Inside The Pylon strives to provide deep, thoughtful analysis of football and our NFL Draft Profiles have allowed us the chance to get to know some of this incoming class. We’ve also been preparing for the 2015 season, scouting and assessing team needs in advance of a bigger, and better, season. Head Writer Mark Schofield, Senior Writers Dave Archibald, Brian Filipiak and Chuck Zodda, and Editor David R. McCullough picked teams and players, for your enjoyment. Thanks for reading.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
DaveM: The Buccaneers should take the best quarterback on and off the field, which is Mariota. After a historically good Heisman winning campaign ended with a loss in the National Championship Game, the nitpicking began. Mariota’s footwork isn’t as polished as Jameis Winston’s, but he is a much better decision maker, knowing when the window is open and when to progress through his reads. Mariota is ready to lead a team and be the face of the franchise, and doesn’t come with off-the-field baggage.
2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DL, USC
Brian: While Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley is an option for the Titans, there’s little debate over the best defensive lineman available in the draft ‒ and a successful defense starts up front. Williams immediately plugs in as a 5-technique defensive end in Dick LeBeau’s … err, Ray Horton’s 3-4 base defense. His technique is still raw and with room to grow physically, the ceiling for the former Trojan is sky-high. Williams has the positional flexibility to play in multiple fronts and as an interior rusher in sub-packages, making him an excellent complement to standout defensive end Jurrell Casey.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Vic Beasley, EDGE, Clemson
Mark: Jacksonville enters the 2015 season with some question marks on the edge. Chris Clemons and Jared Odrick are the team’s starters on the edge, but both players are veterans and some youth at the position is a must. Beasley provides an instant boost to the team’s pass rush. The Clemson standout notched 33 sacks in his four seasons in college, and is an explosive athlete who put on a show at the Combine. Others might prefer Dante Fowler in this spot, but Beasley is an impact player in an area of need.
4. Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Chuck: The Raiders look to provide second-year starter Derek Carr a top-flight receiver to aid his development. Cooper does not possess prototypical height, but still checks in at nearly 6’1” and a sturdy 211 pounds. Cooper’s superlative route-running and quickness make him a legitimate threat on day one, and although he does not have top-end speed, he should have no trouble finding open space.
5. Washington: Dante Fowler, Jr., EDGE, Florida
Mark: Washington is another team that needs pass rushing help, specifically someone to pair up with DE Ryan Kerrigan. Fowler is considered by many to be the best edge player in this draft, and would fit well in this defense. He also brings versatility to Washington’s defense, with the ability to line up in many positions and rush the passer from a two- or a three-point stance.
6. New York Jets: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
DaveA: Teams don’t get many chances to draft franchise quarterbacks. Winston’s red flags are terrifying but the upside is too much to pass up. The most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft, Winston should be a day one starter. It would be nice to add a weapon or an edge rusher, but the team’s need aligns with the game’s most important position and arguably the best player available.
7. Chicago Bears: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Chuck: The Bears will look for Waynes to boost an atrocious pass defense that needs rebuilding. Waynes is not physically imposing, checking in at 6’0” and 186 pounds, but possesses great top-end speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds. However, his quickness is a weakness, as both his short shuttle and 3-cone drill times were below average for the position, which could leave him exposed against smaller, quicker receivers. Like most college cornerbacks, Waynes will need to improve his play in the run game, but he should provide an upgrade for the Bears at corner, especially with Charles Tillman departing.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
Brian: The Falcons will need some key pieces to implement a variant of the 4-3 under scheme that new head coach Dan Quinn oversaw as defensive coordinator of the Seahawks. A phenomenal athlete, Dupree can fill the LEO defensive end role the same way Cliff Avril did for Seattle. Dupree already sets the edge well against the run, and he projects to be a difficult one-on-one block as a weak-side pass rusher because of his exceptional first step explosiveness, length and agility.
9. New York Giants: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
Mark: A starting left tackle at Iowa, Scherff is a run-game mauler who will kick inside to guard and start immediately. A very powerful athlete, Scherff has decent footwork, and on film shows a great understanding of blocking schemes and blitz/twist recognition. A great fit for the Giants at an area of need.
