05 February 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: 3rd Edition

After the New England Patriots came out on top of a truly wild Super Bowl XLIX, the offseason have now begun for all 32 clubs and with that bit of information, let's take a forward glance to April 30th and the 2015 NFL Draft. Here is my latest mock.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
While you could see Leonard Williams in the mix for the top overall pick, it seems like a likelihood that the Buccaneers will be fishing for a quarterback with this pick. Their decision-making will come down to the two past Heisman winners but I think they will go with Winston. Yes, we all know about Winston's handful of off-the-field issues but I think he is the superior quarterback prospect with a rare combination of pocket poise and athleticism. He does remind me of Ben Roethlisberger.

2. Tennessee Titans - Leonard Williams, DT, USC
The Titans could think that Zach Mettenberger is their guy but he really did not show all that much in his rookie campaign. That said after a truly miserable season across the board, the team may just go with the best player on their board. That player likely (although not certainly) would be Williams. Williams is an elite defensive line prospect who has the skill-set to play across the defensive line, allowing him to fit the schemes defensive coordinator Ray Horton will run.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
I bet that the Jaguars would love to trade down and accumulate more assets but who knows if that will happen come draft time. This pick would likely come down to Gregory and Leonard Williams but while Williams is the superior prospect, the Jaguars seem pretty set at defensive tackle. Gregory fills more of a need as the team doesn't have much opposite an aging Chris Clemons.

4. Oakland Raiders - Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
With the top two defensive prospects off the board in Williams and Gregory, a Raiders club that is still lacking across the board likely will take the top prospect on the board and one that will give Derek Carr, who had a promising rookie season, some sorely needed weapons. Cooper should be able to make an impact right away and while he is not huge, he has the kinds you would like to see out of a number one wideout.

5. Washington - Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Washington's secondary struggled all season and particularly so down the stretch when the unit was pretty banged up. The team had the ninth worst pass defense statistically and could really use some upgrading this offseason. Collins is the top defensive back in this draft and he is a player that can play either safety spot. He has the size and strength to play in the box but he can also be that center fielder that would be welcomed in Landover.

6. New York Jets - Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
New head coach Todd Bowles has no ties to quarterback Geno Smith and he has not made any commitment to Smith in his short time in Florham Park. I believe at this point that if he and the new front office have the opportunity to take one of the two top quarterback prospects in this draft (Winston and Mariota), I think they would pounce. Mariota may not be ready right away to play under center in the NFL but Chan Gailey, the new offensive coordinator, likes to run an offense with many spread concepts. Therefore, Mariota's impressive physical tools become too hard to ignore.

7. Chicago Bears - Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
With a new head coach with a different mindset running the show now in John Fox, as well as a very good defensive coordinator in town with Vic Fangio, the Bears are likely to improve quickly defensively. That said, the roster has to improve at virtually all three levels. Look for the team to take the top defensive prospect on the board and that could very well be the Mizzou product. Ray gives the Bears a speedy and athletic edge rusher who should fit whatever defense the team will run.

8. Atlanta Falcons - Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
It is looking like all but a formality that Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be the new head coach of the Falcons and look for him to bring a whole new defensive mindset to a team that has been a mess on that side of the ball. Fowler has the flexibility that Quinn loves to utilize in that he can play standing up or with his hand in the ground. His motor never seems to stop, along thing highly valued by those Seattle defenses.

9. New York Giants - Brandon Scherff, T, Iowa
The Giants have utilized their fair share of resources to build their offensive line but it still struggled this past season. In fact, it played a key part in yet another disappointing season in New York. Look for the team to potentially utilized this selection to address the issue, particularly if they do decide to part with Will Beatty. Scherff is a mauler that could also play other positions on the offensive line and he can help the Giants improve their running game as well.

10. St. Louis Rams - Andrus Peat, T, Stanford
Just like the Giants, the Rams have invested many picks and money on their offensive line but they may still have a hole at the right tackle position should Joseph Barksdale leave via free agency. Peat is a little raw and his tape is not all that impressive but there is no question that he has a high upside. He also has the ideal size and athleticism to excel on the edge of the offensive line and can turn into a very good left tackle down the line.

