Sunday, February 8, 2015

NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Daniel House puts together his first NFL mock draft and starts the premature speculation for all 32 teams in the league. 

Updated: February 8th, 2015 3:50pm

By: Daniel House

The NFL Draft may be months away, but it is never too early to speculate how things will shake out. The scouting combine is just two weeks away and stocks of players will fluctuate plenty over the next few weeks. I will continue updating this mock and will analyze players as the draft approaches in April.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jameis Winston- QB- Florida State: The consensus early in the process would be for the Bucs to select Marcus Mariota. I'm in the minority with this selection and believe Tampa Bay will select in-state product Jameis Winston. The coaching staff would have to be excited to pair Winston with Mike Evans, which is one of the reasons why this pick makes sense. Winston may lack maturity, but his ceiling is very high if he can stay focused. From a standpoint of being most pro-ready, Winston has the edge over Mariota. However, I wouldn't be surprised if USC DE Leonard Williams is thrown into the discussion later in the draft process.

2. Tennessee Titans- Marcus Mariota- QB- Oregon: Tennessee fans thought the sky was falling when they didn't lose enough games to land the number one overall selection. They don't have to worry because Tampa Bay will succumb to the pressure of drafting Jameis Winston. Although Mariota might not be the best fit in Ken Whisenhunt's scheme, his ability to play quarterback and translate in this league is more important. He has shown growth every year at Oregon and his skills as a pocket passer have been slowly progressing. Mariota might not be an immediate superstar, but he has the tangibles to do so down the road.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars- Leonard Williams- DE/DT- USC: In all the game tape I have watched, I firmly believe Leonard Williams is the most special player in this draft. The Jaguars really need to upgrade their offensive line, but they simply cannot pass up the chance select a top-tier player like Williams. The Jags could use some playmakers on defense and pairing Williams with Sen'Derrick Marks would be a scary thought. Williams has the versatility to come off of the edge, while playing in the interior of the defensive line. His motor and combination of speed and strength are attributes you don't see every day from a man with his size.

4. Oakland Raiders- Randy Gregory- DE/OLB- Nebraska: The Raiders got a little bit of a bad draw and will miss out on Leonard Williams by just one pick. However, they still have a chance to bolster their defense, which will be a key focus by new head coach Jack Del Rio. Ken Norton Jr. is the new defensive coordinator in Oakland and they will be looking to add playmakers on this side of the ball. The Raiders still are able to select Randy Gregory, which would be a solid compliment to Khalil Mack. If Oakland can develop a debilitating pass rush, their defense can add some pieces in the secondary via free agency and they can get their defense back on track.

5. Washington Redskins- Brandon Scherff- OT- Iowa: The Washington offensive line was very inconsistent last season and they need to add stability up front. They can do this by adding an extremely versatile and tough offensive lineman like Brandon Scherff. You may argue the Redskins could use another rotational pass rusher, but they need to have stability on their offensive line in order to be successful. Scherff can play guard or tackle and is a significant and immediate upgrade to the Redskins offensive line.

6. New York Jets- Amari Cooper- WR- Alabama: With teams above them focusing on positions of need, the Jets are able to secure value, while adding another weapon to their offense. The Jets can't afford Percy Harvin and frankly, they probably learned more about his character during his short stint in the Big Apple. Amari Cooper is the perfect wide receiver to compliment Eric Decker and his sure hands, combined with his tangibles are all solid traits. He is a polished receiver who also contributes as a blocker. He is very quick off of the snap and can stretch a defense vertically. He has the deep speed to challenge defenses and command extra attention over the top, which is something the Jets haven't had at the wide receiver position.

7. Chicago Bears- Shane Ray- DE/OLB- Missouri: Every mock draft around has the Bears selecting safety Landon Collins with this pick. With Vic Fangio entering the picture as defensive coordinator, the Bears will likely switch to a 3-4 scheme. LaMarr Houston and Willie Young both suffered season-ending injuries and Jared Allen is another year older. The Bears need to find some speed rushers who can be athletic in this scheme. They have plenty of uncertainty in this aspect of their defense and need to add an athletic edge rusher like Shane Ray to their defense. Ray needs to get stronger against the running game, but he has speed-rushing skills and edge-rush athleticism, which is exactly what the Bears will be looking for.

8. Atlanta Falcons- Dane Fowler Jr.- DE/OLB- Florida: With Dan Quinn entering as head coach, the first mission will be to fix a disappointing defense. They need to add some pass rushers to a defense that has had trouble reaching the quarterback in recent seasons. Fowler Jr. is fast and physical on the edge and is a very underrated prospect in this draft class. Fowler Jr. needs to get stronger to defend against runs at the next level, but he will cause havoc as a pass rusher. The Falcons haven't had an edge rusher for many seasons and they need to build this defense by starting up front.

