The NFL playoff race is heating up in both conferences, but a number of teams like the Detroit Lions (2-7), Cleveland Browns (2-8), and Tennessee Titans (2-8) and their respective front offices have likely come to the conclusion that the postseason is out of the question and have turned to the promise of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Sitting last in the AFC North while in the midst of a five game losing streak, the Browns have turned the reigns of the NFL’s third-worst offense over to quarterback Johnny Manziel for the rest of the season, but it stands to reason that unless the former Heisman Trophy winner excels and puts together a few wins the long-suffering franchise will be looking for a new leader and will address its No. 30-ranked defense.
Meanwhile, less than a year removed from their trip to the postseason, the Lions have already parted ways with their top two executives and could be ready for another rebuild, with replacements for quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson potentially in next year’s draft class.
The Titans have seen some excellent returns on their investment in 2015 No. 2 overall pick and quarterback Marcus Mariota, but due to injuries in his receiving corps and a poor offensive line, Tennessee will continue its rebuild.
The good news for all three teams, and for the seven other squads that will own a top 10 pick in next year’s draft, there’s a number of excellent prospects that could help build a solid foundation.
Here’s an early look at the 10 best prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft.
1) Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State, Jr.
The Buckeyes best pass rusher has been ranked as the top overall prospect for the 2016 draft since he was a freshman in Columbus. A consensus All-American last season, Bosa’s racked up 25.0 sacks in 35 career games so far. His sack numbers are not impressive this season, but he seems guaranteed to be one of the first three picks because of his speed.
2) Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss, Jr.
Whoever owns the No. 1 pick will give the Running Rebels and the country’s best offensive lineman a serious look. It’s no coincidence Ole Miss has owned one of the top attacks in the country the last two seasons with Tunsil anchoring the frontline. At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Tunsil certainly has the ideal physical makeup for an NFL lineman.
3) Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State, Jr.
As the best defensive back for the nation’s No. 24 ranked defense, Ramsey’s in contention for at minimum a top 10 selection. His one drawback is a rather lithe frame, but at 6-foot-1 and about 200 pounds, Ramsey will add some bulk and could be a top defensive back who also helps out against the run.
4) Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss, Jr.
As the season wears on and at the conclusion of the combine, Nkemdiche will be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick. He’s a couple of inches shorter than Bosa, but has much more bulk and their speed is highly comparable coming around the edge or up the middle. However, you would like to see more sacks, with 4.5 in 28 career games.
5) Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida, Jr.
His smaller build compared to Ramsey likely means Hargreaves will be the second defensive back off the board, but he’s also the top back for a Gators defense currently ranked No. 5 overall and No. 10 against the pass in the nation. Hargreaves has terrific coverage skills as evidenced by his 10 interceptions and 25 passes defensed in 33 career games.
6) Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame, Sr.
A starter in every game since his sophomore season, Stanley allowed just one sack last year and in 2013 was part of a unit that gave up just eight sacks, the second-lowest total in the nation. With similar measurements, Stanley is Tunsil’s main competition for first tackle off the board.
7) Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss, Jr.
It could be a huge night for the Rebels with Treadwell ranking as the 2016 class’ best receiver. With prototypical size and wide catch radius, Treadwell’s pulled down 188 receptions for 2,242 yards and 17 touchdowns over the last three seasons. However, NFL teams will quadruple-check the left leg that was victim to one of the worst injuries of recent memory and cut his sophomore year short.
8) Myles Jack, LB, UCLA, Jr.
A torn anterior meniscus in his knee ended Jack’s junior year, but he’s already declared for the draft and has begun preparations for his pro career. At times used as a running back in goal-line or other short-yardage situations, Jack’s a clever and powerful playmaker capable of helping out against the run and pass.
9) Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis, Jr.
An unknown on the national stage, Lynch may be the first quarterback off the board due to his incredible size (6-foot-6, 230 pounds), but scouts and general managers may pass because he’s faced less than stellar AAC competition.
10) Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State, Jr.
Without question the best rusher available talent wise in the class, Elliott’s ascendance over the last two seasons is one of the main reasons for Ohio State’s success. He’s a gifted, explosive runner who can split tackles or bounce to the outside for long touchdown bursts.