The NFL Draft is an exciting time for football fans, simply because their favorite teams have a chance to get better with younger star players. Of course, the draft is also extremely stressful because you have specific players that you covet, but every other team wants to draft those same players. Now that we have the specific order of draft choices, I have decided to create version 1.0 of my first round mock draft.
I didn’t include any potential trades that may happen during the first round
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
The Buccaneers desperately need a franchise quarterback, and Jameis Winston provides too many personality problems. Marcus Mariota is a more reliable player with no off-the-field issues. Mariota doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he will definitely take advantage of the offensive pieces in Tampa Bay.
- Tennessee Titans – Brandon Scherff (Offensive Tackle, Iowa)
The Tennessee Titans allowed 50 sacks and 94 quarterback hits during the 2014 season, which was 27th in the NFL. Even worse, the Titans recently waived Michael Oher, leading to even more offensive line needs. Brandon Scherff is a powerful offensive lineman who can play both guard and tackle (although his pass protection is better at guard).
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Randy Gregory (Defensive End/ Outside Linebacker, Nebraska)
If there is a team that needed some toughness during last season, it was Jacksonville. Many times throughout the season, the Jaguars either led or were close in big games, but they were unable to stop other teams from mounting a comeback. Randy Gregory from Nebraska is a solid choice to help improve the Jaguars defense. Gregory is dynamite against the run, but he needs some work as a pass rusher because of his raw talent. Gregory may not be a proven commodity, but he has the ability to explode as a rookie defender with the proper coaching. Luckily, Gus Bradley has been known to get the most out of defenders during his time with Seattle and Jacksonville.
- Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper (Wide Receiver, Alabama)
The Oakland Raiders have a promising quarterback in Derek Carr, but he needs weapons. James Jones gives Carr a red zone threat, but he needs a deep threat with strong hands. Amari Cooper has been a consistent player at different positions, and he has the speed to excel as a deep threat. Cooper could immediately improve Oakland’s offense.
- Washington Redskins – La’el Collins (Offensive Tackle, LSU)
The Redskins were 31st against the pass rush in 2014, allowing 58 sacks and 113 quarterback hits. If the Redskins hope to improve their offense in 2015, they will need immediate offensive line help. La’el Collins is already familiar with the pro style offense, and he will work very well at right tackle. Plus, Collins brings an attitude that will give the Redskins an edge.
- New York Jets – Andrus Peat (Offensive Tackle, Stanford)
The Jets desperately need a quarterback, but Mariota is off the board. They could draft Jameis Winston, but he brings a ton of off-the-field issues that will be the centerpiece of the New York magazines. Instead, the Jets will draft Andrus Peat to help their offensive line. Michael Vick and Geno Smith both dealt with constant pressure from defenders, giving them no time to survey the field. Peat will help strengthen the offensive line and help against the pass rush.
- Chicago Bears – Shaq Thompson (Linebacker, Washington)
The Chicago Bears have a desperate need on defense after being shredded by running backs during the last two seasons. Now, the Bears have a defensive minded head coach in John Fox and a stud defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio. With needs on defense, the Bears will draft Shaq Thompson out of Washington who can play all linebacker positions as well as safety. Thompson is a strong, athletic defender with a penchant for big plays—Thompson scored four defensive touchdowns and caused three fumbles in 2013. Fangio should be able to fully utilize Thompson’s talent while fixing his tackling form.
- Atlanta Falcons – Arik Armstead (Defensive End, Oregon)
The Falcons have been unable to generate any pass rush in the two seasons since they let John Abraham go to Arizona. During this time, the Falcons have relied on Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann, both of whom have underperformed. Now that Dan Quinn (formerly of Seattle) has been hired as the head coach, the Falcons will need to find a player to get after the quarterback. Arik Armstead is a mountain of a man at 6’8”, and he has the powerful arms to push blockers back into the quarterback’s face. Armstead is raw, but he can be coached up to become an effective pass rusher.
