2015 Mock Draft Version 1.0

Since free agency is right around the corner and there has now been time to digest the outcome of the combine, it’s the perfect time for the first mock draft of the year.  Obviously this mock draft will be different from future mock drafts, since FA hasn’t happened yet, and needs will change, but it still gives an idea of where teams could go.  As with all other mock drafts, this one is not an attempt to predict the actual order of picks come draft day, and trades will not be predicted. (Mainly because I, and many other people, have no clue what kind of value draft picks hold in a trade, and NFL teams can get crazy sometimes, so there’s no use in predicting them) With that in mind this will, as always, be about what each time should do if the draft were to take place today.

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Winston is widely regarded as the most talented player in this draft, and he is at the very least very close, and with the tiebreaker of him playing the quarterback position, he’s an easy choice for #1 overall prospect.  That, mixed with the fact that the Bucs need a QB who is better than Mike Glennon desperately, makes Winston essentially a no brainer at 1st overall.  The Bucs could always trade out of this pick however, and we could see a team, like Philadelphia, enamored with Marcus Mariota jump up, or a non-QB needy team jump up and take someone else here.  However, if the Bucs stay put, I have a hard time seeing them going in any other direction with this pick.

#2 Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DT/DE, USC

The Titans need help on almost every position on defense, and have enough young pieces on offense that they need to give a chance to develop before replacing, so they can afford to go best player available on defense here.  In this case, that’s USC D-Lineman Leonard Williams.  Williams is a force in the passing game and isn’t too shabby against the run.  He isn’t the right size to play 3-4 NT so he would be a bookend defensive end with Jurrell Casey, and honestly when you have two DEs of that talent level, a halfway decent NT is all you need to have a formidable defensive line. Williams would immediately solidify the front seven and give the Titans a much better defense.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB, Florida

The most well-rounded of the edge rushers in this draft, Fowler’s top skill is definitely rushing the passer, but he’s solid enough in the run game to add value there as well.  With DE Tyson Alualu, DT Sen’Derrick Marks, and DT Roy Miller, the Jags are a LEO (quick, pass rusher specific to Pete Carroll’s/Gus Bradley’s defenses) end away from having an insanely good and young defensive line.  Fowler can step into that role and be a force immediately, creating a defensive line that is a great foundation for the rest of the young Jags defense to build off of.

#4 Oakland Raiders: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

The Raiders have a lot of needs, but when you have a young QB like Derek Carr you need to give him more than James Jones, Andre Holmes, and a bunch of warm bodies to throw to.  White is the most talented receiver in this class that actually played football last year and could instantly become an outside threat opposite Jones and add some depth to the Raiders offense.  The Raiders have quite a few holes on defense as well and would love if Williams fell to them, but White is quite the consolation prize.

#5 Washington Redskins: Vic Beasley, OLB/DE, Clemson

The Redskins are probably in a prime place to trade down, with holes all over the roster and a draft slot in front of one of the most QB needy teams in the draft, they are a very enticing team to trade with if you’re a team targeting Marcus Mariota.  However, if they stay put, the position they are in the best position to address is pass rusher.  With Brian Orakpo set to become a free agent and Ryan Kerrigan entering the last year of his deal, Washington could use another 3-4 OLB.  Beasley fits that role, and after impressively bulking up for the combine without sacrificing speed, could fit very well opposite of Kerrigan.

#6 New York Jets: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Without trades, the Jets are the first truly QB needy team to pick after the Bucs.  Geno Smith is clearly not the answer in New York, and the other QBs on the roster are not any better.  The Jets have other needs so they could trade down in an effort to cover more needs if they don’t like Mariota.  However, in a draft where Mariota and Winston are the only very high upside QBs, I believe you have to take Mariota here and have confidence that the team you have in place is talented enough.  If their young players continue to develop, the only really big holes on the roster are at CB and OG, so taking Mariota makes sense.

#7 Chicago Bears: Jordan Phillips, NT/DT, Oklahoma

Chicago is switching to a 3-4 defense this year under Vic Fangio, so they need to pick up some 3-4 personnel.  This draft represents a good chance to pick up pass rushers, but they already have potential solutions there in Jared Allen and Shea McClellin (who finally gets to play his natural position of 3-4 OLB), and not a lot of options at NT. Top tier nose tackles are much harder to come across then pass rushers, so they also need to jump on the opportunity when they get it, so they go with Phillips here.  Phillips along with the defensive linemen (Jay Ratliff, Stephen Paea, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton, etc.) that they have picked up recently would solidify a good 3-4 line and ease the transition for what was a horrid defense last year.

#8 Atlanta Falcons: Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

Last year the Falcons attempted to address their pass blocking woes by taking Jake Matthews in the first, and now they need to give him time to develop. So instead Atlanta will try to address their pass rushing woes in the first, and they go with Missouri edge rusher Shane Ray.  Ray would fit much better as a DE than an OLB at the outset, so he fits the Falcons well, as he can play as a DE in Dan Quinn’s defense, which will likely be similar to the defense he ran in Seattle last year.

#9 New York Giants: Brandon Scherff, OT/OG, Iowa

The Giants are likely to move Weston Richburg to his natural position of center this year, which would likely leave them with a hole at guard. Alternatively they could move Justin Pugh to left guard, which would leave them with at hole at right tackle.  In either case, taking Scherff could help because he can take over for Pugh at RT or he can slide inside to guard himself, and solidify what has been an improving but still below average line lately.

#10 St. Louis Rams: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The Rams need a quarterback more than anything, due to not being able to rely on Sam Bradford being healthy, but at this point, they have to hope that Brett Hundley is available in the latter rounds when they feel comfortable taking him, because 10th is way too early to take a non-Winston/Mariota quarterback.  Instead the Rams attempt to finally get the number one receiver they’ve been desperately searching for in recent years.  They have plenty of wide receiver depth now, but Cooper can give them the true number one they’ve been missing.

#11 Minnesota Vikings: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

Peters would far and away be considered the best corner in this draft if he wasn’t dismissed from the Washington team this year.  However, based on reports from the Washington coaches, it seems like that dismissal is not a big deal, so Peters does not necessarily represent a huge risk.  The Vikings could really use a lineman who can play guard but could play tackle if Matt Kalil continues his downward slide into terribleness.  However, Scherff is already off the board and this might be a little early to take La’el Collins.  So instead they take their defense from good to elite by finding a corner to play across from Xavier Rhodes and one who pushes Captain Munnerlyn into the slot corner role he can excel in.

#12 Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

The Browns have a potential need at quarterback, a lot of draft picks, and a GM who admittedly loves Marcus Mariota, and are thus a prime candidate to trade up.  However, in the case that they don’t, they have 3 somewhat important needs they could address: wide receiver, interior defensive line, and inside linebacker.  They go wide receiver here, and continue the run on outside players by taking DeVante Parker.  Parker excelled at Louisville, and could even be snatched up by Minnesota a pick before due to his relationship with Teddy Bridgewater.  However in this case, Parker can give the Browns the receiver they were hoping Josh Gordon would be.

#13 New Orleans Saints: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

The Saints need help all over their defense as they dropped from a top tier unit to, at best, mediocre under Rob Ryan last year. Trae Waynes is the second best (healthy) corner in this draft class, and would bring some talent to a New Orleans secondary that could really use it.  They could also use a few different positions in the front seven, but with the names available here, Waynes is the best bet.

#14 Miami Dolphins: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

With the recent cut of Cortland Finnegan, the Dolphins could really use a talented corner opposite Brent Grimes to make their pass defense even better.  Collins would likely excel as a number one corner, and getting to play as a number two opposite Grimes would likely give him great room to shine.  A corner tandem like Grimes and Collins combined with the scary Cameron Wake-led pass rush the Dolphins already have would be an intimidating pass defense to face.

#15 San Francisco 49ers: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma

Green-Beckham is my top receiver prospect and one of my top 5 prospects, but off the field troubles that have led him to not playing at all for the past year have caused his stock to drop.  He’s a big, freakish receiver who has the raw talents to succeed and is probably this year’s biggest boom or bust prospect.  The Niners desperately need a number one target, and DGB could finally be that target.  Jim Tomsula seems like a coach who doesn’t take any nonsense either, so he could help make sure that DGB stays in line.

#16 Houston Texans: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (FL)

The Texans are solid at almost every position, but like a couple teams before them, need a QB and don’t pick high enough to get an elite QB prospect.  So with RT Derek Newton likely departing, the Texans go with Flowers to replace him.  Flowers can play opposite Duane Brown and allow the Texans to have a talented tackle tandem to protect whatever QB they have back there, which could help Ryan Mallett in his development greatly, and perhaps the Texans will be able to have a reliable quarterback after all.

#17 San Diego Chargers: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

D.J. Fluker has been a good lineman and an asset in the run game since the Chargers drafted him two years ago.  However, it’s time to move him inside to guard.  The Chargers have a hole there and Fluker fits better as a guard than a tackle at this point.  Peat would give them the luxury to move Fluker inside while still retaining talent at the right tackle position.  Peat also could eventually develop into a talented enough player to slide over to left tackle whenever King Dunlap’s run with the Chargers comes to an end.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs: La’el Collins, OT/OG, LSU

The Chiefs had a very solid line a few years back, but they have since let some of the key lineman from that group walk (Brandon Albert, Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz) and the play has suffered because of it.  Eric Fisher is still young and could still be a solution for the Chiefs and Rodney Hudson is a solid center, but outside of that they need some help.  Collins is versatile and can fit in at tackle or guard depending on where he’s needed and could be the next building block for bringing the Kansas City offensive line back to its former talent level.

#19 Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo): Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

The Browns already addressed their wide receiver need from earlier, which leaves them with two bigger needs: interior defensive line and inside linebacker.  This still feels too early for them to try and nab an inside linebacker, so they go with defensive line instead and grab their next nose tackle in Danny Shelton.  Shelton can come right into the middle of a 3-4 line and start plugging up holes.  Shelton, along with the talent the Browns already have at defensive end, could help solidify the front seven of an already solid defense.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State

The Eagles need defensive backs, badly.  They may address it in free agency, but it’s unlikely they sign two starting caliber cornerbacks, especially with how many needs they have and what happened the last time they splurged on corners.  So instead, they take a cornerback in the draft and go with P.J. Williams out of Florida State. Williams probably isn’t going to be an elite talent, but he looks to be a solid starter at the next level, which is a huge upgrade over Bradley Fletcher and the rest of their alleged cornerbacks from this past year.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA

The Bengals are another team that is solid everywhere and don’t have a lot of holes.  However, with Geno Atkins returning from injury, they could probably use a pass rusher just in case Atkins isn’t up to his former form.  Odighizuwa is a great fit in a 4-3 and rushers the passer extremely well.  He, combined with Atkins’ return, would vastly improve the Bengals defensive line and could help rejuvenate what used to be a top tier defense.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

The Steelers need some help defensively, especially now with Dick LeBeau gone.  Last year they attempted to find a solution at LB with Ryan Shazier, so this year they attempt to solve the hole they’ve had on their defensive line since Casey Hampton retired.  Goldman could potentially play nose tackle at the next level and fill that hole, but there is a chance he just doesn’t have the size or skillset to do it.  In that case he could still slide over to 3-4 end, and would still be a huge boost to the Steelers defense with Brett Keisel getting up there in age.

