AFC West Chargers
AFC North Steelers
AFC East Patriots
AFC South Colts
AFC Wild Card #1 Broncos
AFC Wild Card #2 Bills
NFC West Seahawks
NFC North Packers
NFC East Cowboys
NFC South Saints
NFC Wild Card #1 Eagles
NFC Wild Card #2 Vikings
AFC Champion Colts
NFC Champion Seahawks
Super Bowl Champion Colts
MVP Andrew Luck
Offensive POY Adrian Peterson
Defensive POY JJ Watt
Offensive ROY Amari Cooper
Defensive ROY Randy Gregory
The NFL season kicked off a few days ago and with it my excitement is at a fever pitch. Above are my predictions for the division winners, wild cards, conference champs, etc. I find that this year most of my stuff is rather middle of the road but that’s how I see the NFL shaking out this season so it’s better to predict what you believe will happen, boring or not, than go out on a limb you don’t trust and watch yourself get ridiculed when that limb comes crashing down.
I think most people are of the opinion that this is going to be the year of Luck. No it’s not some Chinese calendar gimmick, it’s the Colts Andrew Luck, a player who 2 years ago I anointed as the 2nd best QB in all of football, only behind the GOAT Aaron Rodgers (yes I do consider Rodgers to be the greatest QB of all time and think my opinion of him will become the consensus in 4-6 years). Luck is a scary player when you realize he’s taken mediocre squads to the playoffs 3 straight seasons and each year went a step further than before (lost in the 1st round in 2012, 2nd round in 2013, 3rd round in 2014). I like TY Hilton but honestly name another player on his roster from 2012-2014 that you’d put in your top 100 “I’d start a franchise around that guy.” Luck has a very good but a bit overrated WR due to his usage in Hilton, a below average offensive line that in 2013 had him hit far more than any other QB in the league, two mediocre tight ends that get too much credit due to where they were drafted at, a RB by committee of draft busts (Trent Richardson), free agent scrap heaps (Ahmad Bradshaw) and no name late round flier types (Daniel Herron, Vick Ballard, Josh Robinson) and then a defense that has no one of great distinction other than maybe Vontae Davis. It really has amazed me that Luck has been able to do so much with so little the past 3 years and is why I have the Colts winning the Super Bowl this year as in 2015 I actually think Luck has a decent squad around him. The additions of hungry, battle tested veterans like Andre Johnson and Frank Gore are going to be huge as it will allow Luck to have an actual running game as well as a secondary option in the passing game. Last year the Colts asked a little too much from Luck as he was leading the league in passing attempts by a wide margin midway through the season. They saw this too and cut his usage down dramatically, his 5 games with the fewest passing attempts were in his teams final 6 games of the season, yet in the end Luck still ran out of steam. He looked bad in late season blowouts against the Cowboys (regular season) and Patriots (postseason) when he was outscored 87-14 in those games but he also looked very mediocre in unconvincing wins against the Texans (regular season), Bengals and Broncos (postseason). This year he won’t be forced to throw it as much and will be in better situations when asked to throw due to a legit threat at the RB position and a true #2 WR for the first time in his career. My apologies to Reggie Wayne’s pride but Andre Johnson gives the Colts a weapon opposite TY Hilton that makes the Colts more dangerous than ever before. Teams won’t always be able to double team Hilton anymore and Luck will finally have a big WR to target in the red zone. I expect an 1,100 yard 13 TD type season from Johnson as I think reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated due to poor QB play from Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick. No wonder the guy got so angry down there. I expect the Colts to go 13-3, wrap up their division by December 1st and be rested and ready when someone comes to Indy in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Sometimes too much rest leading up to the playoffs is detrimental to a team but film junky Luck and veterans Gore and Johnson will be ecstatic for this time off and I expect it to be a huge boost for them in late January. I have the Colts being THE team of the NFL in 2015.
The Colts dominating the AFC and comfortably getting to the Super Bowl, where they win it, is my “base scenario.” For those of you who haven’t read me before or don’t know this arguing method it means that this is my most likely scenario probability wise yet the NFL is a complex organism with numerous moving parts so there are a few other scenarios that I could see occurring which wouldn’t surprise me at all. Below I discuss them each in depth and in order of likelihood from greatest to least.
The Seahawks Fly Again
One is that the Seahawks come back even more motivated than last year, see another year of growth from already Top 10 QB, soon to be Top 5 QB, Russell Wilson and add superstar TE Jimmy Graham to their team to become a much better offensive team and a still fiercesome defense and win their 2nd Super Bowl in 3 years. That wouldn’t shock me at all as I really love the Graham addition and think Kam Chancellor will eventually cave in his holdout. Yet I agree with those, Troy Aikman being the the latest I’ve heard weigh in, who think Seattle could be emotionally scarred by their “oh so close” loss to the Patriots and might just struggle getting back in the fight. I think a similar situation played out with my own Texas Rangers following some excruciating losses in the World Series and what was once a young, up and coming team became bored and apathetic which led to its dismantling. Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner all are coming off recent massive extensions and could lose some of their drive. Cam Chancellor and Michael Bennett have both recently griped about their contracts and could tune out the “12th man theme song” to become selfish, locker room cancers. Or none of it could occur and the Seahawks could just become victims of a key injury, Lynch’s high usage finally resulting in his ineffectiveness or being in the most talented and deep division in football with 6 games against the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers resulting in a ho hum 11-5 type record. I don’t have the Seahawks falling off too much from last year, they are my NFC Conference Champ prediction after all, due to the Graham trade but I could see it happening. Their locker room chemistry is very unique and seems to be a key to their success so I could see some disfunction sidetracking this team.
The Cowboys actually don’t need DeMarco
Another secondary scenario I could see occurring is the Cowboys taking the next step. At the end of last season I had the Packers and Cowboys moving ahead of the Seahawks for the 2015 season yet the Graham trade moved the Seahawks back up past the Cowboys and the Jordy Nelson injury moved the Packers back behind the Seahawks and Cowboys. Last season the Cowboys shocked a lot of people by taking a team with an abysmal defense and coming off three straight 8-8 seasons to a 12-4 mark and a few unlucky bounces away from the NFC Championship Game. The four keys to their success was an improved defense under Rod Marinelli, an improved offensive line due to the addition of Zack Martin and the maturation of Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, the career year by DeMarco Murray and the career year by Tony Romo. The question now is how intertwined was Murray with the offensive line looking so good and Romo looking so in command. I don’t think many people realize how good Romo was last year. He led the NFL in completion percentage, well ahead of MVP Aaron Rodgers. He led the NFL in passer rating, one point ahead of MVP Aaron Rodgers. He led the NFL in yards per attempt, one of the favorite stats of NFL moneyball types, again slightly ahead of MVP Aaron Rodgers (Noticing a pattern here? Yes I think Romo deserved more MVP votes than 2 out of 50). He threw single digit interceptions for only the third time in his 9 years as a starter. He was one incompletion turned completion from being the 6th QB in NFL History with a 70% completion rate. He was one game not played, his first game against the 49ers where he didn’t look healthy yet from back surgery and ended up with 3 INTs, from having a QB Rating in the mid 120s which would have been the highest rating in NFL History. Tony Romo had one hell of a year. Can he do it again? I think that question can rightly be asked even if everything was the same this time around but with 2015 Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray not even on the team anymore, the question becomes even more understandable. I personally was for getting rid of Murray because he is not one of the 5 best running backs in the NFL but was asking for that kind of money. Yet when I said I was fine with Murray leaving I didn’t think it would result in this backfield of Randle, McFadden, Dunbar and recently acquired Christine Michael. I thought the Cowboys would make a genuine play for Adrian Peterson or take one of my 3 favorite running backs in the 2nd/3rd round range of the 2015 Draft where they had 2 picks (Duke Johnson, Tevin Coleman and Ameer Abdullah all intrigued me in that area of the draft). Now suddenly I’m left wondering if the Cowboys made a mistake in letting Murray leave. Yes he would have been overpaid but Romo has 2-3 years left of high quality football in my mind so maybe you just overpay Murray for that time frame so you can make sure and get 3 legit shots at a title. In 2018 when Romo is either retired or a shell of his former self I doubt we’d be bitching about Murray’s bloated contract if we had a ring somewhere in 2015-2017 to show for it. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in football and it isn’t just for run blocking so I expect Romo to have another great year and very possibly more MVP votes as his yards and attempts will go up, as will Dez Bryant’s catches and TDs, but the Cowboys were so successful last year due to their balance and their efficiency which I suspect will both take a hit in 2015. The reason they are my #2 most likely “secondary scenario” is because the offense might take a step back this year but the team overall might still be better due to the additions on defense of Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Sean Lee and Byron Jones. Last year the Cowboys best defensive end was Jeremy Mincey and is the reason why many point to their lack of a pass rush as the reason why the Packers beat them in the playoffs. This year Mincey might be their #4 DE as Randy Gregory has looked incredible in the preseason, Hardy is a Pro Bowler and is clearly their best DE and DeMarcus Lawrence has added weight and looks to be improved in his second year. To push your #1 DE down to #4 on the depth chart shows the kind of improvement the Cowboys have made this offseason and can be seen at LB as well with Anthony Hitchens being their 2nd best LB last year, Rolando McClain was clearly the best, yet might not even be starting once McClain comes back from suspension in Week 3. I see the Cowboys as a 12-4 team, winners of the NFC East and neck and neck with the Seahawks as the best team in the NFC. If the Cowboys make it out of the NFC it will be due to improvements on defense not offense as I think they will take a step back due to Murray’s departure. Nonetheless the Patriots just won a Super Bowl last year due to improvements on defense that took some of the load off Tom Brady’s shoulders so I still think the Cowboys have a legit shot at the title in 2015.
