The 2015 NFL draft is now less than a month away with the first round slated for April 30. Although that still leaves some time for prospects to impress teams, mostly during predraft visits, the opportunity to rise up big boards is beginning to fade.
Most players are starting to settle into a specific area. Perhaps not one exact pick, but a general range where they will likely fall depending on how the draft plays out. Some drafts are more wild than others, and this one could be a bit crazy with numerous possibilities at the top.
With that in mind, let's check out how the opening round is shaping up at this stage of the long evaluation process. That's followed by a closer look at some of the prospects who have managed to elevate their status along the way.
1st-Round Mock Draft
|2015 NFL Round 1 Mock Draft|
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State|
|2||Tennessee Titans||Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Leonard Williams, DT, USC|
|4||Oakland Raiders||Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama|
|5||Washington Redskins||Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida|
|6||New York Jets||Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa|
|7||Chicago Bears||Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson|
|9||New York Giants||Shane Ray, DE, Missouri|
|10||St. Louis Rams||La'el Collins, OT, LSU|
|11||Minnesota Vikings||Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State|
|12||Cleveland Browns||Kevin White, WR, West Virginia|
|13||New Orleans Saints||Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky|
|14||Miami Dolphins||Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||Danny Shelton, DT, Washington|
|16||Houston Texans||Malcom Brown, DT, Texas|
|17||San Diego Chargers||Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (Fla.)|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville|
|19||Cleveland Browns (from BUF)||Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals||Landon Collins, SS, Alabama|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||Jalen Collins, CB, LSU|
|23||Detroit Lions||T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh|
|24||Arizona Cardinals||Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State|
|25||Carolina Panthers||Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford|
|26||Baltimore Ravens||Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin|
|27||Dallas Cowboys||Marcus Peters, CB, Washington|
|28||Denver Broncos||Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota|
|29||Indianapolis Colts||Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA|
|30||Green Bay Packers||Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA|
|31||New Orleans Saints (via SEA)||Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State|
|32||New England Patriots||D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida|
While the process for grading prospects mostly takes place during their collegiate careers, it takes center stage after football season ends. The NFL Scouting Combine is the most notable event, but there are also school pro days and individual predraft visits to impress the talent evaluators.
Many players end up staying relatively close to where they were rated when the college season ended. A select group is able to make a notable rise up the rankings, though. Let's check out a trio of first-round hopefuls that fall into that category this year.
Prospects on the Rise
10. St. Louis Rams: La'el Collins, OT, LSU
Offensive tackle is one of this draft's deepest positions. While there isn't a top-tier prospect worthy of going first overall, there are a handful of players who could go in Round 1. Collins was originally more toward the fringe of the opening round but has now pushed himself into the top-10 conversation.
Collins features a powerful frame with solid athleticism. There were questions about whether he would have to shift inside to guard at the next level. As teams have become more comfortable with the idea of him playing tackle, perhaps on the right side to start, he's risen up the board.
Whether he has the quickness necessary to play the left side is still a question mark, but the LSU product is confident in his skill set. The lineman explained why he wasn't surprised about his jump in the rankings to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread, referencing a matchup with Florida's Dante Fowler Jr.
"I feel like I played him as good as anybody. He definitely made me better," Collins said. "When you go back and watch my film against him, he's a top-five pick and I feel like I held my own. If you have any questions about my pass blocking, just go watch my tape against Florida."
The Rams have been working to upgrade their offensive line for several years. Things haven't worked out exactly as they hoped, so it's still an area of concern. Collins could step right in and provide some versatility, playing tackle or guard as he develops with a long-term eye on the left tackle spot.
14. Miami Dolphins: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Green-Beckham has the natural talent to become a superstar at the NFL level. There are two key areas of concern that leave his stock in question, though. First is the fact that he's still raw and needs to work on the finer points of the position like route running and blocking. Second are the character concerns.
The silver lining for players in those types of situations is that it only takes one team falling in love with their talent for them to come off the board. A league-wide consensus isn't necessary. That's probably part of the reason Bleacher Report's Matt Miller says he could ultimately crack the top 10:
It's surely a debate many wideout-needy teams are having leading up to the draft. Green-Beckham lacks polish and those off-field issues warrant attention. Yet the possibility that he could develop into a legitimate No. 1 receiver is hard to overlook.
The Dolphins don't have a go-to receiver on the roster. Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Rishard Matthews are all best served as complementary pieces, so taking a chance on Green-Beckham given his upside could very well be worth the risk.
19. Cleveland Browns (from BUF): Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon
Armstead is a prospect on the rise mostly because of what he could become rather than what he's done in the past. His college production (46 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a senior) doesn't jump off the page. He certainly looks the part of a high-impact interior lineman, though.
Standing 6'7'' with a 292-pound frame, the physical traits are impressive. Armstead has illustrated good power and some good quickness for his size during the draft process. Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus still wishes the college tape showed more, though:
So the question becomes whether a team should trust the tape or the potential. The former would suggest he isn't a first-round pick, while the latter says he should go in the middle of the opening round. It's a pretty sizable difference.
The Browns have two picks inside the top 20. That gives them a little more leeway to take a chance with one of the selections. They do need help at defensive tackle, so taking a chance on Armstead here after grabbing a wideout earlier in the round makes sense.