This is how I see the first round shaping up for the 2015 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 30.
No. 1 Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’m confident the Buccaneers will be taking a quarterback with the No. 1 pick, it’s just a matter of whether it’s Florida State’s Jameis Winston or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. While there’s bigger character concerns with Winston, he’s the more talented of the two and I expect Tampa Bay to go that direction.
Selection – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
No. 2 Pick: Tennessee Titans
Whether it’s the Titans or another team that trades up to No. 2, I expect Mariota to be taken in the spot. He’s not a perfect fit for Tennessee’s scheme under Ken Whisenhunt, but you can’t pass up on a franchise quarterback when your starter as of right now is Zach Mettenberger. If Tennessee decides to pass on Mariota and can’t trade down, look for them to target USC’s Leonard Williams, who would be a perfect fit at defensive end in Ray Horton’s defense.
Selection – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
No. 3 Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars
You could argue that the Jaguars biggest need is to address their offensive line, but there’s not a lot elite players at the position worth taking this early. I’ve seen some mocks that have Jacksonville going with a wide receiver, but they used two second round picks at wide out last year and also got strong play out of undrafted rookie Austin Hurns. Gus Bradley is a defensive minded guy and I expect the Jaguars to go with their top rated defensive player.
Selection – Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
No. 4 Pick: Oakland Raiders
Here’s another team that needs help on the offensive line, most notably at tackle, but likely will wait until the 2nd round to try and fill this void. Considering their top two receiving threats are Andre Holmes and James Jones, I look for the Raiders to bring in some help for Derek Carr. I have West Virginia’s Kevin White rated slightly ahead of Alabama’s Amari Cooper, but it’s anyone’s guess which one of these two wide outs is the first off the board.
Selection – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
No. 5 Pick: Washington Redskins
The Redskins biggest needs come in the secondary, where they could use upgrades at both corner and safety. If they go with need, chances are they will take Michigan State’s Trae Waynes. I think there’s too big a gap to make that kind of reach. I look for them to take their pick of one of several pass rushers on the board. They lost Brian Orakpo in free agency and while they have two capable starters in Ryan Kerrigan and 2014 second rounder Trent Murphy, they lack depth at the position and Murphy only had 2.5 sacks as a rookie.
Selection – Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
No. 6 Pick: New York Jets
The ideal situation for New York would be to have Mariota fall to No. 6, but I just don’t see that happening. While the Jets finished T-6th with 45 sacks as a team, no player had more than 8. A lot of that had to do with the scheme of Rex Ryan. He’s no longer in town and I look for New York to go after one of the prized pass rushers in this year’s class.
Selection – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
No. 7 Pick: Chicago Bears
Chicago traded away Brandon Marshall, leaving a big void on the outside opposite of Alshon Jefferey. You have to think the Bears knew they would have an excellent shot at replacing Marshall with either White or Cooper and I expect them to do just that. That’s not to say Chicago doesn’t have a number of holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball and won’t opt to go in that direction. There’s a lot of talent at the receiver position again this year, so they would still be able to fill that void later on in the draft.
Selection – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
No. 8 Pick: Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta finished T-30th in sacks a year ago with just 22 and it’s no secret that this team is desperate for someone who can consistently get after the quarterback. While they have re-signed Kroy Biermann and added in Adrian Clayborn and O’Brien Schofield, that’s not going to get the job done. I would be shocked to see Atlanta pass up on an opportunity to fill this void given the talent available in this year’s class.
Selection – Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
No. 9 Pick: New York Giants
New York has been actively trying to improve their offensive line. They used their 1st round pick in 2013 on tackle Justin Pugh and last year used a 2nd round selection on center Weston Richburg. While Richburg has stepped in an been serviceable, Pugh has been overmatched on the outside and may be forced to move inside to guard. I think it would be in the Giants best interest to take Iowa’s Brandon Scherff and have him start at right tackle and eventually take over on the left side.
Selection – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
No. 10 Pick: St. Louis Rams
The Rams have needs along the offensive line, but are set at left tackle with 2014 1st round pick Greg Robinson. This would be awfully early to go after a guard, center or right tackle, as you can typically fill those voids in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. They also need some help at linebacker, but I think they will instead look to improve their secondary. If St Louis decides to go in a different direction, they would likely look at wide receiver.