- New York Giants – Trae Waynes (Cornerback, Michigan State)
The Giants play in a division with Dez Bryant, Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jeremy Maclin, so they need to find a cornerback to lock horns with those premier receivers. Trae Waynes from Michigan State is a taller cornerback at 6’1” who compares to Antonio Cromartie. Waynes excelled as the deep cover corner at Michigan State, and he consistently used his body to pin receivers against the sideline. The Giants need a bigger corner who can help keep Desean Jackson and Dez Bryant from making splash plays downfield.
- Louis Rams – Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
The Rams have issues at quarterback, especially with the return of Sam Bradford from injury and the inconsistency of his backups. Jameis Winston would give Jeff Fisher a quarterback reminiscent of Ben Roethlisberger with which to run his offense. The Rams veterans should be able to keep Winston locked down and focused on improvement.
- Minnesota Vikings – T.J. Clemmings (Offensive Tackle, Pittsburgh)
The Vikings dealt with many injuries and subpar play from Matt Kalil, resulting in quarterback injuries and way too many sacks. Teddy Bridgewater was under constant pressure, especially against the Lions and Dolphins. The Vikings need another offensive lineman who can help in pass protection and run blocking. T.J. Clemmings is a strong offensive tackle, who has been compared to Houston’s Pro Bowl player Duane Brown. Clemmings is raw, but he can be coached up to become a better player.
- Cleveland Browns – Kevin White (Wide Receiver, West Virginia)
The Browns failed to draft any wide receivers during last year’s stacked draft, and this decision came back to haunt them when Josh Gordon missed most of the year, and Miles Austin missed some games with injury. Once again, Gordon will be missing time after being suspended with off-the-field issues. The Browns have to find some receiver help before the 2015 season, and Kevin White could be the answer. White has been compared to DeAndre Hopkins, and he has the talent to play in the NFL. White high points the ball and catches everything in sight.
- New Orleans Saints – Leonard Williams (Defensive End, USC)
New Orleans had a surprising defensive resurgence under coordinator Rob Ryan in 2013 when they were fifth in overall defense. Unfortunately, this same unit dropped all the way to 31st during the 2014 season, thanks to a subpar 34 sacks and 11 forced fumbles. The Saints had no pass rush. Leonard Williams from USC is possibly the most powerful defensive lineman in the 2015 draft. The Saints could stick Williams anywhere on the defensive line based on his versatility and allow him to work with Cameron Jordan to generate a pass rush.
- Miami Dolphins – DeVante Parker (Wide Receiver, Louisville)
The Dolphins need to find some more receivers for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Jarvis Landry provided some sparks during his rookie season, but Brian Hartline could be gone because of his salary. Mike Wallace is a mystery in that he has time left on his contract, but he basically gave up and pulled himself from the season finale. Wallace should be back, but the Dolphins shouldn’t count on his contributions just yet. DeVante Parker from Louisville isn’t the fastest wide receiver in the draft, but he has exceptional catching ability. Parker has a huge catching radius and has only been credited with three drops since 2012, which would help negate Tannehill’s downfield inaccuracy.
- San Francisco 49ers – A.J. Cann (Offensive Guard, South Carolina)
Offensive guard Mike Iupati will most likely be gone in free agency, and the 49ers will need to find his replacement. A.J. Cann was a four-year starter at South Carolina who displayed powerful blocking skills during his career. Cann could immediately start in Iupati’s place. The 49ers could also go with Cameron Erving from Florida State to provide depth at Center.
- Houston Texans – Rob Havenstein (Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin)
The Houston Texans have a solid offensive line, but Chris Myers and Tyson Clabo are both aging. In fact, Clabo may not even be in Houston next year based on his age, salary, and poor play. Rob Havenstein will help the Texans rebuild their offensive line and continue paving the way for Arian Foster. Havenstein is a huge player with better run-blocking ability than pass protection skills, and he spent three years as a starter on Wisconsin’s offensive line. Havenstein can either back up the other tackles or contribute immediately, depending on the needs.
