The close of the 2015 NFL regular season is finally upon us. For 12 teams, it's merely the prelude to what they hope will be a Super Bowl run. For the remaining 20, it's a welcome reprieve after a 16-game stretch filled with disappointment.
Erasing that disappointment is a job that begins now for those front offices. April's draft is still three months away, but the research phase across the sport is fully locked and loaded. Internal decision-making and free-agency plans are being decided as we speak, as lists of potential targets who may be available on draft night are being compiled.
With that in mind, let's take a quick look at how the draft would play out if it were held after the regular-season finales.
2016 NFL Mock Draft
|1||Tennessee Titans||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State|
|2||Cleveland Browns||Jared Goff, QB, California|
|3||San Diego Chargers||Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis|
|8||Miami Dolphins||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame|
|10||New York Giants||Myles Jack, LB, UCLA|
|11||Chicago Bears||Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama|
|12||New Orleans Saints||Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State|
|14||Oakland Raiders||Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss|
|15||St. Louis Rams||Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State|
|16||Detroit Lions||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State|
|17||Atlanta Falcons||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State|
|19||Buffalo Bills||Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State|
|20||New York Jets||Su'a Cravens, OLB, USC|
|21||Pittsburgh Steelers||Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech|
|22||Seattle Seahawks||Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska|
|23||Green Bay Packers||Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama|
|24||Kansas City Chiefs||Vadal Alexander, G, LSU|
|25||Washington||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama|
|26||Houston Texans||Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State|
|27||Minnesota Vikings||Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor|
|28||Cincinnati Bengals||Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana|
|29||Denver Broncos||Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA|
|30||Arizona Cardinals||Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia|
|31||Carolina Panthers||Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State|
|NFL.com for draft order|
1. Tennessee Titans: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The next regime in Tennessee will have an interesting decision on its hands. On paper, Joey Bosa feels like the surefire selection. He's a two-time consensus All-American who flashes elite pass-rushing prowess, is ready-built for the NFL and plays with an aggressiveness that's much needed in Tennessee. No Titans player had more than seven sacks in 2015, and it'd be a mild surprise if Bosa didn't blast that total as a rookie.
Nevertheless, the temptation to build a fort around quarterback Marcus Mariota is understandable. Taylor Lewan flashed promise as a left tackle of the future this season, but the remainder of the offensive line is in need of a retooling. Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil would be a more than deserving selection at No. 1 if his health checks out.
Bosa's by far the favorite at this juncture and probably the better overall talent. After Mariota missed three games due to injury in 2015, though, don't be surprised if the decision comes down to who Tennessee hires as its next coach.
2. Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Here is what Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said regarding his team's quarterback position Sunday night, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com: "We do have the No. 2 pick in the draft."
Does that sound like a man super invested in keeping Johnny Manziel in town? Understandably not. Manziel has been a mess on and off the field since his arrival in Cleveland, and there is little reason to expect Cleveland's new general manager and head coach to begin their tenure with such a headache.
Jared Goff could represent a chance—yet again—to start over. The Cal product threw for 4,719 yards and 43 touchdowns against 13 interceptions as a junior, closing his career with a brilliant two-game stretch. He threw for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns without a pick in wins over Arizona State and Air Force, and he had 19 touchdowns against one pick in his final four games.
After years of searching, Goff could finally be Cleveland's answer under center.
3. San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
It doesn't really matter if Jalen Ramsey is a safety or cornerback at the next level. He's a potential Pro Bowler either way. The Florida State standout was a consensus All-America selection this season despite not grabbing a single interception and recording 52 tackles—a drop off of 28 from his sophomore season.
Instead, he was the very definition of a shutdown option, combining good athleticism with natural instincts to thwart opposing offenses.
"Ramsey is instinctive and dynamic around the box that he should thrive as a nickel defender in an exotic defense," Bucky Brooks of NFL.com wrote. "If I had to compare him to a current pro, I would cite Charles Woodson based on his unique skills as a multifaceted playmaker."
All of that is good news to San Diego, which needs all the secondary help it can get. The team is headed for an ugly divorce with franchise stalwart Eric Weddle and has some pretty sizable holes at the cornerback spot as well. Ramsey's plug-and-play mentality makes him a perfect fit.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Jaylon Smith's knee injury, which he suffered in a Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State, clouds his future. He was a surefire top-10 selection before going down. There was no question he'd enter his name in the draft, and ESPN's Mel Kiper had him ranked second overall on his big board.
Now, anything is in play. There has been no formal announcement on the severity of Smith's injury, but Irish coach Brian Kelly categorized it as "significant," per Irish Sports Daily. His draft stock may depend on whether "significant" means totally blown out or something closer to a two- or three-month injury that could be healed in time for pre-draft workouts.
For now, we're going to keep Smith here but reserve the right to drop him down once official word comes in on his status.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
The Jags got nothing from their first-round pick a year ago, as Dante Fowler Jr. blew out his knee in May before so much as sniffing an NFL game. Fowler should return fully healthy in 2016 to provide Jacksonville a much-needed spark on the edge, and Vernon Hargreaves would help fortify the secondary behind him.
A two-time All-American and three-time All-SEC selection, Hargreaves has been pegged for the top of the first round since his arrival at Florida. He's not quite as physically gifted as Ramsey from a size standpoint but has elite top-end speed and athleticism that allows him to make big plays in coverage.
While that also leads to a propensity for over-aggressiveness, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley knows how to mold secondary talent and could help him make adjustments to the pro game.
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