2015 NFL Draft: Early 1st-Round Mock with Randomized Order
Is it ever too soon to start thinking about the NFL draft?
Of course it isn’t.
NFL training camps are getting ready to kick off, but more importantly, the college football season is upon us. Any NFL fan worth their customized jersey knows at least a wee bit about college football.
Getting an idea of prospects now lays a foundation for those glorious Saturdays in the fall when these young men put it all on the line for a shot at the big show. It is best to have at least a tertiary understanding of who the players to watch are, instead of playing catch up in February.
For draft pundits, the draft season never ends. It is a constant cycle of player evaluation, NFL team breakdowns and the pairing of the two. One way to convey that is through a mock draft. Here’s my first 2015 mock draft of the year.
One important note. Draft order was established using an online randomizer at random.org. This removes any and all bias with selection order, until the season begins. Is this the order the draft will be in next spring? Of course not. Nevertheless, if you take umbrage with the order, understand it was determined using a logarithm, not hate for your favorite team.
All player data courtesy of sports-reference.com's college football pages.
1. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson
The last time the Green Bay Packers were picking on the top five of the draft, they took a chance on linebacker A.J. Hawk. Now, Hawk has never been the player he was projected to be when he came out of Ohio State, but he has been a great contributor for the past eight seasons.
In this scenario, the Packers go back to the defensive side of the football and select Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley. Julius Peppers will turn 35 before the start of the 2015 season, and the jury continues to be out on Nick Perry as a replacement.
Beasley is a blur off the edge as a pass-rushing outside linebacker. His first step is as good as any in the country, and his closing speed is truly elite. Beasley was a likely top-10 pick had he declared in 2014, so he is very much a known entity in the draft community.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
With what is presumed to be their franchise quarterback and left tackle in place (Blake Bortles and Luke Joeckel, respectively), the Jacksonville Jaguars turn to defense at No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft.
Nebraska’s Randy Gregory is a long, fit athlete with elite measurables. His ability to rush the passer is punctuated with his aggressive nature and closing speed. The only thing missing from Gregory’s game at this point is his strength in setting the edge against the run.
Nevertheless, if Gregory can continue to build on his 10.5-sack performance in 2013, it is going to be hard to deny his status as the top 4-3 pass-rushing defensive end in this draft.
3. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Presuming that one of the Oakland Raiders’ quarterbacks pans out, the organization can pass on one with the third overall pick. Along those same lines, after using a first-round pick on linebacker Khalil Mack in 2013, they can check the box for defensive playmaker.
So what is next? Looking over the roster, a franchise left tackle would make a lot of sense. There’s going to be a lot of debate between now and next spring's draft about which tackle is the best. When it all shakes out, it could very well be Stanford tackle Andrus Peat. Just a junior, Peat is already showing a very high ceiling.
Peat enters his junior campaign with 14 starts at left tackle on one of the top offensive lines in the country. He is a mauler who works well is space, able to get to the second level and finish blocks. At only 20 years old with room for growth, Peat is as good as any offensive tackle in this draft.
4. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
The Chicago Bears did a nice job in 2014 bolstering their defense both in the secondary and the middle of the defensive line. In 2015, they can turn their attention to the defensive end position. Adding Lamarr Houston was a terrific move, but Jared Allen is more of a temporary fix at this point.
With that in mind, the Bears go get Florida defensive end Dante Fowler. Of all the defensive players in the 2015 draft, Fowler might be the one who will generate the most buzz between now and the event. At 277 pounds, Fowler has the raw power to anchor the edge in a 4-3, while at the same time possessing the burst to rush the passer from the edge or from the inside.
5. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The direction this pick goes for the St. Louis Rams will be based heavily on how quarterback Sam Bradford plays in 2014. In this scenario, picking so early, things couldn’t have gone well. So, the Rams move on from Bradford, a former No. 1 overall pick, and go forward with a new quarterback.
And that new quarterback is Oregon signal-caller Marcus Mariota. Mariota is a little hard to describe as a player. His physical tools are impressive. He’s a better runner than many running backs, and his arm is underrated. However, analyzing him as a pro prospect is always somewhat challenging because of the nature of Oregon's offense.
What Mariota needs to show is that he can make more tighter-window throws and demonstrate a better feel for other types of timing throws that will be demanded of him in the NFL. If he can do that, and stay healthy, he will definitely be in the mix to be the first quarterback off the board.
6. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
The slide of USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams ends with the Denver Broncos. Denver has some very nice pieces in place on their defensive front, but Williams is just too good to pass up here. At 6’5” and 290 pounds, Williams is a natural 3-technique tackle.
