Thursday, April 30, 2015

Derek's Final Mock Draft

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State Seminoles

This is the easiest selection to make, and it isn't even close. The Bucs have no one on their roster who is capable of being a franchise quarterback, and it is borderline impossible to win in the NFL without one. Jameis is considered to be the best quarterback prospect to come out in the last ten years behind only Andrew Luck. He wouldn't have the best line or a great running game to help him out, but he would be throwing to three receivers who all stand at around 6'5. With how dysfunctional the NFC South is, Jameis could turn the Bucs into an instant contender in the division. This is a no-brainer. The Bucs should have him signed to a contract even before the draft in all honesty.

Tennessee Titans
Dante Fowler Jr., Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, Florida Gators

I'm not doing trades for this mock because I hate using the trade value chart created two decades ago, but I do believe that someone is going to move up to this spot to overdraft Mariota. But if the Titans do somehow end up picking second overall, their best bet would be to take an edge rusher to bolster the defense. The Titans didn't have any pass rusher who recorded double digit sacks last year, and it really affected the defense as a whole. Fowler played standing up and with his hand in the dirt while at Florida and was moved around very frequently. He has the versatility that teams covet and has a high end motor that wears down an offensive line. Fowler makes too much sense for the Titans and should be an obvious pick for them if they don't feel they are getting a good trade deal to move down.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama Crimson Tide

I have gone back and forth a lot with Cooper or Leonard Williams here, but I think that Cooper makes a lot more sense. Gus Bradley is a defensive guy and got some solid production out of completely unheralded guys last season. But one thing that this team is really missing is a true number one receiver. They have two good receivers in Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson, but neither of them can break a game open quite like Cooper can. He is being compared to Jerry Rice for his superb route running ability and run after the catch ability. He could stand to improve his hands on some of the more routine passes, but Cooper regularly wins the contested passes and has great body control. Someone with his skill set could drastically help Blake Bortles take the next step in his sophomore year.

Oakland Raiders
Leonard Williams, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle, USC Trojans

This is realistically as far as I can drop Williams, or as far as I can see him dropping in the actual draft. The fact of the matter is that he is immensely talented and can play almost any position along the defensive line. Again, versatility on defense is becoming so coveted because it allows coordinators to disguise what they're doing and create confusion. Williams has great speed, power, and leverage. He can beat offensive tackles or guards with his unique combination and skill set. There is a large contingent of scouts out there who believe that Williams is a better prospect at his position than Jameis at quarterback. Let that sink in when you remember that Jameis is only a fraction behind Andrew Luck as a prospect. Pairing Williams with Khalil Mack on the other of the defense would form a lethal pass rushing combination for years to come.

Washington Redskins
Randy Gregory, Outside Linebacker, Nebraska Cornhuskers

I honestly don't believe in dropping guys that far due to character concerns. I know that the threat of a year long suspension (hi Dion Jordan) can be enough to turn a team off, but Gregory has a ton of potential and has only been busted one time with pot. If he failed multiple drug tests then I could see it. But Washington is desperate for pass rushers after losing Brian Orakpo in free agency and Gregory could come in and make an impact from day one. His slender frame should fill out in an NFL weight room, but playing the outside linebacker position in Washington's 3-4 defense would be a perfect scenario for him. It would allow him to use his natural speed and explosiveness to get to the quarterback rather than have to fight through the line. Gregory was viewed as a prospect worthy of a top three selection before being picked apart and before the failed drug test, but if Washington snags him at five they should be very happy with the results.

New York Jets
Kevin White, Wide Receiver, West Virginia Mountaineers

The Jets have a real mess on offense, and while it starts at quarterback, you can't completely blame Geno Smith considering the weapons that he has around him. Their best receiver is Brandon Marshall, who looks to be following in the same footsteps of Santonio Holmes in getting one last contract before retirement. Outside of that, the Jets have no fire power at wide receiver and could really stand to use multiple picks at that position. Kevin White could come in and make an instant impact to really improve this offense. He has fantastic speed and size and is able to win a lot of jump balls which is always a plus when Geno is your quarterback. His route running needs some work, but I could see him having a 1000 yard season as a rookie and be the most dynamic playmaker for the Jets.

Chicago Bears
Vic Beasley, Outside Linebacker, Clemson Tigers

Even though the Bears are transitioning to a 3-4 defense under Vic Fangio and John Fox, they really don't have great personnel to make it competent in year one. The main area where they are really lacking is at outside linebacker, who is responsible for blitzing and applying pressure to the quarterback. Over the past two seasons, there really hasn't been anyone better than Beasley at doing just that. His sack total and tackles for loss really does speak for itself when you evaluate his talent. There are certainly some areas for improvement in his game, especially against the run, but there is little doubt that his potential to be a pass rush specialist is through the roof. Beasley could realistically notch double digit sacks in his first year if utilized properly. 

Atlanta Falcons
Shane Ray, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Missouri Tigers

Ray will likely fall into the 20s in the actual draft because he is a fucking moron and got busted with pot THREE DAYS before the draft, but he has a lot of talent despite the recent knit-pickings into his game. But the Falcons had one of the worst pass rushes last season and Ray would likely be a starter from the first preseason game if he is taken by the Falcons who run a hybrid defense. His first step explosiveness is absolutely lethal and gives him an advantage on a lot of tackles. He doesn't have quite the strength or pass rush repertoire that some of the other guys ahead of him have, but there is no doubt he has all the physical tools and high energy motor to become a very good player. Those two will come with experience. 

New York Giants
Brandon Scherff, Offensive Lineman, Iowa Hawkeyes

I have yet to see a mock this late in the process with the Giants taking anyone else other than Scherff, and it really makes a lot of sense why. The Giants have had a pretty awful line for the past few years, and Eli does not have the mobility in the pocket to make things happen on the run. I have my doubts about Scherff being able to play left tackle, but I don't doubt his ability to be a dominant guard which is what the Giants need on the left side. They have always been a better club when they can run first and have Eli complement the passing game, and this would put them right back into that mold. Scherff would also allow Eli more time to stand tall in the pocket and deliver to one of the most dangerous receivers in the game. This would be a home run pick for my boys in blue.

