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My 2015 NFL Mock Draft V 2.0

February 19, 2015
Florida State QB Jameis Winston

Florida State QB Jameis Winston

The NFL Scouting Combines are underway in Indianapolis. While teams will be pouring over times and reps, no team will base their entire draft, solely, on the combines.

There has, also, been much speculation concerning top free-agents, yet the signing period does not begin until March 10. While teams will attempt to sign their players to new deals, there will be movement among some of the big names, but nothing is definite as of this date.

Adding to the speculation is the always-interesting “franchise tag” that teams can use to keep top players for one season at the average salary of a top-five player at his position for that year. Some names to watch for this designation are Dallas WR Dez Bryant, Denver WR Demaryius Thomas and Kansas City OLB Justin Houston.

Following the combines, a new mock draft will be prepared and posted the week before the free-agency period begins.

1. Tampa Bay – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Despite numerous needs by the Buccaneers, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner remains as my top selection for the team. Head Coach Lovie Smith, in his second season at the helm, needs to make a splash for team ownership to remain confident in his abilities. Smith could try to convince the brass to start with the defense, as his pedigree is on that side of the ball.
(Last mock draft – 1)

2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
With the likelihood of the top two quarterbacks in Nashville being Zach Mettenberger and Charlie Whitehurst (Jake Locker’s option year was not picked up), drafting the best signal-caller seems to be the top priority for Ken Whisenhunt. The Titans need help at, nearly, every position, but the chance of drafting Mariota will, probably, be too good to pass up. Don’t be surprised if Philadelphia tries to strike a deal to move all the way up from the 20th position to get Mariota.
(Last mock draft – 2)

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Williams, DE, Southern California
The Jaguars need a stud on the defensive line and Williams is my top-rated player in this year’s draft. Wide receiver is another pressing need, as Justin Blackmon’s future is still clouded. The oft-troubled receiver is still suspended, yet can apply for reinstatement. Still, with the top receiver being Amari Cooper, this slot is too high for the Alabama receiver and Gus Bradley should have a plethora of solid receivers to choose from in the second round.
(Last mock draft – 3)

4. Oakland Raiders – Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
New head coach Jack Del Rio will have his hands full in his new gig. Not only does he have to deal with a long-struggling franchise, GM Reggie McKenzie is no bed of roses to work for. Like Jacksonville, the Raiders need help at most skill positions, especially wide receiver. Del Rio is a defensive guy and should get his wish for a highly-rated defensive lineman. Gregory is a Robert Mathis-type player and should excel in Del Rio’s system.
(Last mock draft – 4)

5. Washington Redskins – Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
The Redskins were, utterly, horrible on defense in 2014. Jay Gruden doesn’t have much of a leash to operate with in 2015 and the hiring of Joe Barry to replace Jim Haslett as the team’s defensive coordinator has fans scratching their heads. Ray, a redshirt junior, had a monster season for Gary Pinkel, finishing his only season as a starter (after backing up Kony Ealy and Michael Sam) with 65 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks.
(Last mock draft – 5)

6. New York Jets – Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
New head coach Todd Bowles has a massive job ahead of him. his new team is deficient at, nearly, every position. An impact player is needed and, as the draft is deep in offensive and defensive linemen, Bowles might have to flip a coin between Iowa G Brandon Scherff and Fowler. Either way, the first pick for the Jets will plug a leaking hole on either side of the line of scrimmage. Fowler, who dropped 16 pounds entering his senior season at Florida, was explosive off the edge for the Gators and recorded 60 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2014.
(Last mock draft – 7)

7. Chicago Bears – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Bears’ offense was, kind to say, pedestrian in 2014. With that said, it was light-years more impressive than their defense and that’s where new head coach John Fox will begin the rebuilding of this once-proud franchise. Shelton was a three-year starter for the Huskies and capped his brilliant career in Seattle with nine sacks while facing numerous double-teams throughout the 2014 season..
(Last mock draft – 14)

8. Atlanta Falcons – Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
No team was as disappointing as the Falcons in 2014 and to quote “48 Hours” Reggie Hammond, “There’s a new sheriff in town”. Dan Quinn, the architect of the great Seattle Seahawks’ defenses of the past two seasons, replaces Mike Smith in the captain’s chair and will, immediately address the battered defense. Collins, a unanimous All-American in 2014, registered 168 tackles and five interceptions for Nick Saban in his sophomore and junior seasons and has pro instincts along with excellent sideline-to-sideline speed.
(Last mock draft – 8)

