NFL Mock Draft 2015: Latest Projections for 1st Round with Pro Days Underway

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2015

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, left, walks with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota after participating at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Trying to predict the motivations and behind-the-scenes machinations of any one NFL team is nearly impossible. That's why projecting how the NFL draft will unfold is always to a certain extent folly.

Nobody really knows what's going on.

Certain teams are particularly tough to analyze. Either they have so many options on the table that it's difficult to focus on one potential plan, or the ownership/front office is so dysfunctional that almost anything can happen.

As the 2015 draft draws near, the three franchises below provide arguably the most intrigue in terms of projecting what they'll do in the first round.

NFL Draft 2015—First Round Projection
PickTeamPlayer
1Tampa Bay BuccaneersJameis Winston, QB, Florida State
2Tennessee TitansLeonard Williams, DT, USC
3Jacksonville JaguarsDante Fowler, OLB, Florida
4Oakland RaidersAmari Cooper, WR, Alabama
5Washington RedskinsBrandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
6New York JetsMarcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
7Chicago BearsDanny Shelton, DT, Washington
8Atlanta FalconsRandy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
9New York GiantsShane Ray, DE, Missouri
10St. Louis RamsKevin White, WR, West Virginia
11Minnesota VikingsAndrus Peat, OT, Stanford
12Cleveland BrownsMalcom Brown, DT, Texas
13New Orleans SaintsVic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
14Miami DolphinsTrae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
15San Francisco 49ersDeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
16Houston TexansLandon Collins, SS, Alabama
17San Diego ChargersT.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
18Kansas City ChiefsJaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
19Cleveland BrownsLa'el Collins, OT, LSU
20Philadelphia EaglesMarcus Peters, CB, Washington
21Cincinnati BengalsArik Armstead, DT/DE, Oregon
22Pittsburgh SteelersKevin Williams, CB, Wake Forest
23Detroit LionsEreck Flowers, OT, Miami
24Arizona CardinalsBud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
25Carolina PanthersDaryl Williams, OT, Oklahoma
26Baltimore RavensTodd Gurley, RB, Georgia
27Dallas CowboysJalen Collins, CB, LSU
28Denver BroncosJake Fisher, OT, Oregon
29Indianapolis ColtsShaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
30Green Bay PackersEddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
31Seattle SeahawksCameron Erving, OG, Florida State
32New England PatriotsMelvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Draft Order via NFL.com

Most Intriguing Teams Ahead of Draft

Tennessee Titans

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Almost everybody expects the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to draft a quarterback. Releasing Josh McCown seemed to be a clear sign that the Bucs are going to start over with somebody new in 2015—unless they're content to ride with Mike Glennon.

As a result, the only drama is whether they'll take Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported at the combine that Winston is gaining a significant edge on Mariota.

In the event that the Bucs do select Winston, it will make things very interesting for the Tennessee Titans. Does Tennessee go for Mariota or a defensive stud like Leonard Williams, Dante Fowler, Randy Gregory, etc.?

The presence of Zach Mettenberger and the likely adjustment period for Mariota might play heavily into the Titans' line of thinking. B/R's Ian Kenyon believes that would be a mistake:

If the Titans pass on Mariota, it could provide enough impetus for a host of teams to try to trade up for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. The price for the third pick wouldn't be as high as it would be for the second pick and would lessen with each subsequent selection.

Of course, Tennessee could try to work out a trade itself if it finds a suitor. Many envision one team being the perfect fit for Mariota.

Philadelphia Eagles

Ross Franklin/Associated Press

There's almost no way that Mariota has an Aaron Rodgers- or Brady Quinn-like fall in the first round. If the Titans don't take him at No. 2, then he'll be selected by the New York Jets at No. 6 or St. Louis Rams at No. 10.

The Philadelphia Eagles will have to trade into the top five if they truly want Mariota. NFL.com's Chris Trapasso thinks that the Eagles could reasonably move up to second overall, benefiting both them and the Titans:

Howie Roseman, Philadelphia's executive vice president of football operations, recently spoke at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. While there, he dismissed the idea of packaging multiple draft picks just to get one player, per ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini:

The history of trading up for one player, when you look at those trades, isn't good for the team trading up and putting a lot of resources into it. The guys who are really good at drafting, if you're hitting on 60 percent of your first-round picks, that's a pretty good track record and it's dropping as you go through the rounds. So, really, the more chances you get—the more tickets to the lottery you get—really, the better shape you're going to be.

Two things are worth noting.

The first is that head coach Chip Kelly consolidated his power earlier in the year and has the final say on all personnel decisions. If he wants to trade up to draft Mariota, the Eagles will trade up to draft Mariota.

The second is that draft season is always rife with subterfuge. Maybe Roseman was being 100 percent truthful at the conference, or maybe he didn't want to tip Philadelphia's hand by talking up the virtues of draft trades.

Now, this is not to say that the Eagles will 100 percent move up and get Mariota. Obviously, he and Kelly have history together, and Mariota would be a great fit for Kelly's offensive scheme.

But Doug Marrone had history with Ryan Nassib and passed on him, while Pete Carroll somewhat famously declined to draft Taylor Mays, a player he coached at USC.

Too much is on the line for NFL coaches to get sentimental come draft time.

Cleveland Browns

David Richard/Associated Press

As of right now, the Cleveland Browns are the only team with two first-round draft picks. That could obviously change, but it's hard to see any moving and shaking happening before April 30.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Browns' draft is owner Jimmy Haslam.

He's straight from the Jerry Jones school of team ownership, which is terrible for Browns fans and great for everybody else. Remember last year when he talked about a homeless man advising him to draft Johnny Manziel?

It's one thing to be an eccentric, opinionated owner who still takes a backseat for all of the personnel decisions. As CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote, Haslam believes his ownership of the team entitles him to exert power with regard to roster-building:

The tension between the front office and coaching staff is palpable around the team facility, sources said, with friction growing between Farmer and rookie head coach Mike Pettine throughout the 2014 season. It became clear that the front office wanted Manziel -- the owner's boy -- playing sooner and put pressure on the staff to make the change from Brian Hoyer.

Alec Scheiner, the team president who grew in power and influence a year ago after Banner and Lombardi were shown the door after just one season together, has become a divisive figure in the organization as well, gaining an increasing voice in personnel matters, well beyond just analytics. At 6 a.m. every Monday, Pettine is joined by Farmer and Scheiner to watch film, with the division between ownership and day-to-day coaching decisions becoming increasingly blurred.

The Browns illustrated in 2012 that having two first-rounders is far from a guarantee that a team gets value. Brandon Weeden was a complete bust, and while Cleveland managed to squeeze a first-rounder out of Indianapolis for Trent Richardson, that was still a terrible selection.

Given Haslam's penchant for meddling, it's impossible to say what the Browns will do in the draft. And if Cleveland doesn't hit a home run this year, head coach Mike Pettine might be out of a job.

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