2015 NFL Draft Grades: Full Round 1 Report Card

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterApril 30, 2015

2015 NFL Draft Grades: Full Round 1 Report Card

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    Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images

    Welcome to the greatest non-sporting event in sports!

    You can keep your Olympic opening and closing pageantry, your Tournament of Roses parade, your Home Run Derby and NBA Slam Dunk Contest. You can even keep the NCAA basketball selection show, although no one’s slagging the NCAA basketball selection show.

    The greatest non-sports spectacle in all of sports is the NFL draft: part fashion show, part coronation, a three-day testament to America’s obsession with football that involves absolutely no football.

    The NFL draft is so popular and compelling that the league can drop it onto the same weekend as the Kentucky Derby, the biggest boxing match of the year, a slate of NBA and NHL playoff games, a full baseball schedule and the kind of gorgeous weather that can make even a pork rind addict sign up for a 5K run without fear.

    The NFL knows what you are going to do this weekend: watch names get called for three days, with perhaps brief breaks for horseys, boxers, meals and maybe The Avengers.

    But you don’t have to be a hermit. Bleacher Report has you covered. Take us with you on your smartphone or tablet. We will have real-time updates, videos, analysis and pick-by-pick breakdowns all weekend long. Our new draft tracker widget will keep you up to date, even when you cannot stand another second of television coverage.

    We put our lives on hold for three days so you wouldn’t have to. But you probably will anyway.

    These are the first-round grades. They will update continuously throughout Thursday night. It’s like having a draftnik in your living room, only fun!

Live Draft Board

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    Follow the draft all weekend long with the Bleacher Report draft tracker widget above.

    This slideshow will update on a pick-by-pick basis throughout Round 1. New slideshows will appear on Friday and Saturday. Keep checking back for analysis, scouting reports, stats, observations, and all the Jerry Jones and Chip Kelly jokes you can handle. Expert insights, videos, reports from Chicago and whispers from the war room rumor mill: Bleacher Report has you covered all weekend long.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Strengths: Arm, size, passing mechanics, competitiveness

    Weaknesses: Decision-making, maturity

    You don’t want to read anything else about Jameis Winston. I don’t want to write anything else about Jameis Winston. How about we just wait and see what the Titans do so I can get started on the next slide?

    OK, my editors just put the kibosh on that idea. Let’s start over.

    Talking about Jameis Winston at this point is like talking about a presidential candidate on the eve of the election. There are supporters and detractors, and the few remaining open minds are leaning one way or the other and won’t be influenced by a few paragraphs on the Internet.

    Like a famous politician, the human Jameis Winston is all but buried beneath mountains of opinion, innuendo, racial politics, sexual politics, class politics and other socio-cultural debris that will cling to him forever unless he wins three Super Bowls. All the baggage bears only a little relevance upon whether he can successfully throw footballs and meet society’s bare decency minimums.

    In other words, writing about Winston is less like writing about Russell Wilson or Johnny Manziel and more like writing about Hillary Clinton or Chris Christie. And the young man hasn’t received a paycheck yet.

    So, sticking to the narrow task of grading this selection …

    The problem with scouting Winston is that everyone wants to grade him on an ace-fail system. Bring up the character issues, and Winston quickly becomes a Hannibal Lecter straw demon for those who like to throw one-size-fits-all character blankets over everyone from a guy who yells at his coach to Aaron Hernandez. His supporters cry foul, perhaps rightfully, and while some establish fortifications at immature but eager to grow, others string together rationalizations and legal technicalities until Winston sounds like Sir Galahad.

    Bring up the interceptions, and before long some detractor is claiming that Winston cannot throw 10 yards downfield without cramming the ball into a defender’s earhole. The supporters race to the rescue again and explain away those 18 interceptions in 2014. It’s a pro-style offense! He didn’t have enough weapons, because Rashad Greene is chopped liver! The boosters also perceive interception criticism as a stealth attack on Winston’s intelligence-maturity-character, but only because it so often is.

    Bring up the athletic limitations, the slow 40 times and visible paunch whenever Winston wears something more revealing than a hoodie, and BOOM! A. Nonimous Executive makes a JaMarcus Russell comparison. This provokes a full-bore persecution complex within Camp Rah-Rah Winston and, frankly, doesn’t reflect well on the draft-coverage industry.

    Just as in an election season, moderate voices get drowned out. Winston is not JaMarcus, but he is not Colin Kaepernick or Andrew Luck as an athlete, either. The same can be said of his maturity and character: He’s not Ryan Leaf, but he sure as heck isn’t Russell Wilson. As for the interceptions: They are going to be a problem, but they don’t make him worthless as a human being.

    But then we are left with the fact that Winston is the first pick in the 2015 draft, yet he is clearly not Luck, Wilson, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or anyone else we might dream of getting with the top pick of the draft (well, maybe Ben Roethlisberger if all goes well). He’s a prospect benefiting from a weak quarterback market, a team with a desperate need, and the Confirmation Bias, a psychological phenomenon that makes all of us, from Lovie Smith and Jason Licht to Mike Mayock to you and I, reluctant to change our minds. Winston looked exceptional in 2013, we locked him in as the Next Big Thing, and then spent a year explaining away evidence to the contrary.

    If you are scouting honestly, Winston gets a B or C for on-field decision-making, a charitable B or C for character, and a B for pure athleticism. Yes, he has some A-pluses, but the Buccaneers just made him the valedictorian.

    Winston can rise to this occasion. But everyone from fans to Lovie to Jameis must accept that there is a great deal of rising that must be done.

    Grade: C+

2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Strengths: Athleticism, short-to-mid-range accuracy, throwing on the run, decision-making, character

    Weaknesses: Deep accuracy, high-end arm talent, system

    NFL teams lined up in the shotgun nearly 61 percent of the time last year, according to the Football Outsiders Game Charting Project. Use of the no-huddle is on the rise each year around the league. Designed quarterback runs are so common that quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler run the occasional read-option keeper.

    Marcus Mariota must adapt to the NFL, but the NFL has been adapting to Marcus Mariota for over a decade. You can tell the age and change resistance of an NFL expert by how often they say things like “college gimmick offense” or “never lined up under center.” If options, receiver screens and hurry-up tactics are gimmicks, then there are many NFL teams in the market for a gimmicky quarterback.

    Still, the mindset persists that the college quarterback who barks plays in the huddle and takes half his snaps from the center has some magical “readiness” that grants him an edge that will extend beyond about the first month of his rookie season, even if he threw interceptions by the bundle and has his own tag on TMZ’s website.

    Mariota’s overall athleticism is far superior to Jameis Winston’s, his collegiate production was far better, the character/maturity issues are a Mariota slam dunk and the difference in pure passing talent are not that great unless you nail Mariota for every 30-yard wobbler but forgive Winston’s late throws into the free safety’s happy place. Yet Winston led this race since pole position, largely because of intractable notions about “arm talent” and the sanctity of the seven-step drop.

    Yes, I think Mariota is a better prospect than Winston, though both would have gone at the end of the first round in 2012 and neither is the guaranteed epic bustedy-bust-bust of message board lore. Mariota would have been in big trouble if he entered the NFL 15 years ago, when he would have been shackled in the pocket and buried in West Coast offense jargon. Most NFL systems now meet mobile shotgun quarterbacks halfway. No system meets a quarterback who throws blind into the middle of the field halfway.