#23 Detroit Lions: Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas

If you looked at the Lions roster right now and I told you the Lions needed a defensive tackle you’d probably think I was crazy.  However, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, and Andre Fluellen are all free agents, and the likelihood that Detroit brings any more than two of those names back is very slim, and if they do bring two back, it is nearly a lock for those two not to be Suh and Fairley.  So, no matter how it shakes out, the Lions could likely use a starting caliber defensive tackle, and that’s where Brown comes in.  Brown isn’t going to start doing a Suh impression, but he can be a solid starter, which can be enough to take the pressure off of whoever the other defensive tackle is, and allow them to wreak the havoc that we’re used to.

#24 Arizona Cardinals: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska

The Cardinals had a top tier defense last year, mostly due to the star players and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.  However, Bowles had to get creative and use a lot of Cover 0 blitzes in order to get pressure, and with his creative mind off to the Jets, that likely is not a sustainable strategy anymore, so the Cardinals need pass rushers.  I’m not as high as Gregory as most, and am not sure that he’s a first round talent, but he can get after the passer and the Cardinals need someone who can do that more than just once in a while.

#25 Carolina Panthers: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

The Panthers had a choice between addressing their depleted offensive line or their abysmal receiving corps in the first round next year and chose receiving corps.  Well, their offensive line was as bad as advertised and likely would have kept them out of the playoffs if the NFC South actually played like an actual division of professional football teams last year.  So this year, Carolina has to address their offensive line in a more meaningful way than one mid-round pick (although I am personally a huge fan of Trai Turner).  Following his injury, Ogbuehi may no longer be a first round value to many teams, but to a team desperate for someone to keep people away from Cam Newton, Ogbuehi represents a heck of a solution.

#26 Baltimore Ravens: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

The Ravens have a few needs, but their biggest one (wide receiver) isn’t really a good one to target here.  Instead, with Justin Forsett a free agent, they decide to try and get a new long term solution at running back.  Gurley is the most talented runner in this draft class and is a top 5 talent, but his ACL injury has dropped his stock a bit.  Assuming he can get back to form and the Ravens are ok with him potentially missing some time rehabbing, this is a perfect fit.

#27 Dallas Cowboys: Landon Collins, S, Alabama

The Cowboys defense stepped up a bit last year, with the addition of young players in the draft, and unsung heroes like Rolando McClain (never thought that phrase would ever be written), but they still were below average.  They still need help at safety down in Dallas, and a player like Collins being available this late in the first is a surprise and a boon.  I wouldn’t be surprised if come April 30th, someone sees Collins sliding and trades up and nabs him, but with a fixed draft order, I don’t see a lot of places where he could go before Dallas, despite his talent level.

#28 Denver Broncos: Bernardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State

The Broncos are strong at a lot of positions, but the one position they have struggled with the last few years consistently has been linebacker (with the exception of Von Miller of course).  McKinney is a tackling machine and a solid all around linebacker and could post up next to Miller and really solidify the run defense in Denver.  And maybe even help them stop people on third down more often.

#29 Indianapolis Colts: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

The Colts could still use help on defense despite attempting to address it through the draft and free agency the last couple of years.  Robert Mathis and Bjeorn Werner are solid choices for the outside linebacker spots, and D’Qwell Jackson is a solid choice at one inside linebacker spot, but they could still use more front seven help.  Thompson could become that fourth linebacker to really help out their defensive front, and his versatility could even have him sub in at safety or at other positions from time to time, and could really help out the defense as a whole.  Also, when a talent like Thompson drops this far, you kind of have to take him and find a spot for him.

#30 Green Bay Packers: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA

The Packers seem to be a very good team at every facet of offense and defense except for one glaring hole: run defense.  After trotting out A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones in the middle for most of the season, Green Bay decided to cut both of them recently, and the state of their inside linebackers really can’t be called anything better than “sorry”.  Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington can be solid pieces at inside linebacker, but the Packers need someone they can rely on to be a good inside linebacker. Someone who isn’t Clay Matthews playing out of position.  That someone could be Eric Kendricks from UCLA.  The brother of Mychal Kendricks, Eric is a very good ILB prospect and is one of three linebackers (with McKinney and Denzel Perryman) who you could argue are the best inside linebackers in the draft.

#31 Seattle Seahawks: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC

The Seahawks don’t have a whole lot of holes, as evidenced by the fact that they were one play away from winning the Super Bowl.  However, despite their success, they continue to have a fairly mediocre receiving corps.  All of the top talent is off of the board, but Agholor has enough talent to be a solid starter for most teams in the league, and is definitely good enough to be Seattle’s first 1,000 yard receiver since Bobby Engram in 2007.

#32 New England Patriots: Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State

Like the Seahawks, the Patriots don’t have a lot of holes.  And like the Seahawks, wide receiver is one of them, and has always seemed to be one of them.  However, I feel that there aren’t a lot of receivers left that fit the Pats well, and while Devin Funchess is tempting, I think they stay away from him.  Instead they go for some versatile line help in Cameron Erving.  Erving can play any spot of the line and seems to do so well, and between him and former Florida State teammate Bryan Stork, the Pats can feel safe in knowing they have center locked down for sure. Stork will likely stay at center, but Erving can plug in at guard next to him, or could ever be plugged in at tackle opposite Nate Solder.  In the case of an injury, Erving could be slid around, so this pick gives the Pats something they love having: a well protected Tom Brady.

Preliminary 2015 Big Board

With the NFL Draft swiftly approaching and free agency right around the quarter, now’s as good a time as ever to get back into the draft swing.  What better way to do that then to rank the top 150 draft prospects and the top 10-15 at each position? I can’t think of one, so without further ado, here’s the very first Oval of Revolution big board for the 2015 Draft, complete with brief explanations

Top 150 Prospects

  1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
  2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
  3. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
  4. Leonard Williams, DT/DE, USC
  5. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
  6. Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
  7. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
  8. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
  9. Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson
  10. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
  11. Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
  12. Dante Fowler, OLB/DE, Florida
  13. Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (FL)
  14. Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
  15. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
  16. Brandon Scherff, OT/OG, Iowa
  17. Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
  18. Jordan Phillips, NT/DT, Oklahoma
  19. Cameron Erving, C/OT, Florida State
  20. Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
  21. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
  22. Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
  23. Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
  24. Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
  25. Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State
  26. Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas
  27. Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
  28. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
  29. Daryl Williams, OT, Oklahoma
  30. Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, Louisville
  31. Donovan Smith, OT, Penn State
  32. Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
  33. Bobby Richardson, DT, Indiana
  34. La’el Collins, OT/OG, LSU
  35. Hau’oli Kikaha, DE, Washington
  36. P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
  37. Mario Edwards Jr., DL, Florida State
  38. Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
  39. Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami (FL)
  40. Connor Mannion, QB, Oregon State
  41. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
  42. Landon Collins, S, Alabama
  43. Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
  44. Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
  45. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
  46. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
  47. Kevin White, CB, TCU
  48. Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
  49. Tyler Johnstone, OT, Oregon
  50. Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan
  51. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (FL)
  52. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
  53. Donald Celiscar, CB, Western Michigan
  54. Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
  55. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
  56. Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
  57. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke
  58. Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn
  59. Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
  60. Curtis Grant, ILB, Ohio State
  61. Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
  62. Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
  63. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
  64. Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
  65. Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
  66. Kurtis Drummond, S, Michigan State
  67. Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
  68. Zach Hodges, DE, Harvard
  69. Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville
  70. T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
  71. Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami (FL)
  72. Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama
  73. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
  74. Sean Hickey, OT, Syracuse
  75. David Andrews, C, Georgia
  76. Clayton Geathers, S, UCF
  77. Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
  78. Hayes Pullard, ILB, USC
  79. Taveze Calhoun, CB, Mississippi State
  80. Chris Harper, WR, California
  81. Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky
  82. J. Humphries, OT, Florida
  83. Doran Grant, CB, Ohio State
  84. Aundrey Walker, OG, USC
  85. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
  86. Hroniss Grassu, C, Oregon
  87. Jordan Richards, S, Stanford
  88. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas
  89. Max Garcia, C, Florida
  90. Tracy Howard, CB, Miami (FL)
  91. Derron Smith, S, Fresno State
  92. Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas
  93. Cody Riggs, CB, Florida
  94. Anthony Harris, S, Virginia
  95. Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
  96. Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma
  97. Rob Havenstein, OT, Wisconsin
  98. Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss
  99. Dres Anderson, WR, Utah
  100. Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
  101. Stephone Anthony, ILB, Clemson
  102. Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
  103. Paul Dawson, OLB, TCU
  104. Josh Shaw, CB, USC
  105. Norman Hayes, S, Harvard
  106. Eli Harold, OLB/DE, Virginia
  107. Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada
  108. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
  109. Trevon Stewart, S, Houston
  110. Blake Sims, QB, Alabama
  111. Josue Matias, OG, Florida State
  112. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
  113. John Miller, OG, Louisville
  114. Cameron Stingily, RB, Northern Illinois
  115. John Timu, ILB, Washington
  116. Karlos Williams RB (S), Florida State
  117. Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami (FL)
  118. Javorius Allen, RB, USC
  119. Arie Kouandjio, OG, Alabama
  120. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
  121. Detrick Bonner, S, Virginia Tech
  122. Adam Shead, OG, Oklahoma
  123. Dee Hart, RB, Colorado State
  124. Durell Eskridge, S, Syracuse
  125. Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State
  126. Tyrus Thompson, OT, Oklahoma
  127. Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas
  128. Bobby Hart, OG, Florida State
  129. Trey Williams, RB, Texas A&M
  130. Michael Dyer, RB, Louisville
  131. Dominique Brown, RB, Louisville
  132. Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
  133. Taiwan Jones, OLB, Michigan State
  134. A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina
  135. Xavier Cooper, DE, Washington State
  136. Terrance Magee, RB, LSU
  137. Jarvis Harrison, OG, Texas A&M
  138. Brandon Vitabile, C, Northwestern
  139. Ross Scheuerman, RB, Lafayette
  140. Chris Conley, WR, Georgia
  141. DeVante Davis, WR, UNLV
  142. Tre’ Jackson, OG, Florida State
  143. Ray Drew, DL, Georgia
  144. Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State
  145. Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State
  146. Trey DePriest, ILB, Alabama
  147. Kysheon Jarrett, S, Virginia Tech
  148. Jordan Hicks, OLB, Texas
  149. Frank Clark, OLB, Michigan
  150. Charles Gaines, CB, Louisville

The overall board is pretty straightforward. This is a reflection of how I currently feel each prospect ranks when compared to the others in the draft, up through the 150th prospect.  This is not a reflection of where in the draft I think each prospect will go, as that is reserved for a mock draft. So, for example, Taiwan Jones being 133rd overall does not mean that I predict he will go in the late 4th/early 5th rounds, but rather when his position and talent level are taken into account, that I feel he is the 133rd most talented prospect in the draft. If anyone appears on this list but not on their position list, it can be assumed that they didn’t make the top 10-15, but are still in the order they appear on the overall big board.  So the 16th cornerback listed on the top 150 would be my 16th ranked cornerback, but would not show up on the individual cornerback rankings because he is outside the top 15.

