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Way-Too-Early 2016 Nfl Mock Draft


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If you saw some of our TV segments on Monday, you'll know that putting together the way-too-early mock draft for the following season is not my favorite assignment here at ESPN. (You also probably noticed Mel Kiper celebrating the fact that I have to do it.)

But I understand that there is great interest already from fans as to what college football players enter the 2015 season as the top prospects for next year's draft, so I've done my best here to match up many of those players with team fits that make sense.

A couple of important notes:

• I have not done full tape studies on any of these players yet. We will begin going through the 2016 class next week and produce preseason scouting evaluations that will run in August. I made picks here based on what I've been able to see from these players in person, on TV and on limited tape and also what I've heard from league sources.

• The draft order below was generated for us by Football Outsiders, using their early projected records for the 2015 season.

Here is our way-too-early NFL mock draft for 2016.

1. Washington Redskins (Football Outsiders' projected 2015 record: 5-11)

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State: We don't yet know what the future holds for Robert Griffin III, but if the projected records here from Football Outsiders come true, it's safe to assume Washington might be looking for a new franchise quarterback. Hackenberg struggled in 2014 with a 12-touchdown, 15-interception season, but he's a big-time talent with a pro-style skill set.

2. Cleveland Browns (Projected record: 5-11)

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State: Josh McCown is a short-term fix at quarterback for the Browns, and Johnny Manziel's future is up in the air. Cook has good size at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and is coming off of back-to-back productive seasons as a starter, including leading the Spartans to Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl victories.

3. Oakland Raiders (Projected record: 5-11)

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: Bosa was dominant as a true sophomore last season. He's a very strong run defender who is also effective at rushing the passer with his ability to convert speed to power. He's one of the few prospects here that I've studied enough tape on to feel confident in his early evaluation. Assuming he stays healthy and continues to develop, it's hard to imagine Bosa falling out of the top 10 picks in the 2016 draft -- and if you made me choose right now, I'd say he's the top-rated prospect in next year's draft class.

4. Tennessee Titans (Projected record: 6-10)

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss: This pick would provide additional pass protection for 2015 first-round QB Marcus Mariota opposite 2014 first-round OT Taylor Lewan. Tunsil has very good length, power and agility as a pass protector and is able to get good push as a run-blocker.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Projected record: 6-10)

Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State: I'm probably slotting him too early here, but Ogbah has an intriguing skill set and was highly productive during the 2014 season. The Bucs should be able to prioritize defense in next year's draft after taking QB Jameis Winston No. 1 in 2015, and they need a pass-rushing defensive end.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars (Projected record: 6-10)

Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida: He's smaller than ideal for a cornerback in Gus Bradley's defense, but he's an elite talent. His man-to-man cover skills are outstanding, and he's a playmaker due to his instincts and anticipation.

7. New York Jets (Projected record: 6-10)

Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State: First he has to win the Buckeyes' starting job in 2015. But if he can gain more experience and improve his ability to read defenses and take care of the football, he has the potential to rise up teams' draft boards. He has a big, strong frame and the arm strength to easily drive the football down the field.

8. St. Louis Rams (Projected record: 6-10)

Duke Williams, WR, Auburn: Williams established himself as a big-play threat in his first season at Auburn after transferring from junior college, averaging 16.2 yards per reception on 45 catches. He needs to improve his consistency, but has the physical tools (he's 6-2, 224 pounds) to be a very good NFL receiver.

9. Arizona Cardinals (Projected record: 6-10)

Jared Goff, QB, California: The Cardinals eventually need to find a long-term replacement at quarterback for Carson Palmer, who will turn 36 this year. Goff has good size (6-4, 210 pounds), a big arm and is a naturally accurate passer. He was really productive as a true sophomore in 2014: 3,973 yards, 35 TDs, 7 INTs.

10. Minnesota Vikings (Projected record: 6-10)

Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame: Stanley has very good size for the offensive tackle position at 6-6, 315, and he brings with him the versatility of having played a full season at right tackle and another at left tackle. The Vikings could be looking for offensive line help next offseason.

11. Carolina Panthers (Projected record: 7-9)

Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State: The Panthers waited until the fourth round to address their lackluster offensive line in the 2015 draft (Oklahoma OT Daryl Williams), so they could still be in the market for O-line help next year. Decker is another long (6-8, 315) offensive tackle prospect who could play his way into first-round territory.

12. Chicago Bears (Projected record: 7-9)

Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State: I love watching this guy. He plays really hard and makes plays all over the field. He was awesome on the tape I watched of the Miami (FL) game, as he recorded four pass breakups and an interception. The Bears need to keep improving their secondary.

13. San Francisco 49ers (Projected record: 7-9)

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss: He is coming off a nasty broken ankle against Auburn this season, so his recovery and long-term durability prognosis will be closely monitored. But when healthy, Treadwell is a big (6-2, 229), explosive athlete with the physicality and leaping ability to win jump-ball situations.

14. Detroit Lions (Projected record: 7-9)

Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State: He has great size (6-6, 317) and two years of starting experience at left tackle for the Spartans. The offensive line isn't an area of strength for the Lions, so here they'd be able to bolster it with the help of a local product.

15. Houston Texans (Projected record: 8-8)

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Elliott was one of the Buckeyes' star performers during their championship run, scoring four touchdowns in their title game win over Oregon. The Texans could make him their running back of the future, with Arian Foster an unrestricted free agent in 2017.