Selection – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
No. 11 Pick: Minnesota Vikings
I was impressed with Teddy Bridegwater’s performance as a rookie, especially when you consider the lack of playmakers he to work with. Cordarrelle Patterson is a gifted athlete, but he runs poor routes and I’m not sold he has the mental makeup to be an elite No. 1 option. I know they traded for Mike Wallace, but he’s not someone you can rely on. What better solution than to target Bridegwater’s favorite target from college in Louisville’s DeVante Parker
Selection – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
No. 12 Pick: Cleveland Browns
This is the first of two picks in the 1st round for the Browns. I originally had Cleveland taking a wide receiver, but the offseason additions of veterans Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline, should allow them to wait and fill that need later in the draft. I instead look for the Browns to try and address their 32nd ranked run defense and the best way to do that is to improve up front on the defensive line. Not only would Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton fill a big void, he’s a steal at this point.
Selection – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
No. 13 Pick: New Orleans Saints
New Orleans also has two 1st round picks at their disposal. They have two capable players who can get after the quarterback in outside linebacker Junior Galette (10 sacks) and 3-4 defensive end Cameron Jordan (7.5 sacks). There’s not a whole lot of other options, as these two accounted for more than half of their total for the year (34). I expect the Saints to look to go after an edge rusher here.
Selection – Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
No. 14 Pick: Miami Dolphins
There’s those that think Miami needs to try and find a No. 1 receiver to pair with 2014 2nd round pick Jarvis Landry and newly acquired Kenny Stills and tight end Jordan Cameron, but I think they have bigger needs up front on the offensive line. Brandon Albert is a quality left tackle, but can’t stay on the field because of injuries. They need an insurance policy and could also use some help at both guard and center. That’s why I think LSU’s La’el Collins is a perfect fit, as he’s capable of playing both guard and tackle.
Selection – La’el Collins, OL, LSU
No. 15 Pick: San Francisco 49ers
It’s been a difficult offseason for the 49ers, who have went from one of the most complete teams in the NFL to one that now has glaring holes all over the field. The biggest needs are on the defensive side of the ball, where San Francisco could use help at all three levels. The best place to start is up front and the best available defensive lineman on the board at this point is Texas defensive tackle Malcolm Brown.
Selection – Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas
No. 16 Pick: Houston Texans
Houston parted ways with wide out Andre Johnson. While they added in Cecil Shorts in free agency, they need a No. 2 to pair opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. It’s definitely a gamble, but Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham has too much upside in my opinion to pass up. DGB could end up being the best receiver in the class and worth the risk at this point in the draft. If the Texans decide to play it safe, they could look to fill the void left by Chris Myers at center.
Selection – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
No. 17 Pick: San Diego Chargers
The Chargers likely would have went with an offensive linemen here had they no re-signed left tackle King Dunlap and added in free agent guard Orlando Franklin. They do need to fill the void left at center after the retirement of Nick Hardwick, but I think they will wait and address that later on. Instead, I have them targeting a running back to replace the loss of Ryan Mathews. Some have Georgia’s Todd Gurley as the top back, but I think Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is the better fit for Philip Rivers.
Selection – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
No. 18 Pick: Kansas City Chiefs
Yes, the Chiefs need to look to add in some more help at wide receiver, but that’s not their biggest area of concern. Alex Smith had zero time to throw the football last year and that was a direct result of the poor play up front on the offensive line. Kansas City lost one of the best centers in Rodney Hudson and this is a perfect spot to fill that void. Keep in mind this is a deep class at receiver and the Chiefs have plenty of picks to add help there later in the draft.
Selection – Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
No. 19 Pick: Cleveland Browns (From Buffalo)
I have the Browns addressing their defensive line at No. 12 and I look for them to keep that same mentality and look to improve up front on the offensive side of the ball with their second pick in the 1st round. Cleveland has been desperate to find a replacement for right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and will be able to do just that with this pick. If the Browns decide to go in a different direction, they would likely target a wide receiver, such as UCF’s Breshad Perriman.
Selection – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
No. 20 Pick: Philadelphia Eagles
I originally had the Eagles targeting a corner, but that’s not a pressing issue with the offseason additions of Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond. Their next biggest need is to find a pass rusher to pair with Brandon Graham, which is exactly the direction I have them going. Kentucky outside linebacker Bud Dupree is a bit raw, but has the skill set to develop into a special player. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Eagles looked at taking a wide receiver to fill the hole left by Jeremy Maclin.
