Interestingly enough, once the college football season ended, the outlook of the NFL seemed to change at an even more rapid pace.
The games were complete, but with the Senior Bowl, the combine and other events, prospects' stocks continued to peak and plummet. Things will likely continue to change all the way up until April 30, but let's take a look at how the first round currently stands.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
There are reasons to be wary about Jameis Winston. His 2014 season was marred both off the field (concerns about his immaturity) and on the field (18 interceptions, giving him 28 in two years).
But while the lows are concerning, the highs are that of a future superstar. Winston has the arm strength to make every throw at the next level, but he also shows rare anticipation and timing. His experience in a pro-style offense makes him someone who could start from Day 1 for the Buccaneers, a team in desperate need of help at the position.
2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DL, USC
Lincoln Kennedy, who went to three Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro in 2002, knows a thing or two about dominant defensive line play.
He recently had some nice praise for Leonard Williams, via NFL.com's Bryan Fischer:
I think he's going to be a good one. The best thing about taking the next step is first getting acclimated to the speed of the game and then trying to define yourself. More times than not, it's a question of attitude, how bad do you want it? How bad is that desire? We in the media notice some of those guys are a man amongst boys based on who they're playing against and I think Leonard can be a good one.
Williams is a monster. He's 6'5", 302 pounds and has the versatility to line up anywhere on the defensive line.
Marcus Mariota is obviously an option depending on how the team feels about Zach Mettenberger, but Williams is arguably the most talented player in this draft. Boasting a rare blend of size and athleticism, it won't take him long to transform this defense.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Randy Gregory isn't yet a finished product, and there are concerns about his lean frame (6'5" and 235 pounds) and ability to play against the run. But as a pass-rusher, he has the length, explosiveness and bend to cause absolute havoc.
Moreover, he has stressed that his weight isn't a problem, via CBS Sports' Dane Brugler:
Dane Brugler @dpbrugler
Randy Gregory said a lot of people are "stuck" on his 236 weight. But teams aren't worried about it. Says he'll get heavier in the NFL.2015-2-21 20:00:10
Assuming he adds more bulk, Gregory can play as a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker. But there is perhaps no better fit for him than as the "Leo" in Gus Bradley's defense.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
It was an up-and-down rookie season for Derek Carr, but he was working with an offense that featured James Jones, Mychal Rivera and Andre Holmes as the top pass-catchers.
Rivera and Holmes have some upside, but if Carr is going to continue his progression, he needs a true playmaker on the outside. That's Amari Cooper, who has unbelievable separation skills, the speed to get behind defenses and the leaping ability to take the ball at its highest point.
This draft features incredible depth at wide receiver, which could make Oakland look in another direction, but as Cooper showed during his record-setting junior season, he has transcendent talent.
Kevin White is gaining ground.
5. Washington Redskins: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
Dante Fowler's career numbers aren't all that impressive (14.5 sacks in 37 games), but his talent is undeniable. The 6'3", 261-pound terror is strong, has a variety of moves—both speed and power—to beat blockers and has shown the versatility to line up all over the front seven.
His stock was already rising, but then he ran a blazing 4.60-second 40-yard dash while wearing a gold watch at the combine. Unsurprisingly, he has a lot of fans within NFL circles, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:
Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB
#UF DE Dante Fowler clocks a 4.61.. Spoke to a bunch of ppl in Indy who love this guy.2015-2-22 14:28:20
The Washington Redskins finished the 2014 season dead last in yards per pass attempt allowed. The secondary obviously needs some help, but it's difficult to play coverage while quarterbacks sit in the pocket untouched for extended periods of time.
Pairing Fowler with Ryan Kerrigan would immediately change that for Washington.
6. New York Jets: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Winston has surpassed Marcus Mariota on many draft boards in recent weeks, mostly due to the former's experience in a pro-style offense and ability to operate from inside the pocket.
But don't mistake Mariota for a system quarterback. His athleticism and ability to make plays with his legs obviously stand out, but he's 6'4", has a strong arm to make NFL throws and has all the mental characteristics you want in your quarterback.
While the Oregon product may not be as NFL-ready as Winston, he's someone the quarterback-needy New York Jets can't pass up at this spot.
7. Chicago Bears: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Danny Shelton is a 339-pound behemoth who can stuff the run, but he also shows the quickness to shed blocks and get after the quarterback.
NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock called him a potential top-10 pick, via Fischer: "He reminds me of Haloti Ngata. If he takes care of business between now and May 1st, I think he's a top-10 pick. When you put the tape on, he's quick. He gets up and down the line of scrimmage and plays forever at 350 pounds."
The Bears badly need help all over the defensive side of the ball, and Shelton is the kind of player whose impact will help those around him. He's a perfect fit in the 3-4 defense that John Fox and Vic Fangio will implement.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
We knew Vic Beasley was a good athlete, but he took things to a completely different level during the combine. Among front-seven players, the 6'3", 246-pound edge-rusher had the best 40 time (4.53), the most bench-press reps (35), the third-highest vertical (41.0 inches) and the third-best broad jump (130 inches).
As Rotoworld's Josh Norris illustrated, he is a truly rare specimen:
Josh Norris @JoshNorris
My goodness: http://t.co/nM4OXavrHT Vic Beasley, via @mockdraftable http://t.co/NUXMB13pGO2015-2-23 18:01:54
New head coach Dan Quinn will be focusing on upgrading the defense, and Beasley would immediately improve a horrid pass rush that may be losing Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora to free agency.
9. New York Giants: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
The Giants franchise-tagged Jason Pierre-Paul Monday, but the team could still use some more talent on the outside, especially for the long-term picture.
Shane Ray, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, recorded 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss on the year, displaying the ability not only to get after the quarterback, but to be effective on all three downs. He shoots out of a cannon on the snap, is relentless getting to the quarterback and has drawn lofty comparisons to Von Miller.
This is nice value for the G-Men.
10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Boasting unbelievable power and lower-body strength, Brandon Scherff is a bruising blocker who would fit in well with the physical NFC West.
Whether he plays right tackle across from Greg Robinson or moves inside to guard, where many believe he can have an impact similar to Zack Martin, Scherff is someone who can play from Day 1. This is also great value for the first offensive lineman off the board.
11. Minnesota Vikings: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Charles Johnson looked like a stud for stretches during the second half of the season, but Greg Jennings is aging and Cordarrelle Patterson hasn't quite found the polish to match his immense talent.
The Vikes could use an upgrade in the passing game, and it certainly makes plenty of sense to pair DeVante Parker, a fast, athletic receiver who also has the strength and hands to make plays over the middle, with former college quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
It would seemingly be beneficial for the development of both players.
12. Cleveland Browns: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Kevin White's stock seems to be steadily rising, and one of the operators of the hype machine is NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah:
Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
I love Parker, Cooper & DGB on tape but West Virginia's Kevin White is my top WR. He has the same traits as Julio Jones.2015-1-7 00:05:40
That is a lofty comparison, but White is an extremely dangerous downfield threat. With Josh Gordon now out for at least a year and likely done in Cleveland, the Browns are desperate for someone with White's alluring size and speed combo.
A legitimate candidate to be selected before Cooper as the first wide receiver, this would be a steal for the Browns.
13. New Orleans Saints: Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
At the combine, Bud Dupree measured in at 6'4" and 269 pounds, then proceeded to clock a ridiculous 4.56 40 and jump 42.0 inches on his vertical.
NationalFootballPost.com's Dion Caputi put it simply:
Dion Caputi @nfldraftupdate
Ultimately, Kentucky DE/OLB Bud Dupree, at 6'4" 269 lbs., ran an official 4.56, per NFLN. That's a statement time.2015-2-22 20:12:13
The New Orleans Saints defense, which finished 29th in the NFL in yards per play allowed, need a spark on the edge. Dupree, a freakish athlete with size, brings exactly that.
14. Miami Dolphins: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Shaq Thompson showed immense versatility while at Washington, playing linebacker, safety and running back. But he has made it clear that his future is on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’m gonna put it out there that I want to play linebacker,” he said, via The Seattle Times' Bob Condotta. “But I can’t say no to (safety).”
The Washington product didn't have the best combine, but he's still a very skilled player with the athleticism to make plays all over the field.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
The 49ers would obviously like to see someone like DeVante Parker or Kevin White drop to them at this spot, but they can't be picky. Michael Crabtree is headed for free agency, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Lloyd are well into their 30s and Stevie Johnson isn't exactly scaring defenses.
Dorial Green-Beckham has a tantalizing combination of size and speed that has drawn comparisons to Calvin Johnson. He has a handful of red flags, and the Niners will obviously have to sign off on his character, but if they do, they'll be getting one of the most talented players in the draft.
16. Houston Texans: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
All the tools are there for Trae Waynes to be a stud at the next level. He has the size (6'1") and length to make plays on the ball, as well as the speed—his parents are both former college track athletes—to keep up with receivers down the field.
He has long been considered by most as the top corner in the draft, and he backed that up during the combine, as Feldman noted (his official 40 time ended up being 4.31, second-fastest of any player):
Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB
#MichiganState CB Trae Waynes clocks a 4.35 40. Great time to back up some very good film.2015-2-23 17:03:58
The Texans need depth at the position, especially if they lose starter Kareem Jackson to free agency.
17. San Diego Chargers: La'el Collins, OT, LSU
Whether he ultimately lands at tackle or guard, La'el Collins has the power and aggressiveness to be a real weapon in the run game. That's ideal for the Chargers, who are not only potentially moving around some pieces on the O-line, but averaged just 3.4 yards per carry last season.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
Landon Collins looks set to follow in the footsteps of former Alabama safeties Mark Barron and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who were selected in the first round, but he may be better than both of them.
One NFL scout, via NFL.com's Albert Breer, discussed his skill set:
If you look at him, he plays special teams, he plays defense and he's all-out. He's just a football player. Good range, good hands, explosive tackler, always around the ball. … Barron was a good player, but more of a thumper. Ha Ha was more rangy. This guy is a mixture of both.
The Chiefs need help at wide receiver, but Collins is a potential top-10 pick. Andy Reid can't pass up this value, especially with Eric Berry's future uncertain and both Ron Parker and Kurt Coleman set for free agency.
19. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo): Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Browns got their wide receiver. Now they need to address the run defense, which was gashed for a league-worst 141.6 yards per game on the ground in 2014.
Danny Shelton would be the dream, but he's long gone by now. Still, Malcom Brown, an ideal choice for those who love puns, has the wide frame (6'2", 319 lbs) and good quickness off the snap to immediately help in the running game.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
The need for secondary help is painfully clear in Philadelphia. Bradley Fletcher, a free agent, endured a calamitous season. Cary Williams might be released.
P.J. Williams, a big, physical corner with good coverage skills, could begin the overhaul at cornerback. The Eagles have emerged as potential trade-up candidates to acquire Mariota, but if they stay here, CB is almost assuredly the position that must be addressed.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The value here is just too good to pass up.
Andrus Peat showed some inconsistency as a junior (which may be why he drops outside of the top 20), but he has everything needed to be a franchise staple at either tackle position: size (6'7", 313 lbs), long arms, quick feet and absolute bulldozer strength.
The Bengals have three offensive linemen (Clint Boling, Marshall Newhouse, Eric Winston) hitting free agency, so it's a position of need. This is a win-win, as Cincy gets a fantastic talent, and Peat, who is a bit raw, won't be relied upon as quickly.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Pittsburgh is in a similar position as its intrastate adversary. Cornerback Cortez Allen struggled to the point of being benched in 2014, while Ike Taylor, Brice McCain and Antwon Blake are all potential free agents.
Marcus Peters has obvious red flags in the character department, but he's a dynamic athlete with fantastic ball skills. Even with the concerns, he shouldn't fall out of the first round.
23. Detroit Lions: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Detroit is going to have a busy offseason fighting off about half the league for free agent Ndamukong Suh. And even if it does manage to re-sign the dominant defensive tackle, it will likely mean there isn't room for Nick Fairley.
