Mock Drafts are pointless and inaccurate. They’re also fun to write and fun to read. We’ve begun film work for this year’s draft, but we’re nowhere near forming complete opinions, and as we gather more information about prospects, discover some sleepers, and are able to access more and more film, some of these picks are going to look downright silly. But to reiterate: Mock drafts are fun to write and fun to read, and we like to have fun here.
As we’ve mostly focused on prominent, well-regarded prospects so far, I’m limiting this draft to three rounds, since we don’t know so much about the guys projected to go later. (Frankly, we don’t know much about some of the guys mocked in this draft. I won’t be surprised when some of our first-rounders go in the third round, and vice-versa.) Compensatory picks haven’t been handed out yet, which was another good reason to stop there, as only the first 96 picks are set in stone right now.
I did want to get one of these in before the Combine, as that event will separate some players who look similar on film but may measure differently. For now, enjoy three rounds of wild speculation!
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Our war room is still split on Winston vs. Mariota. I personally prefer Winston’s on-field game; I think it will translate to the NFL very well, and while Marcus Mariota is a talented athlete with a strong work ethic, I have some concerns about whether or not he can refine some of his decisions in the heat of the moment to the point I want to see in a quarterback.
- Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
I don’t think the Titans will take a quarterback here, and Williams is head-and-shoulders the best non-QB in this draft. I could see the Titans doing something dumb, because they’re the Titans, but that’s not the point of this mock.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
In reality, Jacksonville is probably best served trading down with someone who wants Mariota, but without that option here, they go with the guy perceived to have the highest upside as an edge rusher. His production wasn’t what you want from a premier prospect, but his athleticism, length, and skill using his hands leads teams to project a lot of growth from him.
- Oakland Raiders – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
A bit of a surprise to some here, but we have White ranked over Amari Cooper. A sure all-around receiver who has invited comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald, White immediately becomes the Raiders’ best receiver and the top-flight guy Derek Carr needs to aid his development.
- Washington Potatoes – La’el Collins, OT, Washington
Washington needs help basically everywhere. Collins is our favorite tackle in this draft, a guy who exhibits tremendous power in the run game and enough quickness that we’re higher on his ability to play LT than most. Even if he can’t, Washington could use another stud offensive lineman; Trent Williams is really their only above-average player in the unit.
- New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
I could certainly see the Jets giving Geno Smith one more year, but I doubt Mariota falls further than this regardless. Smith’s wild inconsistency leads to this pick; OC Chan Gailey is the kind of creative thinker who will tailor his offense to his franchise QB, rather than the other way around.
- Chicago Bears – Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB, Florida
Chicago needs defensive help badly. Rumors are that new DC Vic Fangio is switching to a 3-4. I think Fowler’s best position is 3-4 OLB, and I like him slightly better than Shane Ray (stronger) and Bud Dupree (more athletic).
- Atlanta Falcons – Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
Atlanta needs defensive help badly. Last year’s switch to a 3-4 under then-DC Mike Nolan lacked the necessary parts to succeed. I have no idea if Dan Quinn and Richard Smith will keep the same system or switch to something more like the Seattle 4-3, but Ray is the kind of edge-rushing prospect they need either way.
- New York Giants – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Another surprise. This comes from projecting a few things: One, that the Giants will make the decision to go all-in on the offense and maximize Eli Manning’s potential to carry them back to the playoffs. Two, the decision that Rueben Randle has been a disappointment leads them to replace him with a receiver of similar size.
One could easily argue that the bigger worry is that Victor Cruz will never be the same again after his catastrophic injury, and Amari Cooper makes an ideal replacement for him. I won’t argue with you if you do; it’s Odell Beckham’s lack of size that led me to go with the bigger body as the tiebreaker.
- St. Louis Rams – Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
The secondary is almost certainly the weakest spot of St. Louis’ defense, and an all-around player like Collins would go a long way to fixing some of the weaknesses there. (I think this is a bit of a reach for him, but the talent pool gets pretty flat pretty soon, and I’ve seen him mocked as high as #5, so I’m not sweating it.)
- Minnesota Vikings – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Minnesota needs receiver help to aid Teddy Bridgewater along. Charles Johnson, Bad Cordarrelle Patterson, and Old Greg Jennings aren’t enough. Parker might arguably be the better fit as an outside receiver, but he’s gone. Cooper will offer tons of speed to stretch the field, and may even draw attention away from Patterson enough that he becomes a productive player again.
- Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
Men of Shelton’s size and level of performance don’t come around very often. It’s arguable that he’s only a two-down player in the NFL, and this is a reach for any such player, but Shelton played all three downs in college, and Cleveland needs help in the defensive trenches, even if just to occupy blockers for their pass-rushing trio.
- New Orleans Saints – DE/OLB Bud Dupree, Kentucky
New Orleans needs a lot of help. Getting after the quarterback was one of their more obvious deficiencies last season, and is one of the only things that can cover up holes on the rest of the defense. Dupree is the best edge rusher left on the board by some margin, and I think he can be moved around and employed in enough different ways to please Rob Ryan.
- Miami Dolphins – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Miami spent lots of money on linebackers in free agency. That money was wasted. Thompson is a true playmaker who can take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Miami’s strong front four.
- San Francisco 49ers – Henry Anderson, DE/DT, Stanford
A bit of a surprise here, but Anderson is fantastic on film, and his combination of size and pass-rushing ability is very reminiscent of Justin Smith. Possibly a reach, but pass-rushing is always in vogue, and with San Francisco’s questions at outside linebacker (and no one really worth taking here), getting pass-rushing production from another position here makes sense.
