A countdown of the top 50 overall players in the 2015 NFL Draft as ranked by NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.(Note: this list has been updated to reflect Jeremiah's most recent rankings.)
Amari Cooper did not enjoy spending the weekend in the Green Room.
Fortunately, this is only Hypothetical Amari Cooper and a Hypothetical Green Room at the headquarters of the Third Annual Buccaneers.com Mock Draft. Part 1 of that Mock Draft was held last week – with Team Insider Casey Phillips and Buccaneers.com Contributors Joe Kania and Andrew Norton joining me to alternate picks – and somehow the supremely talented Alabama wideout was not selected among the first eight picks. You'd be hard-pressed to find another mock draft with that outcome, even with so many to choose from.
The mock draft cottage industry spawns a new voice every day, and each analyst's effort is colored by his or her own whims. Look at the assembled mocks on NFL.com – Charles Davis has Georgia RB Todd Gurley cracking the top 10; Bucky Brooks has Vic Beasley going before fellow pass-rushers Randy Gregory and Shane Ray; and Brian Baldinger has Marcus Mariota falling all the way to #20 for the Eagles to jump on, presumably after rushing out to buy 100 lottery tickets.
Well, we've got four mock drafters working together here, which merely serves to quadruple the whimsy. And that's good, because the real live draft on April 30 is going to take some unexpected twists and turns, too. Maybe not "Amari-Cooper-falling-out-of-the-top-10" unexpected, but something that will take you by surprise and simultaneously blow up about 95% of the web's mock drafts.
So let's see where the next eight picks take us. As with Part 1, my collaborators and I will alternate picks, giving our predictions for what the team currently occupying each spot will do. For the purposes of this exercise, we will not be predicting any trades; we might mention the possibility of a deal if we feel strongly enough about it, but we will each pick for the team we're assigned.
One more important note: Please keep in mind that these are our own opinions. They are most definitely not intended to reflect the opinions of Lovie Smith, Jason Licht or anybody who will actually be making non-mock picks on April 30.
So, will Mr. Cooper still be hanging in the Green Room after the top 10 picks? Read on.
9. New York Giants: T Brandon Scherff, Iowa (Scott Smith's pick)
The Giants have a problem in this scenario…or maybe it's a golden opportunity. A year after hitting the jackpot with Odell Beckham, it seems unlikely that they would use a top 10 pick on another receiver, unless Matt Millen has been hired as a consultant. But, man, Amari Cooper is just sitting there staring the Giants in the face. Angrily. I really, really, really would like to trade this pick, and I think the next three teams (St. Louis, Minnesota and Cleveland) would be lining up to take my call. Since we can't trade in this exercise, though, I'll take the first offensive lineman off the board and go with what appears to be the safest bet. I considered LSU's La'el Collins (also relatively safe) and Stanford's Andrus Peat (more of a risk but possibly with a higher ceiling). Both Scherff and incumbent right tackle Justin Pugh are versatile enough to start at several spots, so if the rookie has to begin his career at guard before moving to tackle the Giants could accommodate that.
10. St. Louis Rams: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama (Casey Phillips's pick)
You're killing me Smalls. If I'm the one making the call on behalf of the Rams (again, just my opinion I don't speak on their behalf) I am definitely willing to deal for Scherff. The offensive line needs to be addressed in this draft by the Rams, preferably with multiple picks. Scherff has many of the same strengths and flaws as Greg Robinson. If the Rams were willing to take Robinson at two last year, they would probably love another similar player to mirror him on the right side of the line at 10 this year. Scherff is solid in the run game, and we know that's always Jeff Fisher's gameplan: strong defense, strong running game. Since you took my guy off the board, I'm going to have to go Amari Cooper. This is one of those "biggest needs vs best player available" moments. I just don't see the Rams passing him up here and missing the chance to give Nick Foles another weapon, especially when we don't know how Brian Quick will recover from a very serious injury.
11. Minnesota Vikings: WR DeVante Parker, Louisville (Joe Kania's pick)
Like the Jaguars earlier in the draft, the Vikings have a young quarterback they need to build around. In 2014, the Vikes had one of the worst passing offenses in the league, finishing No. 28, and had issues protecting the quarterback. So, with this pick, we're looking at either a wide receiver or an offensive lineman. If Brandon Scherff had fallen down to No. 11, I would feel comfortable taking him. But LSU's La'el Collins or Stanford's Andrus Peat, even Miami's Ereck Flowers at No. 11 just seems too high. Greg Jennings, who led the Vikings in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns last season, is a free agent, though he had yet to be signed. The Vikings picked up Mike Wallace in a trade with Miami in March, but there's still room for improvement in their receiving corps. Besides Wallace, no receiver currently on Minnesota's roster caught more than two touchdowns last season, so Parker it is.
12. Cleveland Browns: DT Danny Shelton, Washington (Andrew Norton's pick)
The Browns certainly never expected to see Vic Beasley sitting at 12, he has been shooting up mock drafts since the Combine. However, with picks #12 and #19, the Browns have come in with a plan and are sticking to it. Unfortunately, I don't control their pick at 19, so I'll do my best to send some psychic messages to Joe so he can round it out for me. The Browns cross a very big need of their list with a very big DT, Danny Shelton. At 6'2", 339 lbs, he should shine in plugging running lanes and getting after the QB up the middle, replacing similarly enormous Ahtyba Rubin who is off to Seattle.
13. New Orleans Saints: LB Vic Beasley, Clemson (Scott Smith's pick)
I feel like Casey did a few picks ago: The player I had my sights on was taken right before me, but the consolation prize may prove to be better than my original plan. I had the Saints lining up to take Shelton to replace the underwhelming Brodrick Bunkley and make the middle of their 3-4 front more stout, indirectly helping all the team's edge rushers in the process. Of course, that plan was based on the Browns taking Beasley, who has had a wonderful offseason and is a top 10 pick in many mocks. Andrew threw me a curveball by taking Shelton instead, but it was a big lazy curve that hung in the strike zone too long...and I know I'm the only one here who actually likes baseball so I'll just stop there. Anyway, the point is that the Saints can help their edge rush more directly by adding what should be a very productive edge rusher. Kinda cool how that works…unless you're a Bucs fan, in which case you hope Beasley is not still on the board for our division rivals.
14. Miami Dolphins: WR Phillip Dorsett (Casey Phillips pick)
The latest rumor is the Dolphins want to trade up to the top 10 for a shot at Kevin White. But, setting aside the fact we aren't doing trades in the mock, they might not even have enough they are willing to part with to trade up that high. They already only have six picks this year after some previous trades, plus the receiver position is deep this year. Also, the team has more than $22 million in dead money this year. It makes sense to get some pieces more cheaply through the draft instead of the open market, and as we saw with Jimmy Graham trying to be a called a receiver, clearly that can be an expensive position to acquire. Why not keep Phillip Dorsett within the Miami city limits? He is the only wide receiver the Dolphins have brought in for an actual workout during his visit so far. This is a big year for Ryan Tannehill, and Dorsett's blazing 40-yard-dash speed could make him the perfect deep threat for the QB.
15. San Francisco 49ers: DT Arik Armstead, Oregon (Joe Kania's pick)
The 49ers obviously need a lot of help at linebacker following the retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. But the value isn't there at No. 15 for either TCU's Paul Dawson or Miami's Denzel Perryman, or edge-rusher Bud Dupree. The pick is on the defensive side of the ball, but up front with Oregon's Arik Armstead. Danny Shelton would have been a great fit as well had he not been scooped up at No. 12 by Cleveland. In NFL.com's scouting report of Armstead, they cited a dramatic improvement in his game from 2013 to 2014. And he still has room on his frame to put some size on. He's a projection but with very high potential.
16. Houston Texans: CB Marcus Peters, Washington (Andrew Norton's pick)
Andre Johnson is out, which has conventional wisdom (and 26% of polled experts according to HoustonTexans.com's Mock Tracker) saying that the Texans will find his replacement on April 30. However, they do have the good, young DeAndre Hopkins and two underappreciated FA signings, Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington. So, as GM, I'm taking it to the other side of the ball and finding my future number one cornerback in Marcus Peters. Peters comes in with character issues, but prototypical size and undeniable talent. Plus, the idea of Andrew Luck's bewildered expression twice a year when having to contend with the secondary of Peters, Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Rahim Moore while being battered by Watt, Clowney and Wilfork is too good to pass up.*
(Part 3 of the Third Annual Buccaneers.com Mock Draft will be posted on Thursday, April 23.)*