Here is my Pre-Draft 2015 NFL Mock Draft. It will be followed by a my updates heading into the NFL Draft on April 30th.
This is not a mock draft where I substitute my judgement for that of the teams. Instead, I research the opinions of those who most closely know teams, NFL scouts, insiders and beat writers from all of the NFL cities, and try to make the most educated prediction as to which way each team will go in the draft.
My mock draft has been linked by DC Pro Sports Report, Walter Football, FF Toolbox, The Huddle Report, EDS Football, NFL Pro Zach and Boyds Bets in their Mock Draft Databases, so check out all of their fantastic draft related materials and content.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State:
Coming from a pro-style offense and possessing the stronger arm, Jameis Winston has the edge between the sidelines. With higher character and better decision making on and off the field, Marcus Mariota has the edge between the ear holes. When in doubt, NFL GM's typically go with the stronger arm, especially considering Winston's moxie and leadership.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (projected trade with the Tennessee Titans) – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon:
Chip Kelly is just crazy enough to make a trade for Marcus Mariota happen.
The Jaguars would really like a defensive end or an outside linebacker to play the "LEO" position in their 4-3 scheme. Leonard Williams of USC probably projects best in a 4-3 defense at tackle, but also has the athleticism to play outside at defensive end. That would allow the Jaguars to move Williams around and match him up against each opponent's weakest blocker.4. Oakland Raiders -Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama:
The Raiders still have all kinds of needs, but giving Derek Carr a legitimate go-to wide receiver has to be at the top of their list. Amari Cooper has already demonstrated elite hands and route running skills at Alabama against top notch competition, and therefore gets the edge over Kevin White, who is more athletic, but is also less polished.
5. Atlanta Falcons (projected trade with the Washington Redskins) – Dante Fowler, Jr., DE, Florida:
The Redskins may be looking to move their pick, and new Atlanta coach Dan Quinn has an interest in moving up to select Dante Fowler, Jr., whom he coached when he was defensive coordinator at the University of Florida.
New Orleans needs to upgrade their pass rush, and could make a move to land an elite outside linebacker like Vic Beasley of Clemson.
The Bears need a receiver to replace Brandon Marshall, and a speedy wideout with elite ball skills like Kevin White of West Virginia would be the perfect compliment to Alshon Jeffery.
The Redskins are shopping their first round pick. In the event that they do trade back, Washington is thought to have an interest in Brandon Scherff of Iowa to play right tackle.
9. New York Giants – Ereck Flowers, T, Miami:
The Giants would be best served by finding a right tackle in the draft and moving Justin Pugh inside to guard. They are said to have an interest in Ereck Flowers of Miami, which could allow them to trade down and pick up an additional pick or two.
The Rams have needs on their offensive line. Andrus Peat of Stanford has the versatility to play either left or right tackle as Greg Robinson tries and find his forever home.
11. Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State:
After solidifying their receiving corps by trading for Mike Wallace, the Vikings can concentrate on upgrading their defense with their top pick. Trae Waynes, who lead Michigan State's vaunted "No Fly Zone" secondary, would be an ideal value selection at a position of need.
12. Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington:
The Browns need a run stuffing defensive lineman, and there's none better in this year's draft than Danny Shelton of Washington. The only question is whether they pull the trigger on him at No. 12 at the expense of taking a top receiver, or if they'll gamble that he's still available when they pick again at No. 19.
13. New York Jets (projected trade with the New Orleans Saints) - Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia:
While the Jets could use an upgrade at outside linebacker, they may be inclined to move back and acquire more picks if they can't land Dante Fowler, Jr. Todd Gurley of Georgia would give Todd Bowles an elite running back to take some pressure off of Geno Smith and give the team a true ground and pound identity.
14. Miami Dolphins – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville:
Despite some secondary offseason moves, the Dolphins still need a true go-to wide receiver. DeVante Parker is getting less hype than Amari Cooper and Kevin White, but may end up being just as good.
15. San Francisco 49ers – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon:
The free agent signing of Darnell Dockett should replace the loss of defensive end Ray McDonald, but the possible retirement of Justin Smith still leaves a huge hole on the other side of the 49'ers once dominant defensive line. An athletic end like Arik Armstead of Oregon would help San Francisco re-tool.
