Droppertunity Knocks

Updated: April 21st 2015

Drew Brees

As a parent of two young kids (probably not alone among the demographics of Reality Sports Online owners), I must say that outside of watching sports, I don’t get out too much or get to watch too much TV either. My Friday nights are typically spent going out to dinner with the family, putting the kids to bed and watching one of the few exceptions-Shark Tank. My wife and I started watching “The Tank” about two years ago. I went in with low expectations, dipping a toe or two into the water in fear that Mark Cuban would be the same guy he is as an NBA owner complaining about the refs. I really didn’t know the other “Sharks” prior to watching for the first time.

However, aside from when Sharks like Robert Herjavec get on their high horse and throw a tantrum because a contestant actually wants to hear all the potential offers before making a decision or when Kevin O’Leary offers a royalty-laden deal where he basically wants perpetuity rights for “loaning” money, I love the show. I pause it like it is a football game and discuss the strategy with my wife. Perhaps it appeals to my business school self – as it represents a part of business school I ignored–I went to a Top 20 MBA Program but never took any entrepreneurship classes, which is something I definitely regret.

What I like most about the show is seeing the good ideas and hearing the passion in the voices of the entrepreneurs. Frankly, it is exactly why I’m drawn so much to Reality Sports Online and Matt Papson and Stephen Wendell who run it. It doesn’t hurt that these two share my passion for sports and are genuinely really good people as well.

At the same time, sometimes the best part of the show is when these slick-talking entrepreneurs who resemble Kentucky Coach John Calipari come in with a non-viable product or idea and the Sharks find tactful (Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoran are best at this) or insulting (Kevin O’Leary) ways of rejecting the entrepreneurs. The conclusion typically ends in “For these reasons, I’m out!”. Cuban, frankly, is the best at rejecting the scheisty snake-oil salesman. He cuts them off, rolls his eyes, insults them casually and makes it clear he’s ending it, typically within one minute of their pitch.

With that, this article is centered around dropping your multi-year contract players and the strategy behind that. I’ll get into the RSO contract database some and discuss average contract lengths and dollar figures and walk through some strategies centered around cutting bait with past contracts you regret.

Before getting into that though, let’s talk Le’Veon Bell and his suspension for a minute first.

How Do I Value Le’Veon Bell This Season?

Bell was no doubt the best running back last season. With his three game suspension announced (pending appeal), RSO owners are left trying to figure out how to value Bell. For starters, let me be painfully obvious- you are not dropping Bell. No way, no how.

If you are weighing whether or not to use your franchise tag on Bell (a topic we discussed in detail last week), it is probably a yes at RSO league averages of around $21.2 million, especially if you are good at finding replacement value those first three weeks. If the price tag in your particular league is higher than that, high level I’d probably say no simply on the premise of knowingly paying for someone who is missing a decent chunk of time.  The good news is that at least you’ll be paying for someone who is missing time without an injury. I hate knowingly picking injured players, especially on a one-year contract.

Take your league dynamics and the type of running backs available in free agency into account when considering franchising Bell. As some of you may know, I write for numberFire as well and my colleague Joseph Juan did an amazing study  on running back longevity this week. If you are considering Bell against someone who has already hit the 1,800 carry cliff, eat the three games and stick with Bell.

If you have Bell on a multi-year deal, it is probably below market value and there is significant value in that. Just simply hold and paint around the edges in your auction to get someone who has a favorable schedule the first three weeks of the NFL season when Bell is suspended.

If he’s a free agent in your league and you are trying to figure out how to value Bell for your auction, the suspension really is a non-factor, especially if you are looking at him on a multi-year deal. If owners in your league are skittish about Bell, you may be able to achieve a little bit of savings on him. I would avoid signing Bell to a one-year deal unless you are taking advantage of his suspension to get him cheaper than you’d otherwise be able to get him.

Remember, Bell is no Josh Gordon. Gordon who was suspended for two games in the 2013 season, was coming off his rookie season and was not as proven as Bell at the point of suspension. The risk and dollars invested in a fantasy league consequently were much lower, even if Gordon ended up having a historic season in the 14 games he did play.

So, no need to channel your inner Shark on Bell. You’re not out!

Droppertunity Knocks?

First, I’d like to note a few things about dropping a multi-year contract player before we talk specific players.

1. Dropping a Multi-Year Player is often a last resort.

I feel like I see a few tweets every year from RSO owners that imply impulsive cuts are coming from them as soon as their league reopens. I don’t want to sound like captain obvious here, but eating 50% of future years is not a desired outcome, but sometimes recouping cents on the dollar may make more sense for your RSO franchise. This is especially the case when the NFL gifted RSO owners another $10.3 million in cap space for our 2015 season. The extra money can also work the other way as another reason to go big in free agency and start getting out from your undesirable contracts.

Also, you have to assume that your player in most circumstances will not get claimed on waivers and save you from 100% of the player’s contract.

2. If the player is still in a good situation, try packaging him in a trade before dropping him.

If the player is still talented, but overpriced, try trading him in a package to another team. Say you overpaid for C.J. Spiller a few years ago because you got drawn into the “run him until he pukes” coachspeak. Spiller still has talent and may be an interesting play on the Saints. However, are you really interested in paying him another 2 years and $13.5 million a year? The answer is a definitive no.

If this is your reality, before cutting Spiller, you may want to get creative. If you are one piece away from winning this league and are entering a plum free agent market, while I generally don’t like trading first round rookie draft picks, if it gets you out of 100% of Spiller you have to seriously think about it. Say Spiller and a first rounder for a second rounder. This frees up good cap space in your auction.

3. How many years a Multi-Year Player has remaining is critical in this equation.

A multi-year player with one year remaining is easier to trade, cut, or justify keeping. If you’ve already weathered a year of zero production from Adrian Peterson your mentality of cutting him in 2015 is different if he has one or two years left at his high salary. If you have two years left, you want him gone. If one, you are really thinking about what you want to do.

4. With very few exceptions, if your player is not currently on an NFL roster, drop them.

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time on the Chris Johnson (1.3 years remaining average, $7.5 million annual average) and Ben Tate (1.7 years remaining average, $5.9 million annual average salary) types in this article. If a team hasn’t thought enough of your player to sign him (even as a backup), what are you waiting for? Get your 50% back and start planning your 2015 roster.

5. Don’t think you have to make a splash dropping players to be effective in doing it.

Just because someone like Miles Austin or Aaron Dobson isn’t someone you are paying $10.0 million a year to, if you get back money that you think you can repurpose better in the Free Agency Auction on a player that has a very low probability of being in your starting lineup on your fantasy team, do it. To me, there’s no ego in admitting a mistake, just roll with it and at least appreciate that this mistake was a low dollar one that you can course correct this year.

At the same time, though, don’t get too deep into this. If you have someone like Antonio Gates on your roster for another year at $2.0 million, his expected value is better to you than what you can do with 50% of his money.

Full Disclosure- How I Did in 2014

In 2014, I was most successful in advocating dropping running backs. While I incorrectly said to hold onto Trent Richardson for another year (drop him immediately if you still have him), I got Ray Rice, David Wilson (hate being right about career ending injuries), and Maurice Jones-Drew right. I didn’t get Lamar Miller right, but I attribute a lot of that to Knowshon Moreno getting injured in Week 1. Funny how a year changes things as Miller is really interesting to me for 2015.

