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2016 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Mid-1st-Round Prospects

Published by Bleacher Report on Sat, 16 Apr 2016

It won't take long for all of 2016's NFL draft forecasts to fly out the window.There's little certainty at the top, but pundits and draftniks can at least identify a tier of guys poised to land inside the top 10. No such stability exists in the middle of Round 1, where someone's No. 15 player doesn't reside in another prognosticator's first round.At the mercy of franchises choosing above them, the mid-tier team must patiently wait and see who falls into its lap. Even if these organizations have a desired prospect circled on the big board, one or two unexpected selections can send everything into chaosTaking into the account the blockbuster trade sending the No. 1 pick from the Tennessee Titans to Los Angeles Rams, let's take another stab at nailing down Round 1.Paxton Lynch, QB, MemphisNo top prospect faces more volatility than the borderline top-tier quarterback. He's the best guy available after Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, but he's also a few sizable steps beside the draft's possible No. 1 and 2 overall selections.Los Angeles jumping to No. 1 doesn't put Lynch into the top-pick discussion. It does, however, vastly decrease the probability of Wentz and Goff falling outside the top 10. Both needing a quarterback, the Rams and Cleveland Browns will likely each snag one right off the bat.This almost certainly triggers a quarterback run, and its all good news for Paxton, agent Leigh Steinberg told USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones.B/R's Matt Miller shared a similar sentiment:Suddenly the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles are in play with picks No. 7 and 8, respectively. Perhaps Cleveland trades down and snags Lynch while obtaining extra assets.Before the move, Lynch faced greater danger of falling outside the top 10, which could have precipitated a major fall if the Rams (previously picking No. 15) or New York Jets (No. 20) didn't bite. Now the 49ers or Eagles face pressure to reach for Memphis' 6'7" quarterback.It's aggressive for someone who belongs in the latter portion of Round 1, but don't be shocked if San Francisco gambles on his raw athleticism.Prediction: San Francisco 49ers (pick No. 7)Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio StateAnyone searching for offensive-line reinforcements will find a bevy of optionsavailableearly. One of the premier choices after Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley, Taylor Decker will draw interest in the No. 10-20 range.The former Ohio State tackle routinely winds up in that area, which starts with the New York Giants and ends with the New York Jets. He's not without his critics, though. On ESPN.com, Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo labeled Decker one of the draft's most overrated prospects:There's plenty of first-round hype surrounding Decker, but his skill set may be better suited for later rounds. He certainly looks the part of a first-round tackle, but the big question to his game is in pass protection. Decker's pass protection grade ranks only 37th among draft-eligible tackles, a year removed from ranking 33rd in the same group. He simply loses battles far more often than other first-round tackles in pass protection, and he's not an athletic marvel.On the other hand,Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholmsaid the lineman "possesses three key thingsability, versatility, availabilitythat coaches and general managers crave when they seek good, safe picks in Round 1." Plenty of teams prefer to go big or go home, but there's always value in a high-floor player.Decker can also benefit from the Titans-Rams swap. The Titans, who need a tackle and were frequently projected to take Tunsil No. 1, now shift firmly into Decker's range. His experience at both ends of the line is also a plus if they don't want to slide Taylor Lewan to right tackle.Decker and Michigan State's Jack Conklin now have another suitor in the teens, so there's a solid chance both are gone inside the top 15.Prediction: Tennessee Titans (pick No. 15)Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio StateBuckeyes fans are not going to like Palazzolo. Linebacker Darron Lee joined teammate Decker on the analyst's overrated list."The problem with Lee are his projections as a first-round pick," Palazzolo wrote. "He's an explosive player, but when it comes to beating blocks in the running game or playing a clean game in coverage, Lee hasn't produced as one would expect from a top pick."While Decker's stability will reel someone in, Lee's speed has him zooming up draft boards. Per NFL.com, he ran the fastest 40-yard dash among all linebackers at the NFL Scouting Combine:The athletic linebacker spoke to BuffaloBills.com's Chris Brown about how he fits into the faster NFL.Id say its a perfect transition. The stars aligned in that aspect, Lee said. Its more of a passing league and the quarterback is getting the ball out quicker and making linebackers run. Thats all Ive been seeing on Sundays and thats all I know.He remains unrefined and undersized at linebacker, but that is becoming less of a concern in the league. The Atlanta Falcons registered an NFL-low 19 sacks last year, making them the perfect candidate to take the plunge at pick No. 17.Prediction: Atlanta Falcons (pick No. 17)
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