If the Bucs truly are ďcomfortableĒ with Florida St. QB Jameis Winston as they proclaim then this is an easy decision. There are legitimate 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, at the end of the day Jameis Winston is the rarest of commodities Ė a potential franchise quarterback - so teams will be willing to overlook a lot. Itís ironic the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner canít seem to stay out of trouble in his personal life because on the gridiron Winston displays the leadership ability, intelligence, mental and physical toughness and overall moxy of a true field general. An incredible natural athlete with prototypical size and a strong arm, Winston is well versed in a pro style system and just seems to have an innate feel for the game.
As a redshirt sophomore there are still some rough edges to round off, which is to be expected, but Winston is a transcendent talent capable of quickly turning around the fortunes of a franchise. If Tampa is unable to get past Winstonís prior transgressions they could audible to Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, who offers impeccable intangibles but is much more of a question mark on the field. One way or another this choice has to be a signal caller and all of the signs seem to be pointing toward Winston.
It appears as though the Titans are prepared to stray from what Iíve dubbed the ďGolden Rule of the NFL DraftĒ, which states that unless you already have a franchise quarterback you donít pass on one. Zach Mettenberger is undeniably talented and showed some promise when forced into action as a rookie but there are reasons why he slid to the late rounds and his last two seasons have ended prematurely due to injuries. With that said it appears as though Tennessee is inclined to spurn Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, who isnít the prototypical pocket passer that Ken Whisenhunt tends to favor. This is a perfect example of where ownership needs to step in to ensure the people in charge are making decisions based on the best long-term interests of the organization. Coaches are a dime a dozen but the opportunity to land a potential stud quarterback doesnít come around very often. Itís difficult to make a case against USC DL Leonard Williams though, who has drawn favorable comparisons to Richard Seymour and is arguably the premier prospect in this class. 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. If the Titans arenít interested in Mariota they could explore a trade down, perhaps even landing a veteran signal caller such as Jay Cutler or Philip Rivers in the deal. If Tennessee does end up selecting later in the round they could target a wideout like Kevin White of West Virginia or Amari Cooper of Alabama, a right tackle or even an edge pass rusher.
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 and one area that must be addressed is the front seven on defense, where they have a number of solid veterans but lack a true impact presence. That has to be disconcerting for Gus Bradley, who basically built his reputation by pressuring the quarterback in Seattle. Dante Fowler, Jr. of Florida is a versatile pass rusher capable of lining up at either defensive end or outside linebacker and would be an ideal fit at the hybrid LEO position in the Bradleyís scheme.
Fowler looks every bit the part physically and offers top-notch intangibles but wasnít consistently the type of difference maker that you would expect from someone with so much talent. With that said Fowler is probably the safest bet among the top tier of pass rushers in this class and should come off the board somewhere in the Top 5 overall. Clemson OLB Vic Beasley would also make sense and is a possible alternative. Jacksonville would likely listen to offers to trade down as well.
It appears as though the Raiders have finally found a long-term solution at quarterback in Derek Carr. Now all they need is everything else! With so much riding on Carr it only makes sense to provide the young signal caller with a dynamic weapon to throw to. West Virginia WR Kevin White improved his draft stock as much as any prospect in the entire country this past season. A former junior college transfer, White is a big, physical wideout with great hands, terrific ball skills and body control and enough speed to make plays down the field. White has even drawn favorable comparisons to none other than Larry Fitzgerald.
Amari Cooper of Alabama is battling White to be the first pass catcher off the board and should be in the conversation as well. Oakland is also said to be enamored with USC DL Leonard Williams and would likely pounce if the best player in this class somehow fell into their laps. Donít rule out a trade down either, especially if Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is on the board. Other than quarterback every position should be on the table for Oakland though and in this instance talent, not need, should be the key overriding factor in their eventual decision.
Slotting Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is going to be the key to figuring out the Top 5. Someone is most likely going to trade up for the potential franchise signal caller, itís just a matter of who and where. This may be the spot that makes the most sense since any team interested in moving up for Mariota wonít be concerned about the Jaguars or Raiders but may want to leap ahead of the Jets. Or Washington could just keep Mariota for themselves since Jay Gruden is obviously far from sold on Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy. In fact, new general manager Scot McCloughan has already said publically that he would have no problem using this pick on a signal caller if that is the best player available at the time. 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 prototypical physical tools Mariota also garners extremely high praise for his intangibles such as leadership, intelligence, toughness and work ethic.
The only major concern with Mariota is his ability to adjust to a more conventional, pro style system at the next level. Washington could also be in the market for an edge pass rusher after losing Brian Orakpo in free agency and notable options there would include Dante Fowler, Jr. of Florida, Vic Beasley of Clemson, Bud Dupree of Kentucky, Randy Gregory of Nebraska or Shane Ray of Missouri, whether it be at #5 or perhaps a little bit later. There is also room to upgrade at right tackle but this might be too early for Brandon Scherff of Iowa.
After addressing glaring needs at wide receiver and in the secondary earlier this offseason the Jets can now focus on adding a dynamic edge pass rusher. Kentucky OLB Alvin ďBudĒ Dupree isnít a household name but he is probably going to come off the board earlier than most expect. Quite possibly in the Top 10 overall. An explosive athlete with a terrific blend of size and speed, Dupree lacks polish after being moved around a lot during his college career but could really take off once he is afforded the opportunity to settle in and master a single position. New head coach Todd Bowles is just the type of defensive guru who can bring the best out of a talent like Dupree.
