For 24 of the NFL’s 32 teams, the season is over. The offseason has begun, and that means looking ahead to the future.
What building blocks might your favorite team find to improve their odds in the 2016 season? We start by taking a look at the young talent available in the 2016 NFL draft.
Below you’ll find team needs and a pick projection for every team in the first round. A quick reminder that the New England Patriots do not have a first-round pick due to their DeflateGate penalty. You’ll also find one of the best conversation starters the NFL offseason can offer. Given my experience, the best mock drafts are usually only about 32.5-percent accurate, what with trades and other developments reshaping needs before names are called on draft day. Nevertheless, here’s a first look at how I think the first round will shake out.
1. Tennessee Titans
Draft needs: LT, S, RB, Edge player
I wrote about the Titans draft needs last week and if they can’t find a trade down partner, there’s one clear selection that can put the offense on track for the foreseeable future.
Titans select: Ole Miss LT Laremy Tunsil
2. Cleveland Browns
Draft needs: QB, ILB, WR, RB
There just can’t be any trust remaining in Johnny Manziel at quarterback and Josh McCown’s useful life as a quarterback is nearly completely depreciated. The pick here may not be the most polished QB right now but he has size, traits and an edge. A good one. Of course, the selection here will depend on who is named the head coach.
Browns select: Memphis QB Paxton Lynch
3. San Diego Chargers
Draft needs: DL, WR, S, Interior OL
The Chargers drafted Melvin Gordon last year to improve the running game and the Chargers still finished 31st in the league. That says that the OL needs a makeover. But, there isn’t an interior offensive lineman worth taking at this spot, so adding the best defensive player to help stop the run is a must.
Chargers select: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa
4. Dallas Cowboys
Draft needs: Future QB, RB, Interior DL
QB Tony Romo’s injury highlighted a glaring hole at quarterback with no answer behind him, nor a guy to groom for the future. But, the Cowboys were 23rd against the run, so the defensive interior needs help as well. This is a bit high for Billings, but he fits a major need in Dallas.
Cowboys select: Baylor DT Andrew Billings
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft needs: S/CB, OL, Edge
In a way, the Jaguars will add two top-five picks this year — last year’s No. 3 pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with an ACL tear — and this one at No. 5. There’s not a better defensive back than Ramsey.
Jaguars select: Florida State CB/S Jalen Ramsey
6. Baltimore Ravens
Draft needs: Interior OL, Edge, WR
The Ravens finished the year with only 37 sacks, which seems low for a typically disruptive defense. They’ll get Breshad Perriman on the field at WR after missing all of 2015 so they need to address the future on the defensive edge, beyond Terrell Suggs.
Ravens select: Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd
7. San Francisco 49ers
Draft needs: QB, CB, OL
The 49ers were near the bottom of the league with only nine interceptions. However, the 49ers passed on a local QB many years ago (some guy named Brady) and won’t do it again — if a team doesn’t trade up to nab him first.
49ers select: Cal QB Jared Goff
8. Miami Dolphins
Draft needs: ILB, CB, OL, RB
Even though the Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh to the middle of the defense they still were 28th in the league against the run, not to mention 21st in the league against the pass. I like two guys in this spot and both are coming off of knee injuries. I’ll go with the one who’s going to be ready by the start of training camp.
Dolphins select: UCLA OLB Myles Jack
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Draft needs: DE, CB, T
The Bucs must love how this board has shaped up as they’re able to bring home a local player, one who fills a major need at cornerback.
Buccaneers select: Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III
10. New York Giants
Draft needs: Secondary, pass-rusher, interior DL
The Giants need to add pieces to the secondary, perhaps a few through free agency and the draft. This defense was last in the league, giving up nearly 300 yards per game through the air. But, I’m not sold on any DBs at this spot, so the Giants will look to improve the pass rush, opposite Jason Pierre-Paul.
Giants select: Clemson DE Shaq Lawson.
11. Chicago Bears
Draft needs: LT, Interior DL, ILB, RB
There seems to be a hole at LT that can be filled rather easily, based on how the board has stacked up to this point.
Bears select: Notre Dame LT Ronnie Stanley
12. New Orleans Saints
Draft needs: Interior DL, CB, Edge rusher/WLB
The Saints have spent plenty of picks on the defensive side of the ball over the past few years, but need to do so again. The Saints need another piece at LB to team with Stephone Anthony
Saints select: Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith
13. Philadelphia Eagles
Draft needs: DE, QB if they drop Sam Bradford, CB, ILB
With uncertainty at the top spot on the coaching staff, there’s no telling whether the Eagles will want to keep Bradford going forward. Either way, the defense, minus Fletcher Cox was a sieve throughout the season and there’s a massive answer in Tuscaloosa.
Eagles select: Alabama DT/DE A’Shawn Robinson
14. Oakland Raiders
Draft needs: CB, S, OL, ILB
The D.J. Hayden experiment hasn’t gone well in Oakland, to say the least. Furthermore, future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson has played his last game in the NFL. Suffice to say, the Raiders need secondary help to combat Jeremy Maclin, Keenan Allen and the Broncos’ duo of stars in the AFC West.
Raiders select: Clemson DB Mackensie Alexander
15. Los Angeles Rams
Draft needs: QB, WR, S
So long, St. Louis … Jeff Fisher handed the reins of the offense over to Case Keenum at the end of the 2015 and said he’s The Man headed into 2016. But, is he the answer? Is last year’s third-round pick, Sean Mannion, the answer? I’d say no to both, but I’d imagine they won’t discard Mannion so easily. There’s a stud WR still on my board … somehow. That makes the decision much, much easier.
