Mock Draft Version 3: NFL Combine shakes up first round
INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL Draft Scouting Combine is more than 40-yard dashes and shuttle runs. It gives talent evaluators the opportunity to see the players they’ve been evaluating on film for weeks, up close. It gives the players the opportunity to see how they square up against their peers in person. Most importantly, it gives a young man the chance to make himself a few bucks by standing above the rest. Heights and weights matters, the medical examinations matter, and the interviews — teams have a certain allotment of guys they can meet each day — matter, too.
I spent much of Indianapolis speaking with NFL talent evaluators, agents, coaches and, perhaps most importantly, the players. Those conversations, that information and the workouts the players had have helped shape my most updated Mock Draft.
With several more to come between now and Draft weekend, here’s my post-Combine NFL Mock Draft. Free agency, additional coaching hires and offense and defensive scheme decisions will help shape and mold this as we move towards April. But for now? Consider this the blueprint. Dig in. Don’t agree? Let me hear about it. Tweet me at @PSchrags or email me at PeterSchrager@gmail.com.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State
Winston showed up to Indianapolis with question marks surrounding his draft stock. He answered many of them emphatically. Any issues about his shoulder? He addressed them in both his interviews with teams and in his workout on Saturday, throwing the ball better than any other prospect in the field. Any questions about how he’d handle media, he took care of on Friday, with a confident approach to the many inquiries he was faced with. Winston’s 4.91 40-yard-dash? One NFL executive told me, "It’s just about what we expected. And we’re looking for the best quarterback in this draft, not the best track star." As for Winston’s presence — cocksure, confident, borderline cocky — another league executive said he "loved the presence." He’s a fiery competitor, he loves football and his teammates love him. Asking his many Florida State teammates in Indianapolis this week about Jameis was like playing a broken record. From linemen to linebackers to wideouts, they all speak highly of the guy who led them to a national title in 2014. Winston is a star in the state of Florida and specifically Tampa Bay, where there’s a large contingent of Florida State fans who cheered him on in college. If there’s any coach in the NFL who can serve as a guiding figure, it’s Lovie Smith, who’s coached and seen it all. This pick could end up being the most important one of Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht’s career. And in the end, I think it’ll be Winston.
2. Tennessee Titans: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Marcus Mariota performed very well in Indianapolis, but I still have Williams as the second player off the board. Tennessee’s got a promising young quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, and I don’t see Ken Whisenhunt rebuilding his entire offense to build one around Mariota, who’d be coming from a college offense that doesn’t easily translate to the next level. Williams is a 6-5, 300-pound defensive lineman who can both rush the passer and stuff the run. I heard comparisons to both Gerald McCoy and J.J. Watt this week in Indianapolis. Not too bad, right? There’s a minor red flag because of an offseason shoulder surgery, but that shouldn’t be too worrisome. Williams played through a torn labrum in 2013 and battled an ankle injury last year, and still was the most dominant player on the field. Tennessee’s got a lot of needs. Picking up a franchise player on the defensive line would be a home run.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler Jr., LB, Florida
The Jaguars loaded up on offense in last year’s draft, getting a franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles and picking up wide receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee in the first two days. This year? Jacksonville will use some of its free agent money on at least one big name veteran receiver (Dez Bryant, Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb, Demaryius Thomas, Torrey Smith and Michael Crabtree all could be available come March 10), and most likely will grab a defensive player in the first round. Perhaps more than any other defensive player in this year’s class, Fowler was the buzz of Indianapolis all week. He fits the Gus Bradley mold of a super positive, super high-energy, do-everything team guy. Fowler was as bright and electric a personality as anyone at the Combine, and says he can be the next Von Miller or Aldon Smith. At 6-2 and 260, he’s a good size. He needs to get stronger, but he’s a versatile guy who’ll start and make an impact right away.
4. Oakland Raiders: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
A year from now, we may look back at our week in Indianapolis as the Kevin White Show. What a performance this young man had at the Combine. After a frustrating junior season in which he caught fewer than 40 balls, White hauled in 107 passes as a senior, and then absolutely tore up the combine. At 6-2 and 215, he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and left scouts with their jaws dropped after catching just about everything thrown his way. I asked what makes him so special and White said, "No one can do what I can do. And I can do it all." Get Derek Carr the receiving threat he needs and deserves.
5. Washington Redskins: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
This could be a great opportunity for Washington to trade back. A team with so many needs across the board, there could be many teams looking to jump in front of New York to get a sniff at Marcus Mariota here. Shelton was the star of Senior Bowl week, and in a draft light on big-boy defensive tackles, he could go as high as top five this April. Shelton was a man among boys in Mobile, tossing centers and guards with ease and penetrating the backfield. He had some injury issues at Washington but looked good during his senior year and interviewed well in Indianapolis.
6. New York Jets: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon:
For as much positive talk there is swirling around Winston, I don’t see Mariota slipping past the Jets at 6. Mariota performed well on Saturday, owning all the athletic tests and whipping the ball around with velocity. He didn’t run a 4.4 40-yard dash as some expected he would, but a 4.52 isn’t exactly something to sneeze at, either. He didn’t look overly comfortable taking simulated snaps under center, but that, I’m told, is something that can be worked on, and he actually looked better than some expected he would considering the shotgun offense he ran at Oregon. No doubt about it, he’s a quiet kid. Plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a leader. Some guys lead by example, and not their words. Winston owns every room he’s in; Mariota simply doesn’t. That may turn a lot of people off. It shouldn’t. He’s got all the physical tools, wants to be great and has unlimited potential. New York, though a media pressure cooker, could be the right fit.
7. Chicago Bears: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Chicago’s defense isn’t getting any younger, with questions at the two outside linebacker spots. Vic Fangio will employ a complex scheme that will require pass rushers flying from the outside. Beasley, the 2014 ACC Defensive Player of the Year out of Clemson, is the guy at No. 7. A coach I spoke with said he expected Beasley to weigh in around 235 pounds and there was a fear he was too light. Beasley not only weighed in at 246 pounds, putting on at least 10 pounds of muscle since the end of the college season, but he also did an outstanding 35 reps of 225 pounds on the bench the following day.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Alvin "Bud" Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
It’s no secret that the Falcons are in the market for a pass rusher. Kroy Biermann led the team in sacks with a whopping 4.5 last year, and I think Dupree’s the guy at eighth overall. The Kentucky star posted the fastest 40 time of all linebackers, clocking in with a 4.57, and banged out a 42-inch vertical with a groin injury. Dupree can get to the quarterback, and with all the big quarterbacks in the NFC South, there are never enough quality pass rushers on a roster. The Legion of Boom got all the love up in Seattle, but the secret to Dan Quinn’s defensive success the past two years might have been the pass rush. Dupree’s a step in the right direction for Quinn’s new team.
9. New York Giants: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
I’ve had the Giants taking a wide receiver since the first mock draft I did in January. General Manager Jerry Reese was asked about the position at the Combine on Saturday, and said the following: "If Victor (Cruz) is back, and Odell (Beckham Jr.) and Rueben (Randle), that’s a pretty good core. And there are some other guys, (Preston) Parker, (Corey) Washington, some younger guys. But if there’s a good receiver, guys, we’ll draft him." Cooper is the most polished wideout in this draft. And though there are definitely pass rush and offensive line needs, and absolutely defensive backfield needs, an Amari Cooper doesn’t come along too often. The Giants don’t plan on drafting in the top 10 too often. I simply don’t see an offensive lineman worth taking over Cooper. It’s a "best player available" pick, and Cooper is pretty darn good. The Alabama superstar is a 6-1, 210-pound, precise route runner with 4.42 speed. He did it at the college level and he’ll do it at the pro level. He and Beckham are a tremendous 1-2.
10. St. Louis Rams: Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri
I expect the Rams to trade back here if they can. Ray didn’t compete in any of the physical drills in Indianapolis because of a nagging foot injury, and that’s a shame. He’s going to be fine by opening day — the doctors instructed him not to compete against his wishes — and he’ll be fine to put on the same sort of show that I was looking forward to at his Pro Day in a few weeks. So, St. Louis grabs another all-out, athletic pass rushing freak? Yes. Again, I think the Rams could trade back. But Ray fits the mold. Local kid, stud pass rusher, a great Gregg Williams piece.
11. Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes, DB, Michigan State
Waynes could go earlier, depending on team needs in the top 10. He is a 6-foot, 186-pound corner who starred in a man-to-man defense at Michigan State. He worked on an island against some of the best in the country, and according to sources, worked his tail off with Pat Narduzzi and position coach Harlon Barnett at MSU, to go from a raw product to a polished one. He does it all and runs a 4.32 40-yard dash. Mike Zimmer is a defensive backs coach at heart and there are never enough corners in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler.
12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Parker’s name was a bit lost in the Kevin White show last week in Indianapolis, but he had quite a Combine performance, too. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and jumped 36.5 in the vertical jump. He looked like a top-15 guy and the left foot that was injured for much of the 2014 season looked fine. Josh Gordon isn’t walking on to that field anytime soon. Though there’s no clear word on who the Browns quarterback will be, Parker is a stud at wideout. A potential true No. 1. Great get at 12th overall.
13. New Orleans Saints: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
Speaking to a lot of front office executives in Indianapolis last week, there are some differing opinions on Gregory. One thing is for certain: The guy can fly off the edge. I know a lot of mock drafts have him going top-five, but from what I’m hearing, he may slip out of the top 10. He weighed in at just 235 pounds, but there’s hope he can get bigger at the next level. The Saints roster will change dramatically this offseason due to the highest salary cap number in the league and a host of veterans set to make north of $10 million next year. All things being equal, they could use another pass rusher off the edge. Gregory can fly. Good fit in Rob Ryan’s 3-4.
14. Miami Dolphins: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Collins could end up going top 10, but I see him slipping to around here. He wore No. 26 at Alabama to honor his idol, former Miami Hurricanes great Sean Taylor. He also has some of Taylor’s game: the explosiveness, the versatility and the leadership. A 6-foot, 228-pound thumper, he ran a 4.53 40, topping the time of his former teammate Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who ran a 4.58 in Indianapolis a year ago.
15. San Francisco 49ers: Ereck Flowers, OT/OG, Miami
The guess is that Mike Iupati ends up going elsewhere as a free agent in March. That’s not an easy spot to fill. Flowers benched 225 pounds 37 times in Indianapolis, the best for any offensive lineman invited to the Combine. He played tackle in college, could move to guard in the pros and can play on either side. An interesting note: Flowers was the only player at the Combine who doesn’t have an agent. He works out at The U, says he uses the University of Miami family for counsel, and will just consult with a family lawyer to sign his rookie contract. He just wants to play football. I think Jim Tomsula will like this kid a lot.
16. Houston Texans: La’el Collins, OT, LSU
I assume Ryan Mallett will be the quarterback of the Texans in 2015, getting a full offseason with Bill O’Brien and a clean start to the year. Collins didn’t blow away anyone in the Senior Bowl, but performed much better at the Combine, solidifying a top-20 grade. He weighed in at 305 pounds and has a good physical frame. He did it all at LSU and was great with the short punches at Lucas Oil on Friday. He could be a guard or tackle and the Texans can use him. Good fit here.
17. San Diego Chargers: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
The Chargers made some noise in Indianapolis for extending left tackle King Dunlap with a four-year, $28 million deal. I don’t think San Diego is done on the offensive line just yet. Scherff was expected to blow the rest of the offensive linemen out of the water with his workouts in Indianapolis, and he didn’t do that. But he can play tackle, he can play guard and he can maul. Solid pick for a Chargers team sitting in the 17 spot.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Arizona State hasn’t had a first-round pick since 2003, when Terrell Suggs went to Baltimore. Strong will end that drought. Kansas City clearly needs help at the wideout spot and Strong will be a great fit in Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. He’s tough as nails, ran a lightning-fast 4.4 40-yard dash, and came in at 6-3, 215 pounds. There were some questions about his speed. His 40 time silenced those.
19. Cleveland Browns: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
A 6-2, 320-pound run stuffer, Brown could be an immediate plug-in guy on Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neil’s 3-4 defense. I think Cleveland would love to pick up a stud pass rusher at 19, but if Bud Dupree and Vic Beasley are off the board, Brown could be the right guy here. Brown’s got real man responsibilities, as he has a 4-year old stepdaughter and a 6-month-old daughter. He’s all about football and doing his job. That’ll be welcomed in Cleveland.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Peters had multiple confrontations with a new coaching staff in Washington last year, escalating to the point where he was ultimately removed from the team. He was upfront, honest and regretful in interviews with the media. I’m told he was the same — and actually quite impressive — in interviews with teams during the week, as well. He’s 6-foot, 198 pounds and looks longer than you’d expect. He didn’t run a lights-out 40-yard dash, but he’s a top press corner. Philadelphia could go a variety of ways at 20, but I like Peters with Chip Kelly.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Thompson will be a first-round pick. The question is where he’ll go in the first round. He could be a top 10 selection or a bottom-third guy. Cincinnati’s a good landing spot, where the 6-2, 230-pound defensive playmaker could join one of the best defenses in the league. Thompson says he’s a linebacker, but could be used as a Swiss Army knife type. Need him at nickel? Fine. Need him at safety? Sure. Special teams? Go. Running back? Sure. I liked what he did in Indianapolis and think this is a great fit.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Collins impressed in Indianapolis, coming in at 6-1 and 203, and running a 4.43 40-yard dash. He started just 10 games at LSU but had three interceptions and 25 pass breakups. There’s a good history of of LSU defensive backs in the league, but Collins has limited tape. Get Mike Tomlin’s hands on him and Collins could be the next great corner from LSU.
23. Detroit Lions: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Ndumakong Suh, Nick Fairley, Andre Fluellen and C.J Mosley are set to hit free agency this offseason in Detroit. Defensive tackle obviously will be in area of need. Goldman is a 6-2, 334-pound physical specimen who loves to stop the run. They run a 4-3 in Detroit, and Goldman could be a DT in that scheme. Whether Suh and/or Fairley are back, Goldman’s a good fit for Teryl Austin’s unit. At the Combine, Goldman rattled off names like Lee Roy Selmon, Merlin Olsen and Tony Brackens when describing players he modeled his game after. Merlin Olsen! A football historian and a big run-stuffer. I like this one for Jim Caldwell.
24. Arizona Cardinals: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Sometimes it’s just a family affair. Peat’s father, Todd Peat, was a starting offensive lineman for the Cardinals in the 1990s, and Peat grew up right down the road in Tempe. He’s not quite a finished product, but he started for more than two seasons at Stanford and saved his best for his last campaign. He’s 6-7, 314 pounds and could compete for the starting right tackle job in Arizona next season.
25. Carolina Panthers: Cameron Erving, OT/C, Florida State
The offensive lineman class in this year’s draft is solid, but not particularly top-heavy in the first round. This could be a sweet spot for Carolina, as a top-five tackle could slip. I loved chatting with Erving, a guy willing to play any place along the line — and who did at Florida State. He’s 6-5, 313 pounds and could step in wherever the Panthers need a capable starter next season.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Quenten Rollins, CB, Miami (Ohio)
Think John Harbaugh is going to be able to resist the opportunity to draft a defensive back from Miami of Ohio? C’mon. No chance. In all seriousness, I like this connection. The former Miami of Ohio DB selecting another one. Rollins’ story is a great one, and he’s truly just scratching the surface. A star on the Miami hoops team for four years, he stepped on a football field for the first time in 2014 and won the MAC Defensive Player of the Year award after a seven-interception debut campaign. He has the size and smarts you crave at cornerback, and he’s still learning the game. This is a big area of need in Baltimore, and the right type of player for the system. If the Ravens are a little patient with Rollins, a quick study, there may be a great payoff.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Often compared to Cardinals star Calais Campbell, Armstead could play either the 3-technique or the 5-technique, and performed at a high level for a great Oregon team. At 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds, the sky is the limit for Armstead with good coaching. What better mentor could there be than Rod Marinelli? Dallas could be in the running back market if DeMarco Murray leaves, but I like Armstead going here.
28. Denver Broncos: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
The expectation is that Julius Thomas will be playing elsewhere next season, meaning there’s a huge void on that Denver offense to fill. Williams isn’t Thomas, but there were Kyle Rudolph comparisons being thrown around in Indianapolis. Big hands, a 4.37 short shuttle time in Indianapolis, and a good football mind — this could be a solid fit.
29. Indianapolis Colts: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
You better believe teams are doing their work, checking to see if "DGB" is worth the off-field gamble to get him on the field. At 29? It’s worth the roll of the dice. Green-Beckham has been arrested twice for marijuana and was dismissed by Missouri after an incident with a woman in his last season there. But Green-Beckham had an outstanding week in Indianapolis. One thing is for sure: He can play wide receiver. At 6-foot-5, he’s got Calvin Johnson measureables and he was open and honest about his decision-making in the past. He just needs the right landing spot. How about lining up alongside T.Y. Hilton and having Andrew Luck throwing him balls? He’s the biggest wild card in this year’s draft, and I love the thought of him in Indianapolis.
30. Green Bay Packers: Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
The 2014 Butkus Award winner had a great week in Indianapolis, bolstering his stock even more. Though outside pass rushers are always going to be the hotter prospects these days, Kendricks is an elite inside linebacker. He clocked in with a 4.66 40-yard dash, interviewed well and showed that he likely can play right away. The all-time leading tackler at UCLA, he is a solid pick for the Packers, who had Clay Matthews moving inside last year.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Whether Marshawn Lynch is back or not, Gordon would be an awfully enticing addition to the Seahawks offense. Darrell Bevell’s got the Wisconsin connection, and Gordon, who’s been compared to Jamaal Charles, could be the best running back to enter the draft in the past three years. You’ve heard about running backs being devalued. Gordon at 31 is a steal.
32. New England Patriots: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
Clemmings didn’t stand out in Mobile a few weeks back as some expected he would and he didn’t dominate at the Combine, running a 5.14 40-yard dash and benching 22 reps. I still think he could be the top offensive lineman taken, depending on what teams value most. A converted basketball player who’s still learning the position, Clemmings comes from Paterson Catholic High School, the same place Victor Cruz and Mike Adams cut their teeth. A big boy who at 6-4 and 309 pounds can play either side, Clemmings is a wild card. Getting him with the New England big boys could be a great fit.