NFL Draft 2015: Preseason Predictions for the Entire First Round

Curt PopejoyContributor IAugust 8, 2014

NFL Draft 2015: Preseason Predictions for the Entire First Round

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    It is never too soon to start thinking about the 2015 NFL draft. Between the start of the NFL and college football season, now is a perfect time to get familiar with the top prospects.

    The 2015 class is shaping up to be a very deep group, led once again by underclassmen. Even though it’s likely there will be fewer young players declare, it is still going to be the bulk of the top prospects.

    Do you need your NFL draft fix as a huge weekend of professional football approaches? Of course you do, so without further ado, here is a taste, a new mock draft, preseason edition.

    Oh, and draft order was chosen based on the Super Bowl odds on Oddschecker.

     

    All player info courtesy of sports-reference.com.

     

     

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

    In the past two drafts, the Jacksonville Jaguars have used their first-round picks to get their franchise quarterback and franchise left tackle.

    This time around the Jaguars turn their attention to the defense with Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory.

    Gregory is far from a finished product at this point, but with great length at 6’5” and a solid 255 pounds, Gregory has the frame to easily pack on 10 or 15 more pounds. The strength of Gregory’s game is all about pressure. Nebraska moved him all over the field to allow him to use his athleticism to harass opposing quarterbacks.

    Gregory has the potential to be an elite NFL defender. He needs to work on his run defense and to play with better strength, but his ceiling is very high.

2. Tennessee Titans

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

    The Tennessee Titans are another team in need of some pass-rush help. The Titans are making the switch to a 3-4 defense, which takes a special kind of player to man that pass-rushing outside linebacker spot.

    Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley is a relentless pass-rush specialist with an elite first step. At only 235 pounds, Beasley isn’t a great fit as an NFL defensive end but is easily athletic enough to stand up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

    Beasley could have been a first-round pick had he declared last year, but he has a shot to be drafted even higher with another strong 2015.

3. Oakland Raiders

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    The Pick: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

    There are several directions the Oakland Raiders could go with this pick. In 2014, Oakland made a point to get a future star on defense with linebacker Khalil Mack. So it makes sense that this time around they try and bolster their offensive front as well.

    Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff opted to return to school when he already was one of the best tackles in the country. That means this year he has a shot to improve his draft stock, but he could also find himself more heavily scrutinized and evaluated by virtue of his return.

    Still, it's hard to find much wrong with Scherff’s game.

    He is a powerful young man with one of the best hand punches I’ve ever graded on a tackle prospect. He is very sound technically and plays with a high football IQ. The Raiders might not be drafting the flashiest player at this point, but an elite left tackle is just too good to pass up.

4. Minnesota Vikings

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    The Pick: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State

    The Minnesota Vikings have a budding young star at cornerback in Xavier Rhodes, who was taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. However, for as good as the former Florida State Seminole is, the rest of the talent at cornerback is less than spectacular.

    This means the Vikings go back to the Seminoles and bring in another talented cornerback in P.J. Williams. Williams is a long, smooth coverage corner with excellent length and athletic ability. Williams is strong in press coverage and isn’t afraid to mix it up in run support.

    The top cornerback spot will be hotly contested between now and the draft, but Williams has to be in the mix. His fluidity and natural cover skills are second to none in this class, so he certainly is deserving of a draft spot this high.

5. Cleveland Browns (From Buffalo)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

    One team in a great spot in this draft are the Cleveland Browns. They are holding two first-round picks, and both could be very high. Cleveland made good use of their first-round picks in 2014 by picking potential shutdown cornerback Justin Gilbert and an exciting quarterback prospect in Johnny Manziel.

    With their first pick in this draft, the Browns secure an elite tackle prospect to pair with Joe Thomas. Stanford’s Andrus Peat is a mauling tackle prospect with huge upside. I fully expect him to be in the mix to be the first tackle off the board by the end of the season. His footwork is underrated, but his strength and attitude are tough not to love.

6. Cleveland Browns

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    The Pick: Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford

    The Browns come back onto the clock, and they return to the Stanford Cardinal for their second consecutive pick. Whether or not wide receiver Josh Gordon is able to salvage his career is uncertain. This means the Browns have to acquire some weapons in the passing game for Manziel.

    The top wide receiver in this draft is Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Montgomery is very similar to 2014’s top wide receiver Sammy Watkins. They both have nice size (Montgomery is a bit bigger), and both have blistering speed and quickness in the open field.