St. Louis Rams
Devante Parker, Wide Receiver, Louisville Cardinals

Good Lord, how long has it been since the Rams had a true number one receiver? Ten years? They have some great pieces in place with Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt, but Parker has proven over the last two years that he can execute a pro style offense at a very high level. He has a very good combination of height and speed which makes him difficult to defend at all levels of the defense when combined with his hands. The Rams have a couple of other areas where they need to improve their talent, but wide receiver looks to be the most pressing. Who knows how Nick Foles will actually pan out, but why not give him some weapons and see what he can do. Parker would at least be a great receiver for the next franchise quarterback the Rams take.

Minnesota Vikings
Trae Waynes, Cornerback, Michigan State Spartans

If one of the top three receivers is available for the Vikings to take, they might have a hard time passing them up. But in this scenario, Waynes makes a ton of sense. The Vikings have a very talented receiver in Xavier Rhodes, but Mike Zimmer likes to have two corners who can hold their own in man to man. Waynes played that almost exclusively while playing for the Spartans, so he would be able to fill both a need and provide great value. He is very experienced and has great physical potential. Waynes would be able to contribute from day one.

Cleveland Browns
Danny Shelton, Nose Tackle, Washington Huskies

Shelton to the Browns could be a match made in heaven. The Browns were the worst team against the run last season, and a huge reason why was injuries along their defensive line. The line was unable to close down running lanes, and backs often were able to get six or seven yards before even being hit. With injuries and losses in free agency, the Browns desperately need what Shelton can provide. He has a massive frame and can clog up running lanes with ease. More impressively, he made quite a few plays on the quarterback last year. He has tremendous athleticism for a man his size. With how Cleveland struggled to generate sacks and stop the runs, Shelton seems like a very obvious pick here.

New Orleans Saints
Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Washington Huskies

My guess is that Peters won't go this high due to a series of incidents at Washington that lead to him getting kicked off the team. But despite these transgressions, there is little doubt that Peters is an immensely talented corner who could see playing time early for the Saints. The Saints have a couple of needs on defense after taking a huge step back last season, and corner is one of their biggest concerns. They could also use a blitzing linebacker, but there really isn't anyone of good value at this point in this mock. Peters has shown the natural ability to play man to man coverage very efficiently. Taking him would go a long way towards shoring up a secondary that was frequently torched last year. 

Miami Dolphins
La'el Collins, Offensive Tackle, LSU Tigers

It seems like every year for the past several years, the Dolphins get an offensive lineman mocked to them. This year is no different as they still continued to struggle to protect Ryan Tannehill. Collins has some good versatility to be able to play multiple spots along the line. He played left tackle almost exclusively at LSU, but his skill set projects better as a guard or even a right tackle at the next level. Taking Collins would allow the Dolphins to play around with combinations and see which one works better to provide better protection. Collins should be a pretty easy pick for the Dolphins.

San Francisco 49ers
Eric Kendricks, Inside Linebacker, UCLA Bruins

Inside linebackers don't typically go this high, but the Niners are the exception. With the retirement of Chris Borland and Patrick Willis this offseason, the Niners are remarkably thin at the position. They could easily take a cornerback or receiver here to replace Crabtree, but I honestly can't even tell you who will be starting inside for them next year. Kendricks makes a ton of sense as he is arguably the best inside linebacker in the class and does everything well. He plays the pass well and can be tough against the run. Best of all, he generated a lot of turnovers while playing for the Bruins. I can see the Niners trying to trade down, but desperation might force their hand.

Houston Texans
Jaelen Strong, Wide Receiver, Arizona State Sun Devils

Losing Andre Johnson is going to hurt the Texans more than people realize, even if he didn't have his most productive season last year. I am not saying that Strong is going to come in and blow the doors off of the league, but he would be a great addition to an offense that is still trying to find its identity. Strong has very good hands and can destroy corners with his size and physicality. The combination of Deandre Hopkins and Strong would be a potent tandem for whoever wins that starting job in Houston this year.

San Diego Chargers
Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin Badgers

The Chargers have quite a few needs, but something has to be done with their running back corps. They lost Ryan Mathews to the Eagles, but he was not very good and could never stay healthy anyway. Gordon would be getting fifteen to twenty carries a game from the first week. He has a tremendous blend of size, speed, and elite acceleration. Philip Rivers is a great quarterback, and it really is amazing to look at what he accomplished last year with no running game. He might not have a ton of success because their line is very bleh, but he could take a lot of pressure off of Rivers and close the gap with the Broncos in the AFC West.

Kansas City Chiefs
Dorial Green-Beckham, Wide Receiver, Missouri Tigers/Oklahoma Sooners

If he hadn't been kicked off of the team, there is a great chance that DGB would go in the top ten of the draft and would be in the mix for first receiver off of the board. There is a good amount of work that still needs to be done to his game, but he has all of the physical tools and a catch radius that rivals Calvin Johnson. He is a bit sloppy with his routes and surprisingly gets pushed around a bit by more physical corners, but his potential is through the roof. He can out muscle corners for position and is so dangerous after the catch. With how poorly the Chiefs' receivers were last year, this is a very easy pick.

Cleveland Browns
Bud Dupree, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Kentucky Wildcats

The Browns really need help at receiver, but unfortunately there aren't any worth taking here in this mock. However, this selection would help them continue to build on a defense that started very well last year before imploding. One of their weakest positions is at outside linebacker where they have suffered a lot of attrition through free agency. Dupree should be able to come in and be a part of the rotation from the get go. With him and Mingo on the other side, the Browns would finally have a good pass rushing tandem.

Philadelphia Eagles
Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon Ducks

It is beginning to sound like the Eagles are going to mortgage their future to jump up and take Mariota, but here that isn't the case. I have a ton of reservations about him as an NFL quarterback, but if anyone can maximize his potential it is Chip Kelly. He would structure the offense to fit Mariota's strengths and be able to utilize his athleticism. If they do move up in the draft, Eagles fans better hope that he doesn't completely deplete their future picks. They only need to look fifty miles down south to see how that turned out.

