The NFL and NCAA regular seasons are underway now , but 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 draft 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 , but our middle name is danger. That leaves him out of the first round and hopefully he returns to school for at least one more year to grow up.
1.OAKLAND-LEONARD WILLIAMS-DT/DE-USC-GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen were fired 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. Since we haven't seen the final outcome of Carr getting his chance yet , we will just give him the benefit of the doubt for now. 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 , or hold the point as a 5 technique and still give you a pass rush if they should decide to run a 3-4. I would say he is one of the most gifted overall players eligible for the 2015 draft.
2.JACKSONVILLE-CEDRICK OGBUEHI-OT-TEXAS A&M-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 plan being to start the underwhelming Chad Henne behind a bad O-line for at least half the season, this year looked like a lost cause already. However, after 3 weeks of bad offense the Jags have decided to throw Blake Bortles into the fire. While Blake is a big tough guy with mobility he is still behind a bad O-line. 2013 #2 overall pick Luke Joeckel hasn't quite lived up to his draft status yet, but there is still plenty of time for that. 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. He played right tackle in 2013 , but has moved over to the blindside in 2014, and looks good so far .
3.TENNESEE-MARCUS MARIOTA-QB-OREGON-Despite his obvious talent Zach Mettenburgers knee & back woes, and some off the field troubles made him free fall to the 6th round. I would at least give Zach a shot to see if he is the future, but so far they . they aren't 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 Mariota. He is a great athlete for the position, and I would love to see what he could do behind this O-line. He is not just all tools though. His skills have increased every year , and he is now a good passer as well. 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 good QB play from quickly becoming a contender . Mariota is the best QB in this class right now, and he also has a high upside,but his penchant for fumbling could be the thing that keeps him out of the top 5.
4.TAMPA BAY- RANDY GREGORY-DE/OLB-NEBRASKA- If Lovie Smith wants to continue to run the Tampa 2 than he needs pressure from the front four. Even with the great Gerald McCoy and the pretty good Michael Johnson the bucs weren't getting enough pass rush . When they played Atlanta in week 3 without both of them Matt Ryan had all day to throw. They need consistent front four pressure from ALL four pass rushers for this defense to actually work. Neither Adrian Clayborn or DaQuan Bowers have lived up to their draft status. Gregory could give them that quick long armed blind siding end to play the Simeon Rice role in this defense. If Mike Glennon doesn't work out, and Lovie Smith thinks he can get him stay to out of trouble, the Bucs could take Winston here instead.
5.NYJ-BRANDON SCHERFF-OT-IOWA-The jets O-line was once an elite unit , but it had fallen to Mangold, Ferguson, and 3 replaceable guys starting this year. While Nick Mangold has returned to form this season, Ferguson's decline has continued. They may give him one more chance to avoid a huge drain of dead money next year, but a future replacement is needed. Scherff is an angry mauler that could set the tone for a decade in the power, run first, ball control offense that the Jets want to run. He could play guard as a rookie and kick outside next year if Ferguson's decline and big salary continue to hinder the jets progress. Injuries at corner have been compounded by them letting the veteran tandem of Revis and Cromartie go in back to back years. Rex Ryan wants press man corners so he can bring a variety of looks and blitzes. However, we don't foresee there being a corner worth a top 5 pick. So unless the start winning soon a corner is probably out with his pick.
6.WASHINGTON- SHANE RAY-OLB/DE-MISSOURI- If Brian Orapko could stay healthy all year the skins would probably have payed him , but he is out for the year again. 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. Now , he has a chance to shine in the spotlight. He is fast off the ball , closes really well , and his best position in the pro's is as a rush backer. 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, and their is no secondary player worth this high a pick. The offensive line could also use a boost.
7.RAMS-CONNOR COOK-QB-MICHIGAN 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. They should also dump the ultra, stone-age, predictable offense that OC Brian Schottenheimer likes to run. Cook has the size and arm strength NFL teams crave, and is clean off the field the way Jeff Fisher will demand after the Vince Young saga.
8.ATLANTA-LEONARD FLOYD-DE/OLB-GA- Atlanta is in a rebuilding year ,and any hope of it being a quick turnaround probably ended when both Sean Weatherspoon 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. 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. Home state hero Floyd has the athleticism to play OLB in the Falcons 3-4 ,and bolster their pass rush. He also has a large enough frame to add a little weight so he can play DE when they go to an even front.
9. CHEIFS- KEVIN WHITE-WR-W.VIRGINIA-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. Dwayne Bowe is the # 1 receiver on this team and his best skill is his blocking. White is a big strong handed physical receiver that Alex Smith might be able to depend on in the clutch.
10.HOUSTON-SEAN MANNION-QB-OREGON ST.-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 rounder on draft day for him. Waiting until 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. On the field Winston is the best QB in this draft, with a winners poise and top level tools. Off the field he has been a disaster. I wouldn't take him in the first round, and I believe half the teams in the league won't even put him on their board . Unless he is smoother than silk in a interview room, he has little chance of going ahead of the stable and trustworthy Mariota. However, Winston is a great QB and someone is probably going to take a chance on him. Maybe Winston will fall in line for a QB guru like Bill O'brien, who can polish up his mechanics. If he does buy in they are an immediate contender.
11.PITTSBURGH-DEVIN FUNCHESS-WR/TE-Since Plaxico Burress left after his rookie season Ben Roethlesberger has wanted another big wide receiver. Funchess would give Big Ben another big target who he can throw it up to, but also have the speed and running ability to make plays after the catch. Funchess plays both move TE and WR in college , and hopefully Todd Haley will get the best out of him both ways.
12.CLEVELAND-(buffalo)-LANDON COLLINS-S-ALA-Bringing in Veteran Donte Whitner to replace TJ Ward is just a band-aid, and 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 does in coverage, has blazing speed for a safety, is a good tackler, and he can deliver some big hits too
13.NYG-SHAQ THOMPSON-OLB-WASHINGTON - The giants have consistently lacked play-makers at LB the last couple of years, especially against the pass. Thompson is a play-making former safety who files to the ball. What's scary about Shaq is that he might even be a better running back.
14.CAROLINA-ANDRUS PEAT-OT-STANFORD-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 this season. He is already coming off a rebuilt ankle this off-season. He also recently suffered a fractured rib in the pre-season. 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. Peat has the talent to start at one tackle spot for the Panthers for a decade or so.
15.MINNESOTA-MARIO EDWARDS-DE-FLA.ST- If Teddy Bridgewater had begun the season as the starting QB , and Adrian Peterson hadn't been put on paid leave, the vikings had a chance to compete for a playoff spot. Now I expect them to struggle until one or both is in the starting lineup. Shariff Floyd, Linval Joseph, and Fred Evans are all good options on the inside , but none of them have the elite talent Edwards does. 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 in a 4-3, or be a 5 technique in a odd front.
16.CHICAGO-CODY PREWITT -OLE 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. Peanut Tillman is 33, he just re-injured his triceps , and was put on IR again.. 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 , is playing well this season, and the bears secondary prides themselves on taking away the ball.
17.CLEVELAND-AMARI COOPER-WR-ALA-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. Cooper would also give Hoyer/Manziel another target that can rarely be covered one on one. Cooper isn't the biggest or fastest ,but he can separate, is great at timing his jumps, and usually comes down with it in jump ball situations.
18.SAINTS- AJ CANN-G-S.CAROLINA-35 year old center Jonathan Goodwin is on the decline, and keeping the pocket clean up the middle is the key to 6 foot Drew Brees being able to throw the ball well. Gann is the best guard in college football right now, and he has also the work ethic and high football IQ to also play center.
19.MIAMI-DENZEL PERRYMAN-ILB/OLB-MIA-Daniel Ellerbe did not play well in the middle last season, and he suffered a season ending injury in week one this year. A new QB for the defense will be a top priority and hometown boy Perryman 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 if Philbin gets fired and the new guy wants his own QB.
20.DETROIT-MICHAEL BENNETT-DT-OHIO ST-Nick Fairley has shown at times that he is a pro bowl caliber talent, but he has lacks the consistent work ethic for the Lions to trust him with a big contract. They already declined his 2015 option and since they need to pay Suh very soon they probably couldn't afford him anyway. What they need next to Suh is a quick penetrating 3 technique. That describes Bennett to a tee.
21.ARIZONA-VICTOR BEASLEY-OLB/DE-CLEMSON-the probable retirement of John Abraham after another concussion has only exacerbated their need at OLB. The cards need an edge rusher that is fluid and quick enough to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB. Beasley is that guy but he will need to add some weight to hold up on the edge when they cards go to nickle.
22.SAN FRANCISCO-MARCUS PETERS-CB-WASHINGTON-The 49ers are the leagues deepest team from top to bottom, but the one position they are really struggling at is corner back. I am sure they would rather move first round safety Jimmy Ward back to the position they drafted him to play. Peters could help fill that void.
23.BALTIMORE-MELVIN GORDON-RB-WISCONSIN-With Ray Rice looking beat down on the field, and being cut for beating down his wife,the Ravens need help at running back. 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 , and well rounded journeyman Justin Forsett. Neither is the consistent big play threat that Gordon is. He 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 he is getting more chances at it this year, and I imagine he could do some serious damage if he caught the ball in an open space.
24.BENGALS-JAELEN STRONG WR-AZ.ST - Strong could give the Bengals the big target opposite AJ Green that would punish teams for their double and triple teams on him. Also, Andy Dalton has a tendency to just throw the ball up down-field when pressured . Strong would be another guy that can win those jump balls. Strong has a playing style similar to to AJ Green ,but plays with a little more physicality.
25.GREEN BAY-LA'EL COLLINS-T/G-LSU-A long term replacement for the perennially injured Brian Bulaga couldn't hurt, or an upgrade for the under powered David Bakhtiari. Since Chad Clifton started to go downhill the Pack has lacked an OT that can play at high level and stay healthy. Derek Sherrod has been such a bust that I fear for Rodgers safety every-time Sherrod plays. Collins would be an upgrade over Bakhtiari ,he could also replace an injured Bulaga, and his toughness and strength would also allow him to replace TJ Lang inside. This versatility would allow the packers to get their 5 best (or healthiest ) lineman on the field at any given time.
26.COLTS-TODD GURLEY-RB-GEORGIA-Trent Richardson has looked better lately, but he has been nowhere near the guy they thought they were getting when they traded for him. His 3.2 million salary is also a hindrance. Unless he is willing to take a pay-cut they should move on and upgrade the position. Gurley is the big every-down power back this offense craves, and he could also help protect Luck, and be threat as a receiver.
27.EAGLES-SHAWN OAKMAN-DE/DT-BAYLOR-Chip Kelly likes tall guys with long arms on defense. That describes the raw athletic Oakman , and his overall athleticism is also top notch. 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 can be a cornerstone of the rebuilt defense under Kelly.
28.PATRIOTS-DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM-WR-OKLAHOMA-This guy is the closest thing to Randy Moss to come into the draft in a while. However, he also has a laundry list of off the field problems like Moss did when he came out of school. Belichick has shown a willingness to take chances on great talents when they fall down the draft board, just like oft-inured 1rst round pick Dominique Easley this year. With Brady desperately needing play makers on offense this pick would go along way toward healing the rift Billy has created.
29.SEATTLE-JALEN MILLS-CB/S-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, but they may yet win the division. 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,Malcolm Smith, and Byron Maxwell. At the very least they will lose 2 out of those 4. Richard Sherman is all alone at corner right now, Between free agent defections and injuries all the other corners on the Seattle roster are suspect. Mills has the height and long arms that the hawks prefer.
30.CHARGERS-REESE DISMUKES-C-AUBURN-The loss of veteran center Nick Hardwick is patently obvious to anyone watching the Chargers play. Dismukes is a smart tough guy run blocker, and while he looks good in limited passing snaps, the more good pass plays he has on tape the higher he can go. A good showing at the senior bowl could easily vault him ahead of the less physical Grasu as the top center in the draft.
31.DALLAS-PJ WILLIAMS-CB-FLA.ST-Brandon Carr has in no way earned his 10 million dollar a year salary in Dallas. Add him to the injured & disappointing Mo Claiborne and Dallas needs corner help. In fact Undersized Orlando Scandrick and journeyman Sterling Moore have been their best corners this year. Between needing to shed Carr's big salary , Claiborne's knee injury, and Moore's impending free agency the only 2 corners Dallas has under contract next year are the undersized Scandrick & undrafted rookie free agent find Tyler Patmon. Williams would give them a big physical long armed corner to replace Carr (or Claiborne) long term.
32.DENVER-DANTE FOWLER-DE-FLORIDA-Dante is a relentless player who probably fits best on the strong side. While Von Miller comes down to the line on obvious downs opposite DeMarcus Ware, there isn't a regular DE across from Ware who helps much against the pass right now. Fowler has a great motor , a wide array of pass rush moves , and the strength to anchor against the run on the strong side.