If you're a fan of the NFL draft, you've most likely heard of Mel Kiper Jr. He's the guy that projected Johnny Manziel as the 1st overall pick in 2014, said that JaMarcus Russell would one day be mentioned in the same sentence as John Elway, and once said that if Jimmy Clausen didn't develop into a capable NFL starting QB he would retire. Kiper has had some hits through the years, but he has also clearly had some serious misses. His first version of a 2015 NFL draft is up, and I'll tell you what I think. Mel's quotes in red italics, mine in black:
1 Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14) COLLEGE: Florida State Class: Soph HT: 6-4 WT: 235 POS: QB
Analysis: The bottom line is Winston is the most advanced on-field quarterback in the draft, and while the Buccaneers have a nice set of weapons for an emerging quarterback to utilize there's little evidence they have a future franchise quarterback on the current roster.
This pick makes sense. The Bucs will likely look for a QB in 2015, and Winston is the best available player. I could also see them trading back, maybe to a team like the Jets who also may want a QB, or to a team like the Bears, who may be willing to move Cutler in return for a draft pick. This is a pick that Kiper has likely nailed.
2 Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans (2-14) COLLEGE: Oregon Class: Jr HT: 6-4 WT: 211 POS: QB
Analysis: The Titans have said all the right things about Zach Mettenberger, but based on what we saw from him in 2014, there are considerable questions about his NFL ceiling. Offensive fit and the ability to adapt are big questions around Mariota, but he's an elite talent and has the chance to be special if a team is patient with him.
One more pick that I can agree with, although, again, the Titans could trade back to a team like the Jets. Mettenberger is decent, but is he the answer? Then again, even if he isn't, is Mariota? Mariota has struggled at times, and I feel like he may continue to struggle at the next level on occasion. He's great in non-pressure situations in the right system, but can he win a big game? Maybe it's because of Akili Smith, but I just get nervous about Marcus Mariota's NFL future. He should start in the NFL, but he may struggle.
3 Leonard Williams Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13) COLLEGE: USC Class: Jr HT: 6-5 WT: 290 POS: DE
Analysis: If you drop need and go on "best player available" -- something I believe really does happen more and more, given the unpredictable nature of the quarterback position in particular -- Williams is a contender to go No. 1 overall.
Yes, Leonard Williams is an elite defensive prospect. However, the Jaguars need help in other places. While they could go Williams here, I think they go WR instead, taking Amari Cooper off the board with the 3rd overall pick. They have a good young QB, but he needs someone to throw to! Their defense isn't elite, but it's better built than their offense. Help out your new franchise QB, then build a D-line.
4 Amari Cooper Oakland Raiders (3-13) COLLEGE: Alabama Class: Jr HT: 6-1 WT: 205 POS: WR
Analysis: I can see the Raiders also targeting one of the next two picks here, as they could really use another pass-rusher to take some of the pressure off Khalil Mack, who was exceptional as a rookie but is actually a better run defender than pass-rusher at this point.
The Raiders are a team with holes everywhere. Cooper is a nice pick for them, since they also have holes at WR. However, if Cooper doesn't fall to them, do they grab another WR here, or do they go defense? I could see them grabbing Williams if Cooper isn't available (and he may not be).
5 Randy Gregory Washington Redskins (4-12) COLLEGE: Nebraska Class: Jr HT: 6-6 WT: 245 POS: DE
Analysis: Gregory is the type of pass-rushing talent that can transcend systems. Long, athletic and highly explosive coming off the edge, he's a little undersized as a classic 4-3 defensive end and could play in space a little better as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Gregory is a talented player and I could see him working out well in Washington. They've got some offensive weapons in place, and I could see them going for either a defensive player or an offensive lineman here, so this pick makes sense.
6 Shane Ray New York Jets (4-12) COLLEGE: Missouri Class: Jr HT: 6-2 WT: 240 POS: DE
Analysis: The Jets could go in another direction in terms of defensive system now that former coach Rex Ryan isn't running point on that side of the ball, but they need to add a pure pass-rusher to go with the significant talent they have elsewhere along the defensive line regardless of system.