Cincinnati Bengals
Mario Edwards, Defensive End, Florida State Seminoles

Along with the Falcons, the Bengals had one of the absolute worst pass rushes last year. They desperately need to get a couple of players this draft to be able to get after Big Ben and Flacco, two of the toughest quarterbacks to actually bring down. Edwards is incredibly versatile as he played tackle, end, and even stood up to rush the quarterback. That kind of versatility is coveted and would help the Bengals out instantly.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Landon Collins, Safety, Alabama Crimson Tide

The Steelers finally faced the music and saw Troy Polumalu retire this offseason and will need to find a replacement. Collins falling to them offers the perfect chance for them to find a safety who can patrol center field and make plays in the box for a decade. He is incredibly physical and rarely misses a tackle. This makes him more suited to play strong safety, but I think that he can work on his game and be a real do it all kind of player. He made a ton of plays throughout his career at Alabama that changed momentum or put games away. He is too good for the Steelers to pass up at this point.

Detroit Lions
Malcom Brown, Defensive Tackle, Texas Longhorns

The Lions got absolutely mauled this offseason with attrition along the defensive line and need to replenish. Brown might not be as good as Fairly or Suh, but he would be a great piece to start the rebuilding process. He is a big bodied guy who clogs lanes and forces the running backs to adjust and stall behind the line. Brown actually is a pretty good pass rusher as well. He has shown the ability to outmuscle his man and shoot the gap. Again, this seems like a very obvious pick if he is available at this juncture.

Arizona Cardinals
Denzel Perryman, Inside Linebacker, Miami Hurricanes

Like the Lions, the Cardinals saw a lot attrition in their front seven and are going to need to spend multiple picks this draft to restock. Perryman is the perfect fit to come in and take command of the defense. I think that he would actually be a better fit in the Cardinals' 3-4 defense anchoring one of the middle spots. They are going to need physical linebackers to be able to counter the offenses of San Francisco and Seattle.

Carolina Panthers
Andrus Peat, Offensive Tackle, Stanford Cardinal

It is almost like the Panthers are trying to get Cam killed. They still could not protect him last year and it cost them dearly in some games. Peat has the potential to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL which is exactly what the Panthers need. Considering they just signed Michael Oher, Peat might start off as a right tackle while working on his game. No matter where he starts, he will instantly upgrade the line.

Baltimore Ravens
Todd Gurley, Running Back, Georgia Bulldogs

The Ravens really lost their offensive identity last year with no run game to speak of. Ray Rice was rightfully let go and Bernard Pierce was also released after being arrested. Gurley could make the Ravens a run first team again with his incredible skill set. There is talk that he will go a lot higher, but it is a scary proposition considering that he is only five months removed from an ACL tear. This would be the perfect spot for him to land.

Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Johnson, Cornerback, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Boys don't have a lot of areas of needs, but cornerback is one of them. Mo Claiborne has been dreadful over the last couple of seasons and they need some shut down corners to be able to contend with the other top teams in the NFC.

Denver Broncos
DJ Humphries, Offensive Tackle, Florida Gators

We all know that the Broncos offense runs through Peyton, so keeping him upright is paramount. There has been a lot of buzz building about Humphries since the season ended, and it looks like he has the makings of a franchise left tackle. At this juncture, this pick would fit both a need and provide solid value.

Indianapolis Colts
Arik Armstead, Defensive End, Oregon Ducks

Both offensive and defensive lines need improvement for the Colts, but there really isn't an offensive lineman that they could justify taking here. Armstead is more of an athlete than a football player right now, but he has shown the ability to dominate tackles and guards while he played at Oregon. He would be a huge asset for the Colts if he can live up to his athletic potential.

Green Bay Packers
Benardrick McKinney, Inside Linebacker, Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Packers were in need of improvement at the inside spot even before AJ Hawk was released from the team. McKinney has the ability to be a part of the rotation early in the season. He needs to improve his ability against the run and develop tackling consistency, but his ability to defend the pass in space will be invaluable.

New Orleans Saints
Philip Dorsett, Wide Receiver, Miami Hurricanes

Suddenly, the Saints once feared offense seems to lack any teeth. They no longer have Jimmy Graham and traded away deep threat Kenny Stills for some picks from the Dolphins. Dorsett has tremendous speed and has better hands and route running abilities than he is given credit for. His skill set translates very well for Sean Payton's offense.

New England Patriots
Jalen Collins, Cornerback, LSU Tigers

Who the hell knows what the Patriots will actually do when their name is called, but I think Collins makes a lot of sense at this juncture. He is a tremendous athlete who has shown the ability to shut down receivers. His technique isn't completely refined, but he has a good base and would be worth the risk at this point.

Justin's Final Mock Draft (with trades)

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

JR: Jameis Winston, QB- This seems like it may be the only lock in the draft so far.  Jameis is the best quarterback in this year’s draft and I tend to believe QB guru George Whitfield when he says Winston is just a notch below Andrew Luck on the field.  Hopefully he can stay clean off the field.

2.  Tennessee Titans:

JR: Leonard Williams, DT/DE- Through it all, the Titans go with the top player in the draft.  I don’t think they get blown away enough with any trade so they stay put and grab a versatile defender to instantly improve the defensive line.

3.  Cleveland Browns (TRADE):

JR: Marcus Mariota, QB- The Jaguars love the trade from the Browns when they offer 12 and 19 and next year’s 2nd round pick.  Browns get their quarterback that will hopefully not be another bust as long as he can sit for at least ten games this year.  Although I will not count out Chip Kelly for making a play until Mariota’s name is called.

4.  Oakland Raiders:

JR: Amari Cooper, WR- The Raiders need playmakers and Cooper is the top playmaker that will be the number one receiver for Derek Carr and this offense.  Cooper brings a veteran’s mentality in a rookie’s body and can be the next great receiver in Oakland history.

5.  Washington Redskins:

JR: Dante Fowler Jr, DE- The best defensive playmaker is available and Washington nabs him up.  Fowler can change the look of an entire defense with his versatility and passion for the game.

6.  New York Jets:

JR: Vic Beasley, OLB- A fierce pass rusher to add to this upgraded Jets defense.  Those New York defensive backs will love the pressure that Beasley and Mo Wilkerson bring.

7.  Chicago Bears:

JR: Kevin White, WR- The Bears grab a wide receiver to replace Brandon Marshall.  Maybe White will help Cutler find his passion for the game again.  The former West Virginia Mountaineer has the size and speed that Adam Gase loves.

