The NBA and NHL playoffs may be underway, but all eyes will be on the NFL when the first round of the 2015 draft opens on Thursday night. After a pre-draft process full of rumors and speculation, NFL fans around the world will have new reason for optimism (or pessimism) heading into the 2015 season.
There will be surprise picks and unforeseen trades, which makes doing a mock draft nearly impossible. We have a vague idea of which teams are interested in which players, but until their names are called, we have no idea where players will land. Here is a look at our final mock draft before the 2015 NFL Draft opens on Thursday night.
This mock draft does not include any projected trades.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Pick: Jameis Winston, quarterback, Florida State
Winston is the pick here. The Bucs have full faith that the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner can be their franchise quarterback going forward.
2. Tennessee Titans
- Pick: Leonard Williams, defensive end, USC
We believe this pick will be traded to another team and ultimately end up being Marcus Mariota, but if the Titans stay put, we see them taking the best player available in the draft, USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
- Pick: Dante Fowler Jr., defensive end/outside linebacker, Florida
Fowler can play multiple positions and is a fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme. He has the athleticism, versatility, and overall ability to be a Pro Bowl player for the next decade. The only other player we think could keep the Jaguars from selecting Fowler in this spot is USC’s Williams.
4. Oakland Raiders
- Pick: Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Alabama
We envision the Raiders trying to move this pick on draft day, but if they don’t, we see them picking Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper — assuming Williams, of USC, is off the board.
The Raiders desperately need to add a weapon on the outside to help Derek Carr, and Cooper is the most polished wide receiver in this draft class. The 2014 Fred Biletnikoff award winner is talented enough that he could step in and instantly help the Oakland offense as a rookie.
5. Washington Redskins
- Pick: Brandon Scherff, offensive tackle, Iowa
The Redskins opted to pick up Robert Griffin III’s fifth-year contract option, which basically ties them to the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year for two more seasons. With their first-round pick, we have them taking Brandon Scherff, an offensive lineman with All-Pro potential at either guard or right tackle.
6. New York Jets
- Pick: Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon
There is a good chance Mariota will already be off the board by the time the Jets are on the clock. If he is, we see them taking a player like Vic Beasley out of Clemson. If he is available, Mariota could be the franchise quarterback the Jets have been desperately seeking since before Rex Ryan was the team’s head coach.
7. Chicago Bears
- Pick: Kevin White, wide receiver, West Virginia
With the departure of Brandon Marshall, the Bears need a legitimate threat to pair with Alshon Jeffry. White, who is arguably the most dynamic player in the 2015 draft, fits the bill and gives new offensive coordinator Adam Gase an explosive target in his first year in Chicago.
8. Atlanta Falcons
- Pick: Alvin “Bud” Dupree, defensive end/outside linebacker, Kentucky
The Falcons have recently been rumored to be interested in moving up in the draft on Thursday night. Their target is unknown, but if they stay put, Dupree makes a lot of sense. The former Kentucky Wildcat has the potential to be a force in the NFL. He ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash at the Combine after measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 269 pounds.
Dupree reportedly looked excellent during positional drills at his Kentucky Pro Day and may have more upside than any other player at his position in this draft class. If he reaches his potential in Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme, he could be an All-Pro caliber player for the next decade.
9. New York Giants
- Pick: Shane Ray, defensive end, Missouri
The Giants need a pass rusher to line up opposite of Jason Pierre-Paul, and Ray is the best fit at this spot. He can fit into either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme and would give new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo a formidable pass rush duo as he attempts to revive the Giants’ once-proud defense.
10. St. Louis Rams
- Pick: Devante Parker, wide receiver, Louisville
Parker is one of the fastest rising prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft, and would almost immediately fill a major need for the Rams. He has the potential to be a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL for a long time and will make Nick Foles’s transition in St. Louis much easier.
11. Minnesota Vikings
- Pick: Trae Waynes, cornerback, Michigan State
Waynes has the makings of a player who could develop into a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. His physical stature and ability fills a major need in Minnesota and makes him a probable Week 1 starter for the Vikings in 2015.
12. Cleveland Browns
- Pick: Danny Shelton, defensive tackle, Washington
Shelton was our pick for the Browns in our early mock draft, and nothing has changed. The Browns have needs on both sides of the ball, but Shelton makes a lot of sense here as a player they can count on to contribute from day one. The mammoth defensive tackle would almost surely help Cleveland improve its run defense that ranked last in the NFL in 2014.
13. New Orleans Saints
- Pick: Randy Gregory, defensive end/outside linebacker, Nebraska
This is a major value pick for the Saints at this point in the first round. Despite testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine, Gregory is a top 10 talent who fills a major need for New Orleans. The Saints could be getting a major steal here.
14. Miami Dolphins
- Pick: Todd Gurley, running back, Georgia
The Dolphins have other needs here, but Gurley could be too valuable to pass on. He would likely be the Dolphins’ Week 1 starter if healthy, and he has the ability to be an All-Pro-caliber running back in the NFL.
15. San Francisco 49ers
- Pick: Arik Armstead, defensive end, Oregon
The 49ers have several holes in their defense that need to be addressed before the 2015 season kicks off. After the abrupt retirements of their two inside linebackers, the Niners have a pressing need there, but there is simply not a player at that position who is worth taking here. Armstead is a great value at this spot and has the physical gifts that make him a potential defensive force in the NFL.
