No. 1 Overall Pick: Tennessee Titans (3-12)
The Titans have the first pick, but with Marcus Mariota already proving he can indeed be a very effective NFL quarterback, and the fact that the Titans and Chip Kelly may be a match made in heaven -- Kelly reportedly offered two first-round picks, a third-round pick, defensive end Fletcher Cox and others to move up to No. 2 to snag Mariota in last year's draft because he fits Kelly's system so well -- it's highly unlikely that Goff goes there.
Beyond that, it's also likely that the Titans trade back, and that's what makes this projection so complicated.
"Tennessee having the No. 1 pick doesn't mean he doesn't get picked one," the NFL Network's Mike Silver says.
There are plenty of teams in the draft that need a quarterback, and many that would pay a king's ransom to move up to get one. Beyond the teams we'll discuss in-depth here, the Washington Redskins could be looking for a signal-caller, as could the New York Jets. This year, Kirk Cousins and Ryan Fitzpatrick have certainly moved the needle, but the NFL adjusts very quickly. Cousins has only been a starter for one season -- his passer efficiency rating of 99.2 is far above his career 77.53 passer rating in three previous seasons. Fitzpatrick, after a QB rating of 91.9 in one game in 2006, has not had a passer rating of over 56.7 in any season since then, until this year. Geno Smith, who hasn't played since having his jaw broken back in August, has not been the game-breaker the Jets had hoped, costing Rex Ryan his job with a 4-12 season last year, after an 8-8 rookie campaign in which he threw for 3,046 yards, and 12 touchdowns to 21 interceptions.
"Today, there's not a [Jadeveon] Clowney, a Mario Williams, who they say, 'This guy is so good, that I'm not going to take a quarterback,'" Silver says. "I think there's a reasonably high degree of quarterback neediness and a perceived quarterback neediness in the league right now."
There are other teams that may not seem like they need a quarterback -- the New York Giants come to mind -- but could still trade up to get Goff to replace a not-young incumbent. At some point, Big Blue is going to need someone other than Eli Manning. The same could be said for the Arizona Cardinals, who have 36-year old Carson Palmer at the helm. Pretty much every team that doesn't have Rodgers or Brady under center could be a candidate to trade up, but the Jets, Redskins, Giants and Cardinals make the most sense.
"Without revealing too many state secrets," says Silver, "I've had specific conversations about Jared, not initiated by me, with very high-ranking executives of numerous teams that are going to be outside the top five, teams who seem to have quarterbacks who you would think are entrenched, and are very open to the idea of trading up to go get a special quarterback. That's the light in which Jared is being examined right now: 'Is this guy The One? If he is, I need to be sure, because I'm ready to do something extraordinary to go get him, and even if I have a guy right now that you would say is good enough.'"
That pretty much counts out the Green Bay Packers, the Indianapolis Colts and the Seattle Seahawks.
"Pretty much, any team worried about the age of the incumbent, or if that incumbent is not Aaron Rodgers, is going to at least think about it," Silver says.
"In my opinion, Jared has the best chance to be viewed as special," Silver says. "It's not going to be a simple endeavour of letting him fall to you."
"I'll be happy to go anywhere that wants me," Goff said on Thursday.
No. 2 Overall Pick: Cleveland Browns (3-12)
Oh, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. What are the Browns to do? The Browns have moved on and then crawled back to Johnny Manziel more times than he's made the getting-paid gesture in the past two seasons, so do they take another quarterback, and risk adding Goff's name to the 23-strong Browns QB Graveyard?
"Most teams, when they're drafting one and two and three, it's a new regime," Silver says. "Their mentality, rightfully, is 'We're never going to be in this position again, and if we are, we're all getting fired.' It's a unique opportunity, and you have to be open to taking advantage of that opportunity. Any quarterback who has the chance to be special, there's just a lot of inertia towards talking yourself into that. Sam Bradford wasn't going to be the No. 1 overall guy, at this stage [in 2009]. It was going to be Ndamukong Suh, or Gerald McCoy. Eventually, the Rams just said, 'You know what? We think this guy could be a special quarterback, we're picking No. 1, we're taking him.'
"The Lions weren't necessarily going to take Matthew Stafford No. 1 at this stage, but the more they looked at him, it's almost like you talk yourself into, 'This guy's going to be special.' It's not a stretch, with Jared, to talk yourself into it. He's not like a short guy, or a guy who doesn't have incredible arm strength. You're looking at a guy who's got every important classic quarterback attribute. I don't think it's a stretch to talk yourself into that."
