With just four days remaining until the 2015 NFL Draft, I took a swing at projecting every pick of the first round. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston
The former Heisman winner has all the physical tools to be a franchise quarterback. While there are some concerns away from the field, Winston is a major upgrade at a key position for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007.
2. Philadelphia (via Tennessee): QB Marcus Mariota
While I fully expect the Eagles to trade away more than most people are anticipating, Chip Kelly makes the move to get his quarterback. Mariota will be directly tied to Kelly’s coaching legacy. The Eagles trade the Titans the 20th pick of the first round, their second round pick (52nd overall), their 2016 1st round pick, Fletcher Cox, and Mychal Kendricks.
3. Jacksonville: OLB Dante Fowler Jr.
While you wouldn’t be able to tell it from recent results, Gus Bradley is slowly building a winner in Jacksonville. The Jaguars added linebacker Dan Skuta during free agency, and here they upgrade their pass rush in a major way by drafting Fowler.
4. Oakland: DT Leonard Williams
Maybe the best overall player in the draft. New defensive-minded head coach Jack Del Rio will pair Williams with Khalil Mack to immediately improve the Raiders’ defense.
5. Washington: OLB Vic Beasley
Beasley has the best first step of any pass rusher in the draft. The Clemson standout will have an immediate impact for a team whose defense lost Brian Orakpo to Tennessee during free agency.
6. New York Jets: OLB Bud Dupree
Three pass rushers in the first six picks. Dupree is more raw than Fowler Jr. and Beasley but likely has the greatest potential of any pass rusher in the draft. The Kentucky star is the last piece of the puzzle in what should be a dominant Jets defense this season.
7. Chicago: WR Amari Cooper
The Bears go as Jay Cutler goes, and Cooper is the perfect replacement for the recently departed Brandon Marshall. The Bears could go with a defensive tackle here (they’re shifting from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4), but to me, adding the draft’s best receiver is simply too tempting.
8. Atlanta: OLB Randy Gregory
Shane Ray would have likely been the pick if not for health concerns, but Gregory is still an instant-impact player for new defensive-minded head coach Dan Quinn. Gregory was widely considered a top-5 pick before news broke of a failed combine drug test.
9. New York Giants: OL Brandon Scherff
The Giants may take a receiver here, but upgrading the offensive line is a more important need. Scherff is the most physical lineman in the draft and will immediately upgrade a running-game that finished 30th in yards per carry last season.
10. St. Louis: OL La’el Collins
For the second consecutive pick, a wide receiver is passed over in favor of an offensive linemen. He may be a slight reach here, but Collins will be a day-one starter for the Rams at right tackle.
11. Minnesota: WR Kevin White
The Vikings should take about two seconds to make their selection if White drops to the 11th pick. They’ll need to address their need at cornerback at some point, but giving Teddy Bridgewater the receiver with the highest potential in the draft is a no-brainer here.
12. Cleveland: WR Devante Parker
Josh Gordon is suspended for the entire 2015 season and may never play another down for the Browns. Parker is a true number one receiver and will immediately produce for Cleveland.
13. New Orleans: DT Danny Shelton
The best defensive tackle in the draft not named Leonard Williams, Shelton slides a little bit to pick 13. The Saints have two first round picks, and they use their first to upgrade the defensive line. Shelton is a massive player who is well above average against the run and the pass.
14. Miami: CB Trae Waynes
The Dolphins added the best defensive tackle in the league during free agency in Ndamukong Suh, and at pick 14 they take the draft’s best cornerback. Waynes will be the cherry-on-top for an already solid defense heading into the 2015 season.
15. San Francisco: DT Arik Armstead
The 49ers will address their need at linebacker later in the draft, but in the first round they take a difference maker on the defensive line. Armstead is as imposing as any defensive tackle in the draft, and his athleticism will be valuable on a defense that looks to rebuild in 2015.
16. Houston: DE Mario Edwards Jr.
The Texans could go wide receiver here, but I have a hunch they’ll add to a nice piece to their front seven. Edwards would join J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, and Jadeveon Clowney on an elite defensive line.
17. San Diego: RB Todd Gurley
I believe the rumors that say the Chargers may attempt to trade Phillip Rivers to Tennessee for the 2nd overall pick, but in the end I think the quarterback resigns with San Diego and the Chargers instead draft the best running back in this class. Gurley is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.
18. Kansas City: WR Dorial Green-Beckham
Last season, the Chiefs’ wide receivers combined to score zero touchdowns. Zero. Andy Reid lured Jeremy Maclin away from Philadelphia during free agency, and the Chiefs are expecting big things in the future from tight end Travis Kelce. While he’s a risk, Green-Beckham has enormous potential and would give the Chiefs an above average receiving corps.
19. Cleveland: DT Eddie Goldman
The Browns opted to upgrade their offense with pick 12, but addressing the defensive line with their second pick of the first round is an easy decision. Goldman is an elite run stopper who is an excellent fit in Mike Pettine’s defense.
20. Tennessee (via Philadelphia): OL D.J. Humphries
The Titans traded the 2nd overall pick of the draft to the Eagles for Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and multiple draft picks (including this one). With Cox negating their need on the defensive line, the Titans fill a need on an offensive line that was simply miserable last season. Humphries will anchor Tennessee’s offensive line from the left tackle position.
21. Cincinnati: S Landon Collins
George Iloka and Reggie Nelson are both set to become free agents following the 2015 season, and the Bengals use their first round pick to select Nelson’s likely replacement. Collins is widely considered the best safety in the draft and could even see time as a nickel linebacker.
22. Pittsburgh: CB Byron Jones
An extremely physical corner, Jones’s game film supports the jaw-dropping numbers he put up at the NFL Combine. The UConn star will make an immediate impact with the Steelers.
23. New England (via Detroit): DT Malcom Brown
The Patriots lost Vince Wilfork during free agency, so defensive tackle is an obvious need in the 2015 Draft. Brown slides to pick 23, and that’s where Bill Belichick trades up to draft him. Brown will produce immediately in New England. Along with pick 32, the Lions receive a 3rd and 6th round pick from the Patriots.
24. Dallas (via Arizona): RB Melvin Gordon
Jerry Jones has a flare for the dramatic, and the Cowboys move up three spots in the first round to select the second best running back in the draft. Gordon will run behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. Along with pick 27, the Cardinals receive a 4th round pick.
25. Carolina: OL Andrus Peat
The Panthers have a glaring need at offensive line, and Peat will go a long way in keeping Cam Newton off the ground. Peat has risen on draft boards around the league for the last month.
26. Baltimore: WR Breshad Perriman
After being sniped by Dallas in the pursuit of Melvin Gordon, the Ravens decide to replace free-agent departure Torrey Smith with their first round pick. Perriman is one of the fastest players in the entire draft and could develop into an absolute star.
27. Arizona (via Dallas): CB Marcus Peters
Arizona traded the 24th overall pick to Dallas for pick 27 and a 4th round pick. The Cardinals could go in a few directions with their first round pick, but here they add the cornerback with the highest ceiling in the draft. Though he comes with red flags, Peters will be mentored by fellow defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
28. Denver: OL Cameron Irving
Truth be told, the Broncos have a bigger need on the defensive line than on the offensive line. But with Peyton Manning likely having just one year left in the tank, the Broncos decide to shore up his offensive line. Irving is an ideal fit for the Broncos offense.
29. Indianapolis: S Damarious Randall
The Colts will likely take two safeties in this draft, and they use their first round pick to draft the best cover player at the position. Randall’s range and athleticism are a perfect for a Colts’ defense that plays a lot of press-man coverage.
30. Green Bay: CB Kevin Johnson
Instead of reaching for an inside linebacker, the Packers use their first round pick to fill a need at cornerback. Johnson is the least talked about top-tier corner in the draft, but he should start right away in Green Bay.
31. New Orleans: OL Jake Fisher
The Saints addressed the defensive line with their first pick of the opening round, and here they draft an athletic offensive linemen in Jake Fisher. Fisher will likely begin his career at guard, where he’ll replace the void left by Ben Grubbs, who was traded to the Chiefs during free agency.
32. Detroit (via New England): OT Ereck Flowers
The Lions traded the 23rd overall pick to New England for pick 32, a 3rd round pick, and a 6th round pick. Though it traded down, Detroit still gets to address its woes at offensive line in the first round by drafting day-one starter Ereck Flowers.
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