Draft season is officially upon us.
The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are still set to battle for NFL supremacy, but the college football season is over, and for the most part, professional teams and prospects alike are focused on the draft. While there are still a handful of events that will alter the outlook, we are starting to get a good idea of how things may shake out.
Let's take a look.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Just because Marcus Mariota thrived in Oregon's uptempo spread attack doesn't mean he needs to be labeled as a system quarterback.
The Heisman winner would benefit from an environment where he's able to use his legs and make plays outside the pocket, sure, but he has all the tools—both mental and physical—to be a star at the next level.
Tampa Bay desperately needs a game-changer, and Mariota has shown during his time in Eugene that he is exactly that.
2. Tennessee Titans: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Jameis Winston's final collegiate game—if he declares—will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, as Florida State's blowout loss to Mariota's Ducks had one particularly memorable play: Winston's now infamous fumble, which was caused by his own shoelaces.
Still, don't let that one play cloud the overall picture. Winston is a pro-style quarterback with the arm and anticipation to make every single throw in the NFL. Some, such as ESPN's Todd McShay, via Rich Cimini, view him as the best QB prospect in the class:
Rich Cimini @RichCimini
ESPN draft guru Todd McShay says Jameis Winston, not Marcus Mariota, would be top QB prospect in this draft. #nyj2015-1-6 16:09:40
Tennessee's job is easy. Should the Titans ultimately feel the need to move on from Zach Mettenberger, they can simply take whomever Tampa Bay doesn't.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams, DL, USC
If the Bucs weren't so quarterback-needy, you would probably be hearing Leonard Williams' name a lot more in the conversation for the top overall pick.
Bleacher Report's Ryan Riddle put it simply:
Ryan Riddle @Ryan_Riddle
I cannot believe how impressive Leonard Williams is. Just finished a film session with @MattWaldman. Incredible!!!!2015-1-6 07:00:54
A frightening blend of massive size (6'5", 290 pounds) and athleticism, the USC star can line up anywhere on the defensive line and cause absolute havoc against both the pass and the run. He is a special talent, and although Gus Bradley's biggest need isn't on the D-line, Williams is the kind of player who can vault this defense to the next level.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Playing in a conference typically defined by its physical play, wide receiver Amari Cooper had some insane production in 2014, finishing with 124 receptions, 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. ESPN Stats & Info put the latter into historical context:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Amari Cooper's 15 Rec TD is the most by an SEC player in a season since Florida's Reidel Anthony set the conference record with 18 in 19962015-1-2 02:56:01
Cooper is "only" 6'1", but guys like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and T.Y. Hilton have proved that height isn't the defining quality in a No. 1 WR. The Alabama star is extremely quick and fluid, capable of running crisp routes, creating separation and stretching defenses.
He is precisely the kind of playmaker that Derek Carr needs.
5. Washington Redskins: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
The NFL is all about the pass rush, and that's exactly what Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory brings to the table. He still needs work in the run game, but his physical tools and explosion off the edge have brought along comparisons to Aldon Smith:
With Gregory and Ryan Kerrigan, Washington would no longer have one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL.
6. New York Jets: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
As with a lot of underclassmen, Andrus Peat still needs to become more consistent. He has only two years of collegiate experience as a starting left tackle. But if we're talking about potential—and the New York Jets are clearly in rebuilding mode—his is through the roof.
Peat, who is a towering 6'7" and 316 pounds with athletic ability, is someone you can build around on the offensive line. He has the quickness off the snap to be effective in the running game, as well as the footwork and agility for pass protection.
He may need a year of development on the right side, but he's a future franchise left tackle.
7. Chicago Bears: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
The Chicago Bears need help all over the defensive side of the ball, but the safety position has been especially embarrassing.
Landon Collins isn't the entire solution, as he can still be a little inconsistent against the pass, but he's a strong, super-athletic, rangy, downhill player who would give this team the enforcer it sorely lacks on defense.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Atlanta Falcons were already bad enough rushing the passer (second-to-last in sack percentage), but now they could be losing both Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora to free agency.
This is a position that will likely have to be addressed multiple times throughout the offseason, and Vic Beasley is a good place to start. Compiling 32.0 career sacks at Clemson, he brings a ton of athleticism and speed to the table.
While his run defense isn't great, he immediately improves one of Atlanta's biggest weaknesses.
9. New York Giants: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Shane Ray exploded onto the scene in 2014, jumping out of the shadow of Michael Sam and Kony Ealy and tallying 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss on his way to SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
A fast, relentless player who is capable of contributing against both the pass and the run, he serves as a potential replacement should Jason Pierre-Paul leave via free agency.
10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
The St. Louis Rams added Greg Robinson in the first round last year, but it still wouldn't be a bad idea to keep adding talent in the trenches. Even average quarterbacks—which is, at best, what the Rams have right now—can look good with time to operate in the pocket.
Brandon Scherff could play anywhere across the line, but with his superhuman strength (I mean, come on), there's a good chance he develops into a dominant, bruising guard in the NFL.
If you're looking for this year's Zack Martin, this is your best bet.
