The months leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft were chock full of juicy rumors and rampant speculation. Just like always.
Two quarterbacks were expected to go at the top – one mired in off-field controversy that trumped the problems of Johnny Manziel a year prior, the other surrounded by stories that his former coach was stalking him like a jilted ex. A legitimate elite quarterback was supposedly looking for a way out of San Diego, while another high-profile QB was being pushed out of Chicago; Adrian Peterson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Michael Brockers were all bandied about as trade candidates; and at least three first-round prospects wondered how low they would fall because they chose to get high.
However, all that potential drama fizzled, leaving us with a very vanilla first round.
Despite trade rumors galore – Tennessee, Washington, the New York Jets, Chicago, St. Louis and Cleveland were all reportedly looking to make deals – the first move didn’t even happen until the Chargers traded up to 15 for running back Melvin Gordon. It was the first time since 2010 that there were no deals in the top 10. There was also nothing involving Chip Kelly and the Eagles, who, instead of moving everything but the Liberty Bell for quarterback Marcus Mariota, opted to stay put at 20, where they took receiver Nelson Agholor.
The biggest news of all ended up breaking before the draft had even begun, when it was reported that tackle La’El Collins of LSU had to leave Chicago to talk to police regarding a murder investigation in Baton Rouge. Expected to be a lock for the first round, his stock fell massively despite the fact that he is not considered to be a suspect in the case. So, in a sense, it would have been surprising if he was taken in the first round. He wasn’t.
Instead, fans were left watching teams make safe picks, opting to stay the course rather than roll the dice. At least they had Roger Goodell to boo. And since most teams stuck to the script, well, I’m going to do the same: Here are my takeaways from the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft – by the numbers.
Marcus Mariota, QB, 2nd overall pick by the Tennessee Titans: 181.7
There was a lot of talk that the Titans would deal their pick, because Mariota doesn’t fit Ken Whisenhunt’s “system,” but the truth is that it might not even really matter: He can fit the next coach’s system.
Mariota posted a passer rating of 181.7 during his Heisman-winning campaign with Oregon, including 42 passing touchdowns, 15 rushing touchdowns and only four interceptions. He has the numbers, the arm, the legs and the character you look for in a quarterback, and all you’d really ask is that Tennessee has patience with him and allows him to sit for a year to adjust to the pro game.
But, coming off of a 2-14 season and in search of an identity, there is reason to believe they’ll throw him directly into the fire – meaning Whisenhunt might not be around for Mariota’s sophomore season anyway.
Amari Cooper, WR, 4th overall pick by the Oakland Raiders: 693
That’s how many receiving yards Andre Holmes had for the Raiders last season, and it was the most on the team. Oakland should have been desperate to find a great receiver, but the truth is they haven’t even being looking all that hard.
Cooper is only the eighth receiver the Raiders have drafted in the first or second round in their history, and just the third since 1990. The previous two – Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jerry Porter – didn’t exactly pan out, but Cooper shouldn’t have that problem. He’s one of the very best receiver prospects of this century. With Derek Carr under center, he should top 693 yards by November.
Leonard Williams, DT, 6th overall pick by the New York Jets: $4,000,000
Coming into the draft, Williams was considered by many to be the best player available. The only reason that he wouldn’t be the first overall pick was because quarterback is a more valuable position than defensive tackle. At worst, Williams was predicted to fall no further than the Jaguars at three, or the Oakland Raiders at four.
But the most surprising “fall” of the draft was seeing Williams tumble past both Jacksonville, Oakland and Washington before being picked up by New York, even though they seem log-jammed on the defensive line.
The difference between being picked third and sixth should be roughly $4 million on your rookie deal. If Williams is great, then he won’t miss that money and he’ll make plenty on his next contract, but if he’s not, that’s a big chunk of change to have missed out on.
Todd Gurley, RB, 10th overall pick by the St. Louis Rams: 1 of 8
Since 2005, there have been eight running backs selected in the top 10 of the draft. One of those players is Adrian Peterson, a Hall of Fame back worthy of the high selection. The other seven? Proof that almost no back is worth taking that early in the draft.
Will Gurley buck the trend and make like AP, or find himself in the same world of hurt as the other seven guys: Cadillac Williams, Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden, C.J. Spiller and Trent Richardson?
The Rams clearly had Gurley as the highest player left on their board and took him despite his injury concerns, their crowded backfield (they already feature Tre Mason and Zac Stacy – for now), and having needs at offensive line, receiver and defense. Gurley may be a “can’t miss” prospect, but so were Bush and Richardson. It’s a surprising move for a team looking for their first winning season since 2003. Will Gurley get them there?
Arik Armstead, DE, 17th overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers: 3.3 Percent
The 49ers were smart to move down two spots in a deal with San Diego, gaining fifth- and sixth-round picks in the process, but a closer examination of general manager Trent Baalke’s recent selections should be cause for concern that those picks won’t do them any good. That includes Armstead, a 6-foot-7, boom-or-bust prospect who had four career sacks at Oregon and was very inconsistent on the line.
It seems Baalke believes his coaching staff can bring the best out of anyone he takes despite injury or inconsistency, but that was rarely even the case when Jim Harbaugh was around.
Over the last three drafts, San Francisco have taken 30 players, including three in the first round and four in the second. Out of those 30 guys, only one has started more than eight career games thus far: Eric Reid, the 18th overall pick in 2013. That’s just 3.3 percent of his last three draft classes.
The entire 2012 class is gone, as is their best pick in 2014, linebacker Chris Borland – who chose to retire. Their top pick last year, Jimmie Ward, was atrocious as a rookie. They’re hoping Armstead isn’t. Baalke practically needs him to work out immediately, or he’ll lose even more faith from an already bitter fanbase.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, 29th overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts: 6
That’s apparently how many weapons Andrew Luck needs to be successful after the Colts drafted another receiver on Thursday. After signing Andre Johnson in the offseason to complement T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Donte Moncrief, GM Ryan Grigson opted to take Dorsett over all of the offensive line prospects left. Why?
Why does Indianapolis do anything that they do? The only two times they seemed to get it right were the two times they did what anyone would have done: Draft Peyton Manning in 1998 and Luck in 2012. The latter move earned Grigson the Executive of the Year award, but has anyone checked his resume lately?
As good as Luck is, why does he need a speedy, 5-foot-10 receiver to stretch the field if he already has Hilton? And if Hilton were a threat to leave via free agency next year, are the Colts and their average defense in a position to pick Hilton insurance over an edge rusher?
Luck is good enough to make a third-round receiver look like a star, but there’s absolutely nothing he can do to help Indianapolis from giving up touchdowns on defense. Apparently there’s nothing the front office can do on that front either.