NFL Mock Draft (2015) v.1

In effort to avoid saturating the fragile minds of those who over-exert themselves reading through weekly mock drafts each year, I’ve made a concerted effort to limit myself to only a couple in 2015. The perceived lateness was intended, so I apologize in advance to those who thought I was neglecting this part of the process. Dion’s always got you – C’mon now.

Oregon's Marcus Mariota is a candidate for a draft day slide. // COURTESY Scott Enyeart, via Wikimedia Commons

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is a candidate for a draft day slide. // COURTESY Scott Enyeart, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB. Florida State

“Famous” Jameis is meticulous in preparation for games and has the top-end skill set required to warrant early consideration. However, his antics have called his maturity into question, though I’ve personally taken more issue with his erratic stretches on the field where curious interceptions are periodically evident. An excellent combine proved how far along his footwork is, coupled with his experience in a pro-style offense. Regardless of how they feel about either of the top two projected passers, the hapless Bucs will be forced to take a quarterback and start all over again.

2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DL. USC

I’m not yet ready to believe the Titans are prepared to go back on their commitment to ‘The Mettenberger Project’ – warranted or not. Instead Tennessee will opt for perhaps the most dominant player, regardless of position, in this draft. Williams is a thick-bodied lineman with an undying electric motor, possessing tremendous scheme versatility and upside. He’s my number one rated player from the 2015 class and can effect the game as well as any defender taken in the top 5 over the past decade.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler, OLB. Florida

Admittedly, I’m not overly impressed by Fowler despite doing an abundance of work on his game. Quality athlete, but I view him as something of a tweener. Reminds me some of Mark Anderson coming out of Alabama in 2006, including similar combine measurables – though Fowler possesses more explosiveness. I will say, Gus Bradley’s eccentric front seven would have a clearly defined role for a conversion like Fowler.

4. Oakland Raiders: Kevin White, WR. West Virginia

The new, Del Rio-led Raiders did okay to chip away at areas of concern through free agency, but James Jones won’t eliminate the need for more receivers by himself. Even if you aren’t yet sold on Derek Carr’s future, you have to give a young quarterback a fighting chance by surrounding him with options. Kevin White’s game is comparable in many ways to Julio Jones and could be the game-breaker Oakland’s passing game so desperately lacks.

5. Washington Redskins: Shane Ray, DE/OLB. Missouri

A new, Brian Orakpo-less era has dawned in Washington and Shane Ray is likely to available at the perfect time. High-motor, power player with an abundance of explosiveness. He possesses a quality skill-set to make the 3-4 conversion and his ability to relentlessly pursue the quarterback translates well regardless of where he plays. Certainly on my shortlist of favorite 2015 prospects.

6. New York Jets: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB. Clemson

Calvin Pace couldn’t recreate his double-digit sack total from 2013 and will be 35 in October, while Quinton Coples has yet to become a major pass-rushing threat. Beasley is a twitchy athlete who brings a lot of speed and short-area quickness off the edge. As a rookie in a defense that features what should be a strong secondary, he can focus almost exclusively on getting to the quarterback. Laugh away, but Geno Smith ended the season okay and a new regime may not feel on the hot seat if the team struggles again next year as they continue re-tooling.

7. Chicago Bears: Danny Shelton, DT. Washington

Although Jay Ratliff was re-signed, the Bears did make a mid-March attempt to sign nose tackle Terrance Knighton before he ultimately wound up in Washington. Currently without a viable presence in the middle of its new 3-4 defensive line, Chicago could be left with its hands tied on draft day, and this would be decent compensation. A space-eater with impressive movement skills and the ability to play a lot of consecutive snaps despite his weight. “Plus” defender in the pass game as well for his role. Chicago needs players now, not to stash a young quarterback for half the season when there is still work to be done.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB. Nebraska

While it is worth noting that the Falcons don’t mind investing higher draft picks to reinforce the secondary, they were near-last in the league in sacks (22) last season. Pass rushers will be coming off the board early and teams could be stuck without viable options if they wait. Amidst his marijuana revelation (and failed Combine test), it’s likely that some teams will have taken Gregory off their board, but Atlanta needs help and the talent is palpable.

