Trying to predict the motivations and behind-the-scenes machinations of any one NFL team is nearly impossible. That's why projecting how the NFL draft will unfold is always to a certain extent folly.
Nobody really knows what's going on.
Certain teams are particularly tough to analyze. Either they have so many options on the table that it's difficult to focus on one potential plan, or the ownership/front office is so dysfunctional that almost anything can happen.
As the 2015 draft draws near, the three franchises below provide arguably the most intrigue in terms of projecting what they'll do in the first round.
|NFL Draft 2015—First Round Projection|
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State|
|2||Tennessee Titans||Leonard Williams, DT, USC|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida|
|4||Oakland Raiders||Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama|
|5||Washington Redskins||Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa|
|6||New York Jets||Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon|
|7||Chicago Bears||Danny Shelton, DT, Washington|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska|
|9||New York Giants||Shane Ray, DE, Missouri|
|10||St. Louis Rams||Kevin White, WR, West Virginia|
|11||Minnesota Vikings||Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford|
|12||Cleveland Browns||Malcom Brown, DT, Texas|
|13||New Orleans Saints||Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson|
|14||Miami Dolphins||Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville|
|16||Houston Texans||Landon Collins, SS, Alabama|
|17||San Diego Chargers||T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State|
|19||Cleveland Browns||La'el Collins, OT, LSU|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||Marcus Peters, CB, Washington|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals||Arik Armstead, DT/DE, Oregon|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||Kevin Williams, CB, Wake Forest|
|23||Detroit Lions||Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami|
|24||Arizona Cardinals||Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky|
|25||Carolina Panthers||Daryl Williams, OT, Oklahoma|
|26||Baltimore Ravens||Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia|
|27||Dallas Cowboys||Jalen Collins, CB, LSU|
|28||Denver Broncos||Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon|
|29||Indianapolis Colts||Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington|
|30||Green Bay Packers||Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State|
|31||Seattle Seahawks||Cameron Erving, OG, Florida State|
|32||New England Patriots||Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin|
|Draft Order via NFL.com|
Most Intriguing Teams Ahead of Draft
Almost everybody expects the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to draft a quarterback. Releasing Josh McCown seemed to be a clear sign that the Bucs are going to start over with somebody new in 2015—unless they're content to ride with Mike Glennon.
As a result, the only drama is whether they'll take Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported at the combine that Winston is gaining a significant edge on Mariota.
In the event that the Bucs do select Winston, it will make things very interesting for the Tennessee Titans. Does Tennessee go for Mariota or a defensive stud like Leonard Williams, Dante Fowler, Randy Gregory, etc.?
The presence of Zach Mettenberger and the likely adjustment period for Mariota might play heavily into the Titans' line of thinking. B/R's Ian Kenyon believes that would be a mistake:
If the Titans pass on Mariota, it could provide enough impetus for a host of teams to try to trade up for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. The price for the third pick wouldn't be as high as it would be for the second pick and would lessen with each subsequent selection.
Of course, Tennessee could try to work out a trade itself if it finds a suitor. Many envision one team being the perfect fit for Mariota.
There's almost no way that Mariota has an Aaron Rodgers- or Brady Quinn-like fall in the first round. If the Titans don't take him at No. 2, then he'll be selected by the New York Jets at No. 6 or St. Louis Rams at No. 10.
The Philadelphia Eagles will have to trade into the top five if they truly want Mariota. NFL.com's Chris Trapasso thinks that the Eagles could reasonably move up to second overall, benefiting both them and the Titans:
Howie Roseman, Philadelphia's executive vice president of football operations, recently spoke at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. While there, he dismissed the idea of packaging multiple draft picks just to get one player, per ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini:
The history of trading up for one player, when you look at those trades, isn't good for the team trading up and putting a lot of resources into it. The guys who are really good at drafting, if you're hitting on 60 percent of your first-round picks, that's a pretty good track record and it's dropping as you go through the rounds. So, really, the more chances you get—the more tickets to the lottery you get—really, the better shape you're going to be.
Two things are worth noting.
The first is that head coach Chip Kelly consolidated his power earlier in the year and has the final say on all personnel decisions. If he wants to trade up to draft Mariota, the Eagles will trade up to draft Mariota.
The second is that draft season is always rife with subterfuge. Maybe Roseman was being 100 percent truthful at the conference, or maybe he didn't want to tip Philadelphia's hand by talking up the virtues of draft trades.
Now, this is not to say that the Eagles will 100 percent move up and get Mariota. Obviously, he and Kelly have history together, and Mariota would be a great fit for Kelly's offensive scheme.
But Doug Marrone had history with Ryan Nassib and passed on him, while Pete Carroll somewhat famously declined to draft Taylor Mays, a player he coached at USC.
Too much is on the line for NFL coaches to get sentimental come draft time.
As of right now, the Cleveland Browns are the only team with two first-round draft picks. That could obviously change, but it's hard to see any moving and shaking happening before April 30.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Browns' draft is owner Jimmy Haslam.
He's straight from the Jerry Jones school of team ownership, which is terrible for Browns fans and great for everybody else. Remember last year when he talked about a homeless man advising him to draft Johnny Manziel?
It's one thing to be an eccentric, opinionated owner who still takes a backseat for all of the personnel decisions. As CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote, Haslam believes his ownership of the team entitles him to exert power with regard to roster-building:
The tension between the front office and coaching staff is palpable around the team facility, sources said, with friction growing between Farmer and rookie head coach Mike Pettine throughout the 2014 season. It became clear that the front office wanted Manziel -- the owner's boy -- playing sooner and put pressure on the staff to make the change from Brian Hoyer.
Alec Scheiner, the team president who grew in power and influence a year ago after Banner and Lombardi were shown the door after just one season together, has become a divisive figure in the organization as well, gaining an increasing voice in personnel matters, well beyond just analytics. At 6 a.m. every Monday, Pettine is joined by Farmer and Scheiner to watch film, with the division between ownership and day-to-day coaching decisions becoming increasingly blurred.
The Browns illustrated in 2012 that having two first-rounders is far from a guarantee that a team gets value. Brandon Weeden was a complete bust, and while Cleveland managed to squeeze a first-rounder out of Indianapolis for Trent Richardson, that was still a terrible selection.
Given Haslam's penchant for meddling, it's impossible to say what the Browns will do in the draft. And if Cleveland doesn't hit a home run this year, head coach Mike Pettine might be out of a job.