The NFL draft kicks off April 30th. As usual, I’ve spent many March and April hours studying this year’s draft class, analyzing team needs, and researching all kinds of draft-related rumors in order to determine possible fits in round 1. That said, it’s important to remember that the NFL draft is impossible to forecast. Plugging players to teams and draft slots in mock drafts is about as predictable as the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Even the most accurate mock drafts only hit on about seven of 32 picks. Although it would be nice to get more picks slotted correctly than the “big 3″ (draft analysts Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and Mike Mayock) again this year, my MAIN GOAL of this mock is to provide readers with everything they need to know about each team, in terms of their situation, needs, philosophy and potential prospects, in order to MINIMIZE THE SURPRISES.
In other words, the fewer the surprises that occur in the minds of those who have read this draft breakdown, the better I did my job.
- “BPA” = best player available. In other words, BPA is the highest rated player, regardless of position, on the team’s draft board at the time of their selection.
- The position listed for each player is the position I would expect him to play in the NFL if drafted by the team I have him selected by in this mock. The listed position is not necessarily where he played in college.
- Under the Team Needs section for each team, I’ve listed a few players or options the team may be considering for that pick. Consider it my best guess at their miniature draft board.
- This mock focuses on NFL fits, not college prospects themselves. If you’re looking for descriptions or a quick scouting report for each player, check out the B.E.S.T. 2015 BIG BOARD.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page to see my MOCK DRAFT SUCCESS HISTORY. Not to be “that guy,” but its tops in the industry in the last three years.
2015 NFL Mock Draft
- TB – QB Jameis Winston, Florida State (6-4, 231)
– Needs: QB, DE, MLB, S, OL, RB
– Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota
- TEN – QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon (6-4, 222)
– Needs: QB, RT, RB, S, CB
– Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota … Kevin White (trade down), Amari Cooper (trade down), Leonard Williams
– While it’s certainly possible Tennessee takes Mariota here and calls it a night, for some reason, the Titans have us believing they are sold on Zach Mettenberger as the their quarterback of the future. Thus, we’re looking at four possible trade scenarios here. The first involves a trade with the Cleveland Browns, who have two first round picks (12 and 19) as ammunition. The second involves a trade with Chip Kelly’s Eagles, where they would send the Titans pick 20 and some players they are reportedly souring on, like ILB Mychal Kendricks and DE Fletcher Cox, two underrated but emerging players entering their primes. Perhaps they’ll try to send QB Sam Bradford to the Browns for pick 19 overall and then package that into the deal with the Titans. The third potential trade involves the San Diego Chargers where the Titans would exchange this pick for the Chargers’ 17th overall pick and QB Philip Rivers. Lastly, the New York Jets could and should be interested in Mariota, as their roster is in good shape other than that important quarterback position. The Jets trade makes the most sense because the Titans and Jets could merely swap picks 2 and 6 this year, and the Jets could throw in a first round pick in 2016. This would leave the Titans near the top of the draft to select a WR like Amari Cooper or Kevin White, giving Mettenberger a much-needed primary weapon. I like this idea the most. It’s worth noting that the Titans have done due diligence on this draft’s top receivers. It’s impossible to determine which trade, if any, goes down. But Mariota should be the second overall pick nonetheless. Many people see Leonard Williams as the best player in this draft, but it wouldn’t make sense for the Titans to pass up on the tremendous value the #2 pick holds in a draft class with only 2 potential franchise QBs. My best guess is the Titans either take Mariota or trade with the Browns.
- JAX – DE/OLB Dante Fowler, Florida (6-3, 261)
– Needs: DE, RB, FS
– Dante Fowler, Amari Cooper, Leonard Williams … Vic Beasley, Todd Gurley (trade down)
– This pick has been giving me headaches for weeks. The vast majority of the mock draft community has Dante Fowler locked in here, and he certainly could be the pick. There’s no denying the Jags need a premier pass rusher. But I think this is essentially 3-way tie between Cooper, Williams and Fowler… that is, if the Jaguars stay at 3. A great case can be made for all three players, but I’ll write what I know: there’s no debating Jacksonville’s offense was much worse off than the defense last season. While the Jags’ pass rush wasn’t great, they somehow managed to rank 6th in sacks last season. The Jags have made it a point this offseason to build the supporting cast around Blake Bortles to help the young signal caller succeed. It’s also worth noting that Jacksonville has a surprisingly deep DT rotation, especially now that they’ve spent a ton of money on DT Jared Odrick, a similar player to Leonard Williams. Overall, I THINK Jacksonville will have “the big 3” ranked as Williams, Fowler, and Cooper, in that order. But after what feels like years of research on this pick, I just can’t seem to get a feel for any of these three players here, so similar to last year when the Jags selected Blake Bortes, my GUT tells me we’re in for another surprise. For one, I believe Vic Beasley fits the “LEO” pass rusher role better than Dante Fowler does, even though Fowler is largely regarded as the safer prospect. I love the fit of Beasley to JAX. I also think RB Todd Gurley is a a dark horse for this pick. Todd Gurley may seem strange with all their needs, but keep in mind HC Gus Bradley comes from Seattle, where the foundation was placed on a strong running game. Gurley is a supreme talent and could be the Marshawn Lynch of this run-first team who struggled mightily to move the ball last season with unhealthy and ineffective backs. But my best guess is the Jaguars do not make a choice between the three players who may be dead even on their board. But rather, the team trades down to the 7-10 range in order to acquire more picks. I’ve heard Atlanta is interested in moving up for Fowler. From there, they take a LEO pass rusher like Vic Beasley or RB Todd Gurley.
