2015 NFL Mock Draft - Kevin Hanson- Updated: Friday, April 17th
Only two weeks away from the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago, my 2015 NFL mock draft still stands at six rounds, but my plan is to add Round 7 over the weekend.
[Follow @EDSFootball for updates.]
In addition, I'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
With the Buccaneers releasing Josh McCown earlier this offseason, the Bucs gave us clear indication that this pick will be a quarterback. There may be some debate whether it should be Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, the two previous Heisman Trophy recipients. Recently, more analysts, such as NFL Network's Mike Mayock and ESPN's Ron Jaworski, have suggested the pick could be Mariota.
Prior to the combine, however, there were reports that Bucs coach Lovie Smith preferred Winston over Mariota and that was a significant factor in selecting an offensive coordinator.
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. A recent report from Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson indicates that Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, daughter of the late owner, "has raised some internal questions about the community relations impact of the pick."
And on Thursday, a civil lawsuit was filed by Erica Kinsman, who accussed Winston of sexual assualt in 2012. Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, however, that "won't affect Bucs' draft decision one way or the other."
If, a big if, the Bucs feel comfortable with Winston as the face of their franchise, he is likely the selection here.
2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Do the Titans believe in Zach Mettenberger enough to bypass Mariota here? General manager Ruston Webster said at the combine that they "like Zach," but are "[n]ot committing to anything now." Recently, one general manager told CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora: "He's going second overall. I don't know to which team, but he's going second overall."
Meanwhile, NFL Films' Greg Cosell recently said that he preferred Mettenberger over both Winston and Mariota. In addition, The Tennessean's David Climer wrote that Mettenberger will be the team's quarterback in 2015 and that the Titans view Mettenberger as a "poor teamís" Tom Brady.
For now, I will continue to slot Mariota here with Titans keeping this pick. 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 intangibles.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC
Recently, Florida's Dante Fowler said that he would be "shocked" if the Jags didn't select him. In a scenario where the top-two picks are quarterbacks and Williams is still available, however, I think the Jags go with Williams. 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): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
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.
Adding the top-ranked wide receiver in my 2015 prospect rankings would make sense (as would Alabama's Amari Cooper). 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.]
5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida
Given their leaky pass protection -- only the Jags allowed more sacks last season -- offensive line could be a possibility here. Well, it's certainly a need, but 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.
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 Jets' defensive line was the team's strength last season and their secondary was significantly upgraded in free agency with the return of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie as well as the addition of Buster Skrine. Starting outside linebacker Calvin Pace, who turns 35 this season, will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season.
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): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
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 offseason.
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. While he may not have as high of a ceiling as WVU's White, Cooper is a great route-runner and the most pro-ready receiver in this draft class.
8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Falcons really struggled to get to the quarterback over the past couple of seasons. Only the Bengals (20) generated fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest in 2013 as well. The Falcons have added some pass-rushers -- Adrian Clayborn, Brooks Reed and O'Brien Schofield -- in free agency, but none of those guys are elite pass-rushers. In other words, their signings this offseason should not rule out adding someone like Ray, who has an explosive first step and was last year's SEC Defensive Player of the Year with 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season.
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): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Two of the team's top three cornerbacks -- Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson -- are due to become unrestricted free agents next offseason. Waynes, my top-ranked cornerback in this year's draft class, has the speed (4.31 40-yard dash), strength (19 reps at 225 pounds) and has the length (more than 6-foot) that teams covet at the position.
11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
In the most recent updates of my mock draft, I had the Vikings select Waynes here. If he were still on the board, I think he remains the pick given the depth at wide receiver. With Waynes off the board, however, adding more weapons for second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater makes sense. And the rapport that these former teammates already have could help to accelerate Parker's adjustment to the NFL game.
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."
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): La'el Collins, G/T, LSU
As a whole, the Dolphins struggled in both pass and run blocking. Based on grades from PFF, the Dolphins ranked 31st in pass blocking and 27th in run blocking in 2014. 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. Meanwhile, starting guard Daryn Colledge is a free agent, but he graded out as only the 74th of 78 qualified guards last season.
15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
What an offseason it has been in San Francisco! The surprising retirement of linebacker Patrick Willis was followed by an even more surprising retirement of his 24-year-old (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 be 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): 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 Texans ranked in the bottom half of the league in sacks (38) last season. Of course, last year's top-overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney, missed almost all of last season. With 20.5 sacks for J.J. Watt, however, that means the rest of the team combined for only 17.5 sacks. While Gregory is a bit of a boom-or-bust prospect, primarily due to off-the-field concerns, he could be a steal if he stays out of trouble.
-> Continue to picks 17-32
-> Continue to Round 2
-> Continue to Round 3
-> Continue to Round 4
-> Continue to Round 5
-> Continue to Round 6
-> 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
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