2015 NFL Mock Draft: Early Projections for Next Wave of Pro Talent

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2014

Let's not pretend like draft season truly ends anymore and go ahead and kick off the 2015 mock season.

Besides, what would fans do during the non-contact minicamp period, anyway? Well, besides obsess over new additions via the 2014 draft, but that's last week's news. It never hurts to get a head start on the next generation of NFL talent, and while 2014 was hyped to the moon and back, there is an outside shot that the 2015 class is even better in many aspects.

It goes without saying that much is subject to change. Injuries. Decisions to stay in school or depart early. The draft order, which for now is loosely based on projected results. It goes on, but for now just soak in the early look at how things might shake out.


1. New York Jets: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Marcus Mariota made the right move by electing to go back to school, and barring a Matt Barkley-esque turn of events (the chances are nil), the Oregon product will be first off the board regardless of which team sits atop the draft.

Here that happens to be New York, a team with a head coach likely on his way out as the Geno Smith experiment falls flat. There are too many holes on both sides of the football to feel like the Jets can be anything but a sideshow once again.

But it's not a lost cause, as Mariota is an elite prospect who can carry a putrid roster on his own.


2. Washington Redskins: Leonard Williams, DE, USC

It's actually a tad intimidating how much Leonard Williams seemed to improve on a game-by-game basis last year.

Given his current trajectory, Williams' ascension to the top of the class seems likely. He's a space-eater who imposes his will, a trait that has the looks of translating to the pro game quite well.

That's good news in Washington, where the likes of Barry Cofield and Jason Hatcher are not getting any younger.


3. Tennessee Titans: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Try not to buy into the Jameis Winston hype too much, because some serious flaws such as immaturity and shaky mechanics actually make this a rather risky pick.

But Tennessee has to bank on the upside. Jake Locker is a bust, and barring a Zach Mettenberger miracle, a potential franchise signal-caller has to be the pick.

Winston needs a lot of work, but the Titans can't chance a trade down or another year of quarterback purgatory.


4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

"Raw" is the best way to describe Randy Gregory, but this is a kid who was receiving first-round praise from the likes of CBS Sports' Dane Brugler last November before he wisely elected to return to school:

For a “raw” prospect, he shows a natural understanding of timing and patience to catch blockers off balance and let his quickness do the rest. With only seven career starts at the FBS-level, he still has a lot of room to develop, but it might not be too much longer until we're talking about Gregory as a potential first round prospect.

A year of development will do wonders for Gregory, who lands with Jacksonville—a franchise content to take the best player available and upgrade what is quietly a deep defensive unit.


5. Oakland Raiders: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

Look, nobody can blame Oakland for grabbing Khalil Mack in the first round, but that hole left by Jared Veldheer won't fix itself (don't dare bring up Donald Penn).

To that end, the Raiders cash in via Cedric Ogbuehi, an elite prospect who received a first-round grade last year, per ESPN's Alex Scarborough:

Derek Carr's pro prospects take a significant upswing with the selection.


6. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo Bills): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

Cleveland robbed Buffalo in the Sammy Watkins ordeal and gets a major asset in the top 10 with Vic Beasley.

Yes, the Browns already have Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo, but this is a passing league where teams simply cannot have enough pass-rushers.

Beasley joins the rotation and gives Cleveland one of the best defenses the league has to offer. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking the best player available.


7. Cleveland Browns: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The previous statement is especially the case for a team with back-to-back picks in the top 10.

Cleveland has no clue how the wideout corps is going to look next season or shortly thereafter, but the front office simply cannot continue to rely on the likes of Greg Little and Nate Burleson.

Amari Cooper is the best in class and gives Johnny Manziel a reliable target. He's no Mike Evans in the size department (6'1", 198 pounds), but he's leagues above those not named Josh Gordon on the roster.


8. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

This is a rather fitting pairing. Many thought Pittsburgh would have upgraded corner in the 2014 draft with Ike Taylor and Co. rapidly aging. Many, including Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, thought elite corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was a goner last season, per ESPN's Ivan Maisel:

"If I would have been forced to lay my chips somewhere," Helfrich said, "that's probably where I would have. It was a pleasant surprise."

Now the two hit a very necessary marriage, as Ekpre-Olomu is far and away the top corner and Pittsburgh simply cannot afford to ignore the need again.


9. New York Giants: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Don't sleep on quarterback for the other New York team in 2015 if the board falls right, but the Giants brass won't have an issue with Shilique Calhoun, either.

The Giants are known for a deep pass rush to accommodate for what is a mediocre unit behind the line, so Calhoun fits right in as an immediate contributor and eventual every-down starter should things not work out with Jason Pierre-Paul or Damontre Moore.


