By David F. Cohen
Not even the NFL teams themselves have a good feel for what will happen tonight.
The draft’s predictability took a major hit via the revised rookie wage scale, which has led to far more draft-day trades, which fits perfectly into Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s intention to do everything in his power to move up for Marcus Mariota.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Florida State QB Jameis Winston
The writing has been on the wall. Winston best fits new Bucs OC Dirk Koetter’s vertical-passing offense and is ready to be installed as a Week 1 starter.
2. Philadelphia Eagles — Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
I think Chip Kelly finds a way to get this done. The Browns want Sam Bradford, the Titans need numerous roster reinforcements, and the Eagles have both picks and young players they’re willing to move. Philly also has the pieces in place to field a big-time running game, easing Mariota’s transition.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Alabama WR Amari Cooper
The Jaguars whiffed on a free-agent run at Randall Cobb. Bigger and a better athlete than Cobb, Cooper is a prototypical movement-Z bookend for X receiver Allen Robinson. Smartly, the Jaguars are intent on building up Blake Bortles’ supporting cast.
4. Oakland Raiders — USC DL Leonard Williams
First-year Raiders coach Jack Del Rio could envision Williams as his new John Henderson. GM Reggie McKenzie is a “stick-to-the-board” drafter and, in this scenario, Williams would very likely be his top player left.
5. Washington Redskins — Florida DE/OLB Dante Fowler
The Redskins need pass rushers badly. Fowler is arguably the safest, most NFL-ready edge defender in the draft. He would start immediately across from Ryan Kerrigan, allowing athletically-deficient 2014 second-round pick Trent Murphy to focus on setting the edge versus the run.
6. New York Jets — Clemson DE/OLB Vic Beasley
New Jets coach Todd Bowles’ defense is almost complete. Still missing is a speed rusher off the edge. Beasley must improve his pass-rush repertoire, but has all the tools to become a double-digit sack threat.
7. Chicago Bears — Iowa T/G Brandon Scherff
New Bears coach John Fox and OC Adam Gase showed a consistent willingness in Denver to move offensive linemen around at different positions, with the emphasis always on playing the best five. Some evaluators envision Scherff as a guard only, though he won the Outland Trophy as a left tackle. Regardless of his position, Scherff is going to be a quality NFL lineman.
8. Atlanta Falcons — Kentucky LB Bud Dupree
Dupree isn’t a natural pass rusher, but new Falcons coach Dan Quinn may believe he can mold Dupree into one. Dupree is more of a Jamie Collins type, a player who’s become a difference maker under Bill Belichick in New England. Atlanta decision makers Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff come from the Belichick tree.
9. New York Giants — Stanford OT Andrus Peat
Peat is the purest, highest-floor left tackle in the draft, and offers a higher ceiling than credited for as a 21-year-old with special feet. Adding Peat would solidify New York’s offensive line and allow incumbent RT Justin Pugh to kick inside to left guard, with Will Beatty manning the other tackle spot and C Weston Richburg and RG Geoff Schwartz rounding out the line.
10. St. Louis Rams — West Virginia WR Kevin White
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a team traded into this spot for White. If the Rams stand pat, White still makes sense as a physical run-after-catch monster with dominant contested-catch ability. He would start opposite Brian Quick with Stedman Bailey taking over in the slot and Kenny Britt providing depth as the Rams’ No. 4 receiver.
11. Minnesota Vikings — Michigan State CB Trae Waynes
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is a believer in physical bump-and-run coverage. Waynes is tall with blazing speed and tons of experience on an island. He would be a big upgrade on Terence Newman and Josh Robinson opposite RCB Xavier Rhodes.
12. Tennessee Titans — Georgia RB Todd Gurley
The Titans desperately want to trade out. I believe they will, projecting a draft-day trade with the Eagles working through the Browns. With Zach Mettenberger at quarterback, Tennessee must find a way to keep the chains moving. Gurley is talented and versatile enough to be the foundation of an NFL offense.
13. New Orleans Saints — Louisville WR DeVante Parker
After dealing Jimmy Graham, the Saints need a plus-sized red-zone presence and perimeter threat to open up the field for Brandin Cooks. I do think there is truth behind the rumors of New Orleans trying to trade up for Clemson’s Beasley. If they get stuck at 13, however, I don’t think the Saints can afford to pass on Parker.
14. Miami Dolphins — Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson
Johnson is a savvy, technically-sound cornerback prospect with experience playing both man and zone. Dolphins DC Kevin Coyle mixes coverages in the back end, making Johnson a fit at Miami’s most pressing area of need.
15. San Francisco 49ers — Oregon DE Arik Armstead
49ers GM Trent Baalke prioritizes length in all prospects. Armstead’s shortage of college production is a definite red flag, but he is a tremendous athlete for his size and has 33-inch arms to go with 10 1/2-inch hands.
16. Houston Texans — USC WR Nelson Agholor
Agholor is a safe bet to be a very good receiver in the NFL, if not a star. He can also return punts. If Texans GM Rick Smith works up the courage, I do believe Dorial Green-Beckham can be in play here.
17. San Diego Chargers — Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
With Philip Rivers trade rumors dying down, the Chargers should opt to build up their 33-year-old quarterback’s supporting cast. San Diego’s biggest need on either side of the ball is running back. The offense collapsed without a legitimate run game last year.
18. Kansas City Chiefs — UConn CB Byron Jones
Chiefs GM John Dorsey values measurables in prospects. Jones has measurables in spades and allowed zero touchdown passes into his coverage across seven games last season. Big, long, and freakishly explosive in the lower body, Jones profiles well as a press-man corner in DC Bob Sutton’s press-man scheme.
19. Cleveland Browns — Washington NT Danny Shelton
My sense is the Browns may end up drafting at neither No. 12 nor No. 19. Wherever they end up, I think Shelton will be on their radar. Cleveland couldn’t stop the run in 2014 and Shelton is easily this year’s top “zero-technique” nose. The Browns do well to come out of round one with a quarterback (Sam Bradford) and elite run plugger.
20. Tennessee Titans — Miami T/G Ereck Flowers
The Titans have a gaping hole at right tackle. Flowers has pass-protection flaws, but he is a pro-ready drive blocker and could be an excellent long-term bookend for second-year LT Taylor Lewan.
21. Cincinnati Bengals — Oregon OT Jake Fisher
I think Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi and Florida’s D.J. Humphries will also be in play at this pick. With LT Andrew Whitworth and RT Andre Smith both entering contract years, Cincinnati seems intent on selecting a left tackle of the future at No. 21.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers — LSU CB Jalen Collins
Collins has all the attributes of a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL. The Steelers might have the worst secondary depth chart in football. Expect them to select multiple defensive backs this weekend.
23. Detroit Lions — Texas DT Malcom Brown
In one free-agency period, the Lions went from having the NFL’s best interior line to a somewhat shaky one. I do like the signing of Tyrunn Walker, and believe Haloti Ngata has a few productive years left. I still think defensive tackle is a big need, and Brown offers a versatile skill set with the ability to win with both power and quickness.
24. Arizona Cardinals — Washington CB Marcus Peters
Off-field issues may render Peters a draft-day value pick. The Cardinals need to replace Antonio Cromartie. Peters is arguably the premier press corner in this year’s class, and Arizona relies heavily on press concepts in its secondary, allowing the defense to frequently blitz.
25. Carolina Panthers — Florida LT D.J. Humphries
I’m not buying Michael Oher as the Panthers’ 2015 left tackle. Humphries would be a much better option, allowing Oher to man a swing-backup role.
26. Baltimore Ravens — Central Florida WR Breshad Perriman
Perriman may very well go earlier. If not, I like his fit as a field-stretching replacement for Torrey Smith. Perriman is incredibly explosive and can “go get” vertical bombs. The Ravens must attack receiver in this draft, quite possibly taking two.
27. Dallas Cowboys — Nebraska DE/OLB Randy Gregory
It’s hard to imagine the pass-rush-deficient Cowboys passing on Gregory if he falls to 27. He’s the top pure edge rusher in the draft and Greg Hardy is a stopgap who will open the season on suspension. Gregory would be a dynamic complement to ascending sophomore DE Demarcus Lawrence.
28. Denver Broncos — Pittsburgh OT T.J. Clemmings
A former basketball player and defensive end, Clemmings needs a lot of technical work, but he is an ideal athlete with picturesque dimensions to play tackle in the NFL, particularly in a Gary Kubiak offense. The Broncos’ biggest need is right tackle.
29. Indianapolis Colts — Arizona State FS Damarious Randall
Randall had a bad game versus Oregon State, but is a quick-twitch playmaker who can be utilized at virtually any position in a secondary. The Colts’ biggest weakness on either side of the ball is safety. Alabama’s Landon Collins is most often mocked here, but Randall is a superior prospect.
30. Green Bay Packers — Mississippi State ILB Benardrick McKinney
There are rumors McKinney is on Dallas and Denver’s radar a few spots earlier in round one. If he slips to No. 30, GM Ted Thompson should turn in the card quickly. McKinney has similarities to Patriots ILB Dont’a Hightower and would satisfy the Packers’ most-glaring need. Another tempting option here is Utah safety/press corner Eric Rowe.
31. New Orleans Saints — Florida State C/G Cameron Erving
The Saints are hellbent on becoming more of a ball-control team in 2015. They need another offensive-line starter to make good on the money invested into Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller. Capable of playing all five positions up front, Erving would start at left guard in New Orleans. If Erving goes earlier and Missouri’s Shane Ray is still on the board here, Ray would be another great pick for the Saints.
32. New England Patriots — Oklahoma DT Jordan Phillips
Phillips is a massive human being with special movement ability for a person his size. Patriots coach Bill Belichick values versatility in all players, and Phillips is capable of playing almost every position on the defensive line.