This is the annual “What Jeff Would Do” mock draft. This is not a projection of what I think will happen in the actual 2015 NFL Draft. It’s not even a reflection of my personal big board, which will be finalized in the next few days (406 players ranked!).
In this exercise, I put on the GM hat for each and every team for four rounds of picks. I am making picks based on what direction I want to take each team, with no regard for what they might actually do in real life. There are no trades allowed.
Remember, this is fantasy. Not the Kate Upton/Emma Stone kind, but rather my dream of running the draft for 32 NFL teams at the same time.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. The Bucs desperately need a franchise quarterback, not to mention an offensive identity and catalyst. Winston has some warts on and off the field, but he’s exactly the presence and high-end talent the Bucs covet. They hired Lovie Smith to handle situations exactly like this. There really is no other choice.
2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. Mariota is not my No. 2-rated player (he’s 5th), but Tennessee is in dire need of a franchise quarterback too. They even have the ideal situation to properly groom the Heisman winner, a player with outstanding potential but also one who needs loads of experience in learning to make NFL reads and throws. With Zach Mettenberger already in place as a bridge and extremely low expectations, they have the time to teach Mariota and hold his hand until he’s ready. If Ken Whisenhunt is going to start him Week 1, I’d step down as GM in protest.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams, DL, USC. There are quite a few different ways to go here. But one of my primary philosophies is to take the best player available at a position of both short- and long-term need. As the Jaguars need upgrades pretty much all over the place, this means taking the best player available, period. That player is Leonard Williams, the top-rated player on my board regardless of position. He can play any spot from 3 to 7 technique, generating pressure and disrupting the opposing offense on a level very few have done at the college level.
4. Oakland Raiders: Vic Beasley, Edge, Clemson. I know what you’re thinking. The Raiders don’t need a dominant rusher, they got one of those last year in Khalil Mack. While Oakland still has serious WR thirst, I go in the other direction and turn what could be a pretty good defense into a scary one by adding the premier edge rushing presence in this draft. Nobody turns the corner faster, and his added bulk mitigates my biggest concern about his game. Beasley and Mack together would really impact opposing offenses and give the young Raiders a real identity to build with.
5. Washington: Dante Fowler, Edge, Florida. I replace Brian Orakpo with a younger version with a higher ceiling and more polished overall game coming out. Fowler’s game has peaks and valleys, but his peaks put other teams in deep valleys of their own. He can play standing up or with a hand in the dirt, and he is the most adept rusher at winning either inside or outside in this class. The defense must be overhauled; I would have taken a DB here but none come close to ranking this highly.
6. New York Jets: La’el Collins, T, LSU. This was a tough choice. Trading for Brandon Marshall helped solve the weaponry issue. Signing Revis, Cromartie and Skrine solved the CB issue. There is no way to replace Geno Smith at QB here, and I’m not crazy about the edge rushing fits in this spot. So I choose to help Smith--or the next QB--by augmenting the protection and adding major oomph to the run game with the physical Collins. Many want to move him inside to guard, but he can play left tackle for my team. He could play right tackle to start in New York if needed.
7. Chicago Bears: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. As a new GM, Ryan Pace is in a unique position to craft his legacy. While his team desperately needs quality defensive starters at all three levels, not to mention some OL help, taking a polished, versatile, playmaking wideout who can pair with Alshon Jeffery to give Jay Cutler--or whomever winds up being the answer at QB--a scary combination of weapons. He’s too good to pass here.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Edge, Kentucky. Dupree is one of those proverbial “light bulb” players. If the switch on his technique ever flips on, Dupree is going to be a monster edge presence. He’s got outstanding power and athleticism, and showed major disruptiveness…at times. The Falcons are in a spot where they can get right back into the playoffs or slump further, and taking a swing at a high-impact pass rusher is a risk worth taking.
9. New York Giants: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington.It’s within temptation to address the offensive line here, but I’m gambling I can find a right tackle better than Justin Pugh and a right guard better than Geoff Schwartz later in this draft. Instead, I bolster the defensive line with Shelton, a massive presence with amazing range for a big man playing either the 1 or 3 technique. He makes everyone else around him better, but can also produce in his own right. If I’m Jerry Reese I know I cannot miss here, and while many view Shelton as overrated I do not fall in that camp; I think he can be very, very good.
