Top 15 Steals of the 2016 NFL Draft
The 2016 NFL Draft is now a thing of the past, as the much-hyped three-day league event wrapped up officially this past Saturday. Even with all the hoopla, there is still a ton to be excited about, as several franchises landed their quarterbacks of the future or aggressively went after major areas of need.
The Cleveland Browns may have overdone it by spending a ton of picks on wide receivers, but they at least went out of their way to make sure a serious weakness may quickly become a strength.
Naturally, depending on how some teams fared in this year’s draft, we could see a few teams rise up the ranks when it comes to their 2016 Super Bowl odds.
To gauge the shift in power, let’s consider who the top overall steals are throughout the 7-round draft. Here’s our top-10:
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Miami Dolphins (13th Overall)
Tunsil is the most obvious steal of this year’s draft. It’s true he has some serious character concerns after some run-ins on social media and off the field, but this is still the top offensive tackle prospect in the entire draft we’re talking about.
Miami needed to keep beefing up a shaky o-line, too, and here they nab a guy that easily could have gone #1 overall prior to the big trades up by the Rams and Eagles. He could still end up being a disappointment off the field, but as a pro talent, he has the size and athleticism to develop into one of the league’s elite tackles.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings (23rd Overall)
Initially said to be the top wide receiver prospect in this draft class, Treadwell saw his draft stock plummet due to a subpar 40 time. While not blessed with elite deep speed, the guy was a dominant threat at Ole Miss and has everything else you look for in a number one receiver.
Minnesota gets a serious steal after both losing Mike Wallace and watching Cordarrelle Patterson bust. Treadwell lacks the speed and explosiveness that C-Patt at one time offered, but he kills it with routes, size and ball skills. He’s a major get for a Minnesota offense that badly needs to spark their passing game.
Jaylon Smith, LB, Dallas Cowboys (34th Overall)
Once viewed as the top linebacker in the draft – if not the top player – Smith saw his stock free fall due to major concerns over a surgically repaired knee following a freak injury. Smith still has nerve issues in his injured leg and is no lock to suit up in 2016, but in terms of sheer talent, on field production and upside, there just wasn’t a better second round pick this year.
Smith was without a doubt a top-5 NFL talent when healthy, possessing the instincts, skill-set and natural feel to be an elite sideline to sideline defender at the highest level. Dallas would be wise to bring him along slowly, in hopes their steal pays off in 2017 and beyond. If all goes well, he will make a full recovery and end up being the leader of the Cowboys’ defense for the next decade.
Myles Jack, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars (36th Overall)
If you’re looking for a second round pick that can rival Smith, it’s Jack. An equally talented linebacker, Jack is so versatile that he was even successfully used at running back at UCLA. His knee injury was also of the freak variety in practice, but there were legit concerns that his issue could pop up again later in his career.
Due to that, a top-5 talent fell into round two, where the Jaguars wisely traded up and took a chance. He’s another guy that is for sure a first round talent and when healthy could end up being a major force for Jacksonville. Getting him in round two not only makes him a potential steal, but it also has the Jags assuming less risk. Unlike Smith, Jack could see the field as a starter in 2016 if all goes well.
Noah Spence, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (39th Overall)
Some think Spence is best suited to lineup on the edge of a 3-4 system as a linebacker, but his pass rushing skill-set is so good, it’s hard to see him failing as a defensive end with the Buccaneers.
The real knock on Spence was his decision-making off the field, though, as he had some drug issues and was kicked out of the Big 10. He rebounded in a big way, though, and still looked to be one of the best pure pass rushing talents in this draft class. If he can keep his act together, a starting Bucs pass rush just found a huge piece to their defensive puzzle.
Su’a Cravens, S, Washington Redskins (53rd Overall)
Cravens was a fun prospect coming into the draft, as he has awesome range and versatility. He can be used as either a linebacker or safety due to his size and athleticism, and it looks like the Redskins drafted him to solve their continued woes at safety.
Securing such a tantalizing safety prospect in the middle of round two is exciting enough, but Washington’s search for a stud safety has lasted since the days of Sean Taylor. If Cravens’ talent in college transitions to the pros, that search may finally be over.
Jonathan Bullard, DT, Chicago Bears (72nd Overall)
Chicago still hasn’t finished the process of fully transitioning to a base 3-4 defense, so it was very important for them to add quality pieces to the puzzle in this draft. Landing Bullard to add to the defensive line was huge, and it was surprising they could do it in round tow.
A very strong prospect coming out of Florida, Bullard has the quickness and burst off the line to push up the middle or on the outside. He gives Chicago’s defensive line some upside in rushing the passer, as well as help against the run. A fringe day one talent, Bullard is a mild steal in round two and also fills a huge need for the Bears.
Shon Coleman, OT, Cleveland Browns (76th Overall)
The Cleveland Browns were graded out to be the top team in terms of draft success this year, and it’s easy to see why when you note they got the very solid Coleman in round three. Not only did Cleveland need a talented tackle to eventually replace Joe Thomas, but they needed help across the o-line in general. That, and Coleman should have gone off of boards in round two.
Minor stiffness at times seems to have derailed his stock, but Coleman is actually a very balanced and stout tackle that plays with a nasty mean streak. Cleveland got itself a masher that can play outside or as a guard. We’d call that a steal.
Kendall Fuller, CB, Washington Redskins (84th Overall)
A potential first round talent due to pedigree, size, athleticism and impeccable instincts, Fuller likely took a dip due to a knee issue. The brother of Bears stud corner Kyle Fuller, Kendall can flat out ball and should be able to morph into a shutdown corner at the next level.
The crazy part is the value here, as the Redskins just signed elite corner Josh Norman and get a potential starting talent that doesn’t even need to start right away. That gives Fuller plenty of time to get comfortable before he’s asked to do a ton. That’ll do for a third round pick.
Andrew Billings, DT, Cincinnati Bengals (122nd Overall)
Billings is without a doubt one of the top steals in the entire draft, but what is craziest is how he slid to a very good defensive team in the Bengals. Cincy’s main weakness going into the draft oddly enough was a complacent defensive line, so adding the talented Billings at worst gives them awesome depth, and at best could give them a future starter.
A lack of need for a menacing nose tackle is the chief reason for Billings’ slide, as he normally won’t be an every down player and not every system is in dire need of his talents. Consider it a massive luxury pick for the Bengals in round four, but still a gigantic steal.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Baltimore Ravens (134th Overall)
Justin Forsett broke his arm last year and is already slowly exiting his prime, so the Ravens did well to add another talented rusher to their offensive backfield. Luckily it was Dixon, who is a fantastic fit for OC Marc Trestman’s offense thanks to exceptional pass-catching ability and solid overall athleticism.
Dixon doesn’t yet have the size or strength to handle the full load, but he’s a perfect fit to rotate in. He’s a solid find in round three and could be the answer at running back down the road.
Devontae Booker, RB, Denver Broncos (136th Overall)
If you’re looking for a true steal at the running back position, Booker takes the cake. Not only does he slide into an awesome zone-blocking scheme in Denver, but he also possesses a featured back skill-set. A potential round two pick, Booker slid to the Broncos in round four and has the decisiveness and vision of a potential star down the road.
Denver killed it with this pick, as they still bring back the guys they relied on last year in C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, but still got a talent capable of pushing them in the near future.
Christian Westerman, OG, Cincinnati Bengals (161st Overall)
The Bengals hit our list again, this time in the trenches on the other side of the ball. It’s no secret the best way to get better is up front with the mashers, and Cincy certainly gets better here with the addition of Westerman, who could have gone as high as the second round.
NFL teams don’t like spending high picks on guards, no matter how strong and technically sound they may be. Westerman is both and even is a stud athlete with top notch balance and movement. He gives the Bengals killer depth from day one and could even compete for a starting spot.
Charone Peake, WR, New York Jets (241st Overall)
This is a major luxury pick for New York, who is already set at wide receiver with starters, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. It never hurts to add youth and depth at a position of strength, however, and the talented Peake can now come in and learn behind two very solid receivers.
A size/speed freak, Peake was buried behind stud after stud at Clemson and also suffered some untimely injuries in college. He lacks experience or polish, but he won’t be needed to prove himself right away. If he can be brought along slowly, Peaker could end up being a sick steal in round seven.
Scooby Wright III, Cleveland Browns (250th Overall)
There’s another 7th round prospect we need to praise, and that is new Browns linebacker Scooby Wright. Wright was a bit of a terror at Arizona, as he leaned hard on instincts and underrated athleticism to be pretty much everywhere at all times for the Wildcats.
Long speed and size are definite knocks, but Wright plays with serious hustle, a big heart and has the skill-set needed to be a difference-maker on the inside of Cleveland’s base 3-4 defense.
Got another crazy draft day steal we missed or hate one we listed? Let us hear it in the comments below!
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