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2016 NFL mock draft: How free agency could change things

With veterans on the move this week, we'll continue finding clarity in this year's draft.

Free agency begins this week, which will provide much more clarity for the 2016 NFL Draft. Some of the picks that have become commonplace in mock drafts will be rendered redundant depending on which veterans teams sign. The flip side is needs opening up with players departing.

This week's mock draft assumes several departures in free agency and how teams can address them in the draft.

1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The early career success of first-round offensive tackles can be argued, but picking Tunsil first overall isn't totally about next season. It's about the next five seasons where he and quarterback Marcus Mariota can mature together before pushing for playoff contention.

2. Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California

Goff has been my pick for the Browns because of all the little things he does well -- mainly manipulating and reading defenders and stepping up in the pocket. But it won't be a surprise if Carson Wentz of North Dakota State is the pick. Despite what new head coach Hue Jackson has said, quarterback has to be the pick for the Browns. Of course, that changes if they overpay Brock Osweiler in free agency.

3. San Diego Chargers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

The Chargers have to get better against the run, and Buckner was incredibly productive in that area at Oregon. Despite seeing multiple blockers, Buckner had 83 tackles last season, including 17 for a loss. With his size, and powerful playing style, Buckner will be fine working inside if the Chargers use four-man fronts on defense.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

With Greg Hardy's time in Dallas over, the Cowboys could strike with another pass rusher like Bosa. Opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys would have a good pair of young pass rushers to build the defense around.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

If the Cowboys pass on Ramsey with the fourth pick and Bosa and Buckner are gone, Ramsey is a good pick for the Jaguars. Ramsey could play either free safety or cornerback in Jacksonville, and he'll be a star at either.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele is a high-priority free agent for the Ravens, and what happens with him will dictate what Baltimore does with the sixth pick. If he leaves, left tackle is priority No. 1. But even if he comes back, Osemele has spent the majority of his career at guard. He played well at left tackle for three games last season, but having him inside next to Stanley would give the Ravens a potent left side.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Coming from the North Dakota State pro-style system, Wentz's fit in Chip Kelly's wide open offense may seem like a square peg in a round hole. But don't forget that Nick Foles successfully managed that offense in 2013. Wentz is a far more talented player than Foles, so he should do just fine.

8. Miami Dolphins: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

We'll get a true gauge for Jack's draft stock when he returns to Indianapolis for Scouting Combine rechecks. If he checks out fine, his top-10 status will be cemented. If there are questions about his surgically repaired meniscus, he could slide some. For the Dolphins, he would be the playmaking middle linebacker they need.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

Although the Buccaneers of late have had a tendency to not draft cornerbacks, they need to make an exception with Alexander. He could slide into the starting lineup where defensive coordinator Mike Smith's defense requires good cornerback play.

10. New York Giants: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

With Jason Pierre-Paul's future in New York in question, the Giants could be in line to upgrade their pass rush in the draft. If they're hesitant to take someone like Noah Spence because of his off-field baggage, Lawson is the most logical choice at No. 10 overall. He's a true 4-3 end who can generate pressure with speed and a solid array of pass rush moves.

11. Chicago Bears: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Don't be shocked if Lee gets drafted before linebackers like Reggie Ragland of Alabama. Lee will remind Bears head coach John Fox of his former inside linebacker in Denver, Danny Trevathan. If Chicago can't scoop Trevathan up in free agency, Lee would be a perfect match of need, system fit and value.

12. New Orleans Saints: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

This has been a common pick for the Saints because Robinson is arguably the top player at the draft's strongest position and New Orleans has to fix a broken run defense.

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13. Philadelphia Eagles: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

With Jason Peters approaching the end of his career, the Eagles could be in line to add a new offensive tackle. With Conklin's power playing style, he could start his career at guard before moving to right tackle opposite Lane Johnson.

14. Oakland Raiders: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Last week's pick of running back Ezekiel Elliott was frowned upon by some. If he's not the choice, cornerback would be the smart play. Hargreaves may not have the best size for an outside cornerback, but he's a natural capable of matching up against bigger possession receivers and smaller quick receivers. Don't get fooled by his ordinary combine numbers.

15. Los Angeles Rams: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Lynch may have the greatest upside of the three top quarterbacks in this year's draft. He certainly has them beat in size and natural athleticism. Beating Case Keenum out for the starting quarterback job shouldn’t be too challenging, even as a rookie.

