2015 NFL Mock Draft: Mike Tanier's Round 1 Picks
Publishing your first mock draft just days before the actual draft is like giving your research presentation after everyone else in the class has finished.
Will mine be too different? Too similar? Will I miss something obvious? Worst of all, has the teacher's attention drifted? Will the class start shooting spitballs?
This mock draft is for people who are sick of mock drafts. The selections may not be earth-shattering—an Adrian Peterson-Philip Rivers-Marcus Mariota Eagles-Cowboys-Chargers-Vikings mega-trade may be fun to speculate about but can also come across as "trying too hard"—but the explanations will provide some insight or laughs, even if you have read 75 mock drafts already in the past two months.
If you finish this mock draft and are even sicker of mock drafts than when you started, don't despair: The real thing is less than 100 hours away. Then we can start publishing our 2016 mock drafts!
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State
In five years, when Winston has led the Buccaneers to two Super Bowls, become the first quarterback in history to start for a full season and not throw a single interception, and received a Nobel Prize in Marine Biology for Shellfish Conservation, we will all look back at the winter of 2015 and laugh.
That scenario may sound a little far-fetched. The reality will probably be a little messier, on and off the field. The question is how messy. The Buccaneers feel that they have done everything they can to determine the answer, scrutinizing Winston in every conceivable way as a quarterback and as a human.
The MMQB's Peter King reported earlier in the month that Buccaneers private eyes interviewed "more than 75 people from Winston’s past." Seventy-five people? It must have reached the point where they were interviewing people who knew people who knew Winston, which may explain the file labeled "Kevin Bacon."
You would figure that any potential hire who needs a 75-person background check isn't worth a 75-person background check. The Pentagon doesn't perform 75-person background checks for people who have briefcases handcuffed to their wrists. But these are crazy times, Winston is a unique case among unique cases, and the thought of a whole season of Mike Glennon will make a football franchise go to extreme measures.
Anyway, if the phrase “Buccaneers private eyes” doesn’t conjure an image of Greg Schiano with a fedora and magnifying glass, you are made of stronger stuff than I. Extended snooping around Florida State’s campus unearthed little new information about Winston but some dark secrets about how the orange groves are irrigated. But the Buccaneers have made up their minds, so forget it, Greg: It’s Lovietown.
2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, Defensive Lineman, USC
David Climer of The Tennessean wrote a few weeks ago that Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt thinks of Zach Mettenberger as a “poor team’s Tom Brady.”
So…that’s supposed to be a good thing? Shouldn’t a poor team be less interested in finding the poor team’s equivalents of great players than, I dunno, finding ways to escape poverty? A bindle is a poor man’s luggage, possum his filet mignon, starvation his trendy dieting; the power of positive thinking only gets you so far. On the flip side, Whisenhunt has been fiddling with poor team’s Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger types for years, so moving up to bargain bin Brady can be seen as a sign of progress.
Leonard Williams can be called a poor team’s J.J. Watt, but he is also a safe pick with incredibly high upside, as well as a player who can give the Titans some semblance of an identity. Williams and Jurrell Casey will anchor a formidable defensive line while Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan take advantage of the wall in front of them to generate a ton of sacks. With Williams, the Titans can become a defense-first, find-a-way-on-offense team capable of winning some 17-14 games behind the rifle-armed but highly un-Brady-like Mettenberger. Grinding out wins may not be pretty, but it beats riding in boxcars and pretending they’re Bentleys.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler Jr., Edge-Rusher, Florida
All the cool mock drafts have the Titans or Jaguars trading down to accommodate some team with a case of the Screaming Mariotas. I hate adding mock trades to mock drafts—you might as well add mock injuries, mock arrests and mock fistfights in the war room at that point—and sometimes the simplest solution is the correct solution.
Fowler is a classic "Leo" rusher in the Jaguars’ wannabe-Seahawks defense, incumbent Leo Chris Clemons is 33 and Jacksonville filled other needs in free agency. The Jaguars had one of the NFL’s better pass rushes last season: They registered 45 sacks, and unlike the other AFC South teams, they did not get the opportunity to rack up numbers against their own offensive line. So defensive line may not look like a pressing need for the Jaguars. But after years of ineptitude, the Jaguars cannot settle for “good enough” when one of their units becomes good.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama
The Raiders led the NFL in failed completions last year, according to Football Outsiders. A failed completion is a completed pass that accomplishes almost nothing—think of a catch short of the sticks on 3rd-and-long or a three-yard dump off on first down. (The technical definition can be found here.) Of the 348 passes Derek Carr completed last year, 112 were “failed,” amounting to 32.2 percent of Carr’s completions. James Jones led the NFL with 27 failed receptions.
In other words, the Raiders need someone who can get open more than four yards downfield. Getting open and making the most of his opportunities are Cooper’s specialties. He caught 32 passes on third downs last season, netting 25 first downs; he also converted two fourth downs. Add 15 catches of 25-plus yards and one of the best open-field double-moves in the nation on deep routes, and Cooper gives the Raiders a receiver who can turn eight-yard gains into 12-yarders on 3rd-and-10 and provide some big-play heat.
With Cooper on the field, Jones can go back to catching tiptoe bombs along the sideline, and Carr can do much more than pump up his completion percentage.
