2015 NFL Mock Draft: Super Bowl Week Projections

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIJanuary 27, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Super Bowl Week Projections

0 of 33

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The National Football League’s offseason is less than a week away. Following Sunday’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, the sights of all 32 NFL teams will be turned toward improving their rosters this offseason through free agency and the 2015 NFL draft.

    The draft itself is still more than three months away, but preparations for the event are already in full swing. Teams were able to scout hundreds of players at college football all-star games like the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game over the past few weeks, and the NFL Scouting Combine is just three weeks away.

    While it’s unlikely that any team has honed in yet on who it plans to draft with its first- or second-round pick, scouting departments are well within the process of setting up their boards.

    Free-agent signings and other offseason moves will ultimately play a big part in determining what needs each team must address in the draft, but the time is now for franchises to determine which players would be good fits for their organizations.

    The first 30 picks of the draft order in each round have already been set; the 31st pick will go to the team that loses Sunday’s game, while the Super Bowl champion will pick 32nd in each round. For the purposes of this mock draft, the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker was used to give the Seahawks the 32nd pick, while they were flipped with the Patriots for their second-round projections.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

1 of 33

    Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston: Who is the best quarterback in the 2015 NFL draft? That is the decision the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must make with the No. 1 overall pick.

    While there could be other prospects in this year’s class who are better than both of them, the Buccaneers cannot afford to go in another direction at the top of the draft. If they are going to re-emerge as serious contenders, they must upgrade at the quarterback position.

    At this point, Mariota looks like the better investment. While Winston is more advanced as a pro-style pocket passer, Mariota had a much better 2014 season and has pristine character while Winston has an alarming off-field history.

    It is fair to question how well Mariota’s game will translate to the NFL, but he’s already a better player at this stage than most recent quarterback draft prospects not named Andrew Luck. A 6’4”, 219-pound passer who has great athleticism and consistently throws the ball with velocity, Mariota has all the physical tools to develop into a great NFL player.

2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DE, USC

2 of 33

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt reportedly made extra effort to attempt to lure Marcus Mariota into participating at the Senior Bowl, according to Fox Sports’ Knox Bardeen, so it would seem the Titans at least want to get a close look at the Oregon quarterback. If he’s off the board, however, they’ll have to decide between drafting Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston or going in another direction.

    That decision will be made in part based upon how confident the team is in Zach Mettenberger’s potential to be a long-term starting quarterback. A sixth-round pick in last year’s draft is not going to stop the Titans from replacing him if they are not confident, but he showed enough in his rookie season to potentially earn a shot at establishing himself in 2015.

    With that in mind, the Titans—who could also try to trade down—could simply decide to draft the highest-rated player on their board. If that’s not Winston, it should be USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

    A 6’5”, 300-pound player with terrific strength and athleticism, Williams can beat blockers both inside and outside. He is ideally suited to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme like that which the Titans run and could immediately give Tennessee an elite combination at that position, in tandem with fellow USC product Jurrell Casey.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida

3 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The first team in the draft order that is a sure bet not to use its first-round pick on a quarterback, the Jacksonville Jaguars should select the best defensive player available after using its first four picks in last year’s draft on offensive players.

    That would be Leonard Williams if he was still on the board, but in this scenario, the decision would likely be made between a pair of edge defenders, Nebraska’s Randy Gregory and Florida’s Dante Fowler.

    Gregory has the most spectacular physical attributes in the draft, and that could make him a top-three pick by April, but Fowler is a more relentless and refined football player. A 6’3”, 260-pound defensive end who has played all over Florida’s defensive front, Fowler could give the Jaguars the star pass-rusher they currently do not have.

    Both players have similar explosiveness and versatility, but while Gregory has better length and bend, Fowler’s strength and hand skills should give him the edge.

4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

4 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The Oakland Raiders have many roster needs, but none greater than giving quarterback Derek Carr some better weapons to work with.

    Oakland should not pass on Alabama’s Amari Cooper, the best offensive playmaker in this year’s draft. A smooth athlete with a complete skill set, Cooper could immediately be the No. 1 receiver and go-to pass-catcher that the Raiders do not have.

    If 2015 is Carr’s year to prove whether he is a franchise quarterback, the Raiders have to put better talent around him to enable their young signal-caller to potentially flourish. There might not be anyone who can help him do that better than Cooper, a sure-handed wide receiver and crisp route-runner who caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season for the Crimson Tide.

    The Raiders could go in the defensive direction and select Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory with the No. 4 overall pick, but Cooper would be the smart selection.

5. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

5 of 33

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Projected Trade: The Washington Redskins trade the No. 5 overall pick to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for the Nos. 10 and 41 overall selections.

    As Sam Bradford has torn his ACL each of the past two seasons and is going into the final year of his contract, the time is now for the St. Louis Rams to look for their quarterback of the future. That quarterback very well could be Florida State’s Jameis Winston if he falls past the top two picks.

    It’s possible Winston could still be available at the No. 10 overall pick, but if the Rams decide to target him, they will have to move up above the quarterback-needy New York Jets, who hold the sixth pick, to ensure the opportunity to draft him.

    This wouldn’t be the first time the Rams and Redskins have made a high-profile draft trade around a quarterback. Just three years ago, the Rams traded the No. 2 overall pick, which Washington used to select Robert Griffin III, in exchange for three first-round picks and a second-round pick.

    That trade went decidedly in the Rams’ favor, but St. Louis is in a different position than Washington was then. Having used those extra picks to build a solid roster over the past three years, the Rams could be a quarterback upgrade away from becoming a serious playoff contender.

    The Redskins, on the other hand, have a depth chart full of holes, partially because of that trade. So if Washington can stay within the top 10 and pick up an extra second-round pick, it would be smart to add another asset to work with.

    Trading up for Winston would be a risky move for the Rams, but it’s a risk they should take. The Rams have too much young talent on both sides of the ball to continue having it go to waste because of poor quarterback play. Additionally, bring in a quarterback would allow the Rams to trade or release Bradford, which would save them more than $13 million for 2015.

6. New York Jets: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska

6 of 33

    If the New York Jets are unable to land one of the top two quarterbacks in this year’s draft, they should set their sights on upgrading their pass rush with their first-round pick.

    This year’s draft class has no shortage of pass-rushing prospects who are projected to be high picks and could be an upgrade at the outside linebacker position for new Jets coach Todd Bowles’ 3-4 defensive scheme.

    The top two candidates in this scenario would be Clemson’s Vic Beasley and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory. Both Beasley and Gregory are explosive edge defenders who can win around the corner or with inside moves, and they bring pressure against quarterback or blow up running plays.

    Beasley had a more productive collegiate career and is the more skilled football player of the two, but he is undersized at just 6’3” and 235 pounds. Gregory also needs to bulk up, but his 6’6” frame, ability to bend and violent hands could give him the edge from an upside standpoint.

7. Chicago Bears: Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky

7 of 33

    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears need more talent at all three levels of their defense, but it’s likely that their first-round pick will be utilized toward upgrading their pass rush.

    In his first draft pick with each of his two previous teams, new Bears coach John Fox landed a star pass-rusher: Julius Peppers with the Carolina Panthers in 2002 and Von Miller with the Denver Broncos in 2011. Meanwhile, there are likely to be a number of top pass-rushing prospects still available at the seventh pick, even if Dante Fowler and Randy Gregory are off the board.

    Missouri’s Shane Ray and Clemson’s Vic Beasley are more widely projected as top-10 picks than Kentucky’s Alvin “Bud” Dupree, but Dupree projects as the best fit for the Bears defense. While new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could shift the Bears to a 3-4 alignment, which would suit Ray or Beasley, Fangio has typically favored longer and bigger edge defenders like Dupree.

