NFL mock draft 2.0: Needs shift in wake of free agency
With the NFL's major free agent business completed, teams recalibrated needs have caused some shifts in our latest mock draft:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Florida State QB Jameis Winston: The franchise desperately needs his help on the field provided he can continue to maintain a low profile away from it.
2. Tennessee Titans — USC DL Leonard Williams: Arguably the draft's best player. With the Titans addressing their pass rushing deficiencies in free agency, they can focus on targeting premier talent. Any connection to Marcus Mariota here still has the feel of a smokescreen designed to generate bidding for this selection.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Florida OLB/DE Dante Fowler, Jr.: The Jags actually did a decent job bagging quarterbacks in 2014 with 45 sacks. But they could still use a bona fide edge rusher who can relieve pressure on a secondary that must cope with Andrew Luck twice annually.
4. Oakland Raiders — Alabama WR Amari Cooper: He's not as explosive as West Virginia counterpart Kevin White, but Cooper's polish and precision route running might be a bigger asset to second-year QB Derek Carr and an offense in need of dependable players.
5. Washington Redskins — Nebraska OLB/DE Randy Gregory: GM Scot McCloughan has been busy fortifying his D-line, but lost sack man Brian Orakpo to Tennessee. Enter Gregory, who should form a nice tandem with Ryan Kerrigan.
6. New York Jets — Missouri OLB/DE Shane Ray: Do they give in to the temptation to take Mariota? Or do they add a player who can generate pressure for new coach Todd Bowles, who loves to blitz? For now, we'll guess the latter.
7. Chicago Bears — Washington DT Danny Shelton: New coordinator Vic Fangio picked up OLB Pernell McPhee recently but needs a space eater like Shelton to anchor his new-look line.
8. Atlanta Falcons — Clemson OLB Vic Beasley: No team in the NFC had fewer sacks than Atlanta's 22. Beasley could be the perfect candidate to fill the LEO role new coach Dan Quinn employed while running Seattle's top-ranked defense.
9. New York Giants — Iowa OL Brandon Scherff: He appears to represent the perfect intersection of talent and need for GM Jerry Reese. Whether Scherff shifts to guard or remains at tackle and allows RT Justin Pugh to move inside, the Giants need to improve in the trenches.
10. St. Louis Rams — West Virginia WR Kevin White: Yes, the Rams have two former Mountaineers receivers on their roster. But White is a physical, speedy stud who could help QB Nick Foles finally open up this offense.
11. Minnesota Vikings — Louisville WR DeVante Parker: Adding Mike Wallace as a deep threat helps. But don't doubt that QB Teddy Bridgewater would love a reunion with his former college teammate, who's probably a superior red zone threat to Wallace.
12. Cleveland Browns — Oregon QB Marcus Mariota: If they were willing to deal for Sam Bradford, then they'll surely be open to potentially solving their QB conundrum by taking drama-free Mariota, especially since GM Ray Farmer has the luxury of a second pick in Round 1.
13. New Orleans Saints — Kentucky OLB Bud Dupree: The Saints should take the freaky edge player here to strike fear into the hearts of Matt Ryan and Cam Newton and worry about continuing the offensive facelift with the subsequent first rounder they scored in the Jimmy Graham trade.
14. Miami Dolphins — Michigan State CB Trae Waynes: He can step in for retired Cortland Finnegan and form a nice starting duo with Brent Grimes while allowing newly signed Brice McCain to focus on slot duties.
15. San Francisco 49ers — Oregon DL Arik Armstead: Too intriguing a prospect to pass up, especially with Justin Smith still mulling his future and Darnell Dockett no more than a temporary solution. D-line guru Jim Tomsula is the perfect guy to polish a gem like massive Armstead (6-7, 292).
16. Houston Texans — Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong: Andre Johnson is gone. But the need to find a competent wingman to complement new No. 1 WR DeAndre Hopkins remains. Strong should be able to assume that role and penalize teams that double cover Hopkins.
17. San Diego Chargers — Georgia RB Todd Gurley: They desperately need someone to replace Ryan Mathews, who never really adequately supplanted LaDainian Tomlinson. Once healthy, Gurley stands a much better chance of approaching LT's lofty bar.
18. Kansas City Chiefs — Miami (Fla.) OT Ereck Flowers: With Jeremy Maclin presumably solving his wideout issues, coach Andy Reid can focus on the big boys he loves to pick early. Flowers drips potential should be able to improve an O-line that's hemorrhaged talent in recent offseasons.
19. Browns (from Buffalo Bills) — Texas DT Malcom Brown: His dilemma at quarterback theoretically answered by Mariota, defensive-minded coach Mike Pettine can now focus on bolstering the guts of the league's leakiest run defense.
20. Philadelphia Eagles — Alabama S Landon Collins: Chip Kelly will have more chances to tweak his offense, specifically at receiver, later in the draft. But he'll only get one shot at importing blue-chip safety help.
21. Cincinnati Bengals — Ohio State WR Devin Smith: If local blazer can avoid outrunning QB Andy Dalton's arm, he could provide dynamic element that penalizes defenses for focusing on WR A.J. Green and RB Jeremy Hill.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers — LSU CB Jalen Collins: The Steelers must get younger and better at corner. Collins (6-1, 203) could succeed Ike Taylor, another big DB who hailed from Louisiana.
23. Detroit Lions — Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon: Home run hitter would start and allow Joique Bell to revert to third-down role. WR Calvin Johnson could enable Gordon to perform plenty of magic against seven-man fronts.
24. Arizona Cardinals — Florida State DL Eddie Goldman: With former NT Dan Williams departing in free agency, Goldman's a big man (6-4, 336) capable of filling a sizable void.
25. Carolina Panthers — Florida OT D.J. Humphries: May be draft's best left tackle prospect. If true, he could save Carolina from forcing free agent addition Michael Oher back into ill-suited blind side role.
26. Baltimore Ravens — Washington CB Marcus Peters: He may come with character questions but not the kind the Ravens have been coping with over the last year. Peters seems to be maturing and is certainly capable of blossoming into the kind of corner Baltimore so badly needs.
27. Dallas Cowboys — Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson: Wouldn't be shocking to see Jerry Jones deal his way up for Gurley or Gordon. But it also wouldn't be surprising to see Dallas try to replace underachieving and overpriced CB Brandon Carr.
28. Denver Broncos — Pittsburgh OT T.J. Clemmings:Excellent athlete, though a bit of a project. Moves well enough to fit into Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme and could eventually morph into Ryan Clady's successor on left side.
29. Indianapolis Colts — Stanford OT Andrus Peat:Powerful run blocker could elevate Indy's struggling run game and, with any luck, might develop into watchdog for fellow Cardinal Andrew Luck on left side.
30. Green Bay Packers — Virginia OLB Eli Harold: GM Ted Thompson doesn't draft for need, so he can address inside linebacker later. Harold could eventually replace Julius Peppers while exploiting teams overly focused on containing Clay Matthews.
31. Saints (from Seattle Seahawks) — LSU OL La'El Collins: Could fill vacancy created by trade of G Ben Grubbs.
32. New England Patriots — Connecticut CB Byron Jones: Pats have spotty history with early round corners, including 2009 second rounder Darius Butler, also a UConn product. But defections of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have created vacuum at the position, and Jones could become a special player.
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