Here we go again. Yet another NFL Draft that is dominated by speculation over two big QB prospects at the very top of most draft boards. And while both Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota both look like very viable NFL quarterbacks, history suggests that one of them is basically going to suck.
Just look at how this has worked out in the past…
The quarterback draft jackpot of 1983 was a rarity. Not because of all the great hall of fame players it produced (in reality only half of the great QB prospects that year – John Elway, Dan Marino & Jim Kelly – actually made the Hall of Fame) but because of the sheer volume of QBs floating around the various draft boards and the rampant speculation (and resultant wild pique in interest) which followed.
In many ways, 1983 made the NFL Draft as a spectator event.
Since that year, most quarterback bounties don’t come in half-dozens, but in pairs. And one half of the pair is usually not too great.
There are exceptions of course. Like 1999 and 2011 when the first round was quarterback-heavy, but for the most part, the pairs have been the rule, not the exception.
I’ll list them for you here and let you decide whether one or both of Winston and Mariota will REALLY be the next franchise quarterback or whether someone’s about to get stuck with another Ryan Leaf.
1993 – Drew Bledsoe (Washington State) #1 to the Patriots; Rick Mirer (Notre Dame) #2 to the Seahawks.
1994 – Heath Shuler (Tennessee) #3 to Washington; Trent Dilfer (Fresno State) #6 to Tampa Bay.
1995 – Steve McNair (Alcorn State) #3 to Houston; Kerry Collins (Penn State) #5 to Carolina.
1998 – Peyton Manning (Tennessee) #1 to the Colts; Ryan Leaf (Washington State) #2 to the Chargers.
2002 – David Carr (Fresno State) #1 to Houston; Joey Harrington (Oregon) #3 to the Lions.
2004 – Eli Manning (Ole Miss) #1 to San Diego; Philip Rivers (NC State) #4 to the Giants.
2012 – Andrew Luck (Stanford) #1 to the Colts; Robert Griffin III (Baylor) #2 to Washington.
Perhaps the good news is that the more recent pairings seem to have been a little more balanced in terms of getting two productive players instead of one player and one bust.
In any case, let’s get to the mock draft, I’ve spent a while droning on about this and you’re probably anxious to go look at cat videos.
- TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: JAMEIS WINSTON, QB, FLORIDA ST. (6’3”, 231 lbs., 4.97)
Forget any speculation you’ve heard about Tampa doing this or that. Barring some enormous unforeseen disaster Winston will and should be the #1 overall pick this year. He is the total package, combining the on the field winning attitude and leadership power of Tim Tebow with the easy-to-see translation of NFL ready skills at the game’s most important position. Forget any off the field concerns. Winston is fairly close to can’t miss.
Strengths: Great pocket presence. Can make all the throws. Possesses the rare ability to keep plays alive with his legs without relying on gaining yards via scramble. Has repeatedly shown the ability to lead a team to victory from behind. Played in a pro style offense.
Weaknesses: Major off the field questions. Repeatedly gets off to slow starts in games. Immature individual who will need “babysitting” at the next level.
- TENNESSEE TITANS: MARCUS MARIOTA, QB, OREGON (6’4”, 222 lbs., 4.52)
This is a pick that will almost certainly be dealt on draft day. About the only way it won’t be is if Tennessee is in love with Mariota and must have him for themselves. Otherwise, there’ll be no shortage of idiots, er, suitors lined up to ruin their future, er, trade way too much to obtain the rights to Mariota.
Remember how great the Griffin trade worked out for Washington, or the Hershel Walker trade worked out for Minnesota, or the Ricky Williams trade worked out for New Orleans? Someone’s going to join that list of all-time suckers next week.
Strengths: Elite ability to read defenses. Rarely makes mistakes. Athletic and decisive, a killer combination. Quick release and accurate delivery. Great locker room guy. Eminently coachable.
Weaknesses: Played in a gimmick offense at Oregon. Could be the next Blaine Gabbert. Must learn to make majority of throws from the pocket. Needs to add bulk. Has fumble-itis.
- JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: LEONARD WILLIAMS, DT, USC (6’5”, 302 lbs., 4.97)
Nothing ever seems to work out for the Jags when it comes to when they’re picking high in the draft. Their needs never seem to match the wealth of good players available. This year, Jacksonville would love to get their hands on a stud o-lineman. Too bad there aren’t any. As a consolation prize, they’ll continue bulking up on the d-line, where you can never have too many good players.
Strengths: Versatile lineman who can play end in the 3-4 or DT in the 4-3. Strong, explosive player who sheds blocks well. Has some upside. Good run defender.
Weaknesses: Takes plays off. Needs to keep his center of gravity low. Needs to add pass rushing moves.
- OAKLAND RAIDERS: AMARI COOPER, WR, ALABAMA (6’1”, 211 lbs., 4.42)
Will the Raiders really draft a wide receiver after they went out and signed Michael Crabtree away from the 49ers? Why the hell not? Crabtree, for lack of a better word, sucks. He’s a #2 at best, and opposite a Sammy Watkins/Mike Evans/Odell Beckham type phenom playing across from him he just might light it up a bit in his own right. Best of all, it would give the Raiders something they haven’t had on offense in more than a decade. Something even REMOTELY interesting. For once the Oakland Raiders are inching their way back into the realm of “watchable.” Let’s hope nothing stands in their way.
Strengths: Explosive playmaker/legitimate home run hitter. Elite route runner in the same class as the top receivers who’ve come out in recent years. Elite speed. Forces defenses to game plan just for him. Tremendous athleticism. Can break tackles, out leap defenders, and block. Outplayed elite competition.
Weaknesses: Lacks elite size. Drops can become contagious.
- WASHINGTON RACIAL SLURS: DANTE FOWLER, LB, FLORIDA (6’3”, 261, 4.60)
You may begin your countdown here. The countdown is how many teams are going to pass on Randy Gregory, the best pass rusher in the draft, for failing a marijuana test and other minor transgressions. Someone’s gonna get a great player, eventually, but it’ll take a while.
In the meantime, Washington will trade a .07 difference in 40-times to take Florida’s Fowler over Clemson’s Vic Beasley, who is only nominally faster but is also appreciably smaller and less impactful on the field. Washington needs to replace Brian Orakpo, and after all, it doesn’t seem as if anything they do on offense will help RGIII anyway, so might as well go D.
Strengths: Terrific edge rusher who is very fast off the line. Good repertoire of pass rush moves. Plays in the opponent’s backfield. Tough, mature player who can play right away and will play through injury. Off the field leader.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve against the run. Needs to add some bulk. Has had issues with consistency.
- NEW YORK JETS: SHANE RAY, LB, MISSOURI (6’3”, 245 lbs., 4.68)
The Jets could go a number of ways here, but they’ve been pretty active in free agency to shore up needs at corner and wide receiver, so it makes sense that they’ll take a look at the plethora of pass rushers available at this spot. Once again, they’ll be a team that passes on Randy Gregory and go instead with Missouri’s Shane Ray.
Strengths: Terrific first step. Excellent blend of speed and power. Sheds blocks well. Plays in the opposing backfield consistently. Strong tackler.
Weaknesses: Can get lost in the run game. Short arms limits ability to bat down passes.
Note: This was written prior to Ray’s arrest on Tuesday night
- CHICAGO BEARS: KEVIN WHITE, WR, WEST VIRGINIA (6’3”, 215 lbs., 4.35)
The Bears breathe a sigh of relief when the Jets pass on wide receiver, leaving them Kevin White to replace the departed Brandon Marshall. Too bad for the Bears that they have to make this move here instead of addressing their porous defense, still the big weak spot on the team. Expect their next several picks after this one to address those needs.
Strengths: Rare combination of elite speed and dominant size. Bonafide play maker who can score on any play. Excellent red zone target. Will generate yards after catch.
Weaknesses: Only emerged as an elite receiver this season. Can improve as a blocker. Occasionally loses focus leading to drops.
- ATLANTA FALCONS: VIC BEASLEY, LB, CLEMSON (6’3”, 246 lbs., 4.53)
Another team in search of pass rush help, the Falcons will be another team that passes on Gregory in favor of a perceived equivalent choice. I’m personally not the biggest fan of Vic Beasley, I think he is one of the less likely edge rushes to succeed in this group but it’s clear Atlanta has a need here and they’ll still have their pick out of several top prospects available.
Strengths: Extremely athletic. Good first step. Good repertoire of pass rush moves. Sheds blocks well.
Weaknesses: Needs to add strength. Needs to improve as a run defender. Sometimes takes poor angles. Has some character questions.
- NEW YORK GIANTS: BRANDON SCHERFF, OT, IOWA (6’5”, 319 lbs., 5.05)
New York will take page out of the Cowboys playbook and move Scherff inside to guard a la Zack Martin last year. Expect similar results, and while this won’t seem like a glamour pick amidst the quarterbacks, receivers and pass rushers, I’d best it’s one of the best 3 picks in the top 10.
Strengths: Bulldozing run blocker. Pulls well. Gets downfield on runs. Intelligent player who can pick up the blitz. Has a mean streak.
Weaknesses: Struggles against speed rushers. Has short arms. May only be able to play guard at the next level. Some durability concerns.
- ST. LOUIS RAMS: DEVANTE PARKER, WR, LOUISVILLE (6’3”, 209 lbs., 4.45)
The Rams need offensive line help at multiple positions, but the key is that they don’t need to go top-10 to address those needs, as they can bolster their line in the later rounds. What they can’t get is the last available elite receiver unless they draft him right here, and that’s a need the Rams have needed to address for a while. Parker fits the bill, and he’ll fit right into the St. Louis attack.
Strengths: Bona fide playmaker. Wins jump balls. Makes the tough catch. Will gain yards after the catch. Deceptive strength.
Weaknesses: Lacks elite speed. Must improve as a route runner. Needs to add some bulk. Needs to improve at reading defenses.
- MINNESOTA VIKINGS: TRAE WAYNES, CB, MICHIGAN STATE (6’0”, 186 lbs., 4.31)
The Vikings will jump on Teddy Bridgewater’s former teammate Devante Parker if he’s still on the board. It might be a good thing, though, if he isn’t, as the Vikings have a real need in the defensive backfield and can take the best corner available and first off the board with this pick.
Strengths: Plays well in man or zone coverage. Can play on an island against #1 receivers. Can go stride for stride with speed receivers. Physical defender. Plays the run well.
Weaknesses: Needs to add bulk. Needs to play less with his hands or risks drawing flags at the next level. Must improve reading defenses.
- CLEVELAND BROWNS: DANNY SHELTON, DT, WASHINGTON (6’1”, 343 lbs., 5.64)
This is the first of two picks the Browns have in the first round and with the top 3 receivers off the board they’ll address a need on either the offensive or defensive line. Danny Shelton is a pure nose tackle which is exactly what Cleveland needs. They can pick from the second-tier crop of receivers and address their o-line needs with their pick at 19 and in the later rounds.
Strength: Immovable force in the middle. Disruptive player who gets penetration at the point of attack. Has some pass rush skills. Tailor made nose tackle in a 3-4. Surprising athleticism for his size.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve his stamina. Fails to keep his center of gravity low. Needs to improve against double teams.
- NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: RANDY GREGORY, DE, NEBRASKA (6’5”, 235 lbs., 4.63)
Despite a big push last offseason to improve their defense, the Saints’ stop unit was atrocious last year and must be upgraded. Look for a few offensive fixes in the later rounds, but with their first rounder New Orleans lands the best pass rusher in the draft. A failed marijuana test and poor combine drop Gregory far below where he should be slotted which is top 5, top 10 at worst. Saints get a steal here.
Strengths: Elite athleticism. Great burst off the line. Good repertoire of pass rush moves. Great closing speed. Sheds blocks well. Great motor. Will have a chip on his shoulder.
Weaknesses: Needs to add bulk and strength. Run defense needs to improve. Character concerns. Durability concerns.
- MIAMI DOLPHINS: ERECK FLOWERS, OT, MIAMI (6’6”, 329 lbs., 5.31)
The Dolphins’ ongoing fix to their offensive line is hardly done, the only question is which prospect do they like here as they have their choice between Flowers, Andrus Peat or maybe someone else. Ultimately, Flowers has the highest upside and may look too good to pass up at #14.
Strengths: Uses power to sustain blocks on runs. Able to handle speed rushers. Picks up blitzes. Good quickness for a player his size. Long arms. Tremendous upside.
Weaknesses: May be better suited to play inside or at right tackle. Can get crossed up by defenses. Still raw.
- SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: ARIK ARMSTEAD, DE, OREGON (6’7”, 292 lbs,. 5.10)
Nobody sustained more offseason losses to their defense than the 49ers, and what was once a team strength that could be bolstered as a luxury through the draft is suddenly a big question mark unit filled with holes. Armstead is not the best d-lineman available here but in terms of fit he’s an ideal pick for a 49ers club that is struggling to keep their defense together.
Strengths: Ideal length. Great strength. Big frame can accommodate additional bulk. Ideal fit as a 3-4 DE. Can drop into coverage. Plenty of upside.
Weaknesses: Lacks quickness. Inconsistent player whose production doesn’t match talent level. Needs to develop pass rush moves. Lacks speed.
- HOUSTON TEXANS: ALVIN DUPREE, LB, KENTUCKY (6’4”, 269 lbs., 4.56)
In some respects there are two types of draft strategies: draft for need or draft to strength. When the Texans took Jadeveon Clowney last season already having JJ Watt, they signaled that they were on board with bulking up what was already the best unit they had – their defensive front 7. The Texans don’t need Bud Dupree, but he’s a top 10 prospect on most boards, and to see him still available and to contemplate the prospect of adding him to what is already one of the most devastating defensive fronts in football, well, I hope Andrew Luck’s health insurance is paid up to date. Look out.
Strengths: Good pass rush technique. Long arms. Good initial burst. Can drop into coverage. Physical play at the line of scrimmage. Good run defender.
Weaknesses: Needs to add strength. Gets tied up by blockers. A little heavy for the 3-4, but not an ideal 4-3 end.
- SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: TODD GURLEY, RB GEORGIA (6’1”, 222 lbs,. DNP)
Remember last year, when everyone said the running back position was now completely undervalued and no RB would ever go in the first round again? Yeah, forget that. Turns out if you have top flight prospect like Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (Gordon would be the pick here but for injury concerns), then teams are only too willing to come in and use a first rounder to get a productive offensive weapon. Of course, the Chargers are also tied up in the rumors about Philip Rivers getting traded for Marcus Mariota. Why the Titans would trade the 2nd overall pick for a guy who will be retired by the time they’re good enough to use him is beyond me, but hey, it’s the draft.
Strengths: Agile, shifty back who runs with power. Great field vision; runs to daylight. Great acceleration. Can return kicks. Can pick up blitzes and block. Good receiver out of the backfield.
Weaknesses: Injury history is concerning. Needs to keep his center of gravity low. Lacks elite speed.
- KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: ANDRUS PEAT, OT, STANFORD (6’7”, 313 lbs., 5.18)
Andy Reid is getting back to his roots in Kansas City, and that means building a reliably dominant offensive line for the next half dozen years moving forward. Andrus Peat, another player who projects higher than this slot, fits right in.
Strengths: Ideal NFL body. Skilled pass protector. Gets to the second level on runs. Intelligent player. Lots of upside.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t punish opposing linemen. Competent, but not a standout, blocker. Has been inconsistent at times.
- CLEVELAND BROWNS: LA’EL COLLINS, OL, LSU (6’4”, 308 lbs., 5.12)
I’m convinced Cleveland has learned its lesson about trying to overreach at skill positions and therefore they pass on the available receivers (there will be ample selections in rounds 2 and 3) or on Melvin Gordon, although he’s more tempting. Instead, they’ll address their lines like they need to. They went d-line at 12, they go o-line here. It’s amazing how many problems can get solved for a football team if they start winning the line of scrimmage.
Strengths: NFL body. Agile and athletic. Surprising quickness for a player his size. Has a mean streak. Consistent performer in college.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve technique. Run blocking needs improvement. Can be caught off balance by faster rushers.
- PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: JALEN COLLINS, CB, LSU (6’1”, 203 lbs., 4.48)
Chip Kelly has had three years to address the worst defensive secondary in football, and heading into year 3 he has one starter – Malcolm Jenkins. Of course, I know the Eagles will continue to ignore this position because they’ve done it before, choosing instead to repeatedly jettison and replace their best offensive players. The Eagles will probably go receiver here or, better yet, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley who won’t play at all. To be realistic, I at least had them reach a bit for Collins, who slots more as an early second rounder. In 2 years, Kelly will be back at college and the Eagles will be back to the drawing board. Who knew the Phillies and Sixers were both closer to completing their rebuilds?
Strengths: Ideal size. Can play man or zone coverage. Can stay with speed receivers downfield. Good overall athleticism. Plenty of upside.
Weaknesses: Technique needs improvement. Slow reaction time vs. quicker receivers. Lacks experience.
- CINCINNATI BENGALS: MALCOLM BROWN, DT, TEXAS (6’2”, 319 lbs., 5.05)
There may be some speculation that the Bengals’ offense needs a little juicing up, but the truth is Cincinnati is about as good offensively as they’re going to get with Andy Dalton at the helm and they will sink or swim with that decision. In the meantime, however, there are plenty of areas where the Bengals can go from pretty good to better, including the defensive front 7.
Strengths: Good quickness for his size. Disruptive player at the line of scrimmage. Has pass rushing skills. Sheds blocks well. Plenty of upside.
Weaknesses: Tackling could improve. Needs to develop pass rush moves. Lacks experience.
- PITTSBURGH STEELERS: KEVIN JOHNSON, CB, WAKE FOREST (6’0”, 188 lbs,. 4.52)
Known forever for dominating defensive play, the Steelers have been crumbling on that side of the ball for a while now, and have needed upgrades on the outside for several seasons. They finally take steps in that direction, although I think they need corner help more than taking a chance on Alabama safety Landon Collins, who may not have the cover skills needed in today’s NFL.
Strengths: Instinctive cover corner. Good length. Can play man or zone. Adjusts to the ball well.
Weaknesses: Can be burned by double moves. Needs to add bulk. Needs to improve in run defense.
- DETROIT LIONS: MELVIN GORDON, RB, WISCONSIN (6’1”, 215 lbs., 4.52)
The Lions’ offense screams for a running back who can take advantage of the opportunities that Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate will open up for him, and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon will fit nicely into that scheme. The Lions’ other option here is to look for d-line help to replace Ndamukong Suh, but lots of luck finding a player like that at 23 and the best prospects are off the board already anyway.
Strengths: Explosive home run hitter who can score on any play. Elite acceleration. Great balance on his feet. Great field vision. Good blocker.
Weaknesses: Lacks elite athleticism. Must improve as a receiver. Has fumble-itis.
- ARIZONA CARDINALS: BYRON JONES, CB, CONNECTICUT (6’1”, 199 lbs., 4.43)
The Cardinals would jump on one of the top two running backs if either is available but I have them missing out by one slot. Instead, Arizona will follow the NFC West trend of continuing to bulk up on defense. That division is getting to be one scary place to play.
Strengths: Good length. Good acceleration. Good read and react cover corner. Soft hands. Good tackler. Good locker room guy.
Weaknesses: History of injury. Doesn’t play a physical style. Can be frozen on good fakes.
- CAROLINA PANTHERS: BRESHAD PERRIMAN, WR, CENTRAL FLORIDA (6’2”, 212 lbs., 4.26)
There’s a clear top 3 at wide receiver in this draft, and then a second tier of promising prospects. I happen to think there’ll be a run on the secondary guys at the end of the first round. There’s just too many tantalizing prospects to look at and teams that have needs there. First up, Carolina, who scored last year with Kelvin Benjamin and would love to add another young pass catcher across from him.
Strengths: Big play threat with deep speed. Good size. Can make tough, acrobatic catches. Gains yards after the catch. Good upside.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t use his size to his advantage. Too many drops. Route running must improve. Still a raw talent.
26 . BALTIMORE RAVENS: PHILLIP DORSETT, WR, MIAMI (5’10”, 185 lbs,. 4.33)
The Ravens will join in the run on secondary receivers, in particular because they need to replace Torrey Smith who was their big play man on offense. Most of the Ravens’ other needs can be better addressed in later rounds, and when there’s a run on a particular position it’s often best to pick while the picking is good.
Strengths: Elite speed. Excellent route runner. Home run hitter who can score on any play. Good hands. Experienced player.
Weaknesses: Lacks size and height. Won’t win jump balls vs. NFL cornerbacks. Injury history.
- DALLAS COWBOYS: EDDIE GOLDMAN, DT, FLORIDA STATE (6’4”, 336 lbs., 5.28)
The suspension of Greg Hardy puts a more immediate bent on the Cowboys’ need to bolster their front 7. Goldman won’t replace the pass rushing they were hoping to get out of Hardy, but he could represent a significant improvement to the Cowboys’ overmatched defensive line.
Strengths: Plugs up the middle and stuffs the run. Collapses the pocket. Overmatches offensive linemen. Can play nose tackle in the 3-4 or defensive tackle in a 4-3. Plenty of upside.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve as a pass rusher. Must improve conditioning. Still a raw talent.
- DENVER BRONCOS: CAMERON ERVING, OL, FLORIDA STATE (6’5”, 313 lbs., 5.15)
While there are a number of areas the Broncos would like to address in the draft, bolstering the protection for Peyton Manning has to be pretty high on the list. Manning can still dissect defenses with scalpel like precision, but he needs time to do so and teams gear up to come after him, especially late in the season. Erving is a versatile lineman who will likely move inside and is capable of playing guard or center.
Strengths: Great athleticism. Excellent technique. Pulls well. Experienced and intelligent.
Weaknesses: Must improve consistency. Probably can’t play tackle at the next level. Footwork needs improvement.
- INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: LANDON COLLINS, S, ALABAMA (6’0”, 228 lbs., 4.53)
The Colts’ defense improved considerably last season, but some of the uptick was just a numbers game and not elevated play on the field. Consequently, expect the Colts to go defense again, especially considering their substantial moves on the offensive side of the ball in free agency.
Strengths: Big hitter who provides physical support on run defense. Good tackler. Plays well in zone. Reads quarterbacks well.
Weaknesses: Bites too often on play fakes. Lacks ball skills. Needs to improve coverage skills. Below average hands.
- GREEN BAY PACKERS: ERIC KENDRICKS, LB, UCLA (6’0”, 232 lbs., 4.61)
The Packers continue to need defensive help, and they’ll likely be looking at a scenario where they can add the 5th or 6th best cornerback or the very best inside linebacker to address a position of need. I always prefer to get a guy whose at the top of the position list instead of the latest guy off the depth chart.
Strengths: Smart, instinctive player. Good coverage skills. Good speed for the position. Good tackler. Experienced player, a leader. Plenty of upside.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size. Frame will not hold much additional bulk. Could get swallowed up by blockers at the next level.
- NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: JAELEN STRONG, WR, ARIZONA STATE (6’2”, 217 lbs., 4.44)
With two first-round picks, the Saints will go defense early and then add back some offensive weapons for Drew Brees later on. It certainly does look, however, as if the Saints window closed rather abruptly. It’s hard to picture them making a lot of noise next season.
Strengths: Above average height and length. Good red zone weapon. Adjusts to the ball. Runs well after the catch. Good route runner. Polished player.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal speed. Only average athleticism. Misjudges some throws. Durability concerns.
- NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: RONALD DARBY, CB, FLORIDA STATE (5’11”, 198 lbs., 4.38)
One of the biggest differences between this past year’s Patriots and other years’ was the presence of Darrelle Revis at corner. Revis has moved on, so expect the Pats to look to replace him.
Strengths: Good in man coverage. Can stay with speed receivers. Comfortable playing on an island. Contributor on special teams. Plenty of upside.
Weaknesses: Lacks ball skills. Lacks ideal height. Will not win jump balls with bigger receivers. Below average in run support.
Featured image via Rant Sports