11. Minnesota Vikings: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
DeVante Parker missed a large portion of the 2014 season with a foot injury, but that didn't stop him from producing at an extremely high level when he was on the field. In just six games, he hauled in 43 balls for 855 yards and five touchdowns. That's a 13-game pace of 93, 1,852 and 10.
Parker doesn't have game-changing wheels, but he possesses strong hands, can out-jump defenders and makes catches in traffic. The Vikings need that kind of weapon, and it's a logical pairing with former college quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
12. Cleveland Browns: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Most have Cooper as this year's top wide receiver, but when it comes to No. 2, you're basically flipping a coin between Parker and Kevin White. Both do a lot of things extremely well, and it's simply going to come down to team need and scheme.
As Pro Player Insiders' Brandon Howard suggested, White is a better fit in Cleveland.
Brandon Howard @bhoward_81
Kevin White is a greater fit in Cleveland compared to DeVante Parker.2015-1-6 19:08:03
With a rare blend of size, speed and vertical, he makes a lot of sense as a dominant downfield threat for a team that could use more size on the outside, especially with Josh Gordon's future unclear.
13. New Orleans Saints: La'el Collins, OT, LSU
Even after a disappointing season, the New Orleans Saints will have no plans of a complete rebuild. As long as Drew Brees is under center, they will assuredly feel capable of contending, and as such, they need an immediate-impact player.
La'el Collins can be that guy. He is a strong, physical mauler who plays with a lot of aggressiveness. It's unlikely that he plays left tackle in the NFL, but with his kind of power, he has the ability to step in at guard or right tackle and bolster the Saints O-line right away.
14. Miami Dolphins: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Very few players were as versatile in college as Shaq Thompson, who spent time at running back, safety and linebacker on his way to a first-team All-America nod at the all-purpose position.
And as NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah noted, there is still some debate as to where he'll fit at the next level:
Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
Excited to study Shaq Thompson. Some NFL evaluators like him better at RB than LB.2015-1-5 20:35:04
With so many good running backs (and another handful of talented ones coming in this draft), Thompson would be best served as an off-the-line outside linebacker, where he can use his athleticism to fly sideline-to-sideline making plays.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
In the latest example of stats not telling the entire story, Dante Fowler Jr. finished his career at Florida with just 14.5 sacks. And three of those came in his final game against East Carolina.
Don't let the numbers fool you, though. Fowler is a special talent, with the size (6'3" and 277 pounds) and unbelievable burst to cause constant disruption in the backfield. Putting him on the same front seven as Aldon Smith would be terrifying for opposing quarterbacks.
16. Houston Texans: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio discussed Trae Waynes' skill set, via MSUSpartans.com:
Trae is a lock-down corner, who played an important role in our success the last two years. He's an excellent press corner, who's often been isolated against our opponent's top wide receiver. He has great deep-ball judgment and the ability to tackle in space. Physically, Trae has length and great make-up speed.
Waynes, whose parents are both former college track athletes, has the physical tools to be a shutdown player in coverage. With Kareem Jackson set for free agency, the former Spartan makes a lot of sense as the first corner off the board here.
17. San Diego Chargers: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
T.J. Clemmings has only two seasons of experience on the offensive line, but he has been quickly rising on draft boards, and the ACL injury to Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi helps him climb into the Top 20.
The Pittsburgh product boasts a huge frame (6'6", 315 pounds), athleticism, quick feet and some jaw-dropping power.
Although he's a bit raw, he can step in at right tackle and immediately help the Chargers, who finished the season 31st in yards per rush.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
The Kansas City Chiefs' lack of game-changing options at wide receiver was well-documented this season.
Yes, Alex Smith runs a very conservative offense, but when you have 18 receiving touchdowns and none of them come from a wideout, that's a good sign you need an infusion of talent at the position.
Devin Funchess, a former tight end, is an obvious red-zone threat at 6'5" and 230 pounds, but he also has the speed and after-the-catch ability to make big-time plays.
19. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Bud Dupree at No. 19 is an indication of the immense depth of the 2015 class of edge-rushers. In many other draft classes, he would have the talent to hypothetically sneak into the top 10.
The Cleveland Browns wouldn't mind such a fall, though. Being able to put a player with Dupree's kind of explosiveness off the end into a rotation with Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo would instantly provide a spark to the team's pass rush.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
Cary Williams is a candidate to be cut. Bradley Fletcher is set to hit free agency, and after the embarrassing season he endured, there's no way he'll be back.
The Eagles are likely to search the free-agent market for cornerback help, but they'll almost certainly need to keep addressing the problem in the draft.
That's especially true if P.J. Williams is still available at this spot. The Florida State standout is incredibly versatile, able to play press coverage, drop in zone or even step inside and play the slot.
No matter where the Eagles would use him, though, he would represent an instant upgrade.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Bengals finished last in the NFL in sacks this season. They could use some help on the edge, but they also struggled on the interior. In early January, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther criticized the play of star defensive tackle Geno Atkins, via Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson:
We need to get him back to where he was when he was one of the best three techniques in the game. This year he was just three technique No. 20. He was just a guy out there. We need to get him back where he was a game wrecker inside.