9. New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Head coach Tom Coughlin needs to keep his quarterback upright. After being sacked only 19 times in 2012, Eli Manning failed to elude defenders grasps 67 times over the past two seasons. If the Giants want to compete for the top spot in the NFC East with Dallas ruling the roost and Philadelphia vastly improved, the offensive line needs to be addressed. New York has a couple of options in this spot with Brandon Scherff and converted defensive tackle T.J. Clemmings from Pittsburgh. Scherff is the more polished lineman of the two and the Giants don’t have time to spare if Coughlin wants to stay employed.
(Last mock draft – 6)

10. St. Louis Rams – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The Rams entered the off-season with numerous questions, mostly centered around their 2010 number one draft pick, quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford suffered a second torn ACL in 2014 and is due, nearly, $13M in 2015. Would Jeff Fisher cut Bradford or convince the team to restructure the five-year veteran’s contract? It’s unlikely that the team would part ways with Bradford, as Austin Davis isn’t the answer under center and Shaun Hill is a free-agent. No matter who takes the snaps, expect an offensive player to be picked here. If Cooper, who caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 TDs at Alabama as the 2014 Biletnikoff Award winner, isn’t available, the line will be addressed with Cummings, Stanford’s Andrus Peat, or Miami’s Ereck Flowers.
(Last mock draft – 10)

11. Minnesota Vikings – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
While Mike Zimmer’s squad showed much improvement in the second half of the 2014 season, there are plenty of positions that need to be upgraded. Assuming RB Adrian Peterson returns to Minnesota, QB Teddy Bridgewater will have less pressure to be the center of the offense. Greg Jennings, at age 31, returns as the top receiver, illuminating the need for a younger and big-time red zone target. Defensively, the Vikings’ front-seven could use depth, but the secondary needs help. If Coach Zimmer wants to target a DB, the Vikes could trade down a few spots for Michigan State CB Trae Waynes, but the 6’3″ White’s big-play ability might be too good to pass up.
(Last mock draft – 12)

12. Cleveland Browns – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
WR Josh Gordon has been suspended for the 2015 season and will, probably,never suit up for the team again. Who will take the season opener snaps at QB is anyone’s guess. Defensively, Mike Pettine’s club isn’t at the same level as the Seahawks, but they’re not as porous as the Redskins. No matter who the starting QB will be, a top-flight receiver is the unquestioned top need and Parker will be the top choice available.
(Last mock draft – 11)

13. New Orleans Saints – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
QB Drew Brees will need protection if the Saints plan to return to the post-season. Defensively, the secondary is the team’s weakest point and, like Minnesota, could move down if head coach Sean Peyton wants to address the back-four first. Also, the Saints have to consider life after Brees, who turned 36 years old in January. Peat is a punishing blocker, both for the ground game and in pass protection and draws comparable reviews to Jonathan Ogden at the same point in their careers. I’m sticking with the Stanford lineman here, as he was my choice for New Orleans in my first mock draft.
(Last mock draft -13)

14. Miami Dolphins – Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
Like their AFC East counterparts in Buffalo and New York, the Dolphins remain light-years behind the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots  While Joe Philbiin’s offense could use another stud offensive lineman, the defense needs to be bolstered after at least 28 points in five of their last six games in 2014. Considered by many as the best pass-rusher from the OLB position, Beasley set the Clemson record for career sacks and draws comparisons to Denver’s Von Miller.
(Last mock draft – 15)

15. San Francisco – La’el Collins, OT, LSU
New head coach Jim Tomsula, the team’s defensive line coach from 2007-2014, needs to rebuild both lines. A stud pass-rusher is a big need, but the common thought is that the Niners will address that issue via free agency. As for the offensive line, Tomsula needs someone that is big, strong, agile and possesses a nasty streak: Collins is that player. The 6’5″ 308-pounder handled the SEC’s best pass-rushers on a regular basis and, although he needs technique work, being paired with the right coach could make him one of the best in the business.
(Last mock draft – 17)

16. Houston Texans – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
According to many outlets, the top needs for the Texans are QB, OL and WR. While these positions need upgrades, the defensive secondary needs big-time help to shore up a defense that ranked 21st in passing yards allowed. Washington’s Marcus Peters is the top CB in the game, but his issues with the coaching staff will red-flag him in this draft. Waynes’ only knock is his size at 6’1″ 183 pounds, but his downfield speed and ability to stick his nose into the run defense game. The junior from Michigan State has a great positive attitude and adds the intangibles that an NFL-caliber corner needs.
(Last mock draft – 16)

