NFL Draft 2016: Updated Mock Draft Before Regular-Season Finales

Mike Norris@@MikeNorrisBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2016

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) throws a pass during the first half of the Birmingham Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn Auburn, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

The 2016 NFL draft, which runs from April 28-30, is nearly four months away. But it's never too early to start talking about where the top college athletes might end up.

Heading into Week 17, the 3-12 Tennessee Titans have "earned' the No. 1 pick in the draft. That could change after the regular season ends, but as it stands, the Titans will be on the clock first.

The first 20 selections are based on record, with strength of schedule the first tiebreaker, while picks 21-32 are comprised of playoff teams. Each will select based on when it is eliminated in the postseason. The New England Patriots have forfeited their first pick, stemming from punishment handed out by the NFL for their role in Deflategate.

Let's take a look at projections for all 31 first-round picks and some analysis on a few key selections:

2016 NFL First-Round Mock Draft
1Tennessee TitansLaremy TunsilOTOle Miss
2Cleveland BrownsPaxton LynchQBMemphis
3San Diego ChargersJalen RamseyCBFlorida State
4Dallas CowboysJoey BosaDEOhio State
5San Francisco 49ersJared GoffQBCalifornia
6Miami DolphinsVernon HargreavesCBFlorida
7Jacksonville JaguarsMackensie AlexanderCBClemson
8Baltimore RavensJaylon SmithOLBNotre Dame
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersRonnie StanleyOTNotre Dame
10New York GiantsEmmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma State
11New Orleans SaintsReggie RaglandILBAlabama
12Philadelphia EaglesGermain IfediOTTexas A&M
13Detroit LionsMyles JackOLBUCLA
14Chicago BearsDeForest BucknerDEOregon
15Oakland RaidersTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
16Buffalo BillsLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
17Indianapolis ColtsLeonard FloydOLBGeorgia
18St, Louis RamsRobert NkemdicheDEOle Miss
19Atlanta FalconsShaq LawsonDEClemson
20Pittsburgh SteelersTre'Davious WhiteCBLSU
21Houston TexansConnor CookQBMichigan State
22Washington RedskinsCorey ColemanWRBaylor
23Seattle SeahawksDesmond KingCBIowa
24New York JetsEzekiel ElliottRBOhio State
25Kansas City ChiefsJack ConklinOTMichigan State
26Minnesota VikingsJosh DoctsonWRTCU
27Green Bay PackersJayron KearseSSClemson
28Denver BroncosJohn TheusOTGeorgia
29Cincinnati BengalsMichael ThomasWROhio State
30Arizona CardinalsNoah SpenceOLBEastern
31New England PatriotsPick ForfeitedN/AN/A
32Carolina PanthersJason SpriggsOTIndiana
Author's projections

Paxton Lynch Could Solve Cleveland Quarterback Issues

Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have selected four quarterbacks in the first round: Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel.

It would be hard to argue that none of those picks worked out. The four have combined to go 32-67 as starting quarterbacks, so it would make sense for Browns fans to be wary of taking a quarterback No. 2 overall.

However, Memphis Tigers passer Paxton Lynch has the tools to become a solid NFL quarterback, which at this point is all Cleveland can hope for at the position.

The 6'7'', 245-pound quarterback had his worst game of the season Dec. 30 against the Auburn Tigers in the Birmingham Bowl—throwing for just 108 yards and no touchdowns—but his overall numbers are impressive.

In 2015, he completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,778 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions. He tossed 59 career touchdowns in three seasons, compared to just 23 interceptions.

Chase Goodbread of NFL.com shared video earlier in the season of a play that he says is a reason why experts are talking about Lynch:

The junior declared for the draft shortly after the bowl loss and is currently highly rated on two ESPN draft experts' big boards. Todd McShay has him No. 2, while Mel Kiper Jr. lists him as the No. 6 overall player.

It's certainly a bit of a risk to draft a quarterback this high if he's not Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck. But considering Brian Hoyer is the only quarterback since 1999 to have a better than .500 record as a starter with Cleveland, it's a chance worth taking for the Browns.

Corey Coleman Will be Fun to Watch at the Next Level

Ole Miss Rebels' wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is the No. 1 overall wideout prospect, per CBSSports.com, and for good reason.

After returning this year from a gruesome leg injury in 2014, Treadwell hauled in 76 receptions for 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns during the 2015 regular season. The 6'2'', 210-pound junior also made plays like this, shared by 247Sports:

However, there was another wide receiver who had bigger numbers and made plays just as impressive—or even more so—than Treadwell.

Corey Coleman was named the 2015 Biletnikoff Award winner, given annually to the nation's top receiver. Despite missing the Baylor Bears' bowl game with an injury, Coleman caught 74 passes for 1,363 yards and an FBS-leading 20 touchdowns.

His numbers are eye-popping, but his athleticism shown in this video from BaylorVision is what makes him stand out:

As quarterback Kirk Cousins begins to thrive in Washington, he could use a top receiver to throw to down field. Coleman could be that guy to jump-start a young Washington offense coming off its NFC East division championship.

Houston Has a Problem

The Houston Texans will most likely be in the playoff this season but that doesn't mean their quarterback situation is set.

They've used four quarterbacks, cut one of them for off-the-field issues and are currently working with long-time backup Brandon Weeden as their starter.

Although he has played well in two wins with the Texans, that could have more to do with the stout Houston defense, as Weeden was 0-3 as a starter with the Dallas Cowboys earlier this season.

Enter Connor Cook.

The Michigan State Spartans senior has certainly had an up-and-down season, but according to CBSSports.com he is the third-ranked quarterback in the draft and a projected first-round pick. Lynch and Jared Goff from California will most likely be gone by the time Houston drafts.

Cook threw for 3,131 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions while dealing with a shoulder injury toward the end of the season. Although his Spartans were blown out by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff semifinals, he led Michigan State to a 12-2 record.

While Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBSSports.com wrote that he tends to abandon his footwork and use his arm strength too much at times, they still feel like he can be successful at the NFL level:

Possesses ideal size for the next level with the build to take consistent punishment, including as a short-yardage rusher with his deceiving athleticism.

Cook scans the entire field and is a confident passer to all levels, showing touch, anticipation and toughness in the pocket. He has effortless arm strength when he steps into his throws with proper mechanics and torque through his hips to deliver the proper trajectory on downfield passes.

Mastered Michigan State's offense, firing quick passes underneath with the ability to thread the needle on deeper sideline throws. Has excellent experience, and his poise in key situations has improved throughout his career.

Cook's reputation took a hit earlier in the season after he was not named a team captain despite being a senior quarterback. However, his confidence did not seem to be shaken when asked about the perceived slight, per Mike Griffith of MLive.com:

I've been a leader here, I've been a leader since I've been starting here, the coaches believe in me, I think that's been known, Coach D believes in me, they all believe in me, my teammates believe in me.

They still look to me as a leader, and I am a leader on this football team.

I may not be a captain, but every time I step in the huddle everyone looks to me to lead.

It's too early to tell if the 6'4'', 220-pound quarterback will find success and longevity in the NFL, but with a strong Houston defense, Cook could help make the Texans a more complete team in the next couple of years.

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