Drills are just about to be underway here at the combine, so here’s my “pre drill” mock draft. Once the combine is said and done, look for another mock shortly after to see how different the landscape looks after players help, or hurt, their draft stock in the next few days.
But first…a small primer. Here’s my thought process while making these mocks:
- There will be cake. Why? Because it’s a gimmick. I crave attention.
- 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 fake cake at the end.
To view my pre-Senior Bowl Mock draft, you can check it out here.
And off we go!
– The only question here with the first selection is whether the Buccs prefer a QB who steals crab legs on a Friday night, or one who stays in and bakes cookies.
Since Lovie Smith is the one practically running the entire show down in Tampa, you’d think he would opt for the cookie baking given his own personal demeanor, but by all accounts we’ve gathered—“inside” rumors and his very own words—he seems to have an affinity for Winston. Takeaway the head issues for Winston, and it’s not a surprise. There’s already the Florida connection, and the offense he ran at FSU is as close to a pro offense as you can get in college. Add in those head issues though? Personally, I think that trumps all the good. How can you give a guy with the maturity of a 3rd grader the keys to your franchise like that? Huge mistake in my personal, non-professional opinion…but who am I to deny the coach who thought he could win a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as his starting QB?
What to watch for at Combine: Anything and everything to do with his interactions with others. Namely interviews. Team interviews, media interviews, police interviews…any type of interview that comes his way this next week, and how he handles it. He needs to show teams that aside from making asinine decisions, he’s ‘with it’ upstairs in terms of football IQ. It will also help if he throws the ball well during drills.
– My stance for months has been that the Titans will/should give Mettenberger another year under center to prove his worth before finding a new potential franchise QB via the draft, and that stance definitely isn’t changing now that reports are coming out that the Titans are indeed preparing to go that route.
This plan especially makes sense when the best player in the draft, Leonard Williams, is sitting there for the taking. If this were pick #8 in the draft and Mariota was still sitting on the board? It would be an entirely different story—but that’s not the case. When both the talent and the need are there, it’s a no brainer. Williams is the type of prospect who should be a perennial Pro Bowler for the years to come. So even if Mettenberger doesn’t pan out, fans won’t look back on this draft smacking themselves.
What to watch for at Combine: What style his hair will be in. Seriously though, this kid’s already locked down as the best prospect in this draft. All he has to do is show up. I mean…if he runs a 9.8 for the 40 and carries around a naked Barbie doll with him as he conducts his interviews? Okay…then I’ll retract my statement. You just let me know.
– This is tough for the Jaguars. Leonard Williams would’ve been a home run pick. Ironic that defeating Tennessee during the regular season is what will ultimately keep them from drafting him.
I’ve been going back and forth trying to rationalize who they’ll go for here. In an ideal world, Cleveland will be hot to trot for Mariota and offer Jacksonville picks #12 and #19 in order to jump up and leapfrog the Washington R Words and New York Jets. But if they stand pat at #3, I ultimately think they’ll go for substance on the offensive line over flash on defense (IE Randy Gregory). They ranked dead last in the league last season in pass protection, and while Scherff isn’t known for being an elite pass protector, he’s a flat out mauler (quintessential definition of one at that) who will be a fan favorite for the years to come on whichever team he ends up with. I loved a line I heard on the “Around the League” podcast on NFL.com—“He’ll block you into the parking lot.” Perfectly summarizes the type of animal he is.
I know this isn’t a popular pick for the Jags right now amongst draft mockers out there. Many even have Scherff falling to the 10th pick range lately. But when I see him, I see an animal of a man who a team like Jacksonville would gladly go against the grain to select.
What to watch for at Combine: If he breaks the all-time bench pressing record currently held by Justin Ernest (51). Scherff legitimately has a good shot of at least placing in the top 5. Don’t believe me…?
– One has to assume new head coach Jack Del Rio would love to implement his new defensive scheme with a talent like Shelton plugging up the middle.
A lot of people have Randy Gregory going here in mock drafts if he falls to this spot, but for once it’d be nice if Oakland stopped chasing after physical freaks and “settled” for a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Shelton is the type of prospect who will make a huge impact every down he plays, and that bodes well for a young team on the cusp of turning the corner. He could be an early favorite for defensive rookie of the year.
– I like this pick if Washington keeps it, as RGIII’s days in Washington are likely coming to an anticlimactic end…but that’s not why I ultimately have him going here. I have him going here because this is the ideal spot for any team who’s interested in Mariota to trade up for. As of right now, that team appears to be Cleveland. They’re (sadly) looking for a new franchise signal caller, and if they think Mariota could be that guy, they certainly have the assets to move up and get him without completely compromising the rest of their draft. Great year to have two first rounders.
And if you’re the dreamer type, imagine if Cleveland subsequently shipped out Mariota to Philly for Nick Foles and an abundance of draft picks. They’ve expressed interest in Foles in the past, so if they pull the trigger for Mariota…expect Chip Kelly to quickly pull another one.
What to watch for at Combine: If he runs better than RGIII’s 4.41 40 yard dash. For the record, I think he will…and the media crush will begin anew…
– There’s some question as to whether or not Gregory will be a guy who can show up throughout the entirety of a football game. There are also concerns about how skinny he is. But he has all the physical tools you’d want from a franchise pass rusher. And at pick #6, NY would be lucky to have him fall there. New head coach Todd Bowles needs all the talent he can get his hands on if he wants to turn this team around.
– Chicago needs to get back to their old ways of smash mouth football. I originally had Dany Shelton here as the man who would help bring that culture back, but this time around…the nod goes to Shane Ray. A strong selling point of Ray is his intimidation. The kid just oozes with an extra bit of personified nastiness and tenacity you don’t see with a lot of these young guys.
What to watch for at
Combine Pro Day: How will he compare to other OLB/DE hybrids in athletic testing? Cone drill, 40 yard dash, you name it. He’s quick off the line of scrimmage, but I think the further you take him away from the line, the more dicey things get. He could help ease those concerns with a great athletic showing.
– 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.
What to watch for at Combine: Fowler isn’t quite as explosive as some of these other pass rushers in this draft. If a guy like Vic Beasley excels at the combine (spoiler: he will) and Fowler sputters, we could see him drop a little bit in favor of a guy like Beasley and possibly ‘Bud’ Dupree.
– One of the bigger storylines heading into the combine is which WRs will separate themselves away from the pack. Speed is a big question mark for quite a few prospects, specifically Kevin White and Amari Cooper. Right now, it appears that Cooper has the edge with his stellar route running and crispness, but White is nipping right on his heels with his ball tracking, in-air body control, and stellar hands.
If they don’t want to pay up for impending free agent Jason Pierre-Pierce, they could look at an edge rusher like Vic Beasley…but boy, it’d be tough to pass on Cooper if he fell here. Imagine a trio of Beckham Jr., Cruz, and Cooper. So it clearly wouldn’t be a pick to fulfill any needs, but that’s what gets teams in trouble to begin with—foregoing talent for need.
What to watch for at Combine: Will Cooper be able to separate himself from the pack? There are going to be plenty of WRs who run faster than him, but if he can at least stay within the same 40 yard dash range that Kevin White and DeVante Parker are in? He’ll be golden. Dropped passes have also been a concern of his during his time at Alabama, and while no one will forget about that, he certainly wouldn’t hurt himself by not dropping any during drills.
– The Rams love avoiding skill players in the first round if the past few drafts are any indication. If any team’s going to forego a WR in round 1 in hopes of landing one in round 2 considering the depth at the position, I feel like St. Louis qualifies with a bullet. Their bigger concern will likely be the offensive line. The have 4 players on the unit who are set to hit free agency, including starting RT Joe Barksdale (who, for the record, didn’t have a very good 2014 season). Peat would be an excellent addition on the right side of the line, and in emergency situations (aka when Jake Long gets injured) should transition over to LT pretty seamlessly.
– Head coach Mike Zimmer loves working with raw talent to mold to his liking. Last year it was Anthony Barr, and this year it could be Vic Beasley. If he tears up the combine like he looks like he’s fully capable of doing based on what we’ve seen, expect him to be a household name come draft night as a guy who’s a shoe in to go in the top 12.
The explosive edge rusher out of Clemson is more suited to play a 3-4 OLB, but much like Zimmer did with Anthony Barr, expect that not to be a problem in the land of 10,000 lakes and dashed Super Bowl dreams (still waiting for that tagline to be added to our license plates).
– Regardless of whether this is pick is made by Cleveland, Tennessee, New York (Jets), or Washington…White is the guy here. I liken him Larry Fitzgerald. Won’t blow you away with speed, but his ball tracking and body control are outstanding.
What to watch for at Combine: White will be a top 15 pick, that’s all but certain. The question is how high can he go? He has the most to gain if he torches the 40 yard run.
– If the Saints want to make one final run with Drew Brees before he retires (or loses his touch), they’d be wise to give him more tools. Other than Jimmy Graham, there’s not much to work with on offense. As long as Brees rolls, the Saints roll…and he’d definitely be rolling with DeVante Parker streaking down the field.
– Miami is in the market for a 1A WR after a disappointing stint with Mike Wallace the past couple of seasons. His time with Miami could be coming to an end shortly if they decide to cut him by June 1st in order to clear $6.9 million off the ‘cap.
DG-B would provide them with an enormous WR who some compare to Calvin Johnson given the size/speed ratio. No one’s expecting him to be that type of elite player in the NFL, but the sky truly is the limit for him if he can keep his mind on football instead of the distractions that got him kicked out of Missouri in the first place.
– Armstead didn’t put up elite numbers during his time at Oregon, but teams love his game tape and the size & athleticism he’ll bring to the table in the NFL. He’s one of those guys who should be a much better pro than college player.
What to watch for at Combine: Last year I predicted former University of Minnesota DT Ra’shede Hageman would wow teams at the combine with his behemoth size in correlation to his athleticism. While he didn’t necessarily disappoint, he certainly didn’t boost himself into the top 15 like I predicted. He didn’t even get drafted in the first round! So that prediction fell flat, suffice it to say. So where am I going with this? I think Armstead is on a similar path. If he shines at the combine? Top 10 isn’t out of the question. If he falters? Don’t be surprised if his name starts snowballing downhill faster than a boulder on skis (that sounded better in my head…as most things tend to do).
– The hard hitting safety isn’t the best in coverage, but Houston needs to worry about shoring up their secondary with both Danieal Manning and Kendrick Lewis set to hit free agency this offseason. Collins would be a nice little steal here at #16.
– We all know how epically bad Kansas WRs were last season (0 TDs…0…as in…0). They can’t afford passing on whoever ends up falling to them. In this scenario, that’s Devin Funchess. Much like DG-B, he’s another big bodied guy who can really climb up to get the ball. That said, he’ll likely be more of a possession receiver in the NFL. From what I’ve seen on film, he doesn’t appear to quite have that type of upper echelon elusiveness or speed that can breakaway from the pack as often as one would like. That’s fine, though. There’s still a home for him in the land of 0. As long as he doesn’t drop the ball as frequently as he did at Michigan. That’s another knock against him. Just goes to show…size and athleticism are the best remedies against weaknesses in terms of NFL Draft stock.
– He’s scaring some teams off given his lack of definite position in the NFL (is he a RB, S, or OLB…?)…but if there’s a team willing to work with and mold him to fit their scheme, he could be a very nice pickup. The kid also has great character. That can only help his cause, especially for a team still reeling from the entire bullying issue with Richie Incognito.
– 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 all know by now…analysts just loooooove prospects who play basketball.
What to watch for at the Combine: This time last year we all saw everyone fall in love with Greg Robinson after he dominated drills for his position. If Clemmings can similarly wow people with quick feet and acceleration, the pendulum will definitely go back in his favor after the Senior Bowl debacle.
– Philly was second to last in yards allowed through the air last season. Part of that is because the Eagles have such a potent offense that likes to score quickly, leaving plenty of time on the clock for opposing teams to do some statistical damage. In fact, in 2014 they had the 2nd most snaps played on defense. But the real particular reason they allow so many yards is that there simply isn’t much talent in the secondary.
Fans may be clamoring for Marcus Mariota, but spending picks on defensive backs will do this team a lot of good.
– 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. He’s ideal in a 4-3 front—such as the one used in Cinncy.
– Peters will have to answer plenty of questions to answer regarding the multitude of reasons he was kicked off his team at Washington. So while the athletic testing will be important for him, where he really needs to shine is behind closed doors during team interviews.
Many regard Peters as the top defensive back in this draft, and whichever team ends up with him is likely to have a steal on their hands since he’ll likely fall further than his talent suggests given all the character issues.
– Suh’s replacement for when he bolts via free agency. Many have Malcom Brown or Eddie Goldman as the next best available DTs in the draft after Danny Shelton, but once the combine is said and done, look for Jordan Phillips to be one of the big winners of the combine…if not the biggest. One example of his athleticism? He’s 6’6, 330 pounds, and can do backflips.
He didn’t always show up on the field for Oklahoma…which is one of the primary reasons teams are concerned about him moving forward…but what teams will covet is that size and athleticism. Phillips has a real chance to be special if he can up his intensity on a consistent basis. A developmentally minded coach will be eager to get his hands on him, even if it means reaching for him a bit. The reward could be significant years down the road.
– For a team that’s played so dominantly against the run the past few seasons, they sure have a hard time running it themselves. I can’t even recall the last time Arizona had a solid, young 3 down back to carry the load or them. Melvin Gordon would help usher in a ground attack that fans of the franchise simply haven’t had for decades.
– The Panthers did a terrible job of replacing offensive linemen Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton last season. The outcome? They were statistically ranked as the 27th worst pass blocking in the NFL in 2014, and soon to be unrestricted free agent Byron Bell was rated as one of the absolute worst starting LTs in the entire league (even lower than Matt Kalil). So what does this mean? Draft the best OT available. Even if they were to sign a marquee free agent, they still need a vast overhaul of the O-Line. As long as Cam Newton excels, the Panthers excel…and it all begins up front.
– Baltimore’s pass defense isn’t quite what it used to be; this past season they ranked 22nd in yards allowed via 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 box scores, 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…they could stand to use some help in the secondary.
Rollins is my dark horse first rounder. Not many have him projected to go this high, but there’s no denying the man has defensive instincts in his blood. As a basketball player at Miami of Ohio, he was 14th in the nation in steals in 2014. That mindset translates to the field where he’s been known to be a pesk of a defender for opposing QBs. He may not have top tiered athleticism, namely in regards to top end speed, but he’s got cat like reflexes, quickness, and quick twitch acceleration that make him a very intriguing candidate for any coach looking for a raw defensive back to develop and mold.
– Dalls is tough to peg. They could go in quite a few different directions depending on what they decide to do with some of their bigger named free agents (namely DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, and Rolando McClain). Given all the guys they have to shell at some major cash-ola to, McClain could be a guy they have to let be the one who got away. In which case, Perryman would make for an excellent fill in to move forward with.
– The primary question for Denver is if Julius Thomas is worth the money, or if Manning made him worth the money. If they think it’s primarily the latter, they’d save a ton cap space but letting Thomas walk and then drafting a young TE like Maxx to take over. The Golden Gopher 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. Thankfully for them, the talent fits the need here. They’re not going to draft a TE solely because they need one. They’ll draft one because Maxx is a beast.
What to watch for at Combine: No one expects Maxx to dominate in any of the on field drills and tests, but boy it definitely wouldn’t hurt if he ran a 4.55 or better for the 40 yard dash.
– 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. The only concern is how well he’s healing from his ACL tear. If not for that, he would’ve challenged Melvin Gordon for title of best RB in this 2015 draft class.
– The Pack’ got quite the steal last year when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix inexplicably fell into their laps. They could be in for year 2 of Steal-Gate if McKinney makes the drop.
NFL.com’s Mike Mayock, an analyst I greatly admire and respect, recently compared him favorably to arguably the league’s best LB, Lavonte David. That’s some mighty fine praise right there.
– Not necessarily a pick of enormous need here, but Collins at pick #31 would certainly sit atop most post draft lists as one of the biggest steals in the draft. I think teams will view his natural NFL position as a guard instead of a tackle, which will hurt some and is why I have him falling a bit…but he’s one of those versatile guys who a team should be able to plug & play anywhere along the line and get results.
– New England “got by” this past season utilizing short, crisp passes to a variety of slot receivers (and Gronk). Adding Devin Smith gives Tom Brady the best home run threat he’s had since Randy Moss.
What to watch for at Combine: One reason Smith makes for such a great vertical threat is his elite speed. Look for him to finish in the top 3 for the 40 time this year, and possibly top 3 of all-time if he should be so fortunate. Barring any setbacks, he should definitely be up there.