16. Houston Texans - Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky:
Sadly, just one year after using the number one overall pick on Jadeveon Clowney, the Texans need to find an insurance policy, if not his replacement. With the defensive ends/outside linebackers who do not have off the field concerns seeing their draft value sky rocket, Houston is keeping their fingers crossed that the versatile Alvin "Bud" Dupree of Kentucky will still be available.
17. San Diego Chargers – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin:
Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin will remind Chargers fans more of the touchdowns and long runs from the LaDanian Tomlinson era than the tears and pulled hamstrings of the Ryan Mathews era.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Cameron Erving, C, Florida State:
After losing starting center Rodney Hudson to the Raiders in free agency, the Chiefs will need to look to the draft to fill that hole. Cameron Erving of Florida State is the highest rated center in this year's draft, and would help keep Jamaal Charles in the fast lane.
19. Cleveland Browns – Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida:
The Browns need a speed threat to replace Josh Gordon, and perhaps there's never been anybody faster in college football than Breshad Perriman of Central Florida. While he needs some work on his hands, Perriman is a big receiver who has the ability to take it to the house each and every time he touches the ball.
20. Tennessee Titans (projected trade with the Philadelphia Eagles) – Mario Edwards, Jr. Florida State:
By trading away the right to select Marcus Mariota, the Titans could land a slew of draft picks and still get a versatile 3-4 defensive end like Mario Edwards, Jr. of Florida State.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Malcom Brown, DT, Texas:
Cincinnati is looking for help at nose tackle to play alongside Geno Atkins. Malcom Brown of Texas is a rare talent, who at 320 pounds is strong enough to stuff the run, but athletic enough to be a presence as a pass rusher.
Pittsburgh needs a 3-4 defensive end, but all of the first round graded prospects could be off the board by the time they are on the clock at No. 22. In that case, the Steelers would be wise to address their secondary, and Landon Collins of Alabama would be the ideal choice to replace Troy Polamalu.
23. Detroit Lions - D.J. Humphries, LT, Florida:
Despite a huge need at defensive tackle, Martin Mayhew will still take a best player available approach to the draft. The Lions are looking to upgrade their offensive line, and perhaps no position other than quarterback is valued higher than left tackle. That puts a player like D.J. Humphries of Florida right in their wheelhouse.
The Cardinals would be ecstatic to land an elite power back like Todd Gurley to help move the chains and take some pressure off of Carson Palmer, but they are also looking to upgrade their pass rush. If the top two running backs are off the board, look for the Cardinals to take a gamble on Shane Ray, who could fall to the later part of the first round after being cited for marijuana possession earlier this week.
25. Carolina Panthers - Nelson Agholor, WR, USC:
The Panthers need to give Cam Newton a competent speed receiver to play opposite of Kelvin Benjamin. Nelson Agholor of USC is versatile enough to play inside or outside, which is exactly what Carolina needs.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State:
Another GM who always takes a “best player available” approach to the draft is Ozzie Newsome, but Baltimore also has a huge need at wide receiver. The Ravens will need to determine if need meets value with a receiver like Devin Smith, who some see as a second round prospect, while others view him as the best deep threat in the draft.
27. Dallas Cowboys - Byron Jones, CB, UConn:
Dallas would probably prefer to add a big pass rusher, but if all of the elite defensive linemen are off the board by the time they pick, they may turn to Byron Jones of UConn. Jones has the size needed to be a solid tackler in the NFL, which is an essential trait for a corner in Rod Marinelli's "Tampa-Two" defense.
As Peyton Manning comes back for one last run at the Super Bowl, the Broncos need to turn their attention to protecting their aging star. A right tackle like T.J. Clemmings of Pittsburgh would allow Louis Vasquez to return back to guard, where he was a former Pro Bowl player.
After parting ways with LaRon Landry, who was more bulk than bite, the Colts are in desperate need of an upgrade at safety. Damarious Randall of Arizona State is one of the few players who project as a starter at safety in this year's draft, and seems to have worked his way into being a first round consideration.
The Packers are in desperate need of a middle linebacker to upgrade their 3-4 defense. Stephone Anthony of Clemson is a prototype inside backer, and would be an athletic upgrade over A.J. Hawk.
