The Season is Here!
And thus, the draft class of 2015 finally has their chance to show the world what they’re all about on the biggest stage of them all. I felt it would be a good idea to single out 10 of the top prospects for this season, for those who maybe didnt follow the draft, or want a wider view on who they’ll be hearing about in the next 5 months. In no particular order
The Raiders acquired Amari Cooper as their first round pick at number 5. Fresh off an incredible season in Alabama, Cooper recorded 124 receptions in 14 games last year, for a total of 1727 yards and 16 Touchdowns. In a Raiders squad which couldnt catch a cold last season, he is viewed as one of their best chances of improving last seasons awful 3-13 record into something a little closer to 8-8. Various news outlets have praised Coopers attitude and footwork in training camp, and if he can get even half of last years college yardage, it will be a succesful rookie season.
Miami made 3 huge statements in the summer. First, they told Charles Clay that he wasnt worth the money that Buffalo offered him. Then, they backed Ryan Tannehill by giving him a huge, multi-year deal, and effectively confirming he will be the face of the franchise for years to come. And finally, they broke the bank to sign Ndamukong Suh in free agency. The departure of Clay, and taking Parker as a 1st round pick gives the impression that Miami will be looking for Tannehill to be going much deeper down the field this year. Parker’s college years were nowhere near as spectacular as Cooper in terms of total yardage or TD’s, but he was Mr Consistency, racking up an average of 17.8 yards per reception in his 4 years with Louisville. Miami clearly see him as the perfect complement to Greg Jennings, and to give Tannehill some legitimate deep threats
The only thing good to come out of Jacksonville in the past 5 years has been Jaxson De Ville, now sadly retired to the mascot farm in the sky. That however could change this season. The addition of Julius Thomas to give them a legitimate threat at Tight End, and the burgeoning partnership between Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson bodes well for Florida’s 3rd best team, and the addition of TJ Yeldon could provide a valuable alternative at Running Back if Denard Robinson fails to build on last seasons promising numbers. Yeldon was a key part of the steamroller that was the Alabama Crimson Tide last season, who’s run was surprisingly halted in the Sugar Bowl by the Ohio State Buckeyes. The dual threat of Yeldon on the ground, and Amari Cooper in the air, put up incredible numbers, and much like Cooper, if Yeldon can turn in even half of last years 979yds rushing and 11 TD’s , those will be reasonable numbers for the talented rookie.
Even in College football, you dont often get a single player who carries a team. And by carry, I mean scores over 35% of the teams yards single handedly. Last season, that was Melvin Gordon. A ridiculous 2,587 yards rushing and 29 rushing touchdowns made Gordon easily the star RB in terms of his stats for this years draft, and was only 41 yards short of the College record set by the legendary Barry Sanders. Yet he went in 15th place, and well behind the first RB to be picked, Todd Gurley. It remains to be seen if the Rams’ decision to pick Gurley over Gordon is justified, but after the Chargers lost Ryan Matthews to the Eagles in the summer, he has a great chance of displacing 1st choice Branden Oliver, who will have to build on his promising rookie season to keep Gordon behind him in the depth charts.
There wasnt much of a debate last year as to who the #1 overall pick would be. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman, but Jameis Winston was the guy everyone was talking about. Its not often that you get Rookie QB’s that come into the league and immediately displace the current QB, but given Tampa Bay’s horrible 2014/15 season, the need to draft something special was overwhelming. Winston’s numbers in his 2 years as a starter for Florida State were staggering. 4,057 yards and 3,907 yards are numbers that, if an NFL QB put them up, we would be arguing if he was the GOAT. The discussion before the NFL Combine last year was that the mechanics of his throwing were superior to more than a few of the current starting QB’s in the NFL. The Bucs were not taking any kind of gamble here, their QB situation could not have gotten any worse unless they signed Tebow in free agency, or traded for Manziel. The 59-20 defeat in last years Rose Bowl was Winston’s only loss all year as starter, and with both taking over starting berth’s at their respective teams, you can bet that rivalry is going to be rekindled.
The other half of this season’s QB 1-2 draft, Mariota was a sensation last year. Throwing an incredible 4,454 yards over the season, and beating Winston to the Heisman Trophy, many pundits were predicting he might sneak ahead of Winston in the draft, but almost all were predicting that they would be a 1-2 tandem. In the end, the Bucs went for Winston and Mariota found himself heading to the Titans. With Zack Mettenberger having a solid but injury plagued season, and Jake Locker announcing his retirement unexpectedly, the Titans depth chart at QB was thin to say the least. In Mariota, they may have found the guy to restore some credibility to their offence. The Titans need him to succeed, and Roger Goodell needs him not to win anything, so he doesnt have to mispronounce his name again.
What do you want in a Tight End? 6’4? Check. 250lbs? Check. Catches TD’s? Check. Beats people up? Check. Williams is the prototypical quick, strong, heavy but mobile Tight End, and the pick of this years candidates in the position. Coming out of Minnesota, and looking like a classic Corn-Fed farm boy, Williams has all the tools to succeed at the Ravens, but he will have to muscle his way past Crockett Gilmore to get the starting berth. Gilmore though, is coming off a less than spectacular rookie year, and it might be he ends up sharing a lot of snaps with Williams rather than having the position outright.
The 2015 draft saw a lot of Wide Receivers being drawn in the first round. Partly this was due to the Mariota/Winston situation creating a statistical situation where wideouts were putting up stats not seen for years, and part of it was down to, as discussed in the podcast, the league becoming very Wide Receiver heavy. Smith is one of the major beneficiaries of this, being one of the main receivers for Mariota at Ohio State last year. Despite picking up 25 less catches than Michael Thomas, Smith was able to do a lot more with them, averaging 28.2 yards per reception. Viewed as a safe pair of hands, and coming into a Jets team rebuilding its wide threat with the acquisition of Brandon Marshall, he has every chance of sneaking in under the radar and taking the 2nd spot in the depth chart from an underperforming Jeremy Kerley.
As touched on earlier when mentioning Melvin Gordon, Gurley was the first RB selected in this years draft. After 3 seasons of solid numbers at Georgia , Gurley declared for the draft this year, and is viewed by the Rams as a game changer for their under-performing backfield. Tre Mason’s rookie year saw him rack up 765 yards, but pick up some niggling injuries. Gurley starts the season similarly injured, so whether he comes in as the starter when he returns, or shares a lot of carries with Mason to provide a dual threat. Either way, the Rams have placed a lot of faith (and at $14m over 4 years, a lot of cash as well) in Gurley being around for the duration.
Ive left the best till last. Yes, Im biased. Yes, Agholor was the 4th drafted Wide Receiver in the first round, but holy shit, he has looked in pre-season like he was undoubtedly the best. Having to receive from 4 QB’s in pre-season , Agholor seems to have learned Chip Kelly’s route’s in a heartbeat. Whilst the focus was all on the QB’s , Agholor has been able to slip into the Eagles offence quietly, almost unnoticed except by the fans. A slot receiver rather than someone who can blow past opposing cornerbacks, Agholor is the classic Chip Kelly player, intelligent and versatile, he will compete not only for the WR2 spot, but also for the Punt returners job with Darren Sproles.