    But if there is one head coach who seems categorically unwilling to meet a 21st century quarterback halfway, it’s Ken Whisenhunt. The Titans used shotgun formations 69 percent of the time last season, so that is not a problem. But the no-huddle was exclusively used in two-minute and trailing-late situations. My comb of the Football Outsiders database found just one designed run: a 4th-and-1 sneak.

    Heck, Titans quarterbacks only threw 43 passes from outside the pocket: Even the rollout is a barely used wrinkle for Whisenhunt. The Titans had one of the slowest offenses in the NFL in neutral situations, ranking 29th in pace once we account for how often they were playing catch-up. Whisenhunt, who made his bones by reluctantly acquiescing to the fact that the old Kurt Warner was far superior to hand-picked protege Matt Leinart, may be the least Mariota-friendly offensive coach left in the NFL.

    Of course, Whisenhunt may only be renting Mariota for a few hours.

    We will never, ever be rid of Mariota-to-Eagles trade rumors until Chip Kelly leaves Philly, the sun burns out or Chip Kelly burns out the sun. As of this moment on Thursday evening, April 30, Kelly’s quarterback is a pocket statue and Whisenhunt’s is a Kelly construction. A trade almost makes too much sense, and at this writing the evening is very young.

    Grade: B

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler Jr., Edge-Rusher, Florida

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    Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images

    Because most edge-rushers (defensive end-outside linebacker tweeners, hybrids, Leos, whatever) are just variations on a theme, we will use the all-new Bleacher Report Edge-o-Matic to tell you everything you need to know about the top sack specialists in this year’s draft (as opposed to the strengths-weaknesses format for other picks). SackSEER is a Football Outsiders metric designed to determine a prospect’s short-term pass-rush potential based on workout results and college statistics.

    The Bleacher Report Edge-o-Matic report for: Dante Fowler Jr.

    Athleticism: Freakish, Super-Freakish or Face-Meltingly Ultra-freakish? Freakish, bordering on Super-freakish. Fowler is fast and moves laterally very well.

    Big Enough to Play “Traditional” Defensive End? Yep.

    Does More Than Run Around the Left Tackle? Absolutely: has a spin move, some inside moves and reacts quickly to draws and such.

    Thinks “Coverage” Has Something to Do with His Cellphone Plan? Fowler is very bright and aware. He can handle simple coverage tasks.

    Intensity Level? High.

    How Many Sacks Does SackSEER See? Not many, with the caveat that Fowler is more versatile than the typical sack-or-nothing edge specialist.

    Goofus, Gallant, Galette or Gholston? Gallant: Fowler is the type of defender who racks up eight to 10 sacks, plays the run well and does important “little things” like clean up screens or sacrifice himself on blitzes.

    Fowler will be groomed behind Chris Clemons as the Leo in the Jaguars defense; he should replace the aging Clemons sooner than later. The Jaguars defense recorded 45 sacks last season, so pass rush is not among their most pressing needs. But for a team that has struggled as long as the Jaguars have, getting great at one thing may make more sense than getting pretty good at many things.

    The only quibble: Leonard Williams was still on the board, and he would have been nasty on the other side of the line.

    Grade: A-

4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Strengths: Route running, hands, productivity, after-the-catch capability

    Weaknesses: Not a super specimen

    Raiders receivers averaged just 9.5 yards per catch last year, generated just 30 plays of 20-plus yards and registered first downs on just 47.4 percent of their receptions, all league lows, according to NFL.com.

    To add some richness and texture to those numbers: The Raiders completed 15 passes that lost yardage, 11 passes for no gain and 36 passes of one to three yards that did not result in first downs or touchdowns. They completed 37 passes on third down or fourth down that did not convert a first down or touchdown. The Raiders led the NFL in these “failed completions,” according to Football Outsiders. Raiders receivers caught about seven passes per game that did not really help the team in any meaningful way.

    So yes, this was a need pick, but the Raiders also may have gotten the best player in the draft.

    Amari Cooper is the safest pick in the first round and the second-best receiver prospect (after Julio Jones) to come from Alabama in the era of NFL free agency.

    Remember when we used to talk about the West Coast offense and how certain receivers were perfect for the West Coast offense? Cooper is perfect for the 1990s version of the West Coast offense: He snaps off short routes to get separation, has good hands, can make stuff happen after the catch and is bright and experienced enough to learn option routes and adjustments.

    The West Coast offense did not go away. Its name has just been shortened to “offense”—that old Bill Walsh DNA is lurking in just about every NFL system these days. That said, no one talks about taking three years to master the wide receiver position anymore, which is smart, because coaches don’t want prospects perfecting their system one year after they’ve been fired. The 6'3", 4.45 thoroughbreds who got buried on a dozen benches in the 1990s can now contribute as rookies. But there’s still a place for 6'1", quicker-than-fast (though still really fast) technicians like Cooper. Especially on a team that needs to turn lots and lots of three-yard passes into 10-to-12-yard passes.

    Grade: A

5. Washington Redskins: Brandon Scherff, Tackle, Iowa

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    Hannah Foslien/Associated Press

    Strengths: Experience, technique, consistency, strength

    Weaknesses: Lacks top-tier quickness/athleticism

    Hawkeye offensive linemen roll call!

    • Riley Reiff: First-round pick for the Lions in 2012. Has been a starter for two seasons.
    • Bryan Bulaga: First-round pick of the Packers in 2010. Has been a starter when healthy for five years.
    • Marshal Yanda: Third-round pick of the Ravens in 2007. One of the best guards in the NFL.
    • Robert Gallery: First-round pick (second overall) of the Raiders in 2004. Started at tackle and guard for seven seasons.
    • Eric Steinbach: Second-round pick by the Bengals in 2003. Started for eight seasons.

    There were also some mid-round selections, like Adam Gettis in 2012 and Julian Vandervelde in 2011, who are both still on rosters (both were fifth-round picks). If you are looking for a “bust,” you must go back to Bruce Nelson, a second-round pick in 2003, whose career was derailed by hip injuries, or you can criticize Gallery for just being a longtime starter when some of us thought he would be Anthony Munoz.

    In summary: Yes, Brandon Scherff is a safe pick in the “chip off Kirk Ferentz’s block” sort of way. As for criticism of his ability to play left tackle: Scherff is not Munoz or Walter Jones. The Redskins are set at left tackle with Trent Williams, one of the few players who fits that classic prototype anymore. They need help at right tackle, where Tyler Polumbus and Tom Compton split time last season. Polumbus and Compton combined to allow 14 sacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Scherff is an immediate upgrade, no matter what it says on the splash page of The Blind Side.

    Grade: A-

6. New York Jets: Leonard Williams, Defensive Line, USC

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Strengths: Size, power, hand use and technique, run defense, awareness

    Weaknesses: Slow first step

    Leonard Williams ranks first among prospects on the Sports Illustrated Top 64. He ranks first at CBSSports.com, which gets most of its draft information from NFL Draft Scout. Mike Mayock ranked Williams first. Optimum Scouting ranks Williams first. Matt Miller ranks Williams second for Bleacher Report, behind Jameis Winston. Mel Kiper ranks Williams first. I rank Williams first.

