2015 NFL Draft First-Round Review

The first round of the 2015 NFL Draft is in the books, and while we won’t truly know whether a team “hit” or “missed” on their pick for a few seasons, it’s worth taking a look at how the round played out and whether there were any questionable decisions made.

mariotawinstonThe top of the round went as expected, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selecting Jameis Winston (QB, FSU), followed by the Tennessee Titans picking Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon).  I’m more confident in Mariota’s likelihood for NFL success, largely because of his off-the-field character and decision making.  That said, you can’t question either team’s decision to go with the obvious top-two quarterbacks.  If they both pan out, it will be a long time before Tampa or Tennessee is picking this high again.

The Jacksonville Jaguars decided that Dante Fowler (EDGE, Florida) was their guy despite the best player in the class, Leonard Williams (DL, USC), still being on the Board.  Fowler is an exciting pass-rushing prospect, so I understand why the Jags decided to go this route. But I personally wouldn’t have passed on Williams, as he has the potential to be the kind of defensive player that you build that side of the ball around.   If defense was Jacksonville’s priority, then passing on Williams is certainly a risky proposition.

At the No. 4 pick, the Raiders selected Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) to be the go-to-guy for second-year quarterback, Derek Carr.  I have no problem with this pick, as Cooper is an unquestionable talent who is ready to step in right away and be Oakland’s No. 1 guy.   He’s as safe of a prospect as there is in the class with the kind of exciting upside to give the Raiders a viable threat in the passing game.

The Washington Redskins were the third team to pass on Leonard Williams, choosing instead to add Brandon Scherff (OT, Iowa) with the fifth pick.  Scherff was my highest-graded lineman in the class, and much like Cooper, he is one of the safer picks in the 2015 NFL Draft.  I’m of the opinion that he can be a very successful tackle in the NFL, but if he struggles on the edge, he’ll be an All-Pro guard.  With the Redskins committing to RGIII for at least the 2015 NFL season, adding talent up-front to keep him clean is a wise and sound investment.

Leonard WilliamsFinally, at the No. 6 pick overall, Leonard Williams heard his name called by the New York Jets.  This has to be considered the steal of the Draft so far; Rarely is the top-overall guy still sitting there six picks into round one.  While the Jets don’t have a glaring need on the defensive line, Williams is a special talent who will find his way on the field regardless of the talent of the veterans on the roster.  The Jets landed their franchise defender, plain and simple.

The Chicago Bears are a franchise that had some head-scratching first-round picks in recent years, but general manager Ryan Pace went the conventional route by taking the best player on the Board in Kevin White (WR, WVU).  He’s a blue-chip talent at a position that the Bears needed to fill after the trade of Brandon Marshall to the Jets.  White will be expected to come in and contribute immediately despite the potential learning curve he’s likely to face.  The duo of Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White has the potential to be one of the best young tandems in the NFL.

There was little secret that the Atlanta Falcons were going to address their pass rush with the eighth pick, and they did just that with Vic Beasley (EDGE, Clemson).  While I had Bud Dupree (EDGE, Kentucky) graded higher, you can’t question the Beasley pick all that much.  He’s going to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback; The Falcons addressed a huge need with a very good prospect.

The New York Giants addressed their offensive line with the No. 9 pick, deciding to roll the dice on Ereck Flowers (OT, Miami).  I had Flowers with a solid second-round grade, viewing him more as an upside player than a guy who could come in and start right away.  I would’ve rather seen the Giants grab Andrus Peat (OT, Stanford) here, but at least they invested in their offensive line.  If they’re going to maximize the remaining years with Eli Manning (and especially the superstar ability of Odell Beckham), they have to improve their pass protection.  Flowers will be expected to come in and start right away, despite my concerns that he may need some time to reach his fullest potential.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at GeorgiaOne of the more interesting selections occurred at No. 10, when the St. Louis Rams chose Todd Gurley (RB, UGA).  I was shocked by the pick, considering they received some impressive play and production from Tre Mason last year.  I thought that Mason did enough to establish himself as their running back of the future, but the Rams just couldn’t pass on a player that they had graded as one of the best in the class.  I like Todd Gurley a lot, and it’s a safe bet that he’ll become a bell-cow runner for St. Louis.  I just wonder whether they needed to invest in a running back considering the talent that they already have in place.

