2015 SpreeGoogs NFL Mock Draft Part 1 (Picks 1-16)
Last year, I tried to find actual fans of all the NFL teams and have them act as the fake GMs for a groundbreaking new fan-sourced mock draft. It was a lot of fun, but it was was a lot of work to coordinate. We got four picks right, the 1st, the 6th, and 25 and 28. Basically, we got the obvious first pick right and then Zach and his wife took over. The two of them got all three of the correct picks after the gimme.
This season, I’m going back to the way things were when I started this whole thing: I’m doing all of it. Not so much because I think I can do better than 4 correct picks (that’s actually a decent number, especially considering how late two of them were) but more like because I wanted to write 7,000 words about the NFL Draft this year. Like most real drafts, my mock contains a series of positional runs. Like all of MY mocks, it’s mostly just teams taking turns picking offensive linemen. And then me making fun of teams that I think will take quarterbacks.
This year, I wanted to make a commitment to myself and to the internet: No writeups that say “this guy is good at XX position and this team needs XX position, so it’s a good idea.” I also tried to stay away from a bunch of analysis that I’m just parroting form somewhere else. That means I’m going to try to stay away from “his frame and freakish first step speed make him the right fit for a 4-3 OLB, he’s got serious potential” or something like that.
Instead, I tried to focus on the actual drafting process and what I think is going through the minds of the execs when they’re actually picking. That includes what positions they need and which players they think will be there when they pick next. It also includes a little bit of the narrative from the draft, including which players are “falling.” I tried to make each team’s draft story appealing to all readers, not just fans of that team.
There’s only one trade in my mock, which isn’t ever going to happen, but I stayed away from trades involving too many picks outside the first round, because I stopped mocking then. I think there’s one tradeworthy player (Mariota) that we all need to watch and after that, it’s a crapshoot.
So here it is. I recommend a snack and a drink to keep yourself busy.
2015 SpreGoogs NFL Mock Draft Part 1 (Picks 1-16)
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB (Florida State)
Here’s the thing about the NFL Draft – bad teams think they can become good teams by taking quarterbacks early. Most of the time, this isn’t actually true. Most of the time, you’d be better off taking an offensive lineman. But for some reason, teams with no offensive line, no running game and no wide receivers think they can improve everything by taking an expensive gamble on a quarterback.
This particular quarterback is one who threw the ball to the opposing teams 18 times last year. And yet, he is the consensus pick. Not only the consensus, he will be the actual pick. This is the only pick in any mock that anyone knows will happen for sure.
This is the right pick for me to point out that this draft will be what I think will happen, not how I’d actually make the picks if I were 32 GMs at once.
My personal theory is that unless you have everything you could possibly want except a quarterback (see: 2012 Indianapolis Colts). The Bucs don’t really have anything on their team. But a quarterback will fix all of that. Especially one that targets opposing safeties so frequently. The Bucs are hilarious.
2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DT (USC)
This part of the draft is where every mock will get interesting. The first pick is as made as it could be right now and the big question after that happens is how fall Mariota falls and what team will put together the right package to overpay for him. Tennessee will hear plenty of offers in the next 24 hours, but nothing will get serious until the Titans are actually on the clock Thursday.
The Titans are actually a decent spot for Mariota to land without any trades of any kind. The Jets, Browns (will they ever learn?) and Eagles are all rumored to be looking into moves up, but I’m not really sure any of those teams could build the right package with only a few minutes on the clock to do so.
As a consolation prize, the Titans will get the best player in the draft. Williams is big and fast and mean and exactly what you’d want in the middle of your D-line. And for the record, Zach Mettenberger deserves more starts before we all decide that he won’t do.
3. Cleveland Browns (from Jacksonville): Marcus Mariota, QB (Oregon)
This is the easy trade to make. Part of me wants to believe that the Eagles are going to trade Sam Bradford for picks and offer a three-firsts package (two this year and one next year) for a pull on the first round quarterback Russian roulette trigger.
Despite failing over and over again with first round passers (See also Quinn, Brady; Weeden, Brandon and Football, Johnny), the Browns refuse to learn and they’ll trade away the chance to genuinely get better for a chance to have a different player get sacked. In this case, they trade 12, 19 and some other picks to the Jags to move up to 3.
