The Tampa Bay Buccaneers own the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and they’re widely expected to select former Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston to fill their huge void under center.
But after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell assumedly calls Winston’s name, and he throws on a Bucs cap, there is no telling which way or how the first round of the draft will go Thursday night at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre.
The Tennessee Titans are next up at No. 2 overall, and months of speculation have tied the franchise to either former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or one of several top defensive players in this year’s class, like USC defensive end Leonard Williams or Florida outside linebacker Dante Fowler.
Tennessee already has quarterback Zach Mettenberger on the roster, but it’s unclear if the team believes he is their long-term option and franchise leader, hence the possibility that Mariota will go No. 2.
However, the Titans have also been linked to reports that they are willing to trade the pick, possibly for San Diego Chargers Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers, who’s entering the final year of his current contract and is reportedly uninterested in the team’s potential move to Los Angeles.
Numerous teams have reportedly shown interest in Mariota, who claimed last year’s Heisman after throwing for 4,454 yards and 42 touchdowns and guiding Oregon to the inaugural college football playoff. Teams like the Washington Redskins at No. 5 overall, the New York Jets at No. 6 and the Chicago Bears at No. 7 could also snag Mariota by trading with Tennessee or hoping he falls to them.
The possibility that the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly, who formerly stalked the sidelines at Oregon and recruited Mariota, could also move up to select the quarterback. Kelly already completed two blockbuster trades during the offseason, shipping last season’s top running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills and acquiring quarterback Sam Bradford from the St. Louis Rams.
What the Oakland Raiders do at No. 4 could also shake up the early part of the first round. Oakland’s been tied to Alabama receiver Amari Cooper and West Virginia wide out Kevin White, both capable of helping the development of second-year quarterback Derek Carr. But the Bay Area squad is famously unpredictable with their draft selections and could surprise the rest of the league by selecting a top defensive player like a Williams, Fowler or even Missouri linebacker Shane Ray to a help a defense that allowed 28.3 points per game last season, the worst mark in the NFL.
And based off recent infractions away from the field, it’s unclear if such highly ranked players like Ray and Nebraska outside linebacker Randy Gregory will fall or if teams will look past their run-ins with the law. Ray, who racked up 14.5 sacks in his final season with the Tigers, was cited for marijuana possession earlier this week but new Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said Ray is absolutely still on the team’s draft board, according to Pro Football Talk.
Clearly, there’s a multitude of ways the draft can work out, but let’s try to make as many accurate predictions for the first round as possible.
First Round Predictions
1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
2) Tennessee Titans, QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
3) Jacksonville Jaguars, DE Leonard Williams, USC
4) Oakland Raiders, WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
5) Washington Redskins, OLB Dante Fowler, Florida
6) New York Jets, OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska
7) Chicago Bears, DE Shane Ray, Missouri
8) Atlanta Falcons, OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson
9) New York Giants, OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
10) St. Louis Rams, OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
11) Minnesota Vikings, OT Andrus Peat, Stanford
12) Cleveland Browns, WR Kevin White, West Virginia
13) New Orleans Saints, CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State
14) Miami Dolphins, WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
15) San Francisco 49ers, NT Danny Shelton, Washington
16) Houston Texans, OLB Bud Dupree, Kentucky
17) San Diego Chargers, DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State
18) Kansas City Chiefs, SS Landon Collins, Alabama
19) Cleveland Browns, ILB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
20) Philadelphia Eagles, CB Marcus Peters, Washington
21) Cincinnati Bengals, LB Shaq Thompson, Washington
22) Pittsburgh Steelers, DT Malcolm Brown, Texas
23) Detroit Lions, WR Jalen Strong, Arizona State
24) Arizona Cardinals, RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
25) Carolina Panthers, OT La’el Collins, LSU
26) Baltimore Ravens, CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
27) Dallas Cowboys, RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
28) Denver Broncos, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma
29) Indianapolis Colts, ILB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
30) Green Bay Packers, OLB Eli Harold, Virginia
31) Seattle Seahawks, WR Devin Funchess, Michigan
32) New England Patriots, DT Arik Armstead, Oregon
Start Time: Thursday, 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online: A live stream is available at Watch ESPN here