The Mad Scientist
There are few media commentators whom I treat their analysis like the gospel so it is interesting when three that I do (Troy Aikman, Kirk Herbstreit and Cris Collinsworth) wholeheartedly agree on a subject. In this case it is their opinion of Chip Kelly and the year they expect the Eagles to have in 2015. Aikman thinks Eagles QB Sam Bradford will be the MVP and, while I politely disagree, I do own him in both of my re-draft fantasy leagues as I do expect him to put up Top 7 QB type numbers. I understand Aikman’s opinion though as all you have to do is watch their 3rd preseason game where Bradford went 10-10 for 121 yards and 3 TDs in just one quarter of action, and against the Packers 1st team defense. When Kelly’s offense is in rhythm it is almost impossible to stop and I think his offseason of adding Murray, Ryan Matthews and Nelson Agholar in exchange for LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis is unique but has some underlying logic behind it. It’s funny to me how I will hear people say two things, both of which I agree with on their own yet together is nonsensical: “DeMarco led the NFL in touches last year. He’ll have a down year.” “Why would the Eagles sign Ryan Matthews? They already have 2 good running backs.” Yes I agree DeMarco will have a down year because the history of players coming off +350 touch seasons is not good….which is why they signed Ryan Matthews! Get it? No? Then leave this blog immediately. Yes? Okay good you can stay. Darren Sproles is 32 years old, Ryan Matthews is injury prone and DeMarco Murray was injury prone early in his career and is coming off a season where he was overused. It makes perfect sense to pair these guys together for the good of themselves as all three probably could use a non-workhorse back type situation in 2015. What intrigues me about Kelly is in the last 2 offseasons he’s gotten rid of 3 Pro Bowlers (DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis) as well as a solid starting CB (Cary Williams). What is the thread that ties those four players together? They all talk too much and have selfish, me first personalities. Now look at who he has brought in (Free Agents: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, Darren Sproles, Byron Maxwell, Connor Barwin. Draft Picks: Lane Johnson, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholar, Zach Ertz). All of these guys have the same thread as unselfish, hard working players. I mean the biggest discrepancy is going from DeSean Jackson to Jordan Matthews as Matthews was one of the squeakiest clean prospects I’ve ever graded and was replacing thug life Jackson. Of course the media made it out to be a racist thing which is ridiculous considering 6 of the 9 guys that I put on his additions list are black but it makes for a fun story and idiots like Jackson, McCoy and now Brandon Boykin continue to embarrass themselves by not letting the story die. Chip Kelly is an offensive guru and he knows what he wants. He wants a team of flexible, unselfish players who will do what they are told, leave their egos at home and work their asses off. He seems to have assembled it now as both his wide receivers have the speed to go deep and the size to run possession routes (flexibility) while also not being of the diva mentality prevalent in so many wideouts these days (unselfishness). His tackles both have the athleticism to play LT and be on an island themselves but also have the size and strength to play RT and dominate as run blockers (flexibility). His running backs all have the ability to be receivers out of the backfield and all have been in RB by committees before without complaint (flexibility and unselfishness). Let the media continue their brash talk of Chip Kelly, he just knows what he wants and seems to finally have it. Look out NFL, a team with no superstar player on it and with a half dozen interchangeable parts is coming at you with tempo. Good luck stopping it.
How good is Aaron Rodgers?
I’m of the opinion that Rodgers is currently playing the QB position better than anyone has ever played it and he will eventually go down as the greatest QB of All Time. Now that is a mighty big statement and it will require him to win a few more titles and MVPs awards, both of which could be thwarted by Andrew Luck who himself I suspect will go down as one of the 5 greatest QBs of All Time himself. Yet in all likelihood the Jordy Nelson injury has prevented Rodgers from adding either for the 2015 season as his defense is too mediocre for the Packers to go far without a Top 5 offense. What will interesting though for this season is the fact that Randall Cobb is injury prone and likely will miss a chunk of the season himself so at some point in 2015 he will be without his best two wideouts and will still have to carry a mediocre defense on his back. I fully expect him to succeed in this task and it’s why I rate Rodgers as the best QB in the NFL and why I rated Luck as the 2nd best for the past two years despite many QBs having better stats in that time frame. To me the elite QBs like Rodgers, Luck and Brady can win no matter what team you put around them. Peyton can’t win in cold weather, can’t win against good defenses and gets blown out every few years in the playoffs. Brees puts up huge stats against bad teams but often is mediocre against good teams and too often misses the playoffs. Russell Wilson has never had a bad team around him. Phillip Rivers and Romo put up great stats but just have too few playoff wins. For years Brady won with wideouts like Troy Brown, David Givens and Deion Branch. He never complained about Manning getting 1st round picks added to his offense every year and just dominated the Colts in the playoffs. No matter what team was around Brady it always ended with a division title and a trip to the AFC Conference Championship or Super Bowl. Yes he lost his fair share, usually because he was the less talented team, but he always kept his team in the hunt. Rodgers and Luck have taken over that mantle from Brady of, “Hit him a thousand times, injure his top option, double his second option (now 1st option) on every snap, have them down the entire game and you’re still expecting him to make a run in the 4th quarter.” I highly doubt the Packers season will end well as they just don’t look that good on paper but they still do have Rodgers so I suspect he will cobble together a Top 5 offense somehow and lead them to another division title. A division title means playoffs and at that point anything can happen because who really wants to face the best QB in the NFL in the playoffs?
That is my base scenario (Luck’s coming out part) and my top 4 secondary options off that base case (Seahawks stay on top, Cowboys take another step, Chip Kelly solves the NFL riddle, and Aaron Rodgers doesn’t need a supporting cast). There are of course other options I haven’t mentioned and they all could come to fruition as well, though they are lower in likelihood. These are below and in order of their probability:
- One of the old guard quarterbacks, Brady/Manning, picks up one last title. Reality check: Brady’s defense to me lost too much this offseason (gave up 464 yds in season opener) and Manning just doesn’t have it anymore. It will be Manning’s last season and he will have a career low in many categories as they become a run oriented offense.
- Cardinals were 6-1 last year before Carson Palmer was hurt. A healthy Palmer combined with their defense finally pushes through. Reality check: A Palmer led offense has never been an elite one in the NFL and the Cardinals are a very good defense but not a Seahawks or Rams great defense.
- The Steelers had the NFL’s leading passer, leading receiver and second leading rusher. Their triplets creation will take another step this year and become the NFL’s top offense. Reality check: The Bell suspension, Bryant suspension and a defense that is too young and lacks talent in a lot of spots will all hold them back.
- The Ravens win a Super Bowl every blue moon and are never the favorites. Reality check: Flacco is still clutch so it could happen but it usually occurs on “down” years for the NFL and this year I see too many talented teams for a mid level team like the 2008 Giants or 2013 Ravens to steal a title.
This year’s draft really intrigues me with 3 legit All-Star caliber players in it with Okafor, Towns and Russell and three other players with incredibly high upsides but with noticeable flaws in Caulie-Stein, Porzingis and Mudiay. After those six the draft condenses quickly upon itself as the difference between the #7 player and the #15 player isn’t very high. I didn’t have time to scout and rank every player but I got the majority of the Top 10 talent (not a huge fan of Stanley Johnson whom I meant to scout-reminds me a little of Ron Artest with a better jump shot but at times also makes me think he’s just a rich man’s Jae Crowder as a bulky SF who lacks the height to play his more natural position of PF). I picked 14 players that intrigued me and wrote their bios below. Okafor to me is the clear best player in this draft so it will be interesting to see how he compares to Towns who most rank as the superior player. Both look like future All-Star centers but they go about it in very different ways. After the first 3 guys go the story of the early part of the draft will be on Porzingis who is an incredible physical specimen but seems very dicey. I could see him go in the Top 3 or drop out of the Top 10 as it again is becoming uncool to take foreigners. It always seems to ebb and flow with recent busts hurting Porzingis. He has a lot of bust potential but I’m in on him as his upside is far higher than previous Top 5 picks like Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas. I just hope he goes to the right team and isn’t hidden on some team’s bench for the next few years as he has legit All-Star potential. That’s all I have for now. I didn’t prepare for this like I do the NFL Draft but after reading a few profiles I had to write and rank some key players, if only for my own enjoyment.
- Jahlil Okafor 6’11 272 C Duke 19 years old: The consensus has Karl Towns as the best player in this draft. Well here are my thoughts: Jahlil Okafor is the best prospect to come out of college since MVP candidate Anthony Davis in 2012 and is one of the 5 best prospects to come out of college in the past decade. He has traits that remind me of Tim Duncan and traits that remind me of Anthony Davis. Towns has superior touch and agility to Okafor but to me Okafor looks like the sure thing as a yearly All-Star whom you can build an offense around. It will need to be a slower paced offense but get an All-Star perimeter player around him along with a rangy PF and a few three point shooters and he can take that team to the playoffs as a rookie. He has great length, good skill, good touch and just an impressive understanding of the game which is rare for a 19 year old. Everyone disagrees with me but to me Okafor is a slam dunk as the best prospect in this draft. Future All-Star and #1 Overall Player in the 2015 Draft 6/24/15.
- Karl Towns 7’0 248 C Kentucky 19 years old: Karl is a rich man’s Eddy Curry with his rare combination of height, weight, skill and body type. Unlike Curry who was a constant underachiever, Towns puts in the work and should become one of the pre-eminent interior scorers in the NBA. Only Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry and Antawn Jamison come to mind as interior players with superior touch to Towns as NBA Draft prospects and he’s 4 inches taller than Randolph and Jamison and 2 inches taller than Curry. In most years he would be the #1 Overall Prospect in the draft and most consider him the best this year but I think Okafor’s size, strength and defensive abilities are superior to Towns. One caveat in that is Okafor is a traditional center and Towns is more lithe and could play in any system. Okafor has to have a system built around him to be successful, Towns does not. Future All-Star and #2 Overall Player in the 2015 Draft 6/24/15.
- D’Angelo Russell 6’5 193 PG Ohio State 19 years old: Russell is a rare point guard at 6’5, with length on top of that which allows him to play even bigger and with a silky smooth shooting stroke which is ready for primetime (75.6% FT/41.4% 3 pt). His stroke reminds me of Michael Redd in how extreme of a body angle he takes but that shouldn’t worry GMs as Redd had a decent span as one of the best shooters in the league. His handle reminds me a bit of Mike Conley with the start and stops, elongated dribble and prevalence of underhanded scoops around the basket. Put those two All-Stars together and you have a truly special player, especially considering Redd was an All-Star despite not driving too much and Conley is an All-Star despite not having a great shot. I also really like that he shot 41% from 3 despite being the best player on his team and shooting it from that range consistently (6.6 attempts per game). The opposition knew he was going to shoot it and he did it anyway at a very high level. We’ll call that the Steph Curry factor. I have two issues with him though. One is that I’m not completely sure he’s a point guard. As a PG he has incredible size but as a SG, which I think might fit his skill set better, he is a little undersized. My second issue is that he isn’t a great athlete and when you are talking about taking a guy in the Top 5 you almost have to draft an elite athlete. His profile of a big combo guard with great skills but average athleticism out of Ohio State is eerily similar to recent draft bust Evan Turner. Now Russell is a much much better shooter than Turner as well as a superior ball handler but still when you look at guys who were draft busts in the Top 10 it almost inevitably is an uber athlete with no skills (Jan Veseley, Hasheem Thabeet, Joe Alexander) or a guy with good skills who was just swallowed whole when he had to move up a level in competition (Johnny Flynn, Adam Morrison, DJ Augustin). Russell could arguably fit that second group though other elite skill set/mediocre athletes like Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden, etc. all worked out. In the end I like Russell’s jump shot, handle and basketball IQ too much to pass up. I’m unsure if he’ll be an All-Star and even unsure if he’ll stay at PG but I feel pretty confident he’ll be at worst a Bradley Beal level talent within a few years. Top 5 6/24/15.
- Willie Cauley-Stein 7’1 242 C Kentucky 21 years old: It has been awhile since I’ve seen a comparison more apt than Cauley-Stein and Tyson Chandler. They are nearly identical in size, style, temperament and body type. Some will discount Willie because of his ineptness as a scorer and I understand the dilemma. I go by the theory that you should only have 1 non-scorer on the court at a time, otherwise the offense stalls. To spend a Top 5 pick on a player who will then be that non-scorer on your team the next decade is a tough pill to swallow. That being said you accept it with Cauley-Stein as he’s arguably the best defensive player to come out of the NBA Draft since Anthony Davis in 2012. He is long and strong enough to defend in the post against almost any big man and is one of the most versatile bigs I’ve ever seen with his quickness and agility. He will immediately be one of the best big man defenders against the pick and roll in the NBA and has NBA Defensive Player of the Year capabilities. He likely will be a 10-10-2 type guy with no offensive contributions except put backs and dunks off penetration but his defense alone makes him worthy of a Top 5 pick. Top 5 talent 6/24/15.
- Kristaps Porzingis 7’0 230 PF International 19 years old: Porzingis probably has the 3rd highest ceiling in this draft but also is one of the biggest risks of any player in the Top 10. His skill set is unique to say the least as he’s sort of a combination of Andrei Kirilenko and Andrea Bargnani with Kirilenko’s athleticism (not nearly as agile or tough though) and Bargnani’s rare shooting stroke. He looks like a potential All-Star stretch 4 with elite dunking ability around the basket and good defense as well. The negatives though are obvious as he is rail thin, lacks toughness, is a poor passer, has no back the basket game and is young with limited experience. I could see him being the biggest bust in the draft or one of the 20 best players in the NBA in a few years. Neither would shock me so he’s the ultimate roll of the dice. I would roll it though as it is rare to see such a smooth shooting stroke combined with such rare athleticism. He could win the NBA Dunk Contest while also being a 38% shooter from downtown as a power forward. Name me another player with that skill set? It is rare and therefore he is worth the roll of the dice.
- Emmanuel Mudiay 6’5 200 PG International 19 years old: Emmanuel played last year in China deciding for a nice payday over the chance to take SMU deep in the NCAA tournament. He reminds me a little of John Wall with his size, athleticism and absolutely terrible jump shot. He has elite height at 6’5, is very solidly built and can finish with the best of them after contact. He isn’t quite as explosive as John Wall but he shows impressive athleticism and has a great handle so I have no doubts that he’s a true PG, unlike Russell. Unfortunately his jump shot is just atrocious (58% FT last year!) and it could really hamper his game. Wall struggled his first few years until he got any semblance of a shot and Mudiay seems to be on a similar level as his mechanics are terrible and his shots go everywhere. If a coach can break him down and rebuild him entirely into a good shooter then he could be an All-Star but I doubt he ever overcomes this obvious weakness. He likely settles in as a rich man’s Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons) who will be a solid all around player but not the type of player you can build a team around. Top 10 6/25/2015.
- Myles Turner 7’0 239 C Texas 19 years old: Myles is an all arms and legs type player with mediocre strength and mediocre athleticism. His three best attributes are his height, length and shooting ability and it is a rare combination as he projects to be a solid mid range shooter while also averaging 1.0-1.5 blocks per game as a starting center. You don’t usually find that combination of rim protection on defense and spacing on offense and it would make him extremely valuable as a pairing with below the rim, bruising type PFs like Zach Randolph, Al Jefferson, etc. The problem is he is very much a one trick pony on offense and defense. On offense he has no back to the basket game and struggles creating his won offense in any way. On defense he is a limited athlete and isn’t that strong so he can be exploited by athletic big men and physical big men. I like Turner now but I think I will really like Turner in 3 years once he adds weight and gets any semblance of an interior game. Top 10 6/24/15.
- Christian Wood 6’11 216 PF UNLV 19 years old: Wood currently projects as a 2nd rounder which makes my upcoming profile of him look rather silly. My defense is simply that I watch players and read profiles and then make my own rankings. Sometimes they correlate with the consensus and sometimes they do not. Wood is the biggest sleeper in the draft in my opinion as he has everything you want in a project “stretch four.” He has elite height and length, solid shooting numbers that could easily be worked with and turned into a weapon, very good rebounding numbers and impressive above the rim athleticism that will make him an alley oop machine. He is rail thin and very raw offensively but in the NBA he will be a role player anyway and in that role of a space making big man with impressive rebounding, shot blocking and alley oop dunking he already is a rare specimen. If Wood played for Kentucky he’d be a 1st round lock, instead he plays for UNLV where he’s a 2nd round name but I fully expect Wood to develop and become a solid NBA starter down the road. Top 15 and biggest sleeper in this draft 6/24/15.
- Trey Lyles 6’10 241 PF Kentucky 19 years old: Lyles is a long, versatile PF who played out of position at SF all last year due to Kentucky having Caulie-Stein and Towns to man the other spots. He’s a smart, skilled player who is surprisingly a bit of an unknown due to his freshman year as his minutes were limited, his shot attempts were rare and again he played out of position. I like Lyles basketball IQ, length and skill set but he isn’t a stud athlete and doesn’t appear to have the shooting touch to make up for that limited athleticism. He projects in the same vein as Bobby Portis, but in a superior fashion, as a mediocre starter/high end reserve who falls in the mid 1st round 6/24/15.
- Bobby Portis 6’11 246 PF Arkansas 20 years old: Named as SEC Player of the Year which is impressive considering Kentucky’s roster. Portis is one of the hardest working players in this draft and projects as a swiss army knife type PF who will grab rebounds, D up the best forward on the opposing team, play a little point forward, post up as well as hit the outside jumper. Unfortunately his ceiling is limited due to his mediocre athleticism and lack of dominance in any one area. Against elite athletes it was obvious to me that he just couldn’t score consistently which makes me doubt he’ll ever average more than 8-12 points a game in the NBA. He projects as a mediocre starter or high end 3/4 forward off the bench and I think the latter makes the most sense due to his infectious energy he brings. Top 20 6/24/15.
- Frank Kaminsky 7’1 231 C Wisconsin 22 years old: Frank is an NBA player on offense but isn’t an NBA player on defense. That will be the issue teams have with him as his versatility in the post, as a passer and as a spot up shooter make him an intriguing prospect but the question always will be: Who can he guard? For a team with a versatile interior defender he could be a great fit and could provide tremendous value on offense but I’m sure some teams have him off their draft board entirely due to his poor athleticism and questionable fit on defense. I like him but consider him more of a 6th man type that can start depending on the matchup. As such I do not agree with those who have him as a lottery pick. Top 20 6/24/15.
- Kevon Looney 6’9 222 PF UCLA 19 years old: Looney is an extremely interesting prospect as he’s a long armed, versatile player with the broad shoulders and big hands that you would associate with a 7 footer. He has a unique all around game as he shows solid passing skills and ball handling skills to go along with good shot blocking and great rebounding. What excites me the most is his erratic jump shot (62% FT but 41% 3 pt?) which, if mastered, could make him a deadly combination with his underrated handle and good length. He doesn’t look like a future star but he has enough skill to be more than your generic rebounder/shot blocker/defender type at the 4. I like him and see him as one of the more underrated prospects in this draft. Barely outside Top 20 6/24/15.
- Motrezl Harrell 6’8 253 PF Louisville 21 years old: Harrell is a physical, emotional whirlwind of a player who excels as an offensive rebounder. He’s listed at 6’8, which is undersized already, but really is in the 6’6-6’7 range and has limited skills as a shooter (59% free throws) or driver. Some like him more than this but to me he looks like a high energy banger type off the bench and a late 1st rounder at best 6/24/15.
