I’d love to say that the dust has settled, and that we have a firm idea of what teams need and want going into the NFL Draft, but various ideas abound with who to take for each team. Not only that, reports are still surfacing around what players are capable of doing in the NFL physically, emotionally, and mentally. Trade rumors swirl, and trade bait continues to be flaunted in the hopes for concrete interest from teams. Anything can and will happen this Thursday.
1. TAMPA BAY BUCANEERS: 2-14 (.486 Strength of Schedule [SOS])
There is a huge gap between what this team truly needs, and what they think they need. In similar fashion, there is a huge gap between what makes sense with this pick long term, and what the team is semi-forced to do as a result of their own idiotic handling of their media coverage. The smart thing would be to take a player like Leonard Williams.
Pick: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
The reports and comparisons to JaMarcus Russell make you want to scream and run for the hills. The tape and smarts make you believe not taking Jameis with this pick is stupid. Only time will tell if all this negative press is a ploy to try and facilitate a draft fall, or legitimate concern.
2. TENNESSEE TITANS: 2-14 (.506 SOS)
The Titans need to trade this pick, but I can’t see anyone making the move unless Winston is not picked first overall. Then expect some buzz. Otherwise look for the best player the Titans have on their board.
Pick: Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
Williams has recently been compared to Reggie White. That should be the only comparison you need to know.
3. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: 3-13 (.514 SOS)
Another team that desperately needs to trade and pick up multiple picks, but may be short of takers depending on who falls from the top two spots.
Pick: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
He is too freakish an athlete and too good a player to pass on. The team needs help everywhere, so taking the best player on the board makes sense.
4. OAKLAND RAIDERS: 3-13 (.570 SOS)
Jack Del Rio has taken over the coaching duties in Oakland, and may be able to bring a few big-name free agents with him from Denver, but has failed to land the top-tier wide receiver the team needs to move forward (with offense to Michael Crabtree).
Pick: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Cooper was said to have the highest floor of any wide receiver at the draft. Meaning that even at his worst he’s still going to be pretty good. He is exactly the type of player the Raiders have drafted in the past.
5. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: 4-12 (.496 SOS)
Robert Griffin III is the starting QB going into next season, and the team has struggled to keep him upright and in the pocket. It makes sense for them to draft along the offensive line, especially when you look at how well that has worked out for the Dallas Cowboys.
Pick: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Scherff is the best tackle in the NFL Draft. He showed excellent movement and strength in his final games against elite talent. His combine numbers confirmed everything that was seen by scouts on tape.
6. NEW YORK JETS: 4-12 (.543 SOS)
Mike Mayock has said that the Jets should run their pick to the podium if Marcus Mariota is still on the board. I feel like that would be running with scissors. The team needs help in a lot of places, and quarterback is one of them, but I’m not sure Mariota is that much better than Geno Smith is, or could be, given another training camp to prepare.
Pick: La’El Collins, OT, Florida State
Collins might be better suited to play guard in the NFL, but the team may decide to move him around as he is a versatile athlete that gives the team some options in how to best utilize his strengths. Numbers from the combine show good strength, but less speed, which may cement him as a guard at the next level.
7. CHICAGO BEARS: 5-11 (.529 SOS)
The Bears are desperate for a wide receiver. If either of the top two picks at that position fall to them here they will be happier than a bear in a salmon factory. If not, the team may opt to stretch and pick for need.
Pick: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
White has a large frame and has been said to have the highest ceiling for all the receivers in the draft. He could very easily be off the board as the result of a trade higher up in the order.
8. ATLANTA FALCONS: 6-10 (.482 SOS)
Dan Quinn will want this team to be better on defense. The fans will want this team to be better on defense. Opponents would be pretty happy if the team never got better on defense.
Pick: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Maybe the only back worthy of being selected in the first round the Falcons might not be in a position to pass on this amazing runner. Part of the way the Seahawks took the pressure off their defense was to run the ball.
9. NEW YORK GIANTS: 6-10 (.512 SOS)
If you had to single out one area of need for the Giants it has to be the offensive line. Every other position of need from last season can be attributed to injuries forcing the team to go deep into their depth chart.
Pick: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Ogbuehi started off his collegiate career as a guard and was shifted to the tackle position as a senior. Given how banged up the line has been, his versatility and athleticism would make him tough to pass up on. His real strength is as a pass blocker, and it would be nice to see Eli Manning have more than two seconds to throw a pass.
10. ST. LOUIS RAMS: 6-10 (.531 SOS)
Originally, I had the Rams going after a quarterback. Acquiring Nick Foles has made that move a little silly. On the bright side though it means the team can address other needs with their pick that just falls within the top 10.