I also did well on Wide Receivers, telling you to drop Danny Amendola, Dwayne Bowe, and Kenbrell Thompkins. I said to stick with Roddy White and while he didn’t quite get to 1,000 yards this season, he was productive. The question is did his production warrant his price.

I didn’t take firm stances on quarterbacks (don’t worry I will this year), so there are no conclusive results and the tight end pool I talked about was not very exciting. I’d say I missed there as Owen Daniels became a solid Dennis Pitta injury replacement and Coby Fleener had a pretty solid season even if I don’t think he’s a very good football player.

Top Drops for 2015

Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints– First into the tank is Brees (2.2 average years remaining, $19.9 million annual average), who led the NFL in passing yardage in 2014. While Brees still of course has top QB potential, I’m downgrading him not only because Jimmy Graham is now in Seattle and Kenny Stills is in Miami, but due to New Orleans increased focus on the running game as well. This takes away Brees’ ability to take the roof of the Superdome with the deep ball and limits his big play making ability, effectively turning him into the dinking and dunking of the QB (watch last year’s home game vs. the Bengals for an example) who replaced him in San Diego. Adding insult to injury, his replacement Philip Rivers (1.6 average years, $4.4 million annual average) is significantly cheaper. Do the math, drop Brees, pay around $10.0 million in dead money and pick up Rivers (Big Ben, Tony Romo, a similar quarterback) for around $5.0 million and have $5.0 million in dispensable income in your auction for similar expected production to Brees. You also could get lucky and someone could bail you out and relieve 100% of your Brees obligation on waivers, even on name recognition. For those reasons, “I’m out!”

Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers– If you still have him, you are paying Kaepernick (2.2 average years remaining, $8.9 million annual average) more money than most owners are paying Big Ben and Romo. That salary is for “bad decision, no weapons Kaepernick” as opposed to “destroying Green Bay in the playoffs with his legs and arm Kaepernick.” Kurt Warner may be working with him on his mechanics, but there is nothing about Kaepernick as a pocket passer that excites me with how big his sample is starting to get. I don’t need Rob Lowe telling me what to do here, “I’m out!”

Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings– I’m looking at Peterson (2.2 average years remaining, $23.0 million annual average) from a potential production standpoint against price only. He’s 30 years old now and while he barely had any tread last year and finally gets an opportunity to play with his best quarterback in awhile, I just like the financial freedom that comes with cutting him if you can’t get trade value for him, especially if you only have a year left. If you have more than a year, you may be in a rebuilding situation that warrants moving on from AP as well.

Andre Ellington, Running Back, Arizona Cardinals– You may be surprised seeing him on this list as a third year NFL player who has a second gear, however Ellington (2.4 years, $11.1 million annual average) is someone I’d think of moving on from. His coach seems to think he can’t hold up with a bell-cow workload and neither do I. Additionally, he simply wasn’t productive with the opportunities he had, as one of the least efficient rushers in the numberFire database. I wouldn’t move on from him unless the Cardinals draft a running back high because 50% of his savings may not be enough to find his replacement. On the flip side, someone else would potentially pick him up on waivers based on his “upside” and free you completely from him.

Brandon Marshall, Wide Receiver, New York Jets Don’t pay for Top 5 receiver Marshall on the Bears (2.1 years, $18.6 million annual average) for an older, lesser version on the Jets. I’m out faster than Cuban on this one.

Julius Thomas, Tight End, Jacksonville Jaguars- I know that Thomas (1.8 years, $13.9 million annual average) has had double-digit touchdowns (12 each year) two years in a row. Alas, Peyton Manning could teach my five year old son how to catch touchdowns. The Jaguars are building a nice offensive nucleus, but when you combine Thomas’ history of ankle injuries, the Jacksonville offense, and simply not being in Denver, you can’t justify paying Denver prices for him in your RSO league. For those reasons, “I’m out!”

Other Players to Cut Without Hesitation:

C.J. Spiller, Running Back, New Orleans Saints (2.0 years, $13.5 million annual average)

Zac Stacy, Running Back, St. Louis Rams (2.3 years, $8.3 million annual average)

Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver, Indianapolis Colts (1.5 years, $9.6 million annual average)

Victor Cruz, Wide Receiver, New York Giants (1.9 years, $10.6 million annual average)

Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings (2.6 years, $7.9 million annual average)

Vernon Davis, Tight End, San Francisco 49ers (1.7 years, $6.7 million annual average)

Other Players to Think About Cutting:

Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Chicago Bears (1.7 years, $5.3 million annual average)

Christine Michael, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks (2.3 years, $3.3 million annual average)- especially if the team drafts a running back, but noting that Robert Turbin is a free agent in 2016.

Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals (1.7 years, $11.0 million annual average)

That’s all for now, fellow sharks. I sincerely hope you enjoyed and this is helpful. Feel free to reach out to me with key decisions you are facing via Twitter @mattgoody2 . I’m more than happy to help you with your key decisions.

Bo Wulf's Mock Draft

Updated: April 1st 2015

Mariota

Less than a month away from the start of the NFL Draft, it’s time for RSO to take our shot at predicting how the first round will play out. As always, think of this not as exactly what will happen but rather a representation of the potential fits available.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Marcus Mariota

Everyone seems to have accepted Jameis Winston’s potential selection as the No. 1 overall pick as a foregone conclusion, but we’re not so sure. Winston’s off-field issues will no doubt cause general manager Jason Licht to hesitate to make Winston the face of the franchise. Staying in Florida, albeit four hours away from Tallahassee, would probably not be in Winston’s best interests either. On the field, meanwhile, Winston has his fair share of question marks as well, including a concerning disregard for ball security (his touchdown-to-interception ration dropped from 40-10 to 25-18 in 2014).

As for Mariota, if you look beyond what has become conventional wisdom, the fit makes sense. Dirk Koetter, the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator, will be intimately familiar with everything Mariota brings to the table, both on and off the field. That’s because Mark Helfrich, Mariota’s head coach for two seasons at Oregon and offensive coordinator for a year before that, and Koetter have been long-time friends and colleagues, with the two working alongside each other for nine seasons at Oregon, Boise State and Arizona State. Consider also that Mariota’s ability as a dual-threat quarterback would help a Buccaneers running game that ranked 29th in the league last season and the picture becomes clearer.

Trade Possibility: Considering the prohibitive cost of moving up to No. 1 and that the closest non-Titans team that needs a quarterback is the Jets at No. 6, the odds are very strong that the Bucs will make the first overall pick come late April.

2. Tennessee Titans – QB Jameis Winston

While Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt has done a good job selling Mariota as a possibility in the lead-up to the draft, there’s little debate that Winston better fits his offense. Even with the off-field questions, the Titans would be thrilled to take Winston here as they look to rebuild an anemic offense, Zach Mettenberger be damned.

