By Jeff Risdon
This is the first in-season edition this year. The preseason version can be found here.
The draft order here is my projection of how the NFL season will play out. Try to not get caught up in that if you dispute where a team might be picking here.
This is a projection more about where I think the players will wind up being slotted than any team/player marriages. This does not necessarily match up with my player ratings or where I think a player should be drafted; two players listed here in the first round will not be in my top 75 prospects. Give yourself a pat on the back if you can ascertain which ones they are. You can ask me on Twitter @JeffRisdon or comment at the bottom of the page here.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
It’s rare when the team picking first doesn’t need a QB, but the Jaguars tabbed Blake Bortles last draft. Now they must load up one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Williams is a great place to start, a scheme-versatile impact rusher with outstanding athleticism but also a high football IQ and motor.
2. St. Louis Rams: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Sam Bradford experiment has to be over. The Jeff Fisher experiment probably should be over too, as his strategy of spending multiple first-round picks on defensive linemen has miserably failed. A new coach gets to start fresh with Mariota, the clear-cut #1 QB in this class. He’s still not a complete product but has a sky-high ceiling with his arm, legs and brains. If the Rams, Bucs or Jets wind up picking #1 I strongly believe Mariota will be the pick, even though it’s only October.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
The 6’8”, sculpted Oakman is the player Lovie Smith sees in his dreams, an impact athlete on the edge of his anemic defense. He’s improved his leverage and field vision this year. Many will project a QB to the Bucs, but I can see them waiting for a certain player to fall a la how Cleveland wound up with Johnny Football last year.
4. Oakland Raiders: Brandon Scherff, T, Iowa
There will be a big debate about who will be the top tackle in this draft, with some favoring Scherff, others Cedric Ogbuehi and maybe a few who like Andrus Peat. Scherff offers the nastiness and ability to play either side right away, a nice trait to have for a team that figures to do lots of shuffling up front. He and Gabe Jackson would make a formidable duo in front of Derek Carr.
5. Washington: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
One of the easiest marriages between primary need and best available talent as you’ll ever find in a mock draft. Collins is head and shoulders above all other safety prospects, and that position has been Washington’s biggest need for the last 2-3 years. I will not change this pick if Collins is available when the Slurs pick in any other mock draft.
6. New York Jets: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
A new coach and GM, which seems a certainty if the Jets are indeed picking this high, will want to remake the team. It starts at QB, where the new regime will have no loyalty to Geno Smith…nor should they. Cook is the most ready of the pro-style quarterbacks, drawing comparisons to Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan. It might surprise you to see him going this high, but funny things happen when teams are desperate for quarterbacks.
7. Tennessee Titans: Dante Fowler, Edge, Florida
Fowler is an intriguing pass rusher with great bend and the ability to play standing up or in-line, depending on the situation. The Titans certainly need a quarterback but it seems forced to take one here. Building up the defense to handle other quarterbacks takes precedence in this spot.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Wide receiver is not Minnesota’s biggest need, not by a longshot. Yet White is such a desirable talent that he becomes too tempting to pass up with his size, strength and positive swagger. My trusted colleague Justin Higdon compares him to Larry Fitzgerald and it’s hard to disagree once you get past the shock value of the statement. Linebacker and left tackle are bigger needs, however.
9. New Orleans Saints: Randy Gregory, Edge, Nebraska
Gregory engenders lots of divisive thoughts amongst the draft community. His positives--an explosive burst, great length, finishing ability--are exactly what the Saints need to bring more defensive heat at outside backer. His negatives--poor field sense, subpar strength, lousy play vs. strong competition--could be enough to make him fall this far.
10. Atlanta Falcons: Shane Ray, Edge, Missouri
Atlanta has serious needs along both lines, though with Jake Matthews and Lamar Holmes they’re okay at tackle on offense. That means it’s time to address the anemic pass rush. Ray fits the bill, as he will sit atop some draft boards at pass rusher. His ability to play standing up or inline allows creativity in bringing pressure. I have to think they’re Landon Collins’ draft floor at this point.
11. Chicago Bears: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The defensive overhaul continues in Chicago, where the run defense remains abysmal and the pass rush strictly from the flanks. Shelton is quite light on his feet for a 335+ pound tackle, but he plays like a hungry bear fighting for breeding prowess. They need safety and outside linebacker (much) more, but none fit the value here.
12. Houston Texans: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Give the Texans even an average quarterback and they’re a playoff team in the AFC. Alas, they have Ryan Fitzpatrick. Hundley has some real issues, but he’s also a crafty, elusive field general with a rocket arm. A QB mentor like Bill O’Brien will be tantalized by what could be with Hundley.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: Markus Golden, DE, Missouri
Golden has taken over the Kony Ealy role in Mizzou’s defense, playing SAM backer, end and even tackle within the same quarter. He’s at his best attacking gaps and using his hands to create space for himself. Pittsburgh must continue to rebuild the defense from the front to the back, and Golden figures to be a riser in the draft process.
