A dramatic conclusion to Super Bowl XLIX is still fresh in our minds, and the New England Patriots are still celebrating their victory over the Seattle Seahawks, but that's all about to take a back seat to the 2015 NFL draft.
Every franchise enters the offseason looking for ways to improve, and building through the draft is one method that has withstood the test of time. With the scouting combine fast approaching, all 32 teams are doing their due diligence to ensure the right moves are made when they're officially on the clock.
Much can change before the draft, as free-agent signings and other personnel alterations can impact a team's strategy and shake up the selection process. However, as it stands right now, let's take a look at how the first round of this year's draft is likely to shake out.
|Updated 2015 NFL Mock Draft: 1st Round|
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon|
|2||Tennessee Titans||Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Leonard Williams, DT, USC|
|4||Oakland Raiders||Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama|
|5||Washington Redskins||Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska|
|6||New York Jets||Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa|
|7||Chicago Bears||Danny Shelton, DT, Washington|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||Shane Ray, DE, Missouri|
|9||New York Giants||Landon Collins, S, Alabama|
|10||St. Louis Rams||Kevin White, WR, West Virginia|
|11||Minnesota Vikings||Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford|
|12||Cleveland Browns||DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville|
|13||New Orleans Saints||Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida|
|14||Miami Dolphins||Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma|
|16||Houston Texans||La'el Collins, OT, LSU|
|17||San Diego Chargers||Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State|
|19||Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo)||Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||Marcus Peters, CB, Washington|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals||Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State|
|23||Detroit Lions||Malcom Brown, DT, Texas|
|24||Arizona Cardinals||Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Miss. State|
|25||Carolina Panthers||T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh|
|26||Baltimore Ravens||Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon|
|27||Dallas Cowboys||Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma|
|28||Denver Broncos||Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State|
|29||Indianapolis Colts||Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin|
|30||Green Bay Packers||Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon|
|31||Seattle Seahawks||Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami|
|32||New England Patriots||Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn|
Analyzing Selections of Conference Championship Teams
Each season, four teams find themselves on the brink of a Super Bowl berth. Unfortunately, two of those squads never make it to the big dance, and another leaves the championship empty-handed. While these teams are certainly among the NFL's elite, one small roster tweak could be the difference between another early exit next season or a grip on the coveted Lombardi Trophy.
Even the reigning Super Bowl champs must improve if their goal is to obtain back-to-back titles, as they can rest assured the competition will continue to make strides.
So how are last season's four conference championship competitors likely to improve their rosters to make another deep run in the playoffs? Here's a likely scenario.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Colts are in an enormous state of flux at the running back position heading into the offseason. The future of Ahmad Bradshaw is uncertain, Trent Richardson is living up to the "bust" label and Daniel Herron is very much unproven. This team needs to establish the run and give quarterback Andrew Luck a sense of balance on the offensive side of the ball.
That's where Gordon comes in. The nation's most prolific runner from a year ago, the 6'1", 207-pound ball-carrier rushed for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns due to his well-rounded skill set which includes great acceleration, good vision and physicality. If any prospect can get the Indianapolis ground game going, it's this former Badger.
30. Green Bay Packers: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
After finishing the 2014 season ranked 23rd against the run, it's clear the Packers need an upgrade along the defensive line. Green Bay has a solid corps of talented linebackers, but the team won't get the maximum production out of that unit unless its defensive linemen can find a way to be consistently productive.
While selecting Armstead may be a slight risk here, the reward could be enormous. At 6'7" and 296 pounds, the Oregon product is a monster in the trenches with a great deal of strength and length. A basketball player, Armstead has a great deal of athleticism for a defensive lineman. He may need a bit of time to develop, but Armstead's upside is through the roof.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
Protecting Russell Wilson is in Seattle's best interests going forward after the team's offensive line allowed 42 sacks and 91 quarterback hits in 2014. With James Carpenter heading to free agency in 2015, the Seahawks could be looking to retool their offensive line to provide the best possible protection for Wilson. However, heading into the offseason, their roster is too thin to do so.
If Seattle doesn't address the offensive line by the draft, expect the team to take a long look at Flowers here. At 6'5" and 324 pounds, he has a wide base to cover a large area in pass protection, but he's also quick enough to take on faster pass-rushers and get to the second level when run-blocking. With experience on both ends of the offensive line, he'll add some much-needed versatility up front in Seattle.
32. New England Patriots: Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
The Patriots' Super Bowl win was in part due to a great passing offense. However, while New England has a bevy of talent in that department, the team still lacks a true No. 1 wide receiver. Tight end Rob Gronkowski and slot receiver Julian Edelman have been phenomenal, but with a solid outside threat, they could become even more dangerous.
At No. 32 overall, the Patriots address that need by selecting the 6'2", 213-pound Coates. With long arms, a great vertical leap, good acceleration and blazing speed, Coates will be a huge vertical threat in New England's spread offense. He has the ability to take the top off a defense, and will help things open up underneath for the team's other targets as well.