Original Article Edited on February 4th, 2015
The Senior Bowl wrapped up a little over a week ago, and while many are focusing in on the Super Bowl, I’ve been pouring over draft research to present to you my second mock of the year. You can view my first one here: http://tinyurl.com/myp437o
Here’s my thought process while making these mocks:
- There will be cake..
- Unless stated otherwise, I write my mocks with the intent of not only predicting where prospects will be ranked come draft night, but what teams will likely consider doing based on who’s in charge, team need, and past tendencies.
- That said, my own opinion also obviously comes into play given how teams put on poker faces this time of year. I form opinions based on my own NFL knowledge, thorough research from a magnitude of varying sources and insiders, personal game film analysis (which does NOT solely mean highlight mix tapes), etc.
- If nothing else, stick for some cake at the end.
I should also mention that with each pick in the first round, I’ve included a darkhorse pick—meaning a pick that isn’t likely to happen, but feasibly makes sense should it occur. With that said, off we go…
– Stock dipped after that less than stellar Championship game…raising more doubt that he possibly can’t read the field like prospects who already play in pro style offenses (aka Jameis Winston at Florida St.). But teams will fall in love with him all over again during the forthcoming draft process; the combine will get teams drool’n once again.
Darkhorse pick is Leonard Williams. It’s not a stretch considering many actually have him rated as the top talent in this draft. I also like the idea of putting him next to Gerald McCoy in the middle. That’s easily the top DT duo in the league now that Fairley and Suh are getting separated in Detroit.
– There’s very little talent on the defensive side of the ball right now in Tennessee. That needs to change before finding a potential franchise QB—especially when they might already have that guy in Zach Mettenberger. It will especially be hard for them to bank on a volatile QB here because the best defensive player in the draft is still available. We’re talking about a perennial Pro Bowler here for the years to come.
Darkhorse: Amari Cooper. You want a game changer on offense with no real weakness to speak of? This is your guy. Ken Whisenhunt made Super Bowl runs with Larry Fitzgerald leading his team; he knows the importance of having a top flight, #1 option to chuck that pigskin to. Now he doesn’t actually make the picks for Tennessee…but the coach is always in the ear of the GM.
– Gregory will fill Gus Bradley’s LEO role quite nicely in the land of….whatever Jacksonville is known for (crap, maybe?). Last year many though Khalil Mack would be that player to take over that role, but they opted for a potential franchise QB instead (in Blake Bortles). They’ll likely go for the LEO fill in this time around.
Darkhorse: Jacksonville’s O-Line is awful. Worst in the league. No one would blame them for taking Brandon Scherff here.
– Shane Ray is a great addition to go along with last year’s #1 pick, Khalil Mack. Derek Carr still needs help on the O-Line and weapons to throw to…but in the world of new head coach Jack Del Rio, defense will trump all. While JDR doesn’t actually make the final draft decisions, Oakland wouldn’t have hired him if they weren’t intent on becoming a defensive juggernaut. That said, Ray really needs to shine at the combine in the speed categories. As it stands right now, teams could get scared of his lack of second gear speed. That’s pretty huge for an edge player. For that reason, he may be better off strictly as a 4-3 DE instead of a 3-4 OLB like some project.
Darkhorse is Melvin Gordon. Wait…what? Why? It’s the Raiders. That’s why. Not a bad player to add; just terrible value.
– If Winston falls here on draft night, Dan Snyder’s the type of owner who’d pull off a move like this even though RGIII is still on roster. He’s gone once his contract ends, folks. Writing is on the wall.
Darkhorse: I’ve read from many Washington fans who are clamoring for help on the O-Line. Brandon Scherff would satisfy their needs.
– New head coach Todd Bowles was brought in to help make their defense elite like it was in the early Rex Ryan days…but the best talent here at #6 is Amari Cooper by a fairly wide margin. Given their lack of offensive fire power, this pick simply needs to happen. Some analysts have Kevin White going ahead of Cooper lately in recent mock drafts…but I chalk that up to boredom. White still has a lot to prove at the combine in the speed categories before I put him ahead of the beast from ‘Bama.
Darkhorse: Potential pick to watch for is DT Danny Shelton. If they can’t figure out a deal with free agent Damon Harrison, they’ll literally have a gaping void left to fill.
