Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kage and the Seidkick NFL Mock Draft 2015

Once again, my best friend, Kevin Gregus, and I do a weekly podcast (you can find that podcast on the right side of this blog or on iTunes - https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/kage-and-the-seidkick/id635443276?mt=2).  Last year, we decided that a fun exercise would be to do a mock draft for the NFL where we alternate picks and then discuss our mock draft on the podcast.  Here is the second annual edition of the mock draft for your enjoyment and keep your eye out for the connecting podcast next week where we will discuss our mock and how it matched up with the actual draft.

The Rules
The rules are simple: Kage had the first pick last year, so I'll take the first pick this year.

In addition to the basic premise, we set guidelines for making our picks.  We are picking as we think the teams should and not as we think they will. This is a "if we were the GMs, this is our thinking" mock draft, not a "this is who we think that particular GM will pick" mock draft. That rule is simply because it's more fun to think of what a smart GM would do rather than to try to guess what moronic move the Browns will make this year.

Without further ado, our second annual mock draft!

The Draft
Dear heavenly father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name,
let my on-field talent drive the narrative and push me to #1!
1.       Tampa Bay – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
As if there was any doubt that my pick would be either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston.  So that left me with a choice between two quarterbacks. One is an NFL quarterback through and through based on everything we've seen on the field and in the combine, but will need a babysitter to ensure that he acts like a professional every minute of every day. The other is the consummate professional and citizen, has a ton of great attributes for the QB position, but has a couple of flaws in his game (ability to read the defense post-snap and ability to throw down the field with consistency).  I think both quarterbacks are capable of being Pro Bowlers, but I only believe one is capable of being a Hall of Famer, and due to that, I'll spend the extra money it takes to have a mentor and babysitter with him 24/7 until he matures.   

2.       Tennessee – Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
The Titans had a multitude of issues in 2014 (see: has #2 pick).  Two of those problems can be addressed in the first round-defensive line and quarterback.  Tennessee's former first round QB, Jake Locker, retired from football due to injuries, leaving Zach Mettenberger as the team's best option.  The former LSU QB was injured for most of last year and while he put up decent numbers in the games he played, many question if he is a viable option as a franchise quarterback.  The obvious fix would be Marcus Mariota. The other deficiency, the defensive front, has been somewhat addressed in the signing of Brian Orakpo.  The Titans run a 3-4 scheme, so they need men up front stopping the run and clearing a path for the linebackers.  Enter Leonard Williams, considered to be the top available prospect.  He is extremely versatile, a big body that can line up at multiple DL positions.  I take Williams here, with a likely dominant player matching up with a need.  Williams lines up at DE in the 3-4, and the Titans give Mettenberger one year to stay healthy and show he can be the QB the Titans haven't have since Steve McNair.

3.       Jacksonville – Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
Back-to-back years, we find the Jacksonville Jaguars at the number three spot in the draft.  Last year, they selected Blake Bortles, tasking him with the job of being the quarterback of the future for the franchise that seems to be turning the corner under Gus Bradley.  Still, they have a long way to go and a lot of holes yet to fill. The Jags need an every down back to supplement Shoelace, a center to anchor the offensive line, an outside rusher to complement Chris Clemons and Jared Odrick, a number one wide receiver, and secondary help.  A center, running back and secondary help are non-starters with the number three overall pick, so that leaves us deciding between a pass rusher and a number one wide receiver. At the beginning of the offseason, I would probably have gone wideout, giving Bortles a receiving corps of Amari Cooper, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson to play with. But with the signing of Julius Thomas, I believe that Bortles has a strong enough stable of weapons, that Cooper (or Kevin White) would not add nearly as much as a pass rusher would. Leonard Williams was the pick for Jacksonville, but with him off the board, the Jags debate between Dante Fowler Jr of Florida and Arik Armstead of Oregon. While I'm a fan of Armstead's, Fowler's ability to play multiple positions and the fact that he played right down the road in Gainesville has me giving Jacksonville the former Gator pass rusher.

4.       Oakland – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
With top WR becoming even more essential to the modern NFL game, the Raiders are at a disadvantage.  Their top receiver is James Jones, who is a WR3 on a contending team. With first year QB Derek Carr showing some promise, Oakland needs to get him targets.  They came to terms with Michael Crabtree, but that's a one year contract for an older wide receiver on the decline.  He's no longer a number one.  Luckily, there are two top receivers in this year's class-Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White.  Cooper had an incredible year at Bama, with a whopping 1727 yards on 124 receptions and an invite to NYC for the Heisman ceremony.  White didn't have quite that output (though still very good), but has wowed scouts with his pre-draft and combine performances and physical attributes. With his college performance showing that he is the closest to a sure thing, the Raiders sprint to the mic to announce they are taking Cooper.  They missed out on Sammy Watkins by one pick last year, and Cooper is more talented. The combine can only tell you so much, and I take Cooper over White every time. He has been highly productive over a three year period in a tough conference, and no team was able to shut him down.

5.       Washington – Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri
This is not what I meant when I said pass me the bowl, guys!
The first tough decision of the draft for me, as the Fighting Snyders have major needs at rush linebacker, right tackle and in the secondary, while also having to decide if Robert Griffin III is ever going to be what he looked like his rookie season. Honestly, I find it very tough to pass on Marcus Mariota here and would seriously consider grabbing him and trading Griffin. Unfortunately, Washington spent so much to obtain RGIII that they are pretty much invested for another couple years with him, so the best option is to make the team around him better. So the new question is how do we do that? There are no secondary players that are an option this high in the draft, so we are looking at one of four players: Brandon Scherff, Randy Gregory, Shane Ray, or Vic Beasley.  I just can't see myself popping Brandon Scherff this high with all reports having him as a guard in the long run, so that leaves us debating between the rush linebackers. Washington was destroyed through the air last year due to a porous secondary and zero pass rush. The loss of Orakpo just exacerbates the lack of pass rush issue, so any of the three mentioned will help bolster the rush from the linebacking position with Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy. We pass on Gregory, as we've seen with Josh Gordon what can happen to talented players who are not smart when it comes to pot. That leaves Shane Ray and Vic Beasley, two very similar players. I myself LOVE Vic Beasley, but most scouts prefer Shane Ray, so I'll follow the advice of my scouting department and go with Shane Ray here to help the pass rush in DC.

