How's everybody doing? Have a nice year? Good, great, grand, wonderful! Happy to be back, and what better way to make my triumphant return than with a 2015 NFL mock draft! Please hold all praise and applause until the end. Thank you. And if you're an annoying person who's going to complain about doing a 2015 mock in June, I'll have you know this is a DIRECT ORDER from the bossman, Brandon Lee Gowton.
This is so exciting, I'm totally going to make up my own draft order based on how I think teams will do in the 2014 season. None of that just-have-the-order-be-the-same-as-the-last-draft lameness, I won't stand for it. Please note that something like 75 percent of everything I write in this article is uninformed, grade-A excrement because I haven't started delving into prospects yet, but that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun. Besides, plenty of people make their livings writing about prospects they haven't actually studied, instead just watching some YouTube highlight videos and/or ripping off the opinions of those who actually have done the work. I'm not even trying to disparage them. In fact, I truly wish I could pull that off and get paid for it, they're all geniuses. I'm also pumped to look back on this disaster of a mock a year from now. By the way, in case you're the kind of person who counts, being mathematically accurate drives me insane so I made sure all the win-loss records add up to 256-256. Without further ado...
1. Oakland Raiders (2-14): Andrus Peat - OT - Stanford
Haven't studied Peat outside of casually watching Stanford on TV so I won't try to bullshit you, but he's the next Orlando Pace. Also, check out the banner on his Twitter bio! While it's certainly not unimaginable that the Raiders would take Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota here, I imagine they drafted Derek Carr to be the franchise quarterback and would therefore be looking to get him help, instead of immediately replacing him.
2. Tennessee Titans (3-13): Jameis Winston - QB - Florida State
Betting on the Titans to suck something fierce this season. It'll be interesting to see what happens with Winston, that's the top story in college football for 2014. The fishbowl is only going to be more intense, and every part of his play and behavior off the field will be heavily scrutinized.
3. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Cedric Ogbuehi - OT - Texas A&M
It's not that I don't believe in Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel. I like both, and I'm actually rooting very hard for Manziel to succeed. There are just no other weapons on offense. This isn't a slight to Jordan Cameron, but he can't be the best receiver. Here's the Browns depth chart at wide receiver with Josh Gordon suspended for the entire season: Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson, Travis Benjamin, Anthony Armstrong, Charles Johnson. Uh, not gonna cut it. Anyway, the wide receiver pick will come in a bit. The situation along the offensive line is an interesting one for the Browns. Joe Thomas is still the franchise LT, and the team is entrusting the RT spot to Mitchell Schwartz. Thomas turns 30 in December, and there's only $1.2 million of dead money on his contract after 2014. Not that the Browns would cut him, especially if he maintains a high level of play, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that they start looking for a bookend tackle of the future. Enter Ogbuehi, who plenty thought would have gone top-10 in this draft and has a legit shot at first overall in 2015.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Marcus Mariota - QB - Oregon (hahahaha jk guys chill relax)
4. Houston Texans (4-12): Marcus Mariota - QB - Oregon
Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the long-term answer, and neither is Tom Savage unless you're Gil Brandt. Bill O'Brien gets his franchise quarterback here with Mariota, and the 2014 draft will always be remembered for Winston vs. Mariota. For the record, I like Mariota more as a player and obviously as a person.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Randy Gregory - DE/OLB - Nebraska
Props to Dane Brugler for being the first media draft person on Gregory. A year after picking franchise quarterback Blake Bortles for Jed Fisch and the offense, Gus gets the dynamic Leo for his defense. I haven't studied Gregory yet, but he's a two-first-names guy so that's a good start.
6. Atlanta Falcons (6-10): Leonard Williams - DL - USC
The Falcons might be a popular bounce-back pick for 2014, but they shouldn't be. It's going to take some time - and probably a new player personnel staff - to turn this thing around. That's what happens when you have five straight drafts that range from average, at best, to below average and garbage. Mike Smith is still the head coach, the offense is Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and the defense is in transition from old, bad players to young ones trying to prove themselves. Williams is a monster who will help considerably and be a cornerstone for rebuilding the front four.
7. Dallas Cowboys (6-10): Shilique Calhoun - DE - Michigan State
The upside for lack of talent and depth crippling the Cowboys in 2014: They get a high pick and select a long, freaky athletic pass rusher who should be a staple at defensive end for years to come. It's a shame because I like Calhoun a lot, but if he ends up a Cowboy, I hope he sucks.
8. Cleveland Browns (6-10)*: Ty Montgomery - WR - Stanford (*from Buffalo)
Here's the wide receiver pick. What a steal of a trade by the Browns to get Buffalo's 2015 first rounder. I don't expect the Bills to make that "leap" in 2014. I'm a huge Sammy Watkins fan, but I'm also of the opinion that you don't trade a future first-round pick unless you feel you're getting a true franchise changer or are on the cusp of being a legit contender. Watkins, as talented as he may be, isn't a franchise changer on his own, and the Bills aren't going to be a legit contender in 2014 because I don't believe in E.J. Manuel.
Even in May's draft, which was so deep at wide receiver, I think Ty Montgomery would have been a first-round pick, and I fully expect him to be atop the rankings for 2015. Who knows what will happen with the ultra-talented-but-boneheaded-and-likes-weed-too-much Josh Gordon, but what's certain is that the Browns cannot rely on him and need to find another game-breaking wide receiver. Which brings me to Montgomery. He's big, fast, smooth, strong, tough, with soft hands and the vision, acceleration and moves that make his YAC -- and return (poor Washington) -- skills special. Montgomery loves to challenge defenders when he has the ball and is really difficult to bring down; has a running back mentality, and initial contact is never sufficient. On tape alone, he looks like a 4.45-4.50 guy to me, and he gets to top speed in a hurry. I think Montgomery's wheels take defenders by surprise too, as plenty are caught taking poor angles and being unable to adjust as he motors past.
Furthermore, Montgomery played in a Stanford offense that had a 65/35 run/pass ratio (not a misprint) in 2013, and he still managed to record 61 catches for 951 yards (15.7 YPC) and 10 touchdowns (he also had 13 carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns). That's pretty remarkable to me, given how the offense was structured. Just for perspective, Montgomery accounted for 32 percent of the offense's total receptions (190), and the second-leading receiver, Devon Cajuste, had 28 catches. Note: Cajuste, a rising junior, put up 642 yards receiving (a ridiculous 22.7 YPC) and is 6-3, 230 pounds, so I'd say he's another Cardinal to keep an eye on.
I don't know why I wrote out so much for this pick. It just kind of happened. Damn, I am back.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Amari Cooper - WR - Alabama
Cooper fell short of expectations in 2013 following his prolific freshman season, breaking the 100-yard mark in just the final two games (coincidentally, the Tide's only two losses). However, he was hampered from the start by a nagging toe injury that forced him to miss a few games. While his YPC only dropped half-a-yard from 16.9 to 16.4, the number of catches dropped from 59 to 45. Then again, there were plenty of instances when he was open downfield and A.J. McCarron underthrew him. I expect Cooper to have a major bounce-back season as a junior.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Brandon Scherff - OT - Iowa
Ogbuehi is the sexier athlete with a higher ceiling, but Scherff is an excellent player and the proverbial "safe" pick. I bet he'll be derided for his athleticism (see: being white), but the truth is he's a good athlete with smooth movement skills. Scherff is a nasty mauler in the run game who always ends up driving his target to the ground, as well as a polished pass blocker who anchors and deftly redirects rushers upfield. The Bucs signed Anthony Collins to play left tackle, but Scherff would slide in perfectly at right tackle and has the potential to take over for Collins down the road.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9): Jaelen Strong - WR - Arizona State
PHILLY STAND UP! The West Philadelphia Catholic native exploded onto the scene for the Sun Devils in his first season with the team after transferring from junior college transfer. Strong is listed at 6-4, 212 pounds. He's a big, athletic, "my ball" kind of receiver with good leaping ability and strong hands to maintain possession in contested situations. While the Sun Devils liked to hit Strong with screens, he's not real quick or explosive and looks like a 4.5+ guy on tape. He's just a physically imposing nightmare of a matchup who beats corners with his size and body positioning. Strong does his best work on intermediate routes, downfield as a vertical threat (despite not being a burner) and in jump-ball situations.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Landon Collins - S - Alabama
Collins is the best safety in this draft class, and that just so happens to be a position of dire need for the Dolphins. There, one sentence.
13. Washington Redskins (8-8): Vic Beasley - OLB - Clemson
The Washington football squadron franchise-tagged Brian Orakpo, and I'm guessing this is his last season in D.C. They'll need a 3-4 edge rusher successor, and Beasley is an ideal fit at this spot from both a need and value standpoint. He's not strong against the run, but his first step is ridiculous and he'll be an instantly impactful pass rusher.
14. Carolina Panthers (8-8): Devin Funchess - TE - Michigan
Until further notice, here are the receivers Cam Newton will be throwing to this season: Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Tiquan Underwood, Tavares King, Kealoha Pilares, Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson. I almost included Marvin McNutt (!), but he won't make the 53-man roster. So, yeah, the Panthers are a disaster on offense and need to add weapons in the worst way before Newton decides to reject their contract extension offers and goes, "Screw this, I'm testing free agency in 2016." Devin Funchess is a total stud in the evolving TE/WR role and should end going higher than this. No-brainer selection.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8): Dante Fowler, Jr. - DE - Florida
Andy Dalton isn't the quarterback who's going to lead the Bengals to the top of the AFC. He's just so painfully mediocre, at best, and that's without diving into his playoff performances. People underrate the loss of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, and I'm expecting the Bengals to regress this season. If I wasn't convinced the team is going to give Dalton a (terrible) contract extension, I would select Brett Hundley here. Alas, let's go defense. It wouldn't surprise me if Fowler ends up going top-10, he's the real deal and would be scary next to Geno Atkins.
16. Minnesota Vikings (8-8): Ifo Ekpre-Olomu - CB - Oregon
The Vikings desperately need another starting cornerback opposite 2013 first-round pick Xavier Rhodes. Voila, Ifo.
17. Chicago Bears (8-8): Nelson Agholor - WR - USC
Probably should go defense here, but the Bears went heavy on that side of the ball in free agency and don't really have a capable slot receiver on the roster to go along with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery outside. I like Marquess Wilson, but he's similar to Marshall and Jeffery. Agholor is quicker and smoother than he is fast or explosive, but he has enough speed to stretch the field and is a reliable target with large hands. He's a very dangerous punt returner, too.
18. Detroit Lions (8-8): Mario Edwards, Jr. - DL - Florida State
Like Fowler, it wouldn't surprise me if Edwards, who came on strong in the second half of last season and dominated in the BCS Championship Game, ends up going much higher. But for now, he's the perfect fit for this Lions defense and, though he played end in 2013, there has been speculation he could be moved to tackle to take over for the departed Timmy Jernigan. The switch would be natural for Edwards, who was ranked as the top defensive tackle recruit in the nation in 2012 (third-ranked player overall). It's quite possible neither Ndamukong Suh nor Nick Fairley, both of whom are in the last years of their contracts (Suh's technically signed through 2015, but it's voidable), are in the Lions' plans for the future, so drafting Edwards makes sense.
19. Arizona Cardinals (9-7): Cameron Irving - OT - Florida State
The Cardinals signed Jared Veldheer away from Oakland in the offseason to play left tackle, but Bradley Sowell is still the right tackle. That is... suboptimal.
20. St. Louis Rams (9-7): Sammie Coates - WR - Auburn
Another spot where I'm tempted to take Brett Hundley, but if the Rams go 9-7 and show promise for 2015, Bradford will likely remain the starter -- might as well give him more weapons. Coates burst onto the scene in 2013 and was a key part of Auburn's shocking surge to the BCS National Championship Game. His numbers -- 42 receptions, 902 yards (21.5 YPC) and seven touchdowns -- were especially impressive for a team that ran the ball 72 percent of the time and had just 285 passing attempts in 1,014 offensive snaps. Coates is a breathtaking blend of size, speed, athleticism and explosiveness, whose full potential should be unlocked in a pro-style offense.
21. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Tony Washington - OLB - Oregon
I'm guessing Washington will be of serious interest to the Eagles should he fall to them (no, I don't have any inside information, I'm just making an educated guess based on size, position, character and pedigree), but the Chargers will likely be in need of pass rush help and he fits.
22. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Stefon Diggs - WR - Maryland
If you don't know, now you know. As a Terp I'm obscenely biased, yes, but Diggs is the best wide receiver in the country. You just don't know about him because he plays for Maryland. Diggs was a five-star recruit who could have gone anywhere and chose to stay close to home because he wanted to help build the program he grew up following. Unfortunately, he broke his right fibula against Wake Forest (fellow starting wide receiver Deon Long broke his right fibula and fibula in the same game) and missed the second half of the 2013 season. Diggs is a dynamic and electrifying talent, whose creativity with the ball in his hands is unmatched. Fully healthy, I expect him to be the best wide receiver and returner in the Big 10 in 2014.
23. New York Giants (10-6): Jake Ryan - OLB - Michigan
Just feels like a Giants kind of pick, and probably one that we're going to hate for years because Ryans is a very good football player. He tore his ACL in March 2013, which preemptively ruined his junior season. Though Ryans did return and played the final eight games for the Wolverines, he wasn't the same. He'll be 18 months removed from the injury by the time his senior season starts, and I'm expecting a campaign more on the level with what we saw as a sophomore.
24. Indianapolis Colts (10-6): Durell Eskridge - S - Syracuse
Eskridge has the size, length and ball skills that would make him appealing for the Eagles, but I honestly think they're happy with their safeties after the signing of Malcolm Jenkins. The Colts lost Antoine Bethea to the 49ers in the offseason and have a current starting safety tandem of LaRon Landry, whose upper body could explode at any moment, and 33-year old free-agent signing Mike Adams. They need a young playmaker on the back end, and Eskridge provides that dimension.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Lorenzo Mauldin - OLB - Louisville
Back to the Lousiville well for the second year in a row. If you went through the game tapes of Marcus Smith either before or after the Eagles drafted him, you know how good Mauldin (6-4, 243) is as a pure pass rusher and how he wreaks havoc in the backfield. Unlike Smith, he played almost exclusively as a down lineman in 2013, but now he'll get the chance to show what he can do as a stand-up edge rusher in Todd Gratham's 3-4 defense. I like Mauldin's skill set, especially his ability to bend the edge, and think he has the movement skills and athleticism to seamlessly make the transition. I imagine this is Trent Cole's last season, and Smith is more of a Connor Barwin-type player. Speaking of which, you can be sure the Eagles took note of Mauldin -- who has a very inspiring backstory that's worth reading about -- while studying Smith.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5): Ellis McCarthy - NT - UCLA
If you type Ellis McCarthy's name into Google, the thumbnail Wikipedia picture that appears on the right is Ndamukong Suh. Google is racist. Anyway, the Steelers selected Daniel McCullers in the sixth round with the hope that he might one day be the nose tackle of the future, but he could just as easily eat his way out of the league. McCarthy is far and away the best nose tackle eligible for the 2015 draft, should he choose to declare. I could've gone offensive tackle, cornerback, or even safety here, but more beef, please.
27. San Francisco 49ers (11-5): P.J. Williams - CB - Florida State
Chris Culliver has gotten himself into a lot of trouble off the field and his NFL days might be numbered. You all know the Perrish Cox story, right? Anyway, I get the feeling the 49ers are going to need to acquire a second starter to pair with Tramaine Brock.
28. New Orleans Saints (12-4): Hroniss Grasu - C - Oregon
The Saints current center is Tim Lelito. I do not know who that is.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): DeVante Parker - WR - Louisville
Alright, the Patriots finally get some help for Tom Brady early in the draft!
30. Seattle Seahawks (12-4): Michael Bennett - DT - Ohio State
Just because I want to -- and can -- give the Seahawks two Michael Bennetts on the defensive line.
31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Cedric Reed - DE - Texas
Not an explosive pass rusher off the edge, but he's a good player with size (6-6, 260) and length and was among the better playmakers at his position in 2013 (10.0 sacks, five forced fumbles).
32. Green Bay Packers (13-3): Spencer Drango - OT - Baylor
Congrats to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, your Super Bowl XLIX champions.