Thursday, April 30, 2015

Building The 53 - 2015 First Round NFL Mock Draft

Welcome to my 6th annual NFL Mock Draft.  I tried to do the traditional "guess what other reams will do" in my first NFL Mock Draft in 2010 but that is futile since I have no real inside information besides ESPN Insider so for the fifth year in a row (2011, 2012, 2013, & 2014) I decided to serve as every team's general manager for their pick (or picks) in the first round.

This draft is particularly interesting on a personal level because it is being held in Chicago, which is where Cheesehead Chick, Lil' Cheesehead Sports Nut, and I live.  Although 2015 marks the eight time that Chicago will host the NFL Draft, it is the first time since 1964 breaking a 50 year streak of having it in New York.  Cheesehead Chick's cousin is getting married this weekend so we will NOT be in Chicago for rounds two through seven since we will be attending the festivities in Columbus, OH.  That means NOT only will I be missing the draft but I will miss a mega-Packerpalooza at Will's Northwoods too.

Quarterbacks always drive the conversation about how the first round will play out.  This year there are two quarterbacks that look like they are worthy of going with the first two picks but there is some debate as to whether they actually will because there are some other defensive lineman/pass rushers as well as wide outs that look Top 5 worthy too.  Without further ado, here is what I would do if I was in charge of each team when they pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft along with some Twitter length thoughts about each pick:

#1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
- Clearly I favor Mariota over Winston, only time will tell whether I am correct.

#2) Tennessee Titans: Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
- Not sure you can win with a journeyman quarterback in the NFL anymore so it is still worth the risk even though Winston's off-the-field issues submarine his career.

#3) Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams (DT/DE, USC)
- Some think Williams is the best player in the draft so getting him with the 3rd pick feels like a steal.  The question is whether Williams is a poor man's Haloti Ngata or Haloti Ngata 2.0.

#4) Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
- If Al Davis were still alive this pick would be Kevin White instead of Cooper for speed alone but Cooper is a much better all-around wide receiver than White.

#5) Washington Redskins: Dante Fowler Jr. (DE, Florida)
- Every year there is a pass rusher that gets a little over-hyped.  There is a chance that Fowler is that guy but his physical gifts are so impressive, I can't pass up this boom-or-bust edge rusher.

#6) New York Jets: Brandon Scherff (OT, Iowa)
- The Big Ten, check that, Iowa and Wisconsin continue to churn out impressive offensive tackles.  I see Scherff as Bryan Bulaga 2.0 even if he plays a year or two at guard before moving to right tackle for the next decade.

#7) Chicago Bears: Cameron Erving (C, FSU)
- Given that this is a Cheesehead sports blog, you might think this pick is a joke but I actually think Erving has the chance to be one of the best players in the entire draft given that he could conceivably play all five positions along the offensive line. A very rich man's Don Barclay, if you will.

#8) Atlanta Falcons: Randy Gregory (OLB, Nebraska)
- Off-the-field issues will most likely push Gregory further down in the draft but if a team like the Falcons can surround Gregory with the right support system, I see him as a double-digit sack guy by his second or third year in the NFL.

#9) New York Giants: Andrus Peat (OT, Stanford)
- Really hard to tell whether Schereff, Erving, or Peat will be best offensive lineman from this draft because I have high hopes for all three.  Given that Peat is the only one left, the decision to take him is easy for a team that needs to rebuild their offensive line.

#10) St. Louis Rams: Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
- I am a little worried about taking White this high because he only had one productive season in college, which makes it hard to project how productive White will be in the NFL.

#11) Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State) - You are welcome Queens given that Waynes is NOT only the best available player but it actually matches up to a need.  Not sure that Waynes can single-handedly help the Vikings tame all the quarterbacks in the NFC North but at least it is a start.
#12) Cleveland Browns: Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
- Despite the fact that Shelton ran a comically slow 40-yard dash in 5.64, I still see enough burst in him that he will be more than just a big bodied gap filler.

#13) New Orleans Saints: Arik Armstead (DE/OLB, Oregon)
- Feels a few spots too high for Armstead but the Saints desperately need a guy that can get after the quarterback.  Worst case scenario if Armstead totally flames out as a pass rusher, I could see him moving to tight end and becoming Jimmy Graham 2.0.

#14) Miami Dolphins
: DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
- Much like White, I am not as big on Parker either but tall, fast wide receivers are developing quarterback's best friends so I see this pick as a courtesy to Ryan Tannehill.  Now Tannehill needs to create the proper chemistry with Parker to make sure that they both have long NFL careers.

#15) San Francisco 49ers: La'el Collins (OG, LSU)
- After losing Mike Iupati to the Arizona Cardinals in free agency, the 49ers replace Iupati with Collins at a much cheaper price.

#16) Houston Texans: Vic Beasley (OLB, Clemson)
- At one point Beasley was talked about being a potential Top 5 pick but the "draft process" hurt his stock. The phrase "draft process" is overused but it is an (un)official Internet rule that if you write a sports blog, you are required to write "draft process" at least once in your first round mock draft. Sometimes going to the right team is better than getting picked higher, which I think is exactly what happened here.  Even if Jadeveon Clowney turns out to be a bust, the mere presence of J.J. Watt along the defensive line should give Beasley a good chance to register double-digit sacks as a rookie.

#17) San Diego Chargers: Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
- Really hard to tell whether Shelton or Brown will be a better pro.  Either way both seem like perfect spacer eaters that will open up lanes for teammates to get after the quarterback.

#18) Kansas City Chiefs: Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
- I know I sound like a broken record talking about off-the-field issues but there is no denying that Peters has the talent to be a starter in the NFL, the question is whether that baggage will undermine his NFL career.
#19) Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills): Breshad Perriman (WR, UCF)
- I went practical with their first pick so that is why I am swing for the fences with this pick for the Browns.  Sure there is chance that Perriman's production in the lowly American Athletic conference does NOT translate to the NFL but that is a risk worth taking to get a guy with such impressive physical skills.

#20) Philadelphia Eagles: Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
- I look at Johnson as the safe version of Peters, which means his ceiling is NOT as high as Peters but his floor is much higher too.

#21) Cincinnati Bengals: Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri) - Could be the next Calvin Johnson or the next Charles Rodgers.  I know that is a pretty wide range but given DGB's physical gifts and off-the-field issues, I really could see his career going almost any direction.
#22) Pittsburgh Steelers
: Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
- This is the perfect ode to Troy Polamalu following his recent retirement because Collins plays a similar style to Polamalu.  Obviously there is a small chance that Collins turns into the next Polamalu but even if Collins turns out to be 75% of Polamalu, this will be a great pick.

#23) Detroit Lions: Ereck Flowers (OT, Miami)
- If the Lions want to continue to keep the artist formerly know as The Porcelain China Doll aka Matthew Stafford healthy, they will need to continue to add talent along the offensive line to protect him and Flowers is the best one left.

#24) Arizona Cardinals: Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
- As long as Gurley is fully healthy by the start of the 2015 NFL season, this is the perfect match of need and value.  In fact, if Gurley was healthy going into the 2015 NFL Draft I would have taken him much higher since he looks like an in-shape, rich man's Eddie Lacy.

#25) Carolina Panthers: Cedric Ogbuehi (OT, Texas A&M)
- Speaking of injuries, if Ogbuehi was healthy he would have been a Top 10 pick so the Panthers get a ton of value for the best pure left tackle prospect in the draft.

#26) Baltimore Ravens: Shane Ray (DE/OLB, Missouri) - Oh how the mighty have fallen.  Off the field issues have really hurt Ray's draft stock.  If there is one NFL team that is fine drafting players with checkers pasts, its the Ravens.  The real question is whether too many bad apples spoils the bunch.  Ray will test those limits.
#27) Dallas Cowboys: Melvin Gordon III (RB, Wisconsin)
- Much like Gurley to the Cardinals, Gordon to the Cowboys is another perfect match of need and value.  Too bad for Gordon that he is NOT 10 years younger because his combination of speed and production would make him a surefire Top 5 pick in 2005 but given how short NFL running back's careers have become, it has changed when teams draft those players.  Mark my words, Gordon will run for 1,000 in at least five NFL season, which makes him a steal at the end of the first round.
#28) Denver Broncos: D.J. Humphries (OT, Florida)
- Center is a huge need for the Broncos but Erving went in the Top 10 in my mock because of how talented he is and there is a not another center worth taking in the 1st round.  Although tackle might NOT be the biggest need on their roster, it is still worth adding depth in hopes of keeping Captain Forehead upright so he can continue to throw his patented wounded ducks.
#29) Indianapolis Colts: Bud DuPree (OLB, Kentucky)
- I bet DuPree goes at least 15 spots higher but I am just not as enamored with DuPree as others are because I am not sure that I see DuPree's straight-line speed transnating into sacks as much as others do.
#30) Green Bay Packers: Eric Kendricks (ILB, UCLA)
- I had a hard time deciding whether to go with Kendricks, Denzel Perryman, or Benardrick McKinney given the lack of the depth the Packers have at middle linebacker.  Although Kendricks does NOT have ideal size, he is the best pure cover linebacker in the entire draft, which is reason enough to draft Kendricks because frankly I am sick of watching running backs slip out of the backfield to catch a three yard pass that turns into a 20-yard gain.  Kendricks is the antidote to that with Perryman as a close second.  On the other end of the spectrum is McKinney because although he is less mobile than Kendricks or Perryman, he is an absolute thumper, which the Packers could also use at middle linebacker.

#31) New Orleans Saints (from Seattle Seahawks): Denzel Perryman (ILB, Miami) - Since the Packers went with Kendricks that opens the door for the Saints to draft Perryman.  It will be really interesting to see how each of their careers pan out because I have them as essentially equal talent at this point.

#32) New England Patriots: Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
- The Patriots have whiffed on a number of defensive back picks over the last half dozen years but their defense thrives on the fact that versatile guys, which is exactly what Collins brings to the table.

I was going to write more pre-2015 NFL Draft thoughts for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson but Lil' Cheesehead Sports Nut was sick this week so besides this post I was only able to take a look at The 53 and give Thompson a general blueprint for how to approach the 2015 NFL Draft.  Absent a trade, Thompson is on the clock with the 30th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft this evening.  Make sure to check for my thoughts on Twitter tonight and my in-depth thoughts on Sunday when we get back to Chicago just as the draft ends.

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