Coaches, scouts, managers and media are getting ready to head to Indianapolis this weekend for the NFL Scouting Combine. Over 300 players entering into the 2015 NFL Draft will be ready to showcase their athleticism for the evaluators. From 40-yard dash times to body measurements, the players will be scrutinized.
No matter what, things will change after this weekend. Some players will see their stock rise and others will see their’s fall. Players with character concerns will get a chance to speak with teams and possibly clear some of the smoke. Let’s take a look at how things stand before the Combine takes place.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
With the release of QB Josh McCown earlier this week, the Buccaneers gave us a pretty good idea of what they are looking for in the upcoming draft. They should be looking for a quarterback, and while some believe Marcus Mariota is the better prospect, Winston fits this team better. If it weren’t for some off the field concerns with Winston I believe he would be as big of a quarterback prospect as you can find. If he puts it all together he can be a great NFL QB and when you have Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson as your receivers it makes sense to take a conventional QB.
2. Tennessee Titans – DT Leonard Williams, USC
Sometimes a player is too good to pass on. You have to weigh best player available versus best player available at a position of need. Some may think the Titans need a quarterback, but I would much rather give Zach Mettenberger another year and take a player as good as Williams. The 6’5 290 lb defensive tackle is a matchup nightmare. He has the speed and power to disrupt an offense from the interior defensive line or outside.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Gregory is a highly debated player. If you are a fan of a player who at times looks like he can be the best defender in football but at other times looks like he can fade away in an instance, Gregory is your guy. If you are willing to develop this raw talent and gain more consistency, you may land yourself an elite player. Gus Bradley is one of the best defensive minds in the game and I believe he can do wonders for Gregory. I would bet on Gregory putting it all together in time.
4. Oakland Raiders – WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
A lot of people are starting to look away from wide receiver to the Oakland Raiders with this pick. It seemed like a lock several months ago, but I feel like this is just overthinking from analysts. At this time of the year people tend to overthink and overanalyze to a fault. I don’t want to hear about how Kevin White or DeVante Parker may be the better wide receiver in this draft. Amari Cooper has the stats to back up his natural talent. He played in the SEC with a very average quarterback and still was unstoppable. This is an elite wide receiver in the making, and with Oakland looking like they may have found their franchise QB in Derek Carr, might as well give the guy his go-to receiver for the future.
5. Washington Redskins – S Landon Collins, Alabama
Ryan Clark was starting for the Redskins at safety last year. I don’t know if much more needs to be said. The Redskins have been looking for a game changing safety since Sean Taylor tragically passed away several years ago. Landon Collins is a natural strong safety. He will make plays in the run game, but should hold his own in pass coverage as well. If you think about Kam Chancellor, this is the type of play that Collins should bring.
6. New York Jets – QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
In this situation I think the Jets would most likely trade their pick. Unless they are convinced that Mariota can be their franchise quarterback, I think there would be too much value in trading this pick and stacking assets through this draft. Mariota has the potential to be a very good quarterback in the NFL. Too many things would have to go right for this to happen, and the pros of trading this pick outweigh the cons. Mariota’s durability at the next level worries me and he is a guy that you have to cater your offense to. He will run, he will scramble in the backfield and he will take big hits.
7. Chicago Bears – DT Danny Shelton, Washington
This pick is contingent on the Bears switching their defense from 4-3 to 3-4. With John Fox being hired as the head coach and his teams traditionally running a 3-4, Danny Shelton would be the perfect building block for the middle of their defensive line. A huge 3-4 nose tackle is a necessity for the scheme and with Danny Shelton being 6’2 and 343 lbs Shleton fits the build. In watching some of Shelton’s tape I found him not for me. I think he is too big. He can use his size and power to clog running lanes and disrupt the backfield, but if you ask him to chase down a player it just won’t happen. I also worry about how much playing time Shelton will be able to handle in the NFL. I think teams will look to slim him down a little for the next level, but we will see if he will bring the same disruption at a lower weight.
8. Atlanta Falcons – DE Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
This isn’t the time for Atlanta to get cute. Some people think Shane Ray has the potential to be a better player than Gregory and Fowler, but I haven’t seen it. With a great coaching staff put together this season, Atlanta is ready for big things. Dante Fowler will add a relentless motor to a defense that was lacking last season. Under former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn Fowler will absolutely dominate. Potential put aside, Fowler was the best defensive lineman not named Leonard Williams last year.
9. New York Giants – OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
The Giants went for the flashy pick last year by taking Odell Beckham Jr. over Zack Martin in the first round. Beckham and Martin both turned out to have phenomenal years, but the same problem exists this year that did last year. The Giants offensive line is a serious work in progress. Brandon Scherff would be a great addition to that line. Scherff has the ability to play outside at offensive tackle, but may be even better if he is put inside to offensive guard. This pick would save 34-year-old Eli Manning from some hits that he doesn’t need to be taking, as well as give him more time to find that stud of a wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
10. St. Louis Rams – OT La’el Collins, LSU
The Rams made their first attempt at bulking up their offensive line last year by drafting Greg Robinson 2nd overall. Adding Collins to that offensive line will really solidify it. With Joseph Barksdale heading toward free agency and Jake Long becoming an injury concern this pick makes a lot of sense. Collins is a player like Scherff who is solid outside, but may be even better if he went inside to offensive guard.