Williams, paired up inside with the other Williams (Sylvester) would be a formidable duo as both run-stuffers and pass-rushers. USC asked Williams to do a little of everything, and expects more of the same in 2014. His quickness and first step are elite, and he shows a great deal of power and leverage as well.
This would be a pure best-player-available pick for the Broncos.
7. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
There’s a real possibility that Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are both gone at the end of the season. If that happens, wide receiver would become a high priority in a real hurry. Even if one of the two stays, taking a wide receiver here isn’t a bad idea.
There are several young wide receivers that will be vying for the top spot, but the nod here goes to Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper doesn’t really stand out in any areas, but is very well-rounded and incredibly productive. When you consider he plays for a team that loves to run the football and has had very mediocre quarterback talent, his ability to beat coverages and make big plays is enticing.
The key for Cooper to hold onto this spot is for him to continue to be productive with a different quarterback. He can also do well for himself by running crisper routes and showing more straight-line speed on the field. Either way, he’d be a great addition to the 49ers offense.
8. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
The Seattle Seahawks really have two ways they could go here picking this high. They could choose to select a defensive end here to possibly replace Cliff Avril. They could also opt to go for an offensive tackle here in case they choose not to give Russell Okung a new contract.
This time around they go with Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff. Scherff is the most NFL-ready tackle in the draft. He doesn’t stand out in any particular area, but does everything near perfect. If Seattle drafts him here, they will be able to drop him in at left tackle and never look back.
9. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
The San Diego Chargers will continue to trot out Philip Rivers, knowing he is about as stationary as a billboard back there. That means getting as many offensive linemen in front of him as possible is a top priority.
The Chargers have some massive offensive linemen: Four of their starting five weigh in at over 320 pounds, with veteran center Nick Hardwick tipping the scales at a svelte 305 pounds.
Adding Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi could give the Chargers an elite player in pass protection and an excellent athlete. Dunlap might be better served to kick inside at guard, giving the Chargers a tandem of Fluker and Ogbuehi protecting the edges.
10. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
For all the moves the Atlanta Falcons have made, it still doesn’t feel like they have what they need in place for their new 3-4 defense. Perhaps one of the outside linebackers on the roster will step up as a pass-rush specialist, but if not, they must land one here.
Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun looks like a perfect candidate for conversion from defensive end to outside linebacker for the Falcons. At 6’4”, Calhoun is long, with great reach and a dynamic first step. Calhoun’s game is a little rough around the edges, but his ceiling is much higher than some of the other pass-rushers in this group.
In Atlanta, Calhoun would push for playing time very early.
11. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
The Tennessee Titans are another team making a concerted effort to move to a 3-4 defensive in 2014.
Right now, they are firmly pushing square pegs into round holes at outside linebacker. Assuming they don’t get the results they want, the Titans will probably look for a pass-rushing outside linebacker early in this draft.
The best one left on the board at this point is TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. After starting all 13 games in 2012, Fields missed all but three games in 2013. Fields looks to return with a fury in 2014 and head full steam into the NFL next spring. Fields practically lived in opposing backfields in 2012, averaging 1.4 tackles for loss per game. His body is ideal to convert to outside linebacker, and assuming he’s healthy is going to have a huge year for the Horned Frogs this season.
12. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
If you believe that the Kansas City Chiefs can win with some combination of Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray at quarterback, then this pick won’t be for you. However, if you feel like the team is still missing a long-term answer at the position, then last year's Heisman winner might be the ideal pick at No. 12 overall in the 2015 draft.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is a long way from a perfect prospect, but there’s no doubt his potential is tremendous. Kansas City has a lot of nice pieces in place, perhaps adding Winston to the mix would be what they need to put them over the top in the AFC.
It's going to be full speed ahead for the Winston hype train. Everything he does right and wrong will be put firmly under the microscope.
13. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami
Examining the New Orleans Saints roster, there aren’t many holes. If something goes wrong, and the Saints are picking this high, they’d have multiple positions to bolster one side of the football or the other. Perhaps the most interesting pick here could be a quarterback to groom behind Drew Brees.
Nevertheless, this time around things are a bit tamer with Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman. A good 3-4 defense can really benefit from a three-down inside linebacker who can stuff the run and cover. Perryman is a throwback in terms of his fundamentals and physical gifts. There’s no better tackler in the draft, and he plays with exceptional football acumen.