5. Washington Redskins: Trae Waynes, Cornerback, Michigan State
Let’s see, we have a tall cornerback who ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine and has lots of (good) tape as an isolated man-to-man cornerback, a team that notched just seven interceptions last season and still hopes to wring some starts out of DeAngelo Hall, and a new general manager who made a name for himself by finding extra-long cornerbacks. So why do most mock drafters have the Redskins taking an edge-rusher like Fowler or Vic Beasley?
Waynes may not have the physicality of Richard Sherman—he’s more like Asante Samuel in the Faberge egg museum—but he has rare tools, good technique and fills a need. He’s a simple solution for the Redskins, who are supposed to be all about simple solutions these days.
6. New York Jets: Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon
In an effort to determine just how badly the Jets really need a quarterback, I went above and beyond the call of duty. I watched film of a Jets-Dolphins game.
Geno Smith threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 17 win against the Dolphins. Statistically, the game sticks out from Smith’s record like a birthday candle from a gluten-free cupcake. I wanted to see if Smith took a real leap forward at the end of last season. If the Dolphins game was no mirage, perhaps the new staff is serious about entering the season with Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick battling for the starting job.
Well, Geno Smith’s big game was your typical Jets-Dolphins game. Smith threw a bunch of sharp passes deep—Cortland Finnegan ran like he was pushing a wheelbarrow for most of the game, so Jets receivers were always open—but he also gave up a silly fumble by holding the football like a diaper bag while scrambling. Meanwhile, the Jets offense was its usual assortment of kinks and quirks: unbalanced lines, Michael Vick cameos, end-arounds to Chris Owusu and other “hide the Geno” tactics.
The Jets played well enough on both sides of the ball to help Joe Philbin outsmart himself a few times to seal a win. If that was Geno’s third start, it would have been encouraging. As a 29th start for coaching staff that had already literally cleaned out their desks, it was more of a Week 17 curiosity.
New offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is going to gingerbread his offense with option concepts no matter who plays quarterback; he has been doing that sort of thing for years. Gailey and Todd Bowles can either prop Geno up and hope Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall find more over-the-hill Cortland Finnegans to incinerate, drive Ryan Fitzpatrick until his wheels fall off (Week 4) or use the training wheels to actually train someone. Barring a trade offer they cannot refuse (Chip Kelly offering a real unicorn horn), the Jets will allow a new era to dawn.
7. Chicago Bears: Kevin White, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
The Bears drafted some pretty good defensive players last year. It was hard to tell, because by mid-November everyone was so demoralized that they simply started weeping when the ball was snapped. But Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton and Brock Vereen can still be part of the nucleus of a quality defense, especially with newcomers Pernell McPhee and Mason Foster bolstering the ranks.
Meanwhile, Bears wide receivers not named Alshon Jeffery or Eddie Royal have 24 combined NFL receptions. The Bears need to draft receivers in bunches, whether it’s to prop up Jay Cutler or prepare the nursery for his 2016 replacement.
White can play the Demaryius Thomas role in Adam Gase’s offense, replacing some of Brandon Marshall’s big-play capability while Jeffery settles into a possession role. The Bears can add more receiver depth later in another well-stocked draft at the position. Meanwhile, new coordinator Vic Fangio can teach last year’s rookie defenders how to feel good about themselves.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, Edge-Rusher, Clemson
Head coach Dan Quinn said in mid-April that the Falcons “nailed it” in free agency. Obscure reserve offensive tackle Michael Person? Nailed it. Thirty-year old backup tight end Jacob Tamme? NAILED IT. Disappointing former pass rush prospect Adrian Clayborn? BOOM. Backup linebacker and special teamer O’Brien Schofield? CHISEL IT IN STONE, BABY.
If only one person on Earth is going to get excited about a free-agent crop, it had better be the head coach. Kidding aside, the Falcons did tidy up some corners of the depth chart while spending pin money. But now it’s time to nail the draft by grabbing a pass-rusher who can take over as soon as Clayborn proves he is an injury-prone situational player at best. (In minicamp, in other words.)
Beasley is a great value here. Quinn can make him the Leo rusher in his version (as opposed to Gus Bradley’s Jacksonville version) of the Seahawks of the South defense. Beasley provides pass rush without getting washed out against the run, and he drops into coverage more effectively than alternatives like Randy Gregory or Shane Ray. The Falcons can then address holes at safety, on the offensive line and at tight end (where they need a starter, not a backup like Tamme).
An outstanding pass-rush prospect AND quality competition players at other positions? NAILED IT. CHA-CHING. BOOM SHAKA LAKA.
9. New York Giants: Danny Shelton, Defensive Tackle, Washington
Some simple rules for making the Giants selection in a mock draft:
- The Giants will do nothing sexy. Odell Beckham didn’t seem all that sexy when the Giants drafted him.
- The Giants will do nothing controversial.
- The Giants will draft someone practical who fills a need.
- The Giants will be pleased, in a subdued way, about their selection.
- The Giants will be disappointed when their first-round pick gets injured at the start of training camp.
Statistical analysis proves that the Giants have been the NFL’s most injury-prone team for many years. There is not much the Giants can do in the draft about their injury woes but select stout, durable players with clean injury histories.
Shelton is certainly stout—he is built like a tea kettle—and he never missed a start in three seasons for Washington. That either means he’s durable or (with the Giants’ luck) that he’s due.
