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2016 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions for Top College Prospects

Joe Pantorno@@JoePantornoFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2015

California quarterback Jared Goff (16) passes against Arizona State during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. California won 48-46. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The new year approaches, and with that comes the end of the college football season. Some of the nation's most talented athletes eligible for the 2016 NFL draft will have just one more opportunity to prove themselves on the field of play before an offseason of interviews, combines and workouts. 

For many teams in the NFL, their chances of making the postseason have gone up in smoke, and it's some of these college prospects that prove to be a new hope for these professional teams.

Here is my latest first-round mock draft. The draft order has been set by the NFL's current standings, with the New England Patriots forfeiting their pick due to the Deflategate scandal. 

PickTeamPlayerPositionSchool
1Tennessee TitansLaremy TunsilOTOle Miss
2Cleveland BrownsPaxton LynchQBMemphis
3Baltimore RavensJalen RamseyDBFlorida State
4San Diego ChargersLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
5Dallas CowboysJared GoffQBCalifornia
6San Francisco 49ersJoey BosaDEOhio State
7Miami DolphinsVernon HargreavesCBFlorida
8Jacksonville JaguarsAndrew BillingsDTBaylor
9New Orleans SaintsRonnie StanleyOTNotre Dame
10Chicago BearsA'Shawn RobinsonWROle Miss
11Detroit LionsMyles JackLBUCLA
12Tampa Bay BuccaneersTre'Davious WhiteCBLSU
13New York GiantsEmmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma State
14Oakland RaidersJack ConklinOTMichigan State
15Philadelphia EaglesConnor CookQBMichigan State
16Buffalo BillsJaylon SmithLBNotre Dame
17Indianapolis ColtsTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
18St. Louis RamsJosh DoctsonWROhio State
19Atlanta FalconsDeForest BucknerDEOregon
20New York JetsLeonard FloydDE/LBGeorgia
21Minnesota VikingsVadal AlexanderGLSU
22Seattle SeahawksMackensie AlexanderCBClemson
23Kansas City ChiefsShaq LawsonDEClemson
24Pittsburgh SteelersJayron KearseSClemson
25Washington RedskinsRobert NkemdicheDEOle Miss
26Houston TexansEzekiel ElliottRBOhio State
27Green Bay PackersKenny ClarkDTUCLA
28Denver BroncosJason SpriggsOTIndiana
29Cincinnati BengalsSu'a CravensSUSC
30Arizona CardinalsReggie RaglandLBAlabama
31Carolina PanthersAdolphus WashingtonDEOhio State

There are currently three quarterbacks that are legitimate first-round talents: Memphis' Paxton Lynch, California's Jared Goff and Michigan State's Connor Cook. North Dakota State's Carson Wentz is making a case, but probably won't go until the mid-second round. 

There are plenty of teams with quarterback troubles that would want to add one of these arms to their offense. 

Headlined by the Johnny Manziel saga in which he seems to have a different spot on the depth chart every week, the Cleveland Browns have to take a quarterback with their top-five pick. 

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On paper, Cleveland's quarterbacks haven't necessarily been bad, though. They lost Josh McCown to a broken collarbone, and Manziel and Austin Davis haven't been able to string together wins. Yet the three quarterbacks have combined for over 3,700 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. 

With the constant flip-flopping of starters, it's better to wipe the slate clean and start with an arm you can label as your franchise quarterback from the start and go from there. 

There's no way a quarterback can succeed with this kind of thought process, as ESPN.com's Tony Grossi reported:

Tony Grossi @TonyGrossi

#Browns HC Mike Pettine: I have my new quarterback rankings. Everyone is tied for No. 1.

While a need for a new quarterback was expected in Cleveland, it probably wasn't expected yet in Dallas. But after Tony Romo went down for a majority of the season due to injury, the Cowboys showed the league just how inept they were without a solid arm. 

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones is now seeing his team suffer due to his oversight, as he told 1053 The Fan's Jared Sandler:

Jared Sandler @JaredSandler

"Not having a young, upcoming quarterback in the system is on me." -Jerry Jones on @1053thefan #Cowboys

Having started Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore, Dallas is the worst of the worst in the NFC East. While drafting a quarterback doesn't mean that Romo is out of his job, it would mean the Cowboys have a clear successor for him.

The new quarterback, whether it be Lynch, Goff or Cook, can learn under Romo and get a feel for the offense before being pushed in and expected to magically produce.

Dallas and Cleveland are two clear top-10 picks that have a shot at a quarterback. But there are other teams, like the Houston Texans, that could miss out on a quarterback if they continue their postseason run. 

At the moment, the Philadelphia Eagles' loss of the NFC East lead could be a future gain, as it could mean acquiring one of the three first-round arms. 

The Sam Bradford experiment has not gone well in Chip Kelly's offense, and according to Philly.com's Bob Ford, the first-year Eagle may want out. This, of course, would make the trade that sent Nick Foles to St. Louis look pretty worthless a year later. 

Bradford's contract is up at the end of the season, per Spotrac.com. If Bradford goes, whether by his or the Eagles' decision, Philadelphia will be without an arm unless they want to start Mark Sanchez next season. 

Drafting a quarterback that can quickly assimilate to professional football under Kelly, or another head coach, could give the Eagles hope that they can come out of the NFC East next season.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com. 

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