31. New Orleans Saints - Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA:
The Jimmy Graham trade was all about giving the Saints more cap flexibility to improve their defense. Eric Kendricks of UCLA addressed concerns about his speed at the Scouting Combine and his Pro Day, making him one of the top inside linebackers in the draft, which is a key position of need for New Orleans.
32. New England Patriots - Marcus Peters, CB, Washington:
The Patriots have needs at defensive tackle and guard, but perhaps no need is more glaring than cornerback, where they lost two elite starters from last year's Super Bowl team. Despite some questions about his character, Marcus Peters of Washington is the perfect combination of cover skills and Scouting Combine measurables that NFL GM's drool over.
33. Tennessee Titans - Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia:
In addition to defensive end, the Titans need to upgrade their pass rush. Eli Harold is an underrated prospect who fits the profile of a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker.
34. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon:
In addition to quarterback, the area where Tampa Bay could most stand to upgrade is on their offensive line. Jake Fisher of Oregon ultimately projects as a starter at tackle on the left side, which is the position of biggest concern on the Buccaneers' line.
35. Oakland Raiders - Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State:
A big defensive tackle like Eddie Goldman would give the Raiders a huge wall to help shut down opposing running games.
36. Jacksonville Jaguars - Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana:
Everyone except for Denard Robinson seems to realize that he and Toby Gerhart are not viable starting running backs. While Melvin Gordon got all of the hype, many Big Ten insiders consider Tevin Coleman of Indiana the better pro prospect, and that's not a knock on Gordon.
37. New York Jets - Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor:
The Jets desperately need a franchise quarterback. While he has a first round arm, Bryce Petty is probably more of a second round investment coming out of a non-pro style system at Baylor.
38. Washington Redskins - Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest::
Cornerback is an issue for the Redskins, as Dante Hall is on the wrong side of thirty and trying to come back from a serious Achilles injury. Kevin Johnson is a bit slight in build when it comes to an NFL corner, but he has elite cover skills and technique.
39. Chicago Bears - Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma:
While the Bears may draft for talent in the first round, they have to address some needs in the second round and beyond. They have no bigger need than stopping the run, and Jordan Phillips of Oklahoma could plug the center as the nose tackle in their new 3-4 defensive scheme.
40. New York Giants - Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State:
The Giants need to improve their once feared pass rush, and Preston Smith of Mississippi State is a strong defensive end much in the mold of Justin Tuck.
41. St. Louis Rams - Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State:
St. Louis is in the market for a go-to receiver. If they don't select DeVante Parker in the first round, Jaelen Strong is a big possession receiver who could fill that role in round two.
42. Atlanta Falcons - Cedric Ogbuehi, T, Texas A&M:
Atlanta is looking at upgrading their tackles, and may even take one in the first round. In the event that they don't, Cedric Ogbuehi would be a solid bookend opposite Jake Matthews, much like they were at Texas A&M.
43. Cleveland Browns - Donovan Smith, T, Penn State:
In addition to a defensive tackle and a wide receiver, the Browns are in the market for a right tackle. Donovan Smith of Penn State is an under the radar pick that some scouts are very high on given his versatility to play either tackle or guard.
44. New Orleans Saints - Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami:
The Saints need to give Drew Brees another weapon to help replace Jimmy Graham. New Orleans is believed to have an interest in speedy wide receiver Phillip Dorsett of Miami, who along with Brandin Cooks would help Brees improve the deep passing game that he's struggled with in recent years.
45. Minnesota Vikings - Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State:
Adrian Peterson is not likely going anywhere, as Minnesota is one of the few teams able to cover his $12 million salary cap hit, and no team in their right mind would give up a first round pick for a 30-year old running back with bad knees that hasn't played in a year. With that said, the Vikings still need to find a running back to serve as Peterson's successor, or as a backup plan in case he holds out.
The 49'ers could have withstood the retirement of Patrick Willis had Chris Borland not also unexpectedly retired after his rookie season. Denzel Perryman of Miami would give San Francisco an athletic partner to compliment Navarro Bowman at inside linebacker.
47. Miami Dolphins - P. J. Williams, CB, Florida State:
Despite signing Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins still have weaknesses at nearly every level of their defense. If a top notch cover corner like P.J. Williams is still available when they pick in the second round, it would be a no-brainer, even in spite of concerns about his alcohol abuse.
48. San Diego Chargers - Bernardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State:
Looking to upgrade their defense, the Chargers are rumored to have a strong interest in linebacker Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State.
