NFL Mock Draft 2015: Each NFL Team's Best-Case Scenario for the 1st Round
The 2015 draft class doesn’t offer many elite players at the top, but it’s loaded with second- and third-round talent. This should make things interesting for the bottom of the first round come draft day.
In a way-too-early preview of which prospects are available and where they fit, we will take a look at each team’s best-case scenario.
To create the mock, each team was given a prospect who I deemed to be a good fit while filling a need. The focus here was not to try to predict what each team would do on draft day but rather to offer up a subjective best-case scenario based primarily on my film study over the last several months.
Considering I was only able to study about 70 prospects so far, the list of players I evaluated was derived from the top-rated prospects so far.
Obviously, there is a lot more film to watch and hundreds of additional players to check out. But this is at least a good starting point for what type of talent is available in 2015.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
When you’re a team in need of a franchise quarterback and have the first pick in the draft, it’s tough to pass on a prospect like Jameis Winston.
Sure, he comes with a slew of off-the-field concerns and even seemed to regress a bit on the field amid the distractions, but Winston is far and away the most NFL-ready signal-caller available in the 2015 draft.
Winston has the body NFL general managers covet, the athleticism to extend plays and the arm strength to make all the throws. He has also shown a critical ability to process information quickly. Having said all of that, this former Heisman Trophy winner is far from a safe pick. But in today’s game, you either have a quarterback, or you go home early.
This is a risk the Buccaneers simply must take.
2. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
Williams is by far the most impressive prospect I’ve scouted in this draft. He is the type of special player you dream for. Rarely can you find a player with his versatility, instincts and exceptional movement skills.
Williams should fit nicely in the Titans defense as long as he has the freedom to penetrate and pursue rather than be limit to two-gapping from a 5-technique. The ideal situation for Williams would be at 3-technique in a 4-3 defense. But it’s highly unlikely he slips past the Titans.
Landing Williams would be the best possible scenario for the Titans.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
One of the biggest positional needs for the Jaguars is a dominant edge-rusher who will free up an extra defender that was previously used for blitzing.
Randy Gregory possesses the prototypical build for an edge-rusher, evoking memories of “The Freak,” otherwise known as Jevon Kearse. Not only is Gregory long, strong and fast, but he also is one of the best hand technicians of all the edge-rushers in this class.
That combination of skills should prove to be deadly for opposing blockers. Better yet, he is well-coached and rarely operates out of the scheme.
Expect Gregory to contribute on Day 1 and sharpen his skills each year until reaching his prime in three to four years.
4. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
One of the most glaring weaknesses for the Raiders in 2014 was their lack of explosive playmakers on offense and lack of pass rush on defense. Since they can’t address both of these issues with the No. 4 overall pick, they need to take what they can get.
There’s a logjam at the top of the wide receiver position this year, but DeVante Parker seems to be the most complete prospect of them all. He has the size (6'3", 208 lbs), speed, hands and body control that give him a slight edge over guys like Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Dorial Green-Beckham. It’s likely that it’ll take an outstanding performance at the combine for these guys to officially separate from one another.
Adding Parker to the offense will give Derek Carr a legitimate deep threat, which should open things up and make life for the young quarterback easier.
5. Washington Redskins
The Pick: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Assuming Robert Griffin III will earn the starting job for the Washington Redskins, it makes sense not to start all over with another athletic, skinny Heisman-winning QB who could be a product of the system. This is why avoiding the temptation to snag up Marcus Mariota makes sense for Washington.
One thing we know RG3 can do well is throw the deep ball. It might be in the Redskins’ best interest to give their costly investment some more weapons to help him succeed. Signing DeSean Jackson last offseason was a good start, but now it’s time to bring in another explosive element.
Cooper has good size (6’1”, 205 lbs) and separation ability and would be a great option if Leonard Williams isn’t available.
6. New York Jets
The Pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
It looks like Geno Smith is going to have some competition for the starting job if this scenario plays out.
