With the NFL Combine in the rear view mirror and college Pro Days under way, here’s the release of my first 2015 NFL Mock Draft. This is version 1.0, so it will be only the first round and in the coming weeks I will release a 3 round mock, 5 round, then a full 7rd mock draft.
Much has been made about Winston’s off the field antics and whether he can be relied upon to be the face of a franchise moving forward. While those are all legitimate concerns, Winston is probably the most NFL-ready QB prospect since Andrew Luck came out of Stanford. After a strong combine, Winston’s stock is on the rise as former Detroit Lions Head Coach Steve Mariucci did a whiteboard session with him in which he likened his football IQ to that of Peyton Manning. To hear Mariucci’s comments on their session, click here. I don’t think there is much debate as to whether the Bucs will go for a QB with this pick, it’s just a matter of whether it’s Winston or Mariota. Unfortunately for Mariota, his lack of snaps from under center in Oregon’s system, as well as calling plays from the huddle, likely have him at least a year or two from being able to challenge for a starting job – and that’s not what you want to get with the #1 pick.
The Titans are saying publicly that Zach Mettenberger has their full support and that they are prepared to go into next season with him as their starting quarterback. There’s no question that when you have the opportunity to take a franchise signal caller, you do it, however I believe Mariota’s learning curve versus Leonard Williams’ ability to come in and make a JJ Watt-type impact as a rookie on defense will ultimately lead to the Titans selecting Williams with the #2 overall pick. Williams was the first player in 10 years to run a sub 5.0 40 yard dash at over 6’5” and 300 lbs. His ability to play every position on the line makes him invaluable to a defense that lacks a true #1 pass rusher and playmakers on the DL aside from Jurrell Casey.
Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars will be saying their prayers that the Titans decide to choose Marcus Mariota with the 2nd overall pick, so that they can take Leonard Williams, who would be a perfect fit for their defense. There’s little doubt that the Jags will go defense with this pick, it’s just a matter of who would be the safest pick. Beasley had one of the most impressive combines out of all the defensive linemen, so should Williams be off the board, he is the next best option. The Jaguars have some nice players along their DL including Red Bryant, Roy Miller, Sen’Derrick Marks, Chris Clemons, Tyson Alualu, Ziggy Hood, and Andre Branch, but they are severely lacking a true #1 pass rusher. Beasley can provide the Jaguars with just that.
The Raiders could go a in number of different directions with this pick. They could use another pass rusher opposite last year’s rookie standout Khalil Mack, a defensive tackle to solidify the inside of their DL, or even an offensive lineman to protect their new franchise QB. However, their most glaring need appears to be at wide receiver position, where they don’t have a true #1 pass catcher for 2nd year QB Derek Carr. Carr had a respectable rookie season, given his lack of weapons, and appears to be the future at the quarterback position. Factor in their deficiency of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, as well as the lack of a player worth the #4 overall pick at the aforementioned positions, and it seems pretty clear that they’ll go WR with this pick. The question is will it be Kevin White or Amari Cooper? After the season concluded, Amari Cooper seemed to be the consensus #1 player at the position, although White was gaining some momentum after scouts had a chance to go back and dissect White’s game film. After a fantastic combine, in which White measured in at 6’3” 215 lbs and ran a 4.35 40 yard dash, it appears as if he has overtaken Cooper for the top WR in the draft. Both have the potential to become #1 WRs, but White’s combination of size, speed, and production will be too much for the Raiders to pass on.
Prior to this week, I would have said that the Redskins would definitely be drafting a pass rushing DE/OLB, because it’s looking less and less likely that Brian Orakpo will return, which leaves a huge void opposite Ryan Kerrigan. They also need an OT opposite Trent Williams (since Morgan Moses has been a disappointment up to this point), however there isn’t one worthy of being drafted this high. However, in recent days, the Redskins have cut DE Stephen Bowen and DT Barry Cofield. While they signed DE Ricky Jean-Francois, the only remaining DL from last year’s squad are Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker, Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golson, and Frank Kearse. So while a pass rusher is a major need, defensive tackle is an even more glaring need at this point in time. Danny Shelton is a big bodied DT, who plays the run very well and is surprisingly explosive in small space, allowing him to also be a factor as an inside pass rusher. This is a relatively deep draft for DE/OLB types, so the Redskins could very well address that need in round 2 and land a solid player, while there is a pretty significant drop off between Shelton and the next best DT.
