Marcus Mariota falls out of top 5 in Mel Kiper’s NFL mock draft

Mariota is out of the top five of Kiper’s mock draft because the ESPN analyst thinks the Titans will look to improve the defensive line instead.

Marcus Mariota was projected to be the second player off the board in the first mock draft from ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., but he’s down four spots to No. 6 in the second edition.

Four weeks after Kiper’s first try at predicting the first round, the ESPN draft analyst gave it another shot and kept only four players in the top 10 slated in the same spot. The most notable change was the four-spot slide for the Heisman Trophy winner, slating him to end up with the New York Jets rather than the Tennessee Titans.

So what changed in those four weeks? Kiper explained Wednesday:

I’ve been able to review performances in postseason all-star games (and practices) such as the Senior Bowl, and I’ve also been able to spend more time on players in game film reviews and debate prospects with other evaluators.

With those tweaks in mind, here’s the new top 10 picks, according to Kiper:

1. Jameis Winston, QB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston was the No. 1 pick for Kiper four weeks ago, and he remains in the top spot in February. Kiper mentions the Buccaneers could definitely pull the trigger on Mariota instead, but thinks the team will settle with a quarterback and Winston is the more talented of the two.

2. Leonard Williams, DE – Tennessee Titans

The Titans don’t have the greatest quarterback situation, but with Zach Mettenberger on the roster and other options potentially becoming available, the Titans might be content to take the player they perceive as the best available instead. Kiper said Williams has the potential to make an impact right away for the Titans and would improve the team’s pass and rush defenses.

3. Shane Ray, DE – Jacksonville Jaguars

In his first mock draft, Kiper had Williams slated to go to the Jaguars after the pair of quarterbacks went with the first two picks. Now with Williams off the board, the Jaguars settle for the next-best defensive lineman, Shane Ray. The Jaguars have a need for a pass rushing specialist in the “LEO” position and Ray is the type of player who can fit the role for the team because, according to Kiper, “you can make a pretty good case that Ray is the best pass-rusher in the entire draft.”

4. Amari Cooper, WR – Oakland Raiders

Cooper was pegged to land with the Raiders in Kiper’s first mock draft and remains in the spot for the second mock draft as well. No Oakland receiver tallied more than 700 yards receiving in 2014 with Derek Carr at the helm of the offense, so drafting the top receiver in college football makes plenty of sense for the team.

5. Randy Gregory, DE – Washington

Gregory is another player who didn’t move between mock drafts and stays in the No. 5 spot to Washington. With Brian Orakpo likely to reach free agency, a scheme-diverse pass rusher like Gregory makes a lot of sense, particularly with Shane Ray already off the board.

6. Marcus Mariota, QB – New York Jets

Here lands the Heisman Trophy winner after a short slide out of the top five selections. In his explanation for the pick, Kiper doesn’t offer a reason for Mariota’s slide, but instead makes a case for giving up on Geno Smith and taking another shot at drafting a quarterback. Mariota didn’t participate in any all-star games, but Kiper says the former Oregon star is “a player worthy of placing a bet on at this stage.”

7. Danny Shelton, DT – Chicago Bears

No interior lineman appeared in the top 10 of Kiper’s first mock draft, but Danny Shelton of Washington snuck in to the No. 7 spot this time around. John Fox is a coach who has made a career out of building teams from the inside out and stacking an impressive defensive line would be a way to do that for the Bears. The team did draft Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in consecutive rounds last year, though.

8. Arik Armstead, DE – Atlanta Falcons

Armstead is another player who did not appear in the top 10 the first time around, but the Oregon defensive lineman is slated to the Falcons this time. Atlanta needs plenty of help on the defensive side of the ball and were originally projected to take Dante Fowler Jr. in Kiper’s first mock draft, but this time go with the 6’8, 290-pounder who has a high ceiling, although will require some development.

9. Brandon Scherff, OT – New York Giants

The fourth player to stay put four weeks later is Scherff with the Giants. An offensive tackle from Iowa isn’t the sexiest pick, but the team has to do a better job of protecting Eli Manning and selecting the best offensive lineman in the class is a good place to start.

10. Andrus Peat, OT – St. Louis Rams

The Rams were projected to take the second offensive tackle in Kiper’s first mock draft and are projected to do the same in his second, although the player changed. No longer is the team projected to take Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings, but are not slated to go with Stanford’s Andrus Peat. Kiper thinks Peat has the potential to be the best offensive tackle in the class and can compete to start at right tackle right away.

★★★

SB Nation’s Dan Kader published his most recent mock draft Monday, and disagrees with Kiper on all 10 picks. While Mariota slid in Kiper’s mock draft, Kadar has the Oregon Ducks passer at the No. 1 spot, followed by Winston in the second spot. The remainder of Kadar’s top 10 features many of the same names as Kiper’s top 10, but none in the same landing spots.

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