NFL Mock Draft 2016: Updated Projections Following AFC, NFC Championships

Mike Norris@@MikeNorrisBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2016

FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 29:  Jared Goff #16 of the California Golden Bears celebrates after beating the Air Force Falcons 55-36 in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

With the conference championship games over and only the Super Bowl left, NFL draft talk continues to heat up. There's no clear-cut No. 1 choice, although Ole Miss Rebels offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil makes sense for the Tennessee Titans at No. 1 overall if they want to protect franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota.

A "can't miss" quarterback is missing from this draft, although some talented ones should go in the first round. The demand for the position is high, which could lead to three or four selections early.

Here's a look at projections for all 31 first-round picks as well as a breakdown of the top three quarterbacks:

2016 NFL Mock Draft
1Tennessee TitansLaremy TunsilOTOle Miss
2Cleveland BrownsJared GoffQBCalifornia
3San Diego ChargersLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
4Dallas CowboysJoey BosaDEOhio State
5Jacksonville JaguarsJalen RamseyCBFlorida State
6Baltimore RavensMackensie AlexanderCBClemson
7San Francisco 49ersPaxton LynchQBMemphis
8Miami DolphinsVernon Hargreaves IIICBFlorida
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersA'Shawn RobinsonDTAlabama
10New York GiantsShaq LawsonDEClemson
11Chicago BearsMyles JackOLBUCLA
12New Orleans SaintsDeForest BucknerDEOregon
13Philadelphia EaglesCarson WentzQBNDSU
14Oakland RaidersRonnie StanleyOTNotre Dame
15Los Angeles RamsCorey ColemanWRBaylor
16Detroit LionsTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
17Atlanta FalconsAndrew BillingsDTBaylor
18Indianapolis ColtsJack ConklinOTMichigan State
19Buffalo BillsJaylon SmithOLBNotre Dame
20New York JetsReggie RaglandILBAlabama
21WashingtonEli AppleCBOhio State
22Houston TexansChristian HackenbergQBPenn State
23Minnesota VikingsMichael ThomasWROhio State
24Cincinnati BengalsKenny ClarkDTUCLA
25Pittsburgh SteelersKendall FullerCBVirginia Tech
26Seattle SeahawksJosh DoctsonWRTCU
27Green Bay PackersRobert NkemdicheDTOle Miss
28Kansas City ChiefsShon ColemanOTAuburn
29Denver BroncosGermain IfediOTTexas A&M
30Arizona CardinalsLeonard FloydOLBGeorgia
31Carolina PanthersEmmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma State
N/ANew England PatriotsPick ForfeitedN/AN/A
Author's Projections

Is Goff the Answer in Cleveland? 

It's taken a while, but I finally did it. It makes perfect sense for California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff to go No. 2 to the Cleveland Browns, although it would be a risk for the franchise.

Cleveland has swung and missed on many quarterbacks in the draft lately, and it would set the struggling team back further if Goff doesn't pan out. However, with his stock continuing to rise and the new Browns leadership talking up the quarterback position, it feels like this is going to happen.

Browns Last 5 Drafted Quarterbacks
NameDraft RoundYearYears in ClevelandNotable Stats
Johnny Manziel1st20142014-Current1,675 passing yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs; 25 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
Brandon Weeden1st20122012-135,116 passing yards, 23 TDs, 26 INTs
Colt McCoy3rd20102010-124,388 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, 20 INTs; 363 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
Brady Quinn1st20072007-091,902 passing yards, 10 TDs, 9 INTs
Charlie Frye3rd20052005-073,490 passing yards, 14 TDs, 23 INTs; 276 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs

Recently hired Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta held a press conference Jan. 21 and gave some insight on who they would like to see under center, per Jen Steer of Fox 8 Cleveland.

“We need a guy who can be here for a number of years,” Brown said. “We’re happy to have Josh (McCown) in the building and obviously Johnny (Manziel) on the roster.”

They are so happy to have McCown that the team benched him during the season for Manziel. When a reporter asked Brown about Manziel's status, he didn't give the former Texas A&M Aggies star a glowing endorsement, either, per Steer.

“How much can we do? Johnny is individual, he’s a man,” Brown said. “I think it’s important he understands perfectly the situation he is in.”

In other words, they want to find a new quarterback without ticking off the ones on the roster.

CBS Sports ranks Goff, who threw for 4,719 yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2015, as the No. 4 player and No. 1 quarterback in the draft. Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBS Sports said NFL scouts think he can be productive at the next level:

Goff displays passing anticipation downfield, a resilient approach and coordinated feet in the pocket, which are always in sync with his body rhythm and allow him to reset his vision and find the open read.

He clearly has room for improvement in several areas, but Goff is the type of quarterback who understands his deficiencies and what he needs to do in order to improve. And that's why scouts are optimistic for his future.

My earlier mock drafts pegged Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Joey Bosa for the Browns, and he will hear his named called early even if the Browns don't take a chance on him.

For now, it's Goff for Cleveland; however, that could change, considering we are still three months away from the draft. After all, this is the Browns—a team not known for making winning decisions.

Lynch a Nice Option for San Francisco

With the No. 4 selection, the Dallas Cowboys could use a quarterback as an insurance policy, but Bosa will be too tough to pass up. The next team in desperate need of a signal-caller is the San Francisco 49ers, who will select former Memphis Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch with the No. 7 selection.

A little more ineptitude could have put the 49ers in position to draft the hometown Goff, but Lynch is a nice consolation prize. The 6'7", 245-pound quarterback threw for 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions last season. Although the signal-caller may not be ready to step in on Day 1, Lance Zierlein of feels that Lynch's time will be soon:

While the hype around "dual threat" quarterbacks has subsided, Lynch possesses the size and athleticism to make NFL teams take a second look. Unlike other size/speed quarterbacks like Vince Young and Colin Kaepernick, Lynch prefers to extend passing plays with his feet rather than bolting from the pocket, but he is still likely to make plenty of plays with his feet over the long haul. Lynch shows the ability to read defenses and make smart decisions, but not yet at an NFL starting level. While he has the physical tools to start right away, a team who is willing to allow him to sit and study his craft for a year could reap maximum rewards in the future.

The 49ers won five games in 2015, just three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance and two from an NFC Championship Game appearance. After trading Alex Smith following the 2012 season, San Francisco thought it had its franchise quarterback in Colin Kaepernick. However, he has regressed since an impressive rookie season, and the team benched him in favor of the ineffective Blaine Gabbert this year.

Neither seems to be the long-term answer, although one may have to start the 2016 season with Lynch as the understudy. As Zierlein said, Lynch isn't ready, but he has all the tools. Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' former college offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe compared Lynch to Jacksonville's signal-caller, per John Martin of 92.9 FM ESPN.

“Paxton may have a little more velocity on the ball than Blake,” Taaffe said. “I thought Blake had a strong arm, but Paxton, from what I’ve seen in two sessions, it’s just exceptional.”

San Francisco fans may want Goff, but in time, they'll like what they see in Lynch. 

Wentz's Stock Continues to Rise

The need for a starting quarterback is a major theme this year, and the Philadelphia Eagles fall into that category. Eagles quarterbacks ranked 12th in passing yards per game in 2015, and that was their most impressive stat.

The 23 touchdowns Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez threw tied for 20th in the NFL, the 18 interceptions tied for 26th and their combined passer rating of 85.6 ranked 22nd. It's safe to say it wouldn't be a reach for Philadelphia to take a signal-caller in the first round.

Enter North Dakota State Bison quarterback Carson Wentz. The FCS star led his team to back-to-back national championships as a starter. After missing several games because of a wrist injury, he bounced back to throw for 197 yards and a touchdown to go along with two scores on the ground in the championship game. Brugler saw Wentz play in person, and the quarterback's performance impressed him.

"Entering the game, I expected rust from Wentz after he missed the second half of the season due to a broken wrist and hadn't seen game action since mid-October," he said. "But that wasn't the case as he looked extremely sharp and showed off several NFL traits, throwing with anticipation, timing and touch."

That's something Philadelphia did not have—and could use. If running back DeMarco Murray returns to his old form and wide receiver Jordan Matthews continues to emerge, a consistent quarterback could give the Eagles a solid offense in a weak NFC East. Of course, the defense, which allowed 26.9 points per game, can use help, but a team isn't winning without an effective quarterback.

In five seasons, Bradford has never thrown for more than 21 touchdowns and averaged 13.2 interceptions per 16 games. He's also played a full season only twice, missing the entire 2014 campaign after suffering a torn ACL. Sanchez—along with his 86 touchdowns and 84 interceptions—is nothing more than a backup.

Wentz may not have the household name, but the people who evaluate him for a living believe he can play in the NFL—and play well. That's something you can't say about the current Philadelphia quarterbacks.


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