- Robert Upshaw 7’0 258 C UConn 21 years old: Upshaw is your classic big, dumb center. He made a big splash at the Combine with a 9’5 standing reach which is one of the 25 longest in history and averaged a shocking 4.5 blocks per game. On the downside though he shot 43% from the free throw line and had non-existent assist and steal totals so basically he’s a massive and long man with almost no skill. He could turn into DeAndre Jordan but just as easily could turn into Hasheem Thabeet. What is even worse is that he was dismissed from the UConn team mid-season this year and it is the second time a team has dismissed him mid-season! The kid has elite size and length but with such limited skills and with such a horrible background I just don’t see him being taken until the 2nd round, non-guaranteed contracts, begin. 2nd round roll of the dice type 6/24/15.
Todd Gurley-Melvin Gordon: I had to do a double take when I first looked at Mayock’s board as he talked up Gurley the entire draft process. In the end though he put Gordon not just as the #1 RB but as the clear cut #1 RB with Gordon #10 Overall on his board and Gurley only #19. I had Gurley as my #1 RB and #9 Overall with Gordon #11 Overall. Even with the injury concerns Gurley stayed at #1 as he has Hall of Fame potential and could be the best running back of this generation. That upside is worth a roll of the dice but Gordon should also have a very good career and could be superior in his first season as he is he is fully healthy and has the better quarterback to team up with. In the end though, talent wins out and I expect Gurley to have a much better career as long as he stays healthy, with that asterisk being the only reason their two grades were so close on my board.
Marcus Peters-Trae Waynes: Every year there are a few top level guys that Mayock and I disagree on and this appears to be one of them as Peters is my #1 CB but only #3 on Mayock’s board and Waynes is his #1 CB but only #3 on my board. I absolutely love Peters size, strength and ball skills and only think Waynes was a late 1st round talent that catapulted into the top of the draft due to an overrated 40 time (4.31). Both have experience in a press cover system, a rarity for prospects in college, so both should be expected to start early in their careers which should make this a fun comparison. By the way the consensus is with Mayock on this one as Peters was rarely the #1 CB on various media scouts’ boards and often was #3, #4 or even #5 behind a Jalen Collins or Byron Jones.
Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota: This is a close race as I had Winston as the #1 QB and #1 Overall player but wasn’t disliking Mariota either as he was my #2 QB and #3 Overall Player. Mayock liked both players less but had them similar in ranking as well with Mariota #1 QB and #5 Overall and Winston #2 QB and #6 Overall. Some will argue that it isn’t much of a comparison but I would disagree as if he was forced to take a QB 1st Overall by his owner, which happens often to GMs by the way, he would have chosen Mariota and I would have chosen Winston. I like Mariota but think Winston is a franchise caliber QB who will clearly be the superior player in 3-5 years when we review this comparison.
Nelson Agholar-Breshad Perriman: Mayock joined the chorus when he pushed Perriman up his board late (#15 overall) as he was one of the hotter prospects leading up to the draft with some even putting him ahead of Kevin White or Amari Cooper. That to me is ridiculous as Perriman is big, strong and fast but he is incredibly raw and is why he ended at #38 overall on my board. Agholar on the other hand is a smooth, polished receiver that runs good routes, has solid size and underrated speed. He should be a quality #2 WR from day 1 and has more upside than I think people give him credit for. He ended at #25 and was a far better prospect in my eyes than Perriman.
Xavier Cooper-Eddie Goldman: Eddie was #29 on Mayock’s board which was probably about the consensus view of him being a late 1st/early 2nd type but I just never saw the talent with Goldman. To me he’s a space eater with nothing special about him athletically, production wise or motor wise that makes him worth an early round pick. Cooper to me was the biggest sleeper of the draft as he went in the late 3rd round and most didn’t see it as a “steal” like I did. Mayock in fact ranked him #93 on his board so to him it was just a normal pick. To me it was one of the 5 best picks in the draft as I had Cooper #16 on my board and well ahead of Goldman who was #94. This is probably the most extreme discrepancy out of the ten comparisons so Mayock or I will likely be incredibly wrong on this one. Even with the consensus being with Mayock and Goldman going 63 picks before Cooper I still like my chances as Cooper’s tape was incredible and he might just be the next Geno Atkins in terms of an undersized, athletic defensive tackle that becomes a Pro Bowler. Keep in mind Atkins went in the 4th round in 2010 and has become one of the best tackles in the game so Cooper going in the late 3rd round doesn’t necessarily mean he will struggle.
Donovan Smith-DJ Humphries: Smith was the sleeper in this tackle group as I had a Top 20 grade on him (#17) and thought he was capable of being that rare road grading LT. Humphries to me was just another guy as he had an early 3rd round grade (#64) as he didn’t seem that athletic or strong on film. Mayock disagreed as he had Humphries (#25) ahead of Smith (#40) and apparently didn’t see anything wrong with DJ as a first rounder. I considered it to be one of the biggest reaches of the 1st round. This is another one that should be fun as both are projected as their team’s starting LT in 2015 and rookie left tackles usually sink or swim rather quickly in the NFL.
Landon Collins-Damarius Randall: I liked Randall as I saw him as a versatile FS that could come down and play the slot receiver or stay back and play centerfield. That being said I was a little surprised he went in the 1st round as I had an early 2nd round grade on him (#37). What shocked me though was how Collins fell on draft day as I had a Top 10 grade on him (#6) and saw him as one of the top impact defenders in this draft class. Mayock disagreed as he had Randall (#30) ahead of Collins (#32) and didn’t see stardom with Collins as he had the two as “bubble” 1st round picks. I think the Giants got one of the 2-3 steals of the draft with Collins in the 2nd round and suspect he will be a Pro Bowler in short order.
Tyler Lockett-Phillip Dorsett: Mayock had Dorsett (#34) well ahead of Lockett (#70) and it played out that way on draft day but I saw Lockett as one of the best wideouts in this draft (#32) as he actually was ahead of Breshad Perriman as my #5 WR. Dorsett has a lot of speed in a similarly small frame to Lockett’s yet seems to lack the strength and polished all around game that Tyler has. Dorsett settled in as a late 2nd round talent for me (#60) and I basically have Mayock’s grades flipped between the two. Once again this is Mayock and the consensus against me as I didn’t see anyone with as high a grade on Lockett as I did. Lockett got serious 1st round consideration from me as he reminded me a lot of Antonio Brown with his quickness, hands, and speed.
Andrus Peat-Ereck Flowers: Peat has been my #1 OT throughout the draft process and ended #8 Overall. Flowers on the other hand was #35 Overall and was one of the biggest reaches in the 1st round when the Giants took him #9. Mayock also saw it as a reach but not as much so with Flowers #21 on his board. Peat at #28 overall surprised me a bit as it put him behind 4 OTs in this class. Flowers walks into a starting job in New York while Peat will have to beat out two established starters at OT so he could move inside which will hurt the comparison but long term I see Peat having Pro Bowl potential while Flowers looks like a good starting RT and nothing more.
Vic Beasley-Bud Dupree: Mayock fell in love with Dupree’s elite athleticism and it isn’t the first time it has happened. With this being the third year of making comparisons I’m starting to notice a trend where many of our comparisons occur when Mayock falls for an elite athlete and puts him ahead of lesser athletes with far superior production. Sometimes Mayock gets it right, like when he fell for Dontari Poe, and sometimes he gets it wrong, like when he fell for Dion Jordan. To me Beasley is a one dimensional pass rusher that probably was a little overrated, taken 8th overall, but he’s a proven commodity with 33 sacks and 52.5 TFL the past 3 seasons. Dupree on the other hand never had a double digit sack season in college and he often times was invisible on tape. His Combine was incredible as he’s big, strong, fast and long but give me a good, fluid athlete with great production over the combine freak whose tape doesn’t measure up. I’m not always right on this type of bet but my success rate is higher than Mayock’s. Mayock had Dupree #11 and Beasley #13 while I had Beasley #19 and Dupree #81 so this comparison really comes down to whether Dupree develops his immense athleticism into big time production or not.
New York Giants
Pre-draft analysis: The Giants are a team with a few elite players on both sides of the ball (Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) but with a number of major holes to fill. On offense they have a gaping hole at RT and it will need to be addressed as Justin Pugh is a solid OG miscast as a RT so drafting a RT would improve two spots with Pugh moving inside where he belongs. TE is also a need area but it should only be addressed in the early rounds as Larry Donnell would be a great #2 TE but is mediocre as a starter. On defense, linebacker continues to be an area of concern, something draft pundits have pointed out probably the past 10 years with the Giants yet it never seems to be addressed. Also Prince Amukamara is only a mediocre starter at CB yet will probably have to do as Nat Berhle and Cooper Taylor are probably the least talented starting safeties in the NFL and one must be replaced.
Best Impact Pick: Landon Collins-He will start from Day 1 as he is a big time talent and only has to beat out former mid rounder Cooper Taylor at SS.
Best Value Pick: Landon Collins-The Giants biggest need was at safety so it must have been shocking to them when Collins dropped out of the 1st round entirely. I had a Top 10 grade on him and didn’t discount him as much as others due to his mediocre speed and coverage range. To get him in the early 2nd round is an absolute steal.
Worst Value Pick: Ereck Flowers-I liked Flowers as an early 2nd round talent but to me he wasn’t anything special. To take him in the Top 10 was an obvious reach, especially considering everyone was talking about how the Giants were taking the #1 offensive lineman on their board, no matter how the draft played out in front of them. I hate when teams pre-select a position as it rarely works for them long term. The last time I remember it happening was when the Dolphins reached for Ja’Wuan James last year. Both were 2nd round talents taken way too early and I suspect Flowers will settle in as an average starting OT just like James has. Poor value for a Top 10 pick.
