Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Predicting the 2015 Buccaneer Draft - Last Call

It’s finally here.  I guess I can now say from experience, the draft definitely does take longer to get here when you team has the first pick.  I’m going to be as short and sweet as possible with this version.  My first round mock has huge changes, and I’ve gone a slightly different route in my Bucs draft from the last version.

As I mentioned last time, I’m looking for the Bucs to be aggressive in this year’s draft.  If they take a best-available approach rather than drafting complimentary pieces and projects, as was a large part of last year’s plan, they’ll find plenty of players who can contribute right away.  That shouldn’t be asking for much considering the team needs to upgrade the starting caliber talent at QB, RT, RG, DE, WR, and FS. 

Spoiler alert – Jameis is going to be the 1st pick.  He’s also very likely to take the first snap in week 1 against the Titans.  I want the Bucs to aggressively shop Glennon to Buffalo, Arizona, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Houston for a R3 pick.  When it comes to the next most movable piece, Doug Martin, I’m split.  I was very high on the Bucs drafting him in 2012, but he looks far removed from the player who showed elite talent in stretches as a rookie.  Is it worth moving him for a R5 pick prior to what will likely be his last year as a Buc?  Does the L&L regime really want to move him bad enough to draft a back for the second year in a row?

For the last time in 2015, here’s what I think will happen in R1 of the NFL draft as well as what I think the Bucs should do with their picks.

Round 1

1) TB – Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
The Bucs acquire their most talented player at the QB position since Vinny Testaverde, and I’ll put it on record once more – Jameis will finish his career as the greatest Buc QB of all time.  I don’t expect him to be the instant savior of a 2-14 and perpetually downward trending franchise, but he will give credibility to the position and lead in the establishment of a winning culture.

2) TEN – Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
I’ve come around.  I now believe (especially after hearing Jim Wyatt say so) that the Titans will not take Leonard Williams at #2.  I believe that the Titans will be the team to draft Mariota but that he may be moved to Cleveland or (longshot) to Philly during or after the draft.  I don’t think San Diego is in play.  My final destination prediction (in order) – Tennessee, Cleveland, St. Louis, Philadelphia.

Also, the “where will Mariota go / end up” storyline will be the talk of the evening, even after the Titans take him at #2.  That will be the talking point, and the Bucs and Winston will be back page news.  Surprised?

3) *ATL – Dante Fowler (DE/OLB, Florida)
Here’s your first trade of the draft.  Since I believe that the R1-worthy talent runs dry after about 15 players, I believe that we will see at least two trades within the top 10 picks.  Here’s your first.  The Falcons move up to secure the draft’s first pass rusher.

4) OAK – Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
I’ve had the Raiders taking a WR in every prior version, but this is the first domino of Mariota going #2.  I would take Williams here over Cooper and White.  Pairing him with Fort Pierce’s Khalil Mach would help put Oakland’s defense back on the map.

5) WAS – Vic Beasley (DE/OLB, Clemson)
The Redskins must replace Brian Orakpo, and I’ve got them taking Beasley over an offensive lineman.

6) * CLE – Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
The Jets might take a receiver here themselves (I wouldn’t if I were them), but if the first 5 picks play out like this, I think someone will move up to take the draft’s first WR.  I believe Cleveland could very well be that team.  Who knows when/if Josh Gordon will play again, and Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline are ideally #2 and #3 receivers respectively.  Flip a coin in the Cooper/White talent argument, but Cooper is probably the safer option and will be able to contribute more early on.

7) CHI – Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
The Bears will be in position to draft either Cooper or White or make a trade with someone who wants to move up and get them.  White and Alshon Jeffrey give the Bears a very dynamic duo at WR.

8) * JAX – Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
The first “WOW!” of the evening.  The Jags were aggressive in their pursuit of DeMarcos Murray.  I believe they want to make a big splash on offense, and what better way to do it than with the local-ish stud rusher?

9) NYG – Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
In a mild surprise, Peat beats Scherff off the board.  According to reports by those closest to the team, of the two top-rated lineman, Peat is the preference.

10) STL – Brandon Scherff (OL, Iowa)
I believe that Peat and Scherff are going to go off the board at 9 or 10 in one of two ways.  Scherff could slot into either current openings at RG or RT.