6.      New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Jets need help all over the board on the offensive side of the ball.  It's becoming very clear that Geno Smith is not the answer at QB and Michael Vick is no longer with the team.  They have tried to plug holes with veteran acquisitions, but there isn't a true piece to build around.  Todd Bowles replaced Rex Ryan at head coach, bringing with him Chan Gailey to run the offense. They went out and traded for Brandon Marshall, who will line up next to Eric Decker.  Regardless of Marshall's off the field issues, the Jets have given whoever plays quarterback some nice veteran pieces that will help the transition to an NFL offense.  Marcus Mariota is the other top QB available, and has recently leaped Winston as the top option in the eyes of many scouts.  Until he takes the field to prove otherwise, there will always be the question of him adapting from the spread at Oregon,  However, his character and leadership are top notch and he is an athletic and accurate passer.  While his ceiling may not be as high as Winston's, he comes with no risk of off-the-field problems, something that is at the forefront of many teams' minds.

7.       Chicago – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
So I started this process with an idea in mind of the worst teams in the NFL, the teams with the most needs.  I never thought that Chicago would make that list, but after looking at that team roster, there are very few areas that I wouldn't look at upgrading. With the talk being that Cutler is on his way out of town, this team is begging to be blown up and rebuilt. In that vein, I'm drafting best player available for the Bears right here. The question is who is that exactly? I have three position groups and eight players remaining at the top of my list, so let's find the best one and see how they fit in Chicago.  First, let's start with the lone offensive lineman, Brandon Scherff.  A guard in the long run, he should be a solid offensive line piece for a decade and a day one replacement for Matt Slauson or even Jordan Mills is the Bears wanted to try it. A decent option, but not something that screams must have.  Next, the Bears are moving to a 3-4 this season and have need for parts to fit that system in the front seven. I have Randy Gregory, Arik Armstead, Vic Beasley and Danny Shelton all as great fits for the Bears in that system, all providing a talented player who could start from day one in John Fox's new system. Of those three, I rate them Shelton, Armstead, Beasley, Gregory in terms of need for the Bears. So, we put Shelton into our final decision. Finally, there are three wide receivers available, in Kevin White, Devante Parker, and Breshad Perriman.  White is the burner who catches everything, Parker is the all-around possession type, and Perriman is the athletic monster on the outside.  The Bears have a Parker-type in Marquess Wilson and a Perriman-type in Alshon Jeffrey, so Kevin White fills a need and is the best wide receiver available.

So my final decision for the Bears comes down to Brandon Scherff, Kevin White, or Danny Shelton. Shelton can be a Haloti Ngata clone, anchoring that 3-4 for years to come, Scherff will be cloning Kyle Long on the left side of the interior line, providing stability on the offensive line, and Kevin White a game breaker who takes pressure off of Jeffrey and can be a star immediately in Chicago.  I like all three and think all would be great picks for the Bears, but after thinking long and hard, the best player available is Kevin White and I said we are taking the best player available.

8.       Atlanta – Randy Gregory, OLB/DE, Nebraska
The Falcons defense needs help on the defensive front in the worst way.  The 2014 squad only recorded 22 sacks and gave up almost 4,500 passing yards, giving them one of the league's worst pass defenses.  This performance ultimately cost Mike Smith his job and prompted Atlanta to hire Seattle DC Dan Quinn to take over as head coach. Quinn has directed the league's best defense for the past few years, and while the Falcons have nowhere near the talent the Seahawks do, Quinn has experience working different schemes.  What they need is the top tier talent to fill those huge gaps (literally) in the defense.  If Quinn ran a 3-4 system, Danny Shelton would be the easy choice.  However, they need pass rushers, and there are two remaining LB/DE types who have the speed Quinn wants rushing from the outside or dropping back. I'd love for Fowler, Jr. to be available here, who has worked in the past with Quinn at Florida, but there are still great options available. Those guys would be Vic Beasley from Clemson and Randy Gregory from Nebraska.  Beasley doesn't have quite the length that Quinn values, while Gregory is being questioned following a positive test for marijuana.  I think Gregory has the higher upside of the two, and take him him here to immediately make an impact as a pass rusher.  If teams can deal with Winston and his character issues, they can certainly do with a player who was positive for pot.

9.       New York Giants – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Giants have one MAJOR need and a few others that are pretty serious as well. That one major need is safety. For the first time EVER, I looked at a depth chart that had an empty space. The Giants have zero free safeties on the roster. They have two safeties total. Are you kidding me?! How does this happen? Unfortunately this happened the year after a draft which featured five safeties in the first 41 picks. So now the Giants are left debating whether to reach big time on a safety who struggles in pass coverage (Landon Collins of Alabama) or waiting and filling another need at nine? I'll let you in on a secret. They can wait a round and will still upgrade over what they currently have. So that leaves me choosing between Danny Shelton, a big physical defensive tackle or Brandon Scherff, a big physical offensive lineman. No matter which way we go, Tom Coughlin feels like he just popped an Enzyte.  I think both are equal, as Scherff immediately moves inside a la Zach Martin last year and provides Pro Bowl play for the Giants o-line. On the flip side, Shelton is a perfect DT compliment to Hankins and the outside rushers, as the Giants defensive line needs run stopping help. Shelton takes on multiple blockers and makes Hankins and JPP that much better. The tiebreaker comes down to last year's stats: the Giants were 15th in the league in offensive DVOA, 24th in defensive DVOA.  Defense it is!

10.   St. Louis – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
The Rams will have a new look in 2015, though many can argue that it is just more of the same QB rotation they have seen since 2010, when Sam Bradford was drafted.  St. Louis swapped the promising, but oft-injured QB to the Eagles for Nick Foles.  While Foles may not have the talent Bradford does, the Rams will at least benefit from what should be some consistency at their most important position.  What didn't change was a lack of receivers for the Rams' quarterbacks.  Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt are the team's best receivers, but neither is a top receiver that can drastically improve the performance of the man throwing to them.  The good news, as we've mentioned, is that this draft
has some very nice options at WR.  Two have already gone, but Louisville's DeVante Parker and UCF's Breshad Perriman are the top names remaining, along with Dorial Green-Beckham.  The Rams desperately need a go-to player at wideout to match the other skill positions (Stacy and Mason at RB, Cook at TE).  Due to his more polished skills, St. Louis takes Parker to contribute right away.  Many are labeling him as a poor-man's AJ Green due to his large catching radius and leaping ability. With a load of defensive talent (albeit coming off a disappointing 2014 season) and no can't-miss prospects on the offensive line, the Rams should be able to use this spot and grab the top WR, depending on availability.

11.   Minnesota – Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
The Vikings are in a good place when it comes to this pick, as they were a much better team than their record indicated last year. Remember, that this team used an inferior quarterback and were missing the best running back in the nation for most of the season.  Now, with the assumption that Purple Jesus runs with Minnesota this season (probably 50/50 proposal at this point in time), you have a Vikings squad that played really good football down the stretch, are going into year two under a great coach in Mike Zimmer, have a more experienced Teddy Bridgewater under center and AP back, to go with a strong defensive front seven and playmakers on offense. That sounds like a potential playoff contender to me. They also don't have many large holes, with needs at guard, safety, cornerback, and inside linebacker. Now this would be a spot to potentially reach on Landon Collins at safety, but neither he nor any of the inside LBs are worth passing on the top offensive lineman or top cornerback available. So who do the Vikings select here? Trae Waynes, the physical corner from Michigan State who would immediately be the CB2 with fellow young CB Xavier Rhodes ahead of him? Or Brandon Scherff, the offensive tackle who projects better at guard in the NFL, exactly the area on the line that the Vikings need help at? A lot of people are saying Matt Kalil needs to be replaced, but he was injured most of last season, possibly explaining the turnstile season he had at left tackle. There is no explanation for the terrible play they had on the interior. The Vikings select Scherff, who moves inside and is an immediate Pro Bowl-caliber, similar to how Zach Martin burst onto the scene for the Cowboys last year.  The Vikings get more protection for Bridgewater and prove to AP that it's in his best interest to stay with the Vikings and run behind that line.

Upon hearing the news that he was heading to Cleveland,
Vic Beasley ran and ran until he couldn't run no more in the hopes
that this was all one bad dream.
12.   Cleveland – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The Cleveland Browns continue to be a confusing mess.  After doing their best impression in last year's draft to recreate Kevin Costner's performance in "Draft Day", they ended up with Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel. Brian Hoyer then went on to play most of the year, with Manziel not exactly wowing in his appearances, and then checking into rehab during the offseason.  There are (and will be) tons of questions on the former Texas A&M star, namely, can he be the franchise player they thought he could be.  Many have already linked them to the top QBs in this draft class, even with Manziel in line to take the reins. The Browns have talent in many spots-along the offensive line, the defensive secondary, and some solid linebackers.  This has been a team waiting on a QB to take the next step, but in true Browns fashion, they are late to this year's party.  Plus, it is way too early to give up on Johnny Football and take another first round QB with a number of other needs. These needs include WR (Josh Gordon will sit another year), TE (Jordan Cameron signed with the Dolphins) and DL.  Breshad Perriman is the top WR left, and has wowed scouts in the pre-draft period with his speed and athletic ability, although is still fairly raw.  The best D-linemen left are Vic Beasley, an undersized but excellent pass rusher, and Arik Armstead, a versatile and well-built DE/DT who needs to improve on his pass rushing skills.  Although Manziel needs help at the offensive skill positions, the Browns need pass rushing ability to help make a good secondary great.  They snag Beasley here to fit in perfectly in their 3-4 to wreck havoc against opposing quarterbacks.  Cleveland still has another first round pick to get their needed WR.

13.   New Orleans – Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
This is not the same Saints team that won the Super Bowl six years back. After a couple of seasons of controversy and a couple more of poor play, Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton decided to blow it all up this offseason. Gone are Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, replaced by CJ Spiller and Max Unger on offense. On defense, the Saints struggled mightily last year, resulting in dissension among the ranks and a rift developing between Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. With all of this turnover and disarray, it's hard to pinpoint a specific area for the Saints to target. When we started this process, I had the pass rush, receiving corps, secondary, and interior offensive line as priorities, in that order.  Since then, the Saints have signed Anthony Spencer, providing a pass rusher who knows Rob Ryan's defense intimately.  As a result, I would drop that priority to third on the list and with good options still on the board for both other needs that just moved up, we will pass on the rush upgrade at this time.  So, do the Saints add Breshad Perriman, the big pass-catcher who immediately steps in as the third wide receiver to eventually replace Colston, perhaps as soon as this year? Or do they add another corner in Trae Waynes to potentially displace Keenan Lewis opposite free agent signing Brandon Browner?  While I would love to make the defense better and help out Rob Ryan's pressure defense, the Saints are an offensive juggernaut without offensive skill. Perriman fixes that immediately, giving Sean Payton a fun piece to play with in the last few years of Drew Brees' career.