    Because Winston slides around the top seven or eight on most draft boards, while Williams rarely falls below anyone but Winston, it’s safe to say that if you created a weighting system of all the most reliable draft boards across the media, Williams would rank as the top prospect in this year’s draft. That's why the Jets took him despite the exact opposite of a need. That’s why it is also important to make the following observation:

    His name is Leo, not Leonard.

    Williams calls himself Leo. His teammates usually call him Leo when they mention him. Williams is nicknamed Big Cat. He has a long mane of Rum Tum Tugger hair. Cat, mane, lion...Leo. Get it? We might as well compare “Leonard” Williams to the best defensive lineman in the NFL, Justin Watt.

    Oh well, Mike Vick couldn’t even win this battle when he was on video game covers. So “Leonard” it is.

    There’s another important observation that must be made: Leonard Williams is NOT a "Leo." He’s not an edge-rusher. He’s a nasty all-purpose defensive lineman who does his dirtiest work when playing over an offensive tackle.

    Much of our defensive line scouting lingo separates defensive linemen into edge-rushers, 3-tech tackles, big slabs of beef at nose tackle and “others.” The “others” are often thought of as second-class linemen. But J.J. Watt is an “other,” as are Jurrell Casey, Muhammad Wilkerson, Calais Campbell and many other high-impact defenders. Williams is going to be a defender in this category sooner than later.

    Muhammad Wilkerson goes by “Mo” or “Big Mo.” But we are drifting off topic.

    Leo joins Big Mo, Sheldon Richardson and Damon "Big Snacks" Harrison on a defensive line that will, quite frankly, be vicious. The Patriots really cannot afford to noodle around with interior offensive line rotations this year: Everyone is gunning to force Tom Brady into retirement. Combine the Jets defensive line with their rebuilt Revis-Gang-Rides-Again defense, and Brady may be the only quarterback who can put up 17 points against the Jets.

    Now, let's see how often the Jets can score 17 points. Maybe strip-sacks and interception returns can do the trick.

    Grade: A-

7. Chicago Bears: Kevin White, Wide Receiver, West Virginia

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Strengths: Size, speed, hands, leaping catch capability

    Weaknesses: Experience

    Prior to the team's signing of Eddie Royal in March, Bears wide receivers not named Alshon Jeffery on the current roster have just a handful of combined NFL receptions. So the Bears have a bigger need at receiver than on defense, where they are loaded with second-year players who can still improve with a little training and dignity repair, as well as low-priced veterans signed to prevent anything like the 2013-14 Bears defense to ever happen again.

    Kevin White is still a little raw as a technician but has All-Pro upside. Here, enjoy the cutups of the Maryland game. Stay until the end, when White fights through pass interference to catch an underthrown sideline bomb. Also, take note of his willingness as a blocker (though he gets flagged for holding once). White will be a dangerous screens-and-bombs “boundary” receiver for the Bears right away. In two years, he could be Dez Bryant without baggage.

    Think of White as a receiver who will catch 50-60 passes but score a dozen touchdowns. Amari Cooper, now with the Raiders, will catch 80-90 passes but with fewer big plays. And those could be rookie numbers.

    Grade: B+

8. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, Edge-Rusher, Clemson

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Because most edge-rushers (defensive end-outside linebacker tweeners, hybrids, Leos, whatever) are just variations on a theme, we will use the all-new Bleacher Report Edge-o-Matic to tell you everything you need to know about the top sack specialists in this year’s draft. SackSEER is a Football Outsiders metric designed to determine a prospect’s short-term pass-rush potential based on workout results and college statistics.

    The Bleacher Report Edge-o-Matic report for: Vic Beasley

    Athleticism: Freakish, Super-Freakish, or Face-Meltingly Ultra-freakish? Super-freakish.

    Big Enough to Play “Traditional” Defensive End? Not really. Beasley played end at Clemson but is long and lean for the position in the NFL. The Falcons have a role for him.

    Does More Than Run Around the Left Tackle? Much more. Beasley has a fairly wide battery of moves.

    Thinks “Coverage” Has Something to Do with His Cellphone Plan? Beasley dropped into coverage now and then and can handle the basics.

    Intensity Level? Very high.

    How Many Sacks Does SackSEER See? Many. Great productivity (33 college sacks across three seasons), great workout numbers.

    Goofus, Gallant, Galette or Gholston? Galette, only smaller. Beasley has dozen-sack-per-year NFL potential.

    Both of the Seahawks of the South satellite offices have acquired their Leo pass-rushers: Dan Quinn has Beasley, Gus Bradley has Dante Fowler in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are still a long way from becoming the Seahawks. The Falcons are still flying in from another galaxy.

    Grade: B+

9. New York Giants: Ereck Flowers, Tackle, Miami

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Strengths: Size, largeness, bigness, vastness, hugeness

    Weaknesses: Pass protection against speed rushers

    An incomplete list of the Giants’ needs entering the 2015 draft:

    • Three or four running backs.
    • At least eight cornerbacks.
    • An outside linebacker or two. Make it five.
    • Some offensive linemen who can play three or four different positions, in the same quarter if necessary.
    • Maybe another running back. You can’t be too careful.

    The Giants were the most injured team in the NFL for the second year in a row, according to Football Outsiders, which uses the adjusted games lost metric to measure the full impact of injuries. Really, the Giants have been an orthopedic rehab facility since the Super Bowl season of 2011, but they started to lose their depth magic when the players who used to replace the injured players started getting injured.

    So the Giants had the luxury of taking the best player available then began praying that he stays healthy. Flowers is as good a choice as any, because draft analysis can be easy when you get down to it:

    RHETORICAL QUESTION: What’s to like about Ereck Flowers?

    OBVIOUS ANSWER: He’s 6'6", 330 pounds, moves well and plays hard. Do you really need more of an explanation? The kid looks and moves like he was built on the frame of a Ford F-250, and he has been a major-program starter for two seasons. Do you really need to read the instruction manual?

    OK, speed rushers can get inside of Flowers now and then, he can get beaten off the first step, the technique needs refinement, blah blah blah, SIX-FOOT-SIX, THREE-HUNDRED-THIRTY POUNDS, WITH ATHLETICISM. Everything else is nitpicking and filler.

    Grade: B+

10. St. Louis Rams: Todd Gurley, Running Back, Georgia

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Strengths: Size-speed package, tackle breaking, hands

    Weaknesses: ACL tear, pass protection

    Todd Gurley received a suspension from the NCAA last season for selling signed Todd Gurley memorabilia. This is a serious character issue that did not receive nearly the attention it deserves.

    How can a team trust a guy willing to violate something as sacred as one of the NCAA’s 5,800 (actual number) bylaws? Those commandments were handed down to Mark Emmert before the dawn of history on stone tablets. One thousand, one-hundred and sixty stone tablets, weighing more than Stonehenge.

    The NCAA’s definition of amateurism is the covenant that glues our society together. Without it, a kid like Gurley might get the impression that he is allowed to profit from the fruits of his labor and other anti-American, anti-capitalist ideas. It’s a slippery slope from signing your own name to your own likeness and selling it for a few bucks to burning down Pacific old-wood forests to create pyres to burn American flags and lovable ponies.

