Of course, there may always be another shoe to drop sometime between now and April 30th when the 2015 draft kicks off, but sources around the league seem pretty confident that the civil lawsuit filed against Florida State QB Jameis Winston by the female student that had accused him of sexual assault back in 2012 will not impact Tampa Bay’s plans to select the former Seminoles’ star with the #1 pick this year. The ‘other’ shoe that could be a game changer is the inclusion of a paragraph in the suit with alleges that there is a second accuse, however, the believe is that Tampa Bay has been aware of that possibility for sometime and that the Buccaneers, who have reportedly investigated Winston more than any player in draft history, have already checked out that aspect of the issue. If the new legal issues for Winston have any impact its that the likelihood that any other team might be considering trading up for him may have gone from slim to none.
There is a growing sense around the league that after introducing their new uniforms earlier this week, that Cleveland may be prepared ‘to do whatever it takes’ to move up in the draft to acquire Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. That means the Browns likely would be prepared to include their two #1 picks this year – the 12th and 19th picks – plus other considerations in a package to get Mariota. Interestingly, the Browns still have not had a private workout with Mariota, although they have indicated that they likely will set something up. However, the Browns may not really need to workout Mariota one more time as they likely have all the information they need as Kevin O’Connell, the team’s new QB coach, worked extensively with the former Oregon star this off-season prior to joining the Browns’ organization; in fact, it was O’Connell that orchestrated Mariota’s pro day work out last month.
If the Browns get any serious competition in their desire to move to draft Mariota, it is looking more and more likely that it may come from San Diego. There appears to be a growing sense around the league that the Chargers may in fact have real concerns about losing incumbent starting QB Philip Rivers to free agency if the team relocates to Los Angeles within the next couple of year and may be prepared to cut their losses now and include him in a deal to move up to get Mariota. Of course, San Diego could always just franchise Rivers if it came to that, but he would be a very unhappy camper and the Chargers would have to be concerned that Rivers, who doesn’t want his family to have live in Los Angeles, might just threaten to walk away from the game. Not everyone agrees, though, that the Chargers could be shopping Rivers. Adam Schein of NFL.com, for example, has a persuasive report in which a number of NFL G.M.s essentially throw cold water on the whole concept. However, the fact that in addition to working out Mariota, the Chargers have also held private workouts in recent days with second-tier QBs Brett Hundley of UCLA, Baylor’s Garrett Grayson and Bryce Petty of Baylor, whom they probably wouldn’t have given the time of day to if the Rivers’ situation wasn’t unsettled, indicates a concern level in San Diego about the future of the position.
What makes the San Diego situation somewhat unique is that if they did trade Rivers, most likely to Tennessee which holds the 2nd pick, the deal would be the Titans trading picks, including the second overall, to San Diego for the a proven, veteran QB, rather than San Diego sending a package a package, including Rivers to Tennessee for the 2nd pick. And that could leave Tennessee with an interesting dilemma. Do the Titans deal with a Cleveland and pick up a pile of extra picks with which to build the team around young Zach Mettenberger, or do they mortgage their future in acquiring a proven veteran who would bring immediate credibility to the team, but who has at 33 already, has a limited shelf-life. Should make for an interesting couple of weeks!
Movin’ on up … With less than to weeks to go until the draft, there still appears to considerable fluidity among the top echelons of the draft. The latest ‘hot’ guy appears to be Kentucky OLB Bud Dupree, who reportedly has moved into the top 10 of a lot of teams around the league and may now be the 2nd rated edge rushing LB on a lot of teams’ boards behind Florida’s Dante Fowler, especially those teams running 3-4 schemes. Teams still like guys like Vic Beasley and Randy Gregory, despite his issues with marijuana, as potential top ten candidates, but whereas neither of those guys is more than 245 pounds, Dupree is bigger at over 260, plus he’s just as athletic. Teams still question Dupree’s natural football instincts and he may never be real agile playing in reverse, but there is no denying his upside as a pure pass rusher coming off the edge. Most NFL people one talks to don’t believe that Louisville WR Devante Parker will get out of this year’s top ten. Parker is still not quite in the same level as fellow WRs Amari Cooper of Alabama and West Virginia’s Kevin White, who are expected to be taken within the first 6-7 picks, but with so many teams looking at WR as a primary need in this year’s draft, he’ll be a hot commodity as the next best guy at the position with a drop-off to the next level.
Meanwhile, it appears that Miami’s Ereck Flowers may have edged ahead of the pack as the top pure OT in this year’s draft class. Flowers has the kind of length many teams feel is essential in protecting the edge, and while he is still somewhat raw technically he has decent enough athletic skills, although there is still a question whether he has the elite agility to play LT at the next level. At the same time, Iowa G/T Brandon Scherff still appears to be the consensus top OL out there, but if one is looking for a candidate to possibly slide come April 30th it may be the former Hawkeyes’ LT who is a dominating run blocker with good athletic skills, but was never that consistent protecting the edge. One also wonders if the fact that NFL.com ace analyst Mike Mayock ranks Arizona State FS Damarious Randall head of Alabama’s Landon Collins in his latest top 5 positional rankings may also signal something of a slide for the latter, because Randall, who was a baseball player as recently as 3-4 years ago, is way too raw with inconsistent instincts o figure in the first round mix.
One other guy we keep hearing positive things about these is Southern Cal RB Buck Allen, who is likely still only a late second or even third day prospect, but has emerged as a prime target for teams looking for a solid upgrade at the position without wasting a premium pick on it; Allen has good size and decent speed, can catch and will block and doesn’t have all that many miles of tread on the tire.