One of the reasons why mock drafts are so inaccurate is because they rarely account for NFL trades. And even if they did, such trades are nearly impossible to predict. But that doesn’t make them any less exciting and intriguing to try and guess at. Which is the exercise I’ve undertaken here by posting a mock draft that includes my wild guesses at some possible trades.
I’ll probably post my final mock draft the day on Thursday, the day of the 2015 NFL Draft. But here’s something to whet your appetite until then.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
I beleive the Bucs are pretty sold on this pick. The most intriguing thing is going to be the recently filed civil suit against Winston, which may linger into the season and become a huge media lightning rod during the summer. Whether or not the Bucs subsequently decide that “distraction” is worth it, will be worth watching. Of course, if Winston goes out and plays well, then it’s less an issue. But it feels like we were saying these exact same things a year ago about Johnny Manziel. That didn’t quite work out in the Browns’ favor.
2. **TRADE** Cleveland Browns (from Tennessee) – QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Trade Terms: Cleveland trades their pair of firsts (#12 and #19), third (#77) and fourth-round (#111) picks in 2015 along with a conditional second-round pick in 2016 to Tennessee for the #2 overall pick. The condition is based on whether the Browns make the playoffs in 2015. If they do, then that second-round pick turns into a first-rounder.
Speaking of Manziel, the Browns move up for Mariota just one year after moving up for Manziel. The Browns are the most likely team to move up, and all the buzz is that someone is coming up for the Oregon passer. I think if the Titans and Philip Rivers each had their druthers, it’d be the Chargers to be the team to make move. But in this case, it takes three to tango, and I just don’t see the Chargers starting fresh at quarterback when they’ve been in the playoff mix the past two years under Mike McCoy.
I think the Titans are a lot more confident in Zach Mettenberger than many seem willing to believe. They’ll just concentrate on improving the team around him, so moving down into the middle portion of this year’s first round shouldn’t be a huge deterrent to them making a deal happen.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Vic Beasley, Clemson
Perhaps it’s the Blake Bortles curveball that the Jaguars threw at everyone last year, but I have this gut feeling they might do the same this year and take Vic Beasley over Dante Fowler, the consensus pick. I don’t believe there will be as big a deterrent to the Jaguars for playing Beasley along the defensive line since Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator in Seattle when they had Chris Clemons (254 pounds) and Bruce Irvin (245 pounds).
4. Oakland Raiders – DT Leonard Williams, USC
While most mocks all offseason long have pegged the Raiders to take a wide receiver, the fact that Reggie McKenzie is still running the show suggests otherwise. McKenzie came from a Packers organization that has used just one first-round pick on a wide receiver since 1988. They have James Jones and Michael Crabtree and will probably settle for a good pass-catcher at the top of round two. Williams is just too good a prospect to pass up for a team that needs to beef up their front.
5. **TRADE** Atlanta Falcons (from Washington) – DE Dante Fowler, Florida
Trade Terms: Falcons give up their first (#8), second (#42), fourth (#107) and seventh-round (#225) picks for Redskins’ first (#5) and third-rounders (#69). Essentially Falcons can keep three picks on first two days, but move back 27 spots from #42 to #69 and part ways with their fourth-round pick.
I don’t necessarily think Falcons trade-up scenario is that likely, so if I’m being honest my primary motivation for suggesting this is just to give you something provocative to think about. However, I do think Falcons could potentially covet Fowler enough that if they get within striking distance, they might trade up for him if they don’t have to mortgage the farm. The outlined trade above I think accomplishes that, but it might be a bit too much wishful thinking on my part.
Washington moves back and starts the slow process of recouping some of the lost talent they had in the RG3
fleecing trade. If they can move back three spots and still be within striking distance of getting a player like Bud Dupree, while picking up a fourth-round and moving up from their third-round pick, it’s a no-brainer for them. Their new GM Scot McCloughan is a former member of the Seahawks front office, so his experience with Dan Quinn might grease the wheels to get this trade going.
6. New York Jets – WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
With neither of the two premium pass-rushers on the board, the Jets “settle” for a top wide receiver in Cooper. They did just trade for Brandon Marshall, but he’s 31 and is a player that they can easily move on from in 2016 if he doesn’t have a strong 2015 campaign. Cooper gives them a young weapon to give whoever is their long-term starter someone to throw to. I think Cooper will be more their style than Kevin White because of his superior route-running ability should mesh better with the timing-based offense of Chan Gailey.
