The 2016 GZL Draft is still a week away, but it’s time to start looking at who may be the first rookies off the board. So below is a Top 10 Mock Draft, looking at each team’s needs and the players available. Of course by the time the draft rolls around, it’s likely some of these picks will have been moved and everything thrown out of order. Still, it’s fun to imagine the different scenarios, and much more fun than getting work done, which I should be doing.
That being said, here’s my initial Top 10 Mock Draft:
1.1. Bengals – OT Michael Millen. The Bengals have toyed with several options, including scrapping QB Ryan Tannenhill, who had a dreadful season in 2015, and drafting the big stud QB Jonathan Higgins. However, despite Tannenhill’s growing pains, he’s got a lot of potential. Cincinnati goes for the best player on the board in Millen, who is probably the best offensive line prospect ever. Millen has an unheard of combination of speed (72) and strength (95). He’s also as polished of a blocker as there is.
1.2. Falcons – HB Gerard Campbell. Despite the team’s poor record in 2015, the have remarkably few spots to fill. The Falcons may be tempted by beast CB Cory Spielman, but Atlanta drafted two in the first round in the last three years. It appears the Falcons will not be bringing back Mario Fannin and so the team may surprise everyone by going for a back. Depending on one’s preference, Campbell is the best of the bunch. Though not a burner (88 SPD), he is a powerful back and is reminiscent of Jacksonville’s Bull Griggs. Ultimately, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Falcons deal this pick for a later pick.
1.3. Dolphins – CB Cory Spielman. Miami snags CB Cory Spielman here and gets one of the best corners to come out in a long time. Getting him at this position is incredible value and the Dolphins would be lucky to have a shot at him. Spielman is not only a fast CB, but has tremendous awareness for a rookie (73). Even better, he’s 6’2”, 205 lbs. Spielman is a future Pro Bowler without a doubt. Miami has other needs, but has two more first rounders so it can take the best player available.
1.4. Jets – QB Jonathan Higgins. The Jets have need on both sides of the ball and need some serious help. Most important to their success is finding a franchise QB. Currently, their roster features QBs that completed only 14 passes last season. Enter Higgins. At 6’6”, he’s an imposing figure. But he also has one of the stronger arms in the league and is the most accurate passer coming out. Expect Higgins to step in and start immediately and begin New York’s long march back to respectability.
1.5. Jaguars – DE Amos Houston. Jacksonville could go in several directions here – Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, Defensive End – but the best player on the board who fits an area of need is Houston. Houston is the fastest DE (85 SPD) on the board and also one of the strongest (80 STR). He lacks elite size (6'1", 252 lbs), but with some conditioning can get his weight up and harrass QBs every week. He's one of only 3 DEs in the league with such a potent combo of agility and acceleration.
1.6. Saints – HB Riddick Owen. The Saints are one of the hardest teams to figure out as this will be GM’s Adam Sloat’s first draft. Sloat has made some decisive moves so far that were not particularly obvious, so he’s something of a wild card. New Orleans has needs on the offensive and defensive lines that could be addressed here. But a hunch has New Orleans going back to basics and getting a feature back to call his own. Despite his past successes, current start Jacquizz Rodgers did not perform well in Sloat’s 8 games as a GM in 2015, scoring only 1 touchdown and failing to hit 100 yards. Riddick may just be his workhorse and he looks up to the job with 94 SPD and 77 STR, arguably the best combination in the draft.
1.7. Browns – CB Blaine Hasty. The Browns fell back to earth in 2015 after a playoff run the previous year. Cleveland has its franchise QB and feature back, but the rest of the team is getting old and fast. Cleveland goes Cornerback here as the unit could use some beefing up. There are several very talented CBs available here, but the Browns go with Hasty who is across the board the best defensive back left. Others may favor Kyan McGrady or Dee Wagner due to Hasty’s lack of elite size (5’11”, 196 lbs), but Hasty is from the same mold as Joe Haden who has worked out well for the team.
1.8. Eagles – CB Kyan McGrady. Rookie GM Peter Pauletto has indicated he wants to build a young, hungry team with plenty of depth. There are definite areas the team will need to address. The team may be tempted by an OLB, but that position might be a reach at this point. If HB Owen is available here, look for Pauletto to snatch him up. However, assuming he’s gone, which is difficult to say, look for Philadelphia to go the safe route and beef up their secondary. McGrady is the fastest CB in the draft and has good size and decent awareness.
1.9. Panthers – WR CJ Washington. The Panthers have back-to-back Top 10 picks and then a third at 1.19, so the team has a lot of flexibility and doesn’t need to force needs. With David Gettis being traded, it seems a natural fit to look at WR. There are some good ones in this draft, so it ultimately depends on a GM’s preference. Washington may be the first wideout off the board. Though not the biggest out there, he’s still an ideal size (6’2”, 217) and has across the board elite attributes. Even better, he brings to the table an amazing amount of strength (79) for a WR.
1.10. Panthers – CB Dee Wagner. GZL GMs love them some Corners, and we could see Wagner going as the fourth CB off the board in the Top 10. Grabbing a defensive back isn’t much of a priority for Carolina as they have some solid depth at the position, but with three first rounders, the Panthers have the luxury of taking the best available player.