The NFL Draft is always an exciting time of year, where the college studs of this past season get their chance at NFL stardom. Alas, there is no such thing as a sure-fire thing in the draft. There are always far too many question marks surrounding prospects and their respective teams. These are among the most notable.
Who will be the better quarterback: Winston or Mariota?
Might as well get this one out of the way.
How many times have we seen two quarterbacks, just about equal in terms of skill and draft stock, that are complete polar opposites of each other? Both are Heisman-winning QBs with a lot of success under their belts, yet have totally different playing styles. Winston has drawn Peyton Manning references with his football IQ and less than stellar running ability, while Mariota draws Michael Vick references with his incredible athletic ability and mobile prowess. I don’t know how you get much more different than Manning vs. Vick.
Mariota threw less interceptions (14) in his entire 3-year career at Oregon than Winston threw last season alone (18). For someone being praised for his football IQ, that doesn’t look too great for Winston. And let’s not even get started on his off-field IQ. *shudder*
Watching Mariota’s interviews, he seems a bit shy, while Winston appears to be the better speaker. This may not seem important, but when you’re the starting player at the most important position in football, people will turn to you and expect you to be a vocal and confident leader. So which personality would you rather have? The shy kid with the better off-field record, or the immature and loudspoken one who steals crab legs.
In my honest opinion, if neither truly changes those traits, it is much easier to feign confidence than it is to feign intelligence.
Answer: Winston for now, but Mariota will be the better quarterback in a few years.
Will Leonard Williams actually emerge as the best defensive player from this draft?
This is not a knock on Williams’ talent and potential, but rather a question of fit wherever he ends up. Most defensive rookies see their demise when they are asked to play out of position or are demanded too much of off the bat. Ideally, you draft a high-ceiling prospect who fits your scheme perfectly and give him time to develop. The amount of variables that go into a successful rookie campaign goes far beyond success in the collegiate level, though Williams had plenty of that.
Last year, defensive tackle Aaron Donald went 13th overall to the St. Louis Rams, plugging him into a defensive line that already featured Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Again, no knock on the talent, but the fortunate position Donald was in combined with his skill is what led to him being Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Leonard Williams is a virtual lock for the top 5 in this year’s draft, and with the news swirling that Tampa Bay is dead set on taking Jameis Winston, this means that Williams will likely end up on the Titans, Jaguars, Raiders, or Redskins. None of those teams scream “perfect fit” for Williams, but that’s not to say he can’t make it work.
Answer: While Leonard Williams is the best defensive prospect in this draft, he will most likely not emerge as the best defensive player. However, he will still get the opportunity to put up solid numbers, as his talent should hold up on the next level.
Will Todd Gurley regain his incredible form after ACL surgery?
Based on talent alone, Todd Gurley would be a top 5 pick in this year’s draft. However, a torn ACL suffered in November, 2014 that he is still recovering from has considerably lowered his draft stock. Yet he still is predicted to be selected within the top 15 picks of the draft. Everyone knows what Gurley can do when healthy. A massive running back with excellent vision and breakaway speed, Gurley has the opportunity to be a once-in-a-decade player at his position.
But the key words are “when healthy”. Running backs don’t have an old time. Most start declining in their late 20’s, and those are usually the ones who have been able to ward off major injury for most of their lives. Many will point to Adrian Peterson’s electric 2012 campaign, in which he ran for over 2,000 yards after tearing his ACL the previous season, as proof that ACL surgeries can be overcome. This should be considered the exception, as AP has already solidified his case for one of the greatest NFL running backs of all time, while Gurley hasn’t even played a professional snap yet.
Most running back’s declines come from continuous wear and tear, and Gurley has already taken a beating in college in addition to the surgery. And even with all of this against him, Todd Gurley is just such a phenomenal talent that you have to believe he’ll overcome it.
Answer: Yes. He may go into an early decline, but when he is healthy, he will be an absolutely dominant force. He is still young and will be able to make a full recovery, as he is currently expected to be ready to go by the season opener.
How far will Dorial Green-Beckham slide?
One of the most intriguing prospects in recent memory, DGB will certainly garner interest from several teams every second his name remains on the board. Checking into the combine at an absolutely stunning 6 foot 5 inches and 237 pounds, with a 4.49 40 yard dash, DGB has all of the necessary tools to be the best receiver in the NFL. Based on talent and upside alone, DGB would be a top 5 pick easily. However, off-field incidents have completely derailed his draft stock.
After being kicked off of the Missouri football team, he enrolled in Oklahoma, where he did not play a single game. While that may worry some scouts, his impressive showing at the combine should put any concerns about the ability to play at rest. He was released form Missouri for reportedly pushing a woman down several flights of stairs. That is what should concern scouts and GMs, as it doesn’t matter how enticing a player is if he can never even see the field.
However, DGB has the ability to completely take over a game and utterly dominate his matchups, as showcased by the available film from 2013. He has performed well in interviews, showing that he is a changed man who wishes to put it all behind him and play the sport he loves. While Breshad Perriman from UCF and Nelson Agholor from USC are both promising receivers that will most likely be available late in the first round, any team looking to truly make an impact on their receiving core and make life easier for their QB should definitely give him more of a look than the media hype has.
Answer: Due to off-field concerns and teams with receiver needs more willing to draft the safe receivers first, DGB will most likely not be selected within the first half of the first round. However, due to the sheer limitless upside of DGB, he should not fall out of the first round either.
Best possible and realistic fits:
Who will be the third QB taken in this draft?
Follow-up question: when will the third QB be taken?
Follow-up follow-up question: will this supposed quarterback ever start a football game in his life?
Aside from fan-favorites Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the quarterback class seems to be unusually weak. There is practically a 0.01% chance (because it’s the draft and you never know) that another quarterback besides the two mentioned is chosen in the first round. The second round is most likely when one will be chosen, but the available QBs at that point are nowhere near NFL ready. If Winston and Mariota have question marks surrounding their NFL future, just imagine the speculation and lack of hope for guys like Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty. Both of these guys have several holes in their games, but still have potential to succeed.
The teams who are most likely candidates to select one of the second tier quarterbacks in the 2nd round include the Jets, Browns, Bears, Redskins, and Rams. Odds are that one of those teams selects a quarterback to add competition to their incumbents. The Eagles are also a sleeper pick in the first or second round, depending on how much chaos Chip Kelly feels like stirring for his critics in the media. Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez can’t be relied on, and Tim Tebow is, well, Tim Tebow. If the Eagles fail to make a move for Mariota, as many suggest that they should, a different quarterback could definitely be on their radar.
Answer: Brett Hundley from UCLA seems to be the best of a bad situation. He’ll most likely be taken in the early-mid second round.
Which team will Marcus Mariota end up with?
The Tennessee Titans currently hold the 2nd overall pick, and with Winston all but taken already, Mariota is an enticing option. The Titans have already stated that they see Zach Mettenberger as their starting quarterback in 2015, but it isn’t like they were truly invested in him. They would not be blowing up any kind of project if they selected Mariota, who despite not playing a down in the NFL, clearly shows more promise and potential in the NFL.
It’s also very likely that the Titans trade this pick to a team looking to upgrade at quarterback . At this point, the Washington Redskins can detonate the RGIII project without any remorse if they wanted to. They could give him yet another chance, or accept that he is injury prone and unable to succeed as a pocket passer in the NFL and restart once again. Some may say that it would not be wise to pick a player very similar to the one you are booting out, but the Redskins could learn from their mistakes and handle Mariota better than they did with RGIII. Mariota also shows much more poise and responsibility with the ball, as shown by a ludicrous 105-14 TD-INT ratio in his collegiate career.
Washington could trade up for the Titans’ pick and select their new quarterback of the future. Or, if the Titans draft Leonard Williams, Mariota could fall to the Redskins and they could select him then.
Rumors have also been swirling, and simultaneously being shut down, that the Chargers are interested in dealing Philip Rivers for the no. 2 pick to draft Mariota. These rumors have been appearing out of nowhere lately, and while the trade doesn’t seem to make much sense for either side, the rumors persist nonetheless. If what we hear is true, then it is very possible that Mariota becomes a Charger.
If the Titans and Redskins both decide to address other areas of need, the Jets will have a golden opportunity to snag Mariota. The Geno Smith experiment has been a complete utter failure for the Jets, as Smith has shown that he is unable to be a consistent starting-caliber quarterback. It could be blamed on the Jet’s lackluster receiving core or Rex Ryan’s inability to coach an offense, but odds are that the Jets don’t want to take another year with Smith under center to find out. The Jets could also trade up for the no. 2 pick or the no. 5 pick if Mariota is still available by then to secure their short term future.
Answer: While all of the situations are possible and in the best interest of each team (except the Chargers one. Seriously, don’t know how those rumors started.), the most likely scenario is that the Titans keep their pick and use it to draft Marcus Mariota as the solution at quarterback.
Will the Browns do something right, or will they screw up again?
Every year, the Browns manage to destroy their future even further. They’ve become a laughingstock in the NFL community due to their consistent mediocrity or worse. Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, and Johnny Manziel highlight the list of recent busts the Browns have selected in the first round. They also traded away the 4th overall pick last year to the Bills in return for the 8th overall pick and the next year’s first rounder. The Bills selected stud receiver Sammy Watkins, the Browns selected sub-par cornerback Justin Gilbert.
Now the Browns have 2 first round picks, a chance to right their mistakes. Neither of those picks is within the top 10 (12th & 19th), but this draft is deep enough and versatile enough that the Browns should be able to shed the humiliating label they’ve been given.
No disrespect to the Browns, I personally think they have a solid core aside from the QB situation. But their recent draft mistakes have taken a huge toll on their current situation. Their inability to find a quarterback has kept them in mediocrity, too bad for the playoffs and too ‘good’ to have a true shot at landing a top draft quarterback. Barring a huge slide for either Winston or Mariota means the Browns will be scraping the garbage bin for a quarterback, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve in other areas.
Answer: With 2 picks in the first round and a diverse group of talented players that should be available, it would be very difficult for the Browns to not get a solid selection from the first round. With that said, it’s the Browns, and you should be able to count on at least one of their picks warranting a head scratch or a facepalm.