- 1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Despite questions about his attitude, Jameis Winston has shown the NFL that he is well worthy of the top spot in the draft because of his high football knowledge and elite throwing accuracy. Winston has been drawing Peyton Manning comparisons throughout his journey through the draft process, showing the amount of potential that he possesses. Winston followed Johnny Manziel to become the second freshman ever to win the Heisman while at Florida State, showing he is more than capable of leading a team. I would say if off the field issues weren’t an issue for Winston then he would be a lock for the number one pick, however he should be a lock anyway.
- 2) Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DE, USC
Despite all of the trade rumors flying around, Tennessee would be smart to simply keep the pick to pick Leonard Williams; a player that has been slotted as the best defensive player in the draft since day one. Williams is a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end, playing alongside former USC Trojan, Jurrell Casey. Williams can be utilized as either a run stopper or pass rusher, and his versatility allows him to play anywhere along the line. The Titans also have the option of trading down here for a team like San Diego or Cleveland to move up to draft Marcus Mariota, yet with potential shown in Zach Mettenberger, the Titans would be smart to not trade down for an aging quarterback to put in a rebuilding setting. With Williams showing to be a great fit for Tennessee, the Titans shouldn’t be hesitant in drafting the best player on the board.
- 3) Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida
Fowler’s draft stock has skyrocketed since the beginning of the collegiate season, and now shows to be one of the best defensive players in the draft. Jacksonville needs help all across their defense, and their start to progressing towards building a better defense can start with Fowler. Fowler may end up being the best pass rusher out of the draft, and from what he has shown throughout the season he is just getting better and better. Last year the Jags made a mistake with the third overall pick, and they can’t afford to do it again by passing on Fowler.
- 4) Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Cooper showed the nation last season that he was the best receiver in college football, and now he is the best receiver in the draft. With the Raiders it is always up in the air with their pick; last season they hit a homerun with Khalil Mack, and they could again with Amari Cooper. Cooper would be able to provide Derek Carr with a talented young receiver to start building chemistry with, much like Andy Dalton and AJ Green in Cincinnati. Cooper has an elite mix of size, speed, and hands that makes him a dangerous threat anywhere on the field when the ball is in the air. Trading down is another tempting option for Oakland with Mariota still on the board, and they should take the trade especially if they would be able to stay in the top ten to possibly still land Cooper.
- 5) Washington Redskins: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Although I would love to see Mariota reunited with Chip Kelly, Washington is the much more likely destination for the second potential franchise quarterback in the draft. Washington is even in the talks for potentially trading up to grab Mariota if they believe the team can’t get him at five, but there is no way the Redskins should break the bank like they did with Robert Griffin III. Mariota is the obvious choice for the Redskins here if he is available, but if he isn’t then the obvious move should be to trade down (assuming nothing crazy happens that lands Winston or Williams here). The Redskins are obviously hoping for Mariota, but it may end up the same way as RG3 in Washington.
- 6) New York Jets: Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri
The Jets don’t usually have anything to brag about, however their current defensive front seven is, and Ray could make it even better. Ray is yet another output of what seems to be an infinite amount of elite pass rushers from Missouri, joining Aldon Smith, Kony Ealy, and Sheldon Richardson (I know, not a pass rusher but you get the point). The only issue with Ray is that he would be playing outside linebacker, where he is a better fit as a defensive end. He will need to add speed to be the same pass rusher he was in Missouri; however it helps having Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harrison clearing the way for much easier backfield tackles and one-on-one matchups in the trenches. Ray will add another young threat to the Jets’ front seven, and he could thrive early with the Jets as opposed to other teams in the NFL.
- 7) TRADE: Houston Texans (from Chicago Bears): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
- Houston trades 2015 1st (16th overall) and 3rd (82nd overall) round picks and Jonathon Joseph to Chicago
- Chicago gives up 2015 1st round pick (7th overall)
The first trade of the draft comes at pick seven, when the Texans trade up looking for the heir to Andre Johnson. After the departure of long term Bears’ star Charles Tillman, Chicago could use an extra experienced talent in the secondary to go along side one of the top defensive rookies from last season in Kyle Fuller. Also as a rebuilding team, Chicago can use every pick they can get their hands on.
After the loss of Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins is Houston’s only reliable receiver, and the best receivers that will most likely be available at their original pick are iffy as true starting receivers. Losing Joseph and a third round pick is nothing compared to what kind of player White has the potential to be, especially considering Joseph’s contract expires at the end of the season. White has the speed of a slot receiver, yet the size of a red zone target, making him a playmaking threat on every snap. White was extremely productive last season at West Virginia, and was in the top ten in yards in the nation last season. White is the perfect complement to Hopkins in Houston, and it should also help whoever will be starting at quarterback throughout the season.
- 8) Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Beasley has been one of the most productive players in the nation throughout his four seasons at Clemson, totaling more career sacks than anyone else in the draft. The Falcons have been in desperate need of a pass rusher for a while now, and Vic Beasley is more NFL ready than the remaining pass rushers. Beasley does need to bulk up to be able to compete with the offensive linemen of the NFL, as well as avoid injuries. Danny Shelton and Randy Gregory are also in contention for this pick, but Beasley’s experience and position make him the best candidate for the Falcons.
- 9) New York Giants: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
Scherff is the best offensive lineman in the draft, and the Giants can’t afford to pass up on a lineman with his talent. The Giants weren’t that bad in pass protection last season (ranked in the top 50% of the NFL in sacks taken), but their run game was horrendous, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry (30th in the NFL). Scherff would play at guard for the Giants despite playing tackle at Iowa; the tackle to guard transition is becoming more common, as last season viewers saw Zack Martin and Joel Bitonio do excellent jobs with their respective teams. Scherff could really give the Giants running game a boost, and with a free agent pickup of Shane Vereen the Giants could really turn things around next season.
- 10) Saint Louis Rams: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
This was a tough pick for me to figure out considering the top two receivers are off the board, but with Parker being a top ten talent and a desperate need at that position for the Rams, Parker is the pick here over an offensive lineman. Parker was the star player at Louisville last season after Teddy Bridgewater’s departure, and has the big game experience that lacks in many of the receivers in this class (besides Amari Cooper). He has a very long, lean body that could use a little more bulk to compete with the physicality of some of the defensive backs at the professional level. Andrus Peat is also in the mix with this pick, however it would be a bit of a reach, whereas Parker could even go higher than ten. If the Rams have the ability to trade down into the mid to late teens then that may be their best option, but Parker is another tremendous option and an immediate upgrade for the Rams.
- 11) Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Although the Vikings would have liked to reunite the Bridgewater, Parker combo from Louisville, Waynes is the best consolation prize for them at eleven. Waynes is a bit of a reach, but it fills possibly the biggest need other than receiver, and the cornerback position is extremely thin compared to the vast talent at receiver. Waynes fits perfectly in Mike Zimmer’s defense, which lacks depth behind starting corner Xavier Rhodes. Waynes is the safest move here for the Vikings, but if DeVante Parker is available at this pick then the Vikings, especially Teddy Bridgewater, should be overzealous.
- 12) Cleveland Browns (From Buffalo): Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
The Browns have built themselves a reputation for trading down in the draft, however there is no way they should pass on Danny Shelton. Danny Shelton is almost an exact replica of Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe; both players are enormous, and in addition to taking up space in the trenches to help pass rushers, they also have a knack for getting to the quarterback. Shelton helped lead the Huskies to the second most sacks in the NCAA last season, recording nine sacks himself. Shelton is an easy pick here for the Browns, and could easily wind up being the defensive rookie of the year.
- 13) New Orleans Saints: Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
Despite Randy Gregory continuing to fall, Bud Dupree is a much better fit for the Saints. Dupree is a much larger, stronger outside linebacker compared to Gregory. The Saints use more power in their pass rush than speed, hence Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette. Dupree has a rare combination of both size and speed for an outside linebacker, and also brings leadership, as he was the star player on a rather lack luster Kentucky team. Dupree is the perfect fit in New Orleans, and will serve as an immediate upgrade over Parys Haralson.
- 14) Miami Dolphins: La’el Collins, OL, LSU
Collins is a perfect fit in Miami. He is versatile so he can play either the guard or tackle position, something the Dolphins would love, considering the injuries to their linemen the past few seasons. Although Gurley is available at this spot the Dolphins would be smart to take Collins, because Collins can boost Lamar Miller’s value, and is a lower risk than Gurley considering Gurley’s durability issues at Georgia. With the Dolphins being right on the brink of making the playoffs, they can’t afford to take a risk on a player like Gurley, when Collins is the safest player and serves a stronger need than running back. Wide receiver is another option here for the Dolphins, however with the top three prospects off the board, the Dolphins should go with Collins.
- 15) San Francisco 49ers: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Armstead is the best 3-4 defensive end in the draft (besides Leonard Williams depending on where he lands), and with the loss of Ray McDonald and most likely Justin Smith the 49ers need all the help they can get up front. After being one of the best defenses in the league for a handful of seasons, the losses of McDonald, Smith, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, and potentially Aldon Smith, have left the 49ers in one tough situation. Armstead is a great fit in San Francisco, and excels as an elite run stopper. He is inconsistent with his pass rushing skills, but that’s why the 49ers have players like Ahmad Brooks. Despite adding Armstead the 49ers will still need several more players to get their defense to how it used to be.
- 16) Chicago Bears (From Houston): Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
With the heartbreaking loss of Brandon Marshall in the offseason for Bears’ fans, Chicago needs to find a second string receiver to accommodate Alshon Jeffery in the Bears’ inconsistent passing attack. Perriman will immediately become the number two receiver for whoever will end up as the Bears’ quarterback, and will help relieve Jeffery from all the double coverage he will have to take on. Perriman is not as highly touted as Kevin White, but could end up being just as good. Perriman resembles a poor man’s Julio Jones, a large frame with breakaway speed and the ability to catch in traffic makes Perriman the prototypical receiver he is. However like Kelvin Benjamin last season for the Carolina Panthers, Perriman won’t catch everything thrown his way, and could experience a large amount of drops throughout his rookie season. The Bears could get the best of this trade with Houston if Perriman can live up to his potential.
- 17) San Diego Chargers: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
If Gurley falls to the Chargers then the San Diego-ites (or San Diego-uns, or San Diegans, or whatever they are) will be thrilled because they will have just obtained the best running back the city has seen since LaDanian Tomlinson. Gurley falls this far due to his durability, after missing the majority of the season two seasons in a row at Georgia. If health wasn’t an issue for Gurley he would easily be the top running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He is able to run defenders into the ground, or simply just use his speed to break away from them. Gurley will be a threat from day one, and is a tremendous steal for the Chargers.
- 18) Kansas City Chiefs: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri/ Oklahoma
Dorial Green-Beckham is in the company of Amari Cooper as the best receiver in the class, based purely off of on field play. Green-Beckham was compared to Calvin Johnson during the combine for his freakishly tall body and hands like glue. He falls due to the fact that he was dismissed from Missouri, then didn’t play a single snap in his time at Oklahoma. Scouts question his effort and personality, but after interviews at the combine, many of these thoughts were erased. Before these incidents he was seen as a potential top ten prospect in the draft, and he still should be to be honest. The Chiefs did not have a single touchdown scored by a receiver last season, an issue that they won’t have to worry about by drafting Green-Beckham.
- 19) Cleveland Browns: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Strong is the best value receiver in this draft and a tremendous talent at pick 19. Strong highlighted a surprisingly good Arizona State squad last season, as well as recording one of the top catches of the year with a last second snag to win the game against USC. Strong is a tall, athletic receiver who is difficult to bring down in the open field. He has some of, if not the best hands out of any receiver in the draft, and if it weren’t for another stacked year at receiver he would be going a lot higher than this. With the Browns adding the defensive talent they need at 12, they have the ability to find the receiver they need here at 19 in Strong.
- 20) Philadelphia Eagles: Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon
I can’t see Chip Kelly not taking an Oregon player in the first round of this draft with several available at positions of need for his team. Mariota would be the obvious favorite, but with what it would take to pry the pick from the Titans I just don’t see it as a feasible option. With newly acquired DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford, both players whom have struggled with durability during their careers, offensive line should be one of their top targets in the draft. Fisher was the only strong point on the Ducks offensive line last season, and is one of the most NFL ready tackles in terms of pass protection, which the Eagles could certainly use considering Bradford’s health and Jason Peter’s age. Receiver is another area of need for the Eagles, however with the top six receivers already off the board at this point it would be too much of a reach for Philly. Even Fisher here is a reach, but it is unlikely that he falls to the second round, and Chip Kelly has made it quite clear that he is making it a goal to turn the Eagles into the Ducks.
- 21) TRADE: Dallas Cowboys (from Cincinnati Bengals): Melvin Gordon III, RB, Wisconsin
- Dallas trades 2015 1st round pick (27th overall) and 2016 2nd round pick to Cincinnati
- Cincinnati gives up 2015 1st round pick (21st overall)
Instead of the Eagles it is the other NFC East powerhouse making a move in the draft. With the loss of DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys would love to land one of the top two running backs in this draft class, and with several teams coming up that would love to draft MG3, this is Dallas’ best option to make that goal happen. With Cincinnati in no dire need of any certain position here, they have the flexibility to trade down for future picks. With the superior Dallas run blocking line, Melvin Gordon immediately becomes my favorite for Rookie of the Year honors. This trade hardly dents the Bengals’ draft strategy for this season, while adding a pick to next year’s draft, where Dallas has made a huge move to snag their running back of the future.
- 22) Pittsburgh Steelers: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
Throughout the past several weeks Gregory has fallen from a top five lock to completely off of several team’s draft boards. The Steelers however are able to ‘steel’ (see what I did there?) one of the players with the strongest upsides in the draft. At 22 the reward far outweighs the risk for Gregory, and adds depth to a Steelers’ line backing core that suffered injuries throughout the season, as well as losing one of the NFL’s top young defensive players in Jason Worilds. Both Gregory and the Steelers should be happy about this pick, as the Steelers get one of the top talents in the draft, and Gregory joins one of the all-time most prestigious defenses that is also the perfect fit for his talent.
- 23) Detroit Lions: Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas
With the losses of both Suh and Fairley, the Lions need to add a talent along the line that is not Haloti Ngata at the age of 31. Brown is the best defensive tackle in the draft who is best suited for a 4-3 system, although has the versatility to play anywhere along the line like he did in his time at Texas. Brown should also help bring a little pride back to the Longhorns, who did not have a single player drafted last season despite having what should be one of the top programs in the nation. No matter who the Lions draft, it almost has to be a defensive tackle after their offseason purge of interior linemen; this means the decision comes down between Brown and Eddie Goldman from Florida State, however Goldman is much better suited as a 3-4 defender. Brown is a very safe and talented pick here for the Lions.
- 24) Arizona Cardinals: Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
Where have all the linemen been?!?! With the lacking need of linemen compared to years past, teams like the Cardinals and Panthers luck out on talent late in the draft. Arizona will become the next Dallas Cowboys’ story with this pick, as they have immensely improved their line the past two seasons with the additions of Jonathon Cooper, Jared Veldheer, and the recently acquired Mike Iupati. At center however they boast just Ted Larsen and AQ Shipley, both players that most would consider mediocre at best. Erving is by far the best prospect at center in the draft, and would add a strong, young presence in the middle of their offensive line that they seem to have everywhere else along the trenches. A slight reach of a pick at 24, however Erving is by far the best value option for the Cardinals here now that both of the top half backs have been selected.
- 25) Carolina Panthers: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Peat has the potential to go as high as eighth, however the needs in this draft are not at the tackle position until it gets to one of the saddest offensive lines in the NFL in the Carolina Panthers. It is actually shocking how Cam Newton still has a career in the NFL after some of the beatings he has taken in Carolina. There is no question that the Panthers’ biggest need is at left tackle, and Peat is possibly the best LT prospect in the draft. He is a monstrous human being, and a physical force in the trenches, yet questions about consistency in his time at Stanford cause him to fall. Peat is a steal for the Panthers here, and a savior for Cam Newton.
- 26) Baltimore Ravens: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
This is a toss-up pick for me if I am the Ravens’ GM between Eddie Goldman and Peters, however with the secondary struggles of last season, Peters outweighs Goldman (ironic wording I know) in this situation. With personality concerns at the University of Washington, Peters falls in the draft, despite potentially having the best pure talent out of any corner in the draft. He is a steal here for the Ravens, but they also have options if they go with corner, in Kevin Johnson and Byron Jones. Peters’ issues are large in today’s NFL, but with much more focus on players like Shane Ray and La’el Collins, Peters is not nearly as much of an issue.
- 27) Cincinnati Bengals (From Dallas): Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (Fl.)
The Bengals are happy campers right now, as they gain the player they may have taken at 21 at 27, as well as acquired a future second round pick. Flowers will be able to develop behind star right tackle Andre Smith, and since both elite tackles for the Bengals have contracts that expire at the end of the season, this gives them flexibility to choose who to keep if they keep either Smith or Whitworth. Flowers is a more raw talent than Peat or Scherff, but with guidance from two of the best tackles in the entire NFL he should develop quickly and be a much better player by the time the Bengals need him to be one.
- 28) Denver Broncos: Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
Outside linebacker is not the biggest area of need for the Broncos, but when it comes down to it I wouldn’t trust Von Miller to stay healthy or out of trouble for an entire season and DeMarcus Ware is 32. Harold is a proven pass rusher, something a team cannot have too many of, and with the vast amount of injuries to the Broncos’ front seven last season it certainly can’t hurt them. Harold is vastly overshadowed by the other high amounts of talent at that position in this class, however is a great value here and is largely underrated by scouts.
- 29) Indianapolis Colts: Denzel Perryman, MLB, Miami (Fl.)
Perryman is one of my personal favorite players in the draft, not only a tremendous player but a tremendous person and leader as well. There are no off the field issues, and he is a proven leader which the Colts could use, especially with Mathis’ future up in the air. The Colts are a few defensive players away from a Super Bowl, and Perryman can be the piece that sparks their improved play on that side of the ball.
- 30) Green Bay Packers: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
In my eyes this is the steal of the draft. Goldman is the second best nose tackle to Danny Shelton, and goes to a team that desperately needs talent along the trenches on defense. The Packers are much like the Colts, in that if they had even just a slightly better defense then they would have been practically a lock for the Super Bowl. Goldman is one of the best run stoppers in the draft, and while he doesn’t put pressure on the quarterback like Shelton does, he will help players like Clay Matthews get to the QB for him. The Packers will automatically upgrade their defensive line with this pick, and Goldman is really the only player on the board that could start for the Packers right away.
- 31) New Orleans Saints: Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke
Is this the NBA or is a Duke player going in the first round? Your eyes do not deceive you, Duke and Wake Forest players going in the first round of the NFL draft. Tomlinson is the best pure guard in the draft (both Collins and Scherff are borderline on what position they will play in the NFL), and fills the second biggest need for the Saints after pass rusher. Maxx Williams would also be a safe pick for the Saints here, however Tomlinson is not as risky as picking a tight end in the first round. Tomlinson will also help continue to improve the productivity of Mark Ingram, as well as hopefully keep newly acquired CJ Spiller healthy.
- 32) New England Patriots: Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
Jones is another underrated player in this draft. He doesn’t quite have the ball skills of the other corners in the draft, but is an athletic freak, especially for the corner position. He is one of the fastest defensive backs in the draft, and in a 6-1 frame that makes it much easier to match up against taller receivers. He has a similar build to Brandon Browner, however is actually respectable as a human being. Byron Jones could very quickly become the best corner out of the draft, and after the loss of Revis the Patriots could use him.