2015 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting All 32 First-Round Picks
The day of the NFL draft feels a lot like Christmas for die-hard football fans hoping to improve their favorite team’s destiny. Though teams may be writing their wish lists for months in anticipation of this glorious event, they rarely know who will actually be available when their time comes to make a pick.
This mock draft is a combination of me acting as the general manager for each team and trying to project what would be a great move for all 32 franchises to make in the first round.
One caveat to this ordeal to keep from overcomplicating things is that I eliminated the possibility for trades. Personally, I think there are about six teams drafting in the top 10 that should do their best to move back in this draft. Nonetheless, I attempt to pick a suitable prospect for those teams under the assumption that no trades were viable at the time.
There are bound to be some surprises in this one, so let’s get started…
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida St.
Tampa Bay won't make the first overall pick without a ton of anxiety. Drafting a quarterback in the first round comes with an inherent risk. That risk goes up when you factor in the concerns centered on Winston’s off-field issues.
If everything turns up positive in terms of character, Winston is the guy with the most NFL-like traits for a quarterback, which tends to favor guys who can read defenses and throw from the pocket.
When you’re a team in need of a franchise quarterback and have the first pick in the draft, it’s tough to pass on a prospect who can become one of the best QBs in the league like Jameis Winston.
2. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
This a great position for the Titans. They be open to hear out every trade option that is sure to come their way on draft day if they don’t love one of the two QBs in this draft. That would give them a chance to accumulate more picks and fill more holes. However, picking Williams here is a fantastic option with trades off the table.
Williams is still the most promising prospect in this draft. He’s the type of elite prospect you can build a defense around. It’s not often you can find a player with his impressive combination of instincts and exceptional movement skills—oh, and he’s only 20 years old.
Williams should fit nicely in the Titans defense as long as he has the freedom to penetrate and pursue rather than be used as a two-gap lineman from a 5-technique.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Vic Beasley, Edge, Clemson
One of the biggest positional needs for the Jaguars is a dominant edge-rusher.
Picking third overall will give them the pick of the litter in that regard. They can also be tempted into a trade with a QB-needy team looking to score Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota.
Vic Beasley (6'3", 246 lbs) may be a bit on the light side for a defensive end, but his quickness and instincts are impressive enough to override such a deficiency. He racked up 24.5 sacks in his last two seasons at Clemson and had 41.5 tackles for loss during that time.
Beasleyadopt the same role assigned to former first-round pick Bruce Irvin in Seattle as a hybrid rush linebacker, and from what I can tell, he would provide the Jaguars with an upgraded version of Irvin’s speed-rushing expertise.
Beasley falls somewhere between Irvin and Von Miller in terms of talent, which is a definite need for this rebuilding defense.
4. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
A glaring weakness for the Raiders in 2014 was their lack of explosive playmakers on the offensive side of the ball and a proven pass-rusher on defense. Since they can’t address both of these issues with the No. 4 overall pick, they need to make a tough decision here.
There’s a pile up at the top of the wide receiver position this year, but the best player available happens to be Amari Cooper.
Cooper would be a great option if Leonard Williams isn’t available.
Of all the receivers in this draft, he has the best combination of measurables and production. He has good size (6’1”, 211 lbs), speed (4.42 40-yard dash) and agility demonstrated in his 6.71-second three-cone drill and 3.98 short shuttle.
On the production end, he has scored an impressive 186 points while averaging 15.2 yards per catch in 40 career games at Alabama.
5. Washington Redskins
The Pick: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
The No. 5 pick is the first major dilemma in this draft outside of dealing with the inherent risk of drafting a QB with character concerns with the first overall pick.
Marcus Mariota is available here, but is it wise to abandon the Robert Griffin III train this early? One option would be to let the two quarterbacks battle it out and see who comes out on top. That plan could potentially sabotage both QBs and leave Washington with none.
This would be great time for a team to trade down. But since that option isn’t available in this mock, DeVante Parker would be a great pick here.
Parker has the size (6'3", 209 lbs), speed, hands and body control to help RG3 out in the passing game.
6. New York Jets
The Pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
It looks like Geno Smith will have some competition for the rights to quarterback the Jets’ franchise in 2015—that is, if this mock scenario plays out.
