The 2015 NFL Draft is about to get underway on Thursday, April 30th. It will feature seven rounds with the final day of the draft ending on Saturday, May 2nd. This is a very exciting draft class with plenty of talent at the skill positions. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are getting all the hype, but Amari Cooper headlines an intriguing class of receivers.
Offensive and defensive linemen usually make up the majority of the first-round selections. While the defensive line is very deep at the top, the offensive line doesn’t appear to be as strong as it would be most seasons, especially at the all-important left tackle position. Many consider it the second-most important position in the game behind the quarterback. Let’s take a look at who I have going where in the first round with my 2015 NFL Mock Draft. Note the order is current with all of the 2015 draft trades that have been made through today.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft. He is big and durable with a strong arm, and his football IQ is one of his most underrated assets. While he’s also the biggest risk in the draft due to his off-the-field behavior, the Buccaneers also know that they’d be getting the best player in the draft.
2. Tennessee Titans, Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
While there has been plenty of talk that the Titans are willing to move forward with Zach Mettengerger, the fact of the matter is that they need to upgrade the quarterback position. Mariota isn’t the perfect fit for Ken Whisenhunt’s offense, but many coaches before him have taken talent over system fits. That being said, the more likely scenario is that the Titans trade down and get more draft picks while allowing another team to draft Mariota. But I’m not projecting trades with this mock draft.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars, Leonard Williams, DE, USC
Many feel that Williams is the No. 1 player in the draft. That makes this a dream scenario for the Jaguars to get the most talented guy at the No. 3 spot. The Jaguars have made some moves to improve their defensive line, but Williams is an impact player who will make any defense better from day one.
4. Oakland Raiders, Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The Raiders could have a lot of options here. If Leonard Williams is still around, they would probably take him. Plus, they are interested in both Amari Cooper and Kevin White. But Cooper is a true No. 1, a supremely gifted route runner who has 4.4 speed and the ability to run past defenders. Adding a weapon like him will only help progress Derek Carr in his second season.
5. Washington Redskins, Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
Fowler really impressed in the combine to back up what he did on tape. He was asked to move around a lot in college, otherwise his sack totals would have been even better. The Redskins desperately need a pass rusher, and they’d be getting an elite one in Fowler with the No. 5 pick.
6. New York Jets, Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Jets addressed their biggest need in free agency by signing cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, meaning Trae Waynes is not an option. New York will be looking to take the best available player in this spot while bolstering their pass rush. A run on pass-rushers in the Top 10 could force their hand here and make them take Shane Ray. It will be either he or Vic Beasley in this spot.
7. Chicago Bears, Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
It appears that White is the consensus pick for the Bears almost everywhere I look. They need a wide receiver after Brandon Marshall left in the offseason. White would be a pretty good pick at this point despite the fact that he only had one good season at West Virginia. He is a big-play threat with size and speed, and he can separate when the ball is in the air while coming down with difficult, contested catches.
8. Atlanta Falcons, Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The Falcons have needed to bolster their pass rush over the past couple seasons. New defensive coordinator Richard Smith will get Beasley going in the same way Denver was able to get Von Miller going. He may be the best pass-rusher in the entire class, and he has 44.5 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. The only concern is that he may not be an every-down player, but in passing situations, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
9. New York Giants, Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
The Giants desperately need offensive line help to protect Eli Manning. Brandon Scherff is the perfect fit for a Tom Coughlin-coached team. He lacks the ideal length to play the tackle position, but he would make for an excellent guard if need be. He is just an absolute beast who beats his man time and time again. He would either take over the right tackle position for Justin Push, or he’d be a major upgrade at left guard, which would enable Weston Richburg to play his natural position at center.
10. St. Louis Rams, Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
Perriman has made a big move up almost everyone’s big board over the past month. He looks explosive on tape, and then validated that with a sub-4.3 in the 40-yard dash two different times at his pro day. The Rams just haven’t been able to find a true weapon in their passing game for years, but Perriman would be that guy. He is one of the biggest sleeper in the draft and may fall further than No. 10, but he shouldn’t.
11. Minnesota Vikings, Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Vikings could look for a receiver here, but the elite receivers are already gone, which means they need to fill their next-biggest need. Waynes is the top cornerback in the draft and the Vikings have a need there. When you face Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler three times a year, you need steady producers in the secondary, and Waynes is certainly one of those guys.
