Now that Super Bowl 50 is behind us and the 2015 season is officially over, draft season is in full swing. Although the 2016 NFL Draft won't be here until April 28, the NFL Combine is fast approaching, set to begin on Feb. 23. In anticipation of that, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has released his first positional rankings of the draft season.
Mayock, who is best known for his draft prospect analysis, has ranked his top five players at each position. He'll update these rankings throughout the weeks leading up to the draft based on prospects' performances at the Combine and their pro days. Mayock only releases one mock draft each season on the night before the first round begins.
Below are Mayock's position-by-position rankings, via NFL.com.
Many draft analysts expect Cal's Jared Goff to be the first quarterback off the board in the 2016 Draft, but Mayock has Goff ranked second at quarterback behind North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. If Mayock is right and Wentz is the first quarterback off the board, it will be the first time that's happened with a FCS quarterback since the Houston Oilers took Steve McNair third overall in 1998. Paxton Lynch of Memphis, who is 6'7 and 245 pounds and also has the potential to go in the first round, is third. Noticeably absent is Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
As the NFL has become more pass-focused, draft strategy has shifted away from selecting running backs in the first round. However, Ezekiel Elliott is the kind of complete back who warrants a first-round pick. Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama, is expected to go in the second round. Other analysts have Alex Collins out of Arkansas ranked behind Elliott and Henry, but Mayock goes with Devontae Booker of Utah instead.
Laquon Treadwell is widely considered to be the best receiver in this year's draft, with the size and physicality to contribute in the NFL immediately. Immediately behind Treadwell, Mayock has Baylor's Corey Coleman, who is a true deep threat and beat out Treadwell for the 2015 Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the best wide receiver in the nation each season. Ohio State's Michael Thomas, who has great hands, runs very clean routes and is very physical, is third on Mayock's list. TCU's Josh Doctson and Notre Dame's Will Fuller round out the group.
Topping Mayock's list of tight ends is Hunter Henry out of Arkansas, a solid receiving threat with great hands who had zero drops last season. Austin Hooper of Stanford, who is a legitimate red zone and third down threat, is next, followed by South Carolina's Jerrell Adams, who runs clean routes and has a good catch radius.
Mocking the Draft's Dan Kadar has Laremy Tunsil out of Ole Miss slated to go first overall to the Tennessee Titans in his latest mock, and Mayock agrees that Tunsil is the best tackle in this year's draft, ranking him at the top of his position group. The two also agree on Ronnie Stanley, who Kadar has going sixth overall. With so many teams needing tackles, several of these players have the opportunity to go in the first round. The only player in Mayock's top five that Kadar doesn't project in the first round is Willie Beavers out of Western Michigan.
There aren't any real surprises in Mayock's guard rankings. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com calls Cody Whitehair of Kansas State one of the safest offensive linemen in the entire draft. Vadal Alexander from LSU has great size, but subpar athleticism. Joshua Garnett, third on Mayock's list, is the son of former NFL nose tackle Scott Garnett. Christian Westerman of Arizona State is versatile and athletic, and Graham Glasgow of Michigan is strong and has experience playing both guard and center.
1. Ryan Kelly, Alabama
2. Nick Martin, Notre Dame
3. Max Tuerk, USC
4. Evan Boehm, Missouri
5. Jack Allen, Michigan State
Kelly was a three-year starter at center for the national champions who has the potential to be in the starting lineup from day one this fall. Martin is the younger brother of Cowboys tackle Zack Martin. Though not as talented as his All-Pro sibling, Chris has a high football IQ and plays with a nasty streak that makes up for his relative lack of athleticism. Before tearing a ligament in his knee last October, many ranked Tuerk as the top player at his position. He is "100 percent sure" that he will be ready for next season.
Interior defensive line
1. DeForest Buckner, Oregon
2. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
3. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
4. Jarran Reed, Alabama
5. A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
Buckner is a consensus top-10 pick with a high motor and the ability to dominate in any defensive scheme. Nkemdiche would likely be number one on this list if it was based on talent alone. However, his history of off-field problems and underwhelming production at the collegiate level make him a high-risk/high-reward prospect. Rankins shot up the draft boards after a sterling performance at the Senior Bowl and should see his name called before the end of the first round.
1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State
2. Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
3. Shaq Lawson, Clemson
4. Leonard Floyd, Georgia
5. Kevin Dodd, Clemson
Bosa is the complete package on defense: an explosive pass rusher who is also consistently disruptive against the run. Dan Kadar says that Spence is the closest thing to Von Miller in this year's draft -- that's high praise for the Eastern Kentucky product who shined during Senior Bowl week with incredible burst off the edge and freakish athleticism for a guy his size. Dodd is an intriguing prospect because he started just one season at Clemson. Even though he doesn't have a lot of experience, he's shown the tools to be a productive starter in the NFL.
1. Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
2. Myles Jack, UCLA
3. Reggie Ragland, Alabama
4. Darron Lee, Ohio State
5. Deion Jones, LSU
It's mildly surprising to see Smith atop this list since he is currently rehabbing from a knee injury suffered in the Fiesta Bowl and his status for next season is unclear. If healthy, though, Smith could have easily been in the conversation for a top-5 pick as an absolute stud linebacker with the ability to dominate from sideline to sideline. Jack is another player with health concerns (his 2015 season was cut short by a knee injury), but remains an extremely gifted athlete and explosive playmaker all over the field. Jones is an undersized yet productive 4-3 'backer who could be a second-round steal.
1. Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
2. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
3. Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
4. Eli Apple, Ohio State
5. Cyrus Jones, Alabama
Ramsey earned the top spot in these rankings because of his positional versatility (he can play corner or safety) along with his exceptional range and instincts in the secondary. Hargreaves is arguably the top pure cover corner in this year's draft class with outstanding ball-hawking skills and excellent speed to handle vertical routes. A strong tackler and run stopper, Apple might be the most physical cornerback prospect available.
1. Karl Joseph, West Virginia
2. Vonn Bell, Ohio State
3. Darian Thompson, Boise State
4. Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah
5. Jeremy Cash, Duke
Unlike the cornerback crop, this is not a great draft for safeties. None of these guys are first-round picks in Dan Kadar's latest mock draft. Thompson really upped his draft stock with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, where he displayed both the athleticism to be a top pass defender and the strength to be a force in run support. Killebrew is a dynamic tackler with limited coverage skills who could excel as a strong safety or weakside linebacker at the next level.