OTA offseason workouts are underway around the NFL with drafted players already seeing time on the practice field.
Included in the analysis below are position battles for playing time or roster spots, opinions on the draft pick and the level of success each player will have as those teams currently sit now.
1 Houston Texans - Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina
Not everyone believes in Clowney based on his lack of motor at times last season at SC. He’s on the right team to be an even better pro. His position will be listed as a ROLB, but he’ll be getting after the quarterback constantly. They are a 3-4 team on defense. But with so many passing teams with higher pace in the league in today’s NFL, defenses are in their nickel much of the time. That allows your rush OLB to put his hand down and get after the QB. I can’t wait to see him chase Andrew Luck a few times a year.
2 St. Louis Rams - Greg Robinson OT Auburn
Some analysts have suggested that the Rams may ease him in by starting him at guard. Are you kidding me? The #2 overall pick that draws comparisons in upside to hall of famers is going to be eased in at guard? Right tackle is where he’ll likely start with Jake Long on the other side.
6 Atlanta Falcons - Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M
Absolutely love this pick. He’s a sure thing and the number one need on this team. Pencil him in at right tackle, at minimum going into camp with Sam Baker at left tackle. I wouldn’t be surprised if they flip quickly though.
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mike Evans WR Texas A&M
Jon Gruden had me convinced that Evans was exactly what Vincent Jackson was, so they might not go that direction in drafting him. So much for that. Both of those guys will move around more than they have in the past. Look for Evans on the right and Jackson on the left. Evans already has the play of the off-season with a sick one-handed leaping snag and run in practice. He’s also already tweaked his hammy. This was a massive need for the Bucs. TB seems content at QB, and they also want to replicate the two big receiver success that Lovie Smith’s former team, the Bears, had with Marshall and Jeffery. They better stay healthy because the receivers behind those two are weak sauce.
12 New York Giants - Odell Beckham, Jr. WR LSU
Love this pick for the Giants. He’s a beast with all the tools. He’ll be a huge upgrade from Hakeem Nicks. He joins fellow former LSU WR Rueben Randle and stud Victor Cruz to give the Giants one of the better WR trios in the league. Beckham will help Eli Manning have a bounce back year.
17 Baltimore Ravens - C.J. Mosley ILB Alabama
Mosley is going to have control of that defense and become a team leader before you know it. He is a 3-down, intelligent, athletic, experienced linebacker with that “Ravens edge” and physicality. I know some Alabama defensive players have underachieved in the NFL, but I don’t think you’ll see that with him.
19 Miami Dolphins - Ja'Wuan James OT Tennessee
James’ stock continued to rise since the end of UT’s season. He’s smart, dedicated, durable, mobile, scheme diverse and he has the character that the Dolphins locker room still desperately needs. He’ll start at right tackle day one, and they won’t have to worry about him for years.
21 Green Bay Packers - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix S Alabama
Love this pick for Green Bay. It had to get an impact defender. CJ Mosley had already come off the board. The Pack gets great value at 21 as well. He has great ball skills, and got better each year at Bama. I think he starts at free safety right off the bat, and will be one of the best defensive rookies in the league.
22 Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M
While the Browns trip all over themselves to attempt to squash distractions, the team is only hurting itself and creating even more attention. The harder they try, the worse they look. Stop trying to prop-up Brian Hoyer and put-down Johnny Football. Embrace who you drafted, trash all the “plans” for when or when not to play him and just let their ability take care of it naturally. When he’s better, you play him, whether it’s Game 1 or Season 2. This is not hard. I just hope this doesn’t keep fans from seeing a potentially great player succeed and resurrect a franchise. If only Cleveland lets him.
23 Kansas City Chiefs - Dee Ford DE Auburn
I think Dee Ford is a good player. The KC pick is a little strange to me. Where they’ll likely have to play him is at that Rush-OLB spot. That’s where you have Tamba Hali. Maybe you’re protecting yourself for the future, but KC has areas it needs to get better in now (i.e. WR, of which it drafted none).
29 New England Patriots - Dominique Easley DT Florida
Again, a really good player, but you wonder about taking him that high with his knee injuries. Regardless, New England is a great spot for such a high-motor disruptive lineman. He’ll be that quick inside tackle that backs up Tommy Kelly until he’s ready or Kelly gets hurt.