The Giants currently have Johnathan Hankins at one defensive tackle position and a bunch of question marks at the other: former Jets backup Kenrick Ellis, second-year prospect Jay Bromley and Markus Kuhn, one of those professional bench players the Giants like to keep around for years and years. Bromley has been working out with Jason Pierre-Paul and is considered more of a pass-rusher than an every-down defender. Shelton is a mammoth run-plugger with hustle. They sound like the perfect tandem to help Hankins anchor the defensive line, at least until the injuries start.
10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Scherff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
The Rams offensive line currently consists of left tackle Greg Robinson, left guard Rodger Saffold and three question marks. Actually, Robinson is a question mark as well after a rough rookie season at left tackle.
Last year’s starters Joe Barksdale (who was adequate), Davin Joseph (yeesh) and Scott Wells (multiple years of yeesh) won’t be back. Oft-injured left tackle Jake Long is also gone. The Rams are so thin on the offensive line and so stacked on the defensive line that Nick Foles will need more than a bright red shirt to protect him during full-squad practices. He will need a panic room.
Scherff can help, whether he’s projected as a solid right tackle or a Pro Bowl-caliber guard. The Rams need help at both positions, and Scherff’s bruising style will make Jeff Fisher almost as happy as he gets when the Rams sign a defensive tackle to round out the fourth string.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Todd Gurley, Running Back, Georgia
Adrian Peterson is getting traded, folks.
He was not traded before free agency because the Vikings, Cowboys and other teams wanted to see how free agency shook out. He wasn’t traded before reinstatement because Roger Goodell could have had one of his mood swings and ordered Peterson to a Siberian gulag for eight more weeks, and even Jerry Jones wouldn’t trade draft picks for a player in limbo. (Signing Greg Hardy for no other risk than the loss of his immortal soul was a whole different matter.)
There has not been a Peterson trade yet because there is no urgency to make a trade. Teams treat trade deadlines the way college kids treat research paper deadlines. All except for Chip Kelly, who picks up the phone to order a pizza and trades an All Pro running back before settling on the toppings.
Potential Peterson trading partners are likely to dither as long as Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman are still on the draft board as low-cost, ready-to-play (except for the rehabbing Gurley) workhorse running back options. So if the Vikings haven’t squeezed some primo draft picks from the Cowboys or some other suitor by Thursday night, selecting Gurley will give them leverage. And if Peterson has moved on by then, well, the Vikings need Gurley.
Note that Gurley’s ACL injury makes it conceivable that the Vikings could keep both him and Peterson on the roster for a year; they would not have to jump at the first offer. If Peterson is already gone, Jerick McKinnon can lead a committee backfield until Gurley is at full speed, then settle into a productive change-up role. The Vikings have had so many quality drafts in the last three years that they are not swamped with needs. They can splurge on the next great running back while taking their time in dealing with the last great running back.
As for that Peterson trade, don’t expect a blockbuster. But Rick Spielman is one of the most creative draft-day wheeler dealers in the NFL. If anyone can wrangle a high pick for a 30-year old running back while the draft is teeming with potential 1,000-yarders, Spielman is the guy.
12. Cleveland Browns: Arik Armstead, Defensive End, Oregon
OK, let’s load up the Browns depth chart and see what they need…
(Takes a long walk to see sunshine and flowering trees to reignite the feeling of hope for the human race)
I’m back. Well, it seems that all the promising young players the Browns acquired in the last three years are either gone or indisposed for one depressing reason or another. Furthermore, the team spent free agency acquiring the kind of over-the-hill veterans an expansion team might sign to get through its first season. There are lots of names like Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline and Tramon Williams on the depth chart, guys who can keep a team 6-10 for a year or two until someone in the organization finds enlightenment.
Randy Starks is another of those “bridge” veterans. He is still effective at age 31, but he joins Desmond Bryant and Billy Winn as defensive ends on a line that should be the strength of a Mike Pettine defense. Pettine likes to rotate his linemen, and an athletic, high-upside prospect like Armstead can thrive as a wave defender while learning from Starks and Bryant. If the Browns upgrade the defensive line, Barkevious Mingo can develop as a pass-rusher, Paul Kruger will see fewer blocks and the Browns have the chance to win some 16-13 games.
13. New Orleans Saints: Randy Gregory, Edge-Rusher, Nebraska
Let’s all make the fifth-grade “called-to-the-principal’s-office” noise together. Uhhh-oooooooooooooooooh! Randy Gregory slipped in the draaahhhft! Because he smoked weeeeeeeeeed!
Well, maybe. But maybe he fell because Vic Beasley and Dante Fowler are better overall prospects, Gregory is light and narrow-framed even by modern edge-rushing standards and several teams in the top 10 needed receivers or true defensive linemen more than sack specialists. Anyway, slipping to 13th is not much of a slip.
Rob Ryan is a mix-and-match coordinator who will have no problem getting Junior Galette, Cameron Jordan and Gregory on the field together on passing downs. Despite the acquisitions of Anthony Spencer and Dannell Ellerbe in their free-agency swap meet/farmer’s market/police auction, the Saints still need a general talent influx on the front seven. They must also brace for a cap problem that has not yet been solved: The Saints already have over $130 million committed for 2016, according to Over the Cap, and Jordan is not part of that equation. The Saints must start developing the next generation of core talent, even if they grab some players who don’t fill immediate, obvious needs.
