NFL Draft: Last minute predictions

Posted: 04/30/2015 by levcohen in Football

I’ll admit that the NFL draft has caught me by surprise, if only a little bit. With the NBA and NHL playoffs (I’ll have second round predictions later this week) in full swing and baseball set to enter its second month, it’s been hard to focus on the NFL. But free agency came and went, and now it’s time for the draft. Somehow, the NFL has succeeded in becoming perhaps the sport with the most action and attention year-round despite the fact that only 512 regular season games are played all regular season, compared with 2460 basketball games, 2460 hockey games, and 4860 baseball games. Anyway, kudos to Roger Goodell (although he certainly doesn’t deserve the compliment) and the NFL. I’m not going to do a full first round mock draft, seeing as it’s pretty much a total crapshoot after the first X-number of picks (this year, I think that number is seven picks), but here are some quick predictions:

Three teams in the top seven will trade down: Right off the bat, I want to say this: I think it’s going to be a wild draft. Here are some factors that are going to make it crazy:

  • a top-five ish quarterback in Philip Rivers is reportedly on the block, as he could well want out of San Diego
  • There are two polarizing quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, at the top of the draft. The Bucs and Titans will demand a king’s ransom if teams want to trade up
  • Skill-position wise, it should be an eventful first round, with two running backs likely to go in the first round and as many as six or seven wide receivers
  • The number of talented guys who have seen their draft stock plummet due to off the field issues, from Shane Ray to Randy Gregory, each of whom was cited for pot possession and will probably last until late in the first round, to La’el Collins, a first round talent who will probably go undrafted with his status as a possible suspect in the murder of his ex-girlfriend, is higher than I can remember it.

Tennessee’s owner could want Mariota, but I think they went up trading down. Meanwhile, both Jacksonville and Washington are (and should be) looking to deal their pick in return for more later picks. In the end, Tampa, Oakland, the Jets, and Chicago will stay where they are (although one of the latter two could trade up into the top five), but the other three will move.

Ray and Gregory will both go in the first round and be steals: I’m sorry, but how can you call a guy whose only mess-up has been being caught smoking marijuana a “bad character” player? That’s just not fair. If I were a general manager with a top-20 pick and needed a pass rusher, I’d pull the trigger on Ray or Gregory, both of whom should become elite pass rushers. I have them going #25 (Ray) to the Panthers and #32 (Gregory) to the Bears (via New England), and it would be a mistake if they lasted until day two. Collins is a different story, but these two undervalued prospects will be steals.

A third QB will go in the first round: We know Winston and Mariota are going in the top five, probably top two, but I would bet that a third quarterback will crack the top 32. I haven’t seen many mock drafts with Bryce Petty or Nick Hundley going in round one, but I expect a team like the Jets or Bills to move back into the end of the first round to draft one or a team like the Cardinals or Browns to draft him. A sneaky option: could the Broncos draft Petty or Hundley to eventually replace Peyton Manning? They already have Brock Osweiler, but let’s face it: Osweiler isn’t very good. The Broncos have bigger needs, but it’s a possibility.

Todd Gurley will crack the top 10: This is a bold statement, as running backs are not very valuable in today’s NFL and Gurley is coming off a torn ACL and will thus be an injury risk in the future, but I think he’s the real deal, and so do NFL teams. He is the next Adrian Peterson (health permitting), and I don’t usually like comparing draft prospects to superstars. So whether it’s the Jets, Falcons, Giants, Rams, or a team trading up, I don’t think Gurley will last past the Rams at #10.

Landon Collins will last until Day Two: The Alabama safety was darn good in college and I think is a top 10 talent in the draft, but his stock has at best held steady over the past few weeks. Why? Simply because it’s a passing league and Collins is not a great cover safety. With Demarious Randall the hot name at safety, I expect Randall and not Collins to be the only safety drafted on Day One.

6-8 corners will be drafted tonight: Cornerback is one of the most important positions in the NFL, and this draft is deep at the position. Granted, there’s no elite talent at the position this year, with none likely to go in the top 10, but almost every team in the back half of the draft could use a corner. I have the Saints, Dolphins, Eagles, Steelers, Lions, and Ravens taking a corner in the first round, but even more teams could take one.

Leonard Williams will fall to #5: I think Williams, a defensive lineman is the best player in the draft, but with two good quarterbacks and some other nice talent at positions of need for top-four teams, he should fall to #5, where teams will attempt to trade up to nab him. I have Winston, Mariota, Dante Fowler Jr., and Amari Cooper (who I love), going 1-4, with a team (my bet would be the Bears, Falcons, or Saints) trading up to #5 to select Williams.

Enjoy the draft everybody!

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