    (The previous message was furnished by the NCAA, the thin line separating America from chaos.)

    I think of Gurley as a Willis McGahee do-over. McGahee was a tremendous size-speed-production-versatility prospect when he tore an ACL at the end of the 2002 college season. He sat out his rookie year, then had a few good-not-great seasons for a Bills franchise toppling off the waterfall of irrelevance. McGahee never really took to upstate New York (he can form a support group with Marshawn Lynch and possibly LeSean McCoy); he seemed reinvigorated by a move to Baltimore, but Ray Rice arrived in 2008 to relegate him to committee status. Just when McGahee appeared to be finished, he became part of the Tim Tebow experience in Denver, rushing for 1,199 yards.

    Based on what he could do at age 30, I think McGahee would have had a bunch of 1,500-yard seasons early in his career if: A) ACL rehab was as advanced in 2003 as it is now and B) McGahee played in a non-snowbound city for a team with a little bit of direction.

    Gurley has a chance to claim some of those 1,500-yard seasons. He's going to get healthy quicker than McGahee did. Tre Mason will hold down the fort until he is 100 percent. And Gurley is going to love Los Angeles. The only question is the Rams offensive line, which they were not going to be able to fix with Ereck Flowers and Brandon Scherff off the board.

    There have been no draft trades yet. With Gurley off the board, the Adrian Peterson Bat Phone is going to start ringing.

    Grade: B

11. Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes, Cornerback, Michigan State

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Strengths: Height, speed, awareness, deep-coverage skills

    Weaknesses: Tackling, strength

    Saying you like Trae Waynes on Twitter is like saying you like Taylor Swift's music or domestic beer. The cool kids of #DraftTwitter all gang up on you. OMG, you are, like, one of those shallow people who is impressed by size, speed and major-conference experience. It must feel great to run with the herd. Bet you also eat at chain restaurants and cry at the end of Nicholas Sparks movies, too.

    So at the risk of being cyberbullied by people who spend a little too much time trying to act cool by showing off how much Northwestern State tape they watch, let me state how much I love this pick. No, Waynes cannot tackle. No, his technique is not flawless. But sometimes the obvious hits you over the head: Waynes is a tall, super-fast guy who has covered top B1G receivers one-on-one for two years. The indie choices have their charms, too, but sometimes the obvious selection is the best selection.

    I am really impressed by the Vikings secondary right now. Xavier Rhodes and Waynes make a heck of a multitalented tandem. Captain Munnerlyn was stretched as a conventional corner but will be nasty in the slot, where he can gamble a little bit and won't lose as many size mismatches. Add Harrison Smith at safety (and Robert Blanton, who is fine) and this is a playoff-caliber secondary.

    Grade: A

12. Cleveland Browns: Danny Shelton, Defensive Tackle, Washington

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    William Mancebo/Getty Images

    Strengths: Size, power, hustle, ball location and awareness

    Weaknesses: Built like Grimace

    The Browns allowed 2,265 rushing yards last season, the highest total in the NFL, and had the second-worst run defense in the league, according to Football Outsiders. The Browns pass defense was solid, but opponents spent much of the second half of last season sitting on leads, and the run defense couldn’t do much about it. Let’s face it: The Browns are probably going to see opponents reach 20 points and start hammering the line again this season, so they had to do something about it.

    They just did.

    Some defensive tackle prospects are going to be built like cottage-cheese sculptures. It’s a body type. There’s a gifted athlete under the blubber layer—no one messes with a sumo wrestler—but it is hard to determine whether a tackle flirts with the 350-pound barrier because his body retains weight or because his idea of exercise is multiple trips to the Checkers order counter.

    Danny Shelton can get heavy, but when you watch him chase a play on game film, or if you watched him prepare and practice at the Senior Bowl, you could tell he was no graduate of the Albert Haynesworth Motivational Academy (where snap time is nap time!). Shelton is a true sumo, and he will do what it takes to stay in the 330 area code, where he can be a dominant run-stuffer and useful pass-rusher.

    Shelton overcame considerable adversity to reach the NFL. He’s dedicated, motivated and strong as a team of oxen. The Browns got a bargain here.

    Grade: A

13. New Orleans Saints: Andrus Peat, Tackle, Stanford

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Strengths: Athleticism, technique

    Weaknesses: Toughness/physicality

    The Saints have both the oldest roster and the oldest offense in the NFL, once you adjust for snaps played. They are old at multiple positions on the offensive line: right tackle Zach Strief will be 32 when the season starts, while guard Jahri Evans is 31.

    Andrus Peat is only 21, so he will still be young even if he spends a year on the bench behind Strief. Of course, youth isn’t everything, though age is more than a number when evaluating prospects: Peat has more upside than a 23-year-old with the same tape. Peat is big, athletic and technically sound. He’s a fine future pick.

    Still, the Saints have multiple needs and a short window of opportunity before Drew Brees gets too old and the salary cap collapses into a black hole. The Saints wheeled and dealt through free agency. It would have been nice to see them take a risk with the first of their two first-rounders.

    Grade: C+

14. Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker, Wide Receiver, Louisville

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Strengths: Size, leaping catch ability, route running

    Weaknesses: Quickness

    DeVante Parker is 6'3", has 33 1/4" arms (that’s really long), was a regular contributor for all four of his college seasons when healthy, ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the combine, runs short-to-intermediate routes crisply and will go up and get a contested pass.

    So let’s nitpick! Parker is not nifty or elusive, has “gather up” speed instead of sudden speed and suffered a foot injury in his senior season. Yeah, that’s pretty nitpicky.

    Fun fact: Parker had 12 catches of over 25 yards in each of his final three college seasons, including 2014, when he was healthy for just six games. Despite his lack of freaky speed, Parker should fare pretty well as a big-play threat.

    The Dolphins have completely made their receiver corps over. With Parker joining Kenny Stills (who is going to be awesome), Jarvis Landry and Greg Jennings as the crafty old guy, Ryan Tannehill will have an incredible array of targets in the 10-20-yard range. That's important, because Tannehill doesn't like to throw beyond that range. We've come a long way from watching Mike Wallace jog downfield while Brian Hartline catches eight-yard passes and falls.

    Grade: B+

15. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Strengths: Tools, vision, elusiveness, productivity

    Weaknesses: Pass protection, receiving experience

    The draft position of every Division I-A running back to rush for more than 2,100 yards in a season:

    • Tony Dorsett (2,150, 1976): 1st round, 2nd overall
    • Marcus Allen (2,427, 1981): 1st round, 10th overall
    • Mike Rozier (2,148, 1983): 1st round, 2nd overall
    • Barry Sanders (2,628, 1988): 1st round, 3rd overall
    • Ron Dayne (2,109, 1996): 1st round, 11th overall
    • Troy Davis (2,185, 1996): 3rd round, 62th overall
    • Ricky Williams (2,124, 1998): 1st round, 5th overall
    • LaDainian Tomlinson (2,158, 2000): 1st round, 5th overall
    • Matt Forte (2,127, 2007): 2nd round, 44th overall
    • Kevin Smith (2,567, 2007): 3rd round, 64th overall
    • Andre Williams (2,177, 2013): 4th round, 112 overall
    • Melvin Gordon (2,587, 2014): 1st round, 15th overall

    Troy Davis was just 5'7". Davis arrived in the NFL with (legitimate) wear-and-tear issues after 400-plus carries in his final college season. Most everyone else went in the top half of the first round. Melvin Gordon just squeezed in, and he is in some mighty fine company.

    The Chargers wanted to run the ball up the middle last season. In fact, they did run the ball up the middle last season: 180 times, according to NFLGSIS.com, the highest figure in the NFL. Unfortunately, they cycled through five different centers and six different running backs, so the Chargers averaged just 3.53 yards per rush up the gut, 24th in the NFL.

    Gordon is going to change that. Now the Chargers just need a center to keep him from getting crushed as soon as he takes the handoff.

    Grade: B

16. Houston Texans: Kevin Johnson, Cornerback, Wake Forest

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Strengths: Quickness, fundamentals, ball skills, durability

    Weaknesses: Strength, gamble-and-guess habits

    Kevin Johnson weighed in at 188 pounds at the combine, but it is hard to see where he kept it; he will have a hard time staying about 180 during the full-season rigors. The lean frame is an issue, as is Johnson’s willingness to bite on double moves and tendency to draw flags.

    On the plus side, he started for three years, is quick enough to turn in man coverage and can recognize and anticipate pass patterns in zone. At 6'0" and a true 190 pounds, I would love Johnson as a slot-nickel corner. He can still excel in that role, but the Texans will be disappointed if they are looking for a size matchup against Dez Bryant types. Of course, the Texans are more worried about T.Y. Hilton types.

    Some metrics for you: The Texans ranked 16th in the NFL at stopping No. 1 wide receivers, according to Football Outsiders, but they were first in the NFL in stopping No. 2 wide receivers. Depth caused the disparity: The Texans had little behind Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, who both missed time last season. Johnson will be an effective nickel, but Marcus Peters would have been a better eventual replacement for Joseph.

    Grade: C+

17. San Francisco 49ers: Arik Armstead, Defensive End, Oregon

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Strengths: Height, athleticism

    Weaknesses: Technique, physicality

    Defensive line prospects who stand 6'7" but weigh below 300 pounds give me scary Jon Harris flashbacks. The Eagles drafted Jon Harris 25th overall out of Virginia in 1997. Harris was 6'7" with arms like the pole loppers you use to chop down high branches, and Eagles coach Ray Rhodes saw a guy who would thicken up and become Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Instead, blockers got low on the thin-framed Harris and shoved him out of the NFL in two years.

    On the flip side, there’s Calais Campbell, who at 6'8" and around 280 pounds should be a power forward who gets muscled out of the NFL’s low post. Campbell needed a full year to develop but became a useful situational pass-rusher in his second season and has been one of the NFL’s most underrated defenders over the last two years.

    It’s all about learning to use leverage and fitting a scheme. Campbell figured out how to use height to his advantage. Thanks to creative coordinators like Ray Horton and Todd Bowles, he never got put in positions where his lack of ballast would be a liability. Arik Armstead, who split time between football and basketball early in his career, will have to develop his leverage game. As for scheme, he should fit as a 3-4 end for a defense that slides fronts around, and while many have questioned Jim Tomsula's readiness to be a head coach or his grasp of human language skills, he's a well-regarded head coach.

    This was a safe, high-upside pick for a team that probably shouldn't be trying to do anything risky at this point.

    Grade: B

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Washington

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Strengths: Size, athleticism, coverage technique

    Weaknesses: Tackling technique. Graduate of the Marshawn Lynch School of Alienating Authority Figures.

    Marcus Peters is like the talented kid with *issues* in an unwatchable saintly teacher movie.

    You have seen unwatchable saintly teacher movies, right? The goodhearted new teacher gets a job at the inner-city school where all the bad teachers *just don’t care.* She (it’s usually either a woman or Edward James Olmos) inherits a classroom full of juvenile delinquents capable of learning Shakespeare, calculus, or Shakespearean Calculus if someone could just look past their upbringing and *reach* them.

    There’s always a tough ringleader of the class, someone extra talented but extra troubled; the principal tells our heroine teacher to look out for him, because he is *nothing but trouble.* He proves to be the toughest nut of the group to crack; she actually has to play her Simon and Garfunkel record twice before he melts away and becomes a beacon of brilliant inspiration.

    The movie ends with formerly troubled young Marcus leading his fellow Sweathogs in a standing ovation for the only teacher on Earth who ever actually cared for her students, the principal nodding in acknowledgement that he *misjudged* this young scholar, who stole his car stereo in the opening scene.

    Anyway, Peters got kicked out of the Washington program because of an extended series of battles with coach Chris Petersen and his staff. Petersen is quite the Dean Wormer type, and Peters copped to his own role as a temperamental kid who did not handle the combined pressures of college stardom, coaching changes and early fatherhood very well. Peters and Petersen found *common ground* after the season, and Petersen allowed Peters to participate in the Washington Pro Day. No one knows how many replays of “The Sound of Silence” on vinyl it took. What’s important is that Peters has everything a team could ask for in a shutdown cornerback on the field, and he has shown evidence of being able to manage his problems off the field.

    But does that make Andy Reid our heroic unwatchable saintly teacher movie teacher? He's actually the perfect choice. Reid's quiet-but-firm discipline has historically worked well with everyone but Terrell Owens. Someone call Coolio and have him work Big Red into rap lyrics around an old Stevie Wonder song, quick!

    Also, the Chiefs have a major need at cornerback, and Peters was, at worst, the second-best corner on the board.

    Grade: A

19. Cleveland Browns: Cameron Erving, Offensive Line, Florida State

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Strengths: Athleticism as a center, second-level blocking, power instincts, versatility

    Weaknesses: Shotgun snapping, experience at center, technique as a tackle

    Cameron Erving slid down from left tackle to center midway through last season, and except for some inconsistency as a shotgun snapper he looked like a natural. He is bigger and quicker than most NFL centers and appears to have a knack for the mental aspect of his new position. He adjusts to blitzes and switches defenders smoothly in pass protection. Erving has Maurkice Pouncey-level upside if he can snap with more velocity/accuracy/confidence and clean up his lateral footwork a bit. He can also play any line position.

    The Browns announced Erving as a guard. Looking over their depth chart, he's most likely to contribute early at right tackle, where Mitchell Schwartz is an ordinary player. Guards Joel Bitonio and John Greco played well last year. Center Alex Mack is a rock-solid veteran. The folks at NFL Network are speculating that Erving is insurance if Mack opts out of his contract next year. If so, it's a sad sign that the Browns are already worrying about future defections instead of adding assets.

    Erving is a very good player. But the Browns seem to have a mental block about drafting a wide receiver, no matter how much they need one and how many good ones are on the board. Call it Reverse Millen Disease.

    Grade: C

20. Philadelphia Eagles: Nelson Agholor, Wide Receiver, USC

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Strengths: Quickness, production, route running, return ability

    Weaknesses: High-end size and speed, deep capability

    Chip Kelly’s pursuit of Marcus Mariota felt like an epic video game quest at times this offseason …

    Twitchy, Pimply Gamer Publishing proudly presents: a gamer’s guide to the hit new massively-multiplayer role playing video game Chiptopia III: The Ocarina of Genius.

    Here is how to complete the long, complicated fetch-quest to unlock the Gates of Mariota:

    First, assemble the five shattered ligaments of Bradford-Alonso to build the Vorpal ACL Sword.

    Next, parlay with Gore the Grounded in a tavern. He will not join you on your quest no matter what you offer him, but he will give you the Cursed Neckless of 392 Pearls, which you must use to retrieve DeMarco.

    Loot the Chargers. They will drop Ryan Mathews when defeated. Bury him at the bottom of your inventory.

    Slaying the Tebow is an optional side quest. You can really skip it.

    Finally, approach Ruston the Reluctant Wizard and offer him all of your treasure. If you did not complete all of the other fetches in the correct order, he will shout “Where is the Nick Foles you promised!” and summon a pit demon that looks like Karl Klug to devour you. At that point, you can either complete the Settle for Hundley quest instead or play some normal video game like NBA 2K15, you nerd. 

    Life is not a video game. You don't get where you want to go by fetching the Orb of Oogie Boogie to trade for the Wand of Lightning to trade for the quarterback you want. The shortest distance to a goal, even for Chip Kelly, is usually a straight line. And the best way to upgrade a passing game that lost Jeremy Maclin is to draft a player similar to Jeremy Maclin, or some other productive receivers.

    Agholor fits the modern mold of the USC receiver: Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, Damien Williams and the Steve Smith who starred for the Giants a few years ago. That’s not to be confused with the old king-sized Mike Williams/Dwayne Jarrett model of USC receiver, who was usually too slow and not physical enough to do anything in the NFL except bamboozle Matt Millen.

    Agholor, like Lee and the others, is a sports coupe: mid-sized, smooth, efficient, useful in a lot of ways. The USC receivers can typically provide a few 65-catch seasons as second or third options in the passing game. They are like Nissan Altimas for your depth chart. Agholor should follow the Lee-Woods template: decent production, no headaches, minimal big-play sizzle.

    Grade: B for Boring. Kelly did something boring. But for once he doesn't earn a simultaneous A/F.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi, Tackle, Texas A&M

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Strengths: Quickness, technique, versatility

    Weaknesses: ACL injury at end of season, high-end athleticism

    Cedric Ogbuehi tore his ACL in the Liberty Bowl. He won’t be ready to start right away, but the Bengals don’t need him to start right away. He will be groomed to replace Andrew Whitworth in the long term. If he does get healthy and develop quickly, he could compete at right tackle.

    Grooming a talented tackle for the future is a good thing. Unfortunately, the Bengals registered just 20 sacks last season, and as you well know they have been slamming their heads into a playoff ceiling for years. This was a chance to find an over-the-top impact player. Instead, they found someone who can keep them at 10-6 forever and ever.

    Grade: C-

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Bud Dupree, Edge-Rusher, Kentucky

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Because most edge-rushers (defensive end-outside linebacker tweeners, hybrids, Leos, whatever) are just variations on a theme, we will use the all-new Bleacher Report Edge-o-Matic to tell you everything you need to know about the top sack specialists in this year’s draft. SackSEER is a Football Outsiders metric designed to determine a prospect’s short-term pass-rush potential based on workout results and college statistics.

    The Bleacher Report Edge-o-Matic report for: Bud Dupree

    Athleticism: Freakish, Super-Freakish, or Face-Meltingly Ultra-freakish? Face-meltingly, groin-grabbingly, spleen-splinteringly freakish.

    Big Enough to Play “Traditional” Defensive End? Absolutely.

    Does More Than Run Around the Left Tackle? Dupree is raw as a pass-rusher but can be a stout point-of-attack run defender.

    Thinks “Coverage” Has Something to Do with His Cell Phone Plan? Dupree has coverage experience. He isn’t great at it, but he can occupy a zone.

    Intensity Level? Not a glass chewer, but the effort is there.

    How Many Sacks Does SackSEER See? Many. Dupree’s workouts were an eye-opener.

    Goofus, Gallant, Galette or Gholston? A great player if the fire gets stoked a bit. Dupree’s workouts set a high expectation for his tape; he may not play like one of the best athletes in the nation on tape, but Dupree had 7.5 sacks last season and hardly took catnaps at the line of scrimmage.

    This is a classic Steelers selection, in the worst possible way. The team has desperate, glaring, obvious needs across the secondary. So of course, they go out and try to improve their pass rush. Diminishing returns on this strategy kicked in several years ago. If Dupree is not a double-digit sack producer in two years, it may not be because of lack of skill or hustle. Quarterbacks might just be dropping back and seeing three receivers open before the pass rush can even get close.

    Grade: C-

23. Denver Broncos: Shane Ray, Edge-Rusher, Missouri

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Because most edge-rushers (defensive end-outside linebacker tweeners, hybrids, Leos, whatever) are just variations on a theme, we will use the all-new Bleacher Report Edge-o-Matic to tell you everything you need to know about the top sack specialists in this year’s draft. SackSEER is a Football Outsiders metric designed to determine a prospect’s short-term pass-rush potential based on workout results and college statistics.

    The Bleacher Report Edge-o-Matic report for: Shane Ray

    Athleticism: Freakish, Super-freakish, or Face-Meltingly Ultra-Freakish? Mildly freaktacular. Ray’s workout numbers were disappointing.

    Big Enough to Play “Traditional” Defensive End? Not really. He won't have to in Denver.

    Does More Than Run Around the Left Tackle? A little, but Ray is rather one-dimensional.

    Thinks “Coverage” Has Something to Do with His Cell Phone Plan? Ray has limited coverage experience.

    Intensity Level? Extremely high. Ray’s motor is one of his biggest assets.

    How Many Sacks Does SackSEER See? Few. Bad workout numbers and just one year of productivity are red flags for edge-rushers.

    Goofus, Gallant, Galette or Gholston? From the foot injury to the marijuana possession, Ray has raised more red flags than a decorator in Tiananmen Square. He’s not a Gholston, because the hustle and athleticism are there, but he will probably struggle early in his career.

    A couple of slides ago, I slagged the Bengals for playing it safe and drafting a tackle for the future. This is an example of how NOT to play it safe. The Broncos traded up for an edge-rusher who can create a "critical mass" situation with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Ray is a guy who can make a difference in the playoff chase by adding a handful of sacks and hurries. The Broncos made themselves scary good in one element of the game instead of smearing a little more above-average cream cheese across the roster.

    The Bengals may have the last laugh in two years, when everyone on the Broncos retires or leaves. But this season, Andy Dalton will have to watch out for Ray (and Miller and the gang) if the Bengals and Broncos meet in the playoffs. An extra developmental tackle won't help him.

    Grade: B

24. Arizona Cardinals: D.J. Humphries, Tackle, Florida

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Strengths: Orneriness, strength, quickness

    Weaknesses: Footwork, hand work, overall technique

    D.J. Humphries is tough and talented but raw and a little bit undersized for tackle. He played just at or below 300 pounds and needs to get into the 310-pound range to succeed at the NFL level. Humphries will make mistakes, but he’ll also keep blocking through the whistle. He’s more of an upside tackle than an immediate starter, though he will find a way to compete if he does take the field in Week 1.

