The Day 1 Decisions ... And the Day 2-3 Needs

Friday May 1st, 2015

 

(Chris O'Meara/AP) (Chris O'Meara/AP)

 

 

The first round of the 2015 draft is in the books. Instead of grading picks like a fool, we’re going to analyze all 32 selections and examine what needs are left for each team (including the Bills and Seahawks, who didn't have Round 1 picks).

 

1. Bucs: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

 

The Bucs had a large brass of decision-makers contributing to this pick, including an ownership group comprising Malcolm Glazer’s six children, second-year GM Jason Licht along with head coach Lovie Smith (the two work together on personnel, with Smith wielding the most power) plus offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. It's unlikely there was unanimity with all these voices. Of the bunch, Koetter’s was the only one speaking from a position of offensive expertise. A friend of Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, Koetter was known in league circles to be fond of Marcus Mariota.

 

That doesn’t mean Koetter isn’t also fond of Winston. In fact, Winston is better suited for Koetter’s classic dropback pocket passing system. Still, there are concerns with Winston—and they’re not strictly off the field. Besides a propensity for turnovers (18 interceptions last season, plus several near-picks), Winston is a long-striding passer, meaning he takes an exaggerated step forward as he throws. That’s difficult to do in the NFL, where passing pockets are often muddied.

 

Needed next: Winston has no shot to succeed if he's playing behind the same line Tampa Bay put on the field a year ago. Without question it was the worst in the league. All five positions could be upgraded (yes, including Logan Mankins’s left guard spot). Take the best offensive lineman available Friday. In fact, do that twice.

 

• THE HUNTING GROUND: Jenny Vrentas talks to film director about Jameis Winston allegations

 

2. Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

 

Trade rumors are commonplace leading up to the draft, but the quantity of rumors surrounding Tennessee was unsettling. And it makes sense. Anyone familiar with Ken Whisenhunt’s deep dropback-oriented system can see that Mariota, honed in Oregon’s spread offense, is not an ideal fit. In fact, stylistically, Zach Mettenberger is better. But Mariota brings unique skills to the table, many of which can’t be taught. Whisenhunt and the young QB will need to adapt to each other. The problem: name one high-profile college spread system QB who has become a great pocket passer in the NFL. (You can’t.)

 

Needed next: Dick LeBeau, who will take control of the defense from former Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton (who is still around with a defensive coordinator title), runs a classic 3-4 zone blitzing scheme that requires pass rushers outside. The Titans signed Brian Orakpo in free agency, but one more starter is needed given that Derrick Morgan is not right for the scheme.

 

• THE TRADE THAT WAS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN: Peter King on the Titans landing Mariota

 

3. Jaguars: Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida

 

A dynamic edge-rusher is the best remedy for any defense mired in mediocrity. And a simplistic, Seahawks-style scheme like Gus Bradley’s requires dynamic players. Fowler joins a front four that features tackles Sen’Derrick Marks and free agent pickup Jared Odrick, and has a still-viable 33-year-old Chris Clemons on the outside. Expect Clemons and Fowler to rotate, as both are best suited to rush off the weak side, while Tyson Alualu is molded more for the strong side.

 

Needed next: A potent running game would be a great foundation to help second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. Current backs Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson are both backups. Another need is cornerback. Ex-Packer Davon House was a great free-agent signing, but he’s the only starting-caliber corner on the roster.

 

• A GUY WHO STANDS OUT: Jenny Vrentas' Q&A with the charismatic Dante Fowler

 

4. Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

 

The Raiders couldn’t have done it any better: a month after signing ace possession target Michael Crabtree, they tab the most gifted player from a deep class of wideouts. For the past several years, Oakland’s biggest problem on offense has been its receivers’ inability to separate from man coverage. Derek Carr, coming off a very encouraging rookie season, now has a respectable supporting cast around him. Expect immediate dividends, given that Oakland’s offensive line was surprisingly stout in pass protection last year.

 

Needed next: The defensive line has pending superstar Khalil Mack and then a bunch of middling athletes. An interior defender or another edge-rusher would be prudent.

