With the 2014 regular season finally completed, the road map for the 2015 NFL draft is largely settled. Over half of the first round is set in stone, with the last 12 picks still up in the air and dependent on how the playoffs unfold.
Now fans and draft experts alike can really start putting together those mock drafts. It hasn't stopped anybody yet, but with the first 20 selections locked in, it's much easier to begin going about identifying which players will be available for certain teams and which needs each team will be able to address.
Here's a quick look at how the draft order shook out.
First-Round Picks No. 1-20
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2-14||.486|
|6||New York Jets||4-12||.543|
|9||New York Giants||6-10||.512|
|10||St. Louis Rams||6-10||.531|
|13||New Orleans Saints||7-9||.486|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||8-8||.527|
|17||San Diego Chargers||9-7||.512|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||9-7||.512|
|19||Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo Bills)||7-9||.479|
The only trade so far involving a first-round pick was between the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills. The Browns will take Buffalo's first-rounder, thus owning both the 12th and 19th overall picks.
After that, it's pretty straightforward, with the teams lining up in ascending order by wins.
The tiebreaker when teams finish with identical records is strength of schedule. The team with the lower SOS will earn the lower pick. Although it doesn't apply this year, in the event that the teams are still tied, a coin flip at the NFL Scouting Combine would determine which team would receive the lower pick.
That scenario happened in 2012, when the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins both had a claim on the eighth pick, while the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks fought over the 11th pick.
The tiebreaker played a big role this year since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans tied for the worst record in the league. Getting the first pick means having the option of Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston, the widely assumed top two selections in this year's draft.
Tampa can go either way, and Tennessee will get what is left. Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times said that the early exit polling is split among the two quarterbacks:
Bleacher Report's Luke Easterling isn't particularly adamant either way, just hopeful the Buccaneers address their abysmal quarterback situation:
Strength of schedule was also needed to separate the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. Depending on how the first two picks shake out, the Jags could potentially have either Nebraska's Randy Gregory or USC's Leonard Williams fall right into their lap.
Some were surprised when Jacksonville passed on Khalil Mack and selected Blake Bortles last year. Next spring, the team might have a chance to correct that perceived wrong by targeting Williams or Gregory. CBSSports.com's Rob Rang praised both players after watching them in the Holiday Bowl on Saturday night:
The 6-foot-5, 290 pound Williams is big enough to slide inside to defensive tackle. His quickness and an effective swim move there make him virtually impossible for interior linemen at the collegiate level to handle him one-on-one. The Daytona Beach, Fla. native has been a dominant performer for the Trojans throughout his career, earning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and improving his production the past two seasons. Williams has been my top-rated NFL prospect since October.
Gregory, too, could see action at multiple positions in the NFL but it could be at defensive end and outside linebacker. The 6-foot-6, 240 pound JUCO transfer (Arizona Western Community College) sports a chiseled upper body but his thin legs leave him reliant on his agility when defending the run. Gregory has a terrific first-step, changes directions fluidly and has the balance and coordination to recognize and defeat cut blocks. While not nearly as powerful as Williams, Gregory has an aggressive initial pop to disengage from blockers and shows plenty of strength to pull ball-carriers to the ground.
Of course, making any sort of draft predictions this far out is always folly to a certain extent. The whole process is so long and drawn out, with so much subterfuge as anonymous scouts and coaches attempt to tank a player's draft stock.
The likes of Bortles, Greg Robinson, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack shot up draft boards in the weeks and months leading up to the draft, while Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr were among the higher-profile stars whose respective stocks dropped somewhat precipitously.
This year will be no different.
|29||Green Bay Packers||12-4||.482|
|31||New England Patriots||12-4||.516|
|Current order is based on Playoff Seeding and Overall Records|
The math is pretty simple for the 12 playoff teams: The earlier you're knocked out, the earlier you'll pick in the first round. Here's a brief breakdown for how the draft picks correlate to the different rounds:
- Wild Card Round: Nos. 21-24
- Divisional Round: Nos. 25-28
- Conference Championship Round: Nos. 29 and 30
- Super Bowl runner-up: No. 31
- Super Bowl champion: No. 32
Overall records will determine the order for each of the different levels. When teams are tied with the same record, strength of schedule will once again come into play, per CBSSports.com.
It doesn't offer much consolation to the fanbase, but at least a quick postseason exit is somewhat cushioned by having a higher pick.
Note: Draft order is courtesy of CBSSports.com.