10. Detroit Lions: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State

It's great Detroit decided to go all out in addressing the offense this past offseason, but holes on the defensive side of the ball very much remain a major problem.

P.J. Williams helps in this regard. He came on strong last season and another year in the collegiate pipelines will do him wonders.

Like most defensive backs, Williams' transition to the pros will be ugly at times, but he's the major answer the secondary has sought for quite some time.


11. Minnesota Vikings: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State

Mike Zimmer arguably has a No. 1 corner in Xavier Rhodes and a surefire slot stud in Captain Munnerlyn, but the No. 2 spot is a rather obvious weakness.

That changes in a hurry with Ronald Darby, who also came up big for Florida State at times last year across from Williams.

Unlike Williams, Darby will not have to be the savior of a unit, especially with an elite defensive mind like Zimmer leading the way.


12. Dallas Cowboys: Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State

This one is subject to change if Mario Edwards does not take that proverbial next step, but as it stands, his potential is through the roof. 

It all has to come together for Edwards next season, but the framework for an elite edge defender is most certainly there. If he progresses, Dallas has obvious needs at both end positions and would be wise to scoop him up.


13. Houston Texans: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

By this time next year, Brett Hundley may have very well came off the board No. 1 overall if he is able to turn his extremely raw skill set into a suitable pro package.

For now, Hundley is a potential-based pick. That's fine for Houston, which got cute and landed Tom Savage in the 2014 class, who is not a surefire thing to develop into a starter.

Hundley, under the right guidance, can be molded into a franchise quarterback. Bill O'Brien won't pass on the opportunity.


14. Carolina Panthers: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Carolina committed a grievous error in the first round of the 2014 draft by not going with an upgrade in the offensive trenches to better protect Cam Newton

The front office then repeated the same mistake in regards to the tackle position the rest of the way.

That can't happen again, which is fine with Brandon Scherff on the board—a prospect who last year was considered by ESPN's Mel Kiper to rank among the best of the 2014 class (subscription required):

In terms of traits, he's really athletic at a full 6-foot-5 and about 315 pounds, is super strong (one of the strongest players on the team, according to coaches) and can move his feet well and keep pass-rushers at bay as a blocker dropping into his set. I think he's easily in the first-round mix at this point, and is right there with Taylor Lewan as the best blocker in the Big Ten this season. He is, however, a fourth-year junior and still has the option to come back.


15. Miami Dolphins: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

For the first time in three drafts, a running back will go in the first round.

Todd Gurley is easily the best in class and would supplant Knowshon Moreno rather quickly. His all-around skill set will help fans to forget about the likes of Daniel Thomas, while his effectiveness will make life easier on Ryan Tannehill.


16. San Diego Chargers: Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State

With Philip Rivers aging at a rapid pace (don't be shocked when a quarterback is the pick at some point in the 2015 class), the front office in San Diego has to be in a panic mode to keep him upright.

Cameron Erving was constantly in the discussion as a top tackle heading into the 2014 class before he decided to stay in college, and his stock won't fluctuate much in the 2015 class.

San Diego won't hesitate to pull the trigger after suffering through a King Dunlap nightmare this season.


17. Baltimore Ravens: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

The Baltimore Ravens added two tackles in the 2014 draft, but neither will do much to secure and hold the starting gig at right tackle across from Eugene Monroe.

Andrus Peat most certainly can, and will.

It was a bit perplexing that the offensive trenches were not more of a priority this past offseason for Baltimore considering the cash invested in one Joe Flacco and the floundering career of one Ray Rice, but Peat goes a long way in correcting those issues.


18. Kansas City Chiefs: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

Bryce Petty is also a bit of a project, but his upside isn't as great as some of the others in the 2015 class.

Unless Andy Reid truly believes Aaron Murray is the long-term answer under center, the offensive guru will have no issues pulling the trigger on a playmaker like Petty.

Petty excelled in a system tailored to his skills at Baylor, which is something Reid can help recreate in Kansas City.


19. Atlanta Falcons: Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan

The Atlanta Falcons showed in the 2014 draft that they are content to roll with Levine Toilolo next year as the starter at tight end.

While oozing potential, let's say it doesn't work out. Even if it does, more weapons around Matt Ryan is never a bad thing, especially if the front office is content with the status of the line.

Devin Funchess has the look of the best in class so far at tight end, and he'd be an immediate contributor for the Falcons offense.


20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tre' Jackson, G, Florida State

Look at that Florida State offensive line go.

Tre' Jackson will be the recipient of much attention all season, as he should be. The interior enforcer is one of the best in class thanks to his mauling ability in the run game and sound pass-protection skills.

Guard is a bit devalued, but Tampa Bay won't have an issue getting an upgrade on the right side of the line if things don't pan out with Patrick Omameh.


