2015 NFL Mock Draft_JL
In a few days the NFL Draft will once again be upon us and I'm pumped as usual. I feel like the draft this year will once again be an unpredictable one and I expect to see several teams moving up and down in the first round. The biggest story is where former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will land. Will the Titans take him at number 2? Will someone trade up for him? Will he slide? Is Chip Kelly willing to give up one of his kidneys for him? I thought the Mariota sweepstakes would be over after Thursday, but reports surfaced last week that there could potentially be a post-draft trade that would involve him. It may never end!
Below I've included my prediction for each pick and the rationale behind it. In certain spots I've also included the direction I think the team may go if they don't agree with my selection. Trades in the draft are very hard to predict--we all know they're going to happen, but have no idea where they may come from. I've considered trades and have included them in my rationale if I think one may occur, but otherwise I've stuck with the pre-determined draft order to give a more accurate prediction of the round.
In addition to my picks, I've also included one of my good friend Brian's prediction for each pick as well. He has recently co-launched the website birdsscoop.com. The website mainly covers the Philadelphia Eagles, but in anticipation of the draft he has been making one first round selection each day for the past month. At this point, things have changed, so he's provided me with an updated version of his predictions. Enjoy!
1. TB: Jameis Winston, QB, FSU
All of this talk about Marcus Mariota has quieted the speculation around who the Bucs will be taking with their first overall pick. Several reports came out weeks ago stating it seemed pretty certain that Winston would be the pick here, but Tampa Bay appears to be playing this one pretty close to the vest. I don't expect to see a trade here, and the pick should be a QB, but part of me wonders if Mariota is still in play.
Brian's pick: Jameis Winston
2. TEN: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
After all the speculation about Mariota possibly going to the Titans here, I don't think it happens. As I'm about to post this it probably will happen, but I'm sticking to my guns. I think coach Ken Whisenhunt and company are looking to win sooner than later, and bringing in Mariota will only delay the winning process. Plus, I do believe that they have faith in their current QB, Zach Mettenberger. I think it's more likely that a team trades up to this spot to draft Mariota, but at this point I think the only team that will be willing to give up enough will be the Eagles, and I don't think they make it happen. The Titans decide to stand pat and take the top prospect in the draft and someone they can build their defense around. If they do go with Mariota, I think it's because ownership wants to make a splash.
Brian's pick: Marcus Mariota
3. JAX: Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB, Florida
It will be interesting to see which direction the Jaguars go if Williams and Fowler Jr. are both still on the board when they pick, but I feel that the former Gator fits their needs better. Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley is a defensive guy, so I would be surprised if the pick is offense here, but you never know. Last year picking in this same spot I expected them to draft Khalil Mack, but they bypassed him for QB Blake Bortles. Time will tell if that choice pans out, but the defense needs a bump and Fowler Jr. gives them exactly that. Another late option I'm hearing is Amari Cooper, but I think that's a mistake--you're not going to beat the Colts by outscoring them.
Brian's pick: Leonard Williams
4. OAK: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
I think the Raiders feel like they may have finally found their quarterback of the future in last year's second round pick, Derek Carr. Now that they have him in place, they need to surround him with weapons. I think West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White has more upside, but Cooper is more polished and pro-ready. I think Cooper is the smarter and safer pick, and Oakland can't afford to swing and miss in this spot. If Leonard Williams is still on the board I think the Raiders go with him and address receiver in the second round.
Brian's pick: Kevin White
5. WAS: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
I think if Mariota is still on the board at this point the Redskins will think long and hard about taking him or possibly trading out, but if they do stick with the pick I see them taking Beasley. Concerns about his size vanished when Beasley showed up at the combine with an extra 20 pounds of muscle on his frame and showed everyone that he was a beast. After losing OLB Brain Orakpo, the Redskins need to find a replacement to wreak havoc opposite Ryan Kerrigan and this guy fits the bill. If Mariota goes at number 2 and everything slides, look for the Redskins to pounce on Fowler Jr.
Brian's pick: Dante Fowler Jr.
