With my first post, I take a look three-hundred-and-something days ahead. I fully intend on discussing this year’s draft and its many storylines, but in the meantime, let’s take a terribly early look at what the first round could look like next offseason. The 2014 NFL Draft was one of the deepest and most exciting drafts in years, and 2015’s may be even better. The draft order is based off my general belief as to how this upcoming season may unfold, so bear with me. Comment as you like!
1. Tennessee Titans- Brett Hundley QB UCLA
I’m a Jake Locker fan, but I still have my doubts regarding his ability to stay healthy. If 2014 is another injury-plagued season for the athletic QB, the Titans could be in for a long, frustrating season, and the only cure might be a new face of the franchise. Brett Hundley isn’t considered the nation’s top QB right now, but I expect him to have an excellent 2014 season, passing Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston to become the favorite for the draft’s No.1 pick.
2. Cleveland Browns- Leonard Williams DT/DE USC
The Browns will most likely have two top-ten picks in 2015, and may just draft the best available player with at least one of them. It would take a disastrous junior year for Leonard Williams to not enter the 2015 NFL Draft as one its top prospects. Williams’ versatility should allow Cleveland to keep their defensive linemen fresh, as they’ll have one of the league’s better young d-lines.
3. Oakland Raiders- Cameron Erving OT Florida State
Donald Penn could very well disappoint Raiders’ fans in 2014, as he might continue his struggles that started in Tampa Bay. If Penn does disappoint, the Raiders will make offensive line a priority in the 2015 Draft. Cameron Erving would’ve already been a first-rounder in 2014 if he declared, but made a wise decision in returning to school for his senior year. Now, Erving can improve upon his technique and overtake Cedric Ogbuehi as the best offensive lineman in the draft.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Randy Gregory DE/OLB Nebraska
The Jaguars passed on Khalil Mack to grab a franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles in this year’s draft. As a huge Blake Bortles fan, I loved the move. However, the Jags are still in desperate need of a pass-rusher, but could find one next offseason in Randy Gregory. Gregory picked up 10.5 sacks while only playing in ten games. That’s crazy good. If Gregory can build upon those numbers in his junior year, he’ll be hard to ignore for teams drafting in the top five.
5. Dallas Cowboys- Shilique Calhoun DE Michigan State
The Cowboys don’t seem to have much better of a defensive unit than they did a year ago, so taking the top defensive player available is the logical move here. At this point in time, Shilique Calhoun seems to be that guy. If Calhoun declares next season, he will join an already impressive group of backfield disruptors in this draft class, and should aid Demarcus Lawrence in replacing Demarcus Ware and turning this pathetic Cowboys defense around. However, if the Cowboys do pick this high next year, Jerry Jones will undoubtedly consider a quarterback.
6. St. Louis Rams- Marcus Mariota QB Oregon
If the Rams are drafting this high next offseason, a QB almost has to be the pick. Sam Bradford is entering his final year in which he can prove himself to be “the guy” in St. Louis, something he has failed to do so far. Marcus Mariota is as mobile and exciting as Johnny Manziel, but has an even better arm and stands at 6’4. Mariota falling out of the top five would most likely come as a surprise to most teams, so Jeff Fisher and Les Snead would have to scoop him up.
7. New York Giants- Cedric Ogbuehi OT Texas A&M
Arguably the top prospect in this draft class, Cedric Ogbuehi would be the last piece needed for the Giants’ offensive line. They added a great center in Weston Richburg, and enjoyed a great rookie campaign from Justin Pugh. Pugh is best suited at guard, so an upgrade and some youth at tackle will be a must fairly soon for the Giants. Ogbuehi is the third straight Texas A&M offensive tackle to be atop the first round (Joeckel in 2013, Matthews in 2014) and just might be the best of them all.
8. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills)- Amari Cooper WR Alabama
The Browns have two picks, and one almost has to be spent on a receiver. Josh Gordon’s future is uncertain, and weapons are needed across from him regardless. Amari Cooper is this draft class’s top receiver, and should shine in 2014 with Kevin Norwood now in the NFL.
9. Minnesota Vikings- Landon Collins S Alabama
The Vikings need a safety to pair with Harrison Smith, and recently drafted Antone Exum most likely isn’t that guy. Just like the Texas A&M linemen, Alabama safeties have been prominent NFL players over the past few years. Mark Barron went to Tampa in 2012, and HaHa Clinton-Dix was drafted by Green Bay this year. Landon Collins might be better than both of them. Collins is stout in run support, and has ball-hawking ability.
10. New York Jets- Andrus Peat OT Stanford
I don’t expect Breno Giacomini to excel as a Jet, which may leave the Jets longing for a solution at offensive tackle. Andrus Peat is a mammoth-sized lineman with great footwork. He is an excellent pass blocker but needs to improve as a run blocker as he moves closer towards his potential.
11. Miami Dolphins- Todd Gurley RB Georgia
I’m not convinced the Dolphins see Knowshon Moreno as their long-term answer at running back, and they’ve already shown their disinterest in Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. Running backs haven’t gone in the first round in the last two years, but Todd Gurley is one of the best RB prospects in years. Gurley has respectable speed, but it’s his rare power that will have NFL scouts salivating. He can both block and catch out of the backfield, and should become a key cog in Miami’s improving offense.
12. Houston Texans- Ifo Ekpre-Olomu CB Oregon
The Texans addressed almost every need during their excellent 2014 Draft, with the exception of cornerback. Ekpre-Olomu would’ve been among the top corners selected in 2014 if he declared, and could become the first one off the board next year if he turns in a strong senior campaign.
13. Washington Redskins- Tre Jackson OG Florida State
Shaun Laovao will almost definitely disappoint the Redskins, leaving them wanting an upgrade at guard. Tre Jackson will most likely be the draft’s top guard, and should aid the ‘Skins in rebuilding their o-line.
14. Detroit Lions- Ronald Darby CB Florida State
The Lions somehow thought they could get by without addressing their defensive backfield, but will see how wrong they were once they struggle for the third straight year in the 2014-15 season. Ronald Darby is one of two great Florida State cornerbacks, and if the Lions are smart enough to draft him, he could quickly turn around a rather lackluster defense.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jameis Winston QB Florida State
The Bucs should win a decent number of games in 2015 with their plethora of offensive weapons and relatively stingy defense. However, they don’t have a long-term answer at QB, and could find one in Jameis Winston. With Johnny Football gone, Winston is college football’s most polarizing figure, which can only hurt his draft stock. Winston’s strong arm and playmaking ability will convince a team to select him as their franchise QB, but his off-the-field concerns need to be corrected.
16. Chicago Bears- Benardrick McKinney ILB MIssissippi State
The Bears improved their defensive line to assist in stopping the run this season, but most likely need to make improvements to their linebacking corps to continue the building up of their run defense. Benardrick McKinney has the long, athletic frame of an outside pass-rusher, but the speed and tackling ability of an inside linebacker. He should be able to get to the quarterback and plug up running lanes in the NFL.
17. Atlanta Falcons- Vic Beasley DE/OLB Clemson
The Falcons didn’t get the stud pass-rusher they hoped for this offseason, so they’ll have to find one in 2015. Vic Beasley, like many other players in this draft class, chose to improve upon his already high draft stock by returning for his senior season. Beasley needs to prove himself to be more than just a one-trick-pony, but has scary speed and athleticism and is a relentless pass-rusher.
18. Carolina Panthers- Brandon Scherff OT Iowa
The Panthers failed to grab a proper replacement for Jordan Gross, and will most likely see the unfortunate results this season. Brandon Scherff’s aggressive style of play and tremendous upside should make him a viable replacement for Jordan Gross in next year’s draft.
19. Baltimore Ravens- Jaelen Strong WR Arizona State
The Ravens need a big, fast target for Joe Flacco and no receiver fits that description better than Jaelen Strong. The redshirt sophomore is 6’4 and hails from Philadelphia. He could help the offense click and the Ravens make a deep run in the playoffs once again.
20. San Diego Chargers- La’el Collins OT/G LSU
The Chargers could use an upgrade at guard, or even at tackle over King Dunlap, who Eagles fans just can’t believe is an NFL starter. La’el Collins could play both positions for San Diego, and at a fairly high level nonetheless.
21. Kansas City Chiefs- Anthony Harris S Virginia
Kendrick Lewis isn’t the player he once was, so the Chiefs may look to replace him next offseason. Anthony Harris is a quintessential ball-hawking safety, as he led the nation with eight interceptions last season. If he can replicate a performance even close to that one, Anthony Harris could begin to challenge Landon Collins as 2015’s top safety prospect.
22. Cincinnati Bengals- Ray Drew DT/DE Georgia
Domata Peko isn’t all too exciting and Geno Atkins is coming off an ACL injury. Meanwhile, Michael Johnson was lost in free agency, so the Bengals defensive line will be mighty thin in 2014. They can correct that in next year’s draft, however, with the versatile Ray Drew.
23. Philadelphia Eagles- Trae Waynes CB Michigan State
The Eagles grab a corner with good size to upgrade either Bradley Fletcher or Cary Williams, who are both marginal starters. Waynes is in for a big year with Darqueze Dennard now in the NFL.
24. Arizona Cardinals- T.J. Yeldon RB Alabama
The Cardinals don’t seem to like Andre Ellington as an every-down back. He has a high ceiling as a change-of-pace back, but T.J. Yeldon would be a perfect fit in Bruce Arians’ offense. Yeldon runs with a balance of speed and power, but is at his best catching the ball out of the backfield.
25. Indianapolis Colts- Melvin Gordon RB Wisconsin
The Colts may quickly see Trent Richardson become a full-fledged draft bust this season, putting them in the market for a new feature back. Gordon is this draft’s most polished runner, but is yet to prove himself as a blocker or receiver out of the backfield.
26. New England Patriots- Devin Funchess TE Michigan
If Rob Gronkowski’s injury troubles continue, the Patriots could be in the market for a tight end next offseason. Funchess has freaky athleticism, allowing him to be split out wide on a majority of snaps. He’s very comparable to 2014 first-rounder Eric Ebron, but is a bit of a better blocker.
27. New Orleans Saints- Hroniss Grasu C Oregon
The Saints may be kicking themselves for not grabbing a competent replacement for Brian De La Puente, and may not be able to get one until next offseason. However, Hroniss Grasu would ultimately be an upgrade at the position, as the slightly undersized Grasu has incredible speed and athleticism for a center.
28. Green Bay Packers- Devonte Fields DE/OLB TCU
Packers GM Ted Thompson typically takes the best player available when drafting in this range, so Devonte Fields could very well be the pick. Injury and off-field issues are holding him back, but if Fields can put it all together he could be a top five pick in 2015.
29. Denver Broncos- Ramik Wilson ILB Georgia
The Broncos will need some more youth at linebacker next season, and getting a guy who can move fluidly from sideline to sideline like Ramik Wilson might be key to the Broncos’ making one last Super Bowl push before Peyton Manning calls it a career.
30. Seattle Seahawks- Marcus Peters CB Washington
Addressing the secondary may seem somewhat odd for the Seahawks, but it makes sense. The team has an excellent group of cornerbacks, but could use a guy to play the nickel at a high level. Marcus Peters is one of the few top corners in this draft class under six feet, making him best suited to play inside. Not to mention, the Seahawks should be pretty familiar with Peters as he plays practically in their backyard.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers- P.J. WIlliams CB Florida State
Ronald Darby’s secondary mate, P.J. Williams has the ability to play both safety and cornerback, giving the Steelers the versatility they covet in their draft picks. The Steelers have a major need at cornerback, one that they failed to truly address this offseason. Williams’ stock could rise significantly over the course of his junior season.
32. San Francisco 49ers- Dante Fowler DE Florida
Justin Smith is on his last legs in San Fran, so some youth on the defensive line is needed. Dante Fowler could be poised for a fantastic junior year after a breakout sophomore campaign. He is a bit undersized, but will add on weight as he matures and has the upside to become an elite replacement to Justin Smith for the 49ers.