Danny Shelton is a physical monster who brings instant disruption on the inside. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah offered a flattering comparison:
Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
Danny Shelton reminds me a lot of Haloti Ngata. Rare combo of size/power/quickness2015-1-6 04:55:01
Shelton is probably better at stuffing the run, but after recording 9.0 sacks in 2014, it's clear he can get into the backfield.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Marcus Peters, a physical corner with tremendous ball skills, has first-round talent. There has never really been much debate about that. But after getting kicked off the Washington team, the red flags are obvious.
Some team will ultimately roll the dice with Peters, and it makes sense that team would be the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mike Tomlin got terrible play from Cortez Allen and will watch Ike Taylor, Antwon Blake and Brice McCain all test free agency.
23. Detroit Lions: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Detroit Lions are almost assuredly going to need to find replacements for at least one of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who are both going to command huge paydays in free agency.
Texas product Malcom Brown has a wide frame, good agility and is extremely quick off the snap. He's still not quite a finished product, but he has a high ceiling as a player capable of clogging gaps.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Cam Erving, C, Florida State
The Cardinals, who averaged an NFL-worst 3.3 yards per carry, need better play in the trenches.
Cam Erving not only boasts an enticing blend of size, length and athleticism, but he has the versatility to fit wherever Arizona needs him. He was an All-American at left tackle as a junior and thrived at center when injuries forced him there in 2014.
25. Carolina Panthers: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Kelvin Benjamin enjoyed a fantastic rookie season and looks set to become a superstar. But Cam Newton could still use another weapon.
Jaelen Strong is a big, tough, talented wide receiver with unbelievable ball skills. He could do some serious damage opposite Benjamin.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The common opinion these days is that running backs don't need to be selected in the first round. It's typically easy to find talent later in the draft, while the volatile nature of the position makes it a risky investment.
That's fair, but Melvin Gordon is a special talent.
Piling up the second-most rushing yards ever in a single season, Gordon displayed speed, acceleration, vision and power. Sports Illustrated's Aaron Nagler put it simply:
Aaron Nagler @AaronNagler
Melvin Gordon is going to be fun to watch on the next level. Not just a product of a Wisconsin o-line. He'll play big snaps on Sundays.2015-1-1 19:56:39
Justin Forsett was fantastic this season, but he's a 29-year-old free agent. Gordon is both the present and future.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
The Kansas City Star's Terez A. Paylor recently offered immense praise in the direction of UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks:
Terez A. Paylor @TerezPaylor
I like Eric Kendricks at ILB more than Shaq Thompson & Benardrick McKinney. Plays harder than Thompson & is more athletic than McKinney IMO.2015-1-5 05:25:42
He certainly has the production to back it up, tallying an amazing 467 total tackles during his time with the Bruins. He is instinctive, aggressive and capable of making plays all over the field.
28. Denver Broncos: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
Ryan Clady obviously has the left tackle position locked down, but the Denver Broncos still need to find a consistent option on the other side, so they can move Louis Vasquez back to right guard.
Ereck Flowers is 6'6" with quick feet, toughness and solid balance and agility in pass-protection.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Eli Harold, DE, Virginia
The Indianapolis Colts finished the season 12th in sacks, but Cory Redding will be a free agent, Bjoern Werner fell out of the defensive end rotation at the end of the season and it never hurts to stockpile depth on the defensive line.
Eli Harold has quietly enjoyed a spectacular season at Virginia, racking up 15.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. A versatile player who is extremely quick off the ball, it's not out of the question that he sneaks into the first round.
30. Green Bay Packers: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Benardrick McKinney is what you would call a special athlete. He's 6'5", 250 pounds and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, according to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman.
That kind of size and speed are not two things that should go together on a real human being. McKinney is a beast, and drafting him would allow the Green Bay Packers to move Clay Matthews back to his natural position on the outside.
31. New England Patriots: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
If I had to guess, I would say Bill Belichick does Bill Belichick things and ultimately trades this pick.
However, Vince Wilfork (33) is aging, Alan Branch and Sealver Siliga are potential free agents and Chris Jones has been underwhelming. The Pats are going to need to add depth at defensive tackle, and Eddie Goldman, a run-clogging force with versatility to play across the line, is a tantalizing prospect with lots of upside.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Dorial Green-Beckham is an interesting case. At 6'5" with amazing athletic ability, he bares similarities to some of the most dominant wideouts in the league. However, as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler noted, he brings with him significant character concerns:
Dane Brugler @dpbrugler
WR Dorial Green-Beckham is going to be a fascinating test case in the NFL Draft. Red flags galore, but a top-10 talent. How high does he go?2015-1-6 17:18:44
He could just as easily be selected within the first 15 picks as he could in the third round.
Nevertheless, the Seahawks showed for 55 minutes during the NFC Championship Game why they need more playmakers on the outside, and Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren't ones to shy away from red flags—Bruce Irvin and Tharold Simon come to mind—if they're convinced of the talent.