There’s no denying the Jets have needed a QB for a while now. One who can be the face of this franchise. Mariota could be the guy who commands a new era of Jets football if he can summon the type of smart decision-making and athleticism that led to his Heisman campaign.
There are some valid concerns about whether the soft-spoken Mariota can handle the scrutiny of the Big Apple’s media, but if he lets his actions do most of the talking, things should work out.
The Jets are finally adding some worthwhile playmakers on offense—this should help them compete for an AFC East title.
7. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Randy Gregory, Edge, Nebraska
With the Bears making the switch to a 3-4 defense, it would help to bring in some quality talent at the edge positions.
Randy Gregory might have tested positive for marijuana at the combine, but he doesn’t slip too far in this draft.
Gregory possesses the prototypical build for an edge-rusher, evoking memories of “The Freak” otherwise known as Jevon Kearse. Not only is Gregory long, strong and fast, but he also is one of the best hand technicians of all the edge-rushers in this class.
That combination of skills should prove to be deadly for opposing blockers. Better yet, he is well-coached and rarely operates out of the scheme.
Expect Gregory to contribute on Day 1 and sharpen his skills each year until reaching his prime in three to four years.
8. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Dante Fowler, Edge, Florida
It’s no secret the Falcons are in need of an edge-rusher who can help take this defense to the next level. They have neglected this position for too long now, and this draft class offers a ton of quality options to choose from with the eighth overall pick.
Fowler has the frame to eventually grow into a full-time defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, or he could be used in a similar way to Von Miller in Denver and Anthony Barr in Minnesota.
Fowler might be the most gifted athlete of all the edge-rushers in this draft class. However, his weaknesses are almost as concerning. The former Gator is often out of position and struggles to set an edge or finish with reliable tackling. His pass-rushing repertoire is also a bit limited, but the upside and athleticism are certainly elite.
9. New York Giants
The Pick: Brandon Scherff, OT/OG, Iowa
In 2013, the Giants opted for Justin Pugh in the first round, and that move still seems to be a questionable one. However, it’s not necessarily a bad move to double up with offensive line in the first round in consecutive years—especially when you can land perhaps the best offensive lineman available.
Brandon Scherff is the first blocker chosen because of his versatility, athletic hustle, functional strength and ability to finish his blocks.
His overall physical tools are more impressive than Taylor Lewan's and Eric Fisher's, who were coveted in previous years for their athleticism.
Scherff’s highest upside in the NFL is at guard. This is the position where he can best utilize his lunchpail, hard-hat mentality and knock people back. With that said, it should be made clear the former Iowa Hawkeye can succeed at tackle as well. Any way you slice it, this guy can significantly help the Giants up front.
10. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Over the last three or four years the Rams have not neglected the receiver position, but they have failed at finding a true No. 1 target. This draft pick should change that for the foreseeable future.
Kevin White made a big move up draft boards after his impressive combine performance, where he ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash. His great combination of size (6'3", 215 lbs) and speed is ideal for a true blue-chip receiver.
White has fluid movements and is quite capable of creating offense once the ball is in his hands. However, this trait of elusiveness and breaking tackles is not elite, nor is it on the same level as Amari Cooper or DeVante Parker, who were the two receivers taken ahead of him.
11. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
It’s time for the Minnesota Vikings to face the hard truth about Adrian Peterson. The guy wants to play somewhere else, and there’s no point paying a guy who doesn’t want to be there $15.4 million when you can use his value in a trade.
The Vikings need to start fresh at the running back position by adding one of the most exciting prospects of this draft class. Todd Gurley should certainly be available here because his position is erroneously undervalued, and he’s coming off an ACL injury.
A team hasn't selected a running back in the first round of the draft the past two seasons. But don’t think 11th overall is a reach for this guy.
According to NFL Network, Gurley’s knee “checks out” OK (h/t Sporting News), and he’s ready to begin his NFL career and move past his injury.
He is the perfect combination of power, explosiveness, speed and vision.
Despite weighing 222 pounds, Gurley averaged an incredible 38.4 yards per kickoff return while at Georgia. That should give you an idea of his explosive capabilities.
12. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
Shoring up the middle with a dominant player like Danny Shelton would be a wise move for Cleveland's leaky defense. The Browns still have another first-round pick in this draft, which gives them some flexibility to truly draft the best player available.
The former Washington Husky is uniquely athletic for a guy his size (6'2", 339 lbs) and has one of the better motors of any defensive tackle in this draft despite weighing over 320 pounds.
In addition, Shelton is more than just a run-stuffing nose tackle—he’s also active in the passing game and has the ability to penetrate opposing backfields and close ground relatively quickly.
13. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The first of two first-round draft picks for the Saints aims to improve the secondary.
Most of the talk about the top cornerback in this draft has been about guys like Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters and Ronald Darby. I disagree with that.
Kevin Johnson is the complete package at the position and would immediately upgrade a shaky New Orleans secondary. This guy has great length (6'0") and posted one of the best three-cone (6.79) and short-shuttle (3.89) times at the combine. And he was one of the most productive cornerbacks in this draft.
There should be more hype around this guy, but he’s being overlooked in part because he played at Wake Forest.
14. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
In the NFL you can never have enough good cornerbacks, especially when you have to play Tom Brady twice a year.
Trae Waynes at the No. 14 pick offers a good combination of need and best player available. He has a great chance to become a solid NFL starter. I like the way he plays the game with physicality and aggression. He also has great top-end speed, as demonstrated in his blazing 4.31 40 time.
15. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
The 49ers could use some linebacker help after the surprise retirement of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, but the availability on the board at this point doesn’t warrant going in that direction.
Collins has some of the quickest feet of any cornerback in this draft and demonstrates excellent coverage abilities. He also has ideal size (6’1”, 203 lbs) to contend with the large receivers in this league.
He only saw limited time while at LSU but certainly made the most of his opportunities.
The 49ers lost a lot of talent at this position over the last two years—it’s time to replenish the depth at a critical position.
16. Houston Texans
The Pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Andrus Peat is 6’7” and 313 pounds of sheer bulk. It is that size combined with his surprisingly nimble feet that have some teams giving this guy a very close look.
He is perhaps the best prospect in this draft in terms of a true left tackle prospect.
The Texans don’t necessarily need a tackle at this point, but you never know when that will change in the NFL. In the meantime, Houston can use Peat as a swingman to fill in holes where needed and add depth.
In the era of free agency, a team’s strength can quickly become a weakness. Taking the best player available is always a good move.
17. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: La'el Collins, OT/OG, LSU
The Chargers could use some help up front on offense and in the pass-rushing department.
The beauty and concern with La’el Collins is that it’s hard to pinpoint what his ideal NFL position will be. As it relates to the Chargers offensive line situation, this versatility works in their favor.
Collins can compete for a starting guard position as a rookie and can eventually work his way out to the tackle position if he proves worthy of it.
Having versatile offensive linemen is a true asset in the NFL, and Collins is the second most versatile in this draft class behind Brandon Scherff.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
The Chiefs brought in Jeremy Maclin via free agency to help bolster a receiving corps that was among the worst in the NFL. But it’s going to take much more than Maclin to get this unit back to respectability. This is where the draft comes in.
Breshad Perriman is a big receiver at 6’2” and 212 pounds who somehow managed to run a blazing 4.25 at his pro day.
Perriman’s tape shows that he must have spent some time learning from his father, Brett Perriman, who spent some of his NFL career as a member of the Chiefs.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo)
The Pick: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona St.
There’s no doubt receiver is a major need for the Browns in this draft. Sure, they added the big-body wideout Dwayne Bowe (6'2", 221 lbs) and Dolphins overachiever Brian Hartline this offseason, but the position group is far from complete.
Jaelen Strong (6'2", 217 lbs) fits the mold of a big target the Browns not only covet, but need. At the moment, their wideouts are mostly short, slot-type players. Strong brings the big body and long reach (32 ½" arms) to the offense. Plus, he has the physical tools to separate and take the top off a defense.
Strong is the type of guy Johnny Manziel loves to get the ball to.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Shane Ray, Edge, Missouri
Strengthening the defense is the Eagles' top priority this offseason, and the best way to do that is through the draft. Sure, the Eagles might have reached for an edge-rusher in last year’s draft, but this time around they will be grabbing what should be perceived as an improbable value.
