Three weeks are all that separate us from the 2015 NFL draft, and as April 30 gets closer, the first round starts to come into better focus. However, no draft in recent memory has been as unclear leading up to the first day.
Who will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft? Right now, no one knows, but it's the move that will dictate the rest of the first round. With draft boards largely set and private visits closing up, here's an update on all things NFL draft.
The Scout's Report
— The Philadelphia Eagles are a mystery now that Chip Kelly runs the draft room, but team sources tell me they love USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor.
— Two linebackers in this draft class are getting looks at fullback: Houston Bates (Louisiana Tech) and Jeff Luc (Cincinnati). Bruce Miller of the San Francisco 49ers made a similar move coming out of college.
— The Cleveland Browns have been linked to right tackles throughout the draft process, but when I asked a high-ranking scout with the team how they viewed the position, he said it "isn't a priority."
— Tevin Coleman's rehab from a broken foot suffered midseason is going well, his camp tells me. Coleman is still on track for his April 15 private workout.
— Damarious Randall has been making the rounds on private visits, and a team source in Dallas told me the Cowboys really had a great visit with the Arizona State safety. He's in play for them at the end of Round 1.
— The Minnesota Vikings are rumored to love cornerback Trae Waynes, and a team scout told me he fits what they want at the position. He's been graded as a first-round player on their board, per the source.
— West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White confirmed that he's gone on one visit (to the Tennessee Titans). Why so few visits? Teams won't "waste" visits on a player with little questions, and White is that type of player. With each club limited to 30 visits, they're reserved for players the team needs more info on. With that said, I'm told by White's camp that he'll visit the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, St. Louis Rams and New York Jets in the coming days.
— Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams left school early for the NFL, and I've heard from two separate teams that he did not come across well in his interviews with them. Williams, they said, was "cocky, bored and came off as too good for us."
— Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead is liked by a lot of teams. I'm told by two college scouting directors picking in the middle of Round 1 that they value him in the first round.
— Last week I reported that the Cleveland Browns were interested in a move up to get quarterback Marcus Mariota. This week, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio confirmed the report and added that picks No. 12 and No. 19 would be a starting point in trading up to get Mariota.
Scouting Report: James Sample, Louisville
Throughout the 2015 draft season, one draft prospect will be highlighted each week with a first-look scouting report.
Safety James Sample, Louisville (6'2", 209 lbs)
Strengths: A physical intimidator at safety, James Sample will turn heads when he locks onto a defender and blows up a play. He's a true thumper with an old-school safety mentality. Sample plays in the box and can be an extra linebacker in run support. He is a gamer with closing speed and agility when attacking the ball.
His burst and ability to home in on the ball in the run game are very good. His range, toughness and ability to make plays in the open field make Sample a rarity in this class. He also brings considerable upside given his lack of time in an FCS program. His ability to step right into the Louisville defense and produce in 2014 is a testament to his skills.
Weaknesses: A limited starter at Louisville, Sample has one year of full-time film to view. He has bounced around the nation after spending two seasons at Washington, one season at American River Junior College and one season at Louisville. A lack of experience is an issue for him, and he needs time to learn the game and settle into the intricacies of the position.
Pro Comparison: Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals
He's a hard-hitter with big potential and some positional and scheme versatility.
The Big Board
We are less than one month away from the 2015 NFL draft, which means draft boards are coming into clearer focus. Here's a look at my updated Top 50 players.
|Updated Top 50 Players|
|1||QB Jameis Winston, FSU|
|2||DL Leonard Williams, USC|
|3||EDGE Dante Fowler, Florida|
|4||WR Kevin White, West Virginia|
|5||WR Amari Cooper, Alabama|
|6||CB Marcus Peters, Washington|
|7||EDGE Randy Gregory, Nebraska|
|8||G Brandon Scherff, Iowa|
|9||WR DeVante Parker, Louisville|
|10||RB Todd Gurley, Georgia|
|11||QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon|
|12||DL Danny Shelton, Washington|
|13||EDGE Shane Ray, Missouri|
|14||EDGE Vic Beasley, Clemson|
|15||WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri|
|16||SS Landon Collins, Alabama|
|17||CB Ronald Darby, FSU|
|18||EDGE Alvin Dupree, Kentucky|
|19||DL Arik Armstead, Oregon|
|20||DL Malcom Brown, Texas|
|21||DL Eddie Goldman, FSU|
|22||T D.J. Humphries, Florida|
|23||T La'el Collins, LSU|
|24||RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin|
|25||CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State|
|26||LB Shaq Thompson, Washington|
|27||C Cameron Erving, FSU|
|28||LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA|
|29||T Jake Fisher, Oregon|
|30||T Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M|
|31||CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest|
|32||CB Byron Jones, UConn|
|33||T Andrus Peat, Stanford|
|34||CB Jalen Collins, LSU|
|35||EDGE Eli Harold, Virginia|
|36||WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State|
|37||RB Duke Johnson, Miami (Fla.)|
|38||EDGE Owa Odighizuwa, UCLA|
|39||LB Paul Dawson, TCU|
|40||LB Benardrick McKinney, Miss. State|
|41||LB Denzel Perryman, Miami (Fla.)|
|42||TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota|
|43||WR Devin Funchess, Michigan|
|44||T T.J. Clemmings, Pitt|
|45||WR Devin Smith, Ohio State|
|46||CB P.J. Williams, FSU|
|47||WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida|
|48||WR Nelson Agholor, USC|
|49||DL Carl Davis, Iowa|
|50||DL Michael Bennett, Ohio State|
The Big Board II
I said on Twitter there wouldn't be a mock draft this week, but that wouldn't be any fun. Here's an updated "What I'm Hearing" mock draft.