14.   Miami – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Dolphins have already made some noise this offseason by grabbing one of the top available free agents in DT Ndamukong Suh and upgrading at TE with Jordan Cameron.  However, there are still plenty of holes to fill around a team that is still trying to find a way to win consistently with Ryan Tannehill. There is a huge gap at WR, where they lost Mike Wallace to the Vikings.  The offensive line is almost completely recycled, but still could use major upgrades at guard.  On the defensive side, LB and CB  need more depth to help what should be a vastly better defensive line. Financially, Miami was able to open a huge chunk of cap space, but the free agent pickings have become very slim, so these positions will need to be addressed here.  La'el Collins and Andrus Peat are the top options on the O-Line, and we are already down the fifth best guy at receiver, albeit in a deep WR class.  Linebacker is also down to a perhaps lower-tier.  However, the top options are still available at cornerback in Michigan State's Trae Waynes and Washington's Marcus Peters.  Waynes is an athletic cover corner that made sure the Spartans did not miss Darqueze Dennard.  Peters is a strong press corner who's skill set fits well with modern NFL defenses.  The Fins take Waynes here, as he is regarded as the best CB prospect in the draft and does not come with the off-the-field issues Peters does.

15.   San Francisco – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Last spring, San Francisco was coming off another NFC Championship Game appearance (this one a loss on the final play to Seattle), their third in three years and figuring out how long they could keep the Jim Harbaugh-created dynasty going. Now just one year later, the wheels have fallen off, largely due to Trent Baalke and the front office's hubris. The pride of the front office ran off one of the best football coaches in America at any level. In addition, they have bled talent the last two offseasons, losing starters at nearly every position outside of the quarterback position.  Add in the sudden retirements of both starting inside linebackers (Patrick Willis and Chris Borland), the impending retirement of Justin Smith, and the potential loss of Aldon Smith the next time that ticking time bomb decides to go off, and we have a still very talented 49ers squad that now lacks depth nearly everywhere and has holes all over the defense.  So what kind of fix should be obtained at 15? I set the entire defensive front seven and offensive guards as targets, with cornerback another sneaky need.  The best players available at those positions at this point are Marcus Peters at corner, Denzel Perryman and Bernardrick McKinney at inside linebacker, Bud Dupree at outside rusher, Arik Armstead at defensive end, and La'el Collins and Cameron Erving at interior offensive line.  Out of those mentioned, the linebackers are reaches at this point, so we'll focus on the other four.  Peters is probably the most talented corner in this draft, but he has serious character issues that I would have to pass on if I already had Aldon Smith on my team. Both La'el Collins at guard and Cameron Erving at guard or center project to very good futures in the NFL. Either would be good picks here, but neither are transcendent. I say that because I think Armstead has a chance to be just that, transcendent.  In this scenario, the 49ers lose Waynes the pick before, saving them a tough decision. So we go Arik Armstead for the 49ers, giving them a 6'7" freak at DE in their 3-4 to help take pressure off of the linebackers, and potentially replace the retired Justin Smith in the very near future.

16.   Houston – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Todd preparing for the humidity in Houston
The Texans did a good job of rebounding from their abysmal 2013 campaign to finish above 0.500 in Bill O'Brian's first season as head coach.  Their recovery was greatly aided by the huge steps forward taken by do-everything DT JJ Watt.  Watt can rush the passer, stuff the run, and split out as a receiver on the goal line.  Is he also calling offensive plays or coaching the cheerleaders?  We may never know.  Houston acquired Vince Wilfork to pair with Watt on the line and will look for last year's #1 pick Jadeveon Clowney to rehab from knee injuries that plagued his rookie year.  Offense and the defensive backfield will be the main targets in this year's draft.  Andre Johnson left for the Colts, leaving DeAndre Hopkins to take over the top WR role, with newcomer Cecil Shorts as an average-at-best second option.  Arian Foster continues to get no younger and miss more and more games each season.  And, of course, there is no good solution at quarterback, where Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, and Tom Savage (aka the incomparable Kenny Duke) will battle for the starter role.  However, there is no more first round talent left at QB, and taking a RB in the middle of the first round is risky in the modern NFL.  It's tempting to look at an athletic pass rusher like Bud Dupree here, but the Texans have spent 3 out of their last 4 top picks on these types of players.  The offensive line could pick up help in the way of La'el Collins or Andrus Peat, but that isn't a pressing need.  Receivers like Jaelen Strong or Dorial Green-Beckham could look real good lined up opposite Hopkins.  Defensively, LB and CB could use upgrades and depth.  With quite a few needs and the talent available not matching the pick value, the Texans are a trade down candidate.  Unfortunately we don't trade, so I came down to WR Dorial Green-Beckham from Mizzou/Oklahoma, ILB Eric Kendricks from UCLA, RB Todd Gurley from Georgia, and CB Marcus Peters from Washington.  In a surprise move, the Texans take Gurley, a tremendous talent whose stock has taken a hit due to a torn ACL.  With an aging Foster and a potential 3 ring circus at QB, Gurley can make an impact right away in O'Brian's offensive system.

17.   San Diego – Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
The San Diego Super Chargers finished 9-7 last season, missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. They've also finished within one game of .500, above or below, six times in the past seven seasons. If you remove the first two seasons he started, Phillip Rivers has a record as a starter of 63-49 in 7 seasons.  Averaging out to...that's right, 9-7 on the nose! So what do the Chargers need to do to break out of this average funk? Swing for the home run with a running back, right?! WRONG! This team struggled last year because their run defense was poor and Phillip Rivers got hurt behind a horrendous offensive line. Seriously, that offensive line could be upgraded at nearly every position but right tackle. So we'll pass on the big name running backs and grab one in the later rounds, instead fixing the lines.  On the defensive side of the ball, there is but one option to consider at nose tackle for this 3-4: Malcom Brown from Texas. He's 6'2", 320 lb of athleticism who can hold the point of attack when necessary and get into the backfield when necessary. For a team that struggled against the run last year, he would be a welcome addition. On the offensive line, La'el Collins, Cameron Erving and Andrus Peat are the options. Collins most likely ends up at guard, Erving can play everywhere on the line but his best position in the long term is center, and Peat is the left tackle option.  I like all three and all three could and most likely would start for the Chargers from day one.  If you asked me to rank them for best pick for the Chargers yesterday and tomorrow, they would both be different from today's rankings and each other. So, today, I rank them Erving, Peat, Collins.  I just feel like an offensive line with this much instability could use someone who can fill any need well. Is it high for a center? Yes, but not terribly high and not for someone who can play anywhere on the line.