10. St. Louis Rams: Cameron Erving, C, Florida State. Normally I don’t like to take interior offensive linemen before about the 20th pick, but Erving and the Rams are too good of a fit so an exception is made. He was darn near perfect after making the move inside from tackle, and his mobility and headiness will be immediately welcomed in the middle of St. Louis’ morphing line. I also considered Devante Parker, D.J. Humphries and Kevin Johnson.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Brandon Scherff, G, Iowa. Scherff is plug and play at left guard, a position long thorny in the Vikings paw. There is a chance he can usurp Matt Kalil at left tackle, but the incumbent has earned one shot at redemption. I’m actually not as high as most are on Scherff’s upside, but his floor is very high and Minnesota is in position where a “safer” pick is the prudent choice. Quite tempted to take Devante Parker, but the depth at WR allows me to put that off a round or two.
12. Cleveland Browns: Devante Parker, WR, Louisville. My hometown team is a hot mess, having perhaps the worst first round of any team with multiple picks by taking their dime back at #8 and a diminutive QB currently in rehab at #22. While I have some concerns about Parker’s litheness, he’s an outstanding wideout prospect capable of making any QB a lot better. He won’t be the only pass catcher in my Ray Farmer takeover…
13. New Orleans Saints: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest. The first corner off the board isn’t a usual suspect. Yet for my money Johnson is the most prudent pick for the rebuilding Saints. His cover skills and savvy are NFL-ready, and the nearly 20 pounds of necessary bulk he added augmented his athleticism instead of slowing him down. The Saints need multiple new defensive starters, might as well start with a potential premium corner.
14. Miami Dolphins: D.J. Humphries, T, Florida. Humphries is a player I considered with each of the last five picks. Like Johnson right above, my biggest question with Humphries was his lack of weight and strength; the technical part of his game was first-round caliber, as was the athleticism. When Humphries tipped the scales at 307 and still moved like he did at his Gator playing weight of 280, he slapped the sold sign on the brick house. Miami is still revamping the OL, and a healthy return from Branden Albert is not a given.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. Not gonna lie, I changed this pick about 11 times. Sometimes it was White, others it was Marcus Peters. Or T.J. Clemmings. Or Owa Odighizuwa. Or Eric Rowe. White wound up being the player I could never definitively say another player would be better than here, so he’s the pick. I do worry about his bust potential as a one-year wonder who doesn’t really get open, but nobody is better with the ball in the air than the hirsute White.
16. Houston Texans: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia. Normally I am dead set against taking a running back in the top 25, but Gurley and the Texans are an exception. They already have Arian Foster for the 12.5 games he’ll be healthy, but they need someone to take over when he’s departed sooner than later. Gurley is apt to miss half his rookie campaign while he recovers from ACL surgery, so they don’t need to rush him. His hard-charging style and vision in Bill O’Brien’s offense could be even better than Foster, who is still pretty darn good.
17. San Diego Chargers: Eric Rowe, CB, Utah. When I sat down to do this I had mentally penciled in Gurley here, but he’s gone. Plan B is the versatile Rowe, a converted safety who is probably better at that position in the short term but projects higher long-term playing outside as a big corner. He is my draft man crush this year, and the Chargers sorely need cover guys.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami FL. Surprise! I’m much more bullish than most on Dorsett, who is more than a speed receiver. He’s crafty. He gets around coverage. He can do it like this, he can do it like that, he can do it like an agile bat. Sorry, listening to the Beastie Boys as I write this part.
19. Cleveland Browns (from BUF): T.J. Clemmings, T, Pittsburgh. It’s important to remember that teams are drafting not just for immediate need but also to hedge against future need. The Browns OL is solid right now (when healthy), but they need future blood and immediate depth. Clemmings is a high-end developmental project who can serve as the 3rd tackle as a rookie while tutoring under Joe Thomas, still the best LT in the game. I’m also a believer in using an acquired pick to take a player the original team would really want.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington. He’s the best pure cover man in this draft, and Chip Kelly provides the kind of atmosphere where his truculent persona can thrive. Of course if I’m really Chip Kelly I’m taking Arik Armstead from Oregon, but the plane from Fantasy Island took off before I could write his name on the draft card.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Ereck Flowers, T, Miami FL. What do you get the team with no real needs other than QB, but they can’t take a QB because they’re paying the incumbent guy almost $100M to be average in the regular season and wretched in the postseason? How about a project tackle with fantastic potential but major flaws to his game right now? Flowers needs to develop balance and technique, but the raw materials are abundant in his body.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State. Because the actual Steelers aren’t even hiding their thirst for a first-round CB, I’m obliged to agree. It’s a smart choice. Waynes is incredibly tight in the hips and skinny, but he’s tenacious and very fast to the ball.
