NFL mock season has arrived right alongside the scouting combine.
The tools are quite similar, really. Where the combine gathers the nation's top prospects in one area for each team's easy access, a mock draft compiles the first-round order, current prospect value and team need in an accessible format for fans.
Of course, it's the combine that will have a direct impact on mock drafts and not the other way around. The 2016 class is still something akin to a moldable heap of clay, with the spectacle the biggest landmark on the calendar that will give it the proper shape.
Here's a look at an updated mock as things get underway and some perspective on who needs a strong performance the most.
2016 NFL Mock Draft
|1||Tennessee Titans||Laremy Tunsil||OT||Ole Miss|
|2||Cleveland Browns||Jared Goff||QB||California|
|3||San Diego Chargers||Ronnie Stanley||OT||Notre Dame|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||Joey Bosa||DL||Ohio State|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jalen Ramsey||CB/S||Florida State|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Mackensie Alexander||CB||Clemson|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||Myles Jack||LB||UCLA|
|8||Miami Dolphins||Reggie Ragland||LB||Alabama|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||DeForest Buckner||DE||Oregon|
|10||New York Giants||Jaylon Smith||LB||Notre Dame|
|11||Chicago Bears||Jack Conklin||OT||Michigan State|
|12||New Orleans Saints||Noah Spence||DE/LB||Eastern Kentucky|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Taylor Decker||OT||Ohio State|
|14||Oakland Raiders||Vernon Hargreaves III||CB||Florida|
|15||Los Angeles Rams||Carson Wentz||QB||North Dakota State|
|16||Detroit Lions||Ezekiel Elliott||RB||Ohio State|
|17||Atlanta Falcons||Darron Lee||LB||Ohio State|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||A'Shawn Robinson||DT||Alabama|
|19||Buffalo Bills||Jarran Reed||DL||Alabama|
|20||New York Jets||Jonathan Bullard||DE||Florida|
|21||Washington||Laquon Treadwell||WR||Ole Miss|
|22||Houston Texans||Robert Nkemdiche||DL||Ole Miss|
|23||Minnesota Vikings||Michael Thomas||WR||Ohio State|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Emmanuel Ogbah||DE||Oklahoma State|
|25||Pittsburgh Steelers||Eli Apple||CB||Ohio State|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Shaq Lawson||DE/LB||Clemson|
|27||Green Bay Packers||Sheldon Rankins||DT||Louisville|
|28||Kansas City Chiefs||Corey Coleman||WR||Baylor|
|29||Arizona Cardinals||Leonard Floyd||LB||Georgia|
|30||Carolina Panthers||Josh Doctson||WR||TCU|
|31||Denver Broncos||Jason Spriggs||OT||Indiana|
Prospects in Need of Strong Combine Performances
2. Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, California
Quarterback isn't too difficult to figure out most years.
This class looks like a different animal. There isn't a ton of hype around any of the top prospects this year, though the top three isn't hard to figure out. There's the prototype out of California, Jared Goff. Memphis' Paxton Lynch is more of a project, but fits in with the league's new preference that a gunslinger can beat teams with his legs. There's also Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State, who screams project with massive upside in the right situation.
The top spot belonged to Goff and has seemed to rotate among the three, which won't change. For Goff, he's confident he can hold on to the title.
“I think my accuracy is as good as it gets at this level,” Goff said, according to MMQB.com's Peter King. “I think my pocket presence and my ability to extend plays speak for themselves. I’m confident I’ll be the best quarterback in the draft.”
Fresh off throwing for 4,719 yards and 43 touchdowns while looking the part at 6'4" and 215 pounds, Goff certainly has a blueprint he can follow which will help him come off the board first among his peers.
The combine is where Goff has to prove it all. USA Today's Tom Pelissero suggested Goff will have to excel in other areas outside of just throwing the football:
One point of curiosity for coaches/scouts entering combine week: how does Jared Goff measure? Smallest of top QBs, hands supposedly tiny.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 24, 2016
The Cleveland Browns have to hope Goff can pass all the tests.
Goff is less of a project than the other two quarterbacks and new head coach Hue Jackson, great molder of quarterbacks or not, will want to get his hands on a guy who can come in and play right away.
Should he perform and measure well, Goff is the guy.
10. New York Giants: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Injury progression is another major factor at the combine.
Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith shredded his knee in the team's bowl game, and while eventual Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley provided some inspiration and peace of mind for the NFL when it comes to such injuries after his knee issue last year, Smith's hiccup came much later in the process.
Before the devastating injury, Smith looked like one of the rarest linebackers to enter the draft in a long time. He had elite all-around athleticism, allowing him to sniff out the run and move to each sideline with blinding speed, but could also backpedal and almost look like a defensive back in coverage.
Long story short, Smith hit every mark on the NFL linebacker checklist with flying colors.
So much so, in fact, that NFL Network's Mike Mayock suggested Smith could have come off the board first if he hadn't suffered the injury, according to CollegeFootball 24/7:
Mayock: If Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith didn't get hurt, he'd be in conversation for No. 1 overall pick.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) February 23, 2016
Agree with it or not, teams simply won't want to wait on Smith. Not only will some shy away given the idea he could get hurt again or might never be the same, others will keep in mind that a top-10 pick is almost a marketing tool, a way to get fans excited. A guy who might have to miss his rookie year doesn't do that.
It takes a patient, willing franchise to roll the dice here, so look for the New York Giants to pull the trigger. The Giants coughed up 27.6 points per game last year and have already started the makeover by parting ways with Jon Beason.
These Giants need to have the long-term outlook in mind, so as long as Smith shows the proper progression, he won't fall past No. 10.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Shaq Lawson, DE/LB, Clemson
The combine hasn't even started and it's getting harder and harder for rushers to stand out.
Clemson's Shaq Lawson might seem like a big name, but he's squaring off with Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Noah Spence, Darron Lee and many others for attention at one job.
Go ahead and peak around the Internet, too. One can find Lawson's name in mock drafts literally anywhere along the order, from top 10 to bottom 10. Folks don't seem to know where to put him and a conclusion by NFL.com's Lance Zierlein suggests some of that has to do with questions about his athletic ability:
Productive backup for two years before putting together an All-American season in his first year as a full- time starter. Lawson is built like a full-grown man and combines his instincts, toughness and power to fill up a stat sheet and set an early tone. Lawson's frame and game are easily translatable to the NFL, but his average athleticism and pass rush skills will likely have teams viewing him as a 3-4 edge setter or a 4-3 base end. Lawson may also have value as 3-4 defensive tackle in an upfield scheme.
Lawson, of course, now stares at an opportunity to kill any and all questions about his stock at the event this week.
In such a deep class, teams won't have problems going with another player should Lawson struggle. Given the general depth of the class, Lawson making it to No. 26 isn't so outlandish.
There, the Seattle Seahawks wouldn't mind a little more depth on the line. Rotating a talent such as Lawson with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett isn't such a bad idea, nor is standing him up in an all-out assault with Bruce Irvin.
Could Lawson blow up the combine as one of the biggest winners and come off the board earlier? Sure. Expect disappointment in Seattle if he does.