– The facts: Atlanta needs a pass rusher, Fowler is exactly that, and new head coach Dan Quinn recruited him while he was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida. It’s an ideal match.
Darkhorse: DaVante Parker. Roddy White is getting up their in age (and also can’t seem to stay healthy anymore like he once could). So drafting a 2A receiver to pair with Julio Jones might not be a bad option if they want to stay fairly dominant on the offensive side of the ball.
– Chicago needs to get back to their old days of smash mouth football. Shelton helps bring that culture back. We should also consider that John Fox might bring a 3-4 defense with him to Chicago, thus creating the need to draft players who actually fit in that scheme. As of right now, Chicago’s personnel is clearly more suited for a 4-3 defense.
Darkhorse: Brandon Scherff. With all this talk of finding help for them defensively, it’s easy to forget their O-Line is anything but stellar.
– Offense is the name of the game in New York now that Odell Beckham Jr. already looks like the 2nd best WR in the entire league (behind Calvin Johnson). They’d be wise to continue riding that wave by adding this year’s best O-Line prospect. Scherff is a nitty, gritty mauler who should be a fan favorite on whichever team he ends up on.
Darkhorse: DaVante Parker. Rueben Randel is nothing special, and imagine a team that sports Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and DaVanter Parker running the field together. Tough to stop. And with an already solid running game in place, this could be the best offensive team in 2015 depending on what other pieces they add this offseason.
– St. Louis simply can’t afford to miss out on yet another elite receiver after letting last year’s crop of studs—Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, and Odell Beckham Jr.—all slide right on by. To make matters even more pressing, they had no receivers with over 800 receiving yards in 2014.
My darkhorse pick for St. Louis is Brett Hundley. If he’s dynamite at the combine, any team in need of a QB could legitimately take him this high.
– Speaking of a team whose top receiver didn’t even go for over 800 yards, the Vikings are in the exact same boat as the Rams are (sans the QB issue). The Vikings would love to pair Teddy with Parker, his top target from their days together at Louisville… but Kevin White is still a very nice consolation prize, if you can even call it that. Many have White ahead of Parker on their draft board. Think of him as a poor man’s Larry Fitzgerald (and no, not just because they have similar hair). If he runs well at the combine, he could leap in front of DaVante Parker as the 2nd rated WR in this draft…and possibly even Amari Cooper if he blows everyone away in just about every category.
Darkhorse: Trade up one spot to land Parker. It’d be well worth it for the Vikings to make the face of the franchise as happy and confident as possible. Offer St. Louis a swap of 10 and 11, toss them a 5th rounder, and hope they bite. Anything more than that? Not worth it.
– WR is a huge need in Cleveland, but sadly for them, all of the top tiered guys will likely be gone by their pick. They could do their annual trade with the Vikings and switch spots for Kevin White, but for now, I’m giving them Beasley. Jabaal Sheard is set to hit free agency, and even if he does stay, they could consider bolstering the LB unit.
Darkhorse: Andrus Peat. If they want to give Johnny Manziel every shot at success in Cleveland, protecting him will be vital.
– The Saints have so many holes to fill that it’s tough to gauge where to even begin. Here’s what we do know, though—as Brees goes, the Saints go. They need to either find him more protection, or give him more toys to play with.
Darkhorse: Melvin Gordon. Local favorite Mark Ingram just never really panned out in New Orleans, even though he did actually have a nice contract year this past season. Look for both parties to move on this offseason, leaving room for a new RB in New Orleans. Gordon would help take a lot of pressure off of Drew Brees during his twilight years.
– Miami’s LB core looks very mediocre on paper. Shaq-T would inject some much needed talent. He’s a freak athlete who will remind some of last year’s first round draft pick for the Minnesota Vikings, Anthony Barr. Both were former RBs who successfully made the transition to OLB. That said, anyone assuming Thompson’s transition into the NFL will be as smooth as Barr’s was might be in for a disappointment. Barr’s immediate contribution was the exception for such a raw player, not the rule.
Darkhorse: La’el Collins. LT Brandan Albert is injury prone, and starting RT Ja’wuan James proved last season he has absolutely no business sliding over to LT. Drafting Collins gives them options on the O-Line given his versatility of playing tackle or guard.
