With less than 24 hours to go until the start of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft on Thursday night in Chicago, this will be the final update of my 2015 NFL Mock Draft and I've projected all seven rounds.
In addition, we've taken a way-too-early look ahead to next year's draft with our 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
With that said, here is my projection for the 2015 NFL Draft:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
When the Bucs released Josh McCown earlier this offseason, they gave us clear indication that this pick will be a quarterback. Some may debate whether it should be Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, the two previous Heisman Trophy recipients, but Winston has been the odds-on favorite for months and I still expect him to be the selection here.
Although Winston's increase in interceptions were an issue last year, he 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."
With Winston, of course, the biggest concern relates to off-the-field issues -- and those concerns are amplified given the nature of the position and this draft slot. Assuming the Bucs feel comfortable with Winston as the face of their franchise, he is the selection here.
2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Here's the full list: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. What do these elite quarterbacks have in common? They are the eight quarterbacks that led their teams to division titles last year. It's nearly impossible to win a division with an unsettled or sub-par quarterback situation.
Do the Titans believe in Zach Mettenberger enough to bypass Mariota here? The Tennessean's David Climer wrote that Mettenberger will be the team's quarterback in 2015 and NFL Films' Greg Cosell recently said that he preferred Mettenberger over both Winston and Mariota.
Whether or not the Titans believe Mettenberger can develop into the type of quarterback that can lead the Titans to a division title, it's clear that the team needs better play from whomever is under center. If the Titans are unable to find a suitable trade partner to move down, I ultimately think that they go with Mariota here. That said, a number of teams, most notably Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Diego or St. Louis, could be highly interested in trading up with the Titans.
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 athleticism for the position in addition to impeccable character off the field.
[Related: Winston and Mariota could potentially face each other as the Bucs host the Titans in Week 1. View full 2015 NFL schedule.]
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC
There has been some speculation about the Jaguars using this pick on Amari Cooper. To me, that appears to be a smokescreen. With the position as deep as it is, the Jags could get a talented wide receiver with their (early) second- or third-round picks to give Blake Bortles another weapon if they choose.
Recently, Florida's Dante Fowler said that he would be "shocked" if the Jags didn't select him. While I wouldn't be "shocked" if they don't select him, the decision for David Caldwell and Gus Bradley will likely come down to Fowler or Williams if Winston and Mariota are the first two prospects off the board on Thursday.
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. As an example, half of his seven sacks this season came from lining up on the edge and the other half came from lining up as a defensive tackle. 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.
4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
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 the draft should be to improve the weapons around Carr. As much as the Raiders front office attempted to bolster their group of pass catchers in free agency, it was a big swing and miss for Oakland's front office.
Fortunately for the Raiders, they will have their choice of two elite wide receiver prospects in Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White based on how the top-three picks in this mock have played out. It's likely a win-win choice as I expect both prospects to have enormously successful careers. As Sean Beazley noted in our collaborative mock draft earlier this month, the Raiders have had their fair share of misses on high first-round picks and may prioritize the higher level of safety of Cooper over the potential upside of White.
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. The most pro-ready receiver in this draft class, Cooper is a great route-runner with no glaring weaknesses in his game.
5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida
General manager Scot McCloughan has indicated his willingness to trade down to acquire more picks in the draft and he may find a willing trade partner with the Falcons. Not only do the Falcons need to bolster their pass rush -- only the Bengals had fewer sacks last season, but new head coach Dan Quinn coached Dante Fowler for two seasons at Florida before joining the Seahawks staff in 2013.
Given their leaky pass protection -- only the Jags allowed more sacks last season -- offensive line could be a possibility here for Washington. While it's certainly a need, it's questionable whether any of the offensive line prospects are worth a top-five selection unlike in my way-too-early 2016 NFL Mock Draft. If there are no offensive linemen selected in the top five, it will be only the second time in the past 10 drafts that has occurred.
If they keep this pick, Fowler is the obvious choice. Although Ryan Kerrigan had a career-high 13.5 sacks last season, 2015 will be a contract year for him. In addition, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo signed with the Titans this offseason. A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17) last season.
6. New York Jets (Draft History): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The return of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie as well as the addition of Buster Skrine means that the Jets defensive line and secondary are the strengths of the defense. Starting outside linebacker Calvin Pace, who turns 35 this season, will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season so adding his long-term replacement would make sense.
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.