Trade Possibility: If Winston goes first overall, the Titans would be open to trade-down possibilities, though teams smitten with Mariota could wait until later if they don’t believe the Titans’ interest in the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – OL Brandon Scherff

Bucking conventional wisdom again here, but the Jaguars pulled a fast one with the third overall pick last year, selecting Blake Bortles, and the thought is that they’ll do it again. Jacksonville would be spoiled for choice here with plenty of options to help Gus Bradley’s defense, including pass rushers Vic Beasley and Dante Fowler, Jr., along with defensive lineman Leonard Williams. They could also pull the trigger on a wide receiver.

But the offensive line has been a disaster for Jacksonville for the last few seasons and even though they made improvements through free agency each of the last two offseasons – guard Zane Beadles in 2014, tackle Jermey Parnell this year – the best way to help Bortles moving forward is to make sure he’s protected. In addition to protecting Bortles, Scherff would aid a Jaguars running game that needs the help as the 6-5, 319-pounder is the most dominant run blocker in the class. Scherff’s selection would allow 2014 third-round pick Brandon Linder to move to center.

Trade Possibility: If someone falls hard for Leonard Williams (Washington, perhaps?), general manager David Caldwell is likely very open to the idea of moving down.

4. Oakland Raiders – DL Leonard Williams

The Raiders are bereft of talent all over the place, so there are plenty of ways to go here. Amari Cooper and Kevin White are the popular links to Oakland because of the need to surround Derek Carr with offensive weapons, but in another deep wide receiver draft, the thought is that the Raiders wait until day two to address the position. On defense, where Khalil Mack made an instant impact last year, the Raiders could use some beef up front. Dan Williams was signed in free agency to man the nose, but the release of 33-year-old Antonio Smith signals an acknowledgement that the group needs to get younger, especially with the 32-year-old Justin Tuck still penciled in to start.

Williams, meanwhile, is a versatile defensive lineman who could be utilized in a multitude of ways by the new coaching staff. That staff, meanwhile, includes head coach Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, who all have close ties to USC. It’s a match made in Los Angeles.

Trade Possibility: Oakland too would be open to moving down, though their best chance to do so likely relies on a quarterback falling.

5. Washington Redskins – WR Amari Cooper

New general manager Scot McCloughan has shown a patience and eye for value this offseason that has been missing in Landover for a long time. McCloughan used free agency to patch up holes along the defensive line and in the secondary, but Washington remains in need of defensive playmakers. Even with the additions of both Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton, Washington could use help up front, especially with 32-year-old Jason Hatcher coming off injured reserve and Knighton signed for only one season, and Oregon’s Arik Armstead would be an ideal scheme fit. An edge rusher or, less likely, a cornerback could also be possibilities here.

But the guess is that McCloughan sees value at wide receiver, where Amari Cooper runs the kind of reliable, precise routes that are necessary in head coach Jay Gruden’s offense. Both Cooper and the returning Pierre Garcon could be moved inside and outside as Washington looks to help Robert Griffin III, or whoever ends up taking the majority of the snaps at quarterback.

Trade Possibility: Considering the state of the roster and McCloughan’s eye for value, Washington seems one of the more likely teams to look to trade down. As such, they’ll hope a quarterback falls.

6. New York Jets – OLB Dante Fowler, Jr.

Armed with one of the best three-man defensive lines in football, the Jets and head coach Todd Bowles could still use a dynamic edge rusher to complement Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Former first-round pick Quinton Coples is just OK and Calvin Pace will be 35 this season. Fowler might be the best pass rusher in the draft class andwould fit well in Bowles’ defense.

Trade Possibility: Despite the prevailing notion around the Jets that Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick are ready to quarterback the team in 2015, it stands to reason that they should still be interested in a quarterback. They should be considered sleepers to trade up for a quarterback if the price is right.

7. Chicago Bears – WR Kevin White

This looks like one of the easier fits of the early first round as White could seamlessly slide into the Bears offense as a replacement for Brandon Marshall alongside Alshon Jeffery. Beyond Marquess Wilson, the Bears have nothing besides Jeffery at receiver at the moment, so even if it’s not White, expect them to draft at least two receivers in what is a loaded class at the position. On defense, the Bears are transitioning to a 3-4, so they’ll be in the market for versatile defensive linemen.

Trade Possibility: The Bears are a darkhorse contender to trade up for a quarterback, but they might also be willing to move up a few spots for Leonard Williams to make the former Trojan their horse up front.

8. Atlanta Falcons – OLB Vic Beasley

In search of a “LEO” for his Seahawks-proxy defense, new head coach Dan Quinn should be happy about the potential addition of Beasley here. At 6-3, 246, Beasley is an impressive athlete who should help a Falcons pass rush that registered an anemic 22 sacks in 2014, tied for second-worst in the league.

Trade Possibility: If the right offer came along, Scott Pioli, newly in charge of the draft process for the Falcons and seeped in Patriots roots, would surely be open to moving down.

9. New York Giants – DL Arik Armstead

Despite the absence of even one starting-caliber safety on the roster, this is probably too early for general manager Jerry Reese to pull the trigger on Alabama’s Landon Collins. After hitting a home run in the first round last year with the selection of Odell Beckham, Jr., Reese, according to our projection, opts to turn the clock back to make a pick similar to one of his other first-round hits. Though Armstead and Jason Pierre-Paul are not the same kind of player, Armstead’s relative inexperience and monumental upside bring comparisons to Pierre-Paul to mind. And even with JPP back in the fold, the Giants defensive line still needs the kind of help that Armstead, 6-7, 292, could provide. Pitting a former Oregon standout against division-rival Chip Kelly is added incentive.

Trade Possibility: A trade-down to a spot more palatable for Landon Collins would make a lot of sense.

10. St. Louis Rams – OL Andrus Peat

The Rams saw what happened last season when Nick Foles had little protection up front and they’ll do whatever they can to make sure the slow-footed Foles can sit cleanly in the pocket. With Peat, they get a ready-made right tackle who can pave the way for Tre Mason and would give the Rams bookend tackles for the next several years, assuming Greg Robinson, last year’s first-round pick, eventually develops as the team expects him to.

Trade Possibility: Jeff Fisher will always listen to trade-down opportunities and the depth of offensive line talent in the first round would allow him to do so.

11. Minnesota Vikings – CB Trae Waynes

Xavier Rhodes is a keeper at cornerback, but the Vikings won’t be content to let Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn compete to start on the other side for very long. Head coach Mike Zimmer has long liked his cornerbacks long and physical and that’s exactly what Waynes, 6-0, 186, is.

Trade Possibility: Waynes is such a good fit that a move a few spots up wouldn’t be out of the question. If Adrian Peterson is dealt elsewhere, the other possibility is a trade down to a spot where taking a running back would make more sense.

12. Cleveland Browns – WR DeVante Parker

Parker has emerged as the consensus No. 3 wide receiver in the draft class, though some believe he has limitations as an athlete. Still, Parker does well in contested catch situations and should be a scoring threat in the red zone, where the Browns struggled last season (24th in red-zone efficiency). With their lack of talent at the position, Cleveland will be expected to use at least one of their two first-round picks on a wide receiver and Parker should fit the system well.

Trade Possibility: Rumors persist that the Browns could look to package one of their first-round picks for a quarterback. If they end up dealing the 19th overall selection in such a deal, perhaps they’d look to trade down from 12 to recoup some of the lost value.

13.  New Orleans Saints – S Landon Collins

The Saints spent a first-rounder on a safety two years ago when they took Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro 15th overall. Then, a year ago, they spent big on the position in free agency when they signed Jairus Byrd. Acknowledging that neither move turned out spectacularly for New Orleans, it’s important to note that Rob Ryan tends to play a lot of dime defense with the Saints, and a safety capable of ranging in coverage but who can be counted on to make tackles consistently, like Alabama’s Collins, would fit well. Nebraska’s Randy Gregory would surely tempt the Saints here, but the team has professed to place a higher emphasis on character and toughness this offseason. A pass rusher like Kentucky’s Bud Dupree or a reliable nose tackle would also make sense.

Trade Possibility: The Saints own two first-round picks of their own thanks to the Jimmy Graham trade, so they could have the equity to move up. If one of the top pass rushers, Dante Fowler or Bud Dupree, were to slide a bit, the Saints could look to pounce.

14. Miami Dolphins – WR Breshad Perriman

Kenny Stills was a nice pickup for new football czar Mike Tannenbaum and Jarvis Landry is coming off a promising rookie season in which he caught 84 passes, but the Dolphins still need a potential No. 1 target for Ryan Tannehill. Perriman, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Central Florida product who reportedly stole the show at his pro day with a 4.24-second 40-yard dash, presents just that kind of upside. Meanwhile, don’t rule out the possibility that Tannenbaum, who loves to make a splash, would use this pick on the top running back in the class, Georgia’s Todd Gurley.

Trade Possibility: The aforementioned Gurley possibility could become likelier with a trade-down, but the Dolphins could also move up for the receiver of their choice.

15. San Francisco 49ers – DL Jordan Phillips

Even with the loss of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement, San Francisco doesn’t need to force a pick on an inside linebacker here, especially with serious needs up front on defense. Oklahoma’s Phillips is a perfect fit for the Niners’ 3-4 defense, where he could play multiple positions. At 6-5, 329, Phillips can hold the point stoutly at the nose, but he’s also quick enough to get upfield on passing downs. Gifting Jim Tomsula a defensive lineman with the team’s first pick in his reign as head coach is icing on the cake.

Trade Possibility: Stop if you’ve heard it before, but San Francisco would likely be open to a trade down, perhaps for a linebacker like Mississippi State’s Bernardrick McKinney or UCLA’s Eric Kendricks.

16. Houston Texans – TE Maxx Williams

Despite value presenting itself at offensive line, the Texans have little need up front on offense. And even with the loss of Brooks Reed in free agency, it’s hard to see the Texans using a first-round pick on a pass rusher just one year after they took Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick. Safety is a need, depending on your opinion of DJ Swearinger and Rahim Moore, but Landon Collins is already off the board.

So it falls to the skill positions, where the team could use a complement to DeAndre Hopkins or an eventual heir to Arian Foster. In lieu of those options, both of which could be addressed later in the draft, the thought here is for Bill O’Brien to try to find his own version of Rob Gronkowski to help either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett at quarterback. Williams, 6-4, 249, out of Minnesota is by far the best tight end in the draft class and could play immediately alongside or instead of Garrett Graham.

Trade Possibility: A small move up for Landon Collins might intrigue Houston on draft day.

17. San Diego Chargers – OLB Bud Dupree

San Diego could use this pick on a few different offensive positions. A wide receiver to upgrade from Stevie Johnson or Malcom Floyd alongside Keenan Allen would make sense, and Auburn’s Sammie Coates is the kind of downfield threat with whom Philip Rivers likes to connect. The offensive line is improving but could still use one more piece and LSU’s La’el Collins could start for a season at guard before eventually replacing King Dunlap at left tackle. Then, of course, there’s the quarterback position itself.

But the guess here is that San Diego turns its attention to the defense, where pass rush is still needed. Nebraska’s Randy Gregory would present value, but it’s probably not the best idea to stick him in southern California. Dupree, meanwhile, provides the explosiveness to help defensive coordinator John Pagano improve on the unit’s 35 sacks in 2014.

Trade Possibility: The Chargers are considered a dark-horse candidate to move up for a sliding quarterback considering Rivers’ advanced age (33). We’ll believe it when we see it.

18. Kansas City Chiefs – OLB Randy Gregory

Gregory’s slide ends in Kansas City, where he’ll face no pressure to contribute immediately thanks to the incumbent pass-rushing tandem of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. With Houston, the league’s reigning sack champion, returning under the franchise tag, the promise of Gregory would give the Chiefs a fallback plan in case Houston and the team can’t come to terms on a long-term deal. More importantly, head coach Andy Reid has always been willing to take chances on players with potential “character concerns,” especially at the most important positions. Reid’s affinity for “fastballs” to throw at opposing quarterbacks is well-known and the super-talented Gregory certainly would provide that.

Trade Possibility: Despite the signing of Jeremy Maclin to a big-money deal in free agency, wide receiver remains a need for the Chiefs and the team could target a trade up if someone fits the bill.

19. Cleveland Browns – OLB Shane Ray

The run on pass rushers continues in Cleveland, where Ray’s explosive athleticism would give head coach Mike Pettine a new toy to play with on defense. At 6-3, 245, Ray is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year thanks to an impressive 14.5 sacks in his junior season. He would immediately challenge Barkevious Mingo, drafted under the previous regime, for playing time. But don’t rule out the possibility that Cleveland could use both of its first-round picks on wide receivers.

Trade Possibility: As mentioned earlier, this is the pick that has been rumored to be potentially on the move in the search for a ready-made quarterback.

20. Philadelphia Eagles – OL Jake Fisher

As good a player-team fit as there is in the draft, Fisher would be reunited with Chip Kelly, his former college coach. Aside from the Oregon connection, the athletic Fisher is an ideal fit for the Eagles offensive line, where he would immediately replace Todd Herremans at right guard while waiting to slide to tackle when, or if, Jason Peters steps aside down the road. LSU’s La’el Collins or Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings would both make sense in the same vein, but Fisher fits the mold best.

Trade Possibility: Do the Eagles have the ammunition to move all the way up for Marcus Mariota? The odds are slim to slimmer and Kelly appears unlikely to part with more draft equity after the loss of the team’s 2016 second-round pick in the Sam Bradford trade.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – ILB Benardrick McKinney

The debate over the physically imposing McKinney is whether he’ll best fit inside or on the strong side in a 4-3 defense at the next level. Cincinnati just so happens to need both, with Rey Maualuga declining and Emmanuel Lamur getting by on being average. An offensive lineman like La’el Collins or T.J. Clemmings would make sense here as well, as would a cornerback.

Trade Possibility: The Bengals roster is in pretty good shape across the board, depending on how you feel about Andy Dalton. If a player slides who fits their fancy, they’re a likely candidate to move up.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Marcus Peters

The Marcus Peters questions have to do with his willingness to buy into a system. In Pittsburgh, head coach Mike Tomlin has created a culture that would embrace Peters without catering to him. More importantly, they need a cornerback and Peters’ physical style suits the defense. Offensive line is the other likely option here.