9. New York Giants- Ereck Flowers- OT- Miami: Brandon Scherff is off the board, but there was actually concerns about whether he can play left tackle in the NFL. They can be sure that they find a suitable replacement in the future for William Beatty by selecting Ereck Flowers. Ereck Flowers can start at right tackle, which would allow Justin Pugh to move inside to upgrade one of the guard spots. By the time Beatty leaves, the Giants can move Flowers to left tackle and will have no issues transitioning. Flowers needs work with his technique, but can provide slightly above average pass protection skills and mediocre run blocking skills.

10. St. Louis Rams- Andrus Peat- OT- Stanford: The Rams drafted Greg Robinson to build their offensive line last year, but they still have holes off the edge of their front-five. Jake Long's health cannot be trusted and right tackle Joseph Barksdale is set to hit free agency in March. You need to fix one of these issues and drafting Peat gives the Rams some flexibility. Peat gets it done as a run blocker and has also performed admirably as a pass protector, as well.

11. Minnesota Vikings- Kevin White- WR- West Virginia: After offseason workouts and pre-draft sessions, I expect Kevin White to rise even higher up the draft boards. He is an extremely special player who fits the dynamic playmaker umbrella the Vikings have been yearning for. White has been drawing comparisons to Julio Jones, but his explosion off the line of scrimmage isn't quite on par with Jones. However, we will see how his combine testing results shake out when he is tested this month. White uses his hands to gain separation at the line of scrimmage and his acceleration out of his break is one of his best attributes. He needs to improve coming off the line of scrimmage and can't simply use his athletic ability to make leaping catches when passes are thrown vertically up the field. Teddy Bridgewater would certainly have a reliable target to stretch the field and he definitely would be the type of dynamic weapon the Vikings have been missing. Most of his college success came while playing with weak quarterbacks and it would be scary to see White pair with a quarterback like Bridgewater.

12. Cleveland Browns- Danny Shelton- NT- Washington: Danny Shelton will rise up draft boards as the evaluation process progresses. Shelton has a great combination of size and speed. He has ability to shed blockers and is extremely disruptive. After watching several games with Shelton, I noticed his pad level was high and it resulted in him not keeping integrity. He is an extremely high character player and the Browns were destroyed in the running game last year. Browns front office communicated with Shelton at the Senior Bowl and it appears Shelton might be a great fit for the Cleveland defense.

13. New Orleans Saints- Vic Beasley- DE/OLB- Clemson: The Saints need defensive help and they can start by adding more players who can get after the quarterback. Vic Beasley is a powerful pass rusher with great length for the position. Beasley can be a game-changer as a pass rush specialist, but he needs to become more polished as a run defender. He takes really poor angles at times and his inability to recognize this has caused his draft stock to stay relatively even. Sean Payton needs to add a player who can cause a disturbance on defense and Beasley is an underrated player who can do just that.

14. Miami Dolphins- Trae Waynes- CB- Michigan State: The Dolphins might like to take a wide receiver at this pick and linebacker seems like a small stretch at this juncture of the draft. Instead, the Dolphins will address a position of need. Brent Grimes is 32 and with younger players holding up the fort at the other cornerback positions, they need to start adding a contingency plan. Waynes is an extremely high character player who will translate nicely as a coverage cornerback. He is a playmaker with very good ball skills and has the length and athleticism to be successful in the league. Waynes can address a need, while being one of the best defensive players on the board at this draft slot.

15. San Francisco 49ers- DeVante Parker- WR- Lousiville: With Michael Crabtree likely exiting and Anquan Boldin getting another year older, the 49ers need to add a wide receiver to throw the ball towards. Colin Kaepernick had limited weapons, which was a contributing factor to his struggles last season. Parker is an explosive playmaker with insane athleticism and ball skills. His wingspan and burst off the line of scrimmage are all attributes that make him successful in traffic. The 49ers needs weapons and with uncertainty surrounding their current group of pass catchers, Parker can provide some stability.

