My take on several draft selections that were particularly astute as well as those that were head scratchers.
Leonard Williams USC – DL – Selected 6th overall by the New York Jets an already impressive defensive front nets arguably the best player in the draft. Williams is equally effective against the run and rushing the passer, plays hurt, provides scheme versatility and is only 20-years-old. I was convinced that he would be a Top 5 pick, but the Jets should be ecstatic to land Williams at 6th overall.
Todd Gurley Georgia – RB – Selected 10th overall by the St. Louis Rams many believed and still do feel that the Rams should have selected wide receiver DeVante Parker or an offensive lineman with the 10th pick but Gurley (with a clean bill of health) is one of the three best prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft. Gurley and Tre Mason now form an impressive 1-2 combo in the Rams’ backfield to go along with a stellar defense in what may be the most physical division in the NFL, the NFC West.
Melvin Gordon Wisconsin – RB – Selected 15th overall by the San Diego Chargers Gordon is a foundation running back not unlike Todd Gurley. Two running backs in the first round? Yes! The Chargers traded up to draft Gordon and it will pay immediate dividends by taking some of the pressure off of Phillip Rivers. Will Gordon’s presence be enough to keep Rivers on the west coast beyond the 2015 season? That remains to be seen, but he certainly will help the Chargers shorten and finish games come September.
Shane Ray Missouri – DE – Selected 23rd overall by the Denver Broncos Ray may be considered a luxury pick considering that the Broncos have Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. But when you are a perennial playoff/championship contender (during Manning era) you have the “luxury” to make luxury selections. Additionally, you can never have enough pass rushers and Ray is only available at #23 because of medical/off-field questions. Consider Ray a value pick a term typically not associated with 1st round selections. The Broncos moved up and acquired a relentless pass rush specialist that may eventually replace an aging Demarcus Ware and will contribute immediately to the Broncos’ D-line rotation as Denver attempts to unseat Andrew Luck’s Colts and Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Marcus Mariota – QB – Selected 2nd overall by the Tennessee Titans wasn’t as much of a reach (QBs go early) as it was a missed opportunity. The Titans roster has a dearth of talent and Mariota is going to take a significant amount of time to adjust to the pro game. The rumor mill suggested a ton of picks and proven NFL commodities could have been had if the Titans decided to pull the trigger on a trade in Round 1 and they didn’t. I’m not convinced Mariota will transition to the pro game at a level that warrants this early of a selection. The Titans really could have benefited from the volume they would have received in return for the 2nd overall pick.
Arik Armstead – DL – Selected 17th overall by the San Francisco 49ers Armstead fits a huge need as a 5-technique defensive end. He is gifted with size and length but his tape suggests second round pick to me. On the one hand he is only 20-years-old and has major upside. On the other hand he doesn’t know how to use his physical gifts at all. He will need considerable coaching. High ceiling, basement level floor, not worthy of a first round pick in my estimation.
Shaq Thompson – LB – Selected 25th overall by the Carolina Panthers Thompson not only was a reach in Round 1 but strikes me as a luxury pick considering the linebacker position is a strength of the Panthers with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis in the fold. Thompson is a gifted athlete but the value simply wasn’t there in Round 1. Conventional wisdom suggested that the Panthers’ organization would take measures to improve their offensive line or give Newton an additional weapon in the passing game. They did neither.