May 24 2015

2015 NFL Draft Observations

(Twitter/New York Jets)

It’s minicamp season in the NFL with the Draft in the rearview. I don’t do post-draft grades, and I don’t expect rookies to make a significant impact in year one, as I explained in March. But teams draft the group of players they do for a reason.

I want to make notes on every team’s draft, with respect to the players targeted, holes attended to, and which priority free agent I’ll be keeping an eye on:

2. CB Ronald Darby
3. G John Miller
5. RB Karlos Williams
6. ILB Tony Steward
6. TE Nick O’Leary
7. WR Dezmin Lewis
PFA: OLB Cedric Reed

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=> The player Buffalo needs to be a year one contributor the most is Miller. He and Richie Incognito would be the new starting guards in a best case scenario. I also thought the Williams pick was interesting after the team brought in RB LeSean McCoy. Miller and Williams on the roster is the latest indication that the Bills are going to be running the ball as much as possible.

1. WR DeVante Parker
2. DT Jordan Phillips
4. G Jamil Douglas
5. CB Bobby McCain
5. RB Jay Ajayi
5. FS Cedric Thompson
5. CB Tony Lippett
PFA: OLB Mike Hull

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=> The Dolphins needed help in the secondary, and that was reflected in the fact that they selected three defensive backs on Day 3. Keep an eye on Lippett, who will be converting from WR. He’s 6’2″, and if he takes to the position quickly, then he could be the starter opposite Pro Bowl CB Brent Grimes.

1. DT Malcom Brown
2. SS Jordan Richards
3. DE Geneo Grissom
4. DE Trey Flowers
4. G Tre’ Jackson
4. G Shaq Mason
5. LS Joe Cardona
6. OLB Matthew Wells
6. TE A.J. Derby
7. CB Darryl Roberts
7. DE Xzavier Dickson
PFA: C David Andrews

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=> The Patriots drafted only one CB, and they parted ways with Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, and Alonzo Dennard since Super Bowl XLIX. Richards is the third safety drafted by the Patriots on Day 2 in the last four years (joining 2013 3rd rounder Duron Harmon and 2012 2nd rounder Tavon Wilson), and he may get a chance to challenge SS Patrick Chung to start. The Patriots selected three defensive linemen in the first four rounds, in addition to signing DE Jabaal Sheard, so that appears to be the answer to their questions at CB. Finally, I have no idea why New England felt the need to take a LS in the fifth round; Cardona was the only one drafted.

1. DE Leonard Williams
2. WR Devin Smith
3. OLB Lorenzo Mauldin
4. QB Bryce Petty
5. G Jarvis Harrison
7. DT Deon Simon
PFA: FS Durell Eskridge

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=> The Jets got Williams in the first round, so their defensive line now has elite depth to go with their elite effectiveness against the run. Smith doesn’t fill a positional need, as the Jets have a prospective top-three in place between WRs Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Jeremy Kerley. But Smith gives them a situational deep threat. The Jets grabbed Petty in the fourth round, but he’s not expected to challenge for a starting job.

1. WR Breshad Perriman
2. TE Maxx Williams
3. DT Carl Davis
4. OLB Za’Darius Smith
4. RB Javorius Allen
4. CB Tray Walker
5. TE Nick Boyle
5. G Robert Myers
6. WR Darren Waller
PFA: ILB Trey DePriest

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=> With this draft, Baltimore doubled the number of skill players who were originally selected by the Ravens on the roster. Perriman is the first WR taken by Baltimore in the first round since 2005 (Mark Clayton), and he replaces Torrey Smith. Williams replaces TE Owen Daniels, while Boyle is further insurance for TE Dennis Pitta (hip). Allen replaces Bernard Pierce. Waller is 6’6″, so he’s worth the late pick.

