With more than half of the college football season complete, our staff’s scouting notes in tip-top shape and the draft season already here for Raiders, Jets, Jaguars and Bucs fans, it’s time to start Mock Draft season here at Optimum Scouting.
While the goal here is to try to locate team needs along with keeping consistent with our board, this Mock Draft is far from what I would consider an accurate projection, and is more-so a scenario that should be thought-provoking (it was for me) for where players end up and what positional value is in the 2015 class.
With that, we see four quarterbacks go in round one, the lack of top offensive line hurt in the middle part of the round, and receivers/pass-rushers galore.
*Please note that we do not focus our scouting on juniors until after they declare. However, for Mock Drafts, we will include underclassmen that merit first-round consideration*
1. Oakland Raiders – Leonard Williams, DE, USC
The Raiders have invested in a “franchise” quarterback and the offensive line in recent years. They haven’t neglected the defensive line, but adding a talent like Williams to build the front-seven, along with Khalil Mack, is the best use of the first overall pick.
2. New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Rex Ryan and John Idzik can no longer defend Geno Smith after his dreadful performance this past weekend. Whether they return or not, they need a new quarterback for the future. Mariota is the best in this class, as of now.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
Jacksonville’s defensive line boasts plenty of talent, but with no needs to fill with such a high pick (pass on tight end, linebacker and safety at 3rd overall), the Jaguars should add maybe the highest-upside defender in the class.
4. Tampa Bay Bucs – La’El Collins, OT, LSU
The Bucs offensive line has been clearly one of the worst in the NFL, stifling the run game potential and limiting what Mike Glennon can do from the pocket. Collins played phenomenally last week, and he’s battling with Ogbuehi for the top offensive tackle talent.
5. Tennessee Titans – Randall Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
Tennessee has traded away Akeem Ayers and has struggled all year with linebacker pass rushing besides Derrick Morgan. Pairing Morgan with Gregory should keep Andrew Luck and Blake Bortles off balance for years to come.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews has struggled, but he’s entrenched as the starter at one of the tackle spots. Adding his former teammate to play tackle or guard would further aid this unit’s blocking struggles.
7. St. Louis Rams – Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Austin Davis is playing well at this point, but he’s not the long-term answer if the current Rams regime wants to keep their jobs after 2015. I’m not sold on Cook quite yet as a top-10 pick, but the need is there.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
The Vikings can’t keep Adrian Peterson for the long-term. Why not replace one former top-10 running back with another? Jerrick McKinnion has flashed, but keeping him as a rotational back and adding Todd Gurley gives Teddy Bridgewater the talent he needs around him.
9. Washington Redskins – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon have been solid for the Redskins offense, but if they hope to win shootouts in the NFC East, they need a big-bodied, clear #1 receiving threat for the future. Cooper can give the offense the reliable threat it needs to remain productive.
10. Chicago Bears – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Maybe a bit high for a linebacker, but the Bears really need linebacker help and Thompson is the type of high-ceiling linebacker that can make an immediate impact on the defense.
11. New Orleans Saints – Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
New Orleans’s defense has been hit or miss this season, and inside linebacker inconsistency can partially be to blame. The team has invested plenty in the secondary thus far, but adding a physical interior presence who can rush as well can be a huge help to a Rob Ryan defense.
12. New York Giants – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Giants offensive line has struggled mightily this year. With Peat available in this scenario, their best plan would be to kick Justin Pugh inside and put Peat on the edge to protect Eli Manning.
13. Carolina Panthers – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The defensive back unit has struggled this season, and its one of the key areas they need to improve this off-season. Peters is arguably the best cornerback in the country, and could give them an instant starter.
14. Cleveland Browns – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
After passing on a receiver last year, the Browns should have plenty to choose from this year. (Hopefully) pairing Josh Gordon with DeVante Parker for the future should give Johnny Manziel the weapons he needs on the perimeter.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Landon Collins, SAF, Alabama
Troy Polamalu has been adequate this year, but he’s getting up their in age, and Michael Mitchell needs replacing at the safety spot next to him. Being an Alabama defender, Collins shouldn’t be considered a shoe-in to have success, but he looks like an NFL starter.
16. Houston Texans – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
I’m not sold on Winston landing in the first round, but between teams needing passers and his sheer talent, I’ll include him for now. Bill O’Brien would rather Connor Cook (or Christian Hackenberg in 2016), but he’ll settle for the Heisman winning Winston.
17. Miami Dolphins – Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan
Charles Clay has been hit or miss, but he’s not the type of consistent mid-field threat to allow Tannehill to thrive. Adding Funchess to Wallace, Hartline and Landry gives Tannehill plenty of weapons to reach his ceiling.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Dwayne Bowe has not lived up to his huge contract in 2013, and could be in line to be cut next year with 10.75 million due in 2015. Strong is a cheaper, higher upside version of Bowe to help Alex Smith for the future.
19. San Francisco 49ers – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Anquan Boldin’s ability to be productive is slipping, and the 49ers need a new big-bodied receiver threat to be a safety valve for Kaepernick. White certainly fits that role as he continues to rise during his breakout year.
20. Seattle Seahawks – Victor Beasley, DE, Clemson
The Seahawks are great at keeping the cupboard full with defensive talent. With no tight ends here to draft, the Seahawks can’t address their top need, so adding the edge-rushing Beasley is a plus-value.
21. San Diego Chargers – Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
It was a need in last year’s draft they didn’t address, but the Chargers can’t afford to not add a nose tackle again this year. Bennett is a plus pass-rusher and can force double teams well-enough to be deemed a first-rounder.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Jimmy Smith has been the only solid cornerback for the Ravens, and he needs a running mate for the future to keep the Ravens defense strong. Waynes has done a great job replacing Darqueze Dennard as the Spartan’s top cornerback, and could battle for “best in the class” rankings.
23. Cleveland Browns (via BUF) – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Browns could consider another offensive player, likely an interior lineman, to further bolster the offense, but Shelton look like an ideal fit for the Browns defense, a team in need of more front-three talent.
24. Green Bay Packers – Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami (FL)
Green Bay could stand to improve their defense in the middle, and adding an active linebacker to help in the run game is much needed. Perryman is undersized, but could viewed as a first-round regardless.
25. Indianapolis Colts – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Colts traded their 2014 first-rounder for current starting running back Trent Richardson, but they still could use an upgrade there. Gordon’s going to go someplace in the first-round, barring injury or a terrible Combine showing, and the Colts seem like a possibility.
26. Cincinnati Bengals – Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
Cincinnati has consistently stocked up on pass-rushers in the past, and adding Ray, who could also potentially play SLB, is a good value for where the Bengals likely will pick in 2015.
27. Philadelphia Eagles – Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame
More and more people are beginning to realize Nick Foles isn’t an ideal NFL starter. The question now is if Chip Kelly agrees. Everett Golson is an ideal fit for Kelly’s offense, as he’s athletic, become more decisive, and has clear arm talent to use all of Chip’s weapons.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Dallas’s defense has seen a surprising surge this year in pass rush success, but I wouldn’t pump the breaks on adding defensive talent to this unit. Durpree doesn’t fill a need, but he’s a first-rounder and needs to land somewhere here. He would be a nice long-term pairing with Demarcus Lawrence, however.
29. Detroit Lions – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Ekpre-Olomu was once considered the consensus top cornerback in the 2015 class, but his struggles this year coupled with few chances to redeem himself during games has lead to the undersized cornerback to fall a bit. Still a top prospect and a plus slot corner option.
30. New England Patriots – Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
With just one good (elite, actually) tight end and a bit of a stagnate-set of offensive position players after Gronk, the Patriots need more weapons for Brady (and eventually Garoppolo). Montgomery isn’t a first-round value because he’s situational, but Belichek would be wise to take the playmaker and find ways to use him.
31. Arizona Cardinals – Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
The Cardinals defense has had great success this year, but they clearly need help in the pass-rush area. Alex Okafor, Matt Shaughnessy and Sam Acho aren’t getting it done on the edge, and they lack a true difference maker there. Fowler can fill that void.
32. Denver Broncos – Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
Chris Clark was a great story last year filling in for Ryan Clady, but he’s struggled this year. His not a great run blocker and his pass protection skills are a bit inflated due to having #18 at the helm. If they hope to make the transition from Peyton to whomever easy, finding a pass blocker is key. Do NOT be surprised if Denver moves up in the draft or stays here in the last first for a new quarterback.