7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Earlier this offseason, the Bears traded away Brandon Marshall to the Jets in exchange for a fifth-round pick. Battling injuries, Marshall struggled with a 61/721/8 line, which ended his streak of seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. While Alshon Jeffery unquestionably becomes the team's No. 1 wide receiver, he's due to become an unrestricted free agent next spring.
Adding the top-ranked wide receiver in my 2015 prospect rankings would make sense even though the Bears could look to go defense here. 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. One concern that some had about White prior to the combine was his long speed, but he has eased all concerns after running a blazing 4.35 forty at the combine.
[Related: 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Results.]
8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Quinn comes to the Falcons after spending the last two seasons in Seattle where their formula for success has been their suffocating defense and punishing rushing attack with Marshawn Lynch. With Steven Jackson released and Jacquizz Rodgers signing with the Bears in free agency, Devonta Freeman currently sits atop the Falcons' depth chart at running back.
Gurley has the potential to be a special player and recent buzz has suggested he won't make it outside of the top-10 picks in the draft even though he is coming off the injury. Drawing comparisons to Marshawn Lynch, Gurley is a physical and powerful runner with good vision and speed.
9. New York Giants (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, G/T, Iowa
It's a copy-cat league and the Giants could find themselves copying the success that the Cowboys had last season with the selection of Zack Martin, a college left tackle that moved inside to become an All-Pro guard as a rookie. NFL Network's Mike Mayock made the direct comparison: "When I look at Brandon Scherff, I see a similar example (to current Dallas Cowboys G Zack Martin...). I see a bigger kid with longer arms. That lends you to believe that he could play outside more easily. Again, I believe he can play outside. However, I think his best position, because of his power, his toughness, his football sense, is inside. I think he's an All-Pro guard. But that doesn't mean he can't play tackle in the NFL."
Only the Cardinals (3.3) and Chargers (3.4) averaged fewer yards per carry than the Giants (3.6) and the Giants run-blocking graded out as 26th of 32 by PFF last season. Of 78 qualified guards graded by PFF last season, Weston Richburg and John Jerry graded out as 62nd and 66th, respectively.
10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Even after selecting Greg Robinson with the second overall pick last year, offensive line remains one of the team's 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. Better as a run blocker than he is a pass protector currently, Peat has the length and foot quickness to could allow him to develop into a starting left tackle in the NFL some day.
11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Perhaps the Vikings consider reuniting Teddy Bridgewater with his collegiate teammate DeVante Parker, but I think the team would be fine with Charles Johnson and Mike Wallace as the team's top-two wideouts going into the season with Cordarrelle Patterson as the wild card. Given the depth of wide receiver in this year's draft class, the Vikings could address the position in a later round, if desired.
Waynes, my top-ranked cornerback in this year's draft class, boosted his stock at the combine by running a 4.31 40-yard dash and putting up 19 reps at 225 pounds and has the length that teams covet at the position. If he's still on the board here, Waynes paired with Xavier Rhodes would give the Vikings one of the better young cornerback duos in the league. With at least six games against Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler (for now) as well as several top-flight wide receivers in the division, a strong secondary is a virtual necessity for the Vikings to climb their way to the top of the division.
12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
The Browns ranked last in the league in rushing defense (141.6 yards per game) last season and allowed 4.5 yards per carry, only three teams allowed more. Adding reinforcements along the defensive line to help shore up their run defense would make sense. With surprising quickness for someone his size (6-2, 339), Shelton barely come off the field and posted 9.0 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 93 tackles despite facing constant double teams last season for the Huskies.
13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky
The Saints have made some shocking moves this offseason as they try to revamp their roster and salary cap. Last season, their defense was atrocious -- second-most yards allowed, fifth-most points allowed and bad against both the run (29th) and pass (25th). I'd expect them to use one, if not both, first-round pick(s) on that side of the ball.
New Orleans needs to put more pressure on the quarterback as they ranked 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.
14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
With strong options for a slot receiver (Jarvis Landry) and vertical receiver (Kenny Stills), the addition of Parker would give the team's receiving corps a true No. 1 wideout. Sidelined for the first seven games of 2014 with a broken foot, the 6-foot-3 Parker 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" and "has outstanding instincts/ball skills."
15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
It's been a tumultuous offseason in San Francisco! The surprising retirement of linebacker Patrick Willis was followed by an even more surprising retirement of his 24-year-old (and expected) replacement Chris Borland. Plus, NaVorro Bowman is coming off a significant knee injury that kept him out all of last season. I think they will address the inside linebacker position in the draft, but that's unlikely to happen with the 15th overall pick.
The 49ers have added Darnell Dockett via a two-year deal, but he turns 34 in May and Justin Smith may retire this offseason. 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.
16. Houston Texans (Draft History): Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
In previous updates, I've had the Texans grab one of the edge rushers -- Shane Ray or Randy Gregory -- that should fall out of the top 10. If they don't go that route, Johnson would make sense. With Andrew Luck in the division for the next decade or so, the Texans can't have too many pass-rushers or cornerbacks. Houston re-signed Kareem Jackson this offseason, but Jonathan Joseph will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Johnson has excellent length, athleticism and cover skills and some believe he could turn out to be the best cornerback of the draft class.
17. San Diego Chargers (Draft History): Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Drawing some comparisons to Jamaal Charles, the 2014 Doak Walker recipient led college football with 2,587 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns this season while averaging 7.8 yards per carry over his collegiate career. MG3 would fill the void of Ryan Mathews, who signed with the Eagles in free agency.
18. Kansas City Chiefs (Draft History): Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Chiefs picked up the fifth-year option on nose tackle Dontari Poe, but their starting defensive ends -- Jaye Howard and Mike Devito -- are all scheduled to become free agents after the 2015 season. Brown has excellent quickness for a man his size (6-2, 319) and has the versatility to play multiple spots along the defensive line.
19. Cleveland Browns -- via Buffalo (Draft History): Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (FL)
A massive offensive tackle prospect (6-foot-6, 329 pounds with 34 1/2-inch arms), Flowers led all combine participants with 37 bench press reps at 225. While Flowers has started the past two seasons at left tackle for the 'Canes, he also has some starting experience at right tackle as well. Flowers would give the Browns an upgrade over current right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (Draft History): Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Trying to predict what Chip Kelly will do is a foolish endeavor and he's certainly shown he is not afraid of taking risks and making bold moves. If Kelly doesn't pull off a draft-day trade to move up for Marcus Mariota, I expect him to go defensive back or wide receiver here.
With the free-agent loss of Jeremy Maclin, Agholor has the ability to play inside or outside, has good speed (4.4 range) and is an excellent route-runner. He had 104 receptions for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns last season for the Trojans.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (Draft History): La'el Collins, G/T, LSU
Cincinnati's starting left tackle (Andrew Whitworth), right tackle (Andre Smith) and right guard (Kevin Zeitler) are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the 2015 season. Playing left tackle at LSU and while he could play tackle at the next level, Collins may be better at guard where he also gained some experience early in his collegiate career.
[Per reports, Collins is not a suspect, but authorities want to meet with him as part of their investigation into the shooting death of Collins' ex-girlfriend.]
22. Pittsburgh Steelers (Draft History): Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Struggling to slow down the pass, Pittsburgh allowed 253.1 passing yards per game (sixth-worst in the NFL) and 30 passing touchdowns (tied for fourth most) this season. Ike Taylor has retired although he was a free agent (and awful) anyways, and William Gay is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season.
Dismissed from the Huskies' football program, Peters has some character concerns that could lead to a tumble further than this on draft day. Based on his on-field talent, however, Peters could turn out to be the best cornerback from this year's draft class. That said, Peters has seemed to say and do all of the right things off the field and mended fences enough with Washington's coaching staff that he worked out with the Huskies at the school's Pro Day.
23. Detroit Lions (Draft History): D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Ultimately, I expect the Lions to go with the best-available (offensive or defensive) line prospect in Round 1 and to address both needs in the early rounds of the draft. The team picked up Riley Reiff's fifth-year option last week and general manager Martin Mayhew said he'd be "very comfortable" if Reiff stayed at left tackle. That said, Humphries has the potential to become the best left tackle prospect in this year's draft class and that would allow the Lions to move Reiff either to the right side or inside.
24. Arizona Cardinals (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
Gregory has the athleticism and length to potentially develop into an elite pass-rusher at the next level. Gregory's failed drug test at the combine (and two confirmed failed tests in 2014 at Nebraska), however, means that he is likely to slide a bit (or a lot) on draft day. Not only does it show incredibly poor judgment on Gregory's part, but he already enters the league in phase 1 of the substance-abuse policy. The Cardinals have shown a willingness to take a chance on guys with character red flags, e.g., Tyrann Mathieu, and this is a gamble that could end up paying off handsomely for the Cardinals, who ranked 24th in the league in sacks last season.
25. Carolina Panthers (Draft History): Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Left tackle Byron Bell graded out as the league's worst pass-blocking offensive tackle last season by PFF, but he won't be back with the Panthers anyways. Although the Panthers filled a big void by selecting wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the first round of last year's draft, it was a bit of a surprise that they did not address the retirement of Jordan Gross as well. I'd expect that to change this year.
There are some question marks with Ogbuehi, who struggled initially with the transition to left tackle and tore his ACL in the team's bowl game. That said, he had started to play better down the stretch and has starting experience at left tackle, right tackle and guard. When healthy, Ogbuehi, who expects to be ready for training camp, possesses excellent foot quickness and he has vines for arms (nearly 36 inches).
26. Baltimore Ravens (Draft History): Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
Steve Smith will turn 36 years old this offseason and Torrey Smith signed a free-agent deal with the 49ers. Generating plenty of buzz over the past month or so, Perriman is the son of former NFL receiver Brett Perriman, who once had a 1,400-yard season with the Detroit Lions, and could easily be off the board in the top-20 picks. Bigger than his father at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, Breshad ran a pair of blazing 40-yard dashes (sub-4.3) at UCF's Pro Day. Coming off a career-best 50/1,044/9 season, Perriman has averaged more than 20.0 Y/R over each of the past two seasons, but he has had some issues with drops.
27. Dallas Cowboys (Draft History): Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
The offense in general, and ball-control running game in particular, has helped mask some of the deficiencies of the Cowboys defense. Although the Cowboys ranked middle of the road in terms of points and yards allowed, only five teams allowed more yards per play than the Cowboys (5.8). Starting cornerback Brandon Carr is vastly overpaid and former first-round pick Morris Claiborne has been a disappointment, when healthy.
Perhaps no prospect helped his draft stock more at the combine than Jones, who showcased his explosiveness with a 44.5-inch vertical jump and combine-record 12-foot-3 broad jump. Not only does Jones have excellent size for a cornerback, but he has starting experience at safety as well.
28. Denver Broncos (Draft History): Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
Transitioning from left tackle to center during the season last year, Erving has the versatility to play multiple (all) spots along the offensive line. Not only did Denver's offensive line struggle last season, but they lost Orlando Franklin to the Chargers in free agency as well. It's possible that the Broncos will invest multiple early-round picks on the offensive line.
29. Indianapolis Colts (Draft History): Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The Colts released strong safety LaRon Landry in February, but he received a 10-game suspension in March anyways. While they re-signed free safety Mike Adams, who graded out as the seventh-best safety (of 87) by PFF, he turned 34 years old last month. They also signed Dwight Lowery in free agency. That said, Collins is the top safety in this year's draft class.
30. Green Bay Packers (Draft History): Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
The Packers have released inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones and used Clay Matthews inside more often than they would like last season, which makes Kendricks a good fit here. Brother of Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks, he was the recipient of the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker and leaves UCLA as the school's all-time leader in tackles.
31. New Orleans Saints -- via Seattle (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
Perhaps the Saints won't double-dip on pass-rushers here, but there is certainly plenty of value from an on-field standpoint if Ray is still on the board at No. 31. Not only are there concerns about Ray's foot/toe, and some teams believe he needs surgery, but Ray was cited for marijuana possession only days before the draft, which counts against him in the league's substance-abuse program and highlights questionable judgment on his part. Last year's SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Ray had 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season.
32. New England Patriots (Draft History): Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
I debated LSU cornerback Jalen Collins here, my pick in the last version of this mock, and Goldman. Either way, the Patriots have big holes to fill with the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Vince Wilfork. While Collins has the height, weight and speed that makes him an ideal cornerback, he started just 10 games at LSU and has had multiple failed drug tests there. Although he doesn't provide much of a pass rush, Goldman (6-4, 336) is a run-stuffer in the middle of the line that can give the Patriots a long-term solution at nose tackle.
-> Continue to Round 2
-> Continue to Round 3
-> Continue to Round 4
-> Continue to Round 5
-> Continue to Round 6
-> Continue to Round 7
-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database or our 2016 NFL Mock Draft for an early look ahead.
-> Also, check out our 2015 NBA Mock Draft and/or NBA Mock Draft Database
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