Aside from Marcus Mariota, who's seemingly given himself a head start based on college performance, the difference between the prospects atop the 2015 NFL draft list is small. That leaves plenty of room for movement in the months ahead.
The most common phrase leading up to draft day will likely be "raw talent." The draft class is filled with prospects featuring high-end potential but plenty of work to do. Figuring out which ones have the best chance to ramp up their development is the key.
Slowly, a better picture of which players teams are leaning toward should begin to emerge as the process heats up. For now, let's check out an early forecast for how things could play out based on how prospects are currently being viewed.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Bucs' collapse in the fourth quarter of their final game earned them the right to pick first. That's probably going to result in them selecting Mariota to lead the offense. They just have to hope he lives up to the hype of a franchise cornerstone.
Mariota officially declared for the draft Wednesday.
2. Tennessee Titans: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Tennessee could go one of two directions here. It might decide taking a chance on Jameis Winston is the way to go to energize a lackluster offensive attack. But the safer route is Gregory, a player who will step right in to make an impact on the edge.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Through either free agency or the draft, the Jaguars must find a way to better protect the quarterback. Their signal-callers were sacked a combined 71 times this season, and it's almost impossible to lead an efficient aerial attack when constantly under siege.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
There was a lot to like about what Derek Carr was able to accomplish in his rookie campaign. Ultimately, a quarterback is limited by the amount of talent around him, though. And that's something the Raiders need to improve as soon as possible.
Cooper would bring not only a legitimate No. 1 wideout into the fold but also a winning mentality. He talked about that with Michael Casagrande of AL.com when he was asked about choosing Alabama despite a traditionally run-first offense.
"But I wanted to be a winner," Cooper said. "That was the most important thing to me. People who were disagreeing with me, they were focused on my stats and what my stats would look like. And I was more focused on winning."
It's still going to take some time before the Raiders turn into a consistent winning team. But for the first time in a while, the signs are pointing in the right direction. Cooper would help push the process further forward in 2015.
5. Washington Redskins: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Washington would be happy if Williams slid to its draft position. It lacks playmakers on the defensive side, and the USC product has the potential to become a massive force along the line. He should land somewhere in the top five.
6. New York Jets: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston heading to New York would be one of the year's biggest sports stories. His talent is right up there with Mariota, but whether he's got the mental makeup to survive in the NFL is unknown. It would be seriously tested in the Big Apple, that's for sure.
7. Chicago Bears: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The Bears' pass defense was nothing short of a disaster for most of the campaign. Upgrading the secondary should be atop the to-do list during the offseason. Collins, who's a versatile safety and ready to play a big role immediately, would be a good start.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
A vast majority of Atlanta's available resources must be spent on the defense. The offense features enough upside to make a playoff charge. The same can't be said for the opposite unit, an imposing figure on the outside with star potential.
9. New York Giants: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
At about the midway point of the season, this pick might have been an offensive skill player. The group made strides during the latter stages of the year, though. That turns the focus to the defense, which needs work, and Thompson is a good fit.
10. St. Louis Rams: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Protecting the quarterback remains an area where the Rams simply haven't been good enough. Expect to see some shuffling up front, and Peat could provide another anchor to build around. It's especially important if the team expects Sam Bradford, who's battled injuries, to lead the offense.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Even though the Vikings aren't in dire need of upgrading the pass rush, Beasley is a nice fit. He's improved against the run, which is an area of concern for Minnesota, and could make the group one of the best at getting after the quarterback in the NFL.
12. Cleveland Browns: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Browns have two picks inside the top 20. As a result, they should be able to add an impact player on both sides of the ball. White is a receiver who can become a major asset on third down and in the red zone, both situations where the team must improve.
13. New Orleans Saints: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The story stayed much the same in New Orleans. The offense is explosive enough to beat anybody, but the defense didn't provide enough support to push the Saints into the playoffs. Waynes is the top corner in the class.
14. Miami Dolphins: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
This may be considered a slight reach for McKinney—it will be more apparent by draft day—but Miami might not be able to pass him up. It needs a rock to bolster the linebacker group, and that's exactly what he represents.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Michael Crabtree has never developed into the game-changing receiver the 49ers hoped they were getting when they drafted him. He's a solid complementary option but not a go-to guy. That, along with Colin Kaepernick's struggles, has held the team's passing attack back.
Strong could be the answer to those woes after a terrific career at Arizona State. Matt Barrie of ESPN is definitely bullish about his chances of success at the next level:
San Francisco is going to go through some changes during the offseason—mostly notably on the coaching staff after the exit of Jim Harbaugh. The foundation of players remains promising, though. And Strong would provide a nice boost.
16. Houston Texans: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
The Texans will have to make a decision at this point. Do they jump on Hundley as their search for a quarterback continues or upgrade elsewhere and see what's available at QB later on? It's a tough call, but the UCLA star gets the nod.
17. San Diego Chargers: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Being unable to consistently slow down opposing rushing attacks was one of the main reasons a promising campaign slipped away in San Diego. The defensive line needs work, and Shelton fits the bill after making steady progress at Washington.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
A lot of attention was paid to the lack of production by Kansas City's wideouts this season. Part of that is simply the team's more conservative offensive philosophy, but the group does need work. Parker would be a nice selection at this stage of the round.
19. Cleveland Browns (from BUF): Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida
When Cleveland received this pick from Buffalo, it was probably hoping for a top-10 selection. Luckily, there are still some intriguing defensive prospects available at this stage, highlighted by Fowler. He needs some work, but the raw tools are outstanding.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
From a statistical standpoint, the Eagles defense won't be among the league leaders simply because the uptempo style leads to more yards allowed. What they need to focus on is playmakers who can force more turnovers like Ekpre-Olomu. That could change based on more injury info, though.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The Bengals must do a better job of winning battles at the point of attack on defense. Struggles in that area led to wildly inconsistent production on that side of the ball this season. Goldman would probably start in a rotational role while he develops.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
Pittsburgh is showcasing that it's possible to make a transition from one core group of players to another without a major drop-off in between. Williams would be the latest piece added to a defense that's continued to operate at a high level despite numerous changes over the past handful of years.
23. Detroit Lions: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Lions defense made some made strides this season after being more of a liability in the years prior. There's still room for improvement in the secondary, though. Peters is somebody who can play in certain packages right away before becoming a starter.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky
The Cardinals need to focus on upgrading both lines in the draft and free agency. There are value options for both available at this stage, but Dupree makes the most sense. He's a player with top-20 ability who just didn't have the right fit until here.
25. Carolina Panthers: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Ogbuehi would represent terrific value for the Panthers here. In fact, he would probably be in the conversation if they missed the playoffs and picked a dozen slots earlier. So it's the best of both worlds for Carolina if it falls like this.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Justin Forsett did a tremendous job of filling the Ravens' running back void this season. That said, he's 29, and if he's going to remain an effective option moving forward and stays in Baltimore, the team will likely want to pair him with a power runner. Enter Gordon.
The standout from Wisconsin is a rare prospect at the position who warrants first-round consideration. As Jesse Temple of Fox Sports Wisconsin notes, Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez gave him high praise:
One other positive for Gordon beyond his obvious talent is the limited workload. Before this season, he was never run really heavily in college. So he should still have plenty of productive years ahead, which is already a consideration for front offices.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
While the Cowboys made improvements in a lot of areas this season, one thing that still happened too much was getting pushed off the line of scrimmage on the defensive side. Calhoun is a hard-nosed player who can revitalize the effort up front.
28. Denver Broncos: La'el Collins, OT, LSU
The Broncos are one team where future decisions will play a huge role in this pick. Once they decide how to handle their own free agents, the situation should become clearer. For now, Collins represents the best player available.
29. Indianapolis Colts: A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina
One thing Andrew Luck dealt with quite often this season was pressure from the middle. It doesn't explain all of his turnovers, which is an area he must improve moving forward, but upgrading the interior line with Cann would help his cause.
30. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami
Green Bay is in a position where it can feel confident on the offensive side. Continuing to bolster the defense is the top priority. Perryman is a fringe first-round talent who could earn himself a sizable role with a strong preseason.
31. New England Patriots: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
This lines up as a typical Patriots value selection. Green-Beckham would probably be the No. 2 wide receiver in the class based just on talent. It's the off-field issues that have held him back. If the Pats can keep him focused, it would provide a major boost for Tom Brady's targets.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
Seattle is able to win games without an explosive passing attack. It's a testament to how strong the Seahawks are in other areas. But if Seattle is able to make that aspect of the team more dynamic, and Funchess would help, it would be a bigger nightmare for opponents.