Published May 03, 2016
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - We've already heard a lot about the potential top pick in this year's NFL Draft, which kicks off next Thursday with the first round. And, to possibly an even greater extent, what will happen when the Tennessee Titans are on the clock with the second overall selection.
Quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are at the center of the draft talks as we inch closer to the event itself. Naturally so, because quarterback is the most valued position on the field in this age, and they are (by far) the two best signal callers eligible this year.
Draft analysts can drive themselves crazy trying to predict which player lands where. And the likely scenario is that Winston goes to Tampa Bay with the top selection, and Mariota may end up at No. 2 depending on a bunch of different variables (such as Tennessee trading out of the pick).
But what comes next? Winston and Mariota have been so heavily discussed that most people seem to forget they aren't even the best players in the draft class. Jacksonville picks at No. 3, Oakland at No. 4 and Washington owns the fifth overall pick.
The Jets could make for an intriguing shake-up with the sixth pick, and should they stay put, what's their best option?
Consider this a friendly reminder that when it comes to the NFL Draft, nothing is cut and dry. There are no surprises, because unpredictability is the very essence of the event. That said, if Winston and Mariota are off the board when the Jaguars are up with the third overall pick (the same spot the team held last year when it selected the first quarterback off the board in Blake Bortles), there are a handful of options that could improve Jacksonville's roster.
It seems most online mock drafts feel versatile defensive end/outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. from Florida is the best pick for the Jaguars at No. 3. Jacksonville spent last offseason in offensive demolition mode by retooling the team's skills positions. And while the Jaguars are watching as these young players they invested so much in develop, the defense needs the same sort of treatment this offseason.
Fowler is an incredibly safe pick. The junior led Florida with 15 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hurries in 2014, in which he earned All-SEC first-team honors. At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Fowler isn't the biggest player on the edge of the defensive line, but he's a monster pass-rush threat from either the end of a 4-3 base or as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 set.
What the Jaguars need most on defense is a playmaker - someone who came come in right away and turn a bland, unexciting defense into something that possesses pop.
Perhaps Fowler is the more popular pick here because he's a versatile scheme player, which is something USC defensive end Leonard Williams can't exactly boast. But that's really the only "downside" (if one can even call it that) for the player most are calling the top prospect in this year's class.
Williams, listed at 6-5 and 300 pounds, was USC's Most Valuable Player in 2014 after he finished the season with 80 total tackles (second on the team), adding seven tackles for loss - all sacks (tied the team high). On paper, those numbers aren't exactly eye-catching, especially when compared to Fowler's tallies. But the Trojans lineman commanded so much attention in the form of double teams and extra help, it's a wonder he broke through the line at all. In terms of ability, the junior end has potential through the roof.
In fact, according to reports, Williams has already told the Oakland Raiders he would love to play for them should he still be on the board when Oakland picks at No. 4.
The Raiders are infamous for going after skills position players early. They like speed, they like big-play ability and they like to make a scene. At least that was the Al Davis mantra.
Truth be told, the Raiders could use a guy like Kevin White or Amari Cooper to pair with quarterback Derek Carr on offense to give the second-year signal caller an actual receiving threat. But if Williams doesn't come off the board to Tennessee or Jacksonville prior to the Raiders' selection, Oakland would be foolish to pass up a potential All-Pro lineman.
With another draft class stacked with receiving talent like last year's list of impressive names, the Raiders could wait until the second round to snag a solid pass catcher.
The Redskins pick at No. 5, but, in all honesty, the team could use picks five through 10 to try to rebuild its roster. Washington fell apart last season, headlined by Robert Griffin shortcomings and an overall air of underachieving stink.
Stud linebacker Brian Orakpo defected for Tennessee in the offseason, leaving the Redskins defense in the capable yet nearly sole hands of Ryan Kerrigan. Washington went out and signed Terrance Knighton to boost the defensive line, so Washington (Huskies) defensive lineman Danny Shelton might not make sense at the fifth pick anymore.
Clemson defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley has skyrocketed up draft boards thanks to freakish numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day. Beasley could have been a first-round selection last year had he declared, but he elected to return to school for his senior season. Sometimes that decision doesn't pay dividends (looking at you, Matt Barkley), but for Beasley, it was the right one.
Beasley is a two-time All-American and a two-time All-ACC first-team selection. He's Clemson's all-time leader with 33 sacks and ranks fourth all-time in tackles for loss with 52.5 throughout his career. He had 21.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in 2014 alone. Throw him in with Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, and the Redskins could have one of the most dynamic pass rushing outlets in the NFC.
Washington could use the assistance of a Brandon Scherff on the offensive line, or even a receiving threat like Cooper to make the offense just a bit more formidable. But ultimately, the 'Skins should be looking at the best player available, and Beasley has impressed enough to be that player at No. 5.
The Jets could certainly shake things up with the sixth pick, depending on which players are left available and which teams may come calling looking to move up. If Mariota is still on the board, New York may pull the trigger and give up the Geno Smith experiment once and for all.
The Jets also could go after players like Shelton, Missouri's Shane Ray or one of the top receivers. After reverting back to their secondary of a few years ago with the re-additions of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, Michigan State corner Trae Waynes doesn't make much sense at six anymore.
If Mariota is still available, expect a team like Philadelphia to come calling about New York's willingness to exchange picks.
It's a crowded group at the top of the board, but picks three through six are expected to be the more sensible ones based on best available talent rather than the ever-growing desperate need for a franchise quarterback.