- OAK – WR Amari Cooper, Alabama (6-1, 211)
– Needs: WR, DL, CB, S, OT
– Bud Dupree (trade down), Leonard Williams, Amari Cooper, Dante Fowler, Kevin White
– On the surface, the Raiders taking Leonard Williams with this pick makes too much sense for it to actually happen. Not only is he the BPA by most teams’ accounts, but he fills a need, and grew up a Raiders fan. Unfortunately, according to a disclosed source, Oakland is a little weary of possible medical issues with Williams. I’ve been told the Raiders are keying in on pass rushers and wanting to give last year’s first rounder, budding star Khalil Mack, a running mate. I’m hearing Oakland is very high on Bud Dupree and could seek to trade down, getting value with him as a target a few spots lower. Dante Fowler will be a primary target here if available, I’d imagine more so than Vic Beasley, who seems too similar of a prospect to Mack. Although young QB Derek Carr unquestionably needs a go-to WR, this draft class is very deep at the position, and the logic is that the Raiders can draft a defender here and take a WR early in round 2. That said, Amari Cooper is absolutely in consideration here. I assume Cooper is the preferred option over Kevin White for this team if they do select a WR, but White’s upside is arguably greater and he can’t be ruled out. Ultimately, this pick has a ton of trade value. My best guess is the Raiders stun everyone with Williams/Cooper on the board, slide down a few spots with the intent to take Bud Dupree.
- WAS – DT Leonard Williams, USC (6-5, 302)
– Needs: OLB, RT, RB, WR
– Dante Fowler, Amari Cooper, Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley … Trade Down: Brandon Scherff, Ereck Flowers
– Redskins’ new GM Scott McCloughan has shown a tendency place an emphasis on safety and size in the early portions of drafts. Accordingly, three names that I make sense here are DE/OLB Dante Fowler, WR Amari Cooper and OG Brandon Scherff. If the former two options are unavailable, I think Washington can move down a few spots, take Scherff, and get a draft pick or two in return. The Redskins have wisely decided to rebuild this team within the trenches from the inside, out, so Scherff makes a ton of sense from a philosophy and needs standpoint. DT is not really a pressing need in Washington, so if Leonard Williams fell here, perhaps the Redskins could get more value by trading the pick to a team like CHI or NYG. The majority of mocks have Vic Beasley slotted here, but while OLB is a major need, I don’t think he really fits the bill of what the Redskins are looking here. I could be wrong, but I think Fowler and Williams are the primary targets, and Washington could trade down with a team who wants Amari Cooper for an O-lineman if they are unavailable.
- NYJ – DE/OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson (6-2, 246)
– Needs: QB, WR, OLB, OL
– Dante Fowler, Amari Cooper, Kevin White, Vic Beasley … Trade Down: Andrus Peat, Todd Gurley
– The Jets should put some feelers out for the #2 pick in attempt to get Marcus Mariota. I think it would be worth giving up a first rounder next year to move up four spots to take a potential franchise QB, who would fit well in Chan Gailey’s spread offense on a team that is otherwise well off, aside from the QB position. In the past, Gailey has employed 3-WR sets on over 80% of the team’s offensive snaps, a very high number even for today’s pass-first standards. So although the team just acquired Brandon Marshall and has Eric Decker, a wide receiver like Kevin White or Amari Cooper simply cannot be ruled out here. From what I understand, the Jets are enamored by RB Todd Gurley and OT Andrus Peat. Both fill big needs on the offense, and we shouldn’t be surprised if the Jets move back a few spots with a team attempting to trade up for a pass rusher like Vic Beasley or Bud Dupree to get more value out of a Gurley or Peat selection. Of course, the Jets could use a pass rusher too. But my best guess would be the Jets want Amari Cooper, Dante Fowler and Vic Beasley (in that order). If not, they trade down a few spots, targeting Andrus Peat or Todd Gurley. The team hasn’t been shy about wanting to move.
- CHI – WR Kevin White, West Virginia (6-3, 215)
– Needs: DL, WR, RT, S, OLB
– Leonard Williams (trade up) … Amari Cooper, Kevin White, Vic Beasley, Dante Fowler, Danny Shelton, Brandon Scherff, Trae Waynes (trade down)
– The majority of mockers have Kevin White slotted here to fill the role Brandon Marshall left open. It’s possible, but I believe the Bears really want to take a defender here. Plus, White is too similar to Alshon Jeffery, and teams typically like to mix up the skill-sets between their starting WRs. Accordingly, Amari Cooper makes sense if he falls here, but he fits with every team. Brandon Scherff would deserve a lot of consideration if either were available. The Bears could certainly stand to upgrade RT Jordan Mills, the weak link on the O-line, and Chicago wants to run the football more under John Fox. The Bears could use a pass rusher like Bud Dupree or Vic Beasley, but I think the D-line is a bigger area of concern. Leonard Williams would be the ideal pick here, but the Bears would have to move up to get him. I think it’s much more likely that the Bears use White as a trading tool rather than actually select him. I could see them trading down to take someone like Danny Shelton or Trae Waynes.
