Should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers use the No. 1 pick in the draft on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s signal caller James Winston? That is going to be the biggest storyline to follow throughout the 2015 NFL Draft process. It’s going to get obnoxious.
Update: Check out our NFL Draft 2015 preview.
It’s going to be like the beaten into the ground discussion of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in 2012. Or like Peyton Manning versus Ryan Leaf in 1998. Hopefully neither Mariota or Winston turns out to be the second coming of Leaf, but there’s truly no way of knowing right now.
The other key storyline about the 2015 draft is that it should be wide open after the top two quarterbacks are taken. The draft looks like it will be a deep one, but there are few certain franchise players. Because of that, some of the players who are high picks in this mock draft may not get picked this highly after the process plays out. Of course, what would be the fun of things if we knew exactly who was going where?
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Mariota is the pick for now before the complete vetting of he and Winston begins. He’s a highly skilled quarterback who is smart with the football and has steadily progressed as a pocket passer. Mariota truly becomes a special player, however, when a play breaks down and he uses his feet. Coming out of Oregon, he’s an advanced version of Colin Kaepernick – and that’s more of a compliment than it probably seems right now.
2. Tennessee Titans: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Despite a report to the contrary, the Titans shouldn’t be content with Zach Mettenberger knowing that they can get a quarterback like Winston in the first round. It’s true that Winston has some decision making issues – on the field and off it – but when he’s on, he’s the best player in college football. If he can turn it on in the NFL like he often did at Florida State, he could be the second coming of Ben Roethlisberger.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
The Jaguars have options at No. 3. They could go with whomever they think is the best offensive tackle in the draft or pick up a star defensive lineman like Leonard Williams of Southern California. Or they could choose Gregory, the prototype for a Leo if there has ever been one. Gregory is at his best when lined up wide, so he could thrive in Gus Bradley’s defense.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
There should be a strong temptation to go with Williams, but the Raiders severely lack talent at wide receiver. Cooper is the top player at the position in the draft and would give Derek Carr a legitimate weapon. Cooper can do it all as a receiver and can be utilized on special teams.
5. Washington: Leonard Williams, DE/DT, Southern California
The Redskins have much greater needs than a defensive lineman: an outside linebacker if they stick with the 3-4, a safety and an offensive lineman come to mind. But Williams, arguably the draft’s best and safest player, is far too good to pass up with the fifth pick.
6. New York Jets: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Is the No. 6 pick in the draft too high to select a right tackle? That’s the question the Jets’ front office will be asking itself throughout the offseason. If the conclusion is no, and it should be, Scherff is the team’s best option. He’s a tough run blocker and arguably the strongest lineman in the draft.
The NFL Draft
The NFL Draft
7. Chicago Bears: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
This could be said about several teams picking in the top 10, but it’s hard to peg what the Bears could do considering there could be an organizational shakeup. Regardless of the team’s direction, safety has long been a need for the Bears. Collins is unquestionably the best in the draft. A pass rusher is another possibility in the first round for Chicago.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, OLB/DE, Clemson
It was apparent throughout the season that the Falcons just didn’t generate enough of a pass rush. What type of pass rusher will hinge on what scheme they’ll run in 2015. If they stick with the 3-4, an outside linebacker like Beasley is a nice fit. Shane Ray of Missouri would also be in contention, but Beasley is faster, longer and more athletic.
9. New York Giants: Shane Ray, OLB/DE, Missouri
Arguably the biggest strength in the draft this year is pass rusher. That’s good news for the Giants. Even if two edge players get picked ahead of them, there will still be a good one around with the ninth pick. In this scenario, it’s Ray. Coming off a sensational season at Missouri, Ray could step in at end or be a stand up rusher.
10. St. Louis Rams: La’el Collins, OT, LSU
Yes, this would mark the second year in a row where the Rams used a top 10 pick on an offensive tackle after picking Greg Robinson at No. 2 in May. He had a shaky rookie season, however, and Collins is the type of player who could give St. Louis options. Collins has shined at left tackle for LSU, has the playing style to succeed on the right side and the pure power to be a guard.
11. Minnesota Vikings: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
The idea of going with Teddy Bridgewater’s top target in college is too good to pass over. Parker and Kevin White of West Virginia are both highly rated, but Bridgewater’s timing with Parker has real value. Offensive linemen, a pass rusher and a middle linebacker are other options for the Vikings.
12. Cleveland Browns: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Most point to a wide receiver or an offensive lineman as the Browns’ top need, but this is a team that finished last in the league in run defense. Ahtyba Rubin is entering free agency and Goldman is an incredible pure athlete for a defensive tackle and could fill his spot.