21. St. Louis Rams: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

Lamarcus Joyner was a nice addition for Jeff Fisher's St. Louis Rams in the 2014 class, but even he understands that his secondary isn't up to par for the pass-happy league.

With that in mind, Fisher will be content to pull the trigger on Jalen Collins, a prospect oozing potential but with plenty of game to contribute right away.


22. Cincinnati Bengals: Landon Collins, S, Alabama

ESPN's Kevin Weidl put it best in regards to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's partner in crime last year, Landon Collins:

Collins is an ideal fit in Cincinnati, where the Bengals could use an upgrade over George Iloka next to Reggie Nelson. Speaking of Nelsonhe isn't getting any younger, so it's about time the team places a priority on the position.


23. Indianapolis Colts: La’El Collins, OT, LSU

There appears to be a run on players named Collins at this juncture.

All kidding aside, if the Indianapolis Colts intend to use Jack Mewhort on the interior, the focus has to be on the edges in the 2015 draft.

An upgrade is a bit of a luxury, but one the Colts should afford in order to better protect Andrew Luck. La’El Collins is the top tackle on the board and an instant starter at the pro level.


24. Arizona Cardinals: Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State

Like it or not, Larry Fitzgerald won't last forever.

At some point, Bruce Arians has to find Michael Floyd a running mate, and with Rashad Greene on the board, the ideal time is now.

Greene flourished with Winston under center and will continue to do so, as his elite speed and sure hands make him one of the first looks every time through. He'll be a smooth addition to Arians' offense.


25. Chicago Bears: Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State

Will Sutton was quite the steal for Chicago in the 2014 class, but more youth and big-play ability is a must for the Bears in the defensive trenches.

To that end, they don't come much more pro ready than Ohio State's Michael Bennett, who can come in right away and supplant the starters in front of him on the depth chart in no time.

A quality line is key to freeing up linebackers, and Bennett is the upgrade the team should have grabbed in the first round of the 2014 draft.


26. Philadelphia Eagles: Josh Shaw, CB, Southern California

Philadelphia did a good job of nabbing Jaylen Watkins via the draft, but that secondary needs more top-tier talent to really accommodate for being the unit that gets beat up the most as teams attempt to keep up with Chip Kelly's offense.

Which is why Josh Shaw makes sense. He's shown flashes of elite ability and may very well play himself into the first round in 2015.

Shaw does not have to start right away, which makes him even more valuable in the long run.


27. Green Bay Packers: Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Ohio State

We'll see how the Julius Peppers experiment works out, but it's quite obvious the Green Bay Packers are going to need to upgrade opposite Clay Matthews.

No, it doesn't look like Nick Perry is the answer, but a talent like Noah Spence might just be.

Spence touts an elite set of pass-rush skills that will flourish in Green Bay, so the investment makes sense.


28. San Francisco 49ers: Doran Grant, CB, Ohio State

Corner is quite the deep position in 2015, with Doran Grant a bit lost in the shuffle at the moment.

He has a full year to turn that around, but it is quite the large mountain to climb.

The San Francisco 49ers won't complain. After ignoring the position in this year's draft, Grant is a welcome addition thanks to his ability to stick with the speediest of wideouts.


29. New England Patriots: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, ?

Dorial Green-Beckham is a major risk and one many teams won't want to associate with, especially after his dismissal from Missouri.

But Green-Beckham is sure to continue his football career at a small school, where he will surely dominate.

The fact of the matter is rather simple—there are few wideouts who come in at 6'6" and 220 pounds, and the New England Patriots will be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Tom Brady's last few years are wildly successful.


30. New Orleans Saints: Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon

For a team going all-in to get the most out of Drew Brees' final years, it was strange to watch the New Orleans Saints not retain Brian de la Puente.

It's a mistake that will hurt the team, but one that can be mitigated in the next draft with an elite prospect like Hroniss Grasu.

Grasu is the leader in the trenches of the Oregon offense, so he'll feel right at home in New Orleans.


31. Denver Broncos: Ramik Wilson, MLB, Georgia

Get ready—Georgia's Ramik Wilson is the next big thing.

Wilson's rise to stardom last year was not without reason, as illustrated by radio show host Radi Nabulsi:

The notion that inside linebackers are devalued is somewhat debunked thanks to C.J. Mosley, but until Wilson puts together another similar campaign, it's hard to place him higher. Denver was awful on the interior in 2013, so the shoe fits.


32. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Yes, the Seattle Seahawks have a starter in Marshawn Lynch and two very promising younger players in Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. 

Why not add another?

The NFL has transitioned to a committee approach. Seattle can embody this philosophy by adding Melvin Gordon, who adds yet another wrinkle to an offense that is one of the league's most explosive already.


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