San Diego Chargers (9-7)
No. of selections: 6
Draft picks: Round 1 (17), Round 2 (48), Round 3 (83), Round 4 (117), Round 5 (153), Round 6 (192)
The Chargers have a few needs to address after another near .500 season. The Chargers are in like a circle of hell with the way they’ve been good, but not good enough to really threaten for a Super Bowl since 2010 going 9-7, 8-8, 7-9, 9-7, and 9-7.
With Phillip Rivers in the huge, third contract stage of his career, the Chargers are in full-on pass-first mode, they need to build a strong passing offense around him to justify his 12.16% cap hit this season, only 0.92% lower than Steve Young’s record setting 1994 cap hit. He has some good weapons in Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Stevie Johnson, and Keenan Allen, with back-ups and role players like Ricardo Mathews, Austin Pettis and Jacoby Jones.
Bucky Brooks says their needs are running back, offensive line and nose tackle and I agree with him, but if they have a chance to draft a #1 WR in the first round, I think they should take it whether they think that’s DaVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Breshad Perriman or Nelson Agholor in the first round. If they like some of the players later, they can go that route, but we see what they have at receiver, Keenan Allen might be their guy as a #1, but do you want to take a chance on that after his sophomore slump?
When you’re in the team building mode that the Chargers are in with Rivers’ cap hit, they have to go get a top receiver and ensure you have one. Plus, isn’t Allen a much better #2 option? I think Stevie Johnson has a lot left in the tank, but do you want to go into the season betting on that?
In the second round, that’s when they should get into either their offense line or nose tackle issues. Unless they had like Andrus Peat or Danny Shelton available in the first and higher than the receivers on their board. In the second, I’d see them take a guy like Jake Fisher or TJ Clemmings, or Eddie Goldman, Malcom Brown, or Jordan Phillips. Brooks mentions moving DJ Fluker inside if they draft a “developmental offensive tackle” like the guys I mentioned, and I like that idea, which would then have us draft an interior defensive lineman later. If Arik Armstead is available this late, that’s a steal.
In the third round, you address the opposite of what you did in the second, if you took an offensive lineman, get a nose tackle, if you took a nose tackle, get an offensive lineman. Guys like Carl Davis, Michael Bennett, Grady Jarrett, Ellis McCarthy and Gabe Wright will be available.
If a running back that the Chargers like is available in the third round, Duke or David Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Javorius Allen, Mike Davis or David Cobb, then pull the trigger, or you can wait until the fourth round and take what’s left of that group, which might be a better decision and create more value.
If Jamison Crowder is available late and you like him, take him, I’ve compared him favorably to Antonio Brown this year, he’s just a great player.
Late in the draft, I want to see them take either a developmental wide receiver or another developmental running back. A few guys who fit this mold in the sixth or after the draft are Cameron Artis-Payne, Tre Williams, Dezmin Lewis, Kevin Monangai, Vince Mayle, Taylor Belsterling, or Antwan Goodley,.
Tight ends Jean Sifrin and CJ Uzomah seem like two guys who could eventually take over Antonio Gates’ role. I could see Taylor Belsterling taking over Malcom Floyd’s role when he’s gone.
- Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
No. of selections: 10
Draft picks: Round 1 (18), Round 2 (49), Round 3 (80), Round 3 (98), Round 4 (118), Round 5 (172), Round 5 (173), Round 6 (193), Round 6 (217), Round 7 (233)
The Chiefs got nothing out of their receivers last year, but did go out and get Jeremy Maclin, who will be a great #1 receiver for them. A lot of people have them discussing taking a receiver and normally, I would advise against that with Alex Smith as your quarterback, but with him now taking up 10.89% of their salary cap, which is only 0.24% less than what Brady cost the Patriots in 2014, they have to have an offense centered around him. So it’s all about the pass game then, it has to be to justify Alex Smith’s contract from a financial standpoint.
This is part of what makes big quarterback contracts so debilitating for some teams, while I really love what Alex Smith can bring to a team, I don’t know if he bring that 10% of the cap value. One thing that makes him very valuable come playoff time is the kind of 18 touchdown against six interception play he gave them last year, not turning the ball over in the playoffs is crucial and that could be a very valuable part of his game, but with 3265 passing yards in 15 games last year, I just don’t think he’s worth over 10% in what should be a run-first defensive team.
Now that they’ve made this for themselves, they’ve got to work with it though. It’s time to surround him with legitimate weapons, so that he has a chance to earn that. If they draft someone like DaVante Parker, Breshad Perriman, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong or Nelson Agholor in the first round, then they’ve really got themselves a legitimate passing game with Maclin, Travis Kelce (maybe the best young tight end in the game) and one of them. I like a comment that Bucky Brooks makes about Parker, Strong or Green-Beckham in the first round, they could really increase the team’s red-zone efficiency, and that’d be a huge improvement over last year.
If they think they can get better value with a receiver like Phillip Dorsett, Devin Smith, Sammie Coates or even Agholor in the second round, then I’d take an offensive tackle in the first round because Eric Fisher has been one of the worst left tackles in the NFL the last couple years.
In the middle rounds, they’ve got to get an inside linebacker so if it’s the second round, Eric Kendricks or Denzel Perryman, if it’s later, Stephone Anthony or Paul Dawson.
I think this is a draft they should take a running back with Jamaal Charles being 29-years-old this season and Knile Davis was PFF’s worst running back in the league last year. I like what De’Anthony Thomas brings to the table, so I think I’d look for more of a back with some power in the middle rounds like Jeremy Langford, David Cobb, or Cameron Artis-Payne.
If they’re looking for someone who could eventually replace Charles and they don’t think Thomas is the guy, Ameer Abdullah could very well be and he’d be inexpensive.
The important thing for the Chiefs to do with Smith’s high cap hit is to ensure they save money at running back, while still giving the kind of production that Smith will need to succeed. This makes drafting running backs very, very important because it’s a part of the team building philosophy with that high quarterback charge. With 15.45% invested in the quarterback position, the Chiefs are near the top of the league, so they will have to find inexpensive weapons to surround Smith with, guys that outplay their cost to make up for the lost value on Smith’s deal.
They should also get another receiver in the fifth round like Tre McBride, Rashad Greene, Stefon Diggs, or Dezmin Lewis. These are four players I think could develop into nice pieces of this offense.
In the later rounds, I’d look to fortify the defense with the kind of athletes that will be inexpensive and give the Chiefs four years of their play at a discount, Later round players that I like a lot are Jordan Hicks, Jake Ryan, Carlif Taylor, Nick Marshall, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Quandre Diggs, Lynden Trail, Tony Washington, Tim Scott and Merrill Noel.
Later round offensive linemen they should look at Max Garcia, Brandon Vitabile, and Rob Havenstein.
- Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills; 9-7)
No. of selections: 10
Draft picks: Round 1 (12), Round 1 (19), Round 2 (43), Round 3 (77), Round 4 (111), Round 4 (115), Round 5 (147), Round 6 (189), Round 6 (202), Round 7 (229)
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
No. of selections: 8
Draft picks: Round 1 (20), Round 2 (52), Round 3 (84), Round 4 (113), Round 5 (145), Round 5 (156), Round 6 (196), Round 7 (237)
I will not believe that Marcus Mariota isn’t going to the Eagles until he’s on someone else’s team, the draft is over, and Mariota’s in mini-camp with someone else. If they don’t draft Mariota, then I still see them drafting their quarterback of the future because there are a couple quarterbacks who could fit into their system and would be cheaper than Mariota.