14. New England Patriots
The Pick: Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
Of all the teams in the NFL, the New England Patriots might be the toughest to get a read on. The Patriots might be seriously considering a tight end here, so should one elevate to first-round status, look for New England to grab him here.
Without that, adding help along the defensive line is next.
Iowa’s Carl Davis is a massive man who can stuff the run or rush the passer. In addition, Davis’ frame can accommodate 10 or 15 more pounds without any loss of speed or explosion. If so, he would make an excellent replacement for Vince Wilfork and form a dynamic pair with defensive end Dominique Easley.
15. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
It is perhaps time for the Cleveland Browns to plan for a future that does not include Josh Gordon at wide receiver. This was a possibility during the previous draft, but they chose to ignore it. In 2015, they can’t do the same. The trick is figuring out which wide receiver fits this team best.
This time around it is Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery. In terms of character, all that appears to be wrong with Gordon is right about Montgomery. A model student and teammate, Montgomery is much more than just an exceptional football player.
At 6’2” and 215 pounds, Montgomery has ideal size, but he offers more than that. Montgomery is a physical player with the ball in his hands and is one of the fastest wide receivers in the draft.
16. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
At this point in the round, the Philadelphia Eagles would be overjoyed to have the top cornerback in the draft fall to them in the first round. P.J. Williams is more than just an elite athlete. He’s a smooth, instinctual cover corner who is almost certainly destined to end up going much higher than this.
If the Eagles opt not to go with a cornerback here, look for the top defensive player on their board to be a prospect who can add more speed to the defense. However, if things play out this way, it wouldn't take but a second for Philadelphia to send this pick in.
17. New York Giants
The Pick: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
It is finally time for the New York Giants to fix what has been a broken running game. Yes, they did draft Andre Williams in 2014, but he is not enough to discourage the Giants from adding an elite talent at running back in 2015.
Georgia’s Todd Gurley is a rare talent at the position and certainly worthy of a first-round pick. Gurley has ideal size and a great inside/outside running game. The one downside is Gurley does have some miles on the tires, so you hope that Georgia is able to regulate his carries better in 2014, so he enters the league with fresh legs.
18. Washington Redskins
The Pick: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The Washington Redskins have more holes on their roster than a leaky tug boat. One key area where they can make strides here is at cornerback. David Amerson has a bright future, but beyond him, things get a little dicey.
If Washington could score Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, it would have a very solid cornerback tandem for the future. Ekpre-Olomu doesn’t have elite size, but he’s quick and he’s smart, with rock solid man-coverage skills. There are spots all over this roster that could use a little duct tape, but this pick would represent the best player available.
19. Houston Texans
The Pick: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
It might seem silly to add a running back to a Houston Texans team that has Arian Foster toting the rock. However, Foster missed eight games in 2013, and will turn 28 at the start of the season. It is never too soon to start to think about the inevitability of life without Foster.
The best running back on the board is Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. Gordon is a solid, shifty back with elite speed, and his production at Wisconsin spiked dramatically in 2013 when he became the Badgers' feature back.
Gordon is the most instinctive runner in the draft and is an exceptional fit for the Texans offense.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
Depending on the way in which things go in 2014, the Pittsburgh Steelers could be in dire need of a pass-rushing outside linebacker. There’s a valid possibility that Jason Worilds will not be back after the upcoming season, and Jarvis Jones is still an unknown in year two.
Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney is the antithesis of Jones. Whereas Jones is a whirling dervish of effort in lieu of elite measurables, McKinney is more athletically impressive. At nearly 6’5” and 252 pounds, McKinney is long and fluid in his movements. McKinney’s frame could hold 10 more pounds easily while not sacrificing any of the explosiveness that is the hallmark of his game.
21. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
One area the Baltimore Ravens failed to address in the 2014 NFL draft was right tackle. It is difficult to get excited about hitching your wagon to the Ricky Wagner train and hoping things go well. With the potential talent in this draft class, the Ravens can upgrade the position here.
Florida State tackle Cameron Erving nearly declared for the 2014 draft, where he’d have been in the mix as a late first-round pick. Another year at FSU, and Erving’s athleticism should cement that spot.
22. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
There are numerous directions the Dallas Cowboys can go here. They could add another pass-rushing defensive end to pair up with this year's second-round pick, Demarcus Lawrence, or even a tight end to eventually replace Jason Witten.
Instead, Dallas goes best-player available and upgrades their safety position.
Between now and next year, there are going to be several safeties who will be projected as the first at his position to come off the board. As the 2014 season approaches, Alabama safety Landon Collins is presently the most well rounded. He was overshadowed in 2013 by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but Collins might be an even better prospect.
