2015 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Combine Update
With the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine behind us, it feels like we are much closer to the 2015 NFL Draft, but we still have more than two months to go until Round 1 in Chicago on April 30th.
Over the course of the next two months, I will continue to make weekly updates and add more rounds until we mock out all seven rounds of the draft.
[Follow @EDSFootball for updates.]
With that said, here is my projection for the 2015 NFL Draft:
With the Buccaneers releasing Josh McCown earlier this offseason, the Bucs gave us further indication that this pick will be a quarterback. There may be some debate between Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, but Winston has the strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence and on-the-field leadership skills to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback. NFL Network's Steve Mariucci referred to Winston "the most astute X's and O's guy that he's ever put on the board."
Of course, the biggest concern with Winston is the off-the-field issues -- and those concerns are amplified given the nature of the position and this draft slot. Before the NFL Scouting Combine, however, reports were that Bucs coach Lovie Smith prefers Winston over Mariota and it's hard to imagine that changing given Winston's strong performance on the field and in meeting rooms.
Do the Titans believe in Zach Mettenberger enough to bypass Mariota here? There have been some reports out of Nashville that they do, but general manager Ruston Webster said at the combine that they "like Zach," but are "[n]ot committing to anything now." Certainly, the Titans would be willing to listen to offers from interested Mariota suitors, but it's also clear that they need to get better quarterback play.
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, but Mariota possesses good size, a strong arm to stretch the field and difference-making mobility for the position in addition to impeccable intangibles.
Mariota absolutely killing it in combine interview process. Told he is as/more impressive than R.Wilson was, which is significant.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) February 19, 2015
With quarterback-needy teams in front of them, the Jags are the beneficiaries. The top overall prospect on my 2015 NFL Draft Big Board, Williams is a scheme-diverse defensive lineman that has the ability to win in a variety of ways at multiple spots along the defensive line. His ability and versatility has generated some comparisons to J.J. Watt and Richard Seymour and the sky is the limit for this 20-year-old defensive lineman.
The Raiders have found their quarterback of the future with Derek Carr, last year's second-round pick, but one of their focal points in free agency and/or the draft should be to improve the weapons around Carr. The top-ranked wide receiver in my 2015 prospect rankings, White has the size (6-3, 215), hands and run-after-catch ability to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah has compared White to Julio Jones. The concern that some had about White was his long speed and eased all concerns after running a blazing 4.35 forty at the combine.
[Related: 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Results.]
Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo will be an unrestricted free agent next month and Washington is not expected to re-sign or franchise tag him. In addition, Ryan Kerrigan is entering a contract year, so adding a pass-rusher like Gregory would make sense here. Maintaining playing weight could be an issue for Gregory, who tipped the scales at only 235 pounds at the combine, but he has plenty of explosiveness and upside.
One scout told Bob McGinn of Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal that he thinks "[Gregory's] better than Ziggy Ansah." Meanwhile, NFL Films' Greg Cosell compared Gregory positively to last year's first-overall pick Jadeveon Clowney in terms of movement skills: "He's a better athlete than Clowney. He's more flexible. He's more explosive in his movement. Clearly, not as strong. Clowney could get inside and push back, but Clowney did not have the loose hips that this guy does. Gregory's a much more explosive mover, a much looser athlete. ... Gregory's kind of shifty and elusive in his movement. He's a quick-twitch, explosive guy laterally. Clowney was more straight-line power."
If Mariota slips to the Jets, certainly a possibility, there's a strong chance the slide would stop here. With Winston and Mariota gone and no available quarterback worth consideration here, Fowler is the top-ranked prospect on my board and fills a need for the Jets. The Jets' defensive line is the team's strength, but both starting outside linebackers (Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples) are due to become free agents after the 2015 season. Plus, Pace will turn 35 years old in October. A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17).
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). As they likely transition to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, they need help on all three levels of their defense. With surprising quickness for someone his size (6-2, 335), Shelton had 9.0 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 93 tackles last season for the Huskies.
The Falcons are in dire need of pass-rush help as only the Bengals (20) generated fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest in 2013 as well. There were some concerns about Beasley's weight, but he was a rocked up 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds at the combine without losing a step (4.53 forty) and posting 35 reps at 225 pounds. Not just a workout warrior, Beasley has been one of the nation's most productive pass rushers with a total of 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 26 games over the past two seasons combined.
It appears that the Giants will at least use their franchise tag on impending free agent Jason Pierre-Paul, who bounced back and recorded 12.5 sacks after a career-low 2.0 in 2013. That said, past successful Giants teams have thrived with a dynamic pass rush. Albeit a bit undersized at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Ray has an explosive first step and was last year's SEC Defensive Player of the Year with 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season.
Brian Quick was on his way to a breakout season in 2014, but it was cut short to a torn rotator cuff. Perhaps Quick takes that next step forward in 2015, but he is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season. In addition, Kenny Britt, who played more than three-quarters of the team's offensive snaps, will be a free agent in a couple of weeks. 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.
In many of the previous editions of my mock draft, the Vikings have gone with either offensive lineman Brandon Scherff or Louisville wide receiver Devante Parker. Both are still on the board and would be worthwhile picks here, but Waynes, my top-ranked cornerback in this year's draft class, really boosted his stock at the combine by running a 4.31 40-yard dash and putting up 19 reps at 225 pounds. If he's still on the board here, however, Waynes paired with Xavier Rhodes would give the Vikings one of the better young cornerback duos.
Once again, the Browns will go into the season with a looming full-year suspension for Josh Gordon. Although last year's ban was eventually cut to 10 games, that won't happen this year. In addition, there is uncertainty at quarterback heading into 2015 and no team had fewer passing touchdowns than the Browns (12) last season.
A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of 2014, 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." Parker would become an immediate upgrade over all of their eligible-to-play wide receivers next 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 former tight end, Dupree is a freak athlete (4.56 forty, 42-inch vertical, 11-6 broad jump) at his size (6-foot-4, 269). Over the past three seasons, Dupree has a total of 21.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.
As a whole, the Dolphins struggled in both pass and run blocking. Based on grades from PFF, the Dolphins ranked 31st in pass blocking and 27th in run blocking in 2014. Scherff played left tackle at Iowa and while he could play tackle at the next level, he may be better at guard and starting guard Daryn Colledge is a free agent. Either way, Colledge graded out as the 74th of 78 qualified guards last season.
Armstead could certainly be drafted higher than this based on potential and upside. Described by an NFL general manager as "a 6-foot-8, 290-pound freak," Armstead was a two-sport athlete (football and basketball) at Oregon and possesses excellent footwork and agility. Justin Smith will turn 36 years old in September.
Better as a run blocker than he is a pass protector, Peat has the length and foot quickness to develop into a starting left tackle in the NFL some day. For now, however, Texans starting right tackle Derek Newton is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month.
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