12. Cleveland Browns, Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
The Browns need a quarterback, but they won’t be able to address it here. The team’s biggest needs outside of QB are at wide receiver, right tackle and nose tackle. With Shelton being the best player left on the board, and plenty of receivers and right tackle prospects left, I look for them to go with the big, 6-2, 339-pounder out of Washington. He is a dominant force against the run and will require constant double-teams. He can also push the pocket as a pass rusher.
13. New Orleans Saints, Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
Gregory has seen his stock slide in recent weeks, and he’s up against many elite pass-rushers in the first round. His issues off the field and his lack of size have many teams shying away from him. But, Gregory has loads of talent and would be a perfect fit in New Orleans. He has length and explosiveness, and it really shows up when you watch the tape. He’s better against the run than his frame would suggest, too.
14. Miami Dolphins, DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
There was never a doubt that Mike Williams and the Dolphins would be parting ways this offseason. Now, the Dolphins have a chance to get a guy that could be even better than Williams in Parker. They did add Kenny Stills this offseason, but he’s not a No. 1 target, and neither is Jarvis Landry. They had interest in Michael Crabtree and missed, but now they have a chance to get an even better receiver in Parker with the No. 14 pick in the draft. He had a huge finish to last season in Louisville and that should carry over as a pro.
15. San Francisco 49ers, Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
The 49ers desperately need cornerback help after losing both Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox this offseason. Though Waynes is off the board, I look for them to take the next-best option in Collins out of LSU. Otherwise, someone like Shareece Wright may have to start for San Francisco, which would be a disastrous scenario.
16. Houston Texans, Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
After losing Andre Johnson this offseason, the Texans had a huge need at receiver. They did add possession receiver Cecil Shorts III, but they would certainly benefit from adding a big-play target with size opposite DeAndre Hopkins. They could elect to go with someone like Jaelen Strong from Arizona State, but Green-Beckham is the more likely choice. He is a concern with his off-field issues, but his skill set is undeniable at 6-5, 237 with 4.39 speed. On talent alone, he’s probably a top-three receiver in this class.
17. San Diego Chargers, Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
The Chargers could use a couple other players here like OL Cameron Erving, DT Malcolm Brown and OTs T.J. Clemmings and Ereck Flowers. However, none of those players would make as big of an impact as a running back like Gurley. Ryan Matthews went to Philadelphia in free agency, leaving a big need for a lead back. Gurley does bring durability concerns as he’s coming off a torn ACL, but he’s still one of the most talented players in the entire class with his blend of power and breakaway speed.
18. Kansas City Chiefs, Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
The Chiefs were a disaster last season along the offensive line. Only six teams surrendered more sacks, which is very poor when you consider the Chiefs are a primary running team. Andy Reid loves drafting offensive linemen as well. They did trade for guard Ben Grubbs, but they still need more help. Erving has very good length and athleticism for the center position and could step in to replace Rodney Hudson, who left for the Raiders in free agency. He could play multiple spots along the offensive line if asked, which is a trait that’s worth a little big more.
19. Cleveland Browns, D.J. Humphries, OT/G, Florida
The Browns have expressed a desire to fortify their offensive and defensive lines. After taking Shelton at No. 12, the need at No. 19 is along the former. The front office wanted to upgrade Mitchell Schwartz last year as they had plans to move him inside. Here’s a potential new starter in D.J. Humphries, who has been generating a lot of buzz leading into the draft.
20. Philadelphia Eagles, Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The Eagles could use another pass-catching threat with the departure of Jeremy Maclin, but this is a very deep class of receivers, and many of the best are already gone at this point. The second-biggest need is at safety, where Collins is the best in this closs. He does his best work near the line of scrimmage with excellent instincts and tackling ability. He is built like a weakside linebacker and can hold up in coverage.
21. Cincinnati Bengals, Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
With left tackle Andrew Whitworth set to hit free agency after 2015, the Bengals must look toward the future. Flowers is a tough player with very good intangibles who takes well to coaching. He has a massive frame and is effective in both pass and run blocking. The Bengals also need a pass-rusher, but the return of Michael Johnson in free agency lessens that need.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers, Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The Steelers have a pressing need at cornerback as they simply lack high-end talent there. Johnson doesn’t project as a star right away, but he was a standout on a lousy team throughout his college career. He has good length and mirrors receivers as well as any corner in the draft. He makes man-to-man coverage look easy while also helping out against the run.
