By Drew Willers
At the end of the day, there’s no way you can know what’s going to happen today, but that’s just apart of the fun. The intrigue and speculation has made this arguably the most enjoyable event in the NFL offseason. General Managers and NFL front offices are far too unpredictable to peg down exactly whom a team will take, and what they are willing to give to get “their guy.” That being said, I thought it would be fun to put my very first Round 1 mock draft together (because I have no interest in doing 7 whole rounds… I am not Mel Kiper Jr.). Enjoy, and feel free to give me your thoughts on my mock selections. Enjoy the draft, NFL Enthusiasts!
1.) Buccaneers: Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
There are some speculators out there that seem to have grown increasingly vocal that the Buccaneers may pass on “Famous” Jameis and either trade the pick, or just forego Winston and take Marcus Mariota out of Oregon. However, HC Lovie Smith is the kind of coach that isn’t intimated by the type of off-the-field issues that has been attached to Jameis Winston. Smith is a high-character coach that gets his players to forego the personal BS and focus on doing their jobs. Smith and the Bucs front office feel they’ve done their due diligence on Winston, making him the no-brainer 1st overall. Winston has all the “intangibles” you like in a franchise quarterback, but even beyond that, he just wins games, something Tampa desperately needs.
2.) Titans: Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
The temptation for me is to try and predict who will trade for this pick, because like most analysts out there, I do not believe the Titans will own this pick at the number 2 spot, and there are far too many candidates that really want the pick. Philadelphia, San Diego and Cleveland have all been reported to have extreme interest in moving up to the 2 spot. The real question is whether or not Titans HC Ken Wisenhunt believes that Mariota can be molded into a pro-style pocket passer, and not a “system” quarterback. If the answer is “no,” don’t be surprised if San Diego sends Philip Rivers to Tennessee for the pick, or if Chip Kelly’s Eagles can complete their offseason quest to re-create Oregon football at the professional level.
3.) Jaguars: Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
It would probably be a better move for the Jags to take an edge rusher like former Florida Gator Dante Fowler Jr., but I believe the Bortles to Cooper connection is too much for the Jags front office to handle, and after the disappointment of Justin Blackmon and Marqise Lee (I know Lee is still green… but c’mon) I think the Jags will take Cooper, who has been named the undisputed best receiver in the draft.
4.) Raiders: Dante Fowler Jr. (OLB/Edge Rusher, Florida)
After taking a defensive player with their 1st pick in last year’s draft in Khalil Mack, I think the Raiders will look to build on that trend in re-shaping a young defense. With Justin Tuck at the left end spot turning 32 and CJ Wilson at 28 years old at the right, adding a young explosive edge rusher could go a long way in the AFC West this year against slow, immobile, pocket passing quarterbacks in Alex Smith, Philip Rivers (if he isn’t moved on draft day) and Peyton Manning.
5.) Washington: Leonard Williams (DT, USC)
There’s the temptation here to take the speed demon that is Kevin White out of WVU, but with DeSean Jackson already on roster and with a relatively deep receiver draft, Washington can afford to work on their front seven. Disrupting run heavy offenses like Philly and Dallas should be a premium for Washington in the NFC east, and Leonard Williams provides a body mover to disrupt the run game. Washington should be stoked to have the privilege of filling a need as well as the best player available.
6.) New York Jets: Kevin White (WR, WVU)
With Percy Harvin taking his talents to the neighboring Buffalo Bills, and no chance of taking a quarterback at 6 (lest Mariota should fall) it’s awfully hard to look away from the super explosive Kevin White, and it really is that simple. Todd Bowles should be happy with what he’s got on defense with the acquisition of Darelle Revis, so getting this weak offense some weapons is all the more important at the 6th pick.
7.) Chicago Bears: Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
It wouldn’t be too difficult to see them taking Brandon Scherff at offensive guard, but I think it’s far too important for the Bears to find a replacement for Brandon Marshall (even more so now if they are seriously looking to deal Martellus Bennett). Obviously defense is a huge need for this club, but so are offensive weapons, and with no one of value wanting to play on the same offense as Jay Cutler in free agency, drafting a receiver to compliment Alshon Jeffrey and the Matt Forte run game is too important.
8.) Falcons: Brandon Scherff (OG, Iowa)
Many mock drafts have the Falcons taking Trae Wayans (DB Michigan St.) or Bud Dupree (LB Kentucky). As atrocious as Atlanta’s defense was last year, I think anchoring down the offensive line with Scherff after taking Jake Matthews last year is the right move. Matt Ryan is still the cornerstone of this franchise, and providing him with all the assets he needs to sustain success and longevity, should be at the top of their needs list entering this draft.
9.) Giants: Bud Dupree (OLB, Kentucky)
If Victor Cruz and OBJ can make it to the start of the regular season with clean bills of health, I don’t think there is a ton of need on offense for the Giants at number 9. Like the Redskins at the number 5 spot, stopping the high-octane runners in Philly and Dallas should be of the utmost importance and Bud Dupree’s raw athleticism should provide a spark for the New York front seven.
10.) Rams: Ereck Flowers (OG, Miami)
I believe the Rams will actively pursue moving down in today’s draft. That being said, if they can’t, protecting Nick Foles and keeping him upright in the pocket in an NFC West division full of dangerously aggressive pass rushing defenses should be the goal. The Rams also proved that they have a decent committee of RBs, and getting a dude who is 6’6” and a massive 330 lbs. should help move the line at the point of attack. An offensive lineman at 10 isn’t super sexy (which is why they’ll try to move up) but the Dallas Cowboys took 3 consecutive offensive lineman with their 1st picks, and that helped pave the way for Demarco Murray this last season.
11.) Vikings: Trae Wayans (CB, Michigan St.)
Many mock drafts that I’ve read have the Vikings taking Teddy Bridgewater’s former Louisville teammate Devante Parker. While that wouldn’t upset me as a Vikings fan, it’s not my ideal scenario. The acquisition of Mike Wallace provides the deep speed the Vikings needed this offseason, and he should fit well in Norv Turner’s vertical passing offense. The Packers are still king in the NFC North, and the goal should be to neutralize that passing attack in any way possible. A secondary with Trae Wayans, Harrison Smith, and Xavier Rhodes provides length and athleticism to help counter the big athletic receivers in this division.
12.) Browns: Danny Shelton (NT, Washington)
If Cleveland were smart, they would hang on to their two first round picks and use them on things that aren’t quarterbacks, because as bad as that situation is on the Cleveland depth chart, there are also many, many needs on this team on BOTH sides of the ball. Cleveland’s secondary is quietly stout. The front seven? Not so much. Cleveland was dead last in the league in stopping the run. At 6’2” and 340 lbs. Shelton is a truck. The Browns will probably give both 1st round picks away, but if they don’t, I think Shelton is the right pick.
13.) Saints: Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the Saints taking Vic Beasley at this spot, and, quite frankly, with how poorly Rob Ryan’s defense played last season, it’s really a horse apiece. I went with Kevin Johnson because there is currently nobody on the depth chart that can handle Julio Jones or Kelvin Benjamin in the oddball NFC south. At 6’0” he may not have the length to cover the big guys, but his versatility and overall competitiveness is something Rob Ryan desperately wants to employ into his defense.
14.) Dolphins: Arik Armstead (DT, Oregon)
After making major waves during free agency in acquiring Ndamkong Suh, Arik Armstead would make running on the Dolphins a nightmare, something that a team needs to do if it’s going to beat the Patriots twice a year. Armstead is raw, no question, but the upside is tremendous, and if you can get Suh to help bring him along (and that’s a big IF), really watch out for the Dolphins this season in the AFC East.
15.) Niners: Vic Beasley (OLB, Clemson)
When describing this offseason as a Niners fan, our very own Steve Cravens used the term “exodus.” It’s hard to argue with him. Many departures, especially on the defensive side of the ball, must have first time head coach Jim Tomsula feeling shaky at the very least. The acquisition of Beasley should help. He fits perfectly into what the Niners need at the outside 3-4 position. Ideally, they would want a middle linebacker, but I think it’s possible to slide Navorro Bowman into the middle and let Beasley take the spot of Chris Borland. The Niners bread and butter has been a badass top 5 defense, look for them to get back to their roots with the 15th pick.