Trade Possibility: It’s unlikely that a team in the back end of the round would feel the need to jump Detroit, but Pittsburgh would no doubt listen to any trade-down offers.

23. Detroit Lions – CB Byron Jones

Detroit has been trying to fix its secondary for a long time and cornerback Darius Slay is the only real keeper among the back four. Rashean Mathis returns as a stopgap on the other side, but Jones provides a long-term solution. Jones put his name on the map with an otherworldly performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he’s much more than a workout wonder and at 6-1, 199, he has the tools to succeed in a division where passing rules the land.

Trade Possibility: Todd Gurley falls no further than the next pick, so if someone wants the most talented runner in the draft (Baltimore? Dallas?), No. 23 could fetch a haul.

24. Arizona Cardinals – RB Todd Gurley

Andre Ellington is a fine enough third-down back, but the Cardinals need more thunder in the running game and Gurley is just the man for the job. After a productive free agency period in Arizona, running back remains a priority and there’s no better way to keep Carson Palmer healthy than letting him hand off to Gurley 20-plus times a game. Full ACL recoveries are the norm these days and teams won’t shy away from adding Gurley, whether he’ll be ready for the start of the season or not. In fact, he may go much higher than this.

Trade Possibility: Gurley in Arizona is such a good fit that the Cardinals could move up for his services, despite the depth of running back talent in the draft.

25. Carolina Panthers – OL La’el Collins

Offensive line has been an issue in Carolina for a while and the addition of Michael Oher did little to help the problem. Collins is outstanding value in this scenario and though he may be best suited to start at guard before eventually transitioning to left tackle down the road in most places, he might be tasked with starting at tackle right away for the Panthers.

Trade Possibility: There doesn’t look to be much of a market for this pick and Carolina is not in a position to mortgage draft value by moving up. Look for them to stay put.

26. Baltimore Ravens – WR Jaelen Strong

Strong excels in making contested catches down the field, which is exactly the prototype for Joe Flacco receivers. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Strong is an ideal replacement for the departed Torrey Smith and could start over Marlon Brown opposite Steve Smith in Week 1. Cornerback would be a possibility here as well.

Trade Possibility: After the success the Ravens had on the ground with Justin Forsett last season, it would be a surprise to see them use a first-round pick on a running back, and Ozzie Newsome’s M.O. is to stand pat and take the best player available. Still, the idea of Gurley in purple remains intriguing enough that a small move up could be a possibility.

27. Dallas Cowboys – DT Malcom Brown

Everyone expects Dallas to take a first-round running back, but with Gurley off the board, they’re better off waiting until the second or third round to nab their DeMarco Murray replacement. Meanwhile, the Cowboys defensive line is in rough shape and Brown, 6-2, 319, is the kind of defensive lineman coveted by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Trade Possibility: If Jerry Jones falls hard for Gurley, he’ll do whatever it takes to get the Georgia product.

28. Denver Broncos – LB Eric Kendricks

Denver could use a new offensive lineman to replace Orlando Franklin and T.J. Clemmings is probably the best player on the board in this scenario, but the guess here is that John Elway will be taken with Kendricks’ football instincts, perhaps the best of any defensive prospect in the draft. At 6-0, 232, Kendricks has the speed to fit in seamlessly in the Broncos defense.

Trade Possibility: Because the Broncos are pretty well set across the board, they have the flexibility to move up for the right player, but who knows who that might be.

29. Indianapolis Colts – OL T.J. Clemmings

General manager Ryan Grigson would take five seconds to phone this one in if the board falls this way. Despite the addition of Todd Herremans in free agency, the Colts still have a serious issue along the offensive line and Clemmings is worthy of a top-20 pick in this draft. One of the more punishing run blockers in the class, Clemmings is athletic enough that he projects as a good pass protector as well and, with only two years on offense in college, he has the kind of upside to dream on.

Trade Possibility: Clemmings is the last of the first-round worthy linemen, depending on how you feel about Miami’s Ereck Flowers or Florida State’s Cam Erving, and the Colts have not exactly been a patient team over the last few years. If Clemmings or Collins starts to slide, Grigson could move up a few spots.

30. Green Bay Packers – OLB Owamagbe Odighizuwa

This pick comes down to three players who would each fit a position of relative need on defense for the Packers: Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson, Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis and Odighizuwa, the supremely athletic jack of all trades out of UCLA. Johnson has the length and cover skills to succeed in the NFL and he’d help ease the burden of Tramon Williams’ departure. Davis put on one of the best performances at the Senior Bowl in January and would fit right in up front for the Packers. But Odighizuwa is the one who possesses the most unique skill-set at 6-3, 267, with otherworldly athleticism and a tenacious nose for the ball. He would be the long-term replacement for Julius Peppers.

Trade Possibility: General manager Ted Thompson does not like to move around in round one. He’ll likely stay put.

31. New Orleans Saints – WR Devin Funchess

No player in the draft is more like departed tight end Jimmy Graham than Funchess, so the fit here may make too much sense, considering the internal hype surrounding tight end Josh Hill. But even if Hill is the answer at tight end, the Saints still need an eventual replacement for the aging Marques Colston opposite Brandin Cooks, and Funchess would complement Cooks well. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Funchess excels at the catch point and would work well with Drew Brees. Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson is another possibility, especially if the Saints address the offense with their 13th overall selection.

Trade Possibility: Because the Saints have two first-round picks, they’ll be a threat to move up or down throughout the round. If they fall in love with a top-five talent, don’t rule out a packaging of No. 13 and No. 31 together.

32. New England Patriots – S Damarious Randall

The ol’ Bill coach is always good for a late first-round surprise and the Patriots could really use a replacement for Patrick Chung alongside the newly re-signed Devin McCourty. Randall is not a likely first-round pick, but in a safety class where no one stands out as a clear-cut second option behind Landon Collins, Randall’s instincts stand out. Like McCourty, Randall could bounce between safety and cornerback at the next level, especially with his 4.46-second 40-yard dash speed, but he’d fit best in the back end of the Patriots defense.

Trade Possibility: We all know the odds of Belichick keeping this selection are slim considering his penchant for trading down.

Bo Wulf’s Mock Draft

Updated: April 21st 2015

Mariota

Less than a month away from the start of the NFL Draft, it’s time for RSO to take our shot at predicting how the first round will play out. As always, think of this not as exactly what will happen but rather a representation of the potential fits available.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Marcus Mariota

Everyone seems to have accepted Jameis Winston’s potential selection as the No. 1 overall pick as a foregone conclusion, but we’re not so sure. Winston’s off-field issues will no doubt cause general manager Jason Licht to hesitate to make Winston the face of the franchise. Staying in Florida, albeit four hours away from Tallahassee, would probably not be in Winston’s best interests either. On the field, meanwhile, Winston has his fair share of question marks as well, including a concerning disregard for ball security (his touchdown-to-interception ration dropped from 40-10 to 25-18 in 2014).

