The 2015 NFL Draft is nearly upon us. Mock drafts are flying, speculation is running rampant, and general managers are calmly arranging their draft boards….or throwing smoke screens.
The gear up happens every year but things get particularly hectic in these final couple of weeks.
While the players get all the attention during the draft, what really matters is whether or not that player can fit in with the team he is joining and how he helps that team succeed. A player like the Oakland Raiders’ Khalil Mack can make a massive impact. Mack has taken over his position and is a dominant force on his team. The Raiders can be built around a guy like that.
For every home run like Khalil Mack, however, there are big swings and misses.
For the teams sitting at the top of the 2015 NFL Draft, they need to hit a home run. They need a player like Mack (drafted fifth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft) who can come in and be a foundation player and really own his position. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Raiders, and Washington Redskins, a top five pick can make the franchise. A bust can be a weight around their necks for years.
Here’s how the teams will be drafting in the 2015 NFL Draft:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tennessee Titans
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Oakland Raiders
- Washington Redskins
The Raiders and Jaguars find themselves drafting in the top five for the second year in a row. The Bucs drafted at seventh overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Titans (11th overall in 2014) and Redskins (no first round pick in 2014) are coming at least one season removed from the top five. The Redskins’ lack of a pick is a great example of how swinging and missing can affect a franchise detrimentally for years. The St. Louis Rams held their second overall pick in 2014 after the Redskins threw everything to get quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2012. He needs to seriously improve after floundering the last couple of seasons. The ‘Skins came away losing valuable picks and with a mediocre quarterback in the 2012 NFL Draft.
For the 2015 NFL Draft, these teams need to find a Pro Bowl caliber player. Whether it’s Leonard Williams, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Dante Fowler Jr., or Amari Cooper, these five spots represent the future for these teams. In the 2014 NFL Draft, four first round players went to the Pro Bowl. None of them were drafted in the top 10. The 2013 NFL Draft has yielded five Pro Bowl players. None of them were drafted in the top 10. 2012 is the most successful year for top of the round picks with three of the first five going to the Pro Bowl, constituting half of the six Pro Bowlers from that first round. Most notably, the Jaguars have picked in the top five of every one of those drafts and have zero Pro Bowl players from them.
As humorous as it is to mock teams like the Raiders for their big first round busts, or to mock teams like the Jaguars for always picking near the top and still failing to get wins, or to mock teams like the Redskins who have fallen so low again after being a contender just a couple years ago, these teams can and will find success. Blue chip players don’t have to be Pro Bowlers. They can be 10+ year starters. They can be quietly doing very professional work that simply doesn’t get noticed. While you certainly want a guy like Jameis Winston or Leonard Williams to get noticed, it’s hopefully because they are turning in great performances and not shaping up to be the next big bust.
The 2015 NFL Draft offers an opportunity for the Bucs, Titans, Jags, Raiders, and Redskins to slingshot themselves back to relevancy and bring in an era of success. While I’m biased and love rooting for the Jaguars, any one of these teams could hit it big.
Which team do you think will come away best in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft?
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