For football fans, Christmas in April is finally here. No longer will we have the endless smokescreens, and the pre draft tearing down of prospects. And fortunately, we didn’t have the extra week of build up that we did last year. There are plenty of interesting names to monitor for their actual and sometimes alleged decision making in the first round tonight. Regardless, this weekend isn’t just about the 32 guys in the first round . It’s about the 250 plus drafted players and then the guys who will be brought into camps that have worked towards their dream of being able to put on an NFL helmet.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB Florida State: Very rarely these days does it seem like a sure thing for a player to be the number one pick, but Winston seems to be one of those cases. The Buccaneers seem to have been zoned in on him for quite some time. Unless the team receives a godfather offer to move down, it would be shocking if Winston is not the pick here.
2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon: My guess is Mariota will be the second pick of this draft even if it isn’t the Titans selecting him. While I’m not one to project trades in mock drafts, it seems there is plenty of interest around the league for this pick with Mariota in mind. The Titans say they are satisfied with Zach Mettenberger, but if you don’t have a franchise quarterback it’s hard to pass on someone who could be that guy. If the Titans do pass on Mariota and keep the pick, Leonard Williams and Dante Fowler would be players likely to receive consideration.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE Florida: The Jaguars actually had an underrated pass rush last season, but they’re still looking for that yearly double digit sack player. Fowler himself said he would even be shocked if the Jaguars passed on him and right now he seems to be the favorite. But don’t eliminate the Jaguars throwing a curveball here. Last year the Jaguars shocked the football world by taking Blake Bortles third overall. It wouldn’t be surprising if players such as Williams, Amari Cooper or (my personal darkhorse) Vic Beasley are considered here as well.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR Alabama: The Raiders think they’ve finally found their quarterback in Derek Carr who they selected in the second round last year. Now it’s time to get him some weapons. It has been a decade since the Raiders have had a thousand yard receiver (no, seriously) and Cooper has the ability to come in right away and change that. Other players that could be considered here include Williams (the odds on favorite if they pass on Cooper), Kevin White and Fowler.
5. Washington Redskins: Leonard Williams, DE USC: Somehow, the player viewed by many as the best player in this draft falls to 5th overall. The Redskins have said they don’t really want Williams, but that is either a smoke screen or a play to have teams calling about trading up. Beasley is a legitimate option for the Redskins as they would love someone with his ability to rush the passer from the outside. Despite that, the value of taking Williams could be too much to ignore for the Redskins or a team such as the Falcons.
6. New York Jets: Vic Beasley, DE Clemson: Despite two dominant anchors on the defensive line in Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, the Jets are still lacking a big time pass rusher. Beasley looks like he could be that guy for new head coach Todd Bowles who could come up with creative schemes for Beasley to showcase his abilities. Despite adding Brandon Marshall in the offseason, receiver could still be a possibility if Cooper is available. This is also the first pick where Todd Gurley will likely receive some serious consideration as well.
7. Chicago Bears: Kevin White, WR West Virginia: After trading Brandon Marshall, the Bears have a new need for a playmaker opposite Alshon Jeffery. White would give Jay Cutler another big target with the ability to create both after the catch and vertically. If the Bears don’t go with White, chances are they will address their defense. A pass rusher could be in play here along with nose tackle Danny Shelton.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE Kentucky: Word came out recently that the Falcons would be interested in trading up from this spot. Most likely so they could land either Williams or Beasley (who would be a fantastic fit under Dan Quinn) if available. Lacking a dynamic pass rusher since John Abraham left, the Falcons are still likely to go that way even if they stay put. Dupree is a player who has really benefitted from the draft process.
Along with testing extremely well at the combine, it has been said his interviews with teams have also been great. While there are still some questions about if Dupree padded most of his stats against inferior competition, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Falcons took a shot on him as he figures to go in this general area regardless.
9. New York Giants: Todd Gurley, RB Georgia: Late talk has been that there is a chance Gurley, coming off his ACL surgery is still a top ten pick. To me, this is where it makes the most sense. Jerry Reese over the years has shown he will go with the best player available, and if healthy Gurley would likely be a top six pick. Neither Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams were overwhelming when given the chance to be the lead back either. While the team could go with a lineman such as Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat or Ereck Flowers here, my guess is the huge potential of Gurley is too much for Reese to pass up.
10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Scherff, T Iowa: For what seems like an ongoing occurrence for quite some time, the Rams still need offensive line and receiver help. At this point, I expect them to go with a lineman as the top two receivers are off the board (even though they’re supposedly high on DeVante Parker). In this scenario they’ll have their pick of everyone, and Scherff seems like he is regarded by most as the top lineman in this draft while having the ability to play tackle or guard.
If it isn’t Scherff, Andrus Peat (another player they’re supposedly high on), Parker or Kevin White if he was available could all be in play.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes, CB Michigan State: It seems DeVante Parker has been a popular prediction here being Teddy Bridgewater’s college teammate and fitting a need at receiver. While it is in play, the Vikings will realize there is receiver depth later in the draft and that they recently acquired Mike Wallace to go along with Charles Johnson who impressed down the stretch and Cordarrelle Patterson who will be entering the third year his career which will be very important for him. Mike ZImmer also loves corners.
In a division going against tandems such as Calvin Johnson/Golden Tate and Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb multiple times a year, two very good corners is crucial and it appears they have one already in Xavier Rhodes. Waynes is one of if not the best prospect at the cornerback position in this draft class and he has the size and physicality to match up with those receivers. Other players who could be considered here include Kevin Johnson, Byron Jones and the aforementioned Parker.
12. Cleveland Browns: Andrus Peat, T Stanford: The Browns have said they’re going to solidify the trenches by focusing on their offensive and defensive lines in this draft. Despite needing a receiver with DeVante Parker available, I expect them to pass on him and stick to the plan. Peat was in debate with Scherff in the early goings for top tackle prospect, subpar workouts led to his stock diving a bit, and now rumors are saying he might not get out of the top 10. If Peat isn’t the pick here, players such as Ereck Flowers, or nose tackle Danny Shelton should be among the top options.
13. New Orleans Saints: Kevin Johnson, CB Wake Forest: One thing that’s clear entering this draft is the Saints need to address the defensive side of the ball. While I originally slotted Shane Ray here, a change was needed after one of the dumber pre-draft decisions in recent memory. A big corner who is smooth in coverage, Johnson seems to have been flying up boards lately. Some teams supposedly have him listed as the best corner in the draft.
In a division where they face Julio Jones, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin a combined six times, Johnson would be a huge help. Don’t be surprised if the Saints do try and trade up if they’re really interested in one of the top pass rushers. With this pick and the Seahawks first rounder via the Jimmy Graham trade, they have the ability to do it. The Saints could still consider Ray along with pass rushers such as Randy Gregory or other corners such as Waynes or Byron Jones.
14. Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker, WR Louisville: One thing about the Dolphins that you could say about their real life counterpart is they like to make a splash. They’re frequently linked with big name players and this year hauled one in signing the dominant Ndamukong Suh to a contract reserved usually for franchise quarterbacks. That’s why it was no surprise when rumors came out they are “enamored” with Todd Gurley despite Lamar Miller running for 1,000 plus yards last season. The Dolphins could still address the interior of their offensive line and cornerback, but for current needs (and splash factor) Parker is my prediction here.
At this time, the Dolphins don’t have a number one receiver and Parker has the potential to be one. They traded Mike Wallace (recipient of a splash deal whose biggest strength was Ryan Tannehill’s biggest weakness), Jarvis Landry was very effective in the slot and would probably be best served there. Newly acquired Kenny Stills will start as he has deep speed and runs nice routes, but Greg Jennings isn’t the long term answer to start alongside him. Rarely do splash moves coincide with need and value, but Parker would fit the bill if available. Player such as D.J. Humphries, Ereck Flowers, Gurley and Trae Waynes could also be considered here.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Arik Armstead, DE Oregon: If you follow the NFL and have been living under a rock the past few months, you’d notice the 49ers defense isn’t what you’d expect. One of the strongest units in the league just a few years ago is a shell of its old self. But one thing the 49ers did to build up that defense was build in the draft so they’re going to do it again. In need of a corner, they’d love for Waynes or Kevin Johnson to be here, but that looks unlikely.
Instead, I have them going with the physically imposing Armstead who would be a great fit as the heir apparent to Justin Smith as a 3-4 end. He’s an interesting prospect as the measurables show top ten pick, but the tape leans more towards second or third round. The 49ers have the internal player development to make this work. Along with the corners, a receiver such as Breshad Perriman would have to be considered here.
16. Houston Texans: Breshad Perriman, WR UCF: The Texans are in an interesting situation here. They don’t have a long term answer at quarterback, but obviously aren’t in a position to pick a first round guy. Another pass rusher would be nice, but Jadeveon Clowney is coming off his micro fracture surgery. That basically leaves defensive back and receiver as the main positions needing to be addressed. Heck, Todd Gurley if he manages to get here could seriously be in play.
However, some feel Perriman might not even make it to this point and his skill set would fit in well starting opposite DeAndre Hopkins. This is a deep class for receiver, so even if they pass on him the Texans will likely still address the position. However, the potential of Perriman could just be too much for the Texans to pass up.
17. San Diego Chargers: Ereck Flowers, T Miami (FL): The Chargers are a team that has been linked to going up and trying to trade for Marcus Mariota. But in today’s NFL, Philip Rivers has at least three or four more years left in the tank. In order for that to happen, the team needs to address the offensive line. Flowers has gained a lot of buzz of late and makes sense here as he is a tackle, but also has the ability to play guard. Other players that could be considered include Andrus Peat, D.J. Humphries, La’El Collins and Todd Gurley (if available, he will probably be the pick).
18. Kansas City Chiefs: D.J. Humphries, T Florida: After adding Jeremy Maclin in the offseason, while it is a need the Chiefs can address other positions here. With a special talent in Jamaal Charles, there are worse ideas than finding lineman who would make life easier for him. That’s not even considering how the line last year allowed their fair share of sacks. I originally had La’El Collins mocked here, but he is being questioned for something so heinous I’m not even going to cover it here. The other top tackles in the draft likely to be picked in your teens or early 20’s (Peat, Flowers), Cameron Erving, corners such as Byron Jones or guys such as Kevin Johnson and Trae Waynes would also need to be considered if available.
19. Cleveland Browns: Danny Shelton, NT Washington: As addressed with my write-up on the 12th pick, the Browns want to address their offensive and defensive lines. I originally had Shelton at 12, but figuring there would be a run on tackles right before this pick, figured the Browns could choose from a wider selection addressing that side early. Then again, that line of thinking could makes some sense and we’re dealing with a dysfunctional front office.
Either way, I think Shelton ends up a Brown whether it is at 12 or 18. The Browns struggled against the run this past year and Shelton has the tools to be a force in the middle of the line for years to come. Other options would include an offensive lineman (if not addressed previously) or a receiver such as Breshad Perriman.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Byron Jones, CB Connecticut: Jones wasn’t a known prospect among casual NFL fans, but that changed come February at the combine. In a performance that set a world record and started thousands of “There’s no chance he falls past the Raiders” jokes, Jones had entered the realm of all-time great sports pre-draft workouts (joining other such as Mike Mamula, Vernon Gholston, Yi Jianlian vs. his chair, etc).
But the thing is Jones can play. A shoulder injury cut his 2014 season short but regardless of the combine performance, Jones was going to gain buzz due to his size and coverage ability. While Chip Kelly and the Eagles roster purge of 2015 could continue, they’re in need of secondary help. Jones would certainly fit if they stayed put with the 20th pick. The other corners mentioned throughout the mock along with Eric Rowe, Damarious Randall and receivers such as Breshad Perriman, Jaelen Strong and Nelson Agholor are in play here as well.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR Oklahoma: It may seem like it was just a few years ago in which the Bengals roster had more baggage than a Vietnamese warehouse, but times have changed. They have been one of the best drafting teams in the league for the last half decade or so constantly hitting on mid round picks finding guys who were undervalued. With a foundation strong enough to compete for the AFC North every year, the Bengals can afford to take a risk on a talented guy with some character risks.
Green-Beckham just off the tape alone would be a top 10 to 15 pick. However multiple issues resulted in him being in kicked off the Missouri team and serving as a practice player at Oklahoma this past year. The Bengals threw a ton of money Andy Dalton’s way last offseason and while he can get your team to the playoffs, doesn’t seem capable of getting it done without anyone to scare defenses opposite A.J. Green. Green-Beckham would give them that and if the Bengals recent success with previously troubled players is an indication, he should be able to buy into the team’s culture. Other guys to consider here would include Malcom Brown, Randy Gregory, Eli Harold and Eddie Goldman.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Randy Gregory, DE Nebraska: Somehow, the Steelers almost always have top talents in the draft fall to them. Rather it’s by sheer luck, or in this scenario failing a drug test you knew about months in advance. The Steelers are in need of pass rushers and defensive backs at this point. With three corners gone the way I have the draft unfolding, this seems like it would be a great area to take Gregory, who at the beginning of the draft process was considered a top five pick. If available, corners such as Kevin Johnson and Byron Jones would likely be considered along with Landon Collins or a player such as Eric Rowe.
23. Detroit Lions: Malcom Brown, DT Texas: Martin Mayhew and company supposedly pick going off of who is their best available player. I have a hard time picturing this considering that after watching Eric Ebron and Odell Beckham Jr. both run and catch footballs they decided on Ebron. Because you know, pairing Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate with an athletic tight end who has shown trouble catching with his hands and didn’t block would be the trio to strike the fear of god into defenses.
Tangent aside, if Brown is here he not only fits need, but is one of if not the best player available on the board. The Lions could also go with an offensive lineman that falls (possibly someone I have mocked in the late teens or D.J. Humphries) or do the classic Lions move of going with a flashy pick in Melvin Gordon despite more pressing needs.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Kendricks, LB UCLA: The Cardinals have said they wanted to improve their linebacker corps, and in this scenario, they’d land Kendricks who to many is the best inside linebacker in this draft. He can play the run and the pass which would make him a valuable commodity in their 3-4. The Cardinals could target a tackle or corner with this pick, Shane Ray (would fit a need if the team is comfortable with taking him) and maybe even a 3-4 end such as Arik Armstead (who would be ideal if available).
25. Carolina Panthers: Jake Fisher, T Oregon: The Panthers lately have had success lately drafting for need. In desperate need to find a tackle to protect Cam Newton, they’re most likely going with the best tackle available here. In the case of how I have the draft unfolding, that tackle could be Fisher who has been very underrated through this process. Depending on how things go, Ereck Flowers, D.J. Humphries, La’El Collins (if the team isn’t scared about his questioning) or another wideout such as Breshad Perriman could be considered.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin: Like the Steelers, the Ravens always seem to be fortunate in having talented players fall to them. While running back is not their most pressing need, someone of Gordon’s caliber would be too much to pass up here. Despite Justin Forsett having a very nice 2014 season, Gordon offers some open field ability that would add another dimension to the offense. A receiver such as Perriman if he fell, Jaelen Strong or a falling but talented player such as Shane Ray are also possibilities here.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Collins, CB LSU: It seems a lot of people would really want to see the Cowboys take Melvin Gordon here. But in this instance, he’s off the board. While the defense was improved in 2014, it is still vulnerable. In a division with plenty of talented receivers who can beat you in a variety of ways, cornerback could be the way to go. In this case, Collins who has all the physical measurables could be the highest rated guy on the board. I would guess this pick is going defense, so other defensive backs such as Landon Collins, Damarious Randall, Byron Jones or Eric Rowe could be considered. Also don’t rule out the possibility of a linebacker as Sean Lee’s repeated injuries may want the team to have a strong backup plan internally.
28. Denver Broncos: Cameron Erving, C Florida State: The Broncos offensive line has seen better days and if Erving is available, they might not even wait to turn in the card. He has the potential to be a very good pro as both a guard or a center and the interior of the line is where they need the most help. Laken Tomlinson and other offensive lineman such as T.J. Clemmings could also be options if Erving is off the board.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Landon Collins, S Alabama: It’s a testament to how good Andrew Luck is that the Colts were able to make it to the AFC championship with that roster. The offensive line has various holes and so does the defense. With Mike Adams getting older, the Colts could be in big need of some safety help as early as this year. Collins is rated by many as the top safety available and would be tough to pass up if available here. Other options could include Eric Rowe, a tackle who happens to fall, T.J. Clemmings, a nose tackle such as Jordan Phillips or Laken Tomlinson.
30. Green Bay Packers: Eric Rowe, CB Utah: The Packers would love for Eric Kendricks to be here as acquiring him would allow Clay Matthews to play the outside. However, in this case he is not available. In the NFC North, you are always in need of corners and Rowe (if he makes it here) is a great value for the talent he has. The size, athletic traits, versatility and ability are all there to make this one of the better values in round one. Despite re-signing B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion, the Packers could use some help up front on the defensive line. For that reason players such as Eddie Goldman or Jordan Phillips could be considered here along with any other defensive back options. If the Packers did want to go to a linebacker who could play inside, players such as Denzel Perryman or Benardrick McKinney could be names to watch.
31. New Orleans Saints: Eli Harold, LB Virginia: Assuming they don’t trade up for a pass rusher or take one at 13, the Saints would still need to address that area of the defense. Harold if available, would be a good if available as some feel he could rush the passer either with his hand on the ground or from the outside as a linebacker. A receiver such as Phillip Dorsett (who Sean Payton has supposedly been gushing over)to replace Kenny Stills is also in play. Some are also even thinking Bryce Petty could slip into the first round here.
32. New England Patriots: Eddie Goldman, DT Florida State: Let’s face it, there is a good chance this pick will be traded. Some team is going to want a player who won’t be there when they’re selecting in the second and have the control of a fifth year option. The Patriots are able to do this every year, because there will always be teams sold on a player or a general manager making panic deals to retain their jobs.
If they do keep it, there are issues the Patriots could address. Replacing Vince Wilfork is one of them and Goldman would be a great value at this point in the draft. The team could also address cornerback by adding a versatile player such as Eric Rowe, a guard such as Laken Tomlinson or maybe even go receiver. But if you think Bill Belichick drafting a receiver early in the draft is an indication for future success, Chad Jackson and Aaron Dobson would like to have a word with you.