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My 2015 NFL Mock Draft V 1.0

February 2, 2015

NFL DraftSuper Bowl XLIX is in the books and it’s time for draftniks, like myself, to dive into who’s taking who and where.

The biggest change for the 2015 NFL Draft is the location – Auditorium Theatre in Chicago from Thursday, April 30 through Saturday, May 2. While the venue has changed, the dynamic stays the same. The first round will take place on April 30, Rounds Two and Three are scheduled for May 1 and Rounds Four through Seven will wrap up on May 2.

It’s important to note that the NFL Free Agency signing period begins on March 10 and, while there will be big names on the open market, many teams will scramble to keep their players before other teams can negotiate.

Some of the high-profile players that could move from their current squads are Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray, Lions DT Ndamokung Suh, Cowboys WR Dez Bryant, Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas, Chiefs OLB Justin Houston, Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin, Seahawks CB Byron Maxwell, Packers WR Randall Cobb, Steelers OLB Jason Worilds and Patriots CB Darrelle Revis.

With the teams’ salary cap expected to rise to near $141M, squads like Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver and Indianapolis could take a huge free-agent plunge, with each team expected to have at least $20M in cap space.

Also, the NFL Draft Combine is set to take place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis from February 17-23. Most of the top prospects will, probably, be on hand, but it’s not a guarantee.

Still, with a shade under three months away from the draft, most teams’ needs are cut-and-dry. That’s not to say that, in the coming weeks, things won’t change. They always do.

With that said, here’s my mock draft projection as of February 2 – which will, likely, deviate in subsequent predictions. Mock Draft V2.0 is scheduled for Monday, February 16 – the day before the combines.

1. Tampa Bay – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
While not my top-graded player in the draft, the Buccaneers need a “face of the franchise”. Winston lost, only, one game in his college career, but his off-the-field issues will force NFL teams with an interest in the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner to determine if the litany of legal issues are a case of immaturity or a deeper problem. Winston’s physical attributes and game performances are unquestioned.

2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
This team is an utter mess, Barring a trade, Zack Mettenberger looks to be the odds-on favorite to win the Titans’ starting QB job in 2015. The defense needs help at, nearly, every position. Were I the one to choose for the club. I’d select a defensive stud, such as my top-graded player, USC DT Leonard Williams, or Nebraska DL/OLB Randy Gregory, but Mariota may be too enticing for GM Ruston Webster and head coach Ken Whisenhunt to pass on.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Williams, DE, Southern California
While the offense scored at least 20 points only four times in 2014, the defense allowed 30 or more points in six contests, including the first four games of the season. After selecting OT Luke Joeckel and QB Blake Bortles with their top picks in the last two drafts, GM David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley may want to select a top target for Bortles in Alabama WR Amari Cooper. However, to compete in the AFC South, the defense needs to be anchored and Williams has the potential be that player.

4. Oakland Raiders – Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
QB Derek Carr, a 2014 second round pick, was one of the nice surprises of the season, despite the Raiders’ abysmal scoring offense which was ranked next-to-last. The defense was battered in the AFC West as well as throughout the league and allowed the most points. While Amari Cooper would be a nice addition to the Oakland offense, new head coach Jack Del Rio will be in GM Reggie McKenzie’s ear to grab Gregory.

5. Washington Redskins – Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
While the Redskins have numerous questions on both sides of the ball, it’s apparent that defense is the direction Jay Gruden and the brain trust will go. After the interesting decision to hire former San Diego linebackers coach Joe Barry, who was the defensive coordinator for the 2008 Detroit Lions’ 0-16 campaign, team president Bruce Allen has his back against the wall. A trio of front-seven impact players are available with Ray edging out Washington’s massive DT Danny Shelton and Florida DE/OLB Dante Fowler.

6. New York Jets – Brandon Scherff, G, Iowa
It’s a new day for Jets fans. Gone are head coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik, replaced by Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, respectively. The biggest concerns for the new tandem are a nearly-invisible pass rush, a porous secondary and embarrassing offensive line work. Look for the defensive line to be dealt with via free-agency and the defensive backs in the second round. Expect the Jets to protect Geno Smith out of the gate with Scherff, who is a guard by trade, but can slide to tackle if needed.

7. Chicago Bears – Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
It looks like John Fox had enough of the impossible pressure and nothing-less-than-a-championship of the Denver Broncos’ front office, including Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl champ John Elway. Welcome to Chicago, Coach Fox, where the expectations are high and the fans will burn you (and QB Jay Cutler) in effigy. While the future of Cutler is in question, the direction of the new coach’s target is clear: defense. The Bears need a pass-rusher, among other concerns and the 6’2″ 261-pound Fowler should be there for the taking.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be the replacement for former head coach Mike Smith. A good wager will be that the Falcons will address the defense with their first pick. What’s in question is if Atlanta addresses their pass-rush or the defensive backs. Clemson DE/OLB Vic Beasley would be a fantastic pick here, should the defense stay with the 3-4 alignment, but Collins grades out as the best DB with sideline-to-sideline speed that would, immediately, help a battered secondary.

9. New York Giants – T. J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
Tom Coughlin has many directions where the Giants can improve on 2014’s 6-10 season and a whopping four game deficit behind Philadelphia for second place in the NFC East. While the defense needs work, Eli Manning needs to be protected and Will Beatty could be a salary cap casualty. Clemmings, a converted defensive end at 6’5″ and 307 pounds, could slide from right tackle to protect Manning’s blind side, if needed, based on his tendency to savage his opponent.

10. St. Louis Rams – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
While the quarterback tandem of Shaun Hill and Austin Davis didn’t set the world on fire in relief of injured starter Sam Bradford, they weren’t horrible. Despite occasional lapses, the defense finished, statistically, in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately, head coach Jeff Fisher hasn’t delivered a winning season in three seasons at the helm. A fourth, and ninth overall for the franchise, could force owner Stan Kroenke to look elsewhere. A big-name offensive weapon drops into Fisher’s lap with Cooper. Fans will love the pick.

11. Minnesota Vikings – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
A 7-9 record might not, on the surface, stir hope. Consider that, after a 2-5 start, the Vikings’ defense allowed just a shade over 20 points per game. Four of the team’s final five losses were by three points or less. All this with RB Adrian Peterson missing the final 15 games due to legal issues and rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater taking the helm for the final 12 contests. The future looks bright for head coach Mike Zimmer’s team and, following the success in selecting Bridgewater in 2014, they look, again, to Louisville with their first-round pick in Parker.

12. Cleveland Browns – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Josh Gordon era in Cleveland is about to end. Besides fielding the incessant questions about Johnny Manziel, head coach Mike Pettine needs to address the team’s offensive woes. Averaging, barely, over 230 yards of offense in the team’s final five games, all losses, makes it all but certain that Pettine wants offense. White’s senior season for the Mountaineers resulted in 109 receptions for 1,447 yards, 10 touchdowns and a finalist slot for the Biletnikoff Award.

13. New Orleans Saints – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
In the past two seasons, QB Drew Brees suffered the most amount of sacks in a season (37-2013, 29-2014), so helping the offensive line is a priority for head coach Sean Payton. Peat, the 2014 winner of the PAC-12’s Morris Trophy, is a 6’7″, 312-pound All-American who draws comparisons to Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden at the same point in their football careers.

14. Miami Dolphins – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
While DT isn’t a huge concern, the Dolphins could be in the position of drafting “the best player available”. Shelton is a massive player at 6’2″ and 343 pounds and the team could use this pick as bait for another team who desires immediate help along the defensive line. Clemson DE/OLB Vic Beasley, Kentucky DE Bud Dupree, Washington OLB Shaq Thompson and Michigan State CB Trae Waynes are other, likely, targets here.

15. San Francisco – Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
New 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula, apparently, likes Danny Shelton quite a bit but not likely enough to trade up. No worries for Niners fans who want the pass rush solidified. Beasley grades out, nearly, the same as Shelton and has more of an upside.