Although quarterback is a place to get YOUR guy, rather than get the best value, which is what I would advise if we were talking receivers or running backs, rather than trade up and lose draft picks get one of them, Brett Hundley or Bryce Petty are two good players that I could see developing into good quarterbacks in Chip Kelly’s offense. With Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley on their roster, it’s hard to imagine what they’re going to do to fit a potential quarterback for the future on the roster. It’s hard to judge if Bradford is in their long-term plans because if he wasn’t such an unknown and an injury risk, they’d probably have been talking to him about a contract extension already.
Hundley or Petty are certainly fits for Kelly’s scheme and they’d come at a much lower price. They’d have this season to learn behind Bradford, which would be the perfect set-up for Kelly, have them learn for a year under Bradford, then Bradford leaves in free agency and they have a lower-cost quarterback of the future for a few years in an offense loaded with talent around him, especially at running back.
What the right young quarterback allows teams to do now is build a strong roster around him because of the decrease in the size of these first round contracts especially. Even if they got Mariota, he’d still be at such a manageable cap number that Kelly could continue to build a strong running offense and a great defense with the cap money saved by having Mariota on his rookie deal for three to four years after Bradford, same of course if they got Hundley or Petty.
They have done a good job fixing some of their secondary issues by signing some cornerbacks this offseason, but they need help at safety in the first three rounds. I wouldn’t be surprised or opposed to them taking a receiver in the first two rounds depending on how their
They’re a team in position to take what they need from a value standpoint. If you can get the safety you like at #20 and still think you can get the quarterback that you’d like for the future in the second or third round. With receivers like Tyler Lockett, Justin Hardy, Rashad Greene, Ty Montgomery and Jamison Crowder likely available in the third round or even the fourth round, I think the Eagles can afford to go safety/quarterback in whichever order suits them, then wide receiver in the third. They can also get valuable interior linemen in the middle to late rounds, which is another need.
For these teams in the latter half of the first round especially, but it’s a mindset that teams should take throughout the draft, a lot of it will come down to what their primary needs are, plus an analysis of the value that you can get at positions in later rounds. While I love Amari Cooper and Kevin White, neither of whom will be available at #20, for some teams, it’s less necessary to get the best receiver, but rather get guys who will fit nicely into their system and get other positions that are more of a need in the earlier rounds.
With Zach Ertz, Jordan Matthews, Miles Austin, Riley Cooper, Josh Huff and Brent Celek, pass catcher isn’t an huge need, but it’s a need nonetheless. I believe Huff will develop into a good receiver for them, but with Austin and Cooper, they don’t have the long term players they’d like at receiver, so they’ll still be looking for another playmaker for what this offense needs.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they drafted Quinten Rollins from Miami (Ohio), who most project as a free safety in the NFL, the starter on their basketball team turned 2014 MAC Defensive Player of the Year in his first year of college football. He’s exactly the kind of crazy, interesting move that Chip Kelly’s all about and he’s projected in the second or third round. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu from Oregon is another guy I’d see Kelly drafting as he was looking like the number one corner available until he tore his ACL during bowl practice. I wouldn’t put it past Kelly to do what he’s been doing all offseason and finding value in players with depressed value due to injuries.
- Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1)
No. of selections: 9
Draft picks: Round 1 (21), Round 2 (53), Round 3 (85), Round 3 (99), Round 4 (120), Round 4 (135), Round 5 (157), Round 6 (197), Round 7 (238)
The Bengals have a very solid team around Andy Dalton, I especially like the running back tandem of Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill to give Dalton a strong running game for years to come. The Bengals are in a prime position to be a team in the image of a run-first defensive squad. To do this, they need to strengthen their offensive line and build a strong defensive squad, a defense that was 12th in the league in points allowed last season, not good enough for a team with a run-first offense that can’t afford to get into shootouts.
On the defensive line, they have one of the best defensive tackle in the NFL in Geno Atkins, plus Carlos Dunlap on the edge. Vontaze Burfict will be back in 2015 as one of the leagues best linebackers, so they’re all set there, but they’re very old in the secondary, so they need some safeties and cornerbacks.
Bucky Brooks mentions that they need a succession plan for Andrew Whitworth who will be entering his 10th season and that’s a good point. At left tackle, you have to have a plan, can’t manage to skip a year there.
So at #21, they could go with the best player available between tackles and safeties. I wouldn’t be opposed to them taking one of the top cornerbacks either if they feel they’re the best player available because of the importance of the cornerback position, although, there are going to be some great cornerbacks available for them in the second or third rounds.
They do still need a receiver, but they can find one in the middle rounds as Marvin Jones is returning from injury in 2015. I’d like to see them grab a player like Tyler Lockett, Jamison Crowder, Justin Hardy, Ty Montgomery, Rashad Greene or Antwan Goodley in the middle to late rounds.
The Bengals aren’t that far away from being a real serious contender. A good draft and they could take a real step forward this year. Just got to keep surrounding Andy Dalton with weapons, build on that strong running game and have a formidable defense, three things that aren’t that out of reach.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
No. of selections: 8
Draft picks: Round 1 (22), Round 2 (56), Round 3 (87), Round 4 (121), Round 5 (160), Round 6 (199), Round 6 (212), Round 7 (239)
The Steelers showed their age at defensive back last year and now Tony Polamalu and Ike Taylor are retired. A great organization like the Steelers usually prepares for this in the years leading up to when they will need to replace key pieces, so it’s a bit surprising that they’re here and in need of two positions that are vacant. Great organizations don’t wait until they need to replace a player, they’re prepared for his departure so that it’s a seamless transition, but unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they aren’t prepared, so they’ve got to get cornerbacks and safeties in this year’s draft.
As I discuss in Caponomics, their cap hit on those two players, who dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness in 2014, was 10.58%, which was a major hindrance that helped led to their 27th ranked pass defense. I would not be opposed to them drafting a defensive back in the first and second round, so it comes down to them deciding where they think they’ll get the most value. They also lost cornerback Brice McCain, so they should draft at least three defensive backs out of their eight picks. William Gay and Mike Mitchell are their only players who should be starting in that secondary this season. They’re also below the Super Bowl spending averages for cornerback and safety with the dead money hit for Polamalu, which shows the lack of spending.
I’d draft Landon Collins if he’s available to fill that strong safety role that Polamalu just left. If they decide to draft a cornerback, Marcus Peters, Byron Jones, Kevin Johnson and Jalen Collins should be available, but this safety class is so weak that they wouldn’t get the same value later, especially not at strong safety. In the second round, Eric Rowe, Quinten Rollins, Steven Nelson, and quite a few other players could be available. Rowe and Rollins are free safety/cornerbacks. Josh Shaw could be a great pick in the fourth round or so if they decide to go elsewhere in the second round. He has press-man skills, but can also play safety and cover tight ends and running backs. Adrian Amos is a mid-round safety who can play as well.