Either way, the Lions are going to need some depth at the position, and Eddie Goldman is a big, powerful run-stopper.
24. Arizona Cardinals: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
"He's got beautiful feet," Mike Mayock recently said about T.J. Clemmings, via NFL.com's Mike Huguenin. "He's a dancing bear. He's a guy that's a pass protector first. He just needs to clean up technique and get stronger, especially in his core areas."
Clemmings, who has just two years of experience on the offensive line, is still a bit raw, but he would be a welcomed addition on the right side of the trenches for the Cardinals.
25. Carolina Panthers: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
Ereck Flowers is 6'6" with quick feet and a physical style. He's a bit raw, but the Panthers really need to protect Cam Newton better in the future.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Before the combine, the general consensus on Jaelen Strong was that he was a skilled receiver with size and good ball skills, but he would never win with speed or athleticism.
Then he ran a 4.44 40. ESPN's Todd McShay put it best:
Todd McShay @McShay13
ASU WR Jaelen Strong making 1st Rd case. 42" VJ is outstanding. 4.44 40 (unofficial) is surprising. He showed elite ball skill on 2014 tape2015-2-21 17:41:25
This might just be a run-to-the-podium kind of selection for the Ravens. They need help at the position with Steve Smith Sr. aging and Torrey Smith hitting free agency, and Strong is a great value at No. 26.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
This is under the projection that the Dallas Cowboys, who franchise-tagged Dez Bryant and have a bevy of other free agents, aren't able to bring back DeMarco Murray. There's no questioning the running back's talent, but he is coming off a season with more than 400 touches at one of the deepest positions in the league. The 'Boys can afford to let him go if the price gets too steep.
Should Murray indeed sign elsewhere, Todd Gurley is an obviously intriguing replacement. He's coming off a major knee surgery, but his talent is undeniable, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller suggested:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
I'd encourage everyone to go back and re-watch Todd Gurley games today. Think time + injury is making people forget his greatness.2015-2-13 15:26:38
Gurley is a top-10 player on talent alone, and he could do some serious damage behind Dallas' offensive line.
28. Denver Broncos: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
Should the Broncos need a replacement for free agent Julius Thomas, which is looking like an increasingly likely possibility, Maxx Williams would make a lot of sense here.
The son of former first-round pick Brian Williams, the Minnesota product certainly has the NFL heritage. He also has the talent, possessing the speed, hands and catch radius to be a big-play and red-zone threat.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
Arik Armstead's stock has been slowly rising since declaring for the draft in early January. It's not really difficult to see why, either. With monster size (6'7", 292 lbs) combined with the kind of agility that helped him play basketball at Oregon, his potential is sky-high.
He's a potentially dominant force for the Colts, who are thin up front and would welcome the versatility, physicality and toughness.
30. Green Bay Packers: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Standing at 6'4" and 246 pounds with tremendous athleticism, Benardrick McKinney is a player who can make plays sideline-to-sideline. Not only is he a talented run-stopper, but adding him gives the Packers the option to move Clay Matthews back to his natural outside linebacker position if they so desire.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
As ESPN's Todd McShay and USA Today's NFL Draft Geek have suggested, LSU corner Jalen Collins is gaining steam as a potential first-round pick:
NFL Draft Geek @NFLDraftGeek
Love that @McShay13 has Jalen Collins going in the 1st; hop on the bandwagon my friend! Nobody threw on him last year!2015-2-6 13:47:28
Not only does he possess the size that the Seahawks love on the outside, but Seattle was already in need of depth at the position with Jeremy Lane's injury and could get even thinner with Byron Maxwell a potential free agent.
32. New England Patriots: Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
Vince Wilfork is 33 years old, while Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch are both free agents in the offseason. The Pats could use some interior depth, and Jordan Phillips is an athletic freak for his size.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks also noted his versatility:
Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks
Asked about #OU DT Jordan Phillips. Very athletic. Good 1st quicks & "get off". Creates disruption on angles/stunts. Could be a 1- or 3-tech2015-1-18 19:36:14
Don't be surprised if his stock continues to rise in the coming months.