Winners and losers from the NFL draft
By Vincent Frank
The 2015 NFL draft is officially in the books. In what was an awesome three-day event put on by the city of Chicago, 32 NFL teams were looking to get better in 2015 and down the road.
Some accomplished this goal, while others struggled to do much throughout the seven rounds. From the Atlanta Falcons to Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles, here are your winners and losers of the 2015 NFL draft.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
General manager Thomas Dimitroff absolutely aced this draft. From nabbing the draft’s best pure pass rusher in the first round to adding a potential long-term running back in the third round, Atlanta was able to find a happy medium between value and need.
Former Clemson edge rusher Vic Beasley is the perfect fit for a team that needed to add a premier pass-rush option on defense. Considered a top-10 pick since prior to the 2013 season, Beasley’s on-field prowess cannot really be questioned. The All-American tallied 25 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons at Clemson.
Former Indiana running back Tevin Coleman in the third round was an absolute steal. At 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, he’s a compact runner who lowers the boom against opposing defenders. A three-down running back if there ever was one, it’s possible that Coleman will start out of the gate.
Atlanta was also able to address a need opposite Desmond Trufant at cornerback by selecting former LSU standout Jalen Collins in the second round. Collins was considered a first-round prospect prior to recent reports of multiple failed drug tests in college.
Overall, the Falcons were able to address some key needs for new head coach Dan Quinn, who now has some nice toys to play with on defense.
Loser: Brett Hundley
In retrospect, this UCLA product probably should have returned to college for the 2015 season. Seen by some as the third-best quarterback in the draft, Hundley fell all the way to the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round. While that might be a solid long-term fit for Hundley, especially working under Aaron Rodgers, he has no real future as a starter in Green Bay. The early part of Hundley’s career will be all about progressing as a quarterback and displaying his talents in preseason games.
It’s not an ideal short-term situation for the talented signal caller. He would have had a much stronger possibility of playing early in his career if he were drafted by any of the 31 other teams.
Winner: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota
Not only were these two players picked one and two respectively, their new teams made sure that they got a ton of help as the draft progressed.
For Mariota, it started with the ultra-talented Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round. The wide receiver was clearly a top-10 talent, but multiple off-field issues caused him to fall out of the first day. At 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, Green-Beckham is going to be an awesome target for the reigning Heisman winner. If he gets his house on order off the field, there’s no reason to believe that DGB won’t be a true No. 1 receiver. He also joins an uber-talented wide receiver group that already includes Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Hakeem Nicks.
Then in Round 5, the Titans were able to pick up one of the most underrated players in the draft in the form running back David Cobb from Minnesota. At 5-foot-11 and 229, Cobb packs a physical punch in the offensive backfield. NFL.com compared Cobb to Stevan Ridley, but his upside is a poor man’s version of Marshawn Lynch. Cobb will now team up with Bishop Sankey to form a solid 1-2 punch at running back.
Tampa Bay may have avoided skill positions for the most part, but it did rebuild a struggling offensive line in front of Winston. General manager Jason Licht and company picked up two potential Day 1 starters here. Former Penn State left tackle Donovan Smith will likely move over to the right side as a rookie. Despite showing some raw tendencies, the reports on Smith are solid:
Smith was a surprise entry into this draft since he had another year of eligibility at Penn State. Some thought he’d take advantage of that,” NFL Media’s Mike Mayock said during the draft. “But he came out and dominated at the Senior Bowl. He has long arms. He was a left tackle at Penn State, but he’s a prototype right tackle. He’ll be a starting right tackle and this guy can play.
Then in Round 3, the Buccaneers got a gem in the form of small-school product Ali Marpet from Hobart. While most fans haven’t heard of this dude, he sure can play football.
Ali Marpet's Hobart game tape is like watching LeBron in high school.
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) May 2, 2015
There are going to be some initial struggles here, but the Buccaneers set Winston up big time down the road. It’s this type of forward-thinking mentality that’s going to be huge for the squad moving forward.
Loser: St. Louis Rams
I am not entirely sure what the Rams were doing during the draft. Not only did they spend a top-10 pick on a running back in Todd Gurley who is coming off a torn ACL, they did so with Tre Mason already on the roster. The team then reached for former Wisconsin offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, who is solely going to play on the right side of the line. Showing signs of stiffness and with no real athleticism to speak of, Havenstein is going to struggle big time in pass protection. It definitely doesn’t help that T.J. Clemmings, who most considered an early Day 2 prospect, was still on the board.
Continuing to attempt a rebuilding process on offense, St. Louis then reached for former Oregon State signal caller Sean Mannion in the third round. There are some out there who didn’t even think the quarterback should have been picked. Heck, I had to turn off the tape a couple times before powering through it.
Here’s what NFL.com had to say about the Oregon State product:
Tempo of his play is a concern. Slow in takeaway from center and set-up and slow getting through progressions. Carries ball low in the pocket, allowing defenders to swipe at it. Finished career with 30 fumbles and 54 interceptions. Poise and mobility in pocket are below average.
Not considered a play-extender outside of pocket. Drops eyes and misses throwing windows when he senses pressure around him. Decision making greatly influenced by level of pressure around him. Fails to throw with adequate zip when feet aren’t under him and he doesn’t step strongly into throw. Takes too long to get rid of throws on out routes.
Yeah, that’s going to work well against NFC West defenses. It’s simply stunning that St. Louis passed up on Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley for a quarterback that’s likely nothing more than a career backup.
