There is a love and hate relationship with mock drafts. First, many seem to get stuck in groupthink, leading to outrage when a certain player is or is not mentioned in the top-32 picks because of how "unrealistic" that would be. Then those same people are stunned after the Draft because of the surprise selections. One of my main goals, especially this early in the process, is to introduce you to some new names that could ultimately end up as one of the top players at their position. I will shoot for accuracy at a later date. For now, this is all in fun.
There a few strategies to drafting. Obviously need is factored into the final grade teams give, along with talent, medicals, and character concerns. However, the one thing that may alter a prospect’s grade from team to team more than anything is scheme and fit. Since it is November and we have no clue what teams’ schemes will be next season, that is tough to project at this time. Also, consider that many teams select prospects in the hopes of them taking over for a declining name-brand player, usually ones that are on the down slope of their career. It may not be a popular tactic, but it makes sense when keeping future success and salary cap in mind.
As always, you can comment below or reach me on Twitter.
(Thanks to Mocking the Draft for finding strength of schedule figures)
1. Kansas City Chiefs -1-6 (.531 SOS) -- QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
The Chiefs have enough talent to win, but the issue lies at the quarterback position. Right now, Smith does not impress me as much as the last two number one selections, but the Mountaineer’s pocket awareness and placement will allow him to start early in his career. Eric Stoner looked closer at Smith here: positives and negatives.
2. Carolina Panthers - 1-6 (.608 SOS) -- DT Johnathan Hankins (Junior), Ohio State
Carolina can go plenty of different ways with this selection. I doubt a quarterback will be coveted enough to be worthy of the second overall pick, but it is also November. Although Jordan Gross is moving towards the end of his career, the Panthers need an injection of talent defensively. Hankins is a very athletic big man that projects either spot on the interior, allowing the Panthers to create more pressure from the inside. Right now, Dwan Edwards is slotted for that three technique tackle role, and fans may be fine with his statistical production, but that is settling for an adequate player.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - 1-6 (.627 SOS) -- DE Damontre Moore (Junior), Texas A&M
Damonster has arrived. Jaguars fans may prefer a higher profile name right now, but please look at Moore’s play before getting upset. The junior has experience as both a rush linebacker in a three man front and defensive end in a four man front. His combination of bend, length, closing speed, and hand use is very appealing.
4. Cleveland Browns - 2-6 (.526 SOS) -- DE Barkevious Mingo (Junior), LSU
From a statistical perspective, Mingo has had a down season (three sacks), but look beyond the box score and consider his burst off the edge and natural power in a developing body. His ability to shed is better than that of LSU counterpart Sam Montgomery and Mingo offers a bit of positional versatility.
5. New Orleans Saints - 2-5 (.392 SOS) -- DE/OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
The Saints defense is a mess, and although Spags’ future may be in question, he has always gone by the mentality of drafting a pass rusher over a defensive back. Junior Galette and Martez Wilson are the only Saints that can offer a real pass rush, and Jordan offers the versatility to possibly be a strong side linebacker in a four man front and pass rusher in nickel situations. His combination of length and mobility is outstanding.
6. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins) - 3-5 (.559 SOS) -- T Luke Joeckel (Junior), Texas A&M
The Rams have previously failed with their left tackle selections, but Joeckel projects as an excellent blindside protector. A long time starter, Joeckel has enough mobility to mirror and uses proper technique to sit back, bend at his knees, and absorb a pass rusher’s momentum with length.
7. St. Louis Rams - 3-5 (.567 SOS) -- G Chance Warmack, Alabama
This may be too early for a guard, but Warmack could possibly end the draft process as my top rated prospect, regardless of position. His nasty interior blocking allows Warmack to consistently win on first contact. However, that first powerful punch doesn't end, as the Crimson Tide guard continues to sustain and mirror. I try to stay away from “sure things,” but Warmack is very close.
8. Tennessee Titans - 3-5 (.569 SOS) -- S Matt Elam (Junior), Florida
Michael Griffin is not good. Mike Martin and Jurrell Casey have played as worthy starters this season, so the obvious hole in this defense is at safety. Elam can play too aggressively at times, but his range is outstanding. The Gator covers so much ground in coverage and quickly closes to meet ball carriers at the line of scrimmage.
9. New York Jets - 3-5 (.614 SOS) -- OLB Jarvis Jones (Junior), UGA
It is difficult to not acknowledge Jones’ speed around the edge and burst off the snap, but I consistently see him struggle with more athletic or mobile offensive tackles due to his initial momentum being stopped. I don’t see a true counter move from Jones often enough. Is that due to a lack of length? A lack of power? I would be much more comfortable getting on the Jones bandwagon if he occasionally stuck his outside foot in the ground and worked back in towards the quarterback, but he rarely does that on his own. He is more Bruce Irvin than Von Miller, and that is certainly not an insult.
10. Cincinnati Bengals - 3-4 (.404 SOS) -- OLB C.J. Mosley (Junior), Alabama
With Vontaze Burfict flashing plenty of positive play, I’d expect the former UDFA to be moved inside next season, allowing the Bengals to bench (or cut) Rey Maualuga. In steps C.J. Mosley at weakside linebacker. He may not have the name brand appeal of Manti Te’o, but Mosley has played excellent football this season, progressing his game with skills that project him to be an every down player. His range in coverage and physical closing style should intrigue the Bengals.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 3-4 (.404 SOS) -- DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
I was surprised I couldn’t find a home for Star before this pick, but the Bucs get a good one outside of the top ten selections. The senior from Utah flashes dominance, but that style of play needs to be sustained throughout an entire game. Last season, I noted that he failed to locate the football when engaged with his opposing blocker, which resulted in wasted movement. Star has improved in that area and it is likely he and Hankins will battle for that top defensive tackle spot.
12. San Diego Chargers - 3-4 (.431 SOS) -- T Taylor Lewan (Junior), Michigan
The Chargers do have Jared Gaither back from injury, but how long is that going to last? Lewan offers starter’s ability on the left side and should immediately help a struggling front five that has limited Philip Rivers’ effectiveness. Watch Lewan’s game against Illinois, specifically his snaps against defensive end Michael Buchanan, if you are curious in the Wolverine’s projection.
13. Buffalo Bills - 3-4 (.434 SOS) -- ILB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Some really loved Te’o prior to this year. I liked him but definitely had some questions about his sideline to sideline ability, especially in coverage. Those have been answered this season and Te’o has dominated game after game. The Bills severely need help at linebacker, and Te’o is a plug and play prospect on the inside.
14. Oakland Raiders - 3-4 (.490 SOS) -- DE Sam Montgomery (Junior), LSU
The Raiders are a tough call. I believe they make a change at quarterback, but is one available here that can take advantage of their multiple downfield targets? Matt Shaughnessy is solid versus the run, but he fails to create pressure off the edge. Montgomery can be that speed rusher from multiple angles the Raiders need.
15. Detroit Lions - 3-4 (.556 SOS) -- CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Banks is easily the top senior corner in the class, as Alen Dumonjic broke down here. Banks has the length to attack targets at the catch point and agile footwork to stick with receivers in man or in zone coverage. I would like to see him play with a more physical presence at times, but Banks would offer consistency for the Lions on the outside.
16. Dallas Cowboys - 3-4 (.596 SOS) -- OT/G Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
The Cowboys would love Warmack to land here, but with him already gone Thomas is the next man up. The senior has moved inside this season after being a longtime starter at left tackle. I wouldn't say he is overly powerful on first contact, but Thomas absorbs pass rushers very well, using length and knee bend to redirect. Also, his positional versatility allows him to play on either edge if needed.