18.   Kansas City – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri/Oklahoma
The Chiefs are coming off a historic season of sorts, but not the good kind of historic.  No 2014 Chiefs wideout caught a touchdown pass.   That's right, none.  Alex Smith distributed his 18 TD's among the TE's, Jamaal Charles, and the other running backs.  While KC prides itself on being a running team with Charles, Knile Davis, and a somewhat mobile QB, that is not good.  They didn't get a receiver in last year's draft, and lost "top" WR Dwayne Bowe. The front office hasn't been quiet though.  Arguably the top available receiver who didn't resign with his team, Jeremy Maclin, signed with the Chiefs.  Luckily, there is a deep draft class at WR, if we haven't mentioned that 10 times already.  The clear top options are gone, but guys like Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong, and Nelson Agholor. The offensive line could also use some depth, but the signing of Ben Grubbs and the continued development of Eric Fisher will go a long way.  I like La'el Collins here if they decide to take a lineman since they could use someone who can play more than one spot (likely guard), and Cameron Erving was taken the pick before.  However, I really want to take one of these receivers here.  Green-Beckham probably has the most talent with a big, athletic frame, but has had off-the-field and effort issues (ed: Understatement).  Strong is an excellent leaper and has a big catch radius, but is not fast.  Agholor is a good route runner who developed at USC, but does not have a good build.  In the end, I take the most talent, even at the risk of the character questions, and grab Green-Beckham.  He has been compared to Julio Jones due to his build, ability to adjust, and his catching radius.  However, others compare him to Josh Gordon, a great talent whose off-the-field issues have derailed his once-promising career.  If Andy Reid can help get Green-Beckham in line, Kansas City will have a nice wideout who can catch at least 1 touchdown.  And for the Chiefs, that would be an output increase of infinity.

19.   Cleveland (via Buffalo) – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Cleveland Browns are on the clock for their second pick of the first round, a pick they acquired from the Bills last year by trading down to allow Buffalo to grab Sammy Watkins.  Guess what is number one on the Browns wish list? A top WR. Sounds like Sammy Watkins to me. Add in that this is one very deep draft at WR, but the top options are all gone, so the Browns are better off waiting and grabbing wideouts in the second and/or third rounds.  So what other needs are there for the Orange Mistakes by the Lake?  I have the Browns as needing help along the defensive front (most notably nose tackle and defensive end), linebacker, right tackle and wide receiver. Well we've covered wide receiver and linebacker was taken care of with the earlier selection of Vic Beasley. So it's to the offensive or defensive lines for the boys from Cleveland.  Andrus Peat and La'el Collins both could play at RT early in their careers and move to better positions of fit later on, as both are talented enough to help out the Browns offensive line from day one. On the defensive side, there are no good 3-4 defensive ends to help the line, but there is a few nose tackles, and one in particular who ranks above the rest, Malcom Brown.  We discussed the Longhorn earlier, but as backup and eventual successor to Phil Taylor, Brown can provide depth on a defensive line that sorely lacks it and eat up blocks, freeing up the likes of Beasley, Barkevious Mingo, and Paul Kruger to attack the quarterback.  I like the offensive linemen, but that offensive line is strong enough that we can add depth in later rounds. The addition of Brown makes this Browns defense stout and takes pressure off the offense to win games.

20.   Philadelphia – Landon Collins, S, Alabama
If there was a team that was looking to trade up to number 2 overall, it's Chip Kelly and the Eagles.   Marcus Mariota, the former Oregon QB recruited by Kelly, seems to be a perfect fit for the up-tempo spread, or whatever Kelly is calling his hybrid NFL offense.  Moving from 20 to 2 would take a huge package of draft picks and young talent.  Remember what the Redskins gave up for RGIII? That was just to move from 6 to 2.  Either way, we aren't doing trades in this mock draft, plus the Eagles have other needs.  Philadelphia was busy in the offseason, trading Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso and signing DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell.  We also can't forget the game-changing signing of Tim Tebow.  They did lose top receiver Jeremy Maclin to free agency, leaving Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews as the top options at wideout.  So where are the holes in the roster?  The Eagles have serious needs at safety and wide receiver, and could use depth at cornerback and offensive line.  The top safety, Alabama's Landon Collins, is still on the board, and the talent after him drops off very quickly.  At receiver, there have already been five taken.  Jaelen Strong would be a good option opposite Matthews, but I think safety is a bigger need.  The Seahawks have shown what big hitting safeties can provide, and Collins is exactly that type.  He may not excel in coverage, but has a linebacker build who can step down into the box or protect the middle of the field.  He will be a good fit alongside Malcom Jenkins, who has the cover skills to pair with Collins' tackling ability.