16. Houston Texans
- Pick: Vic Beasley, outside linebacker, Clemson
The Texans could also opt for an offensive lineman here, but landing Beasley at this point in the first round would be a steal. He would be a great replacement for Brooks Reed, who departed in free agency this offseason.
17. San Diego Chargers
- Pick: Malcolm Brown, defensive tackle, Texas
The Chargers have several positions of need and could look at a guy like Melvin Gordon here, but Brown would give them a player who can step in immediately and help the defense improve against the run while also providing an interior pass rush presence. Brown is a great value for the Chargers.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
- Pick: Dorial Green-Beckham, wide receiver, Oklahoma
Green-Beckham is a top 10 talent but has had numerous legal issues off the field. He has been linked to Kansas City for a long time, and Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey is said to be enamored with Green-Beckham’s physical ability. Getting him at this point could end up being the steal of the 2015 draft if he reaches his potential.
19. Cleveland Browns (via trade with Buffalo Bills)
- Pick: Phillip Dorsett, wide receiver, Miami (Fla.)
The Browns have a huge need at wide receiver, and given the uncertainty surrounding Josh Gordon’s future in the NFL, they absolutely need to find an impact player in this draft class. Dorsett has blazing speed and elite agility, and is polished enough to play in the slot or on the outside. The former Miami Hurricane could end up being a Week 1 starter for the Browns in 2015.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
- Pick: Landon Collins, safety, Alabama
The odds of the Eagles actually picking in their assigned draft slot are slim to none. If they do end up staying here, we believe that they will address the issues in their secondary. Collins may not be a perfect schematic fit, but he is undoubtedly the top safety prospect available in the 2015 NFL Draft.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
- Pick: Andrus Peat, offensive tackle, Stanford
The Bengals could also look for a pass rusher at this spot, but with starters Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith both set to be free agents in 2016, adding one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the 2015 draft makes a lot of sense for Cincinnati.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Pick: Marcus Peters, cornerback, Washington
The Steelers are in the midst of rebuilding their defense and need help both at both pass rusher and in their secondary. We see them going secondary here by selecting Washington cornerback Marcus Peters. If there weren’t character concerns surrounding Peters, he likely would be a top 15 pick, making him a great value here if he cleans up his act.
23. Detroit Lions
- Pick: Ereck Flowers, offensive tackle, Miami (Fla.)
Flowers projects to be a right tackle at the NFL level, which is a major need for the Lions. The Lions could also look at a running back like Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon or a cornerback like Kevin Johnson out of Wake Forest with this pick, but we believe that Flowers could turn into Detroit’s right tackle for the next decade.
24. Arizona Cardinals
- Pick: Melvin Gordon, running back, Wisconsin
This pick will change if the Cardinals are able to swing a trade for Adrian Peterson, but for now, Gordon fills a major need for a team looking to make a deep playoff run in 2015.
25. Carolina Panthers
- Pick: D.J. Humphries, offensive tackle, Florida
It’s a near-given that the Panthers will be looking to address their offensive line early in the draft. Humphries gives them a player who can come in and immediately start at right tackle and help keep quarterback Cam Newton’s jersey clean in 2015.
26. Baltimore Ravens
- Pick: Breshad Perriman, wide receiver, Central Florida
Perriman has game-changing speed and the size to be a serious threat in the red zone. The Ravens lost Torrey Smith during free agency, and adding Perriman would give them a viable deep threat to offset the loss of Smith.
27. Dallas Cowboys
- Pick: Byron Jones, cornerback, Connecticut
The Cowboys could also look for a pass rusher with this pick, given the recent suspension of defensive end Greg Hardy, but there is no denying Dallas also has a major need at cornerback. Jones absolutely tore up the 2015 NFL Combine and has the ability to develop into an elite cornerback in the NFL.
28. Denver Broncos
- Pick: La’el Collins, offensive tackle, LSU
The Broncos desperately need an upgrade at multiple offensive line positions, as well as at middle linebacker. It would be a bit of a reach to select any of the inside linebacker prospects available in this year’s draft class at this spot, so we think the Broncos will opt to bolster their offensive line. Collins gives Denver an offensive lineman who could step in and be the team’s starting right tackle as a rookie.
29. Indianapolis Colts
- Pick: Jake Fisher, offensive tackle, Oregon
The Colts need to protect their future, which means they need to improve the offensive line in front of Andrew Luck. Fisher is an extremely athletic offensive tackle prospect who could also play on the interior, if needed. The other position that the Colts could look at addressing here is pass rusher.
30. Green Bay Packers
- Pick: Jalen Collins, cornerback, LSU
The Packers could also look to add a pass rusher or inside linebacker here, but drafting a player like Collins would fill a need and provide the Packers with some much-needed depth in their secondary.
31. New Orleans Saints (via trade with Seattle Seahawks)
- Pick: Nelson Agholor, wide receiver, USC
The trade that sent Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks left a huge void in the Saints’ offense. Brandin Cooks showed signs of being a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver during his rookie season, but if the Saints truly want to return to contention in the NFC, they will need to rebuild their offense. Agholor is one of the most complete wide receivers available in this draft class, and would give Drew Brees another dynamic playmaker to help make up for losing Graham.
32. New England Patriots
- Pick: Eddie Goldman, defensive tackle, Florida State
Knowing Bill Belichick, he will likely trade this pick and stockpile future picks. In the event that he does take a player in this spot, Goldman makes a lot of sense. He would help make up for the loss of Vince Wilfork, and his addition would be a step in the right direction for the Patriots as they look to improve against the run in 2015.