2015 NFL Mock Draft: Latest Predictions in Advance of Combine
What is a mock draft, exactly?
Around this time of year, many people relish the opportunity to point out that draft prognosticators are just this side of the stereotypical, bumbling weatherman in terms of "guessing" and never knowing exactly which way the wind is actually blowing.
That chiding, however, showcases a deep misunderstanding of just what a mock draft was always intended to be. In many ways, it is just that: a guess. Moreover, it's an educated guess not of how things will or should go, but how things could go, and therein lies the value.
NFL teams do infinitely more mock drafts than the media.
No matter where a team is drafting, it wants to be ready for any scenario. You see, it isn't just us media types who have no idea what will happen, and while those in the inner sanctum of NFL circles (sources) may have some more informed notions, they still have to be prepared to be wrong.
Thus, mock drafts create those scenarios.
Too many view mock drafts as an immutable prediction of what will happen months from now, and that's never the purpose. For this mock draft, I've purposely mixed things up a bit, putting Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston first (he's been second on my board) in addition to a few other paradigm shifts based on further player scouting and your feedback on my last mock.
I've also included the second and third rounds for your viewing pleasure.
Disagree with the picks? Great! Let me know your thoughts below.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Jameis Winston (QB Florida State)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not going anywhere as a franchise until they have a long-term option at quarterback.
Typically, the assumption I make in mock drafts is that teams will view Winston and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota as similar-enough physical prospects to make on-the-field a bit of a coin flip while never becoming entirely comfortable with Winston's off-the-field exploits. That's where I currently stand as well.
In this scenario, though, I'm making the assumption that the Buccaneers see Winston as the far more pro-ready prospect because of his college scheme and that Mariota does little to prove them wrong throughout the rest of the process.
Remember, this is a scenario, not a prediction of what will happen.
2. Tennessee Titans—Leonard Williams (DE Southern California)
Williams isn't the perfect player his mock-draft status seems to portend.
Watching Williams on a consistent basis, he's got a lot of current Detroit Lions tackle Nick Fairley to his game. Coming out of Auburn, Fairley had the ability to be dominant even against high levels of competition and thus could win any matchup in front of him, but he'd also disappear for long stretches. Williams is not outworked nearly as often as Fairley was in college, but he loses at the point of attack far more often than he should.
Yet, his ceiling is about as high as any defensive tackle prospect's in a long time and Williams appeals to both 3-4 and 4-3 teams. Just understand that this isn't an immediate All-Pro/Pro Bowl-type pick, because there is still some work to do. Even while allowing that, he is entirely worth a pick this high.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars—Randy Gregory (DE Nebraska)
The Jaguars could use so many things on the offensive side of the ball (especially on the line), but head coach Gus Bradley was hired to instill some Seattle Seahawks-style defense, and his team doesn't have nearly enough horses on the pass rush to be anywhere close.
Gregory is ridiculously raw at this point and needs to add weight, but his upside as an elite perimeter pass-rusher is unparalleled in this class. Although he can get swallowed up by bigger blockers (see: Wisconsin) and likely will at the next level as well, he's also adept in run defense.
He'll need a talented coach to engineer sacks in his first couple of seasons, and that's Bradley all the way.
4. Oakland Raiders—Amari Cooper (WR Alabama)
Raiders' To-Do List:
- Quarterback: Check
- Young Defensive Playmakers: Check
- Capable Offensive Line: Check
- Playmakers with the Ball: Uh...
It's that last bullet point that the Raiders absolutely need to work on this season. Whether it's running backs, wide receivers or even tight ends, the Raiders need to start stocking their team with players who can do something with the ball in their hands.
Cooper is one of those guys.
Much like the Buffalo Bills' Sammy Watkins who wasn't the biggest, fastest or most dynamic receiver in last year's class, Cooper is extremely polished and can win both before and after the catch. He maximizes his physical ability and should be an immediate impact player.
5. Washington—Dante Fowler Jr. (OLB/DE Florida)
Fowler isn't a complete prospect yet, but we've seen in recent years that teams are willing to over-draft talented athletes who project as one-dimensional pass-rushers in their first couple of seasons. Fowler fits that description well, and he's going to test off the boards, solidifying his status toward the top of the draft.