9. New York Giants: Landon Collins, S. Alabama

I’m eternally in favor young players getting opportunities to prove their worth, but the Giants are currently in a position where they may have to start two safeties without any starting experience in the NFL. While Landon Collins offers even less NFL experience, the team could certainly stand to infuse additional talent into the position after the departure of veteran Antrel Rolle. Arik Armstead is a major sleeper here if the board shakes out as it.

10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Scherff, OG. Iowa

The board and team needs don’t match up ideally in any particular way, to me, but the Rams could stand to continue improving the offensive line. Scherff can provide cover at either guard spot, as well as right tackle, and St. Louis has shown an interest in bolstering the trenches through the draft. For what it’s worth, unlike some, I don’t see the value in negating the addition of a relatively proven young quarterback in Nick Foles by drafting the still-available Mariota.

11. Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes, CB. Michigan State

Mike Zimmer had success in Cincinnati by being able to lean on good cornerbacks like Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. Xavier Rhodes looks like a gem, but the Vikings lack a reliable option on the other side of the field. Waynes is an ideal complement with great speed and length. A competitor in man coverage who can become a special player if he cuts down on penalties. Zimmer also has an evident affinity for specimens in the front seven and Bud Dupree possesses a number of Anthony Barr-esque traits.

12. Cleveland Browns: Amari Cooper, WR. Alabama

In many ways a better receiver than Kevin White, the Browns would be adding a very complete, well-balanced pass catcher in Amari Cooper. Decent size + speed is good enough, but the real upside comes in his ability to separate and make catches at a high percentage consistently. Josh Gordon can’t be relied on and may never play for Cleveland again, while the team only features a stable of depth-caliber players at the position.

13. New Orleans Saints: Bud Dupree, OLB. Kentucky

Tremendous athleticism wrapped up into a very well put together frame equates to an intriguing prospect. A seek + destroy pass rusher, Dupree has accrued success despite being unpolished and still a ways from his ceiling as a player. Not overly instinctual when diagnosing plays, which suggests an exclusive 3-4 edge role is his ideal fit. Some project him lower, but immense potential helps him crack the top 15.

14. Miami Dolphins: Devante Parker, WR. Louisville

Though the Dolphins jettisoned Mike Wallace and replaced him with young blue-chipper Kenny Stills, the team could still stand to add a new element to the position. Parker plays linear + lacks elite agility or change of direction, but makes play-saving adjustments and possesses immense body control. Ryan Tannehill has consistently improved each year of his career and adding a long, big-bodied target only makes the Phins offense more dynamic.

15. San Francisco 49ers: Arik Armstead, DL. Oregon

Few franchises have witnessed the mass exodus the 49ers have, and are, experiencing this spring. Chief among their losses in the short-term could be Justin Smith, who is considering retirement. Whether he stays or goes, it’s clear the team must begin preparing for life without “The Cowboy”. Armstead one of the most interesting blends of size and athleticism we’ve seen in recent years and coupled with his three-position DL versatility, could develop into a 3-4 star.

16. Houston Texans: Jalen Collins, CB. LSU

The team hasn’t invested too heavily in the corner position through the draft in recent years and adding a new dimension could be a welcomed addition. Collins features ideal blend of overall size and speed, coupled with tremendous length. At this point he remains a raw due to inexperience, but talent is undeniable. A perfect piece of clay, ready to be molded by the NFL.

17. San Diego Chargers: Todd Gurley, RB. Georgia

After what would have to be at least minor consideration to a certain sliding quarterback, the Chargers likely lean on their most pressing need at running back. Though there isn’t an overload of positional value with this selection, San Diego’s 2014 season embodied that of a team with a toothless, lifeless rushing attack — 30th in the league. It’s a deep rushing class and while they could be better off waiting until mid-round two to accommodate the need, San Diego hasn’t had a back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing performer since Ladainian Tomlinson in 2007/2008. Time for a new horse.

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Cameron Erving, C. Florida State

At face value, it appears too easy to peg Erving to the Chiefs as a natural replacement for Rodney Hudson — another FSU alum — but considering KC’s protection woes in 2014, a blocker is justified. Erving, much like Hudson, has interior versatility, but offers a tremendous amount of value in the middle. A ‘plus’-sized center, capable of physically matching up with modern, mammoth interior defenders and the lateral quickness to handle a first-step. Receivers concerns were quelled, at least for now, after investing so heavily in Jeremy Maclin. This selection is far from sexy, but it’s far from a mistake.

