Day 1 of the 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone, and it was a barnburner full of winners, losers and plain old headscratchers. Jameis Winston went first overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Todd Gurley went tenth to the St. Lous Rams. On the whole, it was a big day that gives fans plenty of reasons to be excited for Day 2 tomorrow.
That said, let’s cut to the chase and see just which squads walked away winners and worse for the wear after a fiery first day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
This team desperately needed to hit a home run to kick Year 2 of the Lovie Smith Era into overdrive, and GM Jason Licht made sure of that in selecting former Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston.
Now, many of you devoted readers may know that I have been harshly critical of Winston’s character issues away from the playing field, but talent is talent and this is a great pick for Tampa Bay. Winston threw for 7,964 yards and 65 touchdowns in two years in Tallahassee, and also took home a national championship two seasons ago. For the first time since the Brad Johnson years, the Bucs finally have a QB that can truly be called their quarterback of the FUTURE, especially after four and a half inconsistent seasons with Josh Freeman under center.
Throw in the fan base that’s already built in, and this pick looks even better.
Like the Bucs, the Raiders had a hole at wide receiver that needed to be filled ASAP, despite the fact that this year’s draft class is incredibly deep at the position. In taking Alabama’s Amari Cooper, second year quarterback Derek Carr actually has a legitimate weapon at his disposal on top of veteran James Jones and former San Francisco 49er Michael Crabtree.
Cooper won the Fred Biletnikoff Award this year as the nation’s most outstanding receiver, as he pulled in 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide in 2014. In three years with the team, he had 228 receptions for 3,463 yards and 31 scores.
Granted, Cooper is going to need some time to adjust to the professional level and probably won’t put up eye-popping numbers as a rookie, but he has a great veteran head coach in Jack Del Rio and a solid quarterback throwing to him in Carr. He has great hands and the overall skillset to succeed in the NFL and if you ask this Raiders fan, it’s going to be a fine season in the Bay Area.
San Diego Chargers:
As excellent as quarterback Philip Rivers has been since offensive guru Mike McCoy took over as head coach in 2013, the Chargers’ running game has left something to be desired. The team ranked 30th in rushing offense last season and it was clear that it was time to move on from the inconsistent Ryan Mathews.
Thus, San Diego swapped picks with the San Francisco 49ers and took an incredibly dynamic running back in Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. In the blink of an eye, this team’s offense is going to be highly improved after finishing 18th in the NFL last year.
Gordon gives the Chargers a running back who can not only pound the ball forward with great athleticism, but also adds another weapon in the passing attack. On top of rushing for a nation-best 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns last year, Gordon also caught 19 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Combine that with his fine size for the position at 6’0″, 215 pounds, and San Diego now has a running back who, if healthy, can be a Jamaal Charles-like player who makes a tremendous impact.
The Jaguars entered the draft with two options in Round 1: shore up the pass rush or get second year gunslinger Blake Bortles a receiver. Defense-minded head coach Gus Bradley and GM Dave Caldwell opted to go with the former and selected former Florida Gator Dante Fowler, Jr.
Though Fowler played defensive end in college, his 6’3″, 261 pound frame has him better suited as an outside linebacker in the NFL. In Bradley’s hybrid system, he’ll likely play both positions in some way, shape or form.
No matter where he plays, Fowler’s explosive style of play will be a blessing for a Jacksonville pass defense that finished 22nd in the NFL last season. This young man registered 33.5 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in college, and has all the necessary tools to be a Chandler Jones-esque player in the NFL. So long as he isn’t expected the carry the load all by himself, Jacksonville will be very satisfied with its investment.
Atlanta was in desperate need of a pass rusher, and the team could not have asked for a better man to plug into new head coach Dan Quinn’s system than Clemson’s Vic Beasley. Over the last three seasons, Beasley registered an eye-popping 33 sacks for the Clemson Tigers.
On top of that, the Falcons can now instantly improve off of last year’s disappointing season, in which they finished 6-10 in the NFC South and dead last in passing defense. Beasley has the size for the position at 6’3″, 246 pounds and is the definition of explosive, so both Falcons front office and fans should look forward to what the future holds.
We kick off the Loser Lounge with one of THE most boneheaded decisions I have ever seen in all my years of following the NFL Draft, when the Redskins chose to use a Top 5 pick on an offensive lineman when defensive monsters Leonard Williams and Vic Beasley were available along with wide receiver Kevin White.
GM Scot McCloughlan chose to use his first ever draft pick as Redskind GM on Iowa O-lineman Brandon Scherff rather than a defensive player who could have taken the team’s defense to the next level. Oddly enough, it was reported earlier in the day that McCloughlan was looking to trade down unless the aforementioned Dante Fowler was available. Rather than go after someone like Williams or Beasley, he chose to use the fifth pick on a dime-a-dozen position rather than someone who could make a legit impact on the other side of the ball.
I understand that having effective offensive linemen is important, but the point of the draft is to take the BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE. In this case, Washington did the exact opposite.
Baltimore was hurting at wide receiver after losing deep threat Torrey Smith in free agency, but selecting Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman was just a bad decision when the secondary needed priority attention. With guys like Alabama safety Landon Collins and UConn corner Byron Jones still on the board, GM Ozzie Newsome opted to use the first round pick on a position that could have been covered with any of Baltimore’s ten picks this season, given the depth at receiver in this year’s class.
Now, barring a great pick tomorrow or over the rest of the weekend, Baltimore has done nothing to improve a pass defense that finished 23rd in the league last year. This could end up being a great pick and Newsome could end up looking like a draft genius once again, but it just looks like he jumped the gun on filling one hole when a bigger one needed more attention.
St. Louis Rams:
The Rams picked Georgia running back Todd Gurley with the tenth pick, and this one is just head-scratchingly puzzling. Sure, St. Louis finished 20th in rushing offense last season and needs an offensive makeover as a whole, but this selection should have been used to get new quarterback Nick Foles a receiving target.
Instead, the team now has a crowded backfield featuring Gurley, second-year man Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham as well as Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy. Pead will likely be cut and Stacy has already requested a trade, but the fact that GM Les Snead didn’t think to draft a guy like Louisville’s DeVante Parker or immediately start trying to trade down (at least it didn’t seem obvious) the moment West Virginia’s Kevin White went to the Bears at No. 7 is just plain odd. Now, it appears that the Rams will roll with a receiving corps that features Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and 2013 draft bust Tavon Austin, none of whom is a top receiving threat. Maybe head coach Jeff Fisher wants to focus the offensive attack on the running game.
Either way, this was a bad move for the Rams in that they now have a half-decent quarterback under center for the first time since Marc Bulger, and no No. 1 receiving threat for him to enjoy. A trade could still happen but as it stands now, this move keeps St. Louis in this writer’s loser column after Day 1.
With the 29th pick, the Colts would have been wise to just draft an offensive lineman to give quarterback Andrew Luck some more protection. Instead, GM Ryan Grigson opted to spend his selection on Miami Hurricanes receiver Phillip Dorsett.
Now, I’m not saying that Dorsett isn’t talented. After all, he did catch 36 passes for 871 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and fits this new trend of “small and speedy wins the race” receivers as he stands 5’10”, 185 pounds. That being said, why does this pick make the Colts one of Day 1’s losers?
Well, let’s start with the fact that the Colts already have that kind of receiver in T.Y. Hilton, who posted an incredible line of 82 catches for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Throw in second-year man Donte Moncrief and newly signed veteran Andre Johnson, and there really isn’t a place to put Dorsett.
The only way the move makes sense is if Grigson doesn’t plan to extend Hilton, whose contract expires at the end of the upcoming season. That is just a bad decision, and so was drafting Dorsett at No. 29.
The story of the week was that the Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly were working hard to trade up in the draft so that they could draft Oregon QB and former Kelly pupil Marcus Mariota. No such trade happened (yet), and Philly opted to go with USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor despite having greater needs on defense, specifically in the secondary.
Granted, Agholor had a fine season with the Trojans in 2014, catching 104 passes for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he isn’t particularly explosive at just 6’1″, 190 pounds. Yes, the Eagles had a hole to fill at wideout after Jeremy Maclin left in free agency but as I mentioned many times before, that position is incredibly deep in this class and using a first round pick on one was far from a necessity for teams needing a pass-catcher.
In this particular case, someone like Landon Collins would have been a better fit. Kelly had better hope that a solid defensive secondary player is available when the Eagles pick on Day 2, otherwise his first year making roster decisions is going to have a lot of people wishing that someone with more front office experience had made the decisions this draft season.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports