Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – April 15 means many things to many
To most of the country it’s the yearly nightmare called tax day. To baseball
fans, it’s Jackie Robinson Day or in my twisted Yankee-centric reality,
Mariano Rivera Day, to a lot of hard-partying NFL players, it means their
favorite holiday (420) is right around the corner, and to those of us who
follow the NFL Draft, it means we are essentially two weeks out which puts us
firmly in “look-at-me” season.
Understand actual NFL teams have already cobbled together a framework for
their boards and there is no wild gesticulating on prospects this late in the
process, barring a serious off-the-field, red-flag issue like an arrest.
If you are a draftnik, however, ’tis the season to get noticed so a few more
radio segments open up. And the quickest way to that end is with the wild
Generally those outlandish statements pack the biggest punch when they are
about the most high-profile of the potential picks, which is why you had a
spate of analysts suddenly placing former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota
above the guy who had been riding the pace car this entire spring, ex-Florida
State star Jameis Winston.
Some, like NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, always had questions about Winston due
to his well-documented, off-the-field behavior and penchant for throwing too
many interceptions. And Mayock finally pulled the trigger, putting Mariota
above his more NFL-ready counterpart in his ratings.
Others, like NFL Films’ Greg Cosell, have a history of throwing out their
backs with wild predictions, especially at the game’s most important position.
Cosell called Logan Thomas the most intriguing QB prospect last year and said
he was more “pro-ready” than Cam Newton. Meanwhile, in 2013 Ryan Nassib was
Cosell’s top signal caller.
The veteran talent evaluator, who to be fair has also given a lot of great
information over the years, was at it again this week on a Nashville radio
station saying that:”(Zach) Mettenberger and Winston are very, very similar in
style of play. I’d argue Mettenberger is more advanced as an anticipatory
thrower and has a little bit better arm.”
Now let’s examine that statement. Winston, who would be a slam dunk at No. 1
overall on April 30 if not for the off-the-field issues, is behind the 178th
selection from last year’s draft, who has plenty of extracurricular problems
If that’s not a “look-at-me” declaration, than what is?
For me, the only “look-at-me” comments you’re going to get involve far-lesser
prospects and my thoughts are far more reality driven, based on the fact that
NFL personnel types think a lot more of players like FSU defensive tackle
Mario Edwards, Jr. and Arizona State safety Damarious Randall than most of the
So without further ado, here’s The Sports Network’s latest and greatest mock
draft, version 4.0: the look-at-me edition.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State – Don’t buy the
hype when it comes to Mariota surpassing Winston in the Bucs’ eyes. This isn’t
“House of Cards” with ruthless politician Frank Underwood using naive
journalist Zoe Barnes to advance his vision. Think about the people who have
been knocking Winston lately and selling the narrative that Tampa Bay has had
a change of heart, names like Cosell, Mayock and Ron Jaworski.
What binds them is that they are all Philadelphia-based and remember Bucs
general manager Jason Licht spent three years in the City of Brotherly
Love in the Eagles’ scouting department. Licht is engaging in subterfuge and
hardly doing it with the subtlety of a Kevin Spacey character. Here’s what you
need to know: Lovie Smith wants Jameis and if the former Heisman winner ends
up anywhere other than Central Florida, you know Smith is all but done in
Previous Pick: Winston
2. Tennessee Titans – Leonard Williams, DT, Southern California – This pick
remains the lynchpin of the 2015 draft. There is little doubt that the Titans
want out of this slot because they need multiple assets in order to get better
and Ken Whisenhunt has no real interest in Mariota.
The question becomes whether anyone has the intent of trading up and
overdrafting a solid but far from spectacular quarterback prospect. The most
likely candidates remain Washington, the Jets and Chicago, simply because
those are teams that don’t have to move that far. That said, Daniel Snyder
isn’t giving the green light on moving on from RG3, the Jets understand
Mariota may drop to them anyway, and the Bears will have issues trying to move
the poster-child for bad-body language, Jay Cutler.