16. Buffalo Bills (Projected record: 8-8)

Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor: This is a pick based on potential, not production. We were underwhelmed by Oakman's performance on tape this past season, but he is very physically gifted (he's listed at 6-9, 280) and could rise up draft boards this year if he plays with more urgency and consistency.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (Projected record: 8-8)

Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss: He was the headliner of the Rebels' outstanding 2013 recruiting class, and he's played multiple spots along the Ole Miss defensive front. He has good length, upper-body strength and initial explosiveness.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (Projected record: 8-8)

A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama: He is used in multiple roles in Alabama's multiple-front defense, with the size (6-4, 320) and power to clog up the middle of the line and the length to set the edge against the run. He's also disruptive against the pass with his ability to push the pocket and get his hands up in passing lanes.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (Projected record: 9-7)

Su'a Cravens, S, USC: The Eagles need to continue to improve their secondary, and we know how much Chip Kelly likes Pac-12 players. Cravens has the size (6-1, 225 pounds) of an in-the-box safety who can also play some weakside linebacker. He has trouble covering the quickest slot receivers, but he can hold up in coverage for the most part because of his length and instincts.

20. San Diego Chargers (Projected record: 9-7)

Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia: Floyd was one of the most explosive edge rushers in all of college football last season, with outstanding length and athleticism. The Chargers need to continue to upgrade their pass rush.

21. New Orleans (Projected record: 9-7)

Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: The younger brother of Bears 2014 first-round CB Kyle Fuller, Kendall had a strong true sophomore campaign for the Hokies last season. He uses his hands very well and has good size, athleticism and instincts.

22. New York Giants (Projected record: 9-7)

Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA: Clark jumped off the tape when I was studying the Bruins defense for DE Owa Odighizuwa and LB Eric Kendricks for the 2015 draft. He has good size (6-3, 308) and playmaking ability. The Giants are always looking to add talented players to their defensive line.

23. Baltimore Ravens (Projected record: 9-7)

Carl Lawson, OLB, Auburn: He missed the entire 2014 season due to injury, but he was an elite recruit who flashed as a true freshman with his explosive athleticism and natural power. He has the potential to develop into an impact player as an edge rusher.

24. Kansas City Chiefs (Projected record: 9-7)

Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame: Smith has flashed a lot of raw talent during his Notre Dame career, and has played both inside and outside linebacker in the Fighting Irish defense. He'd fit best as a weak inside linebacker in the Chiefs' 3-4 defense.

25. Atlanta Falcons (Projected record: 10-6)

Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA: Jack is similar to 2015 first-round pick Shaq Thompson in that he's a defensive player who also starred at times at running back. His NFL projection is as a weakside linebacker. He has outstanding range against the run and is a playmaker in coverage.

26. Indianapolis Colts (Projected record: 10-6)

Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor: The Colts didn't address their offensive line until the seventh round of the 2015 draft, so tackle could be a glaring need by this time next year. Drango has good size (6-6, 310) and experience (three-year starter) at left tackle. He underwent back surgery last offseason.

27. Green Bay Packers (Projected record: 10-6)

Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska: Collins had a very good true sophomore season, leading the Huskers in tackles for loss and trailing only Cowboys 2015 second-rounder Randy Gregory for the team lead in sacks. The Packers need to make some long-term fixes to their defensive line.

28. Denver Broncos (Projected record: 10-6)

Scooby Wright, ILB, Arizona: He won the Bednarik award in 2014 as a true sophomore for being the best defensive player in college football. He isn't an elite athlete, but his effort level and playmaking instincts are outstanding. He's effective at pressuring the quarterback as a blitzer as well as when he's lined up as an edge rusher -- he totaled 14 sacks last year.

29. Miami Dolphins (Projected record: 11-5)

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: He has great size (6-3, 242 pounds) and exceptional power, and he was very effective for the Crimson Tide last season: 990 yards, 5.8 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns to go with two receiving TDs. He isn't the most elusive back, but he's a tough runner with good balance.

30. Dallas Cowboys (Projected record: 11-5)

Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State: He was a big-time playmaker for the Buckeyes' defense as a redshirt freshman last season. He lacks ideal size and strength at 6-2, 228, but his combination of athleticism, instincts, savvy and coverage skills is outstanding.

31. New England Patriots (Projected record: 11-5)

Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU: Despite losing starters Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in free agency, the Patriots didn't draft a cornerback until the seventh round of the 2015 draft, so this could still be a need position next year. White is a very talented player who started for LSU his true freshman and sophomore seasons and also serves as one of the team's returners.

32. Seattle Seahawks (Projected record: 12-4)

Max Tuerk, C/G, USC: Offensive line might be the weakest spot on the Seahawks' roster, and they didn't choose a lineman until the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Tuerk possesses excellent versatility, having started games at left tackle as a true freshman before starting the full season at left guard in 2013 and the full season at center in 2014.

Other players considered

I couldn't fit these players into the 2016 mock, but all were under consideration:

-- DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

-- Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

-- Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss

-- Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State

-- Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State

http://espn.go.com/nfl/draft2015/insider/story/_/id/12836848/christian-hackenberg-tops-way-too-early-2016-mock-draft-nfl-draft

Edited by FentayeJones
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