There’s no denying the Jets have been starved for a guy who can be the face of the franchise. Mariota has a great chance of ushering in a new era of Jets football if he can summon the type of playmaking that led to his Heisman campaign.
Surviving the scrutiny of the Big Apple’s media might be a tall order for the soft-spoken leader, but if he lets his actions do most of the talking, things should work out. However, the Jets are still going to need some more playmakers on offense if they hope to compete anytime soon. Even a guy as talented as Mariota can’t succeed without a quality supporting cast.
7. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
There are a lot of changes happening in Chicago, and it starts with the hiring of new head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. This likely means the defense will switch to a 3-4. This will have to be reflected in the personnel.
Shoring up the middle with a dominant player like Danny Shelton would be a wise move with the seventh overall pick. He is uniquely athletic for a guy of his size (6'2", 339 lbs) and has one of the better motors of any player over 320 pounds I’ve ever seen.
Shelton is more than just a run-stuffing nose tackle—he is actually active in the passing game and has the ability to penetrate the backfield and close ground relatively quickly.
8. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Atlanta Falcons are long overdue for an elite pass-rusher. Their 22 sacks in 2014 were tied for 30th in the league. This is why Atlanta stole Dan Quinn away from Seattle to be the team’s new head coach.
Vic Beasley may be undersized (6’3”, 235 lbs) for a rusher, but his quickness and instincts are impressive enough to override such a deficiency. He racked up 24.5 sacks in his last two seasons at Clemson and had 41.5 tackles for loss during that time.
Beasley could assume the role assigned to former first-round pick Bruce Irvin in Seattle as a hybrid rush linebacker, and from what I can tell, he would provide the Falcons an upgraded version of Irvin’s speed-rushing expertise.
9. New York Giants
The Pick: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
The Giants have disregarded the linebacker position in the early rounds of the draft for years, and it shows. This might be the year to change things up considering that front office was inches away from being axed.
Besides, the options for quality linebackers in this draft are limited, so waiting till later on might not be a realistic option if they truly wish to upgrade the position. This is why taking Shaq Thompson so early might be a great idea despite the perceived reach based on the organization’s traditional thinking.
Thompson is a playmaking prodigy who was made for the modern offense. He is one of the better cover linebackers in years and has an uncanny knack for taking the ball away and scoring touchdowns. His versatility should make him an every-down LB and a rare asset to any team that is willing to pull the trigger on him.
10. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
Many of you might not even know who P.J. Williams is. Others who do might be wondering how he could be the first cornerback taken in this draft.
I was unable to find any elite cornerbacks in the 2015 draft class when studying tape over the past several months. Though, at this point, I’ve only just skimmed the surface. I’ve watched tape on 10 of the top corners listed in this draft, and they’re all flawed. Perhaps when I dig a bit deeper, things will shake out differently. Until then, I have to go with what I see.
Marcus Peters is considered by most to be the best CB available, but his allergic reaction to physicality and poor tackling deplete his value significantly for me.
Williams, on the other hand, was impressive against Louisville and DeVante Parker and showed fantastic fluidity in his transitions. He’s also a great tackler and contests every throw. These are important skills at the position.
11. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Brandon Scherff, OT/G, Iowa
Now that the Vikings have seemingly found their franchise quarterback and running back Adrian Peterson is expected to return, they must upgrade the trenches so these talented weapons can reach their full potential.
Brandon Scherff is the first offensive lineman off the board here in part because of his versatility. His highest upside in the NFL is at guard. This is the position where he can best utilize his lunch-pail, hard-hat mentality and knock people back. With that said, it should be made clear the former Iowa Hawkeye can succeed on the flanks as well.
Minnesota could also look to bring in a wide receiver here, but this scenario has Scherff slipping further than many expect. He would be considered too much of a steal to pass up for a team in need of some muscle upfront.
12. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The only way the Browns don’t pick a wide receiver here is if they grab a guy in free agency, trade out of the position or Marcus Mariota happens to fall into their lap. Wideout Josh Gordon will miss the 2015 season, which means they must acquire some help on the outside.
Kevin White is quickly moving up draft boards due to his great combination of size (6'3", 210 lbs) and speed. He has fluid movements and is quite capable of creating offense once the ball is in his hands. While this trait of elusiveness and breaking tackles is not at an elite level or better than Amari Cooper or DeVante Parker’s, it’s certainly good enough to entice the Browns.
13. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Before you start throwing stones at me in the comment section, let me explain.
One of my favorite sleeper picks in this draft is Owamagbe Odighizuwa. I have him ranked as the top 4-3 defensive end in this class if you don’t count Leonard Williams as a defensive end. The only reason I have Randy Gregory going ahead of him is because Gregory has a higher upside.
Odighizuwa offers up an intensely competitive motor with a rare combination of athleticism and power. He also has the agility and hips to turn a corner to go with good balance. He sets an edge, anchors against the run and is a reliable tackler.
14. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Miami could really use a quality receiver or a tight end here, but the board just doesn’t justify the Dolphins going that route. It’s hard to have an overabundance in quality defensive backs. Adding a guy like Trae Waynes should take the secondary to the next step.
He is a physical, aggressive cornerback with good size (6'1", 182 lbs) and solid cover skills. He doesn’t have elite speed but competes hard and tackles well. This class of corners lacks in elite prospects but has several guys at the top who are clumped closely together.
15. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma/Missouri
With Michael Crabtree likely moving on via free agency and Anquan Boldin getting older and slower, it makes sense for the 49ers to try their luck at wide receiver again in the first round. The last time they did that was with A.J. Jenkins, who turned out to be a major bust.
Dorial Green-Beckham is a huge (6'6") target with the speed to take the top off of a defense. He gives quarterback Colin Kaepernick a real deep threat that the team has been lacking since the departure of Terrell Owens. The reason he lasted midway through the first round was the significant off-the-field drama related to marijuana and other things.
Sometimes, it’s worth taking a chance on a guy like this when the talent justifies the risk—in this case, the talent certainly justifies it.
16. Houston Texans
The Pick: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
The last time a running back was taken in the first round was back in 2012. It looks as though that streak will end in 2015 with Todd Gurley. He is a special talent who is absolutely worthy of a first-round selection. He has some durability concerns that could hurt his stock, but in terms of physicality and speed, you really can’t ask for a better prospect.
Houston does have Arian Foster on the roster, but he’s already accumulated a ton of mileage, and any expectation that he can continue without any hiccups sounds more like optimism. Besides, having Gurley provide depth could extend Foster’s shelf life by sharing the load.
17. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Chargers could use some help upfront and in the pass-rush department. Grabbing Andrus Peat here would provide depth but would also immediate turn this offense into a more physical one.
Peat is one of the bigger offensive linemen in this draft. He also happens to be a surprisingly nimble pass-rusher when he needs to be. Peat has the ideal physical tools to be a great NFL starter at either left or right tackle. He also has the power to move piles and anchor against a firm bull rush.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
It’s no secret the Chiefs are in need of some help on the outside. They went the entire season without a single touchdown from a wide receiver.
With Dwayne Bowe already on the roster, it might seem redundant to add another big-body wideout like Devin Funchess. But when you have Alex Smith as your quarterback, it actually makes more sense. Funchess can be a great weapon between five and 15 yards and does a great job of using his size to box out defenders.
Adding him to the roster could also make Bowe and his inflated contract expendable.
19. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The Browns already used their first pick in the first round to shore up the receiver position. This allows for the second pick to be more of a luxury, although it’s clear this roster could use some help in a variety of areas.
Adding a prospect like Eddie Goldman this late in the first round is definitely a best-case scenario for the fans of Cleveland.