– Arik Armstead is a beastly oak tree—think of the large trees from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (you can only get that type of expert analysis here on Mock Draft Cake!). He may not have actually put up ideal sack numbers at Oregon, but he makes his presence known on the field regardless of what his box score ends up looking like.
Darkhorse: The ‘Niners need to add a quality nose tackle at some point during the draft. So they could easily target a guy like Malcom Brown here.
– The 6’6 WR from Missouri/Oklahoma could be a longterm replacement for Andre Johnson, who will likely look to move on from the team he’s been the face of the franchise of for nearly their entire existence. DG-B has plenty of character concerns, but a lot of those could be erased at the combine if he flies off the charts in the speed categories. Talent and elite measurables trump all.
Darkhorse: La’el Collins. The Texans are invested (at least for the time being) in Ryan Mallet and Tom Savage as their young, potential franchise QBs—both of whom are absolute statues in the pocket. Beefing up an O-Line is essential for non scrambling QBs.
– After losing Eric Berry to cancer for the time being (if not [sadly] permanently), there’s a void left to fill at SS. Collins sliding down to them here is a nice steal, just like last year’s top safety from Alabama, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, inexplicably fell all the way to the Packers in the first round.
Darkhorse for KC is Jaelen Strong. They need help at WR—badly. 0 TDs to a WR this past season. 0. How is that even possible?
– The Chargers have issues on both their defensive line and offensive line, but the edge here goes to offense because Collins is a great value at pick at #18 here. His versatility makes him an ideal prospect for any team whose O-Line looks pretty shabby.
Darkhorse: The 6’3 Jaelen Strong would give them another big bodied WR for Rivers to get the ball to. It’d be tough to stop a large receiving core that already sports Keenan Allen (6’2) and Malcom Floyd (6’5).
– His stock took a huge upswing, but then the pendulum went back down a little after a disappointing Senior Bowl week. Still though, he has ideal physical traits for an offensive lineman. He used to be a defensive end and basketball player…and as we know by now…analysts just loooooove prospects who play basketball…
Darkhorse goes to Jaelen Strong. With Josh Gordon likely gone in Cleveland (and the entire NFL for that matter), there’s barely any talent at WR. Arguably the worst unit in football.
– Fans will assuredly love to see them try and trade up for Mariota, but that would be a colossal mistake for a franchise on the cusp of something good here. If we’re talking about either Mariota and no additional draft picks or sticking with Foles and adding key defensive additions via the draft…the latter scenario wins every time, no?
Darkhorse: Brett Hundely. Chip needs to find “his guy” to move forward with at QB at some point during this draft, and Hundley is an ideal candidate. He has all the physical tools you’d look for in a potential franchise QB. Best of all, though? They wouldn’t have to sacrifice their draft picks in order to move up for him like they would for Mariota.
– Cincinnati was dead last in the league this past season in sacks. That needs to be addressed immediately if a quality pass rusher is left on the board by pick #21. ‘Bud qualifies.
Darkhorse: Nate Orchard. Don’t be surprised if a team in the first round falls in love with Orchard enough to take him higher than anticipated; especially a team in desperate need of edge rushing.
– Off the field issues aside, Peters has the talent to be a great NFL cornerback, and the Steelers still need plenty of help at the position given Cortez Allen’s poor showing this past season after receiving a hefty contract extension. If he can turn it around, and Peters can contribute right out of the gate, it’ll be a huge boost for them. The Steelers aren’t far off from being a contender once again.
Darkhorse: Jordan Phillips. They need a quality anchor on their D-Line.
– Suh’s replacement for when he bolts via free agency. Goldman won’t be better than Suh, but he’ll be a passable replacement for Detroit with a lot less drama to boot.
Darkhorse: Melvin Gordon. Reggie Bush’s best days are far behind him, and while current workhorse ‘back Joique Bell is solid, his talent doesn’t come close to Gordon’s. He’d open up their offense in ways we never thought possible.
– Outside of “scat back” Andre Ellington, can anyone name another RB on this team? E y.