|Updated Mock Draft|
|1||Tampa Bay||QB Jameis Winston, FSU|
|2||Tennessee||DL Leonard Williams, USC|
|3||Jacksonville||EDGE Vic Beasley, Clemson|
|4||Oakland||WR Amari Cooper, Alabama|
|5||Washington||EDGE Dante Fowler, Florida|
|6||New York Jets||EDGE Shane Ray, Missouri|
|7||Chicago||WR Kevin White, West Virginia|
|8||Atlanta||EDGE Randy Gregory, Nebraska|
|9||New York Giants||OL Brandon Scherff, Iowa|
|10||St. Louis||T Andrus Peat, Stanford|
|11||Minnesota||CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State|
|12||Cleveland||QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon|
|13||New Orleans||WR DeVante Parker, Louisville|
|14||Miami||CB Marcus Peters, Washington|
|15||San Francisco||DL Arik Armstead, Oregon|
|16||Houston||EDGE Bud Dupree, Kentucky|
|17||San Diego||RB Todd Gurley, Georgia|
|18||Kansas City||C Cameron Erving, FSU|
|19||Cleveland||NT Danny Shelton, Washington|
|20||Philadelphia||CB Byron Jones, UConn|
|21||Cincinnati||NT Malcom Brown, Texas|
|22||Pittsburgh||CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest|
|23||Detroit||CB Ronald Darby, FSU|
|24||Arizona||DL Eddie Goldman, FSU|
|25||Carolina||T D.J. Humphries, Florida|
|26||Baltimore||WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri|
|27||Dallas||SS Landon Collins, Alabama|
|28||Denver||T La'el Collins, LSU|
|29||Indianapolis||FS Damarious Randall, Arizona State|
|30||Green Bay||CB Jalen Collins, LSU|
|31||New Orleans||EDGE Eli Harold, Virginia|
|32||New England||RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin|
5. Mike Mayock made news when he announced—or when the NFL Network announced—that he had moved Marcus Mariota over Jameis Winston on his Big Board.
Changing your board isn't a bad thing; in fact, I'd argue it's a good thing. But making a significant change like this three weeks before the draft is odd. Quarterbacks are the glory position—the one we all love to watch and try to nail more than any other position that's evaluated. Winston and Mariota haven't played in three months. There's no new information about off-field issues for either player. So what changed your evaluation?
If Mayock—a person who I respect greatly—is changing his rankings to match up with the order in which players are drafted, that's fine, but there's a need to be transparent about that. Do his rankings reflect how the players will perform in the NFL, or are his rankings set in an order to match what happens on April 30?
My rankings will always reflect a prediction of NFL success, not a prediction of draft order.
4. So on that note, who are some players that will likely be drafted higher than I have them ranked?
Trae Waynes (rank: No. 25) is a likely top-11 draft pick. Melvin Gordon (rank: No. 24) could go in the late teens. Andrus Peat (rank: No. 33) is a legitimate threat to be a top-10 pick. And of course, Breshad Perriman (rank: No. 47) has shot up boards based on his pro day speed.
3. If you scroll up, you'll notice there is no "5 Up, 5 Down" this week. That's because my 2015 draft board is set. With the board set, no players are rising up or down, and it's not worth faking moves for the sake of filling a gap in the article. That section will return once the college football season gets started.
2. Dorial Green-Beckham comes in at No. 15 on the updated Big Board, but it's worth taking a moment to talk about that ranking. His position on the board is based on talent, not character.
If I were an NFL general manager, I wouldn't spend a top-15 pick on Green-Beckham, but I can understand how a team may want to do that. He's big, fast and talented, with big upside to improve in the NFL. He's also a big risk. If I'm calling the shots on draft day, DGB would be a Round 2 gamble.
1. When Bleacher Report hired me as its draft analyst in late 2010, my goal was to operate online the same way an NFL front office does behind closed doors. Evaluating, grading and ranking players based on immediate ability and long-term upside. I've always said that my player rankings are what should be judged—and the same goes for NFL teams.
Analysts who prop themselves up for getting "X" number of picks right in a mock draft aren't proving they can analyze talent; they're proving that they either have good connections in the NFL or are really good at guessing.
This may seem like an odd inclusion here, but with the draft nearing and so many people comparing mock drafts, I'm going to go against the grain and ask that you'd judge draft analysts (me included) on our rankings and not a mock draft. Of course, that requires patience and a bit of memory, but it's the better test of ability.