For Washington, it's tempting to say they don't need a pass-rusher with Trent Murphy drafted last year and the possibility of re-signing Brian Orakpo, but rushers are rarely thought of as something a team can have too many of, and a new defensive coordinator is sure to shake some things up anyway.
6. New York Jets—Kevin White (WR West Virginia)
This receiver class is so stacked that there's little argument in White, Amari Cooper or Louisville's DeVante Parker all being legitimate top-15 prospects, and all three have a chance to matriculate to the top of the class by draft day.
White is not as polished as Cooper as a prospect and played in a system that gave him more opportunities after the catch than he'll get in the big time, but he's a tall, big-bodied receiver who tracks the ball well and will make big plays.
For the Jets he'll add a dynamic on offense they haven't had in a long time and quickly advance to No. 1 receiver status ahead of Eric Decker.
7. Chicago Bears—Shane Ray (OLB Missouri)
Shane Ray is another player toward the top of the draft who is probably a one-dimensional pass-rusher early on in his NFL career, but that's a necessary evil for a Chicago Bears team desperate for defensive help (especially in the front seven) and with less and less talented all-around ends coming from a changing college game.
Ray gives the Bears a player they'd usually use on every down because of the lack of talent on their roster. He would immediately make life difficult for the talented passers in the NFC North, but fans and the coaching staff would need to be patient with him and make sure teams aren't running right at him for easy yardage.
8. Atlanta Falcons—Shaq Thompson (OLB Washington)
Right now, many mock drafts tend to have the Atlanta Falcons taking a pass-rusher in this spot, or maybe a pass protector. It's for good reason, too, as the Falcons defense had a lot of trouble affecting opposing quarterbacks last season and their own was under a lot of duress as well.
That being said, we've had a run on rushers in this scenario and there's always room on a defense for a stud all-around linebacker. Paired with Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon, Thompson will give new Falcons head coach Dan Quinn a Bobby Wagner-type presence in the middle of the field.
9. New York Giants—Landon Collins (S Alabama)
Collins is an immediate playmaker for the Giants in their defensive backfield.
The Giants' top-three safeties are all free agents heading into next season, and while the team certainly needs to bulk up its pass-rushing set, it also needs to replace some of those guys. Right here, the best player on the board is Collins.
A fantastic two-way safety, Collins is just as adept tracking the pass in the air as he is stuffing a running back near the line of scrimmage. He has one of my top grades in this class, and learning under Nick Saban at Alabama all those years certainly doesn't hurt.
10. St. Louis Rams—DeVante Parker (WR Louisville)
As I said earlier in this slideshow: By the end of the draft process, Parker could have as much chance to be the first receiver off the board as he'd have to be the third. Here, the Rams get a talented all-around playmaker who doesn't need yardage engineered for him like Tavon Ausin does or disappear for long stretches like Brian Quick.
No, Parker is a powerhouse of talent who plays more explosively than his frame might indicate and who runs such fantastic routes that he will have no problem getting open to catch passes from whoever ends up starting at quarterback for the Rams in 2015 or far into the future.
11. Minnesota Vikings—Alvin "Bud" Dupree (DE Kentucky)
Of all the undersized pass-rushers in this class, Dupree has the furthest way to go. Though he's a freak athlete, he's just as liable to take himself out of the play as he is to make it because he relies solely on his speed to make plays. At the next level, that makes him a dime a dozen if he's not continuing to develop.
All that said, he's also a little more well-rounded (albeit still raw in all areas) than some of the other pass-rushers and a good enough athlete to do more than just pass rush down the road. Because of this, he could be the sort of player who could play defensive end or a number of linebacker positions depending on the alignment.
12. Cleveland Browns—Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)
This isn't quite nightmare scenario territory for Mariota, but it's the worst case that is relatively likely at this moment. There just aren't a lot of teams at the top of the draft that are absolutely starved for a rookie passer, although he could easily land in Tennessee, St. Louis or with the New York Jets if he doesn't go No. 1.
Here, the Cleveland Browns get a guy with similar on-the-field questions as Manziel because of his college scheme but absolutely none of the off-field woes. Right now, that may be a dream scenario for them.
13. New Orleans Saints—Vic Beasley (OLB Clemson)
Rob Ryan's defense doesn't work if people aren't getting to the passer.
That's a pretty common maxim around different NFL schemes, but it's especially true with Ryan who utilizes pressure to create opportunities around the field. Last year, with little pressure and a single-high safety in Jairus Byrd who was first ineffective and then injured, it's no surprise things went so awry.
Beasley has a chance to go to the combine, test through the roof and go much higher than this, but that's the old "don't count it twice" saying. We know he's an athlete, but like many players on the Clemson Tigers defense (both now and historically), he's undersized and teams will question his ability to play a full NFL game and a full NFL season.
14. Miami Dolphins—Andrus Peat (OT Stanford)
The Dolphins offensive line has improved so much over the past year that it might be tempting to think it's been repaired since the disastrous 2013 campaign. However, Ju'Wuan James and Dallas Thomas were both turnstiles at right tackle last season and Peat could could take over the right tackle position immediately, shifting James inside and fixing two positions at once.
It would give Ryan Tannehill a legitimate chance to develop, even as they still need help for him on the perimeter.
15. San Francisco 49ers—Arik Armstead (DE/DT Oregon)
Armstead is an awfully big fella (6'8", 290) and fits well as a 3-4 DE. This is good, because the 49ers will likely need help replacing long-time stud Justin Smith, who is retiring soon if not immediately.
With that kind of size, Armstead can collapse pass protectors and command double teams, which opens things up for linebackers behind him (yeah, the 49ers have a couple of talented guys at that position). He also has the athleticism to press the edge and be a one-gap pass-rusher if the 49ers want to use him inside in an even front.
16. Houston Texans—La'el Collins (OT LSU)
Derek Newton played better in 2014 than he had previously in his career (by a wide margin), but he's also a free agent this season. Last year, the Texans offensive line play was one of the team's bright spots, but Collins gives Houston some real nastiness and some flexibility between zone and man blocking, something this team has lacked but will need with Bill O'Brien more than it did under Gary Kubiak.
Of course, much of this depends on what the Texans know about linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and his return from injury. If he's unable to go at all or go at 100 percent of what he was, they may need to reach for a defensive player. If you click ahead, though, there aren't a lot of great fits for them on that side of the ball left on the board for a while. This scenario could equal a trade up or trade down if they're not thinking linemen.
17. San Diego Chargers—Brandon Scherff (OT/OG Iowa)
Last season, I had Scherff as the No. 1 guard on my board in front of another tackle I assumed would be shifting inside—Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin. Now, I'm not saying that Scherff will be better than Martin was as a rookie, but that's the sort of impact we're talking here.
Scherff can play tackle and could play it in the NFL at a high level, but he has a higher ceiling and floor at guard with fantastic strength and athleticism that is better in a phone booth than it is out on the perimeter.
18. Kansas City Chiefs—Dorial Green-Beckham (WR Missouri/Oklahoma)
Green-Beckham has top-five talent even in this packed receiver class, but the reason he's in an Oklahoma Sooners' jersey above is legal and drug issues at Missouri—where he last appeared in a game. The NCAA denied him a transfer waiver, and he didn't play football last year.
So, yes, the best wide receiver prospect since Randy Moss is in a situation a little like Moss', where just about every team knows he can play but will question whether or not his ways have changed.
If he's able to keep his nose clean in the NFL, he could drastically change the Chiefs' passing offense which has been horrific both because of mediocrity under center and also at receiver.
19. Cleveland Browns (From BUF)—T.J. Clemmings (OT Pittsburgh)
The Cleveland Browns defense is already becoming a force to be reckoned with under head coach Mike Pettine, so doubling up on offensive first-rounders shouldn't be much of an issue. They've got a quarterback with their first pick, so the second pick should do a better job protecting him. With fantastic players at just about every other spot on the line, that gaping hole at right tackle should get filled awfully quick.
Clemmings is more prospect than player at the moment with a heavy basketball background and plenty of sloppy tape. Yet, he improved seemingly every game and has all the size, length, athleticism and strength to project as a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle.
20. Philadelphia Eagles—Benardrick McKinney (LB Mississippi State)
While a lot of virtual ink is going to be spilled in the next few months about the Eagles' quarterback situation, there's also a lot to be said about their defense and running game not being where it should be for a Chip Kelly scheme.
McKinney isn't a true thumper in the middle, but that's good for the Eagles defense. He's a sideline-to-sideline player who can pick his way through traffic and make darn sure players who get through the line aren't getting much farther.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—Malcom Brown (DT Texas)
Many people focused on the declining play of Geno Atkins last year, which was odd because as much as he wasn't the superstar he'd been in previous years, he almost certainly was one of the better players on the Bengals defense.
In reality, Atkins should be back to elite status in no time, but there's just so little help around him on the Bengals defense that it's near impossible to expect anything resembling the dominance of years past from this unit.
Brown can press the point of attack as well as almost every defensive lineman in this class not named Leonard Williams. He commands a lot of double-teams, which teams simply won't be able to send next to Atkins.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers—Ereck Flowers (OT Miami)
The Steelers have been defined by their "Steel Curtain" defense for so long that a lot of people want them to focus on upgrading many of the players on that side of the ball who have fallen off in recent years, retired or moved on altogether.
I don't really disagree with that, but the team as it currently stands is built around quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Those are the three best players on the team, and No. 4 isn't all that close.
Flowers is an athletic lineman who can help protect Big Ben and keep the offense humming by eliminating some of the big negative plays that have come from poor line play in recent years.
23. Detroit Lions—Trae Waynes (CB Michigan State)
Waynes is a tough, physical corner who fits the profile of what the Lions have been looking for from the position in recent years. Though sometimes he's a little too physical, he has the athleticism to make up for getting beat in press coverage and projects better than last year's Spartan corner Darqueze Dennard.
Now, corner was not a terrible position for the Lions last season, but one of the Lions' starting corners (Rashean Mathis) and nickelback (Cassius Vaughn) are free agents, and Darius Slay is still growing as a player and inconsistent for stretches.
24. Arizona Cardinals—Melvin Gordon (RB Wisconsin)
Hear me out...
The Cardinals defense is just about set. They're getting linebacker Daryl Washington back from suspension and they've done a fantastic job building depth over the years. In a tough NFC West, they're projecting as the No. 2 (if not No. 1) defense if they continue down their path.
That offense, though...
Taking a running back in the first round isn't a popular move in mocks by fans, and the Cardinals have invested in the position in recent years, but Gordon is a legit NFL talent who could almost single-handedly give the Cardinals a consistency they've lacked.
25. Carolina Panthers—Ty Sambrailo (OT Colorado State)
This is a hard pick.
While the Panthers desperately need a left tackle in this class, there's a solid chance they're not grabbing one here. Sambrailo is a fine prospect with all of the athleticism to handle speed rushers (down the road) at the next level, but this is a reach.
Yet, look at the next few picks.
With the class falling like this, the Panthers will have the pick of the litter of a bunch of players they don't really need. So, they reach here, overstock another position (which is fine!) or they find a way to trade out of it.
26. Baltimore Ravens—Jaelen Strong (WR Arizona State)
I love that Steve Smith Sr. was able to come and prop up the wide receiver position in Baltimore, but the chances of him doing the same for much longer are going to plummet each year until he finally retires. When that happens, the Ravens passing attack is going to become even less dynamic and more inconsistent than it already is.
Here's the good news: This is a deep receiver class.
Strong has been one of my favorite players to watch in this class for a long time. His hands befit his name, and he's able to go up and secure catches in traffic. He would be a really good complement to that offense and could easily work his way up to No. 1 in a few years.
27. Dallas Cowboys—Eddie Goldman (DT Florida State)
This has become one of my favorite picks to mock toward the bottom of the draft because the style of Goldman's play and what the Cowboys should be looking for on the interior of the defensive line are a near-perfect fit.