16. Detroit Lions: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

Detroit’s defensive tackle rotation is up in the air with Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker being free agents. The only proven commodity at the position is Caraun Reid, a solid player. For the Lions, Rankins can be a star with his ability to get through gaps and create disruption.

17. Atlanta Falcons: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

With the release of Roddy White, the Falcons could look for a starting wide receiver opposite Julio Jones. Treadwell is a dependable pass catcher with good hands and the ability to beat corners out for jump balls. A red zone combination of Jones and Treadwell would wreak havoc.

18. Indianapolis Colts: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Although Frank Gore was decent in his first year with the Colts, he’s still far beyond that 30-year-old freshness date for a running back. With Elliott, the Colts could be set long term at the position and take some of the burden off Andrew Luck.

19. Buffalo Bills: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

On last week’s podcast, the point was made that while Robert Nkemdiche fits Buffalo’s defense perfectly his admittance of taking plays off doesn’t. With that in mind, the attention could turn to Dodd, a big end with power and solid foot speed. He could fill Mario Williams’ spot on the line just as well.

20. New York Jets: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky

Why would Spence fall this far in the draft? It’s because there are enough people out there talking about him doing poorly in team interviews that they may not be willing to gamble on Spence’s honesty. He could still go in the top 10, but falling to the 20th pick won’t be a surprise either. Spence and Lorenzo Mauldin could give the Jets a nice, young duo to build a pass rush around.

21. Washington: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Washington has a really good group of outside linebackers, but needs that player in the middle to let them get up the field. Ragland is a thumper of a linebacker who excels playing tackle-to-tackle and stopping the run. He could quickly develop into one of the leaders of Washington’s defense. Defensive back would be a good play here, as well, depending on what happens in free agency.

22. Houston Texans: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

Jared Crick could leave in free agency, and filling the spot on the defensive line could trump picking a running back like Elliott in the first round. Reed can take over Crick's end spot, and eventually move to nose tackle after Vince Wilfork retires.


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23. Minnesota Vikings: Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State

Although there are some good guards in free agency like Alex Boone and Richie Incognito, getting a young player like Whitehair would be the smarter move. Whitehair is the draft's best guard and could be starting left guard the Vikings have needed for some time.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Docton was one of the stars of the combine, and could be a hot commodity in the back half of the first round. Most think former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will lure either Mohamed Sanu or Marvin Jones to Cleveland, so the Doctson could fill a need for the Bengals.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

If the Steelers lose nose tackle Steve McClendon, do they trust Daniel McCullers to become the starter? Considering the strength of the defensive tackle class this year, they shouldn't. Billings is a powerful run stuff who could be the linchpin of the team's 3-4 defense.

26. Seattle Seahawks: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana

With left tackle Russell Okung becoming a free agent this week, the Seahawks could be forced to draft his replacement in the first round. Spriggs fits the bill as an athletic pass blocker with long arms. He's a little raw as a prospect, but could be molded into a high-level player by line coach Tom Cable.

27. Green Bay Packers: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

Butler may not be a pure nose tackle who can fill B.J. Raji's spot on the defensive line, but he's big and strong enough to handle himself fine. He's NFL ready as a run stopper and disruptive force in the middle.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

What happens to cornerback Sean Smith in free agency will determine what the Chiefs do early in the draft. If he leaves, cornerback becomes a big need for Kansas City. It's easy to see why Apple should easily be able to make the jump to the NFL with his combination of length and athleticism.

29. Arizona Cardinals: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

Floyd's draft range is all over the place. He's almost assuredly a first-round pick, but some think he could go inside the top 20. With the Cardinals' need for a pass rusher, they better hope slides on draft night.

30. Carolina Panthers: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Carolina's right tackle play is bad, and unless the Panthers pony up for someone like Mitchell Schwartz of the Browns or Andre Smith of the Bengals, they'll need to draft one high. Decker could slot into the right side with his length and ability to sustain blocks.

31. Denver Broncos: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

Nkemdiche could fall this far considering the concerns about his character questions and on-field effort. Offensive line has been a popular choice for Denver, but don't discount the defensive line if Malik Jackson doesn't re-sign. Nkemdiche is a good fit in the Denver defense because of his ability to play inside and outside.