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2015 NFL Mock Draft: First Round Predictions Before Free Agency

1st Round Predictions for the 2015 NFL Draft Before Free Agency Begins

Michael Schottey



Understand that NFL mock drafts aren’t meant to be 100 percent predictive at this stage of the game.

There’s a time for that—usually right before the actual NFL Draft in April—but right now the goal is to play out scenarios. (It’s not only media and fans, but teams are doing this same thing as well). So, this is less about what will happen and more about what each team might do if the board falls this way or if the draft were happening today.

What can change between now and Chicago? In the next few weeks, teams will bunker down and solidify their boards as free agency and pro days change needs across the NFL.

Don’t love the picks for your favorite team? Leave yours in the comments below!


1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Jameis Winston (QB Florida State)

I’m not sold on Winston as the No. 1 player in the draft, and the Buccaneers need to do all sorts of due diligence on his off-the-field issues. That said, he’s got a fantastic football IQ and played in a pro-style offense. He, like Mariota, also has all the physical tools to succeed at the position.


2. Tennessee Titans—Leonard Williams (DT/DE Southern California)

Williams is my highest ranked player in the entire class and his grade is just a notch below recent fantastic tackle prospects Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. He’s a physical beast and has a fantastic first step. I’d put him anywhere from one to five-technique and I think he could even play a little 4-3 defensive end in sub-packages.


3. Jacksonville Jaguars—Dante Fowler Jr. (OLB/DE Florida)

All of my notes on Fowler trend toward two words: “pass rusher.” He’s a natural pass rusher. He’s a violent pass rusher. He’s a dynamic pass rusher. He rushes effectively through a number of gaps. It goes on and on. Fowler has some learning to do, and Gus Bradley is a helluva teacher.


4. Oakland Raiders—Amari Cooper (WR Alabama)

If anyone prefers West Virginia’s Kevin White or Louisville’s DeVante Parker in this spot, I wouldn’t argue too much. This is a great crop of wide receivers which dovetails nicely with the Raiders need for a playmaker. I’ll take Cooper because I love what he brings to the table both before the catch to get open and once the ball gets into his hands.


5. Washington—Randy Gregory (OLB/DE Nebraska)

The only real question for Gregory at this point is his weight. If he can maintain a consistent NFL playing weight throughout the draft process, he’s got all the tools a pass rusher needs and just needs some help polishing up his play.


6. New York Jets—Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)

Personally, I would prefer Mariota if I’m running an NFL team. He’s more trustworthy off the field and I think he’s going to be the first true spread quarterback since Cam Newton to successfully make the leap to the pros. Here, he falls into the Jets lap who may be fine with trying to help Geno Smith along in the same transition, but Mariota is far and away the better prospect.


7. Chicago Bears—Shane Ray (DE/OLB Missouri)

Another Top 10 pick, another pass rusher. Like with the wide receivers, I wouldn’t be too shocked to see Ray go as high as No. 3 because he’s so athletically gifted. I also think he’s the most fit of the top rushers to play as a defensive end rather than a stand up linebacker, so that could elevate him as well. He falls for me because I don’t think his ceiling is quite as high, but that’s nitpicking among a few great prospects.


8. Atlanta Falcons—Vic Beasley (OLB/DE Clemson)

Beasley, like Gregory, needs to continue to show he can maintain an NFL-caliber weight, but even then, the concern is that he is just a speed guy. He doesn’t have a bull rush or a polished counter move and when bigger linemen get their hands on him he can get pushed around. That said, dude can get to the passer, and the Falcons have lacked that in a big way.


9. New York Giants—La’El Collins (OT LSU)

This seems low for the first offensive lineman to come off the board and Collins could easily go a number of spots higher. Here, he move in to help protect Eli Manning and give the rushing game a little more teeth. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea (especially as a left tackle) but his mauling style fits head coach Tom Coughlin’s M.O.


10. St. Louis Rams—Kevin White (WR West Virginia)

My one quibble with White is similar to a lot of spread wide receivers—many of the things that got him open at the college level were system related and won’t work in the NFL against more athletic defenses. Still, he’s a fantastic prospect who can win down the field and has some of the best size-speed numbers in this class.


11. Minnesota Vikings—Trae Waynes (CB Michigan State)

The top corner on my board, I like Waynes in a number of different coverage schemes, but his ability to press makes him a good fit for Mike Zimmer’s tough defense. He’s more than fast enough to cover most No. 1 receivers without help over the top and he’s physical to boot. He just needs to cut down on penalties.


12. Cleveland Browns—DeVante Parker (WR Louisville)

Though the Browns currently have more questions than answers at the quarterback position, they would likely be better served in this scenario staying put and drafting a top-flight receiver rather than mortgaging their future for a quarterback. Parker has one of the most well-rounded game in the class and can win both in the air and after the catch.


13. New Orleans Saints—Arik Armstead (DE/DT Oregon)

Armstead is physically imposing at a legit 6’7” and 292 pounds, but right now he’s more effective setting the point of attack and letting others benefit from his dirty work. That sort of lunch pail attitude is needed in New Orleans where the linebackers had trouble finding daylight last season.


14. Miami Dolphins—Dorial Green-Beckham (WR Missouri)

Easily one of the best overall athletes in the draft, DGB has some off-the-field issues that are going to sink his stock, but if the team that grabs him can keep in him line, they’ll be getting someone who could be a perennial Pro Bowler from Day 1.


15. San Francisco 49ers—Brandon Scherff (OG/OT Iowa)

One of my favorite players in the draft, Scherff could potentially play tackle in the NFL, but like Zack Martin last year, he is a much better fit at offensive guard. He would immediately improve the run blocking wherever he ends up and projects as a fantastic interior pass blocker as well.


16. Houston Texans—Landon Collins (S Alabama)

Collins isn’t a perfect two-way safety, but he might be one of the best in-the-box prospects to come out in a long time and has just enough skills in coverage to play either safety spot in a pinch. In today’s era of big nickel packages, Collins might be one of the most coveted defensive prospects in the draft and could go much higher than this.


17. San Diego Chargers—Alvin “Bud” Dupree (OLB/DE Kentucky)

Pound for pound, no one had a better combine than Dupree, and although I’ve personally been a fan for a while, he opened even my eyes. Most adept as a pure edge rusher with no coverage or diagnose responsibilities, Dupree would likely be a situational passing down linebacker for the first couple of years.


18. Kansas City Chiefs—Andrus Peat (OT Stanford)

With a bunch of top receivers off the board, the Chiefs need to wait a round (or two) before dipping into the deep class of pass-catching talent. Instead, here they continue building their offensive line with someone who could dominate either tackle position for them.


19. Cleveland Browns (From Buf.)—Malcom Brown (DE/DT Texas)

With a receiver already in the fold, the Browns continue building Mike Pettine’s already-improving defense with help in the trenches. Brown would play defensive end in their 3-4 and would help not only by eating up blockers, but by applying plenty of pressure from the position as well.


20. Philadelphia Eagles—Marcus Peters (CB Washington)

Peters had a tough time transitioning to a new coaching staff at Washington, so Chip Kelly and his staff would need to be sure they could get along with the talented corner, whom I have graded just below Waynes. Right now, Peters needs a little more polish, but is athletic, tough and relishes locking receivers down at the line of scrimmage.


21. Cincinnati Bengals—Shaq Thompson (LB Washington)

Thompson is a better football player than a linebacker right now, and he’ll have to knuckle down and improve his defensive skills once he stops practicing at running back. The Bengals always seem to fall for collegiate stars other teams are passing on for various reasons, and this is a good fit as the Bengals need long-term depth at the position and Thompson has an awfully high ceiling once he gets it figured out.


22. Pittsburgh Steelers—T.J. Clemmings (OT Pittsburgh)

Your daddy’s Steelers were built in the trenches, but recently those areas of the field have withered and although there’s light at the end of the tunnel with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, they need some help blocking to get those superstars the ball. Clemmings is a project, but I love his athleticism and he’s one of the last potential long-term left tackles on the board.


23. Detroit Lions—Eddie Goldman (DT Florida State)

The Lions are almost certainly losing Ndamukong Suh to a 100 million dollar contract and may or may not be able to keep Nick Fairley around, so they need some help on the interior rushing the passer if their defense wants to come close to repeating 2014’s efforts. Goldman would play 1-tech in Detroit’s 4-3, but give them flexibility if they wanted to go multiple front in the post-Suh era.


24. Arizona Cardinals—D.J. Humphries (OT Florida)

Bruce Arians’ scheme demands time for the wide receivers to get down the field, and that means plenty of time standing (hopefully) in the pocket. Last year’s quarterback woes are well-documented, but better protection long term will only help his scheme be more successful no matter who is under center.


25. Carolina Panthers—Eli Harold (DE/OLB Virginia)

The Panthers did well enough in a terrible NFC South in Greg Hardy’s absence, but need some one to take over that position. Harold is a pure pass rusher who may fit better in a 3-4, but would also shine in a situational role and he should be able to add some weight to his frame as he matures in the NFL.


26. Baltimore Ravens—Jalen Collins (CB LSU)

If one is drawing up the prototype cornerback from both a physical attribute and skills perspective, the closest in this 2015 class is Collins. He didn’t have a ton of collegiate starts thanks to LSU’s continually crowded backfield, but he should be a stud sooner rather than later in the NFL.


27. Dallas Cowboys—Carl Davis (DT Iowa)

Davis always left Iowa fans (and then scouts) wanting more during his time with the Hawkeyes, but he’s got the ability to be one of the best linemen in this class. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is a well-known defensive tackle guru and could turn easily the massive and massively talented Davis into an All Pro.


28. Denver Broncos—Danny Shelton (DT Washington)

A lot of my draft media peers fell in love with Shelton at the Senior Bowl because he’s a ridiculously physically imposing individual and can move like a man half his size. His tape, though, tells the story of a guy who’s not as impactful on the game as he should be and that needs more conditioning and coaching before he makes a splash in the NFL. Here, he steps in as the Broncos nose and likely rotates out on clear passing downs.


29. Indianapolis Colts—Todd Gurley (RB Georgia)

It’s a deep running back class, so there is wisdom in taking another position here, but getting the No. 1 guy on the board is a pretty good argument to the contrary. When healthy, Gurley was the closest thing to Adrian Peterson we’ve seen as a running back prospect in a long time. He’ll need to check out medically, but he could help the Colts in a big way from Day 1.


30. Green Bay Packers—Maxx Williams (TE Minnesota)

It’s frightening to think the Packers’ offense was missing something in 2014, but as great as their numbers were, the offense runs that much better when the tight end can create mismatches rather than be an afterthought. Williams is a pure pass catcher and can befuddle linebackers as well as press the seam vertically.


31. Seattle Seahawks—Jaelen Strong (WR Arizona State)

The Seahawks have lacked a true No. 1/X-type receiver for a while after swinging and missing on Sidney Rice and dabbling more in slot/Z prospects for the better part of Pete Carroll’s tenure. Strong provides a target with an immense catch radius who can high point the ball and give Russell Wilson some one to truly lean on in the passing attack.


32. New England Patriots—Devin Funchess (TE/WR Michigan)

I’ve moved Funchess from No. 5 WR to No. 2 TE on my board and don’t consider him a lock first rounder by any means. However, the chance for him to essentially take over Aaron Hernandez’ old role in New England is too good to pass up. He may not be fast enough to win on the outside in the NFL, but Tom Brady and Bill Belichick could find a way to utilize his skills.


Best Available Prospects Left on the Board:

  • Ereck Flowers (OT Miami)
  • Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE UCLA)
  • Jordan Phillips (DT Oklahoma)
  • Cameron Erving (C/OT Florida State)
  • Devin Smith (WR Ohio State)
  • Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M


Michael Schottey has been covering football in various capacities for a decade and his work can be found in numerous outlets around the globe, primarily Bleacher Report where he is and NFL National Lead Writer. Schottey has appeared regularly on CNN, Headline News, Al Jazeera America, Sirius/XM and countless other national and local radio spots.

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