    Montgomery is also a polished route-runner and smart football player.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

    If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are picking this early, it is probably because things didn’t go as planned with the quarterback position. This is a really solid all-around team on offense, so adding a legit franchise-type quarterback to go with the Bucs' current group of skill players makes a lot of sense.

    Nothing is certain with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. He goes through long stretches where everything for him clicks. His footwork is on point, his velocity is elite and his vision makes him so dangerous. However, when things start going wrong, they travel from the bottom up. When his footwork gets sloppy, it affects the zip on his throws, and things look less rosy.

    If Tampa can ease him into the game, they will reap serious rewards. His athletic ability is on another level from the other quarterbacks in this class. He just needs to be put in a system that allows him to grow and develop as a passer and he can be great.

8. New York Jets

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    The Pick: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

    The temptation here might be for the New York Jets to try and add a wide receiver or even a running back to help out young quarterback Geno Smith. However, the Jets coaches are pretty clear that they want to build an elite defense, and if it means spending top picks to do it, then so be it.

    The Jets might have the most dominant 3-4 defensive line in the league. It only makes sense to add some athletes behind them if the front office gets the opportunity.

    Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun would be a perfect guy to replace the 33-year-old Calvin Pace. Calhoun is another of these long, lean athletes who uses a nice first step and excellent balance to turn the corner.

9. Miami Dolphins

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Pick: Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami

    There are times when the prudent move is to just snatch up the highest rated player on the board, and then find a way to use him. Linebacker might not be a top priority for the Miami Dolphins, but there is always room to upgrade.

    Not to mention, there is a level of synergy in the Dolphins drafting University of Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman. The “U” had produced some amazing linebackers over the years, and Perryman is the next in line. Perryman is a throwback in that he's an elite athlete who also demonstrates proper technique.

10. Houston Texans

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Pick: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

    Now that the Houston Texans have defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Jadeveon Clowney terrorizing quarterbacks, who plays in the secondary doesn’t matter, right?

    Wrong. If you are a cornerback-poor team and you can get a shutdown player, you don’t pass him up.

    That’s why the Texans won’t let Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu slip by. At 5'10", Ekpre-Olomu is a little shorter than ideal, but he has excellent technique and top-tier ball skills. Having Ekpre-Olomu would give the Texans far more freedom as to how they could scheme their secondary.

11. Washington Redskins

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Pick: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State

    Looking over the Washington Redskins roster, things aren’t as awful as you might think. One area they can use an upgrade at is cornerback. DeAngelo Hall is getting a bit long in the tooth, so getting his eventual replacement makes sense at this point.

    Ronald Darby is the second Florida State cornerback comes off the board in the first round. A dynamic athlete, Darby is a near-physical clone of his teammate Williams, though he lacks Williams' polish.

12. St. Louis Rams

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Pick: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

    The leash for St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is getting pretty tight around his neck. With a new contract on the horizon, decisions about his future in St. Louis have to be made. For this scenario, things don’t go as planned, and he is sent packing.

    That means the Rams must find a new leader of this offense, and who better than Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston? Winston is a physical presence and a charismatic leader. He does need to work out some serious concerns with his throwing mechanics, but he the game comes very easy for him and he appears to take well to coaching.

13. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The Pick: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

    If Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi is still available at this point in the first round, the Kansas City Chiefs should run to the podium. Although he’s a little raw, Ogbuehi is quite imposing physically and plays with nice leverage and technique.

    The Chiefs are set to roll out some new starting offensive linemen in 2014, so don’t be shocked if they don’t all work out. Ogbuehi has franchise-type left tackle potential, and he would be a steal this late in the round.

14. Dallas Cowboys

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Pick: Leonard Williams, DE, USC

    Speaking of steals, the Dallas Cowboys would be elated if USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams fell to them in the first round. Williams is expected to be as disruptive a force along the defensive line as there will be in college football this season.

    The Cowboys were wise to bring in Henry Melton to bolster their defensive front. However, pairing Williams with Melton in the middle would give the Cowboys an explosive and athletic tandem that can stuff the run and rush the passer.

15. San Diego Chargers

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    The Pick: Amari Cooper, WR Alabama

    If there is a unit on the San Diego Chargers that could benefit from some youth and athletic talent, it is the wide receivers. Keenan Allen had an exceptional rookie season in 2013, but beyond him, things aren’t exactly exciting for the Chargers.