As for Mariota, if you look beyond what has become conventional wisdom, the fit makes sense. Dirk Koetter, the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator, will be intimately familiar with everything Mariota brings to the table, both on and off the field. That’s because Mark Helfrich, Mariota’s head coach for two seasons at Oregon and offensive coordinator for a year before that, and Koetter have been long-time friends and colleagues, with the two working alongside each other for nine seasons at Oregon, Boise State and Arizona State. Consider also that Mariota’s ability as a dual-threat quarterback would help a Buccaneers running game that ranked 29th in the league last season and the picture becomes clearer.

Trade Possibility: Considering the prohibitive cost of moving up to No. 1 and that the closest non-Titans team that needs a quarterback is the Jets at No. 6, the odds are very strong that the Bucs will make the first overall pick come late April.

2. Tennessee Titans – QB Jameis Winston

While Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt has done a good job selling Mariota as a possibility in the lead-up to the draft, there’s little debate that Winston better fits his offense. Even with the off-field questions, the Titans would be thrilled to take Winston here as they look to rebuild an anemic offense, Zach Mettenberger be damned.

Trade Possibility: If Winston goes first overall, the Titans would be open to trade-down possibilities, though teams smitten with Mariota could wait until later if they don’t believe the Titans’ interest in the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – OL Brandon Scherff

Bucking conventional wisdom again here, but the Jaguars pulled a fast one with the third overall pick last year, selecting Blake Bortles, and the thought is that they’ll do it again. Jacksonville would be spoiled for choice here with plenty of options to help Gus Bradley’s defense, including pass rushers Vic Beasley and Dante Fowler, Jr., along with defensive lineman Leonard Williams. They could also pull the trigger on a wide receiver.

But the offensive line has been a disaster for Jacksonville for the last few seasons and even though they made improvements through free agency each of the last two offseasons – guard Zane Beadles in 2014, tackle Jermey Parnell this year – the best way to help Bortles moving forward is to make sure he’s protected. In addition to protecting Bortles, Scherff would aid a Jaguars running game that needs the help as the 6-5, 319-pounder is the most dominant run blocker in the class. Scherff’s selection would allow 2014 third-round pick Brandon Linder to move to center.

Trade Possibility: If someone falls hard for Leonard Williams (Washington, perhaps?), general manager David Caldwell is likely very open to the idea of moving down.

4. Oakland Raiders – DL Leonard Williams

The Raiders are bereft of talent all over the place, so there are plenty of ways to go here. Amari Cooper and Kevin White are the popular links to Oakland because of the need to surround Derek Carr with offensive weapons, but in another deep wide receiver draft, the thought is that the Raiders wait until day two to address the position. On defense, where Khalil Mack made an instant impact last year, the Raiders could use some beef up front. Dan Williams was signed in free agency to man the nose, but the release of 33-year-old Antonio Smith signals an acknowledgement that the group needs to get younger, especially with the 32-year-old Justin Tuck still penciled in to start.

Williams, meanwhile, is a versatile defensive lineman who could be utilized in a multitude of ways by the new coaching staff. That staff, meanwhile, includes head coach Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, who all have close ties to USC. It’s a match made in Los Angeles.

Trade Possibility: Oakland too would be open to moving down, though their best chance to do so likely relies on a quarterback falling.

5. Washington Redskins – WR Amari Cooper

New general manager Scot McCloughan has shown a patience and eye for value this offseason that has been missing in Landover for a long time. McCloughan used free agency to patch up holes along the defensive line and in the secondary, but Washington remains in need of defensive playmakers. Even with the additions of both Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton, Washington could use help up front, especially with 32-year-old Jason Hatcher coming off injured reserve and Knighton signed for only one season, and Oregon’s Arik Armstead would be an ideal scheme fit. An edge rusher or, less likely, a cornerback could also be possibilities here.

But the guess is that McCloughan sees value at wide receiver, where Amari Cooper runs the kind of reliable, precise routes that are necessary in head coach Jay Gruden’s offense. Both Cooper and the returning Pierre Garcon could be moved inside and outside as Washington looks to help Robert Griffin III, or whoever ends up taking the majority of the snaps at quarterback.

Trade Possibility: Considering the state of the roster and McCloughan’s eye for value, Washington seems one of the more likely teams to look to trade down. As such, they’ll hope a quarterback falls.

6. New York Jets – OLB Dante Fowler, Jr.

Armed with one of the best three-man defensive lines in football, the Jets and head coach Todd Bowles could still use a dynamic edge rusher to complement Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Former first-round pick Quinton Coples is just OK and Calvin Pace will be 35 this season. Fowler might be the best pass rusher in the draft class andwould fit well in Bowles’ defense.

Trade Possibility: Despite the prevailing notion around the Jets that Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick are ready to quarterback the team in 2015, it stands to reason that they should still be interested in a quarterback. They should be considered sleepers to trade up for a quarterback if the price is right.

7. Chicago Bears – WR Kevin White

This looks like one of the easier fits of the early first round as White could seamlessly slide into the Bears offense as a replacement for Brandon Marshall alongside Alshon Jeffery. Beyond Marquess Wilson, the Bears have nothing besides Jeffery at receiver at the moment, so even if it’s not White, expect them to draft at least two receivers in what is a loaded class at the position. On defense, the Bears are transitioning to a 3-4, so they’ll be in the market for versatile defensive linemen.

Trade Possibility: The Bears are a darkhorse contender to trade up for a quarterback, but they might also be willing to move up a few spots for Leonard Williams to make the former Trojan their horse up front.

8. Atlanta Falcons – OLB Vic Beasley

In search of a “LEO” for his Seahawks-proxy defense, new head coach Dan Quinn should be happy about the potential addition of Beasley here. At 6-3, 246, Beasley is an impressive athlete who should help a Falcons pass rush that registered an anemic 22 sacks in 2014, tied for second-worst in the league.

Trade Possibility: If the right offer came along, Scott Pioli, newly in charge of the draft process for the Falcons and seeped in Patriots roots, would surely be open to moving down.

9. New York Giants – DL Arik Armstead

Despite the absence of even one starting-caliber safety on the roster, this is probably too early for general manager Jerry Reese to pull the trigger on Alabama’s Landon Collins. After hitting a home run in the first round last year with the selection of Odell Beckham, Jr., Reese, according to our projection, opts to turn the clock back to make a pick similar to one of his other first-round hits. Though Armstead and Jason Pierre-Paul are not the same kind of player, Armstead’s relative inexperience and monumental upside bring comparisons to Pierre-Paul to mind. And even with JPP back in the fold, the Giants defensive line still needs the kind of help that Armstead, 6-7, 292, could provide. Pitting a former Oregon standout against division-rival Chip Kelly is added incentive.

Trade Possibility: A trade-down to a spot more palatable for Landon Collins would make a lot of sense.

10. St. Louis Rams – OL Andrus Peat

The Rams saw what happened last season when Nick Foles had little protection up front and they’ll do whatever they can to make sure the slow-footed Foles can sit cleanly in the pocket. With Peat, they get a ready-made right tackle who can pave the way for Tre Mason and would give the Rams bookend tackles for the next several years, assuming Greg Robinson, last year’s first-round pick, eventually develops as the team expects him to.

Trade Possibility: Jeff Fisher will always listen to trade-down opportunities and the depth of offensive line talent in the first round would allow him to do so.

