There’s not much certainty out there after No. 1—is there ever?—but here’s how I see the first round in Chicago playing out on Thursday night, with a few intriguing moves capped by a typically bold Belichickean stroke
Draft boards, and one real life, changed on a highway near Columbia, Mo., Monday morning around dawn. Star Missouri pass-rusher Shane Ray, who reportedly failed a drug test during his college career, was stopped by police at 5:46 a.m. in Missouri and cited for possession of marijuana and a failure “to drive in the right lane of the highway with two or more lanes.”
Ray, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network, failed a drug test early in his career at Missouri. Two NFL executives, asked by The MMQB after news of the arrest surfaced Monday night about whether Ray had tested positive as a collegian, said it was true.
I asked three different club officials who work in personnel late Monday night what this would do to Ray on teams’ draft board in the final hours before the draft.
One said Ray would slip to the second round now. One said Ray would still be picked in the first round, but later now, because some teams would be willing to take a risk on Ray because of how difficult it is to find pass-rushers with his potential. One said he “might” go late in the first, but no later than early in the second round.
It’s a sobering way to lead into a mock draft, but it certainly will be a factor on the eve of the draft. NFL officials won’t be shocked that a collegian smokes marijuana. They will, however, factor in the fact that Ray reportedly tested positive once, and at dawn three days before the draft was caught driving poorly with marijuana in his possession. Plus the fact that Ray may need toe surgery, which could sideline him until training camp.
Originally I had Ray going to Houston at number 16 in the first round. But I scrubbed that and adjusted.
Three points about this draft projection:
- If this, my final mock before Thursday night’s first round, holds, Roger Goodell is going to be very lonely on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre in downtown Chicago. Because the first three players in my mock—Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Amari Cooper—will be in other areas of the U.S. on Thursday night
- I know one thing sure to be wrong in this mock draft: I have only two trades in it. Not likely. In the past three drafts, there have been 42 trades.
- Teams trying hard to trade down for more picks: Jets, Minnesota, Washington. Teams trying to trade up: Atlanta (if a great pass-rusher is the target), Kansas City (if a great receiver is there), Philadelphia (if the Titans would hand Chip Kelly Marcus Mariota on a silver platter, and that’s not happening).
On with the show. Of note: I’ll be in Chicago on Wednesday writing a column of late-breaking something-or-other for early Thursday morning. Check in all week for The MMQB’s draft coverage. We’ll be in Chicago, and in other places, bringing you fun and, I hope, informative stories you don’t see anywhere else. And be sure to check out Greg Bedard's Anti-Mock Draft, in which he selects the players teams should pick. It's a different approach from what you'll see here.
Style note: Projected trades are indicated by an asterisk.
1. Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
The Andrew Luck-to-Indianapolis pick had less drama by this time of the draft process in 2012. But this one’s close. Always got the sense the Bucs wanted to pick Winston, then went through the investigative process to see if there was some great reason not to. They couldn’t find one. Now offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter looks to mold Winston into the kind of all-over-the-field thrower (but with a good dose of deep stuff for Mike Evans) he had with Matt Ryan in Atlanta.
2. Tennessee: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
As I wrote Monday, I don’t think Philip Rivers is going to be an option for Tennessee, and I continue to not hear of the kind of offer that would make Tennessee GM Ruston Webster and coach Ken Whisenhunt waver from their desire to pick Mariota. That still could come, and if some team offers, say, three first-round picks (Cleveland? Philadelphia?), the Titans would think about it.
3. Jacksonville: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
This is where every mock in America falls apart, because Jacksonville’s Dave Caldwell, though a GM neophyte, is a poker-playing veteran. No one knew he’d take Blake Bortles last year. He could well take the best pass-rusher in the draft, Dante Fowler here, and make defensive-minded head coach Gus Bradley very happy. Or he could take Leonard Williams, though that’s not as good a fit. I give him Cooper, because Bortles needs a number one wideout, and all Jax has now is a collection of twos.
4. Oakland: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Coach Jack Del Rio, that ol’ USC Trojan, and GM Reggie McKenzie cannot believe their good fortune here. The best player for their defense, where there is a yawning need—a versatile three-technique, three-down, all-over-the-line defensive force, is there at four. As usual, the Raiders have many needs, but a big one on the line gets filled by a rare talent.
5. *Atlanta: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida
* Atlanta trades its third-round pick (73rd overall) to Washington to move from 8 to 5 in round one.