42 Philadelphia Eagles - Jordan Matthews WR Vanderbilt
I love this pick for the Eagles. This is another fabulous fit for a phenomenal wide receiver out of the SEC. His size, route running and hands gives Nick Foles a sure-thing in the passing game, especially in the redzone and on fade routes. He was double-team and bracketed in coverage all the time at Vandy yet still torched good teams. He won’t get that level of attention in the NFL. The Eagles get Jeremy Maclin back from injury to go with Riley Cooper. Matthews won’t be the #3 receiver for long. Matthews in Philly will be one of my considerations for NFL Rookie of the Year.
44 Buffalo Bills - Cyrus Kouandjio OT Alabama
The zone blocking scheme and playing on turf half of the time are my concerns with this team fit for him. He has an opportunity for playing time because of the clear need along the offensive line. Cyrus was one of 3 talented offensive linemen drafted by the Bills, along with tackle Seantrel Henderson (Miami) and guard Cyril Richardson (Baylor). Cyrus’ competition at RT is Chris Hairston. He’s a former 5-star recruit, so the talent is there.
51 Chicago Bears - Ego Ferguson DT LSU
Ego is talented, but I think was taken too high. He’s likely the #2 NT behind Stephen Paea. He’s battling Brandon Dunn and Lee Pegues.
55 Cincinnati Bengals - Jeremy Hill RB LSU
Could Hill start the opener? Well, some think so. I think Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill splitting the snaps is more likely. Hill has clear baggage and clearer talent that fits the Cincy offense. That talent matters more than character to the Bengals. Oftentimes it still works out, and may very well again here.
60 Carolina Panthers - Kony Ealy DE Missouri
Ealy can get after the quarterback, but this doesn’t look like a pure fit to me. He’ll immediately be in the rotation as a back-up defensive end opposite Frank Alexander who will back up on the other side.
63 Miami Dolphins - Jarvis Landry WR LSU
This is another strong selection by Miami. Landry is just a baller. He has fantastic ball skills. He’s tough. He brings electric return ability. With inconsistent Mike Wallace ahead of him in the pecking order, prime playing time may present itself quickly. He’ll be another one of the impact rookie receivers from the SEC in the NFL this season.
64 Seattle Seahawks - Justin Britt OT Missouri
I didn’t understand taking Britt this high. He was a very good SEC offensive lineman, but I don’t see that translating into the NFL. Plus, he would have been around in the later rounds. The one way he does fit with Seattle is that he’s got that “nasty” to him that the ‘Hawks play with. He’s one of 5 tackles trying to win a backup spot or eventually unseat RT Michael Bowie.
75 St. Louis Rams - Tre Mason RB Auburn
Love this pick for the Rams and for Mason. I think he hops to number two on the depth chart just behind fellow-SECer Zac Stacy. Plus, he gets to run behind his college teammate Greg Robinson. Trust me; Fisher will utilize him well, even incorporating some of the run-game schemes they used at Auburn. Another impact rookie RB will show for GM Les Snead.
76 Detroit Lions - Travis Swanson C Arkansas
Swanson has to show he can be effective at guard as well as center. He was consistent in college, and has an edge to him that the Lions like in their linemen.
81 Oakland Raiders - Gabe Jackson G Mississippi State
Jackson has the size that the Raiders covet, but their evaluation of talent has historically been sub-par at best. This does look like a much better draft than we’re used to seeing from Oakland. The team spent money in free agency including signing three linemen. Jackson will still have a backup role, and will likely work his way into a starting role perhaps by next season.
90 Indianapolis Colts - Donte Moncrief WR Ole Miss
I correctly matched 8 SEC players on teams that would draft them in my pre-draft predictions and Moncrief was one of them. I love this pick. I know that Reggie Wayne is back, they signed Hakeem Nicks, TY Hilton is coming off a breakout year and Da’Rick Rogers showed promise, but I think Moncrief will be one of the better rookie receivers in the league. As much as they’ll throw the ball with Andrew Luck, there will be opportunities for him that he will take full advantage of.
92 Carolina Panthers - Trai Turner G LSU
Turner’s competition to earn a backup spot won’t stand-out by name. Vols fans will recognize Chris Scott as one of 6 other guys vying for a reserve spot along with the big LSU Tiger.
101 Philadelphia Eagles - Jaylen Watkins CB Florida
The secondary needs to be better than last year, so there’s definitely an opportunity for a meaningful role for Watkins. Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and fellow SEC guy Brandon Boykin are your top 3 corners for a team that will be in nickel and dime defenses most of the time. He should be in that 4-6 group.
