The 2015 NFL draft is still a long way away, but after most of Week 6 has unfolded, it is becoming a bit more clear how the first-round order might shake up. A still-winless Jacksonville Jaguars team appears fitted for the No. 1 pick with an 0-6 record.
OddsShark.com has Jacksonville as the longest shot to win the Super Bowl, and that determines the hierarchy in this latest mock of the first 32 picks.
A number of quarterback-needy teams, like Tennessee, Tampa Bay and St. Louis, ought to be choosing early. Based on the importance of the position, it's worth focusing on those as the featured prospective selections.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams, DE, USC
Jags coach Gus Bradley had to be upset watching his defense yield 233 yards through the air to the likes of Tennessee's Charlie Whitehurst. If Jacksonville is up here, Williams is the best pick to bring about immediate improvement to a lackluster defensive front.
2. Oakland Raiders: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Signs of being a franchise quarterback surfaced when Derek Carr threw four touchdowns against San Diego on Sunday. Now the objective has to be to keep him upright, which yet another College Station product in Ogbuehi can do as a likely perennial Pro Bowler at left tackle.
3. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The debate will rage on regarding Mariota and last year's Heisman winner Jameis Winston. From a schematics standpoint, Winston probably has the edge in a pro-style offense, but that makes Mariota's upside all the more tantalizing.
John Middlekauff of Comcast SportsNet has suggested that Mariota will have a learning curve in a complex system:
However, a porous Ducks offensive line hasn't stopped Mariota from lighting it up, and he accounted for four total touchdowns in a win over UCLA this week. Bruins safety Anthony Jefferson appreciated what Mariota was able to do.
"He's a dynamic quarterback, as everyone knows," said Jefferson, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "He finds a way to make plays on his feet. Throughout the game, he rarely just made throws in the pocket. Most of his throws were him scrambling around and making something happen."
Should the Titans land here, it should be a no-brainer to go with a quarterback. Coach Ken Whisenhunt will want a competent field general, which Mariota is in spades. Mariota has a rifle for an arm, is accurate, has thrown 17 touchdowns to zero interceptions in 2014 and has blazing foot speed.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
A peerless performance against Syracuse saw Winston go 30-of-36 passing for 317 yards and three scores. In terms of pure, on-field ability and grasp of a thick playbook, there isn't a QB more pro-ready than Winston.
ESPN's College GameDay added a detail that enhances Winston's case to be chosen this early:
Questions will linger about his maturity and off-field issues, so that is bound to keep him from being the first player at his position chosen, partly because Mariota is a tremendous prospect too.
The Bucs could draft the in-state product to redeem a terrible QB situation that features veteran Josh McCown and relative novice Mike Glennon. It's been hard to evaluate Glennon on such a bad team, but he has shown signs he could be a modestly successful NFL starter.
Winston, a winner of a national title and Heisman and a superior athlete, seems as adept as any top prospect in recent memory to handle the scrutiny—much of it self-inflicted—that's befallen him and find a way to play well.
Stakes will only grow at the professional level, yet Winston has found a way to get it done on the gridiron thus far.
5. St. Louis Rams: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Protection issues have hampered Hundley, as they have with Mariota, yet the UCLA star continues to stand tall and make strides in his junior year.
However, Hundley also struggles at times to get rid of the ball, as Danny Kanell of ESPNU feels:
That pushes Hundley down to being the No. 3 QB selected—albeit at No. 5 overall in this scenario. These relayed observations from Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman offer encouragement:
Unless the Rams have a true revelation in undrafted signal-caller Austin Davis, they need someone to carry the torch as the face of the franchise after the failed Sam Bradford era.
Hundley is a threat to run and can stretch the field to get the most out of a budding St. Louis receiving corps that features Brian Quick, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Chris Givens. As long as Zac Stacy can spearhead the rushing attack and Hundley can protect the ball, there's reason to believe this marriage could work.
6. New York Jets: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The noticeable dearth of playmakers was on display again in Week 6 for the Jets. Geno Smith isn't a great option under center, yet he has little help. Cooper, the best receiver prospect in the 2015 class, and Eric Decker as the starting wideouts would at least give New York's opponents something to think about.
7. Minnesota Vikings: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke agreed with the widespread perception that former No. 1 draft pick Matt Kalil isn't quite cutting it at left tackle:
It's not sound logic to give up on Kalil just yet, but rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater was sacked seven times by Detroit in Week 6. The brittle Bridgewater needs better protection, and Scherff can plug in at guard or tackle to help.
8. Washington Redskins: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
The weeks keep going by, and this pick continues to make sense. Collins is instant-starter material and would plug in nicely to a defensive backfield that needs an infusion of youthful talent.
Unless quarterback Robert Griffin III returns soon, Washington could continue climbing in the draft order, which may change priorities for this selection.
9. Houston Texans: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Putting someone as skilled as Peters opposite Johnathan Joseph at cornerback, combined with the presence of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Brian Cushing on the front seven, would be terrifying.
Indianapolis is the class of the AFC South, so defense should be the priority here as of now. Houston still needs to see what it has in Ryan Mallett before pulling the trigger on a QB this high.
10. Cleveland Browns: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
At this rate, Cleveland may not be choosing in the top 10 after its 31-10 beatdown of Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Browns may still be able to get Funchess wherever they are in the first roundor with Buffalo's pick.
Funchess is a converted tight end who would give the offense a big presence on the outside to pair with Josh Gordon. Those two wideouts and Jordan Cameron at tight end would make the Browns' top three young pass-catchers as venerated as any in the AFC North.
11. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo): Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Former seventh-round pick Armonty Bryant suffered a sprained knee in Week 6, per the team's Twitter account. He has been a nice surprise at defensive end. But for all the depth the Browns boast on the front seven, they hadn't put it all together until the Steelers blowout.
Throwing Gregory in the mix to play either outside linebacker or line up as a defensive end with some added weight is a dream scenario for defensive-minded Browns head coach Mike Pettine.
12. Kansas City Chiefs: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Pete Damilatis of Pro Football Focus outlines the problem in Kansas City quite well:
A viable corner opposite Sean Smith is a strong need for the Chiefs, making Ekpre-Olomu a strong candidate to step in. Entering Week 6, KC was 23rd versus the run. Ekpre-Olomu is not adverse to helping out in that dimension of the game to go with his stellar coverage skills.
13. Miami Dolphins: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
What Dion Jordan hasn't provided as a pass-rusher is where Beasley, Clemson's all-time leader in sacks, could perhaps shine over the apparent bust. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller rates Beasley behind only Williams and Gregory as the 2015 class' top threats to the opposing quarterback:
Beasley fits more as an NFL outside linebacker due to being undersized, yet he could line up at defensive end as a situational pass-rusher even in his first year to form a lethal tandem with Cameron Wake. The notion that a team can't have too many pass-rushers is the brains behind this choice.
14. Atlanta Falcons: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Shoring up the trenches is of optimal importance. The massive holes on the Falcons defense need to be plugged by seasoned veterans in free agency for a bigger impact in 2015.
QB Matt Ryan needs better protection. Part of addressing that will be through establishing the run better. Running lanes need to be paved by someone like Peat, a product of a downhill, physical rushing attack at Stanford, to deliver the goods and balance Atlanta needs.
15. Chicago Bears: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Willie Young and Jared Allen combined to sack Ryan three times Sunday.
The Bears appear to be clicking on defense, yet Calhoun could add even more to the rotation with his own pass-rushing prowess. Applying better pressure will only open up opportunities for promising rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller and the secondary to generate takeaways.
16. Carolina Panthers: Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
One of last year's elite defenses has been atrocious as of late. Conceding 37 points in Sunday's tie with Cincinnati didn't help matters. Outside of Charles Johnson, Carolina needs someone like Fowler to build up depth at defensive end.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
Ike Taylor's age (34) and a downright lack of alternatives leads to Pittsburgh taking a swing at Williams here. The FSU standout is a press-coverage technician who has the potential to thrive on the outside in Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's blitz-heavy schemes.
18. Detroit Lions: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Williams would be a great fit for Detroit here. In this instance, with him off the board, the Lions instead opt to pair Gurley with Reggie Bush in the backfield, giving the offense an electrifying combination on paper.
Gurley can run with power and has tremendous instincts, and despite his suspension, he is well worth being the first ball-carrier drafted in the first round since 2011.
19. Arizona Cardinals: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Just six sacks in five games isn't going to get it done in the desert if the Cardinals want to be a real threat in the NFC West. They ought to mull adding Armstead if he's still on the board, because he is a 6'8", 290-pound dynamo who can't fall too far past here.
20. Baltimore Ravens: Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
The Steve Smith revival is real, but he won't be around for more than another two years or so—or at least producing at his typical level. That makes Coates a logical developmental player with explosive ability who can eventually fill in opposite Torrey Smith.
21. New York Giants: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
Defense wasn't really on display in Baylor's 61-58 win over TCU this weekend. Alex Brown of Optimum Scouting did a nice job breaking down what makes scouts drool over Oakman, though:
The Giants could use someone like Oakman up front to place opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, creating a terrifying, freakishly gifted duo.
22. New Orleans Saints: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
The Huskies star has outstanding speed for his position, and his 99-yard rumble to the end zone on a fumble recovery against California showcased his unique skills again this week. Bryan Fischer of NFL.com highlighted how unique Thompson is:
New Orleans needs Thompson's athleticism to bolster its linebacker corps on the outside, which features minimal depth and talent as it is.
23. Dallas Cowboys: Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Lost in the resurgence of America's Team is its need to improve up front—on defense. Bennett is a strong interior pass-rusher, and the eventual emergence of 2014 second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence will help build the other side of the trenches in Dallas.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
An investment in a receiver is worthwhile, since the best options behind Jeremy Maclin right now are Riley Cooper and rookie Jordan Matthews. Strong, at 6'3" and 215 pounds, offers Philly a speedy commodity for his size and should continue gaining steam with his 202-yard, three-score performance against USC.
25. Cincinnati Bengals: Kurtis Drummond, FS, Michigan State
Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson enters a contract year in 2015 and turns 32 in September. Without any massive needs, Cincinnati should consider taking Drummond, a redshirt senior captain on a top-notch defense who could become the long-term starter at the position.
26. San Francisco 49ers: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Shelton made a splash early with seven sacks in his first four games of the season, and he's continuing his strong play at nose tackle for the Huskies. The Niners have just five sacks through five games absent Aldon Smith screaming off the edge, so Shelton makes sense here.
27. Indianapolis Colts: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Just stop with Trent Richardson already. Forty-one yards on 17 carries in Week 6. A 3.2 yards-per-carry average in 2014. We're done. He's a bust.
Gordon is putting up numbers to the point that it's just silly for him to fall any further. A 175-yard performance with four TDs this last weekend keeps Gordon in Round 1, heading to Indy to become the necessary complement for Colts franchise signal-caller Andrew Luck.
28. Green Bay Packers: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The Green Bay defense has improved since the first two weeks of the season. Nevertheless, the unit needs help defending the run still. Adding the 314-pound Goldman, who has experience as a defensive end, to the rotation would go a long way in accomplishing just that.
29. New England Patriots: Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
Legendary QB Tom Brady makes do with subpar skill players every year. It's about time the Pats gave him someone pro-ready like Montgomery, whose vision after the catch, experience in a pro-style system and size give Brady a capable first-year target.
30. San Diego Chargers: Benardrick McKinney, OLB, Mississippi State
The versatility McKinney has to play both inside and outside is key here. San Diego's Manti Te'o has been hurt in each of his first two seasons, while edge starter Dwight Freeney has played his best football. Either role would suit McKinney well in a Chargers uniform.
31. Denver Broncos: A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina
Peyton Manning keeps lighting it up, but as his career continues to approach its conclusion, it would behoove Denver to run the ball better. Blocking for the likes of Mike Davis in the SEC, Cann is an ideal fit to upgrade the left guard spot over free-agent-to-be Orlando Franklin.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The reigning Super Bowl champions desperately need a cornerback to go with Richard Sherman. A man-to-man specialist in Waynes is just what the doctor will have ordered if Seattle can add him to its Legion of Boom secondary late in the first round.
A repeated raising of the Lombardi Trophy doesn't appear realistic for the Seahawks after a Week 6 home loss to the Cowboys. That just goes to show how much parity exists in the NFL. And with the QB talent near the top, those experiencing tough 2014 campaigns could be in for a swift turnaround in 2015.
Those that sustain success have a knack for building through the draft and keeping their cap figures reasonable as a result. Seattle was fortunate to land Russell Wilson in the third round in 2012, but the tide could be turning even on such a formidable team soon with Wilson's massive, incoming extension looming.