So, who's ready for our fist mock draft of the Draft Season? Well, ready or not, here it comes.
The draft slots of the first 24 picks are set, but the draft stock of the various prospects are far from set. The Giants will be picking 9th overall, and I am using the official Big Blue View Top 100 Big Board for my picks.
This is all my work. Invictus and Jesse will be coming out with their own first mocks drafts soon enough. So, without further ado, let's get to it!
1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Assuming both Mariota and Winston enter the 2015 draft, the debate is going to rage over which one the Bucs should take. If it's me, I'm taking Mariota every time. As intriguing as his physical skills are -- and they are -- what draws me to him is his intangibles. The calm yet competitive demeanor, and the "Community First" mentality of the culture he was raised in. Two excellent qualities in a starting QB, and I think he will succeed in the NFL.
2) Tennessee Titans - Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
Personally, I'm not sure about Winston. The talent is there, and when he is making good decisions, he absolutely looks like a franchise QB. He comes from a "pro-style" offense, has an NFL frame and NFL arm talent, and excellent athleticism for a guy pocket passer. The problem is that his decision making is spotty both on and off the field, and he has put his team in bad situations. I would be afraid that Winston is another Jay Cutler. Elite upside, but a potential coach killer. But, considering their other options, the Titans can't pass on him.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars - Leonard Williams (DT, USC)
Williams is the top player on the board, and might be the top player in the draft. The Jags need to protect Blake Bortles, but they could land a good bookend for Luke Joeckel in free agency or in the second round. What they need more than anything is to raise the talent level of their roster, and adding the best player in the draft is the best way to do that.
4) Oakland Raiders - Randy Gregory (EDGE, Nebraska)
Sio Moore and Khalil Mack are turning into a very dangerous duo, but adding Gregory turns the pressure dial up to 11. I have Gregory classified as an "Edge Rusher", and he probably has the ability to play on the line or at linebacker at the next level. He can fit whatever defense Oakland's new staff decides to install.
5) Washington Redskins - Andrus Peat (OT, Stanford)
It was very tempting to go with Shane Ray here. But, I decided to protect their QB ... whoever that is. Unless he announces that he is going to stay in school, Peat is my top pure tackle on the board, and he'll make a ridiculous bookend with Trent Williams.
6) New York Jets - Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
Will Geno Smith be the Jet's QB? Maybe Matt Simms? Well, whoever it is, they're going to need somebody better than Eric Decker to throw to. The Jets wanted Odell Beckham last year, but they get a good (albeit more expensive) consolation prize this year.
7) Chicago Bears - Brandon Scherff (OT, Iowa)
Whether they like it or not, the Bears are pretty securely tied to Jay Cutler right now, so they might as well protect him. Scherff is the highest OT on the BBV Big Board, and a good value here. The pick has a bit of irony for me, because I think Scherff reminds me of Gabe Carimi coming out and the Bears' line would be in much better shape had he panned out for them.
8) Atlanta Falcons - Shane Ray (EDGE, Missouri)
This is as far as Ray drops -- just in front of the G-Men. The Falcons have two big needs: Defense, and protecting Matt Ryan. But, Ray is an elite prospect on our big board, so it's an easy pick to take him over La'El Collins.
9) New York Giants - Shaq Thompson (OLB, Washington)
Thompson is smaller than the Giants usually like at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, but he makes up for that with tremendous athleticism, a knack for making big plays, and a high enough football IQ to be a 3-way player. He has the athleticism to guard running backs and tight ends over the middle, good blitzing ability, and is a reliable tackler. He's too small to consistently take on offensive linemen directly, but with a defensive tackle rotation bolstered in free agency, he'll be able to use the skills that let him notch over 50 stops and four defensive touchdowns this season while splitting time on the offense.
He is also a great gunner and will help bolster the coverage units.
10) St. Louis Rams - Marcus Peters (CB)
The Rams need a QB that can stay healthy, but there isn't one here worth the 10th overall pick. Of course, they could reach for Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, or Shane Carden, but instead I'm providing some support to their superb front seven. Peters is the best all-around corner in this draft, and a solid top-10 talent. So why is he in the 3rd tier of our big board? Well, he was dismissed from the Washington Huskies after reported repeated incidents of insubordination, most recently after being criticized by coaches for headbutting an opposing receiver.
While that might knock him down -- or off -- most teams' boards, it could be a point in his favor with Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams, who's defenses always play on the ragged edge.
11) Minnesota Vikings - T.J. Clemmings (OT, Pittsburgh)
What happened to Matt Kalil? He looked promising at left tackle up until this season, when his play fell off the table. Whatever the reason, the Vikings need the whole line to step up for keep Teddy Bridgewater to making plays for them. If the Vikings think that Kalil can rebound, this pick changes to La'El Collins, but as it stands, Clemmings is the natural left tackle.