11. Minnesota Vikings – CB Trae Waynes

Xavier Rhodes is a keeper at cornerback, but the Vikings won’t be content to let Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn compete to start on the other side for very long. Head coach Mike Zimmer has long liked his cornerbacks long and physical and that’s exactly what Waynes, 6-0, 186, is.

Trade Possibility: Waynes is such a good fit that a move a few spots up wouldn’t be out of the question. If Adrian Peterson is dealt elsewhere, the other possibility is a trade down to a spot where taking a running back would make more sense.

12. Cleveland Browns – WR DeVante Parker

Parker has emerged as the consensus No. 3 wide receiver in the draft class, though some believe he has limitations as an athlete. Still, Parker does well in contested catch situations and should be a scoring threat in the red zone, where the Browns struggled last season (24th in red-zone efficiency). With their lack of talent at the position, Cleveland will be expected to use at least one of their two first-round picks on a wide receiver and Parker should fit the system well.

Trade Possibility: Rumors persist that the Browns could look to package one of their first-round picks for a quarterback. If they end up dealing the 19th overall selection in such a deal, perhaps they’d look to trade down from 12 to recoup some of the lost value.

13.  New Orleans Saints – S Landon Collins

The Saints spent a first-rounder on a safety two years ago when they took Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro 15th overall. Then, a year ago, they spent big on the position in free agency when they signed Jairus Byrd. Acknowledging that neither move turned out spectacularly for New Orleans, it’s important to note that Rob Ryan tends to play a lot of dime defense with the Saints, and a safety capable of ranging in coverage but who can be counted on to make tackles consistently, like Alabama’s Collins, would fit well. Nebraska’s Randy Gregory would surely tempt the Saints here, but the team has professed to place a higher emphasis on character and toughness this offseason. A pass rusher like Kentucky’s Bud Dupree or a reliable nose tackle would also make sense.

Trade Possibility: The Saints own two first-round picks of their own thanks to the Jimmy Graham trade, so they could have the equity to move up. If one of the top pass rushers, Dante Fowler or Bud Dupree, were to slide a bit, the Saints could look to pounce.

14. Miami Dolphins – WR Breshad Perriman

Kenny Stills was a nice pickup for new football czar Mike Tannenbaum and Jarvis Landry is coming off a promising rookie season in which he caught 84 passes, but the Dolphins still need a potential No. 1 target for Ryan Tannehill. Perriman, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Central Florida product who reportedly stole the show at his pro day with a 4.24-second 40-yard dash, presents just that kind of upside. Meanwhile, don’t rule out the possibility that Tannenbaum, who loves to make a splash, would use this pick on the top running back in the class, Georgia’s Todd Gurley.

Trade Possibility: The aforementioned Gurley possibility could become likelier with a trade-down, but the Dolphins could also move up for the receiver of their choice.

15. San Francisco 49ers – DL Jordan Phillips

Even with the loss of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement, San Francisco doesn’t need to force a pick on an inside linebacker here, especially with serious needs up front on defense. Oklahoma’s Phillips is a perfect fit for the Niners’ 3-4 defense, where he could play multiple positions. At 6-5, 329, Phillips can hold the point stoutly at the nose, but he’s also quick enough to get upfield on passing downs. Gifting Jim Tomsula a defensive lineman with the team’s first pick in his reign as head coach is icing on the cake.

Trade Possibility: Stop if you’ve heard it before, but San Francisco would likely be open to a trade down, perhaps for a linebacker like Mississippi State’s Bernardrick McKinney or UCLA’s Eric Kendricks.

16. Houston Texans – TE Maxx Williams

Despite value presenting itself at offensive line, the Texans have little need up front on offense. And even with the loss of Brooks Reed in free agency, it’s hard to see the Texans using a first-round pick on a pass rusher just one year after they took Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick. Safety is a need, depending on your opinion of DJ Swearinger and Rahim Moore, but Landon Collins is already off the board.

So it falls to the skill positions, where the team could use a complement to DeAndre Hopkins or an eventual heir to Arian Foster. In lieu of those options, both of which could be addressed later in the draft, the thought here is for Bill O’Brien to try to find his own version of Rob Gronkowski to help either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett at quarterback. Williams, 6-4, 249, out of Minnesota is by far the best tight end in the draft class and could play immediately alongside or instead of Garrett Graham.

Trade Possibility: A small move up for Landon Collins might intrigue Houston on draft day.

17. San Diego Chargers – OLB Bud Dupree

San Diego could use this pick on a few different offensive positions. A wide receiver to upgrade from Stevie Johnson or Malcom Floyd alongside Keenan Allen would make sense, and Auburn’s Sammie Coates is the kind of downfield threat with whom Philip Rivers likes to connect. The offensive line is improving but could still use one more piece and LSU’s La’el Collins could start for a season at guard before eventually replacing King Dunlap at left tackle. Then, of course, there’s the quarterback position itself.

But the guess here is that San Diego turns its attention to the defense, where pass rush is still needed. Nebraska’s Randy Gregory would present value, but it’s probably not the best idea to stick him in southern California. Dupree, meanwhile, provides the explosiveness to help defensive coordinator John Pagano improve on the unit’s 35 sacks in 2014.

Trade Possibility: The Chargers are considered a dark-horse candidate to move up for a sliding quarterback considering Rivers’ advanced age (33). We’ll believe it when we see it.

18. Kansas City Chiefs – OLB Randy Gregory

Gregory’s slide ends in Kansas City, where he’ll face no pressure to contribute immediately thanks to the incumbent pass-rushing tandem of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. With Houston, the league’s reigning sack champion, returning under the franchise tag, the promise of Gregory would give the Chiefs a fallback plan in case Houston and the team can’t come to terms on a long-term deal. More importantly, head coach Andy Reid has always been willing to take chances on players with potential “character concerns,” especially at the most important positions. Reid’s affinity for “fastballs” to throw at opposing quarterbacks is well-known and the super-talented Gregory certainly would provide that.

Trade Possibility: Despite the signing of Jeremy Maclin to a big-money deal in free agency, wide receiver remains a need for the Chiefs and the team could target a trade up if someone fits the bill.

19. Cleveland Browns – OLB Shane Ray

The run on pass rushers continues in Cleveland, where Ray’s explosive athleticism would give head coach Mike Pettine a new toy to play with on defense. At 6-3, 245, Ray is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year thanks to an impressive 14.5 sacks in his junior season. He would immediately challenge Barkevious Mingo, drafted under the previous regime, for playing time. But don’t rule out the possibility that Cleveland could use both of its first-round picks on wide receivers.

Trade Possibility: As mentioned earlier, this is the pick that has been rumored to be potentially on the move in the search for a ready-made quarterback.

20. Philadelphia Eagles – OL Jake Fisher

As good a player-team fit as there is in the draft, Fisher would be reunited with Chip Kelly, his former college coach. Aside from the Oregon connection, the athletic Fisher is an ideal fit for the Eagles offensive line, where he would immediately replace Todd Herremans at right guard while waiting to slide to tackle when, or if, Jason Peters steps aside down the road. LSU’s La’el Collins or Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings would both make sense in the same vein, but Fisher fits the mold best.

