For many NFL teams, the offseason has already begun.
Preparation for the draft is a big part of that. Bowl games, pre-draft workouts, senior days and other events will surely continue to shape the landscape, but teams' draft boards are likely starting to take shape.
That said, let's take a glance at the first-round outlook.
1. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Marcus Mariota has enjoyed one of the most magnificently efficient seasons in college football history, accounting for 53 touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing, one receiving) and just two (or, one every 186 pass attempts) interceptions.
USA Today's Paul Myerberg put the feat into perspective:
Many wonder how the Heisman winner will transition to a pro-style offense, but that can be learned. There's little doubt he has the physical and mental makeup to succeed at the next level.
The Tennessee Titans need help all over the field, but a team is only going to go as far as its quarterback takes it. Jake Locker has been a perennial injury risk, while the jury is still out on Zach Mettenberger, according to general manager Ruston Webster, per the Midday 180 radio show:
The Midday 180 @Midday180
"It's too early to say if Zach Mettenberger is the QB of the future."- Ruston Webster12/12/2014, 8:06:36 PM
Still, the dropoff between Mariota and Jameis Winston and the next tier of QBs in this class is massive. If the Titans have an opportunity to land one of the top two signal-callers and inject some life into the franchise, they have to do it.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Head coach Lovie Smith has shown little confidence in Mike Glennon, while Josh McCown is hardly the team's future under the center.
The Bucs will ultimately have to be comfortable with Winston's character, which has been called into question during a turbulent season. But on the field, he has prototypical size, can make every throw at the next level and has athleticism to make plays outside of the pocket.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams, DL, USC
The offense still needs work, and an offensive lineman could be in play here, but Gus Bradley will continue to build around the defense, as he helped do in Seattle. The Jags have already shown promise on that side of the ball, and Leonard Williams would help them take the next step.
The junior has a freakish blend of size (6'5", 290 pounds) and agility that makes him a disruptive force. No matter where he lines up on defense, he makes things easier for everyone around him.
4. New York Jets: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
The New York Jets are a mess that won't likely be fixed until there is someone not named Michael Vick or Geno Smith under center, but with Mariota and Winston already off the board, they might as well continue building the defense.
This is already a talented front seven, but it never hurts to add more pass-rushers. Randy Gregory, who has 16.5 sacks in two seasons since transferring from junior college, has athleticism that has garnered comparisons to Aldon Smith:
Gregory is a potential No. 1 overall pick. He would be a terror on this defensive line.
5. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Carr makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage. He throws with conviction and velocity, suggesting that unlike a lot of young passers, he trusts what he sees and is willing to anticipate and attack tight windows. His fundamentals are encouraging though, granted, inconsistent. That inconsistency will abate once (O.K., if) he is surrounded by better receivers and a stronger running game.
Amari Cooper wouldn't fully quell the problem, but he would instantly give Carr a No. 1 option.
Despite not boasting elite size or breakaway speed, Cooper has shown a transcendent ability to create separation from defenders and high-point the ball. Playing in a run-heavy offense, he leads the nation in receptions (115) and receiving yards (1,656).
If the Raiders aren't in position to trade for more picks, then Cooper, the most dangerous downfield threat in the country, is the perfect backup plan.
6. Washington Redskins: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
While Alabama safety Landon Collins is going to get a long look for the owners of Football Outsiders' worst pass defense, Washington is also 30th in the NFL in sack percentage. Whether it's Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy or someone else under center, he needs better protection to thrive in Jay Gruden's downfield passing scheme.
Andrus Peat is a 6'7" monster with athleticism and agility. He could combine with Trent Williams—who has just one year season left on his current contract—to give the Redskins two dominant bookends on the O-line.
7. Chicago Bears: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
It's a bit early for a safety, but as former NFL scout John Middlekauff argued, Landon Collins has the talent to make it justifiable:
Collins is an electrifying, downhill player who will make plays in the running game, but he's also an impressive ball hawk in the pass game. The Bears are in desperate need for help on defense—especially at safety—so they'll be ecstatic if the Alabama star is still available here.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Atlanta Falcons have solid corners, but a complete lack of pass rush has hurt the defense. They are dead last in the NFL in sack percentage, and any reasonable quarterback is going to move the ball with time to throw, no matter who's in the secondary.
Enter Vic Beasley. A lightning quick athlete off the line, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year has racked up 32.0 sacks during his career at Clemson and would serve as a nice difference-maker.
9. Minnesota Vikings: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Charles Johnson has developed into an enticing playmaker down the stretch this season, but Cordarrelle Patterson has not taken the step forward many were expecting, and Greg Jennings is on the wrong side of 30.
Either way, Teddy Bridgewater needs more weapons in the passing game, so why not give him one who he has already developed a rapport with?
Louisville's DeVante Parker played just five games due to injuries in 2014, but he still managed to rack up 35 catches, 735 yards and five touchdowns. He's 6'3" with athleticism and dynamic ability after the catch.
