2015 NFL Mock Draft: Logical Solutions for Every First-Round Team
The NFL offseason is about to heat up as we’re on the eve of the free-agency period. More than half the league has more than $20 million to spend to help upgrade their rosters, so there will be a flurry of high-dollar transactions coming soon. Before that happens, though, we are going to do a logical mock draft for all 32 first-round picks.
Each team will attack the draft with one of a few strategies. Front offices that are running out of time are more likely to take a player with immediate contribution potential with hopes that 2015 bears greater returns. For franchises that have some breathing room, they can afford to develop players that may need to add some bulk or get a better mental grasp on the game.
By taking the current state of the roster into consideration, we’re going to look at the best draft pick for every team in the 2015 class. Trades will not be apart of this mock. Don’t forget to leave your ideal draft pick in the comments section below after reading.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a tough decision with the top overall pick. They have to decide which potential franchise quarterback fits their organization best. Both Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon have a strong resume for the Bucs to consider.
Winston gets the nod here because his college career helps his NFL projection just a little more than Mariota’s. Jameis showed the traits we have often seen from great quarterbacks like Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. With high football intelligence and on-field toughness, Winston has all of the potential in the world to continue getting better.
The biggest roadblock for Winston to go first is his off-field history. He’s proven to be immature, and the Buccaneers’ brass must become comfortable with his personality. Head coach Lovie Smith has usually avoided players with less-than-stellar character, so Winston’s visit with the Buccaneers must go well for him to go first overall.
2. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Vic Beasley, Edge, Clemson
Sometimes it’s easy to overthink football. That seems to have been what happened in 2014 after Clemson edge-rusher Vic Beasley returned to school. He dominated again, posting 21.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks as a senior, and yet he seemed to be overlooked by many because of his weight.
Then the NFL combine happened, and Vic blew it out of the water. He showed up at 246 pounds, which is NFL-ready right now. Every physical test resulted in Beasley posting an insane number, with all but his 10-yard dash finishing in the 90th percentile or better when compared to the past 15 years of defensive end combine tests.
Not only does Beasley have dominating tape, but he's also an elite athlete in the truest sense of the phrase. His ability to be an impact pass-rusher on Day 1 is something the Titans desperately need. Paired with Jurrell Casey, the Titans will have one of the better young one-two punches in their front seven in the league.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in a fantastic position with nearly $70 million in cap space and the third overall pick to improve their roster. Their goal to improve the roster should be simple: add as many impact players as possible. Don’t worry too much about filling positional needs because outside of the wide receiver group and cornerbacks, every spot needs help.
One of the best-kept secrets in the NFL is Jaguars’ defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. By pairing Leonard Williams of USC with Marks, the Jaguars will have the best pair of defensive tackles in the NFL. That will set the tone for their defense for years to come.
Williams has rare strength and ball awareness as a defensive lineman. He isn’t a great pass-rusher with his burst off the ball, but he wins with his excellent hand usage and amazing ability to disengage blockers. He’s a high-impact player with almost no chance of “busting.”
4. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Dante Fowler, Edge, Florida
Similar to the Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders have a great opportunity to infuse significant talent to a roster that needs to start winning. The early returns on their 2014 draft class is looking solid, including quarterback Derek Carr and outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Oakland could reasonably address either side of the ball to help either young stud.
Considering the value of pass-rushers, Dante Fowler Jr. is the best option if the board falls this way. As good as a receiver fits here, the dropoff from Fowler to a second-round pass-rusher is much greater than what Oakland will see with second-round receivers. That makes Fowler the best value.
Fowler is a high-effort pass-rusher with violent hands and good athleticism. He has some bend to his game, but he really wins with speed to power moves. On the other side of Mack, he can be a devastating pass-rusher. Oakland shouldn’t stop investing in its defense, as a great pass rush will benefit every level of the defense.
5. Washington Redskins
The Pick: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Once considered a major character concern after being dismissed from the Washington Huskies’ football team, cornerback Marcus Peters has done some serious rehab on his image. The NFL combine process was the beginning, when he did an interview to clear up exactly what led to his dismissal. In short, he was immature, got hotheaded during games and the new coaching staff needed to make an example of him.
With a new sense of humility, it’s time to focus on Peters’ immense on-field talent. He is one of the best cornerback prospects in the past decade with his ability to play in any scheme and play the ball. He checks all of the boxes physically, and the tape is fantastic.
Washington could definitely use a talent like Peters. Pairing him with Bashaud Breeland would be a strong start to a great secondary. Finding a great player at a key position at the fifth pick isn’t easy in every draft class, so this is a great opportunity for the Redskins.
6. New York Jets
The Pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The New York Jets added wide receiver Brandon Marshall to their playmaker core on Friday, making this a great situation for a quarterback. A new head coach and general manager could mean a new quarterback as well, and if Mariota is on the board, this is a simple choice.
Current starter Geno Smith has shown very little ability as a starter in his first two seasons. He struggles with basic passing concepts and when he makes the right read, his passes have as much accuracy as an 19th century musket. You just don’t know where the ball is headed as the ball comes out of his hand.
Mariota certainly doesn’t have the same issues. He has very good accuracy and is a great decision-maker. At Oregon, his 14 career interceptions are a glimpse of how good he is at protecting the ball. His 105 touchdown passes help illustrate that he allows his playmakers to do the heavy lifting.
Imagining Mariota in a Chan Gailey offense with Marshall, Eric Decker, Jace Amaro and Jeremy Kerley is tantalizing. Possibly add a receiving back at some point, and maybe the Jets will become the NFL’s version of the Ducks.
7. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Randy Gregory, Edge, Nebraska
The Chicago Bears could be looking at a rebuilding phase if the Brandon Marshall trade is any indicator of things to come. Quarterback Jay Cutler has been rumored to be on the trade block as well. If that’s the direction the Bears go, then they should add a high-upside pick that can be developed with the rest of the young roster members.
Chicago will be using a 3-4 defensive front, so edge rushers will be a premium position. That makes Nebraska’s Randy Gregory a great upside pick for John Fox to utilize. Gregory has ideal height and length, with strong hands and room to improve as he adds bulk to his frame.
Gregory isn’t the athletic freak he was sold as—as the combine was proof—but he can become a solid player in the NFL. His limitations really come back to his weight, which is fixable by his second year in an NFL weight program. His strengths include natural quickness, flexibility and great hands.
8. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Shane Ray, Edge, Missouri
Another pass-rusher shouldn’t be a big surprise, as it is the deepest position in the 2015 draft class. It is a premium position as offenses continue to throw the ball more. With new head coach Dan Quinn in the fold, expect him to add a dynamic pass-rusher with the eighth-overall pick.
Missouri’s Shane Ray has the ability to step in and be the Falcons’ sack leader in 2014. It’s amazing to think, but Atlanta had only one defensive player with more than three sacks, and its leader finished with just 4.5 sacks total. It’s safe to assume that’s an area of great need.
Ray is dynamic with his ability to get off the snap and get into the backfield. He’s smart, too, as he varies his movement to beat the offensive lineman. Ray struggles as a run defender because he wants to get into the pocket so much, but a 3-4 outside linebacker spot can help with this because his eyes are naturally going to be up to start with.
9. New York Giants
The Pick: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
There are a variety of directions the New York Giants can go with their first-round pick this year. They need help in the secondary, receiver and linebacker. But, the offensive line will be the key to their return to prominence if they’re going to get there.
Brandon Scherff is a great choice here. Scherff is more of a guard than tackle because of his ability to maul defenders in the run game. He is also fantastic pulling around on run plays, so he can develop into an elite guard quickly. His struggles with speed rushers will be mitigated as a guard.
Behind Scherff, the Giants have a better chance to re-establish their running game. Quarterback Eli Manning needs more time to throw, and getting Scherff will kick-start the run and passing game.
10. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The best receiver in the 2015 draft is West Virginia’s Kevin White. His athleticism, size and character have separated him from the pack. Even so, he drops a little bit because of the deep talent available at wide receiver.
If the Rams cannot get their hands on a quarterback, adding to the situation around Sam Bradford would be wise. The best value on the board here happens to be White, who is Julio Jones-esque in his talent level.
In what could be a make-or-break year for head coach Jeff Fisher, there could be worse ways to build an offense than to feature White and Brian Quick. If Bradford can finally stay healthy, that’s an offense that could become reminiscent of the early 2000s.
11. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The run of receivers started with White, as the elite playmakers at more valuable positions are off the board. Now it is about talent and fit matching perfectly. If the Minnesota Vikings can pair Amari Cooper with Teddy Bridgewater, they must pounce.
Cooper may not have the physical profile of a true No. 1 receiver, but he is an elite route runner and explosive runner. He’s so smooth as he shreds defenses that he was a man amongst boys in college. He’s a guy who can start in his first season.
