The NFL regular season is over. For those of you that cheer for teams that didn’t make it to the postseason, you might be moving on to another team that did, or packing it in and waiting for next year to roll around. For those of you that are draft-junkies, a good chunk of the positions are set, and we can begin to talk about what teams might do with their impending picks.
Yes, it’s still way too early to know for sure as coaching changes, free agents, signings, releases, and a myriad of other things will change what a team looks for (not to mention how all these potential draftees play and perform). But as a self-professed draft junkie, I cannot help myself, but give my opinions in this 2015 NFL Mock Draft. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are officially on the clock.
NOTE: Mock draft below was completed before Sean Oakman decided to come back to Baylor. Also, in a previous edition, La’el Collins was erroneously connected to FSU and not LSU.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-14 (.486 Strength of Schedule) – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
If you listen to all the major news sources (or my buddy, Ben) the Bucs have to, have to, have to draft a quarterback with the first overall pick. I personally feel like the QB crop this year is actually pretty weak, aside from the landslide of young players the team already has at that position. While I feel like the team will be best served trading away the pick, I have to assume they make a pick (as I’ve yet to see a player that is demanding of the honor). The team has a lot of needs, but I feel like the O-line is the most pressing. The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers both found success by investing in their offensive lines over longer periods of time, and high draft tackles play better on the whole than top draft quarterbacks. There really isn’t a clear-cut guy at tackle in the draft at this point, but Scherff seems to be the most reliable. The NFL Draft Combine will likely be what dictates who is going to be the top pick at this position.
2. Tennessee Titans: 2-14 (.506 SoS) – Amir Cooper, WR, Alabama
This team needs help just about everywhere. There is talk that the Titans would go with a QB in this spot, but again, I have a hard time stomaching it. The team has a slew of top QB picks in their stable, and I think there is too much else that needs to be done. I actually think the bones of the team are good, so a playmaker is in order, and the way most teams have gone in that regard (mostly thanks to the new rules) is a wideout. Teams have given up hell and high water for high-end recievers and the Titans might be lucky enough to have the top guy available to them with the second overall pick. Cooper has been compared to A.J. Green and Julio Jones. So long as he can show good speed and leaping ability at the combine, I have no doubt he’ll be a top five draft selection this coming year.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-13 (.514 SoS) – Sean Oakman, DE, Baylor
The Jags are a team that needs to trade down in the worst way. The roster is littered with high-round draft picks and free agents that no one has an idea about. These players could be superstars or barely worth the paper their checks are written on. The one thing the team needs to do is sell tickets, so the pick here has to be sexy. I don’t mean like Jennifer Garner in a ball gown sexy, I mean Kate Upton in a bikini sexy. Oakman is a beast of a man. At 6-8 and 275 pounds, he could be a game-changer in a variety of ways. The knock on him is he overuses his natural athletic skills and doesn’t have all the techniques down. You can learn technique; you can’t learn to be a monster at the line.
4. Oakland Raiders: 3-13 (.570 SoS) – Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
Where on earth do you begin with the Raiders? The team has more needs than a hungry diabetic baby with colic and a wet diaper. Khalil Mack was a steal in the draft last year, and the team would do well to give him some support in the pass rush. Williams is supposed to be like a Justin Tuck, and should actually play as an end in a standard 4-3. Williams and Mack would combine for a lethal pass rush if they could pull it off, and that would help cover up some deficiencies on the back-end.
5. Washington Redskins: 4-12 (.496 SoS) – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The Skins have a myriad of needs as well, and even more question marks. I am pretty sure the Riddler had a conversation with Dan Snyder and said, “What is covered in question marks and annoys people? The answer should be me, but your roster is stealing my look. Fix it or I’ll file another class action lawsuit.” I see the team looking at a corner, as they have to try to keep the passing attacks of their division rivals in check. The team could opt for Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (not a fake name), but he is a small coverage corner. Kevin has the size and skills to play press against some of the larger receivers, and the Redskins will need that against the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
6. New York Jets: 4-12 (.543 SoS) – Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
The pick here comes down to the new coach and how he evaluates Geno Smith. Michael Vick is a stopgap at best, and someone that will be on the roster next year as he can come in and play. Smith is a second-round player that is totally expendable. For whatever reason, I see the management as looking for a face for the franchise, and a QB might just fit the bill. Except for his height, Mannion is the prototypical QB. He’s not Broadway Joe Namath, but maybe he can be Chad Pennington, at least long enough for the team to regroup.
