30 April 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Final Edition

(USATSI)
Here we are, it is draft day. The 2015 NFL Draft kicks off tonight in the Windy City, its first time outside of Rat City New York. It looks like the two men pictured above are going to be the top two picks tonight but hey, you never know. Here is my final look at previewing the first round of the NFL Draft for 2015.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston, as did Marcus Mariota, bucked the recent trend of the top quarterback prospects deciding not to throw at the Combine and he did throw and if anything, it only secured his hold on the top overall pick from before. Yes he ran a slow 40 but that is not as much a part of his game as it is for Mariota but what was important was that he reportedly interviewed well. It would be a surprise to me if the top pick in April would not be Winston at this point.

2. Tennessee Titans Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
As to whether it is Tennessee taking him or now all the rumor, be they Cleveland, San Diego, Philly or somebody else, I think that Mariota is going to be the second player off the board. Mariota has some work to do in developing his pocket passing game but he has all the physical tools (size, arm, mobility) that you want out of your franchise quarterback. He does not seem like a great fit in Ken Whisenhunt's offensive scheme but I think both sides can make due.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Count me in to buying into the Cooper to Jacksonville rumors. Nobody really knows which way Jags GM David Caldwell  will go for and he could very well pull a surprise here, and this would also be the sixth straight first round offensive selection for the club. However, Blake Bortles could use further weapons around him as he continues the development process and Cooper would give the team a number one-caliber wideout that they currently do not have.

4. Oakland Raiders Leonard Williams, DT, USC
I think new coach Jack Del Rio goes for his fellow Trojan in Williams right here. The Raiders are still a mess defensively, even as they have some pieces in place, and could certainly use a talent like Williams on the interior of their defensive line even after signing Dan Williams (who brings very little in terms of a pass rush). His combination of strength, quickness and motor could make him unstoppable.

5. Washington - Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB, Florida
If Washington does not trade down (a realistic possibility regardless of who is still on the board given the team's need for additional picks to build depth), look for them to take the best player available. If Fowler would be on the board, I would think the team would be ecstatic considering that they could use a replacement for Brian Orakpo at outside linebacker to play with Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan. The speedy and physical Fowler seemingly lived in opposing backfields these past two years in Gainesville.

6. New York Jets - Gus Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Jets could end up going in a number of different directions with potentially a pass rusher, an offensive lineman or even a wideout like the available Kevin White. It would seem to me to be a little early for a lineman and a wideout does not seem particularly likely as the Jets have traded for Brandon Marshall. Given the team's needs and the type of players available at the top of the draft, I think the Jets will further build their defense and bring in an upgrade to their pass rush. Beasley is not all that long but he has more than enough quickness to get off the edge and push the pocket.

7. Chicago Bears Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
As mentioned with the previous pick, the Bears have dealt Brandon Marshall to the Jets and now, they have a need for a wideout opposite Alshon Jeffery, and the recently-signed Eddie Royal is not going to be that guy. One of the big winners at the Combine was Kevin White. White, who was an afterthought a couple of years ago, appears to have jumped to the top of crop at his position with a strong Combine performance showcasing better than expected speed as well as his impressive size.

8. Atlanta Falcons Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
With Dan Quinn becoming the new head coach of the Falcons, look for him to bring a whole new defensive mindset to a team that has been a mess on that side of the ball. Regardless of the defensive scheme, the pass rush is going to have to improve and thus bringing in a guy like Dupree would make a ton of sense for them. The former tight end still is raw but was one of the elite pass rushers in the SEC (no small feat).

9. New York Giants - Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
If Cooper is not available at this juncture for the Giants, look for them to go with an offensive lineman and likely the top offensive lineman in this draft is Scherff. Scherff feels like a very good fit as a Giant and he could certainly help out an offensive line that really was not all that good last season. The question would be better he plays outside at tackle and kick somebody (perhaps Justin Pugh) inside or does he slide inside a la Zack Martin?