- ATL – RB Todd Gurley, Georgia (6-1, 222)
– Needs: DE, OL, TE, FS, RB
– Vic Beasley, Dante Fowler, Bud Dupree, Brandon Scherff, Todd Gurley, Shane Ray
– The Falcons most pressing need is upgrading their pass rush. Dante Fowler, Bud Dupree, and Vic Beasley will all be on their wish list. Although I see Randy Gregory and Shane Ray slipping in this draft, I think the Falcons could be desperate enough to take the risk, although I wouldn’t count on it. If the top three pass rushers are not available, I think this is a 50/50 toss up between OG Brandon Scherff and RB Todd Gurley. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons get antsy and move up to ensure one of the top three pass rushers. If they had their choice, I assume Dante Fowler would be the target in a trade up. There is talk of them moving to 3 or 4, and trading with either Jacksonville or Oakland makes perfect sense for all around. I’m looking for Atlanta to trade up to 3 with the Jaguars and target an impact defensive player like Dante Fowler or Leonard Williams. If they stay at 8, expect them to reach for a defender like Shane Ray, or explore Brandon Scherff and Todd Gurley.
- NYG – OT Ereck Flowers, Miami (6-6, 329)
– Needs: S, RT, DT, CB, DE
– Leonard Williams (trade up), Vic Beasley, Bud Dupree, Andrus Peat, Ereck Flowers, Brandon Scherff, Amari Cooper, Kevin White
– The Giants are in a great spot right before the talent drop off; they can a number of different directions to address their biggest needs. New York’s focus should be on either improving their running game or stopping the run. GM Jerry Reese tends to target high-upside guys in round 1. I’ve heard the team is very high on OT Ereck Flowers, a young, raw prospect with a high ceiling, especially as a run-blocking mauler. I’d imagine the Giants also like OTs Andrus Peat and Brandon Scherff. If a WR like Amari Cooper or Kevin White fell to this pick, I definitely believe the Giants would consider pouncing. Victor Cruz’s health is a legitimate concern, and Rueben Randle’s contract is expiring next offseason. The Giants tried hard to lure DE Brandon Graham in free agency, and I’m sure Tom Coughlin and Steve Spags would love to upgrade the D-line with an athletic pass rusher like Bud Dupree, Vic Beasley, or Dante Fowler. Playing in the NFC East, stopping the run is paramount, and the Giants could definitely add some beef to shore up the run defense. This makes DT Danny Shelton a sleeper here. It’s possible the Giants could be interested in moving up for one of those pass rushers or DT Leonard Williams. I tend to think the Giants are more interested in upgrading the O-line with either Ereck Flowers, Brandon Scherff, or Andrus Peat.
- STL – OT Andrus Peat, Stanford (6-7, 313)
– Needs: OT, OG/C, WR, CB
– Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat, Ereck Flowers … Kevin White, Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker
– The Rams have vacancies in 3/5 spots on their O-line. Although St. Louis would love to add a dynamic WR like DeVante Parker or Kevin White if he falls, I think they are somewhat pigeon-holed here. I’d be surprised if they don’t address the OL unit early. I know the Rams love La’el Collins, and perhaps they could move down a few spots with him in mind. Of course, Andrus Peat and Brandon Scherff are options if they make it to this pick. Peat would allow last year’s #2 overall pick Greg Robinson move to RT, a spot he’s better suited for. Expect the Rams to go O-line if a great WR doesn’t fall in their lap.
- MIN – OG Brandon Scherff, Iowa (6-5, 319)
– Needs: DE, CB, OL, MLB
– DeVante Parker, Andrus Peat, Brandon Scherff, Marcus Peters, Trae Waynes, Byron Jones
– Mike Zimmer has made it well-known that he plans to address the cornerback position early in the draft. What’s less certain is who they may be targeting. Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters, Kevin Johnson, and Byron Jones appear to be the top corners in this draft, but I’m not so sure the Vikings would pull the trigger here. If I had to guess, I’d say they are most interested in Byron Jones and Marcus Peters. The Vikings’ O-line, especially in terms of pass protection, was a major problem last season. The team could upgrade the line by taking Andrus Peat, Brandon Scherff, or La’el Collins. Although the Vikings acquired Mike Wallace, the WR corp could be upgraded by adding a physical WR with good size. Parker would be an outstanding fit in Norv Turner’s vertical scheme, and he also showed a great rapport with Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater as his #1 WR at Louisville. I’m assuming the Vikings try to move down to target a CB if Parker is not on the board.
- CLE – DT Danny Shelton, Washington (6-2, 339)
– Needs: QB, LB, TE, DL
– BGB: Marcus Mariota (trade up), Kevin White, Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, Todd Gurley, Danny Shelton, Breshad Perriman
– Obviously, the first thing the Browns will try to do is package this pick and their other first round pick (19) to move up to #2 overall in order to draft Marcus Mariota. This team desperately needs a franchise QB. The Titans have reportedly asked for Cleveland’s two first rounders AND their second rounder, to which the Browns declined. Perhaps they’ll cave on when the clock is ticking down. Cleveland could be looking to make an offensive splash, targeting playmakers like WRs Kevin White and DeVante Parker or RB Todd Gurley. It’s worth noting the Browns’ RBs struggled just as much as their pass catchers last season despite running behind a solid O-line, and the team wants to implement a power running game to keep the ball out of the hands of whoever winds up at QB. To that note, almost all of the Browns’ pre-draft visits have of the meat-and-potatoes variety. In other words, if the Browns pick their two draft picks, I’m assuming at least one of them will involve adding a trench player to fill out the O-line and D-line. Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat, La’el Collins, and Ereck Flowers are all options. Defensively, NT Danny Shelton makes a ton of sense here, shoring up the run defense in a physical AFC North division. There’s a chance Shelton is available for their pick at 19, but the Browns may not want to take that chance. The Browns also love Breshad Perriman, but again, they could potentially wait until 19 to select him. I’m projecting the Browns to either trade for Mariota or covet an offensive playmaker like a top-notch WR or Gurley here. Danny Shelton seems like the fail safe.