7. Chicago Bears: 5-11 (.529 SoS) – Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The Bears are going to have a new GM and a new head coach next season, and who that will be is going to impact this decision to no end. The team needs help on defense, so I’d be shocked if they didn’t draft on that side of the ball. I actually think that the secondary is where the team needs the most help, and when you think about the passing attacks of the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, then a player like Collins is almost a no-brainer.
8. Atlanta Falcons: 6-10 (.482 SoS) – Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Another situation where a new coach is really going to impact what the team does with the pick. There is a hole at tight end, but the offense on the whole could use help at the line more than it needs another skill position player. It is the defense where this team struggles mightily, and a defensive-minded coach will be looking for a player to apply some pressure. There are a lot of players that are classified as pass rushers each year. The real problem is that many of them are either too slow to handle the speed at the NFL level, or are too small to handle the pounding of offensive linemen. Dupree seems to be the right combination of size, speed and strength to contribute right away.
9. New York Giants: 6-10 (.512 SoS) – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
This one is so tough because the team was decimated by injuries this past season. The defense looked horrible at times, but I feel like the offensive line could use more help, and the defense could be bolstered in later rounds. Ogbuehi started off his collegiate career as a guard and was shifted to the tackle position as a senior. Given how banged up the line has been, his versatility and athleticism would make him tough to pass up. His real strength is as a pass blocker, and that works well with a more pass-happy attack that the Giants may use next season.
10. St. Louis Rams: 6-10 (.531 SoS) – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Sam Bradford has been injured virtually every season since he was drafted. The Rams looked good this year, but it might be time to part ways with Bradford and go in a different direction movie forward. Mariota is considered by many to be the top QB prospect in the draft, but he has benefited from a scheme that suits him, and doesn’t necessarily work in the NFL. He struggles with reads and taking snaps under center at times. I see him as a project, one that is worth the time. If Bradford comes back healthy, Mariota will have some time to develop. If not, then at least he gives you a chance to win now.
11. Minnesota Vikings: 7-9 (.475 SoS) – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
It’s really hard to gauge the Vikings’ season without Adrian Peterson around. If the team parts ways with their only All-Pro then the pick could be very different. Given the state of the division, keeping talent around might be a wise thing to do. It’s now a passing league, and the Vikings secondary did get torched a bit this season. While on the lean side, Waynes is a respectable 6-1, which helps tremendously when going up against some of the taller and larger wide receivers in the league.
12. Cleveland Browns: 7-9 (.479 SoS) – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
This is the Browns actual pick (more on that later) and they have some catching up to do. The AFC North took three of its four teams to the playoffs, and Cleveland was right there with them until the last few weeks of the season (despite the whole QB situation there). Depending on the draft board you look at, Gregory can be the top-rated player at this position as he’s very fundamentally sound. I like the height (6-6) but his 245 pounds has me worried a little bit about being an every down DE in the NFL.
13. New Orleans Saints: 7-9 (.486 SoS) – Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
The Saints were a real letdown at home this year. Well, to be fair, the entire NFC South was a disappointment virtually everywhere they played. Defense is an area of concern, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the pick was used there. Ray is a gifted edge rusher with a lot of talent. The tough part here is that his combine numbers are really going to dictate how teams view him. Can he be a slightly undersized DE and hold up against the run, or is he fast enough to play as a linebacker.
14. Miami Dolphins: 8-8 (.512 SoS) – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
It is so much tougher to pick when teams did well, or better than anticipated because there isn’t as much to fix. The Dolphins played well, particularly on defense this past season, so the thought would be some help on the offensive side of the ball, perhaps even someone to protect the QB. Peat is a mountain, almost exactly how you’d like to build an NFL tackle. His length is going to help him hold off pass rushers and his size will allow him to move people in the run game. He should be a gamer from Week 1.