No. Yes, the Jets could use help on defense. Yes, they'd be foolish to draft another quarterback. That doesn't fix the biggest problem with this team though! Geno (or whoever is playing QB next year) needs a receiver! Yes, they picked up Percy Harvin. But will he stay healthy? That's unlikely. While the Jets could go defense, I think they grab an offensive playmaker here.
7 Landon Collins Chicago Bears (5-11) COLLEGE: Alabama Class: Jr HT: 6-0 WT: 212 POS: S
Analysis: Safety play has been, without exaggerating, a borderline disaster for the Bears, extending beyond this season. Collins does a lot of his best work near the line of scrimmage, but he can certainly be effective playing off the line as a guy who anticipates well, makes good reads and takes proper angles.
I could see this pick. The Bears need a ton of help on defense. They've got their offense fixed, but their defense has been atrocious. A safety would help.
8 Dante Fowler Jr.Atlanta Falcons (6-10) COLLEGE: Florida Class: Jr HT: 6-2 WT: 271 POS: DE
Analysis: A known commodity since he arrived on campus, Fowler actually frustrated me some coming into the year because the talent looked better than the production. But he really put it together this season and made more plays, finishing with 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
I could see the Falcons going one of three ways here. They could still use help on the offensive line, they could go defense (this pick), or they could surprise people and grab Melvin Gordon early. If they think it's too early for Gordon, they could also trade back. Atlanta's pick will be interesting.
9 Brandon Scherff New York Giants (6-10) COLLEGE: Iowa Class: Sr HT: 6-4 WT: 320 POS: OT
Analysis: While he's a left tackle at Iowa, I think Scherff could start his NFL career at right tackle and, if he were to deal with growing pains there, could end up at guard. If you then question a draft slot this high, getting a guy who can be solid at right tackle right away and potentially dominant at guard isn't too shabby.
Scherff is good, but is he good enough to go this high? He is one of the top offensive line prospects in this year's draft, and the Giants need help at O-line, so I could see this.
10 T J Clemmings St. Louis Rams (6-10) COLLEGE: Pittsburgh Class: Sr HT: 6-4 WT: 313 POS: OT
Analysis: The Rams made more strides on defense this year after adding Aaron Donald as a clear "best player available" pick in the 2014 NFL draft, and the defense benefited greatly. But while their No. 2 overall pick, Greg Robinson, goes into 2015 as the starter at left tackle after looking better there for the most part over the last five weeks this season, the O-line still graded out poorly for me overall, and the Rams need to bring in more talent.
Bradford needs a receiver! The Rams are a team with a flashy slot receiver and a collection of #2 and #4 guys. Yes, Bradford also needs to stay upright, and a tackle would help with that. However, what good is an upright quarterback if he has nobody to throw to? I'll admit that the offensive line selection makes sense, but they NEED to address WR as well.
11 Devante Parker Minnesota Vikings (7-9) COLLEGE: Louisville Class: Sr HT: 6-2 WT: 207 POS: WR
Analysis: Teddy Bridgewater showed he can be the long-term answer at quarterback if his development continues, and while there are also questions along the offensive line, Parker is a tantalizing talent at this point, as I think some teams will have him graded as the best receiver in this draft class once they've wrapped up evaluations.
If Adrian Peterson comes back, this pick makes sense. If Adrian Peterson doesn't come back, then they may go RB here. Either way, they need to build an offense around Bridgewater, and Parker is an extremely good WR.
12 Danny Shelton Cleveland Browns (7-9) COLLEGE: Washington Class: Sr HT: 6-1 WT: 332 POS: DT
Analysis: In Mike Pettine's system, you really can use powerful bodies up front who can hold blocks but also create some movement and occasionally penetrate, and the massive Shelton is a nice fit for a team that struggled to consistently stop the run.
