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Best player available mock draft, Chicago-style

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Unlike most mock drafts, the NFL draft is actually a delicate balance of need and best player available. We try to do that here.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Last year I ran a series of Best Player Available Mock Drafts that tried to go beyond the heavily needs-based mocks that most of the professional media types provide to the masses.

It was a useful exercise as it helped shape what the draft would look like for Baltimore at their pick, rather than merely picking out a wish list of players.

For instance, one player that kept slipping through the BPA cracks was C.J. Mosley.  Every time I ran the iteration, Mosley would make it to Baltimore at 17. This led me to believe we'd either draft Mosley or find a trade back partner. They tried the latter and did the former.

Even though the draft always features heavy trading, I find it interesting to see where players would go without them.

Setting the Board

Anyone can make a mock draft. Not everyone can make a legitimate top 50 prospect board. It requires a real understanding of evaluating players.. In short, it really helps if you were a former scout with a job that pays you to watch film.

I'm not a scout, but NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah was. So I borrowed his top 50 board. This list is will change some after the Combine.

Setting the Team Needs

This is an easier step because all of us can watch the games and figure out a team's weaknesses.  But why bother when someone more knowledgable already has? NFL.com's Gil Brandt, long time personnel man for the Dallas Cowboys during their dynastic run in the 70s, created a Top 3 needs per team.

His list has some oddities -- for instance, it has Place Kicker as a top need for two teams and we know that those are needs purely in the academic sense -- so I took the liberty of accounting for it.

Setting the Ground Rules

There are essentially two rules to this exercise:

1) The drafting team must select the best player available at any of its top positional needs unless....

2) The next player at a need position is irrationally far away (about 10 picks).  In other words, teams cannot pass on available, highly rated players to take a far inferior player just to fill a need. Even though we know that does happen in real life, hopefully that makes sense. We still try to apply common sense here. (Note: PR = Pass rusher).

Making the Picks

Now with all the data lined up, it's time to execute:

PICK

TEAM

NEEDS

SELECTION

POSITION

RANK

VALUE

1

TB

OL, PR, QB

Winston, Jameis

QB

6

-5

2

TEN

QB, PR, CB

Mariota, Marcus

QB

11

-9

3

JAX

OT, CB, RB

Williams, Leonard

DE

1

2

4

OAK

PR, CB, WR

White, Kevin

WR

3

1

5

WAS

PR, DB, OT

Gregory, Randy

OLB

2

3

6

NYJ

QB, CB, OT

Waynes, Trae

CB

12

-6

7

CHI

PR, LB, DB

Shelton, Danny

NT

5

2

8

ATL

PR, TE, DB

Fowler, Jr., Dante

OLB

7

1

9

NYG

PR, OL, ILB

Ray, Shane

DE

8

1

10

STL

QB, CB, RB, (WR)

Cooper, Amari

WR

4

6

11

MIN

OT, RB, CB

Clemmings, T.J.

OT

15

-4

12

CLE

WR, ILB, DL

Parker, DeVante

WR

9

3

13

NO

CB, PR, QB

Armstead, Arik

DT

13

0

14

MIA

LB, CB, OT

McKinney, Benardrick

ILB

16

-2

15

SF

QB, OL, DL

Peat, Andrus

OT

19

-4

16

HOU

QB, WR, OT

Scherff, Brandon

OT

21

-5







Discussion

#1 Tampa Bay Bucs:  Jameis Winston, QB - Florida St.

The model says we take Williams but common sense and history tells us the Bucs take a Quarterback.  It is possible they decide to go another year with the Glennon/McCown duo but I don't think you go another season with the QB's who led you to the first overall pick.

#2 Tennessee Titans:  Marcus Mariota, QB - Oregon

The Titans have been arguably the most irrelevant team of the past five years.  Hell, even Cleveland is at least making news for epic dysfunction and illegal texting.  Tennessee hasn't done anything interesting since Vince Young got Jeff Fisher fired and then got himself booted off the team. Mike Oher being waived after one year is interesting I guess.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars:  Leonard Williams, DE - USC

The Jags feel like a team that could revive and be good. On the other hand, Gus Bradley could also be fired next year. I loved Bradley's unafraid risk taking last year but I think its time to show progress with this team.  There's enough there to do better than 4 wins in that division. At this pick, they can't reliably get an OT or cornerback and an RB would be a heavy reach, too. They settle for the draft's top player.

#4 Oakland Raiders:  Kevin White, WR - West Virginia

The Raiders believe they have an answer in Derek Carr and perhaps so.  What they don't have is an answer anywhere else. Amari Cooper is probably the favorite to be the first WR taken, but we'll stick with this board. Also, the Raiders should move to Los Angeles. Baseball diamonds on an NFL field in this day and age is just embarrassing.

#5 Washington Redskins:  Randy Gregory, OLB - Nebraska

Washington needs everything, including a new owner, but you can't draft those. Nope, those are forever. You CAN draft a stud defender though and Washington's awful defense needs all it can get after the embarrassment that was Jim Haslett's unit in 2014.  Gregory would be a nice addition. The 'Skins will be very happy to land Gregory. If Amari Cooper doesn't go here, I think someone starts looking to trade up for him.

