The 2015 NFL Draft is in the books and it’s time for our way too early look ahead to the 2016 NFL Draft. After taking a long look at the projected draft class for next year, I have put together my first round mock for 2016, including analysis on each pick.
As you all know, the order for the NFL Draft is based on the records from the previous season, which certainly adds to the difficulty of making a mock a year in advance. The draft order that you see below is based on the projected wins of each team, given the spreads that have been made available. For a better understanding of this, check out our early NFL odds section.
You will also notice that my first round mock includes only 31 picks, due to the recent news that the New England Patriots have lost their 1st round pick in their punishment for Deflategate.
Projected Wins: 4.86
The Jaguars have too much invested in Blake Bortles to go quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. They just selected Dante Fowler Jr. with the No. 3 pick, which also makes it unlikely that they will take Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, even with the recent news that Fowler will miss all of the 2015 season with a torn ACL. I believe their focus will be on the offensive line. Left tackle Luke Joeckel has been a disappointment and another poor year and he will likely need to be moved to right tackle or inside.
Projected Wins: 4.94
The direction the Raiders are looking here, will depend a lot on what kind of progress Derek Carr makes in his second season as the signal caller. Unless someone like Cardale Jones really wows Oakland, I think they go with what many feel is a sure thing in Bosa out of Ohio State.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected Wins: 5.97
The Buccaneers just used the No. 1 overall pick on Jameis Winston, so they too won’t be looking at taking a quarterback. Some might not have Baylor’s Shawn Oakman rated this high, but I think after this fall he will be a Top 5 pick. Oakman has freakish size at 6’9 280 that scouts love. Tampa Bay also has a pressing need for an edge rusher with George Johnson and Jacquies Smith the projected starters at defensive end for 2015.
Projected Wins: 6.02
Yet another team that won’t be looking for a new quarterback. Depending on how Dorial Green-Beckham pans out, wide receiver will arguably be the teams biggest need, which could have them reaching here for someone like Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell. Wide out isn’t the only need Tennessee figures to have and I think they go the safer route and take the top corner in Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves.
Projected Wins: 6.13
Finally! A team that is need of a new signal caller. Unless Johnny Manziel makes a miraculous turnaround in year two, Cleveland will once again be looking for a franchise quarterback. There’s a lot of debate on who will be the top quarterback in this class, as you could make a strong argument for Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, Penn State’s Christain Hackenberg and Michigan State’s Connor Cook. I think Jones is the real deal and will prove it this fall.
New York Jets
Projected Wins: 6.64
This is a make or break season for Geno Smith in New York. There’s no more excuses with not having anyone to throw to, as the Jets have compiled a strong receiving corps led by Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and rookie Devin Smith. While Smith should be improved, I don’t think he’s the long-term answer. If New York is in fact picking this early, I look for them to take their pick here between Hackenberg and Cook.
Projected Wins: 6.87
It just seems unlikely that RGIII and the Redskins are going to workout and I’m not a believer in Kirk Cousins being the answer. Like the Jets, if Washington doesn’t exceed expectations and ends up selecting in the Top 10, I don’t think they have a choice but to look to start over at quarterback.
Projected Wins: 6.89
I was surprised to see new Bears head coach John Fox not address the offensive line in this year’s draft until the 6th round when they took TCU offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje. Fox is a defensive guy who wants to be able to establish the ground game on offense. I look for Chicago to take the best tackle available.
Projected Wins: 7.55
The Vikings surprised a lot of people when they passed on the opportunity to reunite Teddy Bridgewater with wide out DeVante Parker in the draft. I’m not buying the addition of Mike Wallace being the solution. I think Minnesota will be looking early in 2016 for a No. 1 receiver.
Projected Wins: 7.58
The Falcons used their first two picks in 2015 on the defensive side of the ball, taking Clemson’s outside linebacker Vic Beasley in the first and LSU cornerback Jalen Collins in the second. More help needs to be on the way for one of the league’s worst stop units. I have Atlanta taking the top safety on most people’s board for next year in Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey.
