Updated: December 9th
|1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)|
There is more talent down in Tampa than people think, they just need a quarterback. They've got some tremendous building blocks on defense with Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy and Alterraun Verner. Meanwhile on offense the duo of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson is arguably the best one-two combo in the nation. All the ingredients are in the bowl, they just need a chef to stir them up. Marcus Mariota is the type of electric playmaker who can energize a stale franchise and potentially take a team like the Bucs from 'worst to first.' There is more talent down in Tampa than people think, they just need a quarterback.
|2) Tennessee Titans - Leonard Williams (DT/DE U.S.C)|
|Well, this is a marriage we've never projected in our 2015 mock draft cycle. Thanks to a couple wins from the Jaguars and Raiders, the miserable Tennessee Titans have shot up the draft board and will have quite the decision to make. Their dream scenario is for everyone around them to win a game so they can take Marcus Mariota, but Tampa's in the pole position right now and they don't seemed poised to relinquish it. Tennessee desperately needs a quarterback, but I just can't see them taking Jameis Winston with the second overall pick. He's simply too toxic and volatile to be trifled with. I'd expect Ken Whisenhunt to go with the draft's best defensive player in Leo Williams and trust himself to develop Mettenberger or a guy like Ryan Mallet in free agency.|
|3) Jacksonville Jaguars - Randy Gregory (DE Nebraska)|
When Gus Bradley came over from Seattle as their defensive coordinator we expected the Jaguars to take a defensive minded approach to the draft. Through two years however, David Caldwell and company have focused more on offense with their early draft selections. 2015 should be the year they dedicate the draft to solely to fixing their defense. If they can't get Leonard Williams, Randy Gregory would be an outstanding get as the consensus top pass rusher in the 2015 draft class. A combination of lightning and thunder all on his own, Gregory has the lethal quickness which demands a double team on the edge, but it's his natural strength which makes him a consistently dominant force
|4) Oakland Raiders - Amari Cooper (WR Alabama)|
|Good for the Raiders! They weren't going to be taking Marcus Mariota anyway, so winning a couple games isn't going to hurt them at all in the 2015 NFL Draft. In fact, there was a lot of talk that Oakland might even consider Amari Cooper when they possessed the number one pick. Many would argue that Cooper is the most complete talent, and also safest pick in this year's draft. Couple that with the fact that the Raiders desperately need to get Derek Carr some weapons and this pick makes all the sense in the world. If the Raiders could get Cooper here and then an offensive tackle early in the second round, their offense might actually be somewhat respectable next year.|
|5) New York Jets - Jameis Winston (QB Florida State)|
As much as I think this is a terrible idea and I can't imagine even the Jets being tone deaf enough to put 'Famous Jameis' in The Big Apple; what other options do they have here? Mariota is gone and you can't take a cornerback or a running back in the top five. Amari Cooper is off the board. Cream of the crop pass rusher Randy Gregory is gone and next man up Dante Fowler isn't considered a top five pick. With few other options available it's either trade up for Mariota or roll the dice with Jameis. A trade up for Mariota would make sense when you consider there is no consensus number one prospect that Oakland would be married to, but it's just too early to be projecting trades in mock drafts. In the end, the Jets have to take a quarterback; it's just hard to say who.
|6) Washington Redskins - Landon Collins (Safety Alabama)|
Is there a worse team to be a fan of than the Washington Redskins? At least Lions and Browns fans are used to their teams letting them down, but Dan Snyder gives Redskins fans just enough flashes of excitement to always keep hope alive. The root of their problems is off the field, but there sure are a heck of a lot of problems on it too. Maybe one of the most pressing is their safety play which has consistently been among the worst units in the league for the last few years. Alabama's Landon Collins is a do-everything safety who range in coverage from sideline to sideline and also be a consistent finisher in run support. He would go a long way to reducing their frequent defensive breakdowns.
|7) New York Giants - Shaq Thompson (LB Washington)|
Like most years, the Giants are one of the hardest teams to project in mock drafts. A defensive lineman is always in the mix, an offensive tackle to replace Will Beatty or kick Justin Pugh inside is plausible, and with Eli Manning's regression you can't count out a QB. However, I'd be in favor of the Giants doing something they haven't done in 30 years; take a linebacker in the first round. Why the Giants insist on having mediocre linebacker play is beyond me. I'm not saying the Giants should take a linebacker just for the sake of taking a linebacker, but in Washington's Shaq Thompson they'd be getting a playmaker on defense. Someone who can blitz, cover, hit and force turnovers. He's versatile and could play all three spots; a true difference maker on defense.
|8) New Orleans Saints - Shane Ray (DE/OLB Missouri)|
Last year the Saints thrived in their switch to the 3-4, but this year Rob Ryan's crew has gone back to a base 4-3 with mostly nickel sets. The results have been disastrous. Apparently they don't feel they have three linebackers who are good enough to play consistently, so if Rob Ryan still has a job next year you can bet it will be on the top of their priority list to get some playmaking linebackers. No better solution would be adding the nation's most dynamic pass rusher in the lightning quick Shane Ray. Thanks to a lethal first step and non-stop energy, Ray led the SEC in sacks with 12.5. Taking Ray and moving Junior Gallette back to OLB would allow the Saints to go back to the 3-4 with two qualified edge rushers.
|9) Atlanta Falcons - Dante Fowler (DE Florida)|
It's still unclear what scheme the Falcons plan on running moving forward, and we don't even know if this coaching staff will be back next year, but whatever happens it would be hard to go wrong with Florida's Dante Fowler. A versatile edge rusher at 275 pounds, Fowler shows unique ability to 'bend' and 'dip' around the edge to turn speed into power. He's shot up my board as quickly as anyone as of late thanks to his combo meal of violence, fluidity and hand use. He's the complete package and could be key in turning around the Falcons struggling defense. (Just as an FYI, we aren't going to mock an NFC South team into a playoff slot until it becomes official.)
|10) Chicago Bears - Vic Beasley (OLB Clemson)|
Defense, defense and more defense; it doesn't matter so much which defensive positions the Bears draft in 2015, they just need to make sure they add playmakers on that side of the ball. Unfortunately for them, their biggest needs, middle linebacker and safety won't present good value at their pick, but Clemson's Vic Beasley is not someone Bears fans should be disappointed with. Though mostly thought of as a 3-4 prospect, Vic Beasley is simply a natural pass rusher who could succeed in any scheme. Especially in today's game where many teams that run the 4-3 are finding success with drafting attacking strongside linebackers (Von Miller, Anthony Barr) and using them to wreak havoc up front.
|11) Carolina Panthers - Trae Waynes (CB Michigan State)|
Carolina's defense is nowhere near as good as they were last year and a big part of that has been attrition in the secondary. Top cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and starting safety Mike Mitchell were lost in free agency and have yet to be replaced. Quietly, Michigan State's Trae Waynes is developing into one of the nation's best cornerbacks. Few secondaries in the country play as much true quarters defense as Michigan State does, meaning their corners outside the numbers are locked in 1-on-1 battles almost every play. Waynes is physical, long and has the long speed to run downfield with any receiver.
|12) Minnesota Vikings - Andrus Peat (OT Stanford)|
One of the most bizarre stories in the NFL has been the total collapse of Vikings franchise left tackle Matt Kalil. After making the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2012 the top five pick looked destined to be one of the elite bookends in all of pro football. He went through what we all figured was a sophomore slump in 2013, but this year he has completely gone in the tank. At the time of publishing Matt Kalil leads the league in both sacks given up and penalties. His PFF grade has gone from +14.3 in 2012, to -6.0 in 2013 to a embarrassing minus 28 so far in 2014. Whether Stanford's Andrus Peat would serve as a developmental prospect who would start off at right tackle, or an immediate replacement for Kalil would be up for debate. One thing is for sure though, if Teddy Bridgewater is going to succeed he's going to need a lot better protection than what he's getting right now.
|13) St Louis Rams - DeVante Parker (WR Louisville)|
Obviously the Rams first, second and third priorities this off season are getting a quarterback capable of staying healthy and simply managing a team chalked full of talent on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately in our mock draft scenario that seems unlikely. Jameis Winston would be a nice fit but he's off the board, and it's simply too early for Brett Hundley or Connor Cook. Besides a safety (also no value available) the Rams are pretty much set on defense, and the running game is bolstered up front and in the backfield. In the passing game however they have a few nice pieces, but no true number like DeVante Parker. A size/length/speed prototype who can win jump balls and work after the catch, he could really open things up for the rest of the offense.
|14) Houston Texans - P.J Williams (CB Florida State)|
Unless they trade, up the Texans aren't going to find their answer at quarterback in the teens of the 2015 NFL Draft which will likely have them shifting their focus to defense. Up front the Texans have created arguably the best young front seven in all of football, but their secondary still needs quite a bit of work. At cornerback Johnathan Joseph is past his prime and Kareem Jackson will be a free agent at the end of the season. If available, P.J Williams would garner strong consideration from the Texans as we confidently rank him as the draft's number one cornerback prospect. He plays outstanding bump and run coverage, but his ball skills and ability to get his head around downfield are what set him apart.
|15) Cleveland Browns (From Buffalo) - Shawn Oakman (DE Baylor)|
So far through the 2014 season the Cleveland Browns are giving up over 130 yards per game on the ground as their defensive front has taken a step backwards from last year. Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin have all disappointed, then up-and-comer Armonty Bryant went down for the season. A perfect addition would be the surging Shawn Oakman who has become one of the scariest defensive players in the nation. The six-foot-eight Oakman is truly a freak of nature, conjuring up thoughts of Calais Campbell as a five technique defensive end. Oakman's presence alone demands a double team up front and will completely change the way offenses gameplan for them.
|16) Miami Dolphins - Melvin Gordon III (RB Wisconsin)|
Ryan Tannehill has made giants leaps under new offensive coordinator Bill Lasor and could take another big step if the Dolphins made a move to significantly upgrade their running game. Lamar Miller is not a bad running back, but he's not a difference maker. Melvin Gordon on the other hand is the type of Demarco Murray/Lesean McCoy gamebreaker who can completely change the shape of a game with a single carry. As he's proving in the midst of his record-setting junior season, Gordon is more than just another Wisconsin 'system back.' He can make you miss, run through you, or flat-out run past you. Gordon is an ever rare NFL 'feature back.'
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