As the 2015 Re-draft comes to a close an undrafted rookie free agent finds his way into the first round.
25. Carolina Panthers – La’el Collins – I was very critical of the Panthers “actual” selection of Shaq Thompson and the Panthers proceeded to bully their way to a 15-1 record and a conference championship. So what do I know? However, the physicality and positional flexibility La’el Collins brings to the offensive line is the pick in our 2015 Re-draft. Despite his 1st round grade Collins ended up being a priority free agent after being cleared of having any connection with the death of his ex-girlfriend. There were mixed results for Collins in pass protection in 11 starts but his run-blocking prowess would have fit in perfectly with the Panthers’ smash mouth style of play; and despite room for improvement as a pass blocker I can’t help but to think he would have faired better than most of the Panthers starting offensive linemen against the Broncos pass rush in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers offensive line performed surprisingly well throughout the season but I wouldn’t have called it a position group of strength. The Panthers would have done well to play Collins inside at guard during his rookie year and then move him over to right tackle in year 2.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Dorial Green-Beckham – DGB is about as raw and unpolished a receiver prospect there was in the 2015 draft class. He’s learning the route tree and the subtleties of the position and at the NFL level no less. However, he’s a gifted athlete blessed with size (6’5; 225), speed (4.49 40-yard dash), and a massive catch radius. Off field character issues gave 31 teams pause during the first round of the “actual” draft but his talent is immense. Green-Beckham only started five games under anti-rookie head coach Ken Whisenhunt; but when Mike Mularkey stepped in after Whisenhunt was fired midseason Green-Beckham received more playing time and started to demonstrate what he’s capable of. The scary part is that he was just barely scratching the surface. His 32/549/4 line made his big play ability (8th among qualified receivers in yards per reception; 17.2) and red-zone prowess evident (avg. 1 TD per every 8 receptions). It remains to be seen what Breshad Perriman will amount to after missing the entire 2015 season due to injury but Joe Flacco desperately needed a Dorial Green-Beckham type after the departures of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. If the young man can stay out of trouble sky is the limit.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Melvin Gordon – It was a rookie season to forget for Melvin Gordon. The Wisconsin Badger star struggled in 13 starts to the tune of 3.5 yards per carry and 5 fumbles (4 lost). At times the game was moving too fast for him, the Chargers coaching staff didn’t trust him immediately in pass protection, his customary highlight runs were non-existent and the Chargers were trailing more often than not limiting his opportunities. Gordon is culpable for his lackluster performance but no one was going to be successful running behind the Chargers makeshift offensive line. However, imagine Gordon behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. The same offensive line that helped Demarco Murray land $21 million in guaranteed money. The same offensive line that paved the way for Darren McFadden who had his first 1,000 yard season in five years. Gordon is electric at the second level and in the open field and solid offensive line play can get him there. He has to do a better job turning a negative rush into a 2 or 3 yard gain but things may not have been as bleak in Dallas if they had Gordon’s game-breaking ability in the backfield. I think he is the Wisconsin tailback that finally makes good in the NFL… eventually.
28. Detroit Lions – Malcom Brown – Last offseason the Detroit Lions lost C.J. Mosley, Nick Fairley, and the “big fish” Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle. They did acquire Haloti Ngata but the former Raven superstar wasn’t enough to replace the production and depth that had left Detroit. Malcom Brown offers three down chops in the interior of the defensive line and performed pretty well during his rookie season in New England. In fact, the Patriots finished 9th in rushing defense despite the departure of long time fixture Vince Wilfork in the middle of the defense. Brown is the right pick for Lions at 28, he immediately improves the 19th ranked rushing defense (2015) a defense that gave up 18 rushing TDs last season. Only two teams (Falcons, 49ers) allowed more scores on the ground with 20 each. The 6’2 320 lbs. dancing bear finished with 48 tackles and 3.0 sacks in his rookie season. Brown’s 48 tackles would have led all Detroit defensive linemen in tackles in 2015.
29. Indianapolis Colts – Danny Shelton – In the actual draft Danny Shelton was long gone but in the 2015 CPGM Re-draft the Colts can’t afford to let the massive and oddly quick nose guard slip through their fingers. I love WR Phillip Dorsett and after witnessing the artist formerly known as Andre Johnson I don’t necessarily knock the pick anymore. I thought it was odd that the Colts selected the speedster and then proceeded to sign T.Y. Hilton to a lucrative 5-year extension considering their inability to consistently stop the run (see Jonas Gray, LeGarrette Blount) but it could work out in the long run. The Colts lofty aspirations didn’t pan out in 2015 and their inability to slow down the opposition’s rushing attack continued to be a huge issue. I’ve mentioned before Shelton underwhelmed during his rookie season but his senior year was reminiscent (slightly) of Ndamukong Suh’s swan song at Nebraska. Make no mistake Shelton is NOT Suh. But you can’t ignore 6’2/350 that registers 94 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks and 3 fumbles forced. Shelton’s rookie numbers (36 tackles; no sacks) were a far cry from his memorable final season at Washington but with more coaching and better conditioning he can develop into a core player. If nothing else he could have served the Colts well as a space eater.
30. Green Bay Packers – Rob Havenstein – Known for his powerful, road-grader run blocking Rob Havenstein was surprisingly effective in pass protection. Havenstein did not allow a sack in 13 starts during his rookie season. Too bad the Rams didn’t have a passing game to speak of. The Green Bay Packers on the other hand have an elite trigger man but his offensive line was a sieve. The Packers allowed 47 sacks 5th most in the NFL, while the Rams only allowed 18 albeit on 100 less pass attempts than the Packers. With an inconsistent rushing attack to slow down the opposition’s pass rush and the inability to afford Aaron Rodgers and his receivers time to make plays down field Green Bay needs to improve their offensive line. The only question here is whether or not Bryan Bulaga can play left tackle? Considering Havenstein’s home is at right tackle. The Wisconsin Badger doesn’t have to go far and is welcomed with open arms by the Cheese Heads.
31. New Orleans Saints – Eric Kendricks – Eric Kendricks isn’t exactly the prototype at 6’0 232 lbs. but he’s a fluid and instinctual backer with the ability to excel on all three downs. Mike Zimmer doesn’t make it easy on young players but it didn’t take long for the talented linebacker to break into the starting lineup (11 starts). Once given the reigns at the “Mike” Kendricks didn’t look back with 92 tackles, 4.0 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss. New Orleans actually selected Stephone Anthony with this pick who had a good season in his own right but considering how poor the Saints were against the pass I’m going to opt for the better pass defender and open field tackler at the second level in Kendricks.
32. New England Patriots – Andrus Peat – Andrus Peat was actually the Saints first of two Round 1 selections but the Re-draft called for defenders in New Orleans. New England couldn’t overcome the multitude of injuries to the entire roster especially along the offensive line. One after the other, starting offensive linemen went down exposing the franchise, Tom Brady to an inordinate amount of punishment. Brady did everything in his power to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible but with no running game to speak of (Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount suffered season-ending injuries) and the inability to buy time with his legs the opposition’s pass rush caught up to Tom Terrific (in the form of the Denver Broncos defense). Peat offers long term stability along an offensive line set to go through a transition. I prefer him at right tackle and Brady prefers not to be hit.