If Mariota is on the board at #6, rumors are that the Jets and Eagles have already agreed to preliminary terms in which the Eagles will trade the #20 pick, their 2nd rd pick, their 2016 1st rd pick, and potentially their 2016 2nd rd pick plus a player for the opportunity to select Mariota. It’s not rocket science as to why Chip Kelly wants Mariota to run his offense, as he’s had tremendous success running it while at Oregon. If the Jets hold on to this pick, I would expect them to select a pass rusher like Dante Fowler, however I believe the Eagles will put together a package too good to turn down.
This pick seems like the perfect fit on paper considering Willie Young and Lamar Houston both have ACL injuries, while Jared Allen doesn’t have much left in the tank. Additionally, Vic Fangio was brought in as defensive coordinator, so he’ll likely employ the 3-4 defense he previously did in San Francisco. The Bears have a number of holes on the defensive side of the ball, however Dante Fowler is a great fit as an OLB in the 3-4 and the best player available at this juncture.
The Falcons get lucky because pass rusher is probably their most glaring need and even with Dante Fowler and Vic Beasley off the board, they still have a chance to land an elite one in Nebraska’s Randy Gregory. When Kroy Biermann and an aging Osi Umenyiora are your best pass rushers, it’s pretty evident that an upgrade is needed. While Gregory only weighed in at 235 lbs at the combine (he was said to be sick, which could account for him weighing in about 10-15 lbs less than expected), he has great length and enough productive college game film to ease any concerns about his weight. He also has a long frame, similar to that of Aldon Smith, which should allow for him to add enough weight to be able to hold his own at DE.
There has been speculation that the Giants are going to make a run at Ndamukong Suh, in addition to trying to work out a long term deal with Jason Pierre-Paul even though they used the franchise tag on him. Regardless of whether they land Suh or not, the Giants need to upgrade both their offensive line and defensive line. Only so much can be done in free agency, and if they sign Suh, they won’t have much cap space to make more additions. The Giants offensive line is a complete mess right now and they just released JB Walton, who started all 16 games for them last season at center. Weston Richburg is expected to slide over to center, which leaves a gaping hole at guard. Quite frankly, they could stand to upgrade almost every position on the OL because no matter how amazing Odell Beckham was last season, it’s going to be tough for Eli Manning to complete passes to him if he’s lying flat on his back. Scherff has garnered comparisons to the Dallas Cowboys’ 1st round pick last year, Zack Martin, another OL who played tackle in college and could move to guard in the NFL. All Martin did was go on to become an All Pro as a rookie. It wouldn’t hurt the Giants to take a page out of their archrivals’ playbook and spend some early draft picks to improve their offensive line, which is why I see Scherff as their best option especially with Danny Shelton and the top 3 pass rushers off the board.
With Jake Long’s long term health a major concern, the Rams could definitely use an upgrade on the offensive line. Ideally, they’d like to find a replacement for Sam Bradford, but with Winston and Mariota off the board, they move to their next highest priority. With Greg Robinson in line to take over at LT and RT Joseph Barksdale set to become a free agent, Flowers would be able to slide in and start at RT from day one. The Rams could go a number of different directions with this pick, including WR Amari Cooper who surprisingly has fallen out of the top 10, CB Trae Waynes who would be an instant upgrade over EJ Gaines, or even La’El Collins who has the flexibility to play guard or tackle. Amari Cooper may be too good to pass up on here, but with Kenny Britt having somewhat of a bounce back season last year and seemingly walking the straight and narrow, as well as high picks invested in Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey, strengthening the OL seems to make the most sense.
A month ago, I would have never believed that Amari Cooper would fall out of the top 10, but it’s looking more and more like that will happen. Cordarelle Patterson has been a major bust and while Charles Johnson has emerged into a reliable WR, they still need someone opposite him for Teddy Bridgewater to throw to. Cooper gives Bridgewater a legitimate #1 WR which should aid in his continued development as the Vikings’ starting QB. The Vikings may also give a long, hard look at Trae Waynes, the Michigan State CB, at this spot, but Cooper is too good to pass up at #11.