10. St. Louis Rams: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
DaveM: Nick Foles comes to St. Louis as the presumptive starting quarterback and, with an excellent young defense, the Rams should look to grab the best playmaker on the board to build their offense. Parker’s length and wingspan give the Rams a different kind of weapon in the red zone and on the perimeter, and potentially the best WR in this class.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Chuck: Minnesota’s offensive line is in need of an overhaul to better protect quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as the team transitions to a more balanced offensive attack. Peat stands nearly 6’7” and 315 pounds, and was strong in pass protection for the Cardinal as a starter the past two seasons. Also capable in the running game, Peat may sit in year one unless pending UFA Matt Kalil continues to struggle or is traded. The son of a former player (Todd Peat, St. Louis Cardinals), Peat should be a solid starter for a Minnesota team reconstructing its offense.
12. Cleveland Browns: Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
Chuck: Armstead is a mountain of a man at 6’7” and nearly 300 pounds. With this size, he projects as a prototypical 3-4 end, though he could slide inside as a 4-3 pass-rushing DT. Armstead is strong against the run, but needs to work on gap control to be an elite end. Cleveland needs help on their defensive line, and Armstead goes a long way towards stabilizing a moribund unit.
13. New Orleans Saints: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
DaveA: Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, like his father and brother, loves to reach into his bag of tricks on passing downs ‒ but defenses only force passing downs by stuffing the run. The Saints allowed 4.8 yards per carry in 2014, 2nd-worst in the NFL, and the wheels fell off the defense. The 340-pound Shelton is literally and figuratively a massive element in fixing that.
14. Miami Dolphins: Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
Chuck: Perriman is a potential home run threat for Ryan Tannehill, replacing the departed Mike Wallace. He was clocked at 4.24 seconds in the 40-yard dash on his pro day, and has good height (6’2”). Perriman’s two biggest issues are an occasional lack of focus that leads to drops, as well as some trouble getting off the line against press coverage. He may be a reach at this point for the Dolphins, but they could be getting a significant weapon in their arsenal if he pans out.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
DaveA: White has outstanding physical tools and the production to match, with some comparing him to eight-time Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald. The 49ers offense sputtered through much of last season and adding a dynamic receiving talent should help Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the San Francisco offense put points on the board.
16. Houston Texans: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Mark: Houston has a number of areas they can address with this selection, but grabbing a cornerback in the first round makes a good deal of sense. Peters is a very solid corner in press coverage who will fit well in the Texans’ defensive scheme. While there are concerns about him given the suspension from Washington’s program, he is a competitive football player and a legitimate #2 CB for Houston immediately.
17. San Diego Chargers: La’el Collins, OT/OG, LSU
(Editor’s Note: This Mock Draft occurred before the recent revelations regarding Collins being sought for questioning in the death of a pregnant woman.)
Brian: While the Chargers will be tempted to go running back here, there’s value to be had in later rounds. The Chargers bolstered their offensive line by adding Orlando Franklin in free agency, and continue the overhaul by choosing the versatile Collins, who started at both guard and tackle over his four-year career with the Tigers. The selection provides the Chargers the flexibility to move incumbent right tackle D.J. Fluker inside, or leave him at tackle and put Collins at guard.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
DaveM: The Chiefs spent big money on Jeremy Maclin in free agency, but after watching their wide receivers in 2014 combine for zero touchdowns, they won’t rest there. ChiefHackett at Arrowhead Pride broke down what the #2 receiver in Andy Reid’s system is required to do and, while Perriman is a better fit, Smith is not a bad consolation prize. The OSU product shined in the National Championship and has all the skills to produce in this role for the Chiefs.
19. Cleveland Browns: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Chuck: Strong is a physical specimen at nearly 6’3” and 220 pounds, and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds. He has phenomenal ball skills, able to out-jump and high point the ball consistently. He does not have great separation skills, yet his ability to work while the ball is in the air makes him a massive asset to whoever is throwing passes his way in 2015 for the Browns.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Byron Jones, CB, University of Connecticut
Mark: Jones exploded onto the draft scene at the NFL Scouting Combine thanks to an impressive 147.0 inch broad jump – a number that topped the world record – and a whopping 44.5 inch vertical leap. He then turned in a blistering 4.36 unofficial 40-yard dash, as head coach Chip Kelly looked on. The Eagles need some help in the secondary and Jones and his athleticism are a perfect fit.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
DaveM: The Bengals have drafted quite well over the last few seasons, tabbing the best player available and letting attrition sort out their depth chart. Despite re-signing Michael Johnson, the Bengals should pounce on the edge rushing skills of Ray. The gamble on Margus Hunt has yet to pay off, and having another talented and relentless defensive end to compliment Carlos Dunlap on third down would be a good fit in 2015.
(Editor’s Note: This Mock Draft occurred before Ray was cited for possession of marijuana.)
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Brian: This mock pick was made before the recent revelation that Collins had multiple failed drug tests while in college. That news in concert with his recent foot surgery could cause Collins to slide out of the first round … but that’s ridiculous. Collins is a premier talent at the position, with the size, speed and instincts to become a top-tier press corner in the league, though he may not be there yet. Pittsburgh is in dire need of help in its secondary and Collins is a good first step.
23. Detroit Lions: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
DaveA: The running back position may be devalued in recent years, but that shouldn’t apply to Gurley, perhaps the most transcendent talent at the position since Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch were drafted in 2007. The Lions have been searching for the answer at running back since Barry Sanders retired, and they finally find it here.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
DaveM: The Cardinals made the playoffs, but suffered the indignity of starting Ryan Lindley at quarterback. Aging, injured starter Carson Palmer is recovering from another ACL tear. Logan Thomas was unable to beat out Lindley, and Drew Stanton is a career backup. Grayson played in a pro-style offense in college and has extensive experience operating from the pocket and on the move. Arizona head coach Bruce Arians prefers a big, mobile QB who can throw the deep ball and read defenses. Grayson will not last to the middle of the second round and having the fifth year option will be key, as he will sit behind Palmer in 2015 to learn the system.
25. Carolina Panthers: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
DaveM: Protect the franchise. Michael Oher is not the answer. Flowers might be, possessing nearly 35-inch arms and an NFL Combine leading 37 strength reps. He is ready to step in on day one, shifting Oher from the blind side and saving quarterback Cam Newton from another season of constant pressure.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Brian: While higher-upside corners remain on the board, Johnson provides the Ravens with an immediate option in the slot ‒ essentially a starting position ‒ with the potential to eventually supplant Lardarius Webb on the perimeter. Given the decimation of Baltimore’s defensive backs last year because of injury, no team understands the importance of quality depth more than the Ravens. Johnson is a physical player with the athletic traits to perform more than adequately in both man and zone coverage.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Randy Gregory, EDGE, Nebraska
Mark: Dallas entered the off-season needing to bolster their pass rush, and with Greg Hardy expected to serve a 10-game suspension, this is still a concern during draft week. Grabbing Gregory here is the perfect union of value and need. The Nebraska edge player was considered a potential Top-5 pick, but a failed drug test at the Combine and some rough pre-draft visits have him toppling down draft boards. The fall stops in Dallas, and Gregory steps in and becomes the player to help the defense get off the field on third downs.
28. Denver Broncos: Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
DaveA: Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was sacked just 17 times in 2014, but his lightning-quick release disguised the reality that his offensive line was not very good. Denver has holes at left guard and right tackle, and center Manny Ramirez is 32. Erving has experience at tackle and center and can conceivably play anywhere on the line; he’ll help the Broncos wherever he ends up.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
DaveA: In their last two playoff exits, the Colts have been manhandled by the New England Patriots on the ground, allowing a combined seven rushing touchdowns. They’ll get a toughness injection in Collins, a 228-pound downhill missile who can lay punishing hits on defense and special teams.
30. Green Bay Packers: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Chuck: Clay Matthews stabilized the Packers defense when he moved inside in 2014, but the long-term plan in Green Bay is for him to return to being an edge-rushing menace. Kendricks is a solid tackler and exhibits good awareness in coverage. His selection at the end of the first round allows Matthews to return to the outside, where he can get back to terrorizing quarterbacks on a regular basis.
31. New Orleans Saints: Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
DaveA: The Saints traded away guard Ben Grubbs, and guard Jahri Evans and right tackle Zach Strief are both on the wrong side of 30. Fisher has experience at guard, where he can start right away, and his outstanding athleticism should serve New Orleans wherever on the line he ends up.
32. New England Patriots: Jordan Phillips, NT, Oklahoma
DaveM: Phillips is arguably the best NT prospect in the draft, physically resembling Kansas City’s Dontari Poe ‒ strong enough to anchor the line against double teams and with the quickness to slide along the line and make plays outside the tackle box. His pass rush potential is questionable but his ability to eat space and keep blockers off linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Jerod Mayo makes Phillips the best pick on the board.
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