11) * SF – DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
Many mocks hook Teddy Bridgewater up with his former Louisville target, but I think Minnesota is in a great spot to move down with whoever wants the draft’s 3rd receiver.  The Vikings could take Parker if they stay here, but they’re not desperate at the position after acquiring Mike Wallace.

12) * NYJ – Bud Dupree (DE/OLB, Kentucky)
In a deal that likely nets the Jets picks on day 2 and day 3, they grab a pass rusher that might end up worthy of a top 6 pick.

13) NOR – Danny Shelton (NT, Washington)
The Saints need help everywhere.  Lining up Shelton between Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks is a lot of beef up front. 

14) MIA – La’el Collins (OL, LSU)
With the way this draft has played out I think the Dolphins will go OL, and both Collins and Ereck Flowers should be options.  Assuming Collins is not a suspect in the death in which he’s being questioned, he should hear his name called in the top half of Thursday’s action.  With this pick, Miami has quietly put together one of the better, younger offensive lines in the league.

15) * MIN – Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
The Vikings are still able to pick up (arguably) the draft’s best corner and player to whom they’ve been tied in draft conversations in the deal down with SF.

16) HOU – Breshad Perriman (WR, UCF)
I’m not that high on Perriman, but he’s apparently going to be selected in the early portion of R1.  I’d probably roll the dice with Randy Gregory at this point if I was calling the shots in Houston.  The potential of Gregory and Clowney on the edges behind JJ Watt would be very intriguing.  .

17) SD – Malcom Brown (DL, Texas)
The Chargers need help up front on defense.  Brown can play three downs which is key in a division with Peyton Manning’s arm and Denver’s run game. 

18) KC – Cameron Erving (OL, FSU)
The Chiefs replace Rodney Hudson with another Nole.

19) CLE – Ereck Flowers (OL, Miami)
It might not be the glaring need, but the Browns could stand to upgrade the RT and guard positions.  Flowers could start right away.

20) PHI – Nelson Agholor (WR, USC)
Another “WOW!”  Whoever Chip Kelly picks, it will elicit a strong reaction.  Agholor gives him a guy I see as an excellent compliment to Jordan Matthews.

21) CIN – Eddie Goldman (DL, FSU)
The Bengals need to beef up the interior, and Goldman provides plenty of that.

22) PIT – Randy Gregory (DE/OLB, Nebraska)
The freefall ends with Pittsburgh.  I think Gregory goes to a 3-4 team looking for a rusher, and if he doesn’t go to Houston at #16, I think he’ll slide to #22. 

23) DET – Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
I don’t think we’ll see corners go early or often in R1.  Johnson at #23 is just the second one taken in this mock.

24) ARI – Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
This seems like one of the most ideal picks of R1.  The Cardinals definitely need a RB, and Gordon’s talents would fit well in Bruce Arians’ offense. 

25) CAR – Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Still like the fit here.  Given their offseason signings, he won’t have to start right away and can completely heal that ACL injury.

26) BAL – Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Oklahoma)
I think this is either WR or CB, and Baltimore is one of the few teams in the league with the leadership/stability to take on a question like DGB.  If focused, he’s a steal at #26.

27) DAL – Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
In this mock the CB-needy Cowboys have their pick of any corner not named Waynes or Johnson.  Hard for me to see them going in any other direction.

28) DEN – DJ Humphries (T, Florida)
Looks like an ideal fit for what they want to run in Denver; slides in immediately at RT.

29) IND – Damarious Randall (FS, Arizona State)
Will another safety really be drafted ahead of Landon Collins?  Don’t count it out.  Whether it’s a safety like Collins, a defensive lineman like Arik Armstead, or a linebacker like Eric Kendricks, the Colts must improve their defense if they want to get to the top of the AFC heap. 

30) GB – Eric Kendricks (LB, UCLA)
One of the better need/talent fits of R1.  GB would be thrilled to see Kendricks be on the board at #30.

31) NOR – Phillip Dorsett (WR, Miami)
Dorsett isn’t just a speed guy.  He’s a sharp route runner and gives Sean Payton another dynamic weapon to go with Brandin Cooks and transition from the Coltston era at receiver.

32) NE – Mario Edwards (DL, FSU)
The Patriots finish Thursday’s action with one last “WOW!” pick.  Not many project Edwards this high, but I believe he’ll be a much better pro than collegiate player.  What better place to land than with Bill Belichick?  They spent a good bit of time with him at FSU’s Pro Day.