17. San Diego Chargers – T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
The Chargers needs help in the defensive secondary, the defensive line interior and the offensive line. CB Marcus Peters has all the talent to be one of the top CBs in the league, but his past issues with authority  could send him into the second round. There are plenty of good defensive and offensive linemen to choose from at this point. QB Philip Rivers has been sacked an average of 36 times per season over the past five years and, not coincidentally, the Chargers have only made the playoffs once in that span (2013). Clemmings is a converted defensive lineman and is known as a mauler on the right side of the line. He needs some technique work, especially with his feet, but could be an all-Pro for San Diego.
(Last mock draft – 9)

18. Kansas City Chiefs – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (FL)
This is a tough spot for the Chiefs. Two of their biggest needs are WR and CB. Unfortunately, the top available players at these positions have more red flags than a Lenin birthday celebration in Moscow. Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham has numerous run-ins with the law and, after leaving Missouri for Oklahoma and sitting out 2014 as a transfer, declared for the draft without ever playing a game for the Sooners. Marcus Peters is the top CB and his travails have already been mentioned above. Will Andy Reid take a chance on either of these players? Common thinking is “no”, so the Chiefs will address another need: the offensive line. Flowers is a versatile lineman with excellent skills in the run-blocking and pass-protection schemes with little downside.
(Last mock draft – 23)

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
The Browns, with their second pick in the first round, should be looking at defense. Thompson, the 2014 Paul Hornung Award winner, can play any of the linebacker positions in a 3-4 or 4-3 front-seven. He has exceptional side-to-side speed and great instincts. The only concern for scouts is his 6’2″ 231 pound frame. He’ll need to get stronger to be an every-down player, but in the right system, his tacking inadequacies should be easy to overcome.
(Last mock draft – 19)

20. Philadelphia Eagles – Nate Orchard, OLB/DE, Utah
The Eagles need help all over the defensive side of the ball, especially at the corners, safety and at outside linebacker. Still, there has been much scuttlebutt about Chip Kelly trading up – but to where? It’s a known fact that Kelly covets QB Marcus Mariota, but the price could be far too high for a team with many defensive deficiencies. Conversely, based upon team needs, Philadelphia could trade down to address their cornerback or outside linebacker needs. A safety could be picked in the 2nd round or later. In the unlikelihood the team picks here, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to take Orchard, who terrorized opposing defenses in 2014 with 18.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss among his 84 tackles.
(Last mock draft – 29)

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Bengals’ pass-rush was abysmal in 2014, recording a league-low 20 sacks while the defensive backfield wasn’t much better. Future free-agent acquisitions notwithstanding, expect a rebuilding of Marvin Lewis’ defense in 2015. Of the top-four defensive linemen available at this point, Brown is the most accomplished and NFL-ready. While Brown relies heavily on a swim-move and is inconsistent with hand and arm use, it’s nothing that cannot be overcome. At 6’4″ and 320 pounds, the Longhorn is versatile and can play multiple spot on the line.
(Last mock draft – 22)

22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Bud Dupree, OLB/DE, Kentucky
Mike Tomlin’s sights will be set on defense in the 2015 draft. The secondary is tattered, the linebackers are, slightly, above average and the line needs help. The Steelers are a candidate to trade down into the late first/early second round to address the defensive back position but, if they stay with the pick, Dupree is a solid pick here. The Wildcat has exceptional strength and good transition skills from run to pass in a play-action scenario. The knock on Dupree is perceived hesitancy on the field. Still, he has the potential to be a force in the AFC North if he develops a consistent pass-rush move.
(Last mock draft – 21)

23. Detroit Lions – Cameron Erving, C/T, Florida State
The biggest concern for the Lions is the future of Ndamukong Suh in Detroit. The lineman, despite his on-field issues, will be a prime target for many teams when the free-agency signing period opens in March. Other areas of need include cornerback and offensive line depth. The cornerback availability has been noted above, so if Jim Caldwell is dead-red on getting a CB, the Lions could trade up for Trae Waynes or down to select from a myriad of players. Erving, a converted defensive tackle who switched to center in 2014 for Jimbo Fisher, is an extremely intelligent player who could slide to either tackle or guard and give extra help for the Lions’ offense as the Lions will have Travis Swanson at center to replace Dominic Raiola.
(Last mock draft – 25)

24. Arizona Cardinals – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Cardinals, despite roster issues in 2014, was the surprise team of the year before falling to Carolina in the first round of the playoffs. One could point to, nearly, every position on the squad and say an upgrade is needed. The biggest need is at running back, as Andre Ellington hasn’t been productive for Bruce Arians’ offense. Gordon is a big-time back with speed and strength and is improving his receiving skills. Georgia’s Todd Gurley might be the best back in the Class of 2014, but injury concerns will, likely, make Gordon the top pick for the Cards.
(Last mock draft – 24)