106 San Francisco 49ers - Bruce Ellington WR South Carolina
Some mock drafts had Ellington as a late first rounder. The 49’ers got him with just a 4th Rd pick. I like Ellington. I think he’ll make plays in the NFL. The tough thing is, look at all of the receivers he’s competing with for playing time and a roster spot. It is some collection: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, former KC 1st Rd pick Jonathan Baldwin, last year’s talented 4th Rd pick Quinton Patton, Brandon Lloyd and others. The door may open for Ellington because you have some guys that get hurt and some underachievers there, except for Boldin. Ellington will be reuinited with former SC teammate Marcus Lattimore who is back on the field after sitting out last season with the 49'ers.
123 Seattle Seahawks - Kevin Norwood WR Alabama
Here we go again, another talented SEC receiver that landed in the perfect spot. Kevin Norwood is so good at breaking off his route and freelancing to help a scrambling quarterback. He did that so many times at Alabama including some clutch moments. Where else would you want that kind of dependable, instinctive receiver than Seattle with a QB like Russell Wilson? There is receiver depth in name with the Seahawks, but many are injury-prone and also young, like fellow draft pick Paul Richardson from Colorado.
151 Tennessee Titans - Avery Williamson LB Kentucky
The Titans defense is full of unknowns with the new coaching staff and switch to the 3-4 hybrid. Williamson is a tackling machine that is definitely competing for an ILB position. Williamson reminds me of a bigger and more durable Colin McCarthy who looks to be the starter at RILB at the moment. Zach Brown, Moise Fokou and others competing with Williamson have had their moments, but are also making the transition.
155 Miami Dolphins - Arthur Lynch TE Georgia
I really liked Lynch at Georgia. He wasn’t utilized enough in the passing game at UGA in my opinion. He’s a two-way tight end, which is what the Dolphins want. He’s one of 8 TEs in camp. Charles Clay is the clear starter. Lynch will need to standout to make the team.
156 Denver Broncos - Lamin Barrow LB LSU
I like the Barrow pick for Denver. He’ll compete with LJ Fort for the #2 middle linebacker position behind Jamar Chaney. Barrow’s size and instincts fit Denver’s run to the ball defense.
159 Jacksonville Jaguars - Chris Smith DE Arkansas
Smith joins a crowded defensive end group which includes two off-season Seattle signings, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, neither of whom may even start. He is vying to be the 5th end in the d-line group.
160 Arizona Cardinals - Ed Stinson DE Alabama
Effort guy that has a chance to make it because of his experience and versatility along the line in pass rushing situations. He’ll compete with 3rd round pick Kareem Martin, veteran Frostee Rucker and three others for a backup end spot.
163 Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Murray QB Georgia
I love this landing spot for Murray. KC will eventually need to upgrade at QB from Alex Smith to take that next step. The Chiefs were thought to be the biggest threat to the Browns in drafting Johnny Manziel. If Murray isn’t healthy, they can stash him on IR for this season. If he is, I like him to beat out former Vols quarterback Tyler Bray for the #3 spot. The Chiefs didn’t invest a draft pick in Bray, and may very well have seen enough from him in the last calendar year.
164 Cincinnati Bengals - AJ McCarron QB Alabama
Love the team-fit for McCarron as well. He brings that chip on his shoulder to a team full of guys who have the same chip. The team as a whole that plays that way as well. Dalton may not have a future with the Bengals, so McCarron may not be that far away from an opportunity. In the short term, an Alabama quarterback will compete against an Auburn quarterback (Jason Campbell) for the back-up QB job.
167 New Orleans Saints - Vinnie Sunseri S Alabama
One former Alabama safety departs (Roman Harper) while a new one enters in Sunseri. If he has a career close to Harper, this will be a very successful draft pick. Sunseri ran the back end of Nick Saban’s incredibly complex defense before going down with an injury his junior season. Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd make for a strong starting safety tandem. Marcus Ball and Ty Zimmerman present the competition for Sunseri. Another huge plus for Sunseri is how good he will be on special teams, as a teammate and eventually as a leader.
169 New Orleans Saints - Ronald Powell LB Florida
Powell is a former #1 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school. If he stays healthy and lives up to his talent, New Orleans could have a steal at that outside LB/Rush DE spot in their 3-4 defense.