With the status of Johnny Manziel unclear moving forward, the Browns went ahead and signed Josh McCown at quarterback. Priority number 1 has to be getting weapons for McCown, especially considering that Josh Gordon will be suspended for the upcoming season and the Browns chose to ignore the position in last year’s draft. Parker is built in a similar mold to Gordon, as he stand 6’3” and weighs around 210 lbs. Parker is coming off a season in which he missed the first 7 games with a broken left foot, however he racked up 43 receptions for 855 yards and 5 TDs in only 6 games. Parker had an impressive combine where he ran a 4.45 40 yard dash, with a 36.5 vertical jump and 17 reps of 225 on the bench press, which tied for 3rd best overall. He immediately becomes the most talented WR on the Browns roster and gives McCown a true #1 WR.
The Saints are desperate for additional pass rushers and luckily for them, this draft is chock full of DE/OLB pass rusher-types. Shane Ray from Missouri is another possibility at this spot for the Saints, however a foot injury prevented the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year from participating in the NFL Combine, so it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he heals and performs at his Pro Day. Ray’s bad fortune allowed Dupree to steal the spotlight at the combine, as he was a top performer in all the events he partook in. Dupree measured in at 6’4” 269 lbs. and was lights out in testing – he ran a 4.56 40 yard dash in addition to his 42 in vertical jump. He has the production to back up the measurables as he posted 74 tackles, including 12.5 for loss, to go along with 7.5 sacks his senior season at Kentucky. His size and speed makes him a perfect fit for the Saints 3-4 defense and he would give Rob Ryan a potentially dominant pass rusher opposite Junior Galette, who’s broken out with a combined 22 sacks over the past 2 seasons, including 10 last year.
The Dolphins have a number of needs they could address with this selection and defensive backfield is one of them, so being able to land the #1 CB in the draft at #14 overall is too good to pass up. Waynes took over as the Spartans top cornerback after Darqueze Dennard was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and he did not disappoint. Waynes is the closest thing to a lockdown CB in this draft and far and away the best at the position. He followed up a solid final season with the Spartans by tearing it up at the NFL Combine. He ran the fastest 40 yard dash out of all the DBs with a 4.31, to go along with 19 reps on the bench press and a 38 inch vertical jump. He has solid size for the cornerback position at 6” 186 lbs, to go along with the tremendous speed he displayed at the combine, which should allow for him step in opposite Brent Grimes and start at CB for the Dolphins from Day 1.
The 49ers are desperate for help at the wide receiver position. Anquan Boldin can’t possibly be relied upon to produce the way he has for the past few seasons at his advanced age, Michael Crabtree hasn’t lived up to expectations and is likely gone this offseason, and Stevie Johnson was a bust. So the 49ers will almost certainly target a WR with this pick; it’s just a matter of which one. With Kevin White, Amari Cooper, and DeVante Parker off the board (the consensus top 3 WRs in this draft), the 49ers and new head coach Jim Tomsula will need to make a decision as to which WR is worthy of the 15th pick. They could go a few different directions, but Jaelen Strong would make the most sense. He was highly productive at ASU, posting 82 receptions for 1,165 yards and TDs this past season and had an impressive combine, running a 4.44 40 yard dash and posting a 42 inch vertical jump. All of that, combined with his 6’2” 217 lb frame, and he makes a ton of sense for the 49ers.
A number of mock drafts have the Texans selecting a running back with this pick, but right tackle has been an issue the past few seasons and Peat presents a great value at this point in the draft. Peat could step in and start at RT as a rookie and eventually be the successor to Duane Brown at LT a few years down the line. He was a top recruit coming out of high school and was the leader on a very good Stanford offensive line. At 6’7”’ 310 lbs, Peat may be bigger than your typical RT, but he has great length and is a better option than anything the Texans currently have on the roster.
There’s no question the Bolts need a running back as Ryan Mathews is an impending free agent and Gurley would be a top 10 pick if not for his injury. I would be surprised if the Chargers went in any direction other than running back with this pick, the question is whether it will be Gurley, who may have the most upside, but is coming off an injury, or Melvin Gordon. Both backs project to be instant starters, so they can’t really go wrong with either guy, unless there’s lingering concerns about Gurley’s injury. As long as he passes all the medical tests the Chargers’ staff will perform prior to the draft, I would expect him to be the pick.
The Chiefs went this entire past season without a wide receiver catching a single touchdown pass…Think about that for a second. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the two elite WRs in this draft, Cooper and White, are both off the board, as are Jaelen Strong and DeVante Parker. Sammie Coates is a possibility at this spot also, but he’s a bit raw. While the same could be said for DGB, as well as questions about his background, his upside might be too high to pass up here. The Chiefs need a true #1 WR and after a strong performance at the Combine, I think DGB is worth the risk here as he may have the most upside of any wide receiver in the draft.
The Browns addressed the offensive side of the ball by grabbing a wide receiver earlier in the first round, so now they work on solidifying the defensive side of the ball, specifically their defensive line. Their DL was woeful last year, especially against the run. Phil Taylor has been a huge disappointment and Brown could be a steal this late in the first round. He has position flexibility as he has the speed to play the 3 technique, but also has the strength and power to play the nose in a 4-3. He would give the Browns a solid run defender who is also a disruptive pass rusher. He had very impressive stats last season at Texas, as he posted 71 tackles, 13 TFLs, and 6 sacks. The Browns could also go offensive line here, but I think Brown is too good to pass up.
The Jets receive this pick as a result of trading away the #6 pick to the Eagles so they could draft Marcus Mariota. With the recent signing of Brandon Marshall, it makes it even less likely that the Jets hold onto that pick as Amari Cooper would have been the next logical pick. However, the Jets do need to improve two areas on defense: OLB and CB. As I said earlier, if the Jets were to stay put, I could see them taking a pass rusher, however cornerback is definitely the more pressing need at this point. I think it comes down to either DE/OLB Shane Ray or Mills with this pick, but the Jets go for the best available CB.
The Bengals pass rush struggled last season after they lost Michael Johnson on the outside. They have other areas that they can address, but the SEC Defensive Player of the Year is a steal at #21. He will instantly provide a pass rushing threat that the Bengals desperately need. With a solid group of LBs as well as CBs, they could also potentially address the safety position by selecting Landon Collins, who would be able to step in and start from day one, but Ray may be too good to pass up here.
If Collins falls this far, which is a real possibility, I would be very surprised to see the Steelers pass up on him with the 22nd pick. Mike Mitchell was a major disappointment at safety last year and Troy Polamalu is unlikely to return, and even if he does he won’t be around for many more years, so they need help at the position regardless. Collins seems like a natural fit here for a team looking for a safety who can step in and contribute early. He’s an extremely physical safety, who is great in run defense, and was extremely productive last season posting 104 tackles, 7 pass deflections, and 4 interceptions. This would be a great pick for the Steelers if Collins is available.
With Ndamukong Suh on his way out of Detroit and Nick Fairley also a free agent, the Lions will need to reload at the position. I think the decision will be between Eddie Goldman or Malcolm Brown of Texas, but at 6’4” 336 lbs., Goldman is a solid run stopper, but also has enough speed to be a disruptive pass rusher. He was unable to participate in the NFL Combine because of an injury, but Goldman is big, strong, quick, and very stout at the point of attack. He may not be Suh, but he’s certainly not a bad replacement.
The Cardinals sorely missed Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington this past season, which led to them having a difficult time defending tight ends. Many have Denzel Perryman of Miami listed as the top MLB in this draft, however he doesn’t have ideal size as he stands 5’10” 242 lbs, while Kendricks is about 6” 232 lbs. Additionally, Kendricks outperformed Perryman at the NFL Combine as he ripped off a 4.61 40 yard dash, while Perryman ran a 4.78. Kendricks showed during field drills that he has the speed to be a sideline to sideline LB, and his length, while not ideal, is better than Perryman’s, which will held in pass coverage. Factor in Kendricks’ extremely productive final season at UCLA where he posted 149 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 4 sacks, and 3 INTs, and he would be a great fit in the middle of the Cardinals’ defense.