 

• WORTH A TOP 10 PICK? Greg Bedard goes to film to evaluate Amari Cooper's game

 

5. Washington: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

 

This is a forward-thinking pick. Given Trent Williams’s success at left tackle (three Pro Bowls since being drafted fourth overall in 2010), Scherff likely will play either right tackle or guard, where his style is best-suited anyway. Some don’t believe in drafting a non-left tackle high in the first round. But with the proliferation of shotgun-based aerial attacks, pass protection concepts have changed so that the blind side guardian is no longer the most pivotal player. Instead, all five positions are closer to being of equal value. And ask the Cowboys with Zack Martin or the Ravens with Marshal Yanda how uplifting a high-level guard can be. With offensive line professor Bill Callahan being hired over from Dallas, it’s clear that Washington wants to run the football. Scherff helps there. And it should be noted that Williams’s contract expires after this season. Scherff’s presence gives the club options and negotiating leverage.

 

Needed next: Quarterback, but we know first-year GM Scot McCloughan won’t go there. With an otherwise loaded offense, he can afford to take the best defensive player available. There are holes to fill at pass rusher and linebacker.

 

• THE LEGEND OF BRANDON SCHERFF: Jenny Vrentas on Iowa lineman's unique upbringing

 

6. Jets: Leonard Williams, DL, USC

 

Muhammad Wilkerson wants a new contract and could be headed out of town. Which means that instead of retaining a known superstar like Wilkerson, the Jets appear set on developing a young player who might turn into a similar force. If that’s the scenario, it’s utterly illogical. Granted, Williams is a rare specimen: 20 years old (21 in June), versatile and a likely 315-pounder (after NFL nutrition and weight training). But he tends to play too tall and will have to amend some of his mechanics at the pro level. Now, if the Jets do keep Wilkerson, they’ll have an unprecedentedly fierce D-line trio, though it might be tough to use all three simultaneously since none play nosetackle.

 

Needed next: The Jets' depth chart has surprisingly few holes. Unfortunately, one of those holes is quarterback, which can’t be addressed this year. Their next best course is taking the top guard or offensive tackle available. Also, don’t groan if they snag a wide receiver. Eric Decker is very average and, like newcomer Brandon Marshall, he lacks top-end speed.

 

• WATCHING FILM WITH LEONARD WILLIAMS: Andy Benoit sits with the USC star

 

7. Bears: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

 

Most likely, the Bears feel they have a potential superstar here, but in immediacy, are they really much better than they were with Brandon Marshall a year ago? White had only one productive season in college, in which he almost always lined up on the right side and ran a limited route tree. He’ll likely need time to develop.

 

Needed next: Defense. Anything on defense. Vic Fangio is installing a new 3-4 scheme, which is antithetical to the 4-3 zone system that Chicago’s personnel was all acquired to fill. It could be argued that every player save for second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller must be replaced.

 

 

• VOICES OF DRAFT NIGHT: Dante Fowler Jr., Shane Ray, Leonard Williams, Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley count among the new pros who reflect on being first-round selections

 

8. Falcons: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

 

The Falcons have needed a pass rusher for years. The previous regime under Mike Smith and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan believed that pressure could be manufactured through scheme. New head coach Dan Quinn, hailing from the simplistic Seahawks system, feels differently. Ostensibly, Beasley was the top available pass rusher left on Atlanta’s board.

 

Needed next: With the system change, there are several needs across a defense that ranked dead last in yards allowed last season. But don’t be surprised if the Falcons dip into this draft’s deep pool of wide receivers. Father Time has chased down Roddy White, and defenders won’t have trouble doing the same this season. Without a strong complementary wide receiver, the Falcons can’t get their money’s worth out of Julio Jones.

 

9. Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami

 

A classic unsexy Giants pick. It will be interesting to see if Flowers plays the right side, or if he supplants Will Beatty at left tackle. Beatty has been serviceable and still has three years left on his contract. What this selection means for sure is that Justin Pugh, who has mostly floundered since being drafted 19th overall in 2013, will move to guard, a position the short-armed 307-pounder is better equipped to play.

 

Needed next: Linebacker has been a perpetual need for the G-men, but GM Jerry Reese almost never drafts that position higher than the middle rounds. More glaring is safety, which boasts only 2013 fifth-rounder Cooper Taylor and 2014 fifth-rounder Nat Berhe.

 

 

• WATCH: Peter King and Jenny Vrentas on the surprises in the top 10

 

 

10. Rams: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

 

A running back taken in the first round. Wasteful? Not necessarily. With a paucity of young star quarterbacks in the league, it’s possible the pendulum will swing back to the ground game a few years from now. It’s already swung that way for the Rams, who committed resolutely to power football midway through the 2013 season and furthered that commitment by drafting mauler Greg Robinson second overall a year ago. With a great defense and a so-so QB like Nick Foles, that formula will remain in place. One does, however, wonder what will be made of last year’s third-round pick, Tre Mason. He’ll probably get about 10-12 touches a game now, but given his quickness, compactness and body control, he deserves 15-20.