For those wondering, I did not forget about Shane Ray. He might be considered a top-10 talent by most evaluators, but in this mock draft, I had a tough time putting rRay ahead of rushers like Hau’oli Kikaha and Owamagbe Odighizuwa. I made that choice because those guys have a concerning injury history.
Overall, Ray would fit in nicely with the Eagles behind veterans like Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. His availability at this point in the draft would be too tempting to pass up.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The Bengals have a talented roster that could use a few more additions in order to get over the hump and finally win some playoff games. Safety is one position that could use an upgrade.
The first safety off the board is likely to be Landon Collins. In this mock, he certainly is.
Collins is built thick (6'0", 228 lbs) but is not another repeat situation of Mark Barron. The first-round draft pick by the Bucs a few years back was eventually traded after a disappointing start to his career. Barron struggled primarily in coverage, and offenses routinely took advantage.
Collins, on the other hand, does have adequate coverage skills for a safety. He is quick for a guy who is built like a box safety. As such, it’s wise not to judge a book by its cover with him unless you're thinking his bulk lends itself to a physical style of play.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
The Steelers are rebuilding a defense that once was the envy of the NFL. Now, it’s the No. 1 area of concern.
Both Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward are solid defensive linemen who show great promise, but having Arik Armstead available this late in the game makes him too valuable to pass up.
Armstead has all the tools needed to be a dominant two-gapping defender. He has yet to reach his true potential.
Being added to the Steelers unit will allow him to ease his way in and provide much-needed depth on the defensive line. Eventually he could step in and be a dominant member of this defense.
23. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Bobby Richardson, DT, Indiana
The strength of the Detroit Lions defense in 2014 was the interior of the defensive line. Now, the Lions face the task of having to rebuild what was perhaps the best defensive line in the NFL.
Bobby Richardson is one of the most athletic defensive tackles in this draft, and he has the perfect playing style to provide constant penetration into opponents' backfields. This addition should be the perfect complement to the power and anchoring of Haloti Ngata.
Richardson is highly underrated as a prospect and will have a better NFL career than guys like Eddie Goldman of Florida State and Michael Bennett of Ohio State.
24. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Edge, Kentucky
Arizona Cardinals fans will probably go nuts if a guy like Alvin Dupree falls to them at No. 24. Dupree is a promising athlete the Cardinals will be hoping can have a more productive NFL career than he had at Kentucky.
This is partially why Dupree is a risky selection. At this point, he is a far better athlete than he is football player. But his potential to be highly disruptive is there. He lacks creativity and instincts as a rusher and relies almost exclusively on his athleticism and speed (4.56 40-yard dash). He also needs to do a better job setting an edge against the run.
The Cardinals have wanted a top-notch edge-rusher on their defense for a while now. With Dupree, there is at least a chance they’ve finally found one.
25. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
When Jordan Gross retired a year ago, it left a gaping hole up front that the Panthers were not prepared to fill. This offseason they had the resources to replace and upgrade some key parts in the trenches by adding Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin.
Both of those additions come with major question marks, and they may only be temporary Band-Aids and serve as immediate depth. Adding a quality offensive tackle here remains a good idea.
The Panthers could also use some help in the secondary and at wide receiver. But the second round would be a decent place to find an outside target.
The concern with Humphries was his underdeveloped frame. While at Florida he played at 285 pounds, which was about 20 pounds too light by the NFL’s standards. This lack of bulk did show up on film at times in his ability to anchor against bigger, stronger edge-rushers.
However, at the combine Humphries measured in at 6’5”, 307 pounds—a solid playing weight for a young NFL lineman. Those are about the same dimensions that D'Brickashaw Ferguson was at when he entered the NFL as the fourth overall pick in 2006. The added muscle this offseason also shows a promising work ethic and focused mindset.
26. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Forsett is small (5'8", 197 lbs), and this team lacks depth after releasing Bernard Pierce for a DUI arrest. It’s time to add talent here, and a guy like Melvin Gordon could propel this offense into a new tier of playmaking potential, especially with the lack of depth at receiver.
One question worth asking is—can this running game repeat its 2014 success without offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak?
27. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Edge, UCLA
I know there isn't a lot of mocks that have Zuwa going in Round 1 but let me explain.
One of my favorite edge rusherss in this draft is Owamagbe Odighizuwa. I have him ranked as the top 4-3 defensive end in this class, not counting Leonard Williams as a defensive end.
Zuwa ranks as the fifth most physically gifted prospect in this draft class, which he uses to convert speed to power like few can. In addition to having all the traits needed to dominate as an edge-rusher, he sets an edge, anchors against the run and is a reliable tackler.
He would have gone higher, but there are some medical concerns regarding his hips.
28. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Eric Kendricks won the 2014 Butkus Award for outstanding linebacker play at the college level and also led the FBS in tackles. His older brother is the ultra-athletic linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kendricks is a talented athlete who uses that ability to be the best sideline-to-sideline linebacker in this draft. This is partly why he is the first non-rushing LB taken in this mock.
At 230 pounds, he may be on the smaller side, but he makes plays and is always around the ball.
This is exactly the type of presence the Broncos defense hasn’t had in awhile.
29. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
When your No. 1 asset is a QB, you have to invest in protecting him and giving him weapons. Andrew Luck certainly has the weapons, but now it’s time to get him a bit more protection.
Clemmings is one of the athletic stars of the combine, with scores in the 90th percentile for the vertical (32 ½") and broad jumps (111") and the 80th percentile for the 20-yard dash (4.54 seconds) and his arm length (35"). And then he ran a very solid 40-yard dash too (5.14 seconds).
He has all of the tools you want in a tackle, and although he still needs to learn as he goes, all of the tools are there in his toolbox.
The Colts need to hope Clemmings doesn’t look as lost as he did during his time at the Senior Bowl. That week might suggest he’d be better sitting his rookie year until he gets more comfortable with technique.
30. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Malcom Brown is a good athlete for a guy over 300 pounds, and he wins in a variety of ways.
Most mock drafts have Brown gone long before the 30th pick, but in this mock, Brown ends up sliding right into the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
He has solid leg drive to collapse a pocket and is also capable of slipping between the cracks to penetrate with quickness. It’s no stretch to imagine the Packers will put his skills to good use.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle)
The Pick: Preston Smith, Edge, Miss St.
Preston Smith surprises with his athleticism. He finished out in the top 10 in this draft class for the most physically gifted prospects.
Smith brings value to the Saints defense with versatility to play nearly anywhere on the front seven. He has great length, power and moves well in space.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks wrote:
The 6-5, 270-pounder has been one of the fastest risers on draft boards around the NFL following a strong senior campaign that showcased his potential as a high-motor playmaker off the edge. Smith exhibits the strength, athleticism and burst that scouts covet in defensive ends, but he can solidify his status as a top prospect with a solid showing in Mobile. Scouts will pay close attention to his ability to put consistent pressure on the passer while also looking at how well he holds up against the run. If Smith checks the box in all areas, he will continue to enter the conversation as a Day 1 prospect heading into the conversation.
I know defensive coordinator Rob Ryan would love to have a toy like Smith to play around with.
32. New England Patriots
The Pick: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma/Missouri
The Patriots have had a a great run as a franchise. Bill Belichick undoubtedly established a proven formula for long-term success in the salary-cap era. However, one thing they’ve failed repeatedly at is drafting wide receivers in the early rounds.
This might make the Patriots wary to dial up another first-round receiver, but their failures in the past only make selecting a wideout here even more valid because it has created a need.
Dorial Green-Beckham is a huge (6'5", 237 lbs) target with the speed (4.49 40-yard dash) and separation to give Tom Brady a long-awaited deep threat.
The reason he lasted midway through the first round was the significant off-field issues related to marijuana and other things. But you have to spend some time getting to know the man behind the “character red flags” in order to better understand him.
This article by Lars Anderson for Bleacher Report does an excellent job doing that.
Sometimes, it’s worth taking a chance on a guy like this when the talent justifies the risk—in this case, the talent certainly justifies it.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player who writes for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @Ryan_Riddle.