I’m going to do my first 2015 mock draft tomorrow. No trades. Just a projection now that we’re at the end of the college football regular season. I’m in two minds whether to do the weekly mocks this year. It might be a case of doing a mock after the Senior Bowl, combine, and then going weekly in April.
For now I’d recommend checking out Bob McGinn’s latest piece for the Milwaukee Sentinel. Every year McGinn gathers information from scouts and front office staff to get an inside view on the top prospects. For the most part it’s a really valuable source. Here’s a review of what’s said with a few of my own opinions along the way.
McGinn’s guys heap praise on Marcus Mariota (who will surely be the #1 pick next year) but voice concerns about Jameis Winston. “I would be deathly scared to have him” says one unnamed scout. Even when you put aside all the concerns off the field, Winston has not taken a positive step forward in 2014. He’s constantly been the cause and solution to FSU’s problems — starting slowly, making wild mistakes and then leading the fight back. The scout adds: “He’s so freaking inaccurate to start games. He’s off the mark more than he’s on. He has arm strength and a good delivery. He’s a nightmare.”
I’m unlikely to include Winston in my first round projection tomorrow. The red flags in terms of performance and character are just too big. On December 1st Tony Pauline reported the following:
“…Talk with scouts or next level decision makers who watch the film in its entirety rather than the highlights and they’ll tell you Winston’s penchant for turning the ball over (is) very disconcerting. Talent? Lots of it. Upside? An enormous amount. But also an equal amount of downside risk which is dangerous for any signal caller, especially one who seems to struggle controlling himself off the field.”
The scouts McGinn spoke to raved about Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. Before his ACL injury Gurley looked like a potential top-five pick and Gordon a possible mid-first rounder. The same sentiment is shared here. On Gurley, one scout states: “He’s special. I don’t think he’ll ever run before (the draft) but you don’t need him to because he’s so fast on film. Not a lot of wear and tear on him because they rotate so many backs.” And on Gordon: “He’s a bigger version of Jamaal Charles. He’ll run 4.42. He’s really good.”
It’s worth noting another source told McGinn he saw Gordon as a second rounder. The thing is, it only takes one team to fall in love and he’s gone. I’m absolutely positive someone is going to feel like they need Melvin Gordon in the middle of the first round. Ian Rapoport has suggested the Seahawks have interest in him — but it seems like a major stretch to expect he’ll last until the end of round one.
There’s no indication on Gurley’s stock post-injury. It’s interesting though that he was originally being graded in the top five. There is absolutely no way the Seahawks would’ve had a shot at him without the ACL tear. If they get an opportunity now — with or without Marshawn Lynch — they have to consider it. He’s just too good.
Interestingly McGinn’s sources also tout Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon as a “definite” first rounder. He’s a former 5-star recruit and as a freshman looked like the next big thing. Yeldon never really delivered on that promise. In the SEC title game against Missouri he had 14 carries compared to Derrick Henry’s 20. Henry finished with 141 yards compared to Yeldon’s 47.
Four other running backs were graded in the #25-60 range — raising the possibility of four going in the first round. That’s how good this class is. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman was named first, perhaps coincidentally. He seems the most likely to work into round one and could be as good as Gurley and Gordon.
Wide receiver/Tight end
According the the scouts here, receiver and offensive line are the two best areas in the 2015 draft. Unsurprisingly Alabama’s Amari Cooper is expected to go in the top ten. “Excellent hands. Very explosive and fast. One of the better route runners to come out in a long, long time. Very skilled. Had big-time production.” Kevin White and Devante Parker are the next two players mentioned, again, somewhat predictably.
Aurburn’s D’haquille ‘Duke’ Williams and Sammie Coates are listed as possible first rounders. We talked about both briefly yesterday. Williams is the kind of player Seattle currently lacks. He’s not incredibly tall (around 6-2) but he has the size (220lbs) to box out defenders, win physical match-ups in the red zone and compete for the ball in the air. He has genuine #1 receiver potential. This is his first year at Auburn after converting from the JUCO ranks. It’s unclear whether he intends to declare. One of McGinn’s guys compared him to Alshon Jeffrey and Mike Evans. He’s not as big, but he’d be used in the same way.
Coates is a different player — incredibly athletic. One of the best athletes in college football. He’s all muscle and lightning fast. One scout tells McGinn, “He’s definitely going to (run) 4.3″ but with a caveat, “does he have consistently strong hands?” The answer, sadly, is no. Coates is a big play specialist. In the Iron Bowl against Alabama made numerous chunk plays down field. He’s a true speed receiver. In the right offense he could be an explosive weapon. But he needs to improve his consistency.
Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong also gets a mention as a possible first rounder. For me he’s just such an underwhelming player and is more likely to go in the middle rounds. Here’s Tony Pauline’s take:
“Many are concerned with his lack of speed, quickness and the struggle he’ll have separating at the next level. Several area scouts have stamped Strong as a third rounder based off the film.”