 

Needed next: The Rams don’t have a starting-caliber right tackle or center on their roster. No sense in picking a running back if you can’t put a serviceable O-line in front of him.

 

• COMING BACK: Jenny Vrentas on Todd Gurley's return from ACL injury

 

11. Vikings: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan St.

 

Simple case of a team filling a need. Fortunately for the Vikings, all cornerbacks were still on the board. Waynes was the near-consensus No. 1 prospect. Minnesota’s first-rounder of two years ago, Xavier Rhodes, is a budding star, and now there’s a playmaker opposite him. Incumbent starter Captain Munnerlyn will move to exclusive nickel slot duties, where he’s most comfortable. Waynes will have a chance to flourish right away given that Mike Zimmer is an excellent teacher of defensive back fundamentals and that his system has cornerbacks line up on the same side of the field most of the time.

 

Needed next: Every offensive line position except for center can use an upgrade. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings take an offensive tackle to potentially replace Matt Kalil, who has struggled mightily the last two years after a promising rookie season.

 

12. Browns: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

 

Injuries along the defensive line, including to nose tackle Phil Taylor, were a big reason why the Browns' run defense ranked 32nd last year. Comparisons between Shelton and Vince Wilfork have been made. If Shelton can maintain light feet with a heavy body in the pros, he’ll be a great force alongside defensive end Desmond Bryant.

 

Needed next: The lack of talent at wide receiver is overwhelming and makes the selections of Shelton and especially Cameron Erving at No. 19 somewhat perplexing. The only reason for the Browns to not go there is if top-rated tight end Maxx Williams is available.

 

13. Saints: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

 

The Saints love downhill, truck-sized blockers. Weighing north of 330 pounds, Peat can be exactly that. And he’s also shown signs of the soft feet needed for pass protection. Don’t be surprised if he plays on the right side for the first several years of his career; current left tackle Terron Armstead is too nimble to be replaced.

 

Needed next: GM Mickey Loomis has made clear that the defense needs revamping. A pass-rushing outside linebacker who can work ahead of veterans Anthony Spencer and Parys Haralson (who have each battled serious injuries the past two years) should be the first area addressed.

 

14. Dolphins: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

 

Would Greg Jennings have signed with Miami if he knew Parker was on the way? Probably not. The accomplished 10th-year veteran is now fourth in the pecking order, behind the sinewy Parker, last year’s second-rounder Jarvis Landry and offseason pickup Kenny Stills, who can stretch the field but must improve his route running. Consider the Parker selection a vote of confidence in Ryan Tannehill. A front office and coaching staff do not bring in four new starting-caliber wide receivers in a 13-month span if they aren’t comfortable with their quarterback. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor wants to have a quick-strike passing game. If Parker furthers those efforts, then you can also consider his selection to be aid for the offensive line.

 

Needed next: Two years into their careers, injuries and slow development have kept second-round cornerback Jamar Taylor and third-rounder Will Davis from establishing firm roles in the secondary. Which means Miami’s only proven corner is Brent Grimes. If GM Dennis Hickey doesn’t want to address that position, he could look to linebacker.

 

15. *Chargers: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin 

 

*TRADE: The Chargers received the No. 15 pick; the 49ers received the No. 17 pick, the No. 117 pick (fourth-round) and a 2016 fifth-round pick

 

The Chargers did okay with Branden Oliver at running back last season, but obviously they want to thrive at this position. Behind an offensive line featuring massive left tackle King Dunlap, 2013 first-rounder D.J. Fluker and 315-pound ex-Bronco Orlando Franklin, this is a domineering power running game in the making.

 

Needed next: Antonio Gates can still play, but he’s aging and in the final year of his contract. No one would fault the Chargers for planning ahead. But it's not a good draft for tight ends, so don’t be surprised if they take the best defensive player available.

 

16. Texans: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest

 

Given that Kareem Jackson was re-signed this offseason, Johnson’s arrival could trigger the end of the Johnathan Joseph era after this season. Then again, Joseph, still an effective cover artist, can play the slot in nickel, so there might be room for all three first-round corners over the next few years. The Texans rely on complex coverage rules and principles. Given this, plus Johnson’s lack of weight and shoddy tackling, it could take a little while for the rookie to warrant significant snaps.