16. Houston Texans – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
One would think that, with the universe’s best defensive player, J.J. Watt, head coach Bill O’Brien will look for offensive help in the first round. Injuries (namely LB Jadeveon Clowney) and contract issues will force the Texans front office to, seriously, consider a player such as Waynes, who’s tall, long and can cover opponents’ go-to receivers.

17. San Diego Chargers – La’el Collins, OT, LSU
The Chargers’ most pressing need is the pass-rush, which many expect to be remedied via free-agency. QB Phillip Rivers, at the age of 33, has been sacked, at least, 30 times per season in each of the past five campaigns. San Diego’s best record over that period is 9-7. Collins, who can, also, play guard, will address a glaring problem at a reasonable rate of pay.

18. Kansas City Chiefs – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
The 2014 cast of Chiefs wide receivers scored zero touchdowns. That’s Z-E-R-O. Andy Reid needs to address this situation and the best available receiver is Green-Beckham, whose numerous run-ins with the law are well-documented. DGB is listed as playing for Missouri, despite being dismissed by Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel. The enigmatic receiver transferred to Oklahoma and sat out the 2014 season, per NCAA rules. The Chiefs could, also, focus on the offensive line or, perhaps, an inside linebacker. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Kansas City trade down to fill these needs or, if Reid, really, wants a receiver in the first round, trade up for Alabama’s Amari Cooper.

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
The Browns could use help at inside linebacker and, despite Thompson playing the outside for Chris Peterson at Washington, is versatile enough to move inside. Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award in 2014 for his versatility as he lined up at linebacker, safety and running back and should provide an immediate impact for a Browns defense that might have more holes by the time the calendar turns to June.

20. Philadelphia Eagles – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Eagles secondary was torched on a regular basis in 2014, making a cornerback selection a top priority. If Chip Kelly can’t convince team brass to move up to take Michigan State CB Trae Waynes, Peters will be their only other legitimate option. Either way, I don’t see the Eagles staying in this slot as Peters’ run-ins with his head coach, Chris Peterson, makes him a liability to draft this high – as the redshirt junior is a projected early second-round pick. On the other hand, if Philly stays in this slot, they could decide to grab Auburn WR Sammie Coates or Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong to pair with Jeremy Maclin, if he doesn’t leave via free-agency. This thought process could be, completely, moot if the rumors of Kelly wanting to trade up into the top-five to select Mariota come to fruition.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
The Bengals’ defense recorded a league-worst 20 sacks in 2014. In a draft that has plenty of outstanding pass-rushers, Bud Dupree would fit the bill for Marvin Lewis’ defense, after compiling 24.5 sacks in 47 games for Kentucky. Utah OLB Nate Orchard would, also, be a good selection for the Bengals, but the 6’4″, 267-pound Wildcat looks to be the best choice.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Steelers are in desperate need of a shut-down cornerback. Just as their Pennsylvania brethren across the state have the same issue, would Mike Tomlin pull the trigger on Marcus Peters, if available, Miami (OH)’s Quinten Rollins or Florida State’s P.J. Williams this early? The dominant thought is “no”, so Tomlin and new defensive coordinator Keith Butler will address either safety or the interior defensive line. Brown, at 6’4″ and 320 pounds, can clog the middle as well as get to the quarterback.

23. Detroit Lions – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (FL)
The offensive and defensive lines are major concerns for the Lions. The O-Line allowed 39 sacks on Matthew Stafford in 2014 while G Rob Sims and C Dominic Raiola testing the free agent waters, The Detroit front-four on defense could lose one of the biggest names in football if Ndamukong Suh takes his talents elsewhere. However, a team is more than one player and, with that said, Jim Caldwell will, likely address the protection of Stafford and take Flowers, who gained a starting role during his freshman year in Coral Gables.

24. Arizona Cardinals – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Cardinals have two glaring weaknesses: quarterback and running back. While Carson Palmer is, still, a very serviceable NFL signal-caller, his health is a grave concern for Bruce Arians. Of equal concern is the lack of production from the running back spot. Andre Ellington doesn’t appear to be the answer. While I’m not a proponent of drafting a running back in the first round, I would make an exception with Gordon. The All-American from Wisconsin wouldn’t last much past this pick, so they take Gordon and address the quarterback issue later.