    There are some nice role players, but no one who stands out.

    Pairing up Allen with the dynamic Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper makes perfect sense. Allen is a strong route-runner who is powerful after the catch. Cooper is a deep threat with great speed and exceptional body control.

16. New York Giants

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    The Pick: La’el Collins, OT, LSU

    There are multiple directions the New York Giants can go with this pick. They could go after some youth on the defensive line, or an upgrade at safety. However, the Giants have some young players at both spots who they should continue to develop.

    Instead, they turn their attention to a serious upgrade on the offensive line. LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins is a very versatile offensive lineman who could start at guard or tackle in the NFL. By the time the 2015 draft comes around, expect Collins to be a hot name among scouts and analysts.

17. Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Pick: Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida

    One thing the Cincinnati Bengals believe is that if you are going to win in the AFC North, you’d better have a stout defense. The whole division is full of physical running backs and strong offensive lines. So, when the Bengals get on the clock and they have a chance to snatch up an elite defensive lineman, they won’t pass on him.

    Florida’s Dante Fowler has a chance to be drafted much higher than No. 17 overall. He has tremendous size at 6’3” and 277 pounds and could find himself in great demand because of the versatility he brings to the party. Fowler is a great athlete, but he’s also a very smart player who makes many plays with his exceptional instincts.

18. Carolna Panthers

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    The Pick: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

    When you have a quarterback as good as the Carolina Panthers do in Cam Newton, it’s a shame not to surround him with weapons. Newton is coming into his prime as a player and looks poised to elevate his play even further.

    But he can’t do it without more weapons.

    Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs is an excellent pick at this point because he’s a perfect complement to Kelvin Benjamin. Diggs plays best out of the slot, where he can move around the formation and use his speed to create mismatches against defenders.

19. Baltimore Ravens

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    The Pick: Todd Gurley, RB Georgia

    The Baltimore Ravens running back situation is nothing to get excited about. Ray Rice could be on his way out. Bernard Pierce is a nice player, but I’m not sure anyone thinks he can carry the future load of the Ravens rushing attack.

    That’s where Georgia running back Todd Gurley comes in. A special talent with elite potential, the Georgia running back is a punishing downhill runner with exceptional lateral agility and very good top-end speed. Gurley can find a small crease and exploit it.

20. Atlanta Falcons

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Pick: Noah Spence, DE/LB Ohio State

    Even though the Atlanta Falcons are making strides toward building a dominant defense, they still lack that elite pass-rushing defensive end, a perimeter player who can fly off the edge and get to the quarterback.

    If the Falcons choose Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence, they do so understanding he’s a project. The Buckeyes moved him around a lot, but he never looked completely comfortable in any role. All of the physical tools are there, but he must learn to use his hands better and demonstrate much better strength at the point of attack.

21. Arizona Cardinals

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    The Pick: Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State

    The combined age of the starting right side of the Arizona Cardinals defensive line is 69 years old. There’s no doubt this team could use an injection of youth at both defensive end and defensive tackle. What if they could get both with one pick?

    Florida State defensive lineman Mario Edwards is a classic tweener. At 294 pounds, he could kick inside and play the under tackle with four down linemen, or could slide to the 5-technique end in a 3-4 alignment. Edwards’ game is far from perfect, but once he learns to play lower and keep his head up, all those physical gifts will be put to much better use.

23. Detroit Lions

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    Skip Martin/Associated Press

    The Pick: Landon Collins, S, Alabama

    For all of the press that Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got last season, it was his teammate Landon Collins who really popped on film. Collins is a pure free safety project with exceptional coverage skills.

    The reason he makes sense at this point for the Detroit Lions is because of the multifaceted skills he possesses. The Lions could find themselves on the hunt for a cornerback or a safety next season, and Collins has the skills to play both.

    He could start his career at free safety and slot cornerback before working his way into a full-time cornerback role.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    The Pick: Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

    If the Pittsburgh Steelers choose to let Jason Worilds leave via free agency at the end of the year, they will be on the hunt for a new pass-rushing outside linebacker. Jarvis Jones needs to have a huge year, but even if he does, help across from him is a must.

    He might not be a household name right now, but Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney will be by next spring. The Bulldogs list McKinney as an inside linebacker, but with his athletic ability, he should have no problem transitioning to the outside. And the Steelers have a recent history of moving young linebackers around: This year they drafted Ryan Shazier, who played outside linebacker at Ohio State, and moved him inside.

24. Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

    Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes found himself in a similar position in 2013 as Alabama safety Landon Collins. Both were overshadowed by higher profile teammates, while quietly being better players. Waynes is a long athlete with exceptional instincts and ball skills.

    If Waynes is on the board for the Philadelphia Eagles, they would have to give him serious consideration. His length and speed fit well with the type of player the Eagles look for on defense. This is a crowded cornerback class, so Waynes could slide just because of how good the rest of this group is.

25. New Orleans Saints

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Pick: Ramik Wilson, LB, Georgia

    The New Orleans Saints defense could really benefit from having a more athletic presence at inside linebacker. Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne are nice players, but don’t offer the athletic ability a 3-4 defense demands on the inside.

    Georgia inside linebacker Ramik Wilson is a much more complete linebacker than either of the aforementioned players. Wilson is strong, athletic and relentless. He does a great job with his hands and can bring pressure from all over the formation.

26. Chicago Bears

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    The Pick: Cedric Reed, DE Texas

    The days of defensive end Jared Allen are numbered. It would be prudent for the Chicago Bears to start to stock the shelves behind him as soon as possible. Allen has been a great player in the league, but he is on the decline.

    Defensive end Cedric Reed from Texas is a pure pass-rush specialist. He has a quick first step and can really dip his shoulder and turn the corner. The Longhorns used Reed inside far too much in 2013, where he was susceptible to double-teams a lot. He’s best when he can get wide and go one-on-one with a tackle or tight end.

27. Indianapolis Colts

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    The Pick: Alex Carter, CB, Stanford

    After having such good luck scouting Stanford in getting quarterback Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts return. This time around it is to add some talent on the defensive side of the football. This is a team that needs a cornerback, and Stanford has one of the best.

    Stanford cornerback Alex Carter has a strong build and possesses NFL-caliber length and speed. Carter is physical enough to go up and stuff the run, but his coverage skills have some polish and he can turn smoothly and run.

28. Green Bay Packers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Pick: KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame

    This mini run on cornerbacks continues with the Green Bay Packers selecting Notre Dame coverage specialist KeiVarae Russell. I say coverage specialist because Russell is very good in zone coverage, where he can use his quickness to make a break on the football.

    The one part of Russell’s game that keeps him from being among the elite in this cornerback group is his tackling. Russell is more of a lunger than a tackler at times, and it causes him to whiff far too often, especially in the open field.

29. San Francisco 49ers

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The Pick: Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn

    The only facet of the San Francisco 49ers offense that could use an upgrade is at wide receiver. Michael Crabtree is a nice player, and they have some veteran depth. However, it might be time to give quarterback Colin Kaepernick the target he’s been needing.

    This comes in the form of Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates. Coates is a tremendous prospect. He’s got great size and impressive hands. However, what stands out about him is just how physical he plays. Whether he is blocking down field or after the catch, Coates isn’t afraid to deliver a blow.

30. New England Patriots

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Pick: Carl Davis, DT, Iowa

    Of all the teams in the league, the New England Patriots are the most interesting to watch during the draft. They rarely do what is expected of them, and that trend continues here. The New England Patriots have some interesting young defensive linemen, but no one to replace Vince Wilfork when he leaves.

    Iowa defensive tackle is 315 pounds of rage and has plenty of room to grow. At 6’5”, Davis plays a little high at times, but his punch and strength more than make up for it.

31. Seattle Seahawks

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Pick: Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin

    As it gets closer to the end of the first round, you often see some reach picks that don’t make a lot of sense. Fortunately for Seattle Seahawks fans, that isn’t the case here. Seattle recognizes they can marry a need with the best player available.

    The Seahawks need to send a message to running back to Marshawn Lynch that they are moving forward. And speaking of moving forward, Gordon is a very fast back who runs with excellent vision and agility and more than adequate power.

32. Denver Broncos

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    The Pick: Hau’oli Kikaha, LB Washington

    By virtue of having the last pick in the round, the Denver Broncos had the best year (winning the Super Bowl in February 2015). The offense and quarterback Peyton Manning carry this team. It is time to turn their attention to defense and add a few key pieces.

    Washington linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha is more athlete than football player at this point. Nevertheless, every coach thinks they can take a player like Kikaha and teach him how to take proper angles and to read and react in a flash to the football.