10. New York Giants: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
The New York Giants have had a good amount of success getting after opposing QBs this season, but leading sack-getter Jason Pierre-Paul is a potential free agent.
Offensive line is an option if the team feels confident in returning JPP, but it's never a bad option to stockpile pass-rushers. The Giants, who won two Super Bowls with dominant defensive ends, know that as well as anyone.
Shane Ray, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year who finished with 14.0 sacks, is a strong, explosive talent who is relentless going after the ball.
11. New Orleans Saints: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Finding a pass-rusher is certainly an option here, but with four D-lineman already off the board, I think the Saints simply go with the best player available, regardless of position.
Brandon Scherff is not only a nasty, bruising blocker who will give the team a new identity in the trenches, but he's capable of thriving at either tackle position or on the inside as a guard, a la Zack Martin.
12. St. Louis Rams: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Another draft, another Texas A&M offensive tackle going in the top half of the first round.
The St. Louis Rams drafted Greg Robinson last year to hold down the left tackle spot, but Jake Long's future is uncertain after tearing his ACL, and Joe Barksdale is a free agent after the year.
Cedric Ogbuehi is a little raw, but he's 6'5" and 300 pounds with length and agility. Those kind of offensive tackle prospects will always be held in high regard, and he has been more effective at right tackle, making him a logical fit opposite Robinson.
13. Cleveland Browns: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
With Josh Gordon stretching defenses as one of the most dangerous home run hitters in the NFL, Jordan Cameron at tight end and Andrew Hawkins operating out of the slot, the Cleveland Browns are one receiver away from have a scary pass-catching corps.
That missing piece could be Kevin White, a sure-handed receiver who tends to come down with anything in his area.
"He's more of a (Larry) Fitzgerald type receiver in that he doesn't have great speed," an NFL scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn. "I never see him beat people deep. But (if) he is even with them he's going to get the ball. Very good player."
More weapons will make life easier for Johnny Manziel or whoever may be under center.
14. San Francisco 49ers: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
Dante Fowler's stats don't jump off the page (6.0 sacks in two seasons), but this is an example of stats not coming close to telling the entire story.
A powerful athlete with tremendous speed, Fowler was able to cause constant disruption in NFL, often flushing the pocket or upsetting the rhythm of the play. ESPN's Kevin Weidl noted some other important traits:
Sacks or no sacks, Fowler is one of the best edge-rushers in the draft. The 49ers, who are starting to show some age up front, would be ecstatic to get him here.
15. Houston Texans: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Alright, maybe not quite yet, but Michigan State produced first-round corner Darqueze Dennard last year, and Trae Waynes may be even better. Boasting a tantalizing blend of length and athleticism, he can press or drop back into coverage.
16. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo): Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
Put rather simply, Shawn Oakman is a physical beast. Standing at 6'9" and weighing 280 pounds, the Baylor junior, who had 10.0 sacks on the season, is easily one of the most imposing players in the country.
Of course, as Rotoworld's Josh Norris pointed out, he's still a bit raw:
Josh Norris @JoshNorris
How to not hold the edge versus a jet sweep. Taught by Shawn Oakman. RDE. http://t.co/Pgfrn8INu112/4/2014, 5:48:50 PM
Nevertheless, this is a unique player. Players with his amalgam of size and agility don't come along often. His potential is immense, and for that reason alone, it's difficult to imagine him slipping much further than this.
17. Kansas City Chiefs: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
The Kansas City Chiefs haven't gotten a touchdown from a wide receiver in over a calendar year. Dwayne Bowe has been a reliable target, but the team simply needs more threats on the outside.
Devin Funchess is a big, athletic target with a massive catch radius and after-the-catch skills. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah recently summarized his skill set:
A former tight end, he's still learning the wide receiver position. But as a potential mismatch nightmare and big-play threat, he would instantly provide a boost to this passing game.
18. Miami Dolphins: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
A former safety recruit who also served as Washington's best running back for a stint, Shaq Thompson is a gifted and unique athlete who makes plays all over the field. He has the speed to cover sideline to sideline, but he's also a sound tackler with a knack for causing takeaways.
Thompson is a playmaker. Put him anywhere on the field, and he's going to have a positive impact.
19. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Running backs have become mostly off-limits in the first round, but Melvin Gordon is an exception to that rule.
In what was one of the most productive seasons in history, the Wisconsin junior ran for 2,336 and 26 touchdowns. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry (which, ludicrously, is below his career average of 7.8) and became the fastest-ever to 2,000 rushing yards, per ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Melvin Gordon: quickest to 2,000 rushing yards in a season (241 rushes), breaking the mark of 251 (Larry Johnson, 2002)11/22/2014, 10:52:23 PM
It's more than just numbers, though. He has tremendous vision and patience, and when a hole materializes, he has the explosion to blast through it. In Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme, he would be an easy candidate for 1,000 yards as a rookie.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
DeMeco Ryans will be 31 years old and returning from an Achilles rupture. If he is ineffective or unable to play, the Eagles will turn to Casey Matthews, who has been underwhelming.
The team may choose to address the need in free agency, but Benardrick McKinney is an intriguing solution. Although he still needs some work in pass coverage, he has the speed to make plays all over the field.
21. Carolina Panthers: Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Alvin "Bud" Dupree is an unbelievable athlete. One college coach, via ESPN's Gerrry Hamilton, offered immense praise:
At 6'3", 267 pounds and with lightning speed off the edge, Dupree's stock will likely rise right around combine time. But for now, he's a great fit for a team in need of a major spark on the edge.
22. San Diego Chargers: La'el Collins, OT, LSU
The Chargers are second-to-last in the NFL in yards per rush. Injuries have been a major part of that, but it's clear help is needed on the offensive line.
La'el Collins is a huge, versatile load, capable of playing at guard or tackle. While he needs work in pass protection, his strength and hard-nosed, physical approach help him excel in the running game.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
The Pittsburgh Steelers gave Cortez Allen a contract extension in the offseason, and he proceeded to disappointment immensely. He was benched seven weeks into the season and was ultimately placed on IR.
As NFL.com's Adam Caplan alluded to, his future in the Steel City isn't so certain:
Throw in Ike Taylor, who will be 35 at the start of next season, and it's clear the Steelers need an infusion of talent at the position.
P.J. Williams has elite speed, but he's also a big, physical corner who can jam receivers at the line. He would be a good fit for Dick LeBeau's defense.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
It's never a bad idea to focus on protection for Andrew Luck, whether it be for the present or future. Ty Sambrailo still may be a year away from making an immediate impact, but he has the length, footwork and strength to fit anywhere on the offensive line.
25. Cincinnati Bengals: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
The Cincinnati Bengals have the second-worst sack percentage in the league. Carlos Dunlap has seven sacks, while defensive tackle Geno Atkins is the only other player with more than 1.5.
Shilique Calhoun is still a bit raw, but the lanky prospect has the natural pass-rushing skills to give Marvin Lewis the difference-maker he needs across from Dunlap.
26. Detroit Lions: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Detroit is a difficult team to predict, because it all depends on how the team treats potential free agents Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in the offseason.
With the way the dominant duo is playing, though, it's going to be difficult for the Lions to keep both players.
Danny Shelton is a physical, active inside force who can both stuff the run and get to the quarterback.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Dallas Cowboys have taken leaps forward on the defensive side of the ball in 2014. But there are still problems in the secondary, specifically at cornerback where Brandon Carr has been roasted for much of the season.
Marcus Peters' size and athleticism would make him a lock here on talent alone, but his stock took a significant hit when Chris Petersen kicked him off the team. Still, if his pre-draft interviews go well, the 'Boys won't pass at the chance to get tremendous value at a position of need.
28. Green Bay Packers: Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU
The Green Bay Packers' leading pass-rusher—Julius Peppers—is 34 years old and in his 13th season. After moving Clay Matthews to the middle, it has become apparent this teams needs some more playmakers on the outside.
Danielle Hunter is an aggressive, physical player who is strong at the point of attack and able to cause disruption in the backfield.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Markus Golden, DE, Missouri
Shane Ray has gotten most of the attention for Missouri, but Markus Golden shouldn't be overlooked. He has 15.5 sacks in the last two seasons.
CBS Sport's Dane Brugler put it simply:
He isn't an elite speed rusher off the edge, but he shows the flexibility, athleticism and hand technique to beat blockers in space, using his quick eyes to read and adjust on the move. Golden plays with energy and a relentless style that makes it tough to slow his momentum, finishing with violence at the ball. While Ray is more gifted, Golden is more seasoned and ready to be an every-down NFL player.
Golden could immediately improve the Cardinals defensive line.
30. Denver Broncos: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
T.J. Clemmings, only in his second season on the offensive line, is still a bit raw. But with his combination of size, strength and quickness, his upside is obvious. He and Ryan Clady would form a rock-solid tandem at the tackle positions.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
The Seahawks have become one of the most difficult teams to predict in the draft, and this year should be no different. They could improve the offensive line, they could grab an interior D-lineman to help with the injury to Brandon Mebane or they could add a pass-rusher, as they so often do.
But while Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have played well, it's clear the Seahawks still need to find a true game-changing talent on the outside.
Dorial Green-Beckham can be just that. A 6'5" physical specimen with gaudy athleticism, the former No. 1 recruit by 247Sports has sky-high potential. There are some character concerns, but that hasn't scared off Pete Carroll or John Schneider before.
32. New England Patriots: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are always a candidate to trade out of the first round, but even Belichick can't ignore this value.
Ronnie Stanley, who has an impressive combination of strength and agility, is jumping up draft boards. The redshirt sophomore is a bit raw, but the tools are there to develop into a tremendous player.
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