St. Louis Rams
Projected Wins: 7.68
Depending on how Nick Foles does in his first season, St Louis could be looking at taking a quarterback early in next year’s draft. I think the Rams would love to see Ramsey fall to them, as they desperately need to upgrade at safety, but he’s off the board in my mock. I still think they look to improve their secondary by taking Virginia Tech corner Kendall Fuller.
Kansas City Chiefs
Projected Wins: 8.17
The Chiefs had one of the worst offensive lines in the league in 2014 and took a big hit when their best offensive lineman in Rodney Hudson left in free agency. They started to address the problem in the offseason, but I think they are still going to be in need of a legit left tackle, as former No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher doesn’t appear to be cut out for the job.
Projected Wins: 8.21
I really like the direction that the Dolphins are headed on the offensive side of the ball. They added in some big time weapons for quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the offseason, but I still think they need a difference maker at running back to take that next step and contend with New England for the top spot in the AFC East.
Projected Wins: 8.24
The Bengals solidified their offensive line by using their first two picks on offensive tackles in this year’s draft. There’s a lot to like on the defensive line if healthy, but lack depth. I think that’s the direction they go with next year’s top pick.
Projected Wins: 8.24
Buffalo is another team that has really put together a nice roster, but is still lacking the most important piece. A franchise quarterback. I just don’t see E.J. Manuel as the long-term answer. If Goff grades out like expected, I think he would be a perfect fit here, as the Bills could allow him time to develop and they have the weapons in place for him to succeed without having to do too much.
Projected Wins: 8.31
Detroit’s defensive line took a massive blow this offseason, as they lost both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. They were able to trade for talented veteran Haloti Ngata, but he will be 32 at this point next year. I would be shocked if the Lions had a chance at one of the top defensive lineman and passed on the opportunity.
Projected Wins: 8.32
The Cardinals need to find an elite level pass rusher. Alex Okafor led the team a year ago with a mere 8 sacks. Matt Shaughnessy is their other starting linebacker and he didn’t record a single sack in 8 games in 2014. They did use a second round pick on Markus Golden and fifth round selection on Shaq Riddick, so this may not be as big a need if one of these two produce at a high level this season.
San Francisco 49ers
Projected Wins: 8.37
San Francisco suffered a couple of major blows in the offseason when it was learned that both Patrick Willis and Chris Borland were going to retire. Surprisingly the 49ers only use a single one of their 10 draft picks on a inside linebacker. They still have an elite talent at the position in NaVorro Bowman, but it’s not a sure thing that he will return to form after missing all of last season from that devastating left knee injury suffered in the 2014 NFC Championship Game.
Projected Wins: 8.40
The Panthers signed veteran Michael Oher to take over at left tackle after they decided not to re-sign 2014 starter Byron Bell, but the deal was for only two years and there’s still some question marks on whether Oher can get the job done protecting Cam Newton’s backside. Even if he produces, Carolina needs a long-term solution at left tackle and upgrades across the board on the o-line.
New Orleans Saints
Projected Wins: 8.47
While New Orleans seems to have found a star at wide receiver in 2014 first round pick Brandin Cooks, there’s some major question marks surrounding the rest of the receiving corps after losing Jimmy Graham, Kenny Still and Robert Meachem in the offseason. It’s also unclear how much longer they can rely on Marques Colston to produce at a high level, will be 32 when the season starts. Drew Brees still has a few good years left in him and the Saints need to make sure he has the talent around him to excel.
Projected Wins: 8.51
The Steelers are in the midst of a transition on defense, as a lot of their star players from previous years are either no longer around or not producing at a high enough level. Getting younger and more athletic on that side of the ball was clearly a priority entering the 2015 draft, as Pittsburgh used 6 of their 8 picks on defensive players. I look for them to continue to look to improve on that side of the ball in 2016, as I have them going after Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.
San Diego Chargers
Projected Wins: 8.53
I really liked the Chargers decision to draft Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, as I see him really opening up their offense and making life a little easier on Philip Rivers. However, San Diego doesn’t have a whole lot to offer at wide receiver outside of Keenan Allen. They brought in veterans Steve Johnson and Jacoby Jones to help fill the void for 2015, but neither is a long-term solution.
Projected Wins: 8.56
The Texans upgraded at free safety by adding in Rahim Moore, but lost Kendrick Lewis in free agency (team-high 84 tackles) and decided it was time to part ways with D.J. Swearinger just two seasons after drafting in the second round. Houston needs to find someone capable of starting next to Moore and might have to wait until next year’s draft to find a suitable long-term replacement.
New York Giants
Projected Wins: 8.80
Heading into the 2015 the Giants are projected to start J.T. Thomas and Devon Kennard as their 4-3 outside linebackers. While I think there’s some upside with Thomas, I’m also not sold on him being a difference-maker. It’s a position I think New York needs to upgrade sooner rather than later, which is why I have them taking UCLA’s Myles Jack with their first round pick in 2016.
Projected Wins: 9.08
The Eagles got 14.5 sacks out of outside linebacker Connor Barwin in 2014, but he’ll turn 30 in October of 2016, so it’s unlikely they will be able to rely on him for a whole lot longer. They had hoped Brandon Graham, 2010 first round pick (13th overall), would have developed into their primary pass rusher by now, but he’s looking more and more like a bust with 17 career sacks in 5 seasons (5.5 last year). Unless they land a big time free agent or make another big trade, this will definitely be a position of need come next year’s draft.
Projected Wins: 9.11
The Ravens know as well as anyone that you can’t have enough talented cornerbacks on your roster. Baltimore finished last season with five on the injured reserve, including two of their top three in Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson. They should be fine at the position in 2015 if everyone can stay healthy, but will need to start thinking about a replacement for Lardarius Webb, who turns 30 in October (free agent in 2018). Jackson is also a free agent after next year.
Projected Wins: 9.80
Denver will go into the 2015 season with Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall as their starting two inside linebackers, but both will be free agents (Marshall is restricted) heading into the 2016 offseason. This will more than likely be a position of need come next year’s draft and I think Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith would be a nice fit.
Green Bay Packers
Projected Wins: 9.93
Green Bay doesn’t have a pressing need up front on the defensive line, but it’s an area where they need some more depth and long-term security. The Packers aren’t a team that will go out in free agency to fill a position of need. They instead like to groom their young talent and build within. UCLA’s Kenny Clark would be certainly be someone they could develop and likely get some snaps out of right away.
Projected Wins: 10.07
A lot of people, including myself, were surprised that the Colts didn’t draft an offensive linemen until their final pick in the 7th round. I’m not quite sure what their thought process is, as their primary goal should be to make sure that Andrew Luck is well protected. I know great quarterbacks can make up for sub-par talent up front, but I have to think the Colts will address this need early in next year’s draft.
Projected Wins: 10.33
Another big surprise from the draft was that the Cowboys chose not take a running back with one of their 8 selections after losing the league’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray in free agency. As of right now Dallas is headed into the 2015 season with injury-riddled Darren McFadden as their primary back with Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle as the top two backups. It would be a wise move for the Cowboys to bring in a back that can really benefit from one of the top offensive lines in the league.
Projected Wins: 10.33
There’s not a lot of holes on the Seattle roster, but I think most people would agree that one of their weakest areas is up front on the offensive line, especially after they traded away center Max Unger (2012 First-Team All-Pro) to the Saints to get Jimmy Graham. Seattle did draft a couple of offensive linemen with their two 4th round picks, but neither of those figure to be an option for replacing Unger. It’s a vote of confidence for Patrick Lewis, who is the projected starter going into 2015, but I think it’s an area they will be looking to improve come next year.
You won’t see many of the NFL win totals adjust after the draft no matter who a team takes. Rookies just rarely have that big of an impact.
Sometimes the early NFL odds that have been released will change and you can use that information to update the expected win total of a team and take advantage of your win total wagers.
I think it’s important for handicappers to have a full grasp of the team needs of each franchise so they can better prepare for the season. I go through each team thoroughly so my premium and free NFL picks are top notch once the season starts.
The draft and free agency are the two ways teams fill gaps, if they do then you would think they would be improved. Teams that don’t help themselves likely will remain in the basement of their divisions.
For more draft coverage check out the MockDraft database at DCProSportsReport.com.