2015 NFL Mock Draft 1.1: Mariota off the board – but where?

In this Mock Draft I will be analysing the sixth to tenth picks in the Draft. You can read my blog post explaining what the Draft is in detail here and also my first Mock Draft that looks at the first five picks. The sixth to tenth picks will (probably) involve the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Giants and the St Louis Rams – subject to trades.

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!*

Round 1 (Picks 6-10): 6 – New York Jets

The Pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Oregon vs Texas

The Jets really could go anywhere with this pick. Regardless of who ends up at QB, they will need protected. When you tie that into the fact the running game hasn’t been great (due to both poor running backs and offensive line play) they really could pick one of the highly rated tackle/guard hybrids: La’El Collins or Brandon Scherff. On the other side of the ball, new head coach Todd Bowles comes into town following a very respectable stint in Arizona as their (blitz-happy) defensive co-ordinator and he might want to take someone like Shane Ray or Vic Beasley to pressurise the opposing QBs, especially with his team having to face Tom Brady and Ryan Tannehill twice a year. Edge rusher is a deep position in this draft; it can wait until later.

The Jets take Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota with this pick though because they have suffered at the quarterback position for many years now. Geno Smith doesn’t look like he will be the answer and I don’t see why this new staff will be any more eager to give Michael Vick the keys to the franchise at his age. Bringing in Mariota is a bit of a win-win situation: If Smith (or Vick) plays well while Mariota is on the sidelines developing his craft and adjusting then they can trade them next season, using the returns to help fill other holes. If Smith or Vick goes down injured or gets benched then the other will step into the starting role, meaning Mariota will not be thrust in at the deep end unless it is absolutely necessary. Mariota is a phenomenal athlete at 6’4 and 15.5 stone and is somewhat of a cross-breed between Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. Mariota is somewhat inconsistent with his accuracy, much like Kaepernick is, but he is also adept at sliding during runs. Like RGIII, Mariota’s straight line speed is ridiculous and will cause NFL defenses similar problems but his lean frame might not be able to take the hits from big, hungry NFL defenders. Mariota also has a strong arm similar to the Skins’ passer.

Mariota was outstanding in 2014 and produced one of the best single seasons ever seen. He was good in general over his three-year college career, throwing for just under 11,000 yards. 2014 accounted for 4, 454 of those yards and also 42 touchdowns to only four interceptions (the lowest in the nation).

Mariota rushed for over 700 yards in each of his three years at Oregon. In 2012 he played under Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly but while the temptation (and arguably need) will be there for the Eagles come April – they are simply too far back to trade up for Mariota, no matter how good a fit he would be in Kelly’s offense. The Jets can wait a year until Mariota develops his fundamentals and adapts himself to running a traditional NFL offense. There are serious questions regarding whether he will ever be able to – just look at RGIII and Colin Kaepernick, and even the oft-injured Michael Vick on this same Jets team. RGIII has struggled with reads and dropping back and Mariota is similar in that Oregon rarely needed him to do this. The offense at Oregon made things easier for Mariota and very rarely did he have to fit the ball into tight windows. He was able to throw to open receivers and his legs could get him out of trouble. While the latter will still be partly possible in the NFL, on a regular basis the Jets’ receivers won’t be open. Especially when you consider their receivers aren’t great. The wide receiver position might be strengthened in the second or third round.

One thing Mariota will give the Jets that Jameis Winston cannot offer anyone is grace and a calm, humble and eager-to-learn demeanour. A cool head will be need in the NYC environment Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady are just some quarterbacks who did not start in their first season. No harm in being another of those, right?

Alternative pick: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa

Likelihood of trading up: 20%

Likelihood of trading down: 25%

7 – Chicago Bears

The Pick: Dante Fowler Jr, DE/OLB, Florida.

Fowler2 If the Jaguars do indeed take Leonard Williams and pass up Florida native and Florida Gators star defender Dante Fowler Jr then he will fall into Chicago and its new coaching staff’s lap very nicely.

Aside from Williams, Fowler is arguably the most complete defensive player on the board. With the Bears likely moving to a 3-4 under new defensive co-ordinator Vic Fangio, Fowler should be a good fit at the outside linebacker position, although he has been used all over the line in college. Playing primarily from the OLB spot in 2014, Fowler totalled 5.5 sacks during the season before adding three in one game in the Birmingham Bowl, showing he won’t hide in primetime. On top of that Fowler made 26 solo tackles in 2014 in addition to 31 assisted tackles.

At 6’3 and 18.5 stone he is of good size and Fowler’s athleticism, light feet and quickness off the edge will cause problems for passers in the NFL. Fowler is good with his hands and has a powerful lower body. Fowler is better against the pass than the run and will need to improve in this department to be a top quality three-down player. He will need to become more consistent in general at the point of attack too. Fowler is one of the most complete defenders in this draft and he will be an immediate starter for whoever picks him. He will improve the 30th-ranked defense here and help the Bears return to being formidable on that side of the ball, especially against the pass where they gave up 8.1 yards per attempt (third most in the league).

Alternative pick: Shane Ray, OLB/DE, Missouri

Likelihood of trading up: 10%

Likelihood of trading down: 15%

8 – Atlanta Falcons

The Pick: Shane Ray, OLB/DE, Missouri. 0ap3000000401464

There is debate to be had over who is the better player here: Ray or Vic Beasley from Clemson. Ray edges it here based on consensus opinion and that he’s slightly more exciting physically (and a slightly better fit as a 4-3 DE in Atlanta than Beasley).

Regardless of who they take the Falcons need to address their horrible defense that gave up the most yards per attempt in the NFL and the most yards in total despite the signing of Osi Umenyiora. Ray earned consensus All-American honours amongst other accolades during a monster 2014 season where he tallied up 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. He leaves Missouri after a career where he lodged 116 tackles in total.

Ray is devastatingly quick off the edge and has reportedly been clocked at 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard draft. It might end up being the Combine that separates Beasley and Ray. Ray’s moves off the line and good usage of hands will be disruptive in the NFL and cause opposing QBs problems but he will have to improve against the run to be an elite three-down player. Similarly, despite his nice array of moves and his power off the line, Ray can sometimes be too aggressive and get caught up in trying to wreak havoc on his own rather than functioning as a team player and focusing on stopping the ball. He sometimes struggles to disengage blockers once they latch on and this shows up against the run where he can be good in pursuit if he can disengage the opponent but if not he struggles. To be a true 4-3 DE he will need to add about another stone onto his 17.5 stone bodyweight. He might be able to feature as an OLB in Atlanta but his pass-rushing ability is too good to ignore the possibility of him becoming a star DE in a 4-3.

Alternative pick: Vic Beasley, OLB/DE, Clemson

Likelihood of trading up: 30%

Likelihood of trading down: 10%

9 – New York Giants

The Pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford. andrus-peat-ncaa-football-army-stanford1-850x560

There are really only two ways the Giants can go with this pick: they either vow to better protect Eli Manning and rebuild an ageing and increasingly expensive offensive line, or they fix their defense which has been embarrassing when compared to previous stud outfits in years gone by.

In this scenario the Giants go for the offensive choice due to the fact their NFC East division is particularly weak on defense. Utilising Eli Manning’s strengths in the second year under offensive co-ordinator Ben McAdoo’s system could help Big Blue challenge for the playoffs. Going with the offensive choice however opens up a whole other debate: which tackle? There are some top linemen that project better at guard than tackle while some of those who do look like tackles are perhaps not going to be suited to playing on the blind side, at least right away. The Giants take man-mountain Andrus Peat at tackle and play him at the right spot until Will Beatty retires or his contract is deemed to expensive. Peat will then move over. They might end up moving Beatty to the right so their new man will start at left tackle right away – but I don’t think he’s ready for that. This pick will allow Justin Pugh to move inside to guard and upgrade the middle of the line. Peat stands at 6’7 and weighs 22 stone. Very few rushers will be able to get past him due to sheer size so anyone who faces up to him will need to have some good moves and be adept with their hands due to Peat’s long arms. They will also need to be quick as Peat is surprisingly balanced and light-footed and quick off the snap.

As a freshman Peat played occasionally but he showed enough during his average of 20 snaps a game to displace consensus All-American and future Minnesota Vikings pick David Yankey from left tackle to left guard. It worked: Peat started every game and was named Second-Team All-Pac-12 in 2013 before winning the Morris Trophy as a junior in 2014 (awarded to the best offensive lineman on the west coast). Peat’s tendency to sometimes bend at the waist and reduce his ability to push back defenders can be seen as a weakness, showing flashes of complacency and inviting counter-moves. He could also be a bit more explosive off the line and seek to consistently push defenders back.

Alternative pick: Ereck Flowers, OT/G, Miami

Likelihood of trading up: 10

Likelihood of trading down: 20%

10 – St Louis Rams

The Pick: Brandon Scherff, OT/G, Iowa.

scherff-640-360 Just what do the Rams do about Sam Bradford? Do they try trade up and get a quarterback in this Draft? Do they take one in the second or third round in anticipation of Bradford getting injured (or performing poorly) again? They have two young running backs in Zac Stacey and Tre Mason but they haven’t exactly lit up the NFL; could this be addressed in a division with three teams with quality rushers? What about cornerback? Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Chris Culliver all call backfields in the NFC West their home will St Louis boasts no such dangerman. None of these needs is addressed here however.

Indeed, it’s barely a need at all. Taking perhaps the best offensive lineman overall here will immediately strengthen the interior of the offensive line and possibly the right tackle spot in future. Scherff is certainly among the most NFL-ready linemen and, disregarding positional importance, the best in this class in my mind. Scherff projects well at guard due to his proficiency in the ground game but his taken more than his fair share of snaps at tackle since his sophomore year. He projects better at right guard than left but he has the ability to play both. He genuinely mauls opponents at the line of scrimmage and at 6’5 and almost 23 stone he is very hard to bully. He has tremendous upper body strength and is more than ready for the NFL technically after coming through Iowa’s lauded system.

Scherff won numerous awards in 2014: Unanimous All-American, First Team All-Big Ten and Rimington–Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year. These awards highlight the potential Scherff has to be a star almost anywhere across the offensive line. He projects best as a right guard initially but could go on to play right tackle fairly quickly and  at a good level. Left guard is also a possibility but left tackle might be a reach, who knows. Scherff has had some problems when encountering speed rushers so that could be his undoing and he will need to ensure he plays on the balls of his feet as opposed to slouching onto his heels during pass protection.

The Rams take on offensive lineman to ensure they protect whoever is at quarterback, whether it be Bradford, one of the backups or a free agent. Scherff plays mean and he’s been one of my draft crushes this year. Running back can be helped via a veteran in free agency as can corner, although there are likely to be a few good corners at the top of the second round and I don’t envisage the Rams passing up such an opportunity at a position of need.

Alternative pick: La’El COllins, OL, LSU

Likelihood of trading up: 20%

Likelihood of trading down: 25%

Poll:


I will be doing my next Mock Draft looking at picks 11-20. I will post a mock draft for picks 21-32 after the Super Bowl. If any of you readers want your team featured in my full individual 7-round mocks then it will be on a first-come first-served basis: comment below, comment on my Facebook page, or tweet me at @_ryanrowe. You can also tweet my radio show Touchdown Sound at @touchdownsound or Facebook us via the show name.

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