Overall: I didn’t like the Giants draft as even when you flip the Collins and Flowers picks which, per my board, makes more sense I still don’t see the Giants getting anything from this draft other than a starting SS and a starting RT. It was the team’s two biggest needs but again gives me the feeling that they reached for need and were very short sighted in their goals for this draft. The Giants are not one player away from contending, no matter how good Odell Beckham is, and they should have been more patient in when they addressed their needs. Also I think they will look back and regret passing on Andrus Peat for Ereck Flowers. C
Pre-draft analysis: What a crazy offseason for the Eagles as they lost Jeremy Maclin in free agency, cut team leader Trent Cole, traded Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy, almost signed then lost Frank Gore, signed Ryan Matthews and DeMarco Murray, signed Byron Maxwell, signed Tim Tebow and traded for Sam Bradford and Kiko Alonso. Whew did I get everything? After an offseason like this one it is obvious that coach Chip Kelly embraces change and isn’t set on one specific way of how to build a team as one minute he had one of the best WR corps in the league with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and suddenly he is down to one of the weakest. Drafting with Chip Kelly should always be about the best player available as who knows what trade, signing or release is around the next corner so a team weakness one day will be a strength the next and vice versa. That being said I thought on offense the WR position was the lone weakness as Cooper is more of a #3 WR than a #1 and Jordan Matthews to me is still a questionable player. On defense the Eagles have one very good 3-4 OLB in Connor Barwin and two former 1st rounders battling to start across from him in Marcus Smith and Brandon Graham. Neither showed a lot in 2014 so additional competition might make sense. Also cornerback in the early rounds would be helpful as Byron Maxwell is a bit overrated to me after his time with the legion of boom and Walter Thurmond III appears to be more of a #3 type CB while Brandon Boykin is an elite slot cornerback but lacks the height to play outside.
Best Impact Pick: Nelson Agholar-He was neck and neck with DeVante Parker on my board for the #3 WR in this class as I thought he was vastly underrated. He has the same kind of sneaky athleticism that Jeremy Maclin did but is a bit faster and stronger to me so I actually see him as the #1 WR in Philadelphia and superior to Jordan Matthews.
Best Value Pick: Eric Rowe-He was a 1st rounder on my board as his size and athleticism are rare at CB or S. I also think he is the rare prospect that could succeed at either spot as he has the agility and hips to play press corner if they want to play that scheme.
Worst Value Pick: Jordan Hicks-If healthy I would have seen this as an okay pick so obviously I consider it a reach with Hicks medical dossier. I just didn’t see enough of Hicks as he was always injured and I suspect Chip Kelly will be tired of his off the field antics and injury prone nature by 2016.
Overall: I thought the Cowboys probably had the best first two picks of the draft and the Eagles would be in the running for second with Agholar and Rowe. Both were clear cut 1st rounders, fit obvious needs and look like long term starters for the club. It’s great when value and fit come together so seamlessly and this was an obvious example. Unfortunately I didn’t like their 3rd rounder (Hicks) and their other three picks were 6th and 7th rounders so it was a limited draft for them. B
Pre-draft analysis: On offense the Redskins have no glaring hole other than RT but continue to project as just a mediocre offense due to their poor QB play. On defense they need to fill the gap left by Brian Orakpo at 3-4 OLB and could stand to get an upgrade at ILB or CB where mediocre starters Perry Riley Jr. and Chris Culliver man those respective positions.
Best Impact Pick: Brandon Scherff-I wasn’t a huge fan of the pick value wise but I still understood it as Gruden sees an offense with no major holes but with no great chance to be successful unless RGIII improves. That obviously will be the story of the season but by adding a powerful run grader in Scherff he added maybe the one guy that could change that dynamic as Scherff could possibly take the Redskins running game to another level. One caveat though is I still think Scherff fits best at OG not RT.
Best Value Pick: Jamison Crowder-I had a late 3rd on Crowder as I saw a polished slot receiver with punt return skills. With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon manning the outside spots Crowder fits perfectly as a quicker than fast slot receiver with sure hands. I suspect he will be a solid part time starter for them. Good value in the 4th round.
Worst Value Pick: Matt Jones-I honestly don’t get the pick but I didn’t get the Alfred Morris pick in 2012 or the Chris Thompson pick in 2013, both of whom are still on the roster, while I loved the Lache Seastrunk pick in 2014 and he didn’t make the roster last year so obviously I don’t see the same things in running backs that they do. Jones is a bruising one cut back so he fits well in their scheme but I seriously question whether he was a better pick than Jay Ajayi, Mike Davis or David Cobb all of whom were still on the board. Jones to me looks like a 3 yards and a pile of dust type that will never give much competition to Alfred Morris.
Overall: It was a strange draft as I didn’t think Scherff or Matt Jones were good values but collectively it made some sense as Scherff at RT, Arie Kouandjio at RG and Matt Jones as a bruising tailback off the bench all improve the running game and make the Redskins bigger and tougher. Clearly Gruden wants that as he knows he is stuck with RGIII for at least one more season and realizes that the only way to possibly win with him is to become an elite running team and improve his turnover ratio as well as his deep ball which as a rookie was one of the best in the league. A counter argument though is that RGIII is just a place holder so Gruden should still have just taken the best player available at each pick and Brandon Scherff at #5 was not it. He could have taken DT Leonard Williams or WR Kevin White to really maximize the value of the pick and a year from now when RGIII isn’t on the team anymore he’d have had more talented building blocks to work with than he will with Scherff as the pick. I see both sides but probably lean more to argument #2. C+
Pre-draft analysis: Going into the Draft I saw the Cowboys as one of the more covered teams in the NFL as they technically could have skipped the entire draft and at least had a serviceable starter at every position on offense and defense. That being said there were two positions that had weak starters at them, cornerback and running back, which I was sure would be addressed. Also defensive tackle and defensive end seemed to be areas of concern as each position had impending free agents (Tyrone Crawford at DT and Greg Hardy at DE) which could leave the team barren if they bolted. Finally I thought WR, OG and S were areas where depth could be addressed in the later rounds.
Best Impact Pick: Randy Gregory-For the 4th time in 16 write ups I’m skipping the 1st pick as I like Byron Jones but think Gregory could have a bigger impact. Both are boom/bust types with incredibly high ceilings but Gregory comes in with a chip on his shoulder and will only have to beat out DeMarcus Lawrence or Jeremy Mincey to be a starter from Day 1. Even if he isn’t a starter he almost surely will be on the field for 3rd downs as his speed, length and agility make him a potential havoc maker on the outside.
Best Value Pick: Randy Gregory-He went #60 to the Cowboys and I felt like I was in the minority by giving him only a late 1st round grade. He has issues on the field (lack of weight, limited production vs. top tackles) and off the field (failed drug test at the Combine, anxiety issues) but I don’t think it’d surprise anyone if he became a Pro Bowl pass rusher that consistently netted double digit sacks a year. He has that type of talent and the only other guy I can think of that had his kind of talent as a pass rusher but fell on draft day is Justin Houston who just came off a season in which he led the NFL in sacks with 22. Gregory was a steal in the late 2nd round.
Worst Value Pick: Chaz Green-I had a late 5th round grade on him (I actually didn’t have a grade on him at all but went back and graded the last 6 picks of the Cowboys to determine their value-full write ups at the bottom of the page) and consider him a good backup or mediocre starter. To use a 3rd round pick on a player like that is questionable enough but to do so at a position like OG or OT that isn’t nearly as high on your team’s list of needs as RB or DT makes it even more dubious. I bet Green would have been still available in the 4th or even 5th round when the Cowboys were on the clock as I consider the pick to be a serious reach.
Overall: The Cowboys started off with a bang as they had arguably the best 1st/2nd round duo of any team in the league. A case can be made that Jones and Gregory have two of the ten highest ceilings of any players in the draft as Jones had a historic Combine and Gregory has the burst, agility and length that is comparable to a Jason Pierre Paul. I wouldn’t be shocked if either of them ended up becoming Pro Bowl talents. Things went sour quickly though in the 3rd round as Chaz Green was a serious reach to me and others and then I became disinterested as LB Damien Wilson, DE Ryan Russell, LB Mark Nzeocha, OT Laurence Gibson and TE Geoff Swaim were all guys I had never heard of. Doing research on them though improved my spirits as Damien Wilson and Laurence Gibson were two picks that really intrigued me. Wilson projects as a starting MLB with good strength and athleticism while Gibson is a TJ Clemmings starter kit with ’35 1/8 arms and a 5.04 40. Both could easily be starting for the Cowboys in 2016 and continues the Cowboys drafting strategy of rolling the dice on elite athletes that they can mold into quality football players. Overall I really like the Cowboys draft as they got two immediate starters in Byron Jones and Randy Gregory who have elite potential. They also added a talented but raw linebacker in Damien Wilson who has a higher ceiling than current starter Anthony Hitchens, especially as a two down run stopper. Finally they added two offensive lineman, one in Chaz Green that can be an immediate help to them as a 6th OL due to his technique and versatility and another in Laurence Gibson who is incredibly raw but has the tools to eventually develop into an upper echelon starting OT. Not every pick was one I came around on though as I still see Chaz Green as a huge reach, consider Ryan Russell a late round type at best (taken in the 5th round), am not a fan of Mark Nzeocha (though he does fill a need as a nickel linebacker) and have no idea what they were thinking when they drafted TE Geoff Swaim (his career cumulative production would be a solid game’s worth for Jason Witten). Overall the Cowboys really helped themselves by adding three upper echelon athletes (Jones, Gregory, Gibson) as well as two good backups in Chaz Green and Damien Wilson. I’m still going to dock them for not adding a RB at any point in the draft as well as the reaching for Green and some very dubious late round selections but in the end it was a good draft that could look great down the road if they hit on their three guys with elite upside. B+
*La’el Collins signed this afternoon with the Cowboys. This will not affect their draft grade as I only grade each team’s picks and not their undrafted free agent signings but obviously this improves Dallas as a club. I had an early 2nd round grade on him and, ironically enough, said he’d fit best at LG where he could pull and use his mobility to its best effectiveness. Hopefully that is what Dallas does as Ronald Leary, per profootballfocus.com, was the worst of the 5 OL last year and is a free agent in 2016. Moving Collins there would be an upgrade in 2015 for the OL and would allow Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick to immediately begin gelling as each would be under contract at least through 2017. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the Collins signing as numerous times in my Day 3 Draft Blog I ripped a team for taking a mediocre OL with Collins still on the board. Below is my write up of Collins:
La’el Collins LSU 6’4 ½ 305 Jr. His Combine was confusing as he’s a big, long, strong guy on film but he had a very good 40 (5.12), a poor amount of reps (21) and below average arm length (’33 ¼)? It made me go back to the film and I realized that the measurements were right and I had him pegged incorrectly in my head. The more I watched him the more I realized that he could play RT but his best fit was clearly OG. At OG he’ll be a perfect fit as a mobile LG that has enough athleticism to pull but can also make holes in the run game in the trenches. He drops out of the first round mix due to the position change, and the fact that his tape is inconsistent, but I’m confident he’ll become a quality starting guard. Early 2nd round 4/27/15.
