As the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine rolls on, prospects are getting their first major chance to stand out during the draft process. Pro days and individual workouts will follow in the weeks ahead as front offices put the finishing touches on their big board.
One good workout won't be enough to radically change the outlook for any player. That said, consistently strong showings can at least cause teams to take another look at the college game tape. It's a key step toward making a jump up the rankings.
By the time draft day arrives in late April, the class should become more settled. There's still time for movement, though. Here's a look at how things could shape up in Round 1 based on where the prospects stand right now.
2015 NFL Mock Draft
|2015 NFL Round 1 Mock Draft|
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon|
|2||Tennessee Titans||Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa|
|4||Oakland Raiders||Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama|
|5||Washington Redskins||Leonard Williams, DT, USC|
|6||New York Jets||Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska|
|7||Chicago Bears||Landon Collins, SS, Alabama|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson|
|9||New York Giants||Shane Ray, DE, Missouri|
|10||St. Louis Rams||Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State|
|11||Minnesota Vikings||Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford|
|12||Cleveland Browns||Kevin White, WR, West Virginia|
|13||New Orleans Saints||Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky|
|14||Miami Dolphins||Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville|
|16||Houston Texans||La'el Collins, OT, LSU|
|17||San Diego Chargers||Danny Shelton, DT, Washington|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State|
|19||Cleveland Browns (from BUF)||Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals||Marcus Peters, CB, Washington|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||Malcom Brown, DT, Texas|
|23||Detroit Lions||P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State|
|24||Arizona Cardinals||Nate Orchard, DE, Utah|
|25||Carolina Panthers||T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh|
|26||Baltimore Ravens||Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin|
|27||Dallas Cowboys||Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU|
|28||Denver Broncos||Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota|
|29||Indianapolis Colts||Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State|
|30||Green Bay Packers||Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State|
|31||Seattle Seahawks||Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan|
|32||New England Patriots||Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma|
As a whole, this year's draft class is pretty average. There isn't an overabundance of top-end talent, and the depth is marginal. The latter is in large part due to some weak positions, such as tight end or safety, where there's demand but not much supply.
So being able to select a prospect in the bottom half of the opening round who's capable of making a major impact, either right away or down the road, will be a nice coup. Let's check out some teams in position to do exactly that based on the current projections.
Best Value Selections
17. San Diego Chargers: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Chargers must upgrade both lines during the offseason. Philip Rivers was sacked 36 times, they ranked 30th in rushing and they gave up the 26th-most rushing yards. So improving in the trenches is essential, and Shelton is the best player available to fill one of the needs.
A massive physical presence in the middle, he features an impressive combination of power and short-area quickness. Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated noted it's impossible to look past his impact when watching Washington game tape:
He's still a bit raw in terms of technique and would benefit from adding more moves to his arsenal during his early years in the league. But he represents somebody who can take on multiple blocks, shed them and still make a big play. That's exactly what the Chargers need.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida
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Fowler is the type of player who can fill several different roles. Whether it's defensive end, pure edge-rushing linebacker or even a more all-around linebacker, he's got the talent to make it work. He could stand to add more power to his frame so he doesn't rely solely on his quickness, though.
One aspect that's often overlooked during the draft process is work rate. Certain players get after it on every play, and that provides added value. Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network believes the Florida product is one of those guys:
The Eagles' pace of offense is likely going to prevent the defense from posting elite numbers. Instead, the focus should be on playmakers who can force turnovers. Fowler, who could end up making a big leap before draft day, projects as that type of impact player once he reaches his peak.
32. New England Patriots: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Based on natural talent, Green-Beckham should be competing to become the first wide receiver off the board. That isn't happening because of previous off-field issues. But if he can leave those in the past, he should develop into an absolute steal at the end of Round 1.
That's no guarantee, of course. And his margin for error at the next level will be thin because of red flags he enters the league with. That said, he's saying all of the right things leading up to the draft, as noted by Michael Rothstein of ESPN:
All the decisions I made, I wish I could take it back. It's happened. I was young. I made mistakes. I understand that and I just want to focus on one thing and look forward to this draft and focus on being the best I can be.
The Patriots seem like an ideal fit. They could certainly use more high-end talent on the outside, but if he doesn't work out, they still have organizational stability to make up for a missed first-rounder. Green-Beckham will need to prove himself both on and off the field wherever he lands.