The NFL and NCAA regular seasons are both starting soon and we are already thinking about the 2015 draft .Regular season performances, post-season performances, the salary cap, fee agency, players leaving school early, players deciding to stay in school, injuries etc, can and will change the around. Team needs and players stock will rise and fall in the long months until the actual draft takes place. Predicting not only a draft but a draft order so far away is not easy .My guess right now is it's a Saint vs Broncos Superbowl .
1.OAK-MARCUS MARIOTA-QB-OREGON-My guess is GM Reggie McKenzie gets fired despite an excellent draft. They spent too much money and overpaid for too many way past their prime players. They probably should give Derek Carr at least 1 more year at QB to see if he's the guy , but new GM's and coaches are famous for wanting their own guy. So I'm gonna say they trade Carr unless he lights it up late in the season, and take the best QB in the draft. Right now I think that's Mariota because of Winston's off the field problems. .He is an elite athlete for the position, but his spread/shotgun offense delays his pro skill set from developing quicker. He is currently the safest of all the QB's and reminds everybody of Colin Kaeperneck.
2.HOUSTON-JAMEIS WINSTON-QB-FSU-Tom Savage? meh. Ryan Fitzpatrick? Nope. Coach O'brien could decide to go with a known commodity by signing free agent Ryan Mallet, but unless he's great this season I doubt it . Mallet blossoming under O'briens tutelage is probably the Texans best chance of a long term answer of the 3 choices, but I doubt they go down that road if a top QB prospect is available when they pick. . If they really wanted Mallet they could have traded a 3rd round choice on draft day for him. Waiting till right before the season to trade for him, and only investing a late round pick in Mallet makes me doubt O'briens love of him. So far Fitz has been a disaster and Savage is a project that is far from ready. Despite a great draft this could be a turnover/rebuilding year. If the Texans are going to waste the talents of Jadavian Clowney in coverage, instead of rushing the passer , they deserve to learn the hard way and finish dead last again. On the bright side an elite talent like Winston, under the tutelage of a QB guru like O'brien ,could lead to awesome results. If Winston can stay out of trouble he can be a great pro QB. On the field I prefer him to Mariota right now because he keeps his eyes down field and makes great throws in the clutch , regardless of the rush bearing down on him. If he tightens up his delivery & mechanics , can stay off of TMZ, and then can convince teams he has grown up , he should go very high..
3.NYG-LEONARD WILLIAMS-DT/DE-USC--Unless Eli returns to form this could be a transition year. If it is they should see if they can figure out if Ryan Nassib is the long term answer at QB, but I doubt he would look much better on this team. So while I wouldn't completely rule out the Giants moving on from Eli and drafting a QB, they have bigger needs on both lines..Strahan. Tuck, JPP. Retired, a raider, not the same after back surgery. Even if JPP returns to form Mathias Kiwanuka looks like he already on the downside of his career too. Their interior pass rush is even worse. . Williams is an elite DT/DE prospect. Tall. long arms, strong, quick. You name it he's got it. He can rush the passer well enough to be a 3 technique , play as 4-3 base end, or hold the point as 5 technique and still give you a pass rush if they should decide to run a 3-4. I would say he is one the most gifted players overall eligible for the 2015 draft
4.JACKSONVILLE-RANDY GREGORY-DE/OLB-NEBRASKA-While they drafted pretty well for the long term this year , their choices didn't exactly scream win now. A project QB in the first round and a injured CB in the 4th makes this season ,less likely to end well. With those 2 possibly red-shirting ,and the underwhelming Chad Henne manning the ship for at least half the season, this year looks like a lost cause already. Gregory is a long armed athlete who would have been a first rounder in 2014's deep draft based on talent alone. The extra year to improve his pass rush moves could make him an elite player. .
5.CAROLINA-CEDRICK OGBUEHI-OT-TEXAS A&M-Jordan Gross retiring seems to have caught the Panthers by surprise, and they didn't do much to remedy it in the draft. Their plan to move Byron Bell to the left side smacks of desperation to me. Their other option is converted former TE /DT Nate Chandler. He is a great athlete , but they are counting on him to make a Jason Peters-like jump up this year. Maybe they are right and both are undiscovered studs , but that seems like 2 huge gambles to base the health of your franchise QB on,. Even a physical specimen like Newton can only take so many hits and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets hurt. badly. He is already coming off a rebuilt ankle this off-season. He also recently suffered a fractured rib in the pre-season. O-line At least they made a concerted effort to get him a better(or at least more reliable and supportive) receiving core, but at this point a healthy Steve Smith is still better than anyone they now have. . Cedrick is an elite athlete for an O-lineman in the Tyron Smith mold who looks more like a big TE than anything else. Barring injury I believe he will be the next in line of the Texas A&M offensive tackles to be taken in the top 10.
6.ATLANTA-SHILIQUE CALHOUN-DE-MICH. ST- Atlanta is in a rebuilding year and any hope of it being a quick turnaround probably ended when both Sean Weatherperson and Sam Baker went down for the year. Despite it being the second largest need on their team the Falcons waited until the 4th round to draft an edge rusher.Calhoun is a pass rusher who I could see in contention for the #1 overall pick if he adds a little more muscle and expands/refines his techniques . Adding Jake Matthews and Jon Asamoah to their O-line is an improvement, despite the loss of Baker, but a replacement OT to replace him and his cap number is also a possibility.
7.CLEVELAND-(buffalo)-SAMMIE COATES-WR-AUB-Even if Josh Gordon comes back his actions have shown that smoking weed is more important to him than football. I actually would have picked them to win 9 games this year if Josh hadn't decided to fail ANOTHER drug test. Even after his most recent failed test he got pulled over in a car that had a passenger carrying weed and that reportedly smelled like weed. Anything he gives the team would just be a bonus. Personally I think they should draft 2 receivers in the first 3 rounds just to be safe. Miles Austin is a hamstring pull away from the sideline and Andrew Hawkins is an undersized slot guy. Maybe they will play Justin Gilbert on offense this season. Coates is powerful speedster that has been underutilized in a run heavy offense so far. He reminds me of a smaller Demaryius Thomas.
8.WASHINGTON-VICTOR BEASLEY-OLB/DE-CLEMSON-If Brian Orapko can stay healthy all year the skins probably pay him , but I doubt he does. Beasley was a likely first round pick this year who returned to school. His best fit is a 3-4 OLB even if he puts on another 20 pounds this year as long as he can still get to the QB. If RG3 returns to form this offense is dangerous, but I'll believe in this defense only after I see them produce. Their secondary is the main question right now, but nothing makes a secondary better quickly than a good pass rush.
9.CLEVELAND-(buffalo)-LANDON COLLINS-S-ALA-Bringing in Veteran Donte Whitner to replace TJ Ward is just a band-aid, and still a downgrade at safety. Whitner is a fierce hitter, but he misses too many tackles and doesn't provide enough in coverage to be a long term solution. Collins does all that Whitner doesn't and he can deliver some big hits too.
10.TENNESEE-BRETT HUNDLEY-QB-UCLA-Despite his obvious talent Zach Mettenburgers knee & back woes, and some off the field troubles made him free fall to the 6th round. With so little an investment in him a new top QB can easily come in to replace Jake Locker if he fails again. Right now I think that's Hundley. .He is a good athlete for the position, and his leadership skills are unquestioned. . Even if given the choice Ken Whisenhunt is more likely to take a safe off the field guy like Mariota/Hundley than a maybe better but troubled Jameis Winston if he was available when they picked. This team has almost everything ,and are probably just a good QB away play should make them a contender quickly.
11.TAMPA BAY- BRANDON SCHERFF-OT-IOWA- Carl Nicks was the best guard in football when the bucs signed him. Now after a series of injuries and infections he is retired. The bucs tried to rebuild an aging overpaid, injury prone, underachieving O- line this off-season but it takes time. They even recently acquired future HOFer Logan Mankins to play guard for them.Left tackle Anthony Collins is more of a is more of a finesse guy who lacks the dominant physicality of a OT that leads a power running game. Scherff does. He is an angry mauler that could set the tone for a decade in the power, run first, ball control offense that Lovie Smith prefers.
12.CHEIFS- PJ WILLIAMS-CB-FLA-ST-I doubt The Chiefs front office began last off season by saying " Hey, why don't we lose our 3 best O-Lineman in free agency and then just up and cut our 28 year old former pro bowl corner back after OTA's! ". That's what happened though. Flowers didn't have his best season, although he was playing hurt , but he finished strong. When they were seeking to trade him before the draft we knew something was up. Anyway I think there is more we don't know about this. It can't be just his height, although I guess saving 5 million off the cap helps plenty when you feel a guy no longer fits your scheme. I feel that a tough schedule and all these changes mean a down season for the Chiefs and a possibly an even bigger change because of it. Since they seem to be making bigger corners a priority we will give them the 6 foot Williams.
13.DALLAS-MARIO EDWARDS-DE-FLA.ST-Even if Demarcus Lawrence works out at one end spot the front four pass rush is the key to this defense, and Dallas seems to be counting on depth instead of proven high end talent to get to the QB this season. Aging/injured Anthony Spencer probably can't be counted on long term, and Henry Melton is also coming off a torn ACL. Edwards was the only player I saw give #2 overall pick Greg Robinson trouble in the run game this year. He is a physical specimen who's prodigious strength could make him very versatile., but he needs to be on the field for more snaps and show a larger variety of pass rush moves. .He has the talent and frame to play inside or outside.This team can go 5-11 or 11-5 depending on Romo's(back disc surgery!) health alone.. Romo's over/under is 10 games to me ,and I'm betting the under right now. If Brandon Weeden's the replacement QB(thanks to Orton's no-show this off-season) I expect a lot of losses.Losing Sean :Lee for the year doesn't help either.That means that the 3 best players on last years BAD defense are no longer on the field for Dallas. Even without Lee if Romo is healthy for 16 games and the defense is just average I think they win the division this year, but I just doubt his body can hold up for the whole season, and trhat their pass rush on the outside will get it done.
14.RAMS-SEAN MANNION-QB-OREGON ST- I was planning on picking the rams to make the playoffs this year but Sam Bradford got hurt ... AGAIN. Sorry Sam, I have stood up for you time after time, but maybe you really can't stay healthy. So now they NEED to draft a QB. Mannion likes to throw down field so this would give them an excuse to dump the ultra, stone-age, predictable offense that OC Brian Schottenheimer likes to run.15.MIAMI-RAMIK WILSON-ILB-GEORGIA-Daniel Ellerbe did not play well in the middle last season. If he doesn't improve dramatically this season I think a new QB for the defense will be a top priority and Ramik Wilson is my pick to end the season as the best MLB in the draft. Speaking of changing QB's, Ryan Tannehill can still be a franchise QB but I think it's possible he goes when Philbin gets fired and the new guy wants his own QB. The front office turnover this year ,combined with injuries to key players, lame duck coach, the Incognito scandal, and unpredictable ownership all give me a bad feeling for this season. So despite a strong overall draft and free agency period I am thinking the Dolphins go backwards this year.
16.DETROIT-IFO EKPRE OLUMNU-CB-OREGON-The Lions have finally admitted the Chris Houston big money contract was a mistake and moved on another corner is needed.The lions keep drafting corners in the 2nd round and later. This time they make sure and get an elite talent by drafting one first. Ifo is a fierce guy with elite coverage skills who plays a lot bigger than he is.