23. New York Jets
The Pick: Noah Spence, LB, Ohio State
When you look over the New York Jets roster, you just have to speculate about how some of these young players will project before you think about who will be the pick in 2015. If the young skill players on the roster pan out as planned, the Jets can turn their attention to adding even more talent on defense.
Ohio State Noah Spence is part of a crowded, and very talented cluster of pass-rush specialists in this mock draft. If Spence can build on his 8.5-sack season in 2013, he could definitely vault himself even further up within the first round.
Spence showed last year that he can impact the game in multiple ways, including pass coverage.
24. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
Even with the Carolina Panthers adding huge wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, more work needs to be done. Guys like Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are temporary fixes at best.
There are a couple of different approaches the Panthers could go here to find a wide receiver to pair with Benjamin. Maryland’s Stefon Diggs makes a lot of sense, because his speed and quickness in the open field would make an excellent complement to Benjamin’s size and power.
25. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Mario Edwards Jr., DE, Florida State
Could the Arizona Cardinals draft a quarterback like Baylor’s Bryce Petty with this pick? Absolutely. And I would not be at all shocked if they did. Nevertheless, Arizona may be looking at Logan Thomas as its future at the position, so quarterback can wait for now.
Instead, the Cardinals go with the best player available and add youth and athleticism to the defensive line. Florida State defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. is a near-ideal fit for a 3-4 defense as a 5-technique end. At 294 pounds, Edwards can overpower offensive linemen and has nice length and surprising athleticism as well.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo)
The Pick: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Coming back around to the Cleveland Browns second first-round pick, they hop back over to defense and add speed and athleticism at linebacker.
Washington’s Shaq Thompson is undersized for his position, much like Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, and just as the Steelers have taken a hyper-athletic outside linebacker and moved him inside, the Browns can do the same thing with Thompson.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Looking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster, there aren’t many areas of pressing need at this point. They’ve built a nice young defense and have some fascinating skill players.
What they continue to have are questions at quarterback. So, with nothing more urgent, why not take a chance late in the round on a player who could be their franchise signal-caller?
UCLA’s Brett Hundley is a marvelous athlete, but his skills as a quarterback are still emerging. The hope is that his 2014 season is going to show a QB with more polish as a passer and vault him into the first round of next year's draft.
28. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: Cedric Reed, LB, Texas
At some point, linebacker Robert Mathis will no longer play at a high level. Couple that with the rather mediocre talent opposite him at the other pass-rushing linebacker spot, and you can see where adding another edge-rusher would be prudent.
Texas defensive end Cedric Reed has a real chance to work his way into the first-round conversation if he can repeat his 10-sack, 16.5-tackle-for-loss season in 2013. Reed’s got the ideal size for a 3-4 outside linebacker and displays an excellent burst off the edge.
29. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: La’el Collins, G, LSU
Adding a mauling guard like LSU’s La’el Collins could be the final piece of the puzzle for the Miami Dolphins offense. Collins has experience at tackle as well, but with his body type and style of play, he seems perfectly suited to play right guard.
It would be wise for the Dolphins to go back to the SEC and grab one more excellent offensive lineman.
30. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
Depth is a major concern for the Minnesota Vikings. While their starters are solid, there is very little behind them. This is also true of star running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson’s window is closing as the approaches 30 years of age.
This is why it is vital that with a young quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater, you cannot have a lag at talent elsewhere. That’s why Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon makes so much sense here. Yeldon is a similar type of runner as Peterson and would not only extend AD’s career but be his eventual replacement.
31. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Alex Carter, CB, Stanford
For all the work that the Detroit Lions have done building this football team, cornerback remains a question mark. That’s not to say Bill Bentley and Darius Slay aren’t serviceable starters. When you have that defensive front, you don’t need Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson behind you.
However, adding some talent at cornerback in a pass-happy league is never a bad idea.
Stanford’s Alex Carter is a potential breakout candidate for 2014. Carter is smooth in coverage and very physical against the run. Carter has nice size and could project to either cornerback or safety. This is the kind of versatility the NFL covets.
32. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
Picking at the end of the round means things would have gone according to plan for the Cincinnati Bengals. It also means they can look to add talent without tremendous concern for a glaring need.
Washington’s Kasen Williams is a talented wide receiver prospect that is poised for big things in 2014. Williams has been hamstrung by bad quarterback play, but hopes to return to 2012 form when he hauled in 77 receptions for 878 yards. Williams isn’t the deep threat of some other receivers, but runs great routes and is impressive after the catch.