19. Cleveland Browns: Marcus Mariota, QB. Oregon

By no means an indictment of his abilities, Mariota’s potential draft day slide is predicated on the lack of teams being as desperate as the Buccaneers are for a horse to hitch their franchise quarterback carriage to. A trade up is likely to end the Oregon star’s slide before this point, but for now he falls into the lap of Cleveland. It’s incredibly difficult to justify having any vested faith in Johnny Manziel when jobs could be on the line next season. Meanwhile, Mariota’s lack of need to ‘save the franchise’ makes the situation ideal for all parties, due to McCown’s short-term presence. I’d expect the team to strongly consider the offensive line in the early portion of the draft as well.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: Breshad Perriman, WR. UCF

From a personal standpoint, it’s become very difficult to predict what Chip Kelly’s next move will be. With this selection I’ve shortlisted receiver and offensive line as my likeliest of conclusions with the former winning out due to Maclin’s departure. While the Iggles still have a solid crop of pass catchers, they now lack a more vertical dynamic which is replenished with the addition of Perriman. No part of the field is off limits and he runs a full route tree with explosion + quickness. Were it to happen in reality, I’d be very intrigued to see the results.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: La’El Collins, OG/RT. LSU

Cincy lacks many glaring holes, but the organization has wisely shown its willingness to build an offensive line through the draft. Entering a contract year in 2015, right tackle Andre Smith dealt with injuries last year and ultimately wound up on the IR after a rather ineffective season. La’El Collins offers the ability to play right tackle at the next level, while also capable of slotting in at either guard spot if need be. There’s a lot to be said about the fact that in Cincinnati, he wouldn’t be required to fill an immediate void as he grows either.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronald Darby, CB. Florida State

Track speed with a high ceiling as a cover-corner, with above-average length. Ron Darby has flaws, but his skill set offers a tremendous amount of clay to work with. Pittsburgh is eternally looking to get young on defense and currently needs more help on the boundary. Darby is slot-capable and offers special teams qualities from day one as he grows. No available safeties warrant consideration in the wake of Troy Polamalu’s retirement and there is more value here than reaching for an edge rusher.

23. Detroit Lions: Malcom Brown, DT. Texas

Something of a need/value bargain at this point. The Lions put together a very strong defensive performance last season, yet suffered great loss to the interior defensive line. Coupling the rising Malcom Brown with veteran Haloti Ngata adds some much needed grit to Detroit’s cause. Brown is a beefy 3-tech with the ability to win one vs. one with leverage and quickness. Really came into his own with the Longhorns in 2014 and may be hitting his stride at the perfect time.

24. Arizona Cardinals: Eddie Goldman, DT. Florida State

Amidst the loss of Dan Williams to Oakland, the Cardinals are still in need of new blood along the eternally-important 3-4 defensive line. Goldman is a riser with excellent size and the ability to manhandle opposing blockers in 1 v. 1’s. Not enough a pass rushing factor to be more than a 2-down tackle in a 4-3, but coaches of 3-4 defenses are likely to be salivating at the thought of an active nose tackle who doesn’t just hold ground at the point of attack. For what it’s worth, with no edge defenders of value here, a right tackle has to at least be a consideration.

25. Carolina Panthers: T.J. Clemmings, OT. Pittsburgh

Were you to ask me if I care all that much about Carolina adding Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin – I’ll immediately tell you I don’t. The team greatly struggled in the early portion of the year to protect Cam Newton, as he sustained a laundry list of injuries that luckily weren’t harmful in the long-term. While there may be more polished blockers available at this point, Clemmings unquestionably offers the highest potential as a right-sided pass protector and is athletic enough to accommodate Newton’s tendency to scramble. If the former defensive end puts it together, he could have a similar career trajectory to Tyron Smith.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Jaelen Strong, WR. Arizona State

When scoping the Ravens roster, it’s difficult to justify any position that requires more immediate attention than receiver. Torrey Smith is gone and Steve Smith isn’t a long-term solution despite still contributing. Jaelen Strong is a big, physical, box-out receiver who can win 50-50 balls without necessarily gaining separation through his route running. Doesn’t replace Torrey Smith’s downfield ability in the least, but would undoubtedly be the perfect profile for Joe Flacco to turn to on any given play.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Byron Jones, CB. Connecticut

