The 2016 NFL draft class is much more confusing than a simple identification a “catch.”
That’s saying something in today’s NFL. Whereas last year it was pretty simple to figure out who qualified under the “pivotal” descriptor—Jameis Winson and Marcus Mariota—it’s not as simple this year. In this case, “pivotal” describes the guys who come off the board and start a run on a position or maybe cause a front office to panic and pull off a trade.
This is a muddy class, with quarterback and wideout and other offensive spots underwhelming in what is a defensive-first draft. With that theme in mind, here’s a look at an updated mock and some players who fit the description.
2016 NFL Mock Draft
Round 1 Pivotal Prospects
2. Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California
In time, the hype from Carson Wentz‘s pro day on friendly turf surrounded by teammates will subside, and things will go back to normal—which means that California’s Jared Goff will be the top prospect in the class at the position.
Goff looks the part as much as anyone else in the class, standing at 6’4″ and 215 pounds with a booming arm and a pocket presence, as well as an ability to escape which is downright necessary in today’s NFL.
Whereas Wentz might look like more of a project, Goff seems like a prospect who can start as a rookie but still boasts tantalizing upside. As Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson hasn’t been shy in his praise for the California product:
Why not? Jackson knows his quarterbacks, having coached up Andy Dalton in Cincinnati to the player he is today while serving various roles, including offensive coordinator. He’s not going to convince anyone he sees Robert Griffin as the answer and that the team doesn’t have an interest in bringing on competition.
Goff at No. 2 creates an interesting scenario. A team buying the Wentz hype might make a move up. Another later in the round might make a move to nab Paxton Lynch.
Countless scenarios abound if Goff comes off the board at the Cleveland pick, which would make him the most pivotal player in the class.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
With Jaylon Smith hurt, UCLA’s Myles Jack can start a run at the linebacker spot this year.
In the Super Bowl, Von Miller showed just how important linebackers who can get after the quarterback and the ball in general are these days, which is what makes Jack such an attractive prospect.
Jack only comes in at 6’1″ and 245 pounds, but he’s a guy with freakish athleticism to the point that he saw snaps at running back. He can rush quarterbacks with an array of moves, and the athleticism pairs with a special mind for the game that helps him locate the ball and shut down a play.
“He’s the best player in the draft,” a scout said, per Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He’s a slam dunk. He can play modern-day football. He ain’t never leaving the field.”
The Dallas Cowboys will have their pick of many top defenders at No. 4, but they tallied just 31 sacks last season and tied for 22nd against the run by surrendering an average of 120.9 yards per game, which means the unit needs a versatile presence to help in all areas.
Jack is the guy, without question. Stopping the team’s reliance on Sean Lee is one motivation, but simply improving in all areas is another.
If the Jack domino falls, it will create a ripple effect akin to dropping a boulder in a puddle, with only so many talented linebackers in the class.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State
Ohio State’s Joey Bosa is the pivot for elite defensive line prospects in the class.
Bosa might seem like one of the draft’s most polarizing prospects thanks to odd numbers and such, but there is no debating his 6’5″, 269-pound frame or the level of disruption he caused at the collegiate level.
It’s not all about numbers when it comes to a guy like Bosa; it’s more about how much the offense has to pay attention to him and how that opens things up for others. Pro Football Focus’s Wes Huber broke this down in positional rankings for the Big Ten:
The true definition of the overall package, Bosa offers strength, speed, agility and an endless motor. Any questions surrounding his timings at the combine do his body of work no justice. His ability to drive his blocker into the point of attack was unrivaled in college football, despite his opponents’ constant usage of double- and triple-teams. That disruption of the offensive line created countless opportunities for the surrounding defenders.
In this regard, San Francisco needs all the help it can get at No. 7.
No team has seen a more drastic loss of talent over the past few offseasons, meaning ripple-effect guys like Bosa are a must. Last year, the 49ers managed a paltry 28 sacks and ranked 27th against the pass and 29th against the rush.
Inserting Bosa into a lineup with Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams will help, in large part masking the struggles of the units behind them while the front office continues to rebuild the unit.
And if Bosa leaves the board, other dominoes such as DeForest Buckner and Noah Spence won’t be far behind.
Stats courtesy of NFL.com and are accurate as of Tuesday. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
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