Another futile attempt at predicting what will happen in the 2015 NFL Draft, here’s my projection of the first three rounds. You can check out my last mock draft from before the Combine to see what changes have been made. With six weeks worth of stock rising and falling, as well as NFL teams filling needs via free agency, only three of my previously projected first-round picks remained the same. Also six players that I had previously projected to be first-round picks are now poised to be selected in the second round.
An asterisk (*) indicates an underclassman.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Jameis Winston, Florida State*
Since the Combine, everybody appears convinced that the Bucs are going to pick Winston. It’s hard to really argue with their logic. Since the Bucs aren’t concerned about Winston’s off-field issues, they should favor him over Mariota since he’s more pro ready and fits the style of offense that they are looking to run in Tampa.
2. Tennessee Titans – DT Leonard Williams, Southern California*
Williams is widely considered the best prospect in the draft, and would be a great fit teaming with fellow USC alum Jurrell Casey on the Titans’ front. While the Titans certainly need a quarterback, Ken Whisenhunt has never struck me as the sort of guy that would fall in love with Marcus Mariota and adapt his offense to feature a running quarterback. It doesn’t seem likely that ownership will butt into this selection like they did back in 2006, given that Titans ownership is in flux.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Dante Fowler, Florida*
Picking Fowler to the Jaguars is largely dependent on the similarities between Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn, and the fact that Fowler is probably the top edge-rusher on the Falcons’ board, probably means that he’ll be the top edge-rusher on the Jaguars’ board. Not to mention that the Jags also have a GM in David Caldwell from the Thomas Dimitroff tree, which probably means a high character guy like Fowler is a perfect fit for them.
4. Oakland Raiders – WR Amari Cooper, Alabama*
While it’s likely that many draft boards will have West Virginia’s Kevin White over Cooper, I think the Raiders with new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will prefer a player like Cooper. Cooper is a crisp route-runner that can help the Raiders have the conservative, ball-control offense that Musgrave will likely prefer.
5. Washington Redskins – OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson
The Redskins have bigger fish to fry than taking a pass-rusher since Trent Murphy was their top pick last season. But Beasley is a much better prospect and player than Murphy will ever be, and thus it’s easy for the Redskins to convince themselves that he could provide a massive boost to their defense right away.
6. New York Jets – QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon*
This is a hard pick to project because with the hiring of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who features an offense that could easily adapt to a mobile quarterback like Mariota. However, the Jets already acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick to presumably be their starter. Since Gailey only had eyes for the “Amish Rifle” during his three years in Buffalo, the Jets might be content at quarterback and go after a pass-rusher here. But if the new coaching staff isn’t keen on continuing to develop Geno Smith for the future, then Mariota has to be the pick.
7. Chicago Bears – WR Kevin White, West Virginia
The Bears are certainly happy that the Raiders opted for Cooper over White, since that gives them the more dynamic vertical threat to team with Alshon Jeffery. White should be a good fit in Adam Gase’s offense and be a good weapon for the strong-armed Jay Cutler to chuck it up deep for the coming years.
8. Atlanta Falcons – DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska*
Despite his positive test for marijuana, Gregory has the physical tools that suggest he’s a great fit for what the Falcons are looking for at this position. Normally, the Falcons would be scared away from a prospect with Gregory’s “red flags” but a guy that smokes too much weed is fairly low on the totem pole of character issues that an NFL team has to navigate. They can work with Gregory if he’s committed to getting better.
9. New York Giants – OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
Scherff’s versaility makes him a good fit for the Giants, as he could come in and compete immediately at left guard where he’d be an upgrade over John Jerry, or he could play right tackle and push Justin Pugh to guard, where many think he’d be better. Scherff is a powerful run-blocker and should have Giants fans reminiscing over the heyday of Chris Snee.
10. St. Louis Rams – CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State*
The Rams like their young corners in E.J. Gaines, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. But they’re nothing special. Waynes gives them a big, physical corner that has the potential to be a true No. 1 guy. While the Rams obviously still have lingering issues on offense, acquiring a big-time corner like Waynes should be the final piece to the puzzle that gives them one of the league’s elite defenses.
11. Minnesota Vikings – DE Bud Dupree, Kentucky
A bit of a surprise selection, but the Vikings are looking to upgrade their pass rush. Brian Robison has always been more effective as a situational rusher than a starter and is also getting up there in age. Dupree is a developmental rusher that coupled with Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd and Anthony Barr, could give Aaron Rodgers nightmares for years to come.