- NO – DE/OLB Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Kentucky (6-4, 269)
– Needs: OLB, OG, CB, WR
– Vic Beasley (trade up) Bud Dupree (trade up) … DeVante Parker, Brandon Scherff … Kevin Johnson, Trae Waynes, Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown
— New Orleans has made the strategy for this pick clear from the beginning: BDPA (best defensive player available). However, the board may not play out kindly to the Saints on draft day. The Saints appear to be in an awkward position at 13, just before what I presume will be one of the first picks following an obvious talent drop-off, especially on the defensive side of the ball, which is what the team desperately wants to address. Although it’s difficult to place where exactly players will land, I’m fairly certain most of the popularly mocked players for the Saints, such as DE/OLBs Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree, will be selected long pick 13. Both players are freak athletes who would be incredible picks for New Orleans. But I find it very hard to believe either player gets past the rival Giants at pick 9. First of all, regardless of how late the media is to the party, Beasley AND Dupree are both top-10 overall players in this draft class from a sheer talent perspective. Secondly, there are simply too many teams in the top 10 that need pass rushers; JAX, OAK, WAS, NYJ, CHI, ATL, NYG, and MIN are all in search of players who can get to opposing quarterbacks. So while I would LOVE LOVE LOVE it if someone like Beasley or Bud Dupree slipped, I strongly believe it would take a draft day miracle of sorts. With that said, I think the Saints have done enough research to know how the draft is likely going to play out, and I believe they’ll understand that if they want immediate impact defensive player, they’ll have to go after him via a trade up. It’s worth mentioning that the Saints have the draft pick ammunition necessary to move up if one of Beasley or Dupree begins to slip in that 6-10 range. While this is merely speculation, teams like the Raiders, Redskins, and Jets have all expressed interest of moving down. Ideally, the Saints could communicate with ex-Saints employee Ryan Pace, the new GM for the Chicago Bears at pick 7, and they could work out a deal that would allow the Saints to move up to 7 and grab a defensive difference maker in Vic Beasley. And I believe they will make every effort to do just that, so I’ve mocked Beasley to the Saints, but I think he’ll have to come from a slot higher up.
IF THE SAINTS STAY AT 13:
— CORNERBACKS = Trae Waynes and Kevin Johnson are major candidates for the Saints here at 13. And if the Saints stay at 13, I wouldn’t be surprised if either Waynes or Johnson is the pick. It’s no secret that the Saints were incredibly thin at the corner position last year. And although the team signed Brandon Browner in the offseason, their CB tandem of Keenan Lewis and Browner is average at best, and questions still remain at nickel cornerback. It’s important to keep in mind that the NCB position is essentially a 12th starter on defense, playing the majority of snaps in today’s pass-oriented NFL. Many coaches will tell you that a team can never have too many corners. Waynes certainly fits the mold of what DC Rob Ryan looks for in corner as a man-to-man presser, and he has good height (6’0) and straight line speed (~4.3 40-yard dash). The upside is there for Waynes to be a quality #1 CB in this league. Personally, however, I’m not a huge fan of Waynes, and I do believe he’ll be over-drafted based on his potential. Waynes’ awareness, fluidity, and change of direction skills, and short-area quickness need work. And his film cutups struck me as a late first, early second rounder. (NOTE: You can see my rankings and descriptions for all of the top-rated prospects HERE). I personally have Kevin Johnson higher on my board because he’s the most experienced and versatile corner in the draft. He also possesses much better recognition skills and confidence in his breaks than Waynes does. While the Saints should certainly add more bodies at this position, it’s worth noting that there is quite a steep learning curve at the CB position, and it takes a few years for even the league’s best cornerbacks to transition and get accustomed to the next level. The Saints should understand that developmental time is not exactly a luxury because the window of opportunity for a second Super Bowl is closing each year Drew Brees gets closer to retirement. So while I do believe the Saints will consider a slew of first round corners like Trae Waynes and Kevin Johnson, my preference would be to take players from other positions early who can have more of an impact from the get-go. It’s likely that a corner like Waynes or the aforementioned players would play about 300/1,000 snaps as a rookie (barring injury), and then become a full-time starter in year two, possibly replacing Keenan Lewis down the line if he expresses disappointment with the team again next offseason. The immediate impact factor is one reason Johnson would be more valuable of a draft pick for this team, as he’s much more refined than Waynes is, to the point where he could contribute earlier. I would be remiss if I did not even mention my favorite cornerback (and one of my favorite overall) prospects in this draft class, and that is Marcus Peters. While I believe Peters has the look of a future shutdown corner and would be thrilled if the Saints selected him at 13, I sincerely doubt he’s even on their board based on character concerns. If the Saints stay at 13, I’m hoping Johnson is the pick.