8.  Minnesota Vikings (TRADE):

JR: Devante Parker, WR- The Vikings get antsy about a run on wide receivers and grab the guy they and Teddy Bridgewater want. They swap firsts and give Atlanta their second round pick as well.  This selection reunites college quarterback and receiver and gives Teddy B the closest thing he has to a number one receiver.

9.  New York Giants:

JR: Brandon Scherff, OG- Grabbing the best offensive lineman in the draft is never a bad thing.  Taking a page out of their NFC East rival’s playbook, the G Men go for a versatile offensive lineman that can maul defenders at the line.

10. St. Louis Rams:

JR: Breshad Perriman, WR- The run on wide receivers continues with the Rams grabbing a wide receiver to compliment their wide receiving corps.  Stepping in as a rookie, Perriman might be the best receiver on this team already with great speed.  He just needs to improve his concentration on catching the ball.

11. Atlanta Falcons (TRADE):

JR: Bud Dupree, DE- Rushing the passer is a necessity and the Falcons moved back and still got one of the pass rushers they desire.  Bud Dupree may need some time and find tuning but if he puts it together he could be a special player.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (TRADE):

JR: Todd Gurley, RB- Grabbing one of the best five players in this draft at twelve would be a nice get for the talent depleted Jags.  As long as Gurley’s knee checks out, Jacksonville has shown the patience to let players rehab until they are fully ready to play.

13. New Orleans Saints:

JR: Danny Shelton, DT- This behemoth will give the push up the middle that Rob Ryan, Cameron Jordan, and Junior Galette will love.  He will command plenty of attention early on allowing Rob to dial up pressure from anywhere and everywhere.

14. Miami Dolphins:

JR: Trae Waynes, CB- The defensive line in Miami should be set but adding a player to fill Cortland Finnegan’s shoes would be nice.  The combo of Waynes, Brent Grimes, and Ndamukong Suh will make Tom Brady shiver in his uggs.

15. San Francisco 49ers:

JR: Erik Kendricks, ILB- Retirements have depleted this 49ers defense and they need to fill the spots that Patrick Willis and Chris Borland left.  Kendricks can step in play the run just as well as he defends the pass.

16. Houston Texans:

JR: Dorial Green- Beckham, WR- The Texans go after the biggest boom or bust prospect in this year’s draft.  Bill O’Brien knows he needs a number one caliber wide receiver.  Hopefully he can reach DGB because who wouldn’t love to see what this kid’s ceiling is.

17. San Diego Chargers:

JR: Melvin Gordon, RB- The Chargers desperately need a running back as Philip Rivers may not be back with the team next year.  Gordon comes into a very solid offensive line so could make an immediate impact and help out with whoever is quarterbacking the Bolts for years to come.

18. Kansas City Chiefs:

JR: Jalen Strong, WR- Jeremy Maclin was snatched away from the Eagles but the Chiefs and Alex Smith could still use another receiver.  Jalen Strong and Maclin could be a great tandem moving forward and Jamaal Charles would be jumping for joy.

19. Jacksonville Jaguars (TRADE):

JR: Randy Gregory, DE- The Jaguars fill their Leo position with the 19th pick.  Originally thought to be a top ten prospect, Gregory slips due to durability concerns and stupidity.  If there is a coach that can reach this kid, it’s Gus Bradley.

20. Philadelphia Eagles:

JR: Marcus Peters, CB- I live in the Northeast and constantly hear Eagles fans complain about how terrible their secondary was and how Cary Williams is the worst corner in the league.  So maybe Byron Maxwell and Peters can fix that.  Chip Kelly may be able to break down Peters’ me first attitude.

21. Cincinnati Bengals:

JR: Phillip Dorsett, WR- While the Bengals already have pretty good receivers, Dorsett will add that speed threat to help clear the way for A.J. Green and Mohammed Sanu.  Andy Dalton will be pleased and this offense will become scary good. 

22. Pittsburgh Steelers:

JR: Landon Collins, SS- Troy Polamalu retired so the Steelers find a player that closely resembles their former superstar.  Collins can come in and help in run support as well as guarding the pass.

23. Detroit Lions:

JR: Malcom Brown, DT- No brainer pick for the Lions as they lost both starting defensive tackles from last year.  Brown will be the force in the middle and can learn from Haloti Ngata who is playing next to him.

24. Arizona Cardinals:

JR: Brett Hundley, QB- Carson Palmer is getting up there in age and is coming off of another ACL tear.  Hundley needs more time but he has the physical traits that quarterback coaches and Bruce Arians crave.  The Cardinals grab him before any team can trade up.

25. Carolina Panthers:

JR: Andrus Peat, OT- Opponents sacked Panthers quarterbacks 42 times this past season.  Keeping Cam Newton upright and healthy is a must for this franchise.  While I’m not the biggest fan of Peat, I know that he has versatility to play right tackle and the two guard positions.

26. Baltimore Ravens:
JR: Carl Davis, DT- No receiver worth taking with this pick so the Ravens take the best player on the board.  Davis is a high-energy player that can hit with the best of them and the elder Ravens veterans will love that.

27. Dallas Cowboys:
JR: Eli Harold, OLB/ DE- The Cowboys desperately need pass rushers and can easily grab a running back in the second round.  Harold is an explosive and athletic freak that can find his way into the starting lineup quickly.

28. Denver Broncos:
JR: Jordan Phillips, NT- One of my favorite players in the league, Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, left Denver.  So the Broncos find a player with a similar skill set to help clog the middle and stuff anybody running between the tackles. 

29. Indianapolis Colts:
JR: Cameron Erving, OL- Andrew Luck desperately needs to be protected and Erving can play every single position on the line.  This is a no brainer pick for the Colts.

30. Green Bay Packers:
JR: Arik Armstead, DE/DT- A long and built defensive end that can add to the talent on this Packers defense.  Oh yeah, and getting trained by Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews isn’t a half bad gig.  They will find a way to reach Armstead and get him to play to his full potential.

31. New Orleans Saints:
JR: Nelson Agholor, WR- With Jimmy Graham gone, I could see the Saints selecting a receiver in round one and then going after Maxx Williams in round two to help improve this New Orleans high flying attack.