25. Carolina Panthers – Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
The Panthers need to protect the franchise, Cam Newton. Erving, a converted defensive lineman, can play multiple spots on Ron Rivera’s offensive line, including center. At 6’5″ and 308 pounds, the former Seminole will be counted on to protect Newton’s blind side.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Ravens’ defensive backs suffered a myriad of injuries in 2014 and, in today’s pass-happy NFL, there is no such thing as “enough DBs”. Unfortunately, in a weak class for the position, GM Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh will probably turn their first-round attention to the offense. WR Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and Torrey Smith is as inconsistent as they come. Look for the Baltimore front office to give Joe Flacco another weapon in Strong, who caught 157 passes for 2,287 yards and 17 touchdowns in only two seasons in Tempe.

27. Dallas Cowboys – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Like many other teams, the Cowboys need help at cornerback, but will wait until later rounds to remedy that concern. The Dallas defensive line is a concern for Jason Garrett as the front four tends to be pedestrian. The team needs someone to disrupt the opponent’s offense and Goldman would be the man for the job. The 6’3″, 320-pound, first-team all-ACC player can handle a pair of blockers to allow a teammate to disrupt or, simply, blow up the play on his own. In any other year, Goldman would be a top-15 pick but, with the DL depth in this year’s draft, the Cowboys should get a steal at number 27.

28. Denver Broncos – Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
The biggest mystery of the second half of the Broncos’ 2014 season was the inability of the offensive line to consistently protect Peyton Manning. They had no problem firing out as run-blockers for C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, but for Manning to stay healthy, expect new head coach Gary Kubiak to repair the front-five. If Denver doesn’t trade up for a bigger name, expect them to look north on I-25 for Sambrailo, who anchored then-head coach Jim McElwain’s offensive line in Fort Collins. Sambrailo was, barely, recruited, but turned into one of the top linemen in the nation in 2014.

29. Indianapolis Colts – Nate Orchard, OLB/DE, Utah
For the Colts to make the next step, head coach Chuck Pagano needs to reach into his personal pedigree as a defensive wizard. Everyone knows the Colts can put up eye-popping offensive numbers, but the defense is, extremely, inconsistent. There is no guarantee that OLB/DE Robert Mathis will be ready for training camp, so look for the Colts to select, mostly, defensive players in 2015. Orchard terrorized opponents during his senior season at Utah ringing up 18.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss among his 84 tackles in 13 games.

30. Green Bay Packers – Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Offensively, the Packers need help on the line, tight end and wide receiver, should Randall Cobb seek employment elsewhere. That’s the easy part of Green Bay’s needs. Defense hasn’t been the Packers’ strong suit over the past couple of seasons, so expect head coach Mike McCarthy to address that weakness. McKinney is a ferocious player with top-flight instincts and a great motor to add to his 6’4″, 249-pound frame.

31. Seattle Seahawks – Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
The biggest question facing the Seahawks front office is the future of RB Marshawn Lynch as a member of the team. The biggest hole on the team, as we speak, is wide receiver. Doug Baldwin is the only consistent target for QB Russell Wilson and the lack of depth at the position. WR Chris Matthews, based on his Super Bowl performance, will get a look-see in 2015. Outside of impending free agents, Coates is the top option to be a number two receiver. While his numbers at Auburn pale in comparison to the top receivers in 2014, the kid can go get the ball. Following the news of injuries to Richard Sherman, who could miss all of 2015 after planned Tommy John surgery, Kam Chancellor and Jeremy Lane, the team’s attention might turn to the secondary.

32. New England Patriots – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
The Patriots will have numerous off-season issues to deal with that do not include “DeflateGate”. The futures of Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty are in flux, the lack of consistent wide receiver production after Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell can be disturbing and Rob Gronkowski is, often, one bad fall away from ending his season on injured reserve. With that in mind, the Patriots will, likely, take the “best player available”, which should be Phillips. The redshirt sophomore doesn’t fill the stat sheet as a top-flight defensive tackle does, but he possesses the ability to disrupt an offense.

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