11. Minnesota Vikings – WR Kevin White, West Virginia
Teddy Bridgewater had a great season for the Vikings last year. With Cordarrelle Patterson disappearing, Bridgewater needs a go-to receiver. Kevin White is an elite talent at the position and this should be a no-brainer for the Vikings. Give your stud quarterback someone to depend on and let him flourish.
12. Cleveland Browns – WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
This is another no-brainer pick. The Browns should have looked for a wide receiver last year knowing about all of the off the field concerns that Josh Gordon had. With Gordon being suspended for the entirety of the 2015-16 season, it is time for the Browns to invest in the wide receiver position. Parker is another elite talent and if Gordon gets his act together, Gordon and Parker can be one of the game’s best receiver duos.
13. New Orleans Saints – DE Shane Ray, Missouri
I am not the biggest fan of Shane Ray, but his potential would make him very hard for a team like New Orleans with a need at edge rusher to pass up on. There is a lot of good in Ray’s game, but there is a lot of bad as well. He doesn’t give you the perfect size that Gregory gives to make you believe you have to take him either. Rob Ryan is a coach that can work wonders for Ray, and if you are able to capitalize on what he does well and develop him, you can have a great player.
14. Miami Dolphins – DT Malcolm Brown, Texas
The Miami Dolphins have a very good defensive line, but their interior rush is lacking. Malcolm Brown is one of the more criminally underrated players in the 2015 NFL draft. Brown is a classic 3-technique defensive tackle that will prove to be a nightmare rushing up the middle with Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon on the outsides.
15. San Francisco 49ers – WR Devin Funchess, Michigan
I think the 49ers will be hoping that Parker, White or Cooper fall to them at this pick, but if they can land Funchess they shouldn’t be all too upset. I like the versatility that Funchess brings with his game. He played tight end at Michigan but translates to a wide receiver in the NFL. Funchess is tall, quick, strong and athletic. With Vernon Davis on the decline I would like to see San Francisco get creative and give him some snaps at tight end as well. Colin Kaepernick fastballs will look a little better going to a guy like Funchess.
16. Houston Texans – LB Shaq Thompson, Washington
Thompson is one of my favorite players in this draft. He is a big-play linebacker that also played some running back for Washington and made big plays there as well. With J.J. Watt being his disruptive self on the defensive line, this should free Thompson to roam around looking to make big plays. Like Watt, Thompson has a knack for the big play, whether that be scooping up a fumble and returning it or picking off a pass and bringing it home. The combination of Thompson and Watt should give Houston plenty of opportunities to score defensively.
17. San Diego Chargers – OT Andrus Peat, Stanford
You couldn’t tune in to a Chargers game without seeing Philip Rivers in a crowd of players. The Chargers offensive line was horrid in 2014. Philip Rivers has enjoyed a resurgence over the last two seasons despite not getting help from his offensive line. A player like Andrus Peat would help give Rivers some time to throw the ball or at least not make him have to panic on every single snap.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
You do not need to even list a school for a player like this, because he was kicked off the team. Hence the reason why he would still be available at 18, and the reason some will say this is too early to take this type of player. Take away all of the off-the-field concerns and this is the best receiver in this draft. DGB is a seriously elite wide receiver. When you have a need at the position as bad as Kansas City does and you have a coach as respected as Andy Reid, you can afford to make this type of pick. If things pan out they get what could eventually be one of the game’s best wide receivers.
19. Cleveland Browns – OT T.J. Clemmings, Pitt
With Joe Thomas and Clemmings on the outside of the Browns offensive line and Alex Mack in the middle, the Browns would have some serious blocking. If they want to give Johnny Manziel the chance that he deserves, some protection like this with the addition of Kevin White a couple picks prior to throw to, there is no excuse.
20. Philadelphia Eagles – CB Marcus Peters, Washington
This is another player who is being dropped down due to his off the field concerns. Peters was suspended for having issues with the Washington coaching staff. Without those concerns Peters would be as big of a cornerback prospect as you could find. He has the right size for the position, fluid in the hips, has the ability to locate and high-point the football and can make big plays. The Eagles have a desperate need for a cornerback and would be getting a top-notch talent.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – DE Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Kentucky
This is another one of my favorite players in this draft. He is quick off the snap and can be a real nightmare for opposing tackles. If Dupree beats you to the bunch you can forget about it. When it comes to hand fighting he really lacks and his technique can use work. If he can learn how to use his hands as well as tighten up his technique he can be as good as any edge rusher in the NFL. He is slightly undersized, but his quickness off the snap makes up for it. The Bengals need some rush off the edge and this can really open things up for Geno Atkins as well.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State
The Steelers need a cornerback as bad as the Eagles do. Waynes is a player who may be the first cornerback taken if teams are concerned about Peters. Turn on the tape on Waynes and you will be impressed. He has the size that you want in a cornerback and plays some tight man coverage. I am a little worried about his speed and some NFL receivers may be able to burn him over the top, but this is nitpicking.