12) Cleveland Browns - DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
The Browns need to make up their mind between Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, and Connor Shaw. They also need a wide receiver they can count on to be their number 1. I can't help them with the first, although I think I'd actually lean towards Shaw, but I can get them a receiver who can make plays for them. I am very high on Parker, and when all is said and done, I haven't ruled out the possibility that he could jump Amari Cooper. He is a physical freak with a 35+ vertical and arms as long as JPP's to go with natural hands, open field speed, and advanced (for a college receiver) route running.
13) New Orleans Saints - Dante Fowler Jr (EDGE, Florida)
The New Orleans Saints dropped from one of the top defenses in the league to one of the worst in the span of a single off-season. If Rob Ryan returns as the Saints' defensive coordinator, the versatile Fowler would fit perfectly. He is a talented, athletic, and disruptive player who can win as a defensive end or as a linebacker.
14) Miami Dolphins - Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan St)
The Dolphins never blitz. That is because they can easily generate pressure with just their front four. And lucky for them, because they could really use some help in the back end. Waynes is the top CB on the board, and a great cover man. He is a bit slight, and that could hurt him against bigger receivers and in the run game, but he shows toughness and solid technique.
15) San Francisco 49ers - Michael Bennett (DT, Ohio St)
Justin Smith is strongly considering retirement, and that would be a huge blow to the 9ers' defense. He is the engine that makes them go, and Aldon Smith never seems to show up when Justin isn't on. Bennett is undersized for the traditional 3-technique role, but he could fit perfectly as the 5-technique (defensive end) in San Francisco's 3-4 front.
16) Houston Texans - La'El Collins (OT, LSU)
The Texans seem set on having Ryan Mallett as their QB in 2015. If so, they're going to need to upgrade their protection. Mallett has a massive arm, but he is spectacularly immobile. Collins is an absolute mauler of a left tackle, but he has the frame to excel at guard or right tackle. His feet should also let him play in Houston's zone blocking scheme.
17) San Diego Chargers - Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
The Chargers' defense generally good in 2014. They were 13th in points and ninth in yards given up -- granted they got to play the Raiders twice -- but they started to break down in the second half of the season. Part of that could be attributed to injuries, but they could also us a new anchor for their defensive line. Shelton is massive and amazingly disruptive for a guy his size.
18) Kansas City Chiefs - Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
It has been more than a year since a KC receiver has scored a receiving touchdown. Kevin White scored 10 of them this year. He has great size, enough athleticism, and is very physical catching the ball. He shows good hands and body control, and was one of the premier play-makers in college football.
19) Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo Bills) - Benardrick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
Cleveland's middle linebackers are Karlos Dansby and Tank Carder ... I think they could use an upgrade. McKinney is a big, athletic linebacker who can be a beast going down hill and make plays laterally. He isn't at his best in coverage, but playing inside in a three man front will help disguise that.
20) Philadelphia Eagles - Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
The Eagles' secondary needs help. Collins is one of the top defensive backs in the draft. He is most likely a strong safety at the next level, but he can cover over the middle. He's also an excellent special teams player and helps to make a dangerous unit even better.
21) Cincinnati Bengals - Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona St.)
The loss of A.J. Green illustrated the lack of depth in the Bengals receiving corps a couple times this year. They don't have much behind Green and Sanu -- who is a talented No. 2, but not good enough to be The Guy. Strong is perfectly named, he is big, strong, and physical. He isn't overwhelmingly athletic, but he shows terrific body control, hands, and toughness making the catch. He reminds me a bit of Alshon Jeffery, and could bring a real physical element to the Bengals' receiving corps.
22) Pittsburgh Steelers - Derron Smith (S, Fresno St.)
Ryan Clark is gone, Troy Polamalu is probably getting near the end of his career, and if you don't have a safety in this league, it suddenly becomes a very high-value position. Personally, I prefer Cody Prewitt, but Smith might be preferred by pro scouts. He is smaller than Prewitt, but rangier and every bit as much of a play-maker. Smith is not afraid to come down and get dirty in run support, but he should lock down the back end for the Steelers.
23) Detroit Lions - Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
The Lions could be losing Ndamukong Suh as well as Nick Fairley this offseason. If they re-sign Suh, they will likely be forced to let the talented but injured Fairly -- who has also struggled with weight issues -- walk. Brown comes in and provides a powerful and athletic counterpart to Suh. He has the size to hold down the nose tackle spot, but also more than enough athleticism to play the pass rusher as well.
24) Arizona Cardinals - Nate Orchard (EDGE, Utah)
What the Arizona Cardinals defense -- really the team as a whole -- did this season is nothing short of amazing. Putting on one of the most fearsome defensive performances in the league while losing many of their best players is no mean feat. But, they will need to restock their defense moving forward. Orchard has a terrific first step, good bend, and very active hands as a pass rusher, and the versatility to line up as a linebacker or defensive end. He should make a great successor to Jon Abraham.