This pick makes sense. However, I could also see the Browns opt for a WR. Will Josh Gordon ever play a complete NFL season? He's one arrest away from an indefinite suspension. Add a solid WR and that offense will become dynamic....even more so if Gordon cleans up his act.
13 Vic Beasley New Orleans Saints (7-9) COLLEGE: Clemson Class: Sr HT: 6-2 WT: 220 POS: DE
Analysis: A year after they made great strides on defense, the Saints took a major step backward in 2014, and a big part of that was a lack of productivity in the pass rush. They simply weren't as disruptive. Beasley is going to come in ready to play.
I can see this pick. Good points by Mel, and Beasley is a solid prospect.
14 Shaq Thompson Miami Dolphins (8-8) COLLEGE: Washington Class: Jr HT: 6-2 WT: 224 POS: OLB
Analysis: The great thing about Thompson is he's not just a freak in the athletic sense. He's also a freak in his football instincts. This is a kid who has played safety, linebacker and in 2014 was every bit a future NFL running back when the Huskies asked him to help out there for a few games.
True, but is Mike Wallace coming back? If not, this team needs to address the WR position first. This pick will depend heavily on that. I'm always a big fan of drafting defensive talent, but they need to make sure that Tannehill has weapons around him.
15 Kevin White San Francisco 49ers (8-8) COLLEGE: West Virginia Class: Sr HT: 6-2 WT: 211 POS: WR
Analysis: The question marks at wide receiver persist for the 49ers, and Michael Crabtree could be signed somewhere else by the time the draft arrives. If the 49ers want to further aid Colin Kaepernick's development, they need to find another target, ideally a matchup threat and a guy who can win at the catch point and outmuscle defenders for contested catches.
I can see this pick. Kaepernick needs someone to throw to since their WRs are mostly old and often injured. They may also look at a replacement for Justin Smith here.
16 Trae Waynes Houston Texans (9-7) COLLEGE: Michigan State Class: Jr HT: 6-1 WT: 182 POS: CB
Analysis: The Texans did a relatively good job defending the pass this year, but that started up front. They benefit so much from what J.J. Watt does to opposing QBs that it conceals the fact they could use help at cornerback.
Definitely a fair point here, a CB could help. However, they could also really throw a curveball and go QB here. Does Mariota manage to fall going into the draft? Do they fall in love with a guy like Manion? This pick will be very interesting.
17 Arik Armstead San Diego Chargers (9-7) COLLEGE: Oregon Class: Jr HT: 6-7 WT: 285 POS: DE
Analysis: While he's listed at defensive end, the long and strong Armstead is probably better described as "freakish defensive lineman." He has impressive quickness for a player who stands about 6-foot-8 and carries a lean 290 pounds, and the power is obvious, too, because when he plays with leverage and gets under the pads of blockers, he can simply take them backward.
I could see this pick. I could also see the Chargers taking a look at a WR here.
18 Dorial Green-Beckham Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) COLLEGE: Oklahoma Class: Jr HT: 6-4 WT: 225 POS: WR
Analysis: We all know about the Chiefs' singular lack of ability to generate touchdowns from their wide receivers, and that makes Green-Beckham a potential risk worth taking. The physical book on Green-Beckham is a good read: He's got great length and can take the top off the secondary as a straight-line runner but also creates an impressive amount of space with quickness on short routes.
Green-Beckham isn't a Chiefs-type WR Mel!! He scores TDs! That being said, this pick makes sense.
19 Ereck Flowers Cleveland Browns (7-9) COLLEGE: Miami (FL) Class: Jr HT: 6-6 WT: 325 POS: OT
Analysis: I can obviously see the Browns looking at a pass-catcher here given the issues they faced in 2014, when Josh Gordon was off the field (and when he was on it, for that matter), but I also think they know that if they can build a dominant offensive line and make Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell arguably the league's best two-headed running back attack, they'll be able to help stabilize the passing game and allow any QB to succeed.
You hit the nail on the head and then you ignore it Mel. The Browns will likely take a WR with one of their two first round picks. An offensive tackle in the first also makes sense, but they need to take a WR as well.