    Humphries' selection is probably bad news for Bobby Massie, who allowed nine sacks at right tackle last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Humphries is part of a Cardinals line makeover that includes free agent Mike Iupati and last-chance 2013 draft darling Jonathan Cooper, who can never stay healthy. If the rebuilt line excels, the Cardinals will be able to upgrade their running game later in the draft, and they won't have to worry as much about their third-string quarterbacks.

    Grade: B-

25. Carolina Panthers: Shaq Thompson, Football Player, University of Washington

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Strengths: Athleticism, versatility

    Weaknesses: Like one of those kitchen gadgets you don’t know how to use

    Here are some of the positions Shaq Thompson does not play:

    • Kicker: Thompson does not kick. He does punt, however: He averaged 37.4 yards per punt in high school. He also had a 58.6 percent completion rate at quarterback.
    • Goaltender: Thompson has not played organized hockey. He did, however, play center field in the Red Sox organization, going 0-for-39 in the Gulf Coast League. Any more at-bats without a hit, and he would have been a rumored part of a Cole Hamels trade.
    • Hook Singer: Thompson has never been asked to pout and shake his booty while coming in to sing the chorus on a rap record. On the other hand, he probably nodded a lot when Marcus Peters got a good head of steam during a rant.
    • Funny Sidekick Cop: Thompson has never ridden in the passenger seat during a buddy cop movie, making wisecracks and calling for backup while the hero chased the villain into an abandoned warehouse. He did, however, probably stand awkwardly nearby while Chris Petersen gritted his teeth and said things like “You’re a loose cannon, Peters,” possibly while Danny Shelton was hammering down some donuts.

    Thompson is the most interesting man without a position since Gordie Lockbaum, the Holy Cross two-way player who finished third in the 1987 Heisman Trophy balloting. Thompson is a much better prospect, of course. Thompson’s tape often shows a defender who is a beat slow recognizing what the offense is doing, but that will happen when you are playing three to seven different positions. He’s either a coverage linebacker or a heavy-nickel safety in the NFL.

    The Panthers had success converting Thomas Davis from safety to speedy linebacker years ago. Thompson could be a similar player; hopefully he does not get injured a thousand times the way Davis did.

    Of course, the Panthers have pressing needs at many other positions. Maybe their plan is to use Thompson as a safety-running back-wide receiver-tackle. He's the only guy in this draft class up to the task. That may be why the Panthers reached for a guy who would probably have been there in the second round.

    Grade: C

26. Baltimore Ravens: Breshad Perriman, Wide Receiver, Central Florida

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Strengths: Size, speed, catch-in-crowd and over-the-middle capability

    Weaknesses: Route-rounder and concentration dropper

    Breshad Perriman had cool, in-the-know “off-the-radar” draft buzz before he crushed his pro day in March.

    Off-the-radar draft buzz is a strange phenomenon. Perriman is the son of a well-known NFL receiver. He played at one of the larger mid-majors. His quarterback, Blake Bortles, was selected third overall last season. He caught nine passes for 138 yards in a bowl game in December. Mike Mayock even singled him out as a sleeper during a pre-combine teleconference. If Perriman is off your radar, then your radar is basically a little camera drone that follows Jameis Winston around. (Which, by the way, would probably be a camera drone with a story to tell.)

    “Off the radar” Perriman is like one of those politicians whose whole family were Washington lifers but who suddenly runs for office as a “maverick outsider.” Perriman is the Jeb Bush of receiving prospects.

    Perriman is a size-speed-tools specimen in a draft class lousy with them. His hook is that he can catch the ball in a crowd and take hits over the middle and that his dad was a star in the golden age of the run ‘n’ shoot. Brett Perriman helped Rodney Peete and Scott Mitchell put up amazing numbers. Breshad will have a much easier task with Joe Flacco.

    Perriman fills a need for a team that just lost Torrey Smith; Perriman should become an upgrade over Smith fairly quickly. I am glad he got picked before Mike Mayock stood on the table and started screaming his name every time a team was on the clock.

    Grade: B+

27. Cowboys: Byron Jones, Cornerback, UConn

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Strengths: Leaping ability, awareness, leaping ability, effort, leaping ability

    Weaknesses: Technique, change-of-direction quickness

    The Cowboys used their standard selection process again this year:

    The names of top prospects on their draft board, Jerry Jones’ favorite prospect and Stephen Jones’ favorite prospect were placed in a 10-gallon hat.

    Jerry Jones drew a card, announced that his choice had been selected and tucked the card deep inside the breast pocket of his sportcoat.

    Stephen grew suspicious and demanded to see the card.

    Jerry reached into his coat and searched around real hard. His eyes grew very shifty, but he finally found the card. It had his prospect’s name. But it was written on the Jack of Hearts.

    “Paw, I didn’t think it would come to this,” Stephen said, “again.” He drew two pearl-handled Colt revolvers and pointed them at Jerry.

    “I taught you well, son,” Jerry said, slipping a derringer from his sleeve. “But not well enough.”

    “We’ll have no gunfights in here, daddy and Ol’ Hoss,” Charlotte Jones Anderson said, slipping between them. “Why don’t we just draft Byron Jones, and I will have catering rustle you both up some more fried okra?”

    The Jones boys lowered their pistols and agreed. The Cowboys drafted Byron Jones.

    Jones was notified by Jones and Jones.

    Jerry Jones will then give a lengthy press conference explaining how it was his decision all along.

    Finally, Jason Garrett will be notified.

    Byron Jones, you may recall, set the world standing long jump record at the combine, leaping 12 feet and 3 inches. Jones’ record would be a bigger deal if cornerbacks typically had to chase receivers over deep, 12-foot wide pits, but that rarely happens in the NFL, even at FedEx Field.

    After Jones set the record, several scouting reports surfaced with taglines like “Jones is more than just a combine curiosity: He can play.” I was skeptical, just as I am skeptical when the neighborhood guys tell me that the local strip joint has delicious wings. Sometimes, you want something to be true so badly (I am just here for lunch every single day for the food, not for Brandee Lynne) that your brain makes it true.

    So I watched Jones’ tape. He can, indeed, play. Jones reads routes well and is very smart about sniffing out screens, reverses and other types of misdirection. He can run with quality receivers, and his leaping ability does come into play when covering taller receivers; he intercepted a pass against Michigan in 2013 by out-jumping 6'3" Jehu Chesson, for example.

    Jones has two obvious flaws. Good receivers can get open on him with sharp cutting routes, like digs and comebacks. Jones takes several extra steps to get back to the ball on such plays. Also, Jones is too quick to slam into his receiver or out-and-out tackle him before the ball arrives if he loses track of the football on a deep route. Jones is grabby on many routes, but most college cornerbacks are a little too grabby.

    The Cowboys get a cornerback with untapped athletic potential in Jones; in the short term, they get a defender who is heady enough to contribute immediately as a nickel-slot cornerback. A fine selection.

    Grade: A-

28. Detroit Lions: Laken Tomlinson, Guard, Duke

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Strengths: Run blocking, power, experience, durability, intelligence

    Weaknesses: Lateral quickness

    Thirty-six players have been drafted from Duke since the NFL merger. Nine of those players were drafted in Rounds 8 through 12, which no longer exist. The only Duke players currently in the NFL who were drafted are Sean Renfree, the Falcons backup quarterback, and Ross Cockrell, a defensive back whom the Bills drafted in the fourth round last year (and I really like, for what it’s worth). Laken Tomlinson, Jamison Crowder and perhaps Anthony Boone will more than double the number of drafted Blue Devils in the NFL this year.

    The most successful NFL player in modern Duke history was a guard: Ed Newman, who started for the Dolphins from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, making a few Pro Bowls in the Dan Marino years. John Elway’s first center, Bill Bryan, was also a Blue Devil. More recently, guard Chris Port started for several seasons for the 1990s Saints, and Lennie Friedman had some useful years for the Broncos and Redskins as a guard and center.

    In other words, Duke can produce pretty good football players but only at positions that sound like basketball positions.

    Tomlinson was a big part of the newly relevant Duke football program. He’s also a brainy guy with a degree in psychology and developmental anthropology and an interest in neuroscience. Grumpy old scouts might whisper that Tomlinson is too smart for the NFL or will retire early because of his neurological knowledge. Someone with a degree in developmental anthropology should do research on grumpy old scouts.

    Tomlinson fills a need at left 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. A rebuilt interior line, with Tomlinson joining second-year center Travis Swanson in the lineup, will open things up for the Lions running game.

    Grade: B

29. Indianapolis Colts: Phillip Dorsett, Wide Receiver, Miami

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Strengths: Blurry speed, character and competitiveness

    Weaknesses: All the other stuff

    Phillip Dorsett runs a 4.3-second 40-yard dash and is a high-effort guy on special teams and in the locker room. All of the other stuff, like so-so routes and a habit of not securing the football, should sort itself out. The Colts don't need a complete receiver right away, just someone who can blow past whoever the defense has left after coping with T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief.

    If you are keeping score of the AFC superpowers, the Colts just turned their passing game into the Indianapolis 500, while the Broncos plan to unleash pass-rush havoc. The Ravens held serve against their salary-cap issues, the Steelers drafted another pass-rusher and the Bengals got a rock. I mean, the Bengals got a sturdy tackle. The Colts probably got the best of the bunch: You figure out how to cover these guys.

    Grade: A-

30. Green Bay Packers: Damarious Randall, Safety, Arizona State

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    Associated Press

    Strengths: Speed, playmaking ability, special teams value

    Weaknesses: Frail, technically raw

    For three months before the draft, we produce approximately 4,000,000,000 mock drafts, talk ourselves blue in the face about the same 30 or 40 guys and produce scads of Top 10, Top 100 and Top 10,000 draft lists.

    Then, 30 hours before the draft, Mike Mayock pipes up. “Oh, by the way, Damarious Randall is going in the first round.”

    Oh, really? That would be the 5'11", 196-pound free safety who looks like he was assembled out of dowels? Whatever.

    I am not a very good evaluator of safeties; something about the fact that they often aren’t visible on television tape makes them hard for me to scout. Luckily, Matt Bowen works in the next cubicle, played safety in the NFL, gets a lot more All-22 tape than I do and pays attention to the safeties at the Senior Bowl when I am trying to beat everyone out of the parking lot to get to Saucy-Q first. Matt?

    I loved him at the Senior Bowl. Very smooth footwork, doesn't panic in his backpedal. Plays to his stop-watch speed (4.4 range) and is ultra aggressive. "Plus" athlete who can compete for the ball and create range from middle of the field.

    Needs to play with better vision, and he will have to improve technique in man coverage at NFL level.

    But...he's a true free safety. And he wants to hit. Because of that, he will get pushed up draft boards. Day 2 guy who could be late first because of demand for position.

    Bottom line for me: He's a free safety who has speed and ability to be a starter. Not Earl Thomas or Devin McCourty, but skill set is going to sell in the pros.

    Thanks, Matt!

    Eagles general manager Ed Marynowitz said last week that the Eagles prioritize safeties who are like cornerbacks (can handle some man coverage) over safeties who are like linebackers (can support the run in the box). Randall is the former. Landon Collins is the latter. More teams see Collins and say “too slow” than see Randall and say “too small.” Sign of the times.

    The Packers have a big safety in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Now they have a small burner to pair with all-purpose speedster Micah Hyde. They have a role for guys like Randall, and the only person who studies more intently at the Senior Bowl than Matt Bowen is Ted Thompson.

    Grade: B

31. New Orleans Saints, Stephone Anthony, Linebacker, Clemson

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Strengths: Experience, productivity, size, power

    Weaknesses: Play speed and range

    The Saints had the second-worst short-passing defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. Screen passes were a major problem: Opponents averaged 8.8 yards per play on passes listed as screens, shovel passes or dump-offs in the Football Outsiders database, with Eddie Lacy, DeAngelo Williams and Antone Smith (among others) ripping off some memorable runs. Rob Ryan’s scheme is part of the problem—catch them in a blitz, and you can gouge them with a quick screen—but there were also missed assignments and bad open-field tackles, some by guys (Curtis Lofton, Kenny Vaccaro) who are supposed to shine in the open field.

    Stephone Anthony is a smart, experienced player who gets high marks as a coverage linebacker. He also has 9.5 career sacks, so Ryan can use him as an interior blitzer. Anthony will probably replace David Hawthorne as the starter beside newcomer Dannell Ellerbe (Lofton is gone). He’s a good system fit and need pick, though perhaps not a sizzle pick.

    Grade: B

32. New England Patriots: Malcom Brown, Defensive Tackle, Texas

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Strengths: Size-athleticism package, moves

    Weaknesses: Awareness, consistency, technique

    The Patriots had the worst short-yardage defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. Opponents converted 81 percent of first downs in “power situations,” like 3rd-and-1 or goal-to-go scenarios. They stuffed opponents’ running backs for no gain or a loss just 16 percent of the time, the fifth-lowest rate in the NFL.

    It’s unusual for the Patriots to be the worst in the league at anything that doesn’t involve a pressure gua … let’s start over.

    It’s unusual for the Patriots to be the worst in the league at anything, but the low short-yardage stop rate explains why Vince Wilfork was sent to the team’s latest senior living facility in Houston.

    Brown was fun to evaluate: There’s nothing like watching a 319-pound defender with a spin move. It’s like watching a bear ride a unicycle in a Russian circus. Brown has some pass-rush skills other than belly-butt blocker into quarterback. That makes him more versatile than other 300-pounders. He played end in some situations for the Longhorns and could grow into the kind of versatile tackle-end the Patriots have always gotten the most out of; Wilfork was a fine example.

    The Patriots stayed put and made a traditional "need" selection? There were few trades, and the ones that occurred were subdued? THE EAGLES DID NOT TURN THE DRAFT INTO ABSURDIST THEATRE? This was the most strangely conventional first round I have experienced in 14 years of pick-by-pick coverage. It ended in a strangely conventional way.

    Grade: B+