Have the Browns painted themselves into a corner, backing Manziel, even after the rehab and the relapses? If anything, Goff is the Anti-Johnny Football, with nary a single off-the-field issue, a quiet demeanor, an aversion to the kinds of social situations that Manziel seems to be inexorably attracted to like a moth to a flame, an overriding sense of humility and as much of a distaste for the trappings of fame as one could ever hope to expect from a 21-year old with the world at his feet. Could Goff in fact be just what the doctor ordered for Cleveland? The Browns already have two other Bears on the roster in Mitchell Schwartz and Alex Mack.
"We're talking about this at a time where I can't tell you who the GM's going to be, necessarily, and I can't tell you who the coach is going to be," Silver says. "That's a factor."
Cleveland, like many teams that find themselves at the top of the draft, is a team in transition, a organization in upheaval that conducted a much-maligned coaching search just this last offseason.
"I would say you're talking about a guy who not only has had uneven performances, and not only is clearly struggling with what seems to be a substance/alcohol issue, but more troublingly, has trust issues," Silver says of Manziel, "first with his teammates, and more importantly, with his bosses. In my opinion, Johnny Manziel is far from entrenched, despite what they've invested in him.
"When I look at Jared, he's close to the Anti-Johnny, and that's not just because of off the field. It's because a lot of people think Johnny's kind of entitled. For a kid who grew up in a nice town, and I don't think has lived a troubled life, [Goff] sure comes off as the opposite of entitled. He seems to me to be a guy who cares about his teammates, and a grinder."
No. 3 Overall Pick: San Diego Chargers (4-11)
Goff has almost universally been rated as the No. 5 player overall in the 2016 draft pool, and out of the top 10 teams in the draft, only three need quarterbacks -- although, it can be argued, that the San Diego Chargers may benefit from having an understudy to Philip Rivers, similar to how the Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 as an understudy to Brett Farve.
Rivers is 34, and with the team potentially moving to Los Angeles as soon as next season, there were some rumblings that he did not want to move with the team, but those rumors were somewhat laid to rest by his signing of an extension with the Chargers through 2019. That would make Rivers 37 at the end of his deal, and, should the Chargers choose Goff, he would get the same kind of apprenticeship as Rodgers, and he would take over a franchise in need of a new face and a new identity for a new city. This is a pick that makes a lot of sense, if Goff isn't snatched up earlier.
Plus, it would unite Cal's all-time leading passer with Cal's all-time leading receiver in Keenan Allen, not that the organization is concerned with making fans over 400 miles away happy.
"It's the Drew Brees-Philip Rivers situation all over again," Silver says. "They had Drew Brees, drafted Philip, and all of the sudden, Drew stepped up and started becoming the star that he is, and it really went down to the wire. Had Drew not hurt his shoulder badly in the last game of his Chargers career -- and that was a game that, on paper, I think Philip would have played, but they wanted to trade him, so they were protecting him, and, ironically, trying to prevent him from getting injured -- I think Philip is the one that gets traded, and Drew stays."
If Goff is there for the Chargers, who would potentially take the second quarterback in the draft, if no one comes up and takes Tennessee's spot, that's right where Goff could go.
No. 4 Pick Overall: Dallas Cowboys (4-11)
Jerry Jones loves to make a splash. Sometimes, that splash is a Greg Hardy, but other times, that splash is a Terrell Owens. We haven't been able to ascertain whether or not the Cowboys had folks in the building watching the Armed Forces Bowl, but I've been told they were certainly paying very close attention.
Why? Well, let's take a look at the current quarterback situation. Tony Romo has had four injuries in the past three seasons, including two breaks of his collarbone this season, a herniated disc in his back in 2013 and a fractured transverse process in his back in two places last season.