23. Detroit Lions: Jake Fisher, T, Oregon. This is pretty much the worst possible scenario for my beloved Lions. Every player I really want here--Johnson, Rowe, Lael Collins, Humphries--is gone already. Fortunately Fisher makes for an exciting consolation prize, a supremely agile pass-blocking specialist with the ability to play either tackle spot. He helps facilitate my dream of moving Riley Reiff to left guard and turning an up-and-down OL into a formidable one.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA. No 3-4 team had ILBs worse than Arizona’s last year. While adding Sean Weatherspoon in free agency helps, young blood is needed. Kendricks lacks size and can be tight, but he’s instinctive, tough and can play in all four directions. It was hard to not take Melvin Gordon here.
25. Carolina Panthers: Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State. Smith is a player I’m bullish on. He’s the complete physical package and plays with such great positional awareness. While he’s not a twitchy guy, he offers a lot as a base 4-3 end, something the Panthers sorely need. WR and OL to come in the next few rounds.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. Because Gordon can be better than Jamaal Charles. Because Justin Forsett is a one-year wonder journeyman. Because they don’t have another legit RB on the roster right now (sorry Lo Taliaferro). Because asking Joe Flacco to throw 35+ times every game again is not going to work. I toyed with taking Landon Collins here.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Quinten Rollins, DB, Miami OH. This is an important time to remind you, fair reader, that teams don’t always draft for immediate impact. That’s what I’m doing while wearing Jerry Jones’ hat. Rollins probably shouldn’t see the field much as a corner in 2015, but his potential is sky-high thanks to elite quickness and lighting reactions. He has a safety net as a free safety, albeit an undersized one.
28. Denver Broncos: Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson. Tough choice here, but Anthony is the top-rated player left on the board and I can see how he fits into Denver’s defense. He gets the nod over guys like Landon Collins, Jalen Collins, Owa Diggy, and Jordan Phillips.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Landon Collins, S, Alabama. While I’m not certain Collins will make a great pro, I am confident he will be immediately better at safety for the Colts than Dwight Lowery, the recent signee now penciled in as a starter. Used properly by the coaching staff (read: never make him cover deep or over the top), Collins can be very effective against both the run and pass.
30. Green Bay Packers: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU. Collins is another player who might not do much as a rookie but has a much brighter long-term future. He’s got blazing speed, decent ball skills and a fondness for both hitting and tackling. Given the Packers’ strong developmental track record, I’m comfortable trusting my staff to help his technical flaws.
31. New Orleans Saints (from SEA): Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota. Here is where market economics come into play. The Saints have myriad needs, and tight end is in that group. Yet Williams is the only tight end worth taking in the first two rounds. Scarcity forces me to take him here, because he won’t last to the next pick and it’s not much of a reach from my board.
32. New England Patriots: Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson. Nobody coaxes effectiveness out of physically limited players than Bill Belichick. Jarrett is short and has poor lateral range, but he never moves backwards and has outstanding burst off the snap. He’s a smart football player too, and Team Hoodie covets football IQ.