32. New England Patriots:
JR: Kevin Johnson, CB- Darrelle Revis bolted back to New York so the Pats need a corner to help shut down one side of the field.  Johnson is the best press corner in this year’s draft.

Top Tight Ends for 2015 Draft

by Justin Rasile

1) Maxx Williams, Minnesota Golden Gophers
Height: 6’4          Weight: 249
40 Yard Dash: 4.78
Vertical Jump: 34.5 inches
Career Stats: 61 catches, 986 yards, 13 TDs

Maxx is one talented player.  The big tight end from the University of Minnesota is a great blocker as well as a great receiver but it troubles me that I heard bad things about how he interviewed while he was at the combine.  Williams can do it all as he controls and contorts his body well towards the ball, has great awareness of the sideline, and is strong.  Sport Science ran studies on him and when he launches off the line, he pushes out over 1100 pounds of force and then has the ability to hurdle a four and a half foot obstacle.  That is an impressive display of athleticism.  My favorite stat about the tight end is that 80% of his catches last year resulted in either a first down or a touchdown.  Every time he touches the ball, something happens.  His understanding of route running is very impressive as he knows the subtleties of running certain routes, specifically his flat routes.  He knows to get enough distance from whoever is defending him so that he has time to catch the ball and then make a move up the field to avoid the defender.  I love his strength.  There are not many players that have the raw power to drag 300 pound defensive linemen an extra five yards to pick up the first down.  I have heard Jason Whitten comparisons as his ceiling and I do see some of that in Williams.  Blocking is such an underrated and overlooked part of a tight ends game and if the player has the ability to block and catch, he can be on the field for all three downs.  If the reports of him sounding disinterested during interviews are true, that’s sad because he clearly hurt his stock.  It is THE biggest job interview of your life.  All you have to do is be as humble as possible and not come off as a moron.  You cannot sound like you are too good to be there because word gets around and then you lose millions of dollars.

2) Mycole Pruitt, Southern Illinois
Height: 6’2          Weight: 251
40 Yard Dash: 4.58
Vertical Jump: 38 inches
Career Stats: 221 catches, 2601 yards, 25 TDs

Another small school guy here that I love.  Pruitt was extremely productive at the Football Championship Series as noted by his 81 catches, 861 yards, and 13 TDs in his senior year at Southern Illinois University.  While some may say that he did not play against any tough competition, and this may be true, he did play against Purdue this past season and managed to catch ten passes for 136 yards in the game.  Pretty impressive as the only threat on offense.  Purdue had to stop him and they couldn’t.  Pruitt moves extremely well and once the ball is in his hands, he has great field awareness and football IQ.  He constantly knows where the endzone and first down markers are.  While he may not be the fastest on a football field, he moves very well for a big man.  Pruitt’s forty yard dash is deceptive though because he may have a time of 4.58 but he does not play that fast.  Although, with a vertical of almost forty inches and the fact that he knows where he is on the field, Pruitt could turn into a pretty productive tight end.  He is already a built and strong man but an NFL weight room can get him even bigger and stronger.  His blocking is already pretty good and that can help him see time early on in his career.  Just like with most tight ends nowadays, Pruitt has lined up all over the football field, including off the ball and away from the offensive line.  This allows him to be more of a receiver and concentrate on making a play on the ball instead of having to avoid or run through linebackers.  As a tight end, making tough catches has to be a routine and this kid has done plenty of that as he constantly makes catches with defenders draped over him or with hands in his face.  These small time guys come into the league with big chips on their shoulders, I hope my guy Pruitt does just that and shows what the FCS level guys are capable of.

3) Nick O’Leary, Florida State Seminoles
Height: 6’3          Weight: 252
40 Yard Dash: 4.93
Vertical Jump: 30.5 inches
Career Stats: 61 catches, 986 yards, 13 TDs

There is something special about Nick O’Leary.  Time and time again, this kid found a way to make big plays in big moments at Florida State.  Being a Florida Gators fan, I am ecstatic this kid is gone because he killed my team.  One way or another, the no gloved tight end will make an impact in the NFL.  He is strong and plays faster than his forty-yard time would appear.  O’Leary has great sideline awareness and his route running and spatial recognition is phenomenal.  If there is an open area in the zone, the former Florida State Seminole will find it.  His versatility is apparent as he can be a three down tight end in the league.  He lined up all over the field: next to the offensive line, out at wide receiver, and in the backfield as an H back.  His ability to line up and play everywhere will bode well for him getting playing time as a rookie and beyond; especially considering he hardly ever drops the ball.  O’Leary is one tough sumbitch.  He was on a motorcycle two years ago and crashed, thus sliding roughly a hundred feet on the road and he still walked away unharmed.  Not many people can say that.  Not too many people can also say the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus, is their grandfather.  So I’m sure Nick can play some golf with whoever his quarterback is and establish a good rapport.  However the draft pans out, I could see Nick O’Leary playing ten years in the league and be the model of consistency. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Top Defensive Tackles for 2015 NFL Draft

by Justin Rasile

1) Leonard Williams, USC Trojans
Height: 6’ 5         Weight: 302 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.97
Bench Press: N/A
Career Stats: 218 tackles, 36.5 TFL, 21 sacks

Best player in the draft.  Hands down.  Normally I don’t agree with all the talking heads on who they believe is the best player but Williams blew me out of the water.  He has it all: production, measureables, intangibles.  Relentless inside the trenches and a monster outside of it.  He is strong at the point of attack and explosive when engaging in contact with an offensive lineman, running back, or quarterback.  Watching him on the field is a thing of beauty as he carries his weight incredibly well establishing his supreme athleticism.  The former USC Trojan wraps up well and eats up space while playing with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm.  He has a knack for standing up offensive linemen and using his strength to push them around like ragdolls.  Williams is used to fighting off multiple defenders as offensive coordinators have had to gameplan for him for three years now.  One thing I noticed while watching him is that he almost always lines up against the right side of the offensive line, usually against the right tackle.  Maybe it’s a comfort thing but I’m sure he will be able to move around the defensive line in the NFL as he appears to be extremely versatile.  Speaking of versatility, Williams will be able to play in a 4-3 scheme as a defensive end or defensive tackle or even in a 3-4 as a 5 technique.  He is that special of a player.  One of the few knocks on Williams is that he has a tendency to fire slow once the ball is hiked.  It was actually quite noticeable.  I am not sure why that was because he was explosive once he did move.  It may be that he doesn’t want to be offsides but if he can learn to master that timing, he will become a perennial pro bowler.  Oh yeah, HE IS ONLY 20 YEARS OLD!

2) Danny Shelton, Washington Huskies
Height: 6’ 2   Weight: 339 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 5.64
Bench Press: 34 reps
Career Stats: 208 tackles, 24 TFL, 11.5 sacks

If it weren’t for Leonard Williams, we would be talking about Danny Shelton being the best defensive tackle in the 2015 draft.  He is a BIG man weighing close to 340 pounds but don’t let that weight and forty time fool you as he moves very well for a man that size.  Watching him chase down a bubble screen is fun to watch but probably a horrifying sight for running backs because he will find a way to at least get close to the ball carrier.  While pass rushing may not be his forte, he is much more than a run stuffer.  I think he is only scratching the surface of his pass rushing ability but his power will definitely help lead him to a number of sacks in his career.  He moves offensive linemen at will with his freakish strength and quick hands.  I can’t wait to see how much stronger Shelton gets once he is in an NFL weight room.  When engaged with an offensive lineman, he has enough awareness to read the quarterbacks eyes and swat down the ball if he knows he can’t make another play.  I definitely see the Haloti Ngata comparisons as both players are versatile, move well for their size, and are strong like ox.  He can play the nose tackle in a 3-4 defense or as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme.  Some team is going to be very happy with Shelton as he will play a long time in this league.
3) Carl Davis, Iowa Hawkeyes
Height: 6’ 5   Weight: 320 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 5.07
Bench Press: 28 reps
Career Stats: 94 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks

I love nasty and violent defensive players and Carl Davis epitomizes that.  He plays with a chip on his shoulder and will fight and claw each person in his way for that extra inch.  But in order to survive in the trenches you need a combination of instincts and toughness and this guy moves around the defensive line better than anybody in the draft.  He has such a good feel for avoiding moving bodies and finding a way to get to the ball carrier to make a play.  He may end up being the second best defensive tackle in this draft behind Leonard Williams.  Davis gets a good push up front while holding his ground against double teams and is great at disrupting offensive linemen with a violent punch.  I love when Davis gets a clean shot at a running back or quarterback because he launches himself into them, completely crushing whoever is in his path.  Watching a 320-pound man leave his feet will instill fear into anybody in the way.  Because he wasn’t a high sack guy, it may force Davis to go later in the draft but if he is on a defensive line with one player that commands attention, the sky is the limit for Davis.  He is that talented of a player.  Even if that isn’t the case, I truly believe this player can be an extremely impactful player from day one. 

4) Malcolm Brown, Texas Longhorns
Height: 6’ 2   Weight: 319 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 5.05
Bench Press: 26 reps
Career Stats: 156 tackles, 25 TFL, 8.5 sacks

Dancing bear is a great term of endearment for big men that move well and Malcolm Brown is just that.  A big man that needs to be blocked by at least two defenders every time he fires off the ball.  He fires out of his stance low and fast and tackles even lower.  Brown sheds his blocker quickly and has great closing speed when he approaches a ball carrier.  His versatility is great as he has the ability to line up all over the line and hold his own at every spot fighting through each offensive lineman in his path.  Even when there is a play away from Brown, he makes sure to be close to the end of the play hoping to make something happen if needed.  This is part of the reason why he was a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award (nation’s top interior defensive linemen).  Durability should not be a worry in the minds of general managers as Brown never missed a game in his collegiate career.  Although, it is pretty easy to tell when the former Texan Longhorn is fatigued as he doesn’t get nearly as a good of a push as he does earlier in the game.  He still fires off the ball hard and fast but he stands upright and this poor technique can get him in trouble late in games when the game is down to the wire.  Not that it is a bad thing but Brown is married and the father of two daughters so he has been juggling football, school, marriage, and fatherhood for a few years now and has done a very good job in doing so.  Maturity should not be an issue on his part.  Hopefully he will be able to balance everything just as well when he is in the NFL but I’m sure being guaranteed at least a few million dollars will help.

5) Arik Armstead, Oregon Ducks
Height: 6’ 7   Weight: 292 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 5.10
Bench Press: 24 reps
Career Stats: 87 tackles, 10 TFL, 4 sacks

Sometimes you see a player and go, DAMN.  That is the word I think of when I see Arik Armstead.  He is a large man standing at 6’7 and weighing over 290 pounds.  Size is something you cannot teach and this Oregon Duck definitely has that.  Although for as much as I love his size, his game tape is a bit of another story.  He is a raw player.  That much is apparent but he clearly improved from 2013.  A long and strong player looking very much like Calais Campbell and like Campbell, it may take a while for Armstead to harness all of his skill and develop into an impact player.  Coming from a basketball background, he is obviously a perfect 3-4 end with his length and athleticism.  Something that is apparent on Armstead’s gametape is his lack of energy.  I wish he would spend more time around the ball but he looks to be more concerned with dominating whoever is blocking him than making an impact play to help out his team.  If he is not the one making the play, it’s very rare that he is around the ball, which is a cause for concern.  I wouldn’t say taking plays off is a constant for this Duck but it is pretty obvious when his heart isn’t in it.  But when he is fired up and really into the game, Armstead can be an unstoppable force.  Armstead needs to land on the right team with the right coaches to help tap his potential and if he does, he could be an absolute beast.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Inside Linebackers for 2015 Draft

by Derek Rampulla

1) Eric Kendricks, UCLA Bruins
Height: 6'0          Weight: 232
40 Yard Dash: 4.61 Seconds
10 Yard Split: 1.64 Seconds
Bench Press: 19 Reps
Career Stats: 480 Total Tackles, 10 Sacks, 26 Tackles for Loss, 5 INTS, 3 Forced Fumbles

The inside linebacker position isn't one that is usually picked very high in the draft, but the importance of having one (or two for a 3-4 defense) cannot be underestimated. Just look at the state that the Niners are in after losing Patrick Willis and Chris Borland this offseason. This year has a change to see a couple of guys go in the first round, and Kendricks is the most likely from this pack. He is a great combination of playing the run and defending against the pass. He was a four year contributor on UCLA's defense, and thus has had the ability to to really hone his craft and work on the weaknesses in his game. I actually think that Kendricks plays a bit better in pass protection than he does defending the run. He has great sideline to sideline quickness and can cover a lot of ground very quickly. When he diagnoses the play, his burst allows him to immediately make the play. This strength to his game is compounded by his high football IQ which helps him recognize the play and break on the ball as it the play is developing. Kendricks's sack total is one of the best for middle linebackers in the class and demonstrates his ability to maneuver near the line of scrimmage. He has good instincts and footwork to work his way through the congestion near the line of scrimmage and make a play on the quarterback. The ability to bring the heat from right up the middle is highly coveted by defensive coordinators as it is quick and forces quarterbacks to throw off of platform. Kendricks is a solid player against the run, but I think that for the NFL he is going to have to get stronger. He is a pretty good tackler, but against some of the bigger backs and tight ends he didn't always make the tackle on contact. Another area that he is going to have to work on is shedding blocks, especially on runs that come directly at him. This is always something that is an issue for incoming linebackers, but it is one trait that can separate the good linebackers from the elite. He reads his keys very well and knows where to make the play, but if he can get stronger he could really elevate his game.

2) Denzel Perryman, Miami Hurricanes
Height: 5'11          Weight: 236
40 Yard Dash: 4.78 Seconds
10 Yard Split: 1.68 Seconds
Bench Press: 27 Reps
Career Stats: 243 Total Tackles, 3 Sacks, 22 Tackles for Loss, 2 INTs, 6 Forced Fumbles

Perryman is the other linebacker that has been in discussions to be the top inside backer drafted this year along with Kendricks. Perryman is more of a throw back to the traditional, "thumper" who anchors down the middle linebacker position. He is an absolute beast of a hitter and can dominate opponents in the run game. He isn't the tallest linebacker, but he carries his weight well, is built like a fire hydrant, and hits guys like a Mack truck. He is kind of the opposite of Kendricks in that he plays a lot better against the run than he does in pass protection. He has good mental makeup to play middle linebacker in terms of being able to diagnose plays and blocks which allows him to be in the best position to make a tackle. What I really like about him is how his upper body strength allows him to shed blocks and not get held up by the offensive line. Even when he doesn't make the tackle, he gets himself in a great position to funnel the running back through another lane where the play can be made or forces them to go east-west which ends up costing them yards. When it comes to him making the tackle, bet your bottom dollar that he won't miss. He doesn't have the greatest speed to chase guys down and gets beat by the faster receivers, but if he has a line on a guy he WILL make the tackle. As you can see from his forced fumbles number, he also is a very powerful, jarring hitter who can knock the ball loose. Perryman does tend to struggle a bit in pass protection, as he doesn't have quite the same speed as Kendricks or McKinney does. His lack of top end speed made him a bit of a liability covering running backs out of the flat or tight ends/slot receivers. There were quite a few times this year where Perryman got burned on vertical routes where he was a couple of steps behind his man. He also doesn't have quite the top end speed to make all of the sideline to sideline plays. His burst isn't bad, but he should really improve his overall speed to be a more complete linebacker. There is no doubt that he has all the physical tools to be an enforcer for a defense for years to come.

3) Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State Bulldogs
Height: 6'4          Weight: 246
40 Yard Dash: 4.66 Seconds
10 Yard Split: 1.64 Seconds
Bench Press: 16 Reps
Career Stats: 243 Total Tackles, 7.5 Sacks, 19.5 Tackles for Loss, 0 INTs, 1 Forced Fumble

But if you really want to talk about physical tools, look no further than McKinney. There are not too many men his size who can also move with his speed and quickness. However, his surprisingly low bench press total is a bit of a concern and does show itself on his tape. When coming up against a blocker, McKinney doesn't always have the strength to hold up or shed his man to make a play. It isn't just offensive lineman, but some of the better tight ends that he saw were also able to move him around and open lanes for their running back. Power and his endurance are both areas where he is going to make significant improvement before the season starts. This also affects his tackling consistency. He can usually get to the play, but he missed quite a few tackles last year when he had his man dead to rights. McKinney has shown the ability to put it all together, but his ability to do that on a consistent basis will help his transition to the pros. The good news is that he has the body and frame to add mass without sacrificing his speed and agility. For his size, McKinney is also deceptively fluidity and quick feet to burst towards the ball. Against the pass, he is able to get into position and moves towards the ball well. He closes the gap quickly against zone coverage but also has shown the ability to play some man coverage. He can cover some of the better tight ends and holds his own against running backs. His quickness also makes him a good pass rusher who can get to the quarterback or cause disruption in the backfield. McKinney's totals probably would have been higher if he had been able to make the tackle when the play presented itself. A lot of people are expecting him to be taken towards the end of the first round, but I could see his intriguing ability making him a selection towards the middle of the first.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Top Safeties in 2015 Draft

1) Landon Collins, Alabama Crimson Tide
Height: 6’             Weight: 228 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.53
Vertical Jump: 35 inches
Career Stats: 190 tackles, 5 interceptions, 13 pass break ups

If there was one safety in this draft that I would have faith in to play both the free and strong safety positions, it would be this guy.  Collins is a strong, thick man that tackles well and is not afraid to stick his nose into a crowd to try and make a play.  He carries his weight well and this is part of the reason I could see Collins moving around the field a lot covering running backs and tight ends and then dropping back and playing free safety.  I love versatile players and Collins is definitely one of those players.  In addition to tackling well, the former Alabama Crimson Tide reads plays quickly and then reacts fast to make a play.  It’s a thing of beauty when you watch a ball carrier that is wrapped up by a player and then you see Collins come in and try to punch the ball out to cause a fumble.  While tackling a player that is bigger than him, he knows just how to bring the player down.  Whether it be going for the legs or finding different ways to torque his body in a way that will bring down the ball carrier, just like a wrestler.  This is in part to him using his hands well to fight off blockers and grab any part of the jersey or shoulder pads to bring down a player.  Since he is of a good build, 6’ and 230 pounds, he will be able to cover any player on the field.  If I were to compare his on the field play, not taking into account his measurables, I would compare Collins to Earl Thomas.  Let me explain.  Both players fly around the field.  They diagnose and break down plays fast and when it’s time to make a hit they find an extra gear and drive through the ball carrier.  Making plays is something both these guys do very well.  Collins has an extra twenty pounds on Thomas but that doesn’t mean he plays that much slower.  Thomas may have had a better 40 yard dash but Collins had the better vertical jump.  Landon Collins could definitely improve upon his catching ability because he makes the hard catches look easy but the easy catches occasionally get dropped.  But I cannot hate on a player who is selfish enough to contribute on special teams.  If I were a team with a hole at either free or strong safety, I wouldn’t hesitate twice to take this beast.

