NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Are you tired of winners / losers NFL Draft columns? I know I am, and I also know I will probably write one up at some point soon. Nonetheless, let’s hand out some cyber hardware for the 2015 NFL Draft.
Marcus Mariota (QB)- Tennessee – Rd 1 Pick 2
Tennessee passed on multiple trade offers, which could have involved multiple first round picks and veterans, to take a chance on Mariota. While considering already ditching the Mettenberger Bandwagon and passing up on 4-7 potential players, I consider Mariota a bold play to say the least.
Todd Gurley (RB)- St. Louis – Rd 1 Pick 10
You know you’re good when the entire crop of Rams’ running backs were demanding a trade right after the selection. The Rams knew running back wasn’t a huge need with Tre Mason and Zac Stacy but said “Screw it, let’s take the best football player on the board”. I’m a huge fan of Gurley, so even though the need wasn’t there, I absolutely love the pick (but hate the fit for Gurley himself).
Marcus Peters (CB) – Kansas City – Rd 1 Pick 18
Some teams had Peters off the board. Most probably felt a pick in the teens was a steep risk for the troubled Peters. Nonetheless, Peters in my eyes was the best player on the board and had legitimate top 10 talent. People felt Kansas City could have went elsewhere here (WR particularly), but Peters improves that secondary immediately and can help combat the loss of All-Pro Eric Berry. The risk factor is huge here considering the major off field concerns, making it a power move to say the least.
Landon Collins (S)- New York Giants – Rd 2 Pick 33
The Giants paid with a fourth and seventh round pick to move up seven spots to grab Collins at the top of the second round. I personally think Collins is a great fit in New York, and I applaud the Giants for doing what it took to move up and get their guy. The Titans got a pretty good haul in this trade, receiving DGB, Jalston Fowler and Tre McBride.
Devin Funchess (TE)- Carolina – Rd 2 Pick 41
Funchess is a good player, but he better turn out to have a Kelvin Benjamin like impact in Charlotte. The Panthers made arguably the biggest bold move of the day by moving up 16 spots to select the Michigan hybrid. They paid with their third and sixth round picks after the second round exchange.
Randy Gregory (DE/OLB)- Dallas – Rd 2 Pick 60
It seemed clear that NFL teams felt even though Gregory had legitimate top 10 talent his off the field concerns were not worth the risk. He reportedly blew off meetings and showed up late to other interviews with NFL teams. He also, as you know, failed a combine drug test. At a certain point though you have to wonder when the risk is worth the reward. If Gregory can stay on the field I think the match in Dallas could be lovely for both sides. Depending on how much Greg Hardy’s suspension gets lowered Gregory could see favorable match ups most of his rookie year.
People will say how bold could it be drafting the most talented CB on the board at 18? Well, did you see how far guys like Randy Gregory fell for off the field concerns (different circumstances – but still). Peters has lockdown, #1 CB, Pro Bowl potential written all over him. He also may get kicked off the team. For a team looking to improve for a play off birth, that is quite the risk – and the boldest play of the draft.
Leonard Williams (DE) – New York Jets – Rd 1 Pick 6
I don’t think many Jets fans saw this one coming. With both QB’s off the board, Jacksonville was on the clock. I thought Williams was a good fit here, but the Jags opted for the flashy and talented edge DE Dante Fowler Jr – more of a pressing need as viewed by some in the organization. Oakland was next. They chose to give Derek Carr some help with Amari Cooper over the hometown guy – that was fine. At 5, I assumed Williams was the play. He just had to be, right? Wrong. The Skins’ added Brandon Scherff to help patch up one of the worst offensive lines in the league last year. So there you have it, the story of how the best overall player in the draft fell to #6.
Malcom Brown (DT) – New England – Rd 1 Pick 32
I had Brown listed at #10 on my Patriots big board, and most viewed him as a teens to early 20s kind of pick. I didn’t envision a scenario where he got past Indianapolis in my wildest dreams. Regardless, Brown fell right into the lap of the defending champs, and looks to play a pivotal role in the defense next year after the loss of Vince Wilfork.
Owa Odighizuwa (DE) – New York Giants – Rd 3 Pick 74
You either are an Owa believer or your not. Put me in the former. He’s a very raw athlete who is excellent against the run. We aren’t sure yet what he can be as a pass rusher as UCLA didn’t use him extensively in that role, and his pass rush skills are in the elementary stages. I think his ceiling is high, and the Giants could have taken one of the best players in this draft here. For a guy who I could have seen go late in the first round, I think this was a great pick.
Eli Harold (OLB) – San Francisco – Rd 3 Pick 79
I had a first round grade on Harold. This is an upside play here. He wasn’t always consistent in tackling at Virginia and needs to become more instinctive, but he’s a great athlete for his size and has good pass rush skills. He reminds me of Jamie Collins at Southern Miss, and I can envision Harold as a star in the NFL in a few years.
Tre Jackson (OG) – New England – Rd 4 Pick 111
All three of New England’s fourth round picks deserve consideration for this award (Trey Flowers, Shaq Mason), but since Jackson is my favorite of the trio I’ll give him the nod. I thought for sure he was a high 3rd round guy at the lowest, so for him to fall to New England at #111 is an absolute steal. For a guy who may end up starting 16 games next year, Jackson is a great value play.
Michael Bennett (DT) – Jacksonville – Rd 6 Pick 180
I have no idea how Bennett fell this far, even considering the groin issue. I had a 3-4th round grade on Bennett as I viewed him as one of the best interior pass rushers in this class. He played an integral part on the National Champions last year, dominating the middle of the field. He wins with his quickness, and should be a nice piece to an already pretty stout and underrated Jaguars defensive line.
And the winner is…
Tre Jackson. Leonard Williams came close, but for a guy like Jackson to be around in the fourth round, combined with his position being the biggest overall need on the team, I thought he was the best choice here. If the Patriots picked Jackson in the second round most would have viewed that as an excellent pick, so to get him in the fourth was just gravy. Jackson figures to compete for a starting job next to former FSU teammate, Bryan Stork.
Phillip Dorsett (WR) – Indianapolis – Rd 1 Pick 29
Let’s get the ball rolling with Indy. I’m all for the ‘best player available” line of thought. Seriously, I am. However when you can’t stop the run to save your life, have big needs at offensive tackle, and have four solid receivers on the roster already taking another one in the first round was unnecessary. The Colts essentially already have Phillip Dorsett in the form of TY Hilton, as well as Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief and Duron Carter. I just don’t see how taking a fifth receiver helps close the gap on New England when the Colts let Jonas Gray (199 yards 4 touchdowns) and Legarrette Blount (148 yards 3 touchdowns) run wild on them last year in two separate games.
Stephone Anthony (ILB) – New Orleans Rd 1 Pick 31
If Anthony turns out to be a star, then this is a swing and miss on my part. For me I just had multiple ILB’s ranked ahead of Anthony, and certainly didn’t see him as a first round pick. He fills a need however, so if the former Clemson linebacker can contribute right away this won’t seem like a bad pick. For now however, I have my doubts.
Frank Clark (DE) – Seattle – Rd 2 Pick 63
Since it is Seattle, I should just shut up and trust the pick. That being said, arguably nobody had as many off the field concerns in the draft then Clark. I view Clark as a 3-4 round talent,not considering the off the field concerns. If he is able to stay out of trouble, which is a major if, he could be the Bruce Irvin replacement if he isn’t resigned next offseason.
Jordan Richards (S) – New England – Rd 2 Pick 64
I personally wasn’t bothered by the pick one bit. I just chuckled, grinned, and moved on. It wouldn’t be a Patriots draft without selecting a player in the second round who was projected as a 6-7th round pick. Richards will contribute immediatly on specials, and probably bump former questionable second round pick Tavon Wilson off the roster. My issue isn’t the player, it’s the value. Why take a guy so high when he in all likelyhood will be there in round 6? Then again, if somebody knew how good that scrawny nonathletic quarterback from Michigan would be in the 1999, he would have gone first overall and not 199th.
And the winner is…
Cmon, who else could it be. Dorsett may turn out to be an absolute gamebreaker, but even then I still may question the pick. New England just ran flat over Indianapolis both times last year – literally. They used most of the remaining duration of the draft to select defensive players, but I thought Malcom Brown or Eddie Goldman were good picks for Indy. The secondary needs major work as well, so Landon Collins could have been a nice fit as well.
