2016 NFL Mock Draft: Ezekiel Elliott Rising, Robert Nkemdiche Falling

By Jason McIntyre

11. Chicago Bears (6-10) – Jack Conklin, LT, Michigan State. The Bears had issues at LT all season. They also didn’t get any run from their 1st round pick, WR Kevin White. If Matt Forte leaves, Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey will be fine. The Bears could be a sleeper in the NFC next year if defensive holes (DE, OLB) are filled in free agency and the rest of the draft.

12. New Orleans Saints (7-9) – Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama. One of the worst defenses in NFL history needs players at every level. I’d love a playmaker like UCLA’s Myles Jack. The secondary needs help, but remember, 3rd round pick PJ Williams (FSU) was on injured reserve all last season. Reed plugs the middle, helps stop the porous run defense (4.9 ypc, 32nd in the NFL).

13. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9) – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State. Where to begin? The new coach will have to decide if Sam Bradford is their QB. Beyond that, the defense ranked 28th in passing yards allowed per game and 32nd in rushing yards allowed per game. Here’s the thing: What if Chip Kelly’s offensive tempo was a big part of the reason the defense was gassed? When healthy, they have four very good MLBs – Kendricks, Hicks, Ryans and Alonso. Hicks missed half the season; Alonso’s return from an ACL went very poorly. There’s talent in the front seven; less so at CB. But Peters turns 34 and looked it this season. You’ve got three good RBs. Ground and pound.

14. Oakland Raiders (7-9) – A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama. The Charles Woodson loss in the secondary will be massive, and the linebackers (well, besides pass rusher supreme Khalil Mack, who several voters included as a linebacker in all pro voting) leave something to be desired. But would Robinson give the Raiders one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL? Donald Penn had an up-and-down year at left tackle, and Taylor Decker of Ohio State could be a potential replacement.

15. St. Louis Rams (7-9) – Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State. Will Jeff Fisher still be the coach? Both starting corners are FAs (Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins) and so is starting safety Rodney McLeod. And DT Nick Fairley. Do they let backup QB Case Keenum walk? Went with Lee to replace Mark Barron, who is a free agent, and though he led the team in tackles, do you want to overpay him for one good season?

16. Detroit Lions (7-9) – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. Too early? As usual, there are needs on defense – at safety and linebacker – and star WR Calvin Johnson could retire. But they still don’t have a workhorse back and Ameer Abdullah fumbles too much. Elliott could have a Gurley-like impact for the Lions.

17. Atlanta Falcons (8-8) – Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama. Despite drafting pass rusher Vic Beasley, adding free agent pickup Adrian Clayborn, and having a defensive-minded coach in Dan Quinn, the Falcons were dead last in the NFL in sacks with 19. Beasley led the team with four. This pick has to be someone who can get to the QB. Allen had 14.5 TFL and 12 sacks for the Tide.

18. Indianapolis Colts (8-8) – Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State. Andrew Luck masked major deficiencies on the team while taking them to the playoffs for three straight years. The second he slipped – even a bit – and then got hurt, it was curtains. Improve the offensive line, or begin to rebuild the aging defense? Robert Mathis led them with seven sacks, but he’s 35 in February. Frank Gore was a bust. Big needs on the OL and at CB, too.

19. Buffalo Bills (8-8) –Jason Spriggs, LT, Indiana. You could start Spriggs on the right side of the line, which needs work. The Bills lack of discipline killed their playoff chances in 2015. It was Rex Ryan’s first year. You could go linebacker here – Reggie Ragland, anyone? – but a healthy McCoy/Karlos Williams combo behind Tyrod Taylor, with Sammy Watkins at receiver … this should be a playoff team. The first guard off the board might be Cody Whitehair. Rex Ryan will love him.

