Florida State’s Jameis Winston will go first overall. How will the rest of the draft shake out? (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
With the first wave of free agency complete and the team-building process well underway, here’s our first mock of the season. As always, mock drafts are a bit of a crapshoot, and this one is no exception. That being said, we’ve done our due diligence when it comes to trying to match post-free agency needs with suitable prospects.
1, Tampa Bay — Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: Makes too much sense for the Bucs not to go with Winston here. A wildly talented player who has more than his share of off-field issues. Tampa Bay will tie its fortunes to the former Heisman winner.
2. Tennessee — Leonard Williams, DT, USC: The best size/speed combo in this year’s class when you’re talking about defenders, he’s a potential game-changer for the Titans’ defensive front. (For what it’s worth, we’re not buying the hints that they might be interested in Marcus Mariota at No. 2. Not yet, anyway.)
3. Jacksonvillle — Dante Fowler, Jr., OLB, Florida: The Jags have done a nice steady job adding pieces over the last year. If Fowler is what people think — the best pure pass rusher in the draft — it would represent a good offseason for Jacksonville, and another step in the right direction.
4. Oakland — Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: The measurable are all there for the Raiders, who don’t hesitate to jump at the chance to add the Alabama wideout and give Derek Carr another option in the passing game. (It’s either him or Kevin White from West Virginia.)
5. Washington — Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska: The Redskins go for what is likely the best available pass rusher. The long Gregory (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) might need to add some weight at the next level, but there’s no question about his athleticism. Shane Ray is also a possibility here.
6. New York Jets — Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: The Jets have added some very nice pieces on both sides of the ball this offseason, but the quarterback situation remains muddled. Ryan Fitzpatrick could be a placeholder for Mariota, who could sit for a season and then conceivably take over in 2016. (For what it’s worth, if Mariota doesn’t go here and the rest of the first round plays out without a trade by a quarterback-needy team, there’s the possibility he suffers a bit of a draft day tumble. Not Aaron Rodgers-esque, but he could still tumble.)
7. Chicago — Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: Best available receiver after the Brandon Marshall trade, although it’s tough to pass on the likes of potential game-changers like Vic Beasley and Danny Shelton for a team that still has some question marks on defense.
8. Atlanta — Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson: Considered one of the most complete defensive players in the draft, Beasley is an excellent first step in Dan Quinn’s goal of creating a Seahawks-like defense with the Falcons.
9. New York Giants — Shane Ray, DE, Missouri: Ray has slipped as of late because of a bad pro day, but New York grabs the best available pass rusher on the board. Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff is also a possibility here.
10. St. Louis — La’el Collins, OL, LSU: The Rams went offensive line early last year, and appear poised to go there again. They could take Collins (who can play with guard and tackle) or Scherff. There’s also the possibility they could pluck a receiver to give new QB Nick Foles another option in the passing game. (That might be the move here if Kevin White is still on the board.)
11. Minnesota — DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville: This feels like it’s a little early, but the chance to reunite quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with one of his favorite targets in college proves too irresistible for the Vikings.
12. Cleveland — Danny Shelton, DT, Washington: A pure 3-4 nose tackle for Mike Pettine helps shore up a sluggish run defense.13. New Orleans — Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: The 6-foot, 186-pounder who turned in an impressive performance at the combine should give a boost to the New Orleans secondary.
14. Miami — Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri: With the addition of Ndamukong Suh and departure of Mike Wallace, the focus turns to offense. While Green-Beckham reportedly has some off-field question marks, the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder has the size and speed to give Ryan Tannehill a major target in the passing game.
15. San Francisco — Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon: It would have made more sense for Armstead to fall to Chip Kelly at No. 20 so he could take the best available Duck, but he probably won’t last that long. The Niners are also likely in the market to rebuild depth at linebacker.
16. Houston — Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State: Lots of directions possible for the Texans here — including an edge rusher — the pickup of Strong feels like a fit for Houston.
17. San Diego — Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: The first running back taken in the first round since 2012, Gurley gives the Chargers an immediate jolt in the backfield.