16. Houston Texans- Alvin 'Bud' Dupree- OLB- Kentucky: The Texans can't be sure about the production they will receive from Jadeveon Clowney and they want to add another versatile playmaker to their defense. Dupree is a name to watch at the scouting combine and I fully expect him to test really well in two weeks. This seems like a high selection for Dupree to land, but his stock will rise as the draft approaches. Brooks Reed is about to become a free agent and Whitney Mercilus has just one-year left on his contract. Given the uncertainty surrounding this position, the Texans should be considering the thought of adding an outside linebacker into their 3-4 defense. Dupree is very raw and wins battles with his athleticism. He needs to become more sound with his technique and recognition, but early in the draft process, Dupree seems like a player poised for a rise up the draft charts.

17. San Diego Chargers- Eddie Goldman- DT- Florida State: Eddie Goldman could instantly help improve the Chargers run defense and his ability to potentially play some defensive end is also attractive. He is extremely athletic and picked up six sacks over his last two seasons at Florida State. Goldman is a powerful player and can shed blockers with ease. He does need to improve from an instincts standpoint, but this will come with more adequate coaching. The Chargers need to become formidable in the middle of their defense and would have flexibility by selecting Eddie Goldman.

18. Kansas City Chiefs- Landon Collins- S- Alabama: Many people believe that Landon Collins will be a top-ten pick, but I'm not buying the hype. He struggles in man coverage and he isn't rangy by any stretch of the imagination. Collins is very physical and his instincts are on par with the best defensive backs in the draft. He is middle round talent and the Chiefs would be drafting for value, while adding a position of need. Eric Berry unfortunately probably won't play in the league again, and Collins could fill the mold in the back side of the Chiefs defense. The combine and other pre-draft workouts will either help or hurt the draft stock of a player like Landon Collins.

19. Cleveland Browns- Jaelen Strong- WR- Arizona State: I really like what I see from Jaelen Strong and believe he has the chance to be very special in this league. Strong is very raw and will need work as he transitions to running routes at the NFL level. However, I love his ability to keep defenders on his hip and high point balls that are contested. He can play underneath, but is very capable of stretching the field with his size and physicality. Strong can easily transition into the Browns offense and will provide a weapon for whoever the heck is playing quarterback in Cleveland next year.

20. Philadelphia Eagles- Jalen Collins- CB- LSU: The Eagles desperately need cornerback help, and they’ll have plenty of options in the mid-first round of this class. Collins has great length and speed, which translates nicely to Chip Kelly's defense. Collins is a physical defender that might struggle playing in off-man coverage. However, he is expected to run well at the scouting combine and if he is coached correctly, you can fix some of this technique formalities.

21. Cincinnati Bengals- Shaq Thompson- OLB- Washington: The Bengals lack speed at the linebacker position and they would be receiving that and more by selecting Shaq Thompson. Thompson formally played safety, but has transitioned nicely to playing linebacker within the Washington defensive scheme. Rey Maualuga may leave in free agency and many wonder whether Vontaze Burfict can return to dominant form. Thompson is athletic and can cover very well, but he doesn't have the strength or mass on his body to play immediately at the next level. This can be fixed by hitting the weight room hard. If he can put all these variables together, he has the potential to be a very special player.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers- P.J. Williams- CB- Florida State: Cortez Allen was awful during certain stretches of the season and Ike Taylor struggled when he returned from injury. P.J. Williams is the perfect fit for the Steelers defensive scheme and can translate well in the league. He needs to get a consistent motor and his physicality sometimes gets him into trouble (penalties). Williams has all the tools to translate into a solid cover corner, but will need time to grow from a technique and instincts standpoint.

23. Detroit Lions- Malcom Brown- DT- Texas: With the uncertainty of Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh hitting free agency, the Lions can't afford not to address defensive tackle with a high pick in the draft. Brown is a versatile defensive lineman who has experience playing NT, DT, and DE in a 4-3 defense. He has performed well as a run defender and showed some flashes as a pass rusher in his final season at Texas. Brown needs coaching, but his skill-set and versatility would translate nicely to Detroit's front-four.

24. Arizona Cardinals- Benardrick McKinney- ILB- Texas A&M: The Cardinals have had issues covering tight ends in each of the last three seasons. They need a linebacker that can replace Larry Foote and McKinney is the perfect candidate. McKinney is a very explosive linebacker that has great range and athleticism. He has the tendency to gamble in coverage and he hasn't been perfect in this category, but with more snaps, this issue is coachable. He has good size, but he can be stiff in coverage and has the tendency to play tall. Nonetheless, he has some intangibles that make him worth getting coached at the next level.

25. Carolina Panthers- La'el Collins, OT- LSU: It seems like a slam dunk that the Panthers will be addressing the offensive line during this draft. Cam Newton had zero time to do much of anything this season and with poor depth among the offensive line, there wasn't much the coaching staff could do. Collins would be reunited with former LSU guard Trai Turner and the fit seems rather solid for him. He has a solid motor, but has the tendency to play tall in the running game. He needs to improve as a run blocker, but his pass protection tendencies have been rather smooth.

26. Baltimore Ravens- Devin Funchess- WR- Michigan: The Ravens will likely lose Torrey Smith in free agency, which means they will be in the market for a wide receiver. Rumor has it Brandon Marshall could be released by the Bears and the Ravens could be a potential landing spot. However, the Ravens still will be looking for a young playmaker. Funchess is a receiver with the quickness to run crisp routes and easily create space if linebackers try to cover him. People consider him a tight end, but he has enough size to make cornerbacks have to go through him for the ball and he should be generalized as a matchup threat. The Ravens are in need of a matchup threat, but it depends on how they approach this (i.e: free agency, draft, etc.).

27. Dallas Cowboys- Gerod Holliman- S- Louisville: The Cowboys need playmakers in their secondary and drafting a safety who had 14 interceptions last season at Louisville seems like a great replacement option. Gerod Holliman has insane instincts and the ball skills to be an elite level safety in this league. He plays with the aggressiveness that also allows him to act as an enforcer, along with a coverage safety that can move in and out of the box. Dallas needs to find some playmakers on defense if they want to compete in the NFC East again.

28. Denver Broncos- T.J. Clemmings- OT- Pittsburgh: T.J. Clemmings draft stock is rising and falling and his workouts and interviews will be critical to where he is selected in this draft. The offensive line is going to be rebuilt to accommodate Gary Kubiak's zone blocking scheme and Clemmings is a player with plenty of ceiling. He is a quick player who has a long and tall frame. Clemmings needs to improve his instincts and he is rather inexperienced at this position. The "project" label is already being dropped upon him and that may scare teams away from selecting him.

29. Indianapolis Colts- Melvin Gordon- RB- Wisconsin: Melvin Gordon has the potential to be selected anywhere in this first round, but it seems likely he could fall all the way to the bottom of the first round. So many teams are in need of defensive and pass catching weapons, that running back stock will fall deep. Teams know this running back class is full of talent and they will wait to select this position with value in later rounds. Nonetheless, the Colts would be striking gold to land Melvin Gordon in their offense. Indianapolis already has a potent passing game, but they haven't been able to find a consistent runner. Gordon has the chance to be a franchise running back and his ability to burst through holes and gain yards after contact is incredible. He is crawling with athleticism, but he sometimes uses his speed to his disadvantage. He needs to improve as a pass blocker, but the Colts offense would be extremely scary with a running back like Melvin Gordon at their disposal.

30. Green Bay Packers- Eric Kendricks- ILB- UCLA: The Packers need another linebacker in their defense and Eric Kendricks is a lock to land in the end of the first round. Earlier in the evaluation process, many believed Kendricks would land in the top-15 of this draft. He has been slowed by injuries and teams wonder whether he can translate to the NFL. There is no doubt Kendricks is a three-down linebacker, but he is slightly undersized. However, he has brilliant instincts and naturals skills. He can blitz, cover, and defend the run, which are three areas the Packers are looking for from a linebacker.

31. Seattle Seahawks- Todd Gurley- RB- Georgia: I really wonder if Marshawn Lynch will return, but it doesn't really matter either way. The Seahawks could upgrade their backup running back position and potentially have a nice one-two punch between Lynch and Gurley. Lynch takes a beating and the Seahawks need to find a running back who can compliment him well. Gurley is coming off a torn ACL, but was projected as the top runner in this class before the injury. Many believe he could fall into the second or third round, but teams who can ensure he is healthy will take a chance. Gurley is a special running back, who has a rare blend of power and speed. Not to mention, he is one of the best running backs in the country when it comes to yards after contact. Injury concerns are the only thing holding teams back from selecting a player like Todd Gurley.

32. New England Patriots- Devin Smith- WR- Ohio State: It's clear that the Patriots lack an elite receiver on the outside. Almost everything the Patriots did this season was either up the middle or a running back motioning into the flat. They need to find a vertical threat and Devin Smith is the perfect fit. Smith isn't supposed to rise this high, but if he pairs a combine performance with the tape he put on display over the final five weeks, he has the chance to rise into the draft this high. Players like Sammie Coates are losing stock, while a guy like Devin Smith will continue to rise.

This is the first installment of mock drafts I will be creating on Vikings Corner. Stay tuned as I evaluate prospects, update this mock draft, and work to prepare you for the NFL Draft on April 30th in Chicago.

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