2015 NFL Draft: 15 names to watch
The 2014 NFL Draft is in the books, but it's never too early to turn an eye toward 2015 prospects. With plenty of top-tier players that could warrant first-round consideration, here are 15 draft-eligible names that you should keep an eye on this college football season.
MARCUS MARIOTA, QB, Oregon, Jr.(Credit: AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Mariota could have been the first quarterback off the board -- and maybe the No. 1 overall pick -- had he declared for the 2014 draft as a redshirt sophomore. He's 6-4, 216 pounds, very efficient with his passes and has great mobility, though he fell off a bit at the end of the 2013 season.
JAMEIS WINSTON, QB, Florida State, Soph.(Credit: Getty Images / Sam Greenwood)
"Famous Jameis" will be the 2015 version of "Johnny Football" in terms of media scrutiny. Winston is a redshirt sophomore, so he can declare for the draft after this season if he so chooses. The reigning Heisman Trophy and national championship winner has good size at 6-4, 228 pounds, has a great arm and is athletic enough to escape the pocket. His mechanics can use a little fine-tuning, though, and there are questions about his off-field maturity.
BRYCE PETTY, QB, Baylor, Sr.(Credit: Getty Images / Ronald Martinez)
A year after no senior quarterbacks were taken in the first round, Petty is the top senior signal-caller in this upcoming class and a likely first-rounder. He has a good mix of arm strength and accuracy yet has underrated mobility. He has all the tools to be one of the first QBs off the board next year.
TODD GURLEY, RB, Georgia, Jr.(Credit: Getty Images / Kevin C. Cox)
There hasn't been a running back taken in the first round since David Wilson in 2012. Gurley very likely could break that drought. When healthy, he's a dynamic, every down back who can break long gains as well as get tough yards up the middle.
MELVIN GORDON, RB, Wisconsin, Jr.(Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Sabau)
Gordon has a strong shot at going in the first round in 2015. He's a complete back with good size, speed, power and agility. He would have been the consensus top back on draft boards in 2014 had he declared as a redshirt sophomore.
AMARI COOPER, WR, Alabama, Jr.(Credit: Getty Images / Kevin C. Cox)
The talented Cooper battled nagging foot injuries in 2013, but still showed why he's considered the top wideout in this upcoming draft class. He reportedly ran a 4.31 40-yard dash for scouts after Alabama's Pro Day and is a dynamic playmaker.
CEDRIC OGBUEHI, T, Texas A&M, Sr.(Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson)
Texas A&M quickly is becoming a sort of "Offensive Tackle U" -- Luke Joeckel was drafted second overall in 2013, and Jake Matthews went sixth overall in 2014. Ogbuehi is the latest in the line of potential first-round Aggie linemen. He played guard his first two seasons before kicking outside in 2013 and is as good a run blocker as he is in pass protection.
BRANDON SCHERFF, T, Iowa, Sr.(Credit: AP / Charlie Neibergall)
Scherff was a potential first-round pick after his junior campaign in 2013 but chose to return for his senior season. He has good size at 6-5, 320 pounds and was an All-Big Ten selection.
VIC BEASLEY, DE/OLB, Clemson, Sr.(Credit: AP / J Pat Carter)
Beasley could have been a top-15 pick had he declared following his junior season. He's a great edge rusher with an explosive first step, though at 6-2 and 236 pounds he may be asked to play more linebacker at the next level.
LEONARD WILLIAMS, DE, USC, Jr.(Credit: AP / David Zalubowski)
Williams burst onto the scene as a freshman and only got better as a sophomore in 2013. He's a very good pass rusher who can slide inside on third-and-long or set the edge with his speed.
RANDY GREGORY, DE, Nebraska, Jr.(Credit: AP / Nati Harnik)
Gregory, a JUCO transfer, only has one season of FBS experience under his belt, but he showed flashes of being a potential first-round pick should he declare after the season. He has very good speed and can get into the backfield, though he is a little raw.
SHAWN OAKMAN, DE, Baylor, Jr.(Credit: AP / Tony Gutierrez)
Oakman is another late bloomer at defensive end after transferring to Baylor from Penn State following his freshman season. He has size (6-9, 270 pounds), moves very quickly and shows flashes of dominance both as a speed rusher and a bull rusher.
MARIO EDWARDS JR., DE, Florida State, Jr.(Credit: AP / Steve Cannon)
Edwards replaced 2013 second-round pick Cornelius "Tank" Carradine at right end and made an immediate impact with the Seminoles. He is athletic, has good speed to rush the passer off the edge and can stop the run. He is expected to play other spots along the line in 2014, which should boost his case for a potential first-round pick.
IFO EKPRE-OLOMU, CB, Oregon, Sr.(Credit: AP / Ted S. Warren)
Many people expected Ekpre-Olomu to declare for the 2014 draft, but instead he chose to return to school. He has all the traits of the top cornerbacks from the 2014 class rolled into one -- athleticism, physicality and hands. He's a little on the small side at 5-10, but he still should grade out as one of the top corners in the 2015 class.
LANDON COLLINS, S, Alabama, Jr.(Credit: AP / Butch Dill)
Collins replaced the injured Vinnie Sunseri at strong safety in 2013 and made Alabama's defense much tougher. He's a physical safety who is best in the box, but he also can play a little centerfield if needed.