If the 2016 NFL Draft could be described in only one word, it would be “defense.” Because of the sheer amount of elite playmakers available on that side of the ball, NFL teams were able to select players in the third and fourth rounds that could have been first-rounders in previous years. It also meant teams were able to find players who fit their needs and systems perfectly without reaching for them too early. Here are some of our favorite picks:
Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns, Round 1 (15)
It might have been a surprise to some that Baylor’s Corey Coleman was the first receiver taken. Most thought that title would belong to Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell or TCU’s Josh Doctson. But for a team like Cleveland that’s in dire need of a downfield threat in the passing game, it was an easy decision. Coleman may be this year’s fastest wideout, a skill he partly attributes to his background in track. “During the offseason, track helped me stay in shape,” he said. “The speed I gained there translated well onto the football field.”
Shaq Lawson, DE, Buffalo Bills, Round 1 (19)
With Mario Williams on his way to the Dolphins, Buffalo was in need of a pass rusher and many expected them to take one in round one. Lucky for them, Shaq Lawson, who some analysts had going in the top 10, was still there at 19. So what can the Bills Mafia expect from the Clemson alum? “I feel like my game speaks for itself,” Lawson said. “I’m an every down player, but really, I’m most looking forward to meet my new family and try to help lead this team to a championship.”
Kenny Clark, DT, Green Bay Packers, Round 1 (27)
One of Green Bay’s biggest needs heading into the draft was along its defensive line. With the sudden hiatus of nose tackle B.J. Raji, they needed a big man who could stand his ground against double teams and collapse rushing lanes. And that’s exactly the type of player that they got in UCLA’s Kenny Clark. At only 20 years old, he may be somewhat raw, but Clark excels at using his hands and maintaining a low center of gravity. Interestingly enough, both he and Packers stud DE Mike Daniels were star high-school wrestlers. “It really helps me out in the trenches,” Clark said. “I learned a lot about using my hands and leverage.”
Jaylon Smith, ILB, Dallas Cowboys, Round 2 (3)
If it wasn’t for an ACL and LCL tear suffered during this year’s Fiesta Bowl, Smith would have been a top-five pick. He plays with the elite speed, strength, and smarts teams crave in the middle of their defense. He may miss all of the 2016 season recovering, but he is approaching it from the right perspective. “It’s all about my mentality and patience,” he said. “I don’t know exactly when I’ll be back, but I know I’ll work my butt off to get to full strength.” In Dallas, he will be able to use that time to learn from one of the best linebackers in the league: Sean Lee.
Chris Jones, DE, KC Chiefs, Round 2 (6)
At first glance, the Chiefs seem pretty set along the defensive line with Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard, and Allen Howard. But Poe is in the final year of his contract and you can never have too many big bodies up front. Plus, an athlete and student of the game like Mississippi State’s Chris Jones would be an asset to almost any team. “For a guy my size (305 pounds) I’m powerful and fast,” he said. “But I also am very intelligent on the field and know the game well. I love football and love to learn about football.”
Besides these five rookies, there were plenty of players who landed on what seems to be the perfect team. So we want to hear from you. What player do you feel wound up in the perfect spot?