Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: C+ Grade
I'm going to lock this pick in. It's almost certain that the Buccaneers will select Jameis Winston. Of course, this was apparent months ago when Tampa refused to hire Marc Trestman as its offensive coordinator because the former Chicago coach wanted to take Marcus Mariota No. 1 overall.
I'm with Trestman on this one, and we've spoken to some teams that agree. Though Winston is the slight favorite amongst the league, I'd rather have Mariota, and the reasoning, as you may guess, has to do with the off-the-field issues. Some of Winston's problems have been overblown - the fact that he was suspended for shouting in the student union was ridiculous - but the Buccaneers really have to worry about Winston staying clean. I especially wonder what'll happen to him in Tampa's crazy (and underrated) party environment. I've joked about Mons Venus, one of the nation's most famous strip clubs, renaming its establishment to "Mons Jameis" for all the money he's going to spend there, but I sincerely believe that Winston may have trouble staying focused in his new home, much like one of his predecessors, Josh Freeman. And I'm not alone in this; someone I trust called Winston the "demon spawn of JaMarcus Russell and Johnny Manziel."
I can't give the Buccaneers a terrible grade because this selection could totally pan out. But if I'm investing the No. 1 overall pick into a player, I wouldn't want to be worried about what he's doing Monday through Saturday. Winston has told enough people that he has grown up and matured, and he has aced all of the pre-draft events, but we heard and saw the same exact thing from Manziel last year. Winston is much more talented than Manziel, but if he gets into trouble and can't stay on the field, what difference does it make?
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: A Grade
This was the right move all along. Marcus Mariota doesn't fit what Ken Whisenhunt ideally looks for in a quarterback, but talent should always trump any system, and Mariota definitely has the talent. Seen as a taller Russell Wilson, Mariota automatically takes the Titans out of the NFL cellar and will have them competing for a playoff spot as early as 2016. The Titans simply couldn't go into the 2015 season with Zach Mettenberger as their starting quarterback; otherwise, everyone would've lost their jobs after another poor year.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida: B+ Grade
There was a huge misconception amongst the media that Leonard Williams was the No. 1 player in this draft. Teams we spoke to said otherwise, and several franchises had Dante Fowler as the top prospect. This includes the Jaguars, and Charlie Campbell deserves credit for first reporting that Jacksonville was going to select him. The Jaguars have needed a pass-rushing LEO for quite some time now. They rightfully passed on Dion Jordan and perhaps wrongfully eschewed Khalil Mack, but I think they're getting it right with Fowler. He'll provide a big boost for their defense, which needs help to battle Andrew Luck (and also Marcus Mariota).
Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: B+ Grade
The Raiders were torn on Leonard Williams and Amari Cooper. Williams told them that he wanted to play for them, but that apparently didn't matter to Reggie McKenzie. I have no problem with the Cooper selection. Derek Carr is going to have a tough task in his sophomore campaign without offensive coordinator Greg Olson, so Oakland needed to compensate. Providing Carr with a legitimate No. 1 receiver makes a ton of sense; Carr really had nothing to work with after James Jones predictably busted.
Washington Redskins: Brandon Scherff, G/OT, Iowa: C Grade
Wow... with Leonard Williams available? I know Williams was slightly overrated by the media, but he should be the fifth-overall pick. Not a guard. I like Brandon Scherff a lot, and I think he'll be a solid player for the Redskins, but guards just don't have the same impact as a dominant defensive lineman. I'm not going to give the Redskins a "Millen," or anything, because they had to upgrade Robert Griffin's pass protection. However, spending the fifth-overall selection on a guard just doesn't seem like a smart idea. If anything, Washington should've moved down a couple of spots and snagged Scherff at No. 7 or 8.
New York Jets: Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC: A- Grade
Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson... and Leonard Williams!? Crazy. I can't blame the Jets for this, and I don't think it's a bad pick. On the contrary, I like it a lot. The Jets are taking the best player available, so there isn't much to complain about. Besides, there have been rumors floating around regarding New York trading Wilkerson. That may not happen now, but the Jets could deal him down the road. If they do, they won't have to worry about addressing a need on the defensive line. In the meantime, Williams can provide solid depth up front.
Chicago Bears: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: B+ Grade
This pick makes so much sense. The Bears traded away Brandon Marshall this offseason, leaving a big need at receiver across from Alshon Jeffery. White has the size Marshall had, and he's also a downfield threat. The issue with White is that he's considered a raw, one-year wonder, but the potential is too great, and it could be argued that he was the best player available. This is definitely a strong choice, though I'm a bit upset that the Chicago fans didn't boo like their Jet counterparts.
Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson: A Grade
This is an awesome pick. Vic Beasley had the talent to be a top-five selection, so the Falcons are getting a slight steal with the eighth-overall pick. Beasley also fits exactly what the Falcons were looking for from a scheme and athletic standpoint. Oh, and most importantly, he fills a huge need. The Falcons had absolutely no pass rush last year, which was disastrous in a division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and now Jameis Winston. Beasley was a pass-rushing monster for Clemson, and he should automatically improve Atlanta's defense.
New York Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami: B Grade
So much for Mel Kiper's assertion that no offensive linemen were worth taking at No. 9. Ereck Flowers is definitely worth the selection, and I'm not just saying that because he's a reader of the site. Flowers was the best pure tackle prospect in this draft, and I had him going No. 10 in my mock draft, so the range definitely makes sense. Flowers also fills a big need, as the Giants had to protect Eli Manning, who has been battered and bruised the past couple of seasons.
St. Louis Rams: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: B+ Grade
I ordinarily wouldn't be a fan of a team drafting a running back in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, but we've spoken to enough teams that were super high on Todd Gurley. In fact, one team considered him to be the next Jim Brown. If it wasn't for his torn ACL, Jacksonville probably would've chosen him at No. 3. Gurley definitely could be considered the top prospect available, so this is a solid choice. However, the need is questionable after Tre Mason looked so good last year. Still, I don't know what the Rams could've done otherwise. They wanted either Ereck Flowers or Brandon Scherff, but both were off the board.
Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: A- Grade
It was either Trae Waynes or DeVante Parker, and either would've made a ton of sense. But whereas Parker was the No. 3 receiver, Waynes was the top cornerback on the board. With that in mind, doesn't it seem like a huge steal that the Vikings were able to obtain the No. 1 corner in the draft with the 11th pick? This is a strong choice, as Waynes fills a need as a starter across from Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings had to find another corner to help them against all of the talented receivers on Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit.
Cleveland Browns: Danny Shelton, NT, Washington: B Grade
I always thought that Danny Shelton was a bit overhyped. He's a force in the middle, but it really worried me that he was gassed during the Senior Bowl. He'll be just a two-down defender, but to be fair, the Browns desperately needed to improve their run defense. They have to go up against Le'Veon Bell, Jeremy Hill and Justin Forsett twice per year, and they had a huge hole at nose tackle. I never bought him as a top-10 prospect, but he makes sense at No. 12.
New Orleans Saints: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford: B Grade
Andrus Peat looked shocked to be chosen at this spot, and I'm just as surprised. The Saints were projected to pick a defensive talent, so Peat is a bit of a shocker. I don't think it's a bad choice, however. Peat was projected to go between Nos. 10 and 19, so this is the right range for him. Protecting Drew Brees, especially as he enters his late 30s, is paramount, and Peat will definitely offer an upgrade on the offensive line.
Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker, WR, Lousville: A- Grade
The Rams and Vikings were considering DeVante Parker at Nos. 10 and 11, so this is a slight bargain for the Dolphins. Parker also fills a big need at receiver; Miami signed Greg Jennings, but he never factored into the decision of this selection. Ryan Tannehill already had his possession receiver in Jarvis Landry, but he had to have a legitimate No. 1 wideout at his disposal. Parker is projected to be a primary option, so I like this selection.
San Diego Chargers: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers: B- Grade
Chris Berman is gushing about this pick. I'm not as crazy about it. I don't know why the Chargers leapt the Texans and gave up a fourth-rounder in the process because the Texans were not going to take Gordon. Still, this is a somewhat decent choice, as Gordon will provide a big boost out of the backfield. The Chargers had no consistent running game with Ryan Mathews gone, so this definitely makes sense, as Philip Rivers needs all the help he can get as he enters the final years of his career.
Houston Texans: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest: B+ Grade
The Texans weren't going to select Melvin Gordon because they targeted Kevin Johnson all along, once they realized that Todd Gurley was not going to fall to them. We were advised to put Johnson in the top half of our mock drafts by several teams leading up to the draft. Johnson didn't get much buzz amongst the media because he wasn't a sexy name, but he's a very skilled cornerback and a very underrated prospect. He projects as a strong No. 2 corner across from Kareem Jackson once Johnathan Joseph moves on.