NFL Draft: Mariota leads the Pac (12) in early 2015 mock draft
The Pac-12 characterizes itself as the conference of champions and the 2015 NFL draft could certainly add to the league's reputation if four of its players wind up among the top seven picks as this very early first round mock draft projects.
Only a fraction of the players drafted in 2014 have signed their first NFL contracts and yet already we're looking ahead to what might happen a year from now. This projection isn't about trying to peg the right player for each team but instead providing a peek at perceived team weaknesses following the 2014 draft as well as the players who at this early point appear to be the best burgeoning NFL prospects.
It's impossible to properly predict the draft order so to avoid guessing how teams will finish this upcoming season, the draft order for the 2014 NFL Draft was used.
1. Houston Texans -- Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Head coach Bill O'Brien may turn 2014 fourth round pick Tom Savage into the Texans' long-term quarterback but if there is any question, Houston would be hard-pressed to pass up on a talent like the strong-armed and athletic Mariota.
2. Washington Redskins -- Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford: Getting bigger and more physical at the line of scrimmage will continue to be a priority in Year Two under Jay Gruden and pairing Peat with Trent Williams would give Robert Griffin III the bookend tackles to aid in his development, as well.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska: Few know the value of athleticism along the defensive line like defensive-minded head coach Gus Bradley and after investing top three picks on the offensive side of the ball in QB Blake Bortles (No. 3 overall, 2014) and OT Luke Joeckel (No. 2 overall, 2013), the Jags will likely be looking to add a pass rusher in 2015.
4. Cleveland Browns -- Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M: The Browns have two of the league's best with left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack but could use reinforcements at right tackle. The athletic and long-armed Ogbuehi is more physically talented than either of his predecessors at left tackle for the Aggies -- Joeckel and Jake Matthews, each of whom were top six picks.
5. Oakland Raiders -- Leonard Williams, DT, Southern Cal: The Raiders invested heavily in free agency and the draft to boost their pass rush and would likely be thrilled to see a burgeoning superstar like Williams still on the board.
6. Atlanta Falcons -- Dante Fowler, DE, Florida: The Falcons beefed up their defensive line via free agency but could still be lacking a dynamic rusher. Fowler is a top-notch athlete who could explode in precisely this role for the Gators and ultimately warrant top 10 consideration.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon: Lovie Smith's Cover-2 scheme calls for physical, instinctive corners who take the role in run defense as serious as they do coverage. Ekpre-Olomu is pro-ready in both regards.
8. Minnesota Vikings -- Landon Collins, S, Alabama: Given the caliber of quarterback play in the NFC North division, the Vikings would be wise to give 2012 first round pick Harrison Smith a running mate in the deep patrol.
9. Cleveland Browns (from BUF) -- Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: The Browns stubbornly refused to acknowledge the impending loss of Josh Gordon through six selections in the 2014 draft. Don't expect the club to make the same mistake again.
10. Detroit Lions -- Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State: The Lions boast one of the more talented defensive lines in all of the NFL but can't rest easy given each player's knack for inconsistent play. As such, adding another pass rusher in local product Calhoun makes some sense.
11. Tennessee Titans - Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson: The Titans didn't address their need for outside rushers to fit new defensive coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme in the 2014 draft but could see the highly athletic Beasley as the perfect fit.
12. New York Giants -- Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa: Protecting Eli Manning remains priority No. 1 for the Giants and Tom Coughlin will love the physicality and aggression with which Scherff plays the game.
13. St. Louis Rams -- Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: If the Rams finish in the NFC West cellar again, GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher aren't likely to be as loyal to Sam Bradford in the 2015 draft. Winston boasts the talent of a top five pick but his long delivery and off-field issues will scare off some.
14. Chicago Bears -- Devonte Fields, DE, TCU: The Bears invested heavily in defensive linemen via free agency and the draft but their splashiest signing - 10-year veteran Jared Allen - is nearing the end. Supplementing him with a speedy pass rusher like Fields would help extend Allen's productivity.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State: The Steelers need to get younger and more athletic in the secondary and could be intrigued by Williams, a fluid and instinctive corner who could overtake Ekpre-Olomu as the nation's top cornerback.
16. Dallas Cowboys -- Josh Shaw, DB, Southern Cal: The Cowboys seem content to enter next season with JJ Wilcox, Barry Church and Matt Johnson vying for the starting safety roles. Shaw, a Florida transfer, has experience at corner and safety and could prove an upgrade at either position.
17. Baltimore Ravens -- Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State: Replacing Michael Oher at right tackle could be more problematic than the Ravens think. Should Erving, a talented (but raw) former defensive tackle, handle protecting Winston's blindside in 2014, he could easily wind up a top 20 selection.
18. New York Jets -- Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: The Jets, of course, are hopeful that Geno Smith progresses in his second season but the signing of Michael Vick is an indication that Rex Ryan isn't all-in on the former West Virginia product. Hundley's raw but his mobility and big arm could be an intoxicating combination for a run-first team like the Jets.
19. Miami Dolphins -- Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: The Dolphins got tougher in free agency and the draft but could get that much more physical by complementing Knowshon Moreno with Gurley, a beast of a back in the Marshawn Lynch mold.
20. Arizona Cardinals -- Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Back to back running backs? It could happen as Gordon boasts the natural running skills to give Bruce Arians' highly aggressive offense an added dimension.
21. Green Bay Packers -- Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Ohio State: The Packers invested in veteran Julius Peppers to add to their pass rush and might be similarly intrigued with this Spence's ability to attack off the edge.
22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington: Chip Kelly's preference for speed on offense is well documented but he's similarly aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. As such, he could fall for Thompson, a fluid, instinctive junior well-suited to Philadelphia's fast-flowing scheme.
23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan: The Chiefs turned heads by not adding weapons for QB Alex Smith via the 2014 draft. Funchess, a junior, lacks polish but offers incredible size, leaping ability and body control. Should 2013 second pick Travis Kelce not be ready to star, Andy Reid may prioritize a playmaking tight end over help at wide receiver.
24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland: The Bengals boast two solid complementary receivers in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu opposite star AJ Green but neither possesses Diggs' speed and elusiveness. Should he prove the same playmaker in 2014 that he was prior to suffering a broken leg midway through his sophomore season, a steady rise up draft boards for Diggs is likely.
25. San Diego Chargers -- La'el Collins, OG, LSU: As long as the relatively immobile Philip Rivers is taking the snaps, the Chargers are going to value size and balance along the offensive line. Collins has starred at left tackle at LSU but his portly build could lead him to move to guard in the NFL.
26. Indianapolis Colts -- T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama: After spending their 2014 first round pick on a former Crimson Tide running back, GM Ryan Grigson wouldn't dare do it again in 2015? Why not? Yeldon, a junior, is a more dynamic runner than Trent Richardson and if the former No. 3 pick doesn't pan out in year two in Indianapolis, adding a weapon for Andrew Luck will be an obvious priority.
27. New Orleans Saints -- Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State: To best take advantage of the talent in New Orleans' secondary, the Saints will continue to add pass rushers. Like the Seattle Seahawks' defender of the same name, Bennett is quick and versatile.
28. Carolina Panthers -- Kasen Williams, WR, Washington: The Panthers added one large playmaking receiver in the first round with Kelvin Benjamin. Williams hasn't generated the same national buzz ... yet.
29. New England Patriots -- Carl Davis, DT, Iowa: At 6-4, 315 pounds, Davis offers the size and strength to complement and perhaps ultimately replace Vince Wilfork's run-stuffing duties on the inside.
30. San Francisco 49ers -- Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri: Whether he plays at Missouri or transfers, Green-Beckham boasts an undeniable skill-set that screams first round. For a team willing to gamble on character concerns, the junior might offer too much upside to ignore.
31. Denver Broncos -- Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami: Instinctive, physical and a reliable open-field tackler, Perryman would be a quick fix in the middle for the Broncos.
32. Seattle Seahawks -- Daryl Williams, OT, Oklahoma: Russell Okung is a Pro Bowl left tackle but he's also proven injury-prone and commands a large salary for a team that may be forced to make tough decisions to fit under the cap.
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