NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock has burned up his phone minutes and pressed the flesh with general managers, coaches, and scouts around the league in order to get a good sense of what will happen Thursday night, when the 2015 NFL Draft kicks off.
While it's too hard to predict exactly what will happen, given the unpredictable nature of the draft, Mayock did his best to link teams with players in his first and only mock draft of the year.
Here are nine things we learned from Mayock's mock:
1. Titans pull trigger on Mariota
It's no secret the Tennessee Titans are working the phones to trade the No. 2 overall pick, but Mayock doesn't see that happening. Instead of going with Leonard Williams, Mayock sees Ken Whisenhunt and the Titans brain trust starting the Marcus Mariota era in Nashville. It's bold, but all signs have been pointing toward it for a few weeks.
"Bottom line, does he need to find a comfort level with an NFL offense? Yes, but I think this team will do that for him," Mayock said. "If you're going to bet on a kid, bet on the athlete who is smart as heck with a great work ethic."
2. Ray, Collins fall out of first
For two very different reasons, Missouri edge rusher Shane Ray and LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins have been at the center of the news cycle, and it's not a good thing for their draft stock. Ray was recently cited for marijuana possession, and Collins is being sought for questioning in a murder investigation, although he is not a suspect.
Mayock sees the pair falling out of the first round as a result. That's a big surprise to some, since each has long been considered a potential top-10 pick, but the off-the-field issues could have a bigger effect than previously thought in the mind of Mayock.
"I talked to several teams today, and the bottom line is, if he's not in some way officially cleared and the team knows he will not be involved in an investigation, how can you draft him?" Mayock said, adding that Collins would be off his board.
3. Williams falls to Washington
USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams is widely considered the most talented player in the draft, and Mayock agrees. So it's a little interesting to see Williams drop to the Redskins and new GM Scot McCloughan, who surely would do a fist-pump. It wouldn't be shocking to see Jacksonville grab pass rusher Dante Fowler, Jr. at No. 3, given Jacksonville's needs and style of defense, but the Raiders bypassing a defensive playmaker for a wide receiver in Amari Cooper at No. 4 might raise an eyebrow.
4. Dupree cracks top 10
Kentucky's Bud Dupree might be the biggest riser in the weeks leading up to the draft, and there's a strong chance he'll benefit from the fall of Shane Ray and others. After being a fringe first-rounder when the process started, he finds himself in the top 10 of Mayock's mock draft, at No. 8 to the Atlanta Falcons, and is a prospect coaches can't wait to work with.
5. Erving shoots up board
One name that stands out among the offensive linemen going high in Mayock's mock draft? Look no further than Florida State's Cam Erving. He's a versatile prospect who played tackle in college but finished his college career at center, which is where many see him playing in the NFL. Going No. 18 to Kansas City seems pretty high based on most draft projections, but Andy Reid doesn't mind going against conventional wisdom.
6. Gregory, DGB stay in first
While Shane Ray and La'el Collins won't be Day 1 picks, Mayock still sees Missouri/Oklahoma wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and Nebraska pass rusher Randy Gregory staying in the first round despite several off-the-field issues. Green-Beckham would be a big target to replace Jimmy Graham for New Orleans, and Gregory would land with the defending champion Patriots, no strangers to taking in prospects who might have an issue off the field.
7. Late run on offensive linemen
Mayock has six offensive linemen going in the bottom third of the first round, includingthree straight between Detroit at No. 23 and Carolina at No. 25. The only minor surprises might be fast-rising Cedric Ogbuehi winding up in Indianapolis to protect Andrew Luck once fully recovered from an ACL injury and Oregon's Jake Fisher winding up as a perfect fit in Gary Kubiak's new scheme in Denver.
8. Kelly stays put at No. 20
It's tough to predict what Chip Kelly will do in the draft, but Mayock has the team staying put at No. 20 overall and -- surprise, surprise -- grabbing another Pac-12 player in Arizona State safety Damarious Randall. "He's probably the fastest-rising prospect in this particular draft because of his coverages skills," Mayock said. "This kid is today's NFL safety."
9. RBs return, DLs do not
Mayock agrees with most that running backs will return to the first-round this year. He sees Todd Gurley (San Diego) and Melvin Gordon (Cleveland) going within a pick of each other in the middle of Day 1. Interestingly, Mayock doesn't see many true defensive linemen being selected Thursday. While some like Bud Dupree and Dante Fowler might put their hands on the ground occasionally, only Leonard Williams, Danny Shelton, Arik Armstead and Malcom Brown will do so on every down. Seems like a light class in the trenches on defense.