This list is based purely on talent level. Any off the field concerns or current injuries are not taken into account.  This is why players such as Green-Beckham, Gurley, and Ekpre-Olomu still rank as high as they do.

Quarterback

  1. Jameis Winston, Florida State
  2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
  3. Brett Hundley, UCLA
  4. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
  5. Bryce Petty, Baylor
  6. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
  7. Garrett Grayson, Colorado State
  8. Cody Fajardo, Nevada
  9. Blake Sims, Alabama
  10. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
  11. Anthony Boone, Duke
  12. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
  13. Shane Carden, East Carolina
  14. Jake Waters, Kansas State
  15. Devin Gardner, Michigan State

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are obviously the cream of the crop here, but after them the rest of the quarterback class is fairly mediocre this year.  You have developmental prospects like Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty, athletes like Devin Gardner and the not listed Nick Marshall, and some talented passers with question marks like Sean Mannion and Garrett Grayson.  However, everyone else really projects as a low end starter or high end backup, if that.  A very uninspiring class that is extremely top heavy.

Runningback

  1. Todd Gurley, Georgia
  2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
  3. Mike Davis, South Carolina
  4. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
  5. Duke Johnson, Miami (FL)
  6. Jay Ajayi, Boise State
  7. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
  8. Cameron Stingily, Northern Illinois
  9. Karlos Williams, Florida State
  10. Javorius Allen, USC
  11. Tevin Coleman, Indiana
  12. Dee Hart, Colorado State
  13. Josh Robinson, Mississippi State
  14. Malcolm Brown, Texas
  15. Trey Williams, Texas A&M

An extremely deep class, I wanted to put more than 15 players here, but for continuity’s sake I had to stick to 15. You really can’t go wrong with most running backs in this class but there are a couple clear lines of delineation between the skill levels at play here.  The first line is between the top 2 backs and everyone else.  Gurley and Gordon have so much talent and so much star power, that despite the current low value of running backs, they both have a chance at going in the first round.  The second line comes after Ajayi.  Davis, Abdullah, Johnson, and Ajayi are all very talented and could probably be lead backs for a team needing one.  The rest of the backs could definitely be very valuable and important parts of a backfield, but they likely wouldn’t get a heavy split of the carries.

Wide Receiver

  1. Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma
  2. Kevin White, West Virginia
  3. Amari Cooper, Alabama
  4. DeVante Parker, Louisville
  5. Sammie Coates, Auburn
  6. Devin Funchess, Michigan
  7. Nelson Agholor, USC
  8. Breshad Perriman, UCF
  9. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
  10. Jamison Crowder, Duke
  11. Devin Smith, Ohio State
  12. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
  13. Stefon Diggs, Maryland
  14. Kasen Williams, Washington
  15. Chris Harper, California

For the second year in a row, wide receiver is pretty deep.  This class does not hold a candle to last year’s, though not many wide receiver classes in history do.  At the top you have 3 potential stars if Green-Beckham can stay on the field. Behind them are two very solid top end receivers in Parker and Coates who have a very likely shot of going in the first.  Funchess acts as a dividing line of sorts as he sticks out for people not being sure if he is a wide receiver or tight end at the next level.  The receivers after Funchess from Agholor to Strong all have a chance of going in the first but I feel like their talent level is more suited for the 2nd and 3rd rounds.  In a weaker draft, they are probably first round picks.  Diggs, Williams, and Harper are solid wide outs who round out a very good position.

Tight End

  1. Maxx Williams, Minnesota
  2. Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
  3. Pharaoh Brown, Oregon
  4. Braxton Deaver, Duke
  5. Gerald Christian, Louisville
  6. Jean Sifrin, UMass
  7. Ben Koyack, Notre Dame
  8. Tyler Kroft, Rutgers
  9. Nick O’Leary, Florida State
  10. E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

Just like the quarterback class, this position is pretty weak this year, but is buoyed by a couple of players at the top of the list.  Williams has the highest potential of the group, but as of right now he’s a borderline first round talent, and Heuerman has the potential to be a solid tight end, or an incredible #2 TE for someone.  The only really notable thing about the rest of the list is Nick O’Leary due to his likelihood of being a H-Back or FB at the next level, but talent wise there isn’t much to take note of past the top 2.

Offensive Tackle

  1. Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
  2. Ereck Flowers, Miami (FL)
  3. Brandon Scherff, Iowa
  4. Andrus Peat, Stanford
  5. Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State
  6. Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
  7. Donovan Smith, Penn State
  8. La’el Collins, LSU
  9. Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
  10. Jake Fisher, Oregon
  11. T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
  12. Austin Shepherd, Alabama
  13. Sean Hickey, Syracuse
  14. J. Humphries, Florida
  15. Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin

And here we have the anti-QB/TE position of this year.  The tackles in the 2015 draft are incredibly deep, but there’s not a lot of top end talent.  Ogbuehi is hurt and saw his stock drop throughout the year, Flowers and Peat come with question marks, Scherff and Collins might be moved to guard, and the rest are definitely starter level talent, but not star level talent.  Just a lot of solid, long-term starter material, but not a lot of elite talent in this class.  Good for teams picking late/in the middle rounds who need tackles, but teams with early picks will likely be looking at other needs first.

Offensive Guard

  1. Aundrey Walker, USC
  2. Josue Matias, Florida State
  3. John Miller, Louisville
  4. Arie Kouandjio, Alabama
  5. Adam Shead, Oklahoma
  6. Bobby Hart, Florida State
  7. A.J. Cann, South Carolina
  8. Jarvis Harrison, Texas A&M
  9. Tre’ Jackson, Florida State
  10. Laken Tomlinson, Duke

Guards are usually a pretty weak crop to choose from in the draft, as many top guards in the NFL played tackle or center in college and were converted when they were drafted.  This year fits this trend, as there are a couple centers who could be moved to guard, along with the aforementioned Scherff and Collins, but not a whole lot of good guard prospects. There are some names to watch like Kouandjio, Hart, Cann, and Jackson, but no one really jumps out as a top tier guard.

Center

  1. Cameron Erving, Florida State
  2. Reese Dismukes, Auburn
  3. David Andrews, Georgia
  4. Hroniss Grassu, Oregon
  5. Max Garcia, Florida
  6. Brandon Vitabile, Northwestern
  7. B.J. Finney, Kansas State
  8. Mike Criste, Washington
  9. Jake Smith, Louisville
  10. Betim Bujari, Rutgers

Like guard, this position is pretty weak overall, as this is not a good draft for interior offensive linemen.  However, there is some talent at the top that helps the class a bit.  For me, this position is split into two categories: the top 5, and the bottom 5.  The top 5 include former tackle Erving, and well renowned prospects Dismukes and Grassu and will likely be good centers or guards in the league.  The bottom 5 come after a sizable drop off, and while they are still draftable, they don’t really inspire a lot of confidence.

Defensive Line

  1. Leonard Williams, USC
  2. Shane Ray, Missouri
  3. Vic Beasley, Clemson
  4. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA
  5. Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma
  6. Danny Shelton, Washington
  7. Eddie Goldman, Florida State
  8. Malcolm Brown, Texas
  9. Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville
  10. Bobby Richardson, Indiana
  11. Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
  12. Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State
  13. Randy Gregory, Nebraska
  14. Michael Bennett, Ohio State
  15. Carl Davis, Iowa

The first of two positions that benefits from the glut of pass rushers this year, defensive line was a lot line running back in which I wanted to include more than 15 (Arik Amstead didn’t even make the cut, and he makes it in probably any other year).  Whether it be 4-3 DT (Williams), 4-3 DE (Ray, Beasley), 3-4 NT (Shelton), 3-4 DT/DE (Phillips, Goldman) or any combination of those positions that you need, you can find a top tier player there.  If you pick too late for a top tier talent, you can still settle for underrated solid prospects like Richardson, Kikaha, Edwards, or Bennett.  Very deep position, and if you need some defensive line help, you are in a good spot this year.

Linebacker

  1. Dante Fowler, Florida
  2. Shaq Thompson, Washington
  3. Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
  4. Denzel Perryman, Miami (FL)
  5. Eric Kendricks, UCLA
  6. Curtis Grant, Ohio State
  7. Hayes Pullard, USC
  8. Stephone Anthony, Clemson
  9. Paul Dawson, TCU
  10. Eli Harold, Virginia
  11. John Timu, Washington
  12. Taiwan Jones, Michigan State
  13. Trey DePriest, Alabama
  14. Jordan Hicks, Texas
  15. Frank Clark, Michigan

Just like defensive end, the linebacker position benefits from the crazy depth of pass rushers this year (as you can see with Dante Fowler at the top). However, it doesn’t benefit to the degree that defensive end does, as there is a bit of a trickle off in talent past the top 10.  Fowler, Thompson, McKinney, Perryman, and Kendricks all exhibit first round or borderline first round talent, with Fowler’s name being in top 5 overall discussion.  There are some solid 2nd-3rd round type of players too in Anthony, Harold, Pullard, etc. and the bottom few are definitely solid picks in the later rounds.  In a normal year, Taiwan Jones is probably top 8, but a solid OLB is not a high ranking prospect this year due to the front seven depth in the draft.

Cornerback

  1. Marcus Peters, Washington
  2. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
  3. Trae Waynes, Michigan State
  4. Jalen Collins, LSU
  5. P.J. Williams, Florida State
  6. Kevin White, TCU
  7. Donald Celiscar, Western Michigan
  8. Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
  9. Ladarius Gunter, Miami (FL)
  10. Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State
  11. Doran Grant, Ohio State
  12. Quandre Diggs, Texas
  13. Tracy Howard, Miami (FL)
  14. Cody Riggs, Florida
  15. Josh Shaw, USC

Cornerback is an interesting position this year because you have an extremely talented top 5, and then some name recognition towards the bottom of the list.  Riggs and Shaw were expected to step up their games this year, but I didn’t see it, so they look like they could be this year’s late round “shockers” with people expecting them to go earlier. Look for this year’s corners to look like a repeat of last year’s where four went in the first round, as the top 5 here are all extremely talented, and White and Celiscar are no slouches themselves.