1. OT Cedric Ogbuehi
2. OT Jake Fisher
3. TE Tyler Kroft
3. OLB Paul Dawson
4. CB Josh Shaw
4. DT Marcus Hardison
5. TE C.J. Uzomah
6. FS Derron Smith
7. WR Mario Alford
PFA: C Jake Smith

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=> I wasn’t a fan of Cincinnati using their first two picks on backup offensive linemen, especially at positions of relative strength.  The Bengals had the fewest sacks in the NFL, and their run defense was very inconsistent. Yet, they waited until the 3rd round to address the front seven, while selecting only one defensive lineman.

1. DT Danny Shelton
1. G Cameron Erving
2. OLB Nate Orchard
3. RB Duke Johnson
3. DE Xavier Cooper
4. SS Ibraheim Campbell
4. WR Vince Mayle
6. CB Charles Gaines
6. FB Malcolm Johnson
6. TE Randall Telfer
7. ILB Hayes Pullard
7. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
PFA: OT Darrian Miller

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=> For the third straight year, the Browns chose not to address the WR position in the first three rounds 1, selecting Mayle only. At least the Browns didn’t add another young QB a year after selected QB Johnny Manziel and three years after taking overaged Brandon Weeden in round one. The Browns didn’t need to draft Erving for 2015, though he could challenge for RG John Greco’s spot while serving as insurance for C Alex Mack. The Browns selected a RB on Day 2 for the second straight year, and the selections of Shelton and Cooper are reflections of a team that allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL in 2014.

1. OLB Bud Dupree
2. CB Senquez Golson
3. WR Sammie Coates
4. CB Doran Grant
5. TE Jesse James
6. DE Leterrius Walton
6. OLB Anthony Chickillo
7. FS Gerod Holliman
PFA: C B.J. Finney

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=> The selection of Dupree marks the third straight season that Pittsburgh took a linebacker in the first round, and Dupree joins OLB Jarvis Jones and ILBs Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons as first round Steelers LBs. That group needs to lead the defensive turnaround; the jury will certainly be out on whether or not the three DBs can improve Pittsburgh’s bad pass defense in year one. Golson is going to have to play bigger than his size (5’8″).

1. CB Kevin Johnson
2. ILB Benardrick McKinney
3. WR Jaelen Strong
5. WR Keith Mumphery
6. ILB Reshard Cliett
6. DE Christian Covington
7. RB Kenny Hilliard
PFA: FS Kurtis Drummond

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=> Houston used their first two picks on athletic defenders, so that’s nice. The only draft pick who will help their underwhelming pass offense is Strong, a player who is almost as big (6’2″, 217 pounds) as the legend he’ll need to help replace, WR Andre Johnson.

1. WR Phillip Dorsett
3. CB D’Joun Smith
3. DE Henry Anderson
4. SS Clayton Geathers
5. DT David Parry
6. RB Josh Robinson
6. ILB Amarlo Herrera
7. OT Denzelle Good
PFA: TE Jean Sifrin

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=> The Colts selected two defensive linemen from Stanford to help improve the annually poor run defense, while DBs Smith and Geathers could find themselves on the field in nickel situations. The Colts didn’t need Dorsett, but his speed will be enticing. Plus, WR T.Y. Hilton is in a contract year, while WR Andre Johnson will be 34 years old in 2015.

1. DE Dante Fowler
2. RB T.J. Yeldon
3. G A.J. Cann
4. FS James Sample
5. WR Rashad Greene
6. DT Michael Bennett
7. WR Neal Sterling
7. TE Ben Koyack
PFA: CB Nick Marshall

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=> Fowler tore his ACL on his first day working out in a Jaguars uniform. Brutal; things didn’t work out for Jacksonville the last time they picked a pass rusher out of Florida in the first round (Derrick Harvey). Yeldon will be expected to handle a starting role, something RB Toby Gerhart was unable to do in 2014. Cann is another reaction to the worst offensive line in Jacksonville’s 20 NFL seasons; incumbent LG Zane Beadles may be in for a battle to keep his starting job. The Jaguars selected two WRs on Day 3 after selecting two WRs in round two in 2014. With the selection of Sample, Jacksonville did something they’ve done every year since debuting in 1995: draft a DB.