Write Up of Cowboys Final 6 Draft Picks
(3rd round) OT Chaz Green Florida 6’4 5/8 314 Sr. Green is a versatile OL that can play OG, RT or possibly even LT in a pinch. He’d fit best as a 6th OL, swing tackle or OG/RT type due to his impressive versatility. He’s quick, tall and a good technician. He appears to be a smart player. He doesn’t have the athleticism or foot speed to be a permanent starter at LT though and lacks the strength or nastiness you prefer at RT. He looks to me to be a better fit inside at OG if forced into a role as a full timer but probably would be most valuable as a 6th OL since versatility is probably his best feature. He projects as a mediocre starter or very good backup. Late 5th round 5/7/15.
(4th round) LB Damien Wilson Minnesota 6’0 245 Sr. He had a good Combine with a slow 40 (4.77) but above average vertical (’37), broad (9’11) and shuttle (4.20). I didn’t watch a lot of Minnesota film this year so I didn’t know about him until the Cowboys drafted him. He was a JUCO kid who played 2 years at Minnesota and is the rare kid that played well both years as most are one year wonders. In 2013 he was mainly just a quality run stuffer (78 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 TFL) but in 2014 he had a more well rounded game with splash plays (119 tackles, 4 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF). He isn’t very instinctive as a linebacker as you see a lot of pause in reading his keys but once he figures things out he is a heat seeking missile and looks to be much faster than a 4.77 40 on film. He doesn’t use his hands well and I don’t see any talent as a pass defender but the physical skills are there for him to be a starting MLB in the NFL. Wilson projects as an above average starter who will excel as a downhill linebacker that isn’t required to diagnose plays but can just attack an offense. Late 3rd round 5/7/15.
(5th round) DE Ryan Russell Purdue 6’4 ¼ 269 Sr. A tall, thickly built DE that has limited athleticism and poor production which will force him to be a run stuffing SDE in a 4-3 or be bulked up into a 3-4 DE. His Combine was mediocre and his 4.5 sacks the past two seasons COMBINED are both red flags to me. I don’t see a lot of potential here and think he will be a backup DE for a few seasons before his career ends prematurely due to a lack of interest for a big DE with limited pass rush potential. Free Agent 5/7/15.
(5th round) LB Mark Nzeocha Wyoming 6’2 232 Sr. Born in Germany. He was hurt at the Combine and didn’t work out. There isn’t much film on a late round prospect out of Wyoming but from what I did see he projects as a WLB in a 4-3 and looks like a specialist that will be best used in passing situations. He is a tall, lanky linebacker that looks more like a safety than a linebacker and will be used on special teams and nickel packages. Free Agent 5/7/15.
(7th round) OT Laurence Gibson Virginia Tech 6’5 ¾ 304 Sr. He had an incredible Combine with a 5.04 40, ’35 1/8 arms and 4.56 shuttle. That shuttle time is elite as it was the 5th best time out of the 53 OL and the guys who beat it (Ali Marpet, Jake Fisher, Mitch Morse, TJ Clemmings) were all top rated guys who either went in the 2nd or 3rd round or fell due to injury concerns (Clemmings-4th round). He’s a raw player with elite athleticism and arm length that would be the perfect project type for a good OL coach to be given. He has LT tools to work with and could be a high level starter at a difficult position to fill. He will need time to develop though and probably isn’t even ready to start at RT as a rookie. Early 5th round project type with elite upside 5/7/15.
(7th round) TE Geoff Swaim Texas 6’4 250 Sr. Not invited to the Combine. He’s a JUCO kid and one that rarely was involved in the offense in either of his two seasons as he only had 13 catches for 84 yards and 1 TD in his career! Undraftable 5/7/15.
Pre-draft analysis: The Bears are a team with a lot of talent but are hampered by their mediocre QB and their lack of an identity. The offense appears set though a QB to push Jay Cutler or a WR to help replace Brandon Marshall would make sense. The defense is a mess and is converting from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 scheme. You can make the case that every position could use either a starter or improved depth with 3-4 OLB being possibly the lone exception.
Best Impact Pick: Kevin White-He is one of 5 players I designated as an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate and should immediately replace Brandon Marshall who was starting to show signs of decline.
Best Value Pick: Hroniss Granu-He was my #2 center and a 2nd round pick on my board so to get him as the #4 center and in the 3rd round was a steal. I also think that he and Kyle Long, former teammates, could be an elite duo as you won’t find a more athletic interior combo in the league.
Worst Value Pick: Eddie Goldman-Some people actually saw this pick as a steal as there were some 1st round grades on Goldman. I am not one of those people as I saw a mediocre 3-4 NT that lacks the athleticism to ever be more than a run stuffer. I know they needed some size at the position since they are converting to a 3-4 scheme but Jordan Phillips was still on the board and I think will have a much better career.
Overall: I love two of the Bears picks with Kevin White and Hroniss Granu. Jeremy Langford and Adrian Amos are solid middle round picks and Eddie Goldman at least makes sense in terms of the 3-4 scheme switch so overall it was a very solid draft but I downgraded it due to the Goldman reach and the fact that Langord seems to be replacing Ka’Deem Carey which to me is too early to give up on that young talent. B
Pre-draft analysis: Their skill positions are about as set as any team in the NFL with Stafford, Johnson, Tate and newly added Eric Ebron but their OL is mediocre at all five spots and their running backs are serviceable but not explosive. On defense they lost two of their three best players in Ndamakung Suh and Nick Fairley and only replaced them with an aging Haloti Ngata who is a two down player at this stage of his career. The LB corp is a strength and there is talent on the back end but they have a starting CB and S that probably should be the #3 CB and #3 S.
Best Impact Pick: Ameer Abdullah-For the second time in 12 write ups I am not going with the 1st pick as Abdullah to me looks like a potential Day 1 starter for them. Joique Bell should still get the short yardage and goal line duties but if Abdullah can hang onto the ball he could be a 1,000 yard rusher in this offense.
Best Value Pick: Quandre Diggs-I know he had an up and down career but Diggs at one time had a 2nd round grade on my board, settled into an early 4th round grade, so to get him in the 6th round is a steal.
Worst Value Pick: Laken Tomlinson-First off I hate taking guards in the 1st round, second off I didn’t see Tomlinson as that rare 1st round talent at guard and third off I didn’t even see Tomlinson as the best guard still available, La’el Collins and AJ Cann had higher grades to me. This was a reach in so many ways as I don’t see Tomlinson as any more talented than the guy he’ll be starting opposite from, Larry Warford, whom they took in the 3rd round a few years ago.
Overall: This is a tough draft to grade as I love the Abdullah, Gabe Wright and Quandre Diggs picks but thought the Tomlinson pick was arguably the worst pick in the 1st round and didn’t see a ton of talent in S Alex Carter (3rd round) or RB Michael Burton (5th round). C+
Green Bay Packers
Pre-draft analysis: On offense they appear to be loaded except at TE and OT where they are comfortably set but only with mediocre starters. On defense there are obvious holes at both inside linebacker spots and they have no depth at CB.
Best Impact Pick: Damarious Randall-He’s a quality slot CB or FS depending on how they play him and should be another ball hawk on their back end. I fully agree with Ted Thompson’s belief that you draft guys with ball skills as Casey Heyward, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett all are guys who’ve had 5 INTs or more in a season. Randall will fit in nicely.
Best Value Pick: Brett Hundley-Rodgers isn’t going anywhere but I still love the pick as Hundley has the tools to be a Top 15 QB and that is rare to find, let alone in the 5th round. I honestly can’t believe teams that had an aging starting QB like the Cowboys, Chargers, Broncos, Patriots and Steelers passed on Hundley so many times. He seems like the perfect guy to let sit for 2 years and then determine what you have after he’s been in an NFL offense and given time to develop.
Worst Value Pick: Quinten Rollins-I love the kid’s story as a 4 year starter at point guard who decided to take up football his final year in college to become the conference defensive player of the year. Unfortunately he’s more of a nice story than an elite prospect in my opinion as he doesn’t have great speed and was pretty poor at the Senior Bowl. CB PJ Williams was still on the board when they took Rollins and I suspect Williams will be a vastly better player in 3 years.
Overall: I liked a lot of the picks but I still question why ILB wasn’t addressed except for a 4th round pick as to me it was their most obvious need. The Packers didn’t have a lot of holes so the case can be made that they should have moved up in the 2nd round for Benardrick McKinney who could be an impact 3-4 ILB from Day 1. Randall, Ty Montgomery and Hundley were all picks I liked though so not a horrible draft by any means. B-
Pre-draft analysis: On offense the team looks pretty set at every position though their guards aren’t impressive and Matt Kalil has struggled at times the past 3 years so the team could be open to replacing him. Their DL is solid, though a DT could be added, they have two great linebackers but have a hole in the middle and they have two former 1st rounders at CB and S but could use starters next to them.
