4 Questions: Middle of the First Round
So today is the day. Finally, after months of big boards, mock draft, anonymous scouts, and everything in between, we’ve finally reached day one of the 2015 NFL Draft. The draft is always fun to watch because it gives fans of every team a renewed sense of optimism that the player their team has just drafted is going to elevate them to the next level.
This is also the first year where we have graded every snap in the FBS, so we have a unique selection of data, and plenty of opinions about every player in the draft. In this edition of 4 Questions, Gordon McGuinness asks four of our analysts questions about each section of Round 1 of the draft.
The Top 10 picks were discussed here, now they look to the middle of the first round, picks 11-20:
1. The Cleveland Browns have the picks to move up into the Top 10 should they want to, but are they better staying put with picks No. 12 and 19, or should they try to trade up?
Michael Mountford: With two first-round picks, I think the Browns should stay put and use them to improve the talent around the team that out performed expectations last year. At pick No. 12 they are in a good position to pick up a top player, or grab the best of the second tier. If none of the top players drop, Henry Anderson is a player I would be looking at. Anderson lead all 3-4 defensive ends in this draft class with a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 12.1. At pick 19, I’m looking for a deep threat at receiver and, after leading the nation with 754 yards on deep passes, I’m staying in state and drafting Ohio State’s Devin Smith.
Matt Claassen: Unless the Browns are moving up to get Mariota (and I wouldn’t), I don’t think that there is a player worth moving up significantly to pick. The Browns are still more than just one player away and could benefit from two more first-round talents. If Danny Shelton, who had the fifth-highest grade against the run in this draft class last year, is still available at 12, he would be a much needed upgrade along the defensive line. At pick 19, either Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon would make sense. Both were excellent at forcing missed tackles, with 37 and 74 on the ground, respectively, keeping in mind Gurley missed most of the year. They could pair either of them with a solid offensive line and take some pressure off the quarterback, whoever that may be.
Thomas Maney: Like Matt said, unless they’re moving up for a quarterback, stay put and add two quality players. I’d look at the defensive interior where the Browns had just one player grade positively overall last season in John Hughes. Danny Shelton or Leonard Williams falling would make this an easy decision at 12. Otherwise, Stanford’s Henry Anderson would be a solid option – and he actually graded better than either Williams or Shelton. Receiver is another position where they can find value in the first round, and they have been linked with UCF’s Breshad Perriman. Though he dropped eight passes from 58 catchable balls in 2014, he also had 525 yards on deep passes, and would give them a much needed deep threat.
Mike Renner: The Browns have a fairly complete roster outside of quarterback without too many glaring holes, but that doesn’t mean you bet the farm on one player. Johnny Manziel is still as talented as he was a year ago when the Browns drafted him in the first round and I think you at least have to give him a shot. Give him some help at receiver and shore up the defensive line and if Manziel a colossal failure then you’ll be picking early enough next year to grab your franchise quarterback.
2. This section of the draft features several teams that need a wide receiver. Miami is likely to miss out on the Top 3 at the position, but who of that next group makes the most sense for them at pick No. 14?
MM: Miami needs wide receiver help but that doesn’t mean that they need to take one in the first round. It’s such a deep class of receivers that they can wait and still grab a quality player in Round 2 and beyond. The player who I want to see with Miami is Grady Jarrett, lets make a strength even stronger. With Suh, Earl Mitchell and Jarrett as the three-man rotation in the middle, to combine with the edge rushers of Wake and Vernon, the Dolphins could have one of the best and most dangerous defensive lines in the league, something they’ll need to get pressure on Tom Brady and the Patriots.
MC: The recent signing of Greg Jennings should buy the Dolphins some time where they don’t need to address the position in the first round, but it’s still a good option with the strength of this draft class. Out of the next group of receivers, I see Jaelen Strong is the best fit for Miami. Strong gives Ryan Tannehill a big, physical target who can go up and win contested passes. Tannehill has never had a receiver like that and the addition of a receiver like Strong might help Tannehill finally take that next step forward that Miami has been waiting for.
