Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The New England Patriots' latest coronation as the NFL's top team puts the lid on the 2014 season and is also the unofficial kickoff to the league's offseason, specifically free agency and the draft.
For the 31 teams looking up at the Tom Brady and Co., it's the first opportunity to close the gap and begin their own climb toward the game's ultimate prize, the Lombardi Trophy.
With that in mind and the Indianapolis scouting combine on the docket for later this month, it's time to take our first look at the 2015 NFL Draft, which takes place from April 30-May 2 this year in an unfamiliar venue, Chicago's Auditorium Theatre.
The Sports Network's first 2015 NFL mock draft:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State - The off-the- field issues are a real concern, but Winston is light years ahead of Oregon's Marcus Mariota when projecting both to the professional level. Winston is NFL- ready and similar to Teddy Bridgewater in 2014 but possesses better size and physical skills than the Minnesota Vikings' starter. He does not have Bridgewater's maturity, though, and that will be a real issue for certain organizations especially after the disaster that was Johnny Manziel's rookie season in Cleveland. With no real answer at the game's most important position, the Bucs will roll the dice and keep Winston in the Sunshine State.
2. Tennessee Titans - Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska - Tennessee likes Zach Mettenberger and Ken Whisenhunt isn't about to change his whole offensive philosophy for Mariota, so if they can't trade out, expect the Titans to take the best pass rusher available in Gregory, a rangy 6-foot-6 prospect with the speed to make a big difference off the edge.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Leonard Williams, DT, Southern California - The Jags have gone offense in the first two years of the David Caldwell/Gus Bradley era (left tackle Luke Joeckel and quarterback Blake Bortles), and it's now time to get the Gus Bus a difference maker on the defensive side. Williams is the best interior defensive lineman in this year's process with upper-echelon athleticism and real functional-football strength.
4. Oakland Raiders - Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama - Derek Carr showed plenty of flashes as a rookie quarterback, but he needs some help outside the numbers if he plans to avoid a sophomore slump. Cooper will arrive in the NFL as a sharp route-runner with plus hands and tremendous short-area quickness.
5. Washington Redskins - Danny Shelton, DT, Washington - The massive Shelton had a great Senior Bowl week, flashing really impressive movement skills for a 345-pound guy. If he follows things up with a good showing at the combine, he'll solidify a top-10 spot and the Redskins could use a difference maker in the middle.
6. New York Jets - Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon - He's a project if you plan on running a traditional pro offense, but most rave about Mariota's athleticism, live arm, football IQ and work ethic, so he's a project who will pay off in the end. New Jets general time Mike Maccagnan has the time, so he strikes here.
7. Chicago Bears - Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida - A hybrid edge player, Fowler is a great fit for a team looking to rebuild its defense under new coach John Fox. Jared Allen is running on fumes at this point and Lance Briggs has probably played his last down in Chicago, so bringing in a player who can help in multiple spots should be a no-brainer for new GM Ryan Pace.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Shane Ray, DE, Missouri - You know Dan Quinn is going to want to bolster the front seven here and Ray will get the nod because the Falcons have some manageable parts on the interior with Paul Soliai and second-year man Ra'Shede Hageman. Ray, who blossomed last season after getting out of the shadow of Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, has a great first step and blinding 4.45 speed off the edge.
9. New York Giants - Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford - The Giants are still in the midst of rebuilding a shaky offensive line and taking Peat could enable them to either kick right tackle Justin Pugh inside to guard, where he would be much more effective, or move on from left tackle Will Beatty, who hasn't lived up to his big cap number.
10. St. Louis Rams - T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt - The Rams have some real issues at tackle because Jake Long's health is a very serious concern and right tackle Joseph Barksdale is set to test free agency. The talented Greg Robinson should kick out to handle one of those spots and bringing in Clemmings, a natural right tackle with a nasty disposition, could cure everything.
11. Minnesota Vikings - Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa - The Vikings need help on the left side and Scherff could serve two masters, taking over for descending veteran left guard Charlie Johnson and provide insurance for left tackle Matt Kalil, who will get one more chance to prove he can be the player he was as a rookie. The 6-5, 320-pound Scherff is a drive-blocking machine who projects as a very safe pick.
12. Cleveland Browns - Kevin White, WR, West Virginia - The Browns are so dysfunctional you never really know what they are thinking, but with Josh Gordon suspended yet again, getting a rangy 6-3 receiving threat like White would make a lot of sense for whomever is playing QB in the Forest City come 2015.
13. New Orleans Saints - Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington - The Saints had significant issues on the defensive side of the ball this past season and need a significant talent upgrade. Thompson is an instinctive 'backer who tackles very well, a big issue with New Orleans' stop unit.
14. Miami Dolphins - DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville - Mike Wallace hasn't really worked out in South Florida and the Dolphins could be looking to go in another direction. Parker doesn't have Wallace's speed nor his questionable attitude. He does, however, bring a big body to the dance, along with soft hands, body control and the leaping ability to high-point the football.
15. San Francisco 49ers - Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State - You simply can't replace a Justin Smith and the 49ers will likely do everything they can to convince the three-time All-Pro to play another season, but if they can't, getting a big body like Goldman could be a sound Plan B.
16. Houston Texans - Jalen Collins, CB, LSU - Kareem Jackson is scheduled to be a free agent and Collins is what NFL teams look for in cornerbacks these days, a long 6-2 player with the capability to be physical, along with the closing speed to make up for a mistake.
17. San Diego Chargers - Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami - The Chargers plan on moving the slow-footed D.J. Fluker inside to guard next season and need a more athletic option on the edge at right tackle. Enter Flowers, who is raw but flashes excellent quickness, especially as a run blocker.
18. Kansas City Chiefs - Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State - The Chiefs went through an entire NFL season in the most offensively-skewed era in history without throwing a TD pass to a wide receiver. Translation, they need a receiver badly and Strong is the best one left on the board, a 6-3 physical nightmare for opposing defensive backs.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) - La'el Collins, OT, LSU - The Browns would like to move right tackle Mitchell Schwartz inside and the 6-5, 310-pound Collins has the quick feet to handle the edge.
20. Philadelphia Eagles - Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State - The guess here is that Chip Kelly doesn't mortgage the future to go get Mariota and instead attempts to rebuild a shaky secondary. At 6-1, Waynes has the size and length Philadelphia craves on the outside, but he needs to bulk up a bit and get more physical.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky - The Bengals' pass rush was dismal last season with Carlos Dunlap proving to be the only somewhat consistent threat. Dupree projects as a productive pass rusher rather early with long arms and solid closing speed off the edge.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers - Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami - Cortez Allen was a disaster last season and Ike Taylor is on the downside, making cornerback the biggest need in the Steel City. Rollins put himself into the first-round conversation with an impressive Senior Bowl week in which he showed excellent coverage skills and the willingness to hit.
23. Detroit Lions - Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma - The hope is Ndamukong Suh is back, but the fact that both he as well as Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley could be on the open market makes the interior of the defensive line a big issue in the Motor City. Phillips is a big body with surprising athleticism who should be able to be at least a rotational player from Day 1.
24. Arizona Cardinals - Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin - It's time to stop messing around in the desert and get a legitimate bell-cow back who can take some of the load off a 35-year-old Carson Palmer coming off an ACL injury. Gordon has the vision, balance and strength to be a top-tier back for years.
25. Carolina Panthers - Cameron Erving - OT, Florida State - When your tackles are Byron Bell and Mike Remmers, it's time for an upgrade and Erving is the best one left at this point, a player who started at both center and left tackle for the Seminoles after moving over from the defensive side. A raw prospect, Erving has the feet to turn into one of the best pass blockers in football with sound and patient coaching.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn - Steve Smith is 35 and Torrey Smith is a pending free agent so Coates, a 4.3 speed merchant with size and ball skills, is a solid fit for a deep team with few holes.
27. Dallas Cowboys - Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson - Despite a great season, the Cowboys don't have a ton of talent on the defensive side and reclamation project Rolando McClain is a potential free agent. Beasley isn't the most natural run defender, but he's an athletic marvel with the best first step of any linebacker in the college ranks.
28. Denver Broncos - Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota - The Broncos' top three tight ends are all scheduled to be free agents, including star Julius Thomas. Williams looks like a younger version of Jason Witten, a true Y-back with the large catching radius and the ability to seal as an in-line blocker.
29. Indianapolis Colts - Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia - The Colts can forget about Trent Richardson and need to give Andrew Luck a little more balance to the offense with Gurley, who would project to go much earlier had he not torn his ACL in November. Gurley is a big, physical back who understands how to stick his foot in the ground, lower his pads and go.
30. Green Bay Packers - Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State - The Packers want Clay Matthews back in his comfort zone on the edge and that means plugging a hole in the middle. Enter McKinney, an athletic thumper who can control the point of attack.
31. Seattle Seahawks - Malcom Brown, DT, Texas - The Seahawks need to add depth to the front seven because there is no guarantee veteran Kevin Williams will be back. Brown is a wide body who could spell Brandon Mebane as a run defender.
32. New England Patriots - Landon Collins, SS, Alabama - The rich get richer. Yeah, the world champs just re-upped Patrick Chung, but he's limited and Collins is too good to pass up at this point despite having some coverage deficiencies.
OTHER POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND SELECTIONS::
Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina
Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan
Markus Golden, DE/OLB, Missouri
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Eli Harold, DE/OLB, Virginia
Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami
Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
Daryl Williams, OT, Oklahoma
P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State