2015 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Midseason Predictions
Week 8 of the NFL season has come and gone. Some teams are playing well and in control of their playoff destiny—other teams are limping to the finish and already looking ahead to 2015. The halfway point between now and then is the 2015 NFL draft, and with it comes hopes and dreams for every NFL franchise.
Whether you're a struggling team trying to rebuild or a successful top-tier team looking to add a piece or two to secure a Super Bowl, the NFL draft is incredibly important. And with an upcoming class that looks to be stocked well at quarterback, running back, pass-rusher and cornerback, every team can head into the offseason feeling good about its chances.
Using an updated draft order based on current standings, here's a look at the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL draft.
1. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
With zero wins, the Oakland Raiders have earned the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Now what do they do with it?
The smart move would be trading down by offering the pick to a quarterback-needy team and adding much-needed draft picks to restock this roster. That might be the realistic option come late April, but in a mock draft with no trades, it's not possible. Let's look at the Raiders' roster, though, because there are plenty of holes to fill.
Running back, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive end, middle linebacker, cornerback and safety are all needs. Basically, the Raiders have quarterback Derek Carr, guard Gabe Jackson, center Stefan Wisniewski, linebackers Khalil Mack and Sio Moore and the potential of cornerback D.J. Hayden. The rest of the roster could be turned over tomorrow due to age or poor play.
Drafting a wide receiver No. 1 overall hasn't happened since 1996 (Keyshawn Johnson), but it is the biggest need and best value for Oakland here. Without a need at quarterback, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston offer no value. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams or defensive end Randy Gregory may be an option, but Cooper is the type of explosive wide receiver Carr needs.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska
The young Jacksonville Jaguars believe they have their franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles. That frees them up with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to start addressing a defense that needs a serious makeover.
The Jaguars have a nice building block in defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, but they lack a pass-rusher offenses fear on a consistent basis. Teaming up Marks—who has been fantastic getting penetration and pressuring the backfield—with an edge-rusher who has speed, vision and length is a must for the 2015 offseason.
Randy Gregory fits the bill for what head coach Gus Bradley needs in Florida. He's long (6'6"), has a body that can add weight, and he's been used all over the Nebraska defense as a defensive end, outside linebacker and even stand-up blitzer from an inside linebacker spot.
Call his position whatever you want; Gregory's pass-rushing skills are desperately needed and a perfect fit for the Jaguars.
3. New York Jets
The Pick: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
The Geno Smith era is over in New York—by the fault of his own weaknesses, the failings of the New York Jets coaching staff and front office and a lack of talent around him. Regardless of the reasons, the realization that Smith isn't the future of the Jets will come with dramatic changes in New York.
Obviously, quarterback becomes the biggest need on a roster full of needs. The Jets realistically need help along the offensive line, could add at least one wide receiver (especially if Percy Harvin is a short-term add) and need new blood at outside linebacker, cornerback and safety. But they will also be looking for a new head coach barring something unforeseen over the next eight weeks.
The new regime in New York will need a quarterback, and Oregon's Marcus Mariota is the best prospect in the 2015 class. He's mobile, smart, a high-character player and a quarterback with the arm strength Geno Smith lacks and the accuracy that holds Michael Vick back from being a quality NFL quarterback at the end of his career.
Mariota is NFL-ready right now and will give the head coach in New York a true shot at winning.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Were it not for off-field question marks, Jameis Winston would be a legitimate contender for the No. 1 overall player spot on my big board. And that's not to say he can't still be the top pick if a team with a quarterback need earns that pick or a trade happens.
Looking at the landscape of the NFL draft order after Week 8, Winston won't have to wait long to find his spot in the pros. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers swung hard and missed on both Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, and it's time for Lovie Smith to admit his offense needs a true talent at quarterback instead of relying on limited players to run the show.
Winston's natural talents and upside are remarkable. He's a powerful athlete, a thrower with great anticipation and the football IQ to make reads and run an NFL offense today. There will be those who hate him for allegations away from the football field, but if the NFL grades him on his play and potential, he'll be drafted in the early first round.
5. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson
The Tennessee Titans are currently sitting with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, which just puts them out of position to have a shot at Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. So what does head coach Ken Whisenhunt ask general manager Ruston Webster to add for his team?
Whisenhunt took the job expecting more talent on the roster, and right now he's looking at a rebuild in Nashville. With that in mind, drafting the best available player as opposed to forcing a quarterback in Round 1 makes the most long-term sense for Tennessee. And there's always the chance that Zach Mettenberger earns the quarterback-of-the-future label over the next eight weeks.
So what do the Titans do? Fixing the pass rush is a priority, and with Vic Beasley on the board and ready to fill the role as a stand-up edge-rusher in defensive coordinator Ray Horton's scheme, the pick is easy. Beasley has the burst, vision, length and agility to be a hybrid pass-rusher, and at Clemson he's shown the versatility to rush with his hand in the dirt or standing up. With no long-term prospect on the edge, Beasley fills the team's biggest need on defense.
6. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: OLB Shane Ray, Missouri
Watch the Atlanta Falcons play for five minutes and you'll know they need help on defense. Watch for 10 minutes and you'll pinpoint that the outside linebacker talent in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4 scheme is lacking.
The Falcons invested big money in the defensive line via free agency and the draft this past offseason, but those moves are not paying off. The decision to ignore the outside linebacker position looks incredibly foolish at this point too and could very well cost head coach Mike Smith his job.
The Falcons have the quarterback, they have the wide receivers and in the 2014 draft they used the No. 6 overall pick on left tackle Jake Matthews. With the No. 6 pick in the 2015 draft, Missouri outside linebacker Shane Ray comes in to fix that pass rush.
Ray isn't the most well-known player right now, but his play is top-10 worthy. Ray has the athleticism to attack off the edge and is a perfect fit in Atlanta's 3-4 defense.
The Pick: DE Leonard Williams, USC
The quarterback position may be the most unsettled in Washington, but with it very unlikely that owner Daniel Snyder will move away from a healthy Robert Griffin III, management must look at bolstering the roster around RGIII.
The offense is in good shape and has a good range of established studs (Trent Williams, Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed) and up-and-comers like Morgan Moses, who has a bright spot at right tackle. The defense, though, is less concrete.
Ryan Kerrigan is the foundation on defense, and rookies Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland have shown flashes of being very good. What the team lacks is a young defensive lineman in the 3-4 defense with the athleticism to be a consistent factor. Give it a Sheldon Richardson or Muhammad Wilkerson-type defensive end, and this defense immediately looks better.
Enter Leonard Williams. The USC defensive end has the body for a 3-4 defense and experience playing left defensive end in a three-man front. He's athletic enough as a pass-rusher to slide inside on passing downs and attack from a gap position too. In short, he's everything the team doesn't have at defensive end right now.
8. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: QB Brett Hundley, UCLA
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley hasn't had a great season. His offensive line is bad (really bad), his wide receivers drop too many passes and he's been banged up. But the team that falls for Hundley isn't drafting him for his numbers, but instead for his upside and what its coaches can get out of him.
Hundley—like Blake Bortles, EJ Manuel, Ryan Tannehill and other projects at the position—has a high "boom-or-bust" rate, but if you hit on him he can be very good. And the St. Louis Rams have few options outside of drafting the athletic, smart Hundley and coaching him up. Brian Schottenheimer isn't the right coach to do that, but a new offensive coordinator might be the smallest of changes in St. Louis this offseason.
Fans won't get excited about the prospect of a quarterback who needs work, but Hundley has the skills loved by NFL scouts and general managers because of his potential. With UCLA failing to properly develop him or build an offense around him, Hundley's best football is ahead of him.
9. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
Matt Kalil went from being a promising left tackle as a rookie in 2012 to what looks like a bust after regressing in both 2013 and 2014. Kalil, to date this season, has been among the NFL's worst left tackles. And with his contract set to expire about the 2015 season, it would be wise for the Minnesota Vikings to work on improving the offensive line for 2015 and beyond.
Kalil cannot move to guard or right tackle, not with his lack of strength or anticipation in his blocking. What the Vikings can do, though, is draft Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi with the plan of playing him at left guard—and getting Charlie Johnson off the field—before he takes over at left tackle in 2016.
The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have built powerful offenses by investing first-round draft picks on the offensive line. In the copycat NFL, you can bet that trend takes hold. For a Vikings team suddenly struggling on the line and without Adrian Peterson, that's the smartest play available.
10. Chicago Bears
The Pick: OLB Shaq Thompson, Washington
Pick a position on defense and it's likely the Chicago Bears need help there. Phil Emery has done a good job in some spots—signing Willie Young, drafting Will Sutton, Ego Ferguson and Kyle Fuller—and struggled in others (see: McClellin, Shea). But what's most important is moving on from the misses and reinforcing the hits on defense with better all-around talent.
Safety and linebacker stand out as the two biggest areas of need on this defense, so I'm going with the best player available at either position. That happens to be a player who could actually play either spot.
Shaq Thompson has played safety, outside linebacker and running back at Washington, and to me he's another Lavonte David-type linebacker. He's athletic, rangy, smart and super active no matter what the offense does. Plug Thompson in with other young linebackers Christian Jones—a nice undrafted free-agent pickup—and Jon Bostic, and this unit might be worth developing.
11. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: G/T Brandon Scherff, Iowa
The New Orleans Saints have enough legitimate needs on both sides of the ball that you could easily pick several players to fill this draft spot. But where the team has filled specific needs in previous drafts, going to more of a "best player available" strategy could be the better long-term play.
Iowa's Brandon Scherff is an interesting prospect for New Orleans in that he can play tackle or guard and will remind fans of Notre Dame's Zack Martin in his NFL readiness and upside. He's smart, tough, athletic and is a true team-first player.
If the Saints want him at guard—a vital position with Drew Brees at quarterback stepping up into passing lanes—he'll do it and has the look of an All-Pro there. If they want him at right tackle, he has the strength and footwork to make that transition too.
Scherff isn't a sexy pick like a cornerback or outside linebacker, but this is the type of smart team-building the Saints need.
12. New York Giants
The Pick: SS Landon Collins, Alabama
Alabama's hard-hitting safety Landon Collins is a favorite of fans on Twitter, and in New York he'd fill a huge hole in a secondary that's missed Will Hill and needs to get younger, faster and better at safety.
Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps are fine football players, but neither has the long-term potential to be a force in the New York secondary. With the cornerback position solidified by Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, there is a glaring need for a physical, rangy safety. Collins does that (and more) for Alabama.
Built like an outside linebacker (6'0", 222 lbs) and with the vision of a center fielder, Collins can play in the box or as a single-high safety. Few players at the position have graded out as well as he does, which makes him a candidate to play instantly in New York.
13. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: CB Marcus Peters, Washington
The Carolina Panthers rolled the dice in 2014 and bet on Cam Newton, a good front seven on defense and rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin carrying them. The No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs only a year ago, the Panthers are a playoff contender, but they don't look as balanced as the team was a year ago.
You could look at offensive tackle, wide receiver, cornerback or safety as a legitimate Round 1 need. With Landon Collins off the board, safety isn't a good value here. Wide receiver would be interesting, but the team has other needs and can fill that spot in Rounds 2-7. Offensive tackle would be a good pick if the team feels a player like La'el Collins, Andrus Peat or Ty Sambrailo can be a starter.
The safe pick, though, is Washington's Marcus Peters at cornerback.
Peters has the size, speed and fluid movement skills the NFL loves in a cornerback. He's also a ball hawk and has great hands. He has been suspended once this year by new head coach Chris Petersen, but his talent is undeniable. And in a cornerback class that's not very top-heavy, Peters is the best of the bunch.
14. Houston Texans
The Pick: QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
The Houston Texans sit at 4-4 after eight weeks, and that pushes them out of contention for one of the top quarterbacks in the 2015 class. But make no mistake, finding a quarterback is the No. 1 priority of the team this offseason.
