This is our eighth-annual backward mock draft. It's what it sounds like: What would the 2016 NFL Draft look like if the order were reversed? Who would the Broncos take with the first pick? My annual Backward NFL Mock Draft is listed below.
Denver Broncos: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
It's not often that the team drafting last - i.e. the Super Bowl winner - would select a quarterback if given the chance to pick first, but that's certainly the case in this Backward NFL Mock Draft. Unless you've somehow avoided the NFL altogether, you're aware that Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler signed with the Texans. Thus, things are so bleak for Denver that if the team doesn't acquire Colin Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez will be the starter. Unless teams are suddenly awarded five points for butt fumbles, that's not good.
Carolina Panthers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Carolina's offensive tackles were seen as liabilities heading into the 2015 season, but neither Michael Oher nor Mike Remmers struggled very much because the Panthers didn't battle very many teams with a potent pass rush. That changed in the Super Bowl, of course, as Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware completely embarrassed Carolina's two edge blockers. The Panthers won't be as fortunate in terms of their schedule in 2016, so they would love to somehow land Laremy Tunsil.
Arizona Cardinals: Jalen Ramsey, S/CB, Florida State
There were two primary reasons why the Cardinals couldn't keep up with the Panthers in the NFC Championship. One was Carson Palmer's injury. Palmer is frail, but Jared Goff is not the answer - not one for a team ready to win now. The second was the play of the Arizona safeties, who constantly surrendered big gains. That would certainly change with Jalen Ramsey joining the secondary. Ramsey is good enough to be chosen first overall, as seen in our real 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jared Goff, QB, California
I actually have the Chiefs selecting Paxton Lynch in my real mock draft. If you don't feel like clicking the link in the previous capsule, I pointed out that Andy Reid chose Kevin Kolb with his initial selection in the 2007 NFL Draft when Donovan McNabb turned 31. That's Alex Smith's exact age, so I don't see why Reid wouldn't at least consider Lynch - or Jared Goff in this case. The Chiefs have too talented of a roster to be picking this high in the near future, so this would be their only chance to grab a potential franchise quarterback over the next few seasons.
Green Bay Packers: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
This would certainly be a dream come true for all Packer fans, who constantly yell at me if I don't mock an inside linebacker to them in the first couple of rounds. And trust me, I can see why. The play at that position for Green Bay has been atrocious, and now Clay Matthews is permanently moving back outside, making the position much more dire. Myles Jack could easily be the best prospect in this class, so he would be a great pick-up for the Packers.
Seattle Seahawks: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The Seahawks didn't get great play from the Legion of Boom last year. Part of it was Kam Chancellor's holdout, but a bigger factor was the decline of the pass rush. The Seahawks had trouble generating consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so I expect them to remedy that issue early in the 2016 NFL Draft. Joey Bosa would be quite the acquisition for them.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
I have the Steelers drafting a cornerback in my real mock draft, so an even-better prospect at the same position would obviously make a lot of sense. Vernon Hargreaves is everything Pittsburgh is looking for in a corner, making this a perfect match.
Cincinnati Bengals: DeForest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon
The Bengals spent multiple early-round selections on the offensive line last year. Now, they're expected to tackle the defensive side of the line of scrimmage with a couple of upgrades. DeForest Buckner is the best player available, so he would make a ton of sense for Cincinnati in this weird backward version that would never happen in real life.
Minnesota Vikings: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
The Vikings signed Andre Smith and have 2015 fourth-rounder T.J. Clemmings perhaps set to take over a starting job in the future, but I don't think the Vikings could pass on a franchise-caliber left tackle if given the chance in this scenario, especially considering Matt Kalil's recent struggles.
Houston Texans: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
This would be a dream come true for the Texans, who would love to land Ezekiel Elliott despite the signing of Lamar Miller. Unfortunately for Houston, Elliott will be long gone by the time they are on the clock in the real draft.
Washington Redskins: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Terrance Knighton was initially expected to return to the Redskins, but he ended up signing with New England. This has opened up a big hole for Washington that is expected to be addressed in the first couple rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft. A'Shawn Robinson may not be around come pick No. 21, but he can definitely be snatched up in this order. He could start at end, allowing Chris Baker to move to the interior.
New York Jets: Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia
I've seen Leonard Floyd mocked to the Jets in various publications. The pick is logical, but there is just one problem: Floyd is unlikely to drop to No. 20. In fact, I have the Buccaneers selecting him with the ninth pick in my real 2016 NFL Mock Draft. Floyd would definitely address a big need at outside linebacker, as New York doesn't have much of an edge rush.
Buffalo Bills: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
The next five or so picks is where the Backward Mock tends to get a bit boring. That's because it's the same selection as the real mock draft, since these choices are around the same area. Might as well copy-paste because I feel like being a lazy bum:
The Bills generally did not have quality play from their linebacking corps this past season. Manny Lawson was just OK, while Nigel Bradham struggled in Rex Ryan's scheme. Bradham went on to sign with the Eagles this offseason, so a replacement is needed. Darron Lee, one of the top players available, projects well to Ryan's scheme.
Indianapolis Colts: Jack Conklin, OT/G, Michigan State
Not all of these middle picks are the same. Jack Conklin happens to be available in this version, so I imagine that the Colts would jump all over him. Conklin would offer a huge upgrade at right tackle, which would help keep Andrew Luck healthy. The Colts cannot afford a repeat of 2015.
Atlanta Falcons: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
The Falcons finished at the bottom of the NFL in sacks. Something obviously has to be done about this, so I could see them pulling the trigger on a pass-rusher in the first couple of rounds. Emmanuel Ogbah, who has tested extremely well, is exactly the sort of prospect Atlanta covets.