20. NY Jets (10-6) – Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama. Major needs on an aging OL and massive need for an edge rusher, but Ragland is an ILB thumper who has star written all over him. David Harris turns 32 later this month. Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame is very, very tempting here. But a 10-win team that was playoff worthy may not have a large window (see Revis, OL, Marshall, Fitzpatrick) and needs instant impact players.

21. Washington Redskins – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson. Probably an overreaction to the playoff game, and they’ve got Kerrigan/Smith at OLB who are very pass rushers, but the DE’s could use an upgrade. Lawson would be the answer. There are needs on the OL and obviously the secondary, but this isn’t a great spot for bolstering the DBs.

22. Houston Texans – Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State. He might be the most talked-about player in the draft. Yes, I’m aware how he did not improve (and regressed, statistically) from his freshman year, when he was coached by Bill O’Brien. The Texans can’t go into next year backing Brian Hoyer, not after the disaster in the playoffs. Connor Cook? Carson Wentz from North Dakota State? Starting with Nuke Hopkins at WR and a healthy Arian Foster, plus that defense … Hackenberg, who turns 21 in February, should be OK. If O’Brien passes here, Hackenburg could slide to late 2nd/early 3rd round.

23. Minnesota Vikings – Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford. Terence Newman turns 38 in September. Trae Waynes will have to be ready to step in. The Vikings have made excellent draft choices the last couple years, but OL Matt Kalil hasn’t played at the level he did as a rookie. Murphy is a stud. His brother, Kevin, played for the Vikings. Kyle Murphy played RT as a junior, then LT as a senior. David Shaw, who has put a couple lineman in the pros, says good things.

24. Cincinnati Bengals – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State. No teams could lose more impact players in free agency. It’s possible they could lose four players in the secondary (Hall, Nelson, Pacman, Iloka). Will someone overpay Sanu or Marvin Jones? Andre Smith probably returns, but who knows? Obviously a lot could change with the Bengals after March.

25. Green Bay Packers – Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame. Did Eddie Lacy slow down, or did the line get worse? Either way, it feels like the #1 impediment to the offense. The return of Jordy Nelson will help. Why Smith? The Packers are the perfect organization that can draft the Notre Dame star, not have to worry if he’s ready for the season, and still win a lot of games with Aaron Rodgers. The medical reports on Smith’s ACL/LCL may cause a major swing in the coming months.

27. Carolina Panthers – Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. How scary is a Cam-Henry backfield? Jonathan Stewart turns 29 in March – a big year for RBs – and has had various injuries over the last four years. Yes, Henry played behind a beastly offensive line. Yes, the last few Alabama RBs to get drafted have been up-and-down. Yes, his speed at the Combine will be important. File this away as an intriguing RB prospect in the 3rd round: UCLA’s Paul Perkins.

28. Kansas City Chiefs – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame. Jeremy Maclin can’t stay healthy. Alex Smith could use a stretch-the-field speedster. It won’t be popular, but right now, I’ve got Fuller neck and neck with TCU’s Josh Doctson as the #2 WR in the draft. Given the RB depth and the defense, the Chiefs could be a Super Bowl team next year.

29. Denver Broncos – Su’a Cravens, S/LB, USC. Hybrid defender led the Trojans in tackles, had a staggering 15 tackles for loss and tallied five sacks. At 6-foot-1, 225-pounds, he can cover tight ends and running backs. As defenses get smaller and faster, more and more players will look like Cravens.

30. Arizona Cardinals – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville. The ends are beastly, the secondary is strong, and the linebackers solid. The middle … could use a plug. Rankins is a run-stopping disrupter who should immediately work into the rotation.

31. Seattle Seahawks – Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss. Plays like a Top 10 pick. But off the field is a mess, and he’s going to be torn to shreds by teams. The stories circulating among scouts aren’t pretty. Many think he’ll do a public apology tour. Nobody will question his talent. But if his brother doesn’t get drafted, and follows him to the city where he gets selected …

32. New England Patriots – Forfeited due to Spygate. [Haha, just kidding. It’s Deflategate.]