Round 2

As demonstrated above, I don’t think we’ll see much movement for draft picks from the middle of R1 on.  I don’t believe there is much of a disparity in talent from picks 15-35.  Therefore, I would be very much against the Bucs moving up to secure a player at the bottom of R1. 

33) TEN – Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
Safety is a huge need for the Titans, and I’m guessing they’d be happy to find Collins available at the top of R2.    

34) TB
I’ve had the Bucs taking a tackle, specifically Jake Fisher, in the last two versions of this exercise.  I’ve now cooled a bit on Fisher and am not so sure he’s the best option, despite the team’s needs, at this point. 

With the way R1 played out above, here are the players I would say are the consensus best available (in no particular order):  Eli Harold, Arik Armstead, Shane Ray, Jake Fisher, Marcus Peters, TJ Clemmings, Stephone Anthony, Preston Smith, AJ Cann, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Devin Smith, Laken Tomlinson, Jaelen Strong, and Jalen Collins. 

My top 5 (in no particular order) from that group, based on my analysis of their talents and the Bucs’ needs, are:  Shane Ray, Marcus Peters, Preston Smith, Jake Fisher, and Jalen Collins. 

Of those I eliminated –
  • I think Armstead will go in R1 and be the biggest bust from this draft. 
  • Harold isn’t a fit. 
  • OO is overrated as a pass rusher
  • I love Anthony but don’t think LB is in play at #34. 
  • I’m not saying a guard isn’t worth this pick, but given the other talent on the board, I believe that Tomlinson and Cann would both be big need-leans rather than best talent picks. 
  • Clemmings’ project status and current injury push him out of the picture for me.
  • If it’s not DGB or Agholor, I’m not interested in a WR with this pick.  There’s better value in R3.

My final list comes down to two pass rushers, two corners, and one lineman.  I list Collins because of the possibility of him playing FS.  He likely has too many questions (failed drug tests and limited on-field snaps) to make L&L pull the trigger here, but the talent is undeniable.  Same with Peters.  Is he worth the headache?  The talent is there, but he was obstinate both on and off the field at Washington

That narrows it down to Ray, Smith, and Fisher. 

I believe I was lower on Ray than the consensus throughout the draft process (#12, #13, #19, #19 in my mocks), but prior to his traffic stop, he was a sure-fire R1 pick.  Is he worth the gamble here?  Aside from his questionable decision making, he’s dealing with a toe injury that supposedly doesn’t need surgery, and is small for the position.  Can he be an effective enough pass rusher to make the Bucs comfortable with his questions?

Is Fisher going to be a really good LT in any offense, or have I been ignoring/missing flaws in his game based on Oregon’s offensive style?  To me, he’s a guy who can step in right away at RT or possibly even guard with the potential to swing over to LT.  Will he become strong/stout enough to really anchor an end of the line, or is he best suited for a zone-heavy scheme? 

Smith is a guy I’m much higher on that apparently the expert consensus.  In my mind, he’s the ideal left end on this defense.  He wins with both power and speed and has a longer wingspan than Beasley, Ray, Orchard, Fowler, and OO.  Wingspan isn’t everything, but when I look at Smith’s combination of speed, strength, hand usage, and body type/usage, he’s what the Bucs need up front with Gerald McCoy.  A good example of Smith’s ability to make adjustments on the move is the 3-cone drill, a drill in which he finished 2nd to Beasley among all pass rushers at the Combine.  He’ll go in R2 because he doesn’t have elite speed or athleticism.  The Bucs should not let spend much of Friday as a spectator.

The pick – Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State)

Some may argue the talent/value with this pick, but I feel very strongly about this prospect’s potential as a pro.  Put Smith at left end with William Gholston opposite Jacquies Smith and George Johnson, a position in question a month ago now has some semblance of stability.

I would love to draft Flowers, Humphries or Ogbuehi here, but they’re long since gone.  Just because the Bucs don’t get an offensive lineman with this pick doesn’t mean that the position can’t/won’t be addressed.  I’m also not giving up on Fisher; just backing off of him as my lockdown favorite here.  I’d really be thrilled with either one, but in the end I believe Smith is the best option of all the players I listed. 

Round 3

Again, I don’t want to force a position on a pick, especially this early.  Your selections through the first three rounds should be players who contribute right away.  With that in mind, I know I need to draft a starting caliber offensive lineman with one of my next two picks, and I also still need to take advantage of the most talent-laden position group in the draft, WR.

