Mel Kiper, ESPN’s draft analysis guru, is absolutely dead set that the controversial Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston will and should be the overall number one pick. The stats make it hard to argue with him and apparently whatever off-the-field issues he has had are willing to be overlooked. Winston finished his career at FSU with a 66% completion rate, 7964 passing yards, and 72 touchdowns to go along with his Heisman trophy in 2014. But we aren’t here to talk about Winston. His draft stock is well documented and he is all but signed, sealed, and delivered to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the No. 1 pick. Let’s instead look at who else might make some noise.
Marcus Mariota: Obviously if Winston is considered the best QB in the draft, Mariota must be considered the second. He is almost the antithesis of Winston however. Marcus relies on speed, decision making, and lead-by-example demeanor. He is certainly the more likeable of the two, but NFL scouts and owners don’t give a damn about likeability. They care about wins, and Mariota has shown he struggles with second and third reads at times and many claim he was just the recipient of a great system at the University of Oregon. Regardless, his talent and potential alone are enough to make him a top ten selection. Perhaps Tennessee will take him with the second overall pick. Some even speculate that a dark horse might trade away players and picks to move up in the draft and take Mariota. One way or another, his name will cross a ton of tables and cause quite a stir on April 30th.
Kevin White- University of West Virginia star wide-out turned a ton of heads this year when he ran a 4.35 official 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. While he was already highly coveted before that, he jumped from a late first rounder into a possible top five pick. Some are even starting to believe he might be taken before Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, college football’s Biletnikoff Award winner (the award for best receiver). Kiper’s latest mock draft has White going No. 4 overall to the Oakland Raiders, but depending on what happens 1-3, that could change fast. For example, it’s hard to imagine Oakland passing Mariota or University of Southern California defensive lineman Leonard Williams should either fall past No. 3.
Todd Gurley- University of Georgia fans died a little inside whenever Gurley was carted off the field with an apparent season-ending knee injury last year. A little more probably died whenever he announced he would be declaring for the draft rather than returning to UGA. Unfortunately for UGA, the running-back made the right decision. After surgery to repair his torn ACL tendon was a huge success, he decided that he was done wasting time in college. Throughout the off-season teams have known that it would be a risk to draft Gurley even with his repaired knee, but his level of talent and physicality keeps his extremely relevant. Bear in mind, Gurley finished his career at UGA with 3285 yards in three years. His tall but powerful frame and running style have brought comparisons to fellow UGA great Hershel Walker and former Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown. In an age where elite running backs are becoming scarce, teams are going to have to be willing to take the chance on Gurley’s knee. He still has one more physical evaluation before April 3oth and assuming all goes well I predict he will be the first running back taken in the draft, perhaps as high as No. 10 overall to the St. Louis Rams, or No. 11 to the Minnesota Vikings. However, there is still a chance he slips farther back into the first round, which would still be remarkable for someone who was initially considered a late second-rounder following the injury.