A countdown of the top 50 overall players in the 2015 NFL Draft as ranked by NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.(Note: this list has been updated to reflect Jeremiah's most recent rankings.)
And so we round the final quarter pole and head down the home stretch in our 100% accurate Buccaneers.com Mock Draft. It's only getting tougher from here.
Analysts sometimes liken the draft to throwing darts at a dartboard, a comment on the unpredictable nature of the results; even with incredibly thorough scouting, any pick can boom or bust. Well, mock drafting is even less predictable. At least in a game of darts you get to clear the board and start over each turn. Here, every dart we throw – that is, every prediction we make – can get in the way of the next throw. For instance, in Part 2 of this mock draft (picks 9-16), I was hoping to pair the New Orleans Saints with Missouri DE Shane Ray at #13. Alas, Andrew gave Ray to Atlanta at pick #8, and I thus had to go to Plan B. Will that make my mock draft more or less accurate when compared with what actually happens on Thursday. We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, let's see what we can do with picks #25-32.
That "Andrew" I mention above is Buccaneers.com contributor Andrew Norton. The two of us plus Team Insider Casey Phillips and site contributor Joe Kania have been alternating picks throughout this mock draft. Now we'll do the same thing for the final eight slots of the first round, after which we'll share a few thoughts on how we did and, more importantly, how our competitors messed up.
25. Carolina Panthers: T La'el Collins, LSU (Scott Smith's pick)
So, how are we going to score this when it's all over? Are we going to just count up who got the most picks right in their eight chances? Because, honestly, I feel like I had a bit of advantage, both in picking first and in running into the Panthers here at #25. Even this far down in the round, Carolina seems like a sure thing: Take the best remaining offensive tackle. Now, Collins could be gone or the Panthers could prefer D.J. Humphries or T.J. Clemmings, which means I'd come up empty, but I'd be shocked if the pick here is at a different position. Not only is the need great – I don't think Michael Oher is the answer – but the draft is deep enough at this position that they're almost guaranteed to find a good one. Given that the Panthers could use help on either edge, it's okay that some project Collins to be a better fit at right tackle. Either way, Cam Newton needs the help.
26. Baltimore Ravens: WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State (Casey Phillips's pick)
Thankfully the Ravens signed Jimmy Smith to a four-year deal to lessen the need for taking a cornerback here because the top few prospects at that position are all gone. It is still a deep position this year, so there's a good chance the Ravens could shore up that area later. In my mind, the next priority should be getting Joe Flacco a go-to weapon. As of right now his receiving corps is Steve Smith. And that's about it. Jaelen Strong isn't quite on the level of Amari Cooper or Kevin White, but his 42" vertical would put him in a position to make a lot of plays. He isn't afraid to go over the middle and could also develop into a decent deep threat. Pairing him with Steve Smith just made that Ravens' offense much more potent.
27. Dallas Cowboys: S Landon Collins, Alabama (Joe Kania's pick)
The Cowboys might not have planned on taking a safety with their first-round pick, but with Landon Collins sitting at No. 27, it's almost impossible not to pull the trigger. The Cowboys were ranked No. 27 against the pass last season and most draft experts consider Collins to be the best safety in this year's class. During his time in Alabama, Collins played both safety positions and developed a reputation for being stout against the run, convincing many analysts that he can be an impact starter from Day One.
28. Denver Broncos: OT T.J. Clemmings, Pitt (Andrew Norton's pick)
Clemmings will join the fraternity of ex-basketball players who made the jump to football in college. He definitely has some learning to do with limited experience at the position, but he is very quick and athletic and will get all the lessons he needs to thrive in the NFL by starting at right tackle opposite four-time Pro Bowl LT Ryan Clady. As Scott mentioned, OL is very deep in this draft and Clemmings might not make it this far, but I'm quite confident in saying that the Broncos go O-Line here, as priority number one should be keeping the aging Peyton Manning vertical.
29. Indianapolis Colts: C Cameron Erving, Florida State (Scott Smith's pick)
I feel like Erving's draft stock is on the rise as we get close to the real thing, and that's the only reason I don't feel totally confident about this pick. In our little exercise here he is still available, but I'm not sure that's going to be the case on Thursday night. Erving really has a lot to offer, but he's a particularly good idea for a team like Indy, which needs offensive line help but doesn't necessarily have to target an offensive tackle. Erving might in fact be able to handle one of the tackle spots in the NFL, and if so then this will prove to be an even more valuable pick, but I think he can step right in at center from Day One. Even though it was a decade ago, I remember very clearly when the defending-champion Patriots took Fresno State guard Logan Mankins with the last pick of the first round, and that has nothing to do with the fact that Mankins is now a Buccaneer. I'm no scout, but I recall thinking that it was a steal of a pick for the Patriots, a case of the rich getting richer. That's what Erving to the Colts feels like to me here. At least he won't fall to the Patriots at #32.
30. Green Bay Packers: CB Jalen Collins, LSU (Casey Phillips's pick)
I was more confident in this pick before it was reported that Jalen Collins failed multiple drug tests during his time at LSU. I don't think we can know how seriously this affects the Packers' opinions of him, so I'll just stick with it and discuss his on-field assets. Cornerback is a position of need for the Pack after losing Tramon Williams and Davon House. Collins would be the tallest player at that position at 6'1", which would help replace the 6'1" House. Collins only has 10 starts under his belt from a three-year college career, but he seems ready to be a big playmaker on the boundary. That would keep Green Bay from having to sub in a slot corner to that position.
31. New Orleans: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma (Joe Kania's pick)
Sure, it's kind of a reach. But Dorial Green-Beckham's upside is tremendous. He hasn't played football in over a year, was dismissed from Missouri for off-the-field problems and his numbers have never jumped off the stat sheet. But his big body (6-6, 225 pounds) paired with a track star background (he was Missouri's male Gatorade track and field athlete of the year in high school) make him a good fit here late in the first round. Dare I say he reminds me of Dez Bryant?
32. New England Patriots: DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma (Andrew Norton's pick)
*First of all, I will be the writer to admit that we collectively (and criminally) goofed by not drafting OLB Bud Dupree out of Kentucky. The lowest he's been taken in any NFL.com expert's mock is at #13 to the Saints. However, he has no chance of being here at #32 and I'm very competitive, so I'm not taking him. Now onto my pick…
It's hard to believe that I'm saying this about the defending Super Bowl Champions, but New England sure looks like they have a ton of needs, don't they? Their interior O-line is suspect at best, they could certainly use a true #1 receiver, in free agency they lost two starting running backs and two outstanding cornerbacks, and they literally and figuratively have a Vince Wilfork-sized hole in the front line of their defense. Plus this is the Patriots we're talking about, so there is an 80% chance that they won't even be picking at #32 anyways (I vote trade down for a guard). So, all things considered, I'll say that a 6'5" 330-pounder is a solid start at filling their DT void. Phillips is more of a true nose, but the Pats are the Pats and can train him up and use him as a punishing run-stopper in their 4-3. Honestly though, New England could take this pick in a dozen different directions. What a way to end it.
Nice work, everyone. Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock better watch their backs.
One more thing before we wrap this up: I'd like each of us to review what we've done and answer a handful of questions. I'll go first.
Looking back over your picks, how accurate do you think they will be?
If history is to be our guide, not very. I know that Andrew and I were actually pretty pleased to collectively get eight players picked in the right spot last year (albeit only six of them by the correct team), which was a nice jump up from the massive total of one pick we nailed in 2013. Mock drafts have the best chance of success when they are filled out as close as possible to the actual thing, when some of the top picks become relatively evident, but we stretched ours out over a week and a half. As for me personally, if the assembled experts are right, I've nailed the first pick, which makes me feel about as successful as when I dunk over my 11-year-old son. I think I have a good chance at being right at pick #9 to the Giants, but I'm doubtful that Vic Beasley actually falls to the Saints at #13. After that, it's pretty much a crapshoot, anyway.
What do you think was your best pick outside of the top 10?
That's easy: Center Cameron Erving to the Colts. It just makes too much sense. My fear, as I mentioned above, is that Erving doesn't actually make it to pick #29, but if he does I really like that prediction.Is there any pick in particular that you now regret?I'm not sure I got Cincinnati proper value with defensive tackle Eddie Goldman at pick #21. In retrospect, they might have been better off dipping into the deep pool of offensive tackles. I also now notice that I'm apparently in love with Florida State players, taking three of them among my eight choices.What was the most astute pick by your three fellow mock drafters?Well, it's funny because I think Joe got the right pick for the Detroit Lions at #23, but for the wrong reasons. I think the Lions are a sneaky choice to add one of the two top running backs, but I also think Todd Gurley will be off the board by then. That leaves them taking Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, which is exactly what Joe predicted. However, in our mock, Gurley was still on the board, and I think I personally would have gone for the Georgia back over Gordon if I had the option. (I also like Joe's pick of Dorial Green-Beckham to New Orleans, although there are so many variables by pick #31 that's it not very likely it will happen.)What was, in your opinion, the worst pick by your three fellow mock drafters?Well, I gave Joe props in the previous question (and I also think he nailed it with Arik Armstead to San Francisco at #15), so I don't feel too bad identifying his pick for Jacksonville as the one that baffles me. Sure, any team would love to add Kevin White to its offense, but I've got to believe the Jaguars will use a pick this high for an impact player on defense, perhaps Dante Fowler. In fact, if you just flipped the third and fourth picks in our draft, I'd feel much better about it.**
Casey Phillips: Looking back over your picks, how accurate do you think they will be?I think I have a little more faith in my later picks simply because I think there's a high likelihood the second and maybe 10th picks get traded. As far as a mock draft with no trades goes, I'm feeling pretty good.What do you think was your best pick outside of the top 10?I like the Phillip Dorsett pick. He has the potential to be a fan favorite already entrenched in the Miami community. Plus, I'm not sure he was used as often or efficiently in that system as he could be. That means he might have even more potential than he's gotten credit for.Is there any pick in particular that you now regret?I might regret Jalen Collins if Green Bay chooses to go best player instead of need-based. There was already disagreement among many experts about whether or not he deserved a first-round grade, so add that to the newfound drug issues and I can see the Pack passing on him.What was the most astute pick by your three fellow mock drafters?It pains me to say it but I liked Andrew's pick of Marcus Peters for Houston. That defense could be absolutely insane if you get a lockdown secondary paired with the likes of Watt, Clowney and Wilfork.What was, in your opinion, the worst pick by your three fellow mock drafters?I hate to use the word worst…because I don't think anyone made a pick that made me say "what?!" But I do think I see Jacksonville taking a pass rusher over a wide receiver. That would have led me to Fowler, Gregory, or Beasley before White.**
Joe Kania: Looking back over your picks, how accurate do you think they will be?
When I was making my picks, I felt like I had been hitting the nail on the head. But as I look back, I realize I may have been reaching a little more than I had planned. At No. 3, I decided to send West Virginia's Kevin White to Jacksonville to aide rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. No. 3 might have been a little high for White, but it addressed a glaring need for the Jags. Same thing with my second pick, Trae Waynes, at No. 7. Though I made the pick before the Bears signed safety Antrel Rolle, I thought Waynes, although possibly over-valued at such a high pick, would be a key piece to fixing a needy secondary.What do you think was your best pick outside of the top 10?
I feel like scoring Alabama safety Landon Collins at No. 27 is a steal. He fit a need for the Cowboys, who struggled against the pass, and was, by far, the best player available on my board.Is there any pick in particular that you now regret?
I'll be honest here – I thought long and hard about taking Melvin Gordon at No. 23 instead of Georgia's Todd Gurley and justified it with the ideology that he was healthier and safer. But in my heart of hearts I always felt that Gurley was the better running back prospect. And as I see reports being released about how Gordon could be ready to go for Week 1, I feel like I may have made a mistake.What was the most astute pick by your three fellow mock drafters?
Scott had two great picks in the middle of the first round with pass-rusher Vic Beasley at No. 13 and defensive tackle Eddie Goldman at No. 21. I particularly like the Goldman pick. He's not the "household name" that Danny Shelton is, but he is a solid pickup for a team in need of an interior D-lineman late in the first round.