21.   Cincinnati – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Awww, the poor Bengals. They've figured out the regular season part, now time to figure out that pesky postseason.  The offseason was unstoppable at times last season, with the only areas in need of improvement is a long-term replacement for the aging Andrew Whitworth and the development of rookie center Russell Bodine.  The defense was another story. This team could not get to the quarterback and as a result, the secondary suffered.  The linebacking corps is in need of some reinforcements (and no, AJ Hawk is not that).  Additionally, they need help along the defensive line. Domata Peko looks to be on his last legs and the Dunlap/Gilberry/Hunt trio was so bad, the Bengals went out and brought back Michael Johnson despite his train wreck of a season in Tampa.  So which direction do we go with this perennial playoff loser to help get it to the next level? Defensively along the line, there is only one DT worth discussing: Eddie Goldman. I like him as a potential replacement for Peko, but I doubt he can displace him in year one, so he's a depth pick.  At end, we have three names: Preston Smith, Mario Edwards, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa.  All our strong potential but none edge out Goldman, so we move on.  At linebacker, I think each of Eric Kendricks, Benardrick McKinney, Shaq Thompson, Stephone Anthony and Denzel Perryman can start for the Bengals from day one.  So, they edge out Goldman. Offensively both Andrus Peat and La'el Collins lasted, so both are options here, but Peat projects long-term as a LT and Whitworth's replacement, so he's the choice if the Bengals go offensive. In this scenario, the linebackers are really deep and at least one should drop to the Bengals next pick, so I'll go with the top LT on the board, a project but someone who can be groomed behind Whitworth and replacement in a year or two on Dalton's blind side.

No worries, Pittsburgh fans. Bud's towel game is on point
22.   Pittsburgh – Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
In what feels very un-Steeler-like, the majority of Pittsburgh's draft needs are on the defensive side of the ball.  The retirements of Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor has left the depth of the defensive backfield thin, and they already had depth issues at linebacker.  The typically vaunted 3-4 defense didn't put up their usual sack numbers . The good news is that the offense was able to carry the team into the playoffs.  Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the better QB's in the league, Antonio Brown is a true number 1 at wideout, and Le'Veon Bell has proven to be a workhorse back, even with his suspension issues.   The offseason saw focus on resigning several players, along with adding Deangelo Williams to bridge the gap for the remainder of Bell's suspension.  OLB Jason Worilds surprised many with his retirement announcement, which along with Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, could become more prevalent in the modern NFL.  Thus, the two clear needs are OLB and CB.  The best options at each position are Bud Dupree from Kentucky and Marcus Peters from Washington.  I think the Steelers need a jolt to their pass rush and to have an heir to James Harrison.  Pittsburgh takes Dupree, who is raw, but has a high ceiling and all the tools to be an elite pass rusher, especially as an OLB in a 3-4 system.  Dupree was very productive against the quality talent in the SEC and should develop nicely alongside Jarvis Jones in a system known for its pass rushing linebackers.

23.   Detroit – La'el Collins, OL, LSU
Oh, the Detroit Lions. A team that was oh-so-close to a playoff win and potentially deep run in the postseason just a few months ago are now replacing their two best players on defense and wondering what is the best way to keep the offense flowing when Megatron is sidelined.  To replace the loss of Fairley and Suh, two very high draft picks in their own rights, the Lions have only one option in the first round: Eddie Goldman. While Eddie Goldman would be a nice pick here, his talents match Haloti Ngata's too much, lacking in the disruption department and creating more pressure on Ansah and Jones to attack from the edge.  I'd wait a round and grab someone like Michael Bennett or Jordan Phillips. Corner could use some depth, but again, a third string cornerback with a first round pick? No thanks!  So we try to answer the other question of how to keep the offense rolling and that solution comes along the offensive line. The right side of the line struggled mightily all year and as it currently stands, there is no left guard on the depth chart.  It's hard to move the ball with no protection, especially when the safety blanket is missing. La'el Collins presents a player who can easily slide in at either guard position or right tackle, allowing the Lions to move the other players to a position they play better and put a stud in to protect Stafford and key the running game when the passing game is not chugging along.

24.   Arizona – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Cardinals were the surprise team of 2014, getting into the playoffs even when down to their third string QB. Their 11-5 record would likely have been better if not for losing Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington, and Drew Stanton (never thought I'd say that), among others. While they don't have stars everywhere, they have a number of solid players at multiple positions.  They used the offseason to address holes at offensive line, edge rusher, and linebacker, and don't have any truly glaring needs.  Their biggest loss was probably Antonio Cromartie, who along with Patrick Peterson formed one of the better corner pairs in the league.  So what can the Cardinals use?  They need a quarterback of the future, but this isn't the time to grab that.  Linebacker is a need, but there are no can't-miss values at this point.  They could use a back to pair with Ellington, and Melvin Gordon is available.  Finally, Marcus Peters or Kevin Johnson would be good to pair with Peterson at cornerback.  We've already seen a team draft a running back when they already have a starter, so taking one here is not crazy.  With the signing of Pro Bowl OG Mike Iupati and the health of Ellington, Gordon is a nice fit for the Cardinals and they take him at 24.  Gordon adds a shifty, but physical style and can excel at catching balls out of the backfield.  Arizona now has two backs to improve a weak rushing attack and deal with the physical defenses of the NFC West.

25.   Carolina – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
Oh boy, do we have a trade down candidate here! The Panthers have four needs in my estimation and none are great value at this point: offensive line, which was plundered in the most recent picks; wide receiver, which is already down to the fifth best option; defensive end, which are all late first, early second-types, so probably a couple of picks too early for them; and third linebacker to compliment Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly.  I will not select a wide receiver the rest of the first and defensive end already has one project in last year's second round pick, Kony Ealy.  So that leaves me with selecting either a linebacker or offensive lineman. The three linebackers who fit best in the SAM role, opposite the other two pro bowlers are Shaq Thompson, Benardrick McKinney, and Stephone Anthony.  All three seem like good bets to me, so they are tough to differentiate, but I'll rank them Thompson, Anthony, McKinney right now.  On the offensive line, the best remaining options are both from Florida: Miami's Ereck Flowers and Florida's DJ Humphries.  I'd put Flowers slightly ahead of Humphries, but could go with either at this point in the draft. So the question is solidify a strength or strengthen a weakness. In that scenario, it's a no-brainer. You strengthen the weakness that threatens your franchise quarterback. 