7. Chicago Bears – WR Kevin White, West Virginia
The Bears are in a situation where their primary needs are along the defensive line and at wide receiver. With Leonard Williams off the board, I’m not quite sure that they’ll go for Arik Armstead this high, if a player like White is still available. Considering Marquess Wilson and Eddie Royal are their top two options opposite Alshon Jeffery, that should push them in the direction towards White. They can probably make due with Jarvis Jenkins, Ray McDonald and a second-day pick up front relative to having to rely on their current crop of receivers. The Bears know that while their defense needs to be rebuilt, they can’t ignore the fact that Jay Cutler looked pretty good in 2013 when he had two dynamic weapons on the outside. White adds the vertical potential that could make him a favored target of Cutler’s strong arm.
8. Washington Redskins (from Atlanta) – OLB Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Kentucky
The Redskins feel pretty good here as they were able to move back and get Dupree, while coaxing the Falcons to give them two third-day picks and moving up nearly a round’s worth of picks into the second round. With new McCloughan calling the shots, he’s unlikely to be overly thrilled with having Trent Murphy opposite Ryan Kerrigan at outside linebacker. Dupree’s experience in a 3-4 and “plus” athleticism makes him an ideal fit for the Redskins as they look to get better on defense.
9. New York Giants – OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
The Giants need a safety very badly, but there’s none worth this high a pick. So they “settle” instead for Scherff, a physical mauler along the offensive line. Scherff has the versatility to start at either right tackle or left guard right away for the Giants. More than likely, they’ll probably try him at left guard first and have a pair of maulers on the inside with Geoff Schwartz on the right side. The Giants already feature four starting linemen that each have the capacity and/or experience to play at least two positions and Scherff makes five.
10. St. Louis Rams – OT Andrus Peat, Stanford
The Rams have invested heavily in their defensive line in recent years, and now need to return the favor on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage. Jake Long is gone and Greg Robinson is expected to slot in at left tackle. Peat will be expected to fill the vacant right tackle position, the position that some feel he’s a more natural fit for. But he also provides insurance to possibly move to the left side in case Robinson struggles in his second year.
11. **TRADE** Miami Dolphins (from Minnesota) – RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
Trade Terms: Dolphins trade their first (#14), two fifths (#149 and #150) and third-round pick in 2016 for Vikings first (#11).
With owner Stephen Ross, the Dolphins are never shy about making a big splash and adding a player like Gurley is exactly that. Even though Lamar Miller had a very productive season in 2014, the Dolphins need to improve the depth behind him. Until he got hurt it, after all it was Knowshon Moreno who got the brunt of the carries to start last season.
The Dolphins move up because they’re afraid the Vikings might take a flyer on Gurley to groom him as Adrian Peterson’s heir apparent in case that situation doesn’t get resolved soon.
The Vikings move back because they’re looking at potentially a wide receiver or cornerback with their top pick, and someone good should still be available three picks later.
12. Tennessee Titans (from Cleveland) – WR Devante Parker, Louisville
The Titans moved back and are basically content to add more weapons around a “poor man’s Tom Brady” a.k.a. Zach Mettenberger as well as address issues on the defensive side of the ball. There, they mainly need help at nose tackle and cornerback mbut those positions are deep enough that they can afford to see what’s available at pick No. 19. Instead, why not just take a player like Parker here? Even though the Titans added Hakeem Nicks and Harry Douglas this offseason, getting another playmaker on the outside makes a lot of sense. Parker can give them that and unlike other potential first-round receivers is considerably an upgrade over the likes of Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright as
Tom’s Zach’s go-to option.
13. New Orleans Saints – NT Danny Shelton, Washington
Backup nose tackle John Jenkins had his entire 2014 season scuttled due to multiple injuries and it might leave lingering doubt about whether he’s going to live up to expectations. Brodrick Bunkley is the starter and it’s probably only due to the question marks surrounding Jenkins that prevented the Saints from dumping him this offseason. Getting a player like Shelton here is good value and beefs up one of the league’s worst run defenses in 2014.
14. Minnesota Vikings (from Miami) – CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State
There’s been a lot of recent buzz surrounding the Vikings really liking Waynes. That could of course be a massive smokescreen because they want a player at another position, or they are in fact in love with another cornerback prospect. But for now, I’m going to bite and believe that they do indeed covet Waynes. After all, Mike Zimmer’s former team, the Bengals, really liked Waynes’ ex-teammate in Darqueze Dennard a lot last year. Waynes gives the Vikings another big, press corner to post opposite Xavier Rhodes and perhaps might help them slow down the Packers offense this year.
