NFL Mock Draft 2015: Updated Predictions with Less Than a Month to Go
The NFL's landscape has changed drastically since last month.
With numerous blockbuster trades and millions of dollars handed out in free agency, the never-ending power struggle between teams continues unabated.
The next step is acquiring talent to upgrade the roster via the 2015 NFL draft.
Like life in the NFL, the overall picture continues to change and only starts to slightly focus just weeks before the event occurs.
For some players, like Nebraska's Randy Gregory (pictured above), the draft can't get here soon enough.
Gregory revealed to NFL.com's Kimberly Jones that he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
The concern goes beyond a failed test, though. Habitual usage is what teams worry about the most.
"I don't wake up every day saying, I'd really love to go smoke," Gregory said. "It's not a struggle for me every day (now), it really isn't. In the past, hell yeah, it's been a struggle. It really has been. Now, I'm focused on my dream."
These are the things that come to light between the end of the season and before the draft.
Players like Gregory have to deal with the repercussions, while teams try to adjust to the ever-changing landscape of the league and the talent potentially available to them.
Now on to Bleacher Report's latest mock draft...
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Quarterback Jameis Winston, Florida State
Even though Winston is considered the favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft, Oregon's Marcus Mariota still has an opportunity to give him a run for his money.
Tampa Bay is clearly performing its due diligence on both quarterback prospects. However, the deciding factor could be the difference in the duo's personalities.
Mariota is soft-spoken and considered a laid-back presence behind center who leads by example.
On the other hand, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said Winston "lit up the room" during his visit, via Tom Krasniqi of 95.3 FM in Tampa Bay.
It's not simply off-the-field concerns that could prevent Winston from becoming the top pick, though.
ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, via Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, said the Florida State quarterback owns "lumbering" and "slow-twitch" skill sets.
Winston is still in the pole position to become the top pick, but Mariota isn't far behind him.
2. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Quarterback Marcus Mariota, Oregon
What was old is new again.
During an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia, ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "I think that Mariota and [Jameis] Winston are going one-two, in some order."
The Oregon quarterback is now back at the top of the draft after months of people dissecting his game. Questions about whether or not he can succeed after playing in the Ducks' offensive scheme aren't as prevalent as they were a few weeks ago.
Teams are clearly growing more comfortable with Mariota as a person and his improved understanding of NFL passing concepts. It was an area of concentration for the quarterback when he began the predraft process, and it's paid off to an extent.
Will the Titans actually select Mariota, though?
The organization has an opportunity to select a franchise-caliber quarterback prospect or auction off the pick to a team desperate to acquire Mariota.
Zach Mettenberger is a fine, young quarterback, and Mariota isn't exactly an ideal fit for Ken Whisenhunt's offense, but it's always better to select a signal-caller with this type of potential rather than pass on him and wonder what could have been.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Defensive End Vic Beasley, Clemson
Dan Quinn described what he looks for in a perfect pass-rusher to MMQB.com's Robert Klemko:
Initial speed. You have to be able to beat someone off the ball who is going to be stronger than you. Then you have to be able to use the length—length is important—and have the relentlessness to finish.
Then with the mental makeup, with both cornerbacks and rushers, you have to be a relentless fighter. There’s a 330-pound bear in front of you, and you just have to figure out a way to beat him. You have to be fast enough to run with the running backs and tight ends and strong enough to fight a bear. You have to be a unique dude.
So, why are we discussing the Atlanta Falcons' new head coach when this selection belongs to the Jaguars?
Like Quinn, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley was one of the architects behind the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense, and both organizations are looking to address the "Leo" role within their defensive schemes.
Beasley may not own the ideal length Quinn spoke of, but he has more than enough speed to challenge any offensive tackle. He's also stronger at the point of attack than his 246-pound frame would indicate. Plus, he is fluid enough to rush the passer or drop into space depending on the play call. Beasley even produced at a high level with 25 sacks over the last two seasons.