 

Needed next: Two positions that have long been strengths for the Texans have recently become very thin: defensive end (though J.J. Watt could count for two men) and linebacker. Offensively, the same can be said for wide receiver.

 

17. *49ers: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon 

 

*TRADE: See No. 15 for details

 

Some have complained about Armstead’s lack of consistency. He’ll have every chance to rectify this playing alongside Justin Smith and Darnell Dockett. And both veterans may very well not be here in 2016, so Armstead must develop in a hurry.

 

Needed next: A bona fide slot receiver or a pass-catching tight end to replace Vernon Davis after this season would give the Niners more options for a down-the-seams passing game. With the signing of Philip Wheeler alleviating much of the concerns about depth at inside linebacker (Michael Wilhoite and, if healthy, Navorro Bowman form a very sturdy starting tandem), the biggest defensive need is now cornerback.

 

18. Chiefs: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

 

It’s one thing to take a chance on a guy with off-field problems. But character concerns pertaining to on-field problems? That’s potentially much more disruptive to a football team. Of course, Andy Reid can call on the lessons he learned in dealing with Terrell Owens. Peters has the skills to be an elite cover corner, and he plays with great—albeit at times counterproductive—intensity. The Chiefs, with a blitz-heavy scheme under defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, play a ton of man coverage. Last season they didn’t have the corners to support that. Maybe now they will.

 

Needed next: Even with the signing of Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs could use a wide receiver. But given how well they manufactured ball movement through play design last season, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they ignored the position and restocked at center. The loss of the vastly underrated Rodney Hudson in free agency was a big one.

 

19. Browns: Cameron Erving, G/C, Florida St.

 

GM Ray Farmer’s intention for the offensive line apparently is greatness, not merely goodness. Already outstanding at center with Alex Mack and sturdy on the left side with tackle Joe Thomas and guard Joel Bitonio, the Browns will likely put Erving at right guard, replacing John Greco. The latter actually played okay as a run-blocker down the stretch last season, but he’s a limited athlete. By building a great offensive line, the Browns can stick with the Terrance West—Isaiah Crowell combo in the backfield and invest their resources elsewhere.

 

Needed next: Wide receiver and tight end, still. And given the depths of this need, the Browns will probably need a wide receiver and tight end after the draft, still.

 

20. Eagles: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC

 

It’s a shame the Eagles weren’t able to land Marcus Mariota. No NFL quarterback is better equipped to run Chip Kelly’s system than the former Heisman winner. That Mariota won’t be an Eagle tells you how hard a bargain the Titans were driving for the No. 2 pick.

 

The selection of Agholor makes the decision to let Jeremy Maclin leave a little more understandable. Agholor is a versatile playmaking wide receiver with lateral agility and acceleration. Those traits are excellent for Chip Kelly’s system. The Eagles badly needed a dynamic piece at this position, as Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper are methodical, somewhat plodding movers who must be aided by play design. Agholor’s punt-return prowess has been touted, but that could be moot given Darren Sproles' presence.

 

Needed next: The only hole on offense is at right guard, which is currently occupied by Allan Barbre, a player who is athletic enough to operate in Philly’s system but has lost job competitions throughout his career. On defense, every position is set, with safety being the one ripest for addressing. 

 

21. Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

 

Andrew Whitworth has insisted that he’ll be able to maintain his starting left tackle job, but the 33-year-old’s career could be prolonged by a move to guard, where he was absolutely dominant filling in on the left side late in 2013.

 

Needed next: In a 4-3 zone-blitzing scheme like Cincy’s, you can never have enough athletic defensive linemen or linebackers. The latter is in most need of replenishing, especially given Vontaze Burfict’s injury issues last season. 

 

22. Steelers: Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky

 

The Steelers have absolutely no one at cornerback, but look at their history: The last time they took a corner in the first round was Chad Scott in 1997. And the only second-round corner they’ve tabbed since then was Bryant McFadden (2005). Typically, the Steelers draft corners in Rounds 3-5 and develop them off the bench for a year or two. The team can operate this way as long as its defensive scheme generates pressure, which, for many years, it has. That hasn’t been the case lately, however. Dupree wasn’t asked to rush the passer a lot at Kentucky, but when he did, he showed raw talent. At nearly 270 pounds he’ll also have the size and stoutness to play the run in Pittsburgh’s base 3-4.

 

Needed next: Cornerback. Cornerback. Cornerback.