13. New Orleans Saints: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Saints may have used a second-round pick on Stanley Jean-Baptiste in this year’s draft, but he just couldn’t get on the field. Peters is the draft’s best cornerback and could jump into a starting spot opposite Keenan Lewis.
14. Miami Dolphins: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Koa Misi played middle linebacker for the Dolphins this season, and was serviceable. He’s better on the outside, though. A player like Thompson has the skill set to play inside or on the weak side. He would give Miami a dynamic, versatile athlete on defense.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Michael Crabtree is a free agent, Anquan Boldin turns 35 next season and frankly the 49ers don’t have much talent at the position otherwise. White is a lot like DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans. He has enough size and athleticism to go along with good hands.
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16. Houston Texans: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Former first-round pick Kareem Jackson is entering free agency, and if he’s not brought back corner becomes a top need for Houston. Waynes is a man coverage specialist with good length to challenge bigger receivers.
17. San Diego Chargers: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
There are a number of different ways the Chargers could go with their first-round pick. A corner could be brought in if Brandon Flowers isn’t re-signed. They could look to beef up the offensive line or consider a running back. Another piece along the defensive line would boost one of the league’s worst run defenses. Shelton plugs up the middle and still manages to get after the quarterback.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Yes, the Chiefs need a wide receiver. But two seasons may be enough time to give up on Eric Fisher as a left tackle, particularly if Peat is available. Peat has proven that he has the footwork to pick up speed rushers and the power to be a quality run blocker.
19. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo Bills): Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Josh Gordon’s time in Cleveland seems to be coming to an unceremonious ending. If the Browns get rid of him, there is a glaring need for a wide receiver with size. Strong excels at working vertical routes outside and easily out jumps most defensive backs.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
The Eagles have one of the worst group of cornerbacks in the league. Williams would be a nice infusion of talent in the secondary and he fits the mold as a bigger corner.
21. Carolina Panthers: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
There may be higher rated offensive tackles on the board – namely Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M and T.J. Clemmings of Pittsburgh – but they’re more right tackles going forward. Flowers has the potential to stick on the left side because of his footwork. He would fill Carolina’s most pressing need.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
While the Ravens do have Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee played more than 500 snaps at outside linebacker this season. If he priced himself out of town via free agency, Fowler would be a steal this late in the first round. He’s a relentless player and could be a star in Baltimore’s scheme.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
The Bengals need a pass rusher and would find a big one with Oakman here. Oakman could be Michael Johnson 2.0 for the Bengals. He’s a lengthy pass rusher with a good first step and overall athleticism.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
The Steelers managed to squeeze a little bit more out of James Harrison and Jason Worilds played the most snaps of any outside linebacker for Pittsburgh this season. The catch is Harrison is old and Worilds is a free agent. Dupree could be brought in and set loose in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4.
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25. Detroit Lions: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
It’s hard to pass up a defensive tackle here, but Ohio State’s Michael Bennett may be a little too small for Detroit’s scheme. If that’s the case, corner is the team’s big need with Rashean Mathis entering free agency at the age of 34. Johnson is a player who’s stock could skyrocket at the Senior Bowl next month.
26. Indianapolis Colts: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
The Colts’ offensive line continues to be a mess and Ogbuehi is the best player available not only at the position, but period. Find a spot for him on the offensive line and move things around as needed.
27. Arizona Cardinals: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
Jared Veldheer looks like he’s the answer at left tackle for the Cardinals, but the right side of the offensive line remains an issue. Clemmings is a powerful blocker who would a nice fit up front for Arizona.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Odighizuwa is a defensive lineman capable of playing inside or outside. He would give the Cowboys a versatile piece to move around.
29. Green Bay Packers: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
I maintain that playing Clay Matthews at inside linebacker isn’t the best use of his abundant skills. Drafting a player like McKinney would allow Mathews to go back outside and give Green Bay a true three down linebacker in the middle.
30. New England Patriots: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Leave it to Bill Belichick to break the streak of no running backs being taken in the first round of the draft. Following Todd Gurley’s torn ACL late in Georgia’s season, Gordon could vault into being the first running back picked.
31. Denver Broncos: Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor
The Broncos have been playing Louis Vasquez out of position at right tackle and could look for a true tackle in the draft. Drango is the best one left and there’s a considerable drop off after him.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
Only a redshirt sophomore, there have been some indications that Williams will go pro. If he does, he’s sure to be the first tight end drafted. Seattle could have quite the steal with him here.