We’ve done a pretty good job restraining ourselves this year. We sat back, relaxed and did our research without showing the results right away. That’s led to fewer posts on the 2015 NFL Draft and surprisingly, just now releasing our first mock draft of the season. It was hard to do, but we held out as long as possible. However, with the NFL Draft Combine now in the books, things are starting to get pretty real and we had to push out our first look at how this year’s draft could play out.
Like usual, we don’t really mess with trade predictions and we know things will change drastically over the next couple of months. But we need to start somewhere and now felt about right. Take a look at who we’ve got hearing their name called on day one, and let us hear it in the comments below if you think we got it totally right or utterly wrong:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
It’s Mike Glennon or bust now, and Love Smith knows it. That makes landing a legit quarterback for 2015 and beyond the #1 priority in Tampa Bay. Enter Winston. There’s still a chance Marcus Mariota impressed the Bucs more, but the more NFL-ready prospect is Winston. He has some character issues and will need to be more consistent at the next level, but he has the size, arm and pocket presence to be a difference-maker from day one. This is what #1 picks are all about, folks.
2. Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams, DT, USC
In-house draftnick Keet Bailey loves Williams and rightfully so, as USC’s best defensive prospect is also arguably the top overall prospect in the entire 2015 NFL Draft. He’s a game-changer up front with terrific size, strength and athleticism. Williams can float across the line depending on the system and he is equally good at helping sniff out the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. Tennessee’s defense isn’t very good and with Williams they get a heck of a lot better almost instantly.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Gus Bradley bumped the Jags up to a sack machine in 2015 but he did it without a lot of elite talent. Gregory would give him a sack artist that has size, speed and an array of moves to go to work relentlessly on the outsid eof the line. Bradley is a defensive mind first, so adding Gregory could be the finishing touch on an improving defense to help solidify the Jaguars’ turn around.
4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
How very Raiders. Yes, Cooper to Oakland is a pretty common pick, but it’s also the logical one. Cooper is as balanced and NFL-ready a receiver as there is in this year’s class and the Raiders still lack a true #1 wideout. Kevin White could also go here, but I think Cooper is the better overall player when it comes to fundamentals and consistency. He’s also gone up against much stiffer competition. They’re close, but one way or another if the Raiders stay here they’ll land a wide receiver. Unless, of course, Leonard Williams slides down for some reason.
5. Washington Redskins – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
If Washington is sticking with RG3 then they have to do two things: protect him with improved offensive line play and help the offense out with a nastier defense. Instead of reaching for o-line help this early, they should grab Shelton to fortify the inside of their defensive line. An impact pass rusher like Shane Ray or Dante Fowler wouldn’t be a bad idea here, either.
6. New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
I’m sure many people want to connect the dots with Mariota somehow reuniting with Chip Kelly, but it’s no lock. The Jets know Geno Smith isn’t the answer and before they can add more pieces to their defense they need to get a franchise passer. Mariota may be that guy.
7. Chicago Bears – Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
Many peg safety as Chicago’s key need (and it is one), but with the switch to an aggressive 3-4 system, they’ll badly need to figure out who fits where. Without a bunch of bodies ready to play outside in this system, they could really use a young, speedy body on the edge. Ray fits the bill.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
Enough is enough with the Falcons. They have been without a legit star pass rusher for long enough and new head coach Dan Quinn preaches defense too much to stand by and let it continue. One way or another the Falcons are getting stronger and faster against the pass, and it may just begin by adding an athletic pass rusher like Fowler.
9. New York Giants – Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
Scouts have been all over the place in regards to Beasley’s true position, but he does have the size and all-around athleticism to be a defensive end of outside linebacker, hypothetically. The G-Men badly need help in what used to be a great pass rush and landing an elite prospect like Beasley would have to be a step in the right direction. That’s also three pass rushers in a row, mind you.
10. St. Louis Rams – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
SPLASH. The Rams needed a true #1 WR last year and opted against getting one. Now Kenny Britt is a FA, Brian Quick is recovering from shoulder surgery and it’s even cleared that Tavon Austin is a bust. They may want/need a quarterback and o-line help, but they can’t pass on White here.
11. Minnesota Vikings – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Matt Kalil has not played up to his hype and the Vikes could use some better play across their offensive line, in general. Scherff is a rock solid pass protector from top to bottom and regardless of where Minny would use him, he’d at least improve competition and depth. Pass protection is key to Teddy Bridgewater’s health and success, so the Vikes have to get this pick right.
12. Cleveland Browns – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Parker is arguably the third best WR in this class and if he’s still available when the Browns pick 12th, they better jump all over him. Josh Gordon may never suit up in the orange jumpsuit again (or maybe he will…zing!) and Miles Austin is gone. Parker could step in and be an impact play-maker right away, which is precisely what either Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel will be needing.
