2015 NFL Mock Draft: Jan. 30th Update
With Super Bowl XLIX only a couple of days away, the offseason will soon begin for all 32 NFL teams.
Until then, the actual draft order for the first 30 selections of this year's draft is set. Meanwhile, the winner of Super Bowl XLIX will get the 32nd pick and the runner-up will get the 31st overall pick.
This mock will be updated at least weekly from now until the 2015 NFL Draft (April 30-May 2). In addition, more rounds will be added to this mock as we get closer to the draft.
[Future updates will be posted on our main 2015 NFL Mock Draft page.]
With that said, here is my projection for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft:
In all of my previous updates, I've slotted a quarterback to the Bucs, but it's been Oregon's Marcus Mariota instead of Winston. As it was with Mariota slotted here, it's more of a 51/49 split (than a strong conviction) with Winston slotted here. With three months to go until the 2015 NFL Draft, ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote on Thursday that "Mariota shapes up as the most likely No. 1 pick," but the evaluation process is in the early stages for NFL franchises.
Unlike with Mariota, Winston enters the draft process with multiple character red flags that NFL security teams will investigate thoroughly. As much as those would be a concern for any prospect at any position, it's especially concerning for a quarterback -- and more so for one that may be selected first overall.
That said, Winston has all of the tools to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback -- size, strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence, on-the-field leadership, etc. Although he lost his final collegiate game, Winston helped lead the Seminoles to wins in 26 of 27 games and an undefeated national championship season as a freshman.
It wouldn't be a huge surprise if the Titans went with a quarterback like Mariota here. Reports from the national media as well as local beat writers, however, seem to suggest that the Titans will give Zach Mettenberger a shot to prove that he can be their quarterback of the future.
If they go in a different direction, Gregory would make sense as the Titans ranked middle of the pack in sacks (39) and Derrick Morgan, their team leader in sacks (6.5), is set to become an unrestricted free agent. With exceptional athleticism, Gregory has the potential to develop into an elite pass-rusher at the next level.
Drawing a ton of favorable comparisons to players like J.J. Watt, Gerald McCoy and Richard Seymour, Williams is a disruptive force along the line of the scrimmage. While defensive line may be one of the relative strengths of the Jaguars, many (including me) believe that Williams is the top prospect in this year's draft class.
The Raiders have found their quarterback of the future with last year's second-round pick Derek Carr, but one of their focal points in free agency and/or the draft should be to improve the weapons around Carr. As Alabama's first Biletnikoff winner in school history, Cooper finished with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, all of which ranked first or second in the nation this season.
Outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are set for unrestricted free agency in 2015 and 2016, respectively. If they are unable to re-sign one or both, adding a pass-rusher like Ray would make sense here. Either way, you'll never hear a general manager complain of having too many talented pass-rushers.
The transition to a new coaching staff and front office is often followed by a transition to a new quarterback. With new head coach Todd Bowles referring to incumbent Geno Smith as a "great college quarterback," it was far from a ringing endorsement for Smith, who has a career 25:34 TD-to-INT ratio.
Over the course of his collegiate career, Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, rushed for 2,237 yards and accounted for 136 touchdowns -- 105 passing, 29 rushing and two receiving -- with only 14 interceptions.
There will naturally be some questions about how well and quickly Mariota will transition from Oregon's spread offense to a pro-style system. That said, Mariota possesses good size, a strong arm to stretch the field and difference-making mobility for the position in addition to impeccable intangibles.
One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this past season, the Bears have plenty of holes to address and could go in a number of different directions. They ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.6 PPG allowed) and 30th in total defense (377.1 YPG allowed). Not only are upgrades needed in their secondary, but starting safeties Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy are scheduled for free agency in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
One of the best pass rushers in this year's draft class, Beasley has a total of 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 26 games over the past two seasons combined. The Falcons are in dire need of pass-rush help as only the Bengals (20) generated fewer sacks this season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest last season as well.
The Giants had just 34 sacks in 2013, but they finished fourth in the league with 47 sacks this season. The majority of the 13-sack difference can be attributed to the bounce-back season of Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 12.5 sacks in 2014 (compared to 2.0 in 2013). That said, Pierre-Paul is due to hit free agency in March.
Especially if the Giants are unable to re-sign JPP (although I expect him to be re-signed), adding a pass-rusher would make sense to fill at least part of the void. Either way, a strong pass rush has long been one of the staples of successful Giants teams. A former tight end, Dupree is a freak athlete with a 40.5-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds. Over the past three seasons, Dupree has 21.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.
Even after selecting Greg Robinson with the second overall pick last year, offensive line is still one of the units in needs of upgrades and reinforcements. The Rams ranked in the bottom 10 in both run blocking (-55.1) and pass blocking (-27.5) grades from PFF last season.
Second-year receiver Charles Johnson was a bright spot for the Vikings; fellow second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was not. As Teddy Bridgewater enters his second season, the Vikings will likely use early picks in the draft to improve the protection he reserves and bolster the weapons around him. White has the speed, size and ball skills to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah had tweeted a while back that White was his top-ranked receiver, comparing him to Julio Jones.
The Browns ranked last in the league in rushing defense (141.6 yards per game) and allowed 4.5 yards per carry, only three teams allowed more. Despite being built like a Mack truck, Shelton has excellent agility for his size as shown by his 16.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks in 14 games this season.
Bad against both the run (29th in the NFL) and pass (25th), the Saints allowed the second-most yards (384.0 per game) in the NFL and fifth-most points (26.5 per game). They also struggled to get to the quarterback as they finished in the bottom eight in sacks (34). A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17).
Not only has he played defensive back and linebacker in his collegiate career, Thompson also rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games against Colorado and UCLA this season. Not surprisingly, Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player. While he may get the 'tweener label, Thompson is an outstanding athlete that is solid against the run as well as in pass coverage and rushing the passer.
With Michael Crabtree about to enter free agency and 34-year-old Anquan Boldin set to enter the final season of his contract, the 49ers could use this pick on a receiver. A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of the season, but the 6-foot-3 wideout finished with a 43/855/5 line in just six games. NFL.com's Jeremiah compared Parker to Keenan Allen saying Parker is "smooth, physical & has outstanding instincts/ball skills."
In terms of defensive units, the secondary was the team's weak link last year. In addition, starting cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Given the character concerns of Marcus Peters, who was kicked off Washington's football team, Waynes could end up being the first cornerback off the board in this year's draft.
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