Shockingly, the Steelers were 26th in the league in sacks last year, which is so unlike the Steel Curtain you think of, so with Jason Worilds’ sudden retirement they have to draft an outside linebacker. Shaq Thompson, Lorenzo Mauldin, Hau’Oli Kikaha and Jordan Hicks are good options in the third round, while Jake Ryan and Zach Hodges are great options after the fourth round.
A tight end of the future is certainly a need as well with Heath Miller in his thirties. Middle round options include Rory Anderson, Ben Koyack, Wes Saxton, Tyler Kroft, Jeff Heuerman, Blake Bell, Nick Boyle, Jesse James and EJ Bibbs. I don’t know who the Steelers should take, but I’d probably advice looking in the fifth round after handling the defensive backfield, a second running back and outside linebacker.
I still firmly believe they need a legitimate RB2, even with the signing of DeAngelo Williams. Le’Veon Bell’s injury was the nail in the coffin for their season, they had nothing in the backfield without him and I don’t trust the injury prone and ineffective Williams who hasn’t had a 1000-yard season since 2009. Last year, in six games, Williams averaged 3.5 yards per carry and he’ll be 32 this season.
If the Steelers think they can draft the outside linebacker of their choice in the fourth round, then I’d advise drafting a third round back. David Johnson is the player that I could see being the most similar style to Le’Veon Bell and would give them a back up who could step up and into the role if he were to go down. I know teams usually look for a change of pace type back, but Johnson would give them a guy who can provide the same kind of play as Bell and who couldn’t use that?
Bell had 373 touches last season and at 22-years old, he could be productive for the next 8-10 years. I think that with a back up like Johnson, it’d extend his productivity by allowing the Steelers to work someone in without missing a beat.
Outside of Johnson, Javorius Allen could be a similar option. If they’re looking for a change of pace back, Tre Williams from Texas A&M is one of my favorites.
- Detroit Lions (11-5)
No. of selections: 6
Draft picks: Round 1 (23), Round 2 (54), Round 3 (88), Round 6 (200), Round 7 (231), Round 7 (240)
I give up on predicting what the Lions will do. Last year, they had an opportunity to draft a couple great offensive linemen and they went with a tight end, right after they signed Brandon Pettigrew to a four-year deal. All while they were locked in to spend a mere 9.56% of the cap on their offensive line, a line that ended up being a large issue for them as they couldn’t get anything going on the ground all season.
Bucky Brooks lists their needs as defensive tackle, offensive tackle and cornerback, which I agree with. I also think they need to get a real, dominant lead running back in the second or third round, plus a WR3 in the middle rounds.
In the first round, I’d like to see them draft a tackle like Ereck Flowers, Andrus Peat, DJ Humphries, TJ Clemmings, or La’el Collins. In the second round, I’d like to see them go best available between DT, CB and RB, but because of the depth at running back, I’d stick to DT or CB with a guy like Michael Bennett, Mario Edwards Jr., Marcus Peters (if he falls somehow) or Ronald Darby.
What’s killer for these guys is that they don’t have fourth and fifth round picks in a draft that would really help them solidify legitimate needs at running back and wide receiver, so it’s important that they address these two positions late because I think they should address OT, DT and CB in the first three rounds.
In the sixth and seventh rounds, Tre McBride, Stefon Diggs, Antwan Goodley, Vince Mayle, Josh Harper and Boise State’s Matt Miller are some nice options for their offense at receiver. At running back, I love my CAA backs in Kevin Monangai and Lyle McCombs, plus Jeremy Langford, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Josh Robinson are great options late too.
- Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
No. of selections: 8
Draft picks: Round 1 (24), Round 2 (55), Round 3 (86), Round 4 (123), Round 5 (159), Round 6 (198), Round 7 (241), Round 7 (256)
The Arizona Cardinals have drafted over 20 running backs since 1988 and only three, Beanie Wells, Garrison Hearst, and Ronald Moore, had 1000-yard seasons in Arizona. I don’t think that Andre Ellington is the answer as a bell cow in Arizona, so I think they need to draft a running back in this deep class, but in his defense, the Cardinals were the fourth worst run blocking team in the league according to PFF with a rating of -42.4, so they could surely use offensive line help.
Losing Antonio Cromartie, with the way that the Cardinals play defense, they need some versatile and good cover players in their defensive backfield. Last year, with Patrick Peterson and Cromartie both playing about 1000 snaps, as well as safeties Deonte Bucanon and Rashad Johnson playing 705 and 1077 snaps each, they still had CB Jerraud Powers totaling 761 snaps and SS Tony Jefferson with 697 snaps. So with that in mind, Powers could step up into Cromartie’s role, but he’s in the final year of his contract, so they need to make sure they’re prepared for next year and that they have another solid player for this defensive backfield.
One positive for them is Tyrann Mathieu will be back from a bit of an injury plagued year, so that adds another safety to their depth, but they definitely need a cover corner and I think that their success helping Mathieu stay on the straight and narrow might give them the confidence to draft Marcus Peters. They could also go with Kevin Johnson, Byron Jones or Jalen Collins here. With $14.79 million on the books for Patrick Peterson and $5.35 million in Jerraud Powers, they’ve got a cornerback position that already takes up 16.87% of their cap, but with it’s importance in their defensive strategy, they need to ensure long-term success at the position.
If Gurley or Gordon are available there, I wouldn’t be surprised if they drafted one of them, but, as I keep saying, I think that they’d be able to find someone who will do well in their system in the second or third round. If they do go with Gurley or Gordon, then Eric Rowe or Quinten Rollins could be very good draft picks in the second round, they could still be there in the third. PJ Williams and Steven Nelson are two guys that they could get in the third round, if they decide to go with Eli Harold, Eric Kendricks, Benardrick McKinney, or Shaq Thompson in the second round.
I have a feeling that Shaq Thompson is very high on their board because of his incredible versatility, something that would be fun to watch in Arizona. They definitely need a pass rusher, so one should be drafted in the first few rounds.
The 6’7”, 270-pound, Troy Niklas could be a FREAK for them in the future after a rough rookie year with injuries, but I’d like to see them draft another young tight end in the middle rounds to give them depth and another low-cost player at a position that is important in their offense and could really use an upgrade over John Carlson who was the 65th out of 67 tight ends according to PFF.
With Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, John and Jaron Brown outside, they’ve got a great receiving group, a tight end with a real lead running back that will move Andre Ellington into an RB2 role he could be very good in, would give Carson Palmer and elite offense around him. With that defense, the Cardinals could be the team they would have been this year, were it not for injuries, and contend for a Super Bowl.
- Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)
No. of selections: 9
Draft picks: Round 1 (25), Round 2 (57), Round 3 (89), Round 4 (124), Round 5 (161), Round 5 (169), Round 5 (174), Round 6 (201), Round 7 (242)
One Caponomics type statistic that’s wild to me with the Panthers is this…defensive end Charles Johnson will take up 13.97% of the Panthers cap this season. While he’s a great player, this is 0.89% higher than Steve Young’s record cap hit for a Super Bowl player, 9.23% higher than the average cap hit for a team’s top paid defensive end and 5.07% higher than Reggie White’s cap hit in 1996, which is the highest ever for a Super Bowl defensive end.
