Although many organizations are certainly disappointed to have missed out on the playoffs, there is some consolation to be had in the form of a deep and talented draft class.
The 2015 NFL draft, which will be held outside New York for the first time since 1964, could represent a turning point for many franchises. There are some potential difference-makers on the horizon, and sometimes all it takes is one great player to get the ball rolling in a positive direction.
With the 2015 draft already on the minds of many fans, here is a look at the best possible fits for every team currently slated to pick in the first round.
Draft order based on current standings.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Buccaneers endured a miserable 2014 season, but there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Mariota. If he is as good as advertised, then Tampa could immediately contend for a playoff spot in 2015.
2. Tennessee Titans: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
After giving up 28 touchdown passes in 2014, it is clear that the Titans need to get to the quarterback more frequently. If they managed to select a stud pass-rusher like Gregory, then it shouldn't take long for the pass defense to improve.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
There is never a sure thing in any draft, but Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff may be the safest bet for NFL success in the 2015 class.
The 6'5", 320-pound native of Denison, Iowa, was a three-year starter for the Hawkeyes, and he racked up awards during his impressive stint with the team. In fact, he capped his career with a unanimous All-America selection, according to the Hawkeyes' official Twitter account:
Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars invested heavily in quarterback Blake Bortles as their future face of the franchise. Bortles ended up getting the majority of the starts under center in 2014, and while he certainly showed some flashes of brilliance, he clearly has plenty of growing left to do.
That can most definitely be aided by the peace of mind that comes with being protected. Bortles already has one possible stud at left tackle in Luke Joeckel, and Scherff would make the line that much better by locking down the right side.
In addition to his pass-blocking acumen, Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star points out that he is an absolute force in the running game:
The Jags struggled to get anything going on the ground for most of 2014, but adding Scherff could very well change that in 2015 and beyond.
While Scherff may not be the flashiest possible pick at this point in the draft, he fills a need for the Jaguars and doesn't come with a ton of risk either.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
It is possible that the Raiders have found their quarterback of the future in Derek Carr, but he needs more weapons. Enter Cooper, who is unquestionably the top pass-catcher available in the 2015 class.
5. Washington Redskins: Leonard Williams, DL, USC
The Redskins have big question marks all over their roster, but solidifying their defensive line could be a great starting point. Williams may be the best prospect and most pro-ready player in the draft, which makes him a fantastic selection here.
6. New York Jets: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Opinions regarding Winston's draft value are all over the board, but it's tough to argue with his track record on the field. With Geno Smith and Michael Vick clearly not working out, the Jets will roll the dice on the FSU signal-caller despite his character concerns.
7. Chicago Bears: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Chicago's defense has held back an explosive offense over the past couple seasons, and it's time to change that. The secondary needs a true leader who can organize and make plays, and it is clear that Collins fits the bill.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Falcons can't get to the quarterback, but racking up sacks happens to be Ray's favorite pastime. With 14 sacks in 13 regular-season games, Ray is a no-brainer at this point.
9. New York Giants: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Few teams cycle through more linebackers than the Giants, but taking an athletic force like Thompson would give them some certainty at the position for many years to come.
10. St. Louis Rams: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Defense is what helped keep the Rams afloat for much of 2014, but they are far from perfect on that side of the ball. Their pass coverage can be shoddy at times, but Waynes has the talent and ability to change that.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did some really encouraging things as a rookie, and now the Vikings must protect their investment. Peat is as steady as they come, and he would likely make an immediate impact.
12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
It remains to be seen what the Browns will do at quarterback moving forward; however, they need to surround their future signal-caller with as many weapons as they can. Parker is a potential star wide receiver who will be a fine complement to Josh Gordon.
13. New Orleans Saints: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The Saints were really let down by their defense this season, and that clearly must be addressed in the draft. Ekpre-Olomu may be the best cover corner the 2015 draft has to offer, which makes him a fairly obvious pick for New Orleans here.
14. Miami Dolphins: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Inside linebackers tend to drop further than they should in the NFL draft most years, and the Dolphins will be glad that's the case if they are able to get their hands on a difference-maker like McKinney.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
Injuries and distractions are mostly to blame for the 49ers' struggles in 2014, but there is no reason why they can't turn things around quickly. A player like Oakman would make an already fearsome defense even more dangerous.
16. Houston Texans: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
There is no doubt that the Houston Texans are a talented team. They were in the midst of becoming a perennial playoff franchise before poor quarterback play made them the NFL's worst squad in 2013. They bounced back with a solid 2014 campaign, but quarterback is still a major issue.
The Texans desperately need a signal-caller; however, getting a good one is extremely difficult. While the draft is always an option, Houston won't get a crack at one of the top options picking in the middle of the first round. That means it can either bypass the position or take a chance on a risky prospect.
If the Texans go with the latter option, then UCLA's Brett Hundley is the likeliest candidate. The junior had three excellent seasons with the Bruins, and his efficiency as a passer improved with each passing year.
Even so, there are definite question marks regarding his ability to translate to the NFL. Clay Fowler of Los Angeles News Group accurately calls him "polarizing":
Although some believe he can become a quality NFL starter, others aren't quite as convinced. According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one scout believes Hundley will fall flat:
"He's going to be a bust," the scout said. "He's one of those guys who seems to lock in right away. His shortcoming is accuracy."
If they have any inkling that Hundley could be the guy to take the reins, then they should jump all over him and hope it works out.
17*. Kansas City Chiefs: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia (will be determined by coin flip)
No team in recent memory has gotten less production out of their wide receivers than the Chiefs. Part of that has to do with their conservative attack, but quarterback Alex Smith would really benefit from someone like White.
18*. San Diego Chargers: Danny Shelton, DL, Washington (will be determined by coin flip)
No team cycles defensive personnel more than the Chargers. Shelton is the type of lineman who may not be an every-down guy, but he could be a perfect fit on a Bolts defense that utilizes a ton of different players.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
After already addressing a need on the offensive side of the ball, Cleveland's focus can shift to defense. The Browns are inconsistent when it comes to pressuring the quarterback, but Beasley could change that in a hurry.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
The Eagles have been trying to fix their secondary for quite some time, and while no significant progress has been made in that area, Williams could represent a step in the right direction.
21. Carolina Panthers: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Ogbuehi would have been a much higher pick had he declared last season, but the Panthers are glad he didn't since they are lucky enough to land a potential stud tackle this late in the first round.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Most teams tend to avoid taking running backs in the first round, but Gordon is a special talent. The Ravens are much better when they run the ball effectively, and Gordon could immediately give them an elite player on the backfield.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
The Bengals have a decent pass rush by committee, but they don't necessarily boast a stud in that regard. Fowler could become one, but he'll help the pass-rush cause even if he doesn't.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alex Carter, CB, Stanford
The Steelers have made moves intended to replenish their aging defense in recent seasons, but the secondary could still use a youth infusion. With that in mind, Carter makes all the sense in the world for Pittsburgh.
25. Detroit Lions: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Detroit has built up arguably the best defensive line in all of football, and that has made the linebackers and secondary that much better. The Lions can still afford to add talent at cornerback, though, and Peters is elite in terms of his ability.
26. Indianapolis Colts: A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina
Building a strong front to protect quarterback Andrew Luck is never a bad idea, and selecting the draft's top pure guard in A.J. Cann would be a major coup for the Colts at this juncture.
27. Arizona Cardinals: Alvin Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
Arizona was somewhat derailed by its injuries at quarterback, but it has a great foundation for success moving forward. Drafting an explosive pass-rusher like Dupree would certainly add to that.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Had Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun entered the draft last year as many expected, he may have been a top-10 pick. His stock dipped a bit with just 6.5 sacks in the regular season, but he still has the potential to be great in the NFL.
At 6'5" and 256 pounds, the former Spartan is a true physical specimen. In fact, his size is comparable to that of Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who initially made his name as an All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys.
If the Cowboys see some Ware in Calhoun, then there is no question that they would be willing to take a chance on him this late in the first round. Even after a down season in terms of production, ESPN's Mel Kiper still believes Calhoun is worthy of being taken in the opening 32 picks, according to Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News:
For as good as Dallas was in 2014, the defense is far from perfect. Sacking the quarterback proved difficult at times, but Calhoun could very well change that.
Calhoun is also skilled at playing the run and batting down passes as well due to his supreme athleticism, so he is the type of do-everything end who would fit in the Cowboys defense extremely well.
It is hard to say for sure how well he will translate to the NFL, but he is so talented that Dallas simply won't be able to pass him up at this point.
29. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami (Fla.)
The Packers have had to do a lot of maneuvering and experimenting at linebacker this season. With A.J. Hawk starting to slip, Green Bay would be wise to take a reliable inside backer such as Perryman.
30. New England Patriots: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
The Patriots aren't averse to taking chances because they can afford to. Without character concerns, Green-Beckham could be considered one of the one or two top receivers in this draft, so New England may feel it's worth taking a chance on him.
31. Denver Broncos: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The Broncos have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but there is no doubt that they have a weakness up the middle. Goldman is arguably a top-15 talent, so Denver will be thrilled if he falls into its lap here.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan
Seattle could use some help at both wide receiver and tight end, which makes Funchess an intriguing option. He played both positions at Michigan and could be a great target for quarterback Russell Wilson no matter where he lines up.
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