I’ve spent the past few months speaking to several NFL decision-makers, getting to know many of the top prospects personally, and watching their respective workouts. In addition to attending five pro days this year, I’ve been with most of the league’s top front-office executives at the Senior Bowl, the NFL Draft Scouting Combine and the NFL Owners Meetings in Arizona. Opinions on the NFL Draft seem to differ from source to source and it changes every single day.
Doing a full seven-round mock draft is a labor of love, and one I enjoy doing each year. Trades end up throwing off a lot of it, but I landed more than 70 percent of the top 100 picks last year (pats self on back) and nailed six players to the right six teams despite a bevy of moves on the first day.
I will have one final mock draft, just one round, up on FOXSports.com Thursday morning. But here’s the grand-daddy of them all — seven rounds of goodness.
Of course, a lot can change between now and Thursday evening, but for now, consider this the blueprint. Dig in.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
This one’s all but certain. My sources in Tampa Bay have been straight up with me since the end of the NFL season and I don’t see anything drastic happening between now and Thursday. Winston’s the "clubhouse leader" and has been since the moment the Saints beat the Buccaneers in Week 17. When it comes to an NFL quarterback who’s ready to start Day 1, he could be the most prepared for the challenge since Andrew Luck. As one NFL source put it to me this week, "He was put on this Earth to throw … a football, a baseball, whatever … he was meant to throw it." He’ll do just that in Tampa. Tune out the Mariota talk; Winston’s the guy.
2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
If Tennessee takes him here, he’ll battle Zach Mettenberger for the starting role. If the Titans trade the pick — hello, Washington, St. Louis, Cleveland, San Diego — things will get awfully interesting. One thing to note? Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt share the same agent, and with Tennessee’s ownership situation a bit in flux at the moment, Whisenhunt’s voice could be the most powerful in the building.
Cooper’s the ultimate fit for OC Greg Olson’s offense. Just 20 years old, he’s the most polished runner in this draft and a franchise cornerstone.
The defensive tackle slips to four and bolsters an already strong unit. A 3-technique who can play along the line, Williams can be a franchise changer to a squad already ascending.
5. Washington Redskins: Dante Fowler, Jr., OLB/DE, Florida
It’s been a good (albeit quiet) offseason for the Redskins. Defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea and cornerback Chris Culliver were signed to smart deals and all can contribute at a high level next year. Fowler, a guy many expected to go in the top three, could fill the void the departed Brian Orakpo left as the outside linebacker opposite Ryan Kerrigan. He’s arguably the best pass-rusher in this draft class. Good fit in a 3-4. Fowler is a high-energy guy who can play in a variety of spots in the front seven, and did just that at Florida.
6. New York Jets: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The Jets very well could trade back and try to grab Georgia RB Todd Gurley. I know they like him, but probably not at 6. Let’s say they don’t. The Jets need a pass rusher, but which one? Beasley, of the guys still on the board, best fits the Jets’ system. A coach I spoke with said he expected Beasley to weigh in around 235 pounds at the Combine and that there was a fear he was too light. Beasley not only weighed in at 246 pounds, but he also did an outstanding 35 reps of 225 pounds on the bench the following day. He’s a great fit for what new coach Todd Bowles is trying to do in New York: get to the quarterback and stop the run. He was a sack-master in the ACC.
7. Chicago Bears: Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Remember, this is new coach John Fox’s team now. Pass rush is always going to be the highest priority. More than merely a Combine workout warrior, Dupree was a shining light on a bad Kentucky team last season. Pass rusher is the pick; Dupree’s the guy.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Scherff, OT/OG, Iowa
This is a nightmare scenario for Atlanta. Pick for sale. Pick for sale. If it goes this way, it’s Trade Back Time. The Falcons want one of the top pass-rushers, but likely would shy away from either Missouri’s Shan Ray or Nebraska’s Randy Gregory this high in the draft. Without doing a trade, I’m perplexed where to put them here. So they go offensive line, an area of need, but certainly not one that is winning them five more games next year.