The Vikings were up next at No. 11, and I was all but convinced that they would gobble up DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville) to pair up with Teddy Bridgewater.  Instead, they chose Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan St.) to enhance their overall pass defense and to help offset the receivers in the NFC North.  I don’t hate the pick, but they had a chance to do something similar to what the Raiders did; The Vikings passed on the chance to give their franchise quarterback a blue-chip receiver.  I have a hunch they could end up regretting that decision.

Danny Shelton went to the Cleveland Browns at the twelfth pick, one of the better selections in the entire round.  Shelton won’t fill the box score with gaudy numbers, but he’ll fill running lanes and threaten pocket integrity with his massive frame, top-tier strength, and impressively quick feet.  His personality is infectious and he’ll be an instant favorite in the Dawg Pound.

The New Orleans Saints picked next, and they used the No. 13 selection on Andrus Peat.  I really like the choice, as he is one of the few pure left tackles in the 2015 NFL Draft.  I was a bit surprised that he was still on the Board;  As I said above, I thought he would be picked by the Giants at No. 9, so this is really nice value for the Saints.  They added a day-one starter.

The Vikings passed on the chance to give their young franchise quarterback a blue-chip receiver, leaving theDolphins to reap the reward.  DeVante Parker went 14th to Miami, giving Ryan Tannehill a legitimate long-limbed target to complement some of the smaller, speedier guys already on the roster.  A very, very good pick.

melvingordonttuThe Chargers went a long way to silence the running back narrative, not only selecting Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin) in the first round, but trading up to the No. 15 pick to do so.  Gordon is my highest-graded running back; In fact, I believe he’s the best player at the position to enter the NFL in a long time.  He’s going to be the Chargers’ featured runner with the potential to rush for more than 1,300 yards as a rookie.

The Houston Texans addressed the secondary at the No. 16 pick, choosing Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest).  Johnson was my highest-graded corner in the class, possessing top-tier feet and overall instincts for the position.  I thought that Houston might decide to grab a receiver here, but Johnson has a chance to be a true lock-down corner in the pros.

A player that I just couldn’t buy into during the pre-Draft scouting process was Arik Armstead (DL, Oregon).  The49ers called his name at the No. 17 pick after sliding back following their trade with the Chargers.  Armstead looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.  It’s a risky pick by San Fran, as they are betting on upside rather than an established body of tape.  I had Armstead as a third-round player, so picking him in the top-20 is a major reach in my opinion.

With two corners already off the Board, the Chiefs grabbed Marcus Peters (CB, Washington) with the 18th pick.  There were some analysts who graded Peters as one of the 2015 NFL Draft’s elite players despite some of the often-discussed character concerns.  Peters certainly has the traits to start in the NFL, and assuming the Chiefs’ coaching staff can keep him grounded, his best football is yet to come.  He was my No. 3 corner in the class (second-round grade), so I have no problem with the Chiefs taking him here.  Peters’ upside is through the roof if he can keep his head in the game.

With the second of their two first-round picks, the Browns selected Cameron Erving (OL, FSU).  I valued Erving right in this range (I mocked him to the Chiefs at 18), so I love the talent-value match here.  Erving’s best NFL fit is at center, so it will be interesting to see where and how the Browns choose to use him.  What makes him a great pick, though, is his versatility.  He’ll be a great center, a good guard, and a competent tackle.  Cleveland will have the luxury of fitting him into whatever spot they need filled the most.

1544712_sp_usc_arizona_002_LSThe Philadelphia Eagles chose Nelson Agholor (WR, USC) with the No. 20 pick, and while I figured Coach Kelly and company would address the receiver position, I’m surprised they went with Agholor over some of the other names still on the Board.  Agholor built up some momentum in his Draft stock in the days leading up to Thursday night, and his style of play has been compared to former Eagle Jeremy Maclin.  Chip Kelly knows what he wants for his system, so you can’t really question the pick too much.  A need at receiver was addressed with a talented prospect who is going to the absolutely perfect situation.

In one of the first-r0und curve balls, the Cincinnati Bengalschose Cedric Ogbuehi (OT, TAMU) despite his late-season torn ACL and some questionable tape prior to the injury.  Had he stayed healthy, he likely would have been a late-first rounder, so it’s not all that shocking that Ogbuehi was picked in the top-21.  But with other tackles like Jake Fisher (Oregon) still on the Board, I wonder if this choice will come back to be a regrettable one.  Ogbuehi received a high-second round grade from me, so I don’t hate the value, but there were three or four players at the position that I held in higher regard that were still available.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hit it out of the park with the No. 22 pick, selecting Bud Dupree (EDGE, Kentucky) to continue the long an storied tradition of physical defense in the Steel City.  Dupree was the No. 4 overall player in the class for me, so getting him this late in the first round is an absolute steal.  This is the kind of pick that we’ll look back on and say, “How did the Steelers get Dupree at No. 22?”  Great pick.

The Denver Broncos traded up to the 23rd pick to select Shane Ray (EDGE, Missouri), a player who took a big hit to his draft stock after some off-field issues in the week leading up to Draft.  I’m not in the camp that believes Ray is a special pass rushing prospect, and I would’ve been much more comfortable with him as a second-round player.

The Arizona Cardinals didn’t take long to hand in their card, picking D.J. Humphries (OT, Florida) with the 24th pick in the first round.  Humphries has as much upside as any tackle in the class, and many experts projected him to be off the Board at some point earlier in the round.  Arizona has committed to upgrading their offensive line this off-season, and adding Humphries to the mix is one heck of an addition in the later-portion of round one.

At pick No. 25, the Carolina Panthers added an exciting defensive hybrid in Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington).  I graded Thompson as a linebacker and tagged him with a late-1st, early-2nd round grade, so I really like the value and upside that Carolina secured.  The Panthers will have the luxury of putting Thompson on the field to simply make plays, regardless if it’s from a linebacker or safety spot.

NCAA Football: Temple at Central FloridaThe Baltimore Ravens were a safe bet to add a receiver in round one, and with Breshad Perriman (WR, UCF) still on the Board at pick 26, it was a pretty easy call to make.  Perriman is a developing talent and he’s not a guy who is likely to step on the field and make a massive impact right away, but there’s no denying his explosive big-play ability.  The Ravens will squeeze whatever is left out of Steve Smith while Perriman works on his craft and becomes a reliable NFL weapon.

I have to believe that the Dallas Cowboys were hoping that Melvin Gordon would somehow fall to them, but once he went off the Board at No. 15, they turned their attention to the secondary and drafted Byron Jones (CB, UConn) at No. 27 overall.  I personally like Jones more as a safety in the NFL, but he was an athletic freak at the Scouting Combine to go along with some promising tape.  Jones will get every opportunity to prove he can be a very good NFL cornerback, but I like the pick more because of its low-bust risk; Jones will start in the NFL, even if it ends up being at safety.

The Detroit Lions upgraded their offensive line with their first-round pick of Laken Tomlinson (OG, Duke) as well as through the acquisition of Manny Ramirez (OG) in the trade with Denver (that allowed the Broncos to move up for Shane Ray).  Personally, I didn’t see a first-round player in Laken Tomlinson, giving him a late-3rd round grade after my tape study.  But as we all know, this is an inexact science.  He’s an intelligent, hard-working guy who will give maximum effort in his attempt to become a reliable starter.

The fantasy football world has to be in love with the Colts selection of Phillip Dorsett, the electrifying receiver from Miami, with the 29th overall pick.  Andrew Luck will have some of the NFL’s fastest receivers at his disposal on a weekly basis…a scary thought.  I had a feeling that Dorsett would sneak into the first round, and while he seems to be a mirror-image of the talent that’s already in place in Indianapolis (T.Y. Hilton), you simply cannot have enough speed.  I like the pick.

While many expected Landon Collins (Alabama) to be the first safety off the Board, the Packers decided to go with Damarious Randall (ASU) instead.  This one surprised me quite a bit, as I don’t know if Randall’s final position in the NFL will be as a safety.  I think he could be a pretty good corner in the pros, as his overall body type and athleticism (and lacking physicality) tends to suggest he’s a more natural fit there.  I try not to question Ted Thompson all that much, so we’ll see how this one turns out.

The New Orleans Saints owned the 31st overall pick after trading all-world tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks.  I expected that they would use the pick to replenish some of the lost pass-catching targets this off-season, but instead they chose Stephone Anthony (LB, Clemson).  This one really confused me.  I think Anthony would’ve been there for them in the second round (pick 44), and I personally would’ve rolled the dice on Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri).  Now, if DGB is still on the Board when they pick in the second round?  No harm done.

The Patriots were the Patriots once again, grabbing a top-20 talent (No. 19 overall on my Board) with the last pick of the first round.  Brown is a dancing bear who will fit nicely into the Patriots scheme, likely as a starter early in year one.  In what seems like a yearly tradition, the Patriots win again.

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