This, the first in my series of Mock Drafts, comes after the Senior Bowl on Saturday. Typically, there are always two or three players who really improve their draft stock at the Senior Bowl, while a few will see their draft stock drop. There are usually always a couple of players who neither rise or fall despite there being a lot of hype around them, too.
For each pick I will write a brief analysis of the team’s situation and of course the player selected. I will also put down an alternative pick for each team (of the players still available). Lastly, I will predict the likelihood of each team trading up or down from their spot, and score it as a percentage (there are never any certainties so percentages will start at 10%, equating to ‘next to no chance’. 10-25% represents a slight chance. 25-50% represents some chance. 50-75% indicates a good chance. 75%+ indicates a more than likely chance. I’ll also use stones instead of pounds when measuring players, as the majority of readers will be from the UK.
*I will be posting mocks including the deeper rounds in the future, as well as revisions of this first round version. Additionally I will have at least one mock for each NFL team. Mock Drafts and the picks will change big time during Free Agency. Be sure to return and check them out!*
This pick will either blow up in Tampa’s face or save the franchise for ten years. Winston is without doubt the most NFL-ready quarterback and his physical tools make him an elite prospect. At 6’4 and 17 stone he has much-coveted NFL size but he also possesses the athleticism to be able to run and scramble if need be. He has experience directing a Pro-Style offense (unlike the other top QB prospect, Marcus Mariota) and he has shown he is as good as anyone in the clutch.
Winston is able to fit balls into tight windows and is an accurate passer in general with great poise and the ability to do damage from the pocket. His redshirt freshman season was one of the best college football had ever seen and he rightly won the Heisman Trophy and guided his Seminole team to the National Championship. This season has been a different story. The Seminoles were not as polished as they were in 2013. Some blamed Winston for this while others blamed those around him. Regardless – Florida State went undefeated and reached the first College Football Playoffs. Was that down to Winston? I’ll whisper it quietly but I think so.
Winston threw 18 interceptions last season to only ten in 2013 and his touchdown passes almost halved from 40 to 25. His completion percentage went down from 66.9% to 65.4%. These are still good totals nonetheless and he was only 150 yards short of last year’s 4,057 passing yardage. Winston rushed for four TDs in 2013 compared to three in this campaign.
Winston’s chief weaknesses are that his footwork isn’t great, he doesn’t have the quickest delivery and he tends to wind up on his throws. These fundamentals will need to be improved if he wants to truly excel.
The biggest red flag on his Winston however are his off-field issues. From shoplifting to rape claims, Winston has been a constant source of media attention for all the wrong reasons off the field.
It is for those reasons that I actually hope Tampa DON’T pick Winston: I think he would benefit from getting out of the state of Florida and the distractions it provides. The Tennessee Titans at number two would be a great landing spot: head coach Ken Whisenhunt could work wonders with him, and it would allow Zach Mettenberger to drop back into a more-suited backup role. The Bucs however are in need of a passer because Josh McCown has failed and the coaching staff seems to have little faith in 2013 selection Mike Glennon. Regarding why they take Winston over Mariota, I think it comes down to Winston being more NFL-ready and Mariota coming out of a niche offense that made things easier for him.
Alternative player: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Likelihood of trading down: 10%
The Titans opt to take the best player available and improve their horrible defense in the process. Williams is probably the best player overall in the Draft and I’m not the only one who has him at the top of their board. At 6’4 and over 20 and a half stone he is of elite size and has great strength. A good showing at the Combine may even tempt Tampa to take him 1st overall if they are unsure about Mariota or Winston – he is that good. Williams can work well as an edge rusher to put pressure on the QB and is stout against the run in the middle of the defensive line.
Williams had 20 sacks in his 3-year career at USC and won All-American honours in 2013 and 2014. He also had 35.5 tackles for a loss across his career, averaging over six tackles per game in 2014. He can fit in any defense whether it be a 4-3 or a 3-4 and is ready for the NFL. If he isn’t selected here it is highly unlikely the needy Jacksonville Jaguars pass him up. The Raiders are unlikely to pass him up either but are almost certain to go with the pick I have below. Williams will definitely not fall any further than Washington with the fifth pick.
The Titans have holes in many places and this pick will give them a real impact player on defense. The quarterback situation needs resolved but with Winston gone (Ken Whisenhunt reportedly really liked him), I think the staff will be given another year to squeeze the best out of Zach Mettenberger before they take someone like Connor Cook or Cardale Jones in 2016. Tennessee needs to fill holes now and they can do that with Williams; many analysts believe Mariota will need a year on the sidelines wherever he goes and the Oregon signal caller doesn’t project as a good fit for Whisenhunt’s offense anyway.