Darkhorse: Brett Hundley. When will Arizona finally focus on landing a franchise QB? These scrubs they keep throwing out there won’t cut it. If Carson Palmer can stay healthy, fantastic. But he’s proven throughout his career that he can’t.
– Somehow, the Panthers failed to address their O-Line woes after losing key contributors in the 2014 offseason. Time to right that ship.
Darkhorse: Sammie Coats. Kelvin Benjamin was a fantastic rookie this past season despite entering the league tabbed as a raw player. They still need a vertical field stretcher though, and Coats qualifies.
– Baltimore’s pass defense isn’t quite what it used to be; this past season they ranked 22nd in allowed yards through the air. And perhaps you’ll remember that Sunday Night Football game where Big Ben threw up 340 yards and 6 TDs on them. Embarrassing. Looking back at their boxscores, there were hardly any games where the Ravens were able to stop, or even slow down, any of the top 15 NFL starting QBs. All of that to say…Waynes could help fix their woes.
Darkhorse: Todd Gurley. Justin Forsett was a very adequate fill-in for Ray Rice last season, but he’s far from being a longterm solution at RB. He’s also a free agent. Gurley would give them what they had back when Ray Rice was actually focused on (and good at) football…
– The Cowboys fell in love with DT Aaron Donald last season, and Mike Bennett has some of those exact same traits. Quick, stout, and gets into the backfield fast to put pressure on the QB. Measurables are also off by just an inch and 3 pounds.
Darkhorse: Todd Gurley. Demarco Murray is likely gone as a casualty of some team willing to overpay for a RB (it WILL happen, folks…unless Dallas franchise tags him). So now the question is if they trade for Adrian Peterson. If not, Gurley could get the nod here.
– The Broncos are in for a make or break offseason. They have a ton of key players whose contracts are up, and who they decide to eventually re-sign or not privately, in-house will determine their draft strategy. My primary question for them is if Julius Thomas is worth the money, or if Manning made him worth the money. If they think it’s the latter, they’d save a ton of money but letting Thomas leave and drafting a young TE like Maxx to replace him. The pass catching TE out of Minnesota could be the next breakout star at the position. It’s also worth noting that their other two TEs—Virgil Green and Jacob Tamme—are also unrestricted free agents…thus making the need for a TE even more pressing.
Darkhorse: Brett Hundley. Just how good to they feel about handing the franchise over to Brock Osweiler once Manning retires?
– Almost seems unfair a RB like Gurley would fall right into the laps of a team that already sports Andrew Luck. Big things are in store for Indy.
Darkhorse: Jaelen Strong. Reggie Wayne has seen better days. Giving Luck more top flight targets bodes well for them.
– The Packers seem to be in a perpetual state of drafting DEs and OLBs in the draft (sans last year when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fell right into their laps). Orchard could be the next in that heralded tradition. He had a stellar week at the Senior Bowl, and teams in need of pass rushing are hoping to land him early in round 2…but not if the Packers have anything to say about it though…
Darkhorse: If they decided not to overpay Randall Cobb and let him leave via free agency, Phillip Dorsett would be an ideal replacement. Similar attributes with their elite speed.
– The Seahawks invested in a speedy WR in 2014 with Paul Richardson. I’m double dipping for them here by penciling in Jaelen Strong. Russell Wilson is set to sign a huge extension this offseason, and giving him a big target like Strong will help make their investment in Wilson all the more worthwhile.
Darkhorse: Byron Maxwell could leave via free agency, and their other two CBs (Jeremy Lane and Richard Sherman) both have bad arm injuries that will require major surgery this offseason. Drafting some insurance makes a lot of sense.
– Starting LG Dan Connolly is about to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent. And you know what? That actually could be an addition by subtraction. According to Pro Football Focus, his rating this past season was -24. That’s awful, people. Not figuratively—literally awful. Tomlinson would be a fantastic replacement. He was rated this past week as the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. The kid’s a hardworking genius to boot. Many currently have him placed solidly in the early-mid 2nd round, but we all know the Patriots dance to the beat of their own drum. If they like him enough, they’ll take him here.
Darkhorse: Jaelen Strong would give Brady another big body to throw to downfield. As it currently stands, Tom Brady has been forced to focus on a dink and dunk passing game considering most of his receivers are slot guys under 6 feet.