173 Pittsburgh Steelers - Wesley Johnson T Vanderbilt
Johnson is a smart, tough Steeler-like player. I wouldn’t rule out Johnson beating out some journeymen interior linemen to find a spot on the team or practice squad.
177 Houston Texas - Jeoffrey Pagan DE Alabama
Pagan will likely get a look at RDE, but his versatility to kick inside when Clowney puts his hand down next to him will enhance his chances to make the team and be in the rotation. He starts behind starter Tim Jamison and back-up Keith Browner.
178 Tennessee Titans - Zach Mettenberger QB LSU
I saw this as a team fit entering the draft, although none of us expected the pick to be this late. Mettenberger looks the part of a vintage Whisenhunt quarterback more than Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst or Tyler Wilson. Whitehurst will be the #2. Mettenberger and Wilson will compete for the #3. With Locker being injury prone, they have to carry 3 QBs, so that helps Zach’s chances of making it.
179 New England Patriots - Jon Halapio G Florida
Well whatta ya know, NE brings in another Florida Gator. Halapio and Josh Cline are the only reserve guards, so he may be a factor to make the roster. Staying healthy has also been a challenge for him as it is with first round pick Easley.
181 Houston Texas - Alfred Blue RB LSU
I like his chances to make the team and play. The top two backs are often injured Arian Foster and Andre Brown. He’s tough and he has the receiving skills that the Texans will continue to want out of their RBs.
188 St. Louis Rams - E.J. Gaines CB Missouri
He’ll be competing with 2nd Round pick LaMarcus Joyner, Brandon McGee, Quinton Pointer, Greg Reid, Darren Woodward and unsigned free agent, Marcus Roberson from Florida.
193 Kansas City Chiefs - Zach Fulton G Tennessee
The Chiefs like the fact that Fulton is versatile in position and scheme. They were impressed at how he handled and excelled having four different line coaches at UT. It looks like he’ll compete at guard for a reserve role along with Rokevious Watkins, Rishaw Johnson, Ricky Henry and Otis Hudson. He’s smart too. I think he’ll stick and stay.
211 Houston Texans - Jay Prosch FB Auburn
How about another Auburn vs. Alabama NFL position battle. Former Alabama TE/HB Brad Smelley is in the mix for that FB spot as well as Toben Opurum who came over from the Chiefs.
215 Pittsburgh Steelers - Daniel McCullers DT Tennessee
DL coach John Mitchell says they think he can play inside or outside, but he’s not ready for the outside yet. I’ll say. At 6’6, 360-ish he’s definitely a nose tackle. He’s competing with Steve McClendon, Cam Thomas, Loni Fangupo and Al Lapuaho for a spot. He has rare size that they really like. Will he play hard enough often enough is the question.
216 Houston Texans - Andre Hal CB Vanderbilt
After fellow-SEC starters at CB, Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, I don’t think anyone’s locked-up a role. With as physical and experienced as Hal is, it wouldn’t surprise me if he makes the team.
227 Seattle Seahawks - Kiero Small RB Arkansas
Small is a big back that will get a look at fullback. At least they use one at Seattle, so that’s a plus. With Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware ahead of him, he may be looking at a practice squad spot, at best.
228 Washington Redskins - Zach Hocker K Arkansas
This is interesting by Washington. If you use a draft pick on the kicker, there’s a good chance they will make your team. If not, you’re admitting you misevaluated them, thus wasting a coveted pick. Kai Forbath has been the Redskins kicker the last two years. He’s only missed 5 field goals and one extra point. However, his longest is 50 yards. Hocker has a huge leg. We’ll see if Jay Gruden sees enough in Hocker to give up a little accuracy for more range.
239 Cincinnati Bengals - James Wright WR LSU
This was a strange pick. Wright was a reserve who played a bigger role on special teams than on offense for LSU. He’d have to beat out Sanu, Sanzenbacher, Tate, Whalen, Hamilton and two others just to be a reserve; probably half of those just to earn a roster spot. Long shot for Wright.
249 St. Louis Rams - Michael Sam DE Missouri
For the Rams to take on the extra challenges that come with drafting Sam, you know they think he’d have a great chance to make the team. He’ll likely compete with Eugene Sims and Ethan Westbrooks for a reserve rush linebacker role. DC Gregg Williams will find creative ways to get him to rush the passer and not be exposed in pass coverage.
Top Teams Drafting SEC Players In This Draft
St. Louis 4
Kansas City 3
Teams That Didn’t Draft Any SEC Players
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