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We are dead smack in the middle of the NFL Combine which is taking place in Indianapolis. Teams are gathered to watch, probe and interview NFL prospects to help shape their draft boards as we move towards the NFL Draft.
Needless to say, my mock draft will change NUMEROUS times before we get to the NFL Draft. Let's Do This.
1) Tampa Bay - Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State - One of the most polarizing talents is this draft, there is no question in most people mind about Winston's talent and his ability to run and NFL offense, since he played in a pro style offense at Florida State. The BIG question is about Winston maturity away from the field. The NFL landscape changed dramatically in 2014. The league and teams will have less tolerence for foolishness. With that said, I think he will ease fears and Tampa and Lovie Smith need their quarterback of the future.
2) Tennessee - Leonard Williams, DT, Southern Cal - For now, the Titans are saying they are happy with 2nd year player Zack Mettenburger at QB. We will see as we move closer to the draft.
3) Jacksonville - Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska - I thought about a WR here, especially with the uncertainty of one Justin Blackmon. But the Jaguars drafted Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee & Allen Hurns in the 2014 Draft. That, along with the fact that HC Gus Bradley is a defensive minded coach leads me to them going defense.
4) Oakland - Kevin White, WR, West Virginia - The Raiders need to put weapons around their 2nd year QB Derek Carr. White is a stud and ran 4.33 at the combine, helping to ease concerns about his speed.
5) Washington - Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa - Washington offensive line is HORRIBLE. If they are going to give RGIII a chance to succed, they need to rebuild their offensive line.
6) New York Jets - Marcus Mariotta, QB, Oregon - Does anyone believe that Geno Smith is the answer? Mariotta comes from a spread offense, so he has some learning and developing to do, but he is very talented and a hard worker and has a maturity level that Smith seems to lack.
7) Chicago Bears - Danny Shelton, DT, Washington - The Bears defense was abysmal in 2014, especially against the run. Shelton can demand a double team in the run game and hold his own, and he has a solid motor.
8) Atlanta Falcons - Dante Fowler, OLB/DE, Florida - The Falcons need to improve their defense and upgrade their pass rush. Fowler can help the Falcons do just that.
9) New York Giants - La'el Collins, OT, LSU -The Giants need to continue to fortify their offensive line, and Collins is the physical type of offensive lineman that Tom Coughlin likes.
10) St. Louis - Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford - OLT Jake Long is coming off another serious injury, and at this point can you really count on Long being able to complete an entire NFL season? Plus, you have a fragile Sam Bradford coming back in a make or break year for him. You have to protect Bradford.
11) Minnesota - Armani Cooper, WR, Alabama - Cordarrelle Patterson took a HUGE step back in 2014, and Greg Jennings is not getting any younger. The Vikings could be getting RB Adrian Peterson back and would love to give 2nd year QB Teddy Bridgewater another weapons.
12) Cleveland - DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville - The Browns have lost WR Josh Gordon for the entire 2015 season, and there a good chance that TE Cameron Jordan will not be returning either. You need weapons for QB Johnny Manziel or whoever the QB may be. DT is a possibility as well.
13) New Orleans - Shane Ray, DE, Missouri - Explosive pass rusher to help improve a bad Saints defense.
14) Miami - Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State- There is a very good chance the Dolphins will cut WR Brian Hartline & Brandon Gibson, and while Mike Wallace is not safe either, I think he will remain with Miami at least through the 2015 season. Ryan Tannehill needs a legitimate Red Zone and possible #1 wide receiver. A wide receiver core of Wallace, Strong and Juice Landry would give Miami a formidable trio. At 6'2, 217 lbs, Strong is that big, physical receiver the Dolphins want. A former basketball player with a 42" vertical leap, he is very good on the 50/50 balls and in traffic. Terrific hands and very productive his 2 years with the Sun Devils. 75 catches for 1,122 yards and 7 touchdowns earned him 2nd team All-Pac 10, and in his junior year he went for 82 catches for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns earning 1st team All-Pac 10 honors. There are questions about his speed, but he ran a 4.44 at the combine. Teams will need to take that into account. Here is a write up from NFLDraftScout.com.
STRENGTHS: Above average height, length and frame for the position. Physical presence to post up and secure 50-50 balls, doing a nice job in traffic. Balanced athlete with coordinated feet and body control to stay in rhythm. Not fast, but gets vertical with long, decisive strides. Smooth movements and body control to make acrobatic adjustments on the ball, using his long arms to create a large catching radius. Good leaping ability and attacks well in jump-ball situations, making highlight grabs look routine. Soft, but strong, magnet hands to finish. Outstanding feel on back shoulder throws, using his frame and focus well along the sideline. Power player and uses contact well in his routes. Physical after the catch to brush off defenders and fight for yards after initial contact. Has the frame/strength potential to develop his blocking abilities. Athletic bloodlines as the son of the late John Rankin, who was a stand-out basketball player at Drexel. Dependable and the hardest worker on the team, according to the Arizona State coaching staff. Durable body type and battles through injuries. Productive two years at the FBS level with a combined 157 catches.
WEAKNESSES: Unimpressive top-end speed and needs a few steps when accelerating, lacking a second gear downfield. Lacks dynamic athleticism or suddenness, struggling to consistently separate. Needs to speed up his eyes and hands to locate and adjust quicker. Will have some focus drops and misjudge the deep ball, fighting the ball when he allows it to get into his body. Still a work-in-progress as a route runner with a bad habit of tipping his path to defenders. Not as many yards after contact as his size would suggest. Wears himself out and will take some plays off. Minor durability concerns ? dealt with a nagging ankle injury as a sophomore (Oct. 2013) and missed one game as a junior (Nov. 2014) due to a concussion.
