2016 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions, Top Prospects After CFP Championship

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2016

Joey Bosa headlines the 2016 draft after the title game.
Joey Bosa headlines the 2016 draft after the title game.Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide finished atop the College Football Playoff Monday night as national champions.

With major names such as Reggie Ragland and A'Shawn Robinson looking ready to enter the 2016 NFL draft out of the winning team alone, it isn't hard to see why the title game put on an epic show and the class itself looks like one of the most hyped in recent memory.

Those guys, along with plenty of other surefire pros such as Ohio State's Joey Bosa, headline what looks like quite a deep class at plenty of important positions. 

With the collegiate season finally in the books, here's a look at a mock draft based on team need, prospect vale and more as the opening throes of draft season begin. 

2016 NFL Mock Draft

1Tennessee TitansLaremy TunsilOTOle Miss
2Cleveland BrownsJoey BosaDLOhio State
3San Diego ChargersRonnie StanleyOTNotre Dame
4Dallas CowboysMyles JackLBUCLA
5Jacksonville JaguarsJalen RamseyCB/SFlorida State
6Baltimore RavensMackensie AlexanderCBClemson
7San Francisco 49ersJared GoffQBCalifornia
8Miami DolphinsReggie RaglandLBAlabama
9Tampa Bay BuccaneersDeForest BucknerDEOregon
10New York GiantsLeonard FloydLBGeorgia
11Chicago BearsJack ConklinOTMichigan State
12New Orleans SaintsPaxton LynchQBMemphis
13Philadelphia EaglesTaylor DeckerOTOhio State
14Oakland RaidersVernon Hargreaves IIICBFlorida
15St. Louis RamsConnor CookQBMichigan State
16Detroit LionsEzekiel ElliottRBOhio State
17Atlanta FalconsShilique CalhounDEMichigan State
18Indianapolis ColtsA'Shawn RobinsonDTAlabama
19Buffalo BillsJarran ReedDLAlabama
20New York JetsShaq LawsonDEClemson
21WashingtonLaquon TreadwellWROle Miss
22Houston TexansSheldon RankinsDTLouisville
23Minnesota VikingsMichael ThomasWROhio State
24Cincinnati BengalsEmmanuel OgbahDEOklahoma State
25Pittsburgh SteelersTre'Davious WhiteCBLSU
26Seattle SeahawksNoah SpenceDE/LBEastern Kentucky
27Green Bay PackersRobert NkemdicheDLOle Miss
28Kansas City ChiefsCorey ColemanWRBaylor
29Denver BroncosJason SpriggsOTIndiana
30Arizona CardinalsJaylon SmithLBNotre Dame
31Carolina PanthersEli AppleCBOhio State
Author's projections.

Analyzing Top Prospects

2. Cleveland Browns: Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State

The aforementioned Bosa has a shot at going No. 1. 

With the Tennessee Titans up there, though, odds are an offensive lineman comes off the board first as the organization hopes to better protect Marcus Mariota.

That leaves Bosa and the Cleveland Browns. Folks might want a sexier move for the Browns, such as the team grabbing yet another quarterback. But in an era where Brian Hoyer is a playoff quarterback, building around the position first isn't such a bad idea.

The Browns could certainly use Bosa's help after generating just 29 sacks this year. Barkevious Mingo isn't a factor, and Paul Kruger hasn't been the boon some might have thought he'd be.

Why not, then, grab a guy who compares to Jared Allen? CBS Sports' Dane Brugler made the comparison:

The popular comparison for Bosa will be J.J. Watt, but Allen makes more sense because of their strengths on the football field. And not the current, over-the-hill version of Allen, but the double-digit sack artist and five-time Pro Bowler that played in Kansas City and Minnesota.

He is built for the NFL game with grown man strength and toughness as well as the athletic pass rush moves that are reminiscent of Allen.

Bosa would be the start of a new foundation for the defense. His ability to apply pressure would shorten the time those behind him have to stay in coverage and make the rushing jobs of those around him easier.

Taking the best player available, in this case Bosa, makes sense for the Browns.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

Mackensie Alexander's talent has him in the top 10.
Mackensie Alexander's talent has him in the top 10.Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Mackensie Alexander was one of the top stars in the title game.

At 5'10" and 190 pounds, Alexander was one of college football's lockdown corners this year and easily inserted himself into the top-10 conversation through his play, which he commented on before the big game in interesting fashion.

USA Today's Paul Myerberg captured his thoughts: “I love the cornerback position. There’s nobody that’s dedicated to the position like I am. I’m like a robot because I apply myself that way. A lot of people see my ability but they don’t see the part when I’m in the film room, breaking stuff down, the ins and outs of the game.”

A team such as the Baltimore Ravens will have a hard time passing on Alexander. 

Yes, Baltimore ranked 19th in the league at just 233.6 passing yards allowed per game. But corner Lardarius Webb is 30 and hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2013, and he's done so only twice in his career.

As an aside, there's no such thing as too many good defensive backs in a secondary these days. Alexander's arrival would give the Ravens options on and off the field while keeping an elite unit at the top of its game.

30. Arizona Cardinals: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Jaylon Smith's injury puts him in a tough spot for the NFL draft.
Jaylon Smith's injury puts him in a tough spot for the NFL draft.Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Jaylon Smith might be the top star going into the 2016 draft.

Various reasons impact the potential status. Smith was the surest thing entering the draft, a freak-of-nature linebacker who sniffed out any run and had the elite athleticism necessary to cover the pass deep down the field like he played safety. Truly a rare prospect.

Then the injury in Notre Dame's bowl game happened.

Despite the serious setback, Smith revealed Monday he's going to enter the draft:

Jaylon Smith @thejaylonsmith

I want to thank everyone for all your prayers and support. Same vision, different path ! https://t.co/qyMF8ITKrK

By far the best move for Smith, it's still hard to see how the serious injury will impact his stock. It sounds like he avoided nerve damage and will make a solid recovery, but the idea of not having a first-round pick play in 2016 and the risk of another injury when Smith actually hits the field might hurt his stock.

For now, it only makes sense for a team able to afford grabbing Smith and sitting him for a year to actually do so. In other words, a contender such as the Arizona Cardinals late in the draft.

Unlike a team looking to rebuild, Arizona can afford to take the best player available and stash him on the roster for a year. Smith's versatility makes him a perfect fit with Arizona's multifaceted look, too.

Smith's stock figures to be all over the place in the coming months. Already perhaps the top prospect before the injury, no player has more intrigue around his name as draft season begins.

Stats courtesy of NFL.com and are accurate as of January 11. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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