Goldman is perhaps the sturdiest anchor in this draft, including guys like Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown. The former Seminole has the power to drive blockers right into the quarterback’s lap in passing situations, and it's difficult to run anywhere near him. Blockers simply can’t move this guy.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Strengthening the defense is the Eagles' top priority this offseason, and the cheapest and more promising way to do that is through the draft.
After the NFL Scouting Combine is over, it’s quite possible that Jalen Collins becomes the first cornerback off the board. There’s a good chance he will be the fastest player in this entire draft class even though he only started 10 games in college. However, he did spend most of his three years as a key member of LSU’s rotation.
Having elite speed and ideal size for the position is a great base to start from. He also does a decent job of tackling and shows solid ability in man coverage.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB, Florida
In 2014, the Bengals had a league-low 20 sacks. Adding a prospect with high upside in the pass-rush department is a wise move. Fowler has the frame to eventually grow into a full-time defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, or he could be used in a similar way to Von Miller in Denver and Anthony Barr in Minnesota.
Fowler might be the most gifted athlete of all the edge-rushers in this draft class. However, his weaknesses are almost as concerning. The former Gator is often out of position and struggles to set an edge or finish with reliable tackling. His pass-rush repertoire is also a bit limited, but the upside and athleticism are certainly elite.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The first safety off the board is Landon Collins. Pittsburgh has needed to upgrade its secondary with youth and speed for several years now—this year would be a great time to start.
Veteran safety Troy Polamalu is nearing the end and should already be receiving a reduced role in this defense. Collins is built thick but is not another repeat situation of Mark Barron. The first-round draft pick by the Bucs a few years back was eventually traded after a disappointing start to his career. Barron struggled primarily in coverage and was routinely taken advantage of by offenses.
Collins, on the other hand, is fast, quick and solid in coverage for a guy who is built like a box safety. It’s wise not to judge a book by its cover with him, unless you're thinking he is a physical player—in which case you would be accurate.
23. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The strength of the Detroit Lions defense in 2014 was the interior of the defensive line. Now, the Lions face turning a strong point into a weakness with three of their defensive tackles set to become free agents, including Ndamukong Suh.
With at least one or two of these guys expected to depart, it might be a good idea for the Lions to bring in some reinforcements.
Malcom Brown may spell his name funny, but there’s nothing funny about the way he plays the game. He is a good athlete for a guy over 300 pounds, and he wins in a variety of ways. He has solid leg drive to collapse a pocket and is also capable of slipping between the cracks to penetrate with quickness.
24. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri
A lot of you are probably wondering if I forgot about Shane Ray. He is supposed to be a top-10 prospect and would never be available this late in the first round. Well, in this mock draft, Ray is lucky to be drafted in the first round at all. The only reason his name is on here is because the strength of this class is in the second and third round rather than the first 15 picks.
The Cardinals could use a quick edge-rusher with a nice get-off and the low center of gravity to turn a tight corner. Ray wins with his quick feet and by attacking open windows. He struggles with his hands and doesn’t set an edge very well.
Overall, Ray would fit in nicely with the Cardinals, and we can only assume they would be ecstatic to have him slide down to them at No. 24.
25. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
When Jordan Gross retired a year ago, it left a gaping hole up front that the Panthers were not prepared to fill. This offseason they should have more time and resources to replace and upgrade some key parts in the trenches.
The Panthers could also use some help in the secondary and at wide receiver. But the second round would be a decent place to find an outside target.
Ereck Flowers is a behemoth of a man and actually has the quickness to keep up with edge-rushers. Adding a guy like him to the front lines should create more movement and space up front against the run and provide an anchor against the pass rush.
26. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Donovan Smith, OT, Penn State
Another sleeper pick in this mock draft is the Senior Bowl standout from Penn State, Donovan Smith. It’s time for the Ravens to start upgrading their situation at the tackle position. Eugene Monroe has been a disappointment, and they’re one injury away from being in big trouble. Depth is always a good thing in a league where quality players at an affordable price are rare.
