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.)
We've made it halfway through our four-way Mock Draft here on Buccaneers.com, and I think we've got one thing absolutely right: the unpredictability of this whole drafting exercise, in both the real and fake varieties.
Predicting the players who will be picked in the first round of any NFL Draft is an exercise in exponentially-mounting futility. Sure, in most years you can make a decent stab at the first three or four picks, but rare is the mock draft that eventually matches up with more than nine or 10 of the actual selections.
So, if you think Joe, Andrew, Casey and I are collectively crazy for, say, bumping Miami WR Phillip Dorsett into the top 15 or letting Georgia running back Todd Gurley slide into later picks, well, you could be right. But, in the end, it will be no crazier than what actually happens on the evening of April 30. So, with that somewhat transparent attempt at preemptive excuse-making out of the way, let's get on to Part 3 of this thing, wherein the four of alternating making picks 17-24.
Once again, 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. Also – and sorry if this is getting repetitive but it's important to remember – 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.
Todd Gurley, anyone?
17. San Diego Chargers: DT Malcom Brown, Texas (Scott Smith's pick)
Charger fans might howl if their team passes up on a running back here, particularly if they've been primed by the myriad mock drafts pairing them with Todd Gurley. So I'd be an unpopular GM right off the bat in San Diego, but as wonderful of a talent as I think Gurley is, I don't think that's the value pick here. Even setting aside the concerns of his return from a knee injury, there is just so much running back depth to choose from that I think the Chargers can look elsewhere in the first round and still get a bell cow back later in the proceedings. And while it's tempting to add another offensive lineman to the offseason acquisition of Orlando Franklin (thereby increasing the chances of that later-round back succeeding), the Chargers are more acutely in need of help for a defensive front that ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed and 29th in sacks of opposing quarterbacks last year. The 320-pound Brown plays the run well, has some pass-rush potential and has experience at multiple spots on the line.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Ereck Flowers, Miami (Casey Phillips's pick)
The Chiefs might be the most mysterious of the teams to guess what they will do with their pick. It's almost impossible to find multiple mock drafts with experts in agreement on who the pick will be. That could be because A: the Chiefs have a lot of needs or B: Reid and Co. have a history these last few years of taking the best player available regardless of need. Since it's hard to know who that would be at this point in the draft, I'm going to have them taking Ereck Flowers. We all know the crazy stat about no wide receiver with a TD last year, and that had a lot of people screaming for the team to draft one. But combine that stat with the fact Alex Smith was the fourth-most sacked QB in the league last year, and maybe you can come to the conclusion the blame shouldn't fall entirely on the WR core. Plus, now that they signed Jeremy Maclin, there is less urgency there. Mike Mayock has called Flowers a potential Pro Bowl right tackle. He is an extremely strong (like 37 combine reps strong) powerful run blocker. He is a work in progress with occasional issues with balance and technique, but at just 20-years-old, his potential seems sky high.
19. Cleveland Browns: OT Andrus Peat, Stanford (Joe Kania's pick)
At No. 12, with the first of the Browns' two first-round picks, Andrew addressed the league's last-ranked rush defense by scooping up Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton. At No. 19, let's go to the other side of the ball. As much as I'm tempted to take either Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon, the draft's top two running backs, I'm going to follow Andrew's lead and re-build this team from the front lines by selecting Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat. Having a versatile tackle like Peat, who can play on both ends of the line, will provide a boost for an offense ranked in the 20s in most major categories.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Breshad Perriman, UCF (Andrew Norton's pick)
Casey, I'll see your "mysterious" Chiefs pick and raise you the most head-scratching team of the offseason… I'm Chip Kelly. I just confused the heck out of every NFL fan on Earth over the course of nearly a month. I traded away one of the best running backs of the decade only to replace him with last year's Offensive Player of the Year AND another top-20 free agent RB. I let a 1,300-yard receiver walk. I traded my young QB who started for the last two years for a QB who hasn't played a regular season game in that time span. I signed Tebow. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT I'M GOING TO DO NEXT! MUAHAHAHA! Phew. The Eagles signed two great CBs, but could use another one, safety also makes perfect sense and they have one right there for the taking, pass rush is deep and they could use it … but picking Perriman just looks exactly like something Kelly would do. The guy didn't go to the Combine, is relatively unknown out of the American Athletic Conference, but he ran an obscene 4.24 at his Pro Day and has 20.8 and 20.9 yards per catch over his last two seasons. So yeah, why not?
21. Cincinnati Bengals: DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State (Scott Smith's pick)
I think the Bengals are getting calls at this point for teams that want Todd Gurley, and maybe even Landon Collins. And I'd listen, too, unless I was sold on D.J. Humphries or La'el Collins as a replacement for one of my good-but-nearing-free-agency starting offensive tackles, Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. But I'm not sold, so I'll go with Goldman, who would be a good replacement for the weak link in the Bengals' defense last year, Domata Peko. Goldman doesn't necessarily have the pass-rush potential of the defensive tackles who went earlier, but he'd be a great occupier of blocks, perhaps allowing Geno Atkins to return to elite form next to him. The Bengals' rush defense was a little porous last year; Goldman should help with that right away.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest (Casey Phillips's pick)
The Steelers have major questions in the secondary between Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu retiring and finishing 27th in pass defense last year. While they will need to address the safety position, cornerback seems to be the most dire situation for Round One. Kevin Johnson has proven he can be effective in both man and zone coverage, which fits the way Dick LeBeau had used his corners in a blend of coverages. It's presumed new D-Coordinator Keith Butler would continue that trend. Johnson might need to gain some strength to be more effective in run defense, but he does play stronger than his frame would suggest. Regardless, his coverage ability and downfield playmaking could make up for any weakness as a run supporter.
23. Detroit Lions: RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (Joe Kania's pick)
Losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley was a blow to the Lions' defensive line and those players probably can't be replaced at No. 23. Danny Shelton, Arik Armstead and Malcom Brown, the top defensive tackles on most draft boards, are already gone, as are a slew of the nation's best pass-rushers. I want to go with the best available player – and after finishing No. 28 in the league in rushing offense in 2014, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon is an obvious choice. The Lions seem content to move forward with Theo Riddick, who shared carries with Reggie Bush last season, but the addition of a three-down back like Gordon, and at pick No. 23, would greatly improve a unit that accounted for 88.9 yards per game in 2014.
24. Arizona Cardinals: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia (Andrew Norton's pick)
Well that was certainly unexpected. There are six running backs on the current Arizona roster. Combined they have 12 years of experience, and just 22 starts, 1,938 rushing yards and 8 rushing TDs. That would be an average of 1.8 starts, 161.5 yards and .67 TDs per season. The Cardinals expected to see the Draft's top RB, Todd Gurley, to be gone and were locked in the War Room debating taking Gordon or OLB Bud Dupree. With Gurley still available, you can be sure they are thrilled to call his name. In 30 games at Georgia, Gurley ran for 109.5 yards per game with 42 total TDs. Yes, in three college seasons Gurley had more than five times as many TDs as all six Arizona RBs have in 12 NFL seasons. Gurley is a Top 10 talent who has fallen in many mocks after a season-ending knee injury in 2014. Recent reports indicate that he could be ready to go by training camp which could move his name up on many lists in the coming weeks and out of the reach of the Cardinals at 24.*
(Part 4 of the Third Annual Buccaneers.com Mock Draft will be posted on Tuesday, April 28.)*