Bridgewater will love a receiver like Cooper because he has the anticipation skills and accuracy to throw the ball to Cooper with timing. Every quarterback cannot do the same, but Cooper will be maximized in this scenario.
12. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Again armed with two first-round picks, the Cleveland Browns have the chance to add a couple of solid players to their roster. The Browns were ravaged by injuries at key spots in 2014, including center and defensive line. By adding a top defensive lineman, depth should no longer be a major issue.
Enter Malcom Brown from Texas. Brown gained experience at all three spots in a 3-4 front at Texas, but he really excelled as a 5-technique. His ability to hold up at the point of attack is respectable enough to be a three-down player. But his pass-rush ability is what stands out.
Brown wins with quickness off the snap and active hands. He can fight through blockers and get them off balance from his athleticism. By winning in various ways, Brown has the potential to be a stud pass-rusher. The Browns could certainly use his talents.
13. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Alvin Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
One of the freakiest athletes in the 2015 class is Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree. His combine performance was one for the ages, as his 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jumps created an insane explosion score. That athleticism is worthy of a first-round investment.
It’s not like Dupree can’t play and that he’s all-athlete. His role at Kentucky often had him reading keys and playing the run game. But the few times he was unleashed as a pass-rusher, he was pretty impressive. His hand usage needs improvement, but that can be coached.
The Saints could use an athlete like Dupree. They’re shopping Curtis Lofton and have a multitude of other maneuvers that must happen to help their woeful cap situation. Dupree can play as an edge-rusher or as a strong-side linebacker, depending on the scheme.
14. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
When Miami released receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson, the message was clear. The Dolphins realized their current playmaker core is too expensive and not dynamic enough. Young, cheap talent that can create in space is needed for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
That’s why DeVante Parker is a great fit with the Dolphins. Miami’s offense prioritizes underneath to intermediate routes and yards after the catch. Parker excels there, showing good hands and great quickness as he carves defenses with the ball in his hands.
Parker also showed the ability to be a red-zone threat at Louisville. His ability to win jump balls is good enough to be a major upgrade for the Dolphins. This is a natural fit for both team and player.
15. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Very quietly, Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson just put together a better overall combine performance than Michigan State’s Trae Waynes. His 20-yard shuttle, 3-cone drill and jumping drills were all much more impressive than Waynes’ performance. Add in a respectable 4.52 40-yard dash, and then it was comparing film between Johnson and Waynes.
Johnson shows better footwork and smoother hips when he turns and runs with receivers. Instead of relying on track speed, he is efficient with his movement and plays leverage well. His seven career interceptions were solid, but also a result of his coverage deterring targets.
The 49ers could use another solid cornerback as they undergo a coaching change. Adding Kevin Johnson to a group that features Jimmy Ward and Dontae Johnson can be electric behind a front seven that is getting talent back from injuries.
16. Houston Texans
The Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The star of the combine due to his 40-yard dash, Trae Waynes is a very good talent in his own right. He got the bump to the third cornerback spot here because he’s a little less refined than Kevin Johnson, but he is still worthy of this pick.
Houston may be losing Kareem Jackson, and cornerback was already a weak spot with him in the mix. Waynes has experience playing in zone and man coverages. His two seasons starting with Michigan State will help him transition to the NFL.
Waynes is at his best when he can play physical at the line of scrimmage. His great speed does allow him to make up for mistakes early in coverage, but his footwork and physicality downfield need to be cleaned up.
17. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
The San Deigo Chargers need to add some protection for quarterback Philip Rivers, and Florida’s D.J. Humphries could be the best pure tackle in this class. His blend of size, athleticism and hand strength is on par with the elite of the NFL. The issue with Humphries is that he is still a bit of a projection at this point.
Humphries didn’t dominate in college despite his gifts. He was undersized, playing at 285 pounds, but his technique led him astray often. His balance in his kick slide and hand placement can use improvement, but he’s physically capable of mastering each. If he does, he can be the next Tyron Smith.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Forget about adding a playmaker quarterback Alex Smith won’t be able to utilize; the Kansas City Chiefs need to bolster their linebacker core. Even with the team re-signing Josh Mauga Friday afternoon, the status of the other inside linebacker spot is unclear at best.
The top overall linebacker in the 2015 class is easily Eric Kendricks of UCLA. He has good size for the position, but it’s his instincts, speed and coverage talent that separate him from the pack. He can make a major impact for a team in his first season like C.J. Mosley did for the Baltimore Ravens last season.
