The 2016 NFL Scouting Combine is already in the books and teams are now moving on to the next order of business, prospect analysis. Burrowed in the depths of 32 cluttered office spaces are coaches giddily examining their recorded data and notes. Time is winding down, and the big day is seemingly approaching fast.
While the confident analysts already have their mock drafts set in stone, the reality is that we don't really know what's going to go down on that fateful Thursday. Like how every draft day has been, you know it's surely unpredictable (for the most part at least). There are so many angles and factors that you have to consider to get the slightest idea of what need a team is actually looking to address. And, until they pull the trigger do we truly get a sense of what direction they're heading in. Ah, the love-hate, anxiety-ridden relationship of the NFL draft.
Many teams are in tough positions in terms of talent and are looking to the draft to supply them some much-needed help. This year's class has no shortage of impact players either (i.e. Ezekiel Elliott, Jalen Ramsey, Deforest Buckner, etc.)
Finally, you have the projected late-rounders that are coming in with a chip on their shoulders. While they aren't receiving much love from the analysts, we all know that once they lace up their cleats for their first game, it's a whole different ballpark (erm... stadium). By the way, don't sleep on Shilique Calhoun, the 3-4/4-3 hybrid end could be a major role player for the right team.
So, while we patiently wait for that glorious day, I invite you all to take a peek at my realistic but unrealistic bold list of predictions of what I believe could happen - with enough delusion - on the carnival that is known as the NFL Draft.
12 Laremy Tunsil Kickstarts the Draft
11 A'Shawn Robinson Is First D-Lineman Drafted
10 More D-Linemen Will Be Drafted In the First Round Than Any Other Skill Positions
9 Cleveland Chooses Joey Bosa Over QB In First Round
8 Ezekiel Elliott Will be a Top 10 Pick
With other skill positions being focused on, running backs are suffering when it comes to draft day. However, Ezekiel Elliott could become the Todd Gurley of the 2016 draft, considering his high draft stock and game-changing abilities. Will teams gamble on the Ohio State product early in the draft? It could happen. Most predict Elliott will be drafted mid-to-late first round, but it's possible that a team like the Eagles or Giants will take a chance on the best back in the draft.
7 The Jets Draft a QB
The Jets are already intent on retaining Fitzpatrick due to his strong play last year. However, the two are still at an impasse and struggle to find a "middle ground" contractually. Geno Smith, on the other hand, lost his starting job and continues to underwhelm, showing inconsistency in his rhythm that's holding him back from being the true leader of the offense.
6 Carolina Continues To Add Big Bodies At WR
There was much speculation on how Carolina would fare in the 2015 season with mediocre wide receivers, but they turned out just fine as evidenced by their second-ever Super Bowl berth. Carolina's fondness for big-bodied receivers could lead them to picking up Ohio State's Michael Thomas. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound possession receiver would complete the mammoth triumvirate receiving corps composed of 6-foot-5, 243-pound Kelvin Benjamin and 6-foot-5, 236-pound Devin Funchess.
5 Philadelphia Takes Dak Prescott Over Cook, Lynch, and Hackenberg
I'll admit, this one is pretty bold. We all know that the Eagles need stability at the QB position. Sam Bradford isn't cutting it and his replacement is coming sooner or later, possibly in this year's draft. Now, it's likely Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are taken early by QB-needy teams. Who are the next best prospects? Let's see, you got Connor Cook, Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, and Dak Prescott.
4 Oakland Takes a Running Back in 1st Round
The Raiders own the 14th pick in the draft, which still gives them plenty of options. They're still in the process of rebuilding, but their immense improvement over the past two seasons has breathed new life into the franchise. With needs at inside linebacker, cornerback, and running back, look for Oakland to shock the draft by selecting either Ezekiel Elliott or Derrick Henry. Teams often draft the best positional player on the board, but in many cases, it doesn't exactly work out for them. And, with a near mid-round pick for the first day, they could already be watching players like Myles Jack, Reggie Ragland, and Mackensie Alexander get picked up by other teams.
3 The Bears Take Jared Goff
2 A Kicker Gets Chosen On Day Two
1 The Denver Broncos Trade Up For QB
The Denver Broncos had Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler on their roster and now have Mark Sanchez penciled in as their top QB. If John Elway and the Broncos want to avoid a Super Bowl hangover, they're going to need to do better than that under center. Being the Super Bowl champions, the Broncos have the last pick in the first round, making it hard to take a QB who may be ready to start Day 1.
John Elway is not just going to sit back with the status quo. With their defense, the Broncos could still contend for the next few Super Bowls, but thye'll need decent play at QB. Expect them to trade up to grab their next QB. Paxton Lynch is a good possibility, given his similar traits to Osweiler.
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