Cleveland, Philadelphia, and to a lesser extent New Orleans and San Diego,
remain the wild cards. The Browns have two No. 1 picks, Nos. 12 and 19, and a
GM, Ray Farmer, who not only struck out badly in the first round last year, he
also showed he was in over his head with the embarrassing text-gate scandal,
facts that mean Farmer is looking to make a splash to save his job. Chip
Kelly, meanwhile, is unhinged, at least in a football sense, and is capable of
shock and awe even if makes no sense and mortgages his organization’s future.
The Chargers are the one team that could get it done rather easily if they
agree to part with Philip Rivers.
Projecting trades is generally an exercise in futility so for this version of
the mock the Titans stay put to take the best pure football player available,
Williams, a player who should excel as a 5-technique with both Dick LeBeau and
Ray Horton now in Nashville.
Previous Pick: Williams
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler, OLB/DE, Florida – The Jags had the
most money in free agency and used plenty of it to get Blake Bortles a big-
time threat at tight end in former Peyton Manning-target Julius Thomas, as
well as a new right tackle in Jermey Parnell. On defense, though, Dave
Caldwell didn’t address his significant pass-rushing problem and Jacksonville
should get the pick of the litter when it comes to edge players. Clemson’s Vic
Beasley is coming hard but Fowler remains the most well-rounded of the options
Previous Pick: Fowler
4. Oakland Raiders – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia – Derek Carr certainly
needs some serious help outside the numbers if he is to improve on his
sophomore season so receiver makes sense for Oakland here. This should come
down to Amari Cooper versus White and taking the ceiling over playing it safe
is just a very Raider-ish thing to do. White has the size and speed advantage
but isn’t as polished as Alabama’s Cooper.
Previous Pick: White
5. Washington Redskins – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson – This probably comes down
to rock-solid Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff and Beasley. From a need
standpoint, the O-line is a better fit inside the Beltway but Beasley is the
higher-ranked prospect on most boards and there is no guarantee second-year
man Trent Murphy develops into a capable complement to the underrated Ryan
Kerrigan. New ‘Skins GM Scot McCloughan is in the camp that believes need is
the worst talent evaluator in sports so expect him to stay true to his board.
Beasley, despite lacking the prototypical length you look for, has the
strength and athleticism to standout pretty quickly.
Previous Pick: Scherff
6. New York Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon – First-year Jets GM Mike
Maccagnan has no interest in moving forward with Geno Smith and veteran Ryan
Fitzpatrick is obviously just a stop-gap. Mariota won’t hit the ground running
in New York but Maccagnan and new coach Todd Bowles have a year or two to play
Previous Pick: Beasley
7. Chicago Bears – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama – With Brandon Marshall now with
the Jets, Chicago needs some help opposite Alshon Jeffery. Copper is a
polished product who should hit the ground running as a sharp route-runner
with plus hands and tremendous short- area quickness.
Previous Pick: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
8. Atlanta Falcons – Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE, Kentucky – You know new
Falcons coach Dan Quinn wants to bolster the front seven in Dixie especially
when it comes to the pass rush. This could have been a great fit for Nebraska
edge rusher Randy Gregory but his dalliances with weed will send him tumbling
out of the top 10. Dupree, who models himself after the 49ers’ Aldon Smith, is
a natural rusher with long arms and solid closing speed off the edge.
Previous Pick: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska
9. New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa – The Giants are pretty talent-
deficient right now and could go in a number of different directions but
bolstering the offensive line to help extend Eli Manning’s stretch as a
competent option at the QB position makes a lot of sense. Scherff is the best
offensive lineman in this draft who can project inside at guard or outside at
Previous Pick: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
10. St. Louis Rams – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville – The Rams need help
opposite Greg Robinson at tackle but reaching for Andrus Peat or Ereck Flowers
this early doesn’t make a lot of sense. Receiver may be the secondary option
based on need but Parker is a better prospect than the OL available and brings
a big body to the dance, along with soft hands, very good body control and the
leaping ability to high-point the football.