So don’t think of this as slipping, class. Think of it as Gregory potentially falling into a good situation.
14. Miami Dolphins: Jaelen Strong, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
I rank Strong higher than most mock drafters, ahead of DeVante Parker and Breshad Perriman. He’s slippery when he gets off the line of scrimmage, works comebacks routes very well, has double-move capability as a deep threat and can go up and get contested or off-target balls (the Hail Mary catch against USC is a memorable example).
Arizona State quarterbacks tended to spray their passes outside the hash marks, and the Sun Devils didn’t have a second downfield threat, so Strong faced a lot of stiff coverage and leapt for many uncatchable balls. That said, a 6'2" receiver with 4.44 speed and 82 receptions really doesn’t need all that much top-15 justification.
Pencil in Strong, and the Dolphins receiving corps goes from this in 2013:
- Mike Wallace: $30 million hypothetical half-hearted decoy deep threat.
- Brian Hartline: When the Dolphins needed six yards, he got them six yards. When the Dolphins needed 16 yards, he got them six yards.
- Brandon Gibson: A fine player to keep around if you want Hartline to look like a dynamic playmaker by comparison.
- Rishard Matthews: Hard working perma-prospect.
To this in 2015:
- Jarvis Landry: Actual possession receiver, as opposed to a guy who cannot get open deep or do anything after the catch and therefore gets rationalized as a “possession receiver.”
- Kenny Stills: Smooth intermediate threat that Dolphins fans will soon fall in love with. Only available because of the Saints Chapter 11 sale.
- Jaelen Strong: Not as explosive as Wallace, but doesn’t wait until he is open by three steps and ball is placed on his fingertips before putting forth an effort.
- Greg Jennings: Signed as affordable depth. The last general manager would have given him six years at $72 trillion.
- Rishard Matthews: Well, you’re never gonna get rid of this guy.
Looks like progress to me!
15. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Johnson, Cornerback, Wake Forest
Some potential 49ers slogans for the 2015 season:
- 49ers Football 2015: Harbaugh, Shmarbaugh!
- 49ers Football 2015: Please, Please Don’t Leave!
- 49ers Football 2015: Get to Know Us (and Introduce Us to Each Other!)
- 49ers Football 2015: Coach Tomsula Says “Umm, Hrmm, Ugh, Wizzle Wuzzle!”
- 49ers Football 2015: The New Era You Didn’t Want Has Arrived!
The current 49ers roster is a Frankenstein monster of the depth-chart-dwelling fruits of the last two drafts, a rogue’s gallery of Reggie Bush-level free-agent mercenaries, some holdovers who did not leave or retire with the first rush and felt obligated to stick around and Colin Kaepernick, who fills most fans with ambivalence these days. Hold that thought:
- 49ers Football 2015: Filling Most Fans with Ambivalence!
The 49ers should be in “best available athlete” mode, but team chemistry is also likely to be volatile in the wake of the Baalke-Harbaugh revolution. Trent Baalke has reportedly shown a lot of interest in Marcus Peters, but I see Baalke balking at the mercurial Peters in favor of a safer alternative.
Johnson joins a cornerback corps that features newcomer Shareece Wright (disappointing Chargers castoff), Chris Cook (failed Vikings prospect, injured much of last year), Tramaine Brock (former starter, missed most of 2013 with toe and hamstring injuries), journeyman Leon McFadden, safety-corner tweener Jimmie Ward, and Marcus Cromartie, because you cannot go wrong grabbing a cornerback named Cromartie.
Johnson was a three-year starter at Wake Forest and gets high marks for his intangibles, so he should arrive at camp ready to compete. That's important for the 49ers, who will be plugging so many backups into the lineup that every game may look like the second half of a preseason game. Eureka! That's it:
- 49ers Football 2015: Every Game is the Second Half of a Preseason Game!
16. Houston Texans: DeVante Parker, Wide Receiver, Louisville
Shane Ray is a popular mock draft selection for the Texans. So…that means we have all given up on Jadeveon Clowney? That was quick.
Clowney had surgery on his knee in December. From all accounts, he is rehabbing hard, not eating bowls of ice cream in the whirlpool and counting J.J. Watt’s reps. Even if Clowney can only play a limited role in 2015, he will be stacked behind Whitney Mercilus at the “Jack” pass-rush position. The Texans may want to explore speed-rusher options to keep their pass rush from being so Watt-dimensional, but they cannot keep investing top draft choices at the same position year after year.
On 3rd-and-long last season (eight or more yards), Texans receivers not named “Andre Johnson” converted just nine first downs on 50 pass attempts. Parker gives the Texans quarterbacks a burly possession receiver to work the middle while newcomer Cecil Shorts goes deep and DeAndre Hopkins settles into his new role as the team’s go-to target. The Texans need to support their quarterback committee much more than they need to express their disappointment in Clowney.
17. San Diego Chargers: Malcom Brown, Defensive Line, Texas
The Chargers registered just 26 sacks this past season, which is why Shane Ray was originally on this slide. But bad news about Ray’s foot injury will slide him off the Chargers radar. The Chargers took a chance on oft-injured pass-rusher Melvin Ingram in the first round, and while Ingram is a capable starter, the “oft-injured” part has kept him from achieving stardom.
