The NFL draft gets underway later today, finally giving football fans across the country (and around the world) the opportunity to find out how their favorite teams will supplement or rework their rosters over the weekend. The prospects drafted in the next three days will swing games next season, and in some cases, they’ll become part of a future championship team’s core group of players.
Since our first Mock Draft almost three weeks ago, we have examined every position group in our 2015 NFL Draft Breakdown Series. With dozens of prospects analyzed, scouting reports read, and team needs examined, here is our updated version just in time for tonight’s first round.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston still seems like a lock for the first pick. If the Buccaneers are running a long con on everyone, maybe they will go with Marcus Mariota or even trade the pick to a quarterback-needy team. That wouldn’t be the craziest draft-day scenario of all time, but Winston should find out he is staying in the Sunshine State on Thursday.
- Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Mariota almost fell out of the top 10 in our first mock, but with a number of teams reportedly interested in trading for him, his stock is on the rise. I still don’t see the fit in Ken Whisenhunt‘s offense, but I think the Titans are more likely to either draft Mariota or trade the pick so someone else can take him, rather than drafting another player here. If the Buccaneers are serious about their interest in Mariota, the Titans could trade up one spot for Winston, who fits Whisenhunt’s preferences on the field.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Cooper is the best receiver in this class, and the Jaguars could grab a number one receiver here and put together a formidable set of weapons for Blake Bortles to work with in Jacksonville. I still think this pick could go in a couple different directions, with Dante Fowler Jr. as the presumed favorite, but after the team was so secretive about selecting Bortles last year, their reported interest in Fowler has Jedi-mind tricked me into going the other way here. I’d guess we’re looking at a 35% chance of the team drafting Fowler and a 35% chance for Cooper, with a Leonard Williams pick or a trade down comprising the remaining 30%.
- Oakland Raiders – Leonard Williams, DT, USC
The Raiders miss out on their presumed top receiver if the draft breaks out this way, but still have the opportunity to take Kevin White at No. 4 if they so choose. Unfortunately for David Carr‘s stat line, given this year’s deep receiver class, the team can’t pass on Williams, who may have given Cooper a run for his money at this spot anyway.
- Washington – Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida
Marijuana-related incidents have created character red flags for Randy Gregory and Shane Ray, but fortunately for Washington, Fowler is still on the board. The team could use a versatile pass rusher, and can afford to pass on a receiver. Brandon Scherff could be a good fit here, and Washington would probably love to trade down to a spot where it would be more appropriate to nab a cornerback or offensive lineman, but GM Scot McCloughan and co. should be happy Fowler is available if they don’t want to roll the dice on Gregory or Ray.
- New York Jets – Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
Gregory might be the best overall player in this draft, and if Washington is scared off, the Jets reap the benefits. This probably doesn’t happen if Cooper or Mariota is available, and if they get a good offer to trade down, the Jets could target Scherff or Andrus Peat. However, this scenario worked out perfectly for the team to take Gregory.
- Chicago Bears – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Bears could use a pass rusher, but White is too good a value to pass up. Ray’s marijuana incident could take him out of the running here, and I am sure Chicago is hoping Williams somehow falls to this spot. In this scenario though, White slides into Brandon Marshall‘s spot on the offense, as the Bears try to rebuild on the fly.
- Atlanta Falcons – Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri
Ray’s incident only costs him a few spots from our last mock to this one, as Dan Quinn gets a big-time pass rusher for his first stint as a head coach. Pass rusher is Atlanta’s biggest need, and both Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree would be in play here. Neither has an off-the-field issue on the record, but Ray is leaps ahead of both as a polished edge rusher. The Falcons would really like to make a move up to No. 3 to grab Fowler, whom Dan Quinn coached at Florida. It would be a big jump, but Quinn has a good relationship with Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, and if we see a blockbuster move from either team, I expect it to net the Falcons the top pass rusher on their board.
- New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Somehow, no matter how the draft plays out, the Giants seem to have a good chance at getting Scherff at this spot. The best offensive lineman in the draft and one of the most fun players in this class to watch, he should be a day one starter somewhere along the offensive line. Where he plays doesn’t matter so much — the Giants are smart enough to figure that out later.
- St. Louis Rams – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
The Vikings would probably love Parker, but the Rams can’t pass him up. St. Louis hasn’t had any consistency in its passing game since Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce retired, and Parker could change that in a hurry — he’s just about as good a prospect as either Cooper or White.
- Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t get his former Louisville teammate, and while the Vikings would probably rather trade down a few spots, they get their tall, fast cornerback to pair with Xavier Rhodes in the secondary. The team could fill their need at receiver later in the draft, and address the offensive line sometime on day two.
- Cleveland Browns – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
My instinct is to purposely sabotage this pick, but that’s only because I am taking the Mock Draft too seriously and trying to channel the Browns’ thought process. Then again, I’m not a fan of Beasley, but he does have the physical tools to warrant a pick here. Cleveland could also get an interior defensive lineman or a receiver in this spot, but the feeling is both those positions will be in play at No. 19.
- New Orleans Saints – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Saints have needs at cornerback, pass rusher, receiver, and offensive line, and they own five picks in the first three rounds. Still, I see them coming out with defense. Dupree would be an easy fit if New Orleans weren’t in win-now mode, and the team could get good value among their pick of offensive linemen. Beasley would have been a slam dunk, but the Saints get a good cover corner in Peters.
- Miami Dolphins – La’el Collins, OG, LSU
The Dolphins have a bunch of holes on the team, and the Ndamukong Suh signing will have their salary cap hamstrung for years. If Parker, Wayne, or Peters fall to this pot, Miami could go in another direction, but with all three off the board, Collins could shore up the offensive line at a number of spots and immediately begin protecting Ryan Tannehill. Of course, Collins is wanted for questioning by police in Louisiana, but if we take their word that he’s not a suspect in that case, I’m assuming he won’t plummet down teams’ draft boards.
- San Francisco 49ers – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Cornerback is still a possibility here, even with the top two off the board, and Peat would make sense as a swing tackle. However, the Niners should be thrilled to get Armstrong, who should help create nightmares for quarterbacks when he’s paired with Aldon Smith.
- Houston Texans – Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
Without an obvious need besides inside linebacker, the Texans are free to take a flier here. I would hope if it came down to receiver they would pull the trigger on Dorial Green-Beckham, but Perriman is more likely. With DeAndre Hopkins and Cecil Shorts on the roster, Perriman’s speed could add a new dimension to the offense.
- San Diego Chargers – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley are both in the running here, but I hate the idea of using a first-round pick on a running back. Peat, on the other hand, is a swing tackle with the talent to come in and start on either side of the line. It’s more likely San Diego finds a running back in rounds two or three rather than finding a starting-caliber tackle in those rounds. Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton would both also make a lot of sense here.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
I once again thought of giving the Chiefs Cameron Erving to plug in at center, but this team needs a receiver in a bad way, even after signing Jeremy Maclin. I like Green-Beckham a lot more than most, and my job isn’t on the line by writing his name in here — I understand why this is a risky move for a general manager to make. Still, Andy Reid isn’t afraid of a troubled player, and nobody on the board is going to help this team score touchdowns in the passing game better than Green-Beckham.
- Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Browns already got their pass rusher at No. 12, and I think the way the board falls they pass up a receiver here to really solidify their defense. Shelton isn’t my favorite player, but he’s a mammoth on the interior defensive line, and he should help open up things for other players in the defense. While Jaelen Strong and Nelson Agholor could be options, the Browns can afford to wait until round two for a pass catcher at this point.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
The Eagles need a corner in a bad way, but I don’t view Kevin Johnson as a great fit and Jalen Collins is a bit of a reach. I imagine Dupree’s physical skills will really entice Chip Kelly, even if that leaves Marcus Smith as the odd-man out in the linebacker depth chart. I was tempted to give the team a running back here just to make enemies in Philly, but realistically Kelly could go a number of ways, and I’m pretty sure he values players very differently than I do (or anyone else does, for that matter), so this was a tough pick.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
Without an obvious pass-rushing option on the board, I am leaving Erving to the Bengals. He should solidify a very good offensive line and keep a strong team moving forward. Cincinnati could target a receiver or defensive line help here, or even go for one of the tackles, but Erving is the sort of prospect who could improve the team as a rookie, and the value in that is too hard to pass up.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
If Dupree were available here, he’d have been a great project with high upside for the Steelers, but the team is in desperate need of secondary help and Johnson is a very solid corner who can hold up in man coverage or in the cover three. Pittsburgh needs a safety as well, but without a standout in that group, Johnson is a more valuable player.
- Detroit Lions – Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas
I don’t know how the Lions landed Brown again in this version of the mock, but good for them. They keep filling the hole left behind by Suh and Nick Fairley, Brown will join Haloti Ngata as a menacing interior line duo. The team could have targeted Gurley or a cornerback, and could always improve along the offensive line.
- Arizona Cardinals – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
I don’t want to give the Cardinals a running back, but I just have to at this point. If Johnson or one of the better pass rushers is on the board, it’s easier to let Gurley go, but the board is begging them to take the Georgia runner. Andre Ellington averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 2014, and Arizona needs the extra juice in the backfield. Taking Gurley over Gordon is risky given his injury history, but he’s the better prospect.
- Carolina Panthers – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
I think this is a pretty easy call for the Panthers. I know they need secondary help and would love another receiver, but with Flowers on the board, they have to prioritize tackle. Corner and receiver will come later in the draft — for now, they have a probable starter at right tackle who has the potential to move to the left.
- Baltimore Ravens – Byron Jones, CB, UConn
The Ravens are a great candidate to move back off this spot, and there isn’t an obvious fit with the team. Gordon could come in and help immediately, but I don’t see Ozzie Newsome pulling the trigger on a first-round running back. The best corner available is probably P.J. Williams, but his DUI charge might scare teams off, even though it was dismissed — and Jalen Collins‘ footwork is even scarier. Jones is a versatile player who should be able to handle himself on the outside. If not, the contingency plan to move him to safety if necessary, which would fill a need anyway.
- Dallas Cowboys – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
I still love Goldman here, as he’s just too solid to pass up. I think he ends up being a very good run defender for a long time, and he makes the linebackers better by eating up space on the inside of the Cowboys’ defense. Running back is in play, and cornerback or free safety could be positions Dallas looks at, but Goldman is the guy who brings the immediate impact, assuming the team is confident he will hold up against NFL offensive linemen.
- Denver Broncos – D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
This is another pretty easy decision, as Humphries can come in and start from day one in an attempt to extend Peyton Manning‘s championship window. Humphries will have a lot of pressure to fill in at right tackle and keep his quarterback healthy. Jordan Phillips and Carl Davis could both be replacements for Terrance Knighton in that defense, and Phillips especially could handle the nose tackle role well.
- Indianapolis Colts – Jordan Phillips, NT, Oklahoma
I thought pass rusher would be a good idea here, but with Robert Mathis, Trent Cole, and – for the optimistic – Bjoern Werner on the roster already, that might be a luxury pick. The Colts added to the defensive line already, but bringing in this big fella could change the dynamic of the middle of the defense. Safety is also in play, and Damarious Randall could be the first safety taken here if the Colts think they’ve done enough with the defensive line. There are also a few guards that are valued as early second-round picks the Colts could jump on.
- Green Bay Packers – Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
I wanted to get cute with the Packers because they don’t have many holes, and I wanted to fit Shaq Thompson into my round one. However, common sense won out. The reason the Packers don’t have holes is because they don’t get cute. They target good football players. Kendricks is the best linebacker in the draft, and the Packers’ only real need is at inside linebacker. Kendricks can play the run and cover tight ends. He makes the defense better and allows Clay Matthews to stay on the edge. Phillips would have been a great fit here as well, and the Packers could also consider Davis.
- New Orleans Saints (from Seattle) – Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
The Saints could definitely look at a receiver here, and I considered given them one of Agholor and Phillip Dorsett, but the Saints just gutted their offense, and it appeared that the purpose was to get better on defense — Harold makes them better on defense. He does a great job getting after the quarterback, and should improve at the next level
- New England Patriots – P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
With Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner moving on after only one season, Williams fills a need and is a great value at corner. He could have gone higher without the off-the-field concerns, and Bill Belichick could turn around his bad luck with corners by hitting this pick. Of course, it would surprise me more if I’m right about this pick than if the team traded back a few spots and picked up an extra pick somewhere along the way.
Like last time, I’m letting the Bills and Seahawks in on the fun by projecting a player to them with their first picks in the second round.
50. Buffalo Bills – Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB, Louisville
Last time we ran through the possibilities for the Bills at No. 50, I had them taking a running back, not because it was their biggest need but because it was the position and player I was most certain would be available. The subsequent three weeks have provided some clarity, and if Rex Ryan is thinking like I am, he could view Mauldin as a perfect fit as a pass-rushing specialist in his defense. Whether Mauldin is there or not depends on what happens with the pass rushers early in the draft. This is a player I thought would be a great fit for the Jets in round two if they decided to go with another position in round one. He’s also a guy the Saints could target if they miss on a pass rusher with both of their first-rounders. Some projections have him falling to the third round, but he’d be a solid pick here, and the Bills could look to add depth at running back or in the secondary later in the draft.
63. Seattle Seahawks – Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
The Seahawks will draft at least one receiver and one corner in this draft, but I doubt they’ll prioritize any position over the interior offensive line with their first pick. A.J. Cann and Tre Jackson are my favorite players on the inside, and Laken Tomlinson has a chance to go ahead of both of them. It isn’t clear who will end up being available at No. 63, and Ali Marpet might still be a logical choice based on the board, but I worry about waiting 62 picks to take a Division III prospect with my first selection. Marpet might be a good value, but if a D-III player headlines your draft board and flames out, that’s going to stick out. Grasu is a more known commodity, and could step in at center right away to replace the departed Max Unger.