26.   Baltimore – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington   

The 2015 offseason was one full of losses for the Ravens. They dealt Haloti Ngata to the Lions in return for draft picks to save a large chunk of cap room, and lost Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee to free agency. The dead cap commitment to former RB Ray Rice limited the options Baltimore had to fill holes via free agency. Still, they were able to resign Justin Forsett and Jimmy Smith, and continue to have the steadying, though not elite, force of Joe Flacco.
Heavy defensive drafting over the past four years make the losses of Ngata and McPhee easier to take, but there are some weaknesses in the defensive backfield. On the offensive side, there are now very few options for Flacco to target. Deep threat Torrey Smith is gone, and Steve Smith is near the end of his career. At TE, Dennis Pitta continues to sit on the sidelines with injury problems, and Owen Daniels left in the offseason. We've discussed WR, which has good depth in a draft where the Ravens have 10 picks. There is one TE worth consideration this early, Minnesota's Maxx Williams, but I'm not sure he's the best option at 26th overall. So, Baltimore continues the first round defensive trend and nabs a CB, and they have plenty of options. Only one corner has been taken, leaving Marcus Peters, Kevin Johnson, Byron Jones, and Jalen Collins all available here. Peters is probably the most talented, but his character issues have been noted. Johnson needs to add strength, but is good in coverage, while Jones has the opposite problem. Collins would be a reach here, and also faced some off-the-field issues at LSU. We've taken talent despite off-the-field problems previously, and there is no reason to stop here. The Ravens select the athletic Peters to add to what could be yet another top 10 defense.

27.   Dallas – Byron Jones, DB, UConn
I'm a Cowboy! And I'm moving out of Connecticut!
The Cowboys are my team, so take what I say here with a grain of salt. This past season saw the Cowboys finally take that step forward out of the 8-8 mediocrity they were mired in for so long.  Behind a rebuilt offensive line and a defense rejuvenated by Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys were one Dez Bryant catch away from the NFC title game.  This offseason, they have lost one of the great runners in franchise history, DeMarco Murray, as well as five defensive starters from last season (though only two of those represent a downgrade at this point).  That being said, this team is capable of repeating last season and making a deeper run in the playoffs, especially if they can continue their strong drafting of the past five seasons. On offense, Dallas really only needs a future quarterback and a running back to platoon with Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar. With Gordon and Gurley gone, both of those options are better left addressed in the later rounds (I fully expect a RB selected by round three, though).  So it's defense for this pick and there are plenty of areas that can be upgraded. I believe the Cowboys can be upgraded at DT, DE, third linebacker, second CB, and free safety. Along the line, I like Owamagbe Odighizuwa at end and Jordan Phillips at tackle as talented players for Rod Marinelli to mold.  The Cowboys need a Will LB, so Eric Kendricks, Denzel Perryman and Stephone Anthony are the options there, and I'd be stoked to get any of them, as all three should start from day one over Anthony Hitchens.  Finally, the secondary could be upgraded with Kevin Johnson at corner, or Byron Jones at corner/free safety.  Honestly, every player I named seems like a good fit for me, but I have more confidence in Marinelli turning midround DL and LB into stars plus the memories of Davante Adams running wild still haunt my dreams, so we go secondary here with the selection of Byron Jones.  Byron can battle from day one with both JJ Wilcox at safety and Brandon Carr/Mo Claiborne at corner for a starting gig, giving the Cowboys depth and a potential starter at two positions of need.

28.   Denver – TJ Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
I don't remember feeling this hopeless when making a pick at 28.  The feeling like this season will be a last ditch effort for the Broncos is a real one, as this team will go as Peyton Manning goes. Yes, the defense is one of the better ones in the NFL, and yes, they still have some excellent receivers.  I just couldn't help feeling like I had watched a very different Broncos team lose to the Colts in the playoffs, one in which Manning could no longer get the job done.  I wish I could say I was shocked Manning came back, but I know what the competitive urge does to players.  Last year's shortfall cost John Fox his job, and guys like Julius Thomas, Rahim Moore, and Terrance Knighton left in free agency. With all that said, this team still has a lot of talent, and their division isn't exactly full of world-beaters.  Holes do exist on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as safety.  Denver did make some additions that will help on defense, so the focus can be on the offensive side of the ball, with the goal being protecting and helping Manning at all costs.  TE Maxx Williams could be an option here, and would be a decent selection if new coach Gary Kubiak wants a good pass-catching tight end.  I think the best option would be to grab an offensive lineman.  With the top four options gone, the best remaining are DJ Humphries and TJ Clemmings.  Kubiak loves to run a zone-blocking and west coast scheme, which relies on athletic linemen.  This fits the bill for both of these linemen, who have the prototypical frames for an offensive tackle to go along with a high level of athleticism.  I think Clemmings has the higher ceiling, and as a converted defensive lineman, he has the quickness to excel in Denver's new offense.