12. Cleveland Browns – WR Devante Parker, Louisville
Parker gives the Browns another good young wideout to develop in the future in case Josh Gordon never gets back on track. In an offseason where the team already added Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe, the Browns can certainly say they are providing Johnny Manziel with capable weapons.
13. New Orleans Saints – OG La’el Collins, LSU
After trading away Ben Grubbs, the Saints need to bolster the interior of their offensive line. Collins is a bit overmatched as a left tackle in pass protection, but should be a good fit inside at guard where he can add “plus” value as a run-blocker.
14. Miami Dolphins – CB Jalen Collins, LSU*
A big, long cornerback with limited experience, Collins shares a background comparable to Richard Sherman. The Dolphins will hope that he’ll develop like Sherman did and give them a solid corner opposite Brent Grimes.
15. San Francisco 49ers – CB Marcus Peters, Washington*
The 49ers defense took several hard hits this offseason, losing several starters to retirement and free agency. They have to start to rebuild and it might begin in the secondary, which was already considered the weakest unit on that side of the ball. Peters has character issues, but the 49ers could be confident that their locker room can handle them.
16. Houston Texans – ILB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Kendricks may not be the sexiest pick, but he’s very likely to be a really good pro. The Texans need help at inside linebacker since Brian Cushing simply isn’t the same player he was a few years ago, and they had a revolving door of mediocrity at the inside linebacker spot beside him in 2014.
17. San Diego Chargers – OT Jake Fisher, Oregon
Fisher has the versatility to play multiple positions up front, but likely will start out at right tackle and bump D.J. Fluker inside to guard where his pass protection issues won’t be as problematic. Eventually, Fisher could take over at left tackle.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State*
The Chiefs already spent a pretty penny to bring Jeremy Maclin to the midwest, but still need more help at wide receiver. Getting a big, physical weapon on the outside like Strong makes a lot of sense to replace Bowe.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) – DT Danny Shelton, Washington
Phil Taylor has given the Browns little reason to trust him, coming off an injury and entering a contract year. Shelton secures his replacement sooner rather than later and can immediately be plugged into the starting lineup.
20. Philadelphia Eagles – SS Landon Collins, Alabama*
The Eagles prefer safeties that can cover, but they already had a rangy, enforcer-type in Earl Wolff at strong safety. Collins is basically a much better version, and will have Eagle fans drawing comparisons to Brian Dawkins.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – OT D.J. Humphries, Florida*
This may wind up Andrew Whitworth’s last year in the pros, and the Bengals would be smart to secure his long-term replacement. Humphries has medical red flags but he should get a “redshirt” year to hit the weight room and mold himself into their type of tackle.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
It appears the Steelers really like Johnson and have a glaring need at cornerback. It just makes too much sense, as he can be expected to step in right away and be an asset in coverage.
23. Detroit Lions – OT Andrus Peat, Stanford*
Selecting Peat allows the Lions to slide Riley Reiff to right tackle, where he should become more effective. Peat has some flaws, but also has plenty of upside as a left tackle.
24. Arizona Cardinals – DE Shane Ray, Missouri*
The Cardinals need pass-rushers and Ray gives them that. While not a great fit in a 3-4 at outside linebacker, he’ll likely just be used in his ideal role as a situational end when the Cardinals use four-man fronts in their sub-packages, much like they did with John Abraham in 2013.
25. Carolina Panthers – OT Ereck Flowers, Miami (FL)*
There is no greater sign of the desperation the Panthers have at left tackle than turning to Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin. Flowers needs polish, but has upside to develop into a much better left tackle than either one of those guys have been to date.
26. Baltimore Ravens – TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota*
The future of Dennis Pitta is in doubt given two consecutive years where hip injuries have sidelined him. Unlike Crockett Gillmore, Williams is a good candidate to develop into a starter if need be, but also gives them a better second option should Pitta successfully return.
27. Dallas Cowboys – DT Malcom Brown, Texas*
I find it odd that over the past 26 years since Jerry Jones has owned the team, the Cowboys have only drafted one player from the University of Texas. Makes me think he has an aversion to that program. Although they ex-Longhorns like Derrick Dockery, Leonard Davis, Roy Williams and Henry Melton have suited up for the ‘Boys. Even if Jerry hates everything that comes from the city of Austin, Brown makes too much sense given their desperate need for quality defensive tackles.