6. NYJ: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
We finally get to the man of the hour! I'm not convinced that on draft night we have to wait until this pick to hear last year's Heisman Trophy winner's name called, but if no one trades into the top five, it's possible. I don't like this fit at all, but it would be very difficult for the Jets to pass on a potential franchise QB. The current regime didn't draft Geno Smith and new head coach Todd Bowles won't mind taking a year or two for Mariota to get his feet under him if he's a believer. The Jets remind me of the Bills team last year, a great defense and solid offense, but no QB to lead the charge. I think the Jets believe Mariota can be that QB. If Mariota is gone and everyone slides, I think the pick here is Cooper or Beasley and hopefully this ends the parallel thread to my predictions.
Brian's pick: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
7. CHI: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
I went back and forth with this pick for a while before landing on White. The Bears have a few positions that need to be addressed in the draft, so they could go in several different directions. I think DT Danny Shelton is also a very good possibility since the Bears are switching to a 3-4 defense, and it sounds as if he could have the impact of a Vince Wilfork or Haloti Ngata. Another argument against White is that the Bears just had two dynamic receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall and that didn't work out too well. I think Chicago takes their time if both are still available, but if you're stuck with Jay Cutler you may as well give him as many weapons as possible.
Brian's pick: Amari Cooper
8. ATL: Bud Dupree, OLB, Buffalo
Atlanta badly needs a pass rusher and I expect Dupree to be the highest on Atlanta's board when they're on the clock. I don't necessarily feel comfortable seeing Dupree go this high because as of a few weeks ago he was being discussed as a late first rounder, but "edge rushers" are a necessity in today's game. Keep an eye on Atlanta considering taking former Georgia RB Todd Gurley here, but new head coach Dan Quinn is a defensive guy, and top 10 feels too early for Gurley.
Brian's pick: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
9. NYG: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Again, I'm considering Shelton here, but this is an easier call in my opinion. I don't see the Giants passing on Scherff who is widely considered the best offensive lineman in the draft. Some experts feel he may be better suited as a guard initially, and the Giants have enough depth on the roster to allow them to do this.
Brian's pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
10. STL: La'el Collins, OT, LSU
If a few players slip, namely White and Scherff, I could see the Rams having a difficult time with this pick. The biggest weakness for the Rams is their offensive line, and as the current mock stands they will have their choice of whoever they feel is the second best after Scherff. I don't think this is a great spot for the Rams because the next few offensive lineman are pretty bunched together, and there's a chance they could get who they want 5-10+ picks later, so look for them to potentially trade back if things fall out this way. Either way, they need to protect their QB, and Nick Foles is less mobile than Sam Bradford.
Brian's pick: Scherff
11. MIN: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Vikings could go in a few different directions here, but ultimately I think the choice comes down to WR Devante Parker and Waynes. I think Parker is even more intriguing here because he caught passes from current Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater for three years at Louisville. The need at CB is a bit stronger, and in an interesting field this year, he seems to be the consensus #1.
Brian's pick: La'el Collins
12. CLE: Devante Parker, WR, Louisville
Speak of the devil. I'm not sure that Parker lasts this long, but it's a possibility. I expect him to be the third WR taken, so the sooner Cooper and White are gone, the more likely Parker will be drafted. The Browns badly need a WR after botching last year's draft, so they should be thrilled to see Parker available at this point. Last year in my mock draft, I had Cleveland drafting Sammy Watkins at 4 and Teddy Bridgewater at 26. Both players were there at the time and they passed in both cases. Can you imagine how different this draft would be for them if they had listened?
Brian's pick: Parker
13. NO: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
Gregory would have never lasted this long without his failed drug test for weed at the combine and his admission that he used to think about smoking all of the time. Some expect him to fall much further than this, but eventually talent outweighs other factors, and Gregory is seen as one of the best pass rushers in the draft. I think the Saints are a good fit because they have the correct coaches in place. Sean Payton seems to keep his players in line most of the time (aside from condoning the removal of Frank Gore's head from his body) and I'm pretty sure Rob Ryan will volunteer to babysit Gregory when needed, as long as he can have him on the field on Sundays. Either way, New Orleans needs to rebuild their defense, and this is a great starting point.
Brian's pick: Gregory
14. MIA: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
This pick is a bit out of the blue because RB isn't a huge need for the Dolphins, but I think Miami will pounce on the chance to draft Gurley. His injured knee was cleared during his re-check in Indianapolis recently and he's considered one of the best backs to come out in the past few years. Miami could use another weapon for QB Ryan Tannehill, but drafting Gurley will take pressure off of him, helping him out in a different way.
