Quarterbacks Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Jameis Winston of Florida State are the primary focus of the 2015 draft. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Here’s our second stab at a mock draft. We made a few tweaks since our first one, including the Patriots approach at No. 32. As is the case every year, it’s important to note that more than anything, mock drafts are a crapshoot. (Occasional emphasis on “crap.”) This one is no exception. That being said, we’ve done our due diligence when it comes to trying to match needs with suitable (and realistic) prospects. There will be a handful of trades, and we’ve made a few notes as to where we believe those deals will take place.
1. Tampa Bay — Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: I know there’s a growing consensus to put Marcus Mariota ahead of Winston, from this viewpoint, Winston is the choice here for a few reasons, including the fact that he has a higher potential ceiling than Mariota. There are plenty of red flags, but he’s still the choice. For what it’s worth, I believe Mariota is going to end up being a pretty good quarterback. But if Winston gets into a good situation with a solid locker room infrastructure around him and the Bucs exercise a reasonable level of expectations around him as a rookie, he has a chance to be special.
2. Tennessee — Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: All right, already, Titans. Your preference for a quarterback is clearly more than a smokescreen (or maybe you believe their statement that Zach Mettenberger is a poor man’s Tom Brady). If they don’t get Mariota here, they’ll try and swing a deal with San Diego for Philip Rivers.
3. Jacksonvillle — Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida: A really solid selection for Gus Bradley and the Jags defense here at No. 3.
4. Oakland — Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: It’s either him or Kevin White from West Virginia at this spot — while the names and faces change in Oakland, the overall organizational philosophy that adheres to measurables above almost everything else (particularly at the skill position spots) fits here.
5. Washington — Leonard Williams, DT, USC: The Redskins are the beneficiaries of the shuffle up top, as they get a guy some believe could be the second coming of Richard Seymour.
6. New York Jets — Shane Ray, DE, Missouri: The Jets are a bit of a wild-card here — if the Titans don’t trade for Rivers and he’s still here at No. 6, there’s the very real possibility they go for Mariota at No. 6. (There could still be a post-selection trade in the works here as well.) In the meantime, we’ll go defense, and give them Ray or Clemson’s Vic Beasley.
7. Chicago — Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: It’s tempting for to give them one of the top defenders in a Danny Shelton or Vic Beasley, but after losing Brandon Marshall and with quarterback Jay Cutler entering a big year, we’ll say best available receiver.
8. Atlanta — Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE, Kentucky: One of the highest risers throughout the pre-draft process, new coach Dan Quinn gets an raw pass rusher who has all the intangibles needed to be a special player.
9. New York Giants — Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami: We initially had the Giants going for a pass rusher here (Ray), but Flowers has really made a sizable jump in the eyes of many throughout the pre-draft process.
10. St. Louis — Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa: Another quick riser, in the mold of Dupree. Scherff has the tools, size and occasionally surly disposition to be a very good tackle for a very long time. There’s also the possibility they could pluck a receiver to give new quarterback 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: Had Shelton going No. 12 to the Browns in our first mock, and it makes too much sense not to have him here again. Shelton is pure nose tackle for Mike Pettine helps shore up a sluggish run defense.
13. New Orleans — Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson: Beasley has really rode the pre-draft wave, and because of some of the shuffling at the top of the draft, he’s slipped a bit. He might need a little more bulk to succeed long-term at the next level, but he certainly has the get-off to make a different immediately as a pass rusher. The Saints could also go for Randy Gregory here as well.
14. Miami — Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri: With the addition of Ndamukong Suh and departure of Mike Wallace, the focus is going to be on the passing game. Even though he’s a Florida guy, UCF’s Breshad Perriman feels like a reach here, so we’ll stick with Green-Beckham, a big target out of Mizzou designed to give Ryan Tannehill a boost.
15. San Francisco — Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon: We had Armstead going to the Niners with our first mock, and the way this one fell together, seems to make sense this time around as well. It also wouldn’t be a shock to see them try to build depth at linebacker with Gregory if he ends up falling.
16. Houston — Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska: One of the draft’s wild cards, he could go anywhere between the top 5 and the late stages of the first round. We have him tumbling down the first round here for a few reasons, including fit with a few teams and the report of a failed drug test at the combine. That being said, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him end up somewhere maybe a notch or two higher. The Texans have some other needs — including wide receiver — but they roll the dice with Gregory.
17. San Diego — Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Provided San Diego sticks at No. 17 (any Rivers-to-Tennessee deal would likely involve a trade of this pick), they’re going to go with the best running back available. We like Gordon over Todd Gurley because of health issues.
18. Kansas City — Andrus Peat, OL, Stanford: With Scherff and Flowers off the board, the Chiefs turn to the best available tackle prospect.
19. Cleveland (via Buffalo) — Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida: This speedster became part of the national conversation when he turned in a blazing fast 40. The Browns have tried to upgrade their passing game with a series of second-level receivers like Brian Hartline, but Perriman would make a nice additional piece. With the Browns taking care of defense with their first-round pick, they go for a pass catcher at No. 19. (Cleveland could also go for an offensive tackle here — maybe LSU’s La’el Collins.)
20. Philadelphia — Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut: This is definitely a reach, but it feels right to give one of the most hyperathletic guys in the draft to Chip Kelly and see what he could do with him. (For what it’s worth, if the Patriots do see a mid-round talent who could start to tumble into their vicinity, a deal between Kelly and Bill Belichick is completely feasible for the No. 20 overall pick.)
21. Cincinnati — Landon Collins, S, Alabama: The Bengals would almost certainly take Gregory if he somehow fell to 21 (or any of the other pass rushers), but Collins is the pick here for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it’s been fairly well-established that the Bengals have been interested in him throughout the pre-draft process. (The Bengals could also go for Flowers, Scherff or any of the top first-round tackle possibilities if one does drop to them.)
22. Pittsburgh — Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: Just as we probably rated guys like Scherff and Dupree a little low in our first draft, there are guys who get bumped down in this one as well. From this viewpoint, the Steelers need help on defense, and given the fact that their pass defense was pretty bad last year and Waynes is the best corner available, he goes here. (If Waynes is off the board, expect Pittsburgh to go after Marcus Peters from Washington or Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest. Regardless, it seems to be a safe bet that the Steelers want a corner.)
23. Detroit — Malcom Brown, DT, Texas: The losses of Suh and Nick Fairley force the Lions to try and rebuild their defensive front, and a combo of Brown and Haloti Ngata would make a nice combo package. 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. (There are some who believe the Patriots would be inclined to make a deal to go after Brown if he fell to the twenties. Something to keep an eye on.)
24. Arizona — Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: The Cards get a boost for their running game with one of the best two backs in the draft. While it’s debatable how much he’ll be able to provide right out of the gate because of knee issues, Arizona will gladly wait if Gurley is still there at No. 24.
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: A guy who has been mocked to New England by several pre-draft prognosticators, the Ravens swoop in and claim the big FSU lineman. 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 Miami’s Phillip Dorsett a possibility if the Ravens go in that direction.
27. Dallas — Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma: A few things to think about here: one, we had Phillips as a possibility to the Patriots the first time around, but the Cowboys could use some bulk up front, and Phillips is arguably the best defensive lineman left at this point. And two, there’s a lot of talk about how the Cowboys want to go and get a running back, but wasn’t the idea of building such a great offensive line that you could stick any back behind that group and they could rush for 1,000 yards? If I’m the Cowboys, I go for a boost up front on defense, and then circle back and use my second or third-round selection on the likes of Miami running back Duke Johnson.
28. Denver — T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh: Not sure who it will be at this point, only that it sets up to be the best available tackle.
29. Indianapolis — La’El Collins, OT, LSU: Keeping Andrew Luck upright remains paramount, and Collins is the choice ahead of a few other defenders who could help stop an occasionally leaky run defense.
30. Green Bay — Marcus Peters, CB, Washington: 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. (Miami’s Denzel Perryman?)
31. New Orleans (from Seattle) — Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest: The Saints get two really nice defensive pieces on the first day of the draft. (LSU’s Jalen Collins is also a possibility here, as is Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony.)
32. New England — Cameron Irving, OL, Florida State: Barring a trade down into the second round or up into the mid-20s for a defensive lineman, they go for Irving here, and plunk him down at guard next to his old college teammate Bryan Stork at left guard. The appearance of Dante Scarnecchia at so many pro days over the course of the spring isn’t coincidental, and he was able to get a good look at Irving. He has the positional versatility (he’s played tackle as well as center, while many believe his body type and skill set would allow him to make the move to guard at the NFL level), body of work and football pedigree that suggests the Patriots would be happy to land him at No. 32. For the record, Logan Mankins didn’t play guard in college, the Patriots took him 32nd overall in 2005, he made the move to guard and became one of the best offensive linemen in franchise history.