As you’ll read in Caponomics when it comes out this summer, this is not how you build a Super Bowl champion. You should try to stay near the averages and figures set forth by past Super Bowl champions and Johnson’s cap hit really throws things off.
The Panthers need to give Cam Newton more to throw to and they need a running back of the future. I believe that with their defense and Newton healthy, this is the year they could get over the hump with a few good moves.
Some key moves in free agency are the addition of Ted Ginn, Jonathan Martin, Michael Oher, Charles Tillman and Jarrett Boykin, but they still have needs on the offensive line, in the defensive backfield and at receiver. I would content that they really need running back help and, again, this is the draft to do it, the draft to find the right guy at the right value that fits your system. Remember, before Jonathan Stewart went off late in the year, he had essentially been a waste of money on one of the worst contracts in the NFL without a 1000-yard season since 2009. He’s going to be 28 this year and has been oft-injured, with only 1041 career carries, maybe he has a bit more left in the tank, but he can’t be your only legitimate RB1 in the offense the Panthers want to run.
Duke Johnson, Jay Ajayi, Ameer Abdullah, David Johnson, Mike Davis, David Cobb, Jeremy Langford, Javorius Allen, Tevin Coleman and Cameron Artis-Payne are all the mid-round backs that I keep bringing up and all could be good players in the right systems, but I’m sure they have their list of players that fit what they’re trying to do. There are just so many good running backs this year, I hope they end up in the right systems for their talents, but with so many to go around, Carolina should surely end up with one. Cameron Artis-Payne is someone I could see fitting into this offense and at a really high value in the fourth, fifth or sixth round.
With that first pick, I would like to see them doing with the top offensive tackle left on their board, Andrus Peat, TJ Clemmings, La’el Collins, Ereck Flowers or DJ Hamphries. In the second round at #57, I’d make sure to draft a guy who can be a legitimate WR2 to Kelvin Benjamin who is becoming a great #1. With the 89th pick, I’d draft a cornerback.
Bucky Brooks breaks it down with the discussion of first round tackles, then mentions Devin Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Phillip Dorsett, but I’d add Sammie Coates to that list, which would give them the kind of pairing that the Bears had with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. I’d also add a receiver in the fifth round like Rashad Greene, Ty Montgomery, Chris Conley, Jamison Crowder, Tony Lippett, Trey McBride of Stefon Diggs. You can’t rely on Ted Ginn and Jarrett Boykin alone, adding a late round player would push them and give them depth that they need if they want to see Cam Newton grow as a passer.
In the third round, Brooks mentions Quinten Rollins, Ronald Darby, Eric Rowe and Josh Shaw, all good options and, like at receiver, they should add some late round depth.
So with all that said, I’d draft whichever running back fits the system and is available from those players I mentioned before. If they have a guy like Ajayi available at #57 and he’s the best player on their board, I wouldn’t be opposed to them drafting him there, then drafting receivers in the fourth and fifth rounds.
The Panthers are a few smart moves from being a real contender, hopefully for Panthers fans, they make something happen.
- Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
No. of selections: 10
Draft picks: Round 1 (26), Round 2 (58), Round 3 (90), Round 4 (122), Round 4 (125), Round 4 (136), Round 5 (158), Round 5 (171), Round 5 (176), Round 6 (204)
Back in January, I wrote an article talking about “The Ravens Way” and how they reload what works for them. Ozzie Newsome has discussed the concept of hitting doubles in the first round, rather than going for home runs, which is a very good analogy and explanation for how they consistently draft players in the early rounds who contribute for them. Using this strategy, they’re a team that rarely has holes. This concept in action, early in the first round, would be taking Amari Cooper over Kevin White. They can both be elite, #1 receivers, big time players, but White is the player that I would say has more of a chance of being a bust, while many have said Cooper’s a player whose floor is being a legitimate #1 receiver and perennial Pro Bowler.
So with their first round draft pick, look for the Ravens to draft a player who is a likely stud, rather than draft someone on potential. Their main needs are receiver, tight end and cornerback according to Bucky Brooks. I also want to add in running back and safety, with a need for more offensive linemen, but who doesn’t? They also need to replace Pernell McPhee, a situational pass rusher who left in free agency.
One thing the Ravens need to fill is their deep threat role, which was held by Mark Clayton during the 2000s and then Torrey Smith from 2011 to 2014. The players that could fill that role with the 26th pick are Phillip Dorsett, Breshard Perriman, Jalen Strong, Devin Smith and Dorial Green-Beckham, but because they’ll be able to get more value at #26 drafting someone else, I think they’ll go elsewhere and hope to draft a player like Devin Smith in the second round.
In the true model of what I talk about in Caponomics, Torrey Smith is 6’, 205 pounds, Devin Smith is 6’, 196 pounds. Torrey ran a 4.36 coming out of college, Devin ran a 4.42. Torrey was always a second level, deep ball kind of player averaging 14.6 yards per catch in college. Devin takes that to a silly level averaging 20.7 yards per catch over his college career and 28.2 as a senior. Torrey averaged 16.9 yards per catch as a Raven, numbers that Devin could match and fill that role like Torrey never left.
Because of the players that will be available and the likelihood that Smith could be available at #58, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them wait and, if they miss out with him, go with a guy like Sammie Coates in the second or third, but hey, if they like Smith enough, maybe they take him this early if there’s a run on receivers. With the way the Ravens offense is structured, with that deep ball role, Devin Smith would certainly be an almost guaranteed double for the Ravens, fitting his role perfectly. It’s worth mentioning they also lost Jacoby Jones who was essentially only a deep threat as a receiver.
I think the Ravens either take Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley if they fall here because of their need to have that elite rush offense to succeed, another thing you’ll see in Caponomics is the importance of having a great rush offense so Flacco can succeed, so I wouldn’t be shocked.
BUT, if those guys are gone, then it comes time to address tight end or cornerback and I’m not sure if the guys who are going to be available here at cornerback are certain doubles in Jalen Collins, Marcus Peters, maybe Byron Jones could be drafted here, but this all has me leaning towards Maxx Williams. If Kevin Johnson’s available there, he seems like a more surefire double, a guy who many sources say has all the tools to succeed. That’s what the Ravens are looking for, they’re looking for guys who’s floor is a legitimate, solid starter for the next half decade.
Here’s another example of how the Ravens do business, the tight end position. Dennis Pitta was drafted in 2010, along with Ed Dickson to replace Todd Heap after a year as his understudy. Heap was 6’5”, 252, Pitta is 6’4”, 245, Dickson is 6’4”, 244, and Williams is 6’4”, 149.
Williams is a natural receiver, he’s athletic, he’s fast enough and he’s a decent blocker. He’s the perfect player to supplement Pitta and grow into a bigger role. The issue right now is, will Pitta even be ready for 2015? His hip injury this year was the second one in as many years and he has fractured and dislocated that hip both times, which is an incredibly difficult injury to recover from, but he says he’s “feeling good in workouts.” Pro Football Talk says that the “Ravens have to continue to plan for life without Pitta in the passing game.”
They did draft the 6’6”, 250-pound Crockett Gilmore in the third round last season, so they have a guy who’s capable of playing tight end and he did a good job as the 20th ranked tight end by Pro Football Focus last year, but with the role of the tight end in this offense and Pitta’s massive health issues, they’re a team that needs two tight ends they can rely on. Even with Pitta and Owen Daniels last year, they still drafted Gilmore, which tells you how much stock they put in the position. Pitta does have dead money on his contract into 2018, so they better hope he gets healthy.
This leads me to believe that they could look to hit a pretty sure double in the first round with Maxx Williams even if he is drafted a little bit before he’s projected to go because he’s a guy that will succeed in Baltimore. Long-term, he and Gilmore could form a very, very solid duo, but with the money tied to Pitta’s long-term, do they want to go with a tight end in the first round? They are already spending 6.35% on a position that Super Bowl champs spend 5.00% on, so Williams would bump them above that threshold for sure for the next five years.
With that all said, if Kevin Johnson is available, then he’d certainly be a nice “double” for them and they could look towards the 6’3”, 252 Nick O’Leary in the third or fourth round or Jeff Heuerman who could be a great value play in the third through fifth round, which allows them to take care of their cornerback need with Johnson, wide receiver with Smith, then Heuerman. That would be a very solid first three rounds for a team that has those needs. They could even wait until the fourth for Heuerman or go with Wes Saxton, Tyler Kroft or Ben Koyack if he’s gone, but grab a solid running back.
A player that fits the mold of this Ravens system perfectly and could be available in the third round is Ameer Abdullah. The reason the Ravens were so good last season was because Justin Forsett was able to take on Rice’s role without a bump. Rice is 5’9”, 195, while Forsett is 5’8”, 190 and Abdullah is 5’9”, 205 and a little more physical than those two, but possesses the same kind of quickness and agility that would excel in Baltimore for a long time.
So, now looking at things that way, the Ravens could get Kevin Johnson, Devin Smith, Ameer Abdullah and Jeff Heuerman in the first four rounds. If you’re Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh, then you’ve got to be happy about that draft.
Kevin Monangai at 5’8”, 209 from Villanova could be a nice player in this offense. His running style reminds me a bit of Rice and he should be available late, a low cost to take a chance on Villanova’s third all time leading rusher, which is especially impressive considering that his QB, John Robertson, really depressed his stats with his own incredible rushing. I’ve got to mention him as I think he’d be a low-cost player who could grow into a nice role in Baltimore and excel when given the chance. His highlights are here, some of this stuff is so Rice-esque.
- Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
No. of selections: 7
Draft picks: Round 1 (27), Round 2 (60), Round 3 (91), Round 4 (127), Round 5 (163), Round 7 (236), Round 7 (243)
The Cowboys definitely need a young running back who can be their lead back, but if Gordon or Gurley don’t fall here, they can find great value later. Jay Ajayi is a hometown kid, but #27 is probably too early to draft him.
I think they go with a cornerback here as Brandon Carr is one of the league’s worst values and they need to fix their issues at cornerback. Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest should still be available here, Marcus Peters or Jalen Collins as well. One interesting tid-bit on Collins I read somewhere was the discussiong that he was never a consistent starter at LSU, for someone who apparently has so first round talent, wouldn’t his college coach never want to take him out? According to Walter Football, they know of “some significant off-the-field questions that could push Collins down on draft day,” so there’s another issue. He might be someone that the Cowboys, and other first round teams would want to pass on.
They could certainly always use another offensive lineman in the middle rounds to pad that incredible line and ensure that it continues to be a strength for them. Jeremy Parnell just left this offseason for the Jaguars, so they lost a player who stepped in when injuries hit in 2014. It wouldn’t hurt to draft a versatile lineman like Ali Marpet from Hobart who could play inside and outside in the middle rounds.
I would definitely like to see them draft a running back in the second or third round, a player who fits their zone blocking schemes and is an immense talent in these rounds. Cian Fahey from Bleacher Report had a nice article on how the Cowboys should replace Murray and has a few interesting opinions. He states that Ameer Abdullah “may not be the best running back in this class, but he is someone who can offer a familiar skill set to the Cowboys,” in regards to DeMarco Murray. He’s well rounded, explosive and offers the ability to be “both abrasive and elusive as a runner.” He has a great quote saying, “behind the Cowboys offensive line, it’s more important for the running back to not miss the yardage he is given than to create his own. As such, Murray was a perfect fit, and so is Abdullah.”
He goes on to say that “a fair argument can be made that Duke Johnson is the second best running back in this draft,” and he offers “positive attributes and traits in every single area that you can evaluate a running back.” Getting him in the second round would be a very valuable pick.
I think this is an important point and one that Fahey mentions, there are still quite a few great running backs available who could have quite a bit left in the tank in Pierre Thomas, Ahmad Bradshaw, Knowshon Moreno and Ray Rice, I think it’s important that teams remember that as well in this draft. Fahey is a very good writer, I definitely recommend checking him out, very informative.
There are quite a few defensive tackles that are graded in the third to fifth round range and the Cowboys should draft whichever one of these players that they think best suits what they need. I think they should spend the last few rounds drafting defensive linemen and linebackers, just choosing the best player at these positions off their boards and hoping to hit on one of them.
(I want to add that after a conversation with a buddy of mine who’s a Cowboys fan and continuing to think about Ajayi, I wouldn’t be opposed to drafting Ajayi at the end of the first round. Going back to the first time I saw his highlight tape last fall and then watching him play, he’s a special player and would be special in this offense with that line. He was the first player in FBS history to rush for more than 1800 yards and have over 500 receiving yards in one season, this could be a dynamic player that replaced Murray and becomes a hell of a player. With that being said, I’d just switch around things and draft a cornerback later in the second round like Quinten Rollins or Eric Rowe and a lineman in the third round like Ali Marpet, Laken Tomlinson, or one of the other guards that will be available. I just think that Ajayi would be too good in that offense to pass up.)
- Denver Broncos (12-4)
No. of selections: 10
Draft picks: Round 1 (28), Round 2 (59), Round 3 (92), Round 4 (133), Round 5 (143), Round 5 (164), Round 6 (203), Round 7 (250), Round 7 (251), Round 7 (252)
They lost a couple offensive linemen in free agency with guard Orlando Franklin going to San Diego and center Will Montgomery going to the Bears. They lost linebacker Nate Irving to the Colts, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton to the Redskins and safety Rahim Moore to the Texans. They lost tight ends Jacob Tamme and Julius Thomas to the Falcons and Jaguars respectively, but replaced them with Owen Daniels.
For the second year in a row, the Broncos have lost an incredible amount of talent in free agency. Heading into this offseason, Julius Thomas, Orlando Franklin, Terrance Knighton and Rahim Moore were four of their biggest free agents, much like Eric Decker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Zane Beadles, and Wesley Woodyard leaving in earl 2014. Those eight players left for a combined $215.5 million in two seasons according to the Denver Post.
Now, they did sign some players to replace them in the already mentioned Owen Daniels, plus defensive ends Antonio Smith and Vance Walker, safety Darian Stewart, guard Shelley Smith and linebacker Reggie Walker, but there’s a lot more to fix in this draft.
Like I’ve said countless times on here, the middle rounds are where to go for interior line help, but I sure wouldn’t be opposed to them drafting the best tackle on their board when #28 gets called, even if that’s center Cameron Erving from Florida State. They could get one of his teammates in the second or third round in Josue Matias or Tre Jackson, which would give the offensive line some nice chemistry between two rookies immediately.