15. San Francisco 49ers – CB Jalen Collins, LSU
New 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini was the head coach in New York and Cleveland when those teams used their top picks on Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden. While Collins isn’t on the level with those guys in terms yet, many think he has the upside to be the best from this class. The 49ers’ cornerback position is arguably the biggest mess on a much-diminished defense and they need some immediate help there.
16. Houston Texans – CB Marcus Peters, Washington
With Johnathan Joseph entering his contract year, it makes perfect sense for the Texans to pull the trigger on one of the better corners in this class in the hopes of grooming him. Many question Peters’ character, but there’s little doubt he’s very talented. He can give the Texans a physical, press corner that has the talent and ability to surpass Kareem Jackson as their No. 1 guy down the line.
17. San Diego Chargers – OT Jake Fisher, Oregon
Rather than trade up for a quarterback, the Chargers should just stand pat and just take a solid offensive lineman. Fisher has experience at both tackle spots and also spent some time at guard, making him versatile. More than likely the Chargers plug him in at right tackle and move D.J. Fluker inside to guard where the latter’s pass-protection woes are more easily hidden. Fisher isn’t flashy, but he’s a steady player that should be a solid contributor from the jump.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Nelson Agholor, USC
Even despite spending an arm and a leg to bring Jeremy Maclin to the midwest, the Chiefs still need more help at wide receiver. Andy Reid always seemed to covet speed and quickness from his receivers than size, thus why they’d favor Agholor above others. He just fits more easily in that Maclin/DeSean Jackson mold that Reid seems to love and is arguably more ready to contribute than many of the other “speed freaks” in this draft.
19. **TRADE** Carolina Panthers (from Buffalo through Cleveland via Tennessee) – OT D.J. Humphries, Florida
Trade Terms: Panthers deal their first (#25), third (#89) and fifth-round (#169) picks to Tennessee for their first (#19).
Fearing that their franchise left tackle wasn’t going to get to them six picks later, the Panthers pull the trigger to get Humphries here in the hopes that he can be plugged into the starting spot right away. That way, the team can have Michael Oher, Mike Remmers and Jonathan Martin compete at right tackle and will only have to fear one of them starting instead of two. Humphries has some medical red flags, but is far safer left tackle prospect over T.J. Clemmings, La’el Collins or Ereck Flowers in my eyes.
20. Philadelphia Eagles – CB Byron Jones, Connecticut
Even though I wanted to slot in wide receiver Breshad Perriman initially, the recent report that the Eagles are “size/speed queens” suggests that they might go with Jones. Despite spending money on Byron Maxwell, the Eagles still need more help at cornerback. Walter Thurmond is an injury waiting to happen, and it looks like the Eagles are prepared to not re-sign Brandon Boykin next year. Jones offers size and there’s no better a size/speed guy in this draft than him.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – OT La’el Collins, LSU
The Bengals are fairly ecstatic that Collins slides to them. While many question his ability to play left tackle at the next level, he should work perfectly in Cincinnati given how much of their offense is predicated on limiting quarterback Andy Dalton’s impact. Collins is a “plus” run-blocker that can hold up to the short, quick drops and throws that Dalton makes with regularity in Hue Jackson’s offense. Collins will get a redshirt year behind Andrew Whitworth before being thrust into the starting lineup.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
The Steelers need a lot of pieces on the defensive side of the ball, but most glaring of all is their need to upgrade their corners. That position has been especially subpar ever since they let Keenan Lewis walk after 2012. Throw in the retirement of safety Troy Polamalu and it’s going to put even more pressure on the corners to pick up some of the slack on defense.
23. Detroit Lions – RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
The Lions could definitely use some help along their offensive line, but they won’t pass up on Gordon here. Gordon is a clear upgrade over Joique Bell at running back that I’m not sure a player like Ereck Flowers is, compared to the likes of Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle at offensive tackle. Gordon adds a big play element on the ground that the Lions have been so desperately chasing since Jahvid Best and Reggie Bush failed to live up to expectations.
24. Arizona Cardinals – DE Arik Armstead, Oregon
Most of the buzz on Armstead is that he’ll go somewhere in the Top 15, but basically if the Bears or 49ers don’t get him, I’m not sure there’s an obvious fit. The Cardinals make sense due to the fact that Armstead and Calais Campbell share a ton of physical similarities based off how they are/were coming out of college. Darnell Dockett was dumped this offseason and Armstead’s potential is a definite upgrade over Frostee Rucker up front. The Cardinals have more pressing needs, but Armstead is just too good to pass up at this point in the draft.