23. Detroit Lions – DT Carl Davis, Iowa
With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley both set to hit free agency, the Lions have a major hole in the middle of their defensive line. Carl Davis would be able to step right in and pick up where they left off. The Lions will most likely want to keep one of their two free agent DTs, so Davis would fit in really well next to either one of them.
24. Arizona Cardinals – LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
This is another player that people have to stop over-evaluating. Kendricks had a great season for UCLA proving to be a major player in run and pass coverage. With the Cardinals having a hard time against the run last season and their linebacking group being one of the weakest points of their defense, Kendricks would take them over the top.
25. Carolina Panthers – OT Cameron Erving, Florida State
What I really like about Erving is his versatility. He played both offensive tackle and center for the Seminoles and was a force at both positions. The Panthers really struggled to protect Cam Newton all season long. Newton has all the talent in the world, but if the Panthers strip him of receivers and protection he can’t work as well as they’d like. Kelvin Benjamin looked like the go-to guy Cam needed and he still needs more receivers, but some protection will really help him as well.
26. Baltimore Ravens – WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
With Torrey Smith set to hit free agency and Steve Smith in the latter years of his career the Ravens can really use a wide receiver. Strong is a tall and physical receiver that Joe Flacco would love to throw to. Strong can extend the field and fight for the contested throws that Flacco loves to throw. Strong and Smith can be a very good receiver duo and Strong will make a nice duo with whoever the Ravens choose to replace Steve Smith in the future.
27. Dallas Cowboys – RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
Most people would think that the Cowboys need defense, and they do. History proves that rookie defensive linemen do not make too much of an impact in their rookie year. The Dallas Cowboys have a 2-3 year window to win a Super Bowl under Tony Romo. The Cowboys should look to free agency to add defensive line talent so that they get that instant impact. In order to spend on defense in free agency, the Cowboys will need to let DeMarco Murray walk and who better to replace him than Todd Gurley? Had Gurley not torn his ACL, he would be a top-15 pick and you would struggle to find a better running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. Rookie running backs have proven to be instant impact players and with Gurley rushing behing the Cowboys offensive line he can be an absolute superstar for many years.
28. Denver Broncos – TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota
Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas are both going to be free agents. The Broncos will most likely use their franchise tag on one of these players and the obvious choice should be Demaryius Thomas. Maxx Williams would be a great replacement for Julius Thomas and may even prove to be better than him in the long run.
29. Indianapolis Colts – OG A.J. Cann, South Carolina
When you have a player as good as Andrew Luck, protect him. Luck was phenomenal with a very average offensive line. If Luck could be given more time in the pocket and not have to worry, he would see his turnovers drop making him even more effective. The Colts are on the brink of giving Luck a groundbreaking contract and when you are going to spend that kind of money on someone you better protect them. Cann is the best interior offensive line prospect in the draft.
30. Green Bay Packers – LB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
I still do not get why McKinney isn’t getting as much love as he should. This is a player that has rare athleticism. Combine his size and athleticism and you’ll see how much of a freak he is. I think he can do anything you want defensively. If you want him to play middle linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end…he really can do it all. He is raw as a prospect, but Green Bay can really benefit if he puts it all together. Clay Matthews had to be moved to inside linebacker due to how poor the play from that position was. McKinney would allow Matthews to go back to rushing the passer.
31. Seattle Seahawks – WR Sammie Coates, Auburn
Can we finally get Russell Wilson some receivers!? Coates is an absolute burner. For someone with his size to run so quickly makes him so valuable. Coates will be able to extend the field and give Wilson someone dependable for those deep routes he loves to throw so much. If Wilson was able to connect with receivers like Chris Matthews and Jermaine Kearse on long balls, I can only imagine what he would do with someone like Coates.
32. New England Patriots – CB Quinten Rollins, University of Miami (Ohio)
This is the type of pick that makes the Patriots so great. Rollins is a player with major potential that comes from a small school. This would be risky for most teams, but New England tends to work well with risks. With Darrelle Revis likely to be a cap casualty, Rollins would be able to give the Patriots some insurance at the cornerback position. Rollins will come nowhere near as good as Revis in his first year, but the hope would be that Rollins can develop into a major player in the future.
Well, there you have it! Tune in to the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend and watch all of these men showcase their skill. Things will definitely change after this weekend, so stay tuned for more mock drafts!