9. New York Giants: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Giants are a bit of a wild card, but I think they go with either Peat or Ereck Flowers, the two best tackles in this draft. Peat’s father, Todd, was a starting offensive lineman for the Phoenix Cardinals in the 1990s, and this younger version showed real flashes at Stanford. He’s 6-foot-7, 314 pounds and could compete for either starting tackle job in New York next year. Giants fans might not be doing flips over a little known tackle out of Stanford, but he’s very well regarded around the league.
10. St. Louis Rams: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
I expect the Rams to move this pick. If the draft shook out this way, there are multiple teams that’d be interested in moving up for DeVante Parker, the talented Louisville wideout, and there’s a bevy of pass-rushers still on the board — a position the Rams always like, but don’t necessarily need — who’d be nice chips. If they keep the pick, I see them going with Flowers, a talented, mean offensive tackle who can play guard or tackle if needed.
11. Minnesota Vikings:Trae Waynes, DB, Michigan State
Waynes could go earlier, depending on team needs in the top 10. He is a 6-foot, 186-pound corner who starred in a man-to-man defense at Michigan State. He played on an island against some of the best players in the country, and according to sources worked his tail off with Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi and MSU secondary coach Harlon Barnett to polish his game. He does it all and runs a 4.32 40-yard dash. Don’t forget, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive backs coach at heart. Xavier Rhodes showed flashes last year; here’s his battery mate.
12. Cleveland Browns: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
A 335-pound run-stuffer, look for Shelton to go somewhere in the 10 to 20 range. Cleveland wants professionals with its two first-round picks this year. No jokers allowed after last year’s twin killing. The 335-pound Shelton is all about football and had a great meeting with the Browns brass two weeks ago. He’ll have to keep his weight down and prove he’s more than a two-down guy.
13. New Orleans Saints: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
White hauled in 107 passes as a senior and then absolutely tore up Indianapolis. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and left scouts with their jaws dropped after catching just about everything thrown his way. The Saints have made some moves on offense and drafted a wideout in the first round last year, but if White falls to 13, I can’t see coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and Co. passing him up.
14. Miami Dolphins: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
An NFL executive told me last week that Gurley could be the best running back prospect to enter the draft since 2007 when Adrian Peterson came out of Oklahoma. There’s top 10 talk, but I think Miami’s the spot at 14. If the Dolphins front office has shown us anything this offseason, it’s that they’re not afraid to make a big splash. Gurley, whose medicals have checked out, would be just that.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
I’d expect the 49ers to go with a front-seven guy in the first round. Brown, 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds, is a pass rusher who started every game for Texas in 2013 and 2014. Already married with two kids, he’s ready to get going and play right away.
16. Houston Texans: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Rick Smith has taken only two offensive players in the first round since he took over GM responsibilities in 2007. I think the Texans are going to go defense, and Johnson is my guy to watch here. A talented 6-foot, 190-pound cover corner, Johnson went through position drills at his pro day a few weeks back and got rave reviews. He never missed a game at Wake and handled some of the nation’s best wide receivers. In an Andrew Luck world, you can never have enough pass defenders.
17. San Diego Chargers: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
I’d think the Chargers would be pretty excited if Parker fell here. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and had a 36.5-inch vertical jump at the Combine even though he still is coming back from a devastating foot injury he suffered in 2014. Philip Rivers needs another target. Here’s your guy.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Agholor’s the fourth wideout on my board and a guy who runs smooth routes and has good size and speed. An AFC executive told me that Agholor could be the second best route-runner (besides Amari Cooper) in this draft. He can step in Day 1 and play. Great West Coast offense fit.
There’s certainly a need at wide receiver. Perriman’s a 6-foot-3, 210-pound speedster whose father, Bret, had a very productive NFL career. A sub-4.3 40 guy, he’s a weapon for an offense that has few of them.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Chip Kelly’s a bit of a wild card and with no blueprint to see how he’ll run his first draft in which he’s fully in charge, I could see Collins, the talented safety out of Alabama, being the guy. Versatile enough so he can play right away and contribute on special teams, this could be the right fit.
Ogbuehi isn’t often mentioned as a first-round talent, but he very well could be a Top 25 guy. Before the injuries, he was viewed as a top-10 talent. The Bengals are looking to not only bolster depth at the tackle spot, but also find a future star. Ogbuehi could be that guy.
Jones was the breakout star of the Combine with a world record 12-foot, 3-inch standing broad jump, but he’s not just a raw athlete. He can play. He missed seven games last season with a shoulder injury but is healthy now. The Steelers need DB help, ASAP. Jones could be the guy.
23. Detroit Lions: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Goldman is a 6-foot-2, 334-pound physical specimen who loves to stop the run. Goldman could be a defensive tackle in the Lions’ 4-3. At the Combine, he rattled off names like Lee Roy Selmon, Merlin Olsen and Tony Brackens when describing players he modeled himself after. He’s a football historian and a big run stuffer. I like this pick for coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. There was a large contingent of Lions brass at FSU’s Pro Day and a lot of those eyes were on him.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
At 6-foot-1, 203 pounds, Collins has the size and speed to be a real player at the next level, despite just 10 career starts in college. I know everyone has Arizona going running back in the first round; don’t be shocked if the Cards pick another defensive back. He’d join the Honey Badger and Patrick Peterson as DBs out of LSU in Arizona.
25.Carolina Panthers:D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Carolina might not be done with the offensive line just yet. The Panthers added Michael Oher and Jon Martin last month, but that’s not enough. Humphries is a big-time athlete whom NFL evaluators view as a bona fide tackle. He didn’t have a stellar college career but could be better in the pros.
If Gordon slips to 26, the Ravens could be a good spot. I don’t see the do-everything Wisconsin star slipping out of the first round. He’s the home-run hitter the Ravens offense can pair with RB Justin Forsett. Corner and wideout may be bigger needs, but bringing in a true playmaker, whether at running back or wideout, is a priority.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Damarious Randall, S/CB, Arizona State
Randall’s my guy rising fast up draft boards and that’s because of his versatility. He played corner at Arizona State and had a lot of success. He is built like a safety. He also had a great workout in Arizona for many pro scouts during the owners meetings. Buzz on this guy has been high for a while.
28. Denver Broncos: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
As Joel Klatt mentioned in our draft podcast last week, the bulk of the players the Broncos met with at the Combine were pass-protecting offensive linemen and tight ends. Clemmings is a converted basketball player who has the body to be a stud left tackle in the NFL. He hasn’t shown it yet, and struggled at the Senior Bowl, but could be a steal at 28.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
30. Green Bay Packers: Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
Anthony hasn’t been listed as a first-rounder in many mock drafts, but I like him in Green Bay. He’s 6-3, 235 pounds and can both get to the quarterback and perform in coverage. He’s my top inside linebacker in this draft.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seahawks): Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
After a failed drug test at the Combine, Gregory went through the media ringer. It’s called the "idiot test" because you’re aware it’s coming. And still, Gregory failed. Perhaps more alarming for teams is the fact that he weighed in at just 235 pounds at the Combine. That’s light. He’s got a Barkevious Mingo/Dion Jordan label (not good), but has been compared to Jason Taylor by others (good) At 31, there’s too much potential to pass on. The orthopedic medicals will be examined here, too. The Saints would be more than happy to scoop him up.
32. New England Patriots:Eli Harold, DE/OLB, Virginia
The Patriots aren’t in the market for a first-round wideout, running back, corner or safety here. That’s not what they do. So I have them going with a versatile piece who can get to the quarterback. Harold can play the edge in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4.