The Jaguars targeted a specific player last year and kept their secret until they surprised everyone with the selection of quarterback Blake Bortles. They may have another interesting twist with Beasley possibly atop their big board.
4. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Defensive End Leonard Williams, USC
Last year, the Raiders stood pat and landed arguably the draft's best overall player in Khalil Mack. The linebacker rewarded his team as one of the league's best run defenders, and he was even named ESPN's Defensive Rookie of the Year.
If general manager Reggie McKenzie proves to be patient and allows the draft to come to him yet again, Oakland could land the best defensive player in the draft for a second straight year.
As a non-quarterback and 5-technique/defensive tackle, Williams doesn't hold as much positional value as other prospects near the top of the draft. He's not going to touch the ball every play or come screaming off the edge as an elite pass-rusher. But his overall value as a dominant player shouldn't be overlooked.
With Mack, Justin Tuck, Sio Moore, Justin Ellis and the newly acquired Dan Williams, the Raiders would have the makings of a top-notch defensive front.
Leonard Williams projects as a base end in Ken Norton Jr.'s defensive scheme. The USC product could also slide inside if the team plans to use Tuck in that role while searching for a "Leo" pass-rusher.
What Leonard Williams would finally give the Raiders is options and a unit with the ability to dominate. Oakland hasn't achieved either for a long time.
5. Washington Redskins
The Pick: Defensive End Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
With the top two quarterbacks likely to come off the board at the top of the draft, one of the pre-eminent defensive prospects should fall into the Redskins' lap.
After beefing up the defensive line with the acquisitions of Ricky Jean-Francois, Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea, the Redskins can do the same to their linebacker corps.
In this particular scenario, Fowler is available.
While Trent Murphy is already on the roster after being a second-round selection last year, the Stanford product simply isn't the same level of athlete as Fowler. That, however, is actually a positive.
Florida's coaching staff moved Fowler all over the defensive formation to create mismatches. The defensive end would line up on the right and left side. He would even stand up as a linebacker to rush the passer.
Fowler simply doesn't need to be an edge-rusher to be effective. He creates flexibility within a scheme, and the Redskins could have Fowler, Murphy and veteran Ryan Kerrigan all on the field at the same time.
6. New York Jets
The Pick: Offensive Tackle Brandon Scherff, Iowa
The Jets are in a bit of a predicament if this scenario presents itself.
Both of the top quarterbacks are already off the board. Wide receiver is no longer a need after Brandon Marshall's acquisition. And the elite edge-rushers didn't last long either.
Instead of pressing the situation, the Jets can simply take the best player available at a slightly lesser need.
Four of the team's five projected starters along the offensive line will be 30 years old or older during the upcoming season.
Scherff, who is the reigning Outland Trophy winner, should be able to step in immediately at either guard spot or right tackle. He's brings a nasty attitude that would pair well with veteran center Nick Mangold.
The collegiate left tackle even tested well enough to warrant consideration on the blind side if D'Brickashaw Ferguson's contract doesn't match his production in the coming years. Ferguson's cap hit for the 2016 season is $14.1 million, according to Spotrac.com.
7. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Wide Receiver Kevin White, West Virginia
The Bears would have an interesting choice to make if the board falls this way in April.
White or Alabama's Amari Cooper?
Either way, the organization would end up with a top-flight wide receiver prospect.
White gets the nod due to his frame and being a better vertical threat.
After trading Brandon Marshall earlier in the offseason, the Bears still have Alshon Jeffery in the mix.
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase once tailored a precision offense around the meticulous Peyton Manning. Jay Cutler is on the other side of the spectrum as a quarterback, so give him another big target with playmaking ability alongside Jeffery to unleash his cannon for a right arm.
The organization couldn't go wrong either way, at 6'3" and 215 pounds with 4.35-second 40-yard-dash speed, White has the slight edge over Cooper.
8. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Cornerback Trae Waynes, Michigan State
The Falcons sit in an awkward position.
A pass-rusher is by far the team's biggest need, but the top prospects are off the board. The team's comfort level with Nebraska's Randy Gregory will determine whether or not he's in play at this spot.
Otherwise, the organization will need to look in another direction.
A discussion can be had whether or not Waynes is even the top cornerback in this year's draft. However, SI.com's Peter King spoke with several people at the recent league meetings, and nine players emerged as the cream of this year's class.
"The top nine: quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, defensive tackle Leonard Williams, wideouts Kevin White and Amari Cooper, pass-rushers Dante Fowler and Vic Beasley, offensive tackle Brandon Scherff and cornerback Trae Waynes," King wrote.
The Falcons could use this as an opportunity to pair Desmond Trufant with a talented bookend, who already has man-press experience playing in one of college football's top defenses.
It could be the start of head coach Dan Quinn's new version of the "Legion of Boom" defense with the best young cornerback tandem in the NFL.
9. New York Giants
The Pick: Defensive Tackle Malcom Brown, Texas
Each year, the Giants quietly go about their business. They rarely make a big splash with their pick, yet the organization finds quality players with upside to replenish the roster.
No one expected the type of season Odell Beckham Jr. provided as a rookie after not even being considered the first or second best wide receiver in his class. But it's these types of selections that keep the Giants viable in the NFC East.
General manager Jerry Reese may not hit a home run in the first round every year like he did with Beckham or even Jason Pierre-Paul, but the selections usually turn out to be solid contributors even early in their careers.
Brown is an undervalued talent that presents versatility as a defensive tackle, nose tackle or even an end in an odd front. During his two seasons as a starter, the defensive lineman created havoc in the backfield with 27 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
The Texas product can add to a rotation that features Johnathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins and the newly signed Kenrick Ellis. Jenkins and Ellis, though, are only signed through the 2015 season.
10. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, Alabama
Foles might have been "overjoyed" that he's out of Philadelphia, but he still has to deal with Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Chris Givens and Brian Quick as his top options at wide receiver.
It's a rather nondescript group despite the Rams' overall investment in each of the players.
If an opportunity presents itself to land one of the top wide receiver prospects in this year's class, the Rams would likely jump all over it.
In this particular case, Cooper is available.
Unlike Austin and Bailey, Cooper is bigger and more polished coming into the league. The Alabama product's route running is superior to Quick's. Givens can stay in the slot. And Britt should prove to be an excellent counterpart to Cooper with his size and physical play as the X receiver.
The potential addition of Cooper would almost certainly burst the bubble of a former highly regarded wide receiver on the Rams roster.
11. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Offensive Tackle La'el Collins, LSU
The Vikings already began their building project around quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. They then acquired wide receiver Mike Wallace from the Miami Dolphins to provide a deep threat for the offense.
But before the Bridgewater-to-Wallace connection can get off the ground, the team must build a foundation along the offensive line.
Bridgewater was sacked 39 times last season, which was seventh-worst among starting quarterbacks. The Louisville product was pressured on 39.9 percent of his dropbacks, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Even though the young signal-caller flourished under adverse conditions, the team needs to build a more stable pocket around its newly minted franchise quarterback.
The franchise has yet to make any major additions to the offensive line this offseason. The selection of Collins would be a major step in the right direction, though.
The LSU lineman has the ability to develop into a road-grading guard with the potential to play left tackle if Matt Kalil continues to disappoint as the blindside protector.
12. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Defensive End Shane Ray, Missouri
Head coach Mike Pettine admitted the Browns have a need at pass-rusher opposite Paul Kruger. Even after the team spent the sixth overall pick on Barkevious Mingo in the 2013 NFL draft, the position isn't quite settled.
Ray's strengths as a prospect would actually complement Mingo's quite well.
The Missouri product is a relentless pass-rusher who produced in college football's toughest conference. For long-term Browns fans, he's the latest version of a "mad dog in a meat market." Ray was named the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year after registering 22.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks as a junior.