Previous Pick: Cooper
11. Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State – With Brian Robison
aging and shaky depth behind him the Vikings could look at edge rusher but
coach Mike Zimmer is enamored with Waynes, the best cornerback in this draft.
Teaming the former Michigan State star with the ascending Xavier Rhodes would
open up a lot of things for Zimmer, who is known around the NFL as the blitz
Previous Pick: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
12. Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington – It’s fair to call the
Browns the most dysfunctional team in the NFL right now and GM Ray Farmer is
likely a little desperate and willing to take chances with his two first-round
picks. Staying put and playing it safe isn’t sexy but probably the right
prescription for an organization that rarely gets it right. Cleveland
needs help up the middle on defense and the massive Shelton, who has shown
really impressive movement skills for a 340-pound player, is a solid fit.
Previous Pick: Parker
13. New Orleans Saints – Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska – Sean Payton is on
record saying the Saints have “to bring in some (defensive) guys that we feel
like can help us play right away.” Gregory is the best pure pass rusher in
this draft and likely would have been a top-five pick if not for a significant
marijuana problem. Payton’s desperation leads me to believe New Orleans is
willing to take the chance right here.
Previous Pick: Mariota
14. Miami Dolphins – Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida – The fact that the
Dolphins brought in Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings and Wes Welker for free
agent visits tells you how badly they want to upgrade at the WR position.
Perriman is a player on the rise, a big receiver with the blazing speed to
replace what Mike Wallace brought to the table, along with a pedigree (his
father Brett was the ex-Lions receiver), strong hands and decent route-running
Previous Pick: Waynes
15. San Francisco 49ers – Mario Edwards, Jr., DT, Florida State – Trent Baalke
hasn’t been real conventional in recent months basically running off a
coaching heavyweight, Jim Harbaugh, to Ann Arbor and replacing him with a guy,
Jim Tomsula, who came off like a “Saturday Night Live” skit in some early
interviews. So why not take the fast-rising Edwards, who really put together
some average tape while in Tallahassee but possesses freakish athleticism.
Previous Pick: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
16. Houston Texans – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State – With Andre Johnson now
in Indianapolis, the Texans need an alternative opposite DeAndre Hopkins and
Strong, a 6-foot-3 nightmare for opposing defensive backs, is a far safer
option than the immensely talented Dorial Green-Beckham. A medical recheck of
Strong revealed a broken bone in his wrist that could require surgery but that
shouldn’t be a long-term concern.
Previous Pick: Strong
17. San Diego Chargers – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia – There have been 64 first-
round picks in the NFL Draft since the New York Giants tabbed David Wilson
with the final selection of the opening round of the 2012 draft. The running-
back fraternity is 0-for-64 over that span, a stunning dry spell that speaks
to the current mindset of the NFL. Gurley, however, is such a transcendent
prospect, he was undoubtedly going to end that slump at least until he
suffered a torn ACL in November of last year. My bet is he sill does.
Previous Pick: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Landon Collins, S, Alabama – With Eric Berry still
battling against Hodgkin lymphoma, the Chiefs could use help on the back end
and Collins is the only safety in this draft who undoubtedly carries a first-
Previous Pick: La’el Collins, OL, LSU
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) – La’el Collins, OL, LSU – The Browns
could use a natural right tackle with the intent of sliding incumbent Mitchell
Schwartz inside. The 6-4, 305-pound Collins is a power-based, road-grader type
who could develop into a bully on the strong side.
Previous Pick: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (Fla.)
20. Philadelphia Eagles – Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut – Until the
Eagles actually extend Sam Bradford don’t give up on Chip Kelly mortgaging the
farm to move up and get Marcus Mariota. It remains unlikely though because
Philly would have to climb over many other suitors. Despite overpaying ex-
Seahawks CB Byron Maxwell in free agency, the Eagles need more help at the
position and Jones is a physical freak who has been moving north on most
draft boards after strong workouts at the combine and his pro day.