The best thing that could happen for Bill O'Brien's team is to have Connor Cook enter the draft as a redshirt junior and fall down the board a bit. Cook has the arm strength, footwork and vision to excel in an offense that asks the quarterback to drive the ball from the pocket, and as O'Brien showed at Penn State, he's willing to develop a strong-armed quarterback to fit his scheme.
Cook isn't a lock to enter the draft—and if he does enter there's a good shot he is off the board by pick No. 14—but with many teams already invested in a young quarterback, the Texans may get lucky and have a passer fall down the board to them.
15. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: WR Devin Funchess, Michigan
The Cleveland Browns—and specifically offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan—deserve credit for getting production out of a wide receiver corps that seriously lacks talent with Josh Gordon suspended. But looking ahead to 2015, assuming Gordon is able to stay on the field, what's the biggest need for this team?
It's still at wide receiver.
The idea is to pair Gordon and slot receiver Andrew Hawkins with another threat to give the Browns a true three-deep at wide receiver. With Jordan Cameron at the tight end, the quarterbacks in Cleveland would have a balanced passing attack at their disposal.
The best receiver on the board after Amari Cooper is Michigan's Devin Funchess. Fans may be confused because Funchess played tight end until his senior season, but he was always viewed as a Jimmy Graham-type tight end who would transition to wideout in the NFL. His big body, ability to high-point the ball and strong hands will remind fans of Kelvin Benjamin or Alshon Jeffery.
With Gordon's future unstable at best, adding a go-to wide receiver makes plenty of sense.
16. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
The best running back in college football—maybe the best player in college football—comes off the board in the middle of the first round. This would end the two-year drought of no running backs selected in the first round, and Gurley is the right man to do so.
The Dolphins wanted Knowshon Moreno to be their power back this year, but that has not happened. Lamar Miller has made nice plays, but his best role is still as a change-of-pace back and receiver out of the backfield. What the Dolphins need is a No. 1 back—someone in that Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray mold. That's Gurley.
With an improved offensive line, a stout defense and no overwhelming need on either side of the ball, the Dolphins are well-positioned to draft an elite running back talent and let him take pressure off of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and turn the team's mauling offensive line loose.
17. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: WR Kevin White, West Virginia
Barring a move at the trade deadline, the Kansas City Chiefs have a wide receiver depth chart of Dwayne Bowe, A.J. Jenkins, Donnie Avery and Junior Hemingway. To say they need a wide receiver early in the 2015 draft may be the understatement of the year.
West Virginia's Kevin White offers many positives for the Chiefs in Round 1. The former JUCO star has quickly developed under head coach Dana Holgorsen and is among college football's most exciting and productive wideouts. That's good news for Kansas City.
White's size (6'3", 210 lbs), long arms, big hands and vision in adjusting for the football give him the tools to be a threat up the field or as a yards-after-catch player. That combination of talent would also finally give the Chiefs a worthy complement to Bowe at receiver.
18. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: CB P.J. Williams, Florida State
The San Francisco 49ers are a tough team to evaluate for needs given the injuries and suspensions that have hit the team hard early in 2014. But by looking at the roster, former draft picks and future free agents, you can narrow the list of needs down to wide receiver and cornerback fairly quickly.
The need at cornerback seems more pressing given the play of Stevie Johnson and Bruce Ellington at wide receiver. Unless a top-tier talent at receiver fell to pick No. 18, it would be a surprise to see the 49ers reach for Jaelen Strong or Sammie Coates here. Instead, look for Trent Baalke to continue using first-round picks to bolster the defense.
Florida State's P.J. Williams has the length, height, speed and instincts teams are all about right now at cornerback. He's able to play on the line of scrimmage in press situations and has the speed to bail and run if needed. He has also shown the hands needed to force turnovers—something the 49ers are lacking at cornerback right now.
19. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor
Big Shawn Oakman will excite a lot of fans, scouts and coaches in the run up to the draft. With his rare size and athleticism, he could easily be a top-five or top-10 pick in the draft. In this midseason mock, he falls to the middle of Round 1 due to team needs and some recent concerns on film that he's disappearing from action too soon.
If you're a fan of the Seattle Seahawks, that shouldn't bother you too much, though. Pete Carroll does an amazing job maximizing a player's ability, and a strong rotation along the defensive line keeps players fresh.
And what the Seahawks don't have currently is a pass-rusher with the burst to play outside—something Oakman does even though he's 6'9" and 280 pounds. We're talking rare athlete here, and the possibilities are endless with where you can play him.
Running back and wide receiver may be underrated needs for Seattle, but look for its exceptional scouting department to target those areas outside of Round 1.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State
William Gay. Ike Taylor. Cortez Allen. Brice McCain.
Any of those guys scare you if you're playing the Pittsburgh Steelers this week? Didn't think so. And that's why the team's biggest need—without a doubt—is at cornerback.
You might say offensive tackle or defensive line are big needs, and they are. But adding a No. 1 cornerback with long-term potential has to become a priority in Pittsburgh after being ignored for so long. Band-Aid free-agent pickups cannot make up the bulk of a cornerback roster, and that's the case for the Steelers right now.
The team needs a physical, smart, long-armed cornerback who can play both up on the line of scrimmage and show the versatility to excel in a zone too. Trae Waynes does both, and as one Big Ten scout recently told me, he's the best cornerback he's seen on film all year.
21. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: OLB Bud Dupree, Kentucky
The Baltimore Ravens are managed by one of the NFL's best front offices, and general manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta do a great job finding talent in the draft and through free agency. With that in mind, expect another offseason of drafting for current and future needs while keeping an eye on adding value picks across the board.
Looking at the roster, running back is a need. But they're getting good production from Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro, so it's not a Round 1 need. You could look at wide receiver as an area where the team needs to get younger and build depth, but again, that's not a great value or a Round 1 need.
The Ravens also need to get younger in the pass rush, and with an excellent value on the board in Kentucky's Bud Dupree, it'll be tough to pass up the SEC stud. Dupree has the violent pass-rushing skills, length and burst to become a factor early in his career as a stand-up or down pass-rusher.
22. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: ILB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
A.J. Hawk's time as a starting inside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers should come to an end soon, making this the primary need for a team that continues to struggle to stop the run. Jamari Lattimore may be on the outs too, but he's at least a young player with developmental potential.
The Packers will be wise to look heavily at a strong inside linebacker class and find a player they can build around. Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney is an easy bet to step in Day 1 and contribute as a starter and three-down linebacker.
McKinney has the athleticism to play inside or outside linebacker in the NFL, and he could do well in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. His strength, speed and instincts will help him become the inside presence the Packers have lacked for the last several years.
23. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: OT La'el Collins, LSU
The San Diego Chargers are getting surprising production from King Dunlap, but they need a major upgrade at offensive guard. Expect that to be a focus of the upcoming offseason, and if a solid player falls to them in the first round, general manager Tom Telesco has to pull the trigger.
LSU left tackle La'el Collins looks like a star left tackle at times and has the potential to develop into a star with some coaching to improve his balance and base. Until he's ready to take on NFL pass-rushers on the edge, Collins can slide in at left guard (like Greg Robinson did in St. Louis) and acclimate to the NFL while filling a big need for the Chargers.
The front office may decide other needs are a bigger focus, but the offensive line has to be fixed for the Chargers to overtake the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
24. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: OLB Dante Fowler, Florida
It's time for the Indianapolis Colts to finish building their defense, and that starts by finding a bookend pass-rusher to go opposite Bjoern Werner as Robert Mathis starts to near the end of his career.
Florida's Dante Fowler has a thick, powerful base and comes off the edge like a blur. He's a good, athletic complement to the stronger pass-rushing moves Werner brings to the table and would round out the outside linebacker corps with speed and agility that is lacking with Mathis out of the lineup.
The Colts could look at other spots to improve, but with no safety on the board worthy of pick No. 24, it's unlikely they would roll the dice on a down lineman or inside linebacker if a pass-rusher like Fowler is available.
25. Cleveland (from Buffalo)
The Pick: DT Danny Shelton, Washington
The Buffalo Bills traded their 2015 first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to move up in the 2014 draft to secure wide receiver Sammy Watkins. So far, that trade is working out well for Buffalo, and the Browns are happy to have two first-round picks for a second straight season.
With a wide receiver selected earlier in Round 1, the Browns can focus on the other big need in the middle of the defensive line. Washington's Danny Shelton—the third Husky drafted in Round 1 so far—is an ideal athlete and body type for the Cleveland defense.
Ahtyba Rubin has been a weak link for the Cleveland defense line, and Shelton has the skill set to step into that role from Day 1 and make an impact. As a nose tackle, Shelton can impact the game with this strength and athleticism, giving the Browns another solid young defender with which to build.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State
The Cincinnati Bengals have invested many draft picks over the years on defensive linemen—some performing very well and others fizzling out—but the front four remains an area of need heading into the offseason.
We all know that Geno Atkins is a fantastic player—and will be better the further removed he is from injury—but Domata Peko isn't a quality starter at this stage of his career, and the depth isn't great despite investing draft picks in the unit.
Is there room for a natural pass-rusher? I think so, and Ohio State's Michael Bennett has the burst, leverage and instincts to become a solid gap penetrator next to (or in relief of) Atkins. It may seem unconventional to play two penetrators side-by-side, but the Bengals must generate a better interior pass rush, and this is one way to get that done.
And with so many teams rotating their defensive linemen these days, Bennett wouldn't be a wasted pick even if he and Atkins share 3-technique duties. And like the other Michael Bennett in Seattle, the Ohio State lineman can kick out to defensive end on rushing downs and give the Bengals a stout defender there.
27. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: CB Alex Carter, Stanford
Deciding which position the Philadelphia Eagles should draft in Round 1 took less than one second. Through eight weeks of play it's been obvious (painfully at times) that the Eagles need help at cornerback. Relief comes from the Pac-12, where Stanford's Alex Carter has the body type and long arms Chip Kelly wants in his defenders.
Adding Carter to the mix gets Bradley Fletcher or Cary Williams out of the starting lineup, and that's a big plus for a defense that gets picked on at corner. Slot cornerback Brandon Boykin is very good and may be bumped out to a starting spot on the boundary too, but pairing Carter and Boykin together for the long run is a smart move for this secondary.
Safety is another area of need for the Eagles, but no players of good value are still on the board at pick No. 27, so cornerback gets the nod.
28. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
The Dallas Cowboys used three of their last four first-round picks to build an offensive line that has been amazing throughout the 2014 season. In the upcoming offseason, Jerry and Stephen Jones must put that same focus on building a defensive line.
The team's second-round pick from 2014, DeMarcus Lawrence, hasn't yet returned from injury but looks promising as one rush defensive end. Tackle Henry Melton is playing well and can be a fix for the team in the 3-technique, but another defensive end is needed here.
Shilique Calhoun will get looks as a defensive end and outside linebacker due to his long, athletic frame, but in Dallas he would be a rush defensive end. Calhoun (6'5", 256 lbs) may need to bulk up some to handle the edge in the run game, but he would bring an immediate impact to the pass rush. And from the looks of this Dallas defense, that's where the most help is needed.
29. Detroit Lions
The Pick: DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State
It's well-known that defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley will become free agents after the 2014 season. And while most everyone expects Suh to be back with the team, Fairley hasn't been the consistent force the team expected. Paying two defensive tackles top money isn't likely, which opens the door for Fairley to leave and a draft pick to be used to replace him.
Florida State's Eddie Goldman is capable of stepping into that role and becoming Suh's running mate. He's aggressive off the ball, a fast penetrator through gaps and a good run defender both when taking on blocks and when tracking the ball away. Goldman, Suh and 2014 rookie Caraun Reid would give the Lions a young, athletic, scary rotation at tackle.
