My 2016 NFL mock draft: At No. 9, Bucs select ...
I read and link to a ton of mock drafts each spring, and the challenge for me is finding a balance between the general consensus and having a distinctive mock that shows some creativity without really getting out there.
Even if you're somehow well-informed on teams' preferences at the top of a draft, that information is far more likely to be misdirection than actual functional, useful insights. You can put stock in where team's invest their most valuable evaluations -- top-30 visits to their facilities, private workouts with assistant coaches on a prospect's campus -- but even those can end up being meaningless.
What ends up complicating most mock drafts is their required simplicity -- we've already had two huge trades to radically shift the top of the draft, and I'm supremely confident (more so than in predicting the Bucs' pick, for instance) that there will be more trades into and out of the top 10, any one of which can really mess a mock draft up. How do you even measure mock-draft accuracy? I correctly paired the Chargers and Melvin Gordon last year, but did so at 17, not at 15, where San Diego traded up to get him. Does that count?
This is all pre-emptive apology and excuse before I roll out my mock draft. I'm disappointingly going with the herd and choosing Vernon Hargreaves at 9 -- I would not be surprised at all to see the Bucs slide down, say to 13 or 15, and pick up an extra pick Friday -- I may post something later on all the ways you can rationalize the Bucs doing many other things at 9. To call a shot, let's say Bucs drop to 15, pick up the 45th pick from Tennessee, and they take cornerback William Jackson at 15 and a defensive end like Emmanuel Ogbah at 45.
It's all in fun -- educated guesswork at its annual finest -- so please drop comments in here, shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com or reply on Twitter at @gregauman to tell me what's ridiculously wrong. I'll be more impressed if you tell me before Thursday night at 8, when the real fun begins ...
1. Los Angeles: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
2. Philadelphia: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
3. San Diego: Jalen Ramsey, CB, FSU
4. Dallas: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
5. Jacksonville: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
6. Baltimore: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
7. San Francisco: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
8. Cleveland: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
9. Tampa Bay: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
10. N.Y. Giants: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
11. Chicago: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
12. New Orleans: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
13. Miami: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
14. Oakland: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
15. Tennessee: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
16. Detroit: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
17. Atlanta: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
18. Indianapolis: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
19. Buffalo: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
20. N.Y. Jets: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
21. Washington: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
22. Houston: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
23. Minnesota: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
24. Cincinnati: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
25. Pittsburgh: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
26. Seattle: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
27. Green Bay: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
28. Kansas City: Josh Doctson, kWR, TCU
29. Arizona: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
30. Carolina: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
31. Denver: Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State