The time he's missed this year has led to a cavalcade of very-much-not-stars under center in Dallas, with Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore and Brandon Weeden taking snaps. If anything, the Cowboys need some form of reliable option behind Romo, who's been considering having a surgery this offseason to strengthen his seemingly brittle clavicle, and will be 36 when next season starts. He's not getting younger, and he's not healing any faster. If Jones wants that next face-of-the-franchise quarterback, Goff could very well be that perfect fit, especially given Jason Garrett's offensive philosophy, which favors big outside receivers, an up-the-middle running back and a big offensive line. Another hallmark is the vertical game. Goff certainly has shown remarkable ability to throw the deep ball -- he's been ranked one of the best in the nation by ProFootballFocus.com. Garrett's offense is also a timing-based scheme, a concept Goff has been used to over the last three years, though it depends more on skill-vs.-skill match-ups than purely getting players in space.
But, this season, Garrett's attack has been more flacid than an undercooked pancake, scoring 252 points -- 31st in the NFL -- and ranking dead last in the league in plays of over 20 yards and red zone touchdown percentage. Of course, Dallas has not had anyone with near the arm strength Goff could bring to the table to take advantage of the deep routes which make that offense hum.
Our Cowboys insider, Mike Fisher, gave this opinion:
"There are outsiders under the mistaken impression that 'Jerry won't take a QB high,'" Fisher says. "Wrongheaded on multiple levels."
"One, Dallas had a first-round grade on Manziel two years ago," Fisher says. "Some of that was window-dressing. But had they somehow seen him slide to second, they'd have taken him."
Another NFL insider echoed that sentiment.
"Two, Jerry doesn't do the picking," says Fisher. "This is Jerry supervising [Will] McClay, Stephen [Jones] and Garrett. They decide, mostly."
Third? The romo factor -- his age, cap-wise, Fisher says, gives him about two more years.
"It's time," Fisher says.
"Dallas is prepared to make a QB a top-four pick if one ranks that high on the board," Fisher says, "and it's possible both might (Linebacker Myles Jack is among the handful also highly-thought-of so far)."
No. 5 Overall Pick: San Francisco 49ers (4-11)
Be careful what you wish for, Jared. Yes, Goff grew up rooting for the 49ers, and chose his No. 16 for Joe Montana, but this is an organization that seems, at least outwardly, to be in disarray on the field.
"I don't think the 49ers are viewd as the dumpster fire in many circles that they are in the public," Silver says. "Again, we don't know who the coach is going to be of that team, but I would say this: Don't underestimate the Aaron Rodgers effect and the backdrop."
The 49ers of course had the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, and instead of taking Rodgers -- another lifelong 49ers fan who went to nearby Cal -- they took Alex Smith. Rodgers, of course, has gone on to be an MVP and a Super Bowl champion, while the 49ers, well, they own some very expensive property in Santa Clara.
"History does play a role, sometimes, in these deliberations," Silver says. "For example, the Texans might have taken Derek Carr at the top of the second round, or traded back into the first round to take him two years ago, and they didn't, because they know that his brother was a failed No. 1 overall pick for that franchise. Likewise, the 49ers have this thing of, 'You passed on Aaron Rodgers, the Cal star, who went on to become the best quarterback in the world,' and they hear about all the time. Now, there's another quarterback from Cal, who might be special, and you have the chance to get him? I think that enters into the psyche. I think that enters into almost everyone's psyche -- Oh, Aaron Rodgers went to Cal, people weren't sure he was the No. 1 overall pick, how'd that turn out?"
Our 49ers expert, Chris Biderman, had this to say:
"The last 24 months have been disastrous for the 49ers since the opening of Levi’s Stadium. Expectations for the organization couldn’t have been higher, coming off three straight trips to the conference title game and a Super Bowl appearance after 2012. Since then, CEO Jed York parted with Jim Harbaugh, the stadium hasn’t lived up to expectations, and the team has gone from contender to off the cliff to one of the worst in the NFL, low-lighted by an embarrassing loss to Cleveland Dec. 13.
"With the fans ready to revolt, York needs something big to happen this offseason to bring some enthusiasm back to the 49ers brand. Bringing in a potential franchise quarterback life Goff could be part of that process. But Goff would be a fraction of the equation. San Francisco still has to decide if struggling first-year head coach Jim Tomsula deserves another another season. The same can be said for general manager Trent Baalke, who has watched the roster erode under his watch without young players developing as quickly as the team would like - but that could have something to do with the coaching staff.
"With Colin Kaepernick unlikely to come back at his $14-million cap number and Blaine Gabbert doing little more than acting as a bridge quarterback, the 49ers would be wise to invest their first-round pick in Goff, who has the upside of a franchise-type quarterback."