But Ray lacks ideal athleticism. His overall workout numbers at Missouri's pro day were underwhelming. That's where Mingo comes into play.
The Browns can allow Ray to be a primary pass-rusher without asking him to drop into space often. Mingo, on the other hand, developed into the type of player who is not considered an elite edge-rusher but can thrive as a coverage linebacker.
Value resides in the ability to get to the quarterback. Ray may not be a complete outside linebacker for Pettine's scheme, but his ability to create pressure in the backfield trumps all.
13. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Defensive End Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Gregory's slide stops here.
While it's impossible to know exactly how each team feels about the defensive end as a person and a prospect, it's safe to say the Saints are desperate to upgrade the linebacker corps.
Head coach Sean Payton expects to add more pieces to the defense in hopes of improving upon one of the league's worst units.
Outside linebacker sits atop the team's needs.
New Orleans re-signed Parys Haralson for one more year, but he's only a Band-Aid at one of the starting spots. Junior Galette, meanwhile, is quietly on the trading block, according to Yahoo Sports' Rand Getlin.
Gregory is an elite prospect as an edge-rusher. He's an outstanding athlete with tremendous lower-body flexibility, length and explosion. If not for the failed drug test at the combine and his admitted habitual usage of marijuana, Gregory would never get outside of the top 10 picks.
He still might not, or his slide could be even bigger than expected.
14. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Wide Receiver DeVante Parker, Louisville
Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are out. Enter Parker.
The Dolphins revamped their wide receiver corps this offseason. They released Hartline and acquired a fifth-round pick from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for Wallace.
General manager Dennis Hickey then turned around and traded Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for Kenny Stills. The former Oklahoma Sooner quietly developed into the Saints' No. 1 wide receiver last season.
Despite this massive overhaul, the Dolphins shouldn't be finished addressing the position.
Stills continued to develop into a more complete wide receiver in 2014, but he's still primarily a vertical threat. Meanwhile, Jarvis Landry found a home as Miami's slot receiver.
Parker would add a completely different dynamic with his size (6'3", 209 lbs), athleticism and catch radius. The Louisville product would fill the void as the team's X receiver.
His inclusion would finish the team's complete revamp of the wide receiver corps, and the Dolphins should be better because of it.
15. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Cornerback Marcus Peters, Washington
When a team loses both of its starting cornerbacks via free agency, there is a major problem. It's only one of multiple problems the 49ers face after a tumultuous offseason.
But Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox aren't walking through the door. The same can be said of Jim Harbaugh, Patrick Willis and Chris Borland.
With at least two gaping holes in the defense, the 49ers should be able to adequately address one of them with their first-round selection.
Cornerback is the more pressing need and the better overall value in the opening frame.
Peters is arguably the draft's top cornerback. While arguments will be made whether or not Michigan State's Trae Waynes deserves consideration as an elite prospect, the Washington product would be in the same conversation if he hadn't been dismissed from the Huskies program last season. But his actual play on the field was as good as any cornerback in the country last season before that point.
It also says quite a bit about the young man when his former coaches and teammates decided he could return and work out for scouts at the program's pro day.
Peters would join Dontae Johnson, Tramaine Brock, Leon McFadden and newly acquired Shareece Wright to form a solid corps of cornerbacks.
16. Houston Texans
The Pick: Defensive End Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Kentucky
With the Texans' uncertainty around the quarterback position, the team will build its identity through its defense.
J.J. Watt is already the best defensive—if not the best overall—player in the NFL.
The organization still has high hopes for last year's No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney even though he underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee only four months ago.
Clowney remains positive about his rehabilitation too.
"I'm very confident about that," Clowney told ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli. "This rehab's going to help me a lot to get back toward playing."
The team also added nose tackle Vince Wilfork and safety Rahim Moore.