15. San Francisco 49ers: 8-8 (.527 SoS) – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
A defensive-minded coach might be tempted to bolster the already deep roster, but really the team is going to be faced with an issue as Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree are both at the end of their contracts. Parker is a big-bodied wide receiver that can replace Boldin in the mix, and has the speed to act as a Crabtree-type player too. If this is the move, I’m not sure that either player is back next year.
16. Houston Texans: 9-7 (.447 SoS) – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
For a team that started as badly as the Texans did, it’s amazing they finished with a winning record (I actually had to double check this). The team hasn’t got a ton of needs, but a signal caller would be a nice treat. Winston is supposed to be the second coming of Cam Newton (with all the character issues too). A rare combination of athletic ability is mired by the off-field antics that include the involvement of authorities. The team has some veterans, a defense, and a run game. You can take a flyer on a kid with huge potential this year.
* A coin flip will determine picks No. 17 and 18.
*17t. Kansas City Chiefs: 9-7 (.512 SoS) – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Not that the coin flip really matters as I feel like the Chargers and Chiefs are looking for two very different things when it comes to their teams and needs. The Chiefs need offensive help, and particularly a wide receiver. Zero touchdown receptions from a wide receiver in over a year isn’t sad, it’s pathetic. White is a big body that should be a help in the red zone. The team will opt for a larger wide receiver for exactly this reason, rather than a smaller speedster.
*17t. San Diego Chargers: 9-7 (.512 SoS) – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Chargers were so close, and yet so very far. The team looked great one game and horrible the next. I really feel like the run defense needs a big body in the middle. Okay, yeah, 6-2, 332 pounds, Shelton is a pretty big body. He should command at least a chip from a secondary lineman freeing up time and space for linebackers to make plays.
19. Buffalo Bills : 9-7 (.516 SoS) pick traded to the Cleveland Browns – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Hey, remember us?! We picked at 12 and now we’re back. Sammy Watkins is a big talent, but let’s see what we can do with this pick. There are a lot of good receivers in the draft, so it’s not like this is being done simply because the team could use a threat opposite Josh Gordon. Strong is a tall player with good size, and should add depth if nothing else.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: 10-6 (.490 SoS) – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Hey wait? Were we not supposed to be in the playoffs? Oh well. If you ask my buddy James, who is an Eagles fan, he will tell you that they always draft linebackers. Oh, and that happens to be a position of need. Shaq is one of the highest-rated linebackers in the draft. While slightly undersized he has top-gear speed that fits the Chip Kelly style of fast-attacking defenders.
Playoff Teams (NOTE: draft position will be revised based on postseason results)
21. Carolina Panthers: 7-8-1 (.490 SoS) – La’el Collins, OT, LSU
The Panthers win the NFC South again, and in a way, it’s sort of like winning a race against a tortoise, snail, and slug. The team’s defense on the whole has been good, so a little help along the offensive line would do wonders to make Cam Newton feel better. Collins might be better suited to play guard in the NFL, but the team may decide to move him around as he is a versatile athlete that gives the team some options in how to best utilize his strengths.
22. Baltimore Ravens: 10-6 (.475 SoS) – T.J. Clemmings, OT, Florida State
This team just finds ways to get more out of players than anyone else thinks they should. Now the team could use a running back, but I feel like they want to cement an offensive line that could use a little help. Clemmings is leaner than most tackles, and could use some beefing up. He’s too strong and too fast to not be a wonderful addition, particularly to teams that like to run screens.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: 10-5-1 (.498 SoS) – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
So hard to say what this team needs as they played so well virtually everywhere this year. If you have to knit-pick then I guess their corners could use some youth. Ifo is one of those super speed guys. There is a real chance he could contribute on special teams if he can’t break in as a starter right away.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-5 (.451 SoS) – Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Since when have the Steelers been a more great offensive team, but have troubles on defense? Something seems wrong with the universe right now. The Steelers will need to do a lot of things with the defense. This will really come down to who the Steelers have ranked highest on their draft board on that side of the ball. Calhoun is actually a great player to take over as an OLB in the Pittsburgh with James Harrison getting old enough to have grandchildren playing in the league. Much like Harrison, Calhoun isn’t going to burn you with speed, but he is powerful and will take up a lot of space in the run game.
25. Detroit Lions: 11-5 (.471 SoS) – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
There is a giant burning question with the Lions this offseason, and that’s “What do you do with Ndamukong Suh?” He is an elite player, and key to this team, but the penalties and fines and suspensions are enough to drive you mad. I think they re-sign him. The rest of the division has some touch receivers, and Peters is big enough to play physical on the outside. If the team parts ways with Suh then this should be a DT pick, but otherwise I’m expecting a CB here.
26. Indianapolis Colts: 11-5 (.479 SoS) – Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Do the Colts have any worries on the offensive side of the ball? Maybe the line a bit, but really a lot of the top-tier talent will be gone at this point. So the defense could use some help. Not so much off the edge, but up the middle. McKinney struggles in identifying plays and relies on his athletic talents more often than his smarts. Given some of the other veterans around him, he can learn a lot in Indy.
27. Arizona Cardinals: 11-5 (.523 SoS) – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
You might think the team needs a QB, but you forget that they had two pretty good ones injured for the majority of the year. So with everything the team has going on defense there is no reason to reinvest there, right? I actually think that the D-line could use some added intensity. Goldman is raw power, and putting him in the middle might just make the defense something that scares other teams more than it does already. The secondary would get better with a push up the middle.
28. Dallas Cowboys: 12-4 (.445 SoS) – Dante Fowler, Jr., OLB, Florida State
Put your hands up if you thought the Dallas Cowboys would be 12–4… LIARS, all of you! Dallas has drafted offensive linemen three of the last four years, and will likely not do it again. The team was near the bottom of the league in sacks, so that needs to be corrected. Fowler is a pass rusher with some heft to him. The team switches personnel enough that the fact that he doesn’t fit well into either the OLB or DE role doesn’t really matter. The team would want him to play as a DE more than they would need him as an OLB, however.
29. Green Bay Packers: 12-4 (.482 SoS) – Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
This team has no real gaps on offense (maybe TE), but the defensive side of the ball has more holes than a whiffle ball. The rush could use some help up the middle to draw some attention, so the linebackers can get to the QB. Bennett is a little undersized, but his skill comes from his speed. Being able to beat guys off the snap and causing pressure with his quickness works better against a passing game than it does the run. Good thing the rest of the league is mostly pass-based.
30. New England Patriots: 12-4 (.514 SoS) – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
The Patriots looked as solid as ever. Quick quiz though, name me three wide receivers on New England? If you can’t do it, don’t feel bad, I’m not certain Tom Brady could. I am pretty sure there are two really good receivers in the league with last names of Green and Beckham, so can you combine them? Dorial is a massive body (6-5) and would be a massive target that Tom Brady currently doesn’t have, outside of Rob Gronkowski.
31. Denver Broncos: 12-4 (.521 SoS) – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
With so much of the team being so old, the pick will likely be the need to replace someone that has left, rather than the team really needing something. The other way the management might go is to just draft the highest-rated player they have on the board. That could be a QB or a linebacker. Beasley is a fast player that has good strength for his size. He’s a little undersized, but he’s too good an athlete to pass up in this spot. As Demarcus Ware gets older, Beasley could become a more featured attacker.
32. Seattle Seahawks: 12-4 (.525 SoS) – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
So for the time being, I will assume the Seahawks repeat as the champions of the NFL. The team lost a lot of players this past year, but still managed to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If anything, the team could use a gifted project to work on. Stanley is a junior, which is why he’s a bit of a project. His size, speed, and strength would have had him in the top 10 in next year’s draft, but he’s decided to get into the game early. There are still some technique concerns, but really you could play him at right tackle or sub him in for a year until you coach him up.