Winner: New York Jets
Talk about acing your first draft. New Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan absolutely killed it this weekend. Putting needs aside, the team picked up a player in defensive tackle Leonard Williams who many had pegged as the top overall prospect in the draft. Williams is a beast of a man and is going to make the Jets defensive front elite. Teaming him up with Sheldon Richardson is an absolute nightmare for opposing AFC East offenses.
Deciding to then focus on offense, the Jets were able to nab former Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith in the second round. At six feet and 196 pounds, Smith may not have the size, but he surely knows how to make plays down the field:
I like this pick. This guy tracks the football deep as well as any wide receiver in this draft,” NFL Media’s Mike Mayock said about the pick. “He has 4.4 speed. It seemed like every catch he made this year was for a touchdown.
Speed is fine, but Smith does a tremendous job tracking the ball down the field. He also boasts a pretty decent set of hands. This was a great pick by the Jets.
The Jets also found a way to land former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty in the fourth round. Petty projects to compete for the starting job out of the gate, especially when looking at the Jets current quarterback situation. He was also a tremendous value in Round 4.
Loser: Carolina Panthers
There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason for the Panthers’ decision to pass up on an offensive tackle in the first round, especially with Oregon’s Jake Fisher ripe for the picking. By doing so, Carolina faces the real possibility of starting Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin at tackle in 2015.
Instead of actually finding someone to protect Cam Newton, the team added an athlete in Shaq Thompson who possesses the highest bust potential of any first-round pick. A man without a position, Thompson is going to be a work in progress at linebacker:
This is somewhat of a surprise. Some people had Thompson going in the second or third rounds. He’s a versatile athlete,” Mike Mayock said when the pick was announced. “I think he’s a dime linebacker in sub packages. If he can cover tight ends, he has tremendous value.”
That’s not necessarily what you are looking for in a first-round pick. If Thompson is relegated to sub packages, this will end up being one of the biggest reaches of the draft. Though, it must be noted that the upside is tremendous here.
What’s more concerning about the Panthers draft is that they yielded a third-round pick to move up from 57 to 41 in the second round. With that pick, Carolina selected a poor man’s Kelvin Benjamin in the form of 6-foot-4 wide receiver Devin Funchess, who really didn’t fill much of a need. Without much of an ability to stretch the field, both Benjamin and Funchess are going to have issues opening up the offense for Newton. This team would have been better served going with someone like Kansas State’s Kevin Lockett, who went to the Seattle Seahawks at the top of the third.
Winner: Cleveland Browns
Cleveland’s two first-round picks weren’t of the sexy variety. Instead of going skill position, they decided it was best to start dominating from the trenches. It’s a philosophy that has worked for teams in the past, and it’s a philosophy that should work well for Cleveland.
Defensive tackle Danny Shelton is going to be an absolute stud in the interior of this team’s defensive line. He can take up double teams, does a solid job providing inside pressure and will open up gaps for edge rushers. It was definitely a need, and acquiring him with the 12th pick was a steal.
Focusing on the offensive side of the ball with its second first-round pick, Cleveland picked up a studly offensive lineman who can play all five offensive line positions, as Mike Mayock indicated:
“That really is an interesting pick. Remember, Cleveland has Alex Mack at center and his contract is up after this year. This is great insurance if the Browns lose Mack. Erving can play all five offensive line positions.
While Erving could potentially play center, it’s a foregone conclusion that he will play guard out of the gate. That sets up one of the best interior offensive lines in the NFL with Alex Mack and Joel Bitonio. That’s domination right there.
Then in the second round, Cleveland drafted Senior Bowl standout Nate Orchard, who will play outside linebacker in the team’s 3-4 scheme. While he did fly under the radar, the respect factor is there among NFL media types:
This is another one of my favorite players in this draft. He doesn’t get enough respect. I think the 3-4 (base defense) teams like him more than the 4-3 teams,” Mayock said about the pick. “He’s a better player than an athlete. If you ask the linemen in the Pac-12 who they thought was the toughest guy to block, it was Nate Orchard.
New Cleveland Browns HB Duke Johnson forced 15 missed tackles on receptions in 2014, the most of any running back in this draft class
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 2, 2015
Throwing out need, the Browns also picked up former Miami (Fla.) running back Duke Johnson in the third round. Johnson was my third-best running back in the class. He has a chance to be a 1,500-yard rusher in the NFL. With Johnson now in the fold, Cleveland boasts a ridiculous trio at running back, joining Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell.
That’s some absurd value on the second day. In addition to this, Cleveland was also able to add two players in the seventh round who were expected to go much higher. USC linebacker Hayes Pullard and Oregon defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu represent tremendous value at positions of need.
Loser: Chip Kelly
I am not sure if the plan was actually to trade up for Marcus Mariota, but that failed miserably for the Eagles. More than that, this team really didn’t find much value throughout the draft. Nelson Agholor is going to be a good wide receiver in the NFL, but he was over-drafted at 20th overall. Utah defensive back Eric Rowe played safety the past three years, but will likely be moved outside to cornerback. It might not be a difficult transition considering he was a corner coming out of high school. However, there was also more value there.
More than anything, the issue with Kelly moving forward might be his relationship with current Eagles players and potential free-agent acquisitions. That was magnified by his comments regarding Evan Mathis on Saturday.
Chip: Evan’s been available for 2 years now and we’ve never had an offer for him.
— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) May 2, 2015
That’s pretty harsh.
In addition to this, the rumors of certain Eagles players being on the trade block isn’t a good look for the team. Brandon Boykin, Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox might be professionals, but it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if they were unhappy with Kelly right now.
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