Rams select: Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
16. Detroit Lions
Draft needs: OL, Inside linebacker, RB, CB
New GM Bob Quinn came from the New England personnel tree, so think big, physical and dominant at the point of attack. The running attack was 32nd in the league last year, so improvement is paramount on the offensive line but the Lions have lacked a true bell cow RB for years.
Lions select: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
17. Atlanta Falcons
Draft needs: S, OT, ILB, DE
The Falcons desperately need help at the safety position but there really isn’t a safety that makes any sense here. There isn’t a truly solid pass-rusher that fits here either. But, I like the fit of the best inside thumper in this draft for Atlanta.
Falcons select: Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland
18. Indianapolis Colts
Draft needs: OL, OL, OL
I’m not sugarcoating this one at all. The Colts must find a way to protect Andrew Luck going forward. Period. End of story.
Colts select: Michigan State OT Jack Conklin
19. Buffalo Bills
Draft needs: DE, Edge rusher, RT
The Bills were second-to-last in sacks and Mario Williams is more than likely not coming back in 2015. I don’t love the value of an edge player in this spot, but I could see Rex Ryan lusting over a tremendous athlete that fills a need.
Bills select: Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah
20. New York Jets
Draft needs: OL, either RT on on the interior, OLB
The Jets should devote this pick to their offensive line, although it’s far from the sexiest thing they could do. This one’s a bit of a wild card but this player could eventually play either G or T in the future. The scheme versatility makes him incredibly valuable.
Jets select: Auburn G/T Shon Coleman
21. Washington Redskins
Draft needs: Interior DL, CB, ILB
In the NFC East, the Redskins have to stop potent offenses (well, when Tony Romo’s fully healthy) six times. The Redskins were 25th against the pass, 26th against the run. Take your pick of truly dominant defensive players. This is where I select the most polarizing player in this draft.
Redskins select: Ole Miss DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche
22. Houston Texans
Draft needs: Anything on the offensive side of ball, outside of WR in the first round. I’ll abstain from giving a pick, given my affiliation to the Texans as a TV and radio analyst, but my colleagues at the Post will make the selection in my stead. In my opinion though, there has to be a focus placed on the offensive side of the ball this offseason to make any strides beyond 9-7 in 2016. Is quarterback in play at this spot? Maybe. Maybe not. Post Pick: While NFL teams never want to reach for a pick based on positional need, and though the Texans may address the QB position elsewhere this offseason, the fact that four different quarterbacks threw 40 or more passes for them this season illustrates why depth at the position never hurts.
Texans select: Michigan State QB Connor Cook
23. Minnesota Vikings
Draft needs: WR, S, Interior OL
Rookie WR Stefon Diggs was quite the late-round find for the Vikings, but they need another piece at the position. Yep, I’ve got the right guy to fit that bill.
Vikings select: Baylor WR Corey Coleman
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Draft needs: OLB, C
I’ve seen the Bengals up close and personal for two straight seasons and I’m convinced they’re the most athletically gifted teams in the NFL. That said, the LB corps could use some young blood … with some smarts.
Bengals select: Ohio State OLB Darron Lee
(Note: Remaining picks listed in order of regular season record)
25. Seattle Seahawks
Draft needs: RT, WR with some size, CB
It feels like the Seahawks have struggled finding someone to man the tackle spot opposite Russell Okung for years. That could change with this selection.
Seahawks select: Ohio State RT Taylor Decker
26. Pittsburgh Steelers
Draft needs: CB, DE
Hard to believe, in some sense, that one of the most physically gifted players is still on the board. The Steelers have made an investment in that spot in the past few years, it’s hard to pass on a tailor-made 3-4 DE.
Steelers select: Oregon DE DeForest Buckner
27. Green Bay Packers
Draft needs: OL, Interior DL
The Packers finished 21st in the NFL against the run, so the Packers must make improvements on the defensive interior. If the Packers go defensive line in the first round, then the Packers must address the offensive line in the second and beyond.
Packers select: Alabama DT/DE Jarran Reed
28. Kansas City Chiefs
Draft needs: RT, ILB, WR, S
2013 No. 1 overall selection Eric Fisher might just finally have locked down the left tackle spot for the foreseeable future but the right side needs to be addressed in this draft or free agency. It’s a little higher than I’d want to do this, but the passing game needs improvement (30th in the league in 2015).
Chiefs select: Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
29. Denver Broncos
Draft needs: OT
I won’t even mess around with this one. The Broncos have been dismal at right tackle.
Broncos select: Indiana T Jason Spriggs
30. Arizona Cardinals
Draft needs: DL, best interior OL on the board, ILB
There doesn’t seem to be a distinct need on the Cardinals roster, but I could see them addressing the defensive line.
Cardinals select: UCLA DT/DE Kenny Clark
31. Carolina Panthers
Draft needs: OT, DE
The Panthers generated 44.0 sacks off the edge this season, but they went through defensive ends like Kleenex in cold and flu season. Although I’m not a fan of the two Panthers offensive tackles, there’s a better fit on the defensive side of the ball, polarizing though he may be.
Panthers select: Eastern Kentucky DE/OLB Noah Spence
Note: New England Patriots have no pick in the first round due to league penalties related to DeflateGate.