2015 NFL Draft: Re-Picking the First Round
With a full season and change played, re-picking the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
The NFL Draft is an amazing time for fans. It offers hope that the future will be brighter for struggling teams while also helping successful franchises continue to add pieces to their respective puzzles. Fans and media members alike begin picking the prospects apart months—sometimes years—before they ever hear their names called by their future employer. That scrutiny doesn’t stop when their names are called though.
Once a player is picked, a grade is usually assinged for that selection by anyone who is interested. Then a grade can be reassessed each and every year following the original draft grade. Of course the most picked-apart and criticized round is the first. Here is where teams hope they get superstars, not potential contributors.
More chances can be taken as the draft progresses, but teams generally hope that whoever they call on with their first pick can contribute immedietely. When they can’t, the pick is seen as a bust.
In 2015, there was a lot of fluidity regarding which players would go where. The first two picks were almost pre-determined, though, with Jameis Winston heading to Tampa Bay and Marcus Mariota heading to Tennessee. So with those two guys, as well as the 30 remaining picks all having 1.5 seasons in the NFL, would anything change if each team was given a mulligan on their selection?
Probably so, and this is how it should go if that were granted. For reference, the team’s original pick will be in parentheses next to the new selection. Now, here’s your re-draft of the 2015 NFL Draft.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota, QB (Jameis Winston, QB)
There isn’t much to argue about with their original pick as Jameis Winston has done a really good job in his year-and-a-half under center for Tampa Bay, but Marcus Mariota is simply the better pick. He was the better choice a season ago and still would be.
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Mariota came into the league with no red flags and was considerd a real leader by his teammates. To furhter cement his status as the best quarterback from this class he thoroughly outplayed Winston in the opening game of 2015.
In their season and a half playing, Mariota has a higher passing rating, a better completion percentage and has a better touchdown to interception ratio. He has done all this with considerably less talent around him. This season Mariota has a much better running game. But last year, he still put up 2,818 yards with 19 touchdowns in 12 games played with no receivers to speak of and a revolving door at running back.
Mariota also offers much more in the running game, despite Winston’s superior touchdown rushing total. Winston got goal-line touchdowns, Mariota opened up the field with the threat of his legs. Pairing him with players like receiver Mike Evans would be simpy deadly.
2. Tennessee Titans — Jameis Winston, QB (Marcus Mariota, QB)
It’s crazy that a kid with so many red flags could go first overall in this day and age. During his time at Florida State Winston was accused of sexual assault, was heard saying disparaging remarks about women in a public place and stole crab legs from a grocery store. Yes, crab legs.
Despite all the dumb moves he made, Winston was taken first overall by Tampa Bay. Then he posted a picture of himself with crab legs as he celebrated getting picked first overall. Yes, crab legs.
His talent is undeniable, but the fact is, Mariota was so much safer that it’s baffling Winston didn’t last for Tennessee. Had he gone here, though, it’s unlikely he would have put up similar numbers to what he did in Tampa as a rookie with his 4,042 yards.
In Tennessee he would have struggled more as a rookie. Without Mike Evans, the pocket passer would be without a true No. 1 receiver. 2016 would be different though as their dominant running game would have opened things up more for the strong armed rookie.
To his credit, Winston has seemed to get it more now that he is in the NFL. It just didn’t make much sense him going after Mariota. And it makes even less sense after watching them both play.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Marcus Peters, CB (Dante Fowler, DE)
Coming out of Washington, there were some questions surrounding cornerback Marcus Peters. He was suspended at one point during his collegiate career for a sideline argument and was eventually dismissed from the team. Those questions seem to be answered as he has been one of the most feared cornerbacks in the NFL since being selected 18th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.
In this scenario, he goes much higher, which he really should have. Peters shared the NFL lead with eight interceptions as a rookie, returning two for a touchdown. He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and even made the Pro Bowl. To this point in 2016, he picked up right where he left off. He’s leading the league in interceptions while making the case for himself to be in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award discussion.
Jacksonville has a lot of youth on their team, but none of them have seemed to get over the hump just yet. Peters would be the one who reached his potential immediately. It also would have also freed them up to get more of an impact player than the vastly overrated Jalen Ramsey, who they took in 2016 with the fifth-overall pick.
His presence on the team could also help keep them from playing from behind so often, which could also have given them a better balanced attack on offense.
4. Oakland Raiders — Amari Cooper, WR (Pick Stays the Same)
Here we have out first no-change. The Oakland Raiders selected Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper fourth-overall in 2015 and, given the chance at a mulligan, they would politely decline.
Like Peters, Cooper was also a Pro Bowl player in his rookie season. He helped the Oakland Raiders become a feared passing team. His downfield presence made a difference the second he walked on the field. When the season was done, Cooper had hauled in 72 receptions for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. So far this season he too has shown that his rookie year was no fluke.
Cooper hasn’t crossed the goal line at the same rate, but is on pace to record more receptions and yards for the resurgent Raiders. Paired with veteran Michael Crabtree, Cooper is one-half of arguably the best receiving duo in the NFL. They sure could use some help at the running back position, but that’s not something for them to have addressed here.
They got this pick right and the only way they would have taken someone other than Cooper would have been if one of the other teams would have preferred his services.
5. Washington Redskins — Leonard Williams, DE (Brandon Scherff, OT)
The Washington Redskins selected offensive lineman Brandon Scherff with their fifth-overall pick in 2015. Scherff isn’t a bad player and really had a good rookie year. The problem is the position he plays, offensive guard. Though he was drafted as a tackle out of Iowa, he’s been slotted in at guard in the nation’s capital.
Most teams believe guards don’t impact the game enough to be selected incredibly high and unless it’s a true game-changer, that’s a true statement. Scherff has been solid, but their line still isn’t that good.
For that reason, they instead get a player who will make more of an impact with this pick: USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The 6-5, 302-pound Williams would be a beast in the Redskins 3-4 system, much like J.J. Watt has been for the Texans in a similar scheme. As a rookie, Williams was good as he recorded 63 tackles and three sacks. He proved to be a disruptive force, even at a position that’s usually tough for rookie to make an impact.
With some seasoning, Williams will only improve. Through eight games in 2016 he has already doubled his sack total from his rookie campaign and has nearly as many solo tackles (21) as he did as a rookie (29). The Redskins could have found similar production for Scherff in a different slot. The same cannot be said for the incredibly talented Williams.
6. New York Jets — Vic Beasley, OLB (Leonard Williams, DE)
With Leonard Williams gone , the New York Jets take the next best defensive player available to them, outside linebacker Vic Beasley. This pick still allows them to draft on defense, which is pretty much all they do, while also helping to solve another problem.
Thanks to the emergence of Williams, the Jets have a logjam along their defensive line. To get their best players on the field they’ve had to slot defensive end Sheldon Richardson at linebacker, which just doesn’t work. Putting a 6-3, 293-pounder at linebacker usually doesn’t.
By getting Beasley instead, they now can feature Richardson where he belongs and still have a stellar unit even without Williams (granted Williams is much better, but in this scenario he’s gone already). As a rookie, Beasley spent time as a 4-3 defensive end and recorded 26 tackles and four sacks.
This year he has been used primarily as an outside linebacker, a much better role for the 235-pound defender. After nine weeks during his sophomore season, he has 26 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Not only is he better in this role, but on a team like the Jets who have a line full of block-eaters, he would be even more impressive.
7. Chicago Bears — Ronald Darby, CB (Kevin White, WR)
The Chicago Bears have gotten pretty much nothing out of West Virginia receiver Kevin White. Kind of like how the New York Jets don’t get anything from West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and kind of like how the Los Angeles Rams don’t get much from receiver/return man/jack-of-all-trades (but master of none) Tavon Austin.
After wasting their pick on a guy with 19 career catches for less than 10 yards per pop, the Bears take full advantage of their do-over. Chicago now realizes that the big numbers put up by Mountaineer players are a product of their system, rather than an indication of their NFL potential. With that knowledge, they avoid adding to their receiving corps, but instead they find a guy to cover other team’s wideouts.
Here they take Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby. The 5-11, 190-pound Darby started out his NFL career on a high note, earning the honor of being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in September. He finished with 68 tackles, 21 pass deflections and two interceptions as a rookie for the Buffalo Bills. He was named the 2015 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by Pro Football Focus for his excellent rookie season.
This pick would have helped eliminate a huge hole on Chicago’s defense, as they struggle to slow down opponent’s passing games.
8. Atlanta Falcons — Dante Fowler, Jr. (Vic Beasley, OLB)
Well, they went with the best guy they could in 2015 with defensive end/outside linebacker Vic Beasley, Jr. We already discussed how well he has played for them since joining the Atlanta Falcons, but he has served more of a linebacking role than a defensive end one. With him gone in this re-draft, they go for the best defensive lineman they could with Florida Gators defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr.
This is a tough one because Fowler was a great pick by the Jaguars at No. 3-overall according to most. The problem is, a knee injury cost him his entire rookie season and he’s still figuring out the NFL in his second year.
So in this re-draft, does his injury affect his status or not? Does the team know he will miss a year, or do they think he plays right away? Fowler plays a position that is incredibly hard to adjust to and his injury may have stunted his growth some. Still, the Falcons take him understanding his rookie year is a learning period either way.
So far in 2016, Fowler is showing some of his promise. He has recorded 21 tackles and 2.5 quarterback sacks. This is being done without having too much talent around him, but the belief is sooner or later he will break out and become the pass rusher he was in the SEC.
9. New York Giants — David Johnson, RB (Ereck Flowers, OT)
The New York Giants are terrible at picking in the top-10. There’s no reason to be nice about it, they just don’t do well with it at all. Outside of picking quarterback Philip Rivers and trading him for Eli Manning, they simply seem to swing and miss.
In 2015, they took offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. He’s still a starter, but really doesn’t seem worthy of his lofty draft status. They missed even worse in 2016 when they took cornerback Eli Apple 10th-overall. Apple recently was benched and gets more press for his mom having a speaking platform than his play.
With hindsight to their advantage, they correct one of those mistakes by taking Northern Iowa running back David Johnson. The current Arizona Cardinal was a third-round pick thanks to teams being scared of his small school resumé.
He quieted those concerns in his rookie year by rushing for 581 yards and adding another 457 receiving while playing the majority of the time as a backup. He scored 12 touchdowns as a rookie and has already gone over 700 yards rushing and 400 receiving as a sophomore.
Johnson has also rushed as many touchdowns in his second year as he did for his entire rookie season. Him wearing a Giants uniform would be huge for them since they simply don’t have a running game whatsoever to speak of.
10. Los Angeles (St. Louis) Rams — Todd Gurley, RB (Pick Stays the Same)
The top-10 gets rounded out by selecting the same player here as the St. Louis Rams did in 2015. Or is it the Los Angeles Rams already? Either way, Todd Gurley was a beast as a rookie. He missed the first three games of his inaugural season as he was still recovering from an ACL tear he suffered while playing for the University of Georgia.
In his 13 games for the Rams, Gurley rushed for over 1,100 yards and had 10 touchdowns. He single-handedly provided some much needed offense to the lackluster team. So far in 2016, things haven’t been so good for Gurley. He is running for just 3.1 yards per carry, but that’s in no way his fault.
Thanks to them having no threats at wide receiver, teams feel comfortable stacking the box and taking Gurley away from Los Angeles. With perpetual 7-9 head coach Jeff Fisher at the helm, things don’t look to get any better. Throw in a horrible offensive line and times are rough for Gurley in LA.
Fisher is stubbornly sticking with the atrocious Case Keenum at quarterback, despite his terrible play rather than turning things over to their first-overall pick, Jared Goff. Goff is young and there will be a learning curve. What he can do though is threaten people enough with the pass to help Gurley find even more room to operate.
11. Minnesota Vikings — Melvin Gordon, RB (Trae Waynes, CB)
The Minnesota Vikings selected cornerback Trae Waynes with this pick and he was an excellent choice. He has played well and even recorded two interceptions for the team this season. The problem isn’t their defense, though. Should Waynes have been passed upon, the team would be just fine at cornerback. Proof of that can be found in them using cornerback Terrence Newman, who has been in the league since its inception (or somewhere close to it).
Instead, what they could use is a game changing running back. Sure, die-hard Vikings fans are still shouting the name Adrian Peterson, but he just simply can’t stay on the field. This season he managed just two games before getting hurt—and he played very poorly in those two games.
One guy who isn’t playing poorly is running back Melvin Gordon. After a rough rookie season, Gordon is plowing through teams like crazy. His last game he rushed for 196 yards and added another 65 through the air. He’s well on his way to a 1,000-yard season and has 11 touchdowns after nine weeks. He and Gurley were considered the best two running backs in the draft, in this mock he closes the gap big time on Gurley—even though both were passed by David Johnson.
Fans would hate to see this, but Gordon coming in would allow the franchise to move on from AP. He has put together a spectacular career, but it’s time to think about moving on.
12. Cleveland Browns — Danny Shelton, NT (Pick Stays the Same)
Here again we have an example of a team getting it right. In 2014, the Cleveland Browns had two draft picks in Round 1—and they botched them both. Their first pick went to cornerback Justin Gilbert and their second went to quarterback Johnny Manziel. Gilbert has since been sent to the Pittsburgh Steelers, whereas Johnny Football has taken a full-time job as Texas A&M’s resident Billy Madison.
In 2015, they once again had two first-round picks. But this time they did much better. They were able to pick up two starters, the first being their 12th-overall selection, Danny Shelton out of Washington. While his stats won’t jump off the page and surprise people, he is a solid player that the defense can build around. At 6-2 and 335 pounds, Shelton is an ideal nose tackle who will stuff the runner all day long.
When he isn’t making the play, Shelton is a block-eater that teams have to use more than one guy to slow down. In Week 9, his talent was seen in how easy it was for Dallas to run the ball once he was out. Without him, no one could step up and force any needed stops.
This time around they take the same guy all over again. Now about that 2014 draft…is there anyway to get a reset on that one?
13. New Orleans Saints — Danielle Hunter, DE (Andrus Peat, OT)
In 2015, the New Orleans Saints selected offensive tackle Andrus Peat with the 13th-overall selection. Peat has been good, but their offense is always good. Where the problem lies for them is on defense.
The 2016 version of the Saints can put points up in a hurry, but they give them up even quicker. This could also be said of the 2015 version, as well as many others. Their move to get Peat made sense as they wanted to give more time to their aging quarterback, Drew Brees. What if they got him the ball more often instead?
One guy who could help in that regard would be the LSU product, Danielle Hunter. The defensive end was drafted 88th-overall in the third round by the Minnesota Vikings and has proven to be a solid player for them at this point in his career. Hunter serves as a rotational pass rusher for the Vikings and recorded six sacks in that role as a rookie. He has another four this season while still backing up Everson Griffen and Brian Robinson.
In New Orleans, Hunter would see the field more and it wouldn’t be crazy to think that would result in even better numbers from the 6-5, 250-pound defensive end. It could be the difference in just a few of their close losses this season. His play thus far shows he should have been considered in round one, rather than being a mid-round steal.
14. Miami Dolphins — Stefon Diggs, WR (DeVante Parker, WR)
With the 14th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins decided it was time to get some firepower on offense. They were already excited about the rookie season their second-round pick at receiver, Jarvis Landry, had and looked to get him a great counterpart.
They chose DeVante Parker out of Louisville with that pick and he has yet to live up to the lofty draft status. Parker had just 26 receptions as a rookie and has added another 25 in his second season. He has yet to become a consistent threat for the team. So with a mulligan, they go for someone else who could provide what Parker hasn’t.
Stefon Diggs was drafted in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings. The 146th-overall selection had a great rookie season and caught 52 passes for over 700 yards and four scores on a team that likes to run as a first, second and third option.
In 2016, Diggs is showing some improvement as well with 48 receptions and 546 yards at the halfway mark. He’s solidified himself as the top option at receiver for Minnesota and would be a welcome upgrade over Parker, despite being drafted near the end of the draft.
15. San Diego Chargers — Thomas Rawls, RB (Melvin Gordon, RB)
It looks like the San Diego Chargers did things right in 2015. The 15th-overall selection was used by the Bolts on Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. He had some growing pains in Year 1, but has exploded in his second season. Gordon is no longer available now thanks to that explosion. With him off the board, San Diego takes the next best thing with Central Michigan’s Thomas Rawls.
Rawls was undrafted and would up with the Seattle Seahawks after the draft was in the books. He rose to fame when star running back Marshawn Lynch went down with an injury. Rawls seamlessly replaced the bruising veteran and managed 830 yards and four touchdowns on the season. So far in 2016, he has spent most of his time on the sidelines thanks to an injury, but he proved his worth with his 5.6-yard per carry average in his rookie campaign.
The Chargers were in desperate need of a running back to help take some pressure off their quarterback, Philip Rivers. Gordon has fit the bill beautifully for them so far in his career. However, Rawls wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize following Minnesota snatching up Gordon.
16. Houston Texans — Malcom Brown, DE (Kevin Johnson, CB)
With the 16th pick the Houston Texans took Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson. He was considered to be a great technician at the position and played well for Houston. The issue, though, is they are incredibly deep at this position.
Johnson was recently lost for the year with a broken foot and cornerback A.J. Buoye has filled in seamlessly. They also had so much talent at the position that they moved Andre Hal to safety, where he has truly excelled.
With all that talent, they decide to instead bolster their defensive line y taking Texas big man, Malcom Brown. At 6-2 and 320 pounds, Brown has enough size and strength to push current nose tackle Vince Wilfork off the field. Anyone who has watched Wilfork play the past two seasons would agree that needs to happen.
Brown also has a nice burst for a player so large. He single-handedly destroyed opponents offensive gameplans while at Texas and is doing just fine for the New England Patriots. The final pick in the first round of 2015 has 71 tackles and five sacks in 24 career games. He has started 19 of those games for the Pats.
He would be incredibly welcomed by the Texans, especially considering the injuries they have endured this season. The worst injury for them has been the loss of defensive end J.J. Watt. Brown wouldn’t make that loss sting any less, but he would at least help them stop opposing offenses better than they have as of late.
17. San Francisco 49ers — Kevin Johnson, CB (Arik Armstead, DE)
The San Francisco 49ers selected the mammoth defensive end Arik Armstead out of Oregon with this pick. The 6-8, 280-pound Armstead has 4.5 sacks and 34 career tackles for the Niners. His lack of impact leads them to look elsewhere and they decide on cornerback Kevin Johnson. The Wake Forest product falls just one spot as he was originally picked by the Texans.
As a rookie for Houston, Johnson spent most of his time in the slot. He recorded 54 tackles, nine pass deflections and one interception as a rookie. He showed no fear in coverage while also being willing to lay the lumber on anyone carrying the ball near him.
Since they don’t have the same depth as Houston, Johnson would be utilized as an outside corner for San Francisco. His long arms and savvy style of play would do wonders in slowing down opposing passing games.
Johnson currently is sitting on the injured reserve for the Texans, which isn’t ideal for San Francisco. It really wouldn’t matter though because it’s not like they’re winning much anyway. Johnson would really just be a piece to the puzzle that the team is building currently. He would also be more of an impact player than Armstead has been.
18. Kansas City Chiefs — Trae Waynes, CB (Marcus Peters, CB)
Kansas City took a gamble with their 18th pick by selecting the Washington Huskies cornerback Marcus Peters. He was kicked off the Huskies team and had some red flags for that reason. Most teams shied away from the insanely talented defensive back and Kansas City benefited from that.
Peters had eight interceptions as a rookie and has added another five in his second year. Simply put, this kid is a playmaker. Which is exactly why he jumped all the way up to No. 3 to Jacksonville in this re-draft.
The Chiefs still draft a cornerback with Peters gone, this time it just happens to be Michigan State’s Trae Waynes. The 6-0, 190-pound Waynes was a standout at MSU, but has yet to see the same success Peters has.
Part of the reason could be the talent around him as Waynes finds himself behind Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman in Minnesota. He currently has just three starts in his career thanks to the veterans ahead of him.
Waynes has made use of his time on the field, though. In a reserve role, he has 55 tackles, nine pass deflections and two interceptions. Those numbers may improve even on a team like the Chiefs who would most likely have Waynes in their roster as a starter.
19. Cleveland Browns — Ereck Flowers, OT (Cameron Erving, C)
The Cleveland Browns had a successful 2015 NFL Draft. They got two starters in Round 1. Danny Shelton at nose tackle, and Cameron Erving at center. In the re-draft, Shelton returned to Cleveland as the cog in the middle of their line. Erving won’t have the same fortune—or misfortune maybe considering Cleveland has been so awful.
While sticking with the offensive line, they forget the center and instead get a bookend with Ereck Flowers out of Miami. The 6-6 Flowers weighs in at 325 pounds and has been a starter since entering the league. He has 23 starts, which means he obviously has the talent to play at this level. The problem is where he was originally picked.
The Giants took Flowers ninth-overall, which was rather high for him. He hasn’t been a terrible player for the Giants, but he makes more errors and misses too many key blocks for his lofty draft status.
At 19th-overall, Flowers would be a great choice. He could play either tackle position and the team wouldn’t be too upset if he was unable to play the left side. The Browns would also be more understanding of the snafus had he been a late-teens pick.
20. Philadelphia Eagles — Jordan Hicks, LB (Nelson Agholor, WR)
How do some players get completely missed? Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks fell all the way to the 84th-overall pick, but proved quickly he shouldn’t have. Hicks quickly became a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles and racked up 50 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and one touchdown before heading to the injured reserve after eight games.
He returned in 2016 to reclaim his starting spot in the middle of the Eagles defense and has another 44 tackles, one sack and two interceptions. Hicks excels against the run and the pass for Philly thanks to his incredible instincts and sideline-to-sideline speed.
This is the first guy who jumped up several rounds and yet still ended up with the same team. The Eagles would most likely be happy still thanks to the production Hicks gives them.
The same can’t be said for Nelson Agholor, who they actually did select with this pick. The USC receiver hasn’t turned into the player they hoped they were getting. He had just 23 receptions as a rookie and struggled with dropped passes. In 2016 Agholor has improved, but still is not playing well enough to justify his selection in the first round.
21. Cincinnati Bengals — Bud Dupree, OLB/DE (Cedric Ogbuehi, OT)
With the 21st-overall pick in the draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Cedric Ogbuehi out of Texas A&M. He was expected to be one of the bookend offensive tackles for the Bengals as they looked to become a consistent threat on offense.
While he has been good, they now suddenly are struggling to create enough pressure on opponents with their defense. To try and rectify that situation they snatch up Kentucky defensive end/outside linebacker Alvin “Bud” Dupree.
Dupree has the size and strength to move from the outside linebacker spot he plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers and put his hand in the dirt as a defensive end for the Bengals. The 267-pound Dupree started just five games for the Steelers in 2015, but showed plenty of promise as he recorded four quarterback sacks. A groin injury has relegated him to the injured reserve, but he has been granted the designation to return.
It appears he is close to a return to the field and had it been Cincy preparing to get a defensive weapon back, the timing would have been perfect as they try and recover from a tough start to the season.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers — Damarious Randall, FS/CB (Bud Dupree, OLB)
Thanks to the Cincinnati Bengals stealing their original pick, Bud Dupree, the Pittsburgh Steelers turn their attention elsewhere. The player they wind up targeting is Arizona State defensive back Damarious Randall.
Randall has the size and speed to play either cornerback or free safety and Pittsburgh could use either one. As a rookie in Green Bay, Randall recorded 58 tackles, three interceptions and one touchdown on an interception return. He also deflected fourteen passes for the Packers as he quickly established himself as one of the better players in their secondary.
For Pittsburgh, they would be able to start trying to restore their secondary to prominence. For years, they were sensational with players like Ike Taylor at cornerback and Troy Polamalu at safety. With both players no longer in the league, the Steelers once feared pass defense has become a welcomed sight for opposing passers.
While Randall obviously can’t fix all the issues this defense has, he would be a huge help. Also losing out on Dupree would sting, but is something they can recover from. With Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier being selected in the first round of each of the previous seasons, linebacker has become one of the better position groups on their roster.
23. Denver Broncos — Eric Kendricks, LB (Shane Ray, DE)
The Denver Broncos moved up in the first round to grab Missouri edge rusher, Shane Ray. The move was an odd one considering the fact that Ray was busted for possession of marijuana just days before the draft. Ray stayed in the first round despite the issue while other players like Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory fell to the second round. In Ray’s defense he has since cleaned up his act, whereas Gregory has not.
Even so, the Broncos decide to go in a different route this time. With the 23rd pick, they grab UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks. This selection more is one geared towards the future as Kendricks most likely spends his rookie season behind Danny Trevathan, who moved on to Chicago in the offseason.
Kendricks would slide right into the middle next to Brandon Marshall and would once again give defensive coordinator Wade Phillips a dynamic duo in the middle of his four-man linebacker corps.
In a year-and-a-half, Kendricks has 146 tackles, four sacks and an interception. That lone pick for the exciting linebacker went for a 77-yard touchdown. He has been a steal for Minnesota as a second-round pick and would still be seen as a huge value pick for Denver here.
24. Arizona Cardinals — Preston Smith, OLB (D.J. Humphries, OT)
The Arizona Cardinals went for some offensive line help with the 24th pick by taking D.J. Humphries. The Florida Gators offensive tackle has only started eight games since being selected and is not expected to move to left tackle anytime soon.
Playing right tackle is not as glamorous as left, so the Cards decided to shy away from the Gator this time around. Instead they address one of their biggest weaknesses by drafting Mississippi State outside linebacker Preston Smith.
At 6-5 and 268 pounds, Smith is the perfect size for the 3-4 defense Arizona utilizes. He also proved to be very good in that role for the Washington Redskins during his rookie season.
After being selected 38th-overall, Smith shined in a reserve role for Washington. With just two starts in 16 games, Smith recorded 35 tackles and eight sacks. His sack total would have tied for the team lead for the Red Birds.
Being paired with veteran Dwight Freeney as a rookie, Smith would have learned from one of the best to ever play the game. That knowledge would have only grown more this season working with Chandler Jones, who was acquired from New England this offseason. With one pick, Arizona becomes a team that’s incredibly strong at rushing the passer.
25. Carolina Panthers — Stephone Anthony, LB (Shaq Thompson, OLB)
The Carolina Panthers already have Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis at linebacker, which makes them an incredibly gifted team at tackling the ball carriers. They added Shaq Thompson to the mix with this draft pick, but he is more of a project player who needs time.
Instead, they go with the sure thing by taking Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony. He is listed as a middle linebacker, same as Kuechly, but football players can play anywhere. Just look at how well Sean Lee has adjusted to the outside position in Dallas. He recorded 128 tackles in 14 games last season and is well on the way to surpassing that mark this season.
Anthony recorded 112 tackles and an interception as a rookie for the Saints and has all the talent to play outside for the Panthers. With their front seven adding this youngster, they could easily be the most feared unit in the game.
He’s listed at 6-3 and 236 pounds, but also has great speed for the position. He posted a 4.56 40-yard dash, which proves he can bring some of the same athleticism as Thompson, only with more polish. Anthony has yet to play more than two games in 2016, but the promise he showed as a rookie was more than enough to take him here.
26. Baltimore Ravens — Jay Ajayi, RB (Breshad Perriman, WR)
The Miami Dolphins have done some curious things in their days. None more curious than placing the over-the-hill and often-injured Arian Foster ahead of second year running back Jay Ajayi. Then when Foster got hurt, they tried to go with rookie Kenyan Drake as well as Damien Williams ahead of Ajayi.
They just seemed to believe that the kid they drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft was able to rush for 3,796 yards and 50 touchdowns in three season at Boise State out of luck rather than talent. Finally, the Doplhins had to turn to Ajayi, though, when everyone else flopped and Foster retired due to injuries. All Ajayi did with that opportunity was post back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.
This tim,e Miami won’t have the luxury of messing up on judging Ajayi’s talent because the Baltimore Ravens snatch him up. Ajayi would allow them to end their time with Justin Forsett one year earlier than they did. He would also take a lot of pressure off quarterback Joe Flacco, who has had to do a lot on his own as of late.
27. Dallas Cowboys — Landon Collins, S (Byron Jones, CB)
The Dallas Cowboys selected cornerback Byron Jones out of Connecticut with their 27th pick last season. He was hyped up as an athletic freak who set the NFL Draft Combine and World record for standing broad-jump by leaping 12-feet and 3-inches.
That athleticism has yet to translate to the field. Jones never became a full-time starter for Dallas and also bounced around from corner to safety. He showed some skill as he covered New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski brilliantly one game, but would disappear in others. Most alarming, he has yet to record an NFL interception.
That’s why they would request a do-over here and snatch up Alabama safety, Landon Collins. The 6-0, 225-pound Collins recorded more tackles (112 to 66), interceptions (one to none) and had equal pass deflections (9) to Jones as rookies. He also was a starter straight out of the gates and has since recorded two more interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.
Collins also provides the kind of hard hitting play that creates fear to go in the middle of the field. Jones is not a bad player, it’s just that Collins is simply better. Taking him would help Dallas while also robbing a divisional rival, the New York Giants, of one of their better young players.
28. Detroit Lions — Brandon Scherff, OG/OT (Laken Tomlinson, OG)
The Detroit Lions made a solid pick with the 28th selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. They took guard Laken Tomlinson in hopes that he could help give quarterback Matthew Stafford time while also opening up some running lanes as well.
Tomlinson has turned into a quality starter, but they pass on him now thanks to Brandon Scherff falling. Scherff was drafted way too high by the Washington Redskins at the beginning of the draft. Once other teams started filling needs, he just kept slipping. That’s good news for the Lions because they get a better player at the same spot they drafted.
The 6-5, 315-pound Scherff was an All-American and the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2014 for Iowa. He was also named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team for his efforts last season.
Washington got themselves an impact defensive player and Detroit got an even better offensive lineman. Everyone is happy in this scenario. Well, except maybe Scherff and his agent, who lost a lot of money, that is.
29. Indianapolis Colts — Cedric Ogbuehi, OT (Phillip Dorsett, WR)
General manager Ryan Grigson is terrible at his job. This guy simply can’t get picks to stay on the team and even took shots at the Dallas Cowboys for their player moves at quarterback, via Jon Machota of the Dallas News:
“What we went through this year with losing our quarterback and still avoiding a losing record with five quarterbacks, that’s a story I don’t think was ever told because it was tough,” he said. “There were a lot of other teams in the league where their quarterback went down and had a better perceived offensive line, and all those types of things, that are picking real high in the draft. That’s a tribute to those guys that are playing.”
News flash Grigson—you have no room to talk. Your team that endured so much last season didn’t have a winning record and lost their division to a team featuring Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Also, you lost to another subpar quarterback, Brandon Weeden, when he was released by Dallas and was forced into action.
Part of what makes Grigson so bad at his job is that he drafts with no concept of what his team needs. While featuring one of the worst offensive and defensive lines, Grigson foolishly drafted a small receiver who is the exact same size as TY Hilton. So he puts quarterback Andrew Luck out there with essentially three slot receivers in Philip Dorsett, Hilton and Donte Moncrief, then signs a bunch of old guys. Not smart.
What would be smart is getting a starting caliber NFL tackle, which is what they do here with Cedric Ogbuehi. Maybe now Luck will have time to throw the ball.
30. Green Bay Packers — Andrus Peat, OT (Damarious Randall, S)
The Green Bay Packers just don’t get it. They have one of the better quarterbacks over the last decade, but they refuse to put the pieces around him. They have yet to field a consistent running game and are just ignoring their offensive line. Rather than draft Damarious Randall to pair with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety, they decide to put someone on the field that can keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers from constantly running for his life.
In 2014 they had a great team and beat the 12-4 Dallas Cowboys in a close game to advance to the NFC Championship Game. They won that game on sheer will from Rodgers and a fortunate call from the referees. That shouldn’t have been the case, though.
Rodgers spent the whole season hobbled and was practically playing on one leg that day. The Dallas defensive line was terrible, but they still were able to put pressure on Rodgers, forcing the game down to the wire.
After a season where their franchise leader was beat up so much, they decide to get a blind side protecter here in Andrus Peat. He’s a great value pick that actually helps them more than the talented Randall.
31. New Orleans Saints — Laken Tomlinson, G (Stephone Anthony, LB)
Again the New Orleans are on the board and instead of going defense here as they did, they go offense. The reason for that isn’t because they made a bad pick in 2015, but because the guy they chose 31st-overall is already gone.
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Stephone Anthony was a difference-maker as a rookie for the Saints, but he went 25th to the Carolina Panthers, which means the Saints are freed up to make that move to bolster their line that they were wanting to do earlier.
The pick to help them keep Drew Brees upright is Duke guard Laken Tomlinson. Sure, he falls a bit here as the Detroit Lions earlier took Brandon Scherff over him, but that was simply because Scherff is a superior player, not a knock on Tomlinson.
The 313-pound former All-American has become a regular starter for the Lions and should he have ended up in New Orleans could have helped slow down the pressure Brees often faces up the middle. Paired with Max Unger, the interior of the Saints line would start to shape into a formidable bunch that would not only help Brees, but would clear the way for running back Mark Ingram as well.
32. New England Patriots — Tyler Lockett, KR/WR (Malcolm Brown, DT)
New England always does well in the draft. They also do just fine in free agency, trades, game-planning and whatever else they put their minds too. Their original 32nd-overall pick was defensive lineman Malcom Brown. Here, he goes right in the middle of the round rather than being the last pick as the Houston Texans snatched him up at No. 16. With him gone, the Pats turn their attention to Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett.
This kid just screams New England Patriot. The third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks sneaks into the end of the first round after recording 664 yards receiving and six touchdowns as a rookie. He added two more scores on special teams as a return man and would be an amazing weapon for head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Lockett made the Pro Bowl as a rookie for his return skills and was named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. He has downfield speed unlike anyone else the Patriots currently have and would also give their return game a shot in the arm. That’s exactly what the rest of the NFL wants to see, right?