Winners and Losers from the 2015 NFL Draft
I will preface this by saying that early reactions are tough because you don’t always know how a player will fit in or what game plan a team has for a player. Here are my initial winners and losers based on what we know:
New York Jets:
-The Jets landed the best player in the draft in Leonard Williams without having to trade up. OLB Lorenzo Mauldin could have a big impact in this system as well. Wide receiver Devin Smith is the best deep threat in this class, and gives the Jets an intriguing weapon going forward if they can fix their QB situation. I don’t know if Bryce Petty is the answer at QB long term, but he was worth a 4th round look for the Jets. Guard Jarvis Harrison and DT Deon Simon were nice late round values as well.
-The Ravens top two picks of WR Breshad Perriman and TE Maxx Williams give the Ravens two big targets to complement Steve Smith. Both should contribute early and grow pair with Joe Flacco going forward. Perriman and Williams should help replace Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels who left via free agency, and with Dennis Pitta’s future in jeopardy, they were smart picks. With Baltimore’s next two picks they replaced two other departures this offseason as DT Carl Davis and DE/OLB Za’Darius Smith should help replace the loss of Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee. Both Davis and Smith should contribute early and have the potential to develop into good long term starters. Later in the draft the Ravens continuously found value adding blocking TE Nick Boyle and big receiver Darren Waller to their weapons. Also on offensive they added Javorius Allen to their running back stable and small school Robert Myers along the offensive line. Corner Tray Walker is a small school guy who might be a little bit of a reach, but he’s got excellent size.
-With two first round picks the Browns hit on both adding DT Danny Shelton and OL Cameron Erving. Shelton should be the starting NT and really bolster their run defense, while Erving could line up initially as a right tackle before taking over the center role from Alex Mack if he leaves in free agency after next season. After Erving not much attention was paid to the offensive side of the ball, with RB Duke Johnson, WR Vince Mayle, TE Malcolm Johnson and TE Randall Telfer as the only remaining offensive players, and only Johnson figures to play a significant role. Johnson could push for the starting running back role and add explosiveness to the offense. In addition to Shelton the Browns loaded up on defense. They added DE/OLB Nate Orchard, DL Xavier Cooper, S Ibraheim Campbell, CB Charles Gaines, ILB Hayes Pullard, and CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. All seven of their defenders look to have a chance to make the final roster and many should be early contributors. Orchard could be a sub-package pass rusher early on and could push for a starting role. Cooper has starting potential and early on will be a rotational guy. Pullard is a solid inside linebacker and long term could be a starter. Campbell and Gaines both have promise and should be at least contributors on this defense. The most intriguing pick though may be Ekpre-Olomu. If he didn’t tear his ACL he figured to be a top 2 round talent, instead the Browns got him in the 7th round. Cleveland can “redshirt” him for a year and perhaps end up with one of the steals from the draft.
-The Jaguars went OLB/DE Dante Fowler Jr. with their first pick and landed probably the top edge rusher in this class. That should be a major boost to this defense and improve this team as a whole. Later defensively they added safety James Sample and stole DL Michael Bennett in the 6th round. Sample could be a solid starting safety down the road, while Bennett has the chance to be a difference maker. While there might be some work ethic concerns with Bennett he had top 50 talent, so getting him at 180 is a steal. If that wasn’t enough to make the Jaguars a winner they hit a lot on offense as well. They added RB T.J. Yeldon in the 2nd round and he has a good chance to be a starter year one. Guard A.J. Cann, WR Rashard Greene and TE Ben Koyack also represent good value for where they got them and all could contribute this year (Cann has a good chance of being a starter).
-The Vikings were one of the more active teams in stock piling picks, trading back three separate times to end up with 10 selections. On top of having quantity the Vikings added quality with their picks as well. Defensively they added CB Trae Waynes, ILB Eric Kendricks, and DE Danielle Hunter in the first three rounds. Waynes and Kendricks are arguably the best talents at their two positions, and should start right away for the Vikings. Hunter is more of a projection pick, but he’s got a lot of upside and can be developed as a situational pass rusher early in his career. Later the Vikings added further DL and LB depth. Offensively the Vikings might have landed one of the steals in the draft in the 4th round with OT T.J. Clemmings. Clemmings is a raw talent, but at one point was considered a first round talent. There is an injury concern, but the value in the 4th round is immense. The Vikings also added OL Tyrus Thompson and Austin Shepard later, who both have some promise to eventually develop into starters. TE Mycole Pruitt is an intriguing move tight end with some decent size, and WR Stefon Diggs has a ton of upside as a dynamic receiver/special teamer. In addition to the depth and talent I like what this draft means for the development of Teddy Bridgewater. While they didn’t land a top weapon for their young QB, they bolstered their defense and offensive line, both of which should have a positive impact on Bridgewater’s 2nd season.