25. Tennessee Titans (from Carolina) – DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State
The Titans were able to manipulate the board in all my hypothetical trade scenarios and wind up with a pretty solid nose tackle all the while adding a pair of thirds, fourth and fifth-round picks in 2015, coupled with a potential first-rounder in 2016. All in all, it’s a great haul for the Titans and will justify their decision to not pull the trigger on Mariota, which is likely to be heavily criticized in the media if/when it happens. Goldman isn’t sexy, but is a solid run-stuffer that could become a clear upgrade over Sammie Lee Hill at the nose.
26. Baltimore Ravens – WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida
The Ravens need to add more explosive play-makers around quarterback Joe Flacco on offense, with the possibility that they could take a running back, wide receiver and tight end pretty early in this year’s draft. Perriman is raw, but has the size and speed that should make him a nice fit in Baltimore, given Flacco’s prowess at throwing the deep ball.
27. Dallas Cowboys – DT Malcom Brown, Texas
The Cowboys have such a glaring hole at the defensive tackle position, that it’s just unimaginable to see them pass up on that position if a good player like Brown is still available. Their current three-man rotation of Nick Hayden, Terrell McClain and Josh Brent has got to be among the league’s worst trios. Brown isn’t special and probably won’t be a perennial Pro Bowler, but has legit NFL starting ability. I can’t say that about any of their current tackles.
28. Denver Broncos – FS Damarious Randall, Arizona State
The Broncos are sitting pretty given they have no glaring needs. There are a lot of positions that they could use some upgrades at, but nothing that stands out where they have to address. Free safety is probably one of the weaker spots in their starting lineup with Darian Stewart currently pegged as the starter. Randall is widely considered the top free safety in this class and his ability to play the deep middle would free up T.J. Ward to spend more time closer to the line of scrimmage, where he shines.
29. Indianapolis Colts – OT Ereck Flowers, Miami (FL)
Gosder Cherilus is recovering from an injury and even if healthy, they’d have to seriously consider making a major upgrade. I personally don’t get all the Flowers love that projects him as a possible top 10 pick. I just don’t see that sort of player, but clearly I must be missing something. The positive for him landing in Indianapolis is that he won’t have to play on the left side where he’s more likely to get exploited on a regular basis. If Cherilus is healthy this year, it’ll also give him a much-needed year of development to refine his technique.
30. Green Bay Packers – OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Gregory doesn’t quite strike you as a Ted Thompson sort of guy, but at this point in the draft, it’s really hard for the Packers to justify passing him up. The risk is worth the reward of adding another dynamic pass-rusher across from Julius Peppers. Nick Perry just hasn’t been the sort of difference-maker that they thought he’d be when they made him their top pick a few years back. Clay Matthews might have found a permanent home at inside linebacker. Gregory can carve out a role in sub-packages and if he can keep his nose clean and should be groomed as the heir apparent to a 35-year old Peppers as the anchor of their pass rush moving forward.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle) – DE Shane Ray, Missouri
The Saints need a pass-rusher and were hoping that a guy like Ray, Gregory or Harold would still be available with this pick. They get their wish with Ray, who can start off as a situational rusher behind Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan. Ideally, they might decide to kick Jordan inside in sub-packages with Ray and Galette on the outside. The Saints want to upgrade their defense, and even if Ray never develops into an every-down difference-maker, he’s still worth a shot here.
32. **TRADE** Washington Redskins (from New England) – SS Landon Collins, Alabama
Trade Terms: Redskins trade their second (#38), fourth (#107) and seventh-round (#225) picks to Patriots for a first (#32). Both of the fourth and seventh-round picks were part of the earlier trade with the Falcons.
While Collins isn’t known for his great coverage ability, he’s still a clear upgrade over what the Redskins are currently sporting at the position. He gives them an enforcer and along with Dupree should help toughen up their defense. Knowing that they’re not really losing anything via the trade since they’re just dealing the extra picks they got from the Falcons in the previous trade makes them more willing to bite the bullet and move up into the back end of round one.
This would also be “classic Bill Belichick” by trading out of the first round. The Patriots probably want a cornerback with their top pick, but with Byron Jones off the board, might hope that someone like Quentin Rollins or Eric Rowe is still available six picks later at No. 38.
So there you have it, a first-round mock that includes trades. And when none of them actually happen, we can all laugh hysterically together.