10. St. Louis Rams - Ereck Flowers, T, Miami (FL)
St. Louis is a club that has invested many picks and money on their offensive line, including last year with drafting Greg Robinson, but they may still have a hole at the right tackle position should Joseph Barksdale leave via free agency. The only question is which lineman they select and to that, I think they go with Flowers over Andrus Peat. Flowers has a lot of talent and showed flashes of it with the Hurricanes this past season. He has all the tools to be a fine left tackle and could be able to slide inside as well.

11. Minnesota Vikings Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Waynes is the top cornerback on the board and he is an aggressive playmaker with the ideal size you look for in a corner. He has only bolstered his draft stock after an impressive performance at the Combine. Xavier Rhodes fits the mold of the type of athletic cornerback that Mike Zimmer likes to employ but the team could use an upgrade opposite him at the other cornerback slot. A Rhodes-Waynes combination would be one to watch.

12. Cleveland Browns DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Cleveland had significant needs at the receiver position in the wake of the season-long suspension of Josh Gordon, who wasn't even that great last year whene he played. The team brought in Dwyane Bowe and Brian Hartline but none of those guys look like the answer to the problem. Parker already is a really good route-runner, has excellent size and good hands. He also is one of those sneaky fast wideouts and he could be a very good red zone target.

13. New Orleans Saints - Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The Saints could very well use both of their first round selections on the defensive side of the ball since that unit was such a trainwreck last year. Now with the top pass rushers off the board, look for them to go for a corner even after signing Brandon Browner in free agency. Johnson, who is quickly rising up draft boards at the right time, has got the cover skills to play in almost all types of coverages.

14. Miami Dolphins - Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
There have been reports that Gurley could be ready to play by training camp and that would be big for the team that drafts him as he is a tremendous talent. He has a dangerous combination of power and speed with the sole downside with him being durability. Now Miami really does not have a huge need at running back as Lamar Miller is a decent player but he does not have the talent that Gurley has.

15. San Francisco 49ers Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon
Justin Smith has been great for many years ever since he signed with the 49ers back in 2008 but he is getting up there in age and seems poised for retirement sooner rather than later. The team could use a potential successor and while they did sign Darnell Dockett this offseason, he turns 34 next month and was out all last season with a torn ACL. Armstead never put up consistent production in Eugene but he is tremendously athletic, has nice size and has a lot of upside. New coach Jim Tomsula should be able to coach him up.

16. Houston Texans - Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
It may seem like a little early for Erving in the top half of the first round but Houston is really in a funky position considering their top needs are not a great match with the best players available at this point. The one exception of that is at center where the Texans cut Chris Myers due to salary reasons and have yet to replace him. Erving could be useful for almost any offensive line due to his versatility and experience at each position but his best position is at center.

17. San Diego Chargers - La'el Collins, OL, LSU
Regardless of whether Philip Rivers will be under center this upcoming season, the Chargers really needs to upgrade their pass protection. They did spend some coin to bring in Orlando Franklin to help out at guard and re-signed King Dunlap but they could improve over him on the blind side. Collins should be able to play either guard or tackle and he he is ready to maul in the run game at an NFL level right away. That said, he will have to improve in pass protection.

18. Kansas City Chiefs Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Could 18 be a little early for an inside linebacker? Perhaps but for a team that has a significant need at the position as the Chiefs do, it may be worth it. After all, the team really saw little production from the position after Derrick Johnson was lost for the season with a torn Achilles and even if he were to return healthy, the team still needs more help there. He is very good in pass coverage and can cover a lot of ground in the run game.

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
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 talent like Shelton would be a welcome addition. Shelton moves surprisingly well for somebody of his size and he is very tough to block one-on-one. Almost by himself, he should help improve the Browns' run defense.

20. Philadelphia Eagles - Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Eagles have had a wild offseason thus far and they have done much to address their top needs. However with Jeremy Maclin heading to Kansas City to reunite with former coach Andy Reid, the Eagles could use a deep threat for their offense and to pair with holdovers Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper. Strong should be good in the red zone thanks to his size and his good hands. The ASU prospect is also deceptively quick.

21. Cincinnati Bengals Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The defensive line has been the cornerstone unit for the Cincinnati for the last several years but now it is a unit that could use some upgrades at both the tackle and end spots. At tackle, Domato Peko was awful in 2014 and the team would be wise to find an upgrade for him. Brown will be a guy that could be moved around the line due to his quickness but with his size, he should be able to help control the run game from the interior.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers - Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
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. Jones really bumped up his stock with a monster Combine performance and now he looks like a first round pick. We know he has the athleticism and he may be able to play safety too.

23. Detroit Lions Andrus Peat, T, Stanford
The Lions lost both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency but after making a shrewd deal for Haloti Ngata, the need at defense tackle is not as big as it was earlier this offseason. Therefore, the Lions could look to address other needs with this selection such as their hole at right tackle. Peat is a little raw but there is no question that he has a high upside. He also has the ideal size and athleticism to excel at tackle and can turn into a very good left tackle down the line.

24. Arizona Cardinals Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The last time the Cardinals have been in the top half of the NFL in rushing was 2002. For context, their leading rusher was the immortal Marcel Shipp and the head coach was Dave McGinnis. They have been last four times since then and considering they have ranked 23rd and 31st under Bruce Arians. Gordon is fast and big and he can be electric with the ball in his hands.

25. Carolina Panthers D.J. Humphries, T, Florida
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. They have already signed Michael Oher but he is not that much of an upgrade. Like a number of tackles in this draft, Humphries is raw but with his athleticism and length, he looks like a good fit to be at left tackle.

26. Baltimore Ravens Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
While the receiving corps was improved a year ago, now with Torrey Smith getting some money from the 49ers and Steve Smith not getting younger as he is now 35 years old, the position is certainly in some flux. Look for Baltimore to address the position early come April and this UCF product could get in the mix. He has been rising on some draft boards and has a nice combination of size and speed.

27. Dallas Cowboys Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Rod Marinelli did a very fine job turning a defense widely expected to be awful to be a passable unit but even then, there are upgrades that are needed to be made. While Orlando Scandrick has developed nicely into a very good corner, Morris Claiborne has never developed opposite him which has left the other position to be a significant void. Peters does come with some notable character issues but he probably is the most talented cornerback in the draft.

28. Denver Broncos - Cedric Ogbuehi, T, Texas A&M
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. It has been reported in some circles that the Broncos are fans of Ogbuehi and with one of their guys being off the board in Erving, he could end up being the guy. Ogbuehi probably will not be able to play next year as he tore his ACL back in late December but he has a nice skill-set.

29. Indianapolis Colts Landon Collins, S, Alabama
As Bill Barnwell noted recently, the Colts really need to find a safety to pair with Mike Adams in the back-end of their defense. Even after taking a flier on Dwight Lowery, I think they would be very happy if Collins were to fall to 29. Collins is a player that can play either safety spot. He has the size and strength to play in the box but he also has the athleticism and the coverage skills to be that center fielder downfield.

30. Green Bay Packers - Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Green Bay has benefited from having solid cornerbacks for the past several years as they have been able to develop a number of under-the-radar prospects into quality players. One of them was Tramon Williams but he left in free agency for Cleveland. Davon House also left for Jacksonville, meaning the team could use some further depth. Collins has ideal size and he can run, which he showed amid a strong Combine performance. Plus we know that LSU has groomed some solid defensive backs in the past.

31. New Orleans Saints Benardick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
Although it is possible that New Orleans could package their two first rounders to move up for somebody they covet but I think that they will double-dip defensively. Their linebacking corps was a joke last year and even after parting with Curtis Lofton and trading for Dannell Ellerbe, I think that a piece like McKinney could be useful to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. McKinney looks like a three-down player with how he can play the run and the pass with his athleticism.

32. New England Patriots Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida
Vince Wilfork is headed to Houston and while he a shell of himself for the Super Bowl champions last year, he was still a big part of the Patriots' defense (no pun intended) and leaves a sizable hole to be replaced (pun likely intended). 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.

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

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