2) Jaquiski Tartt, Samford Bulldogs
Height: 6’1          Weight: 221
40 Yard Dash: 4.53
Vertical Jump: 33 inches
Career Stats: 277 tackles, 6 interceptions, 20 pass break ups

Furman, Citadel, West Carolina, Concordia.  Those are some of the teams that Samford University played in the 2014 football season.  Not quite the competition that teams want to see a potential NFL draft pick playing.  Every person that scouts the NFL draft always finds that lower division player that they fall in love with.  Tartt is that player for me.  I love watching the kid from Samford break on the ball once a play develops.  His instincts are fantastic and he is fun to watch.  He was like a man amongst boys while at the Football Championship Series because he looked and played like a linebacker.  Tackling is definitely his strength as he flies towards the ball and attacks the lower body hard and aggressively.  I firmly believe that if he played the way he played at a big time school, we would be talking about the former Samford Bulldog as a first round pick.  But it could be an issue making a jump from the level of competition that Samford plays to playing with the best players on the planet.  Either way, I’ll be rooting for this kid.

3) Damarious Randall, Arizona State Sun Devils
Height: 5’11        Weight: 196 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.46
Vertical Jump: 38 inches
Career Stats: 177 tackles, 6 interceptions, 12 pass break ups

While I may not be the biggest fan of Randall because of his size, I understand that he may turn out to be a very good player.  It is true that the former Arizona State Sun Devil is undersized at 5’11 and 196 pounds but he makes up for it in effort.  Even if a ball carrier believes that he has a lane to the endzone and is about to score a touchdown, Randall comes out of nowhere to make a play and stop the back from scoring.  It is those kinds of plays that you want to see from a young safety still learning the position.  His conversion from corner and receiver to free safety have helped him develop significantly because the free safety position is a borderline wide receiver with the ability to tackle.  Randall does a good job of sitting in centerfield (which is the position he played when he played baseball) and reading the eyes of the quarterback.  He takes good angles to ball carriers and towards thrown balls.  Randall needs to get bigger and stronger because he has issues tackling.  He wraps up and does all the technique right, but he is not strong enough to finish the tackle.  That is not a good trait for the last line of defense to have.  You cannot get carried an extra couple of yards in a game of inches.  Although, when the ball is in the air, Randall is a natural.  He reads the quarterbacks eyes and plucks the ball out of the air and usually takes the ball far in the other direction, as noted by his 29 yards per interception return.  His quickness, good feet, and natural coverage ability will take him far in this game; I just hope his lack of strength doesn’t carry him the other way.

4) Anthony Harris, Virginia Cavaliers
Height: 6’1          Weight: 183 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.56
Vertical Jump: N/A
Career Stats: 289 tackles, 11 interceptions, 20 pass break ups

One of the worst calls I have ever seen in a college game is when Anthony Harris was ejected from the game against Miami in 2013.  He was ejected for targeting quarterback Stephen Morris’s head.  The issue was that Harris started his tackle at the same time Morris started his slide.  I hate how glorified quarterbacks are in this game.  It is taking the nastiness and grit away from the game we love, but back to scouting Harris.  He is a heat seeking missile when he sees the ball.  He sits back and reads the quarterback’s eyes well and then breaks hard and fast to make a play on the ball.  On occasion, Harris will bite too hard on a play action but he has enough athletic ability and balance to regain his composure and puts himself back in good position to make a play.  When Harris is asked to play centerfield, he will go up and get the ball.  The ballhawking ability is a necessity for free safeties and is something that the former Virigina player does very well.  When going to tackle a ball carrier, he chatters his feet down and stands the player up with some aggression and unlike Damarious Randall, Harris can actually take down ball carriers.  You would like to see more consistent pop from this kid but you take what he offers.  He had a solid amount of interceptions his junior year when he grabbed 8 and teams quickly took notice which explains his drop off in picks this past year but he did record 108 tackles.  All in all, Harris may be the most complete safety in this year’s draft as he has the ability to play overtop a slot receiver, play centerfield, or come up into the box and make a tackle.

5) Gerod Holliman, Louisville Cardinals
Height: 6’             Weight: 218 pounds
40 Yard Dash: 4.65
Vertical Jump: 27 inches
Career Stats: 47 tackles, 14 interceptions, 6 pass break ups

There are two parts to Holliman’s game.  The air part and the ground part.  When the ball is in the air the former Louisville Cardinal knows what to do and does it pretty damn well.  Although, when a ball carrier is rushing at him, he freezes.  I’m not sure if it is because he doesn’t like contact so he shies away from it or he is afraid to get hurt.  Whatever the reason, shying away from contact is bad for a free safety but it is not the end of the world.  He lacks explosion on contact and takes some REALLY bad angles to at ball carriers.  Many draft experts have put a lot of time and effort into breaking down Holliman’s tape considering his was regarded as the best free safety coming out this year with his 14 interceptions.  But what people fail to realize is that he is not Earl Thomas.  He is a long and lean football player that has a knack for picking the ball off.  His main issue is tackling.  It’s one thing if you don’t wrap up when you tackle, but it’s another if you’re unwilling to make a hit.  That’s not a good quality for a defensive player to have.  A free safety is the last line of defense so it’s essential that your free safety makes the tackle.  Teams have realized how vital free safety is, but it is hard to find an athletic “wide receiver” that can also come up and make the tackle when needed.  Players quickly fail at this position because they need to be a sure tackler, read the defense, and understand everybody’s job.  I could very easily see this kid out of the league in two years.  I don’t think he has the cojones or the will to take this game seriously.  So it will be up to Holliman if he wants to man up and start making some hits or he will not have a job for very long.