The college football regular season finished, with conference championships, bowl games and the inaugural college football playoff left to play before it’s officially draft season.
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 just two quarterbacks go in round one, limited options atop the draft in a weak class, and a reuniting of a receiver with his former college passer.
*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, DT, USC*
Derek Carr has earned another year as the team’s starting quarterback, or at least enough for the team to shy away from the two top passers in this year’s class. Leonard Williams can offer some versatility for an old front four, and he can be a key building block on the defense with Khalil Mack.
2. Tampa Bay Bucs – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford*
The Bucs offensive line woes have stifled the rushing potential of their backfield along with forcing them to shuffle their quarterback position. Peat hasn’t blossomed the way some expected, but his talent-level is the highest of recent Stanford offensive line grads. Marcus Mariota might be the pick here as well.
3. Tennessee Titans – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska*
For the Titans pass-rush to really be effective with Ray Horton as the team’s defensive coordinator, they need talent on the perimeter. Gregory is the draft’s top edge-rusher, and his length and athleticism merits top-ten selection.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor*
He’s been lackluster this year, but Shawn Oakman is a unique talent that may be team’s replacement for not securing Ezekiel Ansah in the 2013 draft. The Jaguars don’t have any glaring needs that can be filled in the top-10 (outside of Randy Gregory), so Oakman presents the highest upside at the spot.
5. New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon*
As of now, Marcus Mariota is the only top-10 quarterback in this class, and even he has some concerns (college offense, deep ball placement) that might limit which team invests this high of a pick on him. However, the Jets are desperate to find the right quarterback. Mariota can cure that desperation, at least for another year.
6. Washington Redskins – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama*
The Redskins will be in the market for a new starting quarterback next year, and Jameis Winston could be on their radar. But adding Amari Cooper, to co-exist with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon will give Jay Gruden the weapons to make any quarterback, including Colt McCoy, the resources to hang, offensively, with the Cowboys and Eagles.
7. New York Giants – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington*
One of the unique talents in this class, the super-athletic linebacker who’s gotten snaps at running back this year should be highly coveted by NFL teams next year. The Giants have long had a need at linebacker, and Thompson can provide the top-tier talent to help in run and pass defense.
8. Carolina Panthers – La’El Collins, OT, LSU
The Panthers refused to address their offensive line concerns last off-season, and it’s limited the offense this year. Collins is currently at left tackle, but has the anchor and strength to be a dominant guard if tackle doesn’t work out.
9. Minnesota Vikings – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater is the team’s franchise quarterback, and Mike Zimmer has the defense in a good spot. But the team is still depleted of offensive firepower after Cordarelle Patterson hasn’t flourished and Adrian Peterson being off the team. DeVante Parker gives Teddy Bridgewater his former number one receiver to further his growth.
10. New Orleans Saints – Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri*
It’s no secret that the Saints need edge help on their defense, and with a likely top-12 pick (unless they win their division), they’ll have a few options here. Ray has had a breakout season, and in this class, has merited a top-half of the first round grade.
11. Chicago Bears – Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State*
The Bears defense has struggled mightily this year, and McKinney can be the active yet consisten presence on the inside that Jon Bostic or DJ Williams has been. He’s a reach here, but this class doesn’t offer a ton of great options for mid-first round teams.
12. St. Louis Rams – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State*
There’s a real chance Winston slides more than this, but like Geno Smith and Johnny Manziel before him, don’t fall into the trap that because he’s discussed as a top-10 quarterback now that he actually ends up there. The Rams need a new quarterback, and after this spot, I don’t see a clear team that would take the chance on him.
13. Houston Texans – Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan*
Andre Johnson has proven to still be an adequate #1 receiver, but the offense needs more help moving forward. Adding Funchess as a tight end/receiver hybrid can give Bill O’Brien the tools to mold this unit into a top-10 NFL offense.
14. Cleveland Browns – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
The Browns offensive line has begun to develop this year, and they seem set at center, left guard and left tackle for the long haul. However, adding Scherff to replace Mitchell Schwartz, and move him inside to battle with John Greco for the other guard spot may vault this unit from great to elite.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Landon Collins, S, Alabama*
Troy Polumalu doesn’t have many good years yet, and it’s time they groom his replacement, because that person isn’t currently on their roster. Collins can fill that void, and give the Steelers another high upside defender to continue their defensive rebuild.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
There’s still a chance that Ogbuehi ends up in the top-10, but based on his recent performances, he’s no longer a shoe-in to be the first offensive lineman taken. Still, the talent is there, and he could finally give the team a plus-starter at right tackle.
