Now that we know the first round order for 30 of 32 teams as well as all the underclassmen who have declared it’s time to jump headfirst into mock draft season. This is my initial full first-round mock draft of the offseason with several more likely to follow between now and Draft Day.
The draft begins April 30 so between now and then I have plenty of time to continue waffling about who will go where – beginning with the top overall pick. In my first mock draft, I had the Buccaneers taking Marcus Mariota and I felt pretty certain about it. Then I watched him struggle a little in the National Championship game and did what came easiest: overreacted. Or did I? This is going to bug me from now until Draft Day. I’ll probably go back and forth because neither Mariota nor Jameis Winston feels like a slam dunk right now.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
My current feeling is that concern over Winston’s track record of off-field problems will ultimately be outweighed by the fact that he’s simply a better quarterback than Mariota. Obviously, if Winston comes off poorly in his interviews with teams throughout the draft process it will raise bright red flags. If that happens, I’ll probably slide him down in my mock drafts. Until then, I’ll insert the most talented player at the most important position in this draft class at the top of the draft board. Stay tuned.
2. Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams, DE, USC
For the second mock in a row, I have Williams going to the Titans. As I’ve pointed out before, this is a critical spot in the first round. The Titans could very well opt for Mariota here, but they also might view him as a quarterback that needs to sit and watch for a year and instead go with Williams, who some feel is the most talented player on the entire board and will provide immediate bang for the buck.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
I’m sticking with Gregory to the Jaguars at No. 3 for the second mock draft in a row. The Jaguars don’t need a quarterback so they’ll pass on Mariota. If Gregory goes second overall, the Jags will jump all over Williams. If Williams goes second, as I have him doing, Shane Ray from Missouri is another edge-rushing option here. Wide receiver Amari Cooper could also make a lot of sense, as Blake Bortles needs a big-time talent to play catch with.
4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
In my first mock draft I had Cooper sliding to 10 and going to the Rams. Who am I kidding? The Raiders have never been able to resist tantalizing skill position players of Cooper’s ilk. Cooper would certainly look good on the business end of Derek Carr passes. I would not be surprised at all if this is where the draft’s top receiver winds up.
5. Washington Redskins – Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Washington ranked in the lower third of the NFL in sacks this season with 36. They could use offensive line help as well, and I had them going with an offensive tackle in my initial mock draft. However, an elite edge rusher like Ray seems just as likely.
6. New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Here you go, Jets fans -- your next quarterback of the future. That is, unless Chip Kelly and the Eagles make them an offer they can’t refuse. The Eagles would have to move all the way up from 20, so they might need to trade twice. Kelly reportedly wants Mariota badly and since he’s in charge of personnel moves in Philly now, he can make it happen. The farther Mariota slides, the better the chance the Eagles will throw in a bid. In this mock draft, however, I am not including trades.
7. Chicago Bears – Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Second mock draft same as the first. I’m pretty convinced the Bears will be going defense with this pick. There are several edge rushers available here that wouldn’t be considered a reach in terms of value, but Collins is easily the top safety in this class and brings a dimension the Bears have been lacking in their secondary. Chicago finished 30th in pass defense this past season.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
Time for more waffling. Speaking of which, who doesn’t like waffles? Mmmm… waffles. I’m hungry. Where was I? Oh yeah, in my first mock, I had the Falcons selecting Vic Beasley followed by the Giants taking Fowler. I’m switching things around this time. Both picks would make sense for both teams.
9. New York Giants – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Like I said, this could just as easily be Fowler here. Beasley is the better pass rusher right now, while Fowler is more versatile. Either way they go, they’ll be getting a good player who will help immediately.
10. St. Louis Rams – T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
The Rams’ biggest needs seem to all be on offense. They need a quarterback, but unless Mariota slips this far, that’s not an option here. They need wide receivers, and I had them taking Amari Cooper in my first mock. But he’s no longer available at 10 in this mockery. Devante Parker is another possibility here. However, offensive line is just as much of a need and there will be talented wideouts still available in round two. The Rams could easily go with Brandon Scherff at this spot, but Clemmings is more of a prototypical tackle. He could probably start right away -- likely at right tackle -- because neither Greg Robinson nor Joe Barksdale had banner 2014 seasons at tackle for the Rams.
11. Minnesota Vikings – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
See what I did here? In my first mock draft, I had the Vikings selecting wide receiver Devante Parker. Since that mock, I wrote a piece suggesting Scherff would be a great fit for the Vikings. And now, almost as if by fate, both are still on the board at 11. Actually, I had things play out this way to make a point. If things play out this way and both are sitting there I think the Vikings will grab the big lineman over the speedy wide receiver. Both are needs. Neither would be a reach here, but Scherff is almost a bargain at this point since he’s widely regarded as a top-10 player in this draft. I could see the Vikings moving him to left guard immediately, which would fill a significant need. There will be more wide receivers to choose from later in the draft and free agency is always an option. Plus if they sign Duron Carter in February, wide receiver becomes a slightly less pressing need – not to suggest he’d be a slam dunk “solution” at the position.
12. Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
If Josh Gordon is no longer a member of the Browns on draft day, I expect them to take a wide receiver either here or with the 19th pick that they acquired from the Bills. For now, I’m sticking with Shelton as the pick to provide immediate help up the middle against the run. The Browns finished dead last in run defense in 2014.
13. New Orleans Saints – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (Fla.)
The Saints need offensive line help and there are a lot of good ones left here. I had them going with Cedric Ogbuehi in my first mock draft, but now I think he’ll fall farther than this. Flowers gives New Orleans a massive tackle that’s equally adept at run and pass-blocking and good enough to go a few spots higher than this to the Giants, Rams or potentially even the Vikings.
14. Miami Dolphins – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
The Dolphins are a tough team for me to peg. I could see them going with either offensive or defensive line. They could also go running back or wide receiver. However, a lot of teams, including the Dolphins might very well have Thompson ranked as the top player left on the board at this point. He’s as versatile as they come and could step right into the Dolphins’ lineup at weakside linebacker and make an instant difference.
15. San Francisco 49ers – Devante Parker, WR, Louisville
I had the 49ers going defense with this pick in my first mock, but the more I think about it, wide receiver feels like a bigger need for them. Not that it all has to be about need, but Michael Crabtree is leaving via free agency and Anquan Boldin is going to be 35 next October. Colin Kaepernick needs some weapons and Parker is the best wideout left on the board in a draft that’s fairly loaded at the position.
16. Houston Texans – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Texans could sure use a quarterback, but they’re not taking one here. They might find one in free agency and then grab another in a latter round. They might also think about taking a wide receiver with this pick. However, Waynes is the top corner in the draft and the Texans might go that route rather than taking the fourth wide receiver off the board. The Texans finished 21st in pass defense this past season.
17. San Diego Chargers – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Cornerback, offensive line, defensive line... which is it going to be? Might the Chargers think about Melvin Gordon here? I bet they will. In the end, I think they’ll settle on shoring up the interior of their defensive line with a guy like Goldman.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Chiefs would love it if the draft fell this way. No team needs more help at wide receiver than they do. Last I checked they still didn’t have a wide receiver touchdown this past season.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) – Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
The run on wide receivers resumes. As I suggested with the Browns’ pick at 12, they’re leaving Round 1 with a wide receiver. Funchess might also make a good tight end, but in this scenario he will stay at wideout and be the replacement for the aforementioned Gordon, who might be selling cars again or wearing a different team’s jersey by April.
20. Philadelphia Eagles – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The word on the street is that the Eagles are focused on using this pick to help their secondary; they finished 31st in pass defense in 2014. I had them taking Waynes in my first mock draft, but he went four spots earlier in this mock. Peters will likely be the second corner off the board so this feels like a good spot for him.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Armstead goes about 6-8, 290 and I have a hunch he’ll turn some heads at the combine. The Bengals could use some freakishly athletic defenders. Actually, who couldn’t? I don’t see this guy sliding out of the first round. The Bengals might not be able to resist.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Steelers need defense. That’s no secret. The Steel Curtain just ain’t what it used to be. There’s a good chance Brown won’t slide this far, but if he does this feels like a great fit. As an added bonus, they’ll be sniping the Lions, whom I’m guessing would love to draft Brown.
23. Detroit Lions – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
In this scenario, I have the Lions losing Ndamukong Suh to free agency. That would leave a fairly massive hole in the middle of their defense – one that could be plugged by the likes of Phillips – or Malcom Brown if the Steelers don’t grab him.
24. Arizona Cardinals – Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
This could very well be the spot where Melvin Gordon’s slide down the draft board ends. Then again, someone might remind the Cardinals that they made the playoffs despite using a collection of running backs this past season and they also need a lot of help rushing the passer. They had 35 sacks this past season – 24th in the league.
25. Carolina Panthers – La’El Collins, OT, LSU
If the Panthers don’t use this pick on an offensive lineman, I’ll buy everyone I’m watching the draft with a beer. Collins is one of many worthy offensive tackles with first-round grades. If it’s not him, it will be another lineman.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
No, I didn’t forget about him. With Justin Forsett likely leaving Baltimore via free agency, the Ravens will be in the market for a running back. Truthfully, I suspect the Ravens, Cardinals, Cowboys or Seahawks will trade up and draft Gordon earlier than this – maybe in the top-15 so they make sure the Chargers don’t have a shot at him. But again, I’m not incorporating made-up trades into this mock.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The Cowboys might find themselves looking for a running back at this point, depending on the DeMarco Murray situation. However, I’m certain they need help in the secondary after finishing 26th against the pass, and Johnson would appear to be a fit as the next best corner on most draft boards.
28. Denver Broncos – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
It sounds like Peyton Manning is coming back, which means the Broncos would be wise to add another big body up front to help protect his aging bones. Ogbuehi would make some sense.
29. Indianapolis Colts – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
I could absolutely see the Colts going defense with this pick. However, when your team is being built around the best young quarterback in the league and he likes to throw 45 passes per game it makes sense to give him more weapons.
30. Green Bay Packers – Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
I resisted the urge to have Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams be the pick in this spot. I still might make that happen in subsequent mock drafts because I think the fit would be perfect. That said, the Packers could definitely use some help at inside linebacker.
31. New England Patriots – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
I reviewed a lot of tape and it looks like DGB is equally adept at catching under-inflated balls as he is at catching balls with proper inflation. Thus, the fit seems ideal.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
I think this pick will be labeled a reach by some, but I have to say I was impressed by Smith every time I saw him play this season. He impressed again in the Big Ten Championship game with 137 yards and three touchdowns against Wisconsin and I suspect his stock is on the rise. Sammie Coates is another possibility here. Russell Wilson needs some more wide receivers. That much seems obvious. If Marshawn Lynch isn’t brought back, however, the Seahawks could opt for a running back like Todd Gurley.
That’s enough mock drafting for this month. More to come in February. Now it’s your turn. Who do you see the Vikings taking and how do you feel the first round will play out? Leave your comments below or, better yet, take a stab at doing mock drafts on a Vikings Journal blog if you’ve set one up. Happy mocking!
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell