Welcome to the Show
Hello everyone and welcome to my 2018 NFL mock draft. This is an exciting time for me, seeing as I graduate from university quite soon, and everything seems to be moving a mile a minute. That seems to also be the case for the League as well, seeing the vast churning of players that occurred in full force during free agency season. I fully believe that more so than normal this year will shift the power rankings drastically among the 32 teams; the old guard passing the torch to modern systemology and athletic prowess. For that reason and more this mock is extremely exciting for me to make, for if I am any sort of accurate in my predictions then we are in for one hell of a ride come the Fall. After a year taking mental notes and pouring over scouting videos, it’s finally time to get down to business. Here are the rules:
- The Mock is two rounds long – the top 64 picks – for more detailed descriptions. The second round picks will carry smaller amounts of depth due to an increased emphasis on the first round. I am in Uni still after all, so I do not have the time to fully devote myself to the full draft as far as scouting players and team needs go.
- Picks are not made based on my personal preference but on what I think the team on the clock will do come draft day. This is meant to be an objective mock based on BPA (best player available) and team needs.
- Trades can be mocked, and if so they will carry an explanation and list the traded assets.
- Admittedly, I am a ride-or-die Browns fan, which makes this draft that much more exciting for me. However, for each pick I look upon it as an outside observer to hopefully prevent bias. That said I do know the most about the Browns and what they need, which will garner larger write-ups for their picks accordingly. While it’s not that important the need for transparency felt necessary, so there it is.
One more thing: I believe that the best evaluators of what a team might do in the draft are the people who are closest to the team themselves (obviously). Since I am not nearly as well connected as the Adam Schefters or Daniel Jeremiahs of the world I thought the best way to bring in inside help was to go to fellow fans who have a better idea of what their team is doing than I do. Thankfully I have some friends here at Uni who were more than kind enough to give me a couple write ups about their perspective team’s first round picks. Therefore, a special thank you goes out to Moose, Walt, Justin, Derek, and Tyler for their contributions to this year’s mock. Thank you, guys.
O.K., here we are. Let’s begin.
The Cleveland Browns are on the clock.
1: Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold – QB
Josh Allen is going to be the number 1 pick.
Everything I know about this team, the front office, and our history of the draft has me believing that Josh Allen will indeed be the number one pick in the draft. The kid is intelligent, possesses a fantastic work ethic, and, of course, will walk into the League with the best arm, period. He has all the tools you could ask for, as well as a physical build that makes any Northern team salivate over. And yet, he barely completed over half his passes in his college career. His anticipation and touch are also spotty. He hardly found success in college against teams that were not even in the Power 5 conferences. His floor is a worse version of Blake Bortles. His ceiling is a bigger, better version of Brett Favre. For John Dorsey & Co., who just replaced Sashi “Moneyball” Brown, analytics be damned. They grab the guy with the Howitzer. It makes too much sense that the Browns would draft the biggest boom/bust prospect since, well… ever.
Which is why they won’t.
The Browns have failed to follow all logic and reason since 1999 and the return of the franchise – the exception being the career of Joe Thomas (Thank You, Joe) – for consistently they never stick to the plan of a rebuild and fire the staff after a year or two of minimal success, strip the roster, and start over. As it so happens, Hue Jackson has miraculously made it to year 3(!) after going 1-31 in two seasons as HC. Things are different this time around (yay?).
See, the thing about the Browns and QB’s is that every year since… it’s been a while now, they’ve made due by signing the journeyman vets or the 3rd-4th best quarterback in the draft (usually at 22) and throwing them into a fire under a new system that has carried no chemistry from previous years and the regimes that accompanied them. This year, the Browns can select THEIR guy, even though he may not be the BEST guy, even though one would hope that GM John Dorsey is capable of picking the best guy out of a crowded room. Boy, is it a crowded room this year. At the end of the day though, the pick comes down to two players who no matter which is picked will sit for a year behind Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton until they truly have grasped how to play in the NFL.
Sam Darnold will be that benchwarmer.
It’s no secret that Darnold has consistently been the favorite to go 1st in the draft. But smoke is indicative of fire, and there’s no doubt that the Josh Allen blaze has indeed been fed over the past few weeks. The prevailing rumor is that the Browns are baiting the Giants to trade up for Darnold. If this is true and the Giants bite the Browns will look like geniuses. If they pick Darnold at 1 they will have their franchise guy. Whoever their guy is I am certain the Browns are going to get him, be it at 1 or 2.
So why is it Darnold?
Sam Darnold can run. Sam Darnold has played and succeeded against Power 5 competition. Sam Darnold shows great anticipation. Sam Darnold is a proven leader and “locker-room” guy. Sam Darnold can make all throws as needed. Sam Darnold can improvise. Sam Darnold plays Hero Ball. Sam Darnold has a big frame. Sam Darnold is proven “clutch”.
Sam Darnold, while not the best at any one trait, is the best cumulatively of every trait that you want in a franchise QB. For the Browns, who have for years swung on and missed at high risk prospects, Darnold offers a strong vision of hope for a sustained future in the coveted position under center. Where Allen reigns where the Browns know best, Darnold represents a changing of the guard. For a team that is 1-31 over the last two seasons “what the Browns know best” doesn’t count for much anymore. Darnold will change that, and will soon be leading the team back up the ranks and into the coveted hunt for the postseason that has for so long eluded this downtrodden team.
The rumblings for Baker Mayfield at 1 have recently surfaced just days before the draft now as well. While we will get into his profile later, let me just say that his underdog mentality and competitive fire might be exactly what this team needs. If a culture change is what John Dorsey wants he will get it in spades with the Oklahoma product.
So let me be the first to say that I don’t have a damn clue who the Browns will draft first overall. Well, I kinda do. It’s going to be Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, or Josh Allen. However no matter who it happens to be they are going to be a benchwarmer for at least this year unless they come in and light the world on fire during the preseason.
The Browns finally have a chance to end their quarterback woes and start to climb back into meaningful relevance within the league. It won’t happen overnight, but pick 1 should look to be the first step in the right direction.
2: New York Giants – TRADED to Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen – QB
If the Giants are taking a quarterback, it’s going to be Sam Darnold. With the Browns nabbing him at 1, the G-Men have almost too many options on what to do with 2. Eli is in obvious decline though, and despite that this team is apparently going to try to get one more good run out of #10 in the next couple years. With Davis Webb on the bench the Giants can afford to wait on their QBOTF until next year. But wait, why not get Barkley or Chubb instead? Simple, the haul. Make no mistake, the Giants can compete this year with their receiving core coming back healthy. But with the trade of JPP to the Bucs the writing is on the wall. Eli is starting to ride towards the sunset and the defense needs to start harboring younger talent; and don’t even get me started on OBJ. With a STACKED running back class and buzz that the team is comfortable going forward with the D-Line that they have it would also seem to reason that Barkley and Chubb are just not quite tempting enough at two for the boys in blue. Simply put, they are looking to the future, and as such need assets to fuel the New York Giants Recovery Program™. As it happens, the Bills have the capital, and the drive, to commit to getting their quarterback. They are so driven, in fact, they cough up 12, 22, 53, and next year’s 2nd and 3rd to move all the way up to number 2 overall to select the guy whose ceiling and body type must have the Bills Mafia foaming at the mouth: Josh Allen.
Other than the Browns, the Bills have shown the most interest in the Senior Cowboy. Having talked about Allen a bit in the previous pick I will not go too far into his traits. In Buffalo though you are going to need a bigger guy who can, literally, weather the storm that comes with playing off of Lake Ontario. Allen is no stranger to this coming from Wyoming, and will likely sit for a year behind A.J. McCarron as the Bills need to find pieces to build around Allen, namely in the form an upgraded line and new receivers. You don’t put the man with a 56% completion percentage into a situation where he has no credible receiving core or people who can keep him upright and his focus downfield. You just don’t. Or you do… So here’s a helpful tip Buffalo: let Allen sit this year. It may be at the expense of McCarron, but you’ll be rewarded in the coming years.
Walt’s Take: Giants add a dynamic weapon
I’m assuming the Browns are going QB at 1, so based off reports and news I would say the Giants are going to take Saquon Barkley at no. 2. He is the best athlete in the draft and can help fix what the Giants’ offense has been lacking for years: a run game. With deep threats like OBJ, Evan Engram, and Brandon Marshall establishing a run game is key to opening them up. Reports have also stated that the giants see him as a near perfect draft choice. He is Elliot without the personality issues. He has also been seen wearing Giants apparel in social media.
3: New York Jets – Baker Mayfield – QB
After years of trying, failing, and butt-fumbling, the Jets have made a move for the number 3 overall pick to finally find their next franchise QB. Make no mistake, when you give up the ransom that the Jets did to the Colts you are taking someone who can throw the football. Gang Green also finds themselves in an advantageous position as they can, like Cleveland and Buffalo, take their time in developing their rookie. With Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown holding the fort down the team can take a year to acclimate their guy to the league. Having McCown is a boon, as he is an excellent QB coach in his own right, having been a part of nearly half the league’s teams and seeing every offensive and defensive set there is to see. It is also no coincidence that both McCown and Bridgewater are known for their mobility and their ability to make plays outside the pocket.
Oh look at that, Baker Mayfield does that better than anyone.
Beside being the greatest improviser in the class, Mayfield also has the best accuracy out of any of the eligible QBs in the draft. Admittedly, much of that has to do with Oklahoma’s offensive scheme and a stud receiving core, but credit must go to Mayfield, who simply can make all the throws and arguably has the best touch passes in the class. Moreover, Mayfield has the personality to be an excellent leader in today’s NFL. Yes, he has made some mistakes when it comes to the law, but unlike some other notable mobile quarterbacks who have also won the Heisman trophy in recent college history there is no doubt of his commitment to football and his willingness to do whatever it takes for whatever team he plays for. Mayfield will bring swagger back to a team that hasn’t had a lick of it since the days of Joe Namath. His teammates will love him, and the fans will quickly be chanting “Baefield” from the sidelines.
If Mayfield does indeed go at 1 to the Browns, then the Giants are likely to take Sam Darnold in the aftermath. Past Mayfield it looks like Josh Rosen has the greatest connection to the Jets, so I would expect that would be the contingency Gang Green has come to plan around.
One final thought on Mayfield. The man has walked on to TWO, COUNT ‘EM, TWO college teams, and is the FIRST WALK ON TO EVER WIN THE HEISMAN. You do not disrespect this man, as he will taunt you out like a boss and claim the number of every single person on your defense. Frankly, if Mayfield can indeed keep his focus and not get lost in the bright lights of the city then he very well may be the next Drew Brees… with an attitude to boot.
4: Cleveland Browns – Saquon Barkley – RB
Saquon Barkley is arguably the best player in the draft. However, running back is not the most important position in a pass-happy league. After absolutely obliterating the combine there can be no doubt that the Nittany Lion is a physical freak. He also has the temperament of a veteran leader and is smart enough to weave his way through almost any blocking scheme. Oh, and the kid has one of the best damn highlight reels in history.
Barkley attacks the line of scrimmage with a patient eye a la LeVeon Bell. He is as shifty as LeSean McCoy was in his prime. He has the receiving skills of a David Johnson type back. What really sticks out though is how Barkley balances himself perfectly for every quick cut or spin move, which is incredibly hard to teach. Add in the ability to return kicks and the kid looks like the complete package – a generational talent.
Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot, and Leonard Fournette have shown how the running back position had led to dramatic changes to a team’s ability to turn their luck around quickly. Personally I don’t think it’s the running back that makes the team successful, but they can take immense pressure off of the quarterback and receiving core which is what will make the team succeed. In an absolutely stacked RB class Barkley is far and away the best prospect, and will undoubtedly find success with the team that drafts him.
The Browns are in a spot where if the Giants punt the number 2 pick (apparently they love Barkley though) they will have the first pick of all the non-QBs in the draft. The argument can be made to trade the pick to the highest bidder, or to pair Bradley Chubb with Myles Garrett and possess the best young duo of edge rushers in the league. Also, the Browns have Carlos Hyde to be their power guy and Duke Johnson to be their third down back, so running back is not necessarily a priority.
And yet, Saquon Barkley is just that good to even think about passing up. In the span of a half hour or so GM John Dorsey can nab his franchise QB and RB that can stabilize the positions for the next decade. Add in a sober Josh Gordon, a dynamic and reliable slot guy in Jarvis Landry, a hyper-athletic tight-end in David Njoku, and a hopeful resurgence in speedster Corey Coleman, suddenly the Browns offense skyrockets in its potency and gives Tyrod Taylor (and Sam Darnold in a year or two) too many options with what to do with the ball. Even if the Browns do not take Barkley – which they should – the Nittany Lion will roar on every Sunday for years to come.
5: Denver Broncos – TRADED to Arizona Cardinals – Josh Rosen – QB
When your go-to option at the most important position in the game is an aging Sam Bradford – on a two-year, 40 million dollar contract no less… – you might want to see about making a move to secure the future of your team. The Cards take advantage of a complacent Broncos team who feel they can last the year with Case Keenum at the helm (and pray that somehow Paxton Lynch finally finds his footing). They do, giving up 15, 47, and next year’s 1st to secure their franchise quarterback in Josh Rosen.
Make no mistake, Bradford will start the year, but when he gets hurt Rosen will quickly grab the reigns and hold on tight for years to come. A true pocket passer, Rosen is the least mobile of the top quarterbacks in the draft but possesses the best touch and arm talent, relying on touch and accuracy rather than a cannon or improvisation. As such, you know what you are getting with Rosen, which, ironically, is coming into the league in a Sam Bradford mold. I won’t look into the rumors that his teammates hated him, or that he apparently “doesn’t really like to be coached. Both those things just seem silly and unwarranted. Or maybe he is just the next Tom Brady and will be as close to toxic as possible but still win a boatload of games so everyone will overlook those issues (cue the mass hate e-mails from Pats fans). Regardless, Rosen has the talent to be a day one starter, but is limited by his inability to move or improvise on the fly. He relies on his reads and will execute the playbook to a T, but that’s about it. He’ll make great throws, but not Hero throws like Darnold, Allen, or Mayfield. He’ll have a solid stat line every game, but everyone will just go “meh” at them. That being said, the Cards will be in good hands with Rosen under center.
It is also of note that I believe none of the quarterbacks in this class will actually start day 1. Every team drafting a QB this year has the capacity to let the rookie sit and acclimate to the league for a year or so. Because of this I think it dramatically increases the success rate of this QB class, and as the old era of the Mannings, Roethlisbergers, Rivers’, Brees’, and Bradys comes to a close this class will usher in the new guard moving forward. Times they are a’ changin’.
6: Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb – EDGE
If there’s one player the Colts have a chub for (I apologize) it is Bradley Chubb. They would take him at 3 if they still held that pick but with the Jets overpaying to move up three spots the Colts decide to take a risk and bet that their guy is still on the board at 6, which he is. Look for this to be a quick pick. It simply makes too much sense. Chubb brings everything that the Colts do not have on defense.
Though not quite as highly touted as Myles Garrett a year ago Chubb still has all the tools to dominate off the edge for years to come. He is, in a word, relentless. His power is unquestioned, and has a motor that just wont quit. He could bend a little better, but can also just run through every single lineman he faces should he so choose. I challenge you to watch this and not see this man to be a force in the NFL. The man. hits. hard. For an anemic Colts pass rush he immediately provides some help and can seriously assist in the run game as well. In an age of premium pass rushers Chubb will mark his territory and single-handedly get the Colts’ offense back on the field, letting a finally healthy Andrew Luck do his thing.
7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derwin James – S
The Bucs may attempt to trade up to claim Chubb before the Colts get their chance, but I don’t believe they have the assets at hand to realistically do so as opposed to QB needy teams who are willing to mortgage their future. Marcus Davenport is also a possibility if they think they can develop the kid effectively. However, with needs in the secondary and no DBs off the board yet the Bucs can draft whomever they wish to help bolster their weak back line. I waffled a bit between Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James, but I eventually settled on the latter for a couple of reasons.
- Minkah isn’t really projected to a specific position in the NFL. In fact, he mostly played slot corner in college, but has the intelligence and discipline to play in any postion, except probably strong safety.
- The Bucs have Justin Evans to fill that free safety slot, and it seems a little early to draft a nickel-package corner.
- James has Kam Chancellor size and, while raw as a prospect, is one of – if not the best – playmakers in the class. He is a 6’2″ 215 pound heat-seeking missile that can play over the top or make his way down into the box and help out the run game. I love the write up that analyst Lance Zierlein does on the kid. The key takeaway is that if James lives up to his potential he could be a stronger Eric Berry, which is nothing to scoff at. You have to love quotes like, “He’s an absolute Alpha in the locker room”, and “When he talks, players listen”. Simply put. With James the Bucs pick up a leader and a versatile weapon to anchor their DB core, which is completely worth pick 7 overall. Oh, and his mom nicknamed him “Pooh Bear” as a kid, and for some reason I think that’s just awesome.
8: Chicago Bears – Quenton Nelson – G
The Bears get a bear in Quenton Nelson. For all intents and purposes Nelson may simply be the easiest “sure-thing” prediction in a long, long time. Think Zack Martin but meaner and with better technique. I like this breakdown by Brett Kollman which highlights just how refined Nelson is in his form. His balance? Impeccable. His legs? Bent to perfection. His awareness? Sky-high. You cannot beat this man with power alone and if you try and finesse around him then he will use his skills in tae-kwon-do to readjust and throw you to the ground. If you see this man running to block you then you had better get out of the way otherwise you will likely be eating turf very soon.
Mitch Trubisky is going to be a very happy man following this pick, as he has one less thing to worry about with Nelson in front of him. It’s not an uncommon prediction to say that Nelson is a future All-Pro – he’s just looking to be that damn good. Chicago is a perfect fit for the mauler as he’ll bring fire and a mean-mugger attitude that will put fear into the hearts of any edge player that he might happen to pull against. It won’t be long before he earns a nickname like “Big Grizzly” and cement himself deep into Windy City lore.
Moose’s Take: Bears have plenty of options
The ideal pick here would be OG Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame. After drafting the franchise quarterback last year in Trubisky, and adding the weapons for him over this offseason (Robinson, Gabriel, Philly Special [Trey Burton]), the Bears should look to giving him his core O-line for the foreseeable future. Promising centre Cody Whitehair and pro bowl guard Kyle Long would be more than happy to get what many see as the most solid pick in the draft in Nelson, who would be paired with his college position coach Harry Hiestand in an ideal situation. This would give Chicago some identity so offended that they haven’t truly had in quite some time.
With the possibility of Nelson being gone by the #8 pick, however, the team would surely turn to the defensive side of the ball. Whether they pair newly re-signed Kyle Fuller with a fast corner with great ball skills (Denzel ward), or they turn to the old Monsters of the Midway adage and bring in a linebacker to pair with Travathan in a faster pace defense for DC Fangio (Tremaine Edmunds, possibly Roquan Smith), the focus of the draft for Chicago will lie on the defensive side of the ball.
9: San Francisco 49ers – TRADED to New England Patriots – Lamar Jackson – QB
Per the draft pick points chart, the number 9 pick is worth 1350 points. Picks 23 and 31 are worth a combined 1360 points. With the trade connection already established between the two teams the Patriots make a play for their next heir apparent to Tom Brady. Seeing as the Dolphins are picking at 11 and the Jets and Bills have also found their next franchise QBs Bill Belichick and Co. decide to reach for the dynamic Heisman winner from Louisville, hoping that Brady can get over his ego to mentor the young man until it is his time to take the field. The Niners, still in rebuild mode, decide to move down into this draft’s top WR range and second tier EDGE players. While they could use a player like Denzel Ward or Tremaine Edmunds, the value of two first round players in skill positions, in positions of need no less, makes the decision to move down a relatively easy one.
Drafting Jackson would be a big change from what one may think the Patriots tend to do. And no, they are not going to make him play wide receiver in lieu of Brandin Cooks leaving. However, we have seen the Pats take a flyer on another mobile quarterback recently in Jacoby Brissett, which signals to me that Belichick does show an awareness to the evolution of QB prototypes in today’s NFL. Jackson just so happens to be the ideal prototype, with Michael Vick-esque running ability and a rocket for an arm. He can make all the throws, but lacks consistent accuracy and will often overthrow his receiver on every other deep ball. That being said, the kid can MOVE. This past year alone Jackson rushed 232 times for 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those are first team All-Pro numbers for running backs in the NFL. He also is a Heisman trophy winner and a highlight reel superstar. Make no mistake: Lamar Jackson may be the single best athlete in the draft.
Let’s be real here. Tom Brady is over 40 years old. He just happens to be pulling some LeBron James’-esque body servicing that keeps him playing stupidly well (much to the dismay of every other team in the league). However, as much as he wants to keep playing it will be sooner rather than later that a blitzing linebacker puts Brady in the dirt and he simply will not be able to stand. The man is old for an NFL player and Father Time ALWAYS wins. As such, the Patriots make the smart move and start grooming his eventual successor (which they already had in Jimmy Garoppolo, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms). Lamar Jackson becomes the fifth QB taken in the top ten (FIFTH!) and also becomes the fifth QB who will not start day 1 for their team (FIFTH!).
10: Oakland Raiders – Denzel Ward – CB
Denzel Ward could go as high as pick 4 to the Browns, for he is easily the best pure corner in the draft. He’s a tad undersized for his position (5’10”, 190) but more than makes up for it in his excellent man coverage skills. His footwork, balance, and ability to match any player’s speed makes him a fantastic prospect to be the next shutdown corner to enter the league. While the Raiders arguably have bigger needs at linebacker, pass rush, or even tackle they cannot pass up the BPA (best player available) in Ward who has simply by circumstance fallen to pick 10.
Yes, the Raiders have Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin, but adding Ward to the mix really will help them shut down the pass-happy Chiefs, Broncos, and Chargers for the year. Add to the fact that Conley and Ward have chemistry from playing together at tOSU and you stand to have a great young duo in the secondary for years to come.
If the Raiders feel as if they are set at corner look for them to take Tremaine Edmunds, Roquan Smith, or Marcus Davenport. If those guys are gone look for them to trade down. The Raiders have plenty of options come April 26th but if the draft plays out in this fashion then I don’t really see how then can pass up a top talent in Ward should he fall to them.
Justin’s Take: Patriots make their move for a successor
With Brady not getting any younger, the Patriots have to trade up in order to get a quality QB. The Raiders at pick number 10 do not need a quarterback but rather a lot of positions needing improvement. If the Patriots offered them both their first round picks and their better second round pick I think the Raiders would accept a trade. If that trade went through the Patriots would own the 10th pick in the draft. Unfortunately Allen, Rosen, Mayfield, and Darnold, will probably be gone by the 10th pick which would leave the Patriots drafting the next DeShaun Watson in Lamar Jackson.
11: Miami Dolphins – Tremaine Edmunds – LB
I hate to say it, having grown up a Dolphins fan, but this team is going to get shafted out of getting one of the top 4 QBs in the draft which they likely desperately covet (Sorry, Dad). Ryan Tannehill is coming off a knee injury at age 30 and has never shown enough promise to truly be considered the Fins’ next franchise guy. But, at the risk of reaching for Mason Rudolph, the Dolphins hold their cards at QB at least until the second round – even though they are well aware that the Bills, Jets, and Pats have secured their guys just picks earlier. Instead, Miami salvages what it can in the wake of an unprecedented run on quarterbacks and drafts a player of limitless talent in an area of desperate need in Tremaine Edmunds.
Edmunds is, to put it bluntly, a freak. At 6’5″ 250 the man should not be able to run a 4.54 40 like he did at the combine. He’s the complete physical package with size, speed, and power. Yet, he does lack in his awareness at times and has a bad tendency to take false steps which often take him out of the play before it even begins. That being said, he will no doubt be able to fix that as he enters the league and leaves his teenage years behind.
Yup, the kid is 19 years old.
All of Edmunds’ faults are a resultant of him having not played the game long enough to learn how to correct those mistakes, which under NFL coaches’ guidance can be easily patched up. He is perfect to me molded to any system in any capacity merely because his unreal raw talent and physical prowess will more than make up for a few mental lapses. His ceiling might be the highest for any player in the draft regardless of position. Think Luke Kuechly + Brian Urlacher but faster and longer. If he lands in the right system under the right coaching staff I have little doubt that he will quickly blossom into a potential Hall of Fame talent. Yes, that’s how high his projection goes.
Miami’s linebacker core severely struggled this past season. But this year they appear to have a healthy Kiko Alonso coming back as well as last year’s first round pick, Raekwon McMillan, returning from an injury that kept him on the sidelines all year long. With Edmunds in the mix opposing offenses are going to have a hell of a time getting past the second level, and Miami quickly turns around it’s defensive attitude.
12: Buffalo Bills – TRADED to New York Giants – Marcus Davenport – EDGE
Like the Dolphins, the Giants too miss out on the top QB prospects of this year’s draft, albeit they recoup a ransom of picks from the Bills in the process, so life is good in the Big Apple. Also like the Dolphins they find themselves in a position to take a raw player with an enormous amount of upside, this time in Marcus Davenport.
At 6’6″ 264 Davenport has every physical tool available to him to dominate at the next level. Unfortunately for his projection it is readily apparent that he relied simply on these gifts alone to wreck havoc in opposing backfields. This is not necessarily a bad thing if he does find ways to use his talents in a productive manner, but leaves a lot to be desired in his ability to create separation with opposing offensive linemen. He did have a particularly good Senior Bowl week and game which undoubtedly helped to show he can handle next-level competition. If he does realize his potential he very well could be the next Khalil Mack or Von Miller at his position. That will take some time though, as until he learns more arm techniques or subtle nuances with his body he will remain a prospect who routinely gets held up when he can’t overpower his opponent.
The Giants have Olivier Vernon to mentor the young edge rusher, and in the wake of cutting JPP they could use another potential stud on their defensive edge. Davenport could pick right up where JPP left off and even become a better player that Pierre-Paul in the future. As a team looking to retool and rebuild the Giants have some time to develop Davenport as their search for the heir apparent to Eli Manning continues, so it is a good deal for both parties.
13: Washington Redskins – Vita Vea – DT
The NFL’s last-ranked run defense needs some serious help in the middle to pair with Jonathan Allen, so the ‘Skins pull the trigger on perhaps the best interior D-lineman in the class in Vita Vea. This pairing seems to be a match made in heaven as Vea is the clear favorite to go at 13 according to multiple other national mock drafts. With an uncanny blend of size and speed Vea is the next iteration of Danny Shelton, but much, much better (and also a product of American Samoa and the Washington Huskies football program). I’ve never seen a 6’4″ 350 pound man move like Vea does. Seriously, watch his highlight reel. The man is raw power with enough balance and arm moves available to him to dominate up front and wreck havoc in the middle of the opposing offense. With him on the line every offense will have to double team him to even think about running it up the middle, and yet Vea is strong enough to probably still break through.
Haloti Ngata. Dontari Poe. Vita Vea. Next in the line of menacing D-tackles who simply buried opposing running backs and quarterbacks alike, Vea has what it takes to dominate the line of scrimmage fro a long, long time. Paired with a healthy Jonathan Allen the Redskins have to believe that adding Vea stands to turn around their porous run defense sooner rather than later.
Tyler’s Take: Wanted: More Hogs
I believe the Redskins will take Da’Ron Payne, nose tackle from Alabama. With Jonathan Allen coming off a broken foot I feel they need more pass rush and quick athleticism in the middle along with good size; Payne being 6’2 300+.
14: Green Bay Packers – Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB
Minkah Fitzpatrick could go as high as 4 overall, which is why it is so sad to think that this uber-talented defensive back falls all the way to 14. Of course, the Packers will be jumping for joy, and Fitzpatrick can immediately help out in their secondary well… everywhere. Largely a slot corner at Alabama, Fitzpatrick has such great movement ability that his NFL projection almost exclusively has him at free safety – a spot already occupied by Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix on the Pack’s roster. Brett Kollmann does a great review as to why Minkah should succeed as a FS, and that it is best fit, but also notes how Minkah is simply good enough at what he does that he can play anywhere on the field and still make a substantial impact.
[Side note: I’m really loving Brett Kollmann’s analyses. He may be just a draft aficionado like myself but his evaluations are quite in depth and in my own reviews I tend to agree with much of what he has to say. Give the guy a look if you’re into this type of thing.]
With Damarious Randall gone, being replaced with Tramon Williams (who got cut from the Browns, THE BROWNS!), and a secondary that was widely considered to be one of the league’s worst over the last few years, Fitzpatrick will bring leadership to the downtrodden group and effectively blanket whoever he is assigned to cover. His intelligence can only help himself and his teammates, who can and will benefit from the National Champion presence that Fitzpatrick brings. Minkah will succeed on any team, in any scheme, for he’s that damn talented. Though his talents are better used where he can play center field in the free safety spot the team that does pick this kid will immediately improve on their back end. The Packers do just that.
15: Arizona Cardinals – TRADED to Denver Broncos – Josh Jackson – CB
Aqib Talib is gone and in order to keep their defense as the cornerstone of their victories it is essential that the Broncos find a guy who can help make up for the loss of the sticky corner. Jackson is a long-armed guy who had a prolific 27 passes defensed this past season with 8 interceptions to boot. This routinely has scouts labeling him as a “one year wonder” considering he does only have 14 starts under his belt. His inexperience shows as he bites on play fakes quite a bit and is susceptible to getting out-maneuvered by even semi-decent route runners. Still, at 6’1″ 192 he brings ideal size to the position in a league where bigger defensive backs are becoming all the rage. His ball skills are uncanny looking at his level of production which suggests that his natural football instincts are very sharp. You can’t teach that. You can however teach away the hindrances that are holding Jackson back from being elite. The Broncos have obviously been able to do things right at corner over the past few seasons and will look to add Jackson to a growing list of secondary success stories.
16: Baltimore Ravens – Calvin Ridley – WR
Even after the additions of John Brown and Michael Crabtree the Ravens are still in need of a number 1 receiver to round out their offense. Breshad Perriman simply cannot prove to stay healthy for an extended period of time which makes it essential that Baltimore find a guy that can be a leading receiver for years to come. They find their man in Calvin Ridley.
Through no fault of his own Ridley falls all the way to 16 even though he is far and away the best WR prospect in the draft. Sure he’s not massive at 6’0″ 190 but the ‘Bama product has proven time and again that he has what it takes to be a playmaker at any level. With 4.43 40 times and a complete understanding of the route tree Ridley can maneuver into any spot on the field to create separation, and when he does he has the hands to catch anything that happens to come to him. Once the ball is in his hands he also has a brilliant ability to find yards after the catch. His subtle nuances in head movement and quick steps paired with excellent route-running allow Ridley to toy with opposing corners on gameday. However, because of his smaller frame if he does run into contact (or press coverage) it can be very difficult for him to break off from a physical defender. Yet, Ridley always seems to be heads-up enough to find his way into open space and make the field his playground.
It is simply a result of circumstance that the first WR pick falls to the first round as this draft is ridiculously stacked at QB and defensive positions. Make no mistake though: Calvin Ridley is a top-10 talent and would be a boon for the Baltimore squad.
17: Los Angeles Chargers – Mike McGlinchey – OT
It’s still a little early for the next wave of QB’s to come off the board, so while Los Angeles likely is preparing to start grooming an heir to Philip Rivers they decide to do the next best thing and try to keep the man upright as long as possible. Joe Barksdale just simply isn’t cutting it on the right side They do this by taking arguably the best OT in the class in Mike McGlinchey.
A stalwart at Notre Dame, McGlinchey has the aptitude to take on edge rushers on either side of the line. In this case the Chargers will start him at RT with Russell Okung on the blind side, but will likely get the kid some snaps on the left end and prep him as the backup too. An advanced technician – though not at Joe Thomas levels just yet – McGlinchey plays his role with great posture and proper weight distribution. He routinely rolls his hips effectively during a block and has experience in both gap and zone schemes. Moreover he was named team captain in consecutive years which shows he has the leadership skills to become a leader on the Chargers’ line. He does, however, need to bulk up a bit to be consistently effective against NFL talent and need to learn to move with the rusher in his pass blocks instead of just trying to overpower them.
Overall, McGlinchey is a great prospect at either OT spot and can be molded to fit any scheme. By the time the next man is up at the QB spot in LA it would be a safe bet that McGlinchey has corrected most of his faults and buffed up in the process, as well as having moved over to the LT spot. He will be a good NFL tackle, and has the chance to be great, but it will take some work.
18: Seattle Seahawks – Harold Landry – EDGE
There is a large Michael Bennett sized hole on the Seahawks’ defensive line, and with the Legion of Boom era officially over the only way the Seahawks can immediately help their secondary is by taking the pressure off of them in the form of a revitalized pass rush. Enter Harold Landry, who at 6’3″ 252 is a tad undersized but makes up for it with an excellent burst and a fluid bend around the line of scrimmage – the best hips in this EDGE class. His near 33″ arms help him make contact first and gain leverage on opposing tackles which helps again with his smaller stature. Moreover, his long stride and 4.64 40 speed allow him to be an excellent pursuit man both in the pass and run game. He’ll need to add a few pounds to be an effective run-stuffer, but for the time being the ‘Hawks’ primarily see him as a passing-down player anyway. Lance Zierlein sees him as a Vic Beasley clone, and you tell me what team wouldn’t want a guy like that on their roster.
In the grand scheme of things the Seahawks should absolutely buff up their O-Line (Connor Williams, Isaiah Wynn) or draft a new premiere running back (Derrius Guice), but Landry fits both BPA and a glaring need in the Seahawks defense, which is why they choose to pick him up. Sorry Russ, you’re gonna have to Houdini yourself around for another season.
19: Dallas Cowboys – Cortland Sutton – WR
The Era of Dez Bryant is over and the Cowboys are going to need a new red-zone threat to help out Prescott and Co. Jason Garrett was the only Head Coach at Sutton’s pro day at SMU, so if that immediately doesn’t link this team to him I’m not really sure what does.
Sutton is a dominant receiver a la Brandon Marshall. He’s 6’3″, 218, and plays like a basketball center. He won’t burn you with his speed, but that was, and should never be, his job. The man is your jump ball guy; your red-zone stud. He scores multiple touchdowns on 40-50 yard games. His confidence to win every fight allows him to win damn-near every fight and humiliate opposing defenders. When the ball is in the air it is his and his alone which is a massive asset to any team looking for a new and imposing weapon to utilize. Of course the reason why he’s continuing to win contested catches is because the man is always contested. This isn’t a bad thing as long as he continues to win those battles but against better defenders in the NFL one can bet that his reception numbers in this manner will start to fade. To be truly successful at the next level Sutton has to find a way to separate from cornerbacks. If he can do that then he can become something truly special.
20: Detroit Lions – Derrius Guice – RB
The loss of Eric Ebron means that sooner rather than later the Lions are going to have to find help at the TE spot, and could do so here as they will still have every available tight end to pick from. At the same time, new HC Matt Patricia may feel like the best way to get Matt Stafford some help is by picking up a stud running back to take the pressure off the gunslinger. In an offense where no rusher has broken 100 yards since Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving, 2013 (THAT’S FOUR SEASONS!) Guice can finally prove to be the franchise RB that the Lions have lacked for a long time.
Unfortunately for Guice he sits in the shadow of Saquon Barkley during this draft, but that doesn’t mean Guice cannot be as effective. Saquon Barkley is to LaDanian Tomlinson as Derrius Guice is to Marshawn Lynch. Where Barkley looks to avoid contact, Guice will look to run right through you. Having been Leonard Fournette’s understudy at LSU one can only assume that Guice picked up some similar running strategies from last year’s 4th overall pick. At the point of attack Guice maintains his balance and vision which helps him weave between his own lineman and opposing defenders to get to the second level. The kid doesn’t have great top end speed to break away but can still knock chucks of yardage off the board at any given time. He plays aware and knows when to finesse a defender or two and when to look to bowl someone over. Most importantly he has found success in pushing his way into the end zone when it is required. Guice can simply “make it happen”, and if he can do things like this consistently, then the Lions may have found a guy that can rush over 100 yards a game. What a novel idea, right?
21: Cincinnati Bengals – Will Hernandez – OG
The arrival of Cordy Glenn from Buffalo does nothing but help the putrid Bengal O-Line, but yet he alone can not bring stability to a group that has routinely failed to protect the perennially average Andy Dalton. Will Hernandez can be a substantial help to keeping Dalton upright as well as providing a solid bonus to the Cincinnati run game. A four year starter at LG at UTEP, Hernandez had a fantastic Senior Bowl week, likely pushing him up many a draft board at just the right moment before the draft. At the combine he posted a resounding 37 reps on the bench press – yet he does have shorter than average arms and height for the position. Nevertheless his smaller stature has gifted him higher levels of balance and speed, which is evident in his precise and stable footwork. A mean-mugger at that too, the man consistently finishes his blocks, burying anyone who might happen to stand in his way. He loves looking for contact (he does practice boxing in his free time) but that can be an issue as he can miss his blocks as his momentum can carry him past a defender who is smart enough to rip underneath him. Still, that’s an easily coachable thing and one Hernandez learns patience in his technique he has the work ethic and demeanor on the field to become a consistent Pro-Bowler for the Bengals’ squad. Look for him to be one of the most successful lineman in the class in the years to come.
22: Buffalo Bills – TRADED to New York Giants – Connor Williams – OT
Nate Solder will solidify Eli Manning’s blind side as he rides off into the sunset, but what about the other bookend tackle? With the prospect of a new rookie QB in a year or two it would be wise for the Giants to pick up another quality addition to their line in Connor Williams, signaling the official end to the Ereck Flowers experiment.
At 6’5″ 320 Williams has ample size to anchor either edge of the line he is drafted to. Like McGlinchey before him it is likely he will take 2nd team reps at LT but hold down the right side of the fort during the season. He is an outstanding technician at his position and utilizes an opponent’s momentum in relation to his own extremely effectively, showing a keen sight for when to give a little and when he can win a power battle. On top of that his hand placement is excellent, but at the same time he does have shorter than expected arms which means he will need to punch out more in pass blocking scenarios rather than “catching” his opponent. Moreover, he has a tendency to become straight-legged in his blocks which loses him leverage in many fights.
From everything I’ve seen and read about this guy I feel comfortable in saying that of every lineman his hands and awareness are the best in class. Consistently it looks like he knows where his quarterback is and if he is scrambling or not. Also, he routinely maximizes where he punches, which can cause opponents to fall out of their rushing rhythm and give Williams the upper hand. Personally I think he’s a better LT prospect than McGlinchey, and I would not be surprised if he evolves into a Joe Thomas/Jake Matthews type of player in the near future. The Boys in Blue would be happy to have someone with his talents with a rookie QB soon to be on the way.
23: New England Patriots – TRADED to San Francisco 49ers – Roquan Smith – LB
Roquan Smith is a top 10 talent at the weak side linebacker spot. While he has fantastic potential and will rack up stupid amounts of tackles in the NFL that is only because he is a sideline-to-sideline system player who is responsible for finishing the running back and the running back alone. Frankly, he is just plain bad at shedding blockers. I think this stems from his high school days of being a wide receiver, as he could stand to bulk up quite a bit. However, he has elite and legit 4.5 speed and if he gets a hole is the prime gap shooter in this class. Again, Brett Kollmann breaks down this kid’s tape wonderfully here. To be effective Smith will need the defensive scheme to build around him, which is not a bad thing because Smith is a fantastic player to build around. At Georgia he was a strong leader for the front seven and during the College Football Playoff and one of the few players I found myself consistently getting drawn to and saying “wow, this guy is something special”. Relentless is probably the key word I would use to describe Smith, as it seemed to me that he was in and around every single tackle. Also, because he was a receiver he understands what opposing receivers will tend to do, and he shows this by being a sticky cover LB in coverage.
Make no mistake, Smith is a fantastic talent that arguably should go much higher in the draft. However it is because he is so reliant on scheme for his successes that he falls all the way to 23 overall. The Niners, having moved down earlier from their trade with the Patriots, have an immediate need at LB considering Reuben Foster is looking at a lengthy prison sentence. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have the tools in place on their defensive line to ensure that Smith will get 1v1 looks with opposing running backs and are in need of a leadership presence on the field. Smith can be a key cog in a revitalized Niners team looking to make a run back to the playoff hunt soon. They sprint up with the pick, and find luck at getting a top LB prospect later in the 1st round for two years in a row (hopefully Smith will not follow in the recent tradition of excellent 49ers LB’s careers coming to quick ends; see Borland, Chris; Foster, Reuben).
24: Carolina Panthers – Hayden Hurst – TE
Greg Olsen looks like he’s on a path to the announcer booth, and with no clear successor in place it would be a good idea for the Panthers to start thinking about their next guy up who can wreck havoc down the middle of the field. Enter Hayden Hurst, a former 17th round pitcher drafter by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 (yep, look it up). The guy plays fearless ball in the middle of the field; a “rabid and rowdy style of play” according to Lance Zierlein. Hurst looks to make and break contact, and has sticky enough hands to make nearly any contested catch (one drop in 100 career receptions). He is a fair blocker as well, but likely has reached his full athletic potential – he will be 25 by the time of the draft. Still, he looks to be the most complete package at the tight end spot, and with a little help from Olsen to work on the nuances of the position Hurst can quickly become Carolina’s starting TE and security blanket for Cam Newton for the years to come.
25: Tennessee Titans – James Daniels – C
The University of Iowa produces good NFL players, and James Daniels is the next chapter in the storybook of the school’s program. While needing to build a few extra pounds to be truly elite on the offensive line Daniels nonetheless possesses crazy quick movement speed for a man of his size (6’3″ 295). He awareness is fantastic and has proven to work well with both guards on the line as well as showing he can easily identify and pick up a blitz or know when to push up to make a block on the next level. Smart, quick, and with a good hip roll too boot, the only thing holding Daniels back is his power, which any strength and conditioning coach in the NFL should be able to help him out with.
The Titans have made a habit of selecting quality offensive lineman in the first round with the picks of Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin over the past couple of years. While their bookends are set for the future Tennessee could use a bit of assistance right in front of Marcus Mariota. Whatever the Titans teach their lineman, it’s the right thing. Adding Daniels to the front 5 will continue to prove that statement is not just a fluke. It won’t be a sexy pick, but it will be the right one.
26: Atlanta Falcons – Taven Bryan – DT
The Falcons and Taven Bryan appear to be a match made in heaven, for it continues to be one of the most commonly predicted picks in the entire draft. Everything, from his relentless motor to the fact that his dad was a Navy SEAL (the Falcons train with Navy SEALS every offseason) seems to scream “ATLANTA” for Bryan at pick 26. While he lacks great instincts Bryan is just one of those guys who you just line up on the line and say, “OK, GO!” The kid is extremely determined to just cause havoc, which can be a boon at the point of attack in some schemes. He also has a powerful burst and a crazy closing speed. The Falcons see him as a great compliment to Vic Beasley and the rest of their hyper-aggressive D-Line. Simply, Bryan can command attention where he needs to and can open up lanes for the rest of the guys next to him. If he learns to realize opposing play calls and develops a sense of how things may turn out in the next play to come then he could develop into an extremely effective rusher up the middle for the Dirty Birds.
27: New Orleans Saints – Leighton Vander Esch – LB
The need for a new TE is readily apparent in the Big Easy, but Drew Brees will still do Drew Brees things as long as Drew Brees is Drew Brees. Drew Brees may also not be the Drew Brees we have come to know for much longer since he is soon to be going into his fourth decade in life, so the Saints may look for a replacement for Drew Brees since Drew Brees will likely retire sooner rather than later. Still, Drew Brees can’t win a shootout every. single. game., so let’s get some help for Drew Brees on defense shall we?
Vander Esch is one of my favorite prospects in the entire draft, and I think he is one of the Saints’ too. At 6’4″ 254 and an insane ability to turn on a dime or turn into a coverage set who wouldn’t like this guy? He plays instinctive, hard-nosed ball and has premier size and athleticism for a middle linebacker spot. He stands to fill out a little more to take on blocks better but still has had a wildly productive career at Boise St. When I think of this guy I just picture one of those dominant high school backers whose reputation proceeds the team itself. Look at this and tell me you don’t feel the same way. The Saints are long past due for a renewed attitude on defense and Vander Esch looks to be just the guy to bring the hype and put the hammer down.
28: Pittsburgh Steelers – Rashaan Evans – LB
While some may still hope that Ryan Shazier will recovery from an injury that almost took his ability to walk it is likely that he may never play football again, and so the Steelers are left with an open spot smack dab in the middle of their defense. I have no doubt they will try to jump a team like the Saints in an attempt to land Vander Esch, but in this scenario the Steelers just aren’t prudent enough to make that move. Rashaan Evans though is much more than just a consolation prize as he comes from the prided Alabama linebacker core that has alums like C.J. Mosley, Dont’a Hightower, and Reuben Foster. ‘Bama backers are plug and play guys – they hardly need any extra development. Though he could stand to improve in coverage Evans nonetheless excels as a two-down guy, forcing the point of attack and working through blocks to stuff a runner or scrambling QB. He may be a step behind Roquan Smith as far as athleticism goes but he nonetheless flies around the field and looks to bring the pain on every tackle. If he plays more with his instincts (which are already pretty good) then the Steel City will have found a guy more than capable of filling the gap that Shazier left behind.
29: Jacksonville Jaguars – D.J. Moore – WR
Ya know, Mason Rudolph is someone I think the Jags should take a long look at here at pick 29: they simply don’t know if it will be Blake Bortles or Block Bartles showing up for work on Sunday. However, considering that Bortles was the QB for the team who made it to the AFC Championship game this past year it would seem that Bortles granted himself at least one more season to prove his worth. However, this will be much more difficult to do with the departing of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns to the Bears and Cowboys, respectively. Yes, Jacksonville picked up a quality TE in Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and a premiere OG in Andrew Norwell to help Bortles out, but Marquise Lee and Dede Westbrook can’t do all the work for the receiving core, can they?
D.J. Moore to the rescue.
At 6’0″ 210 with 4.4 speed Moore has the size and speed to be the top target in, say it with me here, DUUUUUUUVAAAAAAAL! Consider him a bigger, more physical version of Stefon Diggs, who also hailed from the Terrapins WR core. A dangerous catch and run option, Moore accounted for almost 40(!) percent of the targets from the Maryland passing attack this past year. He’s slippery, has quick feet, and most scouting reports have him being listed as a good “locker room guy”. He can bring leadership to a depleted Jaguars WR room and establish himself as a reliable option for whoever ends up being under center for the Teal and Gold.
30: Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn – OG
If you spend 84 million dollars on your franchise quarterback, you had better damn well protect him.
Isaiah Wynn is a quietly excellent guard prospect with great athleticism and enough power to handle himself against even the bulkiest defensive tackles. He plays fluid with a great sense of balance and body control that many NFL starters would be jealous of. His discipline and strong hands make him an above average pass protector and his low center of gravity and quick movements allow him to be very effective when he has to pull. If he adds some more muscle, which will be hard to do on his 6’3″ 313 frame, then he should be a proverbial bowling ball on the Minnesota interior. Minnesota would be happy to have a guy who can not only help keep Kirk Cousins upright but also pave the way for Dalvin Cook on running downs; Wynn is the best guy at this point in the draft to do just that.
31: New England Patriots – TRADED to San Francisco 49ers – Da’Ron Payne – DT
Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Da’Ron Payne. The 49ers can have four first round picks on their defensive line, which sounds too good to be true. By nature of the draft Payne, a top-20 talent, falls to 31, and the Niners scoop him up with the second pick they acquired from the Pats earlier in the draft.
At 6’2″ 311 pounds Payne reminds me a lot of Aaron Donald, who has become the single best defensive lineman in the league. While I’m not sure that Payne’s ceiling is that high I do know that a kid who could bench 460 pounds in HIGH SCHOOL will be a monster on the interior at the NFL level. Some people are just naturally strong, and Payne may very well be the strongest in the class. He can eat blocks or forces his way up the middle. Like many ‘Bama lineman before him he is an expert technician, his hands and feet never making a false move. If one thing is evidently clear from looking at this guy’s file, it is this: do not run at Da’Ron Payne. He will make your RB/QB a very unhappy person.
San Fran needs some interior pressure to take the heat off of Thomas and Buckner, and there is no better force in the draft to do it at this spot than Payne. He is also the perfect compliment to pair with Roquan Smith whom I have the Niners taking earlier. If John Lynch manages to walk away with both of these players, at the spots that he traded down to no less, then by value alone he will have won the first round. Period.
32: Philadelphia Eagles – TRADED to Cleveland Browns – Isaiah Oliver – CB
Pick 33 is a fantastic pick as you get to re-evaluate your draft board and have the first selection of everyone left after the first round craziness. The Browns, however, also have pick 35 and are still rebuilding, making the 5th year option on 1st round contracts that much more important. The Eagles, on the other hand, are arguably better than they were when they won the Super Bowl this past year, what with Michael Bennett coming over from Seattle and Carson Wentz returning, and they have no real pressing needs at this time that they can’t move down one spot to fill. Moreover, picking last in the first round means you are hoping a highly ranked prospect- and someone you like – falls to the spot, which is usually unlikely to happen. As such, the Eagles might just want to concede the first round and instead have the premiere pick for the rest of the draft at the start of day two; the Browns also not losing much as they have an early pick in 35 anyway. So, the Browns toss 33 and a late round pick to the Eagles to move up one spot for a fifth year option on a player that can be a key cog in their secondary for a long, long time: Isaiah Oliver.
Oliver’s length is what makes him such an intriguing prospect. He’s 6’1″ 190, and his arms make him a proverbial spider monkey on the field. Kollmann gives a great breakdown here as to how Oliver’s size helps him not only stick to a receiver but also make up for when he makes a mistake. You can’t outrun this guy and you certainly won’t be able to out-jump him either. Heck, he even looks like a receiver on tape. However, this means he doesn’t sit so well in his backpedal, but this is easily correctable. He is a fantastic ballhawk but can sometimes carry too much momentum into jumping a route or even outrun his receiver in coverage. Basically he needs to just take a breath and focus on matching speed and angles when in man coverage. Out of every corner in the draft though Oliver far and away has the best raw frame to build on physically and carries enough talent and understanding of the position to be worthy of a first round pick. He should easily challenge for a starting spot in Cleveland’s CB room and the team can focus on his long term development with an extra year in his contract.
Derek’s Take: Eagles look to lock it down
Josh Jackson to the Eagles. The secondary was the one weak spot for the Eagles all last season and many teams burned them with the double move. I’m actually surprised that the Pats didn’t look there more often in the Super Bowl. Look for Jackson or Jaire Alexander out of Louisville to go here. If neither are available they’ll trade out.
33: Cleveland Browns – TRADED to Philadelphia Eagles – Sony Michel – RB
Philly starts day two by adding a dynamic playmaker to their backfield to compliment Jay Ajayi and replace LeGarrette Blount. Michel proved to be the lightning to Nick Chubb’s thunder down at UGA, and can be a useful asset to Carson Wentz in the Philly pass attack.
34: New York Giants – Ronald Jones II – RB
I had to look up who the Giants even had at running back, so no, I don’t have faith in a Jonathan Stewart revival in NYC. Ronald Jones was a bona-fide home run hitter at USC as well as being Sam Darnold’s safety valve. He can be the trap & pull man while Stewart takes power and short yardage plays. If nothing else he will help take the heat off of Manning.
35: Cleveland Browns – Maurice (Mo) Hurst – DT
Kolton Miller is an option here too as the Browns look to find a replacement to newly retired Joe Thomas, but Hurst is a first round prospect who was a beast for the Wolverines and has a smaller frame to be an ideal 3-tech in a 4-3 defense. The Browns will rotate him and Larry Ogunjobi between the 1 and 3 techs to hold the fort between Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett to create a promising young D-Line.
36: Indianapolis Colts – Nick Chubb – RB
The Colts pick up the second Chubb to pair with his cousin Bradley, which I think is a smart thing as it encourages the two to out-perform one another – family rivalry can be very productive in the sports world. It also fills an obvious need at running back as Frank Gore is gone and Marlon Mack, while promising, is nothing to write home about just yet. Chubb gives the Colts a power back who can excel in short yardage and goal line situations.
37: Indianapolis Colts – Christian Kirk – WR
The Colts add another offensive weapon to build around Andrew Luck in Christian Kirk, a surefire slot receiver whose route running skills, sure hands, and adequate speed can make him lethal between the numbers. He also has shown success in the return game, adding value to his image as a prospect.
38: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kolton Miller – OT
Miller is massive at 6’9″ and should come in and be an effective bookend for Jameis Winston and Co. A running back would be ideal here but with three going early in the second round the Bucs should look to aim for the BPA in a position of need.
39: Chicago Bears – Jaire Alexander – CB
Alexander is a legit 1st round prospect and perhaps the best ball hawk in the class. It would be a coup for the Bears if he fell this far and they can pair him with Kyle Fuller. While LB and DL are positions of need the value that Alexander has at this point in time outweighs the others needs the Bears may have. With sub 4.4 speed Alexander will quickly be giving fits to Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, and now Kirk Cousins in the years to come.
Moose’s Take: Lock down the edges
Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
With edge pressure players lacking in the draft, Ryan Pace and Vic Fangio have shown in the past that they have a soft spot for aggressive, athletic edge rushers. Carter, being cut from basically the same mould as last year’s first rounder Leonard Floyd, lacked the statistical side in his college career but has the upside to make up for it. Explosive, long armed, and tall framed, Carter will help the bears continue to improve on a young, solid defense.
40: Denver Broncos – Orlando Brown – OT
Regardless of just how god-awful Brown’s combine was he still looked like a top tackle talent when actually playing down at OU. I think the Broncos are comfortable with going forward with Case Keenum as their QB for a year, so they look to at least keep him upright by taking a flyer on Brown. Still… damn, this guy really flat out sucked in Indy.
41: Oakland Raiders – D.J. Chark – WR
Does Jon Gruden actually think a 33 year old – fresh off ACL surgery Jordy Nelson is enough to compliment Amari Cooper? Hell I hope not. Chark had the fastest 40 at the combine with a 4.34 and is 6’3″ to boot. He can be the long ball guy while Cooper takes the middle routes and they will both likely have the same levels of production. Throw Nelson in the middle and suddenly there may be something cooking in the Oakland offense.
42: Miami Dolphins – Mason Rudolph – QB
I almost pulled the trigger on Rudolph to the Dolphins all the way back at pick 11, but unless the Fins completely lose their cool at the early run of QBs I would have to think they can wait for their second round pick to claim Mason. He was wildly productive at OSU, but then again so was Brandon Weeden. That being said he is an excellent pure pocket passer and shows first round potential. If he can get past the designation of “system QB” then Miami may actually have picked up a very good QB. With this pick though the entire AFC East now has rookie signal callers on their rosters, which if nothing else is interesting to say the least.
43: New England Patriots – Sam Hubbard – EDGE
You know, it’s amazing that the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl last year. Take away Brady and Gronk and this team looks really quite pitiful on paper – the exception of the McCourty brothers and Dont’a Hightower excluded. Matt Patricia is now gone too and if not for the fiasco that was Josh McDaniels going to Indy then the Pats would have a completely new scheme for both sides of the ball this year. The new DC is going to want a prime player at a position of need though, and Hubbard is a good start at refueling the Pats lackluster pass rush.
44: Washington Redskins – Carlton Davis – CB
Orlando Scandrick will not be enough to offset the loss of Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, so it would be wise for the Redskins to find some help for their secondary early on in the draft. Davis has ample size at 6’1″ 206 and has a knack for giving any receiver who faces him the fits. He should be able to slide right in and assist a lacking Washington DB room.
Tyler’s Take: Rev up the engines
The pick is Ronald Jones from USC. His great elusive/shiftiness compliments Chris Thompson and allows for two different running styles to be used in the Redskins backfield.
45: Green Bay Packers – Antonio Callaway – WR
Callaway is an excellently quick WR prospect who managed to give Minkah Fitzpatrick some trouble when the two happened to play against one another in college. Why not pair them up to help with Fitzpatrick’s development and help fill a need in the WR core at the same time? Callaway has fantastic talent as a kick returner as well. However, he routinely ran into trouble off the field, which causes him to drop come draft day. If the Packers can reel him in and keep him focused then he very well may be one of the best wide receivers coming out of the class.
46: Cincinnati Bengals – Mike Hughes – CB
Adam “Pac-man” Jones is gone from the Bengals D, so it would be prudent for the South-Ohio squad to pick up one of the top DB prospects early on in the draft. Hughes brings an aggressive edge to his play and routinely stalwarts his receivers before they can get off the line. He could stand to hone his craft over an extended amount of reps seeing his limited amount of experience from his college years. Still, he stands to have a chance at being a successful NFL DB once his development occurs.
47: Arizona Cardinals – TRADED to Denver Broncos – Kyle Lauletta – QB
OK, maybe the Broncos don’t feel completely confident in Case Keenum’s ability to hold down the fort. With an extra pick from their earlier trade with Arizona Denver now finds itself in a position to pick up a quarterback who is almost an exact physical clone of Jimmy Garoppolo – and we all know how his career turned out. Lauletta does have concerns about his arm strength and ability to throw into tight windows, but does exhibit potential as at least a quality backup with a ceiling similar to Jimmy G. He can sit and learn behind Keenum and likely beat out Paxton Lynch for the QB2 spot.
48: Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Reid – FS
With Lauletta off the board the Chargers are left between addressing needs at LB, C, and FS. Though they could go for Billy Price but the Bolts decide to upgrade their secondary instead considering their back line hasn’t been nearly the same since the departure of Eric Weddle. Reid is a rapid response player with high intelligence and twitch to play center field for this LA squad.
49: Indianapolis Colts – Lorenzo Carter – EDGE
Having Bradley Chubb will go a long way towards helping the Colts pass rush, but he alone can’t handle the burden. Carter is long and can build up on his 6’6″ frame. He had a fantastic combine and did wonders in helping Roquan Smith and the Georgia Bulldogs make it to the National Championship game. He needs to be more technical to win his battles but offers potential as a great compliment to Chubb on a revamped Colts D.
50: Dallas Cowboys – Rasheem Green – DE
Green could really stand to put 20 more pounds onto his 6’5″ frame, and he should be able to do that before the start of this upcoming season. Demarcus Lawrence needs help on the ‘Boys’ defensive front. Green has the potential to form a nasty 1-2 punch with Lawrence down in Dallas.
51: Detroit Lions – Mike Gesicki – TE
As mentioned before, the Lions need to find a suitable replacement to fill the hole that Eric Ebron left behind in Detroit. Gesicki absolutely dominated the combine, consistently ranking in the top percentiles for all performances in the history of the TE spot. He won’t be a premiere blocking end but the Lions have no need for one in their pass-heavy offense. Gesicki is reminiscent of Jimmy Graham and has the potential to be just as good with Matt Stafford tossing him bullets game after game.
52: Baltimore Ravens – Dallas Goedert – TE
The Maxx Williams experiment just hasn’t panned out in Baltimore, so the Ravens pick up Goedert in the wake of losing out on Gesicki one pick earlier. Another end more suited for being a pass-catcher than a run blocker Goedert plays with speed, balance, and technique that makes him an absolute threat in the seam and over the middle of the field. He routinely dominated linebackers in college and will look to do the same in the rough and tumble AFC North.
53: Buffalo Bills – TRADED to New York Giants – Billy Price – C
If the Giants truly believe that they can get another substantial run out of Eli Manning then they have no choice but to invest in lineman who can keep him upright. First Nate Solder, then Connor Williams earlier in the draft, and now Price, who might be the best center in the draft but will fall due to a torn pectoral muscle. He looks to be fine before the start of the season so the Giants decide to pick him up to anchor the middle of their new O-Line.
54: Kansas City Chiefs – Darius Leonard – OLB
The Chiefs are without a first round pick this year – having used their pick to move up and grab Patrick Mahomes last year. Mahomey is now the lead guy in KC but the team has needs at the linebacker spot with Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali now off the squad. Leonard is reactive, twitchy, and long with good speed. He can learn from Justin Houston and look to work opposite him and utilize his above average cover skills to own his keep in Andy Reid’s regime.
55: Carolina Panthers – Deon Cain – WR
Cain is the next iteration of successful Clemson wide receivers, and has the size, speed, and route-running ability to fill the shoes that Kelvin Benjamin left behind. He is a quick catcher at the point of attack and shows pretty good separation skills. He does need to expand his route tree and work on his drops, but nevertheless has the potential to be a crucial set piece that the Panthers can pair with Hurst to revitalize their passing attack.
56: Buffalo Bills – Frank Ragnow – C
Eric Wood is gone and now there is a massive need at C for the Buffalo squad. Ragnow is a 3 year starter and was team captain during his tenure with the Razorbacks. He has size, power, strong hands, and drives well into the second level. Athletically he will not blow you away, yet he still has all the physical tools to make an impact in the NFL. He should form an early report with Josh Allen and step up to lead a line which is in the midst of a rebuild.
57: Tennessee Titans – Arden Key – EDGE
Key has some off-field issues that will likely result in him dropping down many a draft board. Still, he has round one potential and fills a need at pass rusher for the Titans’ defense. He’s long, bends well, and generally finds success in separating from the opposing line. However, he does not play with enough strength to be an effective force in the run game, which will limit him to be a rotational nickel package guy. If he commits to becoming a disciplined player he could become a terrifying edge rusher in the near future. Think Randy Gregory 2.0
58: Atlanta Falcons – Da’Shawn Hand – DE
Hand can come in with Taven Bryan to completely retool the Falcons D-line. Another ‘Bama product, one can assume that Hand has all the talents and discipline that is common to the other school’s alums. The number one high school recruit of 2014, Hand is muscularly thick and looks the part of an NFL player. He’s a bit slow, but Brian Quinn should be able to light a fire under his butt – especially with the nonstop guy in Bryan also coming down to the ATL.
59: San Francisco 49ers – Donte Jackson – CB
Adding Richard Sherman alone is not enough to solve the 49ers CB woes. Jackson is undersized at 5’10” 180 but has 4.3 speed to make up for it. A track star, he may have the best closing speed in the class – no one will burn him. He won’t be much of a force in the run game but can be a complimentary nickel corner who can cover even the shiftiest of Y receivers.
60: Pittsburgh Steelers – Ronnie Harrison – S
Harrison has a rare combination of size and speed which can allow him to play either safety spot for the Steelers, who double down on Alabama products in the first two rounds of this draft. He shows good anticipation in coverage and has proven a strong candidate to be a blitzer or box safety. While he over-commits to some angles he nonetheless possesses the skills which are attractive enough to be a second round pick, and the Steelers, needing help over the top, could use a player like him.
61: Jacksonville Jaguars – Malik Jefferson – LB
Paul Posluszny is gone and the Jags would do well to find a physical who can take on opposing offensive lineman and open the field up for Myles Jack and Telvin Smith. Jefferson has the proper size to be a thumper in the run game and a good cover guy in the passing attack. While he does not possess an aggressive nature he can still find success by simply doing his job and “just playing” rather than focusing on scheme. He will be in good hands in Doug Marrone’s defense and will quickly become a key cog in one of the league’s best front sevens.
62: Minnesota Vikings – Equanimeous St. Brown – WR
A 6’5″ guy with 4.5 speed who can compliment Adam Thelein and Stefon Diggs and give Kirk Cousins a big bodied guy who can make contested catches in the red zone? Yeah, take the kid Minnesota. Though he struggles to break out of tight coverage he has the wheels and the hands to be a force for the Vikes’ offense. While he does need to develop a good bit his potential is sky high.
63: New England Patriots – Ian Thomas – TE
It’s always a toss up when Gronk gets hit as to whether he will get back up or not, and with rumors of his retirement on the horizon it may be time to start thinking about grooming a successor to the party boy and providing a strong second TE that Belichick seems to covet. Thomas can be effective in both the run and pass attack and is reported to have the temperament of a “do your job” player. However, he’s not a short white guy with a lacrosse background so it remains to be seen if Bill takes a flyer on him. That being said he possesses a balanced athletic frame and will likely find success in the Patriots’ system.
64: Cleveland Browns – Anthony Miller – WR
Even though the Browns locked down Jarvis Landry for an extended period of time he is probably the only reliable receiver on the roster. Josh Gordon is a top WR talent if he stays sober, which he has repeatedly failed to do, and Corey Coleman has continued to struggle with drops and hand health in general. If those two can come around then the Browns passing attack can be lethal, but until that day happens then WR should still be considered a need. Miller plays to win, continuously exhibiting a chip on his shoulder. While his hands need some improvement his competitive spirit is crucial to the changing culture in Believeland. Being the fifth pick in the first two rounds for the Brownies it would not hurt to take a flyer on a potential impact player who if nothing else can provide some quality depth.
Day Before the Draft Bonus Mock
The above mock was constructed over the course of the past month or so, and I stand by my predictions in the sense that I believe these are the moves that are likely to play out come Thursday for one reason or another. That being said, my gut says something a little different than my mind, and with just over a day from the event itself I thought it might be fun to include an additional piece highlighting my knee-jerk mock based on everything I’ve heard leading up to this: the eve of the draft. Enjoy.
- Cleveland – Baker Mayfield – QB
- NY Giants – Sam Darnold – QB
- NY Jets – Josh Rosen – QB
- Cleveland – Saquon Barkley – RB
- Denver – Quenton Nelson – OG
- Indianapolis – Bradley Chubb – EDGE
- Tampa Bay – Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB
- Chicago – Tremaine Edmunds – LB
- San Francisco – Roquan Smith – LB
- Oakland – TRADED to Buffalo – Josh Allen – QB
- Miami – Marcus Davenport – EDGE
- Buffalo – TRADED to Oakland – Denzel Ward – CB
- Washington – Vita Vea – DT
- Green Bay – TRADED to New England – Lamar Jackson – QB
- Arizona – Calvin Ridley – WR
- Baltimore – Harold Landry – EDGE
- LA Chargers – Mike McGlinchey – OT
- Seattle – Connor Williams – OL
- Dallas Cowboys – Cortland Sutton – WR
- Detroit Lions – Derrius Guice – RB
- Cincinnati – James Daniels – C
- Buffalo – TRADED to Oakland – D.J. Moore – WR
- New England – TRADED to Green Bay – Josh Jackson – CB
- Carolina Panthers – Hayden Hurst – TE
- Tennessee – Leighton Vander Esch – LB
- Atlanta – Taven Bryan – DT
- New Orleans – Mike Gesicki – TE
- Pittsburgh – Justin Reid – S
- Jacksonville – Isaiah Wynn – OL
- Minnesota – Will Hernandez – OL
- New England – TRADED to Green Bay – Jaire Alexander – CB
- Philadelphia – TRADED to Cleveland – Isaiah Oliver – CB
The recurring thought that kept coming into my mind is just how ridiculously stacked on defense this draft is. A lot of 1st round caliber players are going to fall simply because of how many of them there are. Defense aside, it is also a great year to need a QB, as the top four guys (Darnold, Mayfield, Rosen, and Allen) would all likely be the top pick if they were coming into the class alone. The term “generational talent” was also thrown about quite a bit this year, and for good reason: Barkley, Chubb, Nelson, Fitzpatrick, and all the top QBs are truly special players who will be key cornerstones on whichever team is lucky enough to draft them. It is truly a year to witness a changing of the guard too, as many of the bottom-tier teams look to stand a substantial chance of adding the few pieces they need to finally crawl their way back into playoff competition. All in all, I cannot express just how exciting this draft will prove to be, and I cannot wait for 8 p.m. on April 26th to roll around. With that, then, I’m going to sign off. It’s been a pleasure to do this little project, and I hope you all have found some enjoyment from it. Feel free to message me if you’d like to discuss any picks or team needs, but for now the picks are final.
Thank you for your support, and happy drafting!