One area where the team is still lacking on defense is outside linebacker opposite Clowney. Veteran Brooks Reed signed with the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent. Plus, Clowney's recent injury history makes the position an even bigger concern.
Dupree is a freakish athlete who can add to the rotation alongside Whitney Mercilus. The Kentucky product is already experienced dropping into coverage as well as rushing the passer. His inclusion to the unit could help make the Texans one of the most relentless defensive fronts in the league.
17. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: Offensive Tackle D.J. Humphries
This particular selection would prove to be a departure from the Chargers' recent operating procedures.
Size and length were the priority among the team's offensive tackles over the past two years. Left tackle King Dunlap, who was re-signed in the offseason, stands 6'9" and weighs 330 pounds. Meanwhile, D.J. Fluker is a massive human being at 6'5" and 339 pounds.
Overall athleticism has been lacking at the position, though.
General manager Tom Telesco stated publicly the team would consider moving right tackle D.J. Fluker to guard this season. Fluker exceeded expectations after being the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, but it's clear he struggles with athletic pass-rushers.
Humphries falls on the opposite side of the spectrum when compared to the Chargers tackles. He's nimble and has the best feet of any offensive lineman in this year's class. He also needed to add weight to answer questions about whether he could play at a high level in the NFL.
It's rare to select the top the offensive tackle prospect this late in the first round—if Iowa's Brandon Scherff and LSU's La'el Collins are considered guard prospects—but the Chargers have an opportunity to do so.
After the team signed free agent Orlando Franklin and Chris Watt took over for the retired Nick Hardwick at center, the Chargers offensive line would be complete with the selection of Humphries.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Offensive Tackle Andrus Peat, Stanford
General manager John Dorsey told The Kansas City Star's Terez A. Paylor that offensive tackle Donald Stephenson will be given a "clean slate" after being suspended the first four games of last season and spending the rest of the campaign on the bench behind veteran Ryan Harris.
Harris left via free agency, but Stephenson won't get the starting right tackle job.
In reality, the Chiefs have no clue who their starting front five will be this season. The entire unit is in upheaval after Harris and center Rodney Hudson signed with other teams. Jeff Linkenbach and Mike McGlynn remain free agents. And the team acquired Ben Grubbs and Paul Fanaika to address both guard spots.
The only constant up front is former No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, who has been a disappointment at this point in his career.
Despite all of the moves the team already made along its offensive line this offseason, an infusion of talent is required.
Peat could step in from Day 1 as a right tackle and eventually develop into the team's blindside protector if Fisher never lives up to his draft status. At 21 years old, the Stanford product is already one of the most advanced offensive tackle prospects in this year's class. He still requires some refinement in some areas, but few prospects present the type of potential this 6'7", 313-pound blocker possesses.
19. Cleveland Browns (from the Buffalo Bills)
The Pick: Safety Landon Collins, Alabama
This selection will come as a surprise since the Browns already have a pair of former Pro Bowl safeties on the roster.
However, overall value supersedes positional need at this juncture.
Collins is the No. 1 safety prospect in this year's draft. He's played free and strong safety during his career with the Alabama Crimson Tide as well as covered receivers in the slot. He would provide system flexibility.
It should be taken into consideration that defenses operate as much or more out of sub-packages than their base sets. Undrafted free agent K'Waun Williams was on the field as a nickelback nearly as much as fellow cornerback Justin Gilbert, who was the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
A creative defensive mind could find numerous ways to use Collins within the scheme and keep him on the field even if he's not a definitive starter.
The Browns, meanwhile, have yet to strike a long-term deal with restricted free agent Tashaun Gipson, who suffered an injured MCL last season against the Atlanta Falcons and didn't return for the final four games of the season.
Donte Whitner also turns 30 years old before the start of the upcoming season, and his cap hit escalates to $8.45 million in 2016, according to Spotrac.com.