COMPARES TO: Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints ? The size/athleticism mix makes it tough on defensive backs to match up, especially when players like Colston and Strong use their power and frame.
15) San Francisco - Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon - Justin Smith is 35 years old and the 49ers have cut ties with Ray McDonald after his latest run in with the law. Armstead can help fill that void.
16) Houston - Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State - CB Kareem Jackson is a free agent and will be highly coveted. If the Texans lose Jackson, they will have a need.
17) San Diego -Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson- OL was an area I was considering until I saw the Chargers had re-signed OLT King Dunlap to a 4 year deal.
18) Kansas City - Landon Collins, SS, Alabama- Kansas City NEEDS a wide receiver badly after coming off a season with no wide receiver with a touchdown catch. But taking a receiver here would be a reach, so they address their secondary with Collins.
19) Cleveland - Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State - With their 2nd 1st round pick, the Browns look to address the DT position. DT Ahtyba Rubin is a free agent and Phil Taylor is heading into his free agent year.
20) Philadelphia - Jalen Collins, CB, LSU - CB Bradley Fletcher is a free agent and he was getting TOASTED on a regular basis anyway, so Philadelphia is not looking to bring him back. S Nate Allen is also a free agent, so they could look safety as well.
21) Cincinnati - T.J Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh - Both OT's Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith are entering the last year of their contacts, so taking Clemmings could be a smart move.
22) Pittsburgh - P.J Williams, CB, Florida State - The Steelers had a ton of injuries at the CB position last year, and the core is getting up there in age as well.
23) Detroit - Malcom Brown, DT, Texas - DT Ndamukung Suh and Nick Fairley are both free agents. and while it seems to be a decent chance they will keep Suh, Fairley most likely will move on. That opens up a void at DT.
24) Arizona - Bernardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State - ILB Larry Foote was released and is now part of the Cardinals coaching staff. The Cardinals look to get younger and bring in this big, athletic hammer of an ILB.
25) Carolina Panthers - Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami - This is a unit that took a step back and GM Dave Gettleman did a very poor job of replacing retired OLT Jordan Gross and retired OG Travelle Wharton. Carolina continues to process of rebuilding their offensive line with Flowers.
26) Baltimore - Marcus Peters, CB, Washington - The Ravens could go running back with Justin Forsett being a free agent, but the Ravens were savaged by injuries in the secondary last year and CB Jimmy Smith is going into his contract year. Peters has some issues off the field that need to be checked out, but he is a 1st round talent and worth the gamble late in the 1st round.
27) Dallas - Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington- Dallas adds a playmaker to a defense that wore down as the season went along, and Thompson would be a good fit for Rod Marinelli and the style of defense he plays.
28) Denver - Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota - The Broncos have not approaced free agent TE Julius Thomas about re-signing, as they are focused on free agent WR Demaryius Thomas. Peyton Manning likes to use his tight ends, and Williams has the making of a very good tight end.
29) Indianapolis - Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin- Trent Richardson has probably played his last game for the Colts and Ahmad Bradshaw has not been able to stay healthy. This pick makes a ton of sense for the Colts.
30) Green Bay - Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami, OH - CB Treman Williams and Davon House are free agents. This could become an area that Green Bay may need to address along with NT.
31) Seattle - Dorial Beckham-Green - The Seahawks wide receiver were totally SHUT DOWN in the Super Bowl, and were controlled in the NFC Championship game as well. WR Paul Richardson started to flash towards the end of the season before he tore his ACL. This is a Seattle type of pick on a kid with tremendous talent and ability, but who also has off the field issues that need to be looked into throughly in this new NFL.
32) New England - Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia - RB Shane Vereen is a free agent looking for 5M per season and is looking to test free agency. New England takes a chance on a big, talented kid coming off a torn ACL.
I probably could have thrown the TE's in with the WRs, but it's a long offseason, so on to the short section on tightends.
As of right now, the Dolphins have 3 main tight ends, Charles Clay, Dion Sims and Arthur Lynch.
He is still on the roster, but how long will he be on the roster, weeks or years. It's any ones guess right now, but the fact they haven't signed him yet makes you wonder how commited they are to Clay. As a tight end/H-back he creates mismatches in the passing game, he used also create mismatches in the blocking game, but not on the positive side. Clays has got better at blocking but will never be an inline blocker, he does enough to keep the other guy honest though, he will probably get a pretty big payday, will the Dolphins get in the mix?
Sims is the Dolphins traditional style tightend, a large inline blocking tightend that can also go out for some catches. A 4th round pick in 2013, Sims seemed to start getting comfortable around midseason of 2014, playing much more confidently and consistently down the stretch. Sims is a pretty good athlete so there is still room for growth as a receiving weapon. Dion Sims seems to have a long solid NFL career ahead of him.
Lynch is still a project, and is another more traditional style tightend. A 5th round pick in last years draft, he's a big kid who needs to get better in sevearl areas before he starts seeing more play time, and because he is a 5th round pick from last year he'll get at least one more year here to prove he's worth holding onto.
An undrafted free agent last year, Gator seemed to show a good deal of promise but was waived in Dec, will he be picked back up this offseason? There are also a couple of fringe prospects on the roster, no one of any note at this point, which makes me wonder about Hoskins rejoining the mix.
Plenty of questions surounding the tightend position, it all centers around one question though, will the Dolphins resign Charles Clay?
If they do, then there is no imediate need at the position, solid #1 and #2 tightends of different talents, and decent prospects/projects behind them. If they don't, what will the Dolphins plan be, to
A) Go with what they have because they have reason to belive that one or two of the prospects is going to take a step, or just simple cap reasons.
B) Draft one high.
C) Go after a mid to high priced FA.
or D) Go after a couple of under the radar FAs that you feel will thrive in your offense. It's anyones guess at this point.