14. Kansas City Chiefs: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The annual rite of passage of mocking the Chiefs a legit playmaking wideout continues. At some point they’ll listen. Cooper has improved his burst at the top of his routes and still has his amazing body control and hands. I really don’t see them going QB here, though if they’re picking this high it’s in no small part because Alex Smith isn’t the answer.
15. Cleveland Browns: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Speaking of playmaking wideouts, Strong showed the general populous what the draft community has known awhile in the USC game, snatching the Hail Mary for a game-winning touchdown. He compares to Julio Jones, though not quite as top-end fast. The Browns can either pair him with Josh Gordon or use him as insurance form further knucklehead behavior from their current, troubled star.
16. New York Giants: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Someone is going to draft Gurley in the first round, period. It might as well be New York, which has lost David Wilson and can certainly use Gurley’s power, vision and finishing ability as an inside-out runner. He’ll be the highest-rated runner in the draft since at least Trent Richardson, perhaps going back to Adrian Peterson.
17. Cleveland Browns (from BUF): Bud Dupree, Edge, Kentucky
Dupree doesn’t get as much publicity as many of his SEC brethren, but he’s perhaps the most NFL-ready in terms of getting to the quarterback and knowing what to do when he gets there. His best spot is at strong outside backer in a 3-4, and Cleveland happens to need more help there. Most teams do.
18. San Francisco 49ers: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
This has been a rough season for Ifo, as teams have opted to pick on his lack of height with surprising success. He’s still got his outstanding ball skills and sure tackling, but being 5’9” (maybe) really impacts the draft stock. The 49ers figure to covet someone with his playmaking ability and propensity for playing inside and out.
19. Miami Dolphins: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Thompson is essentially a safety playing linebacker, and that’s a role which projects usefully to the next level. His speed, range and comfort playing in space would allow the Dolphins to use him in multiple roles, from blitzing to man coverage on tight ends and bigger slot wideouts.
20. Green Bay Packers: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
The Packers have not had much luck drafting defensive front 7 talent in recent years, and McKinney strikes many as a boom/bust prospect. Yet if he hits as a player as well as he hits collegiate running backs, the Packers finally have some teeth to the middle of their soft defense. They’ll have to coach out his freelancing tendencies, however.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Cincinnati’s starting outside corners are both in their mid-30s, so it’s no stretch for them to go after a technically sound outside man corner. He’s an aggressive, confident talent but needs someone to reign in his intensity and attitude, which has caused him issues with both teammates and coaches. The Bengals have as much experience with those type of talents as anyone.
22. Carolina Panthers: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
First off, allow me to dispel the antiquated notion that Funchess is a tight end. Having seen him up close in both August and October, he’s visibly shrunken enough that he’s likely in the 220-225 pound range. He and Kelvin Benjamin would give Cam Newton a duo like White/Jones in Atlanta or Marshall/Jeffery in Chicago, though Funchess is more natural going over the middle than any of those talents.
23. Detroit Lions: Ty Sambrailo, T, Colorado State
The regression of Detroit’s offensive line in 2014 has been a disturbing development. One way to fix it is to draft an agile, crafty left tackle like Sambrailo and slide Riley Reiff inside to left guard. Sambrailo just might wind up my top-rated tackle even though he’s under the radar at this point. I’m a believer that one of Fairley and Suh will return at DT, though taking one here to rebuild the depth certainly makes sense too.
24. Seattle Seahawks: Spencer Drango, T, Baylor
Tackles with his length and natural agility don’t come around often, and the Seahawks haven’t been shy about drafting players who fit their mold even if it seems like a reach to most. As long as his back and knees check out, Drango would be a good value here as someone who can help protect Russell Wilson as well as roaming with him on the move.
25. New England Patriots: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
If the Patriots opt to reload for one more run with Tom Brady, getting a physical freak like DGB to roam the sidelines and red zone makes a lot of sense. He’s got baggage to deal with, not playing at Oklahoma after being tossed from Missouri, but he also has the athletic ability to be a star in the NFL.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Ravens have started to find some offensive balance with Justin Forsett, but he’s a journeyman. Gordon is bigger, stronger and probably faster in the open field, but what makes the Badgers star a great prospect is his uncanny vision. Worries about his ability in the passing game--which Wisconsin seldom uses him--could cause him to fall out of the first.
27. Arizona Cardinals: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
The Seminole pipeline at cornerback continues with the lanky Williams, who appears to be a natural fit as a hybrid CB/S in the manner of a Kenny Vaccaro or Antrell Rolle. No matter who picks the junior, they’ll want to be patient as his football ability lags behind his athleticism. The Cardinals continue to build the professional version of the Desert Swarm defense.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Waynes brings great length, competitiveness and a natural ballhawking ability to the table. He suffers from bouts of inconsistent intensity, but if the coaches can keep him focused he makes the improved Dallas defense much more dangerous. Stocking up more defensive line talent makes a lot of sense here too.