Collins provides an extra defensive weapon in 2015 and an insurance policy for the following seasons.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Offensive Tackle Jake Fisher, Oregon
Over the past four seasons, Evans Mathis and Todd Herremans started 104 games for the Eagles. They've been stalwarts up front despite suffering through injury-plagued 2014 campaigns.
Yet, the Eagles released Herremans earlier this offseason, who subsequently signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Mathis might not be far behind as a subject of trade rumors or potentially being released.
Head coach Chip Kelly is trying to rebuild one of the NFL's best offensive lines on the fly. He needs to add the right type of talent to keep the unit from taking a step back in the coming years.
Kelly recruited Fisher to Oregon. The Michigan native started his career in Eugene at guard, and he could immediately step in and fill the shoes of Herremans or Mathis. No one in the class would know Kelly's system better.
Fisher also shouldn't be downplayed as a legitimate first-round talent. His predraft workouts were outstanding. His hand play is as good anyone's in the class. And he could easily transition to right or left tackle once the 33-year-old Jason Peters decides to retire, or the team decides to move in another direction.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Nose Tackle Danny Shelton, Washington
Size matters not, unless you're the Cincinnati Bengals, who are looking for Domata Peko's eventual replacement.
Shelton is often viewed as a high-end nose tackle prospect and even a potential top-10 selection. However, his raw athleticism falls well below expectations even for a player of his size. Shelton isn't Haloti Ngata or Dontari Poe reincarnated.
The 6'2", 339-pound defensive tackle is highly productive and plays with a relentless motor. He's essentially a bully in the middle of the defense who takes as much as an opponent is willing to give him. NFL centers won't be as intimated by Shelton, though.
But the defender won't be asked to produce as much as he did for the Huskies. His presence answers two questions for the Bengals.
First, Shelton simply takes up space in the middle of the defense. When he's fresh, the Washington native is difficult to move. This will particularly helpful for a Bengals defense that finished 20th overall against the run in 2014.
Second, an interior push on passing downs will help the team's edge-rushers get to the quarterback. Cincinnati finished dead last in sacks last season. Shelton, meanwhile, managed nine sacks as a senior.
The All-American will never be an every-down player, but he presents as much value for the Bengals as any player in this year's class.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Cornerback Jalen Collins, LSU
The Steelers defense is an absolute mess. Each level of the once-vaunted unit could use significant upgrades. But the team only has one first-round pick.
Even though the organization has spent an inordinate amount of time scouting potential pass-rushers, none are available at this juncture to warrant a selection.
However, the depth of the cornerback position is intriguing for an organization that started last season with Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen as its starting duo in the secondary. Taylor's career is likely over after 12 seasons with the Steelers. Allen, meanwhile, eventually found his way to the bench last season.
The only cornerback on the Steelers roster with legitimate starting ability is William Gay.
New defensive coordinator Keith Butler can't go into next season with Allen slated as his other starting cornerback. If he does, the team would be inherently flawed before the campaign even begins.
Collins is far from a polished prospect, but he has all the tools necessary to develop into a legitimate starting cornerback. There may be growing pains, but Collins' combination of size (6'1", 203 lbs) and raw athleticism is highly intriguing.
23. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Nose Tackle Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma
It's nearly impossible to replace both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. This was the task laid out before the Lions this offseason. Both wanted to test the market, and each found a new home.
General manager Martin Mayhew acted swiftly to acquire five-time All-Pro Haloti Ngata once the Baltimore Ravens realized they weren't going to be able to strike a new deal with the talented defender.
Ngata's acquisition was only the first step in the team's plan to rebuild the defensive interior.
The organization also targeted Tyrunn Walker early in free agency. Walker, like Fairley, excels when he's asked to shoot gaps, which makes him the perfect complement to Ngata. However, the former member of the New Orleans Saints has never been a full-time starter. Furthermore, Walker is slightly undersized as a sub-300-pound defensive tackle.
The Lions still have the option of adding a massive 1-technique like Oklahoma's Phillips. Few prospects present the same type of ability to successfully take on double-teams and defend the run as Phillips does. He's a true space-eater in the middle of a defense.
