The team that secures the top overall pick is usually in need of a quarterback and Marcus Mariota of Oregon is widely considered to be the prize of the 2015 NFL Draft. Even if a rebuilding franchise with a young signal caller already in place such as the Jaguars or Raiders lands the top spot there would most likely be a robust trade market for the choice. The Buccaneers are once again one of the leagues biggest disappointments and while the cupboard isn't bare there are serious issues on both sides of the ball. It all starts with the quarterback position though. The Bucs current regime obviously has little or no confidence in former third round pick Mike Glennon or one of their first moves after taking the helm wouldnít have been to sign and immediately name 35-year-old journeyman Josh McCown the starter.
Mariota is a true dual-threat who has drawn favorable comparisons to Colin Kaepernick for his ability to make plays with both his arm and legs. In addition to possessing all of the physical tools to be an impact player at the next level Mariota also garners high praise for his intangibles such as leadership, intelligence, toughness and work ethic. Tampa Bay could also use a pass rusher and blocker but the golden rule of the NFL Draft is unless you already have a franchise signal caller you don't pass on one.
They arenít out of the woods yet but after some lean years there is at least reason for optimism in Jacksonville. Not only do the Jags appear to have a competent front office and coaching staff in place but they may have even found a franchise signal caller in Blake Bortles. There is still plenty of work to be done though. One area that must be addressed is the defensive line, where they have a number of solid veterans but lack a true difference maker. That has to be extremely disconcerting for Head Coach Gus Bradley, who basically built his reputation by pressuring the quarterback in Seattle. Randy Gregory of Nebraska is a former junior college transfer with a rare blend of length, speed and athleticism. Gregory is rough around the edges and will require some patience
and development but all of the tools are there and the potential is seemingly unlimited. Think Jason Pierre-Paul. Gregory could line up at either defensive end or outside linebacker at the next level and a versatile, dynamic edge pass rusher is exactly what the doctor ordered in Jacksonville. The Jags could also opt for USC DL Leonard Williams if they prefer more of an interior presence. The offensive line is still a major problem as well so do not rule out Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi or Iowa OT Brandon Scherff to serve as a bookend to Luke Joeckel either .
When General Manager Reggie McKenzie took over a few years ago the Raiders were in about as deep and dark of a hole as you will ever see in the NFL. Not only was the team essentially devoid of young, impact talent but they were hamstrung by a debilitating salary cap situation and a lack of premium draft picks. At that time everyone realized things would probably get worse before they got better in Oakland but itís now been three seasons and any improvements have been negligible. In fact, one could make an argument that things are actually worse. As impossible as that sounds simply go take a gander at the Raiders roster and count how many true, long-term building blocks they currently have. You will only need one hand and youíll probably have extra fingers to spare. Of course the most important piece of the puzzle is quarterback and while itís still very early
it appears as though they might have a keeper in Derek Carr. Now all they need is everything else! Leonard Williams of USC is a unique prospect who has been one of the countries top defensive linemen since the day he stepped on campus. Some might misguidedly label Williams as a positional Ďtweener but he has proven to be a difference maker at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Regardless of whether Williams lines up inside or outside or in an even or odd front he is a legitimate blue-chip talent and those are in very short supply in Oakland.
If the Jets opt to make a coaching change it could open the door for a quarterback. However, assuming they stick with Geno Smith the organizations top priority will be surrounding their young signal caller with some playmakers. Alabama WR Amari Cooper has benefited from the Crimson Tide opening up their passing attack, enjoying his most productive season to date and emerging as a potential Top 10 overall pick. Cooper isnít an elite talent like Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green but very few are and that is an unfair standard to hold anyone to.
Cooper may not be a freakish physical specimen when it comes to size and speed but he is more than adequate in both regards. A polished route runner with a well-rounded skill set, Cooper consistently demonstrates the ability to get open, separate and come away with contested balls. Georgia RB Todd Gurley is a potential solution to all those offensive woes as well. New York could use another edge pass rusher and an upgrade at cornerback as well but ultimately the deficiencies on offense are too glaring to ignore and must take precedence.
Now that the bill for the infamous RG3 trade is finally paid in full Washington can get back to the business of building a team around their talented but much-maligned young signal caller. Of course there is a chance Washington could decide that neither Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins are the answer and opt for a quarterback but that would be drastic and they will most likely attempt to salvage the current situation under center. One way to help out their quarterback, whoever it might be, would be to upgrade a leaky offensive line. Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi could be the third consecutive Aggies blocker to come off the board in the Top 6 overall, following in the footsteps of Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.
Ogbuehi probably would have been a first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft but he opted to return for his senior season to make the transition from right tackle to the blindside, just like his former teammate Matthews. A good athlete with a large frame and long arms who is effective as both a pass protector and run blocker, Ogbuehi would be an ideal fit at right tackle as a bookend to Trent Williams. As would Iowa OT Brandon Scherff. Other options could include USC DE / DT Leonard Williams or Alabama S Landon Collins.
Despite an absolute embarrassment of riches when it comes premium draft picks in recent years the Rams steadfastly stuck by Sam Bradford, even though he was plagued by injuries and wasnít particularly effective even when healthy. What exactly Bradford did to earn that type of unwavering loyalty is unclear but if there is any accountability in the organization heads will roll for that disastrous decision. Assuming they are indeed finally ready to move on St. Louis will be in the market for a top young signal caller and they would be extremely fortunate to find Florida St. QB Jameis Winston still on the board. There are obviously serious concerns about Winstonís maturity and character stemming from a litany of off-the-field incidents during his time in Tallahassee. That trepidation is certainly understandable, especially in a post-Ray Rice climate where prospects with checkered pasts are going to come under greater scrutiny. However, there will be teams willing to overlook a lot when it comes to Winston because at the end of the day he is the rarest of commodities Ė a potential franchise quarterback. In fact, if not for his unruly behavior outside the lines Winston would be the slam-dunk #1 overall pick. Itís ironic the former Heisman Trophy winner Winston canít seem to stay out of trouble in his personal life because on the
gridiron he displays the leadership ability, mental / physical toughness and overall moxy of a true field general. An incredible athlete with prototypical size and a very strong arm, Winston has a natural feel for the game and the redshirt sophomore only needs additional experience to round out the rough edges. With the glaring exception of quarterback the Rams have done a pretty good job of stockpiling talent on both sides of the ball so a quick turnaround is well within the realm of possibility.
The prevailing wisdom says itís unwise to make a significant investment in the running back position. That is why there hasnít been a runner chosen in the first round the past two years, breaking a half century long streak. However, Adrian Peterson is a perfect example of why it may be okay to stray from that philosophy from time to time. Petersonís days in Minnesota may be coming to a premature end following an ugly off the field incident but the Vikings could have the opportunity to replace an aging stud runner with a young one. The NFL may still be gun-shy when it comes to taking a running back in the Top 10 overall after whatís become of Trent Richardson, who almost everyone thought was a canít miss prospect.
If there is an exception it would be Gurley, a dynamic playmaker whose incredible mix of size, speed and power has elicited favorable comparisons to none other than Marshawn ďBeast ModeĒ Lynch. In short, Gurley is capable of both running over a linebacker and running away from a defensive back. It will be very interesting to see where Gurley ultimately comes off the board because in many ways it will serve as a litmus test to gauge the value of elite running back prospects in the NFL Draft moving forward.
Jake Locker was given one final opportunity to prove that he could be the long-term solution at quarterback in Tennessee but that dream is probably dead following another season riddled by inconsistent play and injuries. Needless to say the Titans will most likely be in the market for a new signal caller in the offseason. Most have Brett Hundley of UCLA pegged as the odds-on favorite to be the third quarterback off the board after Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Jameis Winston of Florida St. but donít be surprised if that honor ultimately goes to Connor Cook of Michigan St. Cook may not be a household name nationally like Mariota, Winston or even Hundley but rest assured the scouting
community is well aware of this strong armed pocket passer with top-notch intangibles. Especially in light of the success former Spartans triggermen Drew Stanton, Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles have enjoyed as starters in the NFL. This is a reach at this point in time but there will undoubtedly be more than just one or two teams in the Top 10 searching for a quarterback and someone tends to rise. Cook has been generating a lot of positive momentum and buzz and is as good a bet as anyone. An edge pass rusher could be on the Titans shopping list too .
Even though the Falcons just invested a Top 10 overall pick on Jake Matthews there are still issues along the offensive line. It may be the end of the line for the injury-prone and expensive Sam Baker while former third round reach Lamar Holmes just hasnít developed into the player they had hoped for. Everything in Atlanta revolves around Matt Ryan so it only makes sense to do everything possible to keep their franchise signal caller upright and comfortable. Iowa OT Brandon Scherff is the next in an impressive string of top o-linemen produced by the Hawkeyes, following in the footsteps of
Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery, Marshal Yanda, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff. A fantastic all-around blocker who is effective in pass protection and really stands out in the run game, Scherff is powerful, tough, aggressive and plays the game with a nasty demeanor. Scherff is similar to Taylor Lewan in a lot of ways and will likely carry a similar grade when all is said and done. The Falcons are also in desperate need of a pass rusher who can generate pressure off the edge so that is an option as well .
The Phins are trying to get back on track following the disastrous final year of former General Manager Jeff Irelandís tenure. The secondary is in pretty good shape with the lone exception of the safety spot alongside Reshad Jones, where Louis Delmas is going to be a free agent after only signing a one year deal. With that being the case it might prove difficult to pass on Landon Collins of Alabama, who is the clear-cut top draft-eligible safety and arguably the top defensive back in this class. The Crimson Tide know a thing or two when it comes to pass defense, producing a first round pick from their secondary in four of the last five years include the past three in a row.
Collins will follow in the footsteps of Kareem Jackson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dee Milliner and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. It is admittedly lofty praise but Collins has a chance to be the best of the bunch. A true all-around performer, Collins is physical, aggressive and likes to hit but is also athletic enough to make an impact in coverage. Collins is exactly the type of versatile playmaker that NFL teams are looking for at the safety position these days and he will surely be a very valuable commodity on Draft Day .
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