Playing low scoring ball control football with Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs can't afford to have many weaknesses on defense. Shaq Thompson of Washington would be an athletic upgrade at a position of need for the Chiefs like linebacker, or even at safety.
50. Buffalo Bills - Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA:
With E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel currently the only options at quarterback for the Bills, Rex Ryan is in no better position as coach in Buffalo than he was with the Jets. While Manuel or Cassel might be able to buy the team a year or so of mediocre football, the Bills desperately need to find a quarterback to develop as a long term starter.
51. Houston Texans - Jalen Collins, CB, LSU:
With Jonathan Joseph getting up there in age, the Texans need to get younger and deeper at cornerback. With rumors of failed drug tests in college, Jalen Collins is another first round talent who could see himself slide into the second round. On the plus side for both parties, failed drug tests in college do not put a player in the NFL's drug program.
52. Philadelphia Eagles - Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri:
Dorial Green-Beckham is yet another first round talent who's off the field issues could cause him to fall to the second round. With the Eagles not having a viable starting receiver on their roster, he may be worth the risk towards the end of the second round.
53. Cincinnati Bengals - Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA:
The Bengals need a base defensive end to help them contain the run. Owamagbe Odighizuwa of UCLA would be an ideal fit, allowing the undersized Michael Johnson to be used only on passing downs.
54. Detroit Lions - Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State:
At some point in the draft the Lions will need to draft a defensive tackle who can immediately step in and play. Michael Bennett is a bit underrated given his on the field production against some elite competition at Ohio State, and the Lions are thought to be very high on him, as they are Xavier Cooper of Washington State.
The Cardinals' defense has taken some huge hits during the offseason with key losses at defensive end, nose tackle and cornerback. Ronald Darby of Florida State is an under the radar, but top talent at corner, who would eventually help lock down the Cardinals' secondary playing opposite of Patrick Peterson.
56. Pittsburgh Steelers - Nate Orchard, OLB, Utah:
After the sudden retirement of Jason Worilds, the Steelers are desperately thin at what may be the most important position in their 3-4 defense. Nate Orchard of Utah is a classic 'tweener' who would fit in perfectly at outside linebacker for Pittsburgh.
57. Carolina Panthers - La'el Collins, T/G, LSU:
The Panthers signed Michael Oher as a stopgap measure to protect Cam Newton's blind side, but he isn't a long term answer at left tackle. If one of the top ranked tackles like La'El Collins falls to them at No. 25, the Panthers will be ecstatic, even if it takes him a year or so to move over to the left side. Then again, Collins is being questioned in connection with the murder of his ex-girlfriend, which raises a red flag.
58. Baltimore Ravens - Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota:
Whether it's at wide receiver or tight end, the Ravens desperately need another target for Joe Flacco. Late in the second round, Maxx Williams would be a value pick who would finally give the team another go-to tight end in the mold of Shannon Sharpe and Todd Heap.
59. Denver Broncos - Paul Dawson, ILB, TCU:
Denver is looking to upgrade their linebacker corps, and either Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State or Paul Dawson of TCU would be ideal fits that the team is said to be interested in.
60. Dallas Cowboys - Carl Davis, DT, Iowa:
Dallas has needs across the board on defense, but perhaps none more glaring than on the interior of their defensive line. Carl Davis of Iowa is talented but raw, which could make Rod Marinelli earn his reputation as a defensive line talent developer and “leader of men.”
61. Indianapolis Colts - Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska:
The Colts need to upgrade and add depth to their pass rush, and while there are many off the field concerns swirling around Randy Gregory right now, landing a top ten talent late in the second round may be too tempting to pass up.
62. Green Bay Packers - Eric Rowe, CB, Utah:
In addition to inside linebacker, the Packers need to find another top notch cover corner like Eric Rowe of Utah, who would help replace Tramon Williams.
63. Seattle Seahawks - Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke:
After trading All Pro center Max Unger for Jimmy Graham and losing James Carpenter to free agency, the Seahawks need to rebuild the interior of their offensive line. Laken Tomlinson of Duke would possibly give them the best guard in the draft.
64. New England Patriots - A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina:
The Patriots played a huge hole on their offensive line last season after trading Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay. They are said to be very interested in A.J. Cann of South Carolina.