— POOR CHARACTER WAS NEVER AN OPTION: The next pass rushing options would seemingly include fellow pass rushers Shane Ray and Randy Gregory. But unfortunately, there’s more bad news on that front. Both Ray and Gregory are due to fall on draft day, and it’s highly unlikely the Saints will gamble on either player, probably for good reason. Despite being pegged as two of the most talented pass rushers in this class, both players carry some major red flags. Shane Ray is quick off the line of scrimmage and can beat offensive tackles with speed and hustle, but he is extremely undersized. He tested too poorly as an athlete at the NFL Combine and his Pro Day and projects to have too limited of a role as a situational pass rusher to be in consideration of a top 15 pick, even for a team desperate for defenders like the Saints. Furthermore, Ray is a medical risk, as a recent toe injury could require offseason surgery. All of this makes him a risky boom-or-bust selection, and the toe problem will likely push him outside of the top 20 picks and Saints’ consideration.— Randy Gregory has some issues of his own, albeit most of his concerns are off-field and character-related. Gregory recently failed his third drug test (marijuana) in the last two years. While I’d bet over half the league’s players smoke marijuana, – admittedly, the drug itself is not a concern for most teams – the real concerns stem over his desire and passion for the game. When a player fails a drug test that he and everyone else not only knew was coming for months in advance, but the exact date which the test would take place, it’s fair to question whether he’s either addicted to the substance or is simply stupid. Regardless, Gregory’s lie about quitting in December, the fact that he showed up to private visits with NFL teams late and about 15-20 pounds below his playing weight in college (implying he has not been in the weight room much this offseason, bulking up a smallish NFL frame as he should be) does not bode well for him. Moreover, Gregory would routinely check himself out of games in college for what many coaches described as minor injuries. Combined, all of these issues make Gregory, an otherwise talented prospect with massive upside on the field, a huge character risk. Sans character concerns, Gregory would likely be a top-10 overall pick in this draft. But at a time where the Saints are putting an emphasis on acquiring players who possess great, team-first attitudes, leadership skills and a true passion for football, I can’t imagine the Saints take a huge character risk on Gregory. It’s more likely than not that the majority of NFL teams, especially the Saints, have crossed Gregory off their board. In sum, don’t be surprised if both Ray and Gregory fall to the end of the first round, if not slip into the second completely.
— DEFENSIVE LINE: Another defensive possibility involves addressing the defensive line. Starting DEs Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks are both entering contract years, so the D-line is a bigger area of concern than it appears the surface. NT Danny Shelton is the top-rated run plugger in this draft. He’d be a sizable upgrade over John Jenkins and Broderick Bunkley, commanding double teams and helping the Saints run defense. Oregon’s Arik Amstead or Malcom Brown could be two targets if the Saints move down. Amstead has outstanding measurables, specifically in regard to his lethal combination of length, height and athletic/movement ability. Armstead is still very raw though, has somewhat of an injury history, and he was not that productive in college. That said, he has the tools to dominate with a year of seasoning under his belt. Malcom Brown is not overbearing physically, but he’s a tough, versatile, and smart player with a passion for football that I assume the Saints will admire. Again, the Saints will likely go BDPA with this pick, and if they like admire Armstead’s upside or Brown’s skill-set they can either reach for one here or preferably trade back a few spots and grab one later.
— OFFENSIVE GUARD: Although I expect this pick to be a defender, if Iowa’s Brandon Scherff it to 13, I think the Saints would have a difficult time passing on them IF the board plays out like I think it will. They are certainly names to keep an eye on as the draft unfolds. Following the trade of OG Ben Grubbs, Scherff would be a massive upgrade at LG over the inexperienced Tim Lelito. I’ve written about how interior O-linemen are extremely important and valuable to the Saints with Drew Brees at QB. They play a MAJOR role in the Saints’ offensive success. Scherff is considered a safe bet to be a good pro. Additionally, both are capable of moving to tackle down the line or in spot starts to fill in for injuries. And considering the Saints’ massive struggles when OT Terron Armstead missed games, I wouldn’t rule Scherff out for this pick. Keep in mind that I strongly believe the Saints will take a defensive player here, even if Scherff are graded higher on their board (without positional needs being weighted in), but if the board plays out like I expect, I would much rather the Saints solidify the O-line with a very quality prospect.
— WIDE RECEIVER: The Saints could also use a bigger, more physical receiver who complements Brandin Cooks, especially in the wake of the Jimmy Graham trade. This makes DeVante Parker an intriguing possibility if he somehow slips to 13, but I really don’t think he will. Parker is an aggressive ball-hawk with good size and speed who has mastered the back-shoulder fade route; Brees’ accuracy and Parker’s ability to high-point and attack the ball in the air could make them a deadly combination, especially in the red zone. This WR class is very deep, the Saints likely won’t feel the need to reach in order to address this area. Hopefully the Saints will put aside their defensive priorities if a talent like Cooper, White or Parker surprisingly becomes available. I fully expect the Saints to address this position with picks 31 or 44 though.
— In conclusion, I think the Saints will be dealt a bad hand in terms of how the board plays out on draft day, and if this is indeed the case, New Orleans will likely try to move back to acquire even more draft picks. The Saints should be prepared for this draft scenario to play out, and ideally the team would look to move up to acquire an impact defensive player so New Orleans isn’t placed in this awkward spot of the draft. Targets could range from Leonard Williams (steep price) to Vic Beasley, which is preferable. Here at 13, I would think it would be Kevin Johnson or Trae Waynes for the Saints because I believe the big-name pass rushers either don’t make it to 13 or have medical and character red flags. Additionally, I think New Orleans likes some pass rushers and ILBs (the team’s two primary needs) who should be available for picks 31-44, so they won’t feel the need to reach for them here. Trading back to target a D-lineman would be a solid option. Waynes is a top-rated CB this year but is also a pick I’m personally not in love with compared to Kevin Johnson. I can’t argue that either fills a need and helps for the future.
