Hind sight is 20/20. Let’s NFL Re-draft 2015!
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston – The Bucs got it right. Despite the off-field/maturity concerns there was no doubt that Winston was the most pro ready signal caller entering the 2015 NFL Draft. The intangibles he displayed during his impressive career at Florida State University materialized at the professional level once he stopped turning the ball over. The rookie trigger man led the Buccaneers to perhaps their most impressive season statistically as an offense and his 4,000+ passing yards and 22 TDs were very impressive considering the collective inexperience of Tampa Bay’s offensive line and an inconsistent and injury plagued receiving corps. Too bad Lovie Smith couldn’t get a little more out of his defense as it appears the Bucs and new head coach Dirk Koetter have their franchise quarterback in place.
2. Tennesse Titans – Marcus Mariota – Not unlike Winston, Mariota feasted on poor competition but the quarterback position is the most difficult position to play at the professional level and any success a rookie QB has on a bad football team is noteworthy. That being said, I must admit, I would have fleeced Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles in a trade for the 2nd overall selection if Philly were willing to bite on draft day. But despite undeniable arm talent, Zach Mettenberger doesn’t appear to be the answer; hence Mariota is the pick. His head coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired too so we will see what happens to the Titans offense but when healthy Mariota flashed with a 19/10 TD-to-INT ratio. The quick release and accuracy play but the decision-making will have to hasten and the footwork needs improvement. I imagine new head coach Mike Mularkey will encourage Mariota to run more behind a shaky offensive line but everyone involved will have to continue to exercise patience to determine if this was truly the right pick.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Williams – Sorry Mr. Fowler, the Jags took the wrong man and in my opinion it has nothing to do with Dante Fowler’s season-ending injury during rookie mini camp. Williams, the most talented defensive lineman in the 2015 class can play in any scheme. Three-technique, five-technique, rush-end or “big end” in an even man front, doesn’t matter. While Williams’ sack total (3.0) isn’t eye popping he definitely made his mark on the Jets defense and the arrow is pointing up. Sixty-three tackles, 30 QB hurries, 19 QB hits and 35 of the 63 tackles resulted in a defensive stop according to Pro Football Focus (14th best among interior defenders). The Jags attempted to address their “LEO” pass rusher position with Fowler (like the Seahawks) but it’s the “Big End” in Seattle a.k.a. Michael Bennett that makes that defensive line go with his positional flexibility and his prowess in stopping the run and rushing the passer. The Jaguars would have been better served drafting Williams.
4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper – Chalk at #4. Cooper was a no-brainer to the Raiders in my estimation and that’s not a slight on either Kevin White or DeVante Parker. Cooper is just so polished, his ceiling as high as both White and Parker but his floor was also the highest. Short, intermediate, deep it doesn’t matter. With his impeccable route-running and ability after the catch Cooper is on his way to stardom. His 72 receptions and 1,070 receiving yards were best in the NFL among rookies in 2015 and his six touchdowns tied for most among rookies as well. Young Derek Carr benefited substantially from having Cooper and free agent acquisition Michael Crabtree in the lineup and the Carr-to-Cooper combination should resonate in the “Black Hole” for many years to come. Cooper had some uncharacteristic drops during his rookie campaign but I fully expect him to limit those moving forward considering his work ethic and attention to detail. The Raiders continue their recent trend of nailing their draft picks by landing Amari Cooper.
5. Washington Redskins – Brandon Scherff – Had it not been for the surprising play of Morgan Moses at right tackle I would have taken Ereck Flowers to bookend Trent Williams at offensive tackle. Washington had to address the offensive line and with the uncertainty going into the draft with La’el Collins, Scherff was the safest selection among interior offensive linemen despite playing tackle at Iowa. The rookie played in all 16 games and was named to the 2015 All-Rookie team due to improved play throughout the season. His strong finish to the season has to be exciting for the Redskins’ faithful as the offensive line as a whole did a great job of protecting an improved Kirk Cousins down the stretch. If Scherff continues to refine his technique to compensate for shorter arms by NFL standards and progress in terms of his pass protection he should remain a fixture in Washington’s O-line for many years to come. The added toughness he brings in the trenches went a long way in 2015.
6. New York Jets – Marcus Peters – Well, no such luck in this re-draft to nab Leonard Williams at #6. However, under the circumstances and knowing what I know now, Marcus Peters is my selection. I knew about the ball-skills but I wasn’t sure whether or not he had enough top end speed to play man-to-man coverage on a consistent basis. Well, he does and if he becomes a bit more physical at the point of attack he will go from very good to elite. On his very first snap as a professional Peters intercepted a pass. It was a precursor to what will likely go down as a Defensive Rookie of the Year performance. Sixty tackles (53 solo), 8 interceptions (tied for league lead), 26 passes defended (best in NFL) and 2 touchdowns. He got beat from time-to-time but his struggles were few. Last April, I thought Trae Waynes was the best corner in the draft and while I believe in Waynes’ talent he simply isn’t on Peters’ level at this point. You can’t teach ball-skills and instincts and Peters has them both in spades. If not for character concerns Peters wouldn’t have been available to the Chiefs at 18th overall.
7. Chicago Bears – Kevin White – The Bears are in a re-build and I’m sticking with their selection of White. Unfortunately, they lose a talented offensive coordinator in Adam Gase who is now the Miami Dolphins head coach and while I think Vic Beasley could do some serious damage on the edge in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense; Kevin White is too talented of an athlete to pass up considering the decision to move on from Brandon Marshall. It’s a shame White couldn’t get healthy and play but he is a physical specimen with twitchy athleticism, explosiveness, and the ability to “go get” the football. The prospect of an Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White combination is too exciting to pass up. Hopefully White recovers from a stress fracture to his tibia completely as we eagerly await his pro debut. We all know Jay Cutler will throw the 50/50 ball and who better to throw it to than Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Dante Fowler Jr. – I actually think Vic Beasley is a more dynamic pass rusher and the Falcons certainly have been lacking in that department since the departure of John Abraham; but I believe Fowler is a more complete defensive end and better suited for Dan Quinn’s 4-3 scheme. Beasley is under-sized and can be worn down by a physical rushing attack. Fowler is more stout and while he doesn’t offer the explosiveness Beasley offers off the edge his athleticism is underrated as he possess the ability to bend the edge. Folwer’s hand placement/punch is the best among all edge rushers in the draft. He’s no Leonard Williams but Fowler is an outstanding talent in his own right. He, like Kevin White suffered a season-ending injury prior to his career officially getting under way.