2016 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Landing Spots of Nation's Top Prospects

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2016

California quarterback Jared Goff passes the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon State, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Eric Risberg/Associated Press

The NFL's regular season is over, which means draft season is officially in swing for squads that weren't fortunate enough to crack the playoff picture.

And with roughly two-thirds of the 2016 draft order set, it's mock draft time.

From franchise quarterbacks at the top to playmakers on both sides of the ball throughout the middle and anchors on the offensive and defensive line clocking in toward the bottom of the first round, here's a look at an early 2016 mock draft:

2016 NFL Mock Draft
PickProspect
1. Tennessee TitansLaremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
2. Cleveland BrownsJared Goff, QB, California
3. San Diego ChargersLaquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
4. Dallas CowboysJoey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
5. Jacksonville JaguarsMackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
6. Baltimore RavensJalen Ramsey, S, Florida State
7. San Francisco 49ersPaxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
8. Miami DolphinsVernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
9. Tampa Bay BuccaneersDeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
10. New York GiantsShaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
11. Chicago BearsRobert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
12. New Orleans SaintsLeonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
13. Philadelphia EaglesTaylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
14. Oakland RaidersDarron Lee, LB, Ohio State
15. St. Louis RamsJosh Doctson, WR, TCU
16. Detroit LionsEli Apple, CB, Ohio State
17. Atlanta FalconsReggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
18. Indianapolis ColtsJack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
19. Buffalo BillsJerald Hawkins, OT, LSU
20. New York JetsMyles Jack, LB, UCLA
21. Houston TexansEzekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
22. Washington RedskinsJonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
23. Minnesota VikingsWill Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
24. Cincinnati BengalsJeremy Cash, S, Duke
25. Kansas City ChiefsKendell Beckwith, LB, LSU
26. Green Bay PackersJaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
27. Pittsburgh SteelersCameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
28. Seattle SeahawksA'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
29. Arizona CardinalsJarran Reed, DT, Alabama
30. Denver BroncosCody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
31. Carolina PanthersVonn Bell, S, Ohio State
Source: Alec Nathan's Projections

 

Jared Goff, QB, California

The Cleveland Browns have started 24 different quarterbacks since 1999, according to ESPN.com's Coley Harvey, and that trend is in sore need of disruption.

But if the Browns hope to snag a semblance of stability under center, they'll need to get aggressive at the top of the draft and pinpoint a signal-caller of the future.

Enter Jared Goff, the California gunslinger with an accurate arm that could facilitate a shift toward efficiency for Cleveland's offense. As a junior, Goff completed a career-best 64.5 percent of his passes for 4,719 yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in California's Bear Raid offense.

"When projecting quarterbacks to the NFL, so much attention is spent evaluating arms," CBS Sports' Rob Rang wrote. "While velocity and accuracy are obviously critical for success at the position, footwork and poise are equally important. These are two elements in which Goff excels."

After Josh McCown's injuries and Johnny Manziel's off-field troubles derailed Cleveland's season, the Browns need to acquire a franchise centerpiece. Goff can be that and more for a team that's been in an offensive rut for years.

 

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Paul Vernon/Associated Press

The Dallas Cowboys ranked No. 25 in the league with 31 sacks in 2015, which means they could be in the market for an edge-rusher in April. And in this draft, there's no player better to fill a pass-rushing need than Ohio State's Joey Bosa.

"If you want an impact player in Year 1, then you want Bosa," Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote. "He’ll produce sacks, quarterback hits and quarterback hurries, and he is stout in the run game. Plug him in as a left defensive end and let him make plays for the next decade."

Dallas has pressing needs at quarterback and running back, as Tony Romo and Darren McFadden may not be suited to serve as long-term solutions, but it's hard to justify spending a pick on either of those positions at No. 4 overall.

With a player like Bosa to help fortify the team's pass rush, Dallas could ease the pressure on its secondary and evolve into one of the NFC's most feared defenses.

 

Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Richard Shiro/Associated Press

Speaking of NFC East teams in need of pass-rushers, the New York Giants could use some additional firepower off the edge next season.

Big Blue finished with a meager 23 sacks last season, which ranked 30th overall. Only the Buffalo Bills (21 sacks) and Atlanta Falcons (19 sacks) sent quarterbacks tumbling to the turf at lower frequencies. 

Thus, Clemson's Shaq Lawson makes all of the sense in the world for the Giants. Although he posted a modest 3.5 sacks as a sophomore, Lawson exploded for 10.5 sacks as a junior. He also posted 55 tackles, 21 more than his previous best, and his 22.5 tackles for loss ranked No. 1 among all players in the FBS this season, per Sports-Reference.com

"Shaq is one of the easiest guys I've ever coached because he is low-maintenance, blue-collar, loves to play, loves to practice," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, per the Independent Mail's Brad Senkiw. "He's a smart player. He's got great instincts for the game. He's just tough."

Lawson was arguably the most disruptive player in college football in 2015, and it's terrifying to consider what he could do off the edge if the Giants re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul.