The NFL Draft is four weeks from today. Smokescreen Season is in full swing. Here’s 2015 NFL Mock Draft 1.0 (May 2014). This was 2015 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 (November 2014). This was Mock Draft 3.0, (January 8). This was Mock Draft 4.0 (February 23rd). Below is what I think will happen, NOT what I would do.
1. Tampa Bay – James Winston, QB, FSU. Hasn’t changed. Wouldn’t be my guy.
2. Tennessee – Leonard Williams, DE, USC. Still not sold on a) a trade down, b) taking Mariota. He’d fail in the system Whisenhunt runs. Williams may not be JJ Watt, but he could be the safest player in the draft.
3. Jacksonville – Dante Fowler, DE, Florida. Ideal fit the Redskins, but the word out of Jacksonville is Gus Bradley is enamored with Fowler. Keeping in mind this is Smokescreen Season: Nobody had them taking Blake Bortles 3rd last year.
4. Oakland – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. No change.
5. Washington – Shane Ray, OLB/DE, Missouri. If Williams/Fowler off the board, the Redskins will try to trade down or take the best non-QB on the board. Kerrigan, Murphy, Jeffcoat are all good pass rushers, do you need another? Could have been NT Danny Shelton, but they signed Terrance Knighton in FA. New GM who once had a well-chronicled drinking problem is going to take Gregory? Can’t see it.
6. New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. Felt more confident about this in January. What Charles Robinson said did make sense: The Titans can draft him and buy the head coach/GM an extra few years. Want to get excited about Mariota? Here’s Daniel Jeremiah’s one hour podcast dedicated to him.
7. Chicago – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. Chicago’s WR coach previously was on Nick Saban’s staff during Cooper’s freshman year, so expect a hard sell, especially if Cooper falls this far (which I think happens). I previously had him going 18th to Kansas City.
8. Atlanta – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington. Bolstered pass rush in free agency (Clayborn, Reed). Trading down might be smart, but Shelton next to an aging Babineaux makes the most sense. Sleeper? If Amari Cooper is on the board, add him to the Julio/Roddy White duo? White turns 34 in November.
9. New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa. No change.
10. St. Louis – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford. The Rams running game slipped late in the season, immobile Foles needs to be protected, and the defense is set. Defensive front seven is loaded. Too early to go secondary? WR makes sense, as Britt, Austin, Bailey and Givens are solid, but none are a No. 1.
11. Minnesota – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri. Adding a superstar talent at WR to help your young QB? No brainer. Still no leaks on DGB about his Wonderlic or any off-the-field issues in 2015. How about adding him to this WR group: Mike Wallace, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright (free agent in 2016) and Charles Johnson? One could argue DGB isn’t the need, but he’s visiting the Vikings.
12. Cleveland – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville. No change.
13. New Orleans – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska. Gregory’s marijuana issues drop him out of the Top 10, but he’s too talented to tumble much further than this, unless something else emerges before the draft. (Had Arik Armstead here in the last Mock.) But if he falls by the Saints and the Chargers … it could be a precipitous fall.
14. Miami – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State. The right draft could propel them to playoffs. Could use immediate help at CB, WR, OLB. Added good young WR, NT, TE in free agency. Waynes is my best cornerback in the draft. But if Vic Beasley is on the board, and you pair him with Wake and Suh, QBs will be quaking in fear.
15. San Francisco – Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE, Kentucky. The 49ers lost more than any other team defensively (and lost plenty on offense, too) and to take pressure off their woeful CBs (undrafted Marcus Cromartie and 2-year 4th round pick Dontae Johnson are the starters) is a pass-rushing specialist to replace Justin Smith. If Winston 1st is the only lock in the Top 15, it feels like defense here is 99.9% happening.
16. Houston – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State. Big need at WR with the departure of Andre Johnson. After Nuke Hopkins, DeVier Posey might be the No. 2 WR, and Nate Washington #3. Strong is a plug-and-play talent.
