With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, it’s our turn to take a stab at sifting through the hype and misinformation to determine what might transpire in Chicago on April 30.
1. Buccaneeers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
At this juncture all signs point towards the Bucs having done the requisite homework on Winston’s background and made peace with him as the face of their franchise.
2. Titans – Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Tennessee taking a quarterback is gaining steam, but it’s still tough to justify taking a player with such a steep learning curve in front of him second overall.
3. Jaguars – Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
Plenty of needs in Jacksonville, none more glaring than one that can be filled by opening the floodgates on this class’s edge rushers going off the draft board.
4. Raiders – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Amani Cooper makes sense, but White’s higher ceiling outweighs his lower floor in Oakland.
5. Redskins – Shane Ray, LB, Missouri
The safer, potentially smarter move would be Brandon Scherff to beef up their offensive line. But Washington rarely plays it safe (or, some would say, smart) on draft day.
6. Jets – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Jets deal down; just think of the reaction that might draw were this draft back in the Big Apple?
7. Bears – Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson
Chicago is a linebacker kind of town, and the Bears have been seriously lacking at the position of late. Beasley gives John Fox the disrupter he always seems to have on his roster.
8. Falcons – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
It’s Gregory’s bulk, or lack thereof, more than his testing positive for marijuana at the combine that bump him down the list of edge rushers. Atlanta, desperate for a pass rush, doesn’t mind.
9. Giants – Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
New York could try to force-fit an edge guy like Danielle Hunter or Bud Dupree here, but they need help up front and Scherff makes the decision a bit easier.
10. Rams – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Amari Cooper is awful tempting, but for now at least this is still a run-first Jeff Fisher team.
11. Vikings – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
An opportunity for Rick Spielman to trade back and stockpile picks. If he can’t swing a deal and Mike Zimmer doesn’t talk him into a linebacker to develop, Teddy Bridgewater gets a high school reunion.
12. Browns – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
This draft board presents a great opportunity for Cleveland to get the wide receiver they need and still add a quality defensive tackle or linebacker seven selections later.
13. Saints – Bud Dupree, LB, Kentucky
Does New Orleans hope Dupree develops as a pass-rushing linebacker or Arik Amsted develops as a defensive end for them? Rob Ryan has options.
14. Dolphins – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona
Miami could add a cineman like Cameron Erving, but a bigger wide receiver to pair with the speed of Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills should make Ryan Tannehill that much more effective.
15. 49ers – Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
San Francisco could look to Erik Kendricks or Bernardrick McKinney to replenish their gutted linebacking corps, but in Amstead they can tag the heir to Justin Smith on their defensive line.
16. Texans – Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Houston boils it down to a pair of Collins—‘Bama safety Landon or LSU corner Jalen. Either would be a boost to the Texans defensive back end.
17. Chargers – Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
The San Diego line needs another piece, and Erving can fit just about anywhere the Chargers need him—most likely at center. Todd Gurley is tempting, but it would be a “playing for later” pick and that would make Philip Rivers even more prickly than usual.
18. Chiefs – Andrus Peat, OL, Stanford
Kansas City can get a receiver upgrade in a later round—any round, really; they were that bad at WR last year—so the choice here will either be defense or help for Alex Smith’s protection.
19. Browns (from Bills) – Danny Shelton, DL, Washington
This scenario plays out well for Cleveland, as the Browns have their choice of essentially the same group of defenders they were likely considering at 12.
20. Eagles – Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Barring a trade up to snag Chip Kelly’s beloved Marcus Mariota, Philadelphia’s best bet is an athletic defender like Collins or Connecticut’s Byron Jones—or an Oregon reunion with Jake Fisher for the Eagles’ aging offensive line.
21. Bengals – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Cincinnati filled some defensive front-seven needs via free agency, bringing Rey Maualuga and Michael Johnson back to the Bengals. That frees them up to tab Goldman as a guy they can plug into their defensive interior right now.
22. Steelers – Eli Harold, LB, Virginia
In a deep draft of edge rushers, Pittsburgh is able to add a player they hope is the next great Steeler rush linebacker.
23. Lions – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Detroit retools the middle of their defensive line with free-agent signee Haloti Ngata and another disruptive force in Brown.
24. Cardinals – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Immediate return or a potentially better long-term investment? Carson Palmer’s window is closing in Arizona, and it’s not as if Gordon is chopped liver compared to Todd Gurley.
25. Panthers – La’el Collins, OL, LSU
Carolina has needs up front on both sides of the ball, and at this juncture of our mock there are substantially better options at offensive tackle than on the defensive line.
26. Ravens – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Todd Gurley is tempting, but Baltimore can get a complementary back to Justin Forsett on Day Two. At minimum Johnson hedges the return-to-health bets on both of the Ravens’ incumbent corners.
27. Cowboys – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Even if Jerry Jones trades for Adrian Peterson, it’s a short-term fix that allows Gurley additional time to recover from his ACL injury—and who better to school him in that recovery?
28. Broncos – Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
Denver’s new-look defense needs personnel up front, and the talented and versatile Phillips can fill just about any need the Broncos have.
29. Colts – T.J. Clemmings, OL, Pittsburgh
Gurley as the heir to Frank Gore would have been nice; instead, Indy can get a back on Day 2 and bolster Andrew Luck’s protection here.
30. Packers – Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
A cornerback like Marcus Peters or Quentin Rollins wouldn’t surprise here, but adding McKinney frees up Clay Matthews to slide back outside and do what he does best—disrupt pass protection.
31. Saints (from Seahawks) – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
After going defense earlier in this mock, New Orleans gives Drew Brees some much-needed protection—and a guy who can open holes for Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller.
32. Patriots – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Who better to take a chance on DGB than the Patriots? Worked well when they brought in Randy Moss, it could certainly work again giving Tom Brady a big target on the outside to go along with Gronk.