Brian's pick: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
15. SF: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
This is one of the most common picks I've seen in mock drafts, but I'm not sure why. Is it because the fit is so perfect? Is everyone else seeing/thinking this and just following suit? The 49ers defense was destroyed this past off-season via free agents leaving and players retiring. San Francisco had a disappointing season last year, and they're going to need to begin re-building their defense with this pick. Armstead is a mountain of a man and will work nicely in San Francisco's 3-4 defense.
Brian's pick: Armstead
16. HOU: Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
I had this pick as Shane Ray until hearing that he was cited for marijuana possession. To me the possession citation isn't the biggest deal here as guys get caught with it all of the time. It's still very poor judgement, but what's more concerning is that it happened a few days before the draft, at 5:45 in the morning, and he was speeding. That will definitely push him down the board. So in steps Perriman, a guy who flew up boards after running an extremely fast 40 time at his pro day. I'm not as high on Perriman as other mocks that I've seen, but the need to replace former-Texan Andre Johnson is there, and pairing Perriman with rising stud DeAndre Hopkins may be too promising to pass up.
Brian's pick: Perriman
17. SD: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Remember the days when the best running backs in the draft were gone after the first 10 picks? It's a new NFL where offenses move the ball through the air and workhorse running backs have been replaced by committees. I actually like the backfield that San Diego currently features, consisting of Oliver, Brown and Woodhead, but none of them can carry the majority of the load. Gordon can be that guy if need be. He has a rare blend of power and speed, and won't be asked to carry the offense immediately. I think the other option here is an offensive lineman, but would be surprised if Gordon is available and isn't the pick, unless Gurley is still available.
Brian's pick: Bud Dupree
18. KC: Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
This was a difficult pick for me because I think there are a few different ways the Chiefs could look at this selection. While WR, CB and a few front seven spots could use some upgrades, offensive line seems to be in the worst shape. Erving provides Kansas City with versatility as he can play any of the five positions. I think it will be hard to pass on the receivers available here, but look for the Chiefs to address that position on the second day.
Brian's pick: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
19. CLE (from BUF): Danny Shelton, DL, Washington
This is potentially a long fall for Shelton, but I think he ultimately ends up with the Browns, whether it is here at pick 19 or at 12. Shelton will provide a team with a great piece on the front lines, but I don't see many teams looking for this in the first round. Cleveland should be thrilled to find Shelton still available at this pick, and I'm wondering if another team may move up in between the Browns picks to draft him, considering his game-changing potential.
Brian's pick: Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
20. PHI: Byron Jones, CB, UConn
This is another one of the tough calls I had to make. Chip Kelly has quickly stamped himself as one of the most unpredictable men in sports, so what he does here is really an educated guess at best. My gut tells me that the Eagles will not be making their first pick in this slot, whether it means they've moved up or down. If the draft falls this way, I think there are a few picks here that they like and they wouldn't mind moving back. I could also see the first round not going as I've predicted and they don't like anyone here. Jones is my educated guess, and although he's a bit of a reach here he fits the mold of what Philadelphia looks for in their secondary, and he can play safety as well. I think if Perriman is still available here Chip may pull the trigger on him, but I like the WR crop that will be available to them in the second round.
Brian's pick: Jones
21. CIN: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Bengals find themselves in a nice spot here, considering their needs and who may still be available. They will have their pick of offensive lineman, which is a big need for them, as well as a few nice options at receiver and defensive line. I think Cincinnati chooses Peat, someone they can groom to be their long-term option at left tackle.
Brian's pick: TJ Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
22. PIT: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
I've seen many mocks that have Johnson going to the Steelers, for good reason. Pittsburgh's secondary has gotten old in the past few years and they are in need of an upgrade. Johnson fits the bill, as someone who plays aggressively like the rest of the Steelers defense.
Brian's pick: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
23. DET: Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas
The Lions desperately needed to fill the void left by the departures of both defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and Brown teamed up with newly acquired Haloti Ngata would check off that box. The Lions do seem to lean toward drafting players at skill positions, so if one that catches their eye slides, they could be in play here.
Brian's pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
24. ARI: Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
Most of the mocks I've seen have had the Cardinals taking a higher rated prospect, such as Gordon or Dupree, but I expect them all to be gone by pick 24. Harold is a nice consolation prize for a defense that has rounded into form over the past few seasons, but one in need of an impact linebacker. I think Harold will work well in this defense, but it may be a bit of a reach, so perhaps Arizona attempts to trade up or go a different route. I also wonder if Shane Ray may be a possibility, depending on what type of contact the team has had with him.
Brian's pick: Vic Beasley
25. CAR: DJ Humphries, OT, Florida
This pick will come down to either the highest rated tackle or receiver left on Carolina's board. Picking up tackle Michael Oher in the off-season gives the Panthers a little leeway here if they like a receiver, but I think the smart move is going with a tackle who can man the position for the foreseeable future and pick up a receiver in the second round.
Brian's pick: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
26. BAL: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco came out the other day and said he didn't think the team needed another wide receiver. Have you looked at the depth chart lately, Joe? The Ravens definitely need to address this position in the draft, whether it's in the first round or later. DGB is a bit of a problem child, but the Ravens have done a nice job handling those types of players in the past. If Coach John Harbaugh and the rest of the staff can keep this guy on the straight and narrow, he could be something special.
Brian's pick: Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
27. DAL: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Peters has talent that far exceeds this slot in the draft, but he has a temper and a reputation for clashing with coaches. Dallas should be looking at adding a cornerback sometime in the earlier rounds of the draft, and I think the chance to take Peters here will be too rich to pass on. Dallas also has a need at RB with the departure of last year's rushing champion, DeMarco Murray, but I believe they can address that need in Round 2, unless Gurley or Gordon would fall to them, or they're willing to trade up.
Brian's pick: Danny Shelton
28. DEN: Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
Denver has to do a better job of protecting Peyton Manning this year, since Father Time has been hitting him hard enough the past few seasons. The tackle prospects in this draft are very much packed together and jumbled around after Scherff, so Ereck Flowers and TJ Clemmings may also be options here. I chose Fisher because he's a nice fit for Gary Kubiak's zone running scheme. A dark horse would be TE Maxx Williams, who could slide right in and replace Julius Thomas, but I think the offensive lineman need is more pressing.
Brian's pick: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
29. IND: Ereck Flowers, OT, Oregon
This is a tough one for me to predict. Indy has a few different needs, and it's hard to say which of them is the most pressing. I think Flowers fits their offensive style well and could be a starter somewhere along the line from Day 1, so he's the choice. If the Colts decide to address their defense with this pick I think they go with safety Landon Collins or hybrid Shaq Thompson, who could play linebacker and safety for the team. No matter which approach they take, I think Indy is getting good value with this pick.
Brian's pick: Eli Harold
30. GB: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
The Packers have a big need to fill at inside linebacker and cornerback, but I see the linebacker hole as a bigger one. Green Bay patched this up last year by moving Clay Matthews inside, but that's not the answer. They took away the scariest part of their defense by lessening the amount of times he was rushing the passer. The Packers will have their choice of inside linebackers to choose from as none are expected to be off of the board at this point. If it was my choice I would go with UCLA inside linebacker Eric Kendricks, but I haven't heard his name mentioned among their potential choices. GM Ted Thompson likes to keep his cards close, so it may be Kendricks, but my prediction is McKinney.
Brian's pick: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
31. NO (from SEA): Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
How ironic would it be that the pick the Saints received from the Seahawks in exchange for tight end Jimmy Graham is used to draft the best tight end in this year's class? New Orleans could choose to continue rebuilding their defense or select a wide receiver with this pick, but I think this is right around the spot that Williams should go and it fits one of their biggest needs. Plus, the Saints get to pick again in less than half a round. Scary, right?
Brian's pick: Malcolm Brown
32. NE: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The classic line here is that the Patriots will trade out of this pick in order to accumulate more picks. It's very possible, but I think there are a few players that New England thinks could fall to them here, that they would take. One of those players is Goldman, a gap stuffer who is difficult to move, similar to former-Patriot Vince Wilfork. Goldman would be a nice fit in the 3-4, taking on blockers and allowing the linebackers to sweep up the rest.
Brian's pick: Melvin Gordon