I've had the pleasure of doing a lot of scouting and draft research for The Phinsider since joining the team in September 2011. My role as a draft analyst has slowed down a great deal the past two years, but I still love taking a shot a projecting what will happen on draft night.
This year, I've further consolidated my approach to only include the draft's top 14 selections. Why? Well, the Dolphins own the No. 14 selection, so I need to mock all of the picks preceding theirs in order to project Miami's course of action. Also, it's just easier this way! My days of projecting the entire first round are over until the Dolphins finish a season with the No. 32 pick. Hey, I dare to dream!
All of that said, here's my take on what will shake out tonight. Complaints and grievances in the comment section below. Compliments welcome, too.
1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
The obvious selection at this point. On-field ability isn't a question with him.
2) Tennessee Titans - Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
Count me in the group of people who like Mariota more than Winston. I do think Leonard Williams is in play if the Titans hold on to this pick; however, I believe some team--Philadelphia?--will do what is necessary to trade up for this selection.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars - Leonard Williams, DT Southern Cal
Williams isn't the LEO rusher many believe Jacksonville will take with this pick, but that's OK. He's only the best defensive player in this draft, and arguably its best overall football player, too. Not a bad get at No. 3.
4) Oakland Raiders - Amari Cooper, WR Alabama
Amari Cooper or Kevin White? Tough choice, though I believe Cooper's polish and complete skill set will win out. Oakland needs to find quarterback Derek Carr a receiver he can depend on. Fortunately for silver and black, Cooper is the American Express of this year's receiver class. "Don't leave home without him, Reggie McKenzie."
5) Washington Redskins - Dante Fowler Jr., OLB/DE Florida
No more Brian Orakpo in Washington means the Redskins need to get a fellow pass-rusher across from Ryan Kerrigan sooner rather than later. Fowler is a ridiculous prospect who will have an opportunity to run amok in the NFC East.
6) New York Jets - Todd Gurley, RB Georgia
The Jets could use this pick on a receiver or an offensive lineman, but I see them as incapable of resisting a running back with Todd Gurley's level of speed, power and vision. His presence should take some heat off quarterback Geno Smith, but will that be enough to spark NYJ's offense? Hard to say.
7) Chicago Bears - Kevin White, WR West Virginia
This pick might feel a bit aggressive, as the Bears are still in the midst of rebuilding and replenishing an absolutely miserable front-seven on defense. Nevertheless, new head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase can further endear themselves to quarterback Jay Cutler by bringing in a monster receiving weapon like Kevin White. Speed, hands, power forward ability--it's all there with him.
8) Atlanta Falcons - Vic Beasley, OLB Clemson
Beasley doesn't have the ideal length to play in Dan Quinn's LEO rush scheme, but he certainly has the motor, first step and insane closing speed necessary to breathe new life into the Falcons' pedestrian pass-rush. Works for me.
9) New York Giants - Brandon Scherff, OT/G Iowa
One of the few no-brainer picks in this draft ... or is it? Without over-analyzing this selection, Scherff just has the look and feel of a player who belongs with the Giants. His versatility along the line helps his cause, too.
10) St. Louis Rams - DeVante Parker, WR Louisville
Nick Foles is the new quarterback in town, and what better way to instill confidence in your quarterback than by getting him a bona fide No. 1 receiver? Parker is the real deal, and the Rams' offense will be, too, with him on the perimeter.
11) Minnesota Vikings - Trae Waynes, CB Michigan State
Head coach Mike Zimmer has done great things with the Vikings' defense in very little time, and Waynes would help top off what has become a very potent, fast, physical secondary in Minnesota. Waynes' lack of physicality is a concern; his berserk-level recovery speed is not.
12) Cleveland Browns - Danny Shelton, NT Washington
Shelton has value as a 0- or 1-technique at the next level, and he'd help the Browns sew up what has been an extremely porous run defense the past few years. He also brings a bit to the table as a pass-rusher, which is nice.
13) New Orleans Saints - Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE/OLB Kentucky
This is one of the trickier picks within the top 14, as New Orleans needs new blood in both the front seven on defense and Drew Brees' once-mighty, now-bare receiver corps. So where do the Saints go here? My money is on a powerhouse pass-rusher who can rejuvenate defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's scheme. Dupree is just that--big and fast enough to play standing up or with his hand in the ground, and a real steal at No. 13 overall.
14) Miami Dolphins - Kevin Johnson, CB Wake Forest
Johnson isn't the receiver most Dolphins fans hope for, but he would represent the next generation of perimeter defenders in Miami. Long, fluid, fast and very good from a technical standpoint, Johnson has slowly worked his way up draft boards despite knocks against his Combine 40 time and willingness to step up and take on the run. No matter, his game speed on tape jumps out, and he has the potential to be a shutdown star in Miami.