If you think that buying a lottery ticket is a shot in the dark, then you have an idea about how the NFL odds for the draft works. It’s true that scouts spend a lot of time looking at the various players coming out of college, and that teams spend countless hours assembling a draft board that tells them which of the remaining players is likely to be the best overall player, and which is likely to fulfill a need that that particular team has. Of course, all it takes is a freak injury, an injury off the field or a player who simply doesn’t fit well into a particular scheme that converts a blue-chip prospect into a wasted pick.
Teams are more cautious about off-the-field issues now than they have been in the past. The hefty suspensions levied against Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy show that the league is taking a bigger interest in players’ personal conduct away from the field. This is one reason why LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins fell all the way out of the draft. He had been projected as a first-round pick, but he tried to pull his name out of the draft a day or two before, because Louisiana police wanted to question him about an incident involving his ex-girlfriend. The NFL refused to let him out of the draft, but no one picked him. The police later announced that Collins was not a suspect in the incident, and the Dallas Cowboys swooped in and signed him to a free-agent deal, getting a first-round talent at a real discount because of the timing of his potential legal problems. Based on the draft, though, there are several teams that have really improved their position going into 2015. Let’s look at some of the big winners.