13. New Orleans Saints – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
New Orleans needs all kinds of help across their defense, which under-performed horribly in 2014. Waynes is a speedy corner with great range and recovery ability, and he could fit in nicely with the Saints.
14. Miami Dolphins – La’el Collins, OG, LSU
Miami just needs more talent across their offensive line. They somehow ran the ball extremely well considering how bad their play was, so they need to make sure they make the proper adjustments. At least bringing in one big talent like Collins is a must and he’s a nice find at this spot.
15. San Francisco 49ers – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Justin Smith is near the end and the Niners have had all kinds of issues across their defense when it comes to injuries and off field decision-making. They’ll get a talent injection in Goldman that will at the very worst operate as exceptional depth as a rookie.
16. Houston Texans – Landon Collins, S, Alabama
D.J. Swearinger looks the part of a solid starting safety but he needs a running mate pretty badly. Collins could help fill that hole in an improving Houston defense. The real question, of course, will be if he can fall this far.
17. San Diego Chargers – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
King Dunlap is a free agent and San Diego’s o-line play continues to be shaky. Peat could come in and compete to start on the left side right away and help build a more consistent pass protection.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Ereck Flowers OT, Miami
Kansas City has issues all across their offensive line, starting with former top pick, Eric Fisher. They can’t give up on him completely yet, but they’ll need help elsewhere and pushing him won’t be a bad idea, either. Flowers can take either side of the line and will serve as competition right off the bat.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills) – Alvin Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
Jabaal Sheard is leaving in free agency so Dupree could start right away if he pans out. The Browns have a very solid defense but they have to make sure it doesn’t erode due to ignoring major flaws. Filling a hole left by Sheard is part of that.
20. Philadelphia Eagles – Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Is Hundley a legit first rounder? Who knows? Chip Kelly needs a mobile quarterback for his up-tempo system, though, and it’s not going to be Marcus Mariota. Hundley has the arm and athleticism to be special, but it will be up to Kelly to help him progress inside the pocket.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Eli Harold, DE, Virginia
Cincy’s defense is still very good but they could use talent injection across the defensive line. Their pass rush can be better, as can their run defense. Harold can come in and help the former.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Pittsburgh’s aging defense needs help the most at corner, where Ike Taylor will finally be put out to pasture and they have no one else worth mentioning. It’s time to change that.
23. Detroit Lions – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Ndamukong Suh and/or Nick Fairley could be gone via free agency, so this is a no-brainer. If they can’t retain them, they have to get another talented mass to lift their defensive line.
24. Arizona Cardinals – Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Arizona lacked a real presence over the middle of the field last year and they can’t really count on Daryl Washington anymore, as fantastic as he can be. Kendricks is a rock solid inside linebacker who could help them out a lot right away.
25. Carolina Panthers – T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
Yes, Carolina could use more talent at wide receiver but they spent a pick on Kelvin Benjamin last year and now they need to address their offensive line. Their pass protection was abysmal for most of 2014.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona
Steve Smith is ancient and the team fears Torrey Smith will price out and won’t be back. That makes wide receiver a huge need.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Markus Golden, DE, Missouri
Dallas lacks a lot of talent in their pass rush, so it’s key for them to get more bodies that can effectively get after the quarterback. Golden should be able to help them improve in that area.
28. Denver Broncos – Cameron Irving, OL, Florida State
Denver’s pretty much good to go on offense and they’ve done well on defense. Perhaps they just add a pure value pick like Irving, who can line up all across their offensive line and help them with depth and versatility.
29. Indianapolis Colts – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Trent Richardson is a total bust and the Colts have nothing else at running back. Gurley has a knee issue but beyond that he’s an NFL superstar waiting to happen. Indy would love to have a player like that.
30. Green Bay Packers – Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan
I see the need at defensive tackle and the want for linebacker and corner help. But the Packers never do what you think they will. They also do need an impact tight end, and Funchess has the makings of a real Antonio Gates-type gem at the position.
31. Seattle Seahawks – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Is there a better team to take a chance on DGB? Not only will Peter Carroll love his talent, but he’ll also love keeping the Patriots from snagging him one pick later (and I think they would). DGB has serious character flaws but he has ridiculous size and athleticism. He’s a Randy Moss-level talent and could dramatically improve Seattle’s passing game.
32. New England Patriots – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
If the Packers don’t take him, I think New England will. They have to answer questions in the secondary, at running back and offensive line, but they also have to worry about life after 34-year old Vince Wilfork. Phillips helps ease any lingering concerns.