NFL Draft 2016: Final Mock Draft Predictions Before Divisional Games

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2016

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Houston Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

So it begins. As the NFL postseason rolls into the divisional round, three-quarters of the league has shifted its focus to 2016's draft.

With that, the mock floodgates open. More than three months remain until the three-day affair begins on April 28, but knowing most of the order and participants is enough to begin the lengthy forecasting season.

This probably isn't the first mock that readers have encountered, and it certainly won't be the last. Offseason maneuvering and combine data will also shift projections drastically. Use premature mocks to get acquainted with the landscape and prospects, but don't lock into a certain match.

2016 Round 1 Mock Draft
PickTeamPlayer
1Tennessee TitansLaremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
2Cleveland BrownsJared Goff, QB, California
3San Diego ChargersJoey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
4Dallas CowboysJalen Ramsey, S/CB, Florida State
5Jacksonville JaguarsVernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
6Baltimore RavensRonnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
7San Francisco 49ersLaquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
8Miami DolphinsShaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersDeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
10New York GiantsMyles Jack, LB, UCLA
11Chicago BearsEmmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
12New Orleans SaintsA'Shawn Robinson, DE/DT, Alabama
13Philadelphia EaglesTaylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
14Oakland RaidersJaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
15Los Angeles RamsPaxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
16Detroit LionsAndrew Billings, DT, Baylor
17Atlanta FalconsLeonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
18Indianapolis ColtsMackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
19Buffalo BillsRobert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
20New York JetsReggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
21WashingtonSu'a Cravens, S/LB, USC
22Houston TexansCarson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
23Minnesota VikingsMichael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
24Cincinnati BengalsJosh Doctson, WR, TCU
25Pittsburgh SteelersKendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
26Seattle SeahawksJack Conklin, OT, Ohio State
27Green Bay PackersJarran Reed, DT, Alabama
28Kansas City ChiefsDarron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
29Arizona CardinalsJonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
30Denver BroncosVadal Alexander, G, LSU
31Carolina PanthersEli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Author's Predictions

 

Round 1 Quarterbacks

Since the Tennessee Titans hold the No. 1 pick, a quarterback won't start the proceedings. Eleven of the last 15 drafts opened with a passer, but Tennessee snagged its future cornerstone last year when it grabbed Marcus Mariota with pick No. 2.

The Titans should instead protect their young signal-caller by selecting Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil. After that, it's unclear where the premier passers will land. There are varying opinions on who should go first off the board—Jared Goff of the California Golden Bears or Paxton Lynch of the Memphis Tigers—with North Dakota State's Carson Wentz looming as a dark horse.

Let's take some early guesses on where these young quarterbacks will call home.

 

Jared Goff, QB, California

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Two years ago, the Cleveland Browns invested a first-round selection on quarterback Johnny Manziel. The 23-year-old has since made more headlines off the field than on it. After suffering its 15th losing season since the franchise rebooted in 1999, Cleveland is likely to take another stab at the pivotal position.

According to Bleacher Report Insider Jason Cole, new head coach Hue Jackson plans to move on from Manziel and use the No. 2 pick on a quarterback.

Even with that knowledge, there isn't a consensus top passer. Goff, however, exists as the early front-runner. Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor sees the Cal alum as a slam dunk:

The 21-year-old made significant progress in each of his three years with the Golden Bears. He ended his collegiate career by amassing 4,719 yards, 43 passing touchdown and 8.9 yards per pass attempt as a junior.

Inheriting a program that went 3-9 upon his arrival, he led California to an 8-5 finish, culminating with 467 yards and six touchdowns against Air Force.

Going to the same school as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn't make him the next Rodgers, and Cleveland isn't the best place to harness anyone's full potential. Yet Goff exhibits the accuracy, arm strength and pocket presence to rise above his peers as the top quarterback in this class, which should make him Jackson's guy.

 

Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Paxton Lynch took a major step forward for the Memphis Tigers during his junior season, completing 66.8 percent of his passes and averaging 8.5 yards per pass attempt while throwing just four picks. At a towering 6'7", he also displays appealing athleticism.

His height isn't the only measurable that pops off the page. Agent Leigh Steinberg noted his client's gigantic hands:

Feasting on subpar American Athletics Conference competition also helped his cause. Against the 2-10 SMU Mustangs, Lynch accrued seven touchdowns on nine completions during a 63-0 shutout. In his next game, however, a tougher Auburn limited him to 106 yards and an interception on 37 pass attempts during a Birmingham Bowl loss.

While Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton touted Lynch as a potential franchise quarterback, he also said the prospect would need years of development, the type of patience most franchises no longer exude on prominent picks: 

Lynch has the size that scouts dream of, and his breakout 2015 campaign was encouraging for his outlook. He shows a natural comfort in the pocket that most quarterbacks can only fantasize about. His best plays strike up images of a young [Ben] Roethlisberger. Lynch's upside is significant, and it's why he’s been projected as a top-10 pick. But we cannot overlook the obvious weaknesses to his game, either. He’ll need at least a year to refine his footwork and then adjust to an NFL playbook. The jump from the AAC to the NFL is steep.

Before naming Chip Kelly their new head coach, the San Francisco 49ers were a logical destination at No. 7. Now a new regime is more likely to give Colin Kaepernick a second chance, which could send Lynch plummeting down the board. His one saving grace is the Rams, whose league-worst passing offense needs a fresh general to guide their move to Los Angeles.

 

Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

MIKE STONE/Associated Press

Despite breaking his wrist in October, Carson Wentz remains a top name to watch.

He returned on Jan. 9 to lead North Dakota State to its fifth consecutive FCS championship, scoring two rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown. Even though he also surrendered two picks, his play garnered recognition from NFL.com's Gil Brandt:

In an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show (via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News) Wentz asserted his status as a top-tier quarterback candidate:

The 6'6" prospect played only eight games in his senior season, and he logged just one complete season over his collegiate career. Yet ESPN Insider Mel Kiper Jr., who paired Wentz with the Houston Texans in his first mock draft, believes his stock could skyrocket by draft day:

At 6-foot-6 and nearly 235 pounds, he has a big arm and serious mobility and shows a willingness to be patient, move in the pocket and keep his eyes down the field as things move around him. This is a guy who could be in the top-10 mix after the Senior Bowl and combine. Houston might end up thrilled if he's around this late.

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah offered a different perspective, declaring that he already completed his climb up the draft boards:

After playing quarterback hot potato throughout the regular season, Houston watched Brian Hoyer surrender four picks and a fumble during its 30-0 Wild Card Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

That one game isn't indicative of his complete performance, but the 30-year-old journeyman isn't a long-term solution. After that game, Hoyer might not be considered a short-term answer.

Wentz meets all the physical quarterback requirements, and while Houston also needs a running back, rushers have proved much more bountiful in later rounds.