Alternative pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Likelihood of trading down: 20%
3 – Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska.
The Jaguars need some impact players on both sides of the ball but they have their QB in Blake Bortles and there is not an offensive tackle worthy of this high a pick, while running back can be addressed later. The Jags address a defense that gave up the seventh-most yards per game in 2014. Randy Gregory is a freak athlete with a huge ceiling and gives the excitement-starved Jags fans something to cheer about.
Gregory had seven sacks in 2014 along with 8.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and three passes defensed for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ rusher will translate well into any NFL scheme: as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end. Gregory is tremendously quick despite being 6’6 and weighing 17 and a half stone. His presence causes havoc at the line of scrimmage and is good both against the run and the pass (better at the latter), and in pursuit.
Gregory does sometimes get held up by good offensive linemen and can struggle to shed blocks, particularly against the run. He does have a vast repertoire of moves though and uses these to good effect. Despite having good instincts Gregory is still quite raw and he will probably need to add some more beef to his body and continue to improve on his technique if he is to be successful at the next level: he is not a finished prospect.
At Jacksonville, Gus Bradley and co should be good for Gregory and hopefully help him reach his potential. Gregory’s talent alone is not what is putting him so high on draft boards – it is his physical package and dangerous potential that are attracting scouts to him.
Alternative pick: Dante Fowler Jr, DE/OLB, Florida
Likelihood of trading down: 20%
4 – Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama.
The Raiders could use help in many areas (any team that is 4-12 could) but last year’s pick at quarterback Derek Carr performed well enough to deserve some new toys at receiver. Despite glaring needs across the defense, Oakland chooses the best receiver in college football in 2014.
Cooper had 124 receptions last year for the Crimson Tide and played a big part in their run to the playoffs. His penchant for spectacular plays was evident numerous times throughout 2014 as he amounted for 1,727 yards (an Alabama record). He rebounded after an injury-plagued 2013 season in which he suffered a slump from a dynamite freshman year in 2012 where he played above his self and went for 1,000 yards.
2014 saw Cooper become a Heisman Trophy finalist and receive unanimous All-American honours. Cooper averaged an amazing 123.4 yards a game and proved useful in the red zone too with 16 touchdown catches.
Cooper is quick but doesn’t have elite level straight line speed. He isn’t the tallest receiver by any stretch of imagination (6’1) but at just under 14 and a half stone he is more than capable of dealing with physical cornerbacks and is also aggressive enough to be a capable blocker.
Cooper doesn’t excel at some of the more explosive things that other receivers in this class do but he is a sure-fire prospect that will help whatever team drafts him. He is perhaps the ‘safest’ offensive pick in the draft – and is there anything wrong being safe? Cooper to Oakland makes sense as the Raiders could use a young guy with a good head on his shoulders to help them score some points.
Alternative pick: Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
Likelihood of trading down: 10%
5 – Washington Redskins
The Pick: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington.
Danny Shelton did a bit of rising during the Senior Bowl and many scouts’ yearly Senior Bowl crush fell on the monster out of Washington. Shelton is a rare talent at nose tackle and addresses a position of need in D.C., whose defensive line lacks flash players on the inside. Washington also need a safety but it’s too high to draft Landon Collins here. The offensive line needs some serious help but some of the top prospects project better at guard and thus might be a reach at number five (Brandon Scherff and La’El Collins). For this reason, Washington goes for a player who could go on to be as revered as Haloti Ngata.
During his career at Washington, Shelton registered 204 tackles and 24 tackles for a loss. In 2014 he really improved in the pass rush department, mustering nine sacks. Shelton is the definition of a man-mountain at 6’2 and 24 stone. There are taller defensive linemen but few with Shelton’s physique are able to match his athleticism. When you combine these traits with the fact that Shelton has a high motor, doesn’t give up on plays and chases down runners from behind. He was also awarded Academic All-American honours in 2014.
Shelton is a rare talent and is a perfect fit as a nose tackle in Washington’s 3-4 defense. He is good both against the run and the pass and while you might not ‘wow’ at him more than once a game, he will provide stability and quality for a decade. Some might be hesitant to take Shelton with a top five pick however so if the Skins can trade back a few spots and pick him up they will have struck gold (for the first time in a long time in a Draft).
Alternative pick: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
Likelihood of trading down: 45%