TM: After using a second rounder on Jarvis Landry last year and adding Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings this offseason, I’m not sure that’s a position they should be looking to address early on. I would consider an offensive lineman after Tannehill saw pressure on 38.4% of his snaps, the sixth-highest rate in the league. Miami took Ja’Wuan James on Day 1 last year, but he and every other offensive lineman outside of Branden Albert graded negatively in 2014.
MR: There is certainly talent to be had after the big three receivers, but the dropoff from receiver No. 4 to receiver No. 9 isn’t that drastic. Odds are the ninth-best receiver will still be on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock again at 47. With the recent signing of Greg Jennings though the Dolphins are in a position to ignore receiver altogether in the early rounds if they don’t see value there.
3. We haven’t seen a running back drafted in the first round recently, but with several teams here with a need at the position, does it makes sense for any of them to grab Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon here?
MM: I wouldn’t take Gurley or Gordon in the first round because I think you can find other running backs who will give you similar production without spending a first-round pick. I understand the desire to get one of these top two running backs, but with a shorter shelf life than most positions and the depth at running back in this year’s class I just don’t see it as good value.
MC: The draft class doesn’t have a full round worth of first round talent, so I think both Gurley and Gordon should be selected in the first. I wouldn’t take either at the top of this grouping, but the Chargers at 17 would be where I would start seriously considering both players. Teams might be able to get significant production in the second or third round from this class of running backs, but when you have players that are truly special like these two, you have to grab them.
TM: Running back might be the easiest position to find late round contributors and teams such as the New Orleans Saints have gotten great production with mid- to late-round players and undrafted free agents there. That said, we’ve seen the impact of having elite rushers like Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy, so I could get on board taking Gurley high, though preferably later in that pick range. Yes he’s coming off an injury, but let’s not forget that before the injury he had an Elusive Rating of 116.6, by far the highest in this draft class.
MR: The Chargers have been heavily linked to Todd Gurley and he has been described by some as a transcendent type running back talent, but I’m not going to be the team that takes that risk. The teams that are thinking about running back here would be better off shoring up their offensive line to solve their run game woes and picking up a running back from this deep class later. While Gordon and Gurley are highly rated, I’d be happier waiting and grabbing either Tevin Coleman or Ameer Abdullah, who’s Elusive Ratings of 73.7 and 71.3, respectively, weren’t that far behind Gordon’s 77.2.
4. There’s a number of directions the San Francisco 49ers could go at No. 15, including cornerback, wide receiver and defensive line, which way should they go?
MM: The 49ers have a quite a few needs to fill out a roster where that doesn’t have the depth it did a couple of seasons ago. This is an impressive wide receiver class, so I would be looking to find another WR to play across from Torrey Smith, who I don’t see as a true No. 1. They do have a need at cornerback, but this class doesn’t have a player I’d be comfortable taking this high.
MC: I think the 49ers will be in a good position here where the best players available could match up with needs at defensive line and wide receiver. The defensive line is certainly a concern, but with Colin Kaepernick’s regression, they need to once again give him more help. Nelson Agholor and Jaelen Strong, who averaged 2.27 and 4.06 Yards Per Route Run from the slot, respectively, could be two good players to target as eventual replacements for Anquan Boldin.
TM: I think you can make a strong case for any of those positions here. Henry Anderson or Grady Jarrett could be good fits on the interior to replace Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, though maybe they see Tank Carradine developing further to fill that void. Regardless, a player of Jarrett’s talents, he lead all defensive tackles in Run Stop Percentage and was third in Pass Rushing Productivity, makes a lot of sense here.
MR: Defensive line has been the 49ers’ calling card for much of recent memory. Their defensive success all started with Justin Smith & Co.’s ability to eat blocks, draw attention, and keep their All-Pro linebackers free. Now that’s in jeopardy and needs to be resolved. Henry Anderson, lead all 3-4 defensive ends in terms of Pass Rushing Productivity and was second in Run Stop Percentage, and would give them a very good all-around player at the position.