As for the tight ends — Michigan’s Devin Funchess doesn’t get a terrible review. “He’s not unlike Jared Cook, who’s with the Rams… Pretty talented kid. Will he be your split-out tight end-H-back or a bigger wideout? I lean more toward the mismatch at tight end. He’s going to be kind of a hybrid player.” I’d say he’s one to watch for Seattle based on his size and upside — but he’s such a frustrating player to watch. Too many of these big hybrid-type players have entered the draft recently and not delivered. Funchess looks like a guy who needs to be pushed. He announced his decision to declare for the draft today.
The scouts speak highly of Washington’s Danny Shelton, insisting he’s the kind of prospect who will go in round one: “True nose tackle… When there’s a rare nose tackle like that, they go (high).” I’m still not sold on Shelton going as early as the first. Several other true nose tackles have entered the draft in recent years, looked like possible first rounders and faded away. He isn’t the second coming of Dontari Poe in terms of athleticism. He has nine sacks but seven came against Eastern Washington, Hawaii and Georgia State in the first four weeks of the season. The Senior Bowl will be big for Shelton.
McGinn’s sources confirm lofty expectations for Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Leonard Williams (USC), Eddie Goldman (FSU), Vic Beasley (Clemson) Dante Fowler Jr (Florida), Shane Ray (Missouri) and Bud Dupree (Kentucky). They add a few other names to the first round mix — Mario Edwards (FSU) and Jarran Reed (Alabama). We’ve been banging the drum for Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips — he’s described as an early second rounder. I suspect he could slip into the first for the same reasons Danny Shelton possibly could. Phillips really is a nose tackle with rare athletic qualities.
On Kentucky’s Dupree — one of my favorite players in this class — one scout says: “He can be a physical player but he also can be an athlete… Has played both up and down. As he’s gotten better the defense has gotten better. Great kid. All the intangible stuff.” For me he could go in the top ten.
Baylor’s Shawn Oakman — who gives off a ‘looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane’ vibe — comes in for some criticism: “Looks like he’s going to be whoop (expletive) and he just isn’t… Looks like a pro but he’s got a lot of rawness to his game.” Size is both a positive and a negative for Oakman. He carries 280lbs better than any player in football, in part due to a 6-8 frame. But he’s not a sudden player who moves with the freedom of a 6-4 rusher. He’s kind of awkward. Even with a strong get-off he doesn’t really explode as you’d expect. He has all the length in the world but he’s a little bit stiff.
I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go after an offensive lineman early in 2015. They’ve already spent a top ten pick on a left tackle, a first round pick on a left guard, a second round pick on a right tackle and the center is a second rounder from the previous regime. They also used a third rounder on the now-retired John Moffitt. Even if James Carpenter walks as a free agent, does anyone really expect Seattle to go big on a guard? Have we not seen enough from Alvin Bailey to believe he can take over that role if necessary?
Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) is named as the top tackle but with an asterisk: “He’s soft… Never practices.” A more pressing concern for me would be the high number of sacks Ogbuehi has conceded since switching to left tackle in 2014. Does he have to move back to the right side as a pro? Does anyone really want to draft a “soft” tackle early?
I’ve felt for a while La’el Collins (LSU) and Brandon Scherff (Iowa) are better suited at guard — a view backed up here by McGinn’s sources. “Collins is a lot like Scherff… He was a guard early in his career.” Andrus Peat is touted as the first tackle likely to be taken if he declares, but Tony Pauline recently reported he was expected to stay at Stanford. There’s no doubt in my mind that Peart is the best prospect in terms of pass protection. And that’s what you want from a possible franchise left tackle.
Two other favorites — T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh) and Cameron Erving (FSU) are listed as possible first rounders. Since Erving switched to center he’s been nearly unstoppable.
Overall it looks like a mediocre class. We might not see a first round cornerback — and Alabama’s Landon Collins might be the only DB to go in the top-32 altogether. McGinn’s scouts have a similar take — although there is an interesting update on Washington’s Marcus Peters: “He tried to strangle a coach on the sidelines… Then they let him back on the team and he did it all over again. Try selling that to your head coach.” On Peters, Tony Pauline recently reported:
“The issues which led to his dismissal from the Washington football program are well documented but several area scouts say it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Louisville’s Gerod Holliman has 14 interceptions in 2014, but that isn’t enough to gain any praise from McGinn’s scouts. “He needs to go back to school… He’s horrible. He can’t make a tackle to save his life. He’s got pretty good instincts but he’s not that athletic.”
Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu entered the year with high expectations, but he struggled. There’s no respite here: “He’d be much better playing in the slot.. Good tackler, good blitzer, around the football. Little stiff. Probably not great top-end speed.” Slot receivers are valuable commodities these days. Look at Sunday’s game in Philadelphia — Seattle put their #2 corner in the slot and Tharold Simon started outside. For that reason Ekpre-Olomu could still hold some value for the right team.
According to McGinn’s sources, Mississippi State’s Will Redmond could be in the first round mix: “I’d say late first or second round… He will be more of an off corner. I think he will run in the 4.3s.” Redmond is 6-0 and 182lbs.