25) Carolina Panthers - Tyrus Thompson (OT, Oklahoma)
The Panthers have rediscovered their identity: Run. The. Football. To help with that they are taking a mauler of an offensive tackle. Thompson is absolutely massive at 6-5, 335 pounds, but shows surprising quickness, agility, and flexibility for such a big tackle. He should get a shot at the left tackle position, but if that doesn't work out, he can be an excellent right tackle.
26) Baltimore Ravens - Sammie Coates (WR, Auburn)
Jacoby Jones is getting up there in years, and Steve Smith Sr. is probably going to have to retire some day. Probably, but don't tell him I said that. With Joe Flacco's arm, and their re-discovered rushing attack, the Ravens get Coates to blow the top off of defenses and give Torrey Smith -- assuming he is re-signed -- room to work underneath. Coats is a height/weight/speed phenom reminiscent of Julio Jones, but his route running is very unpolished coming out. Luckily, they don't need him to do anything fancy.
27) Indianapolis Colts - Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Ahmad Bradshaw gave Andrew Luck a running game, but when he got injured (again), it disappeared, and the potent Colts offense got much less consistent. They might be hesitant to spend another first round pick on a running back after getting burned by Trent Richardson, but Gordon is a completely different kind of back. His vision, balance, agility, and acceleration should translate well to the NFL. Add in his Jamaal Charles-like versatility, and the Colts' two TE set just got very, very dangerous.
28) Dallas Cowboys - P.J. Williams (CB, Florida State)
The Cowboys have invested a lot in their secondary, but when they're not allowed to hold, they are still vulnerable. Williams could get knocked out of the first round by off the field issues, but he is a talented and athletic corner. Besides, when has Jerry Jones shied away from troubled players?
29) Green Bay Packers - Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami)
I was tempted to go with a high-upside TE to give A - A - Ron more weapons. Instead, I'm going to bolster their defense and provide a successor to AJ Hawk. The Pack struggle stopping the run, and attacking downhill is where Perryman excels. He's a physical tackler and an excellent leader.
30) New England Patriots - Devin Funchess (WR, Michigan)
This is such a Belichick pick it's almost funny. In an odd turn, Funchess converted to wide receiver from tight end. At 6-6, 235 pounds he presents a massive target, a mismatch nightmare, and a dangerous downfield threat. He is better than Michigan's offense allowed him to be, and his interesting history could turn quite a few teams off. But Belichick has made a living out of creating positions for unconventional players, and letting him get his hands on Funchess could make the rest of the league look pretty foolish.
31) Denver Broncos - Alvin Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
DeMarcus Ware is getting up there in years, and big deals for Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas could force them to let Von Miller go. In short, The Denver defense needs to start planning for the future. They could really use an inside linebacker, but there isn't good value left on the board, so they take the pass rusher instead. Bud Dupree is a versatile player and a great defensive end. He could wind up jumping up boards as the draft gets closer, making this a steal.
32) Seattle Seahawks - Cedric Ogbuehi (OT, Texas A&M)
If the Seahawks have had a weakness this year, it has been their offensive line. It's been beat up and inconsistent. Ogbuehi will likely be looked at as a left tackle first, but he struggled there this past year. He has a prototypical frame for an NFL tackle, and shows good ability in pass protection and run blocking from the right side. He could slide over with some more work, but with Russell Wilson, and athletic lineman is appreciated wherever he lands.
Well, there you have it. I tried to stay true to our top 100 Big Board, but I also took some license and reached a bit, because teams always do.
I could have gone three ways with the Giants' pick. I could easily have taken La'El Collins to finish off the offensive line. But while I think he will make a great guard at the next level, there will be guards who are almost as good available on Day 2. I also could have taken DeVante Parker and taken Eli Manning from one of the most under-equipped Franchise Quarterbacks, to one of the best. However, I am intrigued by the potential of Corey Washington, Soup Harris, Chris Harper, and Juron Criner, as well as the potential to bring back Jerrel Jernigan. There could be some dangerous weapons on the back end of this roster.
I decided on Thompson because he is probably one of the most complete linebackers in this class, and provides a tremendous athletic boost to the defense. The Giant will need to upgrade their defensive tackle rotation to keep him clean to make plays, but they needed to do that anyway. The Giants have long been gashed by tight ends and running backs over the middle, and Thompson goes a long way toward fixing that.
While it is a bit frustrating to see him playing offense rather than defense, the fact that he is able to understand both sides of the ball, grasp both playbooks, be athletic enough to excel at both positions, and dedicated enough to be a 2-way player (as well as a big special teams contributor) all speak to sterling intangibles.
This is awfully high praise, but Thompson could become the defensive "Odell Beckham".