The Chargers can upgrade their pass rush by buttressing their defensive line, and if there is one type of player the team likes more than an injured pass-rusher, it’s someone who spells the name Malcolm in an unusual way. Brown can join Malcom Floyd on the all-Malcom team; at least Malcom Brown does not have an older brother named Malcolm who also played in the NFL, like Malcom Floyd’s brother Malcolm Floyd (SPAM spam spam Spam SPAM spam spam Spam).
Brown has good hand technique as a pass-rusher, plus a nifty spin move on the outside that looks like something from a Kung Fu Panda movie. He is versatile enough to slide out to the edge or play inside the tackles when John Pagano shifts his defensive front around. He should quickly become a challenger for Kendall Reyes, a bookend for Corey Liuget, and a block-eater for Ingram and others.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Washington
Peters is a bit of a pill. He got kicked off the Washington football team, and while he owned up to his immaturity and made peace with Huskies coach Chris Petersen (who is the kind of Principal Rooney-type who will clash with strong-willed players), Peters is not as user friendly as your typical rookie. There are some teams that will think twice about taking him, justifiably. The Dolphins coaches, for example, are not renowned for their firm handle on the locker room, and have already added an outspoken personality to their defense in Ndamukong Suh. The 49ers have an inexperienced head coach and a locker room reeling from veteran defections. A guy with a reputation for butting heads with coaches may not be the best choice in either location.
Andy Reid, on the other hand, is Father Flanagan. His discipline is supple yet strong, like a bamboo stalk. Just a few reassuring grunts from Big Red, and even the most irascible player gets with the program. Peters will be sending even his most demanding coaches “Thinking of You” greeting cards every week by the time Reid is done with him.
The Chiefs secondary, so deep just two seasons ago, is now down to Sean Smith, Husain Abdullah and a bunch of prospects and injury cases. The Chiefs need a cornerback who can play a significant role right away. Peters is the most field-ready cornerback in the draft.
19. Cleveland Browns: Garrett Grayson, Quarterback, Colorado State
This is not an attempt to troll Browns fans. Well, not much of one.
The Browns can never resist drafting a quarterback with their second pick of the first round. They will stop doing it as soon as they enter a draft with two first-round picks but no need at quarterback. This is not that year.
OK, so they will pull a Brady Quinn-Brandon Weeden-Johnny Manziel and go quarterback shopping with their bonus pick again. Why not Brett Hundley? I had an epiphany while watching Hundley and Grayson scouting tape last week. Grayson is better. Grayson can consistently find second receivers and avoid negative plays. He has better touch on his passes than Hundley, and Hundley’s size-speed-arm advantage doesn’t compensate for the fact that he could find a way to get sacked during a pregame warmup.
Hundley is the better prospect for a team with lots of resources and a two-year development window. Grayson is the better prospect for a team that may need someone to step on the field and look semi-competent by Week 5. Guess which category the Browns fall into.
The Browns can probably slide down several slots and still land Grayson; he’s the one quarterback on Earth Chip Kelly doesn’t seem to like, and the Cardinals are the only team on the immediate horizon after the 19th pick that might jump on a quarterback. But if they wait until the second round, the Browns must risk the Titans, Redskins or Bears (or even the Broncos at the very end of Round 1) taking the quarterback they want. The Browns don’t need to use this pick to acquire more bonus picks. They need to finally do something useful with the bonus picks they have.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Spieth, Golfer, Texas
A golfer? Chip Kelly drafted a golfer? I’m sure there’s a reasonable chipsplanation.
“Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are pretty good golfers, and they also turned out to be pretty good quarterbacks,” Kelly says at Spieth’s introductory press conference. “Are you starting to connect the dots yet?
“Spieth has not only won the Masters but beaten Tony Romo in golf numerous times,” Kelly said. “Those skills directly translate to the field. Or do I have to draw you a diagram?” Kelly then throws a microphone at Howard Eskin and storms off the podium.
Kelly’s media apostles then explain that Kelly wins with scheme on offense, not personnel, and that the scheme has never been about mobile option quarterbacks; that was always a superficial assessment by so-called experts who don’t understand strategy. A perfectly stationary athlete would actually be better for the Eagles offense, so Spieth is perfect. So is Tim Tebow, because … computer error … CLASHING RATIONALIZATIONS … LOGICAL FALLACY … Zzzzt.
Here is the full Eagles mock draft. If you don’t understand the logic behind the moves, it is because you are not smart enough:
1st Round: Jordan Spieth, Texas
2nd Round: Manny Pacquiao, Notre Dame of Dadiangas
3rd Round: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin (as a running back)
4th Round: American Pharoah, Zayat Stables. When things go wrong, Kelly ain’t going out like Richard III.
5th Round: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon. What? The Eagles need depth at center!
5th Round: Sent to Chargers as part of the Connor Barwin-Philip Rivers-Adrian Peterson-Johnny Manziel trade to acquire Giancarlo Stanton.
6th Round: Jordan Lewis, Hawthorn. Kelly has plans to revolutionize Austalian football, too.
7th Round: Someone who will be blamed on Howie Roseman.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: T.J. Clemmings, Offensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
OK, my editors told me that I have to make a real selection for the Eagles.
While it’s easy to determine the Eagles’ needs, it’s impossible to determine Kelly’s perception of the Eagles’ needs. He may think they need some running back depth behind DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews. Also, no one expects Kelly to sit tight at No. 20 in his first draft as the Eagles’ Benevolent Emperor. Whether he engages in some Marcus Mariota madness (Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow be damned) or ping-pongs around the draft like a squirrel locked in a peanut shop, Kelly will make sure that you know he engineered the hell out of every decision.
So let’s assume that he traded the 20th pick for a bunch of players and picks, then traded a bunch of other players and picks to get the 20th pick back a few minutes later. The dust settles, and Kelly remembers that left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Evan Mathis are both 33 years old. The Eagles need line depth, and Clemmings is a little bit like Lane Johnson, the Eagles’ first-ever pick of the Kelly era: a converted player from another position (defensive end for Clemmings, tight end for Johnson) with lots of upside but limited technique.
Clemmings will eventually settle in at left tackle for a long career of hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Shane Ray, Edge-Rusher, Missouri
Much of the legs-and-back work for this mock draft was done on Thursday and Friday of last week, during Ray’s injury-related swan dive (and slight recovery) on draftnik nation’s boards. It was hard to keep up: Ray has a foot injury, Ray may need surgery, Ray got run over by a train and broke both of his legs (the rumors got a little weird for a spell), Ray might not need surgery, Ray’s foot injury may not be that big of a deal, let’s go back to talking about Jameis Winston’s crab legs.
Ray will not fall out of the first round. At this point in the draft, teams are solid enough to wait half a season for a player of exceptional value. The Bengals recorded an astonishingly low 20 sacks last season. That number should improve with Geno Atkins reasserting himself after a disappointing post-ACL, post-contract season and Michael Johnson back from Buccaneers exile. But Paul Guenther needs situational pass-rushers off the bench besides Margus Hunt, whose role diminished as last season wore on.
Before Ray’s injury became public, Malcom Brown occupied this slide. The Bengals could still address defensive tackle early; Domata Peko is fading, and a nasty interior can make the pass rush look much better. What the Bengals need most of all on defense are playmakers; they have a lot of solid defenders, but the only way to move past the first round of the playoffs is to find players with the potential to be spectacular.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Landon Collins, Safety, Alabama
The Steelers have not selected a defensive back in the first round since they took Troy Polamalu in 2003. They have not selected a defensive back in the first two rounds since 2005. It has been a remarkable run of negligence at a critical position group, especially with Ike Taylor looking more and more like the flag man on a construction team before finally retiring a few weeks ago.
So we need to Jedi mind trick the Steelers into doing the obvious here. Collins has the most Polamalu-like attributes of any defensive back of the last few draft classes. He is smart and instinctive in coverage, deadly when attacking the line of scrimmage, and in fine Nick Saban Serenity Prayer fashion, he has the wisdom to know when to do which. There will never be another Polamalu, but the Steelers can get a guy who does similar things, then pick from among the many good-not-great cornerback prospects hanging around the second and third rounds.
But the Steelers must finally admit that the secondary is worth investing in. All they have to do is watch some carefully edited Alabama tape. Chop off the part where Collins creeps down from deep safety to more of an outside linebacker position before the snap, and suddenly Collins looks like an undersized outside linebacker. The Steelers love to draft undersized outside linebackers! They select Collins and—surprise!—he’s really the safety they desperately need.
Now, to somehow convince them that P.J. Williams is a slow-footed right tackle…
23. Detroit Lions: La'el Collins, Offensive Tackle, LSU
The Lions could also pursue a defensive tackle with the 23rd pick; as you may have heard, they have lost a little talent at that position in the last two months. But the acquisitions of Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, coupled with the potential of backup Caraun Reid, should partially offset the losses of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Plus, the top tier of tackles has left the board in this little mock draft.
On the other side of the ball, the Lions need a starting left guard. Collins, a massively strong right tackle type, could slide inside and be that guard. Or Collins could force incumbent right tackle LaAdrian Waddle inside. Either way, a Collins selection will finish the youthful rebuild of the Lions offensive line which includes Travis Swanson’s promotion to starting center, Riley Reiff’s emergence as a solid left tackle and Larry Warford’s Pro Bowl-caliber play at right guard.
Lions running backs were stuffed for no gain or a loss on 22 percent of their carries last season, the third-worst total in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. Reggie Bush’s backfield Riverdancing was only a small part of the problem: Dominic Raiola got old, Swanson had to fill in at center and guard before he was ready and there was little the other linemen could do to compensate for a void in the middle. Collins gives the Lions enough talented bodies to plug that gap.
And no, I did not place La'el Collins and Landon Collins next to each other simply because I was looking at an alphabetical list, he writes, busily deleting evidence that he had the Cardinals selecting Chris Conley.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Bud Dupree, Edge-Rusher, Kentucky
Name the Cardinals running back.
It’s Andre Ellington. That didn’t take you too long, did it? And you probably remembered that he is a pretty good all-purpose rusher-receiver who was hurt late last year. Ellington is the kind of player who can excel in a committee backfield. Give him a power back like David Cobb in a middle round, let hardworking backup Stepfan Taylor compete for a role, and the Cardinals running game can be solid. There is no need for Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman or Adrian Peterson.
Now name the Cardinals pass-rushers.
[Humming the Jeopardy theme]
If you said “Alex Okafor,” well done. If you named LaMarr Woodley, you get partial credit: The Cardinals did sign Woodley to give Bruce Arians a canasta partner, but if he had significant sacks left in his gas tank, the Raiders or Steelers would have kept him.
The Cardinals need a talent infusion at outside linebacker, and Dupree is one of the best pure defensive talents left on the draft board. He will keep new defensive coordinator James Bettcher from having to manufacture pass rush as creatively as Todd Bowles did. Dupree gives the defense the size-speed mismatch opportunities they have lost to injuries and departures in recent years. The offense will have to wait its turn in the middle rounds.
25. Carolina Panthers: Breshad Perriman, Wide Receiver, Cental Florida
The Panthers receiving corps at the end of last season consisted of exciting-but-raw Kelvin Benjamin, crafty geezer Jerricho Cotchery, speedy fourth-receiver type Philly Brown, and Brenton Bersin, who looks like Thor’s stunt double but has a bad habit of muffing routine punt returns. The Panthers bolstered their receiving corps in free agency by retrieving 30-year old speedster Ted Ginn from Arizona, adding former Jaguars and Packers depth chart diver Jarrett Boykin, and bringing in Jets washout Stephen Hill, presumably to reach the shelves that are too high for Jerry Richardson.
So Cam Newton could use some more weapons. He could also use some offensive line help, but the Panthers cobbled together a pretty good late-season line from players like Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell. The Panthers also signed a pair of after-school special tackles in Jonathan Martin and Michael Oher who should at least provide a little credible depth and competition. Newton will have just enough time to throw if he can find someone to throw to. Perriman provides a useful mix of deep speed, third-down catch-in-crowd capability and upside.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Mario Edwards, Edge-Rusher, Florida State
How to mock draft for the Ravens:
- Assume Ozzie Newsome will draft the best available player from Alabama. With Amari Cooper and Landon Collins off the board, we can move on to the next step; it’s not T.J. Yeldon time yet.
- Assume that at least three mid-round picks from the last three years will emerge from the bottom of the depth chart and suddenly be awesome. So let’s pencil in Ricky Wagner at right tackle, Crockett Gillmore at tight end and Marlon Brown at wide receiver as quality starters still basting in the Newsome-Harbaugh slow cooker.
- Pick a position without an obvious, glaring need.
- Find a big, fast, talented guy who plays that position, preferably at a major program.
- Plug that prospect into the Ravens depth chart at the position that is already semi-deep.
- Take a deep breath and wait for the middle rounds, where Newsome will roll around in supplemental picks like a kangaroo in the outback dust.
Edwards looks like Pernell McPhee and has a similar play style: He’s a move-around pass-rusher with average technique and just enough speed and awareness to hustle around in coverage now and then. Edwards has far more upside than McPhee had.
Newsome suddenly discovered a taste for Florida State defenders when he drafted Timmy Jernigan and Terrence Brooks last season after ignoring the Seminoles for a decade. When Newsome likes a program, he’ll draft players in bunches, and Edwards is a heck of a player to sweep into the dragnet.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Eddie Goldman, Defensive Tackle, Florida State
This mock draft assumes that the Cowboys either acquired Adrian Peterson before the draft or are engaged in a long game of Jerry Jones-Rick Spielman-Ben Dogra phone tag throughout the first round. “Rick, will you take a second-rounder this year and a third-rounder next year? Wait, hold on. [Switching callers] Ben, what if we guarantee the first two years of AP’s new contract and bury a million per year in a workout bonus? Wait, hold on. [Switching callers] Jason, I asked for brisket on these nachos, not pulled pork. Cook up a fresh batch and bring them to the war room pronto.”
The Cowboys need a talent upgrade on the offensive line, and Jerry loves beefy size-strength-speed prospects. The 330-pound Goldman fills the Henry Melton void—at his size, Goldman can fill a lot of voids— and when the experts praise Jerry for building “the right way” in the trenches, the accolades will make him feel almost as good as winning the Super Bowl.
28. Denver Broncos: Benardrick McKinney, Linebacker, Mississippi State
We have reached the part of the mock draft that disintegrates into probabilistic foam. The teams picking late are not particularly needy—though the Broncos had really better start planting seeds if they want there to be harvests beyond 2015—and we ran out of consensus first-rounders a while ago. If the middle rounds of the mock draft are guesswork, this is like throwing darts while blindfolded, underwater.
The Broncos have done a fine job hiding the fact that they don’t really have a middle linebacker for several seasons. The trick was to name Nate Irving the starter and then use him for about 30 snaps per game. Von Miller handled the pass rushing, Brandon Marshall the underneath coverage, and the Broncos went nickel at the first excuse. Who needs a middle linebacker?
Irving is now in Indianapolis, and run-stuffing pot roast Terrance Knighton is also gone at defensive tackle. The Broncos could use a big, talented thumper between the tackles, even if he leaves the field on 2nd-and-9. McKinney is big, quick and physical. He’s an effective gap shooter and inside blitzer who will give Wade Phillips a little more versatility in his defensive packages.
The Broncos could also use reinforcements on the offensive line and some depth on the receiving corps as they transition to Gary Kubiak’s offense. But talking about (yawn) Kubiak’s offense can (stretch) really … put us to … Zzzzzzzzzzz
29. Indianapolis Colts: Ereck Flowers, Offensive Tackle, Miami
The Colts had the worst offensive line continuity in the NFL last year, according to Football Outsiders, your only source for esoteric metrics like “offensive line continuity.” The Colts used 10 different starters on the line and used 11 different lines during the regular season. By the playoffs, they had shuffled perennial prospect Khaled Holmes into the lineup at center, Joe Reitz (the offensive line equivalent of a AAA outfielder with a .240 career batting average) at right tackle, and Lance Louis (the offensive line equivalent of a AAA bullpen coach) at right guard. Catastrophe ensued in the form of a 45-7 blowout.
Gosder Cherilus is slated to return at right tackle. Big deal: He’s Gosder Cherlius. The Colts upgraded right guard by signing Todd Herremans during their free agency AARP roll call, but they need more bodies to keep the Reitz and Louis types off the field. Flowers is huge and overpowering and will arrive ready to play at right tackle or guard. He can help the Colts create the power rushing attack they keep claiming that they want to create. And if the Colts need to juggle 10 different starters next year, at least a higher percentage of them will be worth playing.
30. Green Bay Packers: Paul Dawson, Linebacker, Texas Christian
The Packers need a replacement for A.J. Hawk. They had better start overpaying and overrating someone immediately.
Dawson has outstanding game tape. He may be the best coverage and in-space linebacker in the draft. Yet there is talk of Dawson sliding down to the middle rounds because he failed a drug test (for Adderall, according to Dawson) as a sophomore and was often late for meetings in college. There were also whispers that Dawson did not watch enough tape, which is interesting, since he often appeared to recognize pass patterns faster than the opposing quarterback.
Now, say I was A. Nonimous Exec, that purveyor of predraft smokescreens, and I wanted to make a player slide in a draft so I could nab him. If the tape is as good as Dawson’s, dissing his game won’t get me anywhere. If he hasn’t been accused of any crimes, I cannot just make some up; this isn’t 1983. But I can take some of the player’s own admitted shortcomings, make a mountain of them and slip the rumor into the proper channels. “Football character” cannot be weighed or measured, so I might be able to get some rivals to second-guess their own homework. I’m not saying that’s what is happening here, just what I would do if I wanted to get a player to fall to me.
The Packers have a strong locker room. If Dawson starts ignoring the snooze alarm, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers will lock him in the weight room with the lights off. Put Dawson next to Matthews on the inside, and he can roam, foil screen-draw-option plays and clean up all the spills Matthews and Peppers cause. He will be just like Hawk, except smaller, cheaper and better.
31. New Orleans Saints: Dorial Green-Beckham, Wide Receiver, Missouri
Let’s start by acknowledging the character questions without excusing or dismissing them: DGB needs a strong, stable locker room to help him grow up as a person and a player. Drew Brees and Marques Colston lead a veteran core who will provide leadership on the field and in the receiver meeting room, and Sean Payton has a stable, seasoned offensive staff.
Now, the need: The Saints lost 148 receptions and 1,820 yards from 2014 when they traded Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. The receiving corps behind Colston and Brandin Cooks is nearly unrecognizable, and 34-year old Ben Watson, now the starting tight end, is not going to do the things Graham once did in the passing game. The Saints need a size-speed matchup problem and a legitimate third option for Brees. DGB can be both, even if he is rusty and raw when he arrives at camp.
Finally, the future: The Saints are doing everything possible to remain competitive, but they absolutely must look past the Drew Brees event horizon. The Saints had the NFL's oldest roster last year, and trading away youngsters like Stills while acquiring veterans like Max Unger and Anthony Spencer did not make them any younger. DGB is one of the few players on the board at No. 31 with obvious superstar potential after a year of development.
DGB and Randy Gregory (who we assigned to the Saints with the 13th pick) represent a high-risk, high-reward first round. The Saints have to take these kind of chances if they don’t want to become a 3-13 team the moment Brees retires.
32. New England Patriots: Jalen Collins, Cornerback, LSU
Let’s pretend Bill Belichick will sit tight with the 32nd pick, which is about as likely as Jim Harbaugh appearing in the 49ers war room to give everyone a congratulatory hug. Staying put, Belichick hoovers up any high-level talent that slips through the first-round cracks. Collins reportedly failed several drug tests at LSU; couple the allegations with the fact that Collins was never a full-time starter for the Bayou Bengals, and you get an easy-to-pass-on defender in a draft full of good-not-great cornerback prospects. Belichick, meanwhile, sees tall, long-armed talent available for cheap.
But really, the Patriots will either move up in search of Malcom Brown-level talent or, more likely, move down in an effort to stock their depth chart shelves. Belichick would happily bow out of the first round in exchange for an extra second-round pick; he would then walk away with (let’s say) guard Ali Marpet and Kevin Faulk surrogate Ameer Abdullah, or massive run plugger Carl Davis and size-speed deep threat Sammie Coates. The Patriots then have two third-round picks because they play the compensatory game so well. By the end of the draft, Belichick can happily wallow in Navy guys and lacrosse players and no one will complain.
That last line would sound odd in reference to anyone else’s draft haul but Belichick’s. It’s good to be the king on draft day. It’s even better to have no needs whatsoever at quarterback or tight end in the 2015 draft.