Phillips could perform the dirty work to free things up for Ngata on run downs, while Walker continues to rotate to keep both fresh.
24. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Defensive Tackle Eddie Goldman, Florida State
Nose tackle is the focal point of a base 3-4 defense. The Cardinals lost a good nose tackle in Dan Williams to the Oakland Raiders during free agency.
Arizona re-signed Alameda Ta'amu to retain at least one nose tackle on the roster, but it's not enough. Ta'amu was only on the field for just 24 snaps last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
With Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker and Ed Stinson already on the roster as well as the free-agent additions of Corey Peters and Cory Redding, defensive end is set. But a gaping hole remains in the middle of the defense.
The unit won't realize its full potential during the 2016 season unless it can hold up at the point of attack.
Williams was one of the NFL's best run defenders a year ago. He's not easily replaceable.
Goldman, though, presents plenty of natural ability to develop into a fantastic nose tackle. At 6'4", 339 pounds, the Florida State product flashed dominant in spurts, particularly against the run.
25. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: Offensive Tackle Ereck Flowers, Miami
Being active in free agency doesn't necessarily mean progress was made.
Carolina is a perfect example.
So far, general manager Dave Gettleman pursued and eventually signed wide receivers Ted Ginn and Jarrett Boykin as well as offensive tackle Michael Oher. The Panthers also claimed offensive lineman Jonathan Martin off waivers.
The team needed to address left tackle and wide receiver in the offseason, and those are still primary needs even after these acquisitions.
The Panthers didn't invest heavily in any of their signings. They're short-term solutions (if that) to long-term problems.
Left tackle is particularly problematic since Oher hasn't show the ability to even adequately fill the position. As a bedrock piece to a team's foundation, left tackle is of the utmost importance for the Panthers once the draft begins.
Flowers isn't an ideal candidate to play on the blind side, but the Panthers have thoroughly evaluated him. The Miami product owns prototype size (6'6", 329 lbs) and length (34 ½" arms). He can be a nasty run-blocker. But he needs to refine his technique to become an NFL-caliber pass protector.
There is far more upside to selecting the 20-year-old at this juncture than there is downside.
26. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Wide Receiver Breshad Perriman, UCF
With Joe Flacco pulling the strings of the Ravens offense, the unit requires an outside threat to take the top off defenses at a moment's notice. Otherwise, the game's best deep-ball thrower isn't being properly utilized.
Perriman was the only receiver at the FBS level in 2014 to average more than 20 yards per catch with at least 50 receptions.
The UCF product's speed was apparent on film, and he exceeded expectations with a blistering 40-yard dash at the program's pro day.
The 6'2", 212-pound receiver ran an electrifying time of 4.26 seconds. Some scouts even hand-timed Perriman in the high 4.1-second range.
Don't assume for a second that Perriman's draft status is entirely dependent on his straight-line speed.
First-round buzz began to build around the Georgia native prior to his workouts. While Perriman is raw in some areas, his size, bloodlines and ability to separate made him an intriguing prospect the moment he declared for the draft as an underclassman.
With the crafty Steve Smith Sr. already on the roster, the Ravens have the perfect mentor in place to teach Perriman how to harness his natural abilities.
27. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Linebacker Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Life moves on even without Rolando McClain in the middle of the Cowboys defense.
Owner Jerry Jones gave McClain a chance, and he revitalized his career in Big D. That's all the team could ask for in return.
McClain is now a free agent and saddled with a four-game fine that will affect his negotiations due to another violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy.
While the linebacker could still return to Dallas, the team needs a more reliable option in the middle of the field leading its defense.
There simply isn't a more instinctive linebacker in this year's class than Kendricks.
After 42 career starts, he left UCLA as the school's all-time leading tackler with 481 stops. He capped off his time in Los Angeles with a Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.
Kendricks is undersized (6'0", 232 pounds) to play in the middle, but his stature is less of a concern in the Cowboys' version of the Tampa 2 defense.
28. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Tight End Maxx Williams, Minnesota
While Williams won't make Broncos fans forget about Julius Thomas from an athletic standpoint, the 20-year-old tight end from Minnesota could develop into a better all-around player than the former Pro Bowler.
The pick may be considered overkill since the organization re-signed Virgil Green to a three-year deal and Owen Daniels followed new head coach Gary Kubiak to the Mile High City.
However, those two targets are considered move tight ends. They're not traditional in-line blockers. Furthermore, Kubiak's scheme relies heavily on 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends).
Denver will cater the system to Peyton Manning's strengths and weakness, but Williams can be a Day 1 starter as the team's primary Y tight end.
With his ability to block and serve as a reliable receiver, it's easy to envision Williams becoming a favorite of Manning's even early in his career.
29. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: Offensive Tackle T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson continues to attack problem areas within his roster with reckless abandon.
After the acquisitions of Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole and Nate Irving, there isn't a gaping hole anywhere on the depth chart.
While the team is certainly older than it was at the end of last season, it's more talented, particularly in areas that were previously consider problematic.
Grigson is now in position to select one of the best players available once the Colts are finally on the clock.
Clemmings would be a massive athletic upgrade at right tackle over Gosder Cherilus. The former basketball player is still developing, but he's a long-term solution on the strong side.
Even if Clemmings doesn't start as a rookie, Cherilus' cap hit jumps to $9.9 million in 2016, according to Spotrac.com. The clock is already ticking for the sixth-year veteran from Boston College.
30. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Cornerback Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
The Packers are the only team to not spend a single cent on a free agent from another team this offseason.
Instead, the organization concentrated on its free agents and successfully re-signed Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga and Letroy Guion. However, the Packers weren't able to retain a pair of their top cornerbacks, Tramon Williams and Davon House.
Cornerback is a good place to start when addressing the team's biggest needs.
In this particular case, positional need isn't forced with multiple prospects available to address the hole in the secondary.
With Johnson's quick feet, ability to recover and experience in man coverage, he's an ideal fit for defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme.
31. New Orleans Saints (from the Seattle Seahawks)
The Pick: Wide Receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma (via Missouri)
After trading away tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Kenny Stills—two of the team's top three receivers in 2014—the Saints' remaining targets include Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, Nick Toon and tight end Josh Hill.
While Colston is reliable and Cooks proved to be a versatile weapon before injury, the Saints' prolific offense now lacks a true mismatch in the passing game. Graham used to be that player. Green-Beckham has the potential to develop into his replacement.
At 6'5", 237 pounds, the young wide receiver is a massive target with 4.49-second 40-yard-dash speed. In an offense that is orchestrated by a 6'0" quarterback, another tree among the wide receiver corps will prove to be beneficial.
Any time Green-Beckham is slotted to a team, though, his off-the-field concerns must be addressed. Whichever team eventually selects the wide receiver needs to place him in a strong locker room.
Who is better to mentor Green-Beckham than Colston? The former seventh-round pick owns a similar skill set and earned a spot with the team before he developed into Brees' favorite target prior to Graham's arrival.
32. New England Patriots
The Pick: Cornerback Byron Jones, Connecticut
Life is good for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
There aren't any glaring deficiencies on New England's roster, and the team's depth is solid across the board.
The Patriots will still address numerous positions in the draft, but cornerback took the biggest hit after Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner left the team via free agency.
With Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard and the newly acquired Bradley Fletcher, the Patriots can field a competent cornerback crew. But the group lacks the talent, length and aggressiveness it featured a year ago.
Jones wouldn't come in and replace either of the departed cornerbacks, but his blend of size (6'1", 199 lbs), raw athleticism and the right attitude for "The Patriot Way"—he was an academic all-conference performer and team captain—makes him an intriguing fit for Bill Belichick's defense.