On the draft-trade chart that all teams use, the 73rd pick is worth 225 points, and the jump from 8 to 5 should take 300 points. But a sixth- or seventh-round pick likely isn’t going to stop pass-rush-desperate Atlanta from jumping over Chicago to get the best pass-rusher in the draft. However—and this is a big however—I believe if the draft falls the way I have it one through four, Washington GM Scot McCloughan would also be lusting after Fowler. So McCloughan could stay right here and pick Fowler himself. I made the deal because McCloughan badly wants more picks.
6. N.Y. Jets: Andrus Peat, T, Stanford
Honestly, I hate this pick for this spot. I think Jets GM Mike Maccagnan very much wants to trade down here, and he may have a chance (with Atlanta, most likely), and this is too high for Peat. This is a much better spot for Kevin White, the West Virginia receiver. But there’s something about the heritage of Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles that leads me to think they’re more concerned with buttressing each line (the defensive side doesn’t need it) while filling in the receiver in a deep crop of wideouts in round two.
7. Chicago: Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
The Bears could go wideout here, easily, dipping into the treasure-trove position of the draft for a very good complement to Alshon Jeffery after saying goodbye to Brandon Marshall. But they can wait until their second-round pick, 39th overall, and get a fine receiver. Dupree, Kevin White and Trae Waynes are all players who could hear their names picked by GM Ryan Pace, running his first draft since coming north from New Orleans.
8. *Washington: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
*From Atlanta. Beasley had a freakish scouting combine (4.53 speed in the 40, a ridiculous 35 reps in the 225-pound bench press), the most impressive performance of anyone in the underwear Olympics in February. He wasn’t the most consistent player at Clemson, but he has the best anticipation out of the snap of any rusher in this draft. Hard to imagine he’ll get out of the top 10. Good fit for a defense that lost Brian Orakpo in free agency.
9. N.Y. Giants: Brandon Scherff, G-T, Iowa
G-Men have a history of loving Midwestern offensive linemen high in the draft. Of the last six offensive linemen they’ve drafted in the top 40, five have been from Midwestern schools (four Big Ten, one Notre Dame). Scherff is the kind of versatile mauler the Giants could use inside for a couple of years before moving him outside, or they could keep him inside if Justin Pugh and Will Beatty are doing the job at tackle.
10. St. Louis: Ereck Flowers, T, Miami
A Jeff Fisher kind of player is the way three different front-office people around the league described the tackle who plays an edgy, combative style. This is probably a bit high for him, but the Rams have a need here and don’t want to take a receiver at 10 with the depth at that position in this draft. St. Louis, if Flowers and Greg Robinson both make it, would field two long-term tackles this season, both 23 or younger, Robinson on the left, Flowers on the right.
11. Minnesota: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Might be too light at 186 to be the kind of physical corner many teams would want, but the only highlight I saw of Waynes in run defense put the kibosh on that: In the 2013 Big Ten championship game, he made a physical stop of Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde (40 pounds heavier) for no gain. Mike Zimmer needs two good physical cover corners, and adding Waynes to Xavier Rhodes would give the Vikes two first-round young players at that position.
12. Cleveland: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Browns love Shelton, and coach Mike Pettine desperately needs the athletic heft he’d bring to the interior line. I’ve thought during the draft process that Shelton would be strictly a two-down player, but the more I’ve talked to teams in the last week, the more I see him having some role (if not a consistent one) in the pass game; he had nine sacks for the Huskies last year and broke through offensive lines for 16.5 tackles for loss. Browns really hoping he’s there at 12.
13. New Orleans: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Makes little sense, really, for the Saints (after picking wideout Brandin Cooks number 20 overall last year) to take another receiver with a prime first-round pick. But that’s what the first-round pick acquired for Jimmy Graham allows GM Mickey Loomis to do—make a luxury selection in the first round while scheming to get a pass-rusher for Rob Ryan’s defense at 31, the pick acquired from Seattle in the Graham deal. White, Cooks and Marques Colston (for at least one more year) give Drew Brees three great targets, and the 6-3 White can move in for Colston, likely in 2016.
14. Miami: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
The more I hear about Gurley’s recovery from five-month-old ACL surgery, the more I think he could be ready for opening day. Or at the least, be pretty much back to normal by mid-October. The surgery doesn’t worry me a bit long-term. Gurley is 20 years old and the closest thing to a dominant in-line and outside-the-tackles running back to come out in the draft in several years. There are no guarantees about any player in any year, but Gurley is going to make a bunch of yards that aren’t there for normal backs. He’s the kind of back Miami hasn’t had in a long time—even though the Dolphins had a pretty good running game last year, 12th in the league.
15. *Kansas City: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
*Kansas City trades fourth-round (118th overall) and seventh-round (233rd overall) picks to San Francisco move from 18 to 15 in round one.
I would be surprised if Parker is still hanging around at this pick, but if he is, I think Chiefs GM John Dorsey would jump at the chance to grab him—especially ahead of Houston, which wants a receiver high in this draft. I might argue that no contending team has as big a single position need as Kansas City at wide receiver. No Chiefs wideout caught a touchdown pass last year, and now Dwayne Bowe has been let go (to Cleveland). The 6-2 ½ Parker’s a perfect pick for Dorsey and Andy Reid. Dark-horse pick here that would not surprise me one bit: Florida offensive lineman Cam Ervin.
16. Houston: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami
This is probably too high for Dorsett, but he’s an elite-speed receiver with good college production and the ability to open up so much in an offense—especially an offense that could struggle in the passing game with either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett quarterbacking. He ran two sub-4.3 40s at the combine, after averaging a Bob Hayes-like 24.2 yards per catch in the ACC last season. Dorsett is a true wild card in this draft. He could go 14; he could go 54. I think his speed and hands are good enough to propel him into the first round.
17. San Diego: La’el Collins, T/G, LSU
Chargers GM Tom Telesco could take Melvin Gordon here or trade the pick to a team lusting after Gordon (Baltimore? Dallas?). Actually, I had Gordon here until about 4 p.m. Monday, when I finally thought: Telesco knows he can get his back of the future at 48 or 83, with either of his next two picks. The line is still a worry, with Orlando Franklin and a cast of roster marginalia at guard, and newly signed King Dunlap okay but with an expiration date looming. The versatile Collins makes sense. All of this is out the window, of course, in the unlikely event that talks with Tennessee get serious this week. I don’t expect that to happen.
18. *San Francisco: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
*From Kansas City. At 6-7 and 292, the feisty Armstead seems almost too good a fit for GM Trent Baalke and coach Jim Tomsula, who I hear loves Armstead (a body type like massive Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell). As long as Baalke is providing the blueprint, expect the Niners to build a strong and big defense. Armstead would be a telling first pick of the post-Harbaugh era.
19. Cleveland: Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
Had this pick here before news broke of GM Ray Farmer having dinner with Perriman in Orlando Sunday night. Makes too much sense, unless Farmer goes with the more physical Jaelen Strong, which would be a good choice also. (Or unless Farmer goes for long-term offensive-line depth.) Perriman’s more explosive than Strong, though his hands aren’t quite as good. What it came down to for me is the explosiveness. Yards per catch in 2014: Perriman 20.9, Strong 14.2.
20. Philadelphia: Damarious Randall, FS/CB, Arizona State
Very close to two others here: Jaelen Strong or nimble Oregon tackle Jake Fisher. I just want to drive WIP radio crazy; that’s all. I’ll be listening for the gasp from the crowd at the draft party in Philadelphia if the little-known Randall is the pick. “WHO?!!!!! KELLY, YOU’RE NUTS!!!!!” Well, Philadelphians, I’ll tell you this much, to assuage your anger, if it helps: Randall’s become a sexy pick late in round one over the past couple of weeks. Chip Kelly knows he’ll be able to score enough points, and he knows he can get useable receivers down the line. He wants a player with a defensive presence who has a chance to make plays somewhere on D, and the Eagles think Randall can do that.
21. Cincinnati: Jake Fisher, T, Oregon
The Bengals, picking next, love Fisher, and if the Eagles pass on him, ace line coach Paul Alexander could mold the quick-footed Fisher into a long-term left tackle … if Andrew Whitworth, 33, whose contract expires after this season, leaves in free agency in 2016. Fisher’s biggest problem is he can’t overpower anyone yet. But the converted tight end has a chance to be really good. Cincinnati could also go defensive tackle here (Malcom Brown) or developmental outside ’backer (Eli Harold?).
22. Pittsburgh: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Very good athlete, and though at 6-0 and 188 he’s not the perfect Steeler physical type, he’s a terrific cover player. The Steelers have a desperate need, and Johnson will fill it nicely. Three other teams in 20s—Panthers, Ravens, Colts—would have interest if Pittsburgh passes on Johnson. I’ll tell you what appeals to Mike Tomlin about Johnson: There’s not a more competitive cornerback in this draft.
23. Detroit: Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
Despite starting only five college games at center, he’d project there, at least early, for the Lions. Erving could be a day one starter with long-time center Dominic Raiola gone, and the other plus is he could eventually transition to tackle, where he was first-team all-ACC in 2013. Lots of buzz about Erving in the past couple of weeks, with one scout telling me he thinks the only offensive lineman in this draft any better is Brandon Scherff.
24. Arizona: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Confetti in the Cards’ draft room, surprised that Gordon’s still around. Bruce Arians would love an every-down back who can make the tough yards inside and the big plays outside, and Gordon proved at Wisconsin that he can be both. Without Gordon on the board, I think the Cards would prefer the tackle with the nasty streak—Ereck Flowers—or the athletic potential left tackle, D.J. Humphries. But Gordon’s a gift if there at 24.
25. Carolina: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
It’s a tackle or wideout here, and I think pairing the quicker and faster Agholor with Kelvin Benjamin will help the home-run capability of Cam Newton and give the Panthers a threat in the return game. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Carolina take a tackle if a day-one starter is still on the board.
26. Baltimore: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
I could see the Ravens trade up for Gordon, an object of their affections, or jump on Kevin Johnson if the Steelers don’t, or maybe even go for a Breshad Perriman-type receiver if they’re a little skittish on Peters, the most talented corner in the draft but also the most controversial. He was kicked off the Washington team last fall after a run-in with his position coach. Interesting note on Peters: He lived in Marshawn Lynch’s house in the Seattle area last fall. Both are Oakland kids, and Peters’ dad is one of Lynch’s former football coaches. The record of Baltimore with prospects who have had behavior issues is good. If they take Peters, you can bet they’ll have vetted him thoroughly.
27. Dallas: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Dallas is another one of those teams that could trade up for Gordon or Gurley, but the Cowboys know they have to address their defense—all over the board. They need an interior defensive lineman, and Brown fits that bill, but linebacker, corner and safety all need to be addressed too. Brown, very strong and quicker than a 319-pound man has a right to be, will immediately help a position group that has had way too much turnover of key men in recent seasons.
28. Denver: Cedric Ogbuehi, T, Texas A&M
The Broncos love Ogbuehi, who could have come out of A&M last year and been a first-round pick. He’s more iffy now because he suffered a torn ACL four months ago in the team’s bowl game. Most have Ogbuehi projected to go in the middle of the second round or later, and he may. But he and Ryan Clady eventually could be bookend tackles for the Broncos for four or five years. A pick of Ogbuehi would show the staying power of GM John Elway and the ability of the team to look more long-term, even if the 2015 season might be a washout for the first-round pick.
29. Indianapolis: Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
I always wonder about an Alabama guy when Ozzie Newsome passes on him. But Collins’ slide probably deserves to end right around here. He’s one of the most versatile players in this draft, having played both safety positions, cornerback and key roles on special teams. Good tackler, very instinctive, classic Nick Saban leader of the secondary. The Colts will be able to use him at several spots and can use his defensive playmaking ability.
30. Green Bay: Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami
The Pack really needs a corner, and Jalen Collins or Byron Jones, if still on the board here, would be logical picks. But there’s been a buzz about Perryman among the Green Bay braintrust since the combine. He’s too small, at 5-10 ½, to go much higher than this, and maybe to go in the first round at all. But when I’ve brought his name up over the past couple of weeks to scouts and GMs, invariably the answer comes back that they love Perryman as an instinctive playmaker all over the field, not just between the tackles.
31. New Orleans: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
Wild guess. The Saints don’t have an edge rusher Rob Ryan can use to scare quarterbacks, and Gregory has scared off too many teams in the post-season investigation process, in part because of pot use in the past. I still think some team will take a shot on Gregory in the first round because of his talent—he would have been a top-eight pick, for sure, with a clean personal résumé—and the Saints are a franchise willing to take a shot like this one.
32. New England: Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
Wilder guess. The Patriots have long steered clear of draft-day controversy since the Christian Peter fiasco 19 years ago. (The Nebraska defensive tackle was drafted in the fifth round by the Patriots and summarily cut days later when his history of domestic abuse was discovered.) But there’s no evidence of anything but marijuana experiences in Ray’s past, which may make owner Robert Kraft a little more forgiving—particularly when he hears that a healthy Ray would have been a sure top-10 talent in this draft. The Pats could stop Ray’s decline from being a precipitous fall.
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