December Mock Draft (Top 10)
As the Draft Order for the NFL Draft begins to formalize and underclassmen start to declare, we will get a clearer picture over the next few weeks of all the possibilities. For this mock, I am guessing what teams COULD do, not what they SHOULD do. Keep an open mind as not every team addresses their biggest need nor do they always pick perfect fits for their systems. Likewise, I will be cherry picking which underclassmen declare, so anyone omitted does not mean the aren’t a first round talent.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marcus Mariota QB/Oregon
If Tampa Bay gets the #1 overall pick, QB becomes the major concern and Marcus Mariota is the safest option who holds a ton of upside. He fits the offensive system Tampa has in place and it would be incredible to see Mariota grow with 2nd year WR Mike Evans. Mariota has the size, athletic ability, and mental stature to be an NFL QB. If he can adjust to a pro style system, there is a franchise QB in Tampa’s future.
2. Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams DT/USC
The transition to the 3-4 has not been a pretty one for the Titans, and though the need a QB after Zach Mettenberger’s injury and Jake Lockers poor play, improving the defense should be a top priority as well. Leonard Williams is a downright dominant player who could line up at any of the 3 Defensive Line positions for the Titans. Tennessee has given up the most rushing yards of any team in the NFL, and Williams will bring a penetrating run stuffer. On top of that, he gets excellent leverage and is tenacious against the pass. Getting an impact defensive player like Williams should help turn around the Titans defense.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Randy Gregory DE/Nebraska
The Jaguars nabbed their QB and WRs of the future last year, now it is time to upgrade an underrated defense. Though the Jaguars have done pretty solid despite their talent, a dominant pass rusher like Randy Gregory could turn the tides. Gregory could play the LEO position for the Jaguars since he has some experience standing up as a LB and even dropping into coverage. Looking at Chris Clemons turns 33 and Andre Branch’s less than stellar play should nudge the Jaguars toward a top flight DE in Gregory who can play both the run and pass.
4. New York Jets – Jameis Winston QB/Florida State
This story would just be too good to be true. The Jets are in need of a franchise QB and Jameis Winston comes to the table with franchise QB skill and an immature head off of the field. The Jets have never been a team willing to back down from controversy or take some risks, and Owner Woody Johnson could ultimately make the decision to pull the trigger. Winston is a better talent than many let on with pinpoint accuracy and anticipation with an incredible ability to read a defense. Toss in athletic ability and solid arm strength, and the makings of a franchise QB are there. Despite Winston’s off field issues, he is liked by teammates and coaches and his flaws, mainly mechanical, are fixable. New York would be an intriguing fit depending on the new coaching staff and keep them in the headlines as always.
5. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper WR/Alabama
Derek Carr has shown great potential as a rookie and kept the Raiders in a ton of games, even winning against solid teams like the Chiefs and 49ers. If the new Raiders coaches (and maybe GM,) want to continue the development of Carr, they need to add weapons around him. The WR cupboard is empty in Oakland as Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, etc have not played up to their potential. Though Amari Cooper isn’t exactly on the level of Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans from last year, he is very good and has improved every season. With good hands and body control, he could form a great duo with Carr for years to come as the Raiders top WR. Top 5 may be a little rich, especially for a team with as many holes as the Raiders, but it could end up worth it.
6. Washington Redskins – Brandon Scherff OL/Iowa
The Redskins might be stuck in a tough spot come April. They aren’t quite high enough to grab a top QB and probably picking too high for value on a CB. This should be a good spot for the top offensive lineman however, and Brandon Scherff offers some good versatility with solid upside. The Redskins offensive line has been patchwork for awhile and seems to get worse as the season goes along. Scherff doesn’t have the length most teams look for in a stud offensive tackle, but he has played like a stud and is a dominant run blocker. Scherff could play 4 different positions on the offensive line successfully and as a right tackle for the Redskins, he would be a great fit.
7. New York Giants – Alvin Dupree DE/Kentucky
Bud Dupree has had an excellent year with 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in a tough SEC. With good size, good production, and the main focus of many offensive lines, Dupree has shown himself to be a good 2-way player who can rush the passer and seal the edge against the run. He fits the Giant mold of a violent player who disrupts the opposing offensive in any way possible. As Jason Pierre-Paul begins to fall off, the Giants have a big hole at left defensive end. Damontre Moore is developing well, but he is also fits the right end role much better. Finding that DE like Dupree who can do both could help the Giants not only rush the passer but improve in defending the run.
8. Carolina Panthers – Ronnie Stanley OT/Notre Dame
Carolina has been a mess this season, but is showing promise late. They were left high and dry when LT Jordan Gross retired and put their offensive line in disarray. Fixing that issue to keep Cam Newton on his field and open holes for Jonathan Stewart becomes crucial, and if Ronnie Stanley declares, he may have the most upside of any left tackle in the draft. Stanley is enormous with quick feet and a tenacious personality. He has had an excellent year against top competition. He would be an instant upgrade for the Panthers and allow them to shift their offensive line around and improve at multiple positions.
9. New Orleans Saints – Vic Beasley LB/Clemson
The Saints defense has been downright atrocious this season, and a big part of that reason is the lack of a pass rush. Junior Galette is still solid, but the rest of the pass rushing LBs for the Saints are back-ups at best. Vic Beasley had a great senior season beating some of the best offensive linemen in the county. What he lacks in size and bulk he makes up for with a lightning quick first step and athletic upside. The Saints defense could undergo some changes this offseason, but no matter what, pass rush needs to be high on the priority list and Vic Beasley can help fix that.
10. Chicago Bears – Landon Collins S/Alabama
The 2015 safety class is not spectacular, but one name shines above the rest in Alabama’s Landon Collins. He is a versatile two-way player who can drop deep into coverage or play up against the line to punish runners. He has played SS at Alabama but has great athletic ability and fluid hips with a great mental awareness of the game of football. For a team in the Bears in need of defensive help all around, Collins could make a difference against both the pass and the run. Rookie CB Kyle Fuller has played well, but Chris Conte is one of the worst starting safeties in the league and desperately needs replaced. Collins could step into that role as the team develops Brock Vereen and hopefully build a young safety tandem for the future.