Goldman has all the tools and athleticism to be a speed penetrator from the interior, but none of the experience or production. He would get a ton of help at playing farther inside by Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who would provide immense polish for Goldman and could turn him into one of the better players in this class.
28. Denver Broncos—Danny Shelton (DT Washington)
Shelton could go higher...much higher.
If he rises up board the way some in the media believe, Shelton could go top 10 if not top five. He's got incredible size and speed and looks like someone put a mountain on wheels as he moves around the field. That said, his consistency and form are awful, and he's an awfully big project with an awfully weak motor at the moment.
For the Broncos, as they switch to a 3-4 defense, they need a pivot player who can create some plays for the people around them. Shelton isn't an immediate need and may not start immediately either, but that is for the best as he'll maximize his playmaking ability while he works on getting his playing strength and conditioning up to par for the NFL.
29. Indianapolis Colts—Carl Davis (DT Iowa)
Davis has impressive-enough size, polish and athleticism to be a top pick, but he's not enough of a pass-rusher to land above some other talented players in this class. He's also a much better fit as a 3-4 defensive end who can use his strength to occupy blockers rather than as someone tasked to be a team's pass-rusher it's counting on.
The Colts defense just has to improve heading into 2015 and Davis is a likely starter from Day 1.
30. Green Bay Packers—Maxx Williams (TE Minnesota)
This is almost too perfect a pick to actually happen.
It's weird to say because of the numbers it put up in 2014, but: Yeah, the Packers offense was missing something last season. Whenever Aaron Rodgers needed his tight ends to be productive they often were and the result was a top passing offense, but he didn't have someone who could consistently win high-level matchups.
Rather than having a tight end who can pick up the scraps, the Packers need a tight end who can threaten a defense so much that it opens up much more for the receivers on the perimeter.
Maxx Williams—a top-notch receiver through and through—is that guy.
31. Seattle Seahawks—Marcus Peters (CB Washington)
Peters has both the size that the Seahawks like in their Legion of Boom, and also the sort of character issues coach Pete Carroll has mastered time and again both at the college and NFL levels. He loves to press and is very fluid, able to run with receivers and contest even the most spot-on of throws.
Depth in the defensive backfield is one of the big factors that lost the Seahawks the Super Bowl and they could have Byron Maxwell leaving this year as well.
32. New England Patriots—Devin Funchess (WR/TE Michigan)
All of Tom Brady's top receiving targets should be returning in 2015, but that doesn't mean an upgrade isn't needed. As of right now, the Patriots don't have anyone who can consistently win matchups all by himself, nor do they have many receivers adept at getting off press.
Can they win that way? Duh, they just did and beat a great defense to do it.
Are they making life hard for themselves? Absolutely.
With Funchess, the Patriots get a player who can take the top off the defense from a number of receiver positions (maybe even as a second tight end in some sets because of his size) and who can make down-the-field, highlight catches as well as anyone on their current team.
|1.||Tennessee (2-14)||Jordan Phillips (DT Oklahoma)|