- Houston Texans – Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Oh boy. This one’s gonna draw some controversy, as lots of scouts see Hundley as a second-rounder at best. But if you believe in a quarterback, you take him in round one. Despite Hundley’s flaws, he’s had very productive– and steadily improving– numbers in three years as a starter while having little to work with in terms of receiving help or offensive line. If Bill O’Brien can develop Matt McGloin from walk-on into actual NFL starter (for a very bad team, but still), Texans fans will have fun imagining what he can do with a talent like Hundley.
- San Diego Chargers – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
While the Chargers have gotten serviceable left tackle play out of King Dunlap, he is not the left tackle of the future, and even if he was, the Chargers have a hole at right tackle after moving D.J. Fluker inside. Peat’s technique is somewhat raw, but he has tremendous agility for his size: He’s by far the tackle prospect in this draft with the best “left tackle athleticism.”
- Kansas City Chiefs – Brandon Scherff, OT/G, Iowa
Unlike Peat, we have significant concerns about Scherff’s ability to play NFL left tackle. Fortunately for the Chiefs (well, so to speak), they need help everywhere on the line. Even if Scherff can’t supplant #1 overall disappointment Eric Fisher at left tackle, the Chiefs could surely use him at right tackle or guard.
- Cleveland Browns – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Browns should be pumped that the 49ers and Chiefs both passed on Strong. A big and, well, strong receiver, Strong wins with tremendous hands and ability at the catch point, even if other areas of his game need work. Becomes the best (active) receiver on Cleveland’s roster.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Philadelphia has been plagued by poor cornerback play for several years now. Waynes gives them their first real chance at having a #1 cornerback since they signed Nnamdi Asomugha and decided to use him as a roving Joker player rather than a press-man corner.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
I don’t get the love for Beasley as a top-ten or even top-five selection, as I don’t think he has the upside for that. Cincinnati needs pass rush help badly, though, as Carlos Dunlap was their only consistently effective rusher last year. Hopefully Geno Atkins will get back up to speed another year removed from his ACL tear, but either way, Beasley can offer someone to fill a Von Miller-type role of traditional outside linebacker mixed in with a rusher on passing downs.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Here’s another team that badly needs a cornerback. Peters falls because he was dismissed from his Washington team midseason, but stories are coming in that the rumors surrounding his dismissal were wildly overblown. If that turns out to be true, expect his stock to rise even higher.
- Detroit Lions – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Detroit catches a break of sorts when Ogbuehi’s ACL tear causes him to fall to them. He should be recovered by the start of the season, and he’d arguably be a top-ten pick without the injury. Ogbuehi would probably play right tackle this year before flipping sides with Riley Reiff. He shores up one of the weakest spots of Detroit’s offense.
- Arizona Cardinals – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
And speaking of guys who would have gone much higher if not for ACL tears. Gurley has tremendous agility and balance for his size to go with strength, vision, and patience. Bruce Arians learned last year that his fears that Andre Ellington could be run into the ground were true; Gurley gives them the between-the-tackles every-down guy they need so they can save Ellington for big plays.
- Carolina Panthers – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
This seems probably the least realistic pick of the first round– unlike Peters, DGB’s dismissal from school involved a serious domestic allegation, and he hasn’t played in an entire year. Still, though, his talent is rare– a size-speed combination reminiscent of Calvin Johnson– and I think some team with a need at receiver will take a chance on him. Giving Cam Newton two big outside targets who can get balls out of the air should go a long way to helping his production.
- Baltimore Ravens – Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan
While it’s not terribly like Baltimore to draft a receiver in the first round, Torrey Smith is a free agent who seemed to take a step back this year, Steve Smith turns 36 soon, and they don’t have much else at receiver (or at tight end, if Dennis Pitta can’t recover from his hip injuries). They need to give Joe Flacco a serious target.
- Dallas Cowboys – Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Cowboys fans should be pumped with this pick. An aggressive, penetrating defensive tackle who will aid the pass rush and make the rest of the front seven better.
- Denver Broncos – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
Terrance Knighton is a free agent and likely to depart. Phillips moves very well for his size and has been ranked a top-15 prospect by several outlets. When in doubt, grab the big man who moves fast.
- Indianapolis Colts – Eli Harold, DE/OLB, Virginia
Harold is a very athletic but not accomplished pass rusher (so basically, the opposite of Bjoern Werner). Indianapolis needs defensive help, and so they take a chance on Harold developing into an edge-rusher to pair with last year’s fifth-round find, Jonathan Newsome.
- Green Bay Packers – Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Possibly the most complete linebacker in the draft, Green Bay has been looking for a true playmaker at the position for some time (to the point where they moved Clay Matthews there for stretches last year). Kendricks will fill the bill nicely.
- Seattle Seahawks – Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Seattle had been able to get by with a weak wide receiver group, but the Super Bowl exposed some of the limitations of that approach. If they want to maximize Russell Wilson’s potential, and want to develop an offense to match their defense, they need to bring some talent in at the position. Agholor hasn’t been mocked this high elsewhere, but he’s a very impressive player who wins in all sorts of ways, from his precise route-running to his explosiveness to his strong hands and large catch radius for his size. If he were three inches taller, he’d be in the conversation with the top guys.
- New England Patriots – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Future Hall of Famer Vince Wilfork (he legally changed his name after the Super Bowl) probably doesn’t have a whole lot of time left in the NFL. The Pats can both help prepare for his departure and offer him some relief in games in 2015 by drafting Brown, another big, aggressive body who will command blockers.