It’s Never Too Early To Look At The 2015 NFL Draft
With the conclusion of the college football bowl season, it is now time for fans to start thinking about the NFL Draft. For the first time since 2005, the draft will take place somewhere other than Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The 2015 NFL Draft will take place April 30 through May 2 from Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. Where will you favorite college players end up? With a pretty good idea of which underclassmen will choose to enter the draft, here is a look at the top five picks in the upcoming draft as well as the top prospects at each position.
- Tampa Bay
In a quarterback driven league, the Bucs need a franchise player. They think they will have one in 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Mariota passed for over 4,000 yards and accounted for 55 touchdowns in his brilliant redshirt junior season.
Most of the talk out of Tennessee is that the Titans are sold on QB Zach Mettenberger. If so, the organization will want to make sure he is protected and Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi would fit the bill. At 6-5, 305, Ogbuehi has shown the athleticism of an elite offensive lineman.
With Blake Bortles at QB, the Jags next step is to improve on both side of the line. Head coach Gus Bradley, a defensive-minded guy, will not be able to pass up USC DE/DT Leonard Williams. The 6-5, 295-pounder is versatile, big, strong, and a must have for Jacksonville.
The Raiders found their QB, Derek Carr, in last year’s draft. This time around, Oakland desperately needs defensive help and to shore up its offensive line. It will be hard to pass on Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, a 6-6, 245-pounder who, with a little extra weight, can play both defensive end and outside linebacker.
The Redskins have a number of issues but none bigger than in their defensive front. A pass rushing defensive end would be ideal and Washington would get that with Clemson’s Vic Beasley. Undersized at 6-2, 235, Beasley has an explosive first step and is relentless in his pursuit of opposing quarterbacks.
Top Prospects By Position
After Mariota, there is Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, of Florida State if he chooses to enter the draft. Winston plays baseball at FSU and could opt to return to school. At 6-5, 240 pounds, Winston is a prototypical NFL QB with a strong arm. Whether or not teams want to deal with Winston’s off-field antics is another story.
Behind Mariota and Winston is probably the best true NFL prospect at the position, UCLA’s Brett Hundley. The 6-3, 227-pound Hundley played in a more traditional pro-style offense and could sneak into the first round.
Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin came within 100 yards of breaking the NCAA single-season rushing record held by Barry Sanders. Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley are the best of a pretty solid group of running backs in this year’s draft. One of the two, if not both, could go late in the first round.
Amari Cooper of Alabama had the kind of season receivers dream about. He finished the season with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. He can do it all. Cooper’s got good speed, strength, and route-running skills.
DeVante Parker of Louisville is a little taller (6-3, 209) than Cooper and possesses big-play ability. Parker, Cooper, and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong (6-3, 215) could all find themselves taken in the first round.
There are several quality candidates available on the offensive line besides Ogbuehi. Andrus Peat (6-7, 312) is another in a long line of standout Stanford offensive linemen. Brandon Scherff (6-5, 320) was the key to the success of Iowa’s running game this season. T.J. Clemmings (6-5, 305) helped lead Pittsburgh RB James Conner to ACC Player of the Year honors.
With the popularity of the position in the league, teams are always searching for quality tight ends. Michigan’s Devin Funchess (6-5, 235) is a wide receiver in a tight end body. The best of the bunch may be Minnesota TE Maxx Williams. At 6-4, 250, Williams blocks like an offensive lineman and moves like a running back.
There are numerous quality defensive lineman in this year’s draft. Williams, Gregory, and Beasley are not the only ones who could be top 10 picks. Malcolm Brown (Texas) is a big 6-4, 320-pound load of a defensive tackle. Dante Flower (6-3, 270) helped lead a very good Florida defense and as more teams opt for the 3-4 defense, players like Florida State’s Eddie Goldman (6-4, 313) will be in high demand.
This year’s draft is deep in defensive gems. None may be brighter than Washington’s Shaq Thompson, a 6-2, 231-pound outside linebacker. Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State) will be a steal late in the first round or early in the second. At 6-5, 249, McKinney has the frame to add weight and could wind up as an every-down defensive end.
With more teams using tight ends and big wide receivers to create matchup advantages, the need for hard-hitting safeties that can cover like corners has never been higher. The only surefire first round safety is Alabama’s Landon Collins (6-0, 222). The first cornerback off the board might be Michigan State’s Trae Waynes, a 6-1, 183-pounder who excels at press man coverage.