Defensive tackle is an area of concern, but a two-down, 0-tech nose tackle like Jordan Phillips doesn’t satisfy the need like a pocket pushing 3-tech would. The Cowboys cornerback position has been marred by unfulfilled expectations ranging from Morris Claiborne in the draft to the exorbitantly paid Brandon Carr in free agency. Jones’ athleticism at Combine is well documented, but he also boasts plenty of game experience and leadership as well. Couple those traits with ideal bulk, height, weight, length, and perhaps some safety versatility – you have yourself a potential top 20-25 player. Byron Jones is admittedly yet to reach his peak, but offers a tremendous level of upside without immediate pressure to contribute for Dallas. The value here is hardly based on just a good Combine.

28. Denver Broncos: D.J. Humphries, OT. Florida

2015 will, in all likelihood, be Peyton Manning’s final season in the NFL and limiting his punishment will be the lynch-pin to Denver’s season after his physical break down in 2014. An ideal fit in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme, Humphries combines grace and quick feet in movement with a mean streak at the point of attack. It’s likely he could be long gone by this point, so the Broncos are happy to see likely their top rated tackle available later on. Jordan Phillips would be an logical piece for Wade Phillips’ 3-4 transition as well.

29. Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Phillips, DT. Oklahoma

When evaluating Indy’s current needs, it’s most logical to point to either spot in the trenches. Obviously the team is going all-in offensively and a young right tackle would provide plenty of insurance for the still-recovering Gosder Cherilus, but the run defense lacked teeth in the playoffs. Phillips is a beefy nose tackle with imposing length. His athleticism is well-documented, as the now-6’5″ 329 pound lineman even played some offense in high school. If NFL coaching can diversify his first/second down pass rushing skills and teach him to avoid relying solely on blocking passes, he could be a major find in late round one. For the record, I do rate Josh Chapman and this potential selection wouldn’t damn him to a career as solely backup.

30. Green Bay Packers: Shaq Thompson, LB. Washington

Surprised? While I do realize it’s an off-the-wall prediction, hear me out. Green Bay needs to address the offensive line at one point or another, but Bulaga-aside, the organization has best reinforced the area with later picks. The prime directive could be to find an interior linebacker that will allow Clay Matthews to line up on the edge more frequently again. While there are others who are more logical for that role, Thompson is a very unique talent who I strongly believe will crack the first round. A total mismatch as a cover-linebacker with twitch and explosion, he also exhibits unmatched range + fluidity. His lack of size makes this a challenging one to buy into, but believe that whomever drafts Shaq Thompson will do so with a plan. As well, the Packers are a unique fit in that this coaching staff might be bold enough to occasionally use him on offense as well. Some say tweener, I see versatile.

31. New Orleans Saints (f/SEA): Phillip Dorsett, WR. Miami (FL)

I’ll preface by saying that this is an unfavorable board for New Orleans and I’d expect them to be proactive in maximizing No. 31 via trade if need be. After hypothetically finding a 3-4 edge rusher in Bud Dupree at No. 13, the Saints could benefit greatly from chipping away at the offensive void left by Jimmy Graham in the passing game. Marques Colston will be 32 in June and young Kenny Stills was dealt to the Phins. Brandin Cooks aside, there is very little promise in the Saints receiving group and pairing him with fellow speedster Phillip Dorsett would make for a lot of matchup problems. Will be a turf All-Star at the next level.

32. New England Patriots: Marcus Peters, CB. Washington

The Super Bowl Champions require a bit of turnover on the roster, particularly at corner due to the devastating departures of Darrell Revis and Brandon Browner. There are a number of very talented second-tier boundarymen available after Trae Waynes and you can argue Marcus Peters’ talent level isn’t far off his classmate either. Something of a prototype cornerback with a visible fluidity to his movement, but doesn’t always respond well after a bad play or penalty. It’ll take both New England being able to accept his expressive personality and Peters committing to become a more coachable team player for the partnership to flourish. He’s a head case with immense talent, but you have to wonder if it’ll be worth the hassle to most staffs.

Let me hear it on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: