Entering the second round of the playoffs, teams are either in the hunt for the Super Bowl or already looking ahead to next year. For the latter group, the 2015 NFL draft can't come soon enough.
The status of some potential players are still up in the air, but the crop already looks like a promising one for the future. Depending on needs for each team across the NFL, the order is sure to change as specific positions become more pressing.
Before the postseason draws to a close, here's a look at early projections for each team based on the ideal fit for players or teams.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Even in a weak NFC South, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the cellar-dwellers this season. Despite additions like Mike Evans and Logan Mankins, the Buccaneers have a need under center.
Marcus Mariota looks the part of a dynamic quarterback at the next level and has the dual-threat ability to terrify NFL defenses. Expect Mariota to go early and end up with a team like Tampa Bay that needs a leader to take the next step.
2. Tennessee Titans: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
Randy Gregory has lived up to the hype this season and will bring some nastiness to the Tennessee Titans. In need of help at the position, look for the Titans to pick up the Nebraska lineman and slowly gain an identity on defense.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Yet another special talent on the defensive side of the ball, Leonard Williams has the strength and tenacity that can make a huge difference up front. If he slips behind Gregory, the Jacksonville Jaguars won't blink when looking to take him.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Another year, another high draft pick for the Oakland Raiders. They already have their quarterback of the future in Derek Carr and need another weapon to help him out. Luckily, Amari Cooper is available to give Oakland a playmaker on offense.
Most are high on the Alabama receiver, but one AFC scout doesn't believe he's of the same caliber as last year's top talent, via Albert Breer of NFL.com:
He's an easy route runner. Not a lot of wasted movement, solid hands, good speed. But I wouldn't say he's elite. He does a lot of things really well. He just doesn't do anything with a 'Wow' factor like (Sammy) Watkins, (Mike) Evans or (Odell) Beckham last year. The best thing he may be able to do is run after the catch.
Regardless of what some scouts may believe, Cooper is a proven wideout with plenty of talent to carry the Raiders. He may not necessarily get Oakland out of the top five next year in the draft, but the connection with Cooper and Carr would be a special one for years to come.
5. Washington Redskins: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Considered the best offensive tackle in the 2015 class, Brandon Scherff made it clear that he's ready for the NFL this season. The unanimous All-American and Outland Trophy winner will provide protection for, well, whoever's under center for the Washington Redskins next year.
6. New York Jets: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
One of the biggest questions leading up to the offseason was whether or not Jameis Winston would declare for the draft. He made it official on Wednesday that he will leave Florida State, via David M. Hale of ESPN.com:
After weighing this decision with my family and friends, I have decided to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft and forgo my remaining eligibility at Florida State. I reached this very difficult decision after careful consideration and long thought, realizing how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my family at Florida State. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to wear the garnet and gold and have greatly enjoyed my time as a Seminole, both as an athlete and a student in the classroom.
Though controversy has surrounded him during his tenure with the Seminoles, Winston's talent still warrants a first-round selection. For a team as offensively deprived as the New York Jets, expect the team to start a new era with Winston under center—for better or worse.
7. Chicago Bears: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Anyone who watched the Chicago Bears last season is well aware of the ineptitude on the defensive line. Outside of Jared Allen, the line simply didn't have much success. Add Shane Ray and give him a chance to learn from a future Hall of Famer, and this defense might be finally headed in the right direction.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
One of the biggest holes in the Atlanta Falcons defense this past year was in the front seven. Luckily, Vic Beasley will likely still be on the board to potentially fill one of the two areas of need for Atlanta.
For more on Beasley, Todd McShay of ESPN (subscription required) provided analysis prior to the Russell Athletic Bowl:
He's a difference-maker as a pass-rusher whose first-step quickness and closing speed are near elite. He'll be giving up three inches and roughly 100 pounds to each of the aforementioned OU tackles, but that's nothing new for Beasley -- he shakes offensive tackles with double moves and has good hands and lateral quickness when redirected inside.
Beasley returned to Clemson and posted great numbers again this year. Given a chance to prove himself in the NFC South, Beasley would blossom into a star for the Falcons.
9. New York Giants: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
His decision might not have received as much fanfare as other top prospects, but Andrus Peat is a special player that's ready for the NFL. After declaring for the draft earlier this week, via David Lombardi of ESPN.com, the New York Giants can fill a need with him in the top 10.
10. St. Louis Rams: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Establishing themselves as a solid defensive unit in 2014, the St. Louis Rams need a cornerback who can give the line more time to rush the passer. Trae Waynes would fit perfectly into the NFC West and help make the Rams one of the best defenses in the league.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Teddy Bridgewater was a steal for the Minnesota Vikings last year, but he needs more protection to have time in a clean pocket. After teammate Jake Matthews was a top-10 pick last season, Cedric Ogbuehi won't be far behind as the No. 11 pick for the Vikes.
12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
The jury is still out on whether or not the Cleveland Browns made the right decision in drafting Johnny Manziel last year. In order to truly find out, they will begin equipping him with more weapons for the future.
Cooper will likely already be off the board, but DeVante Parker can be a spark for any offense. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com compared him to a receiver that blew up during his rookie campaign:
That's not to say he'll immediately make the impact of Keenan Allen or last year's class, but Parker will be a talented player to watch at the next level. On a Browns team that has Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and a duo of young tailbacks, Parker would provide yet another huge weapon.
13. New Orleans Saints: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Just a year after completely changing the defense, Rob Ryan struggled to establish the same persistence in the NFC South in 2014. Nabbing an athletic linebacker like Shaq Thompson, the New Orleans Saints would have a linebacker to compete with the likes of Cam Newton and Matt Ryan.
14. Miami Dolphins: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
This doesn't seem like a huge change for Ereck Flowers, who would be moving from the Miami Hurricanes to the Miami Dolphins. It would also fill a hole for the Dolphins, who still need to allow Ryan Tannehill more time to find his receivers or run from the pocket.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Kevin White has been one of the most heralded receivers in this year's class for quite some time. As if the San Francisco 49ers didn't already need a wideout, it appears White might be getting comfortable with White, via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area:
Some might believe the 49ers can wait until later than the first round to start finding a new wide receiver. However, if White is still on the board, the Niners will have no choice but to add one of the most talented players in the class.
16. Houston Texans: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
Sure, the Houston Texans need upgrades at a few offensive positions, but the defense has the ability to carry the team. Pairing up Landon Collins with D.J. Swearinger would make the secondary equally as effective as the front seven in Houston.
17. San Diego Chargers: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Danny Shelton is a strong tackle that would fill a void for the San Diego Chargers and has the chance to become a premier player in the years to come. After missing out on the playoffs this season, improving the defense would help the Chargers compete with the Denver Broncos for the division.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Kansas City Chiefs have a reliable quarterback in Alex Smith. They also have depth at running back with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. Oh, then there's the tandem of Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano.
Even with all of those weapons, the offense tends to struggle due to a lack of explosive wide receivers. Add Strong to that lineup, and the Chiefs might finally have a wideout score a touchdown—next season, at least.
19. Cleveland Browns (via Bills): Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
Thanks to trading with the Buffalo Bills last season, Cleveland once again has two selections in this year's draft. Much like they did in 2014, the Browns will add playmakers to both sides of the ball with versatile pass-rusher Dante Fowler.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Philadelphia Eagles have a need for a cornerback, and Marcus Peters more than fits the mold. However, Peters was dismissed from the program and comes in with question marks. If he can overcome those issues, expect him to pair up nicely with Cary Williams for years to come.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Much of the focus this year was on Winston for Florida State, but the defense had some of the best talent in the country, as well. Eddie Goldman is one of those special players, and the Cincinnati Bengals won't miss out on adding him to their defensive line.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
One of the most talented defensive backs in the country, P.J. Williams will finally hear his name called by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Williams is a physical corner who can help an aging secondary and aid Pittsburgh in returning as one of the elite defenses in the NFL.
23. Detroit Lions: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Nothing is certain right now, but the Detroit Lions might be losing Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley—or both. If that scenario takes place, the best pass-rusher on the board might very well be Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Bruce Arians has already helped make the Arizona Cardinals one of the best defenses in the league with a toughness that can only be found in the NFC West. Taking a player of Shilique Calhoun's caliber, the Cardinals will have more depth at the defensive end position and a future star.
25. Carolina Panthers: La'el Collins, OT, LSU
Cam Newton has enough talent to put the Carolina Panthers on his back and carry them to the playoffs. However, Carolina will need to protect him after a trying season in 2014. One player on the board who can provide that is La'el Collins, who proved his talent for LSU against some of the best defenses in the SEC.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Running backs might not be viewed as a need in the first round anymore, but Melvin Gordon can change all of that. The Heisman finalist emerged as one of the best players in the country and proved it with over 2,500 rushing yards and 32 total touchdowns.
Melvin Gordon will be in the discussion to occupy the top RB spot on each team's draft board. Todd Gurley will also be in that discussion. ... Gordon has now faced three SEC defenses over the last two years. He put up big numbers against South Carolina in last year's bowl game and also put up an impressive total against LSU to start the 2014 campaign. For his closing statement, he rushed for 251 yards against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
Todd Gurley's season-ending injury might not keep him out of the first round. While each player will likely be great, Gordon fits the mold of the Ravens' physical style and will break the running back curse in the first round.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky
One of the most instinctive players in the draft, Bud Dupree has been on the rise thanks to his great play this season.
One college coach recently praised Dupree's talent, via Gerry Hamilton of ESPN:
The Dallas Cowboys have improved defensively this season, and Dupree would offer a future star in the front seven. Coming in after his senior season, he would also have a wealth of experience in the SEC and the potential to be a game-changer even as a rookie.
28. Indianapolis Colts: Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
Andrew Luck is the leader of one of the best offenses in the NFL, with T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. The side of the ball that needs help, however, is on the defense. Bringing in a player of Benardrick McKinney's caliber will be perfect for the Indianapolis Colts.
29. Denver Broncos: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
In a division where the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs have strong front sevens, protecting Peyton Manning is the No. 1 priority. Ronnie Stanley offers athleticism and good run blocking for the already-potent Denver Broncos offense.
30. Green Bay Packers: Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
Despite some struggles to start the season, the Green Bay Packers offense looks like one of the best in the NFL. The only need at this point is more protection for Aaron Rodgers, who can tear apart any defense with a clean pocket.
Though he's not in a Power Five conference, Ty Sambrailo has emerged as one of the best linemen in the class. If he falls down to the end of the first round, he might be protecting one of the most prized possessions in the NFL.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
Russell Wilson can't do it all for the Seattle Seahawks. Percy Harvin didn't quite fit, and Doug Baldwin doesn't appear to be a franchise wide receiver.
Luckily for the Seahawks, Devin Funchess can potentially fill that gaping hole. The 6'5", 230-pound target offers a huge playmaker when he gets his hands on the ball. Though he's struggled at times this season, Funchess, in the right system, can thrive with the Seahawks.
32. New England Patriots: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
After making the decision to go pro, per Thayer Evans of SI.com, Dorial Green-Beckham has a chance to be selected in the first round of the draft.
If he slips down the board to the end of the first round, Bill Belichick might have another project on his hands. Given his talent on the field, simply keeping his head straight will be the challenge for the New England Patriots—a task Belichick has been up for in the past.
All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated.
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