33. Tennessee: Owa Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
34. Tampa Bay: Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
35. Oakland: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
36. Jacksonville: Duke Johnson, RB, Miami FL
37. New York Jets: Randy Gregory, Edge, Nebraska
38. Washington: Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
39. Chicago: Cedric Ogbuehi, T, Texas A&M
40. New York Giants: Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
41. St. Louis: Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
42. Atlanta: Jordan Phillips, NT, Oklahoma
43. Cleveland: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
44. New Orleans: Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas
45. Minnesota: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
46. San Francisco: Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
47. Miami: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
48. San Diego: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
49. Kansas City: Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State
50. Buffalo: Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon State
51. Houston: Jeff Luc, LB, Cincinnati
52. Philadelphia: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
53. Cincinnati: Nate Orchard, Edge, Utah
54. Detroit: Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State
55. Arizona: Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
56. Pittsburgh: Henry Anderson, DL, Stanford
57. Carolina: Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary
58. Baltimore: Derron Smith, S, Fresno State
59. Denver: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
60. Dallas: David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa
61. Indianapolis: Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke
62. Green Bay: Clive Walford, TE, Miami FL
63. Seattle: Dezmin Lewis, WR, Central Arkansas
64. New England: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
65. Tampa Bay: T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
66. Tennessee: Ali Marpet, OL, Hobart
67. Jacksonville: Andrus Peat, T, Stanford
68. Oakland: Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami FL
69. Washington: B.J. Finney, C, Kansas State
70. New York Jets: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
71. Chicago: Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
72. St. Louis: Josh Shaw, CB, USC
73. Atlanta: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
74. New York Giants: Tre Jackson, G, Florida State
75. New Orleans: Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri
76. Minnesota: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State
77. Cleveland: Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
78. New Orleans (from MIA): Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
79. San Francisco: Markus Golden, DE, Missouri
80. Kansas City: Gabe Wright, DT, Auburn
81. Buffalo: Paul Dawson, LB, TCU
82. Houston: Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
83. San Diego: Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State
84. Philadelphia: James Sample, S, Louisville
85. Cincinnati: Davis Tull, LB, UT-Chattanooga
86. Arizona: Adrian Amos, S, Penn State
87. Pittsburgh: Zadarius Smith, DE, Kentucky
88. Detroit: Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
89. Carolina: A.J. Cann, G, South Carolina
90. Baltimore: D’Joun Smith, CB, Florida Atlantic
91. Dallas: Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami FL
92. Denver: John Miller, G, Louisville
93. Indianapolis: Alex Carter, DB, Stanford
94. Green Bay: Taiwan Jones, LB, Michigan State
95. Seattle: Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas
96. New England: Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
97. New England: Quinton Spain, G, West Virginia
98. Kansas City: Rob Havenstein, T, Wisconsin
99. Cincinnati: Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford
100. Tennessee: Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss
101. New England (from TB): Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
102. Oakland: Clayton Geathers, S, UCF
103. Jacksonville: Eli Harold, Edge, Virginia
104. New York Jets: Chris Bonner, QB, CSU-Pueblo
105. Washington: Craig Mager, CB, Texas State
106. Chicago: Anthony Harris, S, Virginia
107. Atlanta: Kwon Alexander, LB, LSU
108. New York Giants: Leterrius Walton, DT, Central Michigan
109. Tampa Bay (from STL): Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma
110. Minnesota: Joey Mbu, DT, Houston
111. Cleveland: Greg Mancz, C/G, Toledo
112. Seattle (from NO): Hau’oli Kikaha, Edge, Washington
113. Philadelphia (from STL): Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
114. Miami: Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Miss
115. Cleveland (from BUF): Jeff Heuerman, TE, Ohio State
116. Houston: Ryan Delaire, Edge, Towson
117. San Diego: Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
118. Kansas City: Xavier Williams, DT, Northern Iowa
119. St. Louis: Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
120. Cincinnati: Christian Covington, DT, Rice
121. Pittsburgh: David Cobb, RB, Minnesota
122. Baltimore (from DET): Lyndon Trail, LB, Norfolk State
123. Arizona: Corey Robinson, T, South Carolina
124. Carolina: Kevin White, CB, TCU
125. Baltimore: Andy Gallik, C, Boston College
126. San Francisco (from DEN): Buck Allen, RB, USC
127. Dallas: Nick Boyle, TE, Delaware
128. Indianapolis: Ty Sambrailo, T, Colorado State
129. Green Bay: Ibraheim Campbell, S, Northwestern
130. Seattle: Lorenzo Mauldin, LB, Louisville
131. New England: DeAndre Smelter, WR, Georgia Tech
132. San Francisco: Deon Long, WR, Maryland
133. Denver: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
134. Seattle: Shaq Mason, G, Georgia Tech
135. Cincinnati: Jalston Fowler, FB, Alabama
136. Baltimore: Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston