For the first time since each conference went to four separate divisions, the NFC South was won by the same team in consecutive seasons. The Panthers may not have cracked .500 to accomplish the feat, but did pick up a playoff victory before losing to the eventual NFC champion Seahawks. Also for the second straight year, both the Buccaneers and Falcons landed top-eight picks as both teams look to climb back to the top of the division.
With the eighth overall selection, the Falcons upgraded a pass rush in desperate need of speed off the edge by drafting Clemson’s Vic Beasley. Beasley’s speed, explosiveness and agility are off the charts and he registered 25 sacks in his final two seasons with the Tigers. Beasley should make an immediate impact rushing off the edge in Atlanta, but his lack of bulk and shoddy run defense will have to be covered up by his teammates. The Falcons drafted LSU cornerback Jalen Collins at No. 42 to continue building new coach Dan Quinn’s defense. At 6-1, 203 pounds with 4.48 speed, Collins brings good measurables and athleticism to the table but struggles reacting to plays instinctually. A physical press corner with good tackling skills, Collins has the upside to be a good starter in the defensive system Quinn brings from Seattle, but needs to improve his understanding of the game to reach his potential. The Falcons went away from the defensive side of the ball in the third round, drafting Indiana running back Tevin Coleman to compete with 2014 fourth-rounder Devonta Freeman. A home-run hitter who consistently broke big runs in the Big 10, Coleman flashes quickness and burst with the skills to beat first contact as well as effectively catch the ball out of the backfield. He isn’t a perfect fit in Kyle Shanahan’s zone scheme, but will have a chance to at least split carries with Freeman. Atlanta stayed on the offensive side with the No. 107 overall pick, replacing slot receiver Harry Douglas with East Carolina’s Justin Hardy. Hardy is small (5-10, 192) and lacks great speed (4.56), but the rest of his game is extremely polished. His soft hands, spatial awareness and body control should endear him to Matt Ryan relatively quickly. In the fifth round, the Falcons returned their focus to defense and traded up to draft Beasley’s college teammate, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. A disruptive force shooting gaps up the field, Jarrett uses his squatty 6-0, 304-pound frame to his advantage, firing low off the line and playing with great pad level and leverage. He lacks bulk but possesses polished enough hand moves to shed blocks, falling into the middle of Day 3 due to concerns over size and scheme limitations. We him rated as a third-rounder. Atlanta had two seventh-round picks, selecting Eastern Washington tackle Jake Rodgers and San Jose State cornerback Akeem King. The 6-6, 325-pound Rodgers broke out as a senior and shows good awareness, a nasty attitude and the ability to protect the edge, but will need time to adjust to the pro game. King is another player who didn’t break into the starting lineup until his senior season after switching positions from wide receiver in 2011. At 6-3, 212 pounds, he gives the Falcons a cornerback with great size and room to improve. Atlanta added one notable free agent after the draft in Houston defensive tackle Joey Mbu. A fifth-rounder on our board, Mbu has the size to succeed as a 4-3 nose tackle and more athleticism than his combine numbers would suggest. He can occupy gaps in the middle of the defense, but isn’t a playmaker in the same mold as new teammate Jarrett. The two would complement each other well in a defensive line rotation.
Grade: B+ The Falcons came out of this year’s draft with five players rated in our top 100 and got good value with most of their picks. Beasley, Coleman and Hardy should have significant roles immediately, as all three are ready to contribute at the pro level.
With a need for another linebacker to play next to Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, the Panthers spent the 25th overall pick on Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson. Undersized at 6-0, 228 pounds, Thompson was a productive college linebacker with great speed and instincts. He is slated to start on the weak side for the Panthers, which will allow him to take advantage of his run-and-chase skill set. After drafting Kelvin Benjamin at the end of the first round last season, the Panthers doubled up on tall wide receivers by trading their third and sixth-round picks to move from No. 57 to No. 41 and draft Michigan’s Devin Funchess early in Round 2. We had Funchess ranked as a tight end as he lacks the quickness and smoothness of a receiver, but the Panthers will likely start him opposite Benjamin with Greg Olsen entrenched at tight end. At 6-4 with 33 ½-inch arms and a 38 ½-inch vertical, Funchess should be an immediate red-zone threat while helping quarterback Cam Newton, who tends to miss high. Oklahoma tackle Daryl Williams was the pick in the fourth round and should compete for a starting job immediately considering Carolina’s underwhelming starters at both tackle spots. Williams is a nasty run blocker best in small spaces, but he struggles on the move and doesn’t have the footwork or lateral range off the edge to protect the blindside. Carolina rounded out their five-player draft with two fifth-rounders; Texas State linebacker David Mayo and Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne. Mayo is a high-motor player with sideline-to-sideline range and a nose for the ball, which should fit perfectly on special teams while he develops. Artis-Payne has good patience, quickness and receiving ability and will provide some nice insurance for the injury-prone Jonathan Stewart, considering we had him rated as a third-round prospect.
Grade: C The Panthers had just five picks in this year’s draft thanks to their trade up for Funchess, who meshes well with Newton’s skill set but may not be best suited to play as an outside receiver. Thompson has an opportunity to learn from a player he’s compared to often in Davis despite being overdrafted, but both Williams and Artis-Payne will likely be important pieces on offense and were good value picks. It’s tough to see this draft providing more than two or three long-term starters in Carolina, and the Panthers didn’t add any players of note as UDFAs.
New Orleans Saints
After drastically changing their offensive philosophy this offseason by trading Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, the Saints addressed their offensive line at No. 13 with Stanford tackle Andrus Peat. Peat has the pass-blocking ability to eventually settle in at left tackle, but may start at guard as a rookie. He needs to improve his balance and reaction off the snap, but plays with good leverage for his size (6-7, 313), shows quick feet along with good lower-body strength and has excellent upside, though he also has some bust potential. With the pick New Orleans got from Seattle for Graham, the Saints selected Clemson inside linebacker Stephone Anthony. Anthony is a heat-seeking missile who shoots gaps extremely well and consistently makes plays in the backfield. He shows great speed in pursuit but needs to improve playing in reverse, as he wasn’t asked to cover much in college. Anthony will compete for a starting job on the inside of the Saints’ 3-4, and has the versatility to play the weak side in 4-3 alignments as well. New Orleans added another linebacker in Round 2, drafting Washington pass rusher Hau’oli Kikaha. An All-American who had 32 sacks over the past two seasons, Kikaha is an intense competitor with below-average size and speed for the pro game and an extensive injury history, as he missed all or most of two seasons early in his college career with knee issues. We had him ranked as a seventh-rounder, making it a tough pick to justify despite his impressive numbers. The Saints drafted a potential successor to the aging Drew Brees in the third round, grabbing Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson. Grayson has a strong arm and a quick release along with good awareness and poise. A classic pocket passer despite his 4.65 40-yard dash, Grayson has definite starting potential in a run-oriented offense, which is the direction the Saints are moving towards. New Orleans drafted again three picks later thanks to the Stills deal, taking Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams. An aggressive press corner with elite explosiveness, Williams struggles against receivers with deep speed and needs to improve his consistency and keep his nose clean off the field. If he gets it straight Williams has the talent to provide a first-round return on a pick outside the top 75. The Saints continued to revamp an underwhelming linebacking core in the fifth round, taking Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Davis Tull. An athletic pass rusher with the versatility to stand up over tackle or come out of a three-point stance, Tull is a smooth mover with good hands who shows force off the edge. The transition to the NFL won’t be easy, but Tull has potential as a pass rusher and in pursuit against the run. New Orleans had two additional fifth-rounders, drafting Fresno State defensive tackle Tyeler Davison and Georgia cornerback Damian Swann. We had a free-agent grade on Davison, as his lack of athleticism and inconsistent pad level limits his upside. He does play with a nasty attitude and shows a good first step to be an effective run defender, but his 8.5 sacks as a senior overstate his rush skills. Swann was also a free agent on the Draft Insider board, but plays aggressive football against the run and shows a nice burst out of his plant in zone coverage. Swann also shows good hands but struggles in man coverage and will likely max out as a sub-package corner. The Saints made Missouri running back Marcus Murphy their final pick in Round 7, and he’s a quicker-than-fast scat back who has some similarities to former teammate Henry Josey, who’s now in the CFL. Murphy is a slippery runner with limited size (5-8, 193) and lack of long speed (4.52), but could be effective if schemed into space and on returns. New Orleans added Syracuse left tackle Sean Hickey after the draft, and he has a chance to settle in as an NFL right tackle or guard despite playing the blind side with the Orange. An average athlete who lacks great footwork on the edge, Hickey has great vision and patience but needs to consistently play with leverage to have success against NFL defenders.
