With the 2015 NFL regular season almost over, fans of those teams out of the playoff picture will start looking to the 2016 draft in order to provide some optimism for the future.
Quite a bit will change in the coming months as the postseason plays out and the top college stars are put through the meat grinder by NFL general managers and head coaches.
Here's a full mock for the first round and three of the most interesting questions to ponder between now and April. The order for the first through 20th selections is courtesy of CBS Sports' Dane Brugler.
|1||Tennessee Titans||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State|
|2||Cleveland Browns||Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss|
|3||San Diego Chargers||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Jaylon Smith, OLB, Notre Dame*|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||Jared Goff, QB, Cal|
|8||Miami Dolphins||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame|
|10||New York Giants||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon|
|11||Chicago Bears||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State|
|12||New Orleans Saints||Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State|
|14||Oakland Raiders||Desmond King, CB, Iowa|
|15||St. Louis Rams||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU|
|16||Detroit Lions||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State|
|17||Atlanta Falcons||Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State|
|19||Buffalo Bills||Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA|
|20||New York Jets||Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia|
|21||Seattle Seahawks||Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson|
|24||Green Bay Packers||Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia|
|25||Washington Redskins||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama|
|26||Houston Texans||Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State|
|27||Minnesota Vikings||Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor|
|28||Cincinnati Bengals||Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma|
|29||Denver Broncos||Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas|
|30||Arizona Cardinals||Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky|
|31||Carolina Panthers||Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana|
|Source: Draft order via CBS Sports' Dane Brugler|
Most Intriguing Questions
What Will the Cleveland Browns Do with the No. 2 Pick?
If you're currently at work or have small children around, you may want to shield your monitor, because these are the Cleveland Browns' first-round draft picks over the last five years:
|Cleveland Browns' First-Round Picks (2011-2015)|
|2011||21||Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor|
|2012||3||Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama|
|2012||22||Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State|
|2013||6||Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU|
|2014||8||Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State|
|2014||22||Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M|
|2015||12||Danny Shelton, DT, Washington|
|2015||19||Cameron Erving, C, Florida State|
Even when Cleveland did something right—flipping Trent Richardson for a first-rounder—it then used that pick to help move up and draft Johnny Manziel.
The coaches change, the owners change and the general managers change. The one constant throughout the Browns history since 1999 has been a failure to properly build a playoff-caliber roster.
Cleveland has a few different options with the No. 2 pick. The front office can target Joey Bosa to be the pass-rusher it thought it was getting in Barkevious Mingo. Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley could be the long-term answer at left tackle with Joe Thomas' future somewhat uncertain.
The obvious choice is a quarterback after the Browns have failed to land what anybody would consider a franchise QB since returning to the league. At least the franchise's misfortune spawned a beautiful piece of art, per Brokaw:
White tape supply running dangerously low. How about some help @theduckbrand https://t.co/xs8thOGH0X12/2/2015, 6:19:12 PM
The Browns might balk—quite rightly—however, at taking any QB in this year's draft class with such a high pick. Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch are widely considered to be the two best players available at the position, and neither inspires a ton of confidence.
It might be ideal if Cleveland can trade down in the first round and snag Carson Wentz or Connor Cook somewhere around the 20s. Maybe one of Cardale Jones, Dak Prescott or Brandon Doughty emerges as a strong Day 2 candidate.
How Far Does Robert Nkemdiche Fall?
Last year, Randy Gregory was widely considered to be one of the elite pass-rushers in the 2015 draft class and tapped to be a top-10 or even top-five pick.
Then he failed a drug test at the combine, and shortly thereafter, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer reported many throughout the league were worried about "Gregory's ability to handle the mental rigors of professional football."
The Dallas Cowboys eventually selected Gregory in the second round.
Although the off-field circumstances are different, you can't help but see some similarities between Gregory's fall and that of Robert Nkemdiche.
On talent alone, Nkemdiche is a top-10 pick. He is a freak of nature, moving more like a linebacker than a defensive tackle:
Earlier in the month, though, the Ole Miss Rebels star was arrested on charges of marijuana possession, and before his arrest, he had fallen 15 feet from his hotel room at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller discussed how that adversely affected Nkemdiche's draft stock:
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Miller then discussed the calculus general managers and coaches will have to do when considering whether to select him:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
If your job depended on Robert Nkemdiche playing well and not being an off-field issue...where would you feel comfortable drafting him?12/22/2015, 9:08:38 PM
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
Because NFL decision-makers have to weigh risk vs. reward when it comes to Nkemdiche (and other red flags). Not as easy as "just talent"12/22/2015, 9:09:06 PM
Even if you were to put his recent arrest aside, Nkemdiche still isn't a slam dunk in terms of becoming an NFL prospect. NFL.com's Charles Davis, Daniel Jeremiah and Lance Zierlein spoke to an AFC personnel director who was highly critical of Nkemdiche as a player:
"I know he gets a ton of attention, but I'm leery...actually, I would stand on a table and tell my franchise to not take him in the top 15 picks." Why? The personnel director says Nkemdiche is a great talent who can overpower college players with his bull rushes and speed, but he doesn't think Nkemdiche is a natural pass rusher and said he flagged the Rebels' star numerous times for not finishing plays.
Few players in the 2015 draft are as much of a risk-reward proposition as Nkemdiche.
Who Takes a Chance on Noah Spence?
Like Nkemdiche, off-field issues cloud Noah Spence's draft stock, but unlike Nkemdiche, those off-field issues have been well-documented for a while.
In November 2014, the Big Ten ruled Spence permanently ineligible after he tested positive for ecstasy. As a result, he spent the last year at the FCS level at Eastern Kentucky, where he has tallied 11.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss in 11 games.
In an August 2015 interview with ESPN.com's Brian Bennett, Spence discussed how prevalent his ecstasy habit was—to the extent he was taking it regularly on Friday and Saturday nights during the offseason and on Saturday nights when the season kicked off.
"I got real caught up in the college lifestyle," said Spence. "Every weekend, I was doing too much. I was young and stupid and I thought I could go out and party all the time."
Bennett reported Spence had since started a treatment program and met with a drug counselor in order to move on from his drug habit.
NFL teams look for any reason they can to question a prospect's potential, so Spence will be put through the wringer when he does his in-person interviews with general managers and other team personnel.
Spence has all the tools to be a fantastic pass-rusher in the NFL. He's agile and quick off the snap so as to beat offensive tackles to the edge. Coaches will also be able to line him up in a few different positions, and that kind of versatility is always an asset at the next level.
Still, few teams will be willing to take a significant risk on a player with a documented past drug addiction.
Note: Jaylon Smith suffered a knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl, and until the extent of the injury is known, he'll retain the same projection as he had before getting hurt.
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