|2.||Tampa Bay (2-14)||A.J. Cann (OG South Carolina)|
|3.||Oakland (3-13)||Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE UCLA)|
|4.||Jacksonville (3-13)||Cameron Erving (C/OT Florida State)|
|5.||New York Jets (4-12)||PJ Williams (CB Florida State)|
|6.||Washington (4-12)||Gerod Holliman (FS Louisville)|
|7.||Chicago (5-11)||Eric Kendricks (ILB UCLA)|
|8.||New York Giants (6-10)||Mario Edwards Jr. (DE Florida State)|
|9.||St. Louis (6-10)||Brett Hundley (QB UCLA)|
|10.||Atlanta (6-10)||Todd Gurley (RB Georgia)|
|11.||Cleveland (7-9)||Jay Ajayi (RB Boise State)|
|12.||New Orleans (7-9)||Denzel Perryman (ILB Miami)|
|13.||Minnesota (7-9)||Sammie Coates (WR Auburn)|
|14.||San Francisco (8-8)||Quinten Rollins (CB Miami of Ohio)|
|15.||Miami (8-8)||Devin Smith (WR Ohio State)|
|16.||San Diego (9-7)||Cody Prewitt (FS Ole Miss)|
|17.||Kansas City (9-7)||Laken Tomlinson (OG Duke)|
|18.||Buffalo (9-7)||Clive Walford (TE Miami)|
|19.||Houston (9-7)||Michael Bennett (DE/DT Ohio State)|
|20.||Philadelphia (10-6)||Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB Oregon)|
|21.||Cincinnati* (10-5-1)||Alex Carter (CB Stanford)|
|22.||Detroit* (11-5)||Xavier Cooper (DT Washington State)|
|23.||Arizona* (11-5)||Eli Harold (OLB Virginia)|
|24.||Pittsburgh* (11-5)||Danielle Hunter (DE/OLB LSU)|
|25.||Carolina* (7-8-1)||Paul Dawson (OLB TCU)|
|26.||Baltimore* (10-6)||Chris Hackett (S TCU)|
|27.||Denver* (12-4)||Cedric Ogbuehi (OT Texas A&M)|
|28.||Dallas* (12-4)||David Cobb (RB Minnesota)|
|29.||Indianapolis* (11-5)||Nelson Agholor (WR USC)|
|30.||Green Bay* (12-4)||Nate Orchard (OLB Utah)|
|31.||Seattle* (12-4)||Duke Johnson (RB Miami)|
|32.||New England* (12-4)||Arie Kouandjio (OG Alabama)|
|1.||Tampa Bay (2-14)||Hau'oli Kikaha (OLB Washington)|
|2.||Tennessee (2-14)||Jalen Collins (CB LSU)|
|3.||Jacksonville (3-13)||Tevin Colman (RB Indiana)|
|4.||Oakland (3-13)||Josh Shaw (CB USC)|
|5.||Washington (4-12)||John Miller (OG Louisville)|
|6.||New York Jets (4-12)||Shane Carden (QB East Carolina)|
|7.||Chicago (5-11)||Anthony Harris (SS Virginia)|
|8.||St. Louis (6-10)||Durell Eskridge (FS Syracuse)|
|9.||Atlanta (6-10)||Trey Flowers (DE Arkansas)|
|10.||New York Giants (6-10)||Gabe Wright (DT Auburn)|
|11.||New Orleans (7-9)||Jake Fisher (OT Oregon)|
|12.||Minnesota (7-9)||David Johnson (RB N. Iowa)|
|13.||Cleveland (7-9)||Jamison Crowder (WR Duke)|
|14.||Miami (8-8)||Josue Matias (OG Florida State)|
|15.||San Francisco (8-8)||Ty Montgomery (WR Stanford)|
|16.||Kansas City (9-7)||Daryl Williams (OT Oklahoma)|
|17.||Buffalo (9-7)||Grady Jarrett (DT Clemson)|
|18.||Houston (9-7)||Nick O'Leary (TE Florida State)|
|19.||San Diego (9-7)||Tony Lippett (WR Michigan State)|
|20.||Philadelphia (10-6)||Garrett Grayson (QB Colorado State)|
|21.||Cincinnati* (10-5-1)||Ramik Wilson (ILB Georgia)|
|22.||Arizona* (11-5)||Sean Mannion (QB Oregon State)|
|23.||Pittsburgh* (11-5)||D'Joun Smith (CB FL Atl)|
|24.||Detroit* (11-5)||T.J. Yeldon (RB Alabama)|
|25.||Carolina* (7-8-1)||Rashad Greene (WR Florida State)|
|26.||Baltimore* (10-6)||Phillip Dorsett (WR Miami)|
|27.||Dallas* (12-4)||Za'Darius Smith (DE Kentucky)|
|28.||Denver* (12-4)||Zach Hodges (OLB Harvard)|
|29.||Indianapolis* (11-5)||Derron Smith (FS Fresno State)|
|30.||Green Bay* (12-4)||Taiwan Jones (ILB Michigan State)|
|31.||Seattle* (12-4)||Justin Hardy (WR E Carolina)|
|32.||New England* (12-4)||Ellis McCarthy (DT UCLA)|
Michael Schottey is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff on his archive page and follow him on Twitter.