We’re only a month away from the start of the 2015 NFL Draft and there is no more clarity now than there was a month ago. Sure, we can make inferences about who is going to pro days, but there is no certainty in that information.
Update: Check out our NFL Draft 2015 preview.
A few picks are starting to feel right. Jameis Winston going No. 1 is the best instance of that feeling. After that and a few others, things seem completely wide open.
One feeling that is starting to emerge, however, is the interest in Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Multiple teams are sending people out to interview and evaluate Mariota as the draft approaches.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Since the NFL Scouting Combine, Winston to the Buccaneers has become the norm. Its seems that every week we get closer to the draft, someone else in Tampa publicly gets on board with the thought of drafting Winston. At some point you have to wonder if general manager Jason Licht is just going to open up and say that’s the pick. Stop the suspense!
2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
As we get closer to the draft, the interest in Mariota seems to be intensifying. While there is a difference in interest and curiosity, I’ll assume the former. So many teams are sending so many people to interview and work out Mariota, there has to be a high level of interest there. Because of that, it’s becoming hard to see him get past the second pick in the draft. Whether it’s actually Tennessee making the pick is another story.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
There is a debate to be had of Fowler versus someone like Clemson’s Vic Beasley. Do you want a more well-rounded player like Fowler or a speed rusher like Beasley? Of course, it goes deeper that question. Fowler is a versatile player who can be moved around and he’ll play the run and pass. Beasley, because he’s more athletic, may have more upside and he’s the better pure pass rusher. The Jaguars, as you’d expect, are keeping quiet. Fowler is the choice, for now, because he’s better at more things than Beasley.
4. Oakland Raiders: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
If we see the top two quarterbacks come off the board before Oakland picks, there’s a good chance they’ll have the opportunity to take Williams. He’s the best player in the draft and would help Oakland’s run defense. Williams could be put next to free agent signing Dan Williams, giving Oakland a formidable duo. Williams can also move out to end in certain situations and give the outside pass rush a boost.
5. Washington: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
The greatest benefactor to Nebraska’s Randy Gregory testing positive for marijuana at the combine is Beasley. It should lock up a top-six spot in the draft for him, if he wasn’t there already. Beasley is a speed rusher supreme, and possess the best first step in the draft this year.
6. New York Jets: Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
If the top two quarterbacks are off the board, the Jets may be left choosing between a pass rusher and wide receiver. I’m of the belief that the Jets shouldn’t take a receiver this high with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on the roster. A player like Dupree could be brought in as a replacement for Calvin Pace. It would give the Jets a good young pass rusher in the event that Quinton Coples continues to struggle or leaves after next season.
7. Chicago Bears: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
It’s easy to go back and forth about what the best fit is in Chicago. They clearly need an imposing defensive tackle up front who can play the nose. But they also still need to boost the pass rush. If Fowler, Beasley and Dupree are gone, like they are in this mock, choosing Shelton becomes an easier move.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
Teams have plenty of questions for Gregory after he failed two drug tests at Nebraska and another one at the combine. While he may fall out of the top five, the need for pass rushers in the draft is heavy. That’s especially evident with the Falcons. A team will take a risk with Gregory considering he’s already in Stage 1 of the NFL substance abuse program. But if he stays clean, he could make a big impact.
9. New York Giants: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
That’s right, not an offensive lineman for the Giants. Why? It’s hard to get a read on how general manager Jerry Reese will stack his draft board. But if we conclude he has a skill position player rated the same or near the same as an offensive lineman, the skill position player should be the choice. It’s true the Giants need an offensive lineman to round out their line, but what the future holds for Victor Cruz is unknown. Cooper is a complete wide receiver with few flaws. He and Odell Beckham Jr. together would be on their way to becoming the league’s best wide receiver tandem.
10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
I still find it difficult to connect the Rams to a wide receiver with the No. 10 pick. It also doesn’t make sense to add yet another piece on the defensive line. That’s the mentality for always going with an offensive lineman. Scherff is my highest rated blocker, and could be slotted into the right tackle spot for St. Louis.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
It’s hard to buy into Mike Wallace being a No. 1 wide receiver. He hasn’t had more than 1,000 yards receiving since 2011. Instead, he would make for a great No. 2 opposite someone like White. White is a big and physical receiver and can be a good deep threat for Teddy Bridgewater.
12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
If the Browns don’t make a move for Mariota, they could sit back at No. 12 and decide which wide receiver or defensive player they like the most. The catch for the Browns in this scenario is that Washington’s Danny Shelton is gone and the best pass rushers are off the board. This is a little too early for someone like Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown and Missouri pass rusher Shane Ray. Enter Parker, a potential high-end receiver whom the Browns could use out wide or from the slot.
13. New Orleans Saints: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
This may be a little early for Strong, but almost every year we see a wide receiver get drafted higher than expected. Strong would be a replacement for Kenny Stills and a slight upgrade as well. Strong is an excellent vertical receiver and really excels at high-pointing passes.
14. Miami Dolphins: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Dolphins could go in a number of directions with this pick. An outside linebacker could be the target, as could a running back or a defensive tackle to put next to Ndamukong Suh. Cornerback is a need as well. Waynes is the best one in the draft and excels at press coverage. He and Brent Grimes would make a nice duo in Miami.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
The 49ers need to replace both Justin Smith and Ray McDonald on the defensive line. When a team runs a 3-4, a lot of times you’re projecting how a player fits into the system. With Armstead, you don’t have to. He has experience as a 3-4 end and the traits any team would want in that system. While his play was spotty at times, he can be downright dominant in the run game and should continue getting better.