25. Carolina Panthers – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Ron Rivera needs to protect the franchise, Cam Newton. Unfortunately, if the draft shakes out as predicted to this point, the Panthers’ head coach may have to reach to get a LT to protect Newton in this spot. Corner help is, also a need as well as a pass-rusher and, finally, I can justify Peters being selected here. By far, Peters is the most NFL-ready corner in the draft and his physical attributes are unquestioned. Expect Rivera and the Carolina brain-trust to fully vet Peters if they are serious about selecting him.
(Last mock draft – 20)

26. Baltimore Ravens – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
The Ravens need pass-rushing as well as more depth on the offensive line. Oh. Some guy named Steve Smith is getting older. Of the three position needs that sit atop the Baltimore wish-list, receiver is the one that could be filled here. Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong would be a solid pick as well as Auburn’s Sammie Coates. However, at 6’5″ and 225 pounds, Beckham-Green is the best option at this slot if John Harbaugh wants to get another target for Joe Flacco. With DGB’s oft-chronicled off-field issues, this might be one of the best teams for him to play for – as the team is loaded with veterans to, perhaps, counsel and guide the young receiver.
(Last mock draft – 18)

27. Dallas Cowboys – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Like many other teams, cornerback is a prime need for the Cowboys. Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett could pull the trigger and take Quinten Rollins from Miami (OH) or P.J. Williams from Florida State, but I don’t think that’s a likely scenario – unless Dallas trades down. Wide receiver remains a concern, despite Dez Bryant, reportedly, being a candidate for the team’s franchise tag. TE Jason Witten has a bunch of miles on his legs, so Minnesota’s Maxx Williams might be a possibility, although a stretch at this pick. The defensive interior needs help and this is where I think the Cowboys focus on in the first round. Goldman is a beast against the run and is flexible enough to play multiple positions on the defensive line, although his speed rush needs work. Keep an eye on the future of running back DeMarco Murray as the All-Pro could leave via free agency.
(Last mock draft – 27)

28. Denver Broncos – Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
While it appears that Peyton Manning will return to the team for new head coach Gary Kubiak, the stigma of last season’s second-half mystery of the offensive line being unable to protect their future Hall of Fame quarterback on a consistent basis. The defensive line, tight end and wide receiver positions could be a need as well, if Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas do not return. Sambrailo, at 6’7″, could use some bulk to add to his 310-pound frame, but is regarded as a smart player. At this point, he’d work well at RT to help with the run offense, but if he takes to weight and strength training, expect him to move back to his natural LT position to protect Manning’s blind side.
(Last mock draft – 28)

29. Indianapolis Colts – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Expect the Trent Richardson experiment to end. Safety LaRon Landry was released as well as linebacker Andrew Jackson and OT Xavier Nixon. RB Boom Herron can’t be considered as the top ball-carrier for Chuck Pagano and, despite the obvious needs on the defensive side of the ball, it might be tough for the team to pass on Gurley. The Bulldogs RB tore an ACL last season and might not be 100% when training camp breaks, but the benefits could outweigh the risks with this bulldozing back.
(Last mock draft – NR)

30. Green Bay Packers – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
The only offensive question for the Packers is if WR Randall Cobb returns. Other than that, it’s all about the defense, which has plagued the team recently, especially against the run. Phillips is a huge presence in the middle of the defensive line and is exceptional at stopping the run. He is, extremely, athletic, yet questions about his ability to disrupt opponents’ pass protection is a concern. Another negative on the scouting sheet is that his internal motor doesn’t always run at 100%. Perhaps wearing the uniform of the 13-time World Champions will be the remedy.
(Last mock draft – 32)

31. Seattle Seahawks – Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
The future of RB Marshawn Lynch is far from settled. CB Richard Sherman’s participation in 2015 is in doubt. Assuming Lynch returns to Seattle, the only glaring weakness on the offensive side of the ball is at tight end. Williams may have blocking deficiencies, but is a top-flight receiver. The lack of blocking prowess can be coached, but his ability to get the ball made the Golden Gopher the top-rated TE in the draft.
(Last mock draft – NR)

32. New England Patriots – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The defending Super Bowl champions will have some re-tooling to accomplish. CB Darrelle Revis and DB Devin McCourty are free agents. The defensive line needs depth. Who will be the top running back? Trying to predict what Bill Belichick will do on draft day is an exercise in futility. With that said, it wouldn’t hurt Tom Brady to have another receiver to add to his stable of pass-catchers. Strong, at 6’4″ is an immediate vertical target based on his size and strength to get the ball. However, he has issues with creating separation from defensive backs so, to be effective, he’ll be counted on for over-the-back-shoulder grabs and jump ball catches.
(Last mock draft – 26)

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