The NFL draft is now just two days away, and experts from ESPN and Bleacher Report continue to speculate. Will off-field issues send Randy Gregory and Shane Ray plummeting out of the first round? Will Tennessee choose Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota at No. 2 overall or trade the pick? Let's play fact or fiction, NFL draft-style.
First, we'll take a look at the projections of Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, who released his final scouting notebook yesterday.
Miller has Tennessee selecting former Oregon QB Mariota with the No. 2 pick. Rumors have swirled around the Titans for weeks, but it appears Tennessee is gearing up to choose Mariota instead of trading the pick. Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt (along with NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth) agrees:
Frankly, I'm not sold on this decision. Leonard Williams is considered by many to be the best overall prospect in the draft, and I'm not convinced that Zach Mettenberger can't be successful. Unless the Titans have given up on Mettenberger, I'd take Williams.
But as ESPN's Mel Kiper explained, Mettenberger is far from a sure thing—and forcing two young, talented quarterbacks to compete for a starting job isn't necessarily a bad thing:
One way or another, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Monday, the Titans need a QB, and none of the teams most likely to trade up for the No. 2 pick are viable suitors:
I'm not sold on this decision, but I think it's the most likely outcome.
Miller thinks the Jets should take WR Kevin White at No. 6 overall, making him the first receiver selected (one spot ahead of Alabama product Amari Cooper). I disagree, as does Rapoport:
Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson concurs, noting how some believe the Jaguars could snag Cooper with the No. 3 pick:
I think Cooper goes No. 4 overall to the Raiders and is certainly the first receiver off the board. As I’ve written before, White has superstar potential. But it's clear to me, as Grantland’s Robert Mays covered earlier this month, that Cooper comes with lower risk and greater immediate impact.
Now, let's transition to last week's head-to-head draft, from ESPN's Kiper and Todd McShay.
McShay has the New York Giants selecting Georgia running back Todd Gurley with the No. 9 overall pick. Gurley was universally viewed as a top-tier NFL prospect before tearing his ACL last November. But he appears to be recovering quickly, as Rapoport tweeted earlier today:
Gurley himself appears confident, as he showed on Instagram earlier this month:
When healthy, Gurley is far and away the best available back. The pick makes sense for the Giants, who need an explosive, pound-the-pavement type of runner. As McShay noted, New York’s offseason inking of Shane Vereen will bring craftiness and speed to the Giants running game and will help the short passing game. But Gurley would add a whole new dimension.
Kiper projects Kentucky outside linebacker Alvin "Bud" Dupree to go No. 8 overall, to the Atlanta Falcons. FOX Sports’ Peter Schrager agrees, tweeting the following earlier today:
As does Bleacher Report’s (and NFL Film Study contributor) Ian Wharton:
Frankly, Dupree is probably the biggest winner of the Randy Gregory-Shane Ray marijuana issues. He was always considered a clear first-rounder, but he's now a top-10 pick. As Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei explained, teams feel confident that Dupree is a safe pick with little bust potential:
McShay has Missouri outside linebacker Shane Ray going No. 29 overall to the Indianapolis Colts. But that was before Ray was cited for marijuana possession:
Now, rumors are swirling that Ray could fall far, far out of the first round, as ProFootballTalk tweeted this morning:
On the one hand, I don’t think a marijuana citation will drop a former top-10 pick to the fourth round. McShay has Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory going No. 13 overall to the Saints, and Gregory has a lengthy history of off-field issues. But I think Ray will fall farther than No. 29—perhaps to the mid-to-late second round.
NFL teams seem to be increasingly wary of prospects with a history of marijuana problems.
McShay predicts that Cincinnati will choose Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers with the No. 21 selection. I think he’s going earlier than that, as does ESPN’s Dan Graziano:
Flowers is nimble and fundamentally sound on his feet, as you can see in the Vine below:
I could see Flowers going to St. Louis at No. 10 overall, as MMQB’s Peter King projected in today’s mock draft. Teams choosing after No. 20 should be salivating at the chance to add a prototypical tackle like Flowers.