Predicting the Studs and Duds of the 2016 NFL Draft
Usually the buildup to the NFL Draft is not very suspenseful. After a while, I become tired of hearing ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay analyze the same prospects over and over again.
This year, however, has been different because we have seen two enormous trades at the top of the draft order. To recap, the Tennessee Titans sent the number one pick to the Los Angeles Rams and, most recently, the Cleveland Browns shipped the number two pick to Philadelphia.
Since we are less than a week away from the draft (which will be televised on ESPN Thursday April 28th), I want my predictions for each selection in the top ten on record. To clarify, I am basing these predictions based on what I think other teams will do rather than what I personally would do. Moreover, I think it would be boring for there to only be predictions for the top selections. So, I am also going to project whether each player will be a “stud” or a “dud” over the course of his career. Hopefully no one will look back at this when one of my duds becomes a Hall of Famer.
1) Los Angeles Rams select Jared Goff, QB California
After trading up from the fifteenth overall pick, the Rams will certainly be picking either Goff or the draft’s other top quarterback, Carson Wentz. Based on reports, the Rams appear to be slightly more interested in Goff. I think that would be the right move by Los Angeles. I came across an interesting article that uses a quarterback’s statistics in college relative to the quality of opponents they played to project how successful they will be in the NFL. That projection system has Goff rated as the 9th best quarterback prospect since 2000. This is noteworthy because this projection system has succeeded in predicting future NFL stars. You might recognize some of the names ahead of Goff: Phillip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, and Ben Roethlisberger. Wentz, on the other hand, is ranked in the middle of the pack, alongside notable busts like E.J. Manuel and Jake Locker. While this projection system is not perfect, it does indicate that Goff profiles similarly to other star quarterbacks while Wentz clearly does not. And for that reason, along with the fact that I like what I have seen from Goff in terms of his accuracy and mobility, I bet Goff goes on to have a successful, Matt Ryan-esque career.
2) Philadelphia Eagles select Carson Wentz, QB North Dakota State
It is safe to assume the Eagles will take whichever quarterback the Rams pass on. I do not want to go on too much of a tangent here, but I am confused as to why Philadelphia made this trade. After all, they just signed Sam Bradford to a contract extension and signed Chase Daniel to a $20 million dollar deal to be the backup. Plus, they are at the mercy of Los Angeles’s selection, meaning they do not know for sure which player they will draft. If they do end up with Wentz, which I feel is likely, then I think Eagles fans will be disappointed. We know the projection system I mentioned earlier doesn’t like Wentz, but I am also skeptical because he only started a year and a half worth of games at the Division 1AA level. That is not to say that Division 1AA quarterbacks cannot succeed (just look at Tony Romo and Joe Flacco), but I would certainly be skeptical of taking one this high in the draft. Plus, I think people are underestimating the fact that he played for the best team at the 1AA level, meaning that he had a high caliber supporting cast around him (relatively speaking). For these reasons, I bet Wentz goes on to have a mediocre career.
3) San Diego Chargers select Jalen Ramsey, CB Florida State
Many mocks have the Chargers selecting left tackle Laremy Tunsil to protect Philip Rivers’s blind side. But I have them choosing Ramsey instead because even though the Chargers need a tackle, they already have salary cap space tied up on the offensive line. Plus, Ramsey is a dynamic player who could line up at either corner or safety for a San Diego team looking to bulk up on defense. I see star potential in the former Seminole, thus making him a great pick for whatever team snags him.
4) Dallas Cowboys select Joey Bosa, DE Ohio State
The Cowboys need help on the edge given that they no longer have Greg Hardy and they will be without starters DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory at the start of next year. That is why I have them taking Bosa, who many believe is the best player in the draft. However, I think Bosa is a prime candidate to underachieve. Not only did his performance wane in his final season for Ohio State, but he has major off-the-field concerns pertaining to drugs and alcohol. I also think that Bosa may be overhyped based on the terrific supporting cast he had around him in college. For those reasons, I think Bosa will fail to live up to the hype.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars select DeForest Buckner, DE Oregon
While I’m sure they would love to have Ramsey or Bosa fall to them, I have the Jaguars choosing between Buckner and former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. Many analysts believe Jack has the most upside in this year’s draft. But the problem is that he has huge question marks regarding his health. For that reason, I have them taking Buckner, a player who started all 54 games in his college career and was very productive stopping the run. I don’t necessarily see him being a future Pro-Bowler, but I think he’ll have a solid career.
Projection: Neither a Stud nor a Dud
6) Baltimore Ravens select Laremy Tunsil, OT Mississippi
Tunsil was once slated to go first overall, but his stock has fallen. There is no doubt question marks exist regarding his health and a few off-the-field issues, but he looks to be one of the better tackles to come out of college in recent memory. Baltimore gets a steal here with a player who should help anchor their line for perhaps the next decade.
7) San Francisco 49ers select Ronnie Stanley, OT Notre Dame
The 49ers have a few holes on their roster, so it was very difficult for me to predict who they would select here. I’m going with Stanley because a) I cannot see the 49ers taking a quarterback in the first round unless they trade down, and b) he seems to be a safe bet to be a solid pro. With experience on both ends of the line, I like Stanley to be a productive NFL player.
8) Cleveland Browns select Vernon Hargreaves, CB Florida
Having traded out of the number two slot, I bet the Browns make another move down the draft board. Their front office is embracing an analytical approach, and part of that mindset involves acquiring as many draft picks as possible. If Cleveland does stay at eight, I could see them taking Hargreaves, who many say is the best press coverage corner in the draft. Yet, for some reason, I feel like any player drafted by the Browns is just destined to fail.
9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Myles Jack, OLB UCLA
As I said earlier, Jack is the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the draft. Scouts may love his abilities, but I cannot get over the reports that his knee injury could be severe enough to negatively impact his career before it has even begun. So, even though I bet one team in the top ten takes a chance on him, I think his injury concerns are too great to overcome.
10) New York Giants select Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State
I have a feeling the New York Giants will go for an explosive playmaker. I could see them reaching for a receiver, but I bet there is no chance they pass up on Elliott if he falls to them. While I do not think Elliott will be the next Adrian Peterson, I saw enough of him over the last two years to say that he will put together at least a couple of outstanding years in the NFL.
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