    Dupree is not as polished a pass-rusher as Ray and Beasley are at this point, but he brings the most versatility to a hybrid scheme. A tremendous athlete at 6’4” and 264 pounds, with experience playing both defensive end and linebacker, Dupree has the skill set needed to be an every-down player on an NFL defense.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri

8 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    There might not be any team in this year’s draft who needs a pass-rusher more badly than the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta tied for second to last in the NFL this past season with just 22 sacks and did not have a single individual with more than 4.5 sacks.

    For what the Falcons really need—someone who can come off the edge with speed and get after the quarterback—Ray would be a good fit.

    Word from the Senior Bowl; if he's available for them the Atlanta Falcons like Shane Ray/DE/Mizzou a lot,” DraftInsider.net’s Tony Pauline tweeted last week.

    As Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is expected to be hired as the Falcons’ head coach following the Super Bowl, Ray could be his new version of Cliff Avril in Atlanta. While Ray is somewhat undersized at 6’3” and 245 pounds and not great against the run, he has the explosiveness and hand skills to make an immediate impact as a pass-rusher off the edge.

9. New York Giants: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington

9 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    If New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese sticks to his mantra of drafting the “best player available,” their decision in this scenario should be between Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff and Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson.

    Scherff is the most polished offensive line prospect in this year’s draft class, and he could help solidify the Giants offensive line by moving inside to guard or enabling them to move Justin Pugh inside to guard. That said, the Giants would likely see greater immediate benefits from the addition of Thompson.

    A tremendous athlete and versatile player, Thompson saw time at linebacker, defensive back and even running back in his collegiate career. The Giants could use an upgrade at weak-side linebacker, have a potential need at safety and could certainly use another playmaker in their defensive back seven.

    “Tweeners” like Thompson didn’t used to get consideration for top-10 picks, but in the modern NFL, in which speed and coverage ability are emphasized more than size at the linebacker position, Thompson could be a star.

10. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis Rams): Brandon Scherff, OT/G, Iowa

10 of 33

    Justin Hayworth/Associated Press

    Whether the Washington Redskins stay put at the No. 5 overall pick or trade down, Brandon Scherff should be at or near the top of their board.

    Having allowed the second-most sacks in the NFL last season, the Redskins have a major need to improve their offensive line. Hiring offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who led arguably the best offensive line in the NFL this past season with the Dallas Cowboys, should help. But Washington needs to give him more talent to work with.

    Scherff could be Callahan’s new version of Zack Martin. An excellent left tackle at Iowa, Scherff does not quite have the length NFL teams desire at the position, but he should be able to flourish in a move inside to guard, where the Redskins need to upgrade. He could also fill a need at right tackle.

    Listed at 6’5” and 320 pounds, Scherff is powerful, nasty and quick off the snap. If Washington has any chance of being successful in 2015 with Robert Griffin III at quarterback, it needs to give him players like Scherff up front who can give him time against the pass rush.

11. Minnesota Vikings: La’el Collins, OT/G, LSU

11 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    Even if the Minnesota Vikings are willing to give left tackle Matt Kalil the 2015 season to turn it around and try to prove he can still be the franchise player he was drafted to be, they would still be smart to use their first-round pick to add talent to their offensive line.

    The second-most polished offensive line prospect in this year’s draft class after Brandon Scherff, LSU’s La’el Collins has experience playing both left tackle and left guard.

    He would be an immediate upgrade over Charlie Johnson at the latter position, which might actually project as his best position going forward to the NFL. But he would also give the Vikings a fallback option on the blind side if Kalil, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, fails to bounce back from a disappointing third season.

    Collins lacks the agility of a prototypical left tackle—which is why he might be best suited inside—but the 6’5”, 308-pound lineman is technically sound and has good length and strength. Having excelled as a three-year starter in the SEC, Collins is ready to step in and start as a rookie.

12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

12 of 33

    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Josh Gordon has been suspended for the 2015 season, and his career with the Cleveland Browns is presumably over, so Cleveland needs to find a wide receiver this offseason who can replicate Gordon’s downfield playmaking ability.