16.) Texans: Breshad Perriman (WR, Central Florida)
Losing Andre Johnson makes finding new targets on offense essential for the Texans. Fortunately for them, this is supposed to be a relatively deep draft at the WR position. Perriman hasn’t been grabbing headlines the way the other receivers have, but he is consistent and sharp, and though he displayed weak hands at the combine, his pro day should quell those doubts. Regardless of whoever is throwing the ball in Houston, they should be happy to have Perriman on the roster.
17.) Chargers: Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
The Chargers will most likely move up from 17, but if they are unable to do so, and they end up being stuck with Philip Rivers, giving him help is going to be essential. The Chargers have been desparate for a strong runner since the departures of Ladanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. Gurley’s ACL injury may be a red flag, but he is undeniably the best runner in the draft, and the Chargers need to improve on their 30th ranked run offense.
18.) Chiefs: Cameron Erving (C, Florida St.)
If Perriman falls to the Chiefs, I believe he becomes the no-brainer pick at 18. I don’t see that happening, and with how weak the offense was last year, Andy Reid will want to take the big fella in the middle. Both Mike Mayock and Kiper have regarded Erving as being the best center in the draft, and the Chiefs need him at either center or tackle, experience Erving has at both positions.
19.) Browns: Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Like I said, if they’re smart, the Browns will hang on to both of their 1st round picks and address needs they have besides quarterback. This is unlikely given the Browns’ track record of giving away everything for the next franchise quarterback. I wrote a piece earlier this month about why it’s too early to give up on Johnny Manziel, and even if they decide it is time do so, Brian Hoyer is going to need help anyways. Melvin Gordon provides the Browns a smart runner with patience and decent acceleration. The Browns quarterback situation will not improve if they continue to ride the struggle bus in the run game. Be smart, hang on to the picks, and address needs around the quarterback position.
20.) Eagles: ??? JK… Damarious Randall (FS, Arizona State)
I am not even going to pretend to have any idea what in the blue hell Chip Kelly will do in this draft. At this point, it wouldn’t shock me if the Eagles took the Oregon Ducks mascot. If they don’t move up and grab Mariota, I believe Kelly will attempt to add as much speed as he can to this defense. Randall fits the mold as the ranging speedster that covers ground with little physicality, exactly what Kelly wants on defense.
21.) Bengals: Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
The Bengals want pass rushers. Unfortunately, with all the best ones already off the board and the others too far to reach, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther would be happy to bring aboard Brown to bring more strength to Cinci’s stout front seven. Bringing back Michael Johnson and acquiring AJ Hawk should help with the veteran leadership Brown needs to develop quickly in helping to stop Leveon Bell in Pittsburgh.
22.) Steelers: Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
“The Steel Curtain” is in need of a resurgence after losing it’s cornerstone Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. Jones can take on the role of a corner or safety, and that type of versatility is a small step in the right direction of attempting to replace Polamalu.
23.) Lions: Andrus Peat (OT, Stanford)
The Lions will continue to air it out, and as they do, keeping Stafford healthy becomes more and more important. Peat has the versatility to play either right or left tackle. If Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon happens to fall, don’t be surprised if the Lions jump all over it, but that seems unlikely at this point.
24.) Cardinals: DJ Humphries (OT, Florida)
Much like the Lions above, protecting the 35 year old Carson Palmer is essential. The Cardinals were a competent starting quarterback away from making a serious run in the playoffs. The temptation is to take a receiver, but they aren’t falling all the way to 24.
25.) Panthers: TJ Clemmings (OT, Pittsburgh)
As much as the Panthers tried to deny the injuries to Cam Newton were hurting his play, anyone could see he was ailing throughout much of the season, keeping him immobile for much of the year. The former 2 sport athlete will immediately help the Panthers o-line.
26.) Ravens: Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
27.) Cowboys: Landon Collins (SS, Alabama)
28.) Broncos: Jake Fisher (OT, Oregon)
29.) Colts: Cedric Ogbuehi (OT, Texas)
30.) Packers: Denzel Perryman (ILB, Miami)
31.) Saints: Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri)
32.) Patriots: Randy Gregory (OLB, Nebraska)