11. Minnesota Vikings - DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
With Teddy Bridgewater now the man in the Twin Cities, why not fill the need for more offensive weapons by bringing in a guy that Bridgewater is familiar with in Parker? Parker already is a really good route-runner, has excellent size and good hands. He also is one of those sneaky fast wideouts and what Bridgewater will love is that he is an excellent red zone target.

12. Cleveland Browns - Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Josh Gordon situation is still providing us largely with more questions than answers and beyond him, the Browns really do not have much in terms of weapons for whomever their quarterback is going to be, in all likelihood Johnny Manziel. White had a tremendous team for a surprising West Virginia team and his package of size and speed and he knows how to get open.

13. New Orleans Saints - Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
The Saints have not been all that great defensively in recent years but it really hit the fan in 2014 as they fell to the 31st overall ranking, and this was after an aggressive offseason aimed at improving the defense. New Orleans would certainly love to upgrade their pass rush and they have a number of options here to and the Kentucky product could very well be find himself headed to Metairie. The former tight end still is raw but not only is extremely athletic, he was one of the elite pass rushers in the SEC (no small feat).

14. Miami Dolphins - Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Thompson may be a bit of a tweener in the NFL like he was for the Huskies where he played some safety and some linebacker (not to mention some running back as well) but he is an exciting playmaker regardless of where he plays. The Dolphins have built themselves a nice defense but they were also gashed on the ground many a time this past season so a guy with the athleticism and physicality that Thompson brings to the table could be very useful.

15. San Francisco 49ers - Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Colin Kaepernick clearly stagnated in his development in 2014, even going backwards at times. It will be key for Jim Tomsula to get more out of his quarterback and one way the team could try to do it is by upgrading a feeble receiving corps. Green-Beckham comes with his fair share of risk as he has a number of off-field questions (getting kicked off the Missouri team was not a great sign), but with the amount of talent he has, it could be a worthwhile roll of the dice for a front office that has taken their risks on players before.

16. Houston Texans Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Even with the otherworldly J.J. Watt on the club, the Texans still could use an upgrade on the defensive line. Once Jadeveon Clowney is healthy, that should certainly help but bringing in a big run-stuffer like Shelton could help ease some of the line focus on Watt and help Clowney get some one-on-one action on the edge. Shelton moves surprisingly well for somebody of his size and could give defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel a versatile piece to move around.

17. San Diego Chargers T.J. Clemmings, T, Pittsburgh
Philip Rivers had a strong 2014 season, even generated some MVP buzz early, but he is not getting any younger and his lack of mobility could leave him as a bit of a sitting duck at times. King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker are solid tackles but both are better in the run game. Bringing in a raw talent like Clemmings can help their line as he could fine his craft in the interior before bouncing back outside. Clemmings is very athletic and long which should help him in pass protection.

18. Kansas City Chiefs - Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
It really is unbelievable that the Chiefs had zero receiving touchdowns from their wideouts during the 2014 season. While Alex Smith and his mediocre arm plays a key role in that, what also has to factor in is that the Chiefs' receiving corps is far from impressive. Strong should be good in the red zone thanks to his size and his good hands. The ASU prospect is also deceptively quick.

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) - Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Browns were a disaster against the run this past season as they were statistically the worst team in the league in that category. The defensive line will be a big focus for Mike Pettine and the Cleveland front office and a guy like Brown would be a welcome addition, and not just due to his surname. Brown will a guy that Pettine can move around the line due to his quickness but with his size, he should be able to help control the run game.

20. Philadelphia Eagles - Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
With Chip Kelly now calling the personnel shots in Philadelphia, will he be privy to making a bold move up the draft board to select his former quarterback in Eugene, Marcus Mariota? You certainly could not rule it out but in the meantime, I think they would be happy taking perhaps the best cornerback on the board in Waynes, who would fill a big need in the secondary. He's an aggressive playmaker with plus size for a corner.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Ereck Flowers, T, Miami (FL)
The Bengals extended stalwart tackle Andrew Whitworth's contract through this upcoming season, but there is no word on what could be his future going forward. And even if they want to keep Whitworth in town for years to come, he will turn 34 late next season and his backup, Marshall Newhouse, is a free agent. It may make sense for the Bengals to have somebody waiting in the wings. Flowers has a lot of talent and showed flashes of it with the Canes this past season, and he could possibly play the interior line as well.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The Steelers will have a new lieutenant running the defense after the franchise parted ways with the venerable Dick LeBeau, replacing him with linebackers coach Keith Butler. The pass rush was good as always but the secondary really looked like a mess at times and could certainly use an overhaul. Johnson would seem to be a very good fit in the Pittsburgh defensive scheme as he has the cover skills to play both zone and man.

23. Detroit Lions - Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, a favorite of Packers fans, are both hitting the free agent market this offseason, leaving a major void at a key spot for what was a fantastic Detroit defense under first-year coordinator Teryl Austin. Goldman may never be a double-digit sack guy but he has a nice combination of strength and quickness for a big guy. He is an excellent run stuffer and had a really nice season in Tallahassee.

24. Arizona Cardinals - Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Cardinals will certainly miss defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as he excelled at building strong, aggressive defenses even his unit was depleted by injuries. For a team with a strong secondary, upgrading an average pass rush could make the Arizona defense even more dangerous and they would love if a guy like Beasley fell to them. He is not all that long but he has more than enough quickness to get off the edge and push the pocket.

25. Carolina Panthers - La'el Collins, G/T, LSU
Cam Newton showed off plenty of toughness this season as he took a beating at times. His offensive line did perform as a unit much better down the stretch but was an abject trainwreck early in the season. A guy like Collins who can play both inside and outside would be useful. He will need to develop his pass protection skills but he is ready to maul in the run game at an NFL level.

26. Baltimore Ravens - Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Considering he got kicked off the Washington team back in November after issues with assistant coaches, one can easily see why teams would skittish with Peters. But there is no question that the kid is talented, perhaps the most talented corner in this draft class. Baltimore has taken chances on problem guys before, plus their secondary could really use somebody with the cover skills like what Peters brings to the table.

27. Dallas Cowboys - Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Rod Marinelli did a tremendous job with a defense that seemingly lacked in talent, and also struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks. But smoke and mirrors can only go so far, as well as having the team leader in sacks having only six. Armstead is raw and, similarly to Dion Jordan, never seemed to reach his potential in Eugene. However, he is a versatile and supremely athletic force against both the run and the pass and Marinelli, a renowned line coach, should be able to get the most out of him.

28. Denver Broncos - Cameron Erving, C/G/T, Florida State
The Broncos had issues with their offensive line all season long as they were mixing and matching and moving guys around deep into the season. That probably played a role in the decline in Peyton Manning down the stretch (as did an apparent weakening of his arm strength plus some reported thigh injuries). Erving can play across the offensive line as he did in Tallahasse and his athleticism should find him some burn.

29. Indianapolis Colts - Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Andrew Luck has turned into a legitimate NFL star, and he continues to do without that much from his supporting cast and particularly without any sort of a rushing game. Even with the decreased importance of running backs in today's NFL, I would not be surprised if the Colts turned their first round pick into a running back. Gordon is the best running back in this draft and he reminds some of either Chris Johnson (the early edition) or Jamaal Charles.

30. Green Bay Packers - Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
The Packers battled inconsistent play from their linebackers in their 3-4 defense, even having to slide Clay Matthews to the middle to patch things up. They could use some playmaking abilities in the interior of the linebacking unit and a real thumper like McKinney could certainly be useful. The Clanga product will bring some youth and athleticism to the Packer defense.

31. Seattle Seahawks - Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
Seattle does have some decent players at the receiver position, led by Doug Baldwin, but that said it is far from a dangerous unit. Perhaps Hardball Chris Matthews can leverage his breakout Super Bowl performance into some more burn but I think they are likely to take a receiver early in the draft. Coates was largely unable to put it all together at Auburn but nobody can deny the excellent combination of speed and size that he brings to the table. 

32. New England Patriots - Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
New England has been able to mix and match a variety of wide receivers over the years in front of Tom Brady and nobody should be surprised if they were to take a prospect early. Funchess brings some versatility considering his massive size for a wideout, allowing a team to possibly line him up at tight end, something you know a team as crafty as the Pats would love to mix it up He does need to improve his hands.

Check out the WalterFootball mock draft database for even more mocks.

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