 

23. *Broncos: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri

 

*TRADE: The Broncos received the No. 23 pick; the Lions received the No. 28 pick, the No. 143 pick (fifth round), a 2016 fifth-round pick and offensive lineman Manny Ramirez

 

This isn’t quite as high (sorry) as Ray expected to go, but it’s a great situation for him. He will play opposite superstar Von Miller and, initially, come off the bench behind future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware. Some feel Ray has the best first step of all the pass rushers in this draft. If that’s the case, the Broncos can eschew blitzing under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and keep seven bodies in coverage.

 

Needed next: With Emmanuel Sanders replacing Wes Welker in the slot, the Broncos can focus on finding a tight end to fill Julius Thomas’s shoes. Of course, that tight end may not exist in this draft. What does exist are guards, tackles and centers, any of which could be tabbed to improve an offensive line that was up and down last season and has since lost inside starters Orlando Franklin and Manny Ramirez.

 

24. Cardinals: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida

 

In The MMQB podcast draft preview series, NFL analyst Greg Cosell identified Humphries as the most intriguing offensive tackle in this draft. A green talent with upside, Humphries joins a Cardinals offensive line that’s been average on its best days for most of the past two seasons. That won’t remain the case for long. In addition to Humphries, former 49ers guard Mike Iupati and 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Cooper are being welcomed into the starting lineup at guard this year.

 

Eventually Humphries could take over blind-side duties, kicking Jared Veldheer to right tackle, where Bobby Massie has been a liability in pass protection. This offense can’t afford leakages up front, as Bruce Arians uses more empty-set formations (no running backs in the backfield) than any other play-caller in the league.

 

Needed next: The Cardinals don’t want Jerraud Powers starting at corner opposite Patrick Peterson because: 1) Powers is vulnerable on the outside; and 2) Tyrann Mathieu would have to play the slot in nickel, where he'd put more strain on the knee he blew out in December of his rookie year. (There’s more multidirectional movement required of a slot corner than any other position.) Obtaining a man coverage corner to plug in opposite Peterson would allow Powers to handle the slot, where he’s a fine blitzer and physical cover man, and it’d keep Mathieu in centerfield, where he has a chance to develop into one of the league’s best. 

 

25. Panthers: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

 

It was ironic that Thomas Davis announced this pick. Davis is the man Thompson could one day replace. But that won’t be anytime soon, as the 32-year-old Davis is coming off another excellent season. Some have identified Thompson, a fluid pass defender who has the ability to cover tight ends, as a dime linebacker. But as long as Davis is going strong, Carolina will remain a nickel sub-package team on all passing downs. So where, then, will Thompson play? Some have wondered if he can be a safety. If so, we’ll soon see the last of Roman Harper.

 

Needed next: Kelvin Benjamin was a great pick last year, but a speedier wideout is needed on the other side, to threaten vertically and force defenses into tough decisions regarding the usage of their safety. 

 

• THE LINEBACKER WHO COULDN'T HIT: Emily Kaplan on Shaq Thompson's baseball career

 

26. Ravens: Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF

 

Even a casual football fan could see that Baltimore needed a wide receiver. With Torrey Smith now a Niner, soon-to-be 36-year-old Steve Smith was the only pass catcher on the team worth covering.

 

Needed next: Dennis Pitta (hip) is a major question mark, and Crockett Gillmore is a backup. This glaring need—tight end—is as obvious as the wide receiver need was.

 

27. Cowboys: Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut

 

Now we know what the Cowboys really think of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. It’s interesting that Jerry Jones keeps investing big in cornerbacks when his defense uses a zone-based scheme. Coordinator Rod Marinelli did, however, play a lot more man coverage down the stretch last season. Jones’s arrival could be an indication that Marinelli plans to continue this approach. What won’t continue is either the Carr tenure or the oft-injured Claiborne’s automatic enrollment in the nickel package. Slot ace Orlando Scandrick is still clearly the No. 1 corner.

 

Needed next: There are plenty of second- and third-round-caliber running backs in this draft. Tabbing one of them to replace DeMarco Murray as the beneficiary of the best O-line in football would be wise. If not on offense, then the pick must be directed to the defensive line, which remains thin in pass rushers given Greg Hardy’s 10-game suspension.

 

28. *Lions: Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke

 

*TRADE: See No. 23 for details

 

At the very least, the pick makes sense from the standpoint that the Lions literally didn’t have a guard on the roster other than Larry Warford, a 2013 third-round pick. With center Travis Swanson taken in the third round last year, Detroit has set its interior offensive line for the foreseeable future (assuming all these guys pan out). It’s not a big surprise that the Lions would invest this way; offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi worked for years with the Saints, a team that’s always put huge priority on guard and center.

 

Needed next: A rookie receiver could come in and immediately capture the No. 3 job, but with tight end Eric Ebron coming aboard last season and Golden Tate having a perfect style to complement Calvin Johnson, wide receiver would be a luxury pick. More prudent would be finding a cornerback who could allow defensive coordinator Teryl Austin more freedom with his coverage calls. 

 

29. Colts: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami

 

Idea for an NFL Network special: a simple foot race between Phillip Dorsett and T.Y. Hilton. You can even throw last year’s second-round wideout, Donte Moncrief, in there. He’d come in third but would have a respectable showing. However you slice it, the Colts now have the most explosive passing attack in the NFL, and it’s orchestrated by far and away the league’s best young quarterback.

 

Needed next: 2013 first-rounder Bjoern Werner has not developed into a quality pass rusher. (Not even close, really; he’s little more than an edge-setter at this point.) And 34-year-old Robert Mathis is coming off an Achilles injury. The free-agent acquisition of Trent Cole aids the pass rush, but another weapon is needed to complete it.

 

30. Packers: Damarious Randall, FS, Arizona St.

 

Expect Randall to play more cornerback than safety. He was used in both capacities in college. With the free agent departures of Davon House and Tramon Williams, the Packers are thin at outside corner, while Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett and Micah Hyde leave them loaded at safety. For Randall to garner significant snaps in Dom Capers' scheme, he must prove deft in man coverage on the perimeter.

 

Needed next: Defensive line is the thinnest position on the team even though GM Ted Thompson has invested a first-round pick here four times since 2009 (not to mention a few second- and third-rounders). But the nice thing about having built such a complete roster is Thompson can do what every drafter claims to do but rarely actually does: take the best player available. 

 

31. Saints: Stephone Anthony, ILB, Clemson

 

Inside ’backers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne played with tremendous speed in Rob Ryan’s system, but consistency became an issue in 2014. Lofton was dumped this past offseason. Hawthorne is still around but could be feeling some heat given that ex-Raven/Dolphin Dannell Ellerbe was recently acquired. Ellerbe, like Hawthorne, runs well. So does Anthony, who many feel is proficient enough in pass coverage to be a three-down ’backer. In this quarterback-driven era of fast-paced spread-out passing games, coverage aptitude for a linebacker is almost more important than run-stopping ability.

 

Needed next: Left guard. It would make sense for the Saints to keep adding to their defense, but if the season started today, the spot once filled by Ben Grubbs (now a Chief) would be filled by undrafted third-year pro Senio Kelemete, who has never seen meaningful NFL action.

 

32. Patriots: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

 

So we don’t get to applaud Bill Belichick for being a genius and trading down? Too bad. What’s not too bad is the Patriots finding Vince Wilfork’s replacement right away. Or, more appropriately, Wilfork’s possible replacement. Those are enormous shoes to fill. Not many young interior defensive linemen have finagled a heavy workload in Year 1 for the Patriots. (In fact, Wilfork was the last to do so.) Brown will have to be versed in a variety of fronts and be capable of playing multiple positions. If he’s not, Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga and Joe Vellano will see more action.

 

Needed next: Cornerback. The Patriots were foolish to let even a wildly expensive Darrelle Revis get away. Losing Brandon Browner also hurts. Currently, they don’t have the resources to play the man coverage base scheme that carried them to a Super Bowl last season.

 

No Round 1 Pick: Bills

 

With no franchise quarterbacks left, the Bills need to find a linebacker who can start right away. Currently Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham are the only experienced true ’backers on the roster—and Brown is entering just his second season (and obviously first in Rex Ryan’s scheme). After that, the Bills can start taking the best player available, as their depth chart is surprisingly bereft of other holes.

 

No Round 1 Pick: Seahawks

 

Sorry Doug Baldwin, but Seattle’s wide receiving corps is indeed very mediocre. (Super Bowl 49 confirmed this.) With last year’s second-round pick Paul Richardson coming off a January ACL injury, it wouldn’t be a major surprise if GM John Schneider went here again. Then again, Seattle has substantial needs along the offensive line, where the departures of guard James Carpenter (free agency) and Max Unger (traded to New Orleans as part of the Jimmy Graham deal) have left a chasm in the middle.

 

 


 

 

 

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