1. QB Marcus Mariota
2. WR Dorial Green-Beckham
3. OT Jeremiah Poutasi
4. DE Angelo Blackson
4. FB Jalston Fowler
5. RB David Cobb
6. OLB Deiontrez Mount
6. C Andy Gallik
7. WR Tre McBride
PFA: G Josue Matias

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=> I wasn’t expecting the Titans to draft and keep Mariota, and hopefully things go better here than the last two first round Tennessee QBs (Jake Locker, Vince Young). Between Mariota, Poutasi, Fowler, and Cobb, the Titans should be a much better rushing offense in 2015. Green-Beckham is the second WR the Titans have drafted in the second round in the last three years (Justin Hunter).

1. OLB Shane Ray
2. OT Ty Sambrailo
3. TE Jeff Heuerman
4. C Max Garcia
5. CB Lorenzo Doss
6. DT Darius Kilgo
7. QB Trevor Siemian
7. CB Taurean Nixon
7. SS Josh Furman
PFA: C Dillon Day

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=> Denver selected three DBs on Day 3, including two CBs who were teammates on the football field and the track at Tulane in Doss and Nixon. The Broncos traded up to secure insurance for OLB DeMarcus Ware. Heuerman tore his ACL this month.

1. CB Marcus Peters
2. C Mitch Morse
3. WR Chris Conley
3. CB Steven Nelson
4. ILB Ramik Wilson
5. ILB D.J. Alexander
5. TE James O’Shaughnessy
6. DE Rakeem Nunez-Roches
7. WR Da’Ron Brown
PFA: WR Tello Luckett

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=> Conley, Brown, and possibly Luckett will get their shots at improving a WR corps that failed to record a single TD in 2014. The Chiefs only intercepted six passes in 2014, so Peters and Nelson will be expected to help make some plays on the ball; both players had eight INTs each over the last two seasons while playing for Pac-12 teams.

1. WR Amari Cooper
2. DE Mario Edwards
3. TE Clive Walford
4. G Jon Feliciano
5. ILB Ben Heeney
5. OLB Neiron Ball
6. DE Max Valles
7. OT Anthony Morris
7. WR Andre Debose
7. CB Dexter McDonald
PFA: FS Tevin McDonald

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=> The Raiders missed the playoffs for the 12th straight season in 2014, and the only player to record a 1,000-yard receiving season in that time was WR Randy Moss in 2005. Cooper is a pro ready target, and he should have plenty of opportunities to stand out in year one. The Raiders didn’t select a RB, so Oakland will rely on former 1st round bust Trent Richardson, receiving back Roy Helu, and 2013 6th rounder Latavius Murray to provide balance for the offense.

1. RB Melvin Gordon
2. ILB Denzel Perryman
3. CB Craig Mager
5. OLB Kyle Emanuel
6. DE Darius Philon
PFA: WR Titus Davis

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=> This is the Melvin Gordon draft. Period. Gordon was the only offensive player the Chargers selected, and he’s the only one with a clear path to a starting job. Plus, the Chargers traded up to secure him. He replaces the last San Diego first round RB, Ryan Mathews, but Gordon’s expectations are to produce like legend LaDainian Tomlinson. Of course, don’t be surprised if the Chargers need to draft multiple offensive linemen next year after completely ignoring their other major weakness in the draft.

1. CB Byron Jones
2. DE Randy Gregory
3. OT Chaz Green
4. ILB Damien Wilson
5. DE Ryan Russell
7. OLB Mark Nzeocha
7. OT Laurence Gibson
7. TE Geoff Swaim
PFA: OT La’el Collins

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=> The Cowboys filled their biggest need in my eyes by getting an exceptional athlete in Jones. Then the Cowboys added 1st-round talents in Gregory and Collins. The Cowboys didn’t draft a RB, so they must really think Darren McFadden will have a career-year running behind what is arguably the best, and deepest, offensive line in the NFL.