17.BALTIMORE-MELVIN GORDON-RB-WISCONSIN-With Ray Rice looking beat down on the field, and facing a suspension for allegedly beating down his wife, Bernard Pierce is probably the man at RB for the ravens this year. The bruising Pierce could get help from fellow big back rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro , but neither is the consistent big play threat that Gordon is, An explosive back that can take a full load of carries and force defenses to game-plan around him. Gordon can take it the house and is a surprisingly physical runner for his build. His ridiculous yards per carry last season when everyone knew he was getting the ball shows just how good he is.He hasn't shown much as a receiver or in pass pro yet, but I imagine he could do some serious damage if he caught the ball in an open space.
18.MINNESOTA-MICHAEL BENNETT- If Teddy Bridgewater begins the season as the starting QB I expect the vikings to compete for a playoff spot. Shariff Floyd, Linval Joseph, and Fred Evans are all good options on the inside , but none of them have the elite first step of a Geno Atkins. Bennett does and I am sure new head coach Mike Zimmer misses Atkins from his Cincinnati days. Zimmer can use Bennett's penetrations skills to scheme and wreak havoc on an offense.
19.CHICAGO-CODY PREWITT-S-O.MISS- The Bears and the Cowboys both desperately needed safeties this year. Both teams had their pick of the litter and both teams passed. Other(some might might say smarter) teams snatched up all 4 universally high rated safeties in the 1rst round. They did draft the versatile Kyle Fuller with their 1rst pick, and he is big, smart, and physical enough to play safety if necessary. Although that's not Fullers best position and Peanut Tillman is 33 and coming off a serious injury. They also drafted Brock Vereen in round 4, but even if he works out that's just one safety spot filled. Prewitt led the SEC in picks last year and the bears secondary prides themselves on taking away the ball.
20.NYJ-TODD GURLEY-RB-GEORGIA-Remember when the ground and pound jets were making the AFC championship despite a crappy QB? A bruising running game was the key just as much as the defense. Gurley reminded me of Eric Dickerson pre-knee-injury. If he is %100 this year , regains that pre-injury burst, and returns completely to form, look out! Even last year he was a big straight ahead power back who can carry the load and contribute to the passing game. If this is his ceiling now post-injury he still reminds me of Steven Jackson and that's a very good thing.
21.ARIZONA-DANTE FOWLER-DE/OLB-FLORIDA-The cards need an edge rusher that is fluid and quick enough to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB, and strong enough to hold the point as a DE when they go to nickle. . Fowler has that kind of ability if he can harness it. A guy with his talent and motor is a safe bet to make a big jump in production this year. With just a little tweaking and improvement in technique he could blow up this season
23.EAGLES-SHAWN OAKMAN-DE/DT-BAYLOR-Chip Kelly likes tall guys with long arms on defense. That describes the raw athletic Oakman to a tee. Think somewhere between Calais Campbell/Michael Johnson and you are on the the right track.He has the perfect frame for a NFL 5 technique and be a cornerstone of the rebuilt defense under Kelly. .
24.BENGALS-AMARI COOPER-WR-ALA- .The Bengals need a wide receiver who can draw double teams away from AJ Green and who has the ability to win jump balls on the outside .Cooper would also give Dalton another target that can rarely be covered one on one.
25.CHARGERS-TRAE WAYNES-CB-MICH.ST--After drafting Jason Verret in 2014, and signing Brandon Flowers the chargers now have a chance to have 2 good corners, but both are undersized.. Even if somebody else steps up here at least one more corner is needed in today's pass happy NFL, and he needs to be a bigger guy. Adding the tall and physical Waynes to Weddle, Verret, Flowers, and a improving Marcus Gilchrist can make what was once a weakness into a strength
26.GREEN BAY-HRONISS GRASU-C-OREGON-JC Tretter's injury means a rookie is the likely starter at center out of the gate. Maybe Corey Linsley works out but he seems more like a smart interior line backup to me.Maybe Tretter comes back from injury and is fine, but I doubt it. .Grasu is an elite talent that moves like a tight end on the inside but has the frame to fill out more and add strength. A long term replacement for the perennially injured Brian Bulaga couldn't hurt either..
