The 2015 NFL Scouting Combine is scheduled to take place February 17-23 in Indianapolis. For draft prospects, the Combine is an important step in the evaluation process leading up to the NFL Draft in April. As he normally does around this time of the year [before the Combine begins], Mike Mayock unveiled his position-by-position rankings for the 2015 NFL Draft on Wednesday. Mayock is a highly-respected draft analyst for the NFL Network. His rankings - updated many times between mid-February and the draft - are closely followed by both expert and amateur draftniks.
I'm a passionate follower of the NFL draft - and college football - throughout the year. I'm also part of the small minority who'll begin creating 2016 mock drafts a week after the 2015 draft in April-May. Apart from watching a lot of football games [and video as time permits], I enjoy reading commentary, analyses, and scouting reports related to college football players and the NFL Draft. However, no one will ever mistake me for Mike Mayock, as I'm no more than an interested observer...and a truly amateur draftnik. This is only my second year of creating positional rankings.
The accompanying chart presents my Top-5 positional rankings for the 2015 NFL Draft:
Position Player School Quarterback Jameis Winston Florida State Marcus Mariota Oregon Brett Hundley UCLA Bryce Petty Baylor Garrett Grayson Colorado State Running Back Todd Gurley Georgia Melvin Gordon Wisconsin T.J. Yeldon Alabama Tevin Coleman Indiana Ameer Abdullah Nebraska Wide Receiver Kevin White West Virginia Amari Cooper Alabama DeVante Parker Louisville Jaelen Strong Arizona State Dorial Green-Beckham Oklahoma Tight End Maxx Williams Minnesota Clive Walford Miami Nick O'Leary Florida State Jeff Heuerman Ohio State Ben Koyack Notre Dame Center Cameron Erving Florida State Reese Dismukes Auburn Hroniss Grasu Oregon Andy Gallik Boston College Max Garcia Florida Guard A.J. Cann South Carolina Josue Matias Florida State Arie Kouandjio Alabama Laken Tomlinson Duke Tre' Jackson Florida State Offensive Tackle Ereck Flowers Miami Brandon Scherff Iowa La'el Collins LSU Andrus Peat Stanford T.J. Clemmings Pittsburgh Defensive Tackle Danny Shelton Washington Eddie Goldman Florida State Mario Edwards Jr. Florida State Jordan Phillips Oklahoma Carl Davis Iowa Defensive End Leonard Williams USC Randy Gregory Nebraska Shane Ray Missouri Dante Fowler Jr. Florida Owamagbe Odighizuwa UCLA Outside Linebacker Vic Beasley Clemson Shaq Thompson Washington Alvin Dupree Kentucky Paul Dawson TCU Danielle Hunter LSU Inside Linebacker Benardrick McKinney Mississippi State Eric Kendricks UCLA Denzel Perryman Miami Ramik Wilson Georgia Stephone Anthony Clemson Cornerback Marcus Peters Washington Trae Waynes Michigan State P.J. Williams Florida State Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Oregon Jalen Collins LSU Safety Landon Collins Alabama Gerod Holliman Louisville Cody Prewitt Mississippi Jaquiski Tartt Samford Derron Smith Fresno State
Observations And Commentary
The evaluation process is still in its early stages. These rankings will change the closer we get to the draft in April, especially after the Combine and Pro Days are completed. The positions most likely to see changes? The defensive front seven and all positions on the offensive line.
The Rams' current needs list is shorter than at any point in time in the last three years. Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have done a remarkable job of elevating the level of talent on the Rams' roster since arriving in St. Louis in 2012. They've had far more hits than misses in their three drafts to-date. The whole offensive line heads the current list of positional needs. Quarterback, wide receiver, and linebacker [in no particular order] round out the Rams' top current needs. My needs list is based on the Rams' current roster, and who they may lose among 14 players eligible for Free Agency on March 10.
Fortunately for the Rams, there's an abundance of quality offensive line prospects in this years draft [albeit little in the way of elite talent]. If they're looking to draft a quarterback, the pickings are pretty slim once you look past Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Brett Hundley. The wide receiver class appears to be strong and deep [although not in the same stratosphere as last years class]. Depth and quality at linebacker is aided by the number of defensive linemen projected as linebackers in the NFL. There's little doubt the strength of this years draft is centred on the defensive line and pass rushers. The Rams may be tempted to "feed the beast" and select a player for their defensive front seven early in the draft.
Players that could be surprise selections at Number 10? DT Danny Shelton, DE/OLB Dante Fowler Jr. and WR Kevin White.
At this point in the process, the 2015 NFL Draft appears to be devoid of elite talent [especially in the top 15 picks]. The strength of this draft may be the overall quality between 15 and 50, and the depth at certain positions [OL, DL, and WR].
Earlier this week, Joe McAtee [Turf Show Times' draft guru] shared his thoughts on the Rams' first round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. His analysis makes a lot of sense, and adds context to the positional rankings:
"...trading down seems awfully rational this year. One, the options at 10 don't seem much more attractive than later on in the first. Two, this draft is set up more to reward good scouting and finding the right "fit" from a prospect than just grabbing top talent. And three, more specifically to the Rams, despite the weakness of the top of the draft the Rams are still light on picks throughout the draft."
Under Les Snead and Jeff Fisher, the Rams have consummated nine trades involving draft picks. Four involved trading down, three were trade-ups, and two involved trading draft picks for players [the most recent: trading this years fourth and sixth round selections for safety Mark Barron]. The Rams feel quite comfortable moving up and down the draft order, and could do so once again this year.
Everyone who follows the NFL Draft has their favorite draft analyst. I follow a number of them, and respect their knowledge level, commentary and analyses:
- Josh Norris - NBC Rotoworld
- Dan Kadar - SB Nation - Mocking The Draft
- Mike Mayock - NFL Network
- Matt Waldman - The Rookie Scouting Portfolio & Football Outsiders
- Daniel Jeremiah - NFL.com & NFL Network
- Greg Gabriel - National Football Post
- Joe McAtee - Turf Show Times
At his season-ending press conference on December 30, Jeff Fisher hinted at the Rams' feelings about this years draft [one not deep in talent]:
"Our decision to go ahead and trade for [safety] Mark [Barron] was not necessarily only based on Mark’s potential and his ability. It was also based on our feeling as it relates to this year’s draft and the strength of this year’s draft. All of those things are tied together. So, that kind of gives you an idea. We’ll go into draft stuff at a later time."
Given their feelings about this years draft, will the Rams stand pat with their early picks, opting for quality over quantity? With only 5 selections in total, will the Rams attempt to trade down and acquire additional picks?
The journey to Chicago for the 2015 NFL Draft has only just begun.