1. OT Ereck Flowers
2. SS Landon Collins
3. DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa
5. FS Mykkele Thompson
6. WR Geremy Davis
7. G Bobby Hart
PFA: ILB Cole Farrand

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=> Lost in the mostly justified hype of WR Odell Beckham is the fact that the Giants had a lot of issues last year. One of those issues are at linebacker, yet the Giants didn’t draft a single player there. I can’t argue that the players the Giants picked in the first five rounds don’t fill needs, and they traded up for likely starter Collins in round 2. Odighizuwa is the fifth defensive end drafted by the Giants in Rounds 1-3 since 2005. The Giants gave up the most rushing yards per attempt in 2014; a player like Farrand (6’3″, 245) should have a good shot at earning a roster spot.

1. WR Nelson Agholor
2. CB Eric Rowe
3. ILB Jordan Hicks
6. CB JaCorey Shepherd
6. CB Randall Evans
7. DE Brian Mihalik
PFA: WR Devante Davis

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=> Thank goodness the Eagles were denied an opportunity to mortgage their roster for the right to trade up for a QB in the first round. Philadelphia “settled” on filling roster holes in the first two rounds, drafting Agholor to replace Jeremy Maclin and selecting Rowe after a season that saw the Eagles finish 31st in pass yards allowed. The Eagles were one of only two teams (Steelers) to forego drafting an offensive lineman AND running back in this year’s draft, while 2012 draft picks ILB Mychal Kendricks and CB Brandon Boykin enter contract years with their potential replacements on the roster (Hicks, Shepherd, Evans).

1. OT Brandon Scherff
2. OLB Preston Smith
3. RB Matt Jones
4. WR Jamison Crowder
4. G Arie Kouandjio
5. ILB Martrell Spaight
6. SS Kyshoen Jarrett
6. CB Tevin Mitchel
6. WR Evan Spencer
7. C Austin Reiter
PFA: DE Corey Crawford

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=> Washington clearly wants to run the football more after spending three of their first five picks on likely starter Scherff, 230-pound back Jones, and Kouandjio. Washington waited until the 6th round to add help in the secondary, even though no team allowed more TD passes in 2014. Smith will help replace OLB Brian Orakpo, while Crowder will have a chance at helping the Washington return game. Spencer is a bigger receiver at 6’2″; Washington’s top three receivers from last year were all 6’0″ or shorter.
1. WR Kevin White
2. DT Eddie Goldman
3. C Hroniss Grasu
4. RB Jeremy Langford
5. FS Adrian Amos
6. OT Tayo Fabuluje
PFA: SS Anthony Jefferson

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=> Chicago’s defense is a bigger problem than QB Jay Cutler has ever been, so the spotlight will be on the two defenders they chose, Goldman and Amos. The Bears are about to play a 3-4 defense for the first time in franchise history, so Goldman will be counted on to challenge for a starting role. Only Washington allowed more TD passes than Chicago in 2014, and Amos will also get a shot at earning a starting role. White replaces WR Brandon Marshall, and he is the highest drafted WR in franchise history, along with 1993 7th overall pick WR Curtis Conway.

1. G Laken Tomlinson
2. RB Ameer Abdullah
3. CB Alex Carter
4. DT Gabe Wright
5. FB Michael Burton
6. CB Quandre Diggs
7. OT Corey Robinson
PFA: RB Zach Zenner

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=> Tomlinson is an interesting selection. The Lions also got C Manny Ramirez in the same trade down with Denver that ended in the selection of Tomlinson, a power player at Duke. The Lions need help in pass protection, but they were unimpressive running the ball as well. Can Tomlinson play left guard and pass block effectively? If so, the Lions may have shorn up their biggest weakness. Abdullah is yet another attempt by Detroit to get a dynamic back in the offense, while the selections of Burton and Robinson shouldn’t be overlooked either. It looks like Detroit would prefer to pass fewer than 600 times in 2015.

1. CB Damarious Randall
2. CB Quinten Rollins
3. WR Ty Montgomery
4. ILB Jake Ryan
5. QB Brett Hundley
6. FB Aaron Ripkowski
6. DE Christian Ringo
6. TE Kennard Backman
PFA: RB John Crockett

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=> The last time Green Bay went an entire draft without selecting a DB was 1994. Randall is this year’s Jimmie Ward; that is, a college safety drafted to play nickel CB, and to a team that drafted a safety in round one the previous year (49ers Eric Reid, Packers Ha Ha Clinton-Dix). Randall and Rollins replace CBs Tramon Williams and Davon House. Montgomery replaces WR Jarrett Boykin, while he should help Green Bay eliminate WR Randall Cobb’s special teams responsibilities. The Packers were a bottom-ten run defense in 2014, but the only players that may help that cause are Ryan and Ringo.

1. CB Trae Waynes
2. ILB Eric Kendricks
3. DE Danielle Hunter
4. OT T.J. Clemmings
5. TE MyCole Pruitt
5. WR Stefon Diggs
6. OT Tyrus Thompson
6. DE B.J. Dubose
7. G Austin Shepherd
7. OLB Edmond Robinson
PFA: SS Anthony Harris

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=> This was an exciting draft. Minnesota spent the first two days fortifying all three defensive levels: Waynes is the third DB chosen in the first round by Minnesota in the last four years, Kendricks could start next to former UCLA teammate and 2014 first round pick OLB Anthony Barr, and Hunter is the second DE Minnesota selected in round three in the last two years (Scott Crichton). Then Minnesota went and drafted three offensive linemen on Day 3, addressing their biggest weakness.
1. DE Vic Beasley
2. CB Jalen Collins
3. RB Tevin Coleman
4. WR Justin Hardy
5. DT Grady Jarrett
7. OT Jake Rodgers
7. CB Akeem King
PFA: CB Kevin White

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=> The Collins pick marks a shift in how Atlanta wants their CBs to look. CB Robert Alford was a second round pick just two years ago, but he’s 5’10”, 190 pounds. Collins is 6’1″, 205. Beasley’s job is to get sacks, period. Coleman will be a part of a committee that replaces RB Steven Jackson, while Hardy replaces WR Harry Douglas. King is 6’3″, another long prospect. And Jarrett figures to push for playing time on passing downs.

1. OLB Shaq Thompson
2. WR Devin Funchess
4. OT Daryl Williams
5. ILB David Mayo
5. RB Cameron Artis-Payne
PFA: FS Dean Marlowe

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=> I thought the Thompson pick made a lot of sense. Carolina rarely kept all three LBs on the field last season, and now they can do that with Thompson, ILB Luke Kuechly, and OLB Thomas Davis. In today’s NFL, Thompson can be an asset with his hybrid build. And the Panthers were 21st in rushing scores allowed in 2014. Carolina also decided it’s more important to surround QB Cam Newton with supersized targets like Funchess than to put high-pedigree protection in front of him.

1. OT Andrus Peat
1. ILB Stephone Anthony
2. OLB Hau’oli Kikaha
3. QB Garrett Grayson
3. CB P.J. Williams
5. OLB Davis Tull
5. DT Tyeler Davison
5. CB Damian Swann
7. RB Marcus Murphy
PFA: DE Bobby Richardson

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=> The Saints selected nine players, their most since 2002. Peat was the first offensive lineman New Orleans selected in the first round since 2005. Grayson is the third highest drafted QB in franchise history (1971 2nd overall pick QB Archie Manning, 1981 supplemental draft first round pick QB Dave Wilson). Williams is the third DB the team drafted in the first three rounds in the last three drafts. The Saints didn’t draft a defensive lineman until round five, but Anthony was drafted to address New Orleans’ 31st-ranked run defense.

1. QB Jameis Winston
2. OT Donovan Smith
2. G Ali Marpet
4. OLB Kwon Alexander
5. WR Kenny Bell
6. WR Kaelin Clay
7. FB Joey Iosefa
PFA: DE Ryan Delaire

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=> Winston going to Tampa Bay was no secret. But I said that Tampa needed to get protection for the new passer after finishing 2014 30th in sacks allowed. Tampa Bay obliged, selecting Smith and Marpet, two players who likely will be counted on to start in 2015. Tampa Bay did not select an OL in the first three rounds in the last six years, the only team that could claim that. Alexander is also the only defender selected by Tampa Bay in the last two drafts, so remember that when Tampa Bay goes defense-heavy in the 2016 NFL Draft.
1. OT D.J. Humphries
2. OLB Markus Golden
3. RB David Johnson
4. DE Rodney Gunter
5. OLB Shaq Riddick
5. WR J.J. Nelson
7. TE Gerald Christian
PFA: DT Xavier Williams

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=> Arizona finished dead last in yards per rush in 2014. Johnson is an interesting prospect, as he is a big back (6’1″, 225) known more for his versatility as a receiver. Humphries will challenge incumbent RT Bobby Massie.

1. RB Todd Gurley
2. OT Rob Havenstein
3. G Jamon Brown
3. QB Sean Mannion
4. OT Andrew Donnal
6. WR Bud Sasser
6. G Cody Wichmann
7. ILB Bryce Hager
7. DE Martin Ifedi
PFA: CB Imoan Claiborne

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=> Like San Diego, the Rams placed a high priority on getting their RB; Gurley is the fifth RB selected by Saint Louis since head coach Jeff Fisher was hired in 2012. Unlike San Diego, the Rams drafted offensive linemen – four of them. In addition to all of those linemen, the Rams drafted a QB they must really like in Mannion and Sasser, a local product who could carve out a role in Saint Louis’ underwhelming receiver corps. The Rams were a bottom-five offense last year, and it’s clear that they are willing to wait until October for Gurley (ACL) to take the NFL by storm. Hey, it worked for Odell Beckham!

1. DE Arik Armstead
2. SS Jaquiski Tartt
3. OLB Eli Harold
4. TE Blake Bell
4. RB Mike Davis
4. WR DeAndre Smelter
5. P Bradley Pinion
6. OT Ian Silberman
7. OT Trenton Brown
7. TE Rory Anderson
PFA: WR Dres Anderson

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=> I’m surprised Bell was drafted as high as he was, but the 49ers got brutal play out of the TE position in 2014. Bell and Anderson will compete with 2013 second round TE Vance McDonald to see who will carve out a consistent role behind TE Vernon Davis. Despite San Francisco finishing the 2014 season 30th in pass yards, the 49ers declined to address the offense on Day 1 and 2, going with athletic projects on defense instead. Davis is RB Frank Gore’s replacement, while Smelter (ACL) is the annual redshirt pick. And did San Francisco really need to draft Pinion in the fifth round? Pinion was the only punter or kicker drafted in 2015.

2. DE Frank Clark
3. WR Tyler Lockett
4. OT Terry Poole
4. G Mark Glowinski
5. CB Tye Smith
6. DE Obum Gwacham
6. G Kristjan Sokoli
7. SS Ryan Murphy
PFA: RB Thomas Rawls

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=> The “Insanity” Mock Draft I released on Draft Day actually had a handful of correct picks! One of them was Lockett to Seattle. Lockett isn’t big at 5’10”, 180 pounds, but he can play on offense and special teams. The rest of this draft was an exercise in Seattle’s coaching staff to mold production out of these players; specifically, OL coach Tom Cable and new DC Kris Richard.

Show 1 footnote

  1. And if you exclude Josh Gordon being a supplemental 2nd round pick in 2012, make that four years.

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