27.SAN FRANCISCO-SHANE RAY-DE/OLB-MIZZ--Aldon Smith is not someone I would want to count on long term after his litany of off the field problems has come to light. The 49ers are the leagues most talented roster top to bottom but they have some major questions to start the season. Ray didn't get as much spotlight as the steady Kony Ealy/ or media creation Michael Sam last season . He did however make a lot of plays as an edge rusher after he changed positions, regardless of accolades. He is a better prospect than Ealy if he reaches his ceiling. If Smith and Navarro Bowman return to form and somebody steps up their play at corner the niners could be jelling just in time for a playoff run, but as of right now Seattle is still in the driver seat in the NFC West.
28.PATRIOTS-DEVIN FUNCHESS-WR/TE-MICHIGAN-The real offense the Patriots want to run is predicated on 2 tight end sets . Right now even if Gronk is completely healthy for the season he is called on to block a lot , because he is far better than any other blocking TE the pats have. They shocked us all and didn't draft any in 2013. Doubt that happens this time around. Funchess would give them a move TE to replace Aaron Hernandez and open up the offense.
29.COLTS-ANDRUS PEAT-OT-STANFORD-I have never thought Anthony Costanzo was meant to be a left tackle. After all the hits he took last year I bet Andrew Luck agrees,.The interior O-line is a bigger worry right now, but I wouldn't pay Costanzo left tackle money on a long term deal unless he improves a lot this season. Peat is the most talented of all the vaunted Stanford lineman to come along since Jim Harbaugh installed his power version of the west coast offense. He can be Andrew Luck's long term blindside protector.
30.SEATTLE-LEONARD FLOYD-DE/OLB-GA-The sea-hawks are showing a lot of the signs of a team that misses the playoffs a year after winning the Superbowl. . From Players leaving in free agency , cut because of the cap , others getting huge contracts, divorces, commercials, holdouts, a hard schedule in the toughest division in football where every other team got better, fame and it's trappings, etc.... but they still have a very talented roster with some great leaders, So while I won't pick them to win it all , I definitely still see them as a contender. After their confusing draft was added in to the mix, I wouldn't even pick them to repeat as champs in the NFC west, except San Francisco's corners are suspect. and Aldon Smith & Navarro Bowman are likely to miss the first half of the season. Without home-field advantage in the playoffs I think the Superbowl is out. . In 3 years their 4th,5th and ,6th round draft picks may be stars in typical Seahawks fashion but they need depth now. They over-drafted injury prone Justin Britt this year but did little else to help the O-line. Next year they are probably going to lose some key players. because you can't pay everybody and Russell Wilson is next at the pay window, A real QB contract should keep them from also paying Cliff Avril, KJ Wright and Byron Maxwell. At the very least they will lose 2 out of those 3. Since Avril cost the most he will probably be the most likely to go. Floyd is another quick undersized college edge rusher who needs to add some weight. His athleticism and versatility would give a defensive guru like Pete Carroll a lot of options.
31.DENVER-DENZEL PERYMAN-LB-MIA-Lamin Barrow may play alright as an outside LB but I think he currently lacks the football IQ and instincts to succeed inside, Wilson has the talent and football IQ to QB their defense.He is a stout guy with a penchant for big plays but this season he needs to be more consistent down by down to make the jump into the 1rst round.
32.SAINTS-LA'EL COLLINS-T/G-LSU- The departure of often injured 1rst round bust Charles Brown after he finally stayed pretty healthy is a blessing in disguise. He didn't play that well anyway and he probably would have just gotten hurt if they paid him anyway.This gives ultra talented .small school stud Terron Armstead a shot to be the guy. to man Drew Bree's blindside. Collins is a very talented local boy who could backup both tackle and guard positions until a spot opens up. At this point in the draft best player available is a key phrase. He can play left tackle if Armstead can't do it,, fill in for the injured , or take over for one of the stud guards if one of their contracts becomes a burden.