NFL

Where To Pick What Positions In The 2016 NFL Draft

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Every NFL draft isn’t created equally. Each year, there are differing amounts of depth and talent at each position. One year there may be a ton of talent at defensive tackle while there are slim pickings at cornerback. The next year the opposite may be true; therefore, a lot of a team’s success while drafting is luck. While everyone likes to say the best way to pick in the NFL draft is by selecting the best player available; yet, the reality of the situation is that need plays a huge role into who a team picks. That means that if a team needs a cornerback and there isn’t a lot of talent at that position in that draft class, there is a high probability that team reaches for a cornerback who’s talent isn’t on the same plane to where he is getting picked.

In the 2016 NFL draft, there are a couple of positions that have a lot of depth throughout the draft. If teams that have needs at these positions remain patient, they will have a great opportunity to get a great value for their team.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at where teams should pick which positions throughout the draft.

Off-Ball Linebacker-Day One

The amount of talent at off-ball linebacker in the 2016 NFL draft is truly incredible. There are three, potentially four, off-ball linebackers that could conceivably go in the first 15 picks.

UCLA’s Myles Jack is one of the most talented linebackers to come out in the draft since Luke Kuechly. He has the athleticism, body mechanics and power to be as great as he wants to be in the NFL. The only questions are whether he will work hard enough to reach his potential and if his body will be able to hold up to the pounding that occurs in the NFL. Jack is the rare linebacker that can cover just as well as he can play the run.

Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith is another incredibly talented linebacker who has the potential to become an All-Pro in the NFL. Smith’s closing speed is as incredible as any linebacker we’ve seen in quite some time. Smith uses his athleticism to flow from sideline to sideline. Also, he uses it in coverage to stay with receivers and tight ends across the middle. Smith needs to get off his spot quicker after the snap, but his ability to move and play with physicality allows him to play any linebacker spot.

Alabama’s Reggie Ragland is the classic throwback linebacker who is a large and menacing player that dominates against the run. Ragland is a physical and dominant linebacker who plays downhill and isn’t afraid to play through blocks. Don’t think he is just a slow, prodding linebacker who just plays inside the box, Ragland moves well laterally and he is better than he gets credit for in coverage.

After those three, there are three other off-ball linebackers who have the potential to go in the first round, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd, USC’s Su’a Cravens and Missouri’s Kentrell Brothers. If your team needs an off-ball linebacker, the first round is the time to pull the trigger.

Running Back- Day Two

With the state of the running back position in today’s NFL, it appears as if day two will always be the prime place to select a running back. In the 2015 NFL draft, players like T.J. Yeldon, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, David Johnson and Tevin Coleman, have each become big contributors to their teams.

This year, it appears as if there will be more of the same. The great part of this draft is that you will be able to find any type of running back on day two of this draft. If you want a well-rounded running back who will do all the little things well and not make mental mistakes, Utah’s Devontae Booker is your man.

If you want a small, jitterbug running back who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, TCU’s Aaron Green is a great option.

UCLA’s Paul Perkins is a perfect fit for a zone-running scheme while Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise is a great fit for a power-blocking team. Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon can fit into any scheme and he will be a very good workhorse back for whoever is picking him.

While Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot and Alabama’s Derrick Henry get all the hype, there is a lot more depth of talent at the running back position later in the draft.

Center- Late Day Two to Day Three

The center position is one of the most forgotten positions in the NFL draft. Despite the fact that it is arguably the most important position on the offensive line, you rarely see a center picked in the first two rounds. Because of this, teams are able to find great value at center late in the draft.

This year, there may be upwards of eight centers who have the potential to be solid in the NFL and you can find most of them on late day two all the way to day three. Furthermore, there is every single variety of center that you can probably want, which means there will likely be a lot of variability between teams on how they rank these players.

Missouri’s Evan Boehm is a huge center (6-foot-5 and 320 pounds) who dominates at the point of attack. He’s not that great when pulling or moving laterally, but he blows defenders off the ball better than any center in recent memory. Iowa’s Austin Blythe doesn’t have great size (6-foot-2 and 290 pounds) but he moves well and he is incredibly intelligent. He would be a great fit for any team that uses a lot of screens and pulls their linemen a lot. Alabama’s Ryan Kelly is another technically sound center who can blow defenders off the ball, but he can move laterally well too. He needs to work with his hand placement when reaching defenders, but besides that he has all the makings of a great center for years to come.

After that, Texas A&M’s Mike Matthews, TCU’s Joey Hunt, Michigan State’s Jack Allen and Utah’s Siosi Aiono are all centers who have the talent to be very good starters in the NFL, but they can be picked in round four or later.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com