23. Detroit Lions, La’El Collins, T, LSU
Most are projecting the Lions to take a defensive tackle after the departure of Ndamukong Suh. However, they already addressed this need in free agency with the additions of Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker. The offensive line remains the biggest weakness in Detroit. They didn’t run block or pass protect well at all in 2014. They won’t be able to take full advantage of their weapons unless they improve up front. Collins can play tackle, but he’d also be an immediate upgrade at left guard as one of the most dominant run-blockers in the draft.
24. Arizona Cardinals, Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
The Cardinals have done a nice job of plugging holes in free agency and don’t really have any glaring needs. They could get a running back here like Melvin Gordon, but I look for them to add a pass-rusher like Bud Dupree instead. He is a raw player right now, but he’d benefit from playing alongside veterans Sean Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley. He can be a rotational pass-rusher to help keep guys fresh. The Cardinals have been trying to improve their team speed, and Dupree would fit right in as he ran a 4.56 40 with a 1.60 split at 6-4, 269 points. His explosiveness jumps off the tape at you.
25. Carolina Panthers, Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Panthers couldn’t block a lick for Cam Newton early in the season, but they improved up front the rest of the way. However, there are still some glaring holes, especially at both tackle positions. They don’t have much overall talent up front at all. Peat does struggle against power at times, but he has all the tools to develop into a good starting NFL left tackle.
26. Baltimore Ravens, Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Ravens do have some priorities heading into the draft to improve their secondary at cornerback and safety. But they also have a glaring need at receiver opposite Steve Smith Sr. thanks to the departure of Torrey Smith this offseason. Strong is a big-play threat that would bring what Smith brought to the table before him. He runs a 4.44 40 and has a 42-inch vertical leap, which is impressive for a player of his size (6-2, 217 pounds). He also separates from defenders when the ball is in the air and makes contested catches.
27. Dallas Cowboys, Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
After failing to sign DeMarco Murray, who rushed for over 1,800 yards last year, the Cowboys have a glaring need at running back. They added Darren McFadden, but he and Joseph Randle are not the answers. In this scenario, Gordon is still on the board and is an easy choice for the Cowboys. He doesn’t catch the ball as well as Murray does, but he certainly has everything you want in terms of running the ball with his breakaway speed and subtle power. He is a true game-breaker who will be a fan favorite in Dallas for years to come.
28. Denver Broncos, T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
The Broncos have to replace Orlando Franklin, who left for San Diego in free agency. They really struggled in pass protection last year, so they need an upgrade at tackle. T.J. Clemmings is still raw and has only played tackle for two seasons now, but he has the raw tools to succeed in the NFL with his combination of length and power.
29. Indianapolis Colts, Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
While the Colts certainly need an offensive lineman, there’s just not any worth taking this high in this scenario. Bjoern Werner has yet to prove he can be an impact player, so adding someone like Harold to develop behind veterans Trent Cole and Robert Mathis is a necessity. He needs to improve his recognition skills and tackling, but he flashes tremendous upside as a pass-rusher and is a solid run defender.
30. Green Bay Packers, Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The biggest need for the Packers is at cornerback after losing both Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency. The value matches up here as Peters is the top cornerback left on the board. He does have some off-field issues with multiple suspensions and run-ins with coaches in Washington, but at this point he’s worth the risk. If you judge by tape study alone, you’ll find that Peters is the best corner in the class. He possesses good size, strength, athleticism and instincts.
31. New Orleans Saints, Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
The Saints did address the cornerback position in free agency with the addition of Brandon Browner, but they could still use another corner. Jones has elite tools for the positions with good size, range and athleticism. He had a ridiculous 12 feet, 3 inches in the broad jump in the combine, while also posting an impressive vertical of 44.5 inches. Jones does need to improve his anticipation skills, but he is a hard worker who will pan out wherever he goes.
32. New England Patriots, Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas
The Patriots have a number of different ways they could go, including running back and cornerback. However, with Vince Wilfork gone, they have a glaring need at defensive tackle. I really like what Texas’ Malcolm Brown brings to the table if he’s still available at pick No. 32. He is a two-gapping run-stopper like Wilfork and can play right away. Brown isn’t a complete product yet, but he’s easily one of the better run defenders among defensive linemen in this draft.
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