16. Houston Texans: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
This is a pick I continue to be stuck on. Kendricks just offers Houston something it doesn't have at linebacker. He’s a player who is really good in coverage, has good instincts and can cover a lot of ground in the run game. All of those things far outweigh any physical questions someone may have about him.
17. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
A player like Gordon can be a game changer for San Diego. As good as Philip Rivers is, the offense would be much better off by having an effective running game. That’s why it makes sense to go after a running back this high in the draft. Gordon is capable of breaking a big run at any moment, so that would force defenses to keep a safety closer to the line. In turn, that will open things up for Rivers and the passing game.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
There hasn’t been a lot of reason to expect right tackle Donald Stephenson to become a quality player in his fourth NFL season. A player like Peat has the size and foot speed to be a quality pass rusher and enough power and attitude in the run game. He should easily be able to supplant Stephenson in the starting lineup.
19. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo Bills): Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
A defensive lineman or a pass rusher? The answer to that will depend on whichever position the Browns view as a bigger weakness. The choice is a lineman because a healthy Barkevious Mingo should be better getting after the quarterback. The team is also high on Scott Solomon as someone who can pressure the quarterback. That shifts the focus to the line, where a player like Brown could get in for 600 snaps a season and help improve a bad run defense.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
If Eagles head coach Chip Kelly wants an athletic offensive tackle, he won’t find a better one that Humprhies. Sure, some players had better pro day and combine numbers, but they don’t have the on-field footwork Humprhies does. He could be the team’s future at left tackle.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: La’el Collins, OT, LSU
The fall of Collins stops here. If the Bengals use a first-round pick on an offensive lineman, the hope would probably be that player overtaking Andre Smith for the starting right tackle job. Collins should be able to. At the worst, he could push for a starting guard spot.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
During the pro day process, the Steelers have been associated with some of the better cornerbacks in the draft. It stands to reason they’re going to take one high. Peters has the ability to be the best one, as long as he doesn’t get into a disagreement with coaches.
23. Detroit Lions: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Although the Lions traded for Tyrunn Walker, the depth there can be improved. Goldman could be brought along slowly, which might be best for him. He’s inconsistent, but incredibly disruptive when he’s on.and signed
24. Arizona Cardinals: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE/OLB, UCLA
The Cardinals have done a nice job patching some holes on the roster in free agency. That leaves them to fill a few more in the draft: running back, pass rush and cornerback. Odighizuwa is a player who could be brought in to make an impact early in his career. He plays with good strength and has some versatility.
25. Carolina Panthers: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
With Scherff, Peat, Humphries and Collins being off the board, that may leave the Panthers settling on either Flowers or T.J. Clemmings of Pittsburgh. Sure, the Panthers added Jonathan Martin and Michael Oher, but they need more line improvements. Although Flowers has some flaws in his game, his footwork is quick enough to keep him at left tackle. He’s a mauler of a blocker and would go a long way in helping the run game.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
System fit. In this scenario, it would be hard for the Ravens to find a wide receiver who fits Baltimore better than Smith. He’s an impressive deep threat who can take the top off a defense. Going forward he’ll have to continue improving his route running, but he showed signs of it at the Senior Bowl.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
With the signing of Greg Hardy, the Cowboys don’t necessarily have to take a pass rusher in the first round. If they don’t, you have to consider running back one of their biggest needs. Gurley is a player who could be the team’s bell cow for years, as long as he stays healthy.
28. Denver Broncos: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
In Denver’s offense, Clemmings is a perfect fit. He’s a powerful blocker who can handle himself against power rushers on the right side. He’ll need some help on occasion against speed rushers, but he’s still somewhat raw and should get better in this area. With a player like Clemmings in the fold, it would be hard to find a weakness in Denver’s offensive line.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The Colts have filled a lot of holes in free agency, but still don’t have a lot of talent at safety. Veteran Mike Adams is solid, but his career is winding down. But who is the other starting safety? Collins could be a nice complement to Adams and really give Indianapolis a good run-stopping safety.
30. Green Bay Packers: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
There is some risk to taking Collins in the first round. He started just 10 games in his career and was used in a three-man starting rotation at LSU last season. But the skill is there. He fits the mold of what a lot of teams want in a cornerback The Packers managed to coach up Sam Shields from a project player coming out of Miami. They can do the same with Collins, who has much more natural talent.
31. New Orleans Saints (via Seattle Seahawks): Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
Fine, maybe two first-round pass rushers for New Orleans last week was overkill. But its hard to see them coming out of the first round with at least one. Harold is a good choice late in the first round because of his speed and range in the open field. He has to be used right, but there is a lot of potential there.
32. New England Patriots: A.J. Cann, G, South Carolina
Even in their Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks, it was evident that the Patriots need to improve their interior offensive line play. Cann combines power and athleticism, making him formidable on the inside. His footwork is solid and he doesn’t often need help blocking. He’s the type of player who could come in and start immediately and give New England a nice core alongside center Bryan Stork.