clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Latest Mel Kiper NFL mock draft puts Dante Fowler, Kevin White into top 5

New, comments

The biggest riser, however, was Clemson's Vic Beasley, who was not even in Kiper's first two mock drafts but shot up to No. 8 in this third version.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We are now in the thick of the draft evaluation season, with the NFL Scouting Combine complete and college pro days underway across the country. Armed with even more information about the current crop of prospects -- physical measurements, accurate medical exams, team interviews, skills assessments, etc. -- ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. released an updated version of his mock draft on Thursday.

Update: Read our NFL Draft 2015 positional rankings.

Kiper did not change the position of the two biggest names in the draft , keeping Jameis Winston at No. 1 and Marcus Mariota at No. 6. Winston has been his top pick in all three mocks so far, and most reports coming out of the combine agree that the Bucs are heavily leaning toward taking the former Seminole quarterback. Kiper again has Mariota falling to the Jets with the sixth pick, noting that he is not projecting trades and he thinks the Tennessee Titans at No. 2 will take the best player available (DE Leonard Williams).

The biggest mover was Clemson's Vic Beasley, who was not even listed among the top 32 picks on either of Kiper's first two mock drafts. He now has the linebacker going to the Atlanta Falcons with the eighth pick, after Beasley put together one of the most impressive combine performances of any prospect. Other notable risers include defensive end Dante Fowler and wide receiver Kevin White, who both jumped into the top five in this third version of Kiper's mock draft.

Here's a closer look at Kiper's top 10 picks:

1. Jameis Winston, QB - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston solidified his hold on the top pick with a solid showing at the combine, proving to scouts that he is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft based on his strong arm, pocket presence and high football IQ. Kiper acknowledges the importance of Winston's recent visit with team officials in Tampa Bay, but cautions not to read into it too much, and that it probably "reflects just how pivotal this decision" is for the Bucs.

2. Leonard Williams, DE - Tennessee Titans

As mentioned above, Kiper thinks the Titans will take the best player available, and the consensus is that Williams has the potential to be one of the elite defensive players in the league. He is a massive, disruptive force as both a pass rusher and run defender, and he could really help a Titans defense that ranked 31st in rushing yards allowed and 25th in opponent passer rating.

3. Dante Fowler Jr., DE - Jacksonville Jaguars

Fowler's 4.60 40 time in Indy reinforced his above-average athleticism, but Kiper believes he's more than just a workout freak. Although his production at Florida wasn't exceptional, he is a versatile defender who can move around the line and cause a ton of problems for opposing teams. Kiper even compares Fowler to Khalil Mack, who emerged as one of the top defensive rookies this past season for the Oakland Raiders.

4. Kevin White, WR - Oakland Raiders

The gap between White and Amari Cooper is closer than ever after White's impressive 4.35 40-yard dash and strong performance in the positional workouts at the combine. Kiper still has Cooper slightly ahead of him on his big board as the more complete receiver, but believes that the Raiders will take White with the fourth pick because of his potential as a star wideout and big-play threat.

5. Shane Ray, DE - Washington

Washington really needs to upgrade a secondary that allowed the highest Total QBR in the league last season, and also ranked last in Football Outsiders' pass defense efficiency ratings. But there isn't a defensive back worthy of a top-five pick in this draft, so the call here is to upgrade the pass rush by taking Ray. The former Missouri Tiger had 14.5 sacks last season, third-most among all FBS players.

6. Marcus Mariota, QB - New York Jets

The Jets have a ton of questions at quarterback, and without any solid options in a weak free agent class, Kiper thinks they will opt for the former Oregon Duck with their first-round pick. The book on Mariota hasn't changed much since he entered the draft -- his work ethic and attitude are off the charts, and he's got the physical traits to succeed at the next level, but questions remain about his ability to operate in the pocket and in a pro-style system. If a team can allow him to develop properly and grow as quarterback, he has the potential to be a franchise player.

7. Randy Gregory, DE - Chicago Bears

The Bears are switching from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense under new head coach John Fox, making the need for edge rushers a critical one in Chicago's offseason plans. With his excellent combo of speed, length and explosiveness, Gregory should be a great fit in the new scheme. The Bears need all the help they can get on defense to shore up a unit that ranked 30th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed.

8. Vic Beasley, OLB - Atlanta Falcons

Kiper notes that no player has risen faster on draft boards since the combine than Beasley, who wowed scouts with his 4.53 40 time, 41-inch vertical and 35 reps on the bench press. The Falcons are desperate for an impact pass rusher after recording just 22 sacks last season --- the same number that Justin Houston had by himself, and tied for the second-fewest among all teams. Beasley should be able help immediately; the former Clemson Tiger led the ACC in both sacks (12.0) and tackles for loss (21.5) last fall.

9. Andrus Peat, OT - New York Giants

Now that the Giants have locked up defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for next season with the franchise tag, an upgrade on the offensive line becomes their biggest offseason priority. The Giants averaged just 3.6 yards per rush in 2014, the third-worst mark in the NFL, and their O-line was a mess all season. Kiper believes that although Peat is an unfinished product, he has the potential to be a future blindside tackle in the league.

10. Amari Cooper, WR - St. Louis Rams

The Rams have a strong group of young defensive players, so the pick here really needs to upgrade the offense. Since Mariota and Winston won't fall this far, Kiper thinks the Rams should take a receiver in order to bolster their weak passing game. Cooper is the most well-rounded wideout in the draft, a polished route runner with the speed and agility to be a game-changing receiver on the perimeter for any team.

★★★

SB Nation's Dan Kadar released his most recent mock draft on Monday. Kiper and Kadar have the same top three picks -- Winston, Williams and Fowler -- but their projections diverge somewhat after that. Our draft guru has the Raiders taking Cooper with the fourth pick and Gregory going to Washington at No. 5.

Both analysts have the Jets taking Mariota sixth overall and the Falcons selecting Beasley two spots later, but Kadar has the Bears choosing DT Danny Shelton with the seventh pick. Kadar agrees that the Giants need O-line help, but he has them choosing Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff at No. 9. Kadar also predicts the Rams will opt to shore up their offensive line with the 10th pick, choosing LSU tackle La'el Collins.