- San Diego Chargers – Josh Shaw (Cornerback, USC)
The San Diego Chargers have been dealing with Peyton Manning and a powerful offense for the last two seasons. During this time, the Chargers have lost multiple pieces of their secondary, but gained an impressive rookie in Jason Verrett. Now, the Chargers need another corner who will be able to against the receivers in Oakland and Denver. Josh Shaw seems like an odd choice at first, but he has the size and talent to compete with the bigger receivers like Demaryius Thomas and James Jones. Shaw can also play multiple positions in the defensive backfield, which will give John Pagano a versatile player.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Rashad Greene (Wide Receiver, Florida State)
During 2014, the Chiefs received essentially no production from their wide receivers. In fact, the Chiefs were the only team in the NFL to have no touchdowns scored by a wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe hasn’t played up to his contract, and the Chiefs need some solid starters on offense to help out Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles. Rashad Greene was a multipurpose receiver at Florida State, playing outside and in the slot. Greene is a smaller receiver, but he could give Alex Smith a quick, reliable target up the field.
- Cleveland Browns (Obtained from Buffalo) – Landon Collins (Safety, Alabama)
The Browns obtained this pick from Buffalo in the Sammie Watkins trade last year. Cleveland will have already drafted a receiver at this point, but they will need a safety to replace Jim Leonhard. Landon Collins from Alabama is a tough, run-stuffing player with decent coverage abilities. Collins’ attitude and hard-hitting could help energize the Browns defense and increase the toughness of the secondary.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Dante Fowler, Jr. (Outside Linebacker, Florida)
Philadelphia has a need for linebackers given Casey Matthews’ inconsistent play and Demeco Ryans’ age and injury history. Specifically, Philadelphia needs a linebacker who can help stop the explosive running backs of the NFC East. Dante Fowler, Jr. is more of a raw pass rusher, but he has strength and quickness that will translate to the NFL. Fowler routinely chased down running backs on the edge to prevent extra yardage.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Jalen Collins (Cornerback, LSU)
The Bengals have a tendency to draft cornerbacks, but this practice is sensible given the receivers in their division. Leon Hall is getting older, and Terence Newman is a free agent. Jalen Collins from LSU is a talented corner who has been compared to Terence Newman, so the Bengals could target him in the draft. Collins is a big, fast corner who can cover receivers and track down running backs. While Collins only has 10 career starts, he will benefit from the teaching of Leon Hall and the veteran defenders.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Marcus Peters (Cornerback, Washington)
The Steelers suffered through injuries and poor defensive back play to start 2014 before ultimately improving to end the season. However, both Ike Taylor and Brice McCain are free agents, giving the Steelers very few cornerbacks on the roster. Marcus Peters is a talented corner who compares favorably to Aquib Talib because of his competiveness and press coverage abilities. Peters does have some emotional issues and conflicts with coaching, but the Steelers coaching staff can take care of those problems. Head coach Mike Tomlin will get the most out of Peters while helping fix those behavioral problems.
- Detroit Lions – Danny Shelton (Defensive Tackle, Washington)
Detroit has four defensive tackles headed to free agency, including Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, so finding another defensive tackle is a priority. Danny Shelton from Washington spent his collegiate career at nose tackle, but he did assist in chasing down running backs on stretch plays. Shelton’s size and strength would help stop Eddie Lacy, Matt Forte, and Adrian Peterson.
- Arizona Cardinals – Vic Beasley (Linebacker, Clemson)
The Cardinals already have a fearsome defense, but they could benefit from more pass rushers. John Abraham is old, and Daryl Washington missed the entire 2014 season with substance abuse issues. Vic Beasley is a pure pass rusher who has been compared to Bruce Irvin. The Cardinals could use his quickness and spin move in an effort to contain Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. Beasley has the quickness to track down those more athletic quarterbacks.
- Carolina Panthers – Sammie Coates (Wide Receiver, Auburn)
The Panthers were able to adjust to Steve Smith’s absence in 2014 by drafting Kelvin Benjamin, but they still require some more offensive weapons. Cam Newton is routinely asked to win games by himself because he has barely any options. Benjamin and Greg Olsen are both impressive players, but the Panthers need another wide receiver. Sammie Coates is an inconsistent wide receiver, but he has all of the physical tools to take over big games. Coates also has the speed and size to take more defenders, leaving Benjamin open on other routes.
- Baltimore Ravens – Melvin Gordon (Running Back, Wisconsin)
Apart from the Ray Rice factor, the Ravens have other issues at running back. Justin Forsett is a free agent and Bernard Pierce isn’t a legitimate starter. Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin will be a smart choice to either start or back up Justin Forsett is he is signed to a long-term contract. Gordon is a big, fast running back with the ability to hit big runs. While Gordon will need to work on his pass protection and catching ability, he will still provide big plays to open up the passing game for Joe Flacco.
- Dallas Cowboys – Malcom Brown (Defensive Tackle, Texas)
Like the Lions, the Cowboys will also be in the hunt for another defensive tackle after declining Henry Melton’s contract options. Malcom Brown from Texas has been rising up draft boards after an impressive 2014 season. Brown is quicker than expected for a man his size (6’2”, 320 lbs.) and he possesses quick, powerful hands. Brown can play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3, so he will have a smaller learning curve than most players. The Cowboys would benefit from a player like Brown that is intelligent and always looking for the ball.
- Denver Broncos – Devin Funchess (Wide Receiver, Michigan)
The Denver Broncos have a tough offseason on their hands with the likely departure of receiver Wes Welker and possible departure of quarterback Peyton Manning. Even worse, the Broncos have both of their main pass catchers in Demaryius and Julius Thomas set to hit free agency. While the Broncos will likely use the franchise tag on Demaryius, they will still have to reach a deal with Julius Thomas. If this deal can’t be made, the Broncos will need to find some more receivers/tight ends to insert in the offense. Devin Funchess from Michigan is a receiver who also spent time at tight end during his collegiate career. Funchess is a big receiver at 6’5” and 230 pounds, and he used this size to his advantage. The Broncos could use Funchess all over the field, filling the potential hole left by Julius Thomas.
- Indianapolis Colts – Ereck Flowers (Offensive Tackle, Miami)
The Colts had one of the best offenses in the NFL during 2014, but they struggled greatly in one area: pass protection. Pass rushers consistently beat up Andrew Luck, and the offense suffered because of it. Ereck Flowers from Miami is an accomplished run blocker heading into the draft, but he needs work as a pass protector. Flowers did improve during the 2014 season, using better technique in his protection. With some coaching and better balance, Flowers could be an asset on the offensive line.
- Green Bay Packers – Erik Kendricks (Inside Linebacker, UCLA)
The Packers have multiple free agent concerns in the secondary, but their draft position takes away any opportunities at the top cornerbacks. Additionally, A.J. Hawk is getting older, and Nick Perry was more underwhelming during limited time. The Packers should draft a linebacker to strengthen their position group. Erik Kendricks from UCLA is a smaller linebacker at 6’0” and 230 pounds, but he has the desire and natural ability to make him a legitimate starter. Kendricks was one of the most productive tacklers during the last three seasons, so he will always be involved in the plays. The Packers coaching staff won’t have to worry about Kendricks getting into trouble.
- Seattle Seahawks – Jaelen Strong (Wide Receiver, Arizona State)
If you listen to anyone beyond Doug Baldwin, they will say that the Seahawks need to find another wide receiver. The Seahawks lost Percy Harvin in a trade and relied on the duo of Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin for the entire 2014 season. This duo is serviceable, but the Seahawks don’t have a game changer at the position for big games. Jaelen Strong from Arizona State is a possession receiver with similarities to Dwayne Bowe. While Strong may not have the top end speed of other receivers, he does have the consistent ability to make contested catches. Strong could come in handy in short yardage and goal line situations.
- New England Patriots – Todd Gurley (Running Back, Georgia)
New England could potentially lose two of its top four running backs (Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen) to free agency, leaving only Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount as the remaining running backs. Of course, Shane Vereen’s pass-catching abilities will make him a necessary part of New England’s future plans. The Patriots won’t necessarily need to draft a running back, but picking Todd Gurley is a Bill Belichick move. Gurley is considered to be the best running back in the draft, despite his continuing return from an ACL tear. The Patriots could draft Gurley and let him sit for a year behind Vereen and Blount in order to get truly healthy. If Gurley is gone, the Patriots could draft Dorial Green-Beckham out of Missouri. Green-Beckham has a ton of character issues, but the Patriots have a tendency to get the most talent out of troubled players while keeping them focused on improvement.