Few Surprises As 2015 NFL Draft Gets Underway In Chicago

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Winston Mariota Top Choices In NFL Draft

By John Ventola

Although a couple Collins families would strongly disagree, the first day of Chicago’s 2015 NFL Draft went pretty much as prognosticators expected. The nation’s two top collegiate quarterbacks, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, were selected first and second, respectively, and the league’s 32 teams put their scouting and evaluation process into action mode as franchise needs were addressed based on player rankings.

The annual three-day event, being held outside of New York for the first time in 51 years, had an opening day that featured collegiate football’s past two Heisman Trophy

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Winston And Mariota Lead Way On First Day

winners going to Tampa Bay (Winston) and Tennessee (Mariota). After months of speculation on who would be the top pick, recent consensus was that Winston was the better pick, provided he can keep personal off-field problems that followed him during his college career in check. Both are expected to compete for immediate starting jobs this year.

LSU All-American La’el Collins, expected to be an early first round pick, left Chicago and returned to Baton Rouge after being summoned by city police for questioning in last Friday’s shooting death of a former girlfriend. Police noted that Collins was not a suspect, but questions about the case and Collins’ status led at least six teams to remove Collins from their draft boards.

Collins, who had been in the Windy City since Tuesday, had his attorney petition the NFL Thursday to remove his name from the draft, and attempt to enter him in a summer supplemental draft. The league refused. Somewhat mysteriously, late Thursday reports said Collins would speak to police “after” the draft. In any case, whether Collins is a victim of the worst timing in recent memory, or something more sinister is involved, the offensive tackle will not collect what is usually a hefty contract and approximately a $4 million signing bonus accorded a first round pick.

The other Collins, New Orleans native and Dutchtown High product Landon, went undrafted Thursday. The Alabama strong safety was also considered a strong first round possibility. Arizona State’s Demarious Randall was the only safety picked in the first round (No. 30, Green Bay). Landon Collins will probably go early in the second round.

New Orleans, with two first round picks, chose to address immediate needs by drafting more protection for Drew Brees, 6’ 7” Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat, and help

Drew Brees Passing

Drew Needs Better Protection

for one of the league’s poorest defensive units, Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony. Peat, whose father Todd played six seasons in the NFL, was a three-year starter for the Cardinal, and will be put to the test early as right side offensive linemen Jahri Evans and Zack Strief are both in their 30s. Peat became the first offensive lineman to be drafted by the Saints in the first round since 2005. Anthony was a first-team All-ACC pick his senior season, and has the capability to step in for departed linebacker Curtis Lofton.

The Saints have three draft picks to use on the second day, the twelfth pick (No.44 overall) in the second round, and the eleventh (No. 75 overall) and fourteenth choice (No. 78 overall) in the third round. They also have the twelfth (No. 148) and eighteenth (154) picks of the fifth round, the  eleventh pick (No. 187)  of the sixth round, and the thirteenth pick (No.230) of the seventh round. More offensive line and defensive help is needed in addition to replacements to fill the voids at wide receiver and tight end created by the trades of Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham.

Six offensive linemen and wide receivers were chosen in the first round, and Georgia’s

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Gurley And Gordon Chosen In Top 15

Todd Gurley (No. 10 to St. Louis) and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (No. 15 by San Diego) reversed a recent pattern of no running backs being chosen on the first day. Gurley rushed for 911 yards in just six games as the junior tore his ACL, but his size, speed, and agility have the Rams excited. His knee rehab may delay his professional debut. Gordon, a redshirt junior, gained 2,587 yards and scored 29 touchdowns. He is expected to follow in the footsteps of former Chargers great Ladainian Tomlinson, and give quarterback Phillip Rivers another offensive option.

Peat was one of the six offensive linemen chosen, Brandon Scherff, of Iowa going highest at No. 5 to the Washington Redskins. Considering the other five picks ranged from No. 9, Ereck Flowers, Miami, to the New York Giants, to No. 28, Duke’s Laken Tomlinson by Detroit, La’el Collins has to be kicking himself. He was rated ahead of four of the six chosen, only Scherff and Peat garnering higher evaluations.

Alabama’s Amari Cooper (No. 4 to Oakland), West Virginia’s Kevin White (No. 7 to Chicago), and Louisville’s Devante Parker (No. 14 to Miami) led the six-man receiver contingent. There were no tight ends selected on the first day.

Four ends and two tackles comprised the defensive players selected. USC’s Leonard Williams (No. 6 to the New York Jets) let the group that included Washington’s Danny Shelton (No. 12 to Cleveland), and highly regarded defensive end Shane Ray of Missouri. Ray, who tested positive for marijuana on Monday, dropped to No. 23, Denver, after he was expected to go earlier in the round.

The Saints’ selection of Anthony made him the fifth linebacker chosen Thursday. Dante Fowler of Florida, chosen No. 3 by Jacksonville, Clemson’s Vic Beasley (No. 8 to Atlanta), Kentucky’s Alvin “Bud” Dupree (No. 22 by Pittsburgh), and Washington’s Shaq Thompson (No. 25 to Carolina) were picked ahead of Anthony.

There were four cornerback choices in addition to the safety selection of Russell. Michigan State’s Trae Waynes went No. 11 to Minnesota, but the Dallas Cowboys had

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Combine Workout Pushes Jones Upward

the most interesting pick in the group. Byron Jones, the 27th pick from Connecticut, wowed evaluators at the NFL scouting combine. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash, broad jumped an unbelievable 12 feet, 3 inches, and had a vertical leap of 44.5 inches.

The second day of the draft promises to bring more thrills—and disappointments, as Commissioner Roger Goodell strides to the podium to announce the second and third round selections.

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