- MIA – WR DeVante Parker, Louisville (6-3, 209)
– Needs: OL, CB, WR, LB, RB
– Todd Gurley DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman, Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson
– The Dolphins have been rumored to be targeting an offensive playmaker with this pick. Perhaps they’ll trade up for WR DeVante Parker. There’s also a chance they stay put and RB Todd Gurley falls to them. If both are off the board, I think the ‘Fins could reach for WR Breshad Perriman. There are also needs at CB, making Trae Waynes and Kevin Johnson possibilities. I can’t rule out an offensive linemen, and I think the ‘Fins would love it if Brandon Scherff slipped through the cracks. In the actual draft, I’m expecting Miami to attempt to move up and draft an offensive playmaker. Assuming Kevin White is too steep of a price in the real draft, I’m thinking DeVante Parker or Todd Gurley are legitimate targets.
- SF – CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State (6-0, 186)
– Needs: CB, DE, ILB, OG
– Amari Cooper (trade up), DeVante Parker, Marcus Peters, Trae Waynes, Byron Jones, Arik Amstead, Breshad Perriman, Dorial Green-Beckham
– There were rumors earlier this offseason about the Niners exploring a trade up for Amari Cooper, so keep an eye out for that if he begins to fall past pick 5. Clearly, WRs DeVante Parker and Breshad Perriman are options if the 49ers stay put. GM Trent Baalke has shown an affinity for talented players with character concerns, so WR Dorial Green-Beckham could be a surprise pick here. To that extent, I’m pretty sure the team loves CB Marcus Peters. I think San Francisco would take Trae Waynes too. I have Scherff slotted here because he’s a great value, and the Niners lost LG Mike Iupati and now RG Anthony Boone is holding out. The most popularly mocked candidate here is DE Arik Amstead. I’m looking for San Francisco to trade down and select Marcus Peters or trade up and make a splash for Amari Cooper.
- HOU – CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest (6-0, 188)
– Needs: QB, FS, LB, CB, WR
– DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman, Marcus Peters, Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson, Landon Collins, Danny Shelton
– The Texans have been one of the quietest teams throughout the draft process, but the feeling here is that they are targeting cornerbacks or offensive linemen. Both starting OGs have expiring contracts next offseason, and CB Jonathan Joseph is set to be a free agent in 2016 as well. The Texans have recently put SS D.J. Swearinger on the trade block, making Landon Collins a possibility. This team still needs a quarterback, but it would be surprising if they reached for one in the first round, even if they traded down. I do think it would be wise for the Texans to trade down. My main targets would be CB Kevin Johnson and OC Cam Erving.
- SD – RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (6-1, 215)
– Needs: DE, OLB, OT, RB, SS
– Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Ereck Flowers, D.J. Humphries, Cam Erving
– The Chargers should be looking to improve their running game here, either by way of selecting a RB like Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon, or a powerful offensive lineman who can help block for the running game. I think they like D.J. Humphries, Cam Irving, and Ereck Flowers, and I think one of them will be the pick unless an enticing RB presents itself.
- KC – OC Cam Erving, Florida State (6-5, 313)
– Needs: OT, G/C, WR, ILB, CB
– DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman, La’el Collins, Ereck Flowers, D.J. Humphries, C Cam Erving, Marcus Peters, Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson
– I honestly have no idea what the Chiefs are doing with this pick (hence the lengthy list of possible prospects). They have been one of sneakiest teams throughout the draft process, and their pick last year was one of three picks in the entire first round that SHOCKED me. Furthermore, they have a variety of needs they can address, like the O-line to help pave the way for Jamaal Charles, multiple positions on a depleted defense, and possibly WR. I think the Chiefs could reach for an ILB like Eric Kendricks here. Malcom Brown or Arik Amstead would help beef up the run defense. But I definitely think their first choices will involve upgrading the O-line and the CB position. Kevin Johnson and Cam Erving are names I’d pursue.
- CLE – WR Breshad Perriman, UCF (6-2, 212)
– Needs: QB, LB, TE, DL
– Marcus Mariota (trade up), Danny Shelton, Breshad Perriman, Melvin Gordon, D.J. Humphries, Ereck Flowers
– If this pick isn’t dealt to the Titans for Mariota, I’m assuming the Browns will want to address the trenches or a WR with this pick. They love DT Danny Shelton, and OT Ereck Flowers/D.J. Humphries make sense. And if they don’t get one at 12, they’ll swipe a WR like Breshad Perriman.
- PHI – WR Nelson Agholor, USC (6-0, 198)
– Needs: WR, CB, S, OL
– Breshad Perriman, Nelson Agholor, Phillip Dorsett, Byron Jones, Eric Rowe, Jake Fisher, Kevin Johnson
– I’m not going to rule out Chip Kelly finding a way to land Marcus Mariota, but I think it’s unlikely. This pick will most likely be a WR or CB. Kelly has shown a special interest in speed for WRs, so look for Breshad Perriman, Nelson Agholor, or Phillip Dorsett if he goes that route. If he chooses to address CB, the Eagles have favored athleticism, so I think they’ll target Byron Jones. I hear they love Eric Rowe because of his versatility. Never rule out an Oregon player like Arik Armstead and Jake Fisher. I’m thinking the Eagles take a wide receiver with speed like Perriman or Agholor, if not an athletic CB like Byron Jones or Eric Rowe.
- CIN – OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas AM (6’6, 300)
– Needs: DE, DT
– D.J. Humphries, Ereck Flowers, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Malcom Brown, Landon Collins
– The Bengals’ most pressing needs are on the defensive line, but their draft interests have seemed to be favoring the offensive line. Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton would be great fits here. Considering both OTs and both starting safeties on this team all have expiring contracts next offseason, the Bengals could look for an OT or safety like Landon Collins to groom for the future. They’ve shown interest in a variety of O-linemen for this pick, and while their pick may not be a starter this year, I think the Bengals will draft a raw OT with tons of upside.
- PIT – CB Jalen Collins, LSU (6’1, 199)
– Needs: CB, OLB, SS
– Marcus Peters, Byron Jones, Kevin Johnson, Randy Gregory, Landon Collins, Jalen Collins,
– The Steelers tend to draft players they visit with. That makes me believe they could take a gamble on DE/OLB Randy Gregory, Eli Harold, or Nate Orchard to fill their OLB need. The other area the Steelers must address is CB. I’d look for them to target Marcus Peters, Byron Jones, Kevin Johnson and possibly Jalen Collins out of LSU as a surprise pick. Landon Collins could be a natural replacement for Troy Polamalu. I expect the Steelers to take a reach on an OLB unless a CB they like falls to them. They’ve shown a lot of interest in Collins, who they feel has the tools to be a starter.
- DET – DT Malcom Brown, Texas (6-2, 319)
– Needs: OT, G/C, DE, CB, RB
– Melvin Gordon, Malcom Brown, D.J. Humphries, Ereck Flowers, Cam Erving, Eddie Goldman
– The Lions have been in the market for interior defensive linemen to replace the massive void Suh left. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took a stab at a running back if available. The most pressing need is along the offensive line. I expect the pick to be Malcom Brown if he’s available, if not I think the Lions will explore OL options like a D.J. Humphries.
- ARI – DE Arik Armstead, Oregon (6-7, 292)
– Needs: OLB, CB, RB, TE, OL
– Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Byron Jones, Cam Erving, Shane Ray, Ereck Flowers, D.J. Humphries, Eric Kendricks
– There’s a number of different directions the Cardinals can go here. I have them taking a BPA approach, but there are certainly needs at RB and CB. I know they love Melvin Gordon and Byron Jones. The O-line could use a patch-up at the RT spot. Arizona could also use a pass rusher, and Bruce Arians hasn’t been shy about taking a risk on potential character concerns. ILB is a need too, making Kendricks a dark horse pick. I get the feeling the Cardinals will target Byron Jones and Melvin Gordon, and if not they’ll take a BPA approach.
- CAR – OT D.J. Humphries, Florida (6’5, 305)
– Needs: WR, OT, S, DE, RB
– Andrus Peat, Ereck Flowers, D.J. Humphries, Cedric Ogbuehi, Breshad Perriman, Shaq Thompson, Eric Kendricks
– The Panthers have to be praying an offensive tackle like Andrus Peat or D.J. Humphries falls so they can make a play for one of the OTs. I fully expect this pick to be the best available OT, but if they don’t like the options, I’ve heard them linked to a pair of ILBs listed above.
- BAL – CB Marcus Peters, Washington (6-0, 197)
– Needs: WR, CB, SS, DE, TE
– Marcus Peters, Melvin Gordon, Breshad Perriman, Nelson Agholor, Kevin Johnson, Maxx Williams
– The Baltimore Ravens are extremely high on Marcus Peters, and he’ll be the pick if he’s there. I don’t think he will be, but I do think the Ravens will explore other CB options like Byron Jones if available. The team needs pass catchers as well, and perhaps they’ll reach for a WR like Phillip Dorsett or Nelson Agholor. The team hasn’t been linked to TE Maxx Williams, but TE is a serious need, and there’s a massive drop off after Williams in this thin class of tight ends. If Marcus Peters and Breshad Perriman are gone, which I expect they will be, the Ravens will next the next rated CB, possibly Byron Jones.
- DAL – DE/OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska (6’3, 240)
– Needs: DT, RB, CB, SS
– Melvin Gordon, Randy Gregory, Kevin Johnson, Byron Jones, Jalen Collins, Eric Kendricks, Benardrick McKinney
– There’s little doubt the Dallas Cowboys are high on Melvin Gordon, but I don’t think they’ll want to give up the picks to move up. It’s doubtful Gordon makes it here. If not, I expect them to address RB in round 2 and take the best available player on defense with this pick. The ‘Boys have been linked to Kevin Johnson, and ILB Eric Kendricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys, desperate for pass rushers now that DE Greg Hardy is suspended, take a risk on a guy like Randy Gregory. The safe play would be to draft a corner or inside linebacker.
- DEN – Jake Fisher, Oregon (6-6, 306)
– Needs: OL, NT, TE
– Ereck Flowers, Cam Erving, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Jordan Phillips, Benardrick McKinney, Maxx Williams
– This pick should either be addressing immediate defensive needs such as inside linebacker and nose tackle, or it should involve giving Peyton Manning some more protection up front. The Broncos are high on Cedric Ogbuehi, and Jake Fisher fits their ZBS scheme appropriately. I’m leaning toward the defensive side of the ball with this pick, however. After losing Terrance Knighton, new DC Wade Phillips could use a true nose tackle or linebacker.
- IND – S Damarious Randall, AZ State (5’11, 196)
– Needs: OT, SS, DE/OLB
– Landon Collins, Cam Erving, Jordan Phillips, Eddie Goldman, Jake Fisher, Damarious Randall
– Although a pick to protect Andrew Luck makes sense, I’m thinking this pick will be on the defensive side of the ball for a variety of reasons. Expect the Colts to target their best available defensive player. Their biggest needs are at safety, nose tackle and linebacker. I’m thinking the Colts could be highly interested in the two top safeties in this draft class, Damarious Randall and Landon Collins.
- GB – CB Eric Rowe, Utah (6-1, 205)
– Needs: ILB, CB, NT
– Kevin Johnson, Eric Rowe, Denzel Perryman
– As usual, the Packers have kept their draft plans under wraps for the most part. I’ve heard they are high on CB Eric Rowe and ILB Denzel Perryman. There’s no question that either pick fills a huge need. I definitely think CB Kevin Johnson would be the pick if he were available, but I doubt he will be. I expect this pick to be between an ILB like Perryman or versatile DB like Rowe, filling a need as the Packers are in win-now mode.
- NO – WR Phillip Dorsett, Miami (5’10, 185)
– Needs: OLB, OG, CB, WR
– Phillip Dorsett, Nelson Agholor, Jaelen Strong, Eric Kendricks, Owa Odighizuwa, Eli Harold, Denzel Perryman
—- The Saints LOVE Miami’s Phillip Dorsett, a small WR with game-breaking speed. You’re probably thinking: “I know the Saints need a WR, but we just drafted Brandin Cooks last year, why would we take another player just like him?” Although they are similar in stature, the two would be used very differently in the Saints’ offense. Cooks was primarily used on short quick hits and intermediate routes. You may be surprised to know that the Saints only attempted 6 passes to Cooks beyond 20 yards downfield. Moreover, 41 of Cooks’ 63 targets came within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage. Cooks uses his quickness and acceleration to get open on initial breaks, similar to how Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb play. Dorsett, on the other hand, does more damage as a deep threat, beating press coverage and using straight-line speed to take the lid off defenses. He has DeSean Jackson and T.Y. Hilton-like upside. Plus, imagine the speed mismatch the Saints would impose if C.J. Spiller, Brandin Cooks, and Phillip Dorsett were on the field at once. On the Saints fast surface (and in indoor stadiums for 12/16 games)… watch out. Dorsett may be one of the few offensive players the Saints covet. USC WR Nelson Agholor, one of my favorite players in this draft class, would be another target I’m strongly in favor of. He’s one of the draft’s best route runners and would excel in the Saints’ offense for a variety of reasons. He has sudden quickness and shows the separation skills necessary to get open at the next level. He’s also an electric kick returner and was a team captain, something Sean Payton will appreciate. Jaelen Strong is more a physical, Anquan Boldin type of receiver who struggles to separate but uses his body to can make tough, contested catches arguably better than any receiver in this draft class. He’d complement the smaller, quicker Brandin Cooks very well … New Orleans has brought two pass rushers, UCLA’s Owa Odighizuwa and Virginia Tech’s Eli Harold, in for private visits. Both are high upside, but currently raw pass rushing prospects. I have Owa rated higher, for what it’s worth … The Saints could also draft a high character inside linebacker to lead the defense. This makes me believe Denzel Perryman and Eric Kendricks are options here. My top four targets for this pick would be Agholor, Dorsett, Kendricks, and Owa. Ideally, the Saints could grab one at 31 and another at 44.— You can find more useful information on all of these prospects by viewing MY DRAFT BOARD.
- NE – CB Byron Jones, UCONN (6’1, 199)
– Needs: CB, G/C, NT, RB, WR
– Cam Erving, Eric Rowe, Byron Jones, A.J. Cann, Eddie Goldman, Dorial Green-Beckham
– The Patriots absolutely need to address the interior offensive line with a guard/center like A.J. Cann or Cam Erving. Cornerback is another big concern following the departure of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. The Patriots could be the team to take a gamble on a great talent with questionable character. I’m thinking the Pats give Tom Brady some more help with their first pick, whether it’s up front on the OL or on the outside at WR. They could fall in love with Eric Rowe though.
Possible First Round Surprises:
- DE/OLB Shane Ray (Missou) – ATL, CIN, IND
- DE/OLB Randy Gregory (Nebraska) – PIT, BAL
- FS Damarious Randall (AZ State) – IND
- WR Dorial Green-Beckham (Missou) – SF, HOU, BAL, NE
- DE Mario Edwards (FSU) – HOU, SF
- DT Eddie Goldman (FSU) – CIN, DET, NE
- DE Owa Odighizuwa (UCLA) – NO, ARI
- ILB Benardrick McKinney (Miss St) – IND, DEN, DAL, GB
- WR Phillip Dorsett (Miami) – PHI, BAL, NO
- WR Jaelen Strong (Arizona) – BAL, NO
- TE Maxx Williams (Minn) – ARI, BAL, DEN
- WR Devin Smith (Ohio St)
- WLB Shaq Thompson (Wash) – CAR
MOCK DRAFT SUCCESS HISTORY
- Correct Picks:
- Advanced Accuracy Grading System: Divided into 3 categories: 1) Pick-to-team = 1 point (33% weighted); 2) Pick-to-slot = 1 point (33% weighted); and 3) Cumulative variance of pick differences (33% weighted). Detailed info can be found here: Dueling Drafts Point System < Set “Importance” of each category to max of 3.
Categories: The NFL Draft