Previous Pick: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami-Florida
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford – Yes the Bengals have two
good tackles in Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith but both will be entering the
final year of their deals so it may be time to look toward the future. Peat
looks like a natural left tackle, who can play for a decade if he shows enough
functional football strength, something that has been a major problem for some
recent big name Stanford O-linemen.
Previous Pick: Dupree
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest – The Steelers were
ranked 27th in pass defense last season and currently have nothing outside the
numbers with Cortez Allen, who was a mess last season, and the nondescript BW
Webb penciled in as the starters. Johnson possesses solid man-to-man coverage
skills and should be a solid fit in the Steel City.
Previous Pick: Johnson
23. Detroit Lions – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas – The Lions lost Ndamukong Suh and
Nick Fairley in free agency while adding Tyrunn Walker away from the Saints to
the interior of what was the second-best defense in the NFL. That’s not a
great trade off and more help is needed. Enter Brown, the stoutest option in
this draft after Shelton with the strength to dominate at the point of attack
and the natural quickness to penetrate gaps.
Previous Pick: Brown
24. Arizona Cardinals – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin – The Cardinals could be
a legitimate Super Bowl contender with a healthy Carson Palmer and a
legitimate ground game. Gordon isn’t quite the prospect a healthy Gurley is
but he has the vision, natural balance and strength to be a bell cow.
Previous Pick: Gurley
25. Carolina Panthers – D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida – When your 2014 tackles
were Byron Bell and Mike Remmers, it’s time for an upgrade and Humphries gets
the nod over Miami-Florida’s Ereck Flowers because he’s more athletic and
projects to the left side.
Previous Pick: Peat
26. Baltimore Ravens – Jalen Collins, CB, LSU – The Ravens need help at WR but
can’t afford a character risk like Dorial Green-Beckham so they will look
elsewhere. The secondary was an issue last season and Collins has a solid
upside despite little real experience at LSU.
Previous Pick: Perriman
27. Dallas Cowboys – Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State – Darren McFadden isn’t going
to cut it so unless the Cowboys are able to pull off a trade for Adrian
Peterson or move up to snare Gurley or Gordon, three RBs will be off the board
in the first round. Ajayi is a well-rounded back with the body type to develop
into a primary option.
Previous Pick: Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
28. Denver Broncos – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (Fla.) – Chris Clark simply
isn’t the answer at right tackle and the Broncos would prefer to keep Louis
Vasquez inside where he is more comfortable. That opens the door for Flowers,
a raw prospect with great size and a nasty attitude.
Previous Pick: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt
29. Indianapolis Colts – Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State – Randall is
small for a safety who has an in-the-box, extra linebacker mind-set but his
effort level, athleticism and pure toughness has caught the eye of NFL scouts.
Indy can’t be comfortable counting on just Mike Adams and Dwight Lowery on the
back end so Randall is in play here.
Previous Pick: Humphries
30. Green Bay Packers – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington – Surprisingly the
Packers brought back both B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion at defensive tackle so
that will shift their focus toward the secondary to bolster a CB group that
needs reinforcements. From a pure football perspective, Peters is regarded by
some as the best cornerback prospect in this draft class and the top man-
to-man coverage option in the process. He comes with plenty of baggage,
Previous Pick: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle) – Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon – The Saints
acquired this pick, along with Max Unger, when they sent Jimmy Graham to the
Pacific Northwest. As stated New Orleans needs plenty of help on defense and
Armstead is a versatile player who can move inside and out on the line while
helping with the pass rush. He’s raw but possesses quite the ceiling as a
Previous Pick: Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
32. New England Patriots – Shane Ray, DE, Missouri – Once thought to be
a potential top-10 pick Ray is trending downward because he is not quite as
athletic as you would like and he is a bit of a tweener — undersized for
defensive end and lacking the lateral-movement skills for 3-4 linebacker. He
does, however, have a wonderful first step and Bill Belichick will find a way
Previous Pick: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami-Florida
T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt
Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma