Join Date: Apr 2008
Re: Mel Kiper on 2015 draft
Top 10 questions for 2015 draft
1. Would the Oakland Raiders select Oregon QB Marcus Mariota with the No. 1 overall pick?
Todd McShay: In this scenario the winless Raiders would really have a tough decision to make, and there are the key variables of whom the front office and coaching staff will be made up of at the time of this pick. But despite the presence of 2014 second-rounder Derek Carr on the roster, I definitely don't think you can rule out the Raiders selecting Mariota -- or possibly even Florida State QB Jameis Winston -- with the top overall pick.
I can certainly understand the argument for why Oakland should use that pick to either get an elite player at another position or deal it for multiple picks, in order to give Carr a chance to prove himself as the franchise QB with a better supporting cast around him. He has had very little help this season, and almost any rookie quarterback would struggle in that situation.
But I also think the scouting report is out on him, and that he's having problems with the same areas I saw of him on tape when evaluating him for the draft: If you can get pressure in his face and lay some hits on him, he has a hard time handling it, and even though he has a strong arm, his deep accuracy isn't consistent enough. His performance has been getting worse as the season has gone on, not better.
What makes Mariota special as a prospect (he's currently No. 2 on our board) is his combination of throwing ability and mobility both inside and outside the pocket, and the team that drafts him is going to need to do a good job early of taking advantage of his athleticism and masking his relative inconsistency with ball placement from inside the pocket. Getting him an offensive coordinator who has experience doing this will be key.
2. Is Jameis Winston a lock for the top 10?
Mel Kiper: He's not a lock, but I would suspect he would land there. Look, I think Winston is a brilliant talent with a vast skill set and preternatural instinct for the quarterback position. Beyond that, there's something many don't realize, which is that he has a really special ability to learn information, retain it and apply it quickly. And regardless of how you think Florida State has looked this year, I don't think there's any question the guy has a special ability to rise to the occasion -- a "winning" QB can be overstated, but you could apply that label to Winston and not get any weird looks.
But there are questions:
1. Obviously, maturity is a question mark, and if the draft were tomorrow, that would be the No. 1 debate going on with teams. Can we trust this guy at a position we prioritize above all others, in a league where off-field behavior is under the microscope to a greater degree than ever?
2. It's absurd to say Winston's play has fallen off this year. What has happened is he's struggled more as his protection has struggled. He's already thrown more INTs than last year, his QBR is down eight points, and he's had a couple of really bad stretches in games. While he's still been very good, what will happen is you'll have some fair analysis on whether he's a great player who is going to get a lot better, or whether he's a great player who's closer to his ceiling than most players his age.
These are the questions that make it so he's no lock for the top 10. But my sense is he'd still land in that range.
3. Would Todd Gurley be a first-round pick?
McShay: Yes, I think he would be. I would have a hard time justifying using a first-round pick on a running back, given the current value at that position and how successful teams have been at finding productive options in later rounds, and to do so I think the back needs to be a complete player who can be a true difference-maker. Gurley fits the bill.
I've had two NFL scouts who cover the Southeast region tell me that Gurley and Alabama WR Amari Cooper are the best players in their area. Gurley can create yards on his own with both power (running over guys and churning out extra yards at the end of runs) and speed (he's slippery enough to make some guys miss in the hole, but more important he has the acceleration and breakaway speed to run away from defenders), and he can help out an NFL team in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield.
We currently have him ranked in the top 10 of our board, and while I wouldn't say with any certainty that he'd go in the first half of the first round (again, based on positional value), I do think he'd be a first-round pick if the draft were tomorrow. His recent suspension for accepting money for autographs has no bearing on his draft stock.
4. Which of the teams with three wins or fewer would consider taking a QB in Round 1?
Kiper: Based on the current standings, we're talking about a whole bunch of teams. So I'll break it into two groups.
Wouldn't: I'll exclude Carolina unless something crazy happens and Cam Newton isn't back -- but something crazy won't happen. Regardless of how Chicago is feeling about Jay Cutler right now, the reality is his contract is keeping him around (and they have other gaping holes to fill on defense anyway). The Giants are out, and so are the Redskins. Atlanta isn't taking a QB, and of the teams who could be in range for No. 1 overall, I'll go ahead and say neither Jacksonville nor Oakland will take a QB even if they have one of the top few picks and could get Marcus Mariota (although Todd disagrees with me on that regarding Oakland -- see question No. 1).
Bottom line: Mariota is a special talent, and so is Winston, but neither of these guys are Andrew Luck. Neither comes with that kind of a guarantee. In either case the money is on them continuing to develop the guy they drafted last year.
Would: In Tampa Bay I certainly think a QB could be in play. Josh McCown is a career backup, and Mike Glennon is the draft pick of previous decision-makers. The Jets obviously would have to consider a QB in Round 1. The luster has come off Geno Smith even though that pick was a calculated and inexpensive risk. The Titans might have something in Zach Mettenberger, but if the stretch run is messy you certainly can't say they wouldn't look. Mettenberger is a negligible cap hit for another three years, so he's already priced liked a backup if that's what they feel he is. And we can't rule out the Rams. That's the definition of a team being held back by the QB position -- with talent elsewhere but total uncertainty at that spot.
5. What is your favorite potential prospect-team match in the first round?
McShay: Mariota and the Philadelphia Eagles. I know that this is the obvious answer, and it's also a long shot (for colleague Mike Sando's explanation for how it could come together, click here) because of what it would take for Philly to move up from a pick that would presumably be in the mid- to late-20s into the top five to get Mariota, and also because the Eagles still have both Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez on the roster -- two guys who have been effective for them.
But I still think it would be an excellent match because while Chip Kelly doesn't need to have a mobile quarterback for his offense to succeed in the NFL, having one would allow him to use the entirety of his offensive menu. There would obviously be a comfort level there with Kelly having coached Mariota before, and he is one of the best players (if not the best overall player) in the entire draft.
6. Which prospects would merit consideration with the No. 1 overall pick?
Kiper: Right now I'd give you four. Again, this is if the draft were tomorrow and takes into account only what we know right now ...
Marcus Mariota: The top quarterback on the board, and if you're a team drafting No. 1 overall, you're quite likely not getting even league-average play at the position. That said, the Raiders and Jags could be in the picture for No. 1, which would rule out Mariota and bring some other names into the equation, with a common theme. (Again, Todd disagrees with me on the Raiders.)
Leonard Williams: The scheme-versatile, 290-pound defensive lineman from USC plays with relentlessness and awareness, will disrupt the pass and run game, occupy blockers and make defenders around him better. There isn't an NFL team who wouldn't be made better by having him on the roster.
Randy Gregory: The long and explosive pass-rusher from Nebraska is another player who spikes in value because he's such a special athlete and has the ability to succeed in virtually any system.
Shane Ray: Again: scheme versatile. Ray has a pass-rushing skill set that plays anywhere, and he's a great athlete.
I don't have an offensive lineman who I'd consider at No. 1 right now, and it's simply out of the range of anybody else when you consider what else is available further down the board. And Winston? Maybe he's back in that range in April -- it wouldn't surprise me at all, in fact -- but in this scenario we're drafting tomorrow.
7. Which teams would consider trading up to draft a QB?
McShay: In this scenario, the Raiders wouldn't need to trade up, because they have the No. 1 pick as the NFL's only winless team. But I do think they'll at least consider drafting a QB. I agree with Mel that the Bucs, Jets, Titans and Rams could all be looking to draft a QB, and each could consider moving up the board a couple of spots to do so (especially with it looking right now like there are only two first-round-caliber talents in Mariota and Winston).
I also think the Eagles are a possibility to go up and get Mariota, as I wrote in response to the earlier question, and the other two that are possibilities are the Bills and the Texans. Buffalo is without its first-round pick, having shipped it to Cleveland to move up and draft Sammy Watkins this year, so the Bills will have limited firepower with which to orchestrate a deal.
The Texans are about to find out what they have in Ryan Mallett, but their investment in trading for him was minimal, so his presence on the roster does not keep them from trying to draft a QB. Arizona is an intriguing team to watch following Carson Palmer's season-ending injury, but I know the Cardinals really like Drew Stanton -- more than the public might think -- and they signed Palmer to an extension just before his injury. So I'd be surprised to see them make a big move up the board.
8. Who would be the first WR drafted?
Kiper: Amari Cooper of Alabama would be the first wide receiver taken, and he'd be pushed by DeVante Parker of Louisville. I have Kevin White moving up on my Big Board this year, but he's not quite the sure thing either of those two are yet.
Cooper gets the nod because he has such a complete skill set, and the work ethic to match it. He's put up incredible numbers at Alabama even though every defense knows the ball is coming his way, and he does that because he's a gifted technician when it comes to route running, recognizing defensive looks and where space can be found, and he's underrated in his ability to turn a 5-yard catch into a 25-yard gain. Parker will push him because he's got that big catch radius as a long-armed, 6-foot-3 target who can stretch the field and beat most defenders to a high point for the ball. Maybe White gets into the mix, but he's not nearly as consistent as Cooper, and not quite as difficult a matchup as Parker.
9. Which team is the most intriguing to you?
McShay: I'm going to go with the Rams for this one. They have done a really good job acquiring talent in recent drafts, and I think that they're a quarterback away from being a legitimate playoff team. The defense is loaded with Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Chris Long (although he's currently on IR), Kendall Langford and Alex Carrington up front, Alec Ogletree at linebacker and Janoris Jenkins, E.J. Gaines and Marcus Roberson in the secondary.
They're a pretty young team that could have had a breakout season this year -- but their season was over as soon as Sam Bradford went down with a torn ACL. I was among the people who believed that Bradford could be the guy for them, but at this point you just can't trust him to stay healthy. Will they be able to draft a guy like Mariota or Winston to be the answer for them? I'll be interested to see if they can acquire their missing piece at QB.
10. Who would be in the mix for the Jets, assuming they had a top-five pick?
Kiper: I immediately have to take cornerback out of the mix even though that might be their No. 1 need. If the Jets were dead-set on spending a first-round pick on a CB (and they won't be), this isn't the range to find one. Right now I'd focus on two positions of need where the value actually lines up.
The Jets need a quarterback, and because of that Mariota is clearly in the mix. And given that need, they'd certainly have to take a hard look at Winston. Is he the right player for the scrutiny that comes with playing in New York? I don't know. But he can play the position, and that's the issue for the Jets.
Secondly, I'm considering either Gregory or Ray. The Jets are getting close to nothing from their pass rush at outside linebacker, and it's not a problem confined to this year. A potent edge-rusher would be fantastic to pair with that special talent they already have on the interior of the defensive line.
If you wanted a long-shot pick, I suppose you could consider a wide receiver such as Cooper or Parker. They now have Eric Decker and Percy Harvin, but I still think they could use another WR. If they felt the QB problem was best solved outside of the draft, it's a position they could at least look at.