Best Impact Pick: Trae Waynes-I thought Waynes was the #3 CB in this draft so taking him #1 wasn’t value in my eyes. That being said I do like the fit of Waynes with Xavier Rhodes as Rhodes is a behemoth CB with poor quickness but elite length and Waynes ran a 4.31 40 so it’d make sense to have Waynes paired against the smaller, faster wideouts and Xavier against the bigger, stronger types. I still think Waynes projects as just a good cornerback and you don’t draft a CB #11 to be good, you draft him there to be great.
Best Value Pick: TJ Clemmings-I thought Clemmings was one of the 3 best value picks in the entire draft. What is even more impressive than getting a 1st round talent in the 4th round is that he couldn’t be a better fit as he can be the swing tackle as a rookie and if he develops the Vikings could cut Kalil and save themselves $11 million in 2016.
Worst Value Pick: Mycole Pruitt-I scouted the tight end class and never heard of Mr. Pruitt. It was an odd pick in the 5th round especially since they have a borderline Pro Bowler in Kyle Rudolph already at the position.
Overall: The Vikings had a good draft overall with solid picks early in Waynes and Eric Kendricks and then took two shots at greatness in DE Danielle Hunter and OT TJ Clemmings. Both of those guys have Pro Bowl potential and can be backups as rookies while the team works to develop them. WR Stefon Diggs in the 5th and OT Tyrus Thompson in the 6th rounded out what was overall a good mix of reliability and potential. The Vikings had one of the most underrated drafts this year. A
Pre-draft analysis: The Cardinals have made a name for themselves lately as one of the better drafting teams in recent years. It’s no surprise then that they have one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL. Looking at their depth chart I only see RB, TE and RT as need areas yet they have serviceable players at each spot so there isn’t an urgent need on offense. On defense I see CB and 3-4 OLB as need areas but know that the Cardinals don’t value pass rushers like I do and are probably content with Alex Okafor, Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Woodley at the spot.
Best Impact Pick: DJ Humphries-He seemed to be a reach to me as a 1st rounder but is almost surely going to beat out Bobby Massie at RT. RT was probably their biggest need on their entire team so this was probably a reach for need.
Best Value Pick: David Johnson-I had a 5th round grade on Johnson and they took him in the 3rd but he was a unique prospect that I fully admit to possibly being wrong on. His Senior Bowl intrigued me as he has elite pass catching skills for a running back of his height and weight. It would not surprise me at all if he was their lead back down the stretch in 2015.
Worst Value Pick: There are a lot of picks to choose from as their 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th picks were all reaches and their 4th and 7th picks were guys I’d never heard of. In the end I guess I’d choose Markus Golden in the 2nd round (56th Overall) as he had an atrocious Combine and looked like a guy that would drop to the 4th-6th round area. To take him in the late 2nd was a shock.
Overall: I’ve been raving about the Cardinals the past 3-4 years as a sneaky good drafting team. I might need to shut my mouth as this was a terrible draft from top to bottom. I can make a case that every single pick was a reach AND there was no obvious plan in place. I get that they needed a RT badly but why not trade back and get some additional picks before taking a DJ Humphries type. Also I had Donovan Smith much higher rated and he went 16 picks later, giving further evidence that a trade back made sense. With their first 3 picks they addressed 3 of the 5 biggest need areas on the team at RT, 3-4 OLB and RB yet I’m not a fan of any of the guys they chose with the picks and think this will be a draft to look back on as an example of what can happen when you reach for need. D+
San Francisco 49ers
Pre-draft analysis: A team that just a year ago appeared to have the deepest roster in the league suddenly has a lot of holes due to losses via free agency and retirement. On offense they lost All-Pro Mike Iupati so could use an OG. That is about it in terms of needs but the offense continues to underperform and could use an additional playmaker at any spot. On defense they lost two inside linebackers to retirement in Patrick Willis and Chris Borland and possibly are losing 3-4 DE and team leader Justin Smith as well. That is three of their 6 best starters last year and will be tough to replace. Also they consistently have one of the weakest cornerback groups in all of football but is possibly explained by their emphasis on the front seven. Still though Tramaine Brock and Shareece Wright is piss poor so a pick early at that position makes sense.
Best Impact Pick: Arik Armstead-If Justin Smith retires they have a suitable replacement for him with Armstead. He was considered by most a mid 1st so getting him at #17 makes sense for most but I saw Armstead as overrated. He does fit perfectly as a 3-4 DE though and has a lot of upside so I suspect the 49ers took him as he could start if need be but could also learn valuable information from Smith if he stays on for one more year.
Best Value Pick: Eli Harold-I saw Harold as a poor man’s version of Vic Beasley and to get him in the 3rd round is a steal. I’m a huge Aaron Lynch fan but think Harold will battle him for the 3-4 OLB starting job.
Worst Value Pick: Jaquiski Tartt-I didn’t grade Tartt but never read anyone that saw him as a 2nd rounder. Also I saw CB not S as their biggest need on defense so it’s surprising they went in this direction at all.
Overall: I think their 1st round pick made sense and their 3rd round pick (Eli Harold) and 4th round pick (Mike Davis) were classic mid round steals by the 49ers but overall I wasn’t impressed. Their 6th-10th picks were either guys I knew and wasn’t a fan of or guys I’d never heard of and they had a surprising infatuation with this TE class which I considered the worst I’d ever graded. They took Blake Bell in the 4th round and Rory Anderson in the 7th round despite already having Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald and Derek Carrier. I loved McDonald 2 years ago yet he’s been beat out by Carrier so unless they are looking to have 5 tight ends next year one of these guys will have to beat out McDonald to even make the roster. I don’t see it happening and think it was a waste of a pick. Finally I think they had a few chances to steal some real talent but passed when Bryce Petty, TJ Clemmings and La’el Collins all fell. Usually the 49ers get those type of 1st round types that mysteriously fell on draft day due to injury (Marcus Lattimore, Tank Carradine) or off the field issues (Aaron Lynch). I’m especially surprised about Petty as they need to get some competition in against Kaepernick that is higher quality than Blaine Gabbert. C
Pre-draft analysis: The Seahawks were a better decision on a short yardage situation away from becoming a dynasty. That doesn’t mean they don’t have holes on their roster but they are far better off than most teams. On offense I still see the same thing now that I’ve seen the previous 3 years going into the draft, they have a mediocre offensive line (Russell Okung is the only above average starter) and no true #1 WR. On defense they could use a little help at DT and need to upgrade their #2 CB spot.
Best Impact Pick: Tyler Lockett-This is the first time so far that I haven’t pointed to a team’s 1st pick as the impact pick. That possibly is due to the fact that the Seahawks didn’t have a 1st rounder (Jimmy Graham trade) but also related to the fact that their 1st pick (Frank Clark) I wasn’t a fan of. Lockett was one of the most underrated players in this draft as he was an early 2nd rounder on my board and I think he will quickly become their #1 WR. He’s the rare combination of quick and fast with the Antonio Brown comparison not being too high of praise for him. I love this pick.
Best Value Pick: Tyler Lockett-I just compared him to Antonio Brown who led the NFL in receptions last year. Lockett by the way was a 3rd round pick so yeah it was great value.
Worst Value Pick: Pick any pick other than Lockett or Tye Smith as I didn’t like their draft at all and feel that they reached a lot.
Overall: The Seahawks have had one of the worst drafts each of the past 3 years. What I laugh about is the fact that the media says, “well they probably know something we don’t know.” The Seahawks have the best core in the NFL with Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Okung, Jimmy Graham, Richard Sherman, Early Thomas, Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner. That is 8 players, 2 of which came in trades, 1 of which came in free agency, 2 of which came in the 2012 Draft when I panned their 1st round pick (Bruce Irvin) but praised their 2nd and 3rd round picks (Wagner, Wilson), 2 of which came in the 2010 Draft when I praised their two 1st round picks (Okung, Thomas) and 1 of which came in the 2011 Draft when I said their 5th round pick (Sherman) was a steal. So this idea that we all are always wrong on the Seahawks and should just trust them is bullshit. Look at their 2013 and 2014 drafts and tell me they were good. Paul Richardson, Christine Michael and Justin Britt as 2nd rounders? Britt has been an average starter at RT while the other two can’t get on the field. Jordan Hill as their sole 3rd rounder? Hill is a backup DT. Cassius Marsh, Kevin Norwood, Kevin Pierre-Louis, and Chris Harper as 4th rounders? Marsh had 5 tackles last year, Norwood had 9 catches last year, Pierre-Louis (the sole person on their draft last year that I actually liked) had 13 tackles last year and Harper was cut by them as a rookie and is out of the NFL. These are all busts folks. Why can’t I criticize them for it? I think some people are stupid enough to think that NFL teams that win can’t be criticized for anything they do but I disagree. The Seahawks win consistently due to an elite core group of players and just added to it with the Jimmy Graham trade, which I praised by the way. Nonetheless I think that the Seahawks have missed a golden opportunity the past 3 drafts to add significant talent on the cheap OR to package a lot of picks and move up for one key contributor each draft. For instance in this draft they took Lockett who I love but remove him from the equation and I’d make the argument that maybe the best strategy for them would have been to trade their entire draft to move up and get CB Marcus Peters. They have good depth on their roster already and have one glaring need area on defense, the #2 CB spot. Add to it the fact that Peters dropped due to character concerns but has been mentored by none other than Marshawn Lynch and it appears that you have the perfect infrastructure in place for him to succeed. Also he’s the classic big corner with ball skills which Seahawks love. I’m just saying that the Seahawks were playing with house money the past 3 drafts and largely blew it. It won’t change the fact that they have a great team but they had a chance to improve on that team and failed. Maybe they should have been more aggressive and moved up for that one player each year who could start on Day 1 for them and improve their already great core. D+
St. Louis Rams
Pre-draft analysis: Due to the RGIII trade the Rams have one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL. Unfortunately they have a few question marks at key spots, namely QB, LT and RT. Shoring up these spots as well as adding a cornerback or safety would be beneficial.
Best Impact Pick: Todd Gurley-He’s one of 5 guys on my list as serious Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates. Gurley was a healthy and productive 2014 season away from being a Top 10 pick as he has all the talent in the world. The Rams are the rare team that doesn’t have a lot of holes on its roster so they thought they could gamble on Gurley at #10. I do not disagree with their logic as hitting on Gurley would make whomever is their starting QB in 2015-2018 much more likely to succeed.
Best Value Pick: Todd Gurley-At #10 he isn’t even great value but isn’t a reach either and every other pick in their draft was either a reach or a guy I hadn’t heard of.
Worst Value Pick: Jamon Brown-It was either Brown in the 3rd round or Rob Havenstein in the 2nd round as neither appear to be good value to me. They need OL help so using a 2nd and 3rd rounder on it makes perfect sense but to semi-quote Star Wars, “these aren’t the offensive linemen you are looking for.”
Overall: To me this draft can be easily summed up as Todd Gurley, two guys to block for him and then a bunch of no names that likely won’t make their roster. I like Bud Sasser in the 6th round a bit but doubt he beats out their top 5 guys in Brian Quick, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin so I wonder if he’d make their roster even if he performs well at camp. Teams like the Rams that have obvious needs in their starting lineup while having elite depth due to their excessive number of picks the past 3 drafts should always trade up. Gurley made sense at #10 but then they stayed pat the rest of the way instead of moving up for guys like Donovan Smith in the 2nd round for RT or AJ Cann in the 3rd for OG who would have been much better values than Havenstein and Brown. I really dislike this draft. D
Pre-draft analysis: The Falcons have one of the best skill position groups of any team in the NFL with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White. They lost Tony Gonzalez last year and Harry Douglas this offseason though so their strength isn’t what it once was. They have a mediocre offensive line, a terrible defensive line, an underrated linebacker corp and a young but talented secondary.
Best Impact Pick: Vic Beasley-At #8 he isn’t great value to me, some would disagree, but he’s a perfect fit as the Falcons were 2nd to last in sacks last year and haven’t had a top notch pass rushers since John Abraham left them a few years ago. He should start from Day 1 and give some speed and athleticism to their pass rush.
Best Value Pick: Grady Jarrett-He was a late 2nd/early 3rd round type on my board with very good athleticism and production to counter his mediocre size. I was shocked he was available in the 5th round and fully agree with the Falcons strategy to trade multiple picks to move up for him.
Worst Value Pick: Jake Rodgers-He was a 6th round pick so I’m nitpicking here but I didn’t see any great value in this pick, especially considering La’el Collins was still on the board.
Overall: The Falcons had one of the best drafts of any team this year. They’ve had a very good offense for years yet haven’t been able to get over the hump in the postseason due to a habitually mediocre defense. Adding two potential impact starters on the DL in Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett as well as a big time talent at CB in Jalen Collins should net them 2 immediate starters, Jarrett might need a little time, and a third very quickly. Also I like how they focused on defense but when good value was available at need spots they took them. They needed any position on the OL, a RB and a #3 WR on offense and came away with two of the three with Tevin Coleman and Justin Hardy. Coleman immediately starts for them and was my #4 RB so getting him in the 3rd round was a steal. Hardy I’m not as high on but they got him at an appropriate point in the draft and he should be a solid #3 WR for them. Overall they filled needed, never reached on picks and probably had the best first 5 picks of any team in the draft. A+
Pre-draft analysis: The Panthers won their division last year and have one of the better young quarterbacks in the game but they have a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line is atrocious center Ryan Kalil being the only player that would be an obvious starter on another team’s roster. The receiving corp basically is Kelvin Benjamin and no one else. Their linebacking corp has the best 1-2 punch in all of football but could use a third guy as AJ Klein isn’t the long term answer. Their cornerback group got a temporary boost with Charles Tillman added but this could be his last year. Their safety group is mediocre across the board but has good depth so an impact starter is needed but a late round pick wouldn’t be too helpful. Finally their DL is young and talented with Charles Johnson, Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei but Kony Ealy appears to be more of a rotational DE than an obvious starter. They might feel differently though on the recent 2nd round selection.
Best Impact Pick: Shaq Thompson-I had a 2nd round grade on him so I thought his selection at #25 was a bit of a reach but I still sort of like the pick as he can learn the position next to Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis and was the most natural playmaker in this linebacker class.
Best Value Pick: Daryl Williams-Some would say this is a steal in the 4th round but I’d just say it was good value. He projects to me as a quality OG but some liked him as a RT and word is that Williams will start there initially. The Panthers have to be hoping he starts for them as a rookie as this is probably the worst depth chart in the league at both OT and OG so if he can’t start in Carolina, he can’t start anywhere.
Worst Value Pick: Devin Funchess-Not only was it a reach, and a huge one to me, but they traded away a ton of picks to move up for him. I get that Newton isn’t a good quarterback in terms of reading coverages but is good at throwing the back shoulder throw so you need to surround him with bigger wideouts but I think Funchess will be a bust. I had a 5th round grade on him and they took him in the 2nd round (41st Overall) so we’ll see how it shapes out.
Overall: This was a poor draft overall as the Panthers have needs everywhere and it just seemed like they reached a lot or drafted at positions that weren’t exactly need areas. I think the Panthers have a culture that values the RB and LB positions. That doesn’t sit well with me as a scout, they are two of the easier positions to fill, and also doesn’t sit well with me when reviewing their depth chart. With Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whitaker, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis they didn’t need to spend quality picks on the two positions but did anyway with 1st and 5th round picks on LB and a 5th round pick on RB. They only had 5 picks in all due to the Funchess trade up, another dubious decision, so to use 60% of them on non-need positions strikes me as odd. Also 3 of their 5 draft selections were reaches per my board. D+
New Orleans Saints
Pre-draft analysis: The Saints are in salary cap hell so they need a lot of young, cheap talent on both sides of the ball so they can weather the storm and not jettison anymore elite talent ala Jimmy Graham. The strategy to me is a lot of trading down and getting good value across the roster, no matter the position.
Best Impact Pick: Andrus Peat-Many scouts did not agree but I had Peat as the #1 OT on my board all year. He is kind of a Jake Long type in that he’s a better run blocker than pass blocker but has enough size, length and athleticism to stay at LT long term. The Saints have a rotating door at OL with Grubbs out, Unger in but didn’t seem that bad off at OL so it is a little surprising that they went OL with their first pick. Nonetheless Peat should start somewhere immediately and be a quality starter in Year 1 and a potential Pro Bowler down the road.
Best Value Pick: PJ Williams-He was an early 2nd rounder on my board and appeared to be one of only 6 cornerbacks in this draft that could start immediately so to get him in the 3rd round was a steal.
Worst Value Pick: Stephone Anthony-I think Anthony is talented but when Saints traded away Jimmy Graham for Max Unger and a 1st round pick I suspect they were hoping for more than this. I don’t see Anthony as being a Pro Bowler down the road and think they will regret the trade and this draft pick as it seemed like a reach.
Overall: I did not like this draft as there was no rhyme or reason to any of it. I thought they’d trade back quite a lot yet never did it once, actually they even traded up into the 6th round at one point. I didn’t see OT as a need area so staying at #13 for Andrus Peat seemed a bit odd, good value though I’ll admit, and was even stranger when one pick later the Chargers gave up a lot to move up for Melvin Gordon. So basically I know there was a trade on the table for the Saints to move back only 6 spots, net additional picks, and then possibly draft a player at a bigger need area than OT. In the end they passed on the opportunity and then went about reaching for players like Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha, and Garrett Grayson. To come out of this draft with an OT and QB in your first four picks again gives me pause as this roster needs young talent almost everywhere except those two spots yet you drafted them anyway. Sometimes sticking to your draft board isn’t logical and I think that this was one of those times. C-
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pre-draft analysis: Their 2014 offseason additions have all been purged and with it any hope of being a playoff team in 2015. This draft is all about finding franchise building blocks to join the new era Bucs of Mike Evans, Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy.
Best Impact Pick: Jameis Winston-He, Kevin White, Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon are my top 5 picks for 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Winston should beat out Mike Glennon immediately and has three very talented pass catchers to throw to in Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. I saw him as that rare franchise QB and fully expect him to be a 12-15 year starter.
Best Value Pick: Donovan Smith-He was a mid 1st rounder on my board so to get him in the 2nd round was a steal. I had him higher graded than Cedric Ogbuehi and DJ Humphries, both of whom went in the 1st round.
Worst Value Pick: Ali Marpet-He wasn’t a huge reach in the late 2nd round but with Hroniss Grasu still on the board I question it a little bit. Marpet is a great story but Grasu was an All Pac-12 player for multiple years and is the rare guy that can probably match Marpet’s athleticism. We shall see which is the better player in 3 years.
Overall: I loved the Bucs draft and can’t tell you how underrated it was that they took Winston at #1 Overall. Yes he is a former Heisman winner and they had a huge need at QB but there was a lot of crap that Winston threw on their lap and instead of caving to public pressure they stayed the course the entire time and let it be known that Winston probably was going to be their guy. I think that’s important as they quietly did it right from the get go so that fans could be more comfortable with it. If they had started on Mariota or Leonard Williams and then moved toward Winston days or weeks before the draft I think the mood of the community would have been different. Winston is a dumbass but he’s a franchise QB and you have to roll the dice on him. Now they have arguably the best young QB/WR duo in the league and added quality OT and C prospects to help along that young, talented offense. A-