Finally… it’s draft day.
Rather than in New York City, the 2015 NFL Draft will take place in Chicago. And just like each spring in the Big Apple there are a handful of storylines going into tonight’s first round.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the clock with the first selection.
Winston and Mariota
I have been in the camp for weeks that quarterbacks Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon) will go one-two in the draft. I still contend that they are the first two dominos to fall tonight. The question is will it be to the Bucs and Titans? Certainly both teams need franchise quarterbacks, after all this league is about the quarterback and getting after the quarterback. But Tampa and Tennessee have numerous other glaring, and in some cases screaming, needs. I would imagine neither the Bucs nor Titans would walk away from a sweetheart trade offer. Can one or both find trade partners? Tampa is the most likely to stay put at the top spot and Winston is the heavy favorite to go to the Buccaneers. Tennessee going with Mariota is gaining steam but …
Who are some teams willing to play ‘Lets Make A Deal’?Keep an eye on the several Mariota suitors, namely Cleveland, Philadelphia and San Diego. The Browns have two first-round picks (No. 12 and 19) that could entice the Titans. You know Chip Kelly would love to have his former signal caller from Oregon. Of course, the popular pre-draft trade has been San Diego dealing quarterback Phillip Rivers to the Titans for the No. 2 pick.
What about the Bucs? Would Lovie Smith entertain the idea of trading for Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler and a slew of Bears picks? Doubtful, but you never know. Certainly teams are gauging the asking price to that top spot.
Meanwhile there are teams that could be looking to move up and down within the first round. The Falcons have the No. 8 pick and would love to land defensive linemen Leonard Williams (USC) or Dante Fowler (Florida). Atlanta will likely have to move up to No. 4 or 5 to be in position to land one of these outstanding prospects. Oakland at No. 4 and Washington at No. 5 may be willing to move for the right price, depending on what players are picked in front of them.
The Jets (No. 6) could move back and select an offensive tackle or maybe they make a run at swapping positions with the Titans. Certainly Cleveland, Miami and Minnesota have been franchises always willing to move up or back within the first round. Dallas could opt to move up to make sure they secure one of the two running backs (Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon). So too could Arizona (No. 24).
Another team to watch for is Houston. The Texans are certainly in the market for one of the elite wide receivers. Then you have a club like San Francisco that could be willing to move back to obtain more picks.
Also, be on the lookout for a team or two to trade back into the first round, perhaps to get a quarterback like Bryce Petty (Baylor) or even Brett Hundley (UCLA), an offensive tackle or a sliding prospect with a solid first-round grade. Remember Minnesota and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in last year’s draft.
RB Hex To Be Broken?
Over the last two drafts there hasn’t been a running back selected in the first round. In 2012 there was a trio – Trent Richardson (Cleveland), Doug Martin (Tampa Bay) and David Wilson (N.Y. Giants).
I fully suspect this two-year hex will be broken tonight. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gurley is taken inside the top 10. I know he’s coming off a knee injury, but these players are coming back from ACLs bigger and stronger than ever. There has been nothing but glowing reports regarding his rehab and Gurley’s on track to be ready for training camp. All things being equal, Gurley (Georgia) is a top-10 talent and the best running back to enter the NFL since Adrian Peterson. Jacksonville stunned everyone last year with their selection of quarterback Blake Bortles. Could the Jaguars shock the pro football world again and nab Gurley? Watch him and the Jets at No. 6. Atlanta, the Giants and Rams could also be suitors inside the top 10.
Then you have the record setter in Gordon (Wisconsin). He will be in play early. I know I have had him pegged to San Diego (No. 17) in most of my mock drafts. Gordon could go higher if teams in the 20s want to move ahead of the Chargers.
I believe they both go in the first round and maybe in the top half unless Gurley’s medical was pure smoke.
Rush on pass rushers?
There will likely be a mad rush on pass rushers/defensive linemen. Williams and Fowler should be the first two defensive prospects off the board. Vic Beasley (Clemson) and Alvin Dupree (Kentucky) should be top-10 picks as well. I have had defensive tackle Danny Shelton (Washington) pegged to the Bears at No. 7 overall for a few weeks now.
How arrogant and stupid are edge rushers Randy Gregory (Nebraska) and Shane Ray (Missouri)? They were both likely top-10 picks until they got busted for marijuana. For Gregory, he tested positive at the NFL Combine while a small amount of pot was found in Ray’s car on Tuesday morning, a mere 72-hours before the beginning of the draft.
Seriously, these two either didn’t care or thought they could skirt the system and they are not even officially in the league yet. This shows extremely poor judgement and you wonder just how much money it will cost them. It could be in the multi-millions, depending on just how far they fall.
There's not much downside to La’el Collins the player, as he's as good as they come in terms of offensive linemen in this draft pool. He was a sure bet to land in the first round. Collins is now being sought after by police for questioning in a murder investigation, although he's not a suspect. This could alter his landing spot and out of the first round.
Another surge of WRs
It’s the new NFL. Last season we saw a slew of wide receivers get drafted high and make huge Sunday impacts in pro football – Sammy Watkins (Buffalo), Mike Evans (Tampa Bay) and Odell Beckham, Jr. (New York Giants) just to name three.
This 2015 class could be just as good or even better if you can imagine that. Amari Cooper (Alabama), Kevin White (West Virginia) and DeVante Parker (Louisville) are the three highest rated and should all go in the top half of the first round, possibly all gone in the top 10, depending on how things fall. Dorial Green-Beckham (Oklahoma) could be the most talented of the bunch and have the most upside. How will his Missouri dismissal and off-the-field issues hurt his stock? Jaelen Strong (Arizona State) is a strong candidate to be a first round guy. Breshad Perriman (UCF), Phillip Dorsett (Miami) and Nelson Agholor (USC) have been three big-time risers this spring, especially the past few weeks. Then you have a big-play artist like Devin Smith (Ohio State).
That’s nine potential first-round wide receivers. No way do I see all being first-round picks, but there’s no question there will be another first-round surge at this position.
It’s certainly going to be an exciting first day to this 2015 NFL Draft with so many storylines.
Related stories: NFL Rosters Breakdown Series
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Part 2- Where do student-athletes major in the NFL?
Part 3 - Drafted vs Undrafted Players
Part 4 – Positional Breakdowns of the NFL: Where are they from?
Part 5 - NFL Veterans: Where are they from?
Part 6 – Top NFL Producing High Schools