We are less than a month away from the 2015 NFL Draft, and there could not be any more smoke. Whether it’s teams reportedly talking up Marcus Mariota, or potential trades involving players such as Sam Bradford to use as ammo to move up in the draft, the smoke screens are here and they’re probably not going away.
Regardless, now is the time to believe absolutely none of what you hear. The fact regarding weak quarterback drafts is that guys rated as Top 10 picks tend to fall. Jameis Winston is a lock to be drafted #1 and Leonard Williams is a lock for #2 overall, IMO. Marcus Mariota isn’t even a lock for the first round, let alone top 20, although we probably will see someone reach for him.
What I can guarantee is that Marcus Mariota will land with the Philadelphia Eagles with Sam Bradford starting for one season and not being traded. Bradford being in the last year of a contract paying him 12.9 million dollars makes no sense to acquire unless you’re team is a quarterback away from deep playoff contention, and there simply are no suitors out there that make sense. Rather, Bradford getting the chance to start for one season while Mariota learns the speed of the game and adjust in Chip Kelly’s NFL offense, makes much more sense.
I’ll also guarantee that the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints will be among teams making trades in this draft, while the New York Jets will likely be trading down if the receiver of their choice (Amari Cooper or Kevin White) doesn’t fall to them at six.
Regardless, enough with the guarantees. Here is how I see the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft going as of April 12th, 2015.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
There’s no reason for the Buccaneers not to pull the trigger here. With the offensive line having some quality starters, having very solid receivers to throw to and several rushers that can produce at an above average level with good QB play, this move makes too much sense and could make the Buccaneers a potential sleeper of a playoff team if Winston can adjust quickly with how weak the NFC South is.
Outside of the unexpected trade up to land Winston, there’s no reason for this move not to be made.
2. Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams, DT, USC
This guy is simply the best player in the NFL Draft and the Titans aren’t dumb enough to waste the #2 overall pick on a quarterback that frankly won’t do any better than Zach Mettenberger in 2015. Mettenberger has a reasonably high ceiling if he stays healthy and gets protection, and letting him have 2015 makes a lot more sense rather than gambling with a guy like Mariota. The Titans defensive line needs improvement and grabbing Williams will solidify a crucial piece of the interior defensive line immediately.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
What? The Jags not going defensive end? It’s possible. Justin Blackmon is making strides but is still an unknown. We know the guy can play, but how long can he stay out of trouble? This is a win-win and a no-brainer. You spent the #1 pick on Blake Bortles last year, you have the future at LT in Luke Joeckel, and now giving Bortles a true #1 will make a difference. Guys like Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee are promising but are likely no better than #2 receivers at best. If Blackmon comes back and is healthy, the WR corps goes from average-above average to elite with the presence of Cooper. If Blackmon is unreliable, Robinson or Lee still make for a great #2 with Cooper and there’s no excuse for Bortles not to produce.
This WR class is straight up loaded. The White/Cooper combo is similar to what we saw a few years ago with A.J. Green and Julio Jones. White is this year’s Jones and he will be a huge play maker and if they truly think Derek Carr is the future (which I personally doubt), they need to give him reliable weapons. This is a no-brainer if you ask me.
5. Washington Redskins – Dante Fowler Jr, DE/OLB, Florida
This guy is a stud and I may get some crap from folks who think this is too high, but I believe he’s the next best overall all around ‘tweener in this draft. The loss of Brian Orakpo leaves a significant void that Trent Murphy and Gabe Miller just won’t be able to fill. Fowler across from Ryan Kerrigan could be a deadly mix for the future while RGIII gets one more year to prove his draft worth.
Why not help shore up the offensive line with a stud like Peat who is a good bet to be a starter for years. Why not Brandon Scherff? Well, it could be him right here, but Peat is a bit more versatile in my eyes, not to mention I think the Jets may make a trade down or two into the early teens.
7. Chicago Bears – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
With the Bears making the switch to a 34 defense, they need to make sure that they’re sound defensively in the trenches. Shelton is going to make an impact immediately wherever he goes, he’s that good.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
I don’t think Gurley is worth a Top 10 pick. Nor is any RB after I watched Trent Richardson bust, despite being one of the best backs to come out of the college game perhaps since LaDainian Tomlinson.
But Atlanta is going to trade down here. They have no business drafting in the Top 10, anyway. Look for them to trade down to the late teens and grab Gurley/Gordon or perhaps a RT like Ereck Flowers. Sherff could be an option here if they want to invest that much money in bookend tackles after drafting Jake Matthews in the 2014 first round, but I don’t see it happening despite their cap space.
9. New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
This move makes too much sense with how bad the Giants OL has performed. Justin Pugh doesn’t look to become the future on the left side, so grab Scherff here and continue to protect Eli.
10. St. Louis Rams – La’el Collins, OT, LSU
This is a bit early for Collins, but the Rams could heavily benefit from a mauler on the right side opposite Greg Robinson. Yes, it is a lot of money tied up between two tackles, but it could be worth it if they can trade down and get a guy like Collins or Ereck Flowers.
11. Minnesota Vikings – Landon Collins, SAF, Alabama
The Vikings are loaded with young talent with the last three drafts all looking to be successful, or at least loaded with potential. Harrison Smith at FS is a stud, and they need to fill the gap at SS here with Collins who can be a force in run support, while they let Smith and his massive field range take the back of the field. This is a no-brainer, albeit a few picks high for Collins.
12. Cleveland Browns – Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
I love this kid and just wish I could have watched him spend 2014 with a real QB. He can stretch the field with his incredible speed and make plays all over the place. DeVante Parker is nice, but Perriman gets the edge. With Josh Gordon unlikely to ever suit up as a Brown again, getting a young stud at WR is a priority for the Browns while Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe offer up more ability over the middle of the field to let Perriman play down field a bit more.
13. New Orleans Saints – Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
Beasley has a lot of promise as an edge rusher at the next level with the right coaching and the Saints need to get help getting to the quarterback. Beasley or Randy Gregory fit here although most believe neither will make it this far.
14. Miami Dolphins – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
The loss of Brian Hartline hurts Ryan Tannehill, but adding Kenny Stills should alleviate that pain a bit. Tannehill had a coming out party in 2014 and if they want his success to continue, they’ll continue to add options. Jordan Cameron is a great addition, but he can’t be counted on to stay healthy. A healthy Jordan with Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker could make for a deadly offense.
15. San Francisco 49ers – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
This move makes sense, although the 49ers have a lot more to fill than paper looks. Waynes is physical and tough and fills a need right away with the inconsistent play of Tramaine Brock.
16. Houston Texans – Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
The value here is just too good to pass up. The need for an edge rusher can be justified, although they’re obviously hopeful that JaDaveon Clowney comes back healthy and stronger than ever. A rotation of Clowney, Mercilus and Gregory could be nasty.
17. San Diego Chargers – Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
This kid is worthy of a first rounder, and is a perfect candidate to replace Philip Rivers with a year or two of sitting and learning under his belt. Hundley is an incredible talent that helps build for the future of the Chargers, whether they stay in SD or not.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Armstead has a very Calais Campbell feel to him, although they have slightly differing play styles. Replacing Tyson Jackson is a must to continue to let Justin Houston and Tamba Hali dominate on the edge. Armstead is a big time talent that could go much earlier.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Phil Taylor is a fan favorite and when he’s healthy, he’s a great player, but the line simply needs depth and Taylor can’t be a three down player for 16 games. Goldman can help shore up that defensive line as the Browns are hopeful that they can shut down the run and watch Barkevious Mingo break out in his third season from the outside.
20. Philadelphia Eagles – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Eagles will find a way to get him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell right in their laps. Regardless, possibly making a trade with Atlanta or New Orleans can get them up higher to secure Mariota.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
I’m not truly that crazy about Ray as I’ve watched him more, but the potential is there. He’s a great fit for a 43 defense rather than standing up, and the Bengals mustered up just 20 sacks last season.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Peters is a Top 15 talent at corner that could be drafted that highly without the off-field issues. While the Steelers are dealing with their own issues with Le’Veon Bell suspended for three games to start the season, the reward outweighs the risk.
23. Detroit Lions – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (Fl.)
The Lions couldn’t run the ball consistently in 2014 and a big reason is the atrocious run blocking on the offensive line. Flowers could shore up the right side of the offensive line for years and gives the Lions bookend tackles assuming Riley Reiff can break out in 2015.
24. Arizona Cardinals – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
I don’t like having two backs in the first round, but the pick makes sense with their need for a RB. They’ve got a lot of talent on this roster, and if Andre Ellington stays healthy, they have a dynamic one-two punch in the backfield to alleviate the pressure for Carson Palmer.
25. Carolina Panthers – T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
Clemmings is a bit more technically sound than D.J. Humphries and could start immediately. The offensive line needs to be addressed and soon. The addition of Charles Tillman allows them to wait on a corner until the second round, although Kevin Johnson is a candidate.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
My fear with this pick is that Johnson doesn’t fit that AFC North mold of physical cornerbacks. But on the flip side, Jimmy Smith was ideal and that’s not working out as well. Johnson is a great pure cover guy that can aid in eliminating big plays.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Eli Harold, DE/OLB, Virginia
Harold is quite the talent and the Cowboys flirt with the hybrid defense at times which makes Harold a very sexy pick here. They could go with a corner like Jalen Collins or Byron Jones here as well.
28. Denver Broncos – D.J. Humphries OT, Florida
The right side of the line needs help in Denver and if they want to keep Peyton healthy for one more go around, they’ll help him out by running the ball. Humphries is athletic for his size and fills a need while being great value at 28.
The Colts added Trent Cole but they need some youth on the edge to assist with Bjoern Werener. Kikaha is a bit more technically sound and is a fit here.
30. Green Bay Packers – Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Kendricks is a first round talent when healthy, and albeit undersized, his instincts remind me of Donnie Edwards, another undersized guy who thrived in coverage but was a sound tackler. Paired up with Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Nick Perry, this linebacker corps could become even more potent.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle) – Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Collins is a safer pick than UConn’s Byron Jones, and fits in perfectly with the style of defense that the Saints like to play. This team needs depth at CB, and Collins could be a star with a pass rush.
32. New England Patriots – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
This is simply BPA. I doubt that Brown makes it this long, but he’s a guy who they would only need to come in and be a two down player to start his career before giving him a bigger role. We all know that Billy B likes to go BPA and this pick makes too much sense.