30. New England Patriots
The Pick: WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
It seems like every year the New England Patriots are predicted to draft a wide receiver early, and yet it rarely happens anymore. Bill Belichick may be gun-shy after spending early picks on Chad Jackson, Aaron Dobson, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate and Bethel Johnson.
But DeVante Parker is a much more well-rounded prospect than any of those players, and he brings the big-play ability to stretch a defense while also offering the body control and athleticism to be a jump-ball target in the red zone and over the middle.
The Patriots are getting good production from Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman, but can the offense consistently dominate with them as the top two wide receivers? With Tom Brady already 37 years old, the pressure is on New England to build a winner around its future Hall of Fame quarterback.
It should take a page from the Denver Broncos' playbook and add an exciting young receiver with the skills to open up this passing attack.
31. Denver Broncos
The Pick: RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
The Denver Broncos are realizing that Montee Ball is not the answer they'd hoped he would be at running back. That's bad news since he was a second-round draft pick. The good news is that Ronnie Hillman has been an exciting runner and receiver out of the backfield.
Hillman has been a positive factor, but can he carry the load alone? With Peyton Manning likely nearing the final few years of his career, the Broncos will follow the pattern set by Mike Shanahan when John Elway was nearing the end of his run—find a good running back and let him do the dirty work.
Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah is an ideal fit in Denver. He's shifty, has excellent balance and has the speed to run away from defenses if he finds a crease. In a zone-blocking scheme like Denver's, Abdullah can become the go-to back while Hillman continues to work as a change-of-pace carrier and receiver.
32. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: OLB Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington
The Arizona Cardinals have an impressive amount of talent on defense, and yet after Week 8 they have allowed the most passing yards per game in the NFL. With Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Jerraud Powers, Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson and Deone Bucannon in the secondary, how is that possible?
The biggest area that hurts the defense is a lack of a pass rush from the linebackers. Alex Okafor and Sam Acho are good, young players. But they're not John Abraham, and the defense has suffered because of their inability to put pressure on the quarterback. And in this 3-4 hybrid defense, the Cardinals need several quality pass-rushers instead of two players learning on the job.
Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha is on pace to break tackle-for-loss records in college football, and his pass rush is pretty dang good too. He's built to stand up and play off the edge and has shown quickness, toughness and a violent finish in the Pac-12.
Round 2 of the NFL draft cannot be overlooked—not with so many teams having multiple needs that cannot all be filled with a high-profile first-round pick.
The 2015 class doesn't match 2012 or 2014 in terms of raw talent expected to be available, but the record number of underclassmen leaving college for the NFL each year does push down senior players who may have been a first-round pick five years ago. That leads to a better second-round draft class. And in 2015, the second round does look to be full of impact players.
|3||New York Jets||Leonard Floyd||OLB||Georgia|
|4||Tampa Bay||Ty Sambrailo||OT||Colorado St.|
|6||Atlanta||Cody Prewitt||FS||Ole Miss|
|8||St. Louis||Ronald Darby||CB||Florida St.|
|11||New Orleans||Noah Spence||OLB||Ohio State|
|12||New York Giants||A.J. Johnson||ILB||Tennessee|
|15||Cleveland||Mario Edwards||DE||Florida St.|
|17||Kansas City||Kurtis Drummond||FS||Michigan St.|
|18||San Francisco||A.J. Cann||OG||South Carolina|
|22||Green Bay||Eric Striker||LB||Oklahoma|
|23||San Diego||Trey Flowers||OLB||Arkansas|
|24||Indianapolis||Derron Smith||FS||Fresno State|
|25||Buffalo||Tre' Jackson||OG||Florida St.|
|27||Philadelphia||Jaelen Strong||WR||Arizona St.|
|28||Detroit||Kevin Johnson||CB||Wake Forest|
|29||New England||Mike Davis||RB||South Carolina|
|30||Dallas||Tyeler Davison||DT||Fresno State|
|32||Arizona||Jeff Heuerman||TE||Ohio State|