Selection – Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
No. 21 Pick: Cincinnati Bengals
With starting left tackle, Andrew Witworth entering the final year of his contract and likely needed to be moved inside to guard if re-signed, this is a great spot for the Bengals to address this before it’s a problem. Stanford’s Andrus Peat is a great value play at this point in the draft. Cincinnati also needs to improve their pass rush, but at this point in the draft all the top players are off the board.
Selection – Andrus Peat, OT Stanford
No. 22 Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s plenty of holes that need to be filled on the defensive side of the ball, but the biggest need comes in the secondary. Most notably at corner, where there’s not much in terms of talent outside of William Gay. Pittsburgh could go a long way in turning a weakness into a strength by taking LSU’s Jalen Collins, who is rising up draft boards.
Selection – Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
No. 23 Pick: Detroit Lions
The Lions lost both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency. While they traded for veteran Haloti Ngata, he turned 31 earlier this year and is on the decline. Detroit needs to strongly consider addressing this need with their 1st round pick and I look for them to play it safe and take Oregon’s Arik Armstead. If they decide to pass on defensive tackle, look for the Lions to try an improve their offensive line, where they could use an upgrade at both guard and right tackle.
Selection – Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon
No. 24 Pick: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona finished 31st in the league in rushing last year at just 81.8 ypg. They have added in elite left guard Mike Iupati and now it’s time for them to add in a compliment to Andre Ellington at running back, who is not built to carry the entire load. If in fact the Cardinals decide to go in this direction, Georgia’s Todd Gurley feels like the perfect fit.
Selection – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
No. 25 Pick: Carolina Panthers
While the Panthers have added in free agent tackle Michael Oher to take over at left tackle and guards Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell showed promise late in the year, they have a glaring hole at right tackle and lack depth across the board. Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings is capable of stepping in and starting right away on the outside opposite of Oher. Another option here would be Florida’s D.J. Humphries.
Selection – T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
No. 26 Pick: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens lost Torrey Smith in free agency, leaving 36-year-old veteran Steve Smith as their only reliable option on the outside. While they also have a pressing need at corner, it will be hard for them to pass on UCF’s Breshad Perriman if he’s still on the board this late. If Perriman isn’t available, Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong would have to be considered.
Selection – Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
No. 27 Pick: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has done a tremendous job improving their offensive line with previous 1st round picks, but that’s no longer an area of need. Their focus needs to be on getting better defensively. They need help at both defensive tackle and corner. While I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked to address the need at tackle, I believe Washington corner Marcus Peters is too talented to pass up. If it weren’t for off-field concerns, Peters would be a top 10 pick.
Selection – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
No. 28 Pick: Denver Broncos
The Broncos top priority is to keep Peyton Manning well protected and that’s the direction I expect them to go with their first round pick. The best option on the board at this point in the draft is Florida’s D.J. Humphries, who they could start right away at right tackle or guard. If there’s not an offensive linemen worth taking at this spot, look for Denver to turn to the defensive line, where they need to find a replacement for the departed Terrance Knighton.
Selection – D.J. Humphries, OT/G, Florida
No. 29 Pick: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have made a couple of big offseason free agent signings in wide out Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore, but there’s still plenty of holes that need to be filled if this team wants to take that next step and get to a Super Bowl. While they desperately need to improve at both center and right guard, not a lot of great options at this point and those are two positions you can attack later in the draft. That should allow the Colts to target their top need on defense, which is inside linebacker.
Selection – Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
No. 30 Pick: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay was unable to re-sign corners Davon House and Tramon Williams, leaving a big void in the secondary. There figures to be at least a couple quality corners on the board when the Packers hit the clock in the 1st round. Two options that I still have available are Connecticut’s Byron Jones and Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson.
Selection – Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
No. 31 Pick: New Orleans Saints (From Seattle)
The Saints pulled one of the biggest surprises of the offseason when they traded away Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks for center Max Unger and Seattle’s 1st round pick. New Orleans needs to find a replacement for Graham and make sure Drew Brees has an intermediate target. They can do just that by grabbing the top rated tight end on the board in Minnesota’s Maxx Williams.
Selection – Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
No. 32 Pick: New England Patriots
It’s almost impossible to try and figure out which direction Bill Belichick is going to go in the draft, but I have a good feeling they are going to look to address their need at defensive tackle, where they needed help even before the loss of Vince Wilfork. Not only would they be feeling a need, but Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman would be a steal if he’s still on the board at No. 32.
Selection – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
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