    The best fit for the Browns is Louisville’s DeVante Parker. A 6’3”, 211-pound wideout with good all-around athleticism, Parker has exceptional ball skills and can extend plays through contact for yards after the catch.

    Most importantly, Parker would bring much-needed size and ability to make contested catches to the Browns offense. Cleveland’s leading receivers last season were Andre Hawkins, who measures in at just 5’7” and 180 pounds, and Taylor Gabriel, who measures in at 5’8” and 167 pounds.

    As the Browns also hold the No. 19 overall pick from the Buffalo Bills, they could wait until that pick or even Round 2 to draft a wideout, but they would be smart not to pass upon the chance to select Parker.

13. New Orleans Saints: Vic Beasley, OLB/DE, Clemson

13 of 33

    Tyler Smith/Getty Images

    Having allowed the second-most yards of any defense in the NFL this past season, the New Orleans Saints need to focus on improving that side of the ball this offseason. They have reason to look for another edge defender with the versatility to play outside linebacker in 3-4 alignments, so they should not pass up the opportunity to select one of the draft’s top pass-rushing prospects.

    If defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants to get back to using a 3-4 base defense, the Saints need to acquire personnel that fits. Clemson’s Vic Beasley would be an ideal fit and also great value at the No. 13 overall pick.

    Beasley could fall to this point in the draft because of his limited size and strength, but he is a top-10 talent in the class. An explosive athlete who uses his burst and hand skills to beat blockers and bring heat into the backfield, Beasley played defensive end in college but projects as an outside linebacker and/or situational pass-rusher in the NFL.

    The addition of Beasley would give the Saints another dynamic edge player to line up opposite Junior Galette, which would enable them to utilize Cameron Jordan as an interior rusher in passing situations. Additionally, Beasley would give the Saints insurance for Galette, who could potentially face discipline after a domestic violence arrest earlier this month.

14. Miami Dolphins: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

14 of 33

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    As Jared Odrick is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, while Randy Starks is 31 years old and on the back end of his career, it could be time for the Miami Dolphins to look for a reinforcement at the defensive tackle position.

    Coming off a strong week at the Senior Bowl, Washington’s Danny Shelton could be a target for the Dolphins at the No. 14 overall pick. A 6’2”, 343-pound behemoth who has outstanding athleticism for his size, Shelton has huge upside and could be a difference-maker for Miami at the nose tackle position.

    Stout at the point of attack, Shelton can also make plays all along the line of scrimmage and was tremendously active for the Washington defense. Though he needs to do more with his hands to be a consistent pass-rushing threat, Shelton’s quickness allows him to be a three-down impact player.

    According to Will Stabley of Stabley Times, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin “clearly appeared” interested in Shelton during one of the practices at last week’s Senior Bowl.

15. San Francisco 49ers: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

15 of 33

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    It’s not yet known whether veteran defensive lineman Justin Smith will return to the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, and it’s also uncertain whether the 49ers will run a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 scheme next season. But even if Smith returns and San Francisco stays in a 3-4 under new coach Jim Tomsula, the 49ers still need to add young talent to their defensive line.

    Regardless of how those situations play out, Texas’ Malcom Brown would be a good fit. An athletic, 6’2”, 320-pound defensive lineman, Brown has the skills to play either defensive tackle in a 4-3 front or to play both defensive end and nose tackle in a 3-4 unit.

    Brown combines the quickness to penetrate and shoot gaps into the backfield with good point-of-attack strength. He is a well-rounded, active player who can be an asset against both the pass and the run.

    Smith is only suited to play in a part-time role at this stage in his career, while the team also cut starting interior defensive lineman Ray McDonald this past season due to off-field issues. Tomsula, who formerly served as the team’s defensive line coach, knows the importance of adding a player like Brown to replenish that unit.

16. Houston Texans: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota

16 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    In Bill O’Brien’s final two years with the New England Patriots, they had one of the NFL’s best offenses, in part because of an emerging star tight end named Rob Gronkowski. While O’Brien is unlikely to find a new version of Tom Brady for the Texans in this year’s draft, he could find a player with similar abilities to Gronk in Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams.

