1.Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
I could definitely see the Bucs going in a different direction, especially with their incumbent talent along the defensive front seven and the safer franchise quarterback selection in Mariota. I just don’t think the Buccaneers are going to overthink this selection. I have read and heard that scouts are comparing Winston’s football knowledge and play-calling abilities to Peyton Manning. That is not bad company, and when you watched the former Seminole throw at the combine, he was so fluid with his windup and release, and completed all fifteen of his throws. He is a winner and lost a total of one game in his two years in college. As long as he stays out of trouble off the field, he will continue to produce and become a great performer on it. Winston has the physical tools to be a dominant passer at the next level, and will go in willing to learn and adapt to defenses quickly.
2. Tennessee Titans: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
This pick may actually end up being one of the most interesting in the whole draft, as the Titans have a multitude of choices to look at here. They could choose to strengthen their front seven with either the versatile defensive lineman Leonard Williams or Dante Fowler as a edge pass rusher. Either choice would work here, however I think the Titans have to finally turn the page of their franchise. Sure Jake Locker can be classified as a bust, given his early career has been ravaged by injuries. I am not convinced that Zach Mettenberger is their franchise quarterback, and a passer capable of leading them to much greater heights. Marcus Mariota, can use his high football IQ, speed, and accuracy to shred defenses in the NFL. Sure the league is now getting leaner and faster defenders, but Mariota can run the spread offense for Coach Whisenhunt, who knows how to develop quarterbacks. Mariota can be the offensive superstar they lack in Tennessee, and can represent the franchise in a good light, something that gives Mariota a leg up on Winston.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Leonard Williams, USC
Head coach Gus Bradley has been classified as a defensive-minded coach, having come to the Jaguars from Seattle after running their Legion of Boom defense to a Super Bowl title. The Jags have spent their last few first round picks on the offensive side of the ball, and its time to give Bradley a defensive cornerstone, and Williams fits the bill. Standing at 6-5, and weighing 290 pounds, Williams can use his speed and power to be a complete physical mismatch in the league. Williams has untapped potential and he could become one of the most feared and revered defensive lineman in the NFL, especially with coach Bradley at the helm.
4. Oakland Raiders: WR Kevin White, West Virginia
Amari Cooper of Alabama all but had the top wide receiver spot locked up until the NFL Scouting Combine, when White blew scouts away with his 4.35 40 time, while Cooper met his own standard with a 4.42. Given Cooper’s incredible production at Alabama, as he was one of the three Heisman finalists, the Raiders could definitely give him a look. However he seems more of a top fifteen pick, unlike White, who with his incredible speed and catching ability, along with his showing at the Combine, has catapulted his draft status to top five pick. Derek Carr showed flashes of becoming a solid signal-caller in the NFL last season during his rookie year, yet GM Reggie McKenzie has failed to surround the young passer with any quality weapons, something essential for a young quarterback’s development at the highest level of play.
5. Washington Redskins: DE/OLB Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
The Redskins could choose to go for a versatile, talented offensive lineman with this selection, however, I think they still can find a great tackle or guard on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Since that happens to be their biggest need, they can now focus on the best value at this point in the draft, and the best player available would be edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. He would, without a doubt, bring a whole new aspect to the Redskins struggling defense, which loses more talent via free agency with Brian Orakpo coming of the books in the capitol city. Pairing Fowler’s tenacity and speed with Redskins defensive end Ryan Kerrigan’s power and tackling skills would provide a match made in heaven, and make the Redskins defensive line one of the hardest to run and pass against in the NFC.
6. New York Jets: OLB/DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska
In this case, the New York Jets pretty much lost their two favorite prospects in the draft: Mariota and Fowler. However, they get the second best edge rusher with Randy Gregory from Nebraska. Gregory will provide the Jets with great speed and raw athleticism to beat offensive tackles around the edge. The Jets would be drafting a player with not only speed but underrated strength, and he doesn’t miss a tackle once he gets his hands on the ball carrier or quarterback. Gregory also will enter the NFL with tremendous upside.
7. Chicago Bears: DT Danny Shelton, Washington
The Chicago Bears are entering a new era of football, introducing John Fox and Vic Fangio as their brand new head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively. Fangio is likely to implement a new 3-4 defensive scheme in the Windy City, so a dominant, strong nose tackle is needed to build the front seven around. Shelton didn’t show great speed at the Combine, however, he has shown the ability to take up a lot of space, fill gaps, and anchor a strong unit like he did at Washington. The selection of Shelton will allow Fangio and Fox to rebuild a young and talented defense round the star nose tackle. Drafting a member of the secondary might also be beneficial here, however the cornerback class is deep enough to wait until Day 2 to address that need.
8. Atlanta Falcons: DE Shane Ray, Missouri
Scouts and draft analysts around the country have repeatedly said that Shane Ray from Missouri has the best first step in the current pass rushing draft class, and I completely agree. The only downside to the former star Tiger’s game is that he will only be able to operate at defensive end, and won’t be a capable inside rusher, meaning he isn’t as versatile a rusher as Gregory and Fowler. The Falcons need help at every level of the defense, and addressing their defensive line need will be a good place to start. Ray will solidify the right side of the defensive line and will allow Dan Quinn, the new head coach in Atlanta and former Seahawks defensive coordinator, the chance to build around a young defensive star. The linebacker and cornerback class runs pretty deep and the Falcons will be able to address those voids in later rounds as well.
9. New York Giants: OT/G Brandon Scherff, Iowa
With the four premier pass-rushing options off the board in this scenario, expect the Giants to try and rebuild their offensive line with the beefy, strong former Hawkeye Brandon Scherff. Simply put, Will Beatty isn’t a capable bookend tackle, especially for the turnover-prone and aging Eli Manning. Scherff also presents a lot of versatility, having played tackle throughout high school and college, however he reportedly projects better at guard in the NFL. The Giants have needs on the interior of the offensive line as well, which makes this a great pick. The G-men could have a different preference, whether they like the leaner La’el Collins or the taller Andrus Peat, or want to grab a pass rusher like Bud Dupree from Kentucky.
10. St. Louis Rams: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
Amari Cooper used his soft hands and great understanding of the different route trees to shred the top-shelf SEC defenses, and there is no doubt in my mind that those skills will translate to the NFL. The Rams may have drafted Tavon Austin a little too high, although he still could provide solid production from the slot. Whoever the quarterback ends up being at the start of the 2015 NFL season, Cooper will supply that signal-caller with top notch athleticism, sure hands, and a high football IQ. The Rams could continue to build their offensive line or grab a high quality corner or safety, but they can address those needs later in the draft.
*Section Photo credit to Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today Sports