NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Another NFL regular season is in the books and it’s time to shift focus to NFL Draft Season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by former Patriots Personnel man Jason Licht own the #1 overall pick followed by the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders. As things stand right now there is a good chance Oregon QB Marcus Mariota will be taking his talents to the West Coast of Florida, but after that this draft is filled with question marks and uncertainity. Here’s how the 2015 NFL Draft could look four months from now with one caveat — everything will change.
1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
A no brainer pick at this point. Tampa has some pieces to build around on both sides of the football, but lack stability and talent at the Quarterback position. This is a great landing spot for the dynamic Mariota as he can grow in tandem with Mike Evans, giving the Buccaneers one of the best young QB-WR tandems in the league. Tampa will definitely consider Jameis Winston, but given his off-field and character concerns, Mariota is the safer selection.
2) Tennessee Titans – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Nashville is the ideal spot for Jameis Winston. Winston will enter the league with similar fanfare to that of Johnny Manziel, but by landing in Nashville Winston avoids a big media market and intense media scrutiny. Ken Whisenhunt should be able to nuture the immature QB and give the Titans a “face of the franchise” player which they’ve sorely lacked the last five plus years.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Williams, DE, Southern California
A rare defensive line talent with the size, athleticism, and explosiveness to play anywhere on the defensive line. Williams’ skill-set is an ideal fit in Jacksoville where head coach Gus Bradley can use his versatility to provide disruption from multiple alignments. Williams might be the safest player in the entire draft as he’s NFL ready and has an incredibly high “floor”. He’d be an immediate difference maker and a defensive building block.
4) Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Raiders hit a home run with last year’s first round pick Khalil Mack and are poised to add another impact talent this year. The Raiders are in an ideal draft situation as they’ll avoid the questions about picking another QB and can stand pat to take the best player available. Derek Carr showed enough promise as a rookie to get fans exicited and now it’s time to add dynamic playmakers around him. Amari Cooper is the best skill position player in the draft and fills a massive need in Oakland.
5) Washington Redskins – Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
Pass Rusher isn’t a huge need for the Redskins, but with the fifth pick Randy Gregory is too good to pass up. I’m sure the Redskins would love to get offensive line help with this pick, but there probably isn’t one worth taking this high. Brian Orakpo will likely leave in free agency and Randy Gregory gives them the best pass rusher in the draft. Quite frankly the Redskins have too many needs to draft for need this high in the draft. Just take the best player and move on.
6) New York Jets – Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Jets drafted Sheldon Richardson out of Mizzou in 2013 and that pick was a huge success. Look for the Jets to go back to the Missouri program and select Richardson’s former teammate. Ray is an explosive and dynamic edge rusher with an electric burst off the snap. He’ll be asked to replace the aging and unproductive Calvin Pace. It’ll be interesting to see what type of coach the Jets hire and if the coaching change alters the teams 3-4 defensive alignment.
7) Chicago Bears – Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
It’s no secret the Bears secondary is a complete disaster. Kyle Fuller started off his rookie season on fire, but quickly fell back to earth. Other than Fuller, there is no one worth keeping in the Bears defensive backfield. The Safties are especially terrible and Landon Collins is simply the best defensive back on the board. The Bears could add to any position on their defense, so if this is too high for Collins Linebacker or Defensive Line make sense as well.
8) Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The Falcons desperately need pass rushers as they once again struggled to create consistent pressure throughout the season. Personally, I believe this is too high for Vic Beasley. There is a large group of 1st-2nd round edge rushers and it remains to be seen how they sort themselves out after Gregory and Ray go off the board. While Beasley has some limitations there is no denying his potential as an edge rusher.
9) New York Giants – Brandon Schreff, OT/OG, Iowa
New York must continue their offensive line rebuild. Schreff’s versatility would allow the Giants to play him at Offensive Guard initially and then move over to either Right or Left Tackle. A pass rusher like Dante Fowler will be in the mix here as well, but if the Giants get the opportunity to select he best Offensive Lineman in the draft they need to take it.
10) St. Louis Rams – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Rams are a talented team that lack a consistent a QB. It’s unlikely they can get their starting QB at #10, but what they can do is continue to add top shelf defensive talent to their front seven. Adding one of the most electric playmakers in college football to a front seven that already consists of Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, Chris Long, Alec Ogletree, and James Lauranitis is an amazing possibility.
11) Minnesota Vikings – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Matt Kalil had a disasterous season and while it’s likely he’ll be given another shot next season the Vikings can use all the Offensive Line help they can get. Stanley has experience playing both Tackle positions and probably offers the most upside of any Tackle in the draft. Stanley can play on the Right Side in 2015 and if Matt Kalil continues to backslide, then Stanley becomes a valuable insurance policy.
12) Cleveland Browns – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Cleveland has two picks between 12-20 and should be able to acquire two starters for their 2015 team. Josh Gordon can’t be relied on and even if he’s back in Cleveland next year they still need another legitimate receiver. Parker adds size, strong hands, and the ability to win at multiple levels of the passing game. Parker missed two months of the season with a foot injury, but came back and dominated the opposing defensive backs down the stretch.
13) New Orleans Saints – Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida
After a strong 2013 campaign the Saints defense reverted back to their dismal play in 2014. A lot of their problems were a result of their inability to rush the passer. Outside of Cam Jordan and Junior Galette the Saints don’t have another pass rusher worth mentioning. Fowler is an ultra-versatile defender that understands how to use his hands and attack blockers. He’ll improve the Saints pass rush as either a 3-4 OLB or 4-3 End.
14) Miami Dolphins – La’El Collins, OT/OG, LSU
By the time the draft rolls around Collins might be the top ranked Offensive Lineman. Collins can play almost any position on the line and would slide into one of the Dolphins Guard spots. Ju’Wuan James looked great as a rookie and Branden Albert will return from injury to play Left Tackle, adding Collins will help solidify the interior of what could be a great line.
15) San Francisco 49ers – Kevin White, WR, West Virgina
Watch the 49ers offense play and it’s blatently clear they lack speed on the outside and desperately need more athleticism at Wide Receiver. White exploded onto the CFB scene in 2014 making big plays and easily beating coverages. His ball skills are among the best in the draft as he routinely wins the battle for 50-50 balls. With Michael Crabtree a free agent to be, White can replace that production as a rookie.
16) Houston Texans – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Ever off-season we talk about how the Houston Texans need to upgrade their Cornerbacks and this year is no different. Waynes is a physical corner with impressive size and an intense compete level. While no CB has established themselves as the clear “top guy” just yet, Waynes has a skill-set that will be highly sought after during the draft.
17) San Diego Chargers – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
DJ Fluker is penciled in at Right Tackle, but like always the Chargers have issues at other spots on their O-Line. Peat is a natural Left Tackle with great size, length, and movement skills. He might not be ready to step in and start from day one, but he can supplant King Dunlap after a season to give the Chargers long term bookend tackles
18) Kansas City Chiefs – Bernardick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Joe Mays and Josh Mauga are the Chiefs starting Inside Linebackers. Even though they’ll get Derrick Johnson back at the start of next season they need a long term Inside Linebacker to solidify the middle of that defense. With a defense that consists of Poe, Houston, Ford, Johnson, and McKinney the Chiefs can dominate teams with their front seven.
19) Cleveland Browns – Eli Harold, DE/OLB, Virginia
After adding a starting Wide Receiver with their first pick the Browns come back and supplement their pass rush with Harold. He’s flying a bit under the radar right now, but expect that to change once more film is watched. He’s an explosive edge rusher who’s just scratching the surface.
20) Philadelphia Eagles – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
I don’t feel good about putting a player who was kicked off his college team for insubordination and blowing up on coaches in the first round. However, unless the Eagles want to spend another season watching Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams get burned then they’ll have to take a chance on the mercurial Peters. He might be the most talented corner in the draft, but his baggage will weigh him down.
21) Carolina Panthers – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
By sneaking into the playoffs the Panther fell out of the top ten and all the way down to pick #21. Luckily for them they should still be able to get an Offensive Tackle to plug and play. The team never adequately replaced Jordan Gross and ultimately it could be their downfall.
22) Baltimore Ravens – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
After releasing Ray Rice the Ravens were able to get great production from journeyman Justin Forsett, but he’s not a longterm answer for the Ravens. Melvin Gordon is an electric playmaker and not only will improve their running attack, but will add a layer to the passing game that was lost with Ray Rice’s demise.
23) Pittsburgh Steelers – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
Phillips has received little draft hype up to this point, but that will change when he declares. He’s a 6’6″ 334 lbs. monster who missed most of the 2013 season with a back injury. He came back in 2014 to start all 12 games and has been a force in the middle of the Sooners defense. Expect Phillips to declare for the draft and quickly move up draft boards.
24) Detroit Lions – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Ndamukong Suh is almost certain to leave via Free Agency and cash in on a massive pay day. Goldman might be the best defensive tackle in the draft with tremendous upside. The Lions have other needs such as Offensive Line, Linebacker, and Corner, but in the mid-20’s getting a player like Goldman is too much to pass up.
25) Indianapolis Colts – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Reggie Wayne is finished and the Colts need to find another playmaker to pair with TY Hilton. Donte Moncrief showed flashes as a rookie, but he’s not even close to the talent of DGB. If not for his lenghty off the field history Green-Beckham would be going much higher. The Colts have shown they are willing to roll the dice on players and DGB is the biggest boom-bust player in the entire draft.
26) Green Bay Packers – Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
Shelton made the wise decision to return to school for his Senior season and greatly improved his draft status by doing so. Shelton is that rare type of Nose Tackle that makes plays and creates disruption from the Nose, he’s not just a space eater. He’d be a great fit in the middle of that Green Bay 3-4 defense and improve a Defensive front that has under-performed at times in the 2014 season.
27) Arizona Cardinals – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
The Cardinals have overcome injuries and overachieved all season. They have plenty of talent at Wide Receiver, so imagine adding a RB with the ability of a Todd Gurley to the Cardinals backfield. A tandem of Andre Ellington and Todd Gurley to go with a WR threesome of Fitzgerald-Floyd-Brown is as good as any weapons in the NFL.
28) Cincinnati Benglas – Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas
Geno Atkins wasn’t the same player in 2014 after his knee injury and his drop-off in play has been felt all season. The Bengals have struggled to rush the passer, so they could definitley opt for an edge rusher in this spot, but adding another defensive tackle that’s nearly impossible to block 1 on 1 will make Geno Atkins’ job a lot easier. When Geno Atkins returns to health it will give the Bengals a fearsome pair of defensive tackles.
29) Denver Broncos – TJ Clemmings, OL, Pittsburgh
The Broncos have played a game of musical chairs on the Offensive Line to account for their hole at Right Tackle. They went as far as shifting Pro Bowl Guard Louis Vazquez to Right Tackle in an attempt to stabilize their line. Expect the Broncos to take an OT in the first two rounds and one that can play Right Tackle in 2015.
30) Dallas Cowboys – Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
It’s no surprise that the Cowboys will be targeting pass rushers in the late first round. After lossing Demarcus Ware the Cowboys pieced together their edge rush rotations, but they’re still very short on talent. Calhoun can rush the passer, but also flashes against the run.
31) New England Patriots – Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
The Patriots have some young, dynamic players on their defense and I expect them to keep adding to the mix in the early rounds of the NFL Draft. They’ve struggled to rush the passer this season without blitzing and lack the depth necessary to overcome injuries to Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Dupree is the best edge rusher left on the board and a player with sparkling intangibles. He offers the Patriots the type of versatility they like from their edge players and should make their front seven even more dynamic next season, along with the return of ILB Jerod Mayo. Many will project Wide Receiver or Offensive Guard with this pick, but those are two positions where Bill Belichick has never used a first round pick (Mankins was originally drafted as a tackle). It’s more likely they’ll supplement their pass rush and then add to their Offensive Line as Guards can be found in the middle rounds easier then pass rushers.
32) Seattle Seahawks – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Letting Percy Harvin go was probably the best move the Seahawks made all season. While their offense doesn’t require big time talent at receiver it won’t hurt to add a big, talented playmaker like Strong to their roster.