17. San Diego – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson. Do you buy the Philip Rivers rumors? Chargers could be interesting. Seemed on the cusp of a Super Bowl heading into last year, but injuries and lack of defense made them take a step back. It has to be a pass rusher.
18. Kansas City – La’El Collins, OT, LSU. If the Chiefs are in win-now mode, rebuilding an offensive line that was below-average (according to Pro Football focus) pass blocking and run blocking last year, Collins is a wise pick.
19. Cleveland (via Buffalo) – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas. No change.
20. Philadelphia – Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut. Combine standout solidified his 1st day status with an impressive Pro Day (4.36 40, 18 reps of 225 on the bench). He’s soaring up the charts. The Eagles added two cornerbacks in free agency, but there’s still a glaring need at the position.
21. Cincinnati – Landon Collins, S, Alabama. How does an All-American stud fall below a CB few had heard of before the NFL Combine? Cornerbacks are very difficult to find, and safeties are … hit and miss. Safety doesn’t feel like a big need in Cincinnati, but can you pass up the value here? Also, Nelson and Iloka are free agents in 2016 (along with three cornerbacks).
22. Pittsburgh – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington. One of the toughest to peg in the 1st round because he was kicked off the team. Talent’s there, but is he too much of a risk for the Steelers? If they are scared off, they’ll hope one of the pass-rushing OLBs is still around.
23. Detroit – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon. If Waynes, Jones and Peters are off the board, will the Lions bolster the DL that took a hit this offseason? The idea of Ansah and Armstead as book ends in a couple of years … yikes.
24. Arizona – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia. If he’s off the table, do the Cardinals trade this pick for Adrian Peterson? I think Gurley’s the best running back in the draft and it’s not close, apologies to Melvin Gordon.
25. Carolina -TJ Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh. No change. The million dollar question will be what the Panthers do if Gurley is on the board here.
26. Baltimore – Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF. It feels like a pass-rusher here. RB also makes sense, but Ozzie Newsome is too smart for that. Perriman is a blazer, has good size (6-2, 212) and can learn from the great Steve Smith. Michael Campanaro has promise as a slot receiver, but you need a big target to replace Torrey Smith.
27. Dallas – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma. With Shelton and Brown off the board, Phillips is clearly the #3 DT in the draft. Jerry Jones has gone sensible, so no Melvin Gordon here … right? The Cowboys can’t possibly think Darren McFadden is the replacement for DeMarco Murray, but I can see Dallas going RB in the later rounds, like if Alabama’s TJ Yeldon drops to the 3rd round, or perhaps Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford in the 4th.
28. Denver – Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State. No change. Smith’s ‘grade’ seems to be all over the place. Talk to three scouts and you could actually hear, ‘late 1st, somewhere in the 2nd, 3rd round.’
29. Indianapolis – Cameron Erving, OL, FSU. Huge needs addressed in free agency. The Colts are on the cusp of the Super Bowl. Erving will be insurance in case something happens to the OL; Castonzo is a FA in 2016, and three other lineman are FAs.
30. Green Bay -Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest. Kept Cobb, so there’s no need for a WR here. But did lost two cornerbacks to FA, and there’s definitely a need there, as the Packers added nobody via free agency.
31. New Orleans (via Seattle) – Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami. Just gave away a talented young receiver (Kenny Stills, traded to Miami), so why not draft one with the pick you received in the Jimmy Graham trade?
32. New England – Ereck Flowers, OL, Miami. Patriots lost their two starting CBs, and have a major need at the position that will be addressed (perhaps a few times) in the draft. Flowers could play either tackle position, perhaps even guard. Keep in mind the early-season offensive line issues that nearly derailed the team last season.
FELL OUT from the last mock draft:
Eddie Goldman, DT, FSU
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Eli Harold, DE, Virginia
Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
NEW into the 1st round:
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
Cameron Erving, OL, FSU
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Ereck Flowers, OL, Miami