Smith is generally considered a Day 2 prospect, but I have him grading out as one the best linemen in this class, although I have only studied two of his games. He impresses not only with his size (6'6", 341 lbs) and length but also with the way he drives his opponents back and finishes blocks. He also has the power to latch and sustain blocks for a long time.
27. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Dallas needs to add another pass-rusher to its defense, but the best move there might be in free agency. The Cowboys style of defense requires cornerbacks to be good tacklers and play physically. This is a problem that makes drafting Marcus Peters a bit of a strange choice here.
The thinking is that he is considered the consensus top cornerback in this class for a reason. He has a great frame, long arms and the athleticism to grow into an elite corner. The hope is that his potential and some solid coaching could get him where he needs to be in terms of being a more physical player.
It would be tough for the Cowboys to pass up such a talented player this late in the first round in a year that is short on top-tier talent.
28. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami
The Broncos have some issues to shore up on their offensive line but also need to upgrade the linebacker position. With Denzel Perryman available here, it’s tough to pass him up.
Perryman can be a great addition to this Broncos defense and help shore up their weakest position group on the roster. Though undersized at 6'0", 242 pounds for the next level, he brings a tenacious and aggressive nature that teammates thrive off.
After Perryman and maybe Eric Kendricks from UCLA, the linebacker group drops off pretty quickly. This is partly why making a move on a linebacker makes so much sense here. Talented offensive lineman can be found in Rounds 2 and 3 of this draft, which is not the case for traditional linebackers.
29. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: Hau'oli Kikaha, OLB, Washington
One of the most skilled edge-rushers in this class is Hau’oli Kikaha out of Washington. This is an area of need for the Colts considering former first-round selection Bjoern Werner has all the makings of a bust.
Kikaha is best suited to play an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, which is essentially the situation in Indy. The all-time career and single-season sack leader for the Huskies would have been listed earlier in this mock, but he’s had two ACL surgeries in 2011 and 2012, which brings up some serious durability concerns.
Kikaha has the most eclectic range of rush moves and is elite with his hands. He also does a good job of setting an edge and has an impressive motor. There are some size and speed limitations here, but he can overcome them with effort and incredible technique.
30. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Alvin "Bud" Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
It is likely that the Packers will not be bringing back veteran Julius Peppers in 2015 considering he will count $12 million against the salary cap, per Spotrac. Even if they do, we shouldn’t expect more than just one more year out of the aging star.
Bud Dupree is a great athlete with ideal speed and quickness for the position. However, at this point he’s more potential than anything else. He lacks creativity as a rusher and relies almost exclusively on his speed. He also needs to anchor and set an edge better against the run. But if he can put his natural ability together, the Packers could be drafting a star late in the first round.
31. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
It’s no secret the Seattle Seahawks were badly in need of help at the receiver position after Golden Tate and Percy Harvin left. Those guys were pivotal in helping the team win its first Super Bowl. Trying to win games without a reliable weapon or playmaker probably ended up costing the Seahawks a championship.
Devin Smith is a nice weapon here because of what he brings to the offense in terms of speed. He can stretch a defense and runs nice, crisp routes for a speedster. If you’re counting on him to break many tackles, that’s not his forte. But he can outrun defenders and create plays.
It would be interesting to see what this offense is capable of with a receiver who tests defenses down the field.
32. New England Patriots
The Pick: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Patriots have had a ton of success as a franchise. Fresh off their latest championship, they have established a proven formula for long-term success in the salary-cap era. One thing they’ve failed to do right in all of that time is draft a talented wide receiver in the early rounds.
This might make the Patriots hesitant to dial up another first-round receiver, but their failures in the past make selecting a wideout early even more important.
Jaelen Strong fits the mold of a big target that the Patriots not only covet but need. At the moment, their wideouts are mostly short, slot-type players. Strong brings the big body and long reach to the team. Plus, he has the ability to create some separation and threaten the defense deep.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player who writes for Bleacher Report.