Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Beej Knows Best! This week, our three-part series reaches a finale, with a projection for the top five overall picks in this year’s NFL draft. At this point of the season, in any sport, teams are able to place themselves in one of three categories: contenders, fringe playoff teams and bottom-feeders. For the last tier, the following question arises: Do we as an organization “encourage” poorer performance in order to guarantee a better draft selection?
I believe that each sport has its own reasoning. For the NFL, I believe that there is no excuse for tanking. In a sport that is so physical, with such a high risk of injury at any given moment, playing less than at full ability is downright dangerous. Additionally, because of the short schedule, attempting to play down is not only obvious and apparent, but it is also an easy way to ostracize a fan base.
Finally, because of the length and depth of the draft, there is not only the pressure to find quality players at the top.
Teams have been able to find stars and starters in every round, so the returns on the draft are predicated more on the decision-makers, rather than the position of the pick.
Needless to say, the Jets and I share this belief, after Rexy and Gang Green laid a beating on Big Ben and the Steelers. But I digress. To the draft!
1) Oakland Raiders: Leonard Williams, DT – University of Southern California
It seems as though the Raiders really like what they have gotten from Derek Carr thus far. I tend to agree with their assessment.
The Raiders are a screwed up organization, but they need to take small baby steps in the right direction to right the ship. A lot of it involves this pick.
After the success of Khalil Mack last year, people might not think that pass rush or front seven would be a concern. But the fact is, the Raiders are old along the defensive line and need to draft more game-changers in the trenches.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB – University of Nebraska
Thus far, the front seven of the Jaguars have actually been quite impressive. However, Red Bryant is 30, Chris Clemons is 33 and the rest of their starters are around 27 years old. Not super old, but not that young either. I am tempted to mock them, but after drafting Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee to join Cecil Shorts III last year, I believe that they will try to get younger and improve upon a strength, rather than add depth to a position where they are already very young.
Randy Gregory has shown versatility on tape, having lined up at all different positions pre-snap during his time at Nebraska. Considering that Gus Bradley was formerly the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, I would not be surprised to see him add to his war chest on that side of the ball.
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB – University of Oregon
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the midst of a full rebuild. They recently traded away Mark Barron, their 2012 sixth overall selection, for pennies on the dollar. Their former superstar running back Doug Martin has not been worth putting out on the field in the past two seasons. He is a bust.
Their two biggest acquisitions in recent memory, Carl Nicks (free agency) and Darrelle Revis (trade) are no longer with the team.
The Bucs need to start from scratch, and the best way to do so is to draft their franchise cornerstone. If they do take Mariota, look for them to try to bolster their overall offensive attack throughout the rest of the draft. Do not expect the Buccaneers to be in this position come next season.
4) New York Jets: Amari Cooper, WR – University of Alabama
This is exciting for me. Trying to peg the next superstar that will come to the Jets and help revitalize this franchise is the silver lining to what has been this season’s dark, heavy and engulfing cloud of grey. The common belief is that the Jets will clean house, and look to draft a quarterback with this pick.
However, I believe that if they cannot land Mariota, they will take the best talent in this draft. There is uncertainty about whether or not Percy Harvin will be back next season, and at what cost.
Adding Cooper into the mix of weapons that the Jets currently have would turn their receiving corps into one of the best in the league. After watching him carve up defenses this year, I believe that within a season or two his name will be in the same breath as Julio Jones, AJ Green, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas and the great Megatron.
There are big question marks about the off-field character of Jameis Winston. Personally, I am not turned away, but I understand the trepidation of NFL teams. Look for the Jets to nab the best football player in the draft at this selection.
5) Tennessee Titans: Jameis Winston, QB – Florida State University
The Titans have been cycling through quarterbacks like they are going out of style. It’s been a revolving door in Tennessee essentially since Steve McNair left. They have tried to plaster things together by drafting guys like Vince Young, Jake Locker and most recently, Zach Mettenberger.
Those are nice guys, but not franchise guys. Well, Young was, until he crashed and burned into a pile of cheese fries and gained weight. Despite the character concerns, Winston has proven over the past two seasons that he knows how to win. Even among the huddles and on the bench, you can see the winning attitude and leadership skills that are necessary in to succeed in the NFL. Ken Whisenhunt is an experienced head coach, and I believe that he will put Jameis under the right conditions to succeed as both an adult and an NFL player. Although there is risk, the reward is sky-high.
– By Jayson Patel