By: Matt Horn, KCOU Sports
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston- Florida State
Jameis Winston is the epitome of risk vs reward. He could very well be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL his rookie year, or his entire career could be bogged down by continuing off the field issues. The Buccaneers will take the risk. While I believe Mike Glennon deserved more of a chance to prove himself, it’s hard to see the Bucs passing on a player as talented as Winston.
2. Tennessee Titans: DE Leonard Williams- USC
This is probably the most all around skilled player in the entire draft class. Williams has the size of a DT and the pass rushing abilities of a 4-3 DE. He’s a guy who can beat an offensive line on sheer strength alone. The Titans are a team with holes all over the roster, but of all the atrocities, allowing 137 yards per game on the ground is the worst of them. Zac Mettenberger has given no reason for the Titans to give up hope on the former 6th round rookie, and the starting job will be his- not Marcus Mariota’s- to lose on Week 1.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Kevin White- West Virginia
The Jaguars are in a similar spot as the Titans. They need help in the box defensively, but there isn’t anyone besides Williams that fits their scheme that should go this high. Dante Fowler Jr. is weak playing on the D-Line and would be much better in a 3-4 defense. They could spring for Arik Armstead from Oregon, but I think they would be making a mistake passing on White. He supplies big target for Blake Bortles and has blazing speed down the field. The Jags need playmakers on offense if they want to see any kind of productivity in 2015.
4. Oakland Raiders: WR Amari Cooper- Alabama
It’s difficult to vision two receivers going back to back in the top 10. This year’s class is so loaded with talent at receiver that the top tier guys will go fast, especially with teams starting young quarterbacks. Cooper is a typical Oakland Raider pick. He has freakish athletic ability, great speed, and runs routes as well as an all pro receiver. If Kevin White is available he could go here instead, but the Raiders need a receiver to help developing quarterback Derek Carr.
5. Washington Redskins: DE Dante Fowler Jr- Florida
I had Randy Gregory in this spot before news broke that he failed a drug test at the Combine. Gregory is a better fit for the Redskins but the last thing the franchise needs is a risky player in the first round. Fowler isn’t so much of a risk. He played on the defensive line in Florida but his versatility enables him to play in almost any defensive scheme. The Redskins are however in a prime spot to trade down. Teams who want to go after Mariota will be inclined to leap ahead of the Jets at #6, and the Redskins know all too well how high the value of a top five pick is.
6. New York Jets: QB Marcus Mariota- Oregon
The city of New York is not behind Geno Smith. I don’t blame them. Smith got thrown into a bad situation without the experience needed to start in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Jets, they’re in another risky position. Mariota could be a star in the NFL, but he cannot be expected to start Week 1. There is simply too much of a transition to make from Oregon’s spread offense to the NFL game. But with a new head coach and recently acquired veteran receiver Brandon Marshall, the Jets have to be targeting Mariota at 6, hoping nobody jumps them to take him first.
7. Chicago Bears: OLB Randy Gregory Jr- Florida
Vic Fangio is bringing the 3-4 to Chicago and Randy Gregory is a perfect fit for the transition. He often played as a 4-3 down lineman at Nebraska, but can play anywhere off the edge or rush up the middle of the field and his smaller size makes him a likely option for a 3-4 conversion. I have him ranked above Dante Fowler, but failing the Combine’s drug test should lower his stock. The Bears are in a position similar to Washington’s- a team in desperate need help in the secondary but without a defensive back worthy of the seventh overall pick, a dangerous pass rusher is a good place to start.
8. Atlanta Falcons: S Landon Collins- Alabama
There isn’t much the Falcons can do here. With the three best defensive pass rushers already gone, they could reach down the board for Missouri’s Shane Ray, or build on the worst pass defense in the NFL. Collins is a risk at the eighth pick. Injury concerns and questions about his ability to finish plays have caused his stock to drop in recent weeks, but if given time to develop, he could be a saving grace for the Falcons defense.
9. New York Giants: OT La’El Collins-LSU
Should the first eight picks play out this way, the Giants would be stealing the first offensive lineman off the board with the ninth. Collins is a big, physical mauler who can be used at guard or tackle. He can pull around the edge and be a lead blocker or stay outside and protect the quarterback. The Giants could go defensive here, but Collins is too good to pass on if he is available.
10. St. Louis Rams: WR DeVante Parker- Louisville
The mystery of how the Rams were able to steal Nick Foles from the Eagles is one that could leave us asking questions for years. But now with a team in the hands of a quarterback who isn’t proven and prone to injury and mediocrity, St. Louis must build on an offense that struggled last year without a legitimate passing game. Parker is probably the most talented receiver after White and Cooper, and the Rams’ top priority must be giving Foles weapons to compliment what could be a dangerous young backfield.
11. Minnesota Vikings: DE Arik Armstead- Oregon
Armstead has gone under the radar all off season, but after Leonard Williams he may be the best down defensive lineman in the draft. Standing at a massive 6-7, 292 lbs, Armstead could play anywhere on the defensive line. Of course, this is an extremely conditional pick depending on the future of Adrian Peterson. Should AP be traded it could change the entire dynamic of the draft for the Vikings, but for now Armstead is a solid pick who would build on an increasingly dangerous young Minnesota defense.
12. Cleveland Browns: WR Jaelen Strong- Arizona State
This is a high mark for Strong. News broke last week that Strong had broken his wrist in November but he denied rumors that it required surgery. This is my favorite receiver in the draft. He has good size and the best hands out of anyone. That’s what makes him a perfect fit for Cleveland. Instead of a downfield speed guy, the Browns need a possession receiver to help Johnny Manziel develop. More offensive weapons in Cleveland could finally lead them to the playoffs once again.
13. New Orleans Saints: OLB Shane Ray- Missouri
It’s a rebuilding year for the Saints. With the Panthers now a playoff threat and the Falcons back on the rise, post season play is no longer an expectation in New Orleans. In a defense with holes all over the roster, the biggest need is a pass rusher. In the modern day NFL, teams build defenses behind sack masters. Ray shows incredible ability to get to the quarterback and gives the Saints a force to start the rebuilding process.
14. Miami Dolphins: WR Breshad Perriman- UCF
This pick makes Perriman the fifth receiver taken just halfway through the first round. Don’t be too surprised. This is one of the most talented classes of receivers in recent history and there are teams across the board in need of depth at receiver. Perriman is not in the same tier as the top four, but he has great speed and size that would give Ryan Tannehill a dangerous threat downfield to replace Mike Wallace.
15. San Francisco 49ers: DT Danny Shelton- Washington
The feared San Francisco defense that led the 49ers to consecutive playoff runs is no more. The 49ers are under the helm of a new head coach in Jim Tomsula, who will begin to rebuild a team ruined by coaching drama in 2014. Danny Shelton is the force that San Francisco needs on the defensive line. At 339 lbs he is easily the most powerful nose tackle in the draft. The Niners still need help in their receiving core, but with five receivers already off the board, Shelton will be hard to pass on.
16. Houston Texans: TE Maxx Williams- Minnesota
This is a pick that could surprise a lot of people. Williams is the only true standout tight end in the draft, but would be perfect for a Houston team with inexperienced quarterbacks in need of pass catchers. A big target at TE can often be a young quarterback’s best friend when under pressure, and Williams is loaded with talent. Houston’s biggest challenge with the 16th pick will be resisting the urge to draft UCLA QB Brett Hundley way too high. The Texans have shown interest in Hundley, but he is no where near first round talent.
17. San Diego Chargers: DT Malcom Brown- Texas
Nonsense Mariota trade rumors aside, San Diego needs to make defensive improvements for a chance at returning to the playoffs. The Chargers have a solid starting secondary but a lackluster front seven is vulnerable against the run. San Diego could easily snag Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon here to give them a threat out of the backfield, but their defense should be the top priority with running back talent likely to be found in late rounds. Brown and Florida State’s Eddie Goldman are at similar talent levels, but Brown’s 3-4 experience and San Diego’s thin defensive line makes him a better fit to be the Chargers’ starting nose tackle.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Brandon Scherff- Iowa
I don’t think Scherff should fall this far. He is regarded as one of the top talents in the draft, but I see too many other needs by teams with higher picks than offensive line. It’s no mystery by now that the Chiefs need help at receiver (last in the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns last year), but if Scherff is still available Kansas City won’t pass up the chance. With Eric Fisher failing to show #1 overall productivity and huge question marks on the right side of the offensive line, Kansas City allowed a sack on 9.4% of Alex Smith’s dropbacks last season. The Chiefs can benefit from better protection for Smith and better blocking for a very talented backfield.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo): RB Todd Gurley- Georgia
What a dangerous offense the Browns could be. Two playmakers in the first round would drastically improve any quarterback- whether it be an experienced Josh McCown or a young Johnny Manziel. Isaiah Crowell showed decent production out of the backfield last season, meaning an injury recovering Gurley wouldn’t have to bear the entire team’s weight on Week 1. If Johnny Football can be half the playmaker he was at Texas A&M, with three solid receivers and a stud running back, this Cleveland Browns team could do damage to aging AFC North defenses.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Trae Waynes- Michigan State
Repeat after me: The Eagles will not make any moves for Marcus Mariota. They should have stuck with Nick Foles all along, but whatever Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, TIM TEBOW system they are planning has no room for another quarterback. The 20th pick is a long way to fall for the draft’s top cornerback. Waynes has impressive athletic ability but even better technique and ability to deflect and intercept passes. Should he fall this far, it would be a blessing to Philadelphia, who were second to last in the NFL in passing yards allowed.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Dorial Green-Beckham- Missouri
There are no more excuses for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals. This is a team in their prime who have made the playoffs for four consecutive years, and lost in the first round each time. Green-Beckham may be the biggest risk in the entire draft, but it is do or die time for Cincinnati and DGB could very well be worth the risk. He’s big, he’s extremely fast, and when paired with AJ Green along with the Jeremy Hill/Giovanni Bernard combo in the backfield, this Bengal offense could be a force to be reckoned with.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB Bud Dupree- Kentucky
Dupree dazzled at the Combine showing a strong physical frame and a 4.56 40 time that is blazing fast for his size. Whether or not you’re ready to give up on 2013 first round pick Jarvis Jones, the Pittsburgh defense has lost the swagger of their Super Bowl campaigns and the reputation of the 1970’s Steel Curtain is long gone. Ike Taylor’s retirement opened up even bigger holes in the Steeler secondary, but this team has lived and died by the blitz throughout their history. Dupree is the first step to rebuilding what was once the league’s toughest defense.
23. Detroit Lions: CB Kevin Johnson- Wake Forest
The Lions are long overdue for a first round defensive back. Ever since Drew Brees scorched the Detroit defense in the 2011 playoffs I’ve been calling for support to the secondary. By replacing Ndamukong Suh with Haloti Ngata the Lions should still have one of the top run defenses in the NFL, but adding another element in the defensive backfield could make Ford Field the scariest place in the league for offenses to play. Johnson may not be a Week 1 starter, but he has terrific ball skills and can become an integral part of the system before the season is over.
24. Arizona Cardinals: RB Melvin Gordon III- Wisconsin
This is of course assuming the Cardinals don’t put a trade in place for Adrian Peterson. Put the comparisons of Gordon to Jamaal Charles aside. Gordon does not posess the same threat in the passing game that Charles did. What Gordon does have is far more power in his runs. He is no doubt a speed back but hidden under his breakaway runs is an ability to run through defenders and fight for extra yards. Defenses of the NFC West are certainly tougher than those of the Big Ten, but with time, Gordon will turn into an all-purpose weapon to split carries with Andre Ellington.
25. Carolina Panthers: OT D.J. Humphries- Florida
Should Gurley or Gordon be available here, the Panthers will not pass up the opportunity. But with the draft’s top two running backs off the board, Carolina will likely wait until the second or third round to fix the absence of DeAngelo Williams in the backfield. Carolina’s offensive line struggled in 2015 and Humphries could be a perfect fit. He may be the fastest offensive tackle in the draft- his quickness would be of great use to the ever-mobile Cam Newton.
26. Baltimore Ravens: WR Devin Funchness- Michigan
Baltimore is home to the most expensive quarterback in the history of the NFL in Joe Flacco. With the offseason loss of Torrey Smith, someone has to be there to catch Flacco’s passes. Steve Smith and Marlon Brown are both downfield threats, but the Ravens don’t have anyone reliable to check down to. Funchess’ size is almost that of a tight end (which the Ravens also lack), and his addition would add a missing element to the Baltimore offense.
27. Dallas Cowboys: CB Marcus Peters- Washington
After losing the NFL Rushing Champion, franchise tagging one of the league’s best receivers, and with Tony Romo not getting any younger, the Super Bowl gap is closing for America’s Team. Peters is one of the best playmakers in this year’s class of cornerbacks. His small frame is his Achilles heel, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in big plays on the ball. Off the field issues shouldn’t be an issue for Jerry Jones’ Cowboys, and Peters should be a helpful addition to a defense that struggled last season against the pass.
28. Denver Broncos: C Cameron Erving- Florida State
This is the perfect pick for the Broncos. Not often do centers go any higher than a late first round pick, and the Broncos need help on the offensive line. What a better way to bring in a rookie center than to have him learn from the smartest quarterback of all time. Scouts have praised Erving’s pass protection as he was a crucial element in Jameis Winston’s success at Florida State. This is a great pick for Denver, who will likely go back to offensive line multiple times before the draft is over.
29. Indianapolis Colts: OT Andrus Peat- Stanford
The Colts offense could be the most high-powered offense in the NFL featuring a young quarterback in Andrew Luck and an experienced running back in Frank Gore. But that means help on the offensive line must be a top priority for Indianapolis. Peat is one of the most productive pass blockers in the draft and has the size and strength to open up big holes for Gore to run through. Offensive line and defensive secondary should be the primary focus of the Colts in the draft as they attempt to create a young dynasty.
30. Green Bay Packers: ILB Eric Kendricks- UCLA
As it stands now the only inside linebacker on the Packers roster is 2013 7th round pick Sam Barrington. Luckily for Green Bay there isn’t all too much top tier talent on the inside this year. Kendricks has good size but his ability to finish plays is cause for concern. He does however show great potential as the top ILB in the draft, and could greatly benefit from the experience of Clay Matthews and a few years of lining up behind BJ Raji.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle): DT Eddie Goldman- Florida State
The Saints are just as weak on the defensive line as they are on the second level. New Orleans very well might find it excessive to pick an edge pass rusher and a mauling defensive tackle in the first round, but the Saints atrocious defense must be fixed before they can become overly concerned with the offense. Plus, there is a plethora of depth at receiver this year and plenty of time for the Saints to snag a late round steal, but Goldman shouldn’t fall much further than this.
32. New England Patriots: RB Ameer Abdullah- Nebraska
I wouldn’t be surprised if in the second round, running backs began dropping like flies. If there is one thing we know for sure about LeGarrette Blount, it’s that he’s going to get himself in trouble, and he is not a feature back. The Patriots would be wise to pick a running back too high rather than wait for the majority of the talent to disappear. Abdullah will take time to develop, but he is a hard runner who shows flashes of speed in the open field. He’s a guy who in time can turn into an every down back, especially when playing for a guy like Bill Belichick.