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2015 NFL Mock Draft: Winston, Mariota go No. 1-2; Jets, Redskins land pass-rushers

Jameis Winston is projected to be the first player taken in the 2015 NFL draft. (David J. Phillip/AP Photo)

The opening round of the NFL draft is scheduled for April 30 in Chicago with the focus on quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, plus strong groups of wide receivers and pass rushers among the top available prospects. Here’s our look at how the first round might unfold as teams balance their needs and the relative talents of the players on their draft boards:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Is it certain that this pick is Winston rather than Marcus Mariota? No. Winston’s off-field issues must be considered when making such a franchise-defining decision. But Winston is the more NFL-ready QB and it would be a significant surprise at this point if the pick is not Winston.

[The top 50 prospects for the NFL draft]

2. Tennesee Titans

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

The guess here is that Mariota will be taken with the No. 2 pick. Whether that pick is made by the Titans or someone else — potentially the Jets, Browns, Chargers, Bears or Eagles — remains to be seen. The Titans really should come away with a QB. There’s not enough evidence to be confident that Zach Mettenberger is the answer. But that QB doesn’t necessarily need to be Mariota. If the Titans were inclined to make a trade, it could be Chargers starter Philip Rivers or the Bears’ Jay Cutler.

Draft Needs For Every Team

NFC: East | North | South | West
AFC: East | North | South | West

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Williams, DE, USC

The Jaguars would be perfectly happy if this scenario unfolds and Williams, probably the best player in the draft, falls to them at third. He is a defensive difference-maker. If Williams is gone, Jacksonville could opt for Dante Fowler.

4. Oakland Raiders

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The Raiders need to give second-year QB Derek Carr a top-notch receiver. Either Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White would suffice. It is an interesting choice. White’s jaw-dropping physical skills perhaps give him the higher ceiling. But Cooper seems like the safer pick. He does everything right and appears very likely to be a highly dependable NFL receiver.

5. Washington Redskins

Dante Fowler Jr., LB, Florida

Scot McCloughan, the Redskins’ first-year GM, undoubtedly would like to trade down as many times as he possibly can, given the number of gaping holes on the team’s roster, to pick up as many additional picks as he can, then take the best remaining of the very good pass rushers available. But that’s easier said than done. Being able to do it requires a team wanting to trade up to your spot. If the Redskins are forced to stay put and Fowler isn’t gone, he would make sense as a pass-rushing complement to Ryan Kerrigan.

[OLB Rankings: Fowler continues to raise stock]

6. New York Jets

Shane Ray, DE/LB, Missouri

If they don’t trade up for Mariota, adding Ray or Clemson LB Vic Beasley to the defense of new coach Todd Bowles would be a sensible move.

7. Chicago Bears

Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

With WR Brandon Marshall traded to the Jets, the Bears will likely target whichever top receiver remains among Cooper and White.

[WR Rankings: How, for some, White overtook Cooper]

8. Atlanta Falcons

Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson

New coach Dan Quinn gets a pass-rushing threat that his defense in Atlanta desperately needs.

9. New York Giants

Brandon Scherff, T/G, Iowa

The offensive line needs upgrading and Scherff is probably the best blocker available. The only issue is whether he’ll be a guard or a tackle. If he’s a guard, is that worth the ninth overall selection?

10. St. Louis Rams

Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

The draft’s top available CB rounds out the top 10.

11. Minnesota Vikings

Andrus Peat, T, Stanford

Whether the Vikings keep RB Adrian Peterson or not, the offensive line needs work and Peat can be a dependable player right away. Taking WR DeVante Parker out of Louisville also would be a consideration.

12. Cleveland Browns

DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

If the Browns don’t package the 12th and 19th picks to move up for a franchise QB, getting a dynamic WR to help the QBs they already have makes sense. Parker could become the No. 1 receiver that the Josh Gordon-less Cleveland offense lacks.

13. New Orleans Saints

Randy Gregory, LB, Nebraska

Gregory didn’t exactly endear himself to those in New Orleans by referring to the city as “pretty boring” on social media. No matter. If he can get to opposing QBs with regularity, the Saints and their followers will forgive him for the slight.

14. Miami Dolphins

Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida

The Dolphins give QB Ryan Tannehill a potential big-play receiver.

15. San Francisco 49ers

Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon

The Niners begin retooling their defense with a potentially dominant player in the front seven.

16. Houston Texans

Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

Houston adds the CB who made only 10 collegiate starts but showed plenty of promise to be a potential NFL standout.

17. San Diego Chargers

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

If Philip Rivers stays, he needs a runner to help keep opposing defenses honest. Gurley would be just that, provided that his recovery from his torn ACL goes smoothly.

18. Kansas City Chiefs

La’el Collins, T, LSU

Kansas City adds a powerful blocker who could end up playing either guard or right tackle.

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo)

Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

Cleveland bolsters its defensive front with the second of its two first-round selections.

20. Philadelphia Eagles

Landon Collins, S, Alabama

Coach Chip Kelly has demonstrated his unpredictability throughout his first offseason when having final say over player-related decisions. He might try to trade up for Marcus Mariota. He might not. If he stays put, getting the draft’s top available safety would further fortify a defense that added LB Kiko Alonso and CB Byron Maxwell earlier in the offseason.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

T.J. Clemmings, T, Pittsburgh

Cincinnati gets better on the offensive line.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers

Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest

The secondary needs help with the retirements of CB Ike Taylor and S Troy Polamalu. Johnson could step right in at CB.

23. Detroit Lions

Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

Detroit lost not only Ndamukong Suh but also fellow DT Nick Fairley in free agency. The Lions traded for Haloti Ngata and adding Brown as well might give them a chance of remaining somewhere close to last season’s level on defense.

24. Arizona Cardinals

Bud Dupree, LB, Kentucky

Arizona adds a very athletic defender who could develop into an extremely disruptive pass rusher.

25. Carolina Panthers

D.J. Humphries, T, Florida

Carolina’s offensive line needs more work than the Panthers did in free agency.

26. Baltimore Ravens

Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

Baltimore gets a CB who could contribute immediately.

27. Dallas Cowboys

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

The Cowboys lost NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray in free agency and probably have not done enough yet to replace him. Gordon could step in and thrive immediately running behind the Dallas offensive line.

28. Denver Broncos

Ereck Flowers, T, Miami

Denver fortifies QB Peyton Manning’s offensive line.

29. Indianapolis Colts

Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

Indianapolis makes a move to help its run defense.

30. Green Bay Packers

Eli Harold, LB, Virginia

The secondary might be a more pressing need for the Packers but Harold is a good value for this pick, as a potentially productive pass rusher.

31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle)

Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami

The Saints get a speedster at receiver with the pick obtained from Seattle in the Jimmy Graham trade.

32. New England Patriots

Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut

No one in this draft is going to step in and replace CB Darrelle Revis but the Patriots get help at the position with Jones.

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