Other alternatives include Dante Fowler, Jr. of Florida, Vic Beasley of Clemson, Randy Gregory of Nebraska and Shane Ray of Missouri. There has also been speculation that this is the floor for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, whether it be to the Jets or somebody else who wants to trade up for the potential franchise signal caller. As a darkhorse keep an eye on Georgia RB Todd Gurley, who could be the workhorse runner and dynamic playmaker on offense that New York has been searching for in recent years.
The general consensus seems to be that the Bears will use this choice to address the defense and while that is still a distinct possibility itís far from a foregone conclusion. After all Chicago has already made a concerted effort to upgrade that side of the ball by adding defenders at all three levels in free agency. In fact, after trading away Brandon Marshall a case can be made that wideout is actually the most glaring need in the Windy City. Alabama WR Amari Cooper may not be a freakish physical specimen but is more than adequate from a size and speed perspective and compensates for any minor physical shortcomings by doing all of the little things. A polished route runner with a well-rounded skill set, Cooper consistently demonstrates the ability to get open, separate, come away with contested balls and make big plays and would be a perfect compliment to Alshon Jeffery. Other alternatives at the position include Kevin White of West Virginia and DeVante Parker of Louisville. If Chicago does want to go defense an edge pass rusher like
Vic Beasley of Clemson, Bud Dupree of Kentucky or Randy Gregory of Nebraska or a cover guy like Trae Waynes of Michigan St. would make the most sense from a value and need standpoint. Even though new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was able to get by without making a significant investment at the nose tackle position during his tenure in San Francisco keep an eye on Danny Shelton of Washington too. Or perhaps the host team of the 2015 NFL Draft will really make a splash and excite their fans by trading up for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota!
The Falcons have ranked near the very bottom of the league in sack production for years now but for some inexplicable reason they ignored that glaring need for a pass rusher last offseason. As a result Atlanta once again struggled mightily to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Needless to say itís time to address the situation. The Falcons are obviously at the mercy of the teams selecting ahead of them but at least one of the top pass rushers should still be available at this point, with Vic Beasley of Clemson, Bud Dupree of Kentucky, Randy Gregory of Nebraska and Shane Ray of Missouri the most likely candidates. Beasley is an outstanding athlete with terrific speed and athleticism as well as a truly rare burst off the edge.
A Ďtweener who could project to either defensive end or outside linebacker at the next level, Beasleyís performance at the Scouting Combine went a long way toward alleviating concerns about his size and strength and likely secured a spot in the Top 10. Usually at this point I would go on to list some other possible alternatives but in this case itís probably unnecessary as it would be a major upset if the Falcons didnít use this choice on a sack artist. With that said one darkhorse to keep an eye on is Georgia RB Todd Gurley.
The Giants have been actively rebuilding their offensive line through both the draft and free agency in recent years but the results have been somewhat mixed. New York could very well opt for a blocker with this pick but it may not be Brandon Scherff of Iowa as most assume. What might give Ereck Flowers of Miami (FL) an advantage is that he is definitely destined to play tackle at the next level, whether it be on the left or right side, whereas Scherff might be best suited for the interior. Flowers, who is equal parts big and aggressive, was a three-year starter for the Hurricanes including the last two on the blindside. Flowers isnít particularly flashy but he gets the job done in both pass protection and the run game and also held up well against elite competition.
Do not be surprised when Flowers comes off the board earlier than expected. Scherff, Andrus Peat of Stanford and Laíel Collins of L.S.U. could be in the mix too. Never count out a defensive linemen when it comes to the New York Giants either so keep an eye on Kentucky DE Bud Dupree, Washington NT Danny Shelton and Texas DT Malcom Brown as well. Michigan St. CB Trae Waynes might also be in the discussion at this point since Prince Amukamara is entering the final season of his contract.
What do you give a team that has almost everything? The Rams have had an absolute embarrassment of riches when it comes to premium draft picks in recent years courtesy of their blockbuster trade with Washington for Robert Griffin III and as a result they donít have many glaring needs. One notable exception is the offensive line, where repeated attempts to address the problem in both the draft and free agency have failed. Iowa OT Brandon Scherff is a fantastic all-around blocker who is effective in pass protection and really stands out in the run game. Scherff is tough, powerful, aggressive and plays the game with a nasty demeanor and is also more athletic than most give him credit for. St. Louis could conceivably play Scherff at left tackle, right tackle or guard but regardless of where he lines up it would represent a big step toward resolving those issues up front once and for all.
Ereck Flowers of Miami (FL), Andrus Peat of Stanford, Laíel Collins of LSU and D.J. Humphries could be alternatives in the trenches. Despite making a number of rather significant investments in the wide receiver position the Rams still donít have a true go-to option in the passing attack so they could also consider Kevin White of West Virginia, Amari Cooper of Alabama and DeVante Parker of Louisville. There are some questions in the secondary too so donít completely rule out Michigan St. CB Trae Waynes, the top cover guy in this class.
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