Grade: C+ The Saints had nine picks in this year’s draft, including five in the top-80, but came away with a somewhat underwhelming haul. They did well in the first round but Kikaha will find it tough to justify a second-round pick. Williams and Tull were nice upside picks with an eye towards the future, but overall New Orleans didn’t improve as much as they could have with the picks they had.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston to Tampa Bay at No. 1 was the worst-kept secret around the NFL throughout the draft process and while we had Marcus Mariota rated slightly ahead of Winston, it’s difficult to argue with the fit in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s vertical scheme. Winston is poised in the pocket, can make all the throws and plays without fear of making mistakes that sometimes led to unnecessary interceptions during his senior season. If the former Florida State star continues to improve his decision-making, both on and off the field, this pick should be a hit for the Bucs. In the second round, Tampa Bay drafted two players they hope will protect Winston for years to come: Penn State tackle Donovan Smith and Hobart guard Ali Marpet. Smith’s work ethic has been questioned and he never improved after impressing early in his college career, but he’s a big body (6-5, 338) who shows good footwork off the edge and potential as a blind-side protector if he focuses on football. Marpet was a likely late-Day 2 or early-Day 3 pick at the start of the offseason, but he impressed at the Senior Bowl and throughout the draft process to move into the second round. Marpet has the athleticism and skill set to play any position on the offensive line but is best inside, and the Bucs plan to use him at guard. He plays with good technique and is fast enough to quickly reach the second level or block effectively in motion. He may need some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL but once he does, Marpet has Pro Bowl potential. Tampa Bay addressed their defense in the fourth round with LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander. Alexander lacks size at just 227 pounds, but is a fluid mover who is very effective in pursuit. He struggles taking on blocks and isn’t a strong blitzer, but should settle in as Lavonte David’s backup on the weak side and a key special teamer as well as insurance if David leaves in free agency. The Bucs added a receiving weapon for Winston in Round 5, drafting Nebraska’s Kenny Bell. A reliable underneath receiver with good quickness, timed speed and body control, Bell has the potential to provide a nice chain-moving slot complement to Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson outside. Tampa added another receiver in the sixth round with Utah’s Kaelin Clay. Most famous for dropping the ball before the goal line on a potential touchdown against Oregon, Clay is small (5-9, 195) but quick and will likely make his biggest impact as a returner, as he was an All-American specialist with three punt-return scores last season. Hawaii fullback Joey Iosefa rounded out the Bucs’ draft in the seventh round, and he will need to prove himself healthy after a foot injury took him off the field too often over the past three seasons. If healthy, he has good size and speed as a lead blocker. Tampa Bay added two players in our Top 225 as UDFAs; TCU safety Chris Hackett and Towson defensive end Ryan Delaire. Hackett doesn’t have great size or speed, but is a leader on the field who plays faster than his workout times. He combines good range and instincts with a well-rounded game and starting potential if used properly. Delaire is a tweener; too small (6-4, 254) for an end but too slow (4.84) for a linebacker. He’s fast off the edge and uses his hands well, giving him a chance to make it as a special teamer and situational rusher on passing downs.
Grade: B Not only did the Buccaneers secure their quarterback of the future, but they came into the draft with a plan to build the rest of their offense around him and succeeded. Their picks came at solid value and they hit on multiple needs, hitting the blueprint for a well-executed draft.
Chris Tripodi has been writing draft reviews and rookie reports for Draft Insider since 2008. He is also an ACC and Conference USA scout for Optimum Scouting and writes about the New York Jets for Pro Football Spot. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi to talk NFL Draft and Jets football.
There was a lot on the line in the draft for the AFC West. Denver hoped to add the extra piece to get them across the finish line while the Chargers and Chiefs were looking for a few players to get them over the hump and back into the playoffs. On the other hand the Raiders hoped to build upon what was a strong effort from the 2014 draft.
Despite needing help on offense the belief moving towards the draft was Denver would look linebacker in round one and they did exactly that snatching up a free falling Shane Ray. The junior pass rusher watched his draft stock plummet in large part due to an arrest for possession of marijuana just days before the draft. Ray is in the perfect spot as the Broncos offer veteran leadership and the ability for him to slowly break into the line-up. Offensive line was addressed in round two with Tyler Sambrailo from nearby Colorado State. The hometown product is just what the Broncos want in their offensive linemen; athletic and versatile with the ability to line-up in a zone blocking scheme. With Ryan Clady going down to a knee injury in OTA’s this selection looks even better. I didn’t like the pick of Jeff Heuerman when it was made and like it less now. The tight end is an enigma as he looks the part but produces pedestrian numbers. Some will claim the system he played in at Ohio State was not prone to big numbers for a tight end but Heuerman never seemed to elevate his game. Its meaningless now as he’ll miss the season after tearing a knee ligament just weeks after the draft. Max Garcia was a terrific pick in round four and can line-up at guard or center. Fifth rounder Lorenzo Doss ran much faster than expected at the combine and is a physical corner who must learn to play to his speed while polishing his game. Darius Kilgo could be a steal in round six. He’s a natural two-gap lineman who plays with a competitive spirit, controlling the gaps and moving well in a straight line or laterally. Their late round picks were head scratchers. Trevor Siemian was fun to watch on the college level but I struggle to see how he’ll make a roster. Defensive backs Taurean Nixon and Josh Furman are solid athletes with NFL size but show little in the way of consistent ball skills. The team made up for questionable late round picks by signing Josh Watson in free agency. For some reason Watson received no love in the scouting community despite being a very good defensive lineman at Clemson the past two seasons then turning in an incredible pro-day. I think Watson will have a real chance to make the active roster.
Grade C+ Ray is a boom or bust pick and Heuerman is on the shelf before the season even begins. I think the value in this draft can be found from the linemen on both sides of the ball who will be competing for roster spots this summer.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs entered the draft with needs on both sides of the line of scrimmage but in the end felt cornerback Marcus Peters was too good to pass up. This choice comes with a bust factor but Peters has been penciled in as the starter and possesses a terrific upside. Mitch Morse was a strange selection in round two for a variety of reasons. Morse was selected a round early and though possessing all the skills necessary to play tackle (I don’t buy the short arms argument), he was drafted by the Chiefs as a center. Why? Morse played in a pass happy offense at Mizzou and did a terrific job blocking the blind side with no help. This could be insurance for the future if Eric Fisher continues to disappoint. Third rounder Chris Conley was a massive reach. While his combine workout was tremendous Conley does not transfer that athleticism onto the field and drops to many catchable throws. There were a wide variety of opinions on Steve Nelson entering the draft but in the end the Chiefs got themselves a nickel back/return specialist with their second pick of round two. Fourth rounder Ramik Wilson is a solid athlete with upside and adds depth at inside linebacker. I am a fan of linebacker DJ Alexander, the team’s first selection in round five, but don’t feel he’s a good fit for the Chiefs defense. James O’Shaugnessy, the other pick in round five, could’ve been had in free agency and is practice squad material. Rakeem Nunez-Roches was good value in round six as he’ll bring youth and depth to the defensive end spot. Da’Ron Brown could be a steal in the seventh frame as he’s a dependable underneath receiver with sure hands. I thought Kansas City did a bang up job signing players after the draft. Offensive linemen Melvin Meggs and Daniel Munyer are great fits for their system, receiver Kenny Cook is a big bodied pass catcher with solid hands and keep an eye on Sage Harold. He was a terrific pass rusher at defensive end for James Madison and offers the athleticism and skill to stand up over tackle. Finally David Irving will be an interesting watch. He showed flashes of dominance at Iowa State before being dismissed from the program but has the underlying skill to play at the next level if he matures off the field.
Grade C: Peters could turn into a solid starter at cornerback but after that I feel the Chiefs reached for a lot of players and came away with few first teamers.
The Raiders, again saddled with a top eight selection, had needs at the skill positions as well as cornerback but were staring at the best player in the draft when Leonard Williams fell into their laps. Oakland bypassed Williams choosing instead the second ranked player on my board and why not? Amari Cooper is a difference maker at receiver and a pass catcher who will hasten the development of Derek Carr. There’s a lot to like about his game, which was far and away the best of any receiver available in the 2015 draft. They next gambled in round two on Mario Edwards Jr. The defensive lineman underachieved in college, occasionally dominating the action only to disappear for long stretches. Though I’ve never been a fan the talent is available for Edwards but until he proves otherwise, the determination and fire are not. Clive Walford is the perfect compliment for the tight ends presently on the depth chart. Walford is not the downfield threat of starter Mychal Rivera rather a much better blocker and comes with better hands than number two tight end Lee Smith. The team went back to the Miami Hurricanes in the next round, selecting guard Jon Feliciano. I had the senior graded as a 6th rounder but feel he has starting potential down the road. The team selected a pair of linebackers in round five and may hit pay dirt. In Ben Heeney they’re getting a smallish but explosive run defender with great instincts. Henney has the speed to play sideline-to-sideline and is great in pursuit. Neiron Ball will be a terrific fit for the Raiders and could see action as a rookie if his knee is healthy. I don’t feel the same way about Max Valles whom I thought made a mistake entering the draft. He offers nice size but lacks speed and strength at the point. I felt Valles was best in a 3-4 and is a long ways from being NFL ready. Anthony Morris, the first of their trio of picks in round seven, is a massive blocker with practice squad potential. Andre Debose comes off a disappointing senior season but was drafted for his return skills as much as anything. Dexter McDonald was worth a last round pick as he’s athletic and a big bodied defensive back who needs to improve the consistency of his play. Josh Harper, who is very familiar with quarterback Derek Carr, was a major steal after the draft and will challenge to line-up in the slot this season. Safety Tevin McDonald and cornerback SaQwan Edwards are two more UDFA’s to watch this summer.
Grade B: The only reason I didn’t give this effort a B+ was the fact many of Oakland’s middle round picks were slight reaches on my board. That said I could see 6-to-7 of these picks making the active roster this September and another handful of players selected in the draft or signed afterwards being stashed on the practice squad.
San Diego Chargers
Word was the Chargers would broach the topic of moving up for quarterback Marcus Mariota the week before the draft but when they could not pull a trade off the team chose running back Melvin Gordon in round one. In Gordon the team is getting a feature back who will be an excellent fit for the offense as well as quarterback Philip Rivers. The selection of Denzel Perryman in round two strengthens the Chargers run defense and offers a defender who’ll be a nice addition next to Manti Te’o. Texas State cornerback Craig Mager went a little earlier than many thought but he’ll offer the Chargers a nickel back/special teams player. I love the selection of Kyle Emanuel in round five as he’s a natural pass rusher with great intensity. Melvin Ingram has not live up to expectations while Jeremiah Attaochu flashed as a rookie so the opportunity is there for Emanuel. Darius Philon is a developmental prospect with a good amount of upside and worth the use of a sixth round pick. If he’s healthy and ready to go, UDFA receiver Titus Davis could make the active roster.
Grade B: The team was limited with a handful of selections bit did a terrific job with their five picks. Gordon and Perryman should contribute immediately while Mager and Emanuel could see action in sub-packages this fall.
For the second straight season, the AFC South held two of the draft’s top three picks. The Jaguars picked third in both years, and that’s where much of the intrigue with this year’s draft began after the top-rated quarterbacks went with the first two picks. Chris Tripodi breaks down the division’s draft hauls.
Just a season after drafting first overall, Houston found itself in the middle of the first round despite getting nothing from 2014 top pick Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans again bolstered their defense, drafting Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson with the 16th pick. Johnathan Joseph is set to be a free agent next season, and Johnson is capable of playing the slot as a rookie then taking over on the outside in 2016 if Joseph isn’t retained. A physical player despite his thin build, Johnson shows excellent instincts in coverage and is capable in both man and zone. He must add strength and improve his tackling but if he does, Johnson can be a plus starter. Mississippi State linebacker Bernardrick McKinney was the choice at No. 43 and should start immediately on the strong side. An explosive defender with the strength to stack and shed as well as the ability to cover and play effectively in space, McKinney is a fundamentally sound player who follows his assignments. He could eventually kick inside next to Brian Cushing, but his versatility adds value to his projection. The Texans traded up in the third round to select Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong at No. 70. A firm second-rounder on our board, Strong stands 6-2, 217 pounds with 4.43 speed, but doesn’t play to that speed and isn’t a deep threat. He high points passes extremely well and shows great body control, effectively using his frame to win out in battles. He can be inconsistent at times, but his talent was well worth a third-round pick, and he could eventually take injury-prone Cecil Shorts’ starting role. Houston added another weapon in the fifth round with Michigan State receiver Keith Mumphery. Like Strong, Mumphery’s body control and ball-tracking skills are excellent and he shows the skills to be a threat after the catch. He didn’t produce much with the Spartans, but has long-term upside if he improves his route-running. With two sixth-round choices, the Texans went back to the defensive side of the ball, drafting South Florida linebacker Reshard Cliett and Rice defensive tackle Christian Covington. Cliett is undersized at 6-2, 223, but has great range and is effective in space. He will fit in well on special teams. Covington was building momentum as a potential Day 2 prospect before dislocating his kneecap in November. A surprise early entrant as a junior, Covington is explosive out of his stance, stays low off the snap and disrupts plays in the backfield. He’s not the best fit as a five-technique in Houston’s 3-4 defense, but has good upside as a gap penetrator if he recovers from his injury. With their final choice, the Texans snagged LSU running back Kenny Hilliard in the seventh round. A 226-pounder best used as a downhill runner, Hilliard has nice burst on inside runs and is effective after first contact. He can be a useful short-yardage back. Houston also added a few players with late-round grades on our board after the draft: Norfolk State defensive end Lynden Trail who fell due to character concenrs, Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond and Oregon linebacker Tony Washington. Trail is a great athlete who started his college career at Florida and has nice upside, but is a long-term project. Drummond disappointed as a senior, but is solid against both the run and the pass and has starter-level talent. Washington is a hustle player with decent size (6-3, 247) but poor speed. He should stand out on special teams and may be effective as a situational rusher.
Grade: B+ The Texans got great value from their first three picks, adding players who should be key contributors in short order. Their late-round picks and UDFA signings are brimming with upside potential and Houston may look back at this draft as the one that pushed them back into contention a few years down the line.
The Colts made one of the surprise picks of the first round, taking speedy Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett at No. 29. Viewed as insurance in the event T.Y. Hilton leaves as a free agent, Dorsett joins a crowded group of receivers in Indianapolis. His slight frame is a mild concern, but Dorsett plays to his elite 4.33 speed with great acceleration and the skills to effectively track passes downfield. After trading back four slots near the end of the second round, the Colts drafted Florida Atlantic cornerback D’Joun Smith with the 65th pick. An athletic defensive back with fluid hips and 4.4 speed, Smith stays tight in coverage and shows good timing and instincts. While he lacks strength, Smith is a solid run defender who should settle immediately into a sub-package role. With Greg Toler hitting free agency next offseason, Smith could find himself in the starting lineup in 2016. Indianapolis took Stanford defensive lineman Henry Anderson at No. 93, and his versatility should help their front seven. Quick off the snap and tough, Anderson can hold his ground in the middle of the line as well as bend around the edge. We had him rated as a second-round prospect. The Colts continued to add to their defense in the fourth round, grabbing Central Florida safety Clayton Geathers. A prototypical strong safety with good instincts, Geathers wraps up well when tackling and can play the role of enforcer in the back end. He struggles in man coverage and doesn’t change direction well, but can be an impact player if used correctly. Indianapolis went back to Stanford for their fifth-round pick, nose tackle David Parry. A hard worker who fits the label of overachiever, Parry uses a quick first step and powerful lower body to bull rush lineman off the ball and force runners to change their attack angles. He holds his ground well and allows linebackers to flow to the football, and is a player whose contributions won’t show up on the stat sheet. Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson was the choice in the sixth round, and is a short, stocky pile-mover with good burst and vision. An average receiver who loses momentum in and out of his cuts, Robinson has limitations but could find a role on an unsettled depth chart behind Frank Gore. Two picks later at No. 207, the Colts grabbed Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera. A fifth-rounder on our board, Herrera plays assignment football and has outstanding quickness. He isn’t great in space and gets swallowed up in the trash in the middle of the field, but could become a starter in time. With its final pick, Indianapolis drafted Mars Hill tackle Denzelle Good. A transfer from N.C. State, Good is a 6-7, 320-pound mauler who lacks foot speed and agility. A move inside to guard may be in his future if he expects to stick in the NFL. Two notable undrafted additions were Yale fullback Tyler Varga and Western Michigan corner Donald Celiscar. Varga stood out at the Senior Bowl and shows potential as both a lead blocker and pass catcher. Celiscar has good ball skills and flashes ability against the run, but at 5-11, 193 with 4.6 speed, is likely bound for special teams and sub-package work.
Grade: B- The Colts didn’t reach for any one player and got good value in their draft, but Dorsett was a luxury pick at arguably the team’s strong position. For a team that’s built to win now with a leaky run defense, that pick may have been better used on the defensive side of the ball. The Colts did well after the first round, but the Dorsett pick is still a head-scratcher.
After drafting their quarterback of the future with last year’s No. 3 overall pick, the Jaguars went defense with that pick this season, selecting Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. Fowler shows good burst and bend and is a fluid mover who plays hard on every down. He was overwhelmed at times by larger opponents at just 261 pounds, but was very disruptive for the Gators. Unfortunately, Jacksonville will have to wait until 2016 to see Fowler in action, as he tore his ACL at rookie mini-camp. A player they won’t need to wait to watch is their second-round pick, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon burst onto the scene as a freshman behind Eddie Lacy with the Crimson Tide and has feature-back size at 6-1, 226. A patient runner, Yeldon plays with strength, balance and quick, agile feet and poses a receiving threat out of the backfield. He will be a Week 1 starter on an offense looking for balance. Jacksonville added a blocker for Yeldon in the third round, grabbing South Carolina guard A.J. Cann. Our second-rated guard, Cann uses a violent hand punch and good pad level to get great movement against the run. He is ineffective blocking in motion but holds his own in pass protection and is a good fit for the power run game the Jaguars will look to employ. Fourth-round pick James Sample was a top-70 player on our board and is a complete safety. He shows good discipline and route recognition while flashing a quick burst to the ball and good hands for the interception. A wrap-up tackler who takes good angles to the action, Sample could surprise if he breaks into the starting lineup quickly. In the fifth, the Jaguars added another weapon for Bortles in Florida State receiver Rashad Greene. Greene was an extremely reliable target for Jameis Winston with the Seminoles and uses his quickness and great route-running ability to get open underneath. He has excellent hands and creates yardage after the catch, but his size (5-11, 182) and speed (4.53) will limit him to slot duties in the NFL. Jacksonville ended the fall of Ohio State tackle Michael Bennett in the sixth round, a player we had a second-round grade on. His size (6-2, 294) was a deterrent for NFL teams, but Bennett has great quickness and fires through gaps to disrupt plays in the backfield. He has great technique that helps him overcome his size deficiencies and has starting potential if surrounded by stronger defenders. The Jags added two more pieces to their offense in the seventh round, taking Monmouth receiver Neil Sterling and Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack. We ranked Sterling as a tight end, as he uses size and strength to create separation. He could be useful as a move tight end. Koyack is a solid route-runner who catches the ball well away from his frame, but has average strength as a blocker. He will be groomed to be Julius Thomas’ eventual backup. Jacksonville also added cornerback Nick Marshall from Auburn as a UDFA. The Tigers’ quarterback will attempt to transition to defense, and displayed the smooth athleticism and fluidity to prove himself worthy of an opportunity at the Senior Bowl.
Grade: B+ The Jaguars came into this draft with a plan and executed it beautifully. Their picks complement each other well on both sides of the ball and they were able to fill needs with excellent value, ending up with four players in our top 70. Fowler will need to recover from his season-ending injury next season for this draft to live up to its grade, however.
Tennessee was on the clock well before the draft started, with Jameis Winston to Tampa Bay nothing more than a formality since early in the draft process. After unsuccessfully trying to trade down, according to reports, the Titans stood pat and drafted Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota second overall. Our top-rated quarterback, Mariota has a quick release and the arm strength to drive passes down the field. Coming out of an offensive system that created open receivers with ease, Mariota’s pass placement is a work in progress. A hard worker with great athleticism and a quiet demeanor, Mariota has all the physical skills to develop into a future star at the position. Tennessee added a weapon for Mariota early in the second round, taking a chance on Oklahoma receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Green-Beckham had well-publicized off-the-field issues and never played a down with the Sooners, the combination of which kept him out of serious Day 1 consideration. A first-round talent who controls the game with his size (6-5, 237) and speed (4.49), Green-Beckham is unlikely to become anything but a star or a bust. His route-running needs work and he needs to keep himself clean off the field to hit his massive potential. The Titans grabbed Utah tackle Jeremiah Poutasi in the third round. A player we had projected for a move inside to guard, Poutasi will get a shot at right tackle in Tennessee. A big, nasty blocker who uses strong hands to drive opponents off their spot, Poutasi is stiff and struggles protecting the edge as a tackle. Auburn defensive tackle Angelo Blackson was the pick at No. 100, and is a prospect we feel is underrated. Quick and fluid in pursuit and changing directions, Blackson is tenacious and tough to handle inside. He didn’t produce much with the Tigers and needs to use his hands better to keep blockers off his body, but is a nice developmental prospect. Eight picks later, the Titans went to the other side of the Iron Bowl rivalry, drafting Alabama fullback Jalston Fowler. Rated as a sixth-rounder on our board, Fowler doesn’t create space well as a lead blocker but occupies defenders and shows ability as a receiver. In today’s NFL, this pick was a significant reach. Tennessee added another player to their backfield in the fifth round, drafting Minnesota running back David Cobb. A north-south runner with great vision, Cobb creates yardage after contact and shows good agility in his cuts. He isn’t a great receiver and struggles beating defenders in the open field, but Cobb will have a legitimate opportunity behind disappointing 2014 second-round pick Bishop Sankey and veteran Shonn Greene. Sixth-round linebacker Deiontrez Mount out of Louisville has great size (6-4, 250) and speed (4.56) and was productive as a senior with the Cardinals. He beats blocks and changes direction well to redirect the action, but struggles in coverage and has a motor that runs hot and cold. Mount is a project, but one with the physical tools to develop into a situational threat off the edge. The Titans moved back to the offensive side of the ball with their second sixth-rounder, drafting Boston College center Andy Gallik. While Gallik lacks a dominant base and great power at just 306 pounds, he’s smart and tough with good vision and awareness in the middle of the offensive line. A productive player with the Eagles, Gallik has starting ability if he’s surrounded by strength at the guard position. Tennessee finished their draft by taking William & Mary receiver Tre McBride with the 245th pick. McBride has the speed to stretch the field (4.41 40-yard dash), good size (6-0, 210) and a quick release off the line. A solid route-runner with strong, soft hands, McBride must adjust to the NFL level of competition but has great upside for a late pick. Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt was a UDFA steal as a player we had ranked in the top-75. A big hitter who shows good discipline, Prewitt struggles in coverage but will be a nice special teams piece initially with the upside for more. The Titans also added Tennessee-Chattanooga defensive tackle Derrick Lott after the draft. Lott is a good athlete at 6-4, 314 pounds with 4.95 speed and plays nasty, but must improving his playing strength and consistency.
Grade: C+ The Titans’ draft will be remembered for Mariota’s contributions to the team’s future, but throwing him to the wolves immediately like the team plans on doing could stunt his potential growth. Green-Beckham was a risky pick in the second round, and Poutasi may not find his true position until his second season. Most of their late-round picks came with some value, but this was a very boom-or-bust draft for the Titans that could either keep them at the top of the draft board for years to come, or push them into playoff contention within a couple seasons.
Chris Tripodi has been writing draft reviews and rookie reports for Draft Insider since 2008. He is also an ACC and Conference USA scout for Optimum Scouting and writes about the New York Jets for Pro Football Spot. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi to talk NFL Draft and Jets football.