Mock Draft Tips: Now is the time to draft 2016 replacements
As part of an occasional series, Fanspeak will offer tips and best practices for its wildly popular and first-of-its-kind On The Clock draft simulator.
Today’s topic: If you have a former 2016 first-round player who has still not signed a contract extension, then you better start thinking about drafting a player at his position this year.
Joey Bosa. Ronnie Staley. Jalen Ramsey. Those three were all selected in the first round of the 2016 draft.
And they are currently ranked as the nos. 2, 3 and 4 prospects in ESPN’s list of potential 2021 free agents, as none have signed contract extensions with their respective teams.
There’s no way Bosa leaves the Chargers, right?. It’s preposterous to think Staley might leave after the left tackle already garnered All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. And why would the Los Angeles Rams let Ramsey go after the team gave up two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder last year to acquire him?
Just remember: This time last year, Dallas fans also thought Byron Jones was a shoo-in to be resigned after the 2015 first-rounder was statistically rated as one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
Jones now plays for Miami.
Dallas, though, was in a tricky situation, as it was – and still is – loaded with young talent whose contracts are coming up soon. The team didn’t feel like it could still sign Jones, wide receiver Amari Cooper, quarterback Dak Prescott and defensive end Robert Quinn (who, by the way, signed with Chicago). So Cooper was resigned, Prescott received the franchise tag and Jones became one of seven former starters to leave the team via free agency.
But if Dallas had drafted a cornerback with a Day 1 or Day 2 pick last season, losing Jones wouldn’t have been so painful. Further complicating matters is that Dallas could lose two more CBs to free agency next year, too, if 2017 second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie and third-round pick Jordan Lewis sign elsewhere.
Translation: Dallas must find a starter – if not multiple starters – in this draft and beyond.
And therein lies the lesson when you’re using the Fanspeak On The Clock draft simulator: If your team hasn’t resigned a player to an extension prior to his final year, then it better find a potential future starter now, whether it’s in free agency or in the draft.
Otherwise, it won’t have a choice if that player leaves for greener pastures – and that’s when teams tend to reach in the draft.
Jake Rigdon (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.