17. Miami Dolphins – PJ Williams, CB, Florida State*
The Dolphins cornerbacks have been surprisingly very impressive this year, lead by Brent Grimes, but he’s 31, fellow cornerback Cortland Finnegan will be 31 next off-season and Jamar Taylor is still a developing starter. Williams gives this team youth at the position and help in the slot.
18. Cleveland Browns (via BUF) – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Browns passed on a receiver in last year’s draft despite knowing that Josh Gordon was going to miss most of the season. White can be the short and mid-range target with redzone upside opposite the big-play ability of Josh Gordon.
19. San Francisco 49ers – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State*
San Francisco would like to add to their offense, but after the players already drafted, there aren’t any top-20 worthy offensive skill players of value. Adding to the defensive backfield makes the most sense, as they’ll likely have the first crack at cornerbacks in this class at this spot.
20. Dallas Cowboys – Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Dallas’s defense has been surprisingly effective this year compared to the last two seasons, but they still need defensive end help. DeMarcus Lawrence and Beasley can be a formative duo for the Cowboys for the long-term.
21. Atlanta Falcons – Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
Jake Matthews hasn’t been nearly the difference maker the Falcons hoped for this year, and the unit still needs ample help for the future. Sambrailo can offer a plus-talent at right tackle or guard moving forward.
22. Kansas City Chiefs – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Andy Reid drafted Brandon Boykin in his final season with the Eagles, valuing nickel cornerbacks highly and coveting cornerbacks with that skill set. Ekpre-Olomu hasn’t had a great year, but he’s proven able to handle bigger receivers and play in multiple spots.
23. Indianapolis Colts – Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Dupree could go much higher than this, depending on how teams value his athleticism. His elite first-step and 3-4 linebacker or 4-3 end upside could push him higher than Shawn Oakman for some teams, and his testing at the Combine may do just that. For the Colts, they need more edge rushing help for the future.
24. Detroit Lions – Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss
A bit of a reach here, but the Lions could use support at safety for the future. Their cornerbacks have finally seemed to turn the corner in their development, and adding Prewitt can give this defense plus-starters at every level.
25. San Diego Chargers – Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
In need of nose tackle help badly moving forward, the Chargers may have a chance at the draft’s best option in Michael Bennett. One of the few in this class that can fill that void at the NFL level, Bennett may end up as a top-20 option.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
After trading Percy Harvin, the Seahawks are left with some depth at the receiver position, but no clear number one threat. Jaelen Strong may remind of Mike Evans with his size, strength and vertical ability, and would be a plus-value in the late first round.
27. Cincinnati Bengals – TJ Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
With Andre Smith out for the rest of year with a torn tricep and Marshall Newhouse nothing special at right tackle, the Bengals may look at right tackle with Smith heading into his contract year. Regardless, Clemmings will likely be a first rounder.
28. Philadelphia Eagles – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Bennie Logan hasn’t been great for the Eagles at nose tackle this year, and Danny Shelton could solidify this front three even further. It’s not a glaring need fill, but the Eagles don’t have many needs to fill early in the draft.
29. Denver Broncos – Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida*
Denver had some great defensive line play from their starters, but need to continue to bolster talent there, especially with Demarcus Ware on the backside of his NFL career. Fowler could go much higher, and was the first confirmed underclassman to declare for the 2015 draft.
30. Green Bay Packers – Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
The Packers don’t need receiver help at this point, but with Randall Cobb set to be a free agent next year, they may not have the resources to afford him. Montgomery can slide in and fill his slot receiver/returner role in the offense.
31. Arizona Cardinals – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin*
I’d expect either Gordon, Todd Gurley or Duke Johnson to be a first-rounder, and at this point, I’ll go with Gordon. The Cardinals rushing attack has been very lackluster in recent weeks, and adding a running threat to this offense can keep the vertical passing offense successful.
32. New England Patriots – Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
Tom Brady has to be over this make-shift receiver approach by now, even if they’re winning games. Outside of a surprising Brandon LaFell emergence and Julian Edelman in the slot, the Patriots receivers can’t get separation thanks to poor routes. Greene certainly doesn’t have that problem.