Best Trade (Team listed first is who I view as the big winner, doesn’t mean the latter ultimately lost the trade however)
DET (#28, #143, 2016 5rd, OG Manny Ramirez) / DEN (#23).
Detroit moved down five selections in the first round from #23 to #28 so Denver could select Shane Ray. Detroit wound up with OG Laken Tomlinson, a great fit, and a guy they probably were taking at #23 regardless. They also received a 5th round pick (later traded to MIN) in this and next years draft, as well as a player who can step in and play right away in Manny Ramirez if needed. Denver got their explosive pass rusher in Ray, who could replace DeMarcus Ware when he goes down with his customary week 10 season ending injury this year.
CLE (2014 1st Rd, 2015 #19, #115) / BUF (Sammy Watkins)
Oh yes. Buffalo’s bold move last year had major implications on this daft as well. Cleveland didn’t really play the 2014 draft the way they should have, but they nailed it this year. With two free picks in this draft, Cleveland took one of the most pro-ready players in the draft OG/C Cameron Erving as well as Ibraheim Campbell, a player with real upside, in the fourth round.
WAS (#95, #112, #167, #181) / SEA (#69)
It was refreshing to see a team like Washington, so used to giving up picks to move up, calmly move down the board for a feast of picks later. Seattle paid a significant price to move up and get Tyler Lockett, the electric receiver from Kansas State who figures to help on special teams as well. When your Seattle, you can afford to do 4 for 1 trades to get a guy who can contribute. I thought Washington used their picks well getting a solid running back in Matt Jones, solidifying the offensive line some more with Arie Kouandjio and secondary with Kyshoen Jarrett. Their 5th rounder was involved in a later trade made with New Orleans.
NYJ (#82, #152, #229, Devier Posey) / HOU (#70)
Houston gave up three picks and a young receiver to go up and select Jaelen Strong near the top of the third round. I view this trade as a clear win/win. Houston gets good value for Strong at #70, and the Jets got two additional picks and a young player who maybe can contribute just to slide down 12 picks. This was a very un-Jetslike draft this year, as they made great decisions throughout the seven rounds. The Jets haul in this included Lorenzo Mauldin and Jarvis Harrison (#229 traded to JAX).
NE (#111, #147, #202) / CLE (#96, #219)
For New England, this made all kinds of sense. They already had double picks, so trading out of 96 was something they had high interest in anyway. They slid down the board 15 picks (selected Trey Flowers in the mean time thanks to the Logan Mankins trade) and got their guy anyway – Tre Jackson. The fifth round pick was eventually traded to GB for Brett Hundley, which was a 2 for 1 swap. At #202, the Patriots selected NEPD’s favorite player in the draft – A.J. Derby. The Browns haul included Xavier Cooper and Hayes Pullard. At the end of the day, combined with both trades, this was a 5 for 3 trade – a classic Belichick move.
TEN (#40, #108, #245) / NYG (#33)
This was a win-win. New York moved up to take their guy Landon Collins at #33. Collins should start right away, and was in my eyes the best safety in the draft. Tennessee was poised to take Dorial Green-Beckham at the top of the second round, and did so seven picks later after the trade. DGB will give Mariota a massive playmaker to throw too, on top of Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, and Justin Hunter. Tennessee stockpiled two free picks in this trade in a way, selecting the versatile FB from Alabama Jalston Fowler and one of the best values in the draft WR Tre McBride.
And the winner goes to…
I’m a huge DGB fan, so it is the Tennessee / New York deal. They were taking DGB anyway, and got to take two of the more intriguing prospects in the whole draft in Jalston Fowler and Tre McBride for free. New York paid for it, but got their man to help sure up that secondary. A good deal all the way around.
Best Pre-Rookie Mini Camp Draft
Last year, people were screaming how great Cleveland drafted when taking Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, so take this with a grain of salt.
Really liked what Pittsburgh did from pick #22 to pick #239. First of all, Bud Dupree fell right into their laps at #22. I don’t think Pittsburgh could have asked for much more then that. In the second and fourth round the Steelers continued revamping their secondary with Ole Miss CB Senquez Golson and Ohio State CB Doran Grant. The real sleeper was WR Sammie Coates in the third round. Coates has phenomenal upside with a team who is arguably the best at developing receivers in the entire league. Two solid day three picks that got my attention were Miami (FL) DE Anthony Chickillo and Louisville S Gerod Holliman. Other picks include Penn State TE Jesse James and Central Michigan DT Leterrius Walton.
I would have gone Leonard Williams at #5, but it’s tough to argue with taking the top OT in the entire draft in Brandon Scherff considering their offensive line issues. The ball kept on rolling with MSU DE Preston Smith, Florida RB Matt Jones, Duke WR Jamison Crowder and G Arie Kouandjio. All five will have a great chance to contribute next year. I also really liked the Martrell Spaight pick in the fifth round and ultra versatile S Kyshoen Jarett in the sixth round. Other picks include Arkansas CB Tevin Mitchel, Ohio State WR Evan Spencer, and USF C Austin Reiter.
New England Patriots
This was as typical a Belichick draft as possible. The Patriots got unbelievable value with DT Malcom Brown (#32), DE Trey Flowers (#101), OG Tre Jackson (#111) and OG Shaq Mason (#131). They also had a few head scratchers with S Jordan Richards at #64 and developmental DE Geneo Grissom at #97. Three day 3 guys to keep your eyes on are MSU OLB Matt Wells, Arkansas TE A.J. Derby and Alabama DE Xzavier Dickson. And you just know Belichick couldn’t help himself by using a fifth round selection on a long snapper from the Naval Academy, Joe Cardona. The Patriots also snagged a late round CB from Marshall, Darryl Roberts. I expect 8 of these guys to make the final roster.
New York Jets
The Jets absolutely killed their draft, there’s no better way to say it. It started off with the best player in the draft, Leonard Williams, falling through circumstance into their lap at #6. The Jets came back and got one of my favorite receivers in the entire draft, Devin Smith, at #37. I wasn’t the biggest Lorenzo Mauldin fan in the world, but it’s hard to argue with the value at #82. The jury is out on QB Bryce Petty – but in the fourth round it was worth the risk. The Jets also turned a seventh round pick into Zac Stacy. Unclear if Stacy will make the final roster, but probably more talented then most players on the board at that juncture. OG Jarvis Harrison and DT Deon Simon round out the class.
The Browns had extra ammunition for this class thanks to the Sammy Watkins trade, and boy did they cash it in. The Browns took one of the most disruptive players in college football, Danny Shelton, at #12. If Shelton was off the board by #12, Malcom Brown could have been the pick. The Browns came back 7 picks later and took one of my favorite prospects, Florida State OG/C Cameron Erving. They added some pop to their offense in the middle rounds with RB Duke Johnson and WR Vince Mayle, while solidifying the defense with OLB Nate Orchard, DT Xavier Cooper and S Ibraheim Campbell. Don’t forget about their last pick – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. I’m not a doctor nor will I intend to have any true knowledge of his injury situation. But I do know this, if Ifo can come back and be 80% of the player he once was, Cleveland got an absolute steal at #241. Louisville CB Charles Gaines, MSU TE Malcolm Johnson, USC TE Randall Telfer and ILB Hayes Pullard complete the class.
While nobody else is paying attention / cares, the Jaguars have put together some nice draft classes in a row. Leonard Williams would have probably been my pick, but Dante Fowler Jr. is the most explosive rusher in the class and fits a more pressing need. My only questionable pick for them was #36 – T.J. Yeldon. I’m just not a huge fan of Yeldon, and think the Jaguars reached at 36 for him. I think a few other backs that were on the board would have been better, but we’ll see. I loved the next four selections however. A.J. Cann at #67 was a great value, and a guy who should start next year. Louisville S James Sample, Florida State WR Rashad Greene and Ohio State DT Michael Bennett are all guys who I feel will contribute at a high level next year. They finished up by taking Monmouth WR Neal Sterling and Notre Dame TE Ben Koyack.
And the winner is…
Cleveland. Yes Cleveland, you won something finally. I thought the Browns from start to finish did an exemplary job. Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving is an impressive first round haul to say the least. Combine that with solid mid-round guys like Nate Orchard, Duke Johnson and Xavier Cooper and the depth issue is starting to go away. I’m going to say this now – Vince Mayle is going to be a star in the league. Screenshot it, save it, do whatever you want with it. If not, feel free to fire away on twitter in a few years. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will likely be a ‘red-shirt’ this year, but if he can bounce back and contribute 2016 and beyond .. my goodness .. the Browns may actually be onto something.