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NFL Draft: Up, up in the air


JACKSONVILLE – Seventeen days remain until the 2015 NFL Draft.

Those days will be filled with speculation. As NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah sees it, that speculation will sound and look different depending on what you read and watch, with the '15 draft as difficult to project as any in recent memory.

"I can't remember one where it was more up in the air," Jeremiah said on a Monday conference call that also featured NFL Media analyst Charles Davis.

How uncertain is Round 1? Even what was once widely considered certain at the very top of the April 30-May 2 NFL Draft might not be as certain as once believed.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston long has been projected as the No. 1 selection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski made headlines over the weekend when he told CSN's Philly Sports Talk that he was hearing from sources that the Bucs now will take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Though Jeremiah and Davis each project Winston to the Buccaneers at No. 1, Davis said he believes there is a better chance of the Buccaneers taking Mariota than he once believed. Jeremiah added that a decision by Tampa Bay to draft Mariota almost certainly would mean a quarterback-quarterback combination at No. 2.

The reason is while there is debate among analysts about the likelihood of Tennessee and Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt selecting Mariota No. 2, Jeremiah said Winston would fit the Titans' scheme well enough to make taking him an easy decision.

"If Jaws is on to something there, I think Tennessee and Ken Whisenhunt will be pretty elated," Jeremiah said. "I think he's a perfect fit for what Ken Whisenhunt wants to do."

Jeremiah said the rest of the draft is even more open, particularly at positions such as pass rusher, wide receiver, running back and offensive tackle.

"There's a lot of variance with the way people feel about these players this year," he said. "It's going to make for a lot of drama on draft night, because I don't think anyone has a good feel for how these guys are going to come off."

Also on Monday:

*Davis and Jeremiah each ranked Dante Fowler Jr. of Florida No. 1 among available pass rushers.  Davis said he ranked Randy Gregory of Nebraska No. 2 and Jeremiah said he had Gregory ranked as highly as any edge rusher before Gregory tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Each has Shane Ray of Missouri at No. 3 and Davis said he has Vic Beasley of Clemson ranked No. 4 followed by Bud Dupree of Kentucky. Jeremiah said he expects an early run on edge rusher in the Top 10, with Davis saying the Jaguars likely will take one at No. 3.

*Jeremiah said the draft's top two receivers – Amari Cooper of Alabama and Kevin White of West Virginia – could tempt teams to trade up in the draft. He said Cooper, White and Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker are three of the safest players in the draft. …

*Jeremiah and Davis each praised Leonard Williams. The Southern California defensive end/tackle long has been projected as the draft's top non-quarterback, and both analysts said projection to the contrary likely is pre-draft over-analysis. "He can do anything you want to do," Jeremiah said. "He's outstanding with his hands. To me, he's as advertised at the very top."

*Davis said while safety is at a premium in the NFL changes in the college game have made it a more difficult position to find in the draft. The free safety position in particularly is considered weak in this class. "A lot of the guys who would be candidates to play safety in the NFL are playing outside linebacker in college," Davis said. Davis said that's because college defenses are trying to get more speed on the field at outside linebacker to play against spread offenses. …

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