On the heels of an exciting conclusion to the 2014 NFL season, the offseason has arrived for every team. Now, it's time to look ahead to the latest crop of future stars who can change the entire complexion of a franchise.
Fans have focused in on both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota for the past several months. As the college football season came to an end, neither had seemingly grabbed the reins of the No. 1 pick. However, a shoulder injury to Mariota has propelled Winston back into the top spot.
Along with both quarterbacks, there is an array of options for teams to choose from to help rebuild. In order to catch the New England Patriots, the 31 other franchises will need to pick the ideal player in the first round.
Heading into what promises to be an eventful offseason for the 2015 class, here's a look at the latest mock draft and analysis of some of the top defensive players.
|Latest 1st-Round 2015 NFL Mock Draft|
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State|
|2||Tennessee Titans||Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Leonard Williams, DT, USC|
|4||Oakland Raiders||Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama|
|5||Washington Redskins||Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa|
|6||New York Jets||Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon|
|7||Chicago Bears||Shane Ray, DE, Missouri|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson|
|9||New York Giants||La'el Collins, OT, LSU|
|10||St. Louis Rams||Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State|
|11||Minnesota Vikings||Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford|
|12||Cleveland Browns||DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville|
|13||New Orleans Saints||Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington|
|14||Miami Dolphins||Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||Kevin White, WR, West Virginia|
|16||Houston Texans||Landon Collins, SS, Alabama|
|17||Kansas City Chiefs||Danny Shelton, DT, Washington|
|18||San Diego Chargers||Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State|
|19||Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo)||Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||Marcus Peters, CB, Washington|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals||Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State|
|23||Detroit Lions||Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA|
|24||Arizona Cardinals||Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State|
|25||Carolina Panthers||T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh|
|26||Baltimore Ravens||Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin|
|27||Dallas Cowboys||Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky|
|28||Denver Broncos||Malcom Brown, DT, Texas|
|29||Indianapolis Colts||Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State|
|30||Green Bay Packers||Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota|
|31||Seattle Seahawks||Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan|
|32||New England Patriots||Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma|
|R. Cory Smith's Projections|
2. Tennessee Titans: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
At 6'6" and 240 pounds, Randy Gregory has the frame to destroy the NFL as a defensive lineman. Thanks to his strength and speed, he can also break out as a linebacker. Needless to say, the Nebraska standout has options at the next level.
One way he plans to prove that he belongs with elite-level talent in the NFL is to excel in the combine, which is exactly what Gregory plans to do once he arrives at the showcase event. He spoke about his expectations and his functionality, per Eric Olson of the Associated Press (via Yahoo Sports):
I'm going to turn a lot of heads at the combine. ...
I like standing up. It serves my body better, my physical traits better, being able to see the play form and stay in an athletic stance and make plays. At the same time, if a 4-3 team comes around, I feel I can help them and play that spot.
Gregory lived up to the hype last season and will bring some nastiness to the Tennessee Titans. If he can demonstrate that at the NFL Scouting Combine, Gregory will make an ideal fit for the 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
Arguably the best defensive player in this year's crop, Leonard Williams might land in the perfect location. The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team that added a plethora of offensive weapons last year but still need a defensive identity.
That's something Williams will immediately provide the team that drafts him. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com had high praise for the future NFL star:
"Leonard Williams, from all the guys I've seen so far, has been the most dominating player. Everything you want—the size, the length, the explosiveness, the versatility. You can play him all over the line on defense. He reminds me a lot of Richard Seymour. That's pretty good company to keep."
Differing opinions are common around the NFL draft, but almost every analyst agrees that Williams is special. In fact, Luke Easterling of Draft Breakdown points out it should only be a three-horse race for the top talent in the draft:
Yet another talented defensive player, 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.
7. Chicago Bears: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Just behind Gregory in terms of talent, Shane Ray is as versatile as any player in the draft. His athleticism shined all season, but he projects best as a defensive end at the next level.
Even in a difficult SEC, Ray dominated almost every time he was on the field. Bob Sturm of The Dallas Morning News offered his take on Ray:
There are times where you wonder what the left tackle across from him must be thinking because in the case of the Kentucky game in particular, that poor guy was overmatched all day. ...
He rallies to the ball well. He has a swat move where he can knock guys off balance by just using one arm to push them aside. He may be undersized, but unlike Nebraska’s Gregory, Ray appears to be very strong for his size. He can move larger men with one arm.
Ray showed that strength with 14 sacks and has a game that will translate well to the NFL. His explosion off the ball makes him special, something that has been evident for former Mizzou players such as Kony Ealy and Aldon Smith at the next level.
If there is one area where Ray can improve, it's his discipline on the field. Though he was regularly held by opposing linemen, Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus notes just how often Ray was penalized:
The Chicago Bears sit at the No. 7 spot due to poor defensive play and, well, Jay Cutler's shortcomings. Adding Ray might not immediately make the Bears a playoff team, but he would give John Fox a defensive star to build around for the future.
10. St. Louis Rams: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
This is no slight to Vic Beasley but simply an attempt to move away from the front seven.
In terms of defensive backs in this year's crop, it doesn't get any better than Trae Waynes. The Michigan State cornerback was avoided by opposing quarterbacks for much of the season due to his elite talent. Waynes still came away with three interceptions and eight passes defended in 2014.
Following in the footsteps of Darqueze Dennard from last season, Waynes is a virtual lock for the draft's first night. He'll also likely be a top-10 pick with the St. Louis Rams having a need for him. Already equipped with an elite front seven that includes Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald, Waynes is a perfect fit.
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