As I did last time, I’m dealing Glennon for a R3 pick.  I’ll project the destinations in this order – Buffalo, Arizona, Houston, St. Louis, and Cleveland

The picks – Tre’ Jackson (G, FSU) and Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)

Jackson gives the Bucs an immediate upgrade at RG, and McBride steps in at the slot and projects an eventual ideal #2 opposite Evans.  I no longer see Donovan Smith lasting until R3, and I don’t think Ty Sambrailo is worthy of selecting this high.  Point being, I see the Bucs OT options in R3 as limited.  Take the guy who can play right away, and the fact that he blocked for the #1 pick the last two years doesn’t hurt.  I think you plug Jackson in at RG now and look to address the position again in another 8 years. 

I still love Rashad Green, but even I admit that following up Jackson with a third Nole would be a bit much.  I rank them virtually the same for the Bucs, but I think McBride has the slightly higher overall upside as a pro.  Back on the bandwagon!  I believe that McBride might have the best in-traffic receiving ability of any receiver in this class, and his downfield battles for the ball fill highlight videos.  His biggest knock is a lack of elite game speed, but his route running, formation flexibility, and the ability to consistently move the chains makes him well worth the pick here.

Round 4

So far:
R1 – Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
R2 – Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State)
R3 – Tre’ Jackson (G, FSU)
R3 – Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)

If I’m Licht I see my highest remaining priority as drafting a starting caliber tackle.  I had the Bucs going FS, Derron Smith here last time, but based on how I have this version progressing, the safety position might be the odd spot out.

The pick – Rob Havenstein (T, Wisconsin)

You want to talk about upgrading the strength on the right side of the line?  Well you’ve done it with the Jackson and Havenstein combination.  Both players will need development in pass protection (as most rookies do) but excel as physical run blockers right now.  Yes, Havenstein projects as a right tackle only, but that’s why he’s available in R4.  Also, I’m not of the belief that every tackle on the roster must be able to play both sides of the line.  Havenstein will make himself plenty of money as a right side only guy.

Round 5
I had the Bucs trading Doug Martin in the last version for the first pick in R5.  This time I’m holding onto Martin and bypassing taking a RB in the draft.  Again, I’m not truly beholden to one side of the debate over the other.  Let’s see what he can do behind an improved line and with better play at the QB position. 

I’ve taken a QB, DE, G, WR, and T so far.  Since I’m holding onto Martin, I don’t need to take a RB.  The positions that would have my attention are OL, S, CB, and LB. 

The pick – Jeremiah Poutasi (OL, Utah)

I took Poutasi in an earlier draft, and I’m going back him here.  Like Jackson and Havenstein, here’s another powerful force up front.  Poutasi played predominantly tackle at Utah, but he would ideally be an eventual replacement for Logan Mankins at the guard spot opposite Jackson.  Centers Andy Gallik and Max Garcia would be in play for me here as well.  Get one of those three, and I’m pleased.  Also, if they need another tackle, Laurence Gibson is the guy I like in the R5-R6 range.  Ben Heeney and Ramik Wilson are the LBs I’d pursue in this round.

Rounds 6 & 7
To close things out, I’m sticking with my three previous picks:

Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
Junior Sylvestre (OLB, Toledo)
Tye Smith (CB, Towson)


I emerge from this version pleased with the work done of the offensive side of the ball.  The Bucs get their QB, an ideal fit at WR, and three starting caliber linemen.  As I detailed (excruciatingly) I think Smith is the way to go at #34, and McCain is going to impress a lot of people with the way he plays the slot.  I would have preferred to add a safety at some point, but we can’t always get everything we want. 

Final haul –
Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
  • week 1 starting QB
Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi St)
  • a needed DL force; does what Clayborn was drafted to do
Tre’ Jackson (G, FSU)
  • day 1 starting RG
Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)
  • today’s #3 WR, tomorrow’s #2
Rob Havenstein (T, Wisconsin)
  • may not start right away but will play for a long time once he does
Jeremiah Poutasi (OL, Utah)
  • the cherry on top of a power-focused OL expedition
Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
  • Ronde-lite nickel to groom behind Moore
Junior Sylvestre (OLB, Toledo)
  • Special teams dynamo and depth at LB
Tye Smith (CB, Towson)
  • Developmental corner who could eventually start on the outside

Go Bucs!

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