It’s mid December and the thoughts of millions of people turn to that once-a-year holiday where hope springs anew, where anything can happen, where we can get something even more special than we even asked for and, ultimately where we all can become better people. I’m talking, of course, about NFL Draft Day.
With two weekends to go in the season the playoff contenders continue to drop and the draft order gets set. As Bonnie Tyler once sang she needed a hero, so do we, fans of the downtrodded, the left behind, the denizens of the NFL’s Island of Misfit Toys, if you will. Let’s make some dreams real.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
This is a no-brainer pick for a team that needs some excitement to fill that crazy Walt Disney wet dream of a stadium.
2. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
There will be temptation to take Leonard Williams here and I get it. But you need another wide receiever and the best one to come out since A.J. Green can’t be passed over.
3. Tennessee Titans – Leonard Willams, DT, USC
There are thoughts that the Titans will take Jameis Winston here. However, Williams is the consensus second-best player in the draft (as of now), and Williams will be a steal at four.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Congratulations on your victory over the Titans last night. You cost yourself Amari Cooper. Ray isn’t a bad consolation prize, but you still needed Cooper more.
5. Washington Redskins – Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
RG3? Jay Gruden? My guess is both guys will be back. The Redskins need help on defense (as well as a new defensive coordinator), and Gregory is the second-best pass rusher in the draft.
6. New York Jets – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Over his undefeated career at Florida State he’s been known to flourish under the pressure, but playing in New York brings a entirely new kind of pressure, especially on young quarterbacks. Just ask Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.
7. Atlanta Falcons – Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
The versatile and athletic Thompson should give immediate help to a Falcons defense that currently ranks dead last in the league, giving up 409 yards per game.
8. New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Eli Manning has bounced back with a solid year, but the Giants still need to protect him better. This is late for the first offensive tackle to be taken in this draft, so I’m probably already wrong.
9. Chicago Bears – Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Of all the problems the Bears have, the defense is about eight of them. The Bears are loaded on offense and they’re not going to draft a quarterback, regardless of what happens with Jay Cutler. So Beasley’s their guy.
10. Carolina Panthers – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
There will be a temptation to take Louisville’s DeVante Parker here and the Panthers should think about it. Peat makes more sense, as Kelvin Benjamin has been a break-out star for the Panthers this season and you should be able to pick up a WR companion for him later in the draft. Get your tackle.
11. Cleveland Browns – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
The Browns need another wideout and maybe this one can keep his mouth of the hookah long enough to become Johnny Manziel’s new favorite target.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Depending on Todd Gurley’s status, they could go with him here, but the Vikings need a running back that will be ready at the start of training camp. Gordon is their best option.
13. St. Louis Rams – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Stanford
Last year at this spot multiple mock drafts people had the Rams taking a quarterback, specifically Johnny Footstool. They didn’t. They picked defensive tackle Aaron Donald and now he’s probably going to be defensive rookie of the year. This is what’s going to happen again except Ogbuehi will be the beneficiary. The Rams will take a quarterback, but not in the first round.
14. San Francisco 49ers – Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida
NaVorro Bowman hasn’t played a down this season and, though he’s in inside linebacker, Fowler Jr. is the best option to either replace him or immediately hold a spot for him until he’s really ready to return.
15. Houston Texans – Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
If Connor Cook hadn’t decided to stay at Michigan State his senior year, this is where he’d have been taken. So if he’s picked next year by the Browns, he’s probably going to regret that choice. Collins is the top-rated safety in the draft and that’s maybe the only hole in the Texans’ defense.
16. Miami Dolphins – La’el Collins, OT, LSU
The Dolphins may look at a tailback here, but with the position devalued and Gordon already gone, it’s time to bolster that offensive line.
17. Cleveland Browns – (from Buffalo) Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
You whiffed on your picks last year, getting a serviceable Justin Gilbert at corner when you could have had a super star at DT with Aaron Donald. Time to try again and the Bills’ pick you got for Sammy Watkins will give you that chance.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Waynes is the first corner to come off my board and a position that the Chiefs have need. They could also look at a wide receiver like Kevin White, but they’ve got guys they can win with there now. They need help in the secondary, especially facing Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers four times a year.
19. Philadelphia Eagles – Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky
You know Chip Kelly would love to work some kind of trade to land his quarterback, Mariota, and send Nick Foles to go get lost in a corn maze. The Eagles pick too far down and would have to give up too many players to get there, plus picks for the next two years. Might as well bolster that pass rush.
20. San Diego Chargers – T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt
If you want to pass, you’ve got to protect your quarterback. Plus, Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger, and he’s definitely not getting any more nimble.
21. New Orleans Saints – Shilique Calhoun, OLB/DE, Michigan State
In Calhoun, the Saints get a reliable defensive end that could also play some outside linebacker, as he’s equally adept rushing the quarterback as he is at covering running backs in space.
22. Cincinnati Bengals – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The second corner going off the board is at No.22. The Bengals defense is talented, but fell apart late this season. They’ve got guys at every position, but they need to be thinking past CB Adam “Pacman” Jones right now.
23. Detroit Lions – Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Ndamukong Suh is gone to the highest bidder and you’ve got to feel a little like the Lions want him to be. The Lions need a defensive tackle and Goldman is a pretty good one.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Gerod Holliman, FS, Louisville
The Steelers needed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last year, but missed their chance. Holliman is the best free safety left and they have to be thinking of a future without Troy Polamalu.
25. Dallas Cowboys – P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
Our third corner finally gets taken. The Cowboys whiffed on Morris Claiborne three years ago. Time to try again with the 6ft. Williams who boasts a coveted frame and physical style to jam receivers and help out in the run game.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
The Ravens have guys that can play running back in time to let Gurley heal and become the eventual steal of this draft. He can run, he can catch, he can do it all. He just probably won’t do it for the Ravens until around December 2015.
27. Arizona Cardinals – Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State
Benardrick has my favorite name of the first round. The Cardinals already have a great defense and may end up tacking a defensive tackle, but McKinney is the early consensus best inside linebacker and that’s one of the few needs Arizona has.
28. Indianapolis Colts – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Andrew Luck is going to have a new best friend.
29. Seattle Seahawks – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Seahawks don’t have a great need at wide receiver with the emergence of Jermaine Kearse, but the don’t have a playmaker like White. Eight 100-plus yard games, including 143 against Alabama and 216 against Maryland speak for themselves, but that 1,318 yards is more than Kearse and Doug Baldwin’s yards this season combined.
30. New England Patriots – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Tom Brady gains a 6 ft 3 in., 215-pound gamebreaker to take some of the pressure away from Rob Gronkowski in the passing game.
31. Denver Broncos – Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Though the Broncos already have one of the best run defenses in the league, you can never have enough talented defensive linemen. And Bennett is a 6 ft. 2 in., 300 pound monster that could contribute right away.
32. Green Bay Packers – Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
Speaking of monsters, the 6 ft. 9 in. Oakman has a rare kind of size that may be too intriguing for a team to pass up in the first round. Plus, it’s no secret the Packers one glaring weakness continues to be in the defensive front.
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