Just days away from the NFL playoffs officially getting underway, fans of every team are gearing up for one of two things—a run at the Super Bowl or the 2015 NFL draft.
At this point, 20 teams already know their fate after missing out on the postseason. Of those, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans were the biggest losers—or, in this case, winners—this year.
Several crucial bowl games and the entire postseason still lie ahead before the complete draft process will officially begin. Before any of that takes place, here's a look at the latest mock draft starting from the top with those dreadful Bucs.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
There are two quarterbacks in the upper echelon heading into this year's draft. At this point, Marcus Mariota looks like the class of that crop after winning the Heisman Trophy and a nearly flawless season.
Prior to the Rose Bowl showdown, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost gushed about Mariota's ability, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:
Picking a quarterback at No. 1 isn't exactly a foolproof plan to start winning, but the position seems to be the missing ingredient for Tampa Bay. Already having young weapons like Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, bringing in Mariota should instantly stabilize the offense.
2. Tennessee Titans: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Along with Mariota, Jameis Winston has a bright future as an NFL signal-caller. He might have regressed slightly in 2014 with Florida State, but the Tennessee Titans need a quarterback to lead them in an AFC South where the Indianapolis Colts reign supreme.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams, DT, Southern California
When it comes to physical freaks in this year's crop, look no further than Leonard Williams. The USC defensive tackle will be a difference-maker at the NFL level and will live in the backfield of opponents for a Jacksonville Jaguars team that desperately needs his presence.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The 2015 draft class might not have quite the depth of wide receivers that the 2014 crop had, but the top features several future stars. Amari Cooper is at the head of the wideouts and would instantly give the Oakland Raiders an explosive target for Derek Carr.
5. Washington Redskins: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Andrus Peat is a special offensive lineman with the ability to be an opposing presence for any franchise. The Washington Redskins happen to be desperate for that type of talent, making this a perfect fit for both sides.
6. New York Jets: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Coming into the season, Randy Gregory was viewed as a potential top overall pick due to his athleticism and freakish play. Still the top overall defensive end in the class, the Nebraska player will land with the New York Jets to start his NFL future.
7. Chicago Bears: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Gregory's selection starts a string of defensive players with the potential to be difference-makers at the NFL level. Shane Ray is the latest Missouri defensive product to blossom and would fit in nicely for a Chicago Bears defense looking for an identity.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
During the 2014 season, Vic Beasley had a lot to prove to remain a top-10 pick after turning down the NFL last year. He did that and more before capping off the season with a strong performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman points out how rare Beasley's sack was against Oklahoma:
After coming up just short of claiming the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons have a prime spot to pick up a promising pass-rusher. Beasley is just that after recording 12 sacks in his final season with the Tigers.
9. New York Giants: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
Ending that steady stream of defensive players will be Dante Fowler, who finished his college career with a spectacular season of his own. Florida didn't have the results it wanted, but Fowler has a special future ahead of him.
Former Gators coach Will Muschamp spoke about Fowler's potential, via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:
There aren't many folks that possess the qualities he can give you as far as rushing the passer. And that's paramount in that league. You've got to have guys that can rush the passer, and he can win one-on-one (battles). There is no question in my mind. ...
He's got a tremendous upside in my opinion. The No. 1 thing he has going for him is how hard he plays.
More effort out of the defense is exactly what the New York Giants need after another losing season. Given his athleticism, look for Fowler to come off the board early to a Giants team that is lacking the defensive weapons to thrive in the NFC East.
10. St. Louis Rams: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
There are a lot of needs for the St. Louis Rams offense, but upgrading the offensive line should be at the top of the list. Following another consistent season with Texas A&M, Cedric Ogbuehi will be the second tackle coming off the board to a Rams team that needs his talent.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Last year, the Minnesota Vikings might have come away with the steal of the draft in Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first round. He still has plenty of development to come in order to become an elite quarterback, but Brandon Scherff blocking his blind side will be an upgrade for Minnesota.
12. Cleveland Browns: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
A solid start for the Cleveland Browns simply wasn't enough to get them to the playoffs. But if they stick with the same system from last year's draft, Shaq Thompson will be the best defensive player at a position of need for Cleveland.
13. New Orleans Saints: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
After taking a massive step back in 2014 on defense, the New Orleans Saints will look to bolster the woeful secondary with Trae Waynes. The Michigan State product had seven passes defensed and three interceptions during the regular season, making him a must-have commodity for the Saints.
14. Miami Dolphins: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Another season, another draft pick in the top 20 for the Miami Dolphins. Luckily, a dynamic running back in Melvin Gordon will still be on the board. If the Dolphins pull the trigger, they would have a formidable duo along with Lamar Miller to begin truly competing in the AFC East.
15. San Francisco 49ers: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
In terms of top receivers in this year's crop, DeVante Parker is still a bit of an unknown after his breakout season. While Cooper will likely remain the No. 1 wideout during the process, Parker can prove he's next on the list in the scouting combine and fall to a team that needs playmakers like the San Francisco 49ers.
16. Houston Texans: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
Everyone loves an underdog story, but it just wasn't meant to be for the Houston Texans after falling short in the AFC South. Picking up a hard-hitting, ball-hawking safety like Landon Collins to bolster the defense? That just might do the trick against the likes of Andrew Luck to claim the division.
17. Kansas City Chiefs: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
In a year when the Kansas City Chiefs narrowly missed out on the playoffs, the franchise had one of the most surprising statistics for a winning team. Kansas City finished the season at 9-7 despite not having a single touchdown reception by a receiver.
That might change next season if the Chiefs pick up Kevin White. The explosive receiver made an impression on Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star:
His special play down the field for West Virginia makes White an obvious choice for the Chiefs. If he can bring that same outstanding play to the NFL, look for White to touch paydirt a few times for Kansas City next year.
18. San Diego Chargers: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
At 6'2", 339 pounds, Danny Shelton is a physical nightmare for NFL offensive coordinators. In a division where the San Diego Chargers typically play second fiddle to the Denver Broncos, Shelton would be the game-changing defensive player the Chargers need.
19. Cleveland Browns (via BUF): Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Still going along with the system from last year's draft, the Browns will add to the other side of the ball by taking Jaelen Strong.
The underclassman has already announced he will enter the draft, with Arizona State coach Todd Graham voicing his thoughts on his impact, via Kyle Bonagura of ESPN.com:
"Jaelen's enormous impact was felt from the first day he stepped on the practice field with us more than 16 months ago," Graham said in a statement. "His work ethic, attention to detail and overall football IQ are just a few of his attributes that make him such a special talent."
Uncertainty surrounds Cleveland's offense with Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon, but Strong has the ability to change a game with his size and speed. If he falls to the Browns, look for Strong to be another building block for the future of this franchise.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
Despite missing out on the playoffs, the Philadelphia Eagles still looked the part of a contender in the NFC East again. Adding a corner like P.J. Williams into the fold, the Eagles would have two shutdown corners to compete with the likes of Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr. and DeSean Jackson.
21. Carolina Panthers: La'el Collins, OT, LSU
The Carolina Panthers added a huge weapon in the first round of the draft last year with Kelvin Benjamin. Still in need of protection for Cam Newton, look for the Panthers to go after La'el Collins to improve the offense yet again.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Shilique Calhoun, DE/OLB, Michigan State
Shilique Calhoun comes into the 2014 draft as one of the nastiest pass-rushers on the board. In fact, he's become one of the top defensive prospects with first-round potential according to Mel Kiper of ESPN, via Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News:
If he does somehow fall near the end of the first round, look for the Baltimore Ravens to grab him to continue competing in the difficult AFC North.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
The Pittsburgh Steelers remained one of the best teams in the AFC this year, but they need to invigorate some youth into the defense. Luckily, Jalen Collins is a cornerback with plenty of upside to build around in the secondary for the Steelers.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Yet another defensive star in the SEC, Benardrick McKinney set himself apart with Mississippi State in 2014. With his ability to span the entire field from the linebacker position, McKinney would be an ideal fit for the Indianapolis Colts, who need the defense to catch up to the potent offense.
25. Cincinnati Bengals: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Eddie Goldman is one of the most heralded defensive tackles in the 2015 class. He might be one of the latest players from FSU to come off the board in the first round, but Goldman's breakout season should land him with the Cincinnati Bengals.
26. Detroit Lions: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Question marks surround Marcus Peters after he was dismissed from Washington due to multiple arguments with the coaching staff. However, his talent will still land him in the first round, with the Detroit Lions adding him to the stout defense.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
The Dallas Cowboys surprised NFL fans with their sudden surge in the NFC East to make the playoffs this season. Adding a pass-rusher who can wreak havoc on defense, the Cowboys defense would have another significant weapon to stay at the top of the division.
28. Green Bay Packers: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
There's not much the Green Bay Packers need to add on offense in the draft. However, picking a special talent like T.J. Clemmings late in the first round would instantly bolster an offensive line tasked with covering the best quarterback in the NFL.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Not much has been said about Owamagbe Odighizuwa leading up to the draft process, but the UCLA defensive end has plenty of potential. In an NFC West division where defense is at a premium, Odighizuwa will be a huge weapon for the Arizona Cardinals for the future.
30. Denver Broncos: Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
Similar to the Packers, the Broncos look like a team with a wealth of offensive talent to remain a contender next year. But with Ty Sambrailo still ripe for the picking, the Colorado State tackle would immediately help protect a legend in Peyton Manning.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
The Seattle Seahawks need weapons on offense to help Russell Wilson. Devin Funchess, who played both wide receiver and tight end for Michigan, provides size and athleticism for the receiving corps. His versatility will also take pressure off the dual-threat quarterback to open up the offense.
32. New England Patriots: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Oh, Bill Belichick and the NFL draft. Will he stay in the first round or stockpile picks like he has done so often? The only thing more difficult to predict is the future for Dorial Green-Beckham, who has experienced myriad issues at the college level.
If Belichick does stay in the first round, expect him to take on another project in DGB to improve the receiving corps in New England.
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