As the NFL teams leave Indianapolis after the week-long NFL Combine, they’ll begin the process of combing through the game film, interview and testing notes they have on every player in their database, and begin to formulate their rankings and big boards.
Handicapping the projected value for the top players in the 2015 class became easier after the Combine, but there’s ample time for teams to adjust their boards, change their evaluations, and send out media “smokescreens” to keep other teams off balance.
1. Tampa Bay Bucs – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
While the Bucs scouting staff has Winston viewed higher than Marcus Mariota, it’ll likely be up to Lovie Smith which passer they go with. Winston is more NFL ready, but has character issues that may turn Smith off to the passer. But as of now, Winston is the odds-on favorite for the pick.
2. Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams, DT, USC
The Titans will need to continue their evaluation of their incumbent young starter Zach Mettenberger before they decide on taking one of the two top quarterbacks in this class. As of now, I’d lean towards them passing on a quarterback and adding the best defender in the class.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Alvin Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
Already one of the top prospects in the 2015 class for us, Dupree’s freakish workout at the Combine puts him in this discussion. The Jaguars need youth at pass-rusher for the future, and Dupree can fill that role at linebacker or in a situational pass-rusher role early in his NFL career.
4. Oakland Raiders- Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
The Raiders may contemplate trading down with so much interest to get into the top-five this year to secure a top quarterback, but adding more talent to their roster, especially on defense, would be wise. Adding the versatile and NFL-ready Fowler, who can play linebacker or on the edge for the Raiders need.
5. Washington Redskins – Eddie Goldman, DT/DE, Florida State
With the front-three of the Redskins in need of upgrading (especially if Jarvis Jenkins isn’t brought back in free agency), Goldman can add pass-rushing versatility on the defensive line. It’s too early for any defensive back help here.
6. New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
If Mariota doesn’t go first-overall, the Jets are the most likely landing spot. A new coach and new GM means that everything could be overhauled. Geno Smith can get his chance as a legit NFL starter while Mariota develops, giving him the chance to make the most of his life after New York.
7. Chicago Bears – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Bears added a cornerback in the first-round last year in Kyle Fuller, but they still need to further upgrade the position. Plus, with needs across their defense, the Bears shouldn’t be picky in upgrading their defense. Waynes is the best defensive player available based on this mock.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Putting together one of the most explosive set of numbers for any edge-rusher in recent Combine history, Beasley will be a unique case study to see how teams value explosiveness and situational rush ability vs. a lack of ideal bulk and every-down capability. Falcons new head coach Dan Quinn would be excited to get his Atlanta version of Bruce Irvin.
9. New York Giants – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
After a poor season in protecting Eli Manning, the Giants are likely to put a premium on upgrading their offensive line once again in the draft. Peat has had his ups and downs as a prospects since being considered the “next great left tackle prospect” a year ago, but his pass-blocking upside should still push him into the top-14 picks of the draft.
10. St. Louis Rams – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Brian Quick has had impressive performances, but he can’t be counted on for a full season. The “Tavon Austin experiment” hasn’t blossomed into big plays as much as St. Louis needs. And with Sam Bradford returning for a crucial “show me” year for Rams, giving him a reliable receiver to grow comfortable with would be wise.
11. Minnesota Vikings – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Norv Turner recently said that Charles Johnson is the Vikings best receiver. That’s basically code for, “We need to upgrade at receiver”. Parker is in the mix for the top receiver in the class, and his relationship with Teddy Bridgewater gives him the nod over the other options here.
12. Cleveland Browns – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
After passing on receivers throughout the 2014 draft and losing Josh Gordon for the 2015 season (and maybe indefinitely), it’s no secret the Browns need to upgrade the position early and often in 2015. White tested surprisingly well in Indianapolis, and for scouts/teams that already on board with White as a top receiver prospect certainly have a further reason to put him atop their position rankings.
13. New Orleans Saints – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
A less-than-ideal Combine in both the weigh-ins and overall explosiveness testing, Gregory may have fallen behind Dupree and Fowler for many teams looking for pass-rushing help. The Saints need pass-rushers, and generating pressure even on a situational basis is more than what most of the Saints current rushers can offer.
14. Miami Dolphins – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Miami could look to their defensive line or secondary with their first-round pick. But getting a unique linebacker to give this unit a feature playmaker could solidify the Dolphins defense as one of the most talented in the AFC moving forward.
15. San Francisco 49ers – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
With Justin Smith already 34 years old and in the last year of his contract, the 49ers need to think about finding a replacement to his value to their defense. Armstead has ideal length, plus-burst in one-on-one opportunities and the athletic upside to develop into one of the better 5-techniques in the NFL.
16. Houston Texans – Brandon Scherff, OT/OG, Iowa
Right tackle Derek Newton is a free agent, and with the Texans already in the NFL’s top-five in offensive spending, it’s unlikely they’d like to pay him as well as the market will. Scherff is NFL-ready, and can provide instant starter potential at right tackle or at left guard to replace Ben Jones.
17. San Diego Chargers – La’El Collins, OT, LSU
Whether DJ Fluker moves inside to guard or not, La’El Collins can fill whichever role Fluker doesn’t in Collins’s rookie year. Our top-rated offensive tackle, Collins has the mauling run blocking ability to grow into one of the NFL’s best tackles in that area, plus enough lateral mobility to play left or right tackle.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Chiefs may have interest in smaller, quicker receivers like Justin Hardy based on Andy Reid’s history with the type, but getting a top-end receiver talent who can threaten vertically can open up the short and mid-range routes that Alex Smith can work best with.
19. Cleveland Browns (via BUF) – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
After receiver, the Browns could use a starter and some depth on their front-three. Shelton is the draft’s safest gap-eating defensive tackle, likely able to play the nose or a gap-filling 5-technique in a 3-4 defense, both options for the Browns.
20. Philadelphia Eagles – Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Regardless of their Marcus Mariota interest, cornerback is the Eagles biggest need to fill this off-season. Regardless if they can land one of the top free agents (Byron Maxwell the top target), adding youth to this unit is a must. Collins meets Chip’s size requirements at the position, tested well in Indianapolis, and has plus-starter upside.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Shane, Ray, DE, Missouri
The Bengals are all about value with their first-round picks, and with Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry coming off lackluster seasons into their final contract years, Cincinnati could use the upgrade. Ray’s poor Combine and value almost exclusive value at defensive end is a win for the Bengals here.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Landon Collins, SAF, Alabama
Because he’s the top safety and one of the top defensive backs in the 2015 class, he could land in the top-10 on draft day out of pure desperation. However, his value likely settles somewhere in the mid-first round, with the safety-needing Steelers pouncing at the opportunity to get a great value at a need spot.
23. Detroit Lions – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
By the time the 2015 season starts, Reggie Bush will be 30, Joique Bell will be 29 and both would see big cap savings for the Lions if they were cut prior to the 2016 season. Gordon can provide the Lions the stable, healthy running threat to complement Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Eric Ebron in the passing game.
24. Arizona Cardinals – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Arizona was crushed with injuries throughout the 2014 season, including at running back. The Cardinals value of beating teams vertically relies on a stable running game, and Gurley could provide much more than that, and transition the offense away from a Fitzgerald-focused offense into a more balanced attack.
25. Carolina Panthers – Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
In desperate need of offensive tackle help moving forward, the Panthers will likely have more than a few options here at 25. Fisher possesses top-end athleticism for the tackle position, and most of his concerns are technique and developmental issues. He’s one of our top-rated offensive tackles in the 2015 class.
26. Baltimore Ravens – TJ Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
The Ravens are known for taking a chance on high-upside prospects with the trust they can develop them, and Clemmings certainly fits that idea. The most athletically gifted tackle prospect in the 2014 class, Clemmings needs ample work before he’s ready. But with the Ravens need long-term at the position, he’s worth working with as a right tackle option for the future.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Pairing up Demarcus Lawrence with another edge player is very important for the Cowboys for the future if they hope to maintain defensive success in 2015. Odighizuwa built upon a strong Senior Bowl week with a solid workout in Indianapolis, and he looks like the perfect option to play the strong side on the Cowboys defensive line opposite Lawrence.
28. Denver Broncos – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (FL)
I woulnd’t rule out a quarterback here, either in a trade-up or in taking Brett Hundley. However, my guess is they look for a quarterback later in the draft (Bryce Petty?) and look to further improve their offensive line or linebacker position here. Flowers can step in as a right tackle or guard as a rookie, and has ideal size to be a long-term, wide-based starter at right tackle for Peyton Manning’s heir apparent.
29. Indianapolis Colts – Bernardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
The Colts should look to address their offensive line and linebacker spots early and often in the 2015 draft, and I’d expect them to take the best player at either of the positions. After testing much better than expected in Indianapolis, McKinney is back in the first-round mix as a 3-4 inside linebacker, potentially reminding scouts of Brian Cushing.
30. Green Bay Packers – Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Playing Clay Matthews at inside linebacker worked well last year, but that can’t be the long-term answer to their issues at the position. Kendricks is the best linebacker fit for the Packers need, and he’d be a solid value and need fit here.
31. Seattle Seahawks – Devin Funchess, TE/WR, Michigan
After testing more like a tight end and receiver, I’d expect more teams to look at Funchess as a tight end who can play receiver situationally, and less as a true receiver. The Seahawks used Luke Willson in that role last year, and having he and Funchess attacking the seam and in the red-zone could really aid in Russell Wilson’s development. If Marshawn Lynch leaves this off-season, don’t be surprised if the Seahawks try to secure Todd Gurley.
32. New England Patriots – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
The Patriots need to continue to add bulk to their defensive line, and Phillips looks to be the highest upside nose tackle prospect in the class, especially thanks to his 4-3 or 3-4 scheme versatility. Even though they’ve stayed away in the past, the Patriots could look receiver here as well.