#6 New York Jets:  Trae Waynes, CB - Michigan St.

The Jets need a corner, and the other stuff they need (QB) isn't available or isn't practical (RB) or would be redundant (Amari Cooper).  Dee Milliner is not flourishing and the Jets ultimately have to build to stop the Patriots. Signing Revis would make sense now that Tampa has relea---oh wait.

#7 Chicago Bears:  Danny Skelton, NT - Washington

In 2012 the Bears had the best defense. They fired their coach. In 2013 they had an elite offense. They fired their coach the following year. Maybe organizational decisions shouldn't be signed off on by a 90 year old? It didn't work for the Titans and it's not working now. I know Virginia McCaskey is hands off these days but their "Trestman firing" press conference suggested otherwise.  Hiring John Fox feels like taking a time machine to Christmas past under Lovie Smith. Maybe they'll stop making Eddie Lacy look like Bo Jackson.

#8 Atlanta Falcons:  Dante Fowler, Jr., OLB - Florida

The Falcons pumped in crowd noise and were caught. Given that Falcons fans spent most of the season booing, pumping in crowd noise sounds like a counterproductive idea. Anyway, Atlanta is a stars and scrubs team in need of toughness, and more importantly, talent. Starting now.  Drafting Amari Cooper wouldn't be crazy necessarily but ... that's doubling down on the same strategy that got you to two consecutive losing seasons.

#9 New York Giants:  Shane Ray, DE - Missouri

Once upon a time, New York felt like the most loaded team in the NFL on their defensive line. Jason Pierre-Paul was the headliner. That feels like a long time ago. It's still astounding to me that a 2x winning Super Bowl quarterback and coach have failed to make the playoffs in the past five of six years. Has that ever happened?

#10 St Louis Rams:  Amari Cooper, WR - Alabama

The Rams actually need a quarterback. And they should probably start getting California driver's licenses if Stan Kroenke has any say in it.  St. Louis has wasted a lot of picks on receivers over the years only for them to not pan out or waste away on the skeletal remains of Sam Bradford.  You'd think teams would learn from Buffalo but I suspect someone trades up with St. Louis.  Suffice to say, I think the Watkins trade was a monumental blunder and anyone who gives up that kind of capital for a receiver should immediately be given a sideline concussion test. The Rams did it to Washington once, they can do it again. But we'll give them Cooper.

#11 Minnesota Vikings:  T.J. Clemmings, OT - Pittsburgh

Boring but sensible pick. Side note, I honestly hope Peterson can play again and to hell with what everyone thinks.  Paid administrative leave and a bunch of low impact "No More" ads feels like a weak-kneed half-assed solution by billionaires.

#12 Cleveland Browns:  Devante Parker, WR - Louisville

The NFL, like John Lennon, gave Josh Gordon a chance. It didn't work. After a year in which they could have had Odell Beckham, Jr., drafting Parker is now pretty much a must have with Jordan Cameron looking for the exits. Unless a hobo tells you to draft him, Jimmy. Then don't. By the way, if you haven't read this, you need to.

#13 New Orleans Saints:  Arik Armstead, DT - Oregon

The 2014 New Orleans Saints -- our latest reminder of the complete folly of going "All in". Tom Benson is 86 and it felt like their strategy was as much for him as any football reasons.  Then again, given the current pyschosis permeating the ownership in New Orleans, maybe I'm not surprised. What a soap opera.

#14 Miami Dolphins:  Benardrick McKinney, ILB - Mississippi St.

The Dolphins gave the undrafted ILB who played next to Ray Lewis for a year $35 million dollars. It didn't work either. The Dolphins were actually a decent team last year but never feel like a real threat to anyone. Like, they're a tough out but ... at season's end I'm always surprised they were even in the playoff race at all.

#15  San Franciso 49ers:  Andrus Peat, OT - Stanford

The 49ers fired one of the best head coaches in the NFL by far because he's a hard guy to work with. I'm sure 34 year old team owner inheritor Jed York will not regret this at all. The 49ers once had the best offensive line in the NFL and destroyed people with their offense. They had a great defense last year even without their best two players. It's a team that would be primed to get back to its winning ways ... except they fired one of the best coaches in the NFL. Oh sorry, PARTED WAYS.  God the NFL is full of idiots.

#16 Houston Texans:  Brandon Scherff, OT - Iowa

If the Ravens had lost in Week 17 and allowed the Texans in the playoffs, no one wins -- except Pittsburgh who probably goes to the AFC Championship. Also, thanks to us, we have single-handedly rejuvenated Case Keenum's career. Sigh. Anyway, the Texans are a team that revolves around Arian Foster. Help J.J. Watt by finding ways to score besides the Watt pick-six.

I'll have picks 17-32 in a subsequent article.

Follow me on Twitter @jerreegarcia. I don't tweet much but if you ask me something NFL related, I'll answer.