Trade Possibility: Do the Eagles have the ammunition to move all the way up for Marcus Mariota? The odds are slim to slimmer and Kelly appears unlikely to part with more draft equity after the loss of the team’s 2016 second-round pick in the Sam Bradford trade.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – ILB Benardrick McKinney

The debate over the physically imposing McKinney is whether he’ll best fit inside or on the strong side in a 4-3 defense at the next level. Cincinnati just so happens to need both, with Rey Maualuga declining and Emmanuel Lamur getting by on being average. An offensive lineman like La’el Collins or T.J. Clemmings would make sense here as well, as would a cornerback.

Trade Possibility: The Bengals roster is in pretty good shape across the board, depending on how you feel about Andy Dalton. If a player slides who fits their fancy, they’re a likely candidate to move up.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Marcus Peters

The Marcus Peters questions have to do with his willingness to buy into a system. In Pittsburgh, head coach Mike Tomlin has created a culture that would embrace Peters without catering to him. More importantly, they need a cornerback and Peters’ physical style suits the defense. Offensive line is the other likely option here.

Trade Possibility: It’s unlikely that a team in the back end of the round would feel the need to jump Detroit, but Pittsburgh would no doubt listen to any trade-down offers.

23. Detroit Lions – CB Byron Jones

Detroit has been trying to fix its secondary for a long time and cornerback Darius Slay is the only real keeper among the back four. Rashean Mathis returns as a stopgap on the other side, but Jones provides a long-term solution. Jones put his name on the map with an otherworldly performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he’s much more than a workout wonder and at 6-1, 199, he has the tools to succeed in a division where passing rules the land.

Trade Possibility: Todd Gurley falls no further than the next pick, so if someone wants the most talented runner in the draft (Baltimore? Dallas?), No. 23 could fetch a haul.

24. Arizona Cardinals – RB Todd Gurley

Andre Ellington is a fine enough third-down back, but the Cardinals need more thunder in the running game and Gurley is just the man for the job. After a productive free agency period in Arizona, running back remains a priority and there’s no better way to keep Carson Palmer healthy than letting him hand off to Gurley 20-plus times a game. Full ACL recoveries are the norm these days and teams won’t shy away from adding Gurley, whether he’ll be ready for the start of the season or not. In fact, he may go much higher than this.

Trade Possibility: Gurley in Arizona is such a good fit that the Cardinals could move up for his services, despite the depth of running back talent in the draft.

25. Carolina Panthers – OL La’el Collins

Offensive line has been an issue in Carolina for a while and the addition of Michael Oher did little to help the problem. Collins is outstanding value in this scenario and though he may be best suited to start at guard before eventually transitioning to left tackle down the road in most places, he might be tasked with starting at tackle right away for the Panthers.

Trade Possibility: There doesn’t look to be much of a market for this pick and Carolina is not in a position to mortgage draft value by moving up. Look for them to stay put.

26. Baltimore Ravens – WR Jaelen Strong

Strong excels in making contested catches down the field, which is exactly the prototype for Joe Flacco receivers. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Strong is an ideal replacement for the departed Torrey Smith and could start over Marlon Brown opposite Steve Smith in Week 1. Cornerback would be a possibility here as well.

Trade Possibility: After the success the Ravens had on the ground with Justin Forsett last season, it would be a surprise to see them use a first-round pick on a running back, and Ozzie Newsome’s M.O. is to stand pat and take the best player available. Still, the idea of Gurley in purple remains intriguing enough that a small move up could be a possibility.

27. Dallas Cowboys – DT Malcom Brown

Everyone expects Dallas to take a first-round running back, but with Gurley off the board, they’re better off waiting until the second or third round to nab their DeMarco Murray replacement. Meanwhile, the Cowboys defensive line is in rough shape and Brown, 6-2, 319, is the kind of defensive lineman coveted by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Trade Possibility: If Jerry Jones falls hard for Gurley, he’ll do whatever it takes to get the Georgia product.

28. Denver Broncos – LB Eric Kendricks

Denver could use a new offensive lineman to replace Orlando Franklin and T.J. Clemmings is probably the best player on the board in this scenario, but the guess here is that John Elway will be taken with Kendricks’ football instincts, perhaps the best of any defensive prospect in the draft. At 6-0, 232, Kendricks has the speed to fit in seamlessly in the Broncos defense.

Trade Possibility: Because the Broncos are pretty well set across the board, they have the flexibility to move up for the right player, but who knows who that might be.

29. Indianapolis Colts – OL T.J. Clemmings

General manager Ryan Grigson would take five seconds to phone this one in if the board falls this way. Despite the addition of Todd Herremans in free agency, the Colts still have a serious issue along the offensive line and Clemmings is worthy of a top-20 pick in this draft. One of the more punishing run blockers in the class, Clemmings is athletic enough that he projects as a good pass protector as well and, with only two years on offense in college, he has the kind of upside to dream on.

Trade Possibility: Clemmings is the last of the first-round worthy linemen, depending on how you feel about Miami’s Ereck Flowers or Florida State’s Cam Erving, and the Colts have not exactly been a patient team over the last few years. If Clemmings or Collins starts to slide, Grigson could move up a few spots.

30. Green Bay Packers – OLB Owamagbe Odighizuwa

This pick comes down to three players who would each fit a position of relative need on defense for the Packers: Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson, Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis and Odighizuwa, the supremely athletic jack of all trades out of UCLA. Johnson has the length and cover skills to succeed in the NFL and he’d help ease the burden of Tramon Williams’ departure. Davis put on one of the best performances at the Senior Bowl in January and would fit right in up front for the Packers. But Odighizuwa is the one who possesses the most unique skill-set at 6-3, 267, with otherworldly athleticism and a tenacious nose for the ball. He would be the long-term replacement for Julius Peppers.

Trade Possibility: General manager Ted Thompson does not like to move around in round one. He’ll likely stay put.

31. New Orleans Saints – WR Devin Funchess

No player in the draft is more like departed tight end Jimmy Graham than Funchess, so the fit here may make too much sense, considering the internal hype surrounding tight end Josh Hill. But even if Hill is the answer at tight end, the Saints still need an eventual replacement for the aging Marques Colston opposite Brandin Cooks, and Funchess would complement Cooks well. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Funchess excels at the catch point and would work well with Drew Brees. Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson is another possibility, especially if the Saints address the offense with their 13th overall selection.

Trade Possibility: Because the Saints have two first-round picks, they’ll be a threat to move up or down throughout the round. If they fall in love with a top-five talent, don’t rule out a packaging of No. 13 and No. 31 together.

32. New England Patriots – S Damarious Randall

The ol’ Bill coach is always good for a late first-round surprise and the Patriots could really use a replacement for Patrick Chung alongside the newly re-signed Devin McCourty. Randall is not a likely first-round pick, but in a safety class where no one stands out as a clear-cut second option behind Landon Collins, Randall’s instincts stand out. Like McCourty, Randall could bounce between safety and cornerback at the next level, especially with his 4.46-second 40-yard dash speed, but he’d fit best in the back end of the Patriots defense.

Trade Possibility: We all know the odds of Belichick keeping this selection are slim considering his penchant for trading down.