Safety

  1. Landon Collins, Alabama
  2. Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
  3. Gerod Holliman, Louisville
  4. Clayton Geathers, UCF
  5. Jordan Richards, Stanford
  6. Derron Smith, Fresno State
  7. Anthony Harris, Virginia
  8. Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
  9. Norman Hayes, Harvard
  10. Trevon Stewart, Houston
  11. Detrick Bonner, Virginia Tech
  12. Durell Eskridge, Syracuse
  13. Kysheon Jarrett, Virginia Tech
  14. Tevin McDonald, Eastern Washington
  15. Jacob Hagen, Liberty

To me, this position is like tight end, but worse.  You have Collins at the top, who is a mid-first round talent, and then Drummond and Holliman who are probably second round talents, and then it drops off from there.  There are some interesting names on the list like Derron Smith, Cody Prewitt, and Tevin McDonald, but I would not be shocked if the top 3 go off of the board, and then it’s a while before more safeties are taken.  If that is the case, I would also not be surprised if Collins, Drummond, and Holliman were the only impact players of the group in a few years time.

2014 Season Preview: A Look at What’s to Come

With the start of the NFL Season just two days away, it’s time to start gearing up and getting ready for the NFL season.  In order to help prepare for the upcoming season, here are a few things to look out for in 2014.

Breakout Players

Every year there are a few players who, after a decent season the previous season, are poised to have a big year.  Some players don’t quite make a large impact in the following year, but many do.  So here’s a list of players that are set up to have big years following a good performance in 2013.

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

Last year, Ertz put up respectable numbers (36 rec, 469 yds, 4 tds) as Philadelphia’s number 2 TE behind Brent Celek.  That was only Ertz’s rookie season, and he definitely has the skillset to improve on those numbers.  This year he’s poised to overtake Celek as the number one tight end, and even if he doesn’t, he stands to get an increase in targets from last year with the departure of DeSean Jackson.  Look for Ertz to become one of the better young tight ends in the league this year.

Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys

After a slow start to last season, Williams really came on late in the year and put up some good numbers (44 rec, 736 yds, 5 tds) opposite Dez Bryant.  Another year under his belt, and working with Tony Romo should do wonders for Williams, and he should be able to play a whole season like he played the second half of last year.  As long as Dez is in Dallas, Williams will never be a top tier receiver, but he has the ability to be an incredibly good number 2.

Khiry Robinson/Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

Ok, I’m kind of cheating here by putting two names, but I doubt anyone knows who the lead dog in New Orleans’ backfield is, even Sean Payton.  That being said, both Robinson and Ingram have the talent to really take over if given the opportunity, so whichever one of these two gets the better shot should be in for a big year.  Who knows, maybe both of them will end up having a big year, stranger things have happened, especially in the NFL.

Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints

Doubling down on Saints players here as Stills looks poised to take over the number 2 receiver and number 3 passing targets gigs. While Brandin Cooks and Joseph Morgan bring a lot to the table, they are a rookie and streaky respectively.  They gives Stills plenty of opportunity, and with a QB who both loves the deep ball and loves spreading it around, Stills’ deep skills make him a clear target to have a big year this year.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Yep, another offensive player.  I promise there will be some defenders on this list, but Ellington has to make this list.  After an impressive rookie season, in which he didn’t get the starting gig until late in the year, and his coach still limited his touches anyway, Ellington should be the lead back who gets the lions share of the carries in 2014.  Coach Bruce Arians has made it clear that Ellington is the main back in Arizona, and he definitely has the talent to make a big impact.

Ian Williams, DT, San Francisco 49ers

Last year, Williams was poised to be the starting NT, but an injury sidelined him and allowed for Glenn Dorsey to resurrect his career as a NT instead of a DT.  This year, Dorsey is the one that’s hurt, and that should open the way for Williams to regain the starting NT gig.  He has the talent to run with this opportunity, and as long as he stays healthy, I don’t see why he won’t.

Corey Lemonier, LB, San Francisco 49ers

With the suspension to Aldon Smith, the Niners will be without their star linebacker for a majority of the season and need a replacement.  Enter Lemonier, who played well last year in limited opportunities, and could very well play as just as high a level this year while Smith is out.  He’s had the talent, now he finally has the opportunity.

Mike Daniels, DL, Green Bay Packers

After not doing much his rookie year, Daniels got an opportunity for playing time in 2013 and did the best he could with it, becoming one of the lone bright spots on the otherwise weak Packers defensive line.  This year, he has a full season of production under his belt, is poised to get a lot of snaps at DL and has some more help around him.  All a recipe for a breakout year from the big man.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

After a rookie season where his coach needlessly buried him on the depth chart until late in the season, Patterson’s second season should be a lot better.  Coming out of college, it was known he had the physical tools to succeed, but was incredibly raw.  When he finally got a good opportunity late in last season, he showed that he’s not as raw as he once was, and another offseason could have only helped that.  This year he should be the number 2 across from Greg Jennings, and could possibly make himself Minnesota’s number one receiver.  If there was a player to be called “this year’s Josh Gordon”, it would be Patterson hands down.

Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills

This is the only prediction here that is also dependent on another player’s success (or lack thereof).  If E.J. Manuel shows he can be an NFL quarterback, Woods stands to reap the benefits.  Right now, Woods is the number 3 receiver in Buffalo, but only has Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams ahead of him, so upward mobility is definitely there.  Last year he showed that he and Manuel had chemistry as his biggest games came when E.J. was healthy.  A healthy, talented Manuel would make for a great year for Woods, but if Manuel doesn’t pan out, Woods may find himself on a list like this again next year.

Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Indianapolis Colts

After character concerns led to Rogers going undrafted, and then later being cut from the Bills, Rogers had the cards stacked against him last year.  He however ended up landing on the Colts and having something of an impact last year.  This year will be an uphill climb with Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Hakeem Nicks in front of him, but Rogers did it once and he can do it again, and he has the talent to be a top target of Andrew Luck’s for quite a while.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

After a year in which he pretty much did not see the field, Kelce could be a top target in Kansas City.  He doesn’t have much else to compete with in the passing game, with Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, and Jamaal Charles the only other names of note, and he definitely has the ability to leapfrog Anthony Fasano for the starting tight end job.  Once Kelce has the starting job locked down, or forces the Chiefs to use two tight-end sets, he should be set up for a big year.

Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers

Late last year, Green put up a few games where he showed that his athletic talent can make the jump over to the NFL level.  That talent might just force San Diego to start using more 2 tight end sets in order to get him on the field more.  Even if that doesn’t happen, Antonio Gates is on the downswing of his great career and Green is in the perfect position to take advantage of that and become a very, very good tight end.

Rookies to Watch

Every year there are rookies that produce, whether you see it coming a mile away, or whether they surprise as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.  Here’s a list of rookies that could have good years based on their talent and where they landed.  This list is separate from the breakout players list because some of these guys may not have huge years, or they may have their big year in the second or third year, so these are more long-term suggestions for who to keep an eye on.

Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, Houston Texans

No surprises here, as the number one overall pick this year is of course someone to follow.  Clowney will likely have to transition to playing some OLB this year, but with players like J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing around him, and in a scheme created by Romeo Crennel, there is not a lot of pressure for Clowney to produce, and the lack of ridiculously high expectations could make the transition from 4-3 to 3-4 easier on him.  If the preseason is any indication, the transition shouldn’t be a bother and he should be terrifying QBs opposite J.J. Watt all year.

Jake Matthews, OT, Atlanta Falcons

Offensive line may not be a sexy position, but it is definitely necessary.  The Falcons had a real deficit in it last year and it showed.  Matthews has the talent to help them shore up their offensive tackle situation, and the Falcons are more than going to give him an opportunity to do so.  Look for him to be shutting down edge rushers pretty often, with the occasional rookie mistake once in a while of course.

Calvin Pryor, S, New York Jets

Despite Rex Ryan’s love for defense, the Jets secondary has been lacking a bit in recent years.  Pryor was the first safety taken in the draft this year, and all preseason has shown why the Jets picked him and are going into the season with him as one of their starting safeties.  The Louisville Slugger should be a big part of the Jets defense this year.

Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Green Bay Packers

See: Pryor, Calvin.  Clinton-Dix was the second safety off the board, and like Pryor, went to a DB needy team and had a good preseason.  He’s in position to get lots of playing time and is talented enough to make some impact with that playing time.

Darqueze Dennard, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

Dennard is an extremely talented, young corner who ended up on a team with a few good, but older corners.  He may not get a lot of reps this year if those in front of him don’t get hurt, but he is the heir apparent to the CB job in Cincinnati, and should do a great job with it once he has it.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers

Despite how raw Benjamin looked coming out of college and the knocks against him, Kelvin has looked very good in preseason and it appears that receivers coach Ricky Proehl has worked his magic on Kelvin, helping him come along much faster than many thought he would.  The state of the Panthers receiving corps pretty much guarantees that Benjamin will be their number one receiver as well.

Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

Carr will be the first quarterback drafted this year to start, and this year’s class was a pretty good quarterback class.  While winning the job from Matt Schaub didn’t seem like a challenging task, he still did quite well for himself so far, and looks even better than he did at Fresno State.

Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Atlanta Falcons

To win you need to be strong in the trenches, and Atlanta didn’t seem to get that memo last year.  This year however, they seemed to listen as they added both Matthews and Hageman.  Hageman should be able to play DT for them from the get-go if need be, and should be able to contribute both against the run and the pass, giving Atlanta the defensive line talent they sorely need.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Matthews continued his string of impressive play from his time at Vanderbilt to Eagles camp and preseason.  He should start the season as the number three receiver behind Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, but in Chip Kelly’s offense he should still see a lot of targets, and will probably shine.

Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers

Hyde was drafted to be the heir apparent to Frank Gore, and after some injuries and loss of what was considered incredible RB depth for the Niners, that position looks to be more secure than ever for Hyde.  He’ll likely be the number 2 back this year, but will probably get most of the carries that spell Gore and will likely eventually take over as the starting back in San Francisco.

C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Houston Texans

I don’t know if a Fiedorowicz hype train exists, but if it does, I’m driving it.  With Owen Daniels out in Houston, only Garrett Graham stands in C.J.’s way of becoming the top tight end there.  With the currently murky quarterback situation, Fiedorowicz’s production could be a bit limited this year, but after what he showed at Iowa, I feel he can produce whether it be Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Tom Savage throwing him the ball.

Trai Turner, OG, Carolina Panthers

Heading into the offseason, two huge, and I mean huge, holes loomed for the Panthers, wide receiver and offensive line.  They addressed wide receiver early in the draft by taking Benjamin, and then took Turner later to help with the offensive line.  Turner may not be asked to start right away, but along with Byron Bell and Ryan Kalil, he can help from the beginning of a semblance of an offensive line in Carolina.

Cyril Richardson, OG, Buffalo Bills

Richardson was seemingly a high quality prospect out of Baylor, but he slipped into the late rounds.  The Bills are working on overhauling their offensive line the last couple years after losing key lineman to FA and getting poor production out of others.  Richardson was one of three picks used on lineman this year by the Bills, and he should help fix one of their offensive guard spots.

Silas Redd, RB, Washington Redskins

After going undrafted, Redd managed to beat out 6th round pick Lache Seastrunk, Evan Royster, and Chris Thompson to land the number 3 running back gig in Washington.  While it should be tough for him to usurp either Roy Helu or Alfred Morris, the fact that he made the roster means he should be worth keeping an eye on.

Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Hurting at the wide receiver position after suspensions to Ace Sanders and Justin Blackmon, the Jags attacked the position in the draft by adding Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee.  Their biggest find, however, may have come in UDFA as Hurns had a huge preseason and could open the season as the number 3 or number 4 receiver in Jacksonville.  With the addition of Hurns, Robinson, and Lee, WR has suddenly become a position of strength for the Jaguars.

Jayrone Elliott, LB, Green Bay Packers

After a relatively productive career at small-school Toledo went relatively unnoticed, Elliott landed with Green Bay as an UDFA.  He then proceeded to have a great preseason, and should be a rotational pass rusher, at the least, for the Packers this year.

Season Predictions

It’s that time of year where everyone’s doing it, so why not?  Here’s my predictions for each division (wild card predictions with an asterisk), conference and Super Bowl winners, and award winnners.

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Miami Dolphins
  3. New York Jets
  4. Buffalo Bills

AFC South

  1. Indianapolis Colts
  2. Tennessee Titans
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Houston Texans

AFC West

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. San Diego Chargers*
  3. Kansas City Chiefs*
  4. Oakland Raiders

AFC North

  1. Cincinnati Bengals
  2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Cleveland Browns

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Dallas Cowboys
  3. Washington Redskins
  4. New York Giants

NFC South

  1. Carolina Panthers
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. Atlanta Falcons

NFC West

  1. San Francisco 49ers
  2. Seattle Seahawks*
  3. Arizona Cardinals*
  4. St. Louis Rams

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Minnesota Vikings

AFC Conference Champions: Cincinnati Bengals

NFC Conference Champions: San Francisco 49ers

Super Bowl Champions: San Francisco 49ers

Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans

Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

Official 2014 Mock Draft

With the draft swiftly approaching on Thursday, what better time than now to put out a mock draft?  This mock draft will only be one round deep, and will not account for any trades, so accuracy isn’t really the goal here.  The purpose of this mock draft is to show what each team should do instead.  Each pick will be provided with analysis about the player, how he fits the prospective team, and reasons why that player was selected over certain other ones.  This is not a simple run down the big board of prospects with disregard for positional need, but there will not be an egregious amount of attention paid to positional need.  Hopefully this mock draft can give some context to what some teams need and where certain prospects fit well.

#1 Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

While QB may be a much more pressing need than edge rusher for Houston, they just can’t pass up this much talent at the top of the draft.  While I personally think Teddy Bridgewater will be an excellent QB, I don’t think the Texans can really pass up the opportunity to pair up Clowney and Watt in their front seven.  Clowney doesn’t seem to have a clear spot to fit in the Texans defense with them running a 3-4, but Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel has said he plans on running a lot of nickel packages, which would allow for Clowney and Watt to both play on the line often.  The fact that Bill O’Brien is Houston’s new coach makes this pick a bit easier, as he is known for coaching up QBs, so Houston can take a risk on a mid-round QB, especially if a specific one strikes O’Brien’s fancy.

#2 St. Louis Rams: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

I think ultimately that St. Louis trades down from this spot in order to accrue even more picks, but I’m not accounting for trades in this mock, as they are very unpredictable.  With that in mind, Watkins is the best player the Rams could really pick without reaching at this spot.  He gives them a true #1 WR who really helps solve some offensive problems.  Watkins on the outside with Tavon Austin in the slot, and some combination of Austin Pettis and Chris Givens on the other side can be a very, very good set of weapons for Sam Bradford.  I was slightly tempted to have a tackle go here, but even if Jake Long misses a few games, the Rams still have Joe Barksdale and Roger Saffold to hold down the tackle positions just fine.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

For the past couple of drafts, the Jaguars have stayed away from taking a QB.  Now, the reasons for that seemed to have changed depending on the GM in charge.  Gene Smith was likely giving Blaine Gabbert time to turn into something, and David Caldwell seems like he wants to build a team up and have the QB be the last piece, which is a very smart way to build a team.  While the Jags roster is much improved now as compared to the end of 2011, it still isn’t a QB away.  They made some nice FA additions in the offseason, and adding someone like Mack can add even more to that offseason.  The Jags front seven looks decent this year, but nothing special, and Mack can immediately help out the linebacking corps.  Add a wide receiver or two in the middle rounds, and suddenly you have a good defense and some nice weapons for a QB from the seemingly loaded 2015 class.

#4 Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

The Jaguars taking Mack has to be an absolute dream for Cleveland.  Even with the promising play of Brian Hoyer in his short audition last year, the Browns desperately need a QB.  They also could use another weapon opposite Josh Gordon.  If two of the top three picks are Clowney and Mack, then Cleveland is locked in for either Sammy Watkins or Teddy Bridgewater, which is a huge boon for them.  In this case, they end up with Bridgewater and may just have found their franchise QB for the first time in a loooooong time.  The Browns already have a solid defense and a good line, and with another pick in the first round, they can really build a good team round Bridgewater (or Hoyer) very quickly.

#5 Oakland Raiders: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

The Raiders could go a lot of ways with this pick as GM Reggie McKenzie chose to gut the roster and start over when he took over.  They could go QB here, but I feel that if it isn’t Bridgewater, they might be reaching a little.  Instead they solidify their offensive line to give Matt McGloin (or a mid-late round choice) something less sieve-like to stand behind.  Menelik Watson looks like he can be a good tackle, but he doesn’t seem like a long-term choice at left tackle.  Jake Matthews can either immediately take over on the blind side, or start on the right and then switch to the left when the decision is warranted, having experience with both in college.  Greg Robinson is seen by some as the best lineman in the draft due to his ceiling, but Matthews is much more polished and can have an impact right away.

#6 Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

With back to back teams with offensive line needs, the top two tackles go off the board very quickly.  The Falcons, like a few other teams, were absolutely ravaged by injury last year, and it really showed on their offensive and defensive lines.  The Falcons might try to swing a trade up for Clowney, but failing that, they should address the other side of the trenches.  Robinson gives them someone who can start at right tackle right now, and can possibly move to left tackle and take over for Sam Baker down the line.  While Robinson doesn’t solve all of the Falcons O-Line woes, he helps as much as one pick can at this point.  If Matthews doesn’t go in the top 5, I don’t see how Atlanta can pass him up instead, but either way, I see them going tackle.

#7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

There is no team that I am less confident is going to pick in their assigned slot than the Bucs.  I feel like they could move up or down and fill their needs better than they could at number 7.  I really think they could move down and get Evans later, or get one of the top corners, or trade up for Clowney or Mack.  However, since I’m forcing everyone to stay put, I’m going with Evans with this pick.  Some might say that Evans is redundant since they already have a big physical receiver in Vincent Jackson, but the Bears have two big physical receivers and have one of the top receiving corps in the league.  Evans can be a big target who can fight for the ball, and the Bucs don’t have a whole lot of receiving threats outside of V-Jax right now.

#8 Minnesota Vikings: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Minnesota is another QB needy team in the top picks, but I feel like Derek Carr really fits them well, and 8 is too early for them to pick him, so instead they shore up their defense by adding to a dismal linebacking corps form last year with one of the top inside linebackers in the draft.  Putting a good interior linebacker like Mosley in the middle can take pressure off of Chad Greenway, and with the addition of Captain Munnerlyn at CB, the Vikings would be in great position to run the nickle with Mosley and Greenway being the linebackers.  Adding Mosley would put the Vikings a safety and a corner away from having a very good and very underrated defense.

#9 Buffalo Bills: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

I’m not actually a huge fan of Dennard going in the top 10, but with the Bills needs, this is really the best pick I could see them making without trading up or down.  The Bills have a very good front seven with Kiko Alonso, Brandon Spikes, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcell Dareus headlining, but their defensive backfield could use some help.  Taking one of the top CBs in the draft class to play opposite Stephon Gilmore helps shore up that backfield, and takes pressure off of the safeties to try and cover for the loss of Jairus Byrd.  With the defense they’d have, and the offensive line and weapons they do have, E.J. Manuel would have no excuses to not produce something with the Bills next year.

#10 Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Just like the Bills, the Lions have a very good front seven and a questionable defensive backfield, and just like the Bills, going CB here is probably their best option.  They could go safety here, but I feel that they wouldn’t get good value with a pick like that, so they would be better off trading down if they are going to go safety.  As of right now, the Lions have a bunch of young promising CBs, but none of them really seem like a true number 1.  Gilbert would give them a potential #1 corner and allow them to rotate the rest of their young corners through the second spot and give a few different looks in nickle and dime packagaes.  Really, what this pick does is take a good defense and make it better.

#11 Tennessee Titans: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

I was very tempted to go wide receiver here, but with the depth of this year’s class and the fact that the Titans already have Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, who could both keep improving, I couldn’t really justify it. So instead, the run on corners continues.  The Titans could go safety here, but, like the Lions, I think it’s a bit too early for safeties.  Also, Jason McCourty is an excellent number 2 corner, but he’s not a real number one, and Coty Sensabaugh isn’t really an answer on the outside.  Roby would come in and be able to play opposite McCourty and really solidify this defense.

#12 New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC

The Giants seem to have two pressing needs right now: (especially after their free-agency splurge), offensive line and tight end.  With Matthews and Robinson off the board, there are no O-Lineman I like that would be available here that wouldn’t be considered a reach.  So instead, they go the tight end route and nab the top tight end in the draft.  Eric Ebron is more a receiving tight end than a balanced one, but he is very athletic and can be yet another weapon for Eli Manning to throw to.  The Giants haven’t had a really reliable tight end since Kevin Boss left, and taking Ebron would allow them to return to that type of threat.

#13 St. Louis Rams: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Outside of safety, I don’t see a pressing need for the Rams at this pick, so they can afford to take a risk a bit here.  If trades were a thing, I would expect a team to trade up to snag Barr by now, as he’s very talented but not polished enough for any of the top teams to risk a pick on him.  The Rams, however, can afford to take the risk because, if Barr struggles early, they can run the nickle often (like they already do) and keep James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree on the field instead while he develops.  Then, assuming he improves as he should, they can get more creative with their front-seven looks through moving around Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Barr.  This is a sort of a luxury pick, but the value is too high to pass up.

#14 Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

The Bears have to be very happy that Donald falls to them here.  He’s a very good 3-technique tackle for 4-3 fronts, and is a borderline top 10 talent. However, barring a trade up by a team like the Cowboys, no one is really in position to take him and use him.  Donald can come in and help lessen the pain from losing Henry Melton, and might help bring the Bears defense back to something at least looking somewhat like the Bears defenses of old.  They could also go safety here, but getting a value who also fills a need like Donald is better than just filling a need in the end.

#15 Pittsburgh Steelers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

The Steelers unfortunately miss out on the run on corners, but they have such a need there with the aging Ike Taylor, that they should go with the best available one anyway.  Fuller is not as talented as the trio who went before him, but the Steelers can have him back up Taylor for the time being, and then let him take over when it’s time for Taylor to hang it up.  It’s also very hard to not pick defense for the Steelers, as it feels as if they pick a defensive player in the first round of every draft, and usually to good effect.  Fuller isn’t a reach, so the Steelers can justify going need over best available here more than the average team can.

#16 Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

With Aaron Donald off the board, the Cowboys go with someone who fills a huge hole at a proper value with Pryor.  I do like Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix more than Pryor as an overall prospect, but the Cowboys had an issue with tackling last year, and Pryor is more of an in-the-box, hard hitting safety, where Clinton-Dix’s strength is coverage.  Pryor helps fill the hole at safety well enough that he could potentially make this defense a lot better.  With how bad they were last year, I doubt he’ll be a savior, but I think Pryor can have quite the noticeable impact on the Cowboys’ defense.

#17 Baltimore Ravens: Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

With the addition of Matt Elam last year, the Ravens got a new hard-hitting strong safety to replace the departed Bernard Pollard, but they didn’t really have a replacement at free safety for Ed Reed.  Clinton-Dix is one of, if not the, best free safeties in the draft, and pairing him with Elam would give the Ravens a very good safety combo for at least a few years, if not longer.  Finally getting a cover safety who can at least passably take over where Reed left off would help bring the Ravens defense back to the strength it was for a long time.

#18 New York Jets: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU

The Jets benefit from the depth of this class, as a lot of teams with somewhat of a need at wide receiver can afford to pass up on the top wide-outs with an eye on taking a mid-round receiver or two.  This allows Beckham to be available when the Jets pick at 18.  With no receivers really worth mentioning outside of Jeremy Kerley and the newly added Eric Decker, the Jets probably have the biggest need for a receiver out of anyone in the league.  Adding Beckham would give them a number one option, allowing Kerley to operate in the slot, and take pressure off Decker to be the number two. (Though Decker would likely start as the number one)  If the Jets could do as well as they did last year with no real weapons, they can go far with Beckham and Decker being brought in.

#19 Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

Even if the Richie Incognito-Johnathan Martin scandal didn’t happen last year, there still would have been huge holes on the line for the Dolphins and they really need to address them.  As of right now, LT and C are locked down with Brandon Albert and Mike Pouncey respectively.  Since they have such a need at the three other spots, a versatile lineman like Martin would do them well.  Martin played tackle at Notre Dame, so he could play RT for the Dolphins and give them bookend tackles, or he could be moved inside to play guard, where he could help give the Dolphins a very good left side of the line, and prevent Tannehill from being blindsided too often.  Either way, Martin makes a vast improvement to Miami’s O-Line, and I feel that this is the easiest pick of prospect to team in the first round since Clowney.

#20 Arizona Cardinals: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

The Cardinals only really have two pressing needs, safety and guard.  With Clinton-Dix and Pryor off the board, all of the remaining safeties would be a reach this early, and the same is true for guards.  So the Cardinals can nab Bortles to have him sit and develop behind Carson Palmer for a couple years with the idea that he can fix his flaws and take over when Palmer’s contract is up or he retires.  If Bortles is forced to start right away, he could flame out, so going to a team like the Cards where he can sit and learn for a little while is really beneficial for both parties.

#21 Green Bay Packers, Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

The Packers have two large needs this year, and, in typical Packer fashion lately, they’re both on the defensive side of the ball.  Those positions being safety and linebacker.  With trades, I actually think the Packers are in a good position to trade down and snag Jimmie Ward, but staying put they can address the linebacker spot instead.  A.J. Hawk is solid, but outside of Clay Matthews, there aren’t really any linebackers the Packers can count on to perform week in and week out, whether due to injury (Nick Perry) or talent level (Brad Jones).  Shazier would be able to come in and complement Hawk in the run-stopping department and help the Packers front seven get a lot better than it has been.

#22 Philadelphia Eagles, Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Another team that needs safety help that picks too late to nab one of Clinton-Dix or Pryor, the Eagles are in a prime spot to trade up, but barring that, they can pick up the last of the top 5 CBs in Jason Verrett and still add to the quality of their defensive backfield.  Having better pass defenders coupled with their pass rush, the Eagles defense should improve with the upgrade at CB that Verrett represents.

#23 Kansas City Chiefs, Bradin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Behind the Jets, the Chiefs may be the next most wide receiver needy team in the draft.  Outside of Dwayne Bowe, their receiving threats leave more than a bit to be desired.  Cooks can come in and give them a threat in the slot immediately.  With a QB like Alex Smith who is excellent at making smart, safe throws, Cooks’ underneath game should thrive in Kansas City, and really help the offense take off.  A legitimate QB like Smith throwing to Bowe, Jamaal Charles, and Cooks is a recipe for a good offense.

#24 Cincinnati Bengals: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

The Bengals biggest needs are in the secondary, but there aren’t really any safeties or cornerbacks left that I can really justify spending a first on, so instead the Bengals get their replacement for the departed Michael Johnson.  Tuitt can play DE in a 4-3, and if he can adequately fill Johnsin’s shoes, he can help keep the Bengals already formidable front seven as good as it was last year. A line with Tuitt, Domata Peko, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins on it is not one to be taken lightly.

#25 San Diego Chargers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

I am not a fan of Lewan as a first round pick because of some mechanics issues and his off the field incidents, but a left tackle is pretty much the missing piece to the Chargers’ line and possibly offense in general.  Lewan can start at LT right away, and if he can iron out the mechanical issues he can be dominant.  With this pick, the Chargers could either solidify their line and give Philip Rivers plenty of time to throw, or they could just be drafting King Dunlap’s backup.  This is the most high risk high reward pick I’ve put in this mock so far.

#26 Cleveland Browns: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Since they snagged Teddy with their first pick, the Browns can grab a weapon for Bridgewater to play with here.  Lee is one of the more raw receivers in this draft, but he has incredible potential and could develop into a great threat opposite Josh Gordon.  Adding Lee to Gordon, Jordan Cameron, and Ben Tate would give the Browns’ QB (in this case, Bridgewater) a ton to work with, and pair that with their very good defense, and the Browns might finally be turning the ship around.  Of course Lee is a risky pick due to how raw he is, but since the Browns have two first rounders and a bunch of second, third, and fourth rounders, they can afford to take a risk here.

#27 New Orleans Saints: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

None of the Saints’ needs (ILB, CB, S) are really good picks at this point, so if this is the position they are in in the real draft, I fully expect them to try to trade down.  However, standing pat they can try to lessen the loss of Lance Moore by getting Drew Brees a new toy to play with.  Matthews is a perfect outside receiver to play second fiddle to Marques Colston, and in the likely event that Colston misses a few games, Matthews can likely carry the load as the number one for a little while.  Like the Rams with Barr, this is a bit of a luxury pick, but you don’t get to be pick number 27 without being good enough to make luxury picks.  There are enough defensive backs in the mid-rounds for the Saints to take a chance on for them to get hurt by this pick too much.

#28 Carolina Panthers: Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada

With the retirement of Jordan Gross, offensive line has leap-frogged wide receiver as the biggest need for the Panthers (especially after the additions of Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, and Tiquan Underwood).  Also, with how deep this draft is at WR, they can afford to wait on WR for a little while.  The Panthers have a need both at tackle and at guard, but I feel that this draft is a little bit deeper at guard then at tackle.  Bitonio can help fill the hole left by Jordan Gross and lessen the pressure put on Byron Bell to play better than he is.  I was thinking of having them take Xavier Su’a-Filo here, but taking Bitonio means they could take David Yankey or Cyril Richardson later, and I’m not sure there’s a tackle of equal quality who would be around when those two would be, so Bitonio won out.

#29 New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

The Patriots love to run a lot of two TE sets, and with Aaron Hernandez no longer around, they need a new H-back/move-TE.  Jace Amaro can fill exactly that role, as he was more of a H-back at Tech than a traditional TE.  Also, if and when Rob Gronkowski goes down with an injury, Michael Hoomanawanui is not exactly the best answer to fill in, so Amaro would be valuable in that way.  Last year was considered a bad year for the Pats offense with all of the injuries and lack of weapons, so one can only imagine what adding someone else for Brady to throw to can do for this offense.

#30 San Francisco 49ers: Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame

Nix is one of the few true nose tackles in the draft, and for the past couple seasons the Niners seem to have kept trying and trying to find a permanent solution there.  While Glenn Dorsey seemed to work last year, I’m not confident he can do that long term, so Nix can take over the spot.  And if Dorsey can hold down the NT spot?  Then Nix could probably slide to 3-4 DE and be a rotational player until he takes over for Justin Smith.  Either way Nix provides a boost to the Niners’ already strong D-Line.

#31 Denver Broncos: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA

With the departure of Zane Beadles to the Jags, the Broncos are left with a hole at guard, and their biggest objective on offense should be protecting Peyton Manning.  With that in mind, taking Su’a-Filo here is a no brainer.  If he can be the answer at guard, the Broncos will once again have a very strong line, and a strong line brought together with Peyton, multiple receiving threats, and good running backs equals lots of points.  The Broncos don’t have many positions where they are truly hurting so taking Su’a-Filo here just makes a lot of sense.

#32 Seattle Seahawks: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

The rich get richer here, as the Seahawks add to their impressive line with Hageman.  Hageman can play pretty much every spot on the Seahawks defensive line besides the LEO end, as he’s not a pure pass rusher.  However, he can play the interior line positions on Seattle’s front quite well, and can play the run stopping end if needed every once in a while.  Hageman can start off as a rotational player on their line and then allow the Seahawks to have the luxury of letting some of their D-Line players walk in free agency.  With no huge needs outside of maybe offensive line, the Seahawks can afford to add to a strength here.

Trojan Horse: Marqise Lee

This year’s draft is deep at most positions, but it is incredibly deep top to bottom at receiver.  Rising to the top of that crop was Marqise Lee from USC, who is often considered a true first round receiver, even if he’s not as well regarded as Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans.  Marqise Lee is a very raw player, but the raw skills he possesses are quite impressive.  He is very athletic and naturally gifted, but he isn’t very polished, and needs improvement in a few key areas of being a receiver if he wants to succeed at the next level.

Intangibles

Lee profiles as a typical outside receiver, not only due to the fact that his skills lend him to it, but because he is also 6’0″, 195 lbs.  He’s small enough where he can move inside if need be, but he is by no means a slot receiver, and will almost definitely be an outside deep threat for whoever drafts him.  He has a good head on his shoulders and has a very good motor, and he keeps going whether he is a receiver, blocker, or even out of the play completely.

Physical Skills

Lee has good speed, enough to be a deep threat, but not enough that he’s going to win any track meets.  He’s not the Mike Wallace type where you just tell him to run a fly and chuck it to him, but if the situation calls for him to do that, he can.  He’s a good leaper, allowing him to win jump balls, which also lends to him being a good option as a deep threat.  However, he also has good change of direction ability, so he can catch the ball short and make something happen.  He’s quite strong, and when combined with the effort level he puts out, this makes Lee a very tough player to bring down in the open field.   Lee has good explosion off the line and can get by a defender in the first couple steps, allowing him to get open.

Blocking

For most receivers, it’s good enough to just be not terrible at blocking in order to be as good as your team wants you to be at it.  Lee, however, is better than not terrible, he actually looks quite solid as a blocker.  He does a good job of keeping his man engaged throughout the play and finishing his block.  As mentioned when discussing his motor, he doesn’t give up on blocks and he doesn’t give up on a play just because he missed a block or finished one block.  Lee is not afraid to be physical when blocking, and does make an impact in the run-blocking game as a result.

Technical Skills

Lee is VERY good at understanding where the sideline is.  Both on tape and at the combine, Lee did an amazing job of keeping himself in bounds, which is something that is very valuable for a receiver.  However, in regards to having technique down, that’s pretty much the end of the list of things Lee does very well.  He’s solid at catching the ball, not bad, but he’s not going to make amazing catches either.  Ideally, you’d like his hands to be a bit more reliable.  His route running is also ok, but that’s all it seemed to be, just ok.  He rounds his routes sometimes, and it seemed like he was where he shouldn’t be a bit too often.

Summary

In the end, Lee is the type of wide receiver you would refer to as someone “you can dream on”.  He’s not very polished, but he has the physical skills and the motor that makes it seem like he can develop into a top-flight talent at the next level.  I’m of the opinion that by the time you reach the NFL, your hands aren’t going to improve much more than they already have, so his catching inconsistencies worry me a bit.  The rest of his issues seem like they can be fixed.  Lee is your prototypical wide receiver prospect who, if developed properly, could explode, or could not develop at all and accomplish nothing at the NFL level.  He seems a bit too risky for me to put a first round grade on him, but taking him late in the first isn’t a terrible reach to me, with my opinion ultimately being he’s a great pick in the early second round.

Games watched for this analysis: 2013 vs. Hawaii, 2013 vs. Stanford, 2013 Las Vegas Bowl vs. Fresno State

Marion Grice: Running with the Sun Devil

In regards to running backs, this year’s draft is incredibly deep.  Well, in regards to pretty much every position, this draft is incredibly deep, the only difference with the running backs is there isn’t any surefire 1st round talents.  However, that’s not an indictment of this year’s class, that’s really just due to the extinction of the 1st round running back.  That being said, the depth of this class has led to the stock of a lot of backs who would be top backs in other classes to be a bit lower this year.  One of those backs is Marion Grice.  If Grice were in last year’s draft, he might be one of the first backs off of the board, possibly after Gio Bernard and Eddie Lacy, but this year, he seems a bit middle of the pack to me.

Intangibles

Grice is 6’0″, 207 lbs, so he’s fairly large for a running back, which makes his running style make a lot of sense.  He’s not blazing fast and won’t break tackles due to being slippery, but he will push the pile and run over tackles.  He’s not really a bruiser, but he’s just a larger back that plays like one.  He’s not really big enough for his size to help in the pass-blocking game either, so he’s not a big-bodied back when it comes to that aspect either.

Vision

Vision is where Grice causes himself to be in the middle of the pack.  He doesn’t have bad vision per se, but it’s definitely lacking.  He’s not very patient, and while that means he won’t dance behind the line, he doesn’t really wait for holes to open before attacking them either.  He doesn’t find cutback lanes too well unless the initial lane is clogged and he’s forced to cut it back.  This leads to him getting decent 3-4 yard gains and leaving 7-8+ yard gains on the field at times.

For all of the bad aspects of his vision, he does have some good vision as well.  While he doesn’t do the best finding the initial hole, when he gets to the secondary he finds the proper secondary hole there that can turn decent runs into big gains.  He also does a good job of following blockers, letting them get out in front and set up their blocks on sweeps and screens and letting a pulling guard, pulling tackle, or fullback get the second-level block before he cuts off of their block.

Physical Skills

Despite the somewhat lacking vision, Grice has the physical skills that he could still contribute meaningfully if his vision doesn’t improve.  While he’s not blazing quick, he has more than enough speed to get by, and can run by defenders and avoid being caught from behind when it’s necessary.  He is explosive though, so when he needs to turn on the speed, he does.  Grice can catch the ball decently, so he can be relied on as a decent receiving back, but that shouldn’t be considered his specialty.    He makes good cuts, and can change direction somewhat quickly, allowing him to break tackles by running away from the defender.  Grice also has a good spin move, which can be used to keep defenders off-balance.  He is also somewhat strong, able to push the pile to gain a couple extra yards.  That strength is also his main skill he uses to get out of tackles, as he needs to be extremely well wrapped-up before he’s going to go down.  As mentioned before, he isn’t the best pass-blocker, and Arizona State didn’t really use him in that capacity too often, so he didn’t get much of a showcase of his skills.

Summary

Grice is definitely a talented back, but his deficiencies in some areas, like vision, hold him back from being a top back in this class.  His physical skills are enough that he can still be a good back if the vision becomes a problem.  Worst case scenario, he never learns how to find a hole and becomes Trent Richardson 2.0, but that’s only if everything goes wrong.  Chances are, he’ll develop at least a bit, and can at least be a second back in a running back by committee.  I’m not sold on him as an outright starter at running back though, so I don’t foresee him being drafted too early.

Games watched for this analysis: 2012 vs. Oregon, 2012 vs. Arizona, 2012 Bowl Game vs. Navy, 2013 vs. Washington State

De’Anthony Thomas: The Duck on the Pond

Last year, Denard Robinson and the Jaguars had a somewhat entertaining few weeks where Robinson was listed as an OW (Offensive Weapon) until the NFL told the Jags to change his position to something official.  This year, there’s another player in the draft who it’s tempting to slap the OW label on because he has bounced back and forth between RB and WR, De’Anthony Thomas.  During his time at Oregon, Thomas was primarily a running back, but he played a decent chunk of time at receiver, and there has been some chatter of him going in the first couple rounds as a wide-out.  Ultimately, his future NFL  position looks like a running back, but he may be able to play a little wide receiver from time to time, kind of like Reggie Bush.

Intangibles

Thomas is pretty small for an NFL player, but not necessarily for a running back, at 5’9″, 174 lbs.  He uses his size to his advantage most of the time, and he does so much more than it hinders him.  It aids his ability to break tackles, and the only real downside for being short at running back is pass blocking, but it isn’t a huge issue with Thomas at all.  He never got into any off-the-field issues that I have ever heard of, and he seemed pretty level-headed on the field, so character is anything but a concern for De’Anthony.

Vision

The most important skill for a running back is the ability to find the hole, and to be able to find cutback lanes and second-level holes.  Thomas is very good in all aspects of vision that a ball-carrier needs to have.  He’s very patient when waiting for blocks to develop, letting his blockers set-up instead of panicking and just trying to force what isn’t really there.  While he is patient, he also doesn’t dance behind the line waiting for the parting of the Red Sea like some “patient” backs do.  He knows when the hole is the best he’s gonna get, and attacks it.  He follows his blockers to the outside very well as well, letting a pulling guard or tackle block a defensive back before charging ahead instead of running in front of them and getting tackled.  Also, when the hole is plugged, Thomas can find the cutback lanes very well and can turn what should be a stuff into a 4-5 yard gain.

Physical Skills

While Thomas’ vision is very good, and his versatility only helps matters, his physical skills are what earns him such a high pedigree.  He is incredibly fast, being able to both beat guys and break away from them after he’s beaten them.  Thomas can, and will, change direction very quickly, and his cuts can leave some defenders absolutely bamboozled.  Despite being small, he is strong enough that he can break arm tackles.  He’s not going to move piles too well, but a defender can’t expect to just yank him and pull him down.

Watching Thomas receive has me question why he was considered a receiver prospect.  For a running back he is actually an exceptional receiver, but when it comes being a wide receiver, he’s rather unspectacular.  Oregon didn’t have him run a lot of routes other than swings and screens, so it’s questionable, at best, whether he can run routes well.  He’s decent at catching, and this transfers to other parts of his game, as he doesn’t fumble easily either, but he’s nothing special as a receiver.  Because of the amount of plays he spent at wide receiver, there weren’t a lot of plays where he pass blocked, and based on his size, it doesn’t seem like something he would excel at.

Summary

Thomas is a very fast, very agile, very smart runner who can definitely excel in an NFL scheme.  He’s not the receiver he’s made out to be, but he is still quite good, especially for a running back.  While Thomas doesn’t excel at pass blocking, he’s still athletic and versatile enough to not just be a two-down back, and his team will likely find him a way to get as many touches as physically possible.  Thomas reminds me of a C.J. Spiller type of running back, where you get the ball into his hands in as much open space as often as possible and just let him do what he does best, make people miss.

Games watched for this analysis: 2013 vs. Virginia, 2013 vs. Tennessee, 2013 vs. Stanford

The Golden, Golden Gopher: Ra’Shede Hageman

Defensive line talent seems to be quite the rage this year, with the big headliners being Jadeveon Clowney, Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, and the like.  There is a defensive lineman who is making some noise, but is being somewhat overlooked, who could be the first defensive tackle off of the board.  That would be Minnesota’s Ra’shede Hageman.  Hageman, who mostly played DT in Minnesota’s 4-3 scheme, is an intriguing prospect who could play a couple different positions at the pro level across both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.  Hageman is very talented, but he doesn’t have the elite talent to warrant top 15 selection.  That being said, he is still a very, very good prospect.

Intangibles

Hageman weighs in at 6’6″, 311 lbs, which is good size for a DT.  He is a bit small for a 3-4 NT, and that position is likely not an option for him.  He is large enough to play either 4-3 tackle, 3-4 end, and potentially some 4-3 end.  Although, his size seems to lend itself to being a 4-3 under tackle.  Hageman also shows good effort, as he has a high motor and doesn’t give up on the play until it is over, even if he has been taken out of the play by the offensive linemen.  This never say die attitude can only help at the next level.

Physical Skills

Hageman gets off the snap well, allowing him to move offensive linemen back, and either create issues for the running back or make the pocket tough to form.  He is very strong and can both push back offensive linemen, and avoid being pushed back by them, and will sometimes even knock his man over.  This allows him to be good at occupying blocks to allow other players to make plays or have single-teams when they would otherwise be getting double-teamed.  This strength allows him to shed blockers and make plays that he otherwise wouldn’t be able to make.  He is also able to collapse the pocket in the passing game, creating pressure even when he isn’t a threat to immediately get a sack.  Hageman can also even stay engaged with his blocker and still make the play that he needs to make, he is just that strong.  He has decent speed, especially for a defensive tackle, which allows him to never be completely out of the play, and that, combined with his high motor, allows him to chase plays down from behind.  Since he’s a defensive lineman, they don’t really get to be on display often, but he actually has surprisingly good hands and can catch the ball well.

Technical Skills

While most linemen rely on moves like rips, swims, and spins to beat their man, Hageman almost never employs these tactics, opting to try and beat his man with either speed or strength.  While this might be an issue if he was an edge rusher, it’s not so much an issue for him as an interior lineman, as if he doesn’t beat his man, he’s still occupying a blocker, which helps out the other defenders.  Pass rushing is definitely his specialty, and he shows a very good understanding of how to bounce rushes to the outside, and can create pressure from the outside despite starting the play on the interior line.  When engaged with a blocker, he keeps his feet moving and doesn’t let his man push him back.  He also understands when and where to get his hands up in passing lanes, and he batted quite a few passes down, and came close on quite a lot of others.  While he didn’t do it much, he did show that when he dropped back in coverage he was pretty good at it.  He doesn’t really try to keep the offensive lineman’s hands off him, which, again, could be an issue if he were an edge rusher, but if he’s engaged, at least he’s occupying a block, which is what you want defensive tackles to do if they’re not making the play.

Position

Since the responsibilities of a defensive end and defensive tackle differ depending on whether you run a 3-4 or 4-3, being able to figure out what position a D-Lineman can play on either line is very important.  In Minnesota’s 4-3 scheme, Hageman lined up mostly at the 2-technique with a smattering of 0-tech, 1-tech, 3-tech, and 5-tech.  Due to this he seems like he’d be most at home playing a pass-rushing, under-tackle in a 4-3 scheme.  However, the snaps at the 5-tech, and his body type, suggest he could also possibly be a pass-rushing 3-4 defensive end.  His NT line-mate would have to be a good run stuffer for that to work, as Hageman doesn’t excel at that, but it is still possible.  He might be able to rotate at 4-3 end some due to his pass-rushing ability, but he’s too big to play there regularly.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, he lacks the size and run stopping ability to play 3-4 nose, so that position should largely be out of the question for Hageman.

Summary

Hageman is a very talented, pass-rushing defensive tackle who won’t be a Ndamukong Suh-like gamechanger, but can still be a very good player for a defense.  He’ll likely be a Henry Melton-like pass-rushing 4-3 defensive tackle, but could be a pass rushing 3-4 end as well.  He very well could go in the first round, or he could slip to the second.  Once the elite defensive lineman and edge rushers like Clowney, Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, and the like are off the board, look for Hageman to go to a team that needs a pass rush on it’s defensive line, regardless of whether that teams runs a 3-4 or 4-3.

Games watched for this analysis: 2012 vs. Wisconsin, 2012 Bowl Game vs. Texas Tech, 2013 vs. Northwestern, 2013 vs. Syracuse

The Cyrus Kouandjio Story: Market Crash

Two weeks ago, if you asked someone to name the top tackles in the draft, their response would likely be either “I don’t know” or some order of Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan, and Cyrus Kouandjio.  Recently, that list is one name shorter as Kouandjio’s stock took an absolute nosedive at the combine.  Between pretty bad performance in combine drills and reports that Kouandjio has an arthritic knee, he went from potential first rounder to mid-round pick in a hurry.  There always seems to be at least one player every year whose stock gets torpedoed at the Combine, and Kouandjio seems to be this year’s casualty.  While Kouandjio may have had a very bad combine, he can take solace in the fact that teams will still rely on his quality tape, and that he didn’t have a Vontaze Burfict level of implosion.

Intangibles

Kouandjio is 6’6″, 310 lbs, which is fairly solid size for an offensive tackle.  He does however, have an odd build with a lot of that weight seemingly coming from his top half.  This could just be an oddity and not a concern, but it’s something I noticed.  Kouandjio has a very high motor, almost never giving up on the play, and seems to have a very good understanding of what’s going on, doing a good job of selling draw plays and play-fakes.  He’s a very smart lineman, which will definitely help him at the next level.  He anticipates what his man is about to do well, and can get to the spot before his man does.  He also understands stunts, and picks them up very well.

Physical Skills

Kouandjio is very quick for an offensive lineman, and does a good job getting to the second level in order to make second level blocks.  He also uses his speed well when pulling, as he is quite good at executing pull blocks.  He’s quite strong, in fact, he’s strong enough to push his man around to where he wants him to go, and can sometimes push his man right out of the play.  While he is strong, he sometimes doesn’t always act like it, as there were times when he would get shoved to the ground by his man, which is a bit worrying.  He will also sometimes not even be able to make the block, but those instances were few and far between, and seemed more fluky than anything.  He gets off the line very well, and can start blocking very quickly.  In fact, a few times I was certain that he had committed a false start, but it turned out that he was just that quick off the line.

Technique

Kouandjio has decent footwork, it probably will never hinder him, but it could be a bit better.  For example, his kick step is a little bit awkward, but it still seems to work well enough for him to get in front of his man, so it doesn’t seem like a huge issue.  He does a very good job of staying in front of his man, regardless of whether he is coming straight at Kouandjio or is trying to use something like a spin move in order to beat him.  He is able to stay in front of his man and execute well enough to completely wall his man out of the run game sometimes.  He does an alright job of keeping his hands inside his man, but you’d like to see him improve that a bit, as that has the potential to be a bunch of holding penalties at the next level.  He also has a tendency to cut block a lot, way more than he really should need to.  This raises the question of whether he is doing it because of scheme saying that he’s supposed to, or if he’s doing it of his own accord.  If it’s the former, at least he follows his scheme properly, if it’s the latter, that’s a bit worrying about his blocking talent and confidence in it at the NFL level.

Summary

Kouandjio is a prospect who has a lot of high end talent, but comes with some concerns.  Before the disastrous time that was the combine, I’d say that Kouandjio would be a borderline first round pick.  He looks to be a very good run blocker and a solid pass blocker.  However, the poor performance at the combine drills is worrying enough to drop him into being just a second day pick.  Add to that the fact that he may have an arthritic knee, and Kouandjio could even be a third day pick.  I no longer think that he can be a first rounder, but wouldn’t be surprised to see him go anywhere from the 2nd to 5th rounds.  It all depends just how much the medicals hurt his stock, but if he falls quite far, a lucky team might be getting quite the steal.

Games watched for this analysis: 2012 vs. Missouri, 2012 vs. Michigan, 2012 vs. Texas A&M, 2013 vs. Virginia Tech, 2013 vs. Texas A&M

Joe Don Duncan: Sleeper of the Year?

There’s a common saying among fantasy football players regarding drafting that really applies to actual, NFL drafting as well, “the later rounds are where you make your money”.  In both cases, the top rounds are loaded with talent, and while there are always some spectacular busts from each draft class, it’s relatively not hard to hit on those picks.  Where most GMs and personnel people make their money is in the late rounds.  If you look at most recent Super Bowl champions, a lot of the key players on their team were late round picks.  Take this year’s Seahawks, for example.  While they had their high draft picks like Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, and Bruce Irvin, they had players like Richard Sherman (5th round), Russell Wilson (3rd round), and of course, Super Bowl MVP, Macolm Smith (7th round) make huge impacts after being taken late in the draft.  One of the top candidates for that honor this year is Dixie State tight end Joe Don Duncan.  A lot of people have never heard of him (probably because he plays for a D-II school), but Duncan has more talent than most pro prospects of his reputation level.

Intangibles

Duncan is 6’3″, 268 lbs, and he looks fairly typical for a tight-end who can block, but is more receiver focused, which he seems to be.  He’s big enough to block if needed, but not big enough that he can be treated like an extra lineman who can catch.  The biggest concern I had with Duncan is that he seems to give up on plays too soon sometimes.  Whether it be just not finishing a block, not trying to make a play after it didn’t initially occur near him, or jogging while he could still be in on the play, the effort level from Duncan raised a few flags for me.

Physical Skills

Duncan has decent speed, but has more than enough for a receiving tight-end.  He can get separation from defenders and can run to make the play, whether it be receiving or blocking, just don’t expect him to wow you with his wheels.  He has good leaping ability, whether it be jumping for the ball or trying to hurdle a defender and gain a few more yards.  He’s very strong, and doesn’t go down easily, using his size to break tackles and extend the play.  He’s strong when it comes to blocking as well, allowing him to make effective blocks when need be.

Receiving

If Duncan were a regular wide receiver, he’d probably be an unremarkable solid contributor, but since he’s a tight end, that’s a very valuable skill-set to have.  He has very solid hands and route running skills, but he will falter on both from time to time, but not enough to really hold it against him, it’s definitely still a plus.  His speed comes into play when he’s receiving as he can break away during his route or after the catch.  He was dominating defensive backs, but those were D-II DBs, Division I defensive backs are known for being a bad barometer for success against pro DBs, so whether that domination can translate in any way is really guesswork at this point.

Blocking

Duncan isn’t really the best blocker, but he does do well enough to get by, as he won’t cripple a team with his blocking.  There are times when he just doesn’t engage with his man and misses his assignment, but thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often.  He doesn’t stay in to block too much, whether this is a matter of scheme or a matter of lacking the talent to do so is unknown, but his number of inline snaps definitely follow the Jimmy Graham school of tight ends.  When he is blocking, he doesn’t necessarily keep his legs churning, which leads to him stagnating when blocking, and not getting the best block possible.  Despite the issues he has with blocking, he does do some things well.  He extends his hands well, so when he does find his man, he keeps him at a distance where he can’t do much.  He is strong enough to push his man back and take him out of the play, and he keeps a good base so that when he gets engaged, he stays engaged.

Summary

For a player from a D-II school, Duncan definitely has D-I talent.  The questions with him are if his blocking will be a big issue, and can the dominance of D-II translate in any way to the professional level.  The only way to get these answers is for him to  play on Sundays and show what the answers are.  That being said, Duncan is definitely not a first rounder, but he could sneak into the second day.  I see him more as a third-day pick, who will either not be able to translate his skills from D-II to the pros, or someone who will be a key contributor to a very happy team.  Basically, Duncan is the definition of a sleeper, and the question is, will he wake up or just keep right on sleeping in the NFL?

Games watched for this analysis: 2013 vs. Humbolt State, 2013 vs. Simon Frasier