Marcus Mariota is different than those previous guys, you might say. In a philosophical you-can’t-sack-the-same-quarterback-twice sense, you’d be right. In a same drastically flawed team, different sucker sense, you’re wrong. A quarterback doesn’t make an offense, an offense makes a quarterback. Stats-wise, Mariota wasn’t much different than Manziel in college. He’s got a markedly better personality, but how much of a factor is that really? Ask all those teams banging down Adrian Peterson’s door if character scores points. Or that guy who went first overall this year.
For what it’s worth, I actually like Mariota more than I like Winston. I just don’t like bad teams thinking they’ll be better with a new quarterback.
4. Oakland Raiders: Kevin White, WR (West Virginia)
Positionally, I don’t think this would be a mistake. The Raiders need a wide receiver and this decision should come down to Amari Cooper vs. Kevin White. Almost all of us would take Cooper, which is exactly why I think the Raiders go with White. Classic Raiders.
At this point in the draft, the Raiders brass usually kicks back looks at all the positions where 40 time matters. In this case, it seems pretty obvious, pick a receiver. Most mock drafts will stop here and pick the best receiver left (Cooper) but I think the Raiders will boil it down to these two and then basically let the 40-yard dash time be the tie-breaker. Don’t laugh, you know you’ve thought about this too.
It’s not like Kevin White is bad. He actually seems like one of the more can’t-miss prospects in all of this. He has the right size and speed and catching skills and all of it. Kevin White could be the best receiver on an NFL team in 2015 and the Raiders are it.
5. Washington Redskins: Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB (Florida)
Hooray, a pick that makes sense! Washington needs (a lot on defense) an edge threat on the defensive line and Fowler is the best one there is in this class. Of the primetime pass rushers, Fowler has the best size, which is kind of a big deal.
If Fowler is there when the Redskins come to the podium, I think the pick is pretty automatic. If something happens (it probably will) and Mariota is there too, I think the Redskins field offers to allow a team to sneak in front of the super-QB-thirsty Jets.
There’s an alternate universe where the Redskins actually draft Mariota too. RG3 is on the last year of his initial contract and you’d have to think that one more injury would be the end of his stay in Washington. Plus, people will point out that they both like to run! Their passing games are complete opposites, but as far as the analysts are concerned, there are only two types of quarterback: running and throwing.
6. New York Jets: Brandon Scherff, OG (Iowa)
Assuming that the Jets don’t trade everything for a shot at Mariota, staying put at taking Scherff is a way better idea. I don’t know why every team doesn’t already do this, but list all the quarterbacks who have been taken in the first round and then do the same with the offensive linemen and guess what? Half of those quarterbacks coach high school ball now and all those O-linemen are in the Hall of Fame already. Don’t take that stat to the bank or anything, but it’s all a numbers game and the numbers just show that the beefy ones are hardly ever busts and quarterbacks frequently are.
The lesson of every single NFL draft ever is to take tackles. Size matters so much and is super measurable. Take the linemen. Scherff seems to be the consensus best one around, so a team with a line need (honestly, all of them) should be interested.
7. Chicago Bears: Amari Cooper, WR (Alabama)
This draft started off with a lot of me making picks that I don’t like and then making fun of teams. Now we’re into a zone where the right players are falling into teams that don’t even think twice.
Cooper is unguardable. He’s always open. A la (former Bear) Brandon Marshall about six seasons ago. Amari Cooper could create five feet of separation in an elevator. On a public bus during rush hour. In a sleeping bag.
SEC defenses went into games against Alabama knowing Cooper was getting the ball just about every play and he still destroyed them. Chicago doesn’t actively NEED a top WR, Alshon Jeffery is pretty good, but they do need depth, and a guy who could be the best player on your offense a year from now seems like the right way to go.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB (Nebraska)
The sexy thing to do with Randy Gregory in mock drafts lately is to let him fall because he failed the pre-draft drug test. This is genuinely a massive f*** up. The test is advertised for a long time in advance. The players are surrounded by agents and parents and coaches saying “circle this date on your calendar, you need to stop smoking by then and wait until after you’ve tested to start again.”
If he can’t do this right, what kind of mistakes is he going to make with more money and less supervision? The short answer is get suspended a bunch of times. The long answer is hit a bunch of players really hard all the time and get suspended a bunch of times.”
People who tell you Randy Gregory will fall in this year’s draft are advertising that they haven’t watched any of Randy Gregory’s tape. He’s a monster. All the minor violations in the world won’t undo crazy strength for his size. He’s got top 10 skills and you play games with skills, not character, so …
9. New York Giants: La’el Collins, OT (LSU)
This is probably a pick that almost no one else is going to predict, but hang with me. The Giants currently have an actual hole on their offensive line. If the season started today, they would start four players and a stack of pads on the O-line. At least the pile would never false start.
The sexiest pick here is probably Todd Gurley, but no matter how good he is, it’s hard to run behind a stack of pads. You can always hope that the defensive player gets tripped up in a jock strap, but that’s no kind of gameplan. You fix problems on both sides of the ball from the line of scrimmage out, and this is something that the Giants understand.
After the decision is made to go O-line, I’d think Andrus Peat is still in play, but Collins is a little bit more capable of playing guard for a season or two before shifting to tackle. Collins is also a little bit better built for run blocking, and I like to think the Giants always imagine themselves as a running team, even though OBJ probably would disagree. He’s not making the pick, so I’m sticking with Collins.
10. St. Louis Rams: Andrus Peat, OT (Stanford)
I don’t know why I think NFL teams will all of a sudden start taking offensive linemen so much, but I do. What’s funny about the Rams is that they’ve gone down the Draft a Wide Receiver Early road before and it hasn’t really worked very well for them. Pop Quiz: Can you name the Rams quarterback? Exactly.
It’s Nick Foles, for the record. And there’s no right tackle to block for him. Peat could be that guy. It’s a worthwhile investment and I think there’s a significant drop between Cooper/White and DeVante Parker, probably the next WR to go in this class. Other mockers love picking Parker to go to St. Louis, but guess what? We’re in the middle of a run, baby! And I’m making all the picks!
Conventionally, mock drafts like to look at team needs and the options available and make a match based on those two things. But there’s another factor in play: draft trends. In my mock, O-linemen, particularly tackles, are getting taken early. A team like the Rams might come into the draft wanting an OT and a WR, then see the OTs starting to come off the board early and make a move to lock one up knowing they can probably still get a guy like Devin Smith, Nelson Agholor or Jaelen Strong in the second round.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Shane Ray, DE/OLB (M-I-Z) (Z-O-U)
Until now, I haven’t really considered more than two positions or players for a team. Mostly because the best players kind of stand out and the teams on the clock don’t really need to evaluate a bunch of options. This pick is officially when this particular mock draft gets interesting.
In the course of making this mock, I’ve picked at least 5 different players for Vikes. It was Trae Waynes to start, then Ray, then Vic Beasley, then Waynes again, then Bud Dupree, back to Waynes, a brief moment with Gurley and then Ray again.
They could even pick Parker. The Vikings could pick anything. Beasley and Ray are too good to be left. Waynes is way too good to be left. Trade partners for Gurley should be lighting up the phones. Trade partners for Peterson are already lighting up the phones and that makes Gurley an option for the Vikes themselves.
I went with Ray because he’s fast. I watched him more than anyone else that’s an option here (Go Tigers) and despite the turf toe thing, it just seems impossible that he’s still around. Ray isn’t as powerful as Beasley, but Jesus is he fast. He can track down anyone around the edge and be mean to them. The Vikings are moving into a new domed stadium in 2016 and it kind of makes sense to go for speed defenders over size ones (DuPree, Beasley).
If the Vikings pick Trae Waynes, re-read that last graph with “Waynes” instead of “Ray” and it still works.
For anyone worrying about how Ray’s speeding/marijuana possession will hurt hum, compare that to what Jameis Winston is accused of and do you see anyone bringing that up? Curious.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Cleveland): Trae Waynes, CB (Michigan State)
Everyone (except Cleveland) is winning this mock draft, and no one more so than the Jaguars. The Jags trade down to get an extra first round pick (you won’t believe what they do with 19 tomorrow!) and turn it into the best player at a serious position of need. Sure, they still don’t have a quarterback, but they really don’t have anything, so that’s ok.
There are still pretty big needs rushing from the edge and rushing the ball, but you can only address one thing at a time and the Jags know they pick again with only six more players off the board. Waynes is WAY better than the next best corner, so he gets gobbled up now. At the other positions, there are still good edge players (Beasley, Dupree, Armstead) and running backs (Gurley/Gordon) so Jacksonville just has to hope someone will be there at 19. Spoiler alert: they will.
13. New Orleans Saints: Vic Beasley, OLB (Clemson)
Before I start, here are two quick points:
- I’ve been mock drafting for the Saints on this blog for 5 years and this is the first time I haven’t taken a secondary defender
- At the time I am writing this, Beasley is also the pick that Mel Kiper projects to the Saints; it’s sort of antithetical to the idea of a mock draft to just go with what the ESPN guy says and I swear I’m not doing that
The Saints defense is awful, It’s always been awful. It has never ever been good. It may have looked good for individual seasons, but those seasons were lies. In fact, the defense was so bad that the team has said they need to make this whole offseason about improving it. That’s why Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills were traded.
Even though the defense is bad, the secondary might …. just …. be …. better than average. New Orleans has five picks in the first three rounds and three of them need to be front seven players. At least two of those need to be starters, so let’s start filling in those heauxles.
At 13, the Saints have to wait for the one of the elite edge rushers to fall. In this case, Dupree and Beasley are options and I went Beasley. Danny Shelton is certainly an option here too, but pass rushing is a bigger problem than run stopping at this point.
Technically, the inside linebackers are the biggest problem to adress, but there’s not really anyone good enough to go this high at that position. Best front seven player available (BF7PA) has to be the choice and it is.
Saints fans across the nation can breathe out knowing that we’re halfway to a first round without a new offensive “skill position” player. Phew.
14. Miami Dolphins: Devante Parker, WR (Louisville)
We’re getting into the territory where the story is going to shift to the running backs. Gurley and Gordon are both first round talent and the window for them is already open. Lamar Miller probably isn’t the long term answer for Miami, but he looked pretty good last year and might make it a little easier for the Fins to pass on one of the elite RBs and wait until later.
The Dolphins are pretty awful at receiver and would be super happy to see one of the top three wide receivers fall to them. In real life, plenty of teams in front of them could spoil this and leave them with a cornerback or running back, but for this draft, they’re going receiver.
Parker’s not bad value here at all. The WR class is good and deep this year, but Parker’s the end of the top tier, so there’s a good chance that the options available in the second round won’t be nearly this good.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Danny Shelton, DT (Washington)
This should be a mistake, right? After seeing Shelton fall this far, I looked back and tried to figure out where I could make him go earlier. Just about half of the first 14 picks could be Shelton, but I decided against it. He’s probably the best overall talent left. The actual NFL draft always has guys who fall and my mock should too.
Shelton seems like the best talent left on the D-line, but the group of players right after him contains three fairly unique types of players. If Shelton isn’t here in the real draft, Arik Armstead, Malcom Brown or Eddie Goldman could all end up in San Francisco. Actually, if Shelton is there, any of those guys could still go to the Niners, I seem to remember this team being fairly unpredictable in the last few drafts.
16. Houston Texans: Alvin “Bud” Dupree, OLB (Kentucky)
There’s only so many times a pick can come down to Todd Gurley and Someone Else and Gurley loses out, but it’s happening again. Well, maybe that’s not entirely fair to the Texans’ Andre Johnsonless receiving corps, but the depth of the second tier of WRs leaves the Texans in pretty good shape to still get one in the second round.
Houston’s offense is in a weird spot right now. Long-time staple Johnson is gone (although DeAndre Hopkins is still plenty capable) and Arian Foster’s future is kind of shaky. But with all of that, linebacking help is also a priority and that position is really shallow this year. The way my draft falls, Dupree is the best option for the Texans, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where Eric Kendricks starts getting serious consideration.
The Texans have a defensive front that includes Watt, Clowney and Mercilus, there’s no way they should have trouble getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Dupree isn’t any of those guys right now, but it sure would be fun to watch more talent get put into the box on the Houston defense.
Thats all for today, the second half of the mock posts tomorrow, so make a reminder for yourself.