28. Denver Broncos – OLB Eli Harold, Virginia*
The Broncos are moving to the 3-4 and while DeMarcus Ware is solid piece opposite Von Miller today, he’s starting to slow down despite coming off a 10-sack season. Given the Broncos don’t have that one pressing need, they can afford to take a developmental starter for the future like Harold to groom behind Ware for a year or two.
29. Indianapolis Colts – RB Todd Gurley, Georgia*
I won’t pretend that I might be forcing this pick a little. The Colts just paid Frank Gore a nice chunk of change to be their starting tailback but Gurley might just to be too good to pass up. After all, Gore is going to be 32 this season and has a history of injuries. Being able to stash away a player like Gurley just makes too much sense.
30. Green Bay Packers – DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State*
The Packers desperately need a nose tackle and can simply wait and see who slips to them at the end of the round. Goldman is a nice fit to deploy beside Datone Jones and Mike Daniels up front.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle) – ILB Stephone Anthony, Clemson
All the crazy trades by the Saints this offseason were made because they want to focus on defense, so it makes sense for them to snag at least one defensive player with their two picks in the first round. Anthony is physical and has the versatility to fill multiple roles in the middle of their defense.
32. New England Patriots – OLB Shaq Thompson, Washington*
Bill Belichick likes versatile weapons that he can plug into a specific niche, and Thompson is exactly that. He can be an asset in coverage and also has the speed and range to make plays all over the defense. Dont’a Hightower is a free agent next year, and Thompson can start out as a nickel linebacker before moving to a full-time starter in 2016.
33. Tennessee – OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
He’s much better than Byron Stingily at right tackle.
34. Tampa Bay – RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin*
If this comes to pass, will be hailed as one of the biggest steals of the draft.
35. Oakland – CB P.J. Williams, Florida State*
Del Rio and Norton’s scheme calls for bigger, longer corners.
36. Jacksonville – CB Byron Jones, Connecticut
Athletic corner that could help reverse their atrocious secondary play in recent years.
37. N.Y. Jets – DE Owa Odighizuwa, UCLA
An athletic pass-rusher to help immediately in their sub-packages.
38. Washington – S Quinten Rollins, Miami (OH)
Former basketball player can help a horrific secondary.
39. Chicago – DE Arik Armstead, Oregon*
Their move to 3-4 needs a big body like Armstead up front.
40. N.Y. Giants – ILB Denzel Perryman, Miami (FL)
Much better option than an injury-prone Jon Beason in the future.
41. St. Louis – OC Cam Erving, Florida State
Erving could slide in immediately as a starter at center or guard.
42. Atlanta – S Derron Smith, Fresno State
This undersized ball-hawk is one of the better centerfielders in this draft class.
43. Cleveland – TE Devin Funchess, Michigan
They’re going to turn this big wideout into a flex tight end.
44. New Orleans – DE Nate Orchard, Utah
They’ll groom him to replace Junior Galette.
45. Minnesota – OG A.J. Cann, South Carolina
Provides a big body on the interior of the offensive line.
46. San Francisco – DE Carl Davis, Iowa
They’ll hope he can replace Justin Smith up front.
47. Miami – WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida*
A weapon to deploy on the outside along with Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry.
48. San Diego – S Damarious Randall, Arizona State
They need some insurance in case they can’t keep Eric Weddle next year.
49. Kansas City – CB Eric Rowe, Utah
Has the size and athleticism they’re looking for at cornerback.
50. Buffalo – ILB Bernardrick McKinney, Mississippi State*
Hoping he’ll be in Buffalo what David Harris was in New York.
51. Houston – WR Nelson Agholor, Southern California*
They’ll hope his speed and quickness can replace Andre Johnson.
52. Philadelphia – OG Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
He’ll be groomed to replace Evan Mathis in 2016.
53. Cincinnati – DE Danielle Hunter, LSU
A developmental edge-rusher comparable to Michael Johnson.
54. Detroit – DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State
They’ll hope his first step can fill some of the void left by Suh and Fairley’s departures.
55. Arizona – CB Ronald Darby, Florida State*
Freaky athletic corner from FSU? Sounds like Antonio Cromartie.
56. Pittsburgh – TE Clive Walford, Miami (FL)
They need to find an heir apparent to Heath Miller.
57. Carolina – RB Jay Ajayi, Boise State*
A good option to split carries with Jonathan Stewart.
58. Baltimore – WR Devin Smith, Ohio State
He’s got that vertical ability to replace Torrey Smith.
59. Denver – OT Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State
Gives them developmental options at guard and/or right tackle.
60. Dallas – CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
If Mo Claiborne doesn’t take that next step, he gives them an in-house replacement.
61. Indianapolis – DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma*
A widebody that should be an upgrade in the middle.
62. Green Bay – CB Alex Carter, Stanford*
Gives them needed size to deal with Alshon Jeffery and Calvin Johnson.
63. Seattle – OG Ali Marpet, Hobart
Athletic and versatile college tackle that can start at guard or center for them.
64. New England – DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson
Not a plugger like Vince Wilfork, but an upgrade on the interior defensive line.
65. Tampa Bay – DE Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
They need all the pass rush help they can get.
66. Tennessee – QB Brett Hundley, UCLA*
Whisenhunt loves projects like him at quarterback.
67. Jacksonville – RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
Gives them an explosive change-of-pace runner.
68. Oakland – DE Preston Smith, Mississippi State
A good mentee for Justin Tuck.
69. Washington – OG Tre’ Jackson, Florida State
Adds size they want on the interior offensive line.
70. N.Y. Giants – RB Telvin Coleman, Indiana*
Explosive runner that should improve their committee system.
71. Chicago – ILB Paul Dawson, TCU
A good fit as thumper in their new 3-4 scheme.
72. St. Louis – OT Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
Hard-nosed blocker can be plugged in right away at right tackle.
73. Atlanta – RB Mike Davis, South Carolina*
Interior runner that can split reps with Devonta Freeman.
74. N.Y. Giants – DT Xavier Cooper, Washington State
Another interior pass-rusher to play beside Johnathan Hankins.
75. New Orleans – WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma
A big, dynamic weapon that can fill Jimmy Graham void in offense.
76. Minnesota – S Adrian Amos, Penn State
An upgrade in the secondary given his coverage prowess.
77. Cleveland – OLB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville
An insurance policy in case Barkevious Mingo doesn’t take the next step.
78. New Orleans (from Miami) – TE Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
Another potential weapon in the middle of the field.
79. San Francisco – OLB Max Valles, Virginia
Developmental insurance policy behind Aldon Smith.
80. Kansas City – OC Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
A solid replacement for Rodney Hudson at center.
81. Buffalo – OG Laken Tomlinson, Duke
Undersized, but feisty guard is an upgrade over Chris Williams.
82. Houston – DE Bobby Richardson, Indiana
A capable five-technique to bolster an already strong defensive line.
83. San Diego – RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama*
Should slide in nicely into their committee approach.
84. Philadelphia – WR Sammie Coates, Auburn*
Chip Kelly won’t have a problem gambling on his size and raw upside.
85. Cincinnati – OLB Kwon Alexander, LSU*
Adds much-needed speed and range at linebacker.
86. Arizona – RB Duke Johnson, Miami (FL)*
Another big-play option alongside Andre Ellington.
87. Pittsburgh – OLB Davis Tull, Chattanooga
Edge-rusher with athleticism and high motor.
88. Detroit – CB Senquez Golston, Mississippi
Potential upgrade at nickel cornerback.
89. Carolina – WR Rashad Greene, Florida State
Kelvin Benjamin’s former teammate can man the slot.
90. Baltimore – CB D’Joun Smith, Florida Atlantic
Gives them insurance in event Lardarius Webb doesn’t rebound.
91. Dallas – S Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
Cover safety that is a critical upgrade in secondary.
92. Denver – ILB Taiwan Jones, Michigan State
Two-down thumper could replace Nate Irving.
93. Indianapolis – S Anthony Harris, Virginia
An immediate starter and upgrade at either safety spot.
94. Green Bay – WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Explosive return threat that can give Rodgers another weapon on offense.
95. Seattle – DE Anthony Chickillo, Miami (FL)
Edge-rusher adds depth to their rotation.
96. New England – CB Josh Shaw, Southern California
Big press corner that can replace Brandon Browner.
97. New England (compensatory) – CB Charles Gaines, Louisville*
Former wideout has ball skills, but not size Patriots like.
98. Kansas City (compensatory) – WR Phillip Dorsett, Miami (FL)
Andy Reid can’t pass up an explosive, vertical threat like him.
99. Cincinnati (compensatory) – WR Chris Conley, Georgia
Athletic project could become No. 2 opposite A.J. Green down the road.