29.   Indianapolis – Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
The Indianapolis Colts made it all the way to the AFC Championship game in Andrew Luck's third season. Get used to it, as Brady, Manning and Roethlisberger are all on the backsides of their careers, so Luck should be the stud going forward in the AFC.  Now how do the Colts take that next step and advance to Luck's first Super Bowl?  Well, first off, we must realize that the Colts were not a championship level team last season, as evidenced by the shellacking they took at the hands of the New England Patriots. They have a few more needs than your typical Championship Game participant, but with a good draft this year, can put themselves right in the conversation starting this season.  The major needs I've identified are inside linebacker, 3-4 defensive end, center and right tackle.  On the offensive side of the ball, the Colts added a lot of big name but old talent, that might help some but should not be expected to carry the load. That is what Luck is for and as such, the Colts must fix the offensive line. The center and entire right side of the line was very poor last season and the Colts brought in Todd Herremans to fix the guard spot, but still could use help at tackle or center.  DJ Humphries or Hroniss Grasu would be the options there, and Grasu is probably not a legit option this early. On the other side of the ball, the Colts were weak along the line but the 3-4 options on the line are better off addressed later, as there is very little value for that here. At linebacker, the Colts have Trent Cole, Robert Mathis and Bjoern Werner on the outside, but inside two guys who struggled mightily last year, in D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman.  They brought in Nate Irving to help, but they really need reinforcements here.  The two linebackers I like as fits are Benardrick McKinney and Stephone Anthony.  So, where do the Colts go? DJ Humphries who should displace Gosder Cherilus as the RT from day one, but might be too raw to do that? Or one of the inside linebackers who will replace the poorest of the two current starters and help a defense that was killed by tight ends all last year because of their weak inside linebacker play? I think Humphries would be a great add, but he is not guaranteed to start from day one. I truly believe that Anthony or McKinney would, so I go defense. I honestly cannot decide between the two, so we let our scouting department (Mr Heads and Mr Tails) decide and they went with Stephone Anthony.  Either pick would have been a good pick in my book.

It's tough to replace AJ Hawk. Hahaha, good one, coach!
   30.   Green Bay – Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
I'll begin this pick by saying that it doesn't matter who the Packers grab here.  No matter the name or position, that player will be a perennial Pro Bowler who will spend his entire career in Green Bay with a 14-2 record against the Bears.  Do I sound bitter?  I'm really just jealous of a team and front office that continually knock it out of the park in the draft from top to bottom, and I don't expect this year to be different.  The Packers spent the offseason by resigning Randall Cobb, BJ Raji, and extending Bryan Bulaga.  They did lose AJ Hawk, Tramon Williams, and Devon House, and while all are very replaceable, they do leave holes on the roster.  Other needs besides ILB and CB include tight end, along with more depth on the line and at pass rusher.  I want to keep Clay Matthews at outside LB in that 3-4 system so that he can continue to terrorize offensive backfields, so if I take a LB, it will be someone who can cover the middle and drop back into coverage.  Eric Kendricks is a guy who fits that bill-a bit undersized, but has the polish and quickness to drop in and out of coverage.  He would be a nice piece in Dom Capers' system.  At CB, Kevin Johnson is the top choice left, and is perhaps the most ready of all the cornerbacks in this draft, but lacks some strength.  Maxx Williams at TE is very tempting to pair with Aaron Rodgers, but let's face it-the Packers can get a TE in the 3rd round and he'll turn out just as good.   In the end, I think Kendricks is a great fit for the Packers as a drop in replacement for AJ Hawk, who, while consistent, never quite lived up to his top-10 billing.  Kendricks' awareness and range work nicely alongside the pass rushing of Matthews, Peppers, and Jones.

31.   New Orleans (from Seattle) – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
The Saints needs were discussed in their first selection, with offensive skill being the need covered in that pick.  So the Saints can add to that offensive skill need and take Maxx Williams here, doubling down and reshaping the offense in one night or they can head to Rob Ryan's defense and fix a need or two there.  At safety, Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro both are better than any option available now or going forward, so I'd pass on safety.  Corner saw the additions of Browner and Kyle Wilson, but still could use some more talent after the abysmal showing from that group last season.  Rush linebacker could add some depth behind Spencer and Galette.  Finally, inside linebacker could use some competition as Dannell Ellerbe and David Hawthorne do not scream Pro Bowl.  The options for those needs? Kevin Johnson is considerably above both PJ Williams and Jalen Collins for me, so he's the obvious choice at corner. Rush linebacker has Eli Harold and that's about it remaining, so easy choice there. Finally, Benardrick McKinney, Shaq Thompson, and Denzel Perryman all are options for inside linebacker.  For the Saints, I'd rank them McKinney, Perryman, Thompson.  The choice is McKinney, Johnson, or Harold. While I'm very close to pulling the trigger on McKinney, in the end, Kevin Johnson provides great help to a secondary that is transformed in one offseason from weakness to potential strength.

32.   New England – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
The reigning Super Bowl champs were one slant pass away from being questioned about the ability to produce on the largest of stages in the modern NFL.  Instead, they showed that only our savior Eli Manning has the power to dispatch the Pats in the Super Bowl.  New England was able to win with a ragtag group of skill position players, Rob Gronkowski not included.  I suppose it helps to have a Hall of Fame QB slinging passes and running the offense.  Still, there are holes to fill if New England hopes to return to the Super Bowl.  They lost both starting cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and while they brought in potential replacements, none of them are top caliber.  Additionally, Vince Wilfork departed, leaving a huge hole on the line, both literally and figuratively. The also are still in contract negotiations with G Dan Connolly, so offensive line will also be a target.  I'd say that the offensive skills positions need an upgrade, but knowing Bill Belichick, a first round pick will not be spent on one of those.  Defense will be the focus of the first round, leaving later picks to take a guard and the rest to the wizardry of Tom Brady.  In true Belichick fashion, the Pats could trade down and make this pick both a DT and a CB, but we aren't doing that here. The one remaining first round talent remaining at cornerback, Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson, was taken the pick before.  So, filling Wilfork's role becomes the priority, and there are 2 guys available that can fit that NT hole.  They are Eddie Goldman and Jordan Phillips.  Goldman didn't put up numbers at Florida St., but soaked up double teams and stuffed gaps.  Phillips has better ability to get into the backfield, but sometimes struggles with gap and run control.  Based on skill set they need to replace, Goldman better fits the bill

That's all folks! Mock draft season is over. The draft is Thursday, so watch and enjoy. I know I will be watching, with my credit card ready to purchase that Cowboys Todd Gurley/Melvin Gordon jersey! Here's to your team getting that player you want and remember, listen to our podcast next week when we discuss our mock draft, the actual NFL draft and any surprises.

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