Now that football fans have moved on from the wild end to the 2015 Super Bowl, the NFL is shifting gears toward the draft and all of the festivities that surround the event.
One of the biggest topics of conversation heading into the NFL draft has been which of the top quarterbacks would be selected first and where both Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota will land.
Here is a full first-round mock draft before the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine and a prediction of where the two most talked-about prospects will begin their careers.
|2015 NFL First-Round Mock Draft|
|Pick||First-Round Order||Projected Selection|
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State|
|2||Tennessee Titans||Leonard Williams, DL, USC|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska|
|4||Oakland Raiders||Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama|
|5||Washington Redskins||Alvin Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky|
|6||New York Jets||Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon|
|7||Chicago Bears||Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||Shane Ray, DE, Missouri|
|9||New York Giants||Kevin White, WR, West Virginia|
|10||St. Louis Rams||Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State|
|11||Minnesota Vikings||Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington|
|12||Cleveland Browns||Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma|
|13||New Orleans Saints||Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida|
|14||Miami Dolphins||DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||Marcus Peters, CB, Washington|
|16||Houston Texans||Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota|
|17||San Diego Chargers||A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||Jalen Collins, CB, LSU|
|19||Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo)||Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||Landon Collins, SS, Alabama|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals||Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||Malcom Brown, DT, Texas|
|23||Detroit Lions||Arik Armstead, DE/OLB, Oregon|
|24||Arizona Cardinals||Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State|
|25||Carolina Panthers||Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon|
|26||Baltimore Ravens||Carl Davis, DL, Iowa|
|27||Dallas Cowboys||Owamagbe Odighizuwa, OLB, UCLA|
|28||Denver Broncos||La'el Collins, OL, LSU|
|29||Indianapolis Colts||Danny Shelton, DT, Washington|
|30||Green Bay Packers||Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State|
|31||Seattle Seahawks||Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn|
|32||New England Patriots||Nate Orchard, DE, Utah|
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State Seminoles
Florida State’s Winston only lost one game during his two-year college career, won a national championship and took home the Heisman Trophy. While there are off-the-field issues that must be addressed, his talent as a quarterback is undeniable.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the No. 1 overall selection. The franchise is in desperate need of a quarterback it can build the future around, and it has two viable options with Winston or Mariota. Winston has the higher physical upside but comes with a risk factor, and Mariota is the safer selection with less tangible talent.
According to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune on PFT Live, via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, the Buccaneers would use Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks as a mentor for Winston if they took him with the first pick:
I think if Winston’s the pick — and I think he will be — I think Brooks will play a role in trying to corral this kid, mature him, even bring him into his home, if necessary. That’s how much Brooks cares about FSU, about the Bucs, and seeing this franchise get relevant.
I see Winston in a Bucs uniform. Yes, there will be protests . . . but I think in terms of pro potential, I think most people would tell you Winston is ahead of [Marcus] Mariota.
Kaufman is fairly certain the team will take Winston No. 1 overall, and if Tampa Bay believes he has more long-term ability than Mariota, the organization has the support system in place to justify the pick and make it work.
Under head coach Lovie Smith, the team is held responsible for its actions, and Winston would be no different. With returning veterans like Brooks and strong veteran leadership on the roster, the young QB would be entering an environment that would help him thrive.
Taking Winston No. 1 overall after his tumultuous college career would be a calculated risk, but with the right combination of support from the franchise and commitment to change from the player, Tampa Bay could be on the clock waiting to pick its quarterback of the future.
Predicted Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 1 Overall
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon Ducks
Winston is regarded as the better all-around quarterback by some experts, but Mariota’s 4,454 yards, 42 touchdowns and four interceptions passing (not to mention his 770 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing the ball) make him statistically superior.
Mariota was also the man who finally handed Winston and the Seminoles their first loss in two years at the Rose Bowl, but Oregon’s celebration was short-lived. Mariota and the Ducks lost to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Both quarterbacks have been judged side-by-side for months, and it was fitting that the two prospects came up just short on national titles this season. The playing field entering the scouting combine and the draft process has been leveled.
While the debate between Winston and Mariota has raged, Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News sees it as a landslide for the Oregon prospect:
Former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times who he would take No. 1 overall this season:
If Winston does go No. 1 overall to Tampa Bay, the focus will shift to which team needs a quarterback enough to pick Mariota. The Tennessee Titans are a viable option as a landing spot, but there is a chance he slides down the draft board.
The possibility of Mariota dropping out of the top five should have the Philadelphia Eagles and former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly contemplating a possible trade to move up into the top 10 in order to make this selection.
With Jacksonville, Oakland and even Washington set at quarterback, selecting Mariota likely wouldn’t be the best-case scenario for those franchises. Instead, the most likely destination would be the New York Jets at No. 6 overall.
Mariota could handle the bright lights of the New York media, and the Jets would have the cornerstone quarterback they have lacked for years.
Predicted Landing Spot: New York Jets at No. 6 Overall
*Stats via NFL.com.