What was, in your opinion, the worst pick by your three fellow mock drafters?
Sorry, Casey. Speed kills. But not that at that price. Phillips Dorsett at No. 14 is a stretch.
Andrew Norton: Looking back over your picks, how accurate do you think they will be?There are two main factors at play in why I have very little confidence in my picks. 1) I've of course filled out my own mock draft. I could say that I'm slightly confident in that. Last year, when we went back and forth, I had less confidence than by myself, but still felt okay. Throw two more people into the mix, and all bets are off. The more voices, the less confident I am. But who knows, maybe that level of randomization actually helped. 2) We started this process a couple weeks ago, and anyone following mocks can see that they evolve almost daily. I'll just say that if I get one right, I'll be excited. If I get two, I'll be shocked.What do you think was your best pick outside of the top 10?I'm actually more confident about my pick at #12 than I am about even the ones ahead of it. I think DT Danny Shelton fills a need for the Browns and is the best available at that position. Is there any pick in particular that you now regret?Going back over them all, I was apparently in quite the gambling mood. Character issues in Marcus Peters going as the second CB overall at #16. Central Florida's WR Breshad Perriman going to a team that I have yet to see mocked a receiver. I can't say that I regret them though, it'll just make it that much more impressive if (when) I get them right.What was the most astute pick by your three fellow mock drafters?I can definitely see the New York Giants being the first to take an offensive lineman, and Scherff is the top on most boards, so I think Scott nailed that one. Going deeper in the draft, I think Scott and Casey had nice picks back-to-back with an offensive tackle (La'el Collins) and wide receiver (Jaelen Strong) at 25 and 26 respectively. Joe could even make it a trifecta, as I think Dallas is in need of a defensive back at 27, though possibly a corner rather than a safety. What was, in your opinion, the worst pick by your three fellow mock drafters?I'll agree with Scott that Kevin White to the Jaguars was a bit of a head-scratcher from Joe, but they have been linked to a WR, so who knows. I personally think they'll go Dante Fowler, which, unfortunately, would make my #4 pick incorrect. Casey's #14 Phillip Dorsett feels early to me as well, but with Antonio Brown's success, perhaps a 5'10" WR could go that early. And just because I'm an equal-opportunity judge I'm going to say that Scott's #5 of Randy Gregory was possibly a dozen picks too high considering his recent off-field issues.* *
Buccaneers.com 2015 Mock Draft Results: 1. Tampa Bay: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State (Scott Smith's pick)2. Tennessee: DE Leonard Williams, USC (Casey Phillips's pick)3. Jacksonville: WR Kevin White, West Virginia (Joe Kania's pick)4. Oakland: LB Dante Fowler, Florida (Andrew Norton's pick)5. Washington: DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska (SS)6. N.Y. Jets: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon (CP)7. Chicago: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State (JK)8. Atlanta: DE Shane Ray, Missouri (AN)9. N.Y. Giants: T Brandon Scherff, Iowa (SS)10. St. Louis: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama (CP)11. Minnesota: WR DeVante Parker, Louisville (JK)12. Cleveland:DT Danny Shelton, Washington (AN)13. New Orleans: LB Vic Beasley, Clemson (SS)14. Miami: WR Phillip Dorsett, Miami (CP)15. San Francisco: DT Arik Armstead, Oregon (JK)16. Houston: CB Marcus Peters, Washington (AN)17. San Diego: DT Malcom Brown, Texas (SS)18. Kansas City:T Ereck Flowers, Miami (CP)19. Cleveland: T Andrus Peat, Stanford (JK)20. Philadelphia: WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida (AN)21.Cincinnati: DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State (SS)22. Pittsburgh: CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest (CP)23. Detroit: RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (JK)24. Arizona: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia (AN)25. Carolina:T La'el Collins, LSU (SS)26. Baltimore: WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State (CP)27. Dallas: S Landon Collins, Alabama (JK)28. Denver:T T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh (AN)29. Indianapolis: C Cameron Erving, Florida State (SS)30. Green Bay: CB Jalen Collins, LSU (CP)31. New Orleans: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma32. New England: DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma