Teams in the NFL have been flinging players around like never before in free agency. This year, the number of trades have added some spice to a borderline crazy pre-NFL Draft off season. Led by mad-hatter Chip Kelly, teams around the league have settled into a "no player is safe" realm...
In my first Mock Draft, I pretty much missed on every trade/free agent that's happened so far? Color me less than shocked though, but the Jimmy Graham trade has me wondering what's going on just a bit... The Rams and Eagles switching quarterbacks made waves in the NFL, and among the teams' fans. Philadelphia fans - a particularly vocal group to be sure - have traveled the gambit between disbelief and rage as Kelly shattered their basic belief systems. "The Chipper" has shipped off Lesean McCoy, Nick Foles, and a small host of other players their fans had held as constants going forward. He's added two injury question marks in Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonzo and quarterback Sam Bradford, and pinned his hopes on medical advances seeing his team to a better day. Good luck with that, Chip...
I believe the failed drug test by Randy Gregory at the NFL Combine may very well have caused a shift in the number of teams thinking of making a move up in the draft. While most teams don't really think much of a failed marijuana test on the whole, it speaks volumes about Gregory's lack of self control. Imagine a young man - set to make millions - deciding the risk of failing a drug test is somehow a smart thing to do prior to the NFL Combine? Little things like this cause teams to begin pondering just how much they should risk on young players they hardly know. Add in the "push" other teams provide, from deeper in the first round, who may have wanted to move up for a player, and are now shrinking back to re-think. Draft day trades are about the combined pressure teams create by forcing chess moves across the board. I have little doubt Gregory's little miscue has actually effected a broader view and value across Day 1 than many will think possible. As incredible as it sounds, it's entirely plausible a team may be willing to pay just a tad less in draft stock to make a move now, than they did before Gregory's screw up...
To be sure, my first Mock has been trashed. So here's my take based on what's happened so far prior to the NFL Draft in April...
#1 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Head coach Lovie Smith has been fielding phone calls about quarterback Mike Glennon, or at least he says he is? But even if he takes a quarterback 1st overall, the idea he'd head into the 2015 NFL season without a solid back up is ludicrous. Smith has shown lots-'o-love for Dallas defensive players, signing three this off season. The trend now set, Smith has all but shown his hand - or the Glazers'? - heading into the NFL Draft. They select: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State.
#2 - Tennessee Titans: In my first Mock, I had the Titans trading down with abandon. I still see it as more than a possibility, but as I mentioned earlier, the high position teams in round one may have seen a paradigm shift. Certainly the pass rusher draft board has been tweaked, with guys like Shane Ray benefiting at the cost of Randy Gregory? But as I look at the Titan's draft needs, they have more than a few. Locked into a coin toss with Zach Mettenberger, head coach Ken Whisenhunt is royally screwed. He really can't afford to take on a possible "project" like Marcus Mariota here. Then again, there's the possibility this draft pick could actually affect the pending purchase price currently being negotiated for the team. Laugh all you want, but it's true. A new franchise quarterback sells more tickets than adding an offensive lineman... Whisenhunt splits the difference, and adds the wide receiver help ANY quarterback will need to succeed: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama.
While I like the "upside" of Kevin White just a tad more than Cooper's, there's no denying the Alabama star leads in the "NFL ready" category.
#3 - Jacksonville Jaguars: Team owner Shahid Khan has no idea what to do? His war room phone is actually ringing off the hook with teams trying to make a move up. He'd always dreamed of this day, and had waxed his mustache just so, as he smiled and admired his image in the mirror on Draft Day morning. His GM is screaming at him to make a decision! One team is offering their first round pick this year and next. Another team is offering three second round picks over the next few years, and swears it's good deal because they saw it happen in a movie...
Head coach Gus Bradley stands there, jaw dropped, as Khan wants someone to key up footage of Kevin Cosner fleecing the Jags. "I am not a Donkey!" Khan screams at the screen as vital seconds tick away on the draft day clock. "Someone get this Cosner fellow on the phone! Tell him I want FIVE second round picks!" Khan says as he twirls his mustache and slyly smiles, then winks at his dumbfounded head coach. Bradley shakes his head and makes another call... They select Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC.
#4 - Oakland Raiders/ New Orleans Saints: TRADE!! Mark Davis has no idea what to do? While phones ring around him, he tries to balance his checkbook, and the final numbers don't seem to add up... "Carry the two, and then..." He scratches his head, then hold out three fingers and stares at them... Here's the problem for Marky: He's hurting for cash, and his team needs to spend money he doesn't have just now. He has a team board of directors who own minority shares in the storied franchise "Al built", and they're all jocky-ing to rest control of the team away from him somehow. The threat to move to Los Angeles is only going to happen if someone literally gives him a stadium, or such a sweet deal that it'll allow him to make payroll. Yes, the Raiders are in that kind of financial trouble, but the NFL has done its best to hide it from the public. Guaranteed contracts include a provision for the money to be placed in escrow after signing, and the Raiders have struggled to deposit the funds at times.
The rookie salary cap pool for the Raiders this season could stand at around $7.2 million - based on where they're selecting in the 2015 draft. Oakland has loads of salary cap space they need to spend to comply with the 2011 CBA, but the money needed to cover it is more a mirage than real. The bottom line: the Raiders need to move down from #4 overall to save money.
The Saints trade #13 and #31 overall to the Raiders, which helps the bottom line for Oakland less than they'd like. Head coach Sean Payton is going all-in on this draft. His offense will be fine, but the defense needs a huge kick-start if the Saints are going to return to the post season. They select: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida.
#5 - Washington Redskins: This is almost a no brain-er for the Redskins.... Almost... With the loss of Brian Orakpo in free agency, Vic Beasley is sitting there staring at them at #5. But owner Dan Snyder just can't help himself. He loves him those quarterbacks, and his short term adoption of RGIII has ended. They select: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
#6 - New York Jets: Having spent loads of money to get back corner backs they used to have, they turn toward other needs. On offense, they need a wide receiver who can do something, and Geno Smith could use a weapon. They go back to the Virginia well, and select: Kevin White, WR, UWV.
#7 - Da' Chicago Bears/Cleveland Browns: TRADE!! Their defense in 2014 literally has the ghost of George Halas screaming from beyond the veil. Computers and paper are mysteriously flying around the Bears' war room on draft day. Cigar ash is flung in new head coach John Fox eyes every now and then as he studies his draft board. The ground begins to rumble as Fox starts to call in his pick, but the phone rings... Cleveland's owner Jim Haslaam needs to hit this draft big, and he wants to lean toward a "high character" player after the Manziel debacle. The Browns' defense needs to get better at rushing the passer. They ship their #19 pick, and second rounders this year and in 2016 for: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson.
The rumbling in the Bears' war room subsides, but only for a little while...
#8 - Atlanta Falcons: Run defense is at the top of their draft board. Team owner Arthur Blank pipes in the wrong music to their war room. He wanted approving crowd noise, but instead he gets a "Papa John's" commercial? It's kismet! Pizza, fat guys... The stars have aligned, and defensive woes are "Gone with the Wind"... They select the pizza loving: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington. The subtle whiff of something burning seeps under the war room door...
#9 - New York Giants: Tom Coughlin wants what he wants. In my last Mock, I had the Giants taking La'el Collins, OT/OG. LSU. But things have shifted for the old man in blue. He might be concerned about Victor Cruz returning to form from injury, but he doesn't show it openly. He's been studying the "mean-streak quotient" among offensive line prospects, and he's decided: They select: Erick Flowers, OT, Florida.
#10 - St. Louis Rams: The truth is, the Rams' Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have to have a plan, right? But their moves this off season have puzzled me at times... OK, I can understand the move on from Sam Bradford from a monetary view. It made financial sense to a point. Yet, Nick Foles has only a single year left on his rookie deal, and if he shines in his new roll as St. Louis signal caller he could command serious $$$ in his next contract. A deal in the $10 to $12 million per year range isn't out of question, so they'll be approaching what they were spending on Bradford. New offensive coordinator, new quarterback, bad offensive line... Can Rams' fans say deja vu?
The player who makes the most sense to me here would be a serious reach at #10 overall: Jaelen Strong. WR, Arizona. He has the skill set to be the perfect addition to an offense trying to succeed in the NFC West. At running back, I'm not as sold on Tre Mason as others. Don't get me wrong: Mason had a good rookie campaign. But the need to meet a marginal offensive line half way may be the way to go too. A running back like Indiana's Tevin Coleman is going to creep into the first round of this draft. He's the closest thing to Marshawn Lynch that I've seen in quite a while. Lynch made the Seattle line look better. Somewhere lost on the Rams' roster is a young guy named Zac Stacy. Hard running, he's lost favor with Fisher. So what exactly is the Rams' head coach searching for at running back?
The St. Louis defense is their mainstay. Could Snead and Fisher really use #10 overall to build onto it? I doubt it, and the move to sign defensive tackle Nick Fairley and linebacker Akeem Ayers kind of steers my attention to the offensive side of the ball in this draft.
Fisher and Snead take the "best player available with some MEAN" mode, and select: La'el Collins, OT/OG, LSU.
#11 - Minnesota Vikings: This team has some sneaky possibilities going into the 2015 season. Even without Adrian Peterson - which I plan on happening - the Vikings aren't in bad shape overall. They'll need to snag a running back at some point in this draft, but at #11 they can do more. Their secondary could use some solid help in single coverage. They select: Trae Waynes, CB, MSU.
#12 - Cleveland Browns: With Vic Beasley added, the Browns need to hit the offensive side of the ball hard. A pretty good line makes shopping the running back prospects a decent idea here. Jimmy Haslaam doesn't have the stones to take a guy like Tevin Coleman, who hasn't gotten the press Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley have to date. They need wide receiver help in a big way too. They select: DaVante Parker, WR, Louisville.
#13 - Oakland Raiders (via New Orleans): A few bucks saved drafting outside the top 10, the Raiders' GM Reggie McKenzie breathes easier. He isn't scared off by the Gregory drug test, and he needs an edge rusher in the worst way. They select: Randy Gregory, OLB/DE, Nebraska.
#14 - Miami Dolphins: Their defensive front is set with that little guy named Suh, but help at linebacker wouldn't be a bad idea. They need wide receiver help too, but they can't get around the idea of risking all the red flags surrounding Dorial Green-Beckham or linebacker Paul Dawson. So much talent... A top receiver left in the draft - Breshad Perriman - had maddening pass drop issues in college. They select: Jaelen Strong, WR, ASU.
#15 - San Francisco 49ers: Back to basics is their mantra going into this draft. Linebacker is a HUGE problem going into this season, and whether Navarro Bowman can return has their fans holding their breathes. MSU inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney could really be an option here, but his pass coverage skills aren't the best. They can't afford to take Paul Dawson, who's character issues wouldn't go over well with Bay Area fans. They go the "safe, safer, safest" route, and take: Brandon Schreff, OG, Iowa.
#16 - Houston Texans: I wonder how many Texans' fans are gritting their teeth over whether Jadeveon Clowney will live up to his 2014 #1 overall draft status? Time will tell, eh? The Texans need to think secondary at some point. There's a guy who could have another monumental "boom or bust" factor waiting in the draft wings. His name? Marcus Peters, corner back out of "I was kicked off the team" U. Say what you want, but Peters is - potentially - the most talented defensive back in this class. They can't miss the opportunity to build up the offense, which is in the "what quarterback?" situation quite a few teams currently find themselves in. They can't take UCLA's Brett Hundley this high in the draft, can they? YUP! You guessed it: They've sold themselves - wrongly - that their guy won't be there in Round 2, so they take the risk, and select: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA.
#17 - San Diego Chargers: Running Back! Running Back! With Ryan Matthews gone, they need to give quarterback Phillip Rivers some backfield help. But which of my top 3 RBs is the best fit here? Gordon offers some slash, Gurley some splash, and Coleman some smash. They select: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin.
#18 - Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid's team has a need at wide receiver, even after signing Jeremy Maclin. The walrus" has to fight his urge to take the risk on Dorial Green-Beckham. Shifting his gaze to the defensive depth chart, he knows what he needs to do. The middle of the Chiefs' defense was weak in 2014, especially at inside linebacker. He has to have a nose tackle, but he'll hit that in a later round. They select: Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State. Chiefs fans will scream at this being a reach, but McKinney will be a solid move to seal up the middle of their defense.
#19 - Chicago Bears (via Cleveland): They breath a little easier now that the guy on their draft board has slipped down this far in the first round. The Bears need to get better on defense. Stopping the run is a huge concern, but so is getting after the quarterback. They select: Shane Ray, DE/OLB/ Missouri.
#20 - Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly finishes off his sixth Red Bull of the day, and sighs... He recalls how the team's owner had rushed into his office while he was on the phone with Buffalo to trade away Lesean McCoy. Jeffrey Lurie dove across his desk, sending 30+ empty energy drink cans clattering to the floor as he tried to grab the phone from Chip's hand. The deal done, Lurie screamed at Kelly - who quickly walked to the bathroom for the 12th time in the last hour - "Cut down on the caffeine!" Chip smiled at the memory, then headed for the espresso machine he had hidden in a bookshelf in the draft war room. There were no names on his draft day prospect board; only color swatches in differing shades of metallic green. He studied his current team depth chart for a second, admiring the all-green rainbow... But he's going for a little "Feng shui", and needs to have some red? Hmm? "HA!", he cries, and looks at a safety from Alabama... The Chipper selects: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama.
Collins fills a need at safety in coverage, and in the box. The Eagles need to find help at edge rusher somewhere in this draft...
#21 - Cincinnati Bengals: Here I'm traveling along the same line as quite a few other sports writers. Wide Receiver A. J. Green is a "one-horse" show, and needs someone on the other side to help take some heat off. Head coach Marvin Lewis has a knck for finding gold in troubled, talented players. He selects: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Mizzou/Oklahoma/Red-flag.
#22 - Pittsburgh Steelers: This draft has to be about their defense. In my last Mock, I had the Steelers taking who I think could be a Troy Polamalu clone if he'll move to safety from outside linebacker: Washington's Shap Thompson. I really like this train of thought, but this time I'm going a different direction. Corner back is a weakness for the Steelers, and they have the type of environment the guy I like here can benefit from in his career. They select: Marcus Peters, CB, Red-Flag U.
I said before now, that I think Peters could arguably be the top defensive back talent in this draft. He'll need a strong locker room to tap into what could be a pro bowl caliber player.
#23 - Detroit Lions: They suddenly have gaping holes in what was once one of the best defensive fours. Suh and Fairley are gone, and without some help their marginal middle linebacker corp could be in for a long season. They select: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas.
#24 - Arizona Cardinals: I'd love to add some guard insurance here for former first round pick Jonathan Cooper. South Carolina's A.J. Cann seems like a good fit. I'm also not sold on right tackle Bobbie Massie being all that great. Then again, they have a HUGE need at center? Hmm? Wait a second! I think I know what to do here... They select: Cameron Erving/ OG/OT/C, Florida State.
The Cardinals need to hit the tight end position, as well as running back, in this draft. I almost went for a leap here, and selected Tevin Coleman. Tight end Clive Walford would fit in well too. But both could be seen hitting in the Cardinals' 2nd round range on Day 2...
#25 - Carolina Panthers: If they weren't in the weakest division in the NFL, they'd be picking a whole lot higher in this draft. They have huge needs on the offensive and defensive lines, wide receiver, and running back. Did I say huge? Let me spell it out for you Carolina fans: H-U-G-E!! This team could well be selecting in the top four in 2016 if they don't find some quick fixes. Defensive end needs are crushing, but I don't see a 1st round talent here. Some will scream for Kentucky's Bud Dupree here, but I'm nowhere near as sold on him as being a Day 1 guy. At receiver, USC's Nelson Agholor could be a steal for the Pathers in the second round. But I'm steering this draft toward their offensive tackles, who are just plain bad. They select: D.J. Humpries, OT, Florida.
#26 - Baltimore Ravens: They need a receiver who can run fast. Torrey Smith did, and to be honest, I still don't think all that much of him. Straight line speed only gives an offensive a single tool. If I wanted to replace Smith's speed, the easy selection here would be Breshad Perriman. C. Florida. He ran a blistering 4.25- 40 yard dash at his Pro-Day. But look at his college film, and you'll see - what I think - will be the reason why he could sink into the later part of Day 2 of the draft: Pass Drops! The guy has concentration issues... Where I'm going in this draft for the Ravens should be more evident to people. They have basically a "one year wonder" in running back Justin Forsett. An 8 year veteran, his 1,266 rushing yards in 2014 are his career high water mark. Take a look... Now, search the Ravens' roster for other running back names... Taliaferro, Lorenzo? Really? That's all the depth an Ozzie Newsome led team has at running back? Help is on the way! They select: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia.
#27 - Dallas Cowboys: In one of the few pick surviving from my original Mock Draft, the Cowboys stay the course. Linebacker Sean Lee is damaged goods. They select - who I see - is a perfect fit to come in and bolster a marginal second level crew: Eric Kendrick, ILB, UCLA.
#28 - Denver Broncos: Can Peyton Manning...? Yes, whatever the question you may have about the future first ballot Hall of Famer, just stop. While his career is winding to a close, there's simply no way he takes the field without that winning gleam in his eyes... That said, having a decent right tackle may be the thing to do, eh? They select: T. J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt.
#29 - Indianapolis Colts: "Quit following me, dammit!" Colts owner Jim Irsay slurs, as he squints his eyes at the pink, Amish-bearded figure. "Sorry, coach said to keep an eye on you... Have a banana?" The figure held out what looked like a banana to Irsay, who recoiled.
It was plaid colored. He looked from it, back to the pink bearded monster, who smiled and winked at him. Jim groaned, knowing what was coming... "Do I have too?"
The pink man nodded, and began to chuckle. Irsay's shoulders slumped, "OK, that's not a banana... It's a Plantain..." He cringed at what he knew was coming next... "
The pink man shook his head as he continued to grin, "Nope! I got you again Mr. Irsay!" He covered his mouth as his shoulders shook from mirth, "It's a Plaid-tain! Get it!" The pink man sunk to the floor, laughing uncontrollably.
"I hate you! I miss Peyton... He didn't give a crap about what I did... Am I in hell? This is HELL, right?" Irsay looked around for an avenue of escape from this never-ending nightmare.
The pink, goofy-looking bearded man pointed at him, "This is Trent Richardson hell! See what happens when you THINK a guy's a good running back, and he flops? That's why I'm here. I'm here to teach you the difference between a banana, and a..." He stifled a snicker, "Plaid-tain. We'll move onto NFL players after you get down the difference between a Richardson and a first round draft pick..."
Back in the Indianapolis war room, head coach Chuck Pagano studied the sleeping team owner. The entire staff watched as Irsay would twitch every now and then; a look of horror on his sleeping face. Pagano shook his head, then picked up the phone. They select: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford.
#30 - Green Bay Packers: The Packers could use some tight end help, but a glaring need at nose tackle catches my eye. An inside linebacker with sideline to sideline capability wouldn't be a bad move here, either. Paul Dawson's red flags keep me from selecting him here, but there isn't a better place for him to land if he can. They select: Jordan Phillips, NT/DT, Oklahoma.
#31: Oakland Raider (Via New Orleans) (Via Seattle): With some help on defense already covered with the Gregory pick at #13, GM Reggie McKenzie scans his draft board. He could use a serious upgrade at right guard, and the perfect guy is just sitting there... They select: A.J. Cann, OG, S. Carolina.
#32: New England Patriots: Is it possible Bill Belichick could actually land a wide receiver in a first round who will work? Yes! They select: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC. The USC star receiver is just what quarterback Tom Brady needs: A polished route runner, who isn't afraid to catch passes in traffic. If there's a perfect fit in this entire Mock Draft, it may very well be this one. Agholor will also fill kick off and punt return needs...