2015 NFL Mock Draft: Patriots Select Versatile Defender In First Round

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The NFL Scouting Combine was an up-and-down affair for top prospect Jameis Winston.

The Florida State quarterback threw well, impressed with his intelligence and showed supreme confidence in himself during his news conference, but he also wasn’t as athletic as many assumed, and an old shoulder issue popped up during medicals. Still, Winston emerged from the combine as the consensus top pick in the NFL draft.

We’re still nearly two months away from the draft, but here’s NESN.com’s first guess at how it all will go down:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, quarterback, Florida State
As long as new damning information doesn’t come out about the top signal-caller, it looks like Winston will be the Bucs’ pick. Head coach Lovie Smith believes Winston can be the face of the franchise, and the QB agreed at the combine.

2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, defensive lineman, USC
Williams and Jurrell Casey would make an imposing pair at defensive end in the Titans’ 3-4 scheme for years to come.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler, outside linebacker, Florida
Fowler can play strongside linebacker in the Jaguars’ 4-3 base defense and rush the passer from the edge in nickel. He’s a player in the mold of a Von Miller, Khalil Mack or Bruce Irvin. Head coach Gus Bradley coached Irvin with the Seattle Seahawks.

4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Alabama
Quarterback Derek Carr desperately needs a No. 1 receiver to live up to his full potential. Cooper isn’t a game-breaker, but he has great speed, and he’s a dependable possession receiver.

5. Washington Redskins: Vic Beasley, outside linebacker, Clemson
If the Redskins don’t retain pass rusher Brian Orakpo, then Beasley could be the perfect player to replace him — and he’ll likely be much less injury prone, too.

6. New York Jets: Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon
The Jets have many needs, and they claimed at the combine that they won’t reach for a quarterback. However, if Mariota is sitting there, they would be smart to pick him.

7. Chicago Bears: Danny Shelton, defensive tackle, Washington
Shelton’s 5.64-second 40-yard dash didn’t impress many at the combine, but he’s a 339-pound run-stuffing nose tackle with an impressive motor and versatility. That doesn’t come around too often.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Randy Gregory, pass rusher, Nebraska
Gregory’s 235-pound frame is a bit concerning, but he can play strong-side linebacker in the Falcons’ base defense and slide down to defensive end in sub packages.

9. New York Giants: Shane Ray, defensive end, Missouri
The Giants cut Mathias Kiwanuka, and Jason Pierre-Paul is a free agent. Ray is the best player available at a position of need for the Giants.

10. St. Louis Rams: Kevin White, wide receiver, West Virginia
The Rams have had a terrible time trying to find receivers in recent years, with free-agent castoff Kenny Britt leading the team with just 748 yards last season. White has premier size, speed and agility.

11. Minnesota Vikings: Brandon Scherff, offensive lineman, Iowa
Left tackle Matt Kalil had a terrible season in 2014, and the Vikings recently cut their starting left guard, Charlie Johnson. Scherff can play either position.

12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, wide receiver, Louisville
The Browns will be without Josh Gordon this season, and Parker has similar size and athleticism. The Browns desperately need to bite the bullet and draft a receiver early to help out quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown.

13. New Orleans Saints: Trae Waynes, cornerback, Michigan State
The Saints might not draft a cornerback this early, but they should. Patrick Robinson is a free agent, and Keenan Lewis was up and down last season.

14. Miami Dolphins: Jaelen Strong, wide receiver, Arizona State
The Dolphins cut Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson, and Mike Wallace also could be on the outs, leaving Jarvis Landry as their only dependable receiver. Strong might be a slight reach here, but a perceived reach didn’t stop Miami from selecting offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James last year.

15. San Francisco 49ers: La’el Collins, offensive lineman, LSU
If the 49ers can’t re-sign Mike Iupati, they’ll need a new starting-caliber left guard. La’El Collins has the versatility to play tackle, too.

16. Houston Texans: Marcus Peters, cornerback, Washington
Peters didn’t test out as well as Waynes in the 40-yard dash, but he might wind up being the top cornerback in the draft. The Texans need help in their secondary.

17. San Diego Chargers: Andrus Peat, offensive lineman, Stanford
The Chargers suffered through some rough offensive line play last season, and Peat can play guard or offensive tackle.

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Landon Collins, safety, Alabama
Safety Eric Berry’s status remains up in the air as he fights Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Collins is a well-rounded safety who’s best playing inside the box. He could coexist with Berry if the All-Pro is able to return — as everyone hopes.

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills): Malcom Brown, defensive tackle, Texas
After filling a need on offense, Cleveland can boost its run defense with Brown later in the first round. Brown is 319 pounds, so he has the size to play nose tackle, but he also possesses the athleticism to play in sub packages.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Collins, cornerback, LSU
The Eagles have an excellent nickel corner in Brandon Boykin, but they could use a big, athletic player like Collins to man the sidelines. There are rumors that the Eagles could trade up to select Marcus Mariota, whom, coming from Oregon, would perfectly fit ex-Ducks coach Chip Kelly’s offense in Philly.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Bud Dupree, outside linebacker, Kentucky
The Bengals desperately need pass-rush help, and Dupree has the athleticism and upside to play many roles in a 4-3. He could play strong-side linebacker in the base defense and slide down to defensive end in nickel.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin Johnson, cornerback, Wake Forest
The Steelers have needed to draft a cornerback for years. In Johnson, they would find a tall defender with elite agility.

23. Detroit Lions: Eddie Goldman, defensive tackle, Florida State
Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley all are free agents. The Lions will need to restock their defensive line.

24. Arizona Cardinals: Eli Harold, pass rusher, Virginia
The Cardinals’ defense would be even more imposing if they could find a top-tier pass rusher. Harold fits the Cardinals’ 3-4 scheme well.

25. Carolina Panthers: D.J. Humphries, offensive tackle, Florida
If Humphries is still available at No. 25, then the Panthers should sprint up to the podium. Their offensive tackle play was rough last season.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, running back, Wisconsin
The Ravens received excellent production out of Justin Forsett last season, but they can’t count on lightning striking twice. Gordon averaged 7.8 yards per carry at Wisconsin.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Owa Odighizuwa, pass rusher, UCLA
The Cowboys need to fill the void DeMarcus Ware left last season. Odighizuwa can play right or left defensive end while providing a consistent pass rush.

28. Denver Broncos: Ereck Flowers, offensive tackle, Miami
The Broncos need a right tackle, and Flowers projects best as a right tackle. The 6-foot-6 prospect missed time last season with a knee injury.

29. Indianapolis Colts: Todd Gurley, running back, Georgia
The Colts wasted their 2014 first-round draft pick by trading for Trent Richardson. They must atone for that mistake by filling their major void at running back. Gurley is coming off a torn ACL, but he’s a freak athlete with Adrian Peterson-esque potential.

30. Green Bay Packers: Eric Kendricks, linebacker, UCLA
The Packers’ inside linebacker depth was so poor in 2014 that they moved premier pass rusher Clay Matthews into the middle. Kendricks is the best inside linebacker available.

31. Seattle Seahawks: Byron Jones, cornerback, Connecticut
The Seahawks could have a difficult time finding their next big, tall, physical cornerback in the later rounds, as they did with Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell. The latter is likely leaving in free agency, and Jones would fit the Seahawks’ Cover 3 scheme perfectly with his size, strength and athleticism.

32. New England Patriots: Shaq Thompson, outside linebacker, Washington
Thompson is the kind of versatile chess piece that the Patriots love. He played linebacker, safety, running back, kick and punt returner and even slot cornerback at Washington. Thompson could play a number of roles as a rookie before settling into one during his second year, similar to how the Patriots used Jamie Collins.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

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