2016 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: Round 1

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /
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Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports /

29.) Arizona Cardinals – OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (6’2 | 249 | 469)

If not for multiple failed drug tests and reportedly poor interviews at the combine, Spence would be a top ten pick. He was a former top recruit coming out of high school who made an immediate impact as a pass rusher at Ohio St. A few positive tests for molly got Spence banned from the Big10 for good, but Spence cleaned up his act at EKU, even requesting weekly drug tests. His production on the field was impressive as well with 11.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.

The Cards added Chandler Jones which should improve their pass rush, but lining up Spence on the other side of the field could make their pass rush a legit weapon instead of the weakness it was in 2015. It’s a bit of a risk, but with a strong coaching staff and locker room, Spence could become a dangerous weapon in AZ and get the Cards one step closer to the Super Bowl.

30.) New England Patriots – Forfeited Pick

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

31.) Carolina Panthers – Jason Spriggs, Indiana (6’6 | 301 | 4.87)

The Panthers got by with tackles who would be backups on almost any other team in the NFL last year, but they were exposed by the Broncos elite pass rush in the Super Bowl. Outside of Tunsil, Spriggs has the most upside as a left tackle in this draft. While it may take a year or two for him to gain the strength needed to be a quality left tackle, the talent is there for Spriggs to be a Pro Bowl left tackle eventually after a year or two in the weight room.

32.) Denver Broncos – DT Chris Jones, Mississippi St (6’6 | 310 | 4.88)

Losing DT Malik Jackson was a big blow for the Broncos defensive line, but Jones could provide a similar impact if not more and possibly sooner than it took the former 5th round pick Jackson to develop. Jones has a lot of the same traits, an explosive burst off the ball, the long arms to keep blockers at length, the first step to win 1-1 battles and generate pressure from the interior.

Jones also has a lot of the same problems Jackson did; He tends to disappear for long stretches of games, can be neutralized by lesser talented players when not giving his full effort, and has a tendency to play down to his level of competition.

When Jones is motivated and playing up to his potential, he has stretches where he is almost unblockable and can be a constant presence in the backfield… Those plays just don’t happen anywhere near as often as they should with Jones talent level. On paper, Jones has the size, power, and explosion to be a dominant force on the d-line as either a DT or 5-tech, he just needs to do it on a more consistent basis.