While the Panthers could certainly use more weapons for Cam Newton, especially at the WR position, their biggest issue last season was protecting him. There isn’t necessarily a WR worthy of this pick and with a need at both tackle positions, Clemmings makes the most sense here. Clemmings is a converted DL, who has only been playing OT for the past two years, so he is far from a finished product. However, he has impressive athleticism and his best days are ahead of him, so he makes sense for the Panthers as they can start him out at RT and eventually slide him over to LT when he’s ready.
Steve Smith had a big year for the Ravens last season and emerged as Joe Flacco’s go to wide receiver. However, he’s getting up there in age and will need to be replaced eventually. The Ravens do not have much in the way of depth at WR behind Smith and Torrey Smith, so they could certainly bolster their depth for the immediate future with the selection of Coates, while he can take over for Steve Smith once he moves on. Coates tested extremely well at the NFL Combine with a 4.43 40 yard dash, 23 reps on the bench press, a 41 inch vertical, 131 inch broad jump, and a 4.06 20 yard shuttle. At 6’1” 213 lbs., he is well built and while he needs some work, he has all the tools to become a very productive WR in the NFL.
The Cowboys seem to have set themselves up perfectly to re-sign DeMarco Murray as they used the franchise tag on Dez Bryant. However, they don’t have a ton of salary cap room and it’s very possible that Murray is in a different uniform next year if another team makes him an offer he can’t refuse. He’s openly stated his desire to return to Dallas and both Stephen and Jerry Jones have said they want him back and have flexibility to make him a fair offer. The Cowboys certainly have other needs they would prefer to address, such as DT, DE, and CB, but if Murray bolts in free agency and Gordon is available when they are on the clock, they won’t be able to pass him up. Gordon’s stats and accolades have been well documented, as have the comparison to Jamaal Charles, so if Murray is not re-signed, Gordon becomes America’s Team’s new workhorse.
With the Broncos switching to a 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips, they could be looking for depth at that OLB position. While they have DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, Ware is starting to get up there in age and has battled injuries the past few years so it wouldn’t be wise to depend on him to be able to play a full season. There are a few potential 3-4 OLB types that the Broncos could select with this pick, however Harold’s combination of speed and athleticism off the edge make him a good fit. He posted 14.5 TFLs and 7 sacks in his final season at Virginia and it appears his best football is still ahead of him
The Colts biggest problem last year was being able to protect their franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. They have multiple spots on the OL that could stand to be upgraded and Collins is a steal at #29 as he could easily go in the early teens. He also has some position flexibility as he can either play guard or tackle. There’s no doubt that offensive line is on top of the Colts list of needs and if Collins is available here, I don’t see them passing up on him.
With both of their big bodied DTs, BJ Raji and Letroy Guion, free agents, the Packers likely will be looking for another big body to put on the DL. They also have a need at MLB, although it doesn’t appear that there is one worth using the #30 pick on. In Phillips, the Packers get a 6’5” 329 lb space eater who also gets some penetration. Unless a linebacker worth selecting falls to this pick, expect the Packers to pick a big body on the DL.
The Seahawks need playmakers at the wide receiver position and there’s a few they could select here, however Devin Smith’s big play ability makes him the selection. With Marshawn Lynch returning next season, Smith would give Russell Wilson a home run threat to open the offense up a bit. Despite having only 32 receptions last season, they went for 886 yards and 12 TDs. A true deep threat is the one thing this Seahawks’ offense is missing and Smith could fill that void nicely.
The Patriots managed to win the Super Bowl without a true #1 WR because of tremendous production from the slot out of Julian Edelman. Brandon LaFell is a talented WR, however he is far from a #1 in the NFL. Nelson Agholor was tremendously productive in college at USC, pulling in 104 receptions for 1,313 yards and 12 TDs in 2014. He is one of the best route runners in this draft and also has one of the best sets of hands as well. He has nice size at 6’1” 190 lbs to go along with his 4.41 40 yard dash. He would give Tom Brady a playmaker on the outside, making life even more difficult for opposing defenses.