performed that day will be updated and published. These version of player rankings will include only players at the position that were invited to Indianapolis.

Here’s a look at the updated prospect rankings, including the top five overall prospects, for the offensive linemen following their workouts at the 2016 NFL Combine. Physical measurements and results from every test that the top five players participated in are included.

Remember to Follow Gridiron Perspective on Twitter @GridironP

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Running Back Rankings After Combine Workouts

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Following the conclusion of each day of the 2016 NFL Combine, prospect rankings for every position group that performed that day will be updated and published. These version of player rankings will include only players at the position that were invited to Indianapolis.

Here’s a look at the updated prospect rankings, including the top five overall prospects, for the running backs following their workouts at the 2016 NFL Combine. Physical measurements and results from every test that the top five players participated in are included.

Remember to Follow Gridiron Perspective on Twitter @GridironP

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Mock Draft, Senior Bowl Edition

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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

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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.

 

NFL Scouts Seem Concerned About Robert Nkemdiche’s Spirituality

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“Robert Nkemdiche is destined to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.”

Three years ago, that was the sentiment that many football scouting services shared in regards to Nkemdiche. At the time, he was the undisputed consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the 2013 recruiting class as well as the most talked-about high school football player in America.

The coveted 6’5’’, 260-pound 5-star defensive end from Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia possessed the type of rare freakish physical gifts that cause hysteria in the football recruiting world. That’s why many initially projected the heralded blue-chip recruit to become a sure-fire star and a future top NFL prospect once he reached the collegiate level.

Nkemdiche’s three-year career at Ole Miss didn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations, though. It was more a series of flashes of that immense potential instead of the steady dose of domination that many had originally envisioned.

Solid, yet unspectacular is how you could sum up his stint in Oxford. Unfortunately, it’s the bizarre and abrupt ending to his tenure as a Rebel that’s opened the door for a whole bunch of new questions that scouts and evaluators will now be asking.

Back in December, Nkemdiche made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he fell out of a window of the Grand Hyatt Atlanta Hotel, and was subsequently arrested and charged with marijuana possession.

Since the incident, there have been numerous reports indicating that there are growing concerns in the NFL scouting community about Nkemdiche’s personality, which could have a dramatic effect on his overall draft stock.

CBS Sports’ Rob Rang said that, “On its own, the fall might be just a bizarre accident. Frankly though, there were scouts worried about Nkemdiche’s commitment prior to the incident, which earned him a citation from Atlanta police for marijuana possession.”

In his story for the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, Bob McGinn quoted an anonymous scout who said this about Nkemdiche, “He’s really a different kid. He may scare some people. He’s strange strange.”

CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler talked to two different scouts about him, and each expressed concern, one calling him a “Wild Card” and the other saying that “He’ll need a strong locker room and position coach.”

Two of the five scouts that NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah talked to called Nkemdiche the most polarizing player in college football. One said, “Nkemdiche is very talented, but he’s also very troubled. There will be some interesting discussions.” While the other echoed that sentiment saying, “He’s very talented but there are a lot of issues off the field.”

Though none of the scouts have come out and directly said it, it’s pretty clear that one of the main worries they have about Nkemdiche revolves around the Zen energy that he said that he found this past season.

He talked about it in an interview with the Associated Press. It’s a conversation that produced some rather interesting quotes.

“I have a different role on this team — a different DNA. I feel like this is the moment where I’m the one that needs to step up and make my energy felt.”

“This team is stuck in the moment. Because the moment’s real beautiful.”

The freakishly athletic Nkemdiche has always had a spiritual side that’s slowly developed since he was a teenager. The 21-year-old — who came to Ole Miss from Loganville, Georgia, as the consensus No. 1 recruit in the country — said his time spent in “front of the lens” has helped him realize there’s more to life than fame.

“I hate to ever say I’m there. You’re there but you’re never there. It’s a paradox.”

When it comes to evaluating a top NFL draft prospect, scouts will go to the greatest lengths imaginable to find out every last detail about a player. That includes monitoring a player’s public social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook.

When jumping down the rabbit hole that is Nkemdiche’s official Twitter profile you begin to get a feel for why scouts—especially those of the old-school variety—would publicly tag him with the “strange strange” “different kid” and “wild card” labels.

Here’s a sampling of his more interesting tweets.

Some of it is Jaden Smith-esque. Some of it seems like it’s best suited for the “I’m 14 And This Is Deep” subreddit. Some of it sounds like a message you’d read on the little paper at the end of a Yogi tea bag. Mostly, though, it’s just some typical juvenile thoughts from a young college guy, who may or may not have been under the influence of a mind-altering substance, making an attempt to sound profound.

It’s innocent enough. Mental exploration, conscious expansion and finding your spiritual side isn’t a crime and it’s not something a young person should be downgraded for. Still, let’s remember who’s “looking through the lens” at Nkemdiche, analyzing his character and personality and reading those tweets.

It’s NFL scouts and coaches. 

So-called “free spirits” are not exactly welcomed with open arms to an NFL locker room. Coaches want good soldiers that don’t ask questions and who simply go out and execute the game-plan that’s laid forth for them.  

Could you imagine a defensive coordinator telling Nkemdiche to penetrate the B-Gap, and he responds by saying something such as “How can I enter the gap, if I’m already in the void?”

It’s perfectly fine that Nkemdiche has discovered a different energy and a new level of spirituality that brings him some inner peace. But since he’s chosen to be so open about it, he’s now opened the door for NFL scouts and coaches to question whether that type of personality fits in their locker room.

Though the postseason evaluation process has just gotten underway, Nkemdiche has already been labeled as the most polarizing prospect in this year’s class. His potential draft stock fluctuation should be one of the more fascinating storylines to watch unfold in the lead up to the 2016 NFL draft.

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.