18. Kansas City — Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa: Let me make this clear — I think this is too low for Scherff, who had a really good combine and pro day, and is fast becoming the best tackle on the market. Look for him to move up between now and the draft. (If Scherff is off the board, they might be inclined to go after tackle Andrus Peat out of Stanford or Ereck Flowers out of Miami.)
19. Cleveland (via Buffalo) — Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami: After picking up Shelton to help with one of worst run defenses in the league in 2014, the Browns get another big body for the other side of the ball. Flowers can start at right tackle on Day One and eventually replace left tackle Joe Thomas when he moves on.
20. Philadelphia — Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia: Chip Kelly is going to be a real wild card in this year’s draft, and given the moves he’s already made this offseason, it’s anyone’s guess what he’s going to do. However, the super quick Harold can provide a boost for his defense. But really, just about anyone is in play here.
21. Cincinnati — Landon Collins, S, Alabama: The Bengals have apparently been pretty hot for Collins this offseason — according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, Cincy defensive backs coach Mark Carrier conducted his pro day workout. Makes sense for a team that could lose both starting safeties in free agency next year.
22. Pittsburgh — Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest: The Steelers were one of the worst teams in the league last year when it came to pass coverage, and as a result, they chase the best cover corner still on the board. (LSU’s Jalen Collins is also a possibility at this spot.)
23. Detroit — Malcom Brown, DT, Texas: The losses of Suh and Nick Fairley force the Lions to try and rebuild their defensive front. There’s also a need at offensive tackle for Detroit, which could mean they’d prefer Miami’s D.J. Humphries if he’s available.
24. Arizona — Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE/OLB, UCLA: A part-time sprinter with the Bruins, he has an intriguing size/speed mix that should attract the Cards, who occasionally struggled to get after the passer last season. “Bud” Dupree of Kentucky is a possibility here, as well as a running back.
25. Carolina — D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida: The Panthers give some protection to Cam Newton with the best available tackle.
26. Baltimore — Eddie Goldman, DL, Florida State: The Ravens have suffered some serious losses along the defensive line as of late and need some reinforcements. The loss of Torrey Smith also makes you wonder about the chances of a wide receiver at this spot, with Ohio State’s Devin Smith or Central Florida’s Breshad Permian possibilities if the Ravens go in that direction.
27. Dallas — Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: The Cowboys want to start the post-DeMarco Murray era on a positive note, which means it’ll be either Gurley or Gordon at this spot. (That is, if they don’t go after Adrian Peterson this offseason.)
28. Denver — T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh: Clemmings is still a bit of a project, but has nice versatility and can probably sit for a year before stepping into a full-time starters’ role.
29. Indianapolis — Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE, Kentucky: Like Scherff, a riser who will likely end up at a better spot than No. 29 on draft weekend. The Colts would be lucky to get someone like that here.
30. Green Bay — Jalen Collins, CB, LSU: Green Bay lost Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency and a replacement is needed. The Packers also struggled to stop the run, and so they could eye an inside linebacker.
31. New Orleans (from Seattle) — Stephone Anthony, ILB, Clemson: Anthony, who made his bones as a teammate of Vic Beasley at Clemson, has reportedly been a favorite of the New Orleans brass to this point in the pre-draft process, and an Anthony-Waynes first-round combo would be a nice haul for Rob Ryan‘s defense. Mississippi State defensive end Preston Smith is also a possibility here.
32. New England — Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma: In theory, the Patriots will go in one of two directions if they stick at No. 32. A defensive linemen (specifically, a defensive tackle) or cornerback. Given their success when it comes to taking big bodies as opposed to defensive backs when they’ve had a pick in the top 50, we’ll go with Phillips here, a 6-foot-5, 329-pounder who has shown an ability to play defensive tackle in a 3-4 or 4-3. There’s also Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis, as well as Florida State corner Ronald Darby to consider, with UConn defensive back Byron Jones (who lit up the combine) a potential wild card, although both Jones and Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Irving might be second-round possibilities, if they last that long.