Pick: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
I am pretty sure there are two really good receivers in the league with the last names of Green and Beckham, so what could happen when you combine them? Dorial is a massive body (6’5”) and would be a massive target. His numbers from the combine were more than you could hope for with this sort of body type.
11. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: 7-9 (.475 SOS)
It looks like Adrian Peterson is sticking around for the time being. The team needs some help in a number of places. Realistically, this is going to come down to the player the Vikings have rated the highest on their NFL Draft board.
Pick: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
At 6’2”, 332 pounds, he’s the definition of run stopping. He should command a secondary lineman to help in moving him, and that will free up plays for the linebackers. Combine numbers for his size were impressive. Comparisons to B.J. Raji should not be dismissed.
12. CLEVELAND BROWNS: 7-9 (.479 SOS)
The quarterback situation in Cleveland is muddier than the underside of a Ford in Alabama after a good rain. If one of the top two quarterbacks falls this far, expect the Browns to scoop either one of them up.
Pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The knock on Mariota is that he didn’t play in a pro-style offense and really never got into the huddle. The measurables at the combine were ridiculous. It’s hard to pass on a guy like this, even if you already have a guy like Johnny Manziel kicking around.
13. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: 7-9 (.486 SOS)
The Saints defense was offensive this past year. They need help virtually everywhere, but the defensive line is as good a place to start as any.
Pick: Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
Dupree is a freakish athlete who can play in space just as well as he plays in the box. A consummate character guy who is still a little raw when it comes to technique, Dupree may be too much for a guy like Rob Ryan to pass up on.
14. MIAMI DOLPHINS: 8-8 (.512 SOS)
The Dolphins came a long way in 2014, but they will continue to make moves. The team still has a lot of things to sort out on both sides of the ball, but the defense is still likely the place where this teams wants to improve.
Pick: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Very athletic, and the combine numbers did confirm that. He’d be someone that the Dolphins would want to bring along a little bit slowly as he matures.
15. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: 8-8 (.527 SOS)
The 49ers need to find a way to get as many draft picks as possible. Is there any way you can trade away some of Colin Kaepernick‘s tattoos? Wide receivers are leaving the 49ers faster than fans are leaving the stadium. The team needs to stop the bleeding.
Pick: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Parker is a big-bodied wide receiver and the 49ers will need that. His combine performance has him as one of the top receivers on most draft boards.
16. HOUSTON TEXANS: 9-7 (.447 SOS)
Since the top two quarterbacks are gone who is left?
Pick: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
Except for his height, Mannion is the prototypical QB. I actually like him more than Jameis Winston as he brings no character issues with him and is ready to take on a pocket passing game.
17. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: 9-7 (.512 SOS)
The coin flip came up in favor of the Chargers, who grabbed the 17th pick over the division rival Kansas City Chiefs. This team appeared to be bipolar during the 2014 season – destroying playoff teams and then being clobbered by the more remedial talents in the league. Defense is a need to be sure.
Pick: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
The recent arrest is going to send Ray down most draft boards. He might even end up outside of the first round, but I could see a team like the Chargers taking a flyer on him. Ray is a pass rusher, and that is all there is to it.
18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: 9-7 (.512 SOS)
The Chiefs need offensive help, in particularly, a wide receiver. A Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver has not caught a touchdown since 2013. If that’s not a cry for help I don’t know what is.
Pick: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Strong is a tall player with good size, and should be a big target in the red zone. Solid combine numbers did nothing but help his stock.
Pick: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
The league is becoming more pass-oriented, and a player with good range like Collins is the way to go. His combine numbers confirmed he is not only an NFL ready safety, but also that he could become an elite player.
20. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: 10-6 (.490 SOS)
Philly doesn’t really need anything, or anyone, as the team wasn’t far off from making the playoffs. There is a notion that the team would trade everything (even the kitchen sink) to move up and get Mariota. I don’t see that happening unless Mariota falls out of the top 15.
Pick: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Shaq is one of the highest-rated linebackers in the draft. While slightly undersized, he has top gear speed that fits the Chip Kelly style of fast attacking defenders. Solid combine numbers confirmed tape that every scout has looked at from day one.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS: 10-5-1 (.498 SOS)
By losing in the first round, the Bengals have moved up the draft board a few spots. The corner situation has been aging for some time in Cincy, but fortunately, the top corner is still on the board.
Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Waynes is a respectable 6’1”, which is what you need to help play against some of these larger receivers in the league. He is the consensus top corner in the draft as there are no character issue and he loves playing press.
22. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: 11-5 (.451 SOS)
The Steelers O-line is getting old fast, and it seems as though the team has a renewed interest in passing and offensive attacks. Enter a shiny new offensive linemen.
Pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Peat is a mountain, almost exactly how you’d like to build an NFL tackle. His length is going to help him hold off pass rushers and his size will allow him to move people in the run game. He should be a gamer from Week One. Combine numbers were a little under what you’d like to see, but his tape is perfect.
23. DETROIT LIONS: 11-5 (.471 SOS)
The team needs defensive help, but the trade for Haloti Ngata means they can look at the secondary. There are some better corners out there, but the character issues are not something this team can afford to deal with. Enter the safer pick.
Pick: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the other corner everyone is talking about, but he’s on the smaller side. Johnson has the size and skills to play press coverage against larger receivers, and the Lions could use that. His combine speed wasn’t anything to write home about, but his ball skills are fantastic.
24. ARIZONA CARDINALS: 11-5 (.523 SOS)
Unless the team is willing to make a play for Adrian Peterson, then it really comes down to filling in for the departing Darnell Dockett.
Pick: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The Cardinals will try to mimic the Seattle Seahawks, but bring more ferocity at you up the middle. I’d hate to play in the NFC West. Goldman had a really good combine for a big man. He would likely go higher if the emphasis on wide receivers isn’t what it is in today’s NFL.
25. CAROLINA PANTHERS: 7-8-1 (.490 SOS)
They didn’t deserve to make the playoffs, or win a playoff game, and their punishment for that is the 25th pick for a team that needs a ton of help.
Pick: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Calhoun is a very underrated player and should allow for a great deal of defensive production from either the linebacker or DE spot, though I do see him more as a backer. Adding sack production for the missing Greg Hardy is going to be key for the Panthers.
26. BALTIMORE RAVENS: 10-6 (.475 SOS)
This team will be even better next year, and that is saying something after a rebound performance in 2014. They build through fundamental picks and the offensive line is as fundamental as it gets.
Pick: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Florida State
Clemmings is leaner than most tackles, and could use some beefing up. He’s too strong and too fast to not be a wonderful addition, particularly to teams that like to run screens. His combine numbers showed good skills and fluidity, and you can always eat more cheeseburgers.
27. DALLAS COWBOYS: 12-4 (.445 SOS)
There could be a lot of players leaving Dallas as the team did really well, and players will be looking to cash in on that. While I haven’t seen a back come off the board yet, I still see the Cowboys as needing too much help on defense.
Pick: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
If this was just on skill, Peters would be a top 20, even top 15 pick. His off-the-field issues aren’t something that you’d like, but this late in the first round, Dallas can take a flyer if they see fit.
28. DENVER BRONCOS: 12-4 (.521 SOS)
This team could potentially use a little help virtually everywhere. The team would be well-served to go back to the fundamentals and draft along the line, the offensive line to be precise.
Pick: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Humphries really handled elite pass rusher Shane Ray very well, and that, coupled with solid combine numbers, now have him as a top five tackle on most people’s draft board.
29. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: 11-5 (.479 SOS)
This team needs defensive help the way I need fashion advice; badly.
Pick: Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida
Fowler is a pass rusher with some heft to him. The team switches personnel enough that the fact that he doesn’t fit well into either the OLB or DE role doesn’t really matter. The team would want him to play as a DE more than they would need him as an OLB.
30. GREEN BAY PACKERS: 12-4 (.482 SOS)
Speaking of a team that needs fashion advice, I mean defensive help… actually they really need both because those throwback uniforms make me want to vomit. Actually vomit would be a better color scheme than navy blue and brown.
Pick: Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Bennett is going to beat you off the snap with speed, not strength. He’d win most matchups on the interior so long as he’s not doubled. If he is doubled then other guys can make the play.
31. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: 12-4 (.525 SOS)
The team is keeping most of their key guys on defense, so long as the Russell Wilson contract doesn’t cripple them then the team will look to add some weapons for him to throw to. That just leaves the offensive line to work on.
Pick: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Stanley is a junior, which is why he’s a bit of a project. His size, speed, and strength would have had him in the top 10 in next year’s draft, but he’s decided to get into the game early. There are still some technique concerns, but really you could play him at right tackle or sub him in for a year until you coach him up.
32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: 12-4 (.514 SOS)
The Patriots lost Darrelle Revis to the rival Jets, so the team will need to fill that position, unless they are going to start tampering with equipment again.
Pick: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Ekpre-Olomu is one of those super-speed guys. There is a real chance he could contribute on special teams if he can’t break in as a starter right away, though with Revis gone there is likely a need for him to start from Day One.