29. San Diego Chargers: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
He’s drawn comparisons to Calais Campbell, though Armstead isn’t as twitchy (not a negative). As a long, strong 5-technique, Armsted has already shown his worth against both the run and pass at Oregon. He and Corey Liuget together up front would make a pretty darn good Chargers defense even better.
30. Indianapolis Colts: Andrus Peat, T, Stanford
The Colts go back to Stanford for another first-rounder, selecting the giant left tackle to help reinforce the protection in front of Andrew Luck. Peat has not played to expectations in 2014, and that’s an understatement. Still, this is an athlete with outstanding physical traits once widely regarded as a top-10 lock. I doubt he falls further than this, right or wrong. GM Ryan Grigson has never shied from controversial moves.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Speaking of controversy, you might have heard more about Winston off the field than on it this year. Focusing strictly on the field, the reigning Heisman winner offers outstanding potential with his anticipation, ability to read the defense and agility. Yet there are significant character concerns, ones which dwarf what Cam Newton went through a few years ago. I can see Winston going in the top 5 or falling out of the first entirely. If not Philly taking him here, a trade up from a team like Tampa Bay or St. Louis if they haven’t already sated their QB thirst seems realistic.
32. Denver Broncos: Leonard Floyd, Edge, Georgia
He’s pretty one-dimensional, but Floyd is extremely good at what he does best--rushing the passer off the edge. He’s shown an improving ability to mix up his moves and get free from blockers. Testing could wind up elevating him well above this slot, but for now the Broncos would have to be happy to land a player with his potential.
Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Draft, Draft Misc
By Jeff Risdon
The commentary this week will be brief. My eyes are dilated for medical reasons and I cannot focus on the screen for long, so this week it’s just the picks.
Last Week: 11-4. Another sunny forecast raises the season record to 69-36-1
Gambling Update: Two of my three wagers paid off, bringing a $1500 return. Unfortunately the biggest bet did not, so the week was a net loss. I also miscalculated last week’s total in my favor, so the news got even worse. The virtual account now sits at $13,500 after starting with $10K.
San Diego at Denver (-7.5)
Best game of the weekend is the first one. The Chargers will keep it close, but too much Denver firepower.
Broncos 33, Chargers 28
- Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons (+3.5)
This game is in London, which takes away Atlanta’s home field advantage. The Lions are beaten up all over the offense, but their defense should be enough to win against Matt Ryan not playing in the Georgia Dome. Should be enough. Get up early for this 9:30 AM ET kickoff.
Lions 21, Falcons 20
- Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints (-1)
Green Bay is coming off a spectacular October, while the Saints threw away a road win in Detroit despite being the better team. Desperation trumps relaxation, somehow.
Saints 33, Packers 28
- Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)
The marquee Sunday game pits two 5-1 teams. I trust Carson Palmer more than Nick Foles, and I think Arizona’s defense does enough to slow down the Philly offense to get the close win.
Cardinals 26, Eagles 24
- Chicago Bears at New England Patriots (-6.5)
The Bears are much better on the road, and the Patriots will not handle their passing game. When the Bears are right, they are very good. They get it right this week against all the odds. At least that’s what the gut tells me.
Bears 24, Patriots 20
- Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5)
The Bengals have been lousy since opening 3-0, which included a win in Baltimore. The Ravens return the favor, thanks in part to Cincy not having A.J. Green or Rey Maualuga. I’ll put $500 on the visitors getting points.
Ravens 27, Bengals 17
- Buffalo Blls at New York Jets (-2.5)
Interesting that the Jets are favored despite being the clearly inferior team. Apparently the Percy Harvin effect is expected to elevate New York. I can see the bounce working this week.
Jets 20, Bills 17
- Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (+1.5)
The Titans will start rookie Zach Mettenberger at quarterback…against J.J. Watt. “Mett” will find some success down the field but will also throw a couple of ridiculous INTs that give the game to the Texans.
Texans 30, Titans 28
- St. Louis Rams at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)
It took the Rams two once-in-a-blue-moon trick plays to beat the Seahawks last week. The bag is empty on the road, though I do worry about a KC letdown from their big win in San Diego.
Chiefs 28, Rams 20
- Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars (+5.5)
The Jaguars improving defense gives them a real chance to win two in a row. Miami is wildly unpredictable, so good some weeks and so bland in others. I see a fallback after the big win in Chicago.
Jaguars 24, Dolphins 22
- Minnesota Vikings at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5)
The Bucs would be my 32nd ranked team if filling out a power poll. Minnesota isn’t much higher, but they’re definitely better enough to win on the road.
Vikings 17, Buccaneers 16
- Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (+4.5)
Stunning stat of the week: the Seahawks have just one QB hurry in the fourth quarter of their 6 games. I think they remedy that drought in Carolina, though Cam Newton could make them pay. I think Carolina cutting Charles Godfrey sends a message that gets through, enough for them to cover. $500 on the home team +4.5
Seahawks 21, Panthers 17
- Oakland Raiders at Cleveland Browns (-7)
The Browns lost to a winless team last week. Oakland is winless, so this would seem to be a great chance for them to break the vicious circle of losing. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, but I’ll go with the safer pick here. Cleveland is my survivor fantasy pick this week, a tough one to select if you’ve used Kansas City or Dallas already.
Browns 27, Raiders 24
- Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5)
Not often the Steelers are home dogs, but it’s hard to see their defense slowing down the awesome Indy attack with Luck & Co. Pittsburgh’s offense will find some success but not quite enough.
Colts 36, Steelers 31
- Washington at Dallas Cowboys (-9.5)
I applaud Washington changing from Kirk Cousins to Colt McCoy at QB, but Dallas is a tough place for him to break in. It’s Washington’s defense that will be the problem in this one. Dallas wins big, for $1000.
Cowboys 37, Ethnic Slurs 20
Dallas -9.5 for $1000
Carolina +4.5 for $500
Baltimore +1.5 for $500
Bonus college picks
Michigan State 30, Michigan 13
Utah 25, USC 24
Mississippi State 28, Kentucky 27
Ohio 24, Western Michigan 20
New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, IQ
By Christopher Reina
Our NFL Team Rankings are based entirely on the The Trench Counter, which is an objective formula measuring average yards per pass and run on both offense and defense, along with first downs registered and given up, turnovers for and against, and total penalty yards.
Over time, The Trench Counter rankings begin to closely resemble the standings but goes even further to determine which teams are truly the best when on the line of scrimmage.
The chief aim of the Trench Counter is to take the subjective out of the equation and even the somewhat fluky nature of teams actually scoring points, which is of course the whole point on a game-by-game basis.
The Baltimore Ravens held onto the top slot in the rankings after another blowout win against an NFC South team, while the Miami Dolphins recorded a convincing win at the Chicago Bears and now rank No. 2.
The Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys, meanwhile, jumped up to No. 5 and No. 6 from No. 11 and No. 8 respectively.
The Indianapolis Colts continue their winning streak and now rank No. 7 after coming in at No. 14 last week.
Week 7 Rankings
1. Baltimore Ravens: 7.4
2. Miami Dolphins: 6.0
3. Green Bay Packers: 4.8
4. San Diego Chargers: 4.8
5. Denver Broncos: 4.5
6. Dallas Cowboys: 4.5
7. Indianapolis Colts: 4.1
8. Arizona Cardinals: 3.6
9. New Orleans Saints: 3.5
10. Seattle Seahawks: 3.0
11. Detroit Lions: 2.9
12. Chicago Bears: 2.7
13. San Francisco 49ers: 2.7
14. Cincinnati Bengals: 1.1
15. Philadelphia Eagles: 0.7
16. Washington: 0.3
17. Kansas City Chiefs: 0.3
18. New England Patriots: 0.2
19. Cleveland Browns: -0.6
20. Houston Texans: -0.7
21. Pittsburgh Steelers: -1.9
22. New York Giants: -2.1
23. Buffalo Bills: -2.3
24. Minnesota Vikings: -3.0
25. Carolina Panthers: -3.6
26. Tennessee Titans: -4.1
27. Atlanta Falcons: -4.3
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: -4.9
29. New York Jets: -6.2
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: -7.2
31. Oakland Raiders: -8.0
32. St. Louis Rams: -8.5
Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, IQ
The Cowboys avoid a let down, Seattle loses again, Jaguars get their first win, Denver dominates San Francisco, an interesting day for the NFC North and the Percy Harvin trade.
The Broncos host the 49ers in the matchup of the week, while other intriguing games include Lions/Saints, Bengals/Colts, Bears/Dolphins, Chargers/Chiefs and Cowboys/Giants.
The Chargers and 49ers moved into the top-3 behind the Ravens, while the Cowboys' big win moved them into the top-10 and dropped Seattle from No. 1 to No. 9.
Sunday provided one of the more entertaining days of NFL action in a long time. Several games came down to final possessions, including one where neither team won.
This weekend's slate features a host of home underdogs, making this a challenging forecast. It's getting to the time of the season where teams have either refuted or confirmed preseason expectations, and it's time to put those summer concepts aside.
The Seahawks have reclaimed the top spot in the Trench Counter rankings, jumping ahead of the Bengals, Ravens and Cardinals. The Chargers and 49ers made big gains into the top-8 as well.