20 Marcus Peters Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) COLLEGE: Washington Class: Jr HT: 5-11 WT: 193 POS: CB
Analysis: I wouldn't say the Eagles were a total mess at cornerback last season, but Brandon Boykin was arguably the best performer for them, though that was in a little more than 500 snaps. They really need to add talent at the position, and, in that regard, Peters is arguably the best cornerback in the entire draft.
Alright, I could see this pick.
21 Bud Dupree Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) COLLEGE: Kentucky Class: Sr HT: 6-3 WT: 268 POS: OLB
Analysis: The Bengals had only the appearance of a rotation at defensive end in 2014 because while Carlos Dunlap is an effective player, the same can't be said for Wallace Gilberry (up and down) and Robert Geathers (safely below average), and they could really use more explosiveness in the pass rush.
The Bengals could use help at DE, so you're projecting them to draft a guy that'll play at OLB instead? I'm confused. Yes, Dupree will do some DE-type things, but you're projecting him as an outside linebacker yet you're saying the Bengals need a DE. What are you doing Mel? I think they either draft a traditional DE prospect here, or if they're going linebacker, they grab Denzel Perryman or Benardrick McKinney at ILB. They're in a better situation at OLB than they are at ILB currently.
22 Kevin Johnson Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) COLLEGE: Wake Forest Class: Sr HT: 6-0 WT: 175 POS: CB
Analysis: The Steelers are long in the tooth at cornerback and need a player who can help early at that position (not an easy ask) but will get that kind of player if Johnson is still on the board here. Johnson has outstanding instincts and always seems to have a good idea of where the ball is going.
Pittsburgh will upgrade one defensive position in the first round of this year's draft. Maybe it'll be a CB, maybe it'll be something else. But they will upgrade their old, retiring defense.
23 Malcom Brown Detroit Lions (11-5) COLLEGE: Texas Class: Sr HT: 6-3 WT: 317 POS: DT
Analysis: Yes, there is some speculation that Detroit could franchise Ndamukong Suh or find a way to bring him back in free agency, but given other salary commitments, we know that's going to be tough. Fortunately for them, the defense around Suh improved in 2014 under the direction of Teryl Austin, and there exists the opportunity to find help at defensive tackle in the draft.
Brown is an elite prospect at DT, and this pick could make sense. The Lions could also definitely pursue a CB here.
24 Melvin Gordon Arizona Cardinals (11-5) COLLEGE: Wisconsin Class: Jr HT: 6-0 WT: 207 POS: RB
Analysis: There have been exactly zero running backs selected in the first round over the past two drafts, but Gordon is certainly worthy of breaking that streak. The Cardinals front office has done a great job piecing together this roster, as evidenced by the fact that they were as competitive as they were given the health problems at quarterback, and while Gordon might sound like a luxury pick, he's really not if you consider how much explosiveness was lost when Andre Ellington got hurt.
No. Gordon makes sense here if you count on Ellington getting hurt. That being said, there are plenty of other insurance guys that you can get without spending a first round pick in this year's draft. Heck, wait until the second round and make a pass at Gurley or Coleman. I think they go another direction with this pick.
25 Andrus Peat Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) COLLEGE: Stanford Class: Jr HT: 6-6 WT: 315 POS: OT
Analysis: It's not really overstating it to say the Panthers' pass protection was absolute garbage in 2014. And if you assume they will make a commitment to Cam Newton this offseason, they'll need to find a way not to take his durability for granted in constructing the offensive line, because even Newton can't hold up forever with this kind of blocking.
This pick makes sense. I could also see them going WR here; Newton needs someone to throw to as well.
26 Devin Funchess Baltimore Ravens (10-6) COLLEGE: Michigan Class: Jr HT: 6-4 WT: 235 POS: WR
Analysis: It's not really fair to call Funchess a tight end based on where he typically lines up, but at more than 6-foot-4 and at about 235 pounds with the ability to simply overpower most cornerbacks, he's not exactly a flanker, either.
Funchess makes sense here given Joe Flacco's undying love for TE-type receivers, but is Justin Forsett the long-term answer at RB? That's unlikely even though he had a great year last season. Baltimore could go RB here, or replace Ray Lewis with another linebacker that wore the #52 in college here, Denzel Perryman.
27 Jordan Phillips Dallas Cowboys (12-4) COLLEGE: Oklahoma Class: Soph HT: 6-5 WT: 334 POS: DT
Analysis: The Dallas defensive line held up reasonably well this season with merely OK talent, but a lot of that had to do with how much the efficient offense was able to keep it off the field and fresh. The unit isn't going to simply get better unless it adds more talent.
This pick makes sense. I could see the Cowboys grabbing defensive help.
28 Benardrick McKinney Denver Broncos (12-4) COLLEGE: Mississippi State Class: Jr HT: 6-4 WT: 243 POS: ILB
Analysis: I thought Denver was pretty thin at linebacker coming into the 2014 season, and while Jack Del Rio did a pretty good job with the unit, a versatile, experienced linebacker such as McKinney could be an immediate help to a team I'd still categorize in as operating in "win-now" mode.
McKinney isn't a bad player, but I think Denzel Perryman is the better player out of the two. While both will have solid NFL careers, I'd take Perryman instead here.
29 Jaelen Strong Indianapolis Colts (11-5) COLLEGE: Arizona State Class: Jr HT: 6-3 WT: 212 POS: WR
Analysis: The Colts have some good young targets in the passing game with T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief as well as the emerging Coby Fleener, but those players have also had consistency issues, and in the case of the receivers, neither can dominate with size alone. Reggie Wayne's future is uncertain, and Hakeem Nicks was more flash than regular substance this season.
A replacement for Reggie Wayne makes sense here, but the Colts could also definitely use a RB here. I'd take Sammie Coates over Jaelen Strong here. I think Mel's WR rankings are a little bit off this draft.
30 Eddie Goldman Green Bay Packers (12-4) COLLEGE: Florida State Class: Jr HT: 6-3 WT: 315 POS: DT
Analysis: While I think Goldman's potential still outpaces the tape, he has plenty of it and could be a versatile help for the defensive line on a team that has struggled defending the run in particular.
This is an interesting selection. DT isn't Green Bay's biggest hole on defense, and they can grab a guy like Grady Jarrett or Anthony Chickillo later in the draft. I think they need one more solid piece to their linebacking corps to become elite on the defensive side of the ball, and they could go that route here. That being said, Goldman is a great prospect, but I just don't see him as a first round fit in Green Bay.
31 Sammie Coates New England Patriots (12-4) COLLEGE: Auburn Class: Jr HT: 6-2 WT: 200 POS: WR
Analysis: Arguably the best athlete in all of college football, Coates isn't huge at 6-foot-1 and a little more 200 pounds, but he's a guy who can run in the 4.3 range in the 40, is exceptionally strong for his size (it shows on contested catches) and is a player who can create big plays out of very little. He averaged more than 21 yards per catch in 2014 and is the kind of player whom safeties have to be wary of.
This pick makes sense; Tom Brady needs someone dependable to throw to at WR. That being said, they could also go DL here. Belichick will make things interesting as he does every season.
32 Devin Smith Seattle Seahawks (12-4) COLLEGE: Ohio State Class: Sr HT: 6-0 WT: 199 POS: WR
Analysis: I was between two players here -- Smith and cornerback Jalen Collins of LSU. The injury to Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson has me leaning toward Smith, a good size/speed combination at wide receiver and one of the better deep threats in college football, a guy fully capable of making contested catches down the field (as anybody who saw him against either Alabama or Oregon can attest to).
I totally agree with projecting a WR to Seattle, even without Richardson getting injured. The Seahawks need help at the position after losing Harvin, and Smith could provide that help. He does a lot of the same things that Harvin did, and he stays healthy. This pick makes sense.
Like normal, some of Mel's picks are spot on, and some are, I feel, far off. It'll be fun to see how things play out.
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