2015 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects After Senior Bowl

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 25, 2015

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Defensive end Leonard Williams #94 of the USC Trojans warms up before the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With this year's Senior Bowl and other various postseason all-star events in the books, NFL scouts have laid the groundwork for a sure-to-be-exhaustive predraft season.

Personnel from all 32 teams have gotten valuable looks at some of the top prospects eligible for the draft, but so much in this process depends upon whether they can separate themselves in events like the NFL Scouting Combine and in individual workouts. Teams have already seen plenty of their desired prospects throughout their college careers, but players can prove themselves as can't-miss picks in the months of January, February and March. 

With that in mind, everything can change from now until April 30—the day of the draft's first round. But let's go ahead and look at where the top prospects stand as memories of the Senior Bowl drift into the rearview mirror.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The big question regarding the Bucs' top overall draft pick isn't as much whether they'll take a quarterback, but rather which one they should take. And after Tampa Bay hired Mike Bajakian from Tennessee—who has been running a spread scheme for the last eight years—it's looking more and more like Marcus Mariota will be the pick. The Oregon quarterback has enough tools to be a franchise quarterback, and the Bucs won't pass up on his potential.

2. Tennessee Titans: DT Leonard Williams, USC

The popular pick is to give the Titans a new quarterback in Jameis Winston, but that's blatantly ignoring their lack of talent elsewhere on the roster. USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams looks like a perfect fit for an outside lineman in Tennessee's 3-4 scheme, and envisioning him alongside Jurrell Casey should be downright scary for AFC South quarterbacks. 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa

Jacksonville's last franchise quarterback hopeful in Blaine Gabbert was run out of town thanks in no small part to an inept offensive line, and the Jaguars will learn from their mistakes. With a blueprint emerging up front, Jacksonville will select Iowa's Brandon Scherff to grab the best offensive lineman in the draft and further fortify a struggling unit.

4. Oakland Raiders: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

The Raiders defense made big strides in 2014, but their offense still failed to produce despite an emergence of sorts from young quarterback Derek Carr. He won't make the next step without a vast improvement in playmakers around him, which star-studded Alabama wideout Amari Cooper would almost single-handedly bring. 

Few receivers in any draft warrant a top-five selection, but Cooper looks every bit as polished and dangerous as any who have accomplished such a feat as of late.

5. Washington Redskins: DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska

LINCOLN, NE - AUGUST 30: Defensive end Randy Gregory #4 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Memorial Stadium on August 30, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Florida Atlantic 55-7. (Photo by Eric Fr
Eric Francis/Getty Images

A couple of late-season wins took Washington away from a potential top-three selection in a draft it actually has a first-round pick for (too soon?). But the Redskins will luck out and still get that type of value, with Nebraska's Randy Gregory—the obvious best pass-rusher in the class—falling to No. 5. 

6. New York Jets: QB Jameis Winston, FSU

Jameis Winston may not need the big stage of the Big Apple, but the Big Apple needs Jameis Winston. Rather, the Jets need him, as they look to move on from the short-lived Geno Smith era and pump some life into a lifeless offense that certainly has potential.

7. Chicago Bears: SS Landon Collins, Alabama

The Bears secondary was hapless in 2014, ranking 30th against the pass thanks in large part to a crop of safeties who suffered through both injury and poor play—most notably the latter. Landon Collins will make a sizable impact right off the bat, using his hard-hitting skill set and ball-hawking ability to force interceptions and knock footballs loose. 

8. Atlanta Falcons: DE Shane Ray, Missouri

Atlanta finished the season with 22 sacks, good for second-worst in the NFL. A disappearing pass rush proved to be a big component of the Falcons' 6-10 result, but Missouri's strong and athletic edge-rusher Shane Ray will bring an immediate boost. 

9. New York Giants: OLB Shaq Thompson, Washington

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The Giants pass rush also suffered in 2014, but due to ineffectiveness at the second level rather than up front. That won't be a problem once Shaq Thompson is in the fold, as the undersized (6'1", 228 lbs) outside linebacker will put his incredible instincts and athleticism on display early.

10. St. Louis Rams: OT Andrus Peat, Stanford

Whether it's Sam Bradford or somebody else taking the snaps in 2015 is anyone's guess, but it's no guesstimate that the Rams will need to protect said quarterback better. After conceding 47 sacks as a team in 2014, the Rams will nab behemoth offensive tackle Andrus Peat out of Stanford to plug in and play early as a rookie.

11. Minnesota Vikings: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State

Trae Waynes out of Michigan State continues to separate himself as the top cornerback in the draft class, and he'll have the Vikings feeling comfortable selecting him at No. 11 overall. Minnesota might be one or two impact secondary players away from having a top-quality defense, and the importance of that won't be lost on head coach Mike Zimmer.

12. Cleveland Browns: OT La'el Collins, LSU

The Browns have made no secret of their hopes to rebuild their offensive line through the draft, but it won't come full circle without one more high-quality selection at tackle. With two first-round picks, Cleveland won't hesitate to grab LSU's La'el Collins to help fill that gap for the long term.

13. New Orleans Saints: DE Vic Beasley, Clemson

Without a big improvement in getting to the quarterback, it's almost inevitable that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be out of the door after 2015—and more importantly, the Saints will likely miss the playoffs again. New Orleans doesn't have much of a shortage in talent up front, but it could use the injection of youthful energy and speed that Vic Beasley out of Clemson would bring.

14. Miami Dolphins: ILB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Few inside linebackers in this year's class are capable of making an immediate impact, but the Dolphins will jump at securing the one who can. That would be Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney, a big middle linebacker who uses his strength and instincts to act as a great quarterback of the defense.

15. San Francisco 49ers: DT Danny Shelton, Washington

It's hard to see the 49ers going in any direction other than defensive line in Round 1, and it's even harder to envision them passing on Danny Shelton. Washington's mammoth defensive tackle weighed in at a whopping 343 pounds at the Senior Bowl and impressed as much as anyone, per Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen:

With the 49ers having little to no long-term answer at the nose tackle position, Shelton can come in and be the guy—or one of the guys—right away. 

16. Houston Texans: FS Gerod Holliman, Louisville

Despite finishing just outside of the playoff hunt, the Texans are a few pieces away from truly contending—but perhaps the biggest of them is in the secondary. Houston would shore up that issue with Gerod Holliman, Louisville's stingy safety who doesn't allow much of anything deep down the field.

17. San Diego Chargers: OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M

The Chargers need help up front on offense—somewhat now but more importantly in the near future. Cedric Ogbuehi out of Texas A&M serves as a solid pick for both, as he can come in right away and be a secondary option but won't need long to develop into a long-term starter. 

18. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Kevin White, West Virginia

It's just rude at this point not to give Alex Smith a dangerous downfield weapon to rely upon, especially after none of his receivers caught a single touchdown pass all 2014 season. That streak will end early in 2015 if the Chiefs grab Kevin White, one of the most complete packages at receiver in another loaded wideout class.

19. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo): WR DeVante Parker, Louisville

Nell Redmond/Associated Press

After addressing their offensive line with first-round pick No. 1, the Browns won't be able to deny their gaping need for offensive playmaking with the second one. They can address that with DeVante Parker, who has the speed to be dangerous alongside Josh Gordon but can also replace Gordon if need be.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

The Eagles have needed help at cornerback for quite some time, and a connection to his past will have Chip Kelly making an easy decision come draft day. That decision will be Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who missed the College Football Playoff for Oregon due to injury but looks destined for a long career as a NFL lockdown corner.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Kentucky

Cincinnati made the postseason in 2014 despite having one of the league's least-imposing pass rushes, and that weakness will have the Bengals doing all they can to shore it up over the offseason. In Kentucky's Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Cincinnati secures an exclusive pass-rushing option off the bat who won't waste much time developing into an every-week starter.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: DE Dante Fowler, Florida

As the Steelers look to transition from an era of James Harrison and Troy Polamalu to a breed of young playmakers, they still need a long-term replacement off the edge. That wouldn't be a problem anymore if they grab Dante Fowler, who is strong enough to project as a defensive end at the next level.

23. Detroit Lions: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

John Bazemore/Associated Press

With Matthew Stafford entering his prime years and the Lions increasingly reliant upon the passing game, Detroit will need to shake things up offensively to keep defenses off balance. That's exactly what drafting Todd Gurley would do, as it would give the Lions the game-changing backfield addition they haven't been able to enjoy in recent seasons.

24. Arizona Cardinals: DE Nate Orchard, Utah

Injuries decimated the Cardinals' chances of making a Super Bowl run in 2014, ravaging a pass rush once regarded as the league's most dangerous. The need for depth was never on better display, which will lure Arizona to draft a pass-rushing specialist in Nate Orchard—who had 18.5 sacks as a senior—to help prevent a repeat display in 2015.

25. Carolina Panthers: OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings entered the Senior Bowl as one of the top prospects in the group but didn't do too much to validate his status. Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski and others found issues with his play:

Clemmings has some work to do, but we can say the same about many Round 1 options. Carolina has the offensive line continuity to give him time to do such work, but the Panthers' need for help defending pass-rushers will have Clemmings making an early impact in some capacity.

26. Baltimore Ravens: OT Cameron Erving, FSU

Few teams' success rates are more predicated on quarterback performance than the Ravens, who struggle when Joe Flacco isn't protected in the pocket. Baltimore can help to rectify that issue with Cameron Erving out of Florida State. 

27. Dallas Cowboys: CB Marcus Peters, Washington

Don't let the Cowboys' 2014 defensive resurgence distract you from the wealth of needs on that side of the ball, most notably in the secondary. Still looking for a long-term stud at corner, Dallas will bet high on Marcus Peters out of Washington. He has emerged as a top cornerback prospect despite leaving the Huskies in his final collegiate season.

28. Denver Broncos: OT Ereck Flowers, Miami

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Peyton Manning hasn't officially committed to the Broncos for 2015, but by the draft, Denver will likely know the quarterback will be around next season. With that said, the team should do all it can to prevent the offensive line from falling apart like it did early last season, and grabbing a versatile lineman in Miami's Ereck Flowers would help to do the trick.

29. Indianapolis Colts: OT Tyler Sambrailo, Colorado State

The Colts have seen Andrew Luck make tremendous strides through three years despite not addressing his offensive line, but that will change come draft day. Tyler Sambrailo out of Colorado State didn't help himself with a shaky Senior Bowl performance, but he will showcase his talent and potential between now and April 30.

30. Green Bay Packers: DT Eddie Goldman, FSU

With a stout defensive line, the Green Bay Packers would most certainly be preparing for the Super Bowl instead of the Seahawks. With that weakness in perspective, Green Bay won't be able to pass on Eddie Goldman of Florida State to help fortify the trenches.

31. New England Patriots: WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State

Just like Manning in Denver, the Patriots should be doing all they can to make life easy on Tom Brady in his final handful of NFL seasons. He's done well through the air without a dangerous downfield threat, but New England will try to reach the next level by adding a big playmaking wideout in Jaelen Strong. 

32. Seattle Seahawks: DT/DE Arik Armstead, Oregon

The rich get even richer up front, but the Seahawks could end up using the services of Arik Armstead more than expected with free agency sure to put a damper on Seattle's strength in the trenches. Oregon's defensive lineman is versatile enough to line up wherever Seattle needs him early on.

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