Eric Kendricks from UCLA is a linebacker who I keep hearing about in people’s mock drafts and other draft related write-ups, so he’d definitely be someone I’d consider if I were them and they determined it was their highest need. I do think he’s someone who could be there at #59 though, so that’d be a very nice value choice there.
They should also look for a mid-round tight end. I’ve mentioned that Jean Sifrin is the kind of player that I could see immediately developing into a Julius Thomas type pass-catching tight end, so in the sixth round or so, that’d be a very good investment for the Broncos. I do see Maxx Williams as a potential first round choice for them as well and if they do that, I really would still want to see them draft Sifrin late, Kubiak’s offense is very raliant on the tight end, Daniels, Williams and Sifrin would be a great group to help these guys develop and then take over once Daniels’ days are done.
- Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
No. of selections: 9
Draft picks: Round 1 (29), Round 2 (61), Round 3 (91), Round 4 (128), Round 5 (165), Round 6 (205), Round 6 (207), Round 7 (244), Round 7 (255)
The Colts were one of the best organizations in the NFL this offseason, going out and getting a lot of players at the right values, but I disagree with the fact they haven’t signed Andrew Luck to an extension yet, that might really come back to bite them in the ass.
On the positive side, they got Andre Johnson for three years at $7 million per year and the timeless Frank Gore for what’s essentially a two-year deal, but three years at $4 million per. They resigned a local Paterson legend in Mike “Pops” Adams to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million, but with 2015 worth $3.1 million with no dead money in 2016. They went to the CFL to sign Duron Carter and Ben Heenan, two CFL studs, guys with professional experience to league minimum contracts. The Colts have addressed some major issues and gotten better, but they certainly need to make adjustments on their defense, so that’s where this draft should focus.
With Robert Mathis returning, Arthur Jones healthy and the additions of Kendall Langford and Trent Cole, their front seven should be worlds ahead of where it was last year, but I would like to see them draft a nose tackle to plug up that shoddy run defense from 2014. There are additions that need to be made at every level of this defense though, with needs at all three levels. Although Mike Adams was the seventh best safety in the NFL last year, he is 34 years old, so they need to draft some safeties for the future.
A cornerback wouldn’t be a bad move either to pair with Vontae Davis considering the subpar play they got from Greg Toler who was the 99th cornerback out of 108 last year according to PFF, while he’s owed $5,833,334 this season, the last of his three-year contract.
Running back is also a need with Frank Gore in his thirties and Boom Herron more of a pass-catcher, so I’d like to see them take someone like Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, David Johnson, Jeremy Lankford or Javorius Allen in the middle rounds. Akeem Hunt could be a Boom Herron style of runner and pass catcher, which could be a great addition for insurance from injury at a late round cost.
I also see my two favorite CAA running backs as good fits into their offense in Kevin Monangai from Villanova and Lyle McCombs from URI (freshman All-American while at UConn).
They could also use a great pass blocker to protect Luck as PFF ranked them in the bottom third of the NFL in pass blocking.
The Colts are a team that I would suggest the best available strategy as they don’t have the holes that most teams have. It’s the balance of figuring out of you can draf this player in one round, while still projecting that you’ll be able to draft any one of this other handful of players at another position with your next pick. I believe they’re just a couple of the right moves away from being a much more serious Super Bowl contender than they’ve been in recent years.
I would like to see them spend their late picks on offensive and defensive linemen as their skill players are so good, but the game is won on the lines and they’ve been pretty subpar there for the last few years. Andrew Luck and his running backs need more than what they’ve had these last few years.
- Green Bay Packers (12-4)
No. of selections: 9
Draft picks: Round 1 (30), Round 2 (62), Round 3 (94), Round 4 (129), Round 5 (166), Round 6 (206), Round 6 (210), Round 6 (213), Round 7 (247)
The Packers don’t have many holes, they never do, they’ve been one of the most well constructed teams in the NFL for a long-time, but they need to address inside linebacker, where they lost AJ Hawk and Brad Jones from last year and where Clay Matthews had to play the second half of the season due to ineffectiveness. Even with BJ Raji back, they need to address nose tackle and the entire defensive line as they haven’t been stuffing the run at all, which has allowed runners to get to the second level of this defense pretty easily, which puts incredible strain on their linebackers and why they were 23rd in the NFL in rushing last year. Plus, they need to add some cornerbacks after Tramon Williams and Davon House left in free agency and Jarrett Bush has not been signed yet.
They’ve got to go after these three positions in the first couple rounds, but also should address them by drafting their best players available at these positions late in the draft with those sixth and seventh round picks. They really don’t have holes outside of those three positions, other than maybe upgrading with a back-up running back that could produce if Lacy goes down. I keep saying it, but this is the draft to find any kind of running back you need, it’s like going to a liquor store, they have every single kind of booze you could want, rather than when you’re 18 years old and have to rely on whatever you can find. Yes, this running back draft is the equivalent of turning 21 years old…if that makes sense…
In the first round, their choices can be between DTs Malcolm Brown, Eddie Goldman, Arik Armstead, and Jordan Phillips. At CB, Kevin Johnson, Marcus Peters, Jalen Collins, Ronald Darby and Byron Jones. And at ILB, it’s between, Eric Kendricks, Benardrick McKinney, and Denzel Perryman.
It’s up to them to do that balancing act I keep talking about regarding deciding between who the best available player for their system is, but also judging what they think will be available at these important positions during the next round and later in the draft. This makes the Packers a very difficult team to project because they could go any of those three ways, but, I believe, they should get them handled first.
Considering they are a 3-4 and there’s an increased importance on the linebacker in the 3-4, Perryman would make sense to me because it’s the weakest of those three positions and, while they would be drafting him a bit earlier than projected, he seems like a surefire success and I would argue inside linebacker is their biggest need of the three losing AJ Hawk, Brad Jones, and Jamari Lattimore.
So in the second round, Steven Nelson would be a very good choice, Alex Carter has the size of the new style of prototypical corners and Quinten Rollins has some enticing athleticism and versatility.
This means nose tackle won’t be handled until the third round, but I think that’s okay because after the first rounders, it’s weak for a round or so. In the third round, I would look at Carl Davis, although he came off horrible in team interviews, I think that’s something that an organization of professionals in Green Bay can beat out of him for lack of a better word. If not him, then I like big-bodied Ellis McCarthy at 6’5”, 338-pounds.
After handling nose tackle, this allowed the Packers to go for best available players the rest of the way. The only two positions that I think are basically off limits are quarterback and wide receiver, unless they think they need a back-up to Rodgers, I don’t think you’ll find the heir to throne and last year’s receiver class of Davante Adams, Jeff Janis and Jared Abbredaris will be one of the most valuable classes ever because I believe in all three developing and they cost very little. Jeff Janis will be Jordy Nelson’s replacement one day, the guy is an athletic freak.
So looking at picks in every round with three in the sixth, here are the values I would look at. In the fourth round, I’d get a legitimate back-up running back, someone who can do the same things as Eddie Lacy and take off some of the load, in the fourth round who can do that are David Cobb (I seriously love this kid), David Johnson and Javorius Allen. If they wait until the fifth, Cameron Artis-Payne or Jeremy Langford. If they wait until the seventh round, Matt Jones is the choice.
While I think they’re all set at wide receiver, their tight end position is a real weakness that I haven’t addressed yet. Jeff Heuerman or Rory Anderson could be a solution for them in the fourth or fifth round, it’s up to them to decide if they wait to see if they fall by drafting a running back in the fourth round. If they don’t get them, I keep coming back to him, but CJ Uzomah is a player, I like him a lot in the sixth or seventh. Pharoah Brown is a good pass catcher as well late.
In the sixth round, I’d like to see them draft a versatile lineman or a tackle like Rob Havenstein from in state in Wisconsin. Their entire starting offensive line is in their twenties, so they’re in pretty good shape. If Jake Ryan falls into the sixth, he’d be a nice pick up, especially with his versatility. If they’re willing to take a chance on Lynden Trail, he might be the best value at OLB in the draft if he falls to the sixth and he’s an athletic freak at 6’7”, 269. If they want to draft a receiver here who could develop into a stud, just to ensure depth and success there, I fell in love with Dezmin Lewis’ abilities this week.
Again, the Packers don’t have many holes, but that doesn’t make the draft any less important. The guys they draft here, guys who might just be role players, could be the playmakers who help them win a Super Bowl this season.
I hope they make some good moves, I love watching Aaron Rodgers play football.
- New Orleans Saints (from Seattle Seahawks; 12-4)
- New England Patriots (12-4)
No. of selections: 9
Draft picks: Round 1 (32), Round 2 (64), Round 3 (96), Round 3 (97), Round 4 (101), Round 4 (131), Round 6 (178), Round 7 (219), Round 7 (253)
The Patriots are a traditional “best available” draft team, so that’s what I believe they will do this year between four positions: cornerback, wide receiver, defensive tackle and running back. I believe that if a player like Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley is there at #32, they might just pull the trigger just because of the value they could get there for their lead back of the future. With the depth of this back class though, I think they’ll go elsewhere with the first pick, but it’s always about the most valuable player with these guys. With LeGarrette Blount turning 29 this season, they need a running back for the future and they’ll find him in this draft, it’s just a matter of who they think will provide them with the most value.
With Byron Jones literally jumping up draft boards, he’s a name I’ve heard tied to the Patriots and with his versatility and size, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go here or a defensive tackle like Texas’ Malcom Brown. With receivers like Justin Hardy, Jamison Crowder, Devin Smith, and a handful of others likely available in the middle rounds, I could see the Patriots drafting a couple to ensure they have a pass catcher for the future. I expect them to pick a couple cornerbacks as well.
This is a deep running back and receiver class and I expect the Patriots to take full advantage of it by finding tremendous value throughout this draft at positions they could certainly upgrade.
2/50) Buffalo Bills
No. of selections: 6
Draft picks: Round 2 (50), Round 3 (81), Round 5 (155), Round 6 (188), Round 6 (194), Round 7 (234)
As I wrote above, I’m a believer that you trade up in the draft if you’re someone like Chip Kelly and you believe that Marcus Mariota is the future of your organization. What I really disliked about what the Bills did last year for Sammy Watkins was that they traded away a first and fourth rounder this year to get one of a handful of elite pass catchers in last year’s first round, especially considering that Oakland and Atlanta both seemed to be looking elsewhere last year, while Tampa Bay wanted Mike Evans, they still could have gotten Watkins at #8. Of course, who knows if the Browns would have drafted him at #4 were it not for the trade. Still, even if Watkins and Evans were gone at #8, they had Odell Beckham available, they could have traded back with someone and compiled picks like the best organizations do and drafted Brandin Cooks or Kelvin Benjamin. While hindsight is always 20/20, they could have made a bunch of different decisions that still resulted in them with a dynamic receiver without giving up important draft picks in the rebuilding of this franchise.
In terms of Doug Marrone, I don’t blame him for being upset with the move, if the team wins or loses, that’s all on you and your organization is making massive decisions that you don’t approve of with your first round picks. That’d rub me the wrong way and certainly ruin the trust between my bosses and me.
Anyway, here they are with their first pick of the 2015 draft at #50 after a tremendous offseason for the franchise. I’m very happy for Rex Ryan, yes, he’s a loud-mouth and he can rub people the wrong way, but Jenny Vrentas’ MMQB article about Rex in Buffalo really got me excited for his future there.
With Kiko Alonso in Philadelphia, they’re going to need some help at linebacker to give Rex Ryan the kind of defense he’s known for and without a fourth round pick, they need to make two great picks in the second and third. I’d like to see them draft Denzel Perryman or Stephone Anthony in the second round from Miami and one of the guards I’ve mentioned already from Florida State or Laken Tomlinson in the third. I believe the third round will be a place that teams will be able to find good value for guards this year.
Considering their need for a quarterback, I really don’t know how they address that this year, but I also don’t think they need to yet. The Rex Ryan style doesn’t need a great quarterback, they need a game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over, they need to implement the strategies of the 2000 Ravens.
Matt Cassel was great during the 2008 season where he was surrounded by a great offense with four running backs with over 275 yards rushing in Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, LaMont Jordan, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the 6th best rushing offense in the league. He had Wes Welker and Randy Moss with over 1000-yards and Kevin Faulk and Jabar Gaffney with over 450 to help him have the 12th best passing offense in the league. Their offense and defense ended up 8th in the NFL in points and points allowed. Cassel also threw 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. It might be something to look at next season when there’s a deeper class that could have a quarterback in the middle of the first round that could help them.
The Bills can succeed with Cassel or even Manuel under center if they supply him with weapons and a great defense. This offseason, the Bills did that with the additions of LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay, this offense can be very good. Behind those new additions are the offensive players that were already there to help them to a 9-7 season last year, Sammy Watkins, Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon, Chris Hogan, and Robert Woods. They could certainly use a developmental receiver late in the draft or undrafted, but what the NFL doesn’t know yet is that Chris Hogan might just be the second best athlete to ever train at DeFranco’s Gym only behind Brian Cushing. That includes guys like Deion Branch, Miles Austin, and others. Once and offense figures out how to use him, he will be a 1000-yard receiver, so I don’t think the Bills need anything more than a late round receiver.
I do believe they need to draft one of the late round running backs, preferably a ground and pound style runner, which leads me to look at Kenny Hilliard, Cameron Artis-Payne and Matt Jones. Those three would outplay their sixth or seventh round value in this offense.
Their secondary is filled with great, young players, so a late round pick could be used here or wherever they think they need the most help.
2/63) Seattle Seahawks
No. of selections: 11
Draft picks: Round 2 (63), Round 3 (95), Round 4 (112), Round 4 (130), Round 4 (134), Round 5 (167), Round 5 (170), Round 6 (181), Round 6 (209), Round 6 (214), Round 7 (248)
Just like the Patriots, another team without many holes to fill, they’re also a team that I find very hard to predict for a couple reasons, the first one being the reason already mentioned, but also, they get so much value out of inexpensive players that it doesn’t matter who or where they draft players, they’re going to get value no matter what happens.
I like what they did last year in this round drafting Percy Harvin’s replacement, Paul Richardson, it’s another aspect of team building that I find to be critical: finding players who can replace players who have, or soon will, a cost that exceeds the value they create. This is why they were able to get rid of Harvin so easily last season.
What I really love is their plethora of mid and late round draft picks, this is where the Seahawks eat. So at #63, I originally thought they would try and draft a tackle here, then look for a center in the third round, which I have declared on Twitter as the place to go if you’re looking for a center at a great value. I was thinking that they would try and draft a tackle high because of the great players available in the first two rounds, but, with the middle of the draft chock full of great interior linemen, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Seahawks drafted a few great prospects in the interior line there. Of course, if a guy like DJ Humphries or TJ Clemmings are high on their boards and drop to them at #63, they might make that kind of move.
Ali Marpet, the athletic freak from Hobart, looks like he’ll be available in the third or fourth round and he’s a very intriguing prospect that I think has piqued the Seahawks interest. With his versatility, they’d be able to play him in multiple places on the line and could get a solid player for the next ten years in the middle rounds. Add in some guys like Laken Tomlinson, BJ Finney, Andy Gallik, Josue Matias, Arie Kouandjio, Tre Jackson, and Max Garcia, there are some very good prospects that the Seahawks could draft in the middle rounds and get a lot out of.
Robert Turbin and Christine Michael showed a lot of improvement last season in a limited role with Turbin averaging 4.2 yards per carry and Michael averaging 5.1, but I think they’re going to draft a running back in this RB rich draft to a) improve depth, b) create competition, and c) give themselves a quick replacement for Turbin or Michael if/when they leave within the next two seasons in free agency. Seattle has become a place where teams come to poach talent, so I think that if Turbin or Michael do well before they hit free agency, they will be grossly overpaid by someone and this is the draft to draft your running back of the future.
With that in mind, I keep saying this, but this is a running back draft and I doubt the Seahawks will come out of these 11 picks without a solid running back. I’m sure they’ve prepared a list of the backs they think would best fit their system and with the toughness that Tevin Coleman (5’11”, 206) played with this season on a broken foot, he’s the kind of tough guy that could fit into this offense. TJ Yeldon is another guy who’s a big, physical back at 6’2”, 226 who could replace Marshawn one day and both could be available in the second and third round.
With eight picks in the fourth through sixth rounds, some options at running back in those rounds could be David Johnson, Javorius Allen, David Cobb, Jeremy Langford, Cameron Artis-Payne, Josh Robinson, Matt Jones, Terrence MaGee and Kenny Hilliard.
SB Nation had a great article about all the running backs who said at that combine that they try to emulate Marshawn Lynch in their running style and the players who they mention who do show some of Lynch’s traits are:
- Jay Ajayi: “Ajayi’s running style and body type are very similar to Lynch’s and Ajayi features an improving stiff arm and physicality that has become Lynch’s calling card.”
- Josh Robinson: “Ajayi is an interesting comp to Lynch, but for my money the player with the most Beast Mode in him might be Mississippi State’s Josh Robinson. He alluded to that “zone” or state of mind, when he told me that, “[on the field], I’m a different animal. Every time [I] step onto the field, nothing on film can really show you what I do.”
So, naturally, when I asked him which NFL player he sees in himself, he responded without hesitation.
“Beast Mode Two, you know, yeah-yeah-yeah. Coming soon!”
This was no surprise to me and ability to break tackles, to me, is one of his most defining features. How does he do it? “Relentless effort. That’s all that matters. Relentless effort.””
- While Robinson is small, he’s got that Beast Mode that we saw in the Kentucky game this year.
- Mike Davis: “Davis is another big back with fast feet, and while he’s not as much of a tackle breaker as some of his classmates, he’s got a little more zuzu in his cuts than his 215-plus-pound cohorts. Davis played through a couple of injuries in 2014 and even though his production dipped from 2013, he said coaches have given him good feedback on his ability and willingness to play through those issues.”
- Matt Jones: “Jones’ isn’t being immodest when he talks about Lynch, because of the backs that I’ve watched in this year’s class, he is probably near the top in terms of his ability to churn his legs through arm tackles. As Lance Zeirlein put it in his scouting report on the Gator running back, Jones has “pistons for feet, chomping and churning through contact to extend [the] run.”
These guys, David Cobb, and a few other physical backs could be good running back options for the Seahawks to prepare for Post-Beast Mode.
The cornerback position is very interesting to me with these guys because of the prospects that feel like they could end up on the Seahawks due to circumstances that could make them real value plays for them. No one knows where Byron Jones is going to end up, leading into the draft process, he was more of a third or fourth round prospect, but he jumped his way into the first round conversation.
Marcus Peters is someone who might have been the top cornerback in the draft if it weren’t for some issues with the new coaching staff at Washington that led to his dismissal. Considering that the school is in Seattle, I’m sure that Carroll and company know what went on there, so if things check out, they could be interested in him. He’s a first round talent, much like Janoris Jenkins and Tyrann Mathieu, two guys with their own issues in college, but who fell into the second and third round respectively, so he could be available at a huge value if the team who drafts him can control him.
Quinten Rollins from Miami (Ohio) is a cornerback/safety who was the 2014 MAC Defensive Player of the Year in his first season of college football after starting for their basketball team there. He’s just a freak who has a lot of room to grow and he’s projected between the second and fourth round.
Eric Rowe from Utah is another versatile defensive back who could play corner or safety at the next level and at 6’1”, 205, has the kind of size that the Seahawks look for.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is someone who according to quite a few sources, could have been one of the top ranked cornerbacks coming into the draft before suffering a knee injury that some sources are saying could be at the level of the Marcus Lattimore or Willis McGahee injuries. According to Walter Football, some teams are questioning if he’ll ever play again, while some have him listed as a sixth round to undrafted free agent.
Nick Marshall is an interesting play for them at 6’1”, 207, he fits into the kind of size that they look for in their cornerbacks and, as a former quarterback, he has the football intelligence to be a quick study. Walter Football mentions that he needs development and could need a year or two to “redshirt” in the NFL before being prepared and the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL at using this method. For a sixth or seventh round pick, Nick Marshall is the perfect kind of player for the Seahawks. They’re more than willing to take a late round flier on a guy that might need some time to contribute because if things work out, he could be a very nice player.
Josh Shaw from USC is a corner/safety type projected in the third to fifth round and at 6’, 201, with the kind of physicality he plays with, he could be a great fit in Seattle. Ladarius Gunter is 6’1”, 202, but ran a 4.69 at the combine, so he could fall further than his fourth to sixth round grade, in which case, he could be a good seventh round value. PJ Williams from Florida State is 6’, 194 and hurt his draft stock with a DUI arrest in the last few weeks. Projected in the second or third round, he’s another guy who could see himself fall through the draft.
Especially with Peters and Ekpre-Olomu, these are the kinds of players that could fall to the Seahawks in the right spot and be great potential value plays for them. There are quite a few cornerbacks with various question marks that could become the kind of prototypical late round success stories that the Seahawks dominate with.
Below are some value picks that I love, guys that I think will be drafted lower than the value that they will provide for their teams. Basically, they will outplay their rookie contracts, in no particular order.
Kevin White (TCU)
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