-The Falcons did an excellent job with their top 5 picks and should get a lot of value from them. On defense Vic Beasley immediately becomes the Falcons top pass rusher, and he has elite potential. Corner Jalen Collins should get a starting role as well, and has the upside to be a very good corner at the next level. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was a steal in the 5th round and should at the very least be a good rotational defensive tackle. On offense the Falcons got more explosive with RB Tevin Coleman and WR Justin Hardy. Coleman has excellent speed and could be very dangerous in Kyle Shanhan’s running plans. Hardy fills in for Harry Douglas and could eventually take over for Roddy White.
-The Bears defied expectations and focused more on the offensive side of the ball, but still came away with a pretty strong class. WR Kevin White may be the best receiver in this draft and adds a big time weapon to the offense to replace Brandon Marshall. Center Hroniss Grasu could quickly be in the mix for a starting role at the open center spot. While RB Jeremy Langford not only could contribute as a 3rd down back, but he could be the heir apparent to Matt Forte, as the star running back is entering his 8th season. Defensively Eddie Goldman is a great value in the 2nd round and should bolster their run defense. Safety Adrian Amos is a good late round value and adds depth and special teams ability.
-I know it’s risky to question the Seahawks because they seem to do an excellent job of finding guys who fit what they like to do, and do a great job getting the most out of those picks, but this draft feels like a miss. Not only were they lacking a 1st round pick, but in the 2nd round they took DE Frank Clark. Clark is a plus athlete who can get after the QB some, but he’s got major off the field concerns and is a major risk in the 2nd round. With a number of teams reportedly taking him off their board it’s likely they could have gotten him 2-3 rounds later. Six picks after reaching for Clark the Seahawks decided they wanted WR Tyler Lockett, and traded their 3rd, 4th (early 4th at that), 5th and 6th (early as well) to go up and get him. Lockett is a nice receiver, but was he really worth 4 players? Especially since they could have just taken him 6 picks earlier and hoped that Clark reached their 3rd round pick (which seemed very likely). On the 3rd day the Seahawks found some more interesting players, but they also took some risks as well. This is a draft that carries a lot of risk both with Clark’s red flags and projecting a lot of players to improved roles. Maybe it works out for them, but it could end up being a major misstep.
-I love the Marcus Mariota pick and feel if they are smart with him he could be the best QB in this class. Other than that though I don’t think they did a nice job supporting him with this group. The Titans next 4 picks (all in the top 4 rounds) were WR Dorial Green-Beckham, OG Jeremiah Poutasi, DT Angelo Blackson, and FB Jalston Fowler, and I don’t think they found good value for a single one of those picks. Green-Beckham has massive off and on the field concerns and is not the type of receiver you want to be pairing with a rookie QB trying to develop (also you figure to want either a top veteran QB or WR to try to straighten DGB out and the Titans lack either). Poutasi is an okay guard prospect, but there were far better options on the board and he doesn’t seem likely to contribute early. Blackson was a major reach, who is more of a big body than anything else. Fowler might be the best fullback in this class, but this is an odd pick in the 4th round. Later in the draft the Titans found some nice value picks, but overall this feels like a draft that didn’t do much to improve the Titans roster beyond the Mariota pick.
Kansas City Chiefs:
-The Chiefs landed CB Marcus Peters in the first round and though there are some character concerns to look out for. Their next two picks in Mitch Morse and Chris Conley both feel like reaches, even though they are both very athletic players. They are guys who need to get coached up at the next level, which doesn’t always work out how teams think. Corner Steve Nelson was a solid pick in the 3rd, but after that they went with some real reaches. This is the type of draft that could turn out being amazing 4 years from now if 3 or 4 of these guys all hit and Peters stays focused on football, but it could also be a draft 4 years from now that doesn’t have a single player still on the Chiefs roster.
St. Louis Rams:
-The Rams took a risk in the first round taking RB Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick. If he’s healthy and hasn’t lost any speed, he could be the next Marshawn Lynch, unfortunately coming off a serious knee injury his career could take another path. In the 2nd round the Rams traded back and took Rob Havenstein, a solid right tackle prospect but not a guy with a lot of upside. After that they really started to reach taking OL Jamon Brown and QB Sean Mannion in the 3rd round and OL Andrew Donnal in the 4th. All three of those guys were considered big reaches with big question marks. While it is clear the Rams accomplished their goal of bolstering their offense this seems like a draft with a ton of risk that could easily blow up in their face.
-The Panthers are a team that has a thin roster due to some missteps involving the salary cap in recent years, but at the same time this is a contending football team who has made the playoffs each of the past two seasons. In that situation you need to find a balance of getting quantity and impact players at key positions. The Panthers didn’t do any of that. Their top three picks are solid names in OLB Shaq Thompson, WR Devin Funchess, and OT/G Darryl Williams, but they aren’t really guys who are expected to make an impact early in their career. Thompson is more of an athlete right now than a guy with a set position, while Funchess is a tweener TE/WR who presents some match-up problems, but is a guy who might take 2 years before he’s a steady contributor. Williams is the most intriguing guy and he could push for a starting role early, but that is about the high-water mark for this draft. Due to trade ups the Panthers ended up with only five picks and very little early impact.