Kansas City has few holes on its defense, but the inside linebacker position is critical for the success of the 3-4 front. Kendricks is a three-down linebacker who can play in coverage as well as against power run attacks. It’s a great fit of talent and need.
19. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
For Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown to have success in 2015, the Cleveland Browns cannot trot out a receiving core led by Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins. They’re fine as third and fourth receivers, but not nearly dynamic or consistent enough to start. A rookie to grow with Manziel would be ideal.
The best available talent on the board is Jaelen Strong from Arizona State. He doesn’t play up to his 40-yard dash time of 4.44, but he doesn’t rely on his speed to win anyway. Strong is a master at the catch point, showing strong hands and good timing.
Having a presence like Strong on the field should remind Manziel of Mike Evans, whom he famously threw touchdowns to while at Texas A&M. Strong is not as good as Evans was as a prospect, but he can have solid success as a starting receiver in the NFL.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
If the Philadelphia Eagles miss out on Marcus Mariota, then the next-best option for them is easily UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. Hundley can be brought in to compete with incumbent Nick Foles and has the talent to take over whenever he is ready for the starting job.
Hundley isn’t pro-ready right now, but he has gotten a raw deal for his collegiate play. UCLA never had a competent team around him on offense, lacking quality lineman and receivers. The result was Hundley running for his life, taking sacks and throwing into heavy coverage because no one was open.
Chip Kelly and the genius Eagles’ offense is exactly what Hundley needs. Kelly limits the reads needed because he schemes receivers open through motion and route combinations. Hundley’s skill set is best fit for Kelly’s offense, and the Eagles eventually need to find a quality young quarterback.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: La’el Collins, OL, LSU
There is not one player that screams “Cincinnati Bengal” more than La’el Collins. The former LSU tackle has the strength, length and aggression the Bengals love in their linemen. His ability to play guard or tackle is also a major bonus for how he fits with the team in the short- and long-term.
With the Bengals’ line possibly in flux with Andre Smith Jr. coming off an injury-plagued season and Clint Boling hitting free agency, Collins can step in and play right away. At this point in the draft, that’s a major coup for the Bengals.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
With the career of legendary safety Troy Polamalu coming to an end quickly, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to figure out a replacement plan. The Shamarko Thomas-experiment hasn’t gone well, and the defense relies on an impact safety.
Since Landon Collins is on the board, the Steelers wouldn’t need to think twice before taking him. The Alabama product has the size, mindset and versatility to fit perfectly within the Steelers’ defense. He excels as an in-the-box defender but has coverage talent too.
Just don’t ask him to be a single-high safety, as he struggled there with the Crimson Tide.
23. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
Oregon offensive tackle Jake Fisher checks all of the boxes. He’s an elite athlete for the position. His technique is already refined, so he’s able to start Day 1 and be more than competent. Looking at how much better the Ducks’ offensive line played with him healthy, it’s clear he is deserving of a first-round pick.
Fisher would slide perfectly into the Detroit Lions’ right tackle spot next to Larry Warford. He’s athletic enough to play in a zone-blocking scheme, but strong and sound enough to play into power assignments as well. The Lions would be wise to add Fisher and keep quarterback Matt Stafford upright, while also helping their woeful running game.
24. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
This late in the first round is the right time for a franchise to roll the dice on Todd Gurley. The former Georgia Bulldog is recovering from a torn ACL injury, but should be fully recovered by the midpoint of the 2015 NFL season. When he returns, he will be a major boost to the Cardinals’ offense, should they pick him.
Arizona has few holes on its talented roster. Gurley is a luxury pick at this point, as talent-wise he’s probably top-10 in the class. Next to Andre Ellington, Gurley can feast without having to carry the ball 25-plus times a game as a rookie. It’s also nice having a great receiving core around him to ease the pressure of facing eight-man boxes.
25. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
The release of offensive tackle Byron Bell was a clear indication the Carolina Panthers will be looking for an upgrade. Quarterback Cam Newton deserves it, as he’s gotten a raw deal in Carolina thus far. The franchise has been almost inept in finding proper help around him, and his health has suffered because of it.
By adding T.J. Clemmings, the Panthers will have added a high-upside talent who can play guard while he learns the tackle position. He’s been on the offensive side of the ball for only two seasons, so he’s predictably inexperienced. But his athleticism is tremendous, and his tools are worth developing.
In short time, Clemmings can develop into a franchise tackle. Similar to Greg Robinson last year, he’s too talented to pass over. He just needs coaching and some time to get there.
26. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Eric Rowe, CB, Utah
The status of star cornerback Lardarius Webb seems to be up in the air as he decides whether to take a pay cut for the Baltimore Ravens. For now, that creates a massive hole in the Ravens’ secondary, as Webb is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. If he leaves, Eric Rowe would be a great replacement.
Baltimore is known for taking character risks, but they don’t have to worry about that with Rowe. The four-year starter and team captain for the Utah Utes was as consistent as talented in college. He willingly moved from safety to cornerback his senior season to help his team, and he starred nonetheless.
In Baltimore’s defense, Rowe could stay at cornerback. He’s a solid press cornerback with good length, speed and fluidity. His ball skills are a major plus as well. Should Baltimore retain Webb, Rowe can also split time between cornerback and safety.
27. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Another top performer from the combine, Owamagbe Odighizuwa has been rising since the Senior Bowl took place. He was dominant in team and individual drills. His immense strength and speed complement his light feet wonderfully and attribute to his natural pass-rushing talent.
Odighizuwa was asked to eat blocks quite a bit at UCLA, and he excelled there. He also did well when able to penetrate gaps. His ability to disengage blocks and create havoc on pass and run plays alike is a much-needed addition for the Dallas Cowboys.
The question mark on Odighizuwa has to be his hips. He’s had two hip surgeries in his carrier, and his stiffness shows. He’s limited to having his hand in the dirt as a down-lineman, which could make him drop lower than his raw talent deserves to go. Here, the Cowboys are the benefactors.
28. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
As Terrence Knighton appears to be leaving the Denver Broncos in free agency, the team grabs a worthy replacement in Eddie Goldman here. The Broncos’ run defense relies on having a solid stuffer in the middle that can eat multiple blocks effectively. There is no defender that does better than Goldman in the 2015 class.
A second-year starter for the Florida State defense, Goldman showed inexperience as a pass-rusher. His hand usage isn’t good enough to be a force in the backfield often, but he is very young still. At the very least he is a strong nose tackle, which has good value.
29. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: Eli Harold, Edge, Virginia
Despite being a playoff team the last two seasons, the Indianapolis Colts’ roster is relatively weak in comparison to other contenders. Their coaching staff has done a nice job to maximize the talent general manager Ryan Grigson has given to them. For the Colts to take the next step, they must find some impact players.
Virginia edge-rusher Eli Harold is a high-upside athlete with some solid pass-rusher skills. He has strong, violent hands that must be developed. He’s also fast enough to get around offensive lineman. But, he needs technique work and to become more consistent.
At the end of the first round, Harold is a great risk. He has the talent to become a very good pass-rusher in short time.
30. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
After the release of starting inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, the Green Bay Packers need a starter in 2015. Since Eric Kendricks is off the board, the Packers would be wise to jump on Stephone Anthony of Clemson. At 6’3” and 245 pounds, Anthony has elite size for the position.
Anthony is a great athlete who had the penchant for showing up big when he needed to. Key matchups against Ohio State, Florida State and Georgia between 2013 and 2014 saw Anthony all over the field. His ability to finish as a run defender will be endearing to the Packers’ defense.
31. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
Life is good for the Seattle Seahawks. The roster remains deep with young talent that is under team control for the short-term. This late in the first round is the right time to take a developmental project like Arik Armstead.
The former Oregon Duck was once a top high school recruit, but he could never piece together a dominant collegiate career. He goes a few series where he’s extremely disruptive as a 5-technique, but he’ll also get content by playing patty-cake for quarter-long stretches. It’s about consistency for Armstead.
Still, he’s 6’7” and 292 pounds. In a rotation where he sees less snaps, his consistency should be much less of an issue as it was at Oregon. If he develops into a full-time player, this will be a huge steal.
32. New England Patriots
The Pick: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The reigning Super Bowl champions might have to replace Devin McCourty and/or Darrelle Revis this offseason, so this pick could easily change. As of right now, though, Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin would be a tremendous value and fit for the Patriots.
The 2014 Heisman Trophy contender amassed an incredible 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns his junior season with the Wisconsin Badgers. His open-field agility and game-breaking reputation are rare to find. He’s one of few backs worthy of a first-round pick.
The Patriots have built a strong running game despite having specialists in the backfield. Gordon wouldn’t have to be relied upon in the passing game early in his career as a Patriot because New England has the weapons to complement him.
All stats used are from sports-reference.com.
Ian Wharton is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, contributor for Optimum Scouting, and analyst for eDraft.