After three days, seven rounds, 14 hours, and 256 picks, the 2015 NFL Draft is in the books. Teams filled needs, young athletes realized lifelong dreams, and fans cheered and complained about players they’d never heard of before.
The NFL now has 256 new players (plus hundreds more undrafted rookie free agents). Let’s take a deeper look inside the picks, from No. 1 Jameis Winston to No. 256 Gerald Christian, aka “Mr. Irrelevant:”
■ The only pick with real drama was Marcus Mariota — would Chip Kelly and the Eagles swing a huge trade? Would the Browns, Rams, Bills, or Bears make a run? Were Philip Rivers or Jay Cutler in play? Did the Titans even want Mariota?
Now the real intrigue with him begins — can he actually play?
Most scouts generally agree that Mariota will need time to develop his pocket passing skills.
But Mariota grew on me after I spoke with an AFC general manager over the weekend, who compared Mariota to Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Tannehill.
Kaepernick certainly has hit a career crossroads, but he also experienced a good deal of success. And Tannehill is progressing nicely, throwing for 4,045 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a 66.4 completion percentage last year in his third season. Mariota is also further along than Tannehill was — Mariota started 41 games in college, while Tannehill only started 19.
Mariota is smart, athletic, and has a strong arm. He needs to develop his passing skills, but I think he’ll be a lot better than guys such as Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Robert Griffin III, and other busts.
■ Are Colts fans the first fan base to boo its team for drafting a wide receiver instead of a nose tackle? Colts GM Ryan Grigson took the top player on his board at No. 29, grabbing Miami speed-burner Phillip Dorsett, even though wide receiver isn’t the Colts’ most pressing need.
Most Colts fans wanted them to shore up a leaky run defense, but while the Colts did go defense with their next four picks, they didn’t take a nose tackle until the fifth round (Stanford’s David Parry).
■ The most fascinating story of the weekend turned out to be the plight of LSU G/T La’el Collins, a projected top-20 pick who went undrafted because teams were afraid of his potential involvement in a murder case of a Louisiana woman who might have been his ex-girlfriend. Baton Rouge (La.) police say Collins isn’t a suspect, but until his name is completely cleared in the case, teams stayed far, far away.
Collins’s agents tried to pull him from this year’s draft and enter him in the supplemental draft, but the NFL said no. The agents also tried to pull Collins out of the draft and enter him in next year’s, but he only would have been allowed to do that had he been drafted with one of the 256 picks, then refused to sign.
But because he went undrafted, he can’t re-enter next year’s draft.
He simply has to try to sign on somewhere as an undrafted free agent, then hope to score a free agent deal after two or three years. But this ordeal cost Collins millions up front.
■ Of the 256 draft picks, 41 were not invited to the Combine back in February. Arizona took the first Combine snub of the draft (Delaware State defensive tackle Rodney Gunter with the 116th pick in the fourth round) and the Patriots took the second (Georgia Tech guard Shaq Mason with the 131st pick in the fourth round). Denver drafted four Combine snubs, while the Patriots, Redskins, Packers, and Raiders drafted three each.
■ Of the approximately 320 players invited to the Combine, 105 didn’t get drafted.
■ Of the 74 underclassmen who declared for the draft, 60 were drafted. There were 38 trades this offseason involving draft picks, including trades involving players such as Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick back in March. The SEC had the most draft picks of any college conference (54). Only one punter was drafted this year, and one long snapper. And only three times since 1954 has not a single kicker been drafted — 1960, 2010, and 2015.
■ Players who were projected to go in the first couple of rounds but surprisingly fell in the draft (other than Collins): Nebraska DE Randy Gregory lasted until the 60th pick in the second round. Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett lasted until the sixth round (Jaguars). Louisville cornerback Charles Gaines dropped all the way to the sixth round (Browns). And Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary also fell to the sixth round (Bills).
■ The Bengals have Andrew Whitworth at left tackle and Andre Smith at right tackle, but told us everything we need to know about their long-term future by taking offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round and offensive tackle Jake Fischer in the second round.
■ With new coach Gary Kubiak in town, the Broncos need to find different types of offensive linemen to fit their zone blocking scheme. Hence, center Manny Ramirez was traded away, and they drafted tackle Ty Sambrailo in the second round and center Max Garcia in the fourth.
■ Not an accident that the Browns took safe picks and solid citizens this year after whiffing on Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert last year, each of whom had significant maturity issues. They took nose tackle Danny Shelton in the first round and center Cameron Erving in the second. That’s as safe as it gets.
■ Terrible year for quarterbacks. Only seven were drafted overall, and none were taken between picks 2 and 75.
■ New Bucs guard Ali Marpet was this year’s Jimmy Garoppolo: Small school kid (from Hobart) who absolutely dominated the pre-draft all-star game circuit and worked his way from a nobody to a second-round pick.
■ Shiny new weapons for Joe Flacco: WR Breshad Perriman (No. 26) and TE Maxx Williams (No. 55). The Ravens didn’t do much to help their secondary, though.
■ The Jaguars used to be the champions of the small school under former GM Gene Smith (2009-12), drafting guys from Temple, William & Mary, Nebraska-Omaha, Liberty, James Madison, Lehigh, Mount Union, and Ashland. So it was very interesting to see where the top of this year’s class under Dave Caldwell is from: Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Ohio State.
■ Quote of the Day, from Packers executive Eliot Wolf about quarterback Brett Hundley, taken in the fifth round: “You guys asked me last time if each draft pick has a chance to start. This one probably doesn’t.”