    Williams is not quite as big or as strong a blocker as Gronkowski, but he would give the Texans the dynamic playmaking threat at the tight end position that they currently do not have.

    A fluid athlete at 6’4” and 250 pounds, Williams can play as an in-line tight end or be flexed out like a receiver. He is a sure-handed pass-catcher who has enough athleticism and strength to extend plays with the ball in his hands.

    The best player at his position in this year’s draft class, Williams is significantly better than any tight end the Texans would be in position to select with their second-round pick.

17. San Diego Chargers: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami

17 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The San Diego Chargers are facing a potential need at both offensive tackle spots. Left tackle King Dunlap is set to be an unrestricted free agent, while right tackle D.J. Fluker is potentially moving inside to guard, according to Bolts from the Blue’s John Gennaro.

    Miami’s Ereck Flowers has the potential to be an upgrade on either side of the line. Listed at 6’6” and 324 pounds, Flowers is an athletic offensive tackle who has the length and size that the Chargers have seemed to covet at the position.

    Flowers is light on his feet but also powerful. He can handle speed-rushers on the edge in pass protection and move defenders down field as a run-blocker.

    His game still a work in progress from a technical standpoint, but his upside is high. He is the best offensive lineman prospect on the board in this scenario.

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama

18 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The Kansas City Chiefs and everyone in the NFL are hoping that Eric Berry will be able to beat cancer and return to the football field. Even when Berry was healthy, however, the Chiefs already had reason to be concerned with their talent at the safety position.

    If Kansas City has a chance to select Alabama’s Landon Collins with the No. 18 overall pick, it should not pass it up.

    The best safety in this year’s draft class, Collins is a rangy athlete who can make plays all over the field. He is best suited to play primarily in the box as a strong safety, but he has the ball skills and enough coverage ability to play either safety position.

    The Chiefs would also have to strongly consider West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White in this scenario, considering they did not have a single touchdown caught by a wideout this past season, but Collins would be a great fit and value. There is far more depth available in the wide receiver draft class, which the Chiefs could take advantage of in Round 2, than at safety.

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills): Jordan Phillips, NT, Oklahoma

19 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The Cleveland Browns should plan to use one of their two first-round picks to improve their defensive line, which was the weak point of their defense this past season.

    At 6’6” and 334 pounds with terrific athleticism for his size, Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips has huge upside as a disruptor in the middle of a defensive line. He would be an immediate upgrade for the Browns’ 3-4 front at the nose tackle position.

    Powerful and tough to move in the middle, Phillips also has the quickness to penetrate the backfield. This gives him the versatility to also play defensive end situationally in a three-man front and could make him a valuable difference-maker in Cleveland.

    Another option for this pick could be Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who is a more polished football player than Phillips and would project as a defensive end in Cleveland’s scheme, but Phillips is a more natural fit with higher upside.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

20 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    One of the most discussed draft rumors early this offseason has been that the Philadelphia Eagles are looking for a new quarterback.

    That could mean making a trade up for Marcus Mariota, which the Eagles are “going to try” to do according to Mark Eckel of NJ.com. Should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decide to select Mariota with the No. 1 overall pick, the Eagles could instead turn to taking a chance on UCLA’s Brett Hundley.

    While Hundley is not widely considered by draft analysts to be a first-round talent, he is still significantly better than any quarterback in this year’s draft class not named Mariota or Jameis Winston. A 6’3”, 226-pound passer with a strong arm and great athleticism for his size, Hundley has franchise-quarterback potential but needs to improve upon his ball placement and pocket presence.

    According to Bleacher Report’s Cecil Lammey, the Eagles have interest in Hundley. As it appears Philadelphia is far from content to go into the 2015 season with Nick Foles as its quarterback, it could be prepared to take a chance on Hundley and forgo safer picks that could fill bigger needs.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

21 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    As A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are all entering the final years of their contracts, the Cincinnati Bengals have reason to look for another wide receiver in this year’s draft. If West Virginia’s Kevin White falls outside the draft’s top 20 picks, the Bengals should strongly consider selecting him.

    Coming off a breakout senior season, in which he caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns, White is an athletic, 6’3”, 210-pound pass-catcher who wins at the catch point with great ball skills.

    A skilled intermediate target and red-zone threat, White could be an upgrade opposite Green as the Bengals’ No. 2 outside receiver.

    With few major needs on their roster, the Bengals should be looking to draft the best player available with the No. 21 overall pick. In this scenario, that’s White.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

22 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have only one cornerback on their roster, William Gay, who should be starting on an NFL defense. Having failed to address their cornerback need in recent drafts, they should stop putting it off this year and select Michigan State’s Trae Waynes with the No. 22 overall pick.

    Waynes was more inconsistent in coverage this past season than one should want in a first-round pick, but he is the most well-rounded player without character issues at the position in this year’s draft class.

    The 6’1”, 182-pound cornerback is long, athletic and instinctive. He has the hip fluidity to stick with his man in deep coverage and the ball skills to make big plays. Altogether, Waynes looks like a good fit for what the Steelers need.

    The most talented cornerback in this year’s draft is Washington’s Marcus Peters, but the Steelers could be hesitant to use a first-round pick on Peters as he was dismissed from his college team after multiple altercations with coaches this past season.

23. Detroit Lions: Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State

23 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    It’s unlikely that the Detroit Lions will be able to re-sign both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley this offseason, while C.J. Mosley and Andre Fluellen are also headed for unrestricted free agency, so they are likely to be looking for at least one new defensive tackle in this year’s draft.

    If the Lions can retain Suh—which should be their priority—a good replacement for Fairley would be Ohio State’s Michael Bennett.

    An undersized but athletic defensive tackle, Bennett excels at using his quickness and hands to penetrate the backfield. He also has the versatility to situationally play as a left defensive end, a position where the Lions tend to line up bigger players than most teams that run 4-3 defenses.

    There is some reason for concern as to how well Bennett will be able to hold up as a point-of-attack run defender, at only 6’2” and 288 pounds, but his skill should enable him to be an immediate contributor.

24. Arizona Cardinals: Hau’oli Kikaha, OLB, Washington

24 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The Arizona Cardinals had one of the NFL’s better defenses this past season and have solid talent from top to bottom, but they do not have any standout pass-rushers at the outside linebacker position. As they are forced to go to a new defensive coordinator in 2015 following the departure of Todd Bowles, they would be smart to help him out by adding another playmaker on the edge.

    Arizona could get that from Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha, who recorded 19 sacks to lead the Football Bowl Subdivision this past season.

    Kikaha has the best hands of any pass-rusher in this year’s class, enabling him to work his way off blocks to bring pressure. Already experienced as an edge-defending outside linebacker, having played the position last year, he is a natural fit for Arizona’s 3-4 defense.

    Subpar measurables and a history of knee injuries could lead Kikaha to fall in this year’s draft, but he should be able to produce immediately as a pass-rusher and also provide solid play against the run, which would make him a solid value pick at No. 24 overall.

25. Carolina Panthers: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

25 of 33

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers need new starters at both offensive tackle positions. Drafting Stanford’s Andrus Peat, who has arguably the highest ceiling of any tackle prospect in this year’s draft class, would be a good start at the No. 25 overall pick.

    An athletic lineman with a great frame at 6’7” and 316 pounds, Peat has the measurables NFL scouts look for in a left tackle, a position at which the Panthers had big problems this past season after Jordan Gross retired last offseason.

    To be effective in the NFL, especially as a run-blocker, Peat needs to improve upon his strength. It is certainly possible for him to do that once he gets to the NFL, whereas his natural foot skills and length give him upside most of the other linemen in this year’s draft class do not have.

    Late in Round 1, Peat’s developmental potential would make him a worthy investment for the Panthers at a position of great need.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State

26 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    A team that typically employs the best-player-available strategy and prioritizes value over need, the Baltimore Ravens’ decision at the No. 26 overall pick could come between Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.

    Gordon’s combination of size, acceleration and agility make him an enticing option at this pick, but the selection of Strong would come with more value.

    The Ravens were fine with Justin Forsett at running back this past season but need to add young talent at wide receiver. No. 1 wideout Torrey Smith is an unrestricted free agent, No. 2 receiver Steve Smith is on the cusp of turning 36 years old and Baltimore does not have much other talent at the position.

    Strong, who would be well worth a top-25 pick, is a 6’3”, 215-pound target with great athleticism for his size. He attacks the ball in the air in a fashion similar to former Ravens pass-catcher Anquan Boldin, and he is a very good intermediate route-runner.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

27 of 33

    The Dallas Cowboys are facing a likely decision this offseason between keeping running back DeMarco Murray or keeping wide receiver Dez Bryant. Earlier this month, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones told David Helman of DallasCowboys.com that “from the standpoint of dollars and cents, it probably doesn’t look reasonable” for Dallas to re-sign both players.

    Should that be the case, the Cowboys would be smart to prioritize keeping Bryant. While both players are among the NFL’s elite at their positions, star wide receivers are tougher to find than productive running backs.

    If that means the Cowboys lose Murray, an ideal replacement could fall into their laps if Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is still available at the No. 27 overall pick.

    An explosive athlete with similar size to Murray at 6’1” and 213 pounds, Gordon should be able to make big plays right off the bat behind Dallas’ star-studded offensive line. While he is not as skilled of a receiver as Murray, Gordon is just as dangerous with the ball in his hands, especially once he gets into space.

28. Denver Broncos: Gerod Holliman, FS, Louisville

28 of 33

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    With a number of big contracts already on the books and a bevy of key players hitting free agency this offseason, the Denver Broncos are unlikely to set significant money aside to re-sign free safety Rahim Moore. If they lose Moore, they could draft his replacement by selecting Louisville’s Gerod Holliman with the No. 28 overall pick.

    Having tied the FBS single-season record this past season with 14 interceptions, Holliman is a ball hawk who could give the Broncos another playmaker on the back end of their defense. He is a fluid athlete capable of handling the deep-coverage responsibilities of a free safety.

    Playing the run could be problematic for Holliman—he needs to improve as a tackler—but his ability to find the ball in the air and make plays on it is what teams typically covet most in a free safety.

    Holliman would be a good complement to T.J. Ward, Denver’s strong safety, who is known more for his hard-hitting run defense than his coverage ability.

29. Indianapolis Colts: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon

29 of 33

    USA TODAY

    With veteran defensive end Cory Redding contemplating retirement, according to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com, the Colts could be in the market for another player at the position in this year’s draft. Already short on impact players in their defensive front seven, the Colts would be smart to select one, such as Oregon’s Arik Armstead, with their first-round pick.

    Armstead’s first-round projection is based more upon than potential than productivity, but there’s a lot to like about his talent. Ideally sized for a 3-4 defensive end prospect at 6’8” and 290 pounds, Armstead is a rare physical specimen with power and quickness.

    A strong inside bull-rusher and run-stopper, Armstead needs to develop more hand skills but has enough athleticism to make plays outside as well.

    An edge-rusher who can play outside linebacker, like Utah’s Nate Orchard, would also make sense with this selection. That said, Armstead can also bolster the Colts’ pass rush, both by penetrating himself up front and by drawing blocks that can free up players behind him to make plays.

30. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami (Florida)

30 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The Green Bay Packers got so desperate for better play at inside linebacker this past season that they had to sometimes move Clay Matthews—their best edge defender—inside. Though Matthews performed well in that role, the Packers should look for a true middle linebacker in this year’s draft who can fill the position and allow the team to continue playing Matthews outside as a pass-rusher.

    There are a number of available linebackers who could fit the bill as late first-round picks, including Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney, UCLA’s Eric Kendricks and TCU’s Paul Dawson, but the best fit for Green Bay would be Miami’s Denzel Perryman.

    An aggressive and instinctive downhill run-stopper, Perryman would give the Packers the authoritative thumper they do not currently have at the “Mike” linebacker position.

    Perryman is short for a linebacker at 5’11” and is not quite as athletic as McKinney, Dawson and Kendricks, so it’s possible he could slide down the board as a result. That said, he is better than any other linebacker in the class at shutting down plays between the hashes.

31. New England Patriots: A.J. Cann, LG, South Carolina

31 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    The New England Patriots offense hit its usual stride this season and has carried the team to its sixth Super Bowl berth in 14 years. Early in the year, however, it looked as though that might not happen because of poor play on the team’s interior offensive line.

    New England eventually found stability behind center Bryan Stork and guards Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell, but neither Connolly nor Wendell should be viewed as a long-term starter at this point in their careers. With Connolly set to be an unrestricted free agent, the Patriots should look for his replacement at the left guard position in this year’s draft.

    Among prospects who played the guard position collegiately, South Carolina’s A.J. Cann is the best in this year’s draft class. He does not have any rare physical attributes, but he wins with power and leverage at the line of scrimmage and has the foot skills to make downfield run blocks at the second level.

    Technically sound and well-rounded, Cann could prove to be a great long-term investment for an NFL offensive line, much like Logan Mankins was when the New England Patriots selected him in the 2005 draft.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

32 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    As Marshawn Lynch’s future with the Seattle Seahawks is up in the air, especially looking beyond the 2015 season, the Seahawks could look to groom his future replacement by selecting Georgia’s Todd Gurley with their first-round pick in this year’s draft.

    Coming off a torn ACL, Gurley might not be ready to make a significant impact in his rookie season as he rehabilitates his knee and gets back up to speed. But assuming he returns to his pre-injury form when healthy, Gurley has a combination of size, burst, agility and power that could make him one of the best running backs in the NFL.

    The Seahawks have the NFL’s most complete roster and few key players headed for free agency, so they can afford to draft for the future. While there are other players they could draft who would likely make a more immediate impact for Seattle, none of them have as much talent as Gurley, who was a potential top-15 pick prior to his injury.

    Seattle does need to add a big weapon at the wide receiver position, so Michigan’s Devin Funchess would be another strong choice late in Round 1, but it’s probably more likely that the Seahawks will address that need with their second-round pick.

Second-Round Picks

33 of 33

    USA TODAY Sports

    33. Tennessee Titans: Nate Orchard, OLB, Utah

    34. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh

    35. Oakland Raiders: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA

    36. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami (Florida)

    37. New York Jets: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

    38. Washington Redskins: Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

    39. Chicago Bears: Anthony Harris, SS, Virginia

    40. New York Giants: Ty Sambrailo, OT/G, Colorado State

    41. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis Rams): Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (Ohio)

    42. Atlanta Falcons: Clive Walford, TE, Miami (Florida)

    43. Cleveland Browns: Rob Havenstein, OT, Wisconsin

    44. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Erving, C/OT, Florida State

    45. Minnesota Vikings: Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Florida)

    46. San Francisco 49ers: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan

    47. Miami Dolphins: Paul Dawson, LB, TCU

    48. San Diego Chargers: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

    49. Kansas City Chiefs: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC

    50. Buffalo Bills: Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke

    51. Houston Texans: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA

    52. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Rowe, CB, Utah

    53. Cincinnati Bengals: Carl Davis, DT, Iowa

    54. Detroit Lions: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

    55. Arizona Cardinals: Tre' Jackson, G, Florida State

    56. Pittsburgh Steelers: Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB, Louisville

    57. Carolina Panthers: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest

    58. Baltimore Ravens: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

    59. Denver Broncos: Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon

    60. Dallas Cowboys: Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State

    61. Indianapolis Colts: Jeremiah Poutasi, OT/G, Utah

    62. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State

    63. Seattle Seahawks: Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn

    64. New England Patriots: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State

    Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.


X