The early incarnations of the 2015 NFL mock draft continue into the middle of the first round. Which teams inhabit the space?
#11 – Oakland Raiders – Devin Funchess – TE – Michigan
Going from #5 to #11 would be considerable progress for the Oakland Raiders but will it be enough to keep the coaching staff around? Good question. Either way, the team needs to think about upgrading their tight end position to help the passing game. Devin Funchess is another in the likes of Jimmy Graham who creates matchup problems against defenses.
#12 – Kansas City Chiefs – Cameron Erving – OT – Florida State
The offensive line was gutted by free agency for the Kansas City Chiefs and it threatens to derail their season before it starts. Andy Reid also loves to draft linemen early, so going after a premier athlete like Cameron Erving from a powerhouse program like Florida State makes too much sense. His blocking skill would help out immediately.
#13 – New York Jets – Bryce Petty – QB – Baylor
Sadly the Geno Smith experiment is more likely to end in failure for the New York Jets in 2014. That is why they are players for a quarterback in this 2015 NFL mock draft. Bryce Petty represents a slightly more traditional approach. At Baylor he flashed the arm strength and accuracy of a pro while also having the mobility to keep plays alive.
#14 - Washington Redskins – Josh Shaw – CB – USC
The 3-4 defense is all about having quality corners and as it stands the Washington Redskins are running a little light on them. David Amerson looks promising and DeAngelo Hall had a good 2013 but they still need more. Josh Shaw is another in the line of those bigger corners with good two-way ability as a pass defender and run stopper.
#15 – Atlanta Falcons – Randy Gregory – DE – Nebraska
Osi Umenyiora is nearing the end of his career and the Atlanta Falcons are still trying to fill their stable with enough pass rushers to compliment their improving secondary. Adding a freak talent like Randy Gregory, who plays defensive end for Nebraska but is athletic enough to play outside linebacker, would solve a lot of those problems.
#16 - San Diego Chargers – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – CB – Oregon
Though they made a 1st round investment at corner in 2014 with Jason Verrett, nobody ever said it was a crime for a team to load up at one of the key positions in the modern era. He may not have been a top priority but Oregon corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has the instincts and natural athleticism to fit their scheme and is too good to pass up this late.
#17 – Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Fackrell – OLB – Utah State
Success on defense is driven by the front seven for the Arizona Cardinals, especially when they’re able to bring pressure off the edge. That is what John Abraham provided them, but at age 37 he can’t be their answer much longer. Getting a versatile athlete like Kyler Fackrell who showed a knack for beating blocks at Utah State is exactly what they have to think about.
#18 – Baltimore Ravens – Todd Gurley – RB – Georgia
Ozzie Newsome loves going SEC during drafts for the Baltimore Ravens. It’s hard to argue that strategy. An area he needs to think about being aggressive to fix is running back. Ray Rice hasn’t looked like the same player he was two years ago and Bernard Pierce isn’t really a starting-caliber guy. Todd Gurley is that and more for Georgia. Big, powerful but also fast he has that look of a 1st round running back.
#19 – Detroit Lions – Leonard Williams – DT – USC
Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley both have expiring contracts in 2014. The Detroit Lions could very well let them walk in free agency, or at least one of them, which makes defensive tackle a clear priority in this 2015 NFL mock draft. Leonard Williams out of USC has the look of a three-technique interior pass rusher who can also move to defensive end in certain situations. Very mobile for his size.
#20 – San Francisco 49ers – Rashad Greene – WR – Florida State
Michael Crabtree is a free agent in 2015. Anquan Boldin turns 34 in October and Steve Johnson is no guarantee to be a success this season. That could mean receiver remains a priority for the San Francisco 49ers. Time has shown they prefer reliable options to extraordinary ones, and they don’t get more reliable than Rashad Greene. What he lacks in size or speed he makes up in guile, instinct, great hands and consistency.