Another week, another mock draft! This time, with some trades thrown in! We are only 10 days away from the beginning of the NFL Draft, and here is one permutation of how things could shake out on April 30.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Until I hear otherwise, Jameis will be the pick for the Bucs. All the buzz suggests that he’s going to be their man moving forward and that he’ll be throwing beautiful lobs to Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans for years to come. Winston was at his best at FSU when he had a big receiver in Kelvin Benjamin to bail him out. Now, he will have two massive target, plus breakout candidate Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
It’s the most obvious option—that is the only thing tethering me to this pick at this point. The Chargers seem poised to make a move up to grab Mariota and flip Philip Rivers for him. In my mind, this would be a mistake. The Titans are too damaged and have too many issues for Rivers to fix them. Rivers is not in the Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers tier at the position and cannot carry a team by himself. The Titans would be smarter to take potentially the best quarterback in this class and build around Mariota.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Vic Beasley, EDGE, Clemson
Last year, the Jaguars smokescreened everyone by making them think they were going to take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Instead, they pivoted to Christian Bale in American Psycho doppleganger Blake Bortles. Now, all of the noise seems to be clustered around yet another Tiger. For the time being, Beasley is slotted in here as the LEO if Duval County’s dreams, but a surprise choice could definitely shake this selection up.
4. Oakland Raiders: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
While a pass-rushing combination of Dante Fowler and Khalil Mack would be extremely tempting, the two names that have been attached to this pick are Williams and Kevin White. It’s a coin flip between the two, and in this case the Raiders end up getting the big defensive tackle that many in the league feel is the next Richard Seymour. My personal comparison for him is ex-Steelers 5-tech Aaron Smith. Either way, Williams promises to be a good player.
5. TRADE! San Francisco 49ers (from Washington Redskins): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
This is one of those trades that, quite simply, makes sense for both sides. The Niners are reportedly in love with Cooper and want him to be Colin Kaepernick’s newest top weapon. Meanwhile, Scot McCloughan needs to amass more picks in order to rebuild Washington. For a couple of extra selections, the Niners are able to make their move and get their guy. They wanted to move up and get Mike Evans last year, but the Raiders roadblocked them. Now, San Francisco has a true No. 1 receiver.
6. TRADE! St. Louis Rams (from New York Jets): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
With one wide receiver off the board, the Rams feel compelled to make a move and snag the other blue-chip prospect before he slips too far. White is a versatile threat who may have his best football ahead of him. The Rams have seemingly been one piece away from contention for the longest time. Now with Nick Foles at the helm, they have a big-bodied receiver who is similar to another weapon currently on the roster, Kenny Britt.
7. Chicago Bears: Dante Fowler, EDGE, Florida
There is a decent amount of buzz around Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead at this slot, but I’m getting the impression that much of it is smoke. The Bears are also big fans of Ray McDonald, the ex-Niner who was accused of domestic violence and left San Francisco in a cloud of controversy. Fowler is considered by some to be the best edge player in this class, and he has the potential to key the Windy City’s pass rush for years to come.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Bud Dupree, EDGE, Kentucky
Dupree is an athletic freak of nature who popped up on the NFL’s radar last year and continued to churn his way to top-10 status over time. The Falcons are extremely lacking in terms of pass-rushers, and Dupree has extremely rare athletic ability. Dupree is considered to be a hard worker and should slot nicely into the D Block in Atlanta.
9. New York Giants: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
The Giants are at an interesting pivot point in this draft class, but Peat makes sense here given their need at offensive tackle. It seems inevitable that Justin Pugh will get bumped to guard, and William Beatty is a little injury prone. Peat is a massive man with great recovery ability and footwork that will make him a valuable commodity to teams. The Giants could alternatively go with a defensive lineman here, but the value would not make sense.
10. New York Jets (from St. Louis): Brandon Scherff, OG, Iowa
A left tackle at Iowa, Scherff should play guard at the next level. He has the potential to be the next Logan Mankins, and his tenacity at the point of attack would be a welcomed addition to the Jets’ offensive line. Scherff played quarterback in high school, and he is a special athlete that Todd Bowles could mold into a dynamic player. He will help to take the Jets’ run game to the next level and offer Geno Smith some stability in pass protection as well.
11. Minnesota Vikings: La’el Collins, OL, LSU
A run on offensive linemen! Many have pegged a cornerback at this pick (either Trae Waynes or Kevin Johnson, and don’t sleep on Byron Jones either) but Collins would fill a massive need for a Vikings rushing attack that will probably be without Adrian Peterson moving forward. Collins is a top-five overall player in this draft class for me. His presence will give Minnesota a mean, dynamic force on its line and help keep Teddy Bridgewater off of his back.
12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Parker and Dwayne Bowe are not going to make anyone think of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but the duo could end up being one of the more potent couples in the NFL. Parker is a big body with dynamic open-field ability and has better hands than many people give him credit for. Whomever is behind center for the Browns will be able to feed Parker the ball and allow for him to gain yards after the catch. Parker, at his best, will remind Clevelanders of former top-5 draft pick Braylon Edwards.
13. New Orleans Saints: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
By all accounts, Peters’ character issues were slightly overblown, and he should still be one of the top cornerbacks off the board. Many NFL personnel seem to think the issues Peters had with coaches at Washington were personal with them, and they are fine giving him a second chance—for better or worse. Peters is a dynamic coverman who can play any type of coverage and has a lot of athletic ability. He, in terms of talent, is the best cornerback in this class.
14. Miami Dolphins: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Johnson has endeared himself to many pro scouts with his ability in off-man coverage along with his hands, intelligence and ability to change direction. While Johnson is not the biggest player, he plays intelligently and could be ideal in an off-man scheme. The Dolphins have a need at cornerback, and I’ve heard that Johnson is extremely high on their board.
15. Washington Redskins (from San Francisco): Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Collins came into the season with top-5 hype, but he has some limitations that could scare certain teams away. Collins is not a true single-high safety, but he adds intensity in the box that will bring some meanness to Washington’s defense. Despite his issues in the deep third of the field, Collins may well be the best safety the team has had since Sean Taylor (RIP) roamed the secondary.
16. Houston Texans: Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri
Ray has gotten some flack for not testing as well as some of his comrades in the class, but he still has a definitive role on a team as a secondary pass-rusher. The Texans pride character over all else, and the sense I’ve gotten is that Ray may be the apple of their eye. Ray could team with Jadeveon Clowney (aside: please get healthy, Jadeveon) and Whitney Mercilus to give the Texans one of the most ferocious pass-rushing rotations in the NFL.
17. San Diego Chargers: Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
Even though I personally love Kendall Reyes as a player, he is completely miscast for the Chargers’ current defensive scheme. Armstead is a high-riser who brings a lot of upside to the table. He is a former offensive lineman with great feet and awesome burst who is at his best when the stakes are high. Armstead could team with Corey Liuget to give the Chargers two dynamic 3-4 defensive linemen.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
Rodney Hudson was an underrated cog in Kansas City’s offensive line, and the team needs to replace him as quickly as possible. Erving is versatile and thrived at center when he played it this year. He would immediately elevate the Chiefs’ run-blocking game, as he opened up many of Dalvin Cook’s biggest holes last year at Florida State.
19. Cleveland (from Buffalo Bills): Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Hrm. Another SEC running back for the Browns. Seems a little weird, but Jimmy Haslam is a little weird. Last year, the Browns had a compromise system where Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine each made a pick. If Pettine gets his choice, I’m hearing they want to move up for the already-picked Armstead. However, since he’s off the board, Haslam says “Eff it” and commands that the Browns take the dynamic Bulldog. Gurley is a top-5 talent overall, but an ACL injury presents an issue. However, if he pans out, the Browns could have two great weapons from this class in Gurley and Parker.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Agholor has been quietly rising up draft boards due to his tenacity, explosiveness and versatility. He seems to be solidly penciled in as the fourth receiver behind most of the major ones (although Breshad Perriman could give him a run for his money), and Chip Kelly is apparently a big fan. Agholor could combine with Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz to give the Eagles a really nice, young receiving corps. Who knows, though? Maybe they still end up making a move for Mariota.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Randy Gregory, EDGE, Nebraska
Gregory has slipped a lot in this draft class due to his positive drug test and his laissez-faire attitude about practice. He also has reportedly not interviewed well. However, the Bengals have eschewed character issues in the past, and they are going to want to get their hands on Gregory to block their rivals in the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers from snagging him. Gregory could be the best edge player in this class…if he wants to be.
22. TRADE! Arizona Cardinals (from Pittsburgh): Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Cardinals are often jokingly referred to as Steelers West, and I think they end up jumping the Detroit Lions with their long-time buds to take Gordon here. Andre Ellington is not an every-down back, and Gordon could prove to be just the bell cow to help take some of the pressure off of Ellington. Gordon and Ellington would join Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, giving the Cardinals some of the most dynamic weapons in the NFL.
23. Detroit Lions: Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
The Lions have a lot of needs, but the word is that they want to toughen up the defensive side of the ball first and foremost. Jones jumped onto the scene with his absurd NFL Combine performance, but there is so much more about him that makes him an appealing pro player. He is extremely intelligent, has wide receiver hands and as long as his footwork improves, he has the potential to be a superstar at the next level. Do not be surprised if Jones is the first cornerback off the board in 2015—it would be a completely justifiable pick. Some teams see him as the “good guy” version of Marcus Peters.
24. Pittsburgh (from Arizona): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Steelers need a ton of help on defense, and it starts at the cornerback position with Waynes. While they could potentially wait until later and select Mike Tomlin-darling Quinten Rollins from Miami (OH), Waynes is too valuable at this point in the draft. Waynes is extremely athletic but does play soft at times, and his change of direction is questionable. In many ways, Waynes is similar to the player that he would be replacing, Ike Taylor.
25. Carolina Panthers: Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
Fisher burst onto the scene at the Combine with an incredible performance, and injuries prevented him from reaching his full potential under Mark Helfrich at Oregon. The Panthers are currently starting Michael Oher at tackle, which is never a good thing. Fisher strikes me as arguably the best tackle in the class if he can stay on his feet. He will try to give Cam Newton stable protection for the first time in the young quarterback’s career.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
With Torrey Smith gone, Perriman seems like an ideal fit to take his place. He is big, strong, and athletic, and he should be able to function really well with Joe Flacco. Perriman’s hands are questionable, but at this point, he would be the top player on the board for Ozzie Newsome.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
For a bad college team, Washington sure does have a lot of good defensive prospects this year. Shelton’s hype got a little bit overinflated earlier in the draft process due to his high sack numbers, but he’s not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. He just needs to be rotated and managed in the correct manner. Shelton would be a nice interior piece for the Cowboys, helping bolster their run defense and pass rush.
28. Denver Broncos: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Humphries is similar to Fisher insofar that he is one of the most athletic tackle prospects in this draft class. He has a ton of upside and can plug in immediately on Peyton Manning’s right side, which was problematic for Denver last year.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Eric Rowe, S, Utah
Rowe is an intriguing hybrid player who can play cornerback or safety at the next level. The Colts view him as a safety and are reportedly extremely high on him. He could help to give them some stability on the back end next year.
30. TRADE! Oakland (from Green Bay Packers): Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Packers opt to trade back because of their lack of needs and the draft’s shortage of value at the end of Round 1, and the Raiders move up to get a player that the New Orleans Saints may covet. Strong’s best attribute is his ability to go up for deep balls, and the Raiders need that option in their offense opposite Andre Holmes. Strong can grow with Carr, and the two can develop a rapport for years to come.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle Seahawks): Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami
I’ve heard that the Saints love Dorsett and envision him as a great complement to Brandin Cooks. Dorsett forces defenses to back off and respect his speed, which opens up big plays all over the field. Dorsett’s hands are extremely underrated, as is his intelligence on the field. Dorsett has the potential to be much better than many give him credit for.
32. New England Patriots: Shaq Thompson, OFF-BALL LB/S, Washington
I’m sticking to this pick unless he’s taken off the board. The Patriots have loved Thompson for a long time and he looks to be their man in this draft class. Thompson can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker or box safety. The Patriots are in a dicey cap situation: Jerod Mayo needs to have his contract restructured, Dont’a Hightower will need to be re-signed soon, while decisions on Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones still loom as well. Collins is also more of a box linebacker now. Thompson will fill the coverage role admirably and give the Patriots another heat-seeking missile on defense along with long-term security in terms of contracts.
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