1. Cardinals – Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
Individuals commit the sunk-cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources.
My expectation is the Cardinals will avoid the sunk-cost fallacy after using last year’s No. 10 pick on Josh Rosen, opting for a higher-ceiling quarterback prospect and superior system fit under new Air Raid coach Kliff Kingsbury. Despite Murray’s substandard size (5’10/207), the Heisman winner had only five 2018 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and averaged an absurd 11.6 yards per attempt with a 42:7 TD-INT ratio and 12 additional rushing scores as Baker Mayfield’s successor.
2. 49ers – Ohio State DE Nick Bosa
The 49ers have only six draft picks – just four in the top 175 -- and their team-needs list isn’t brief. I think GM John Lynch should seriously consider trading down to supplement a roster that remains in rebuild mode. If not, Bosa will likely be the top player on Lynch’s board. Although acquiring Dee Ford took partial care of what began the offseason as San Francisco’s biggest need, last year’s Niners managed the NFL’s eighth-fewest sacks (37) – 12 via DeForest Buckner (32%) alone – and seven in Week 9 (19%) against the hapless Raiders. Bosa and Ford’s additions could transform a weakness into a strength.
3. Jets – Alabama DT Quinnen Williams
Gang Green sits tight here and takes the top-rated player, overlooking DC Gregg Williams’ reported infatuation with Ed Oliver. Despite playing nose tackle in Nick Saban’s 3-4 – not always a pass rush-friendly position – Williams paced SEC defensive linemen in QB pressures (55) last year, then shredded the Combine for 83rd-percentile SPARQ results and 4.83 speed, otherworldly at 300-plus pounds.
4. Raiders – Houston DT Ed Oliver
The Raiders sent home their scouting department days early after pre-draft leaks emerged, including divulgences they’d fallen in love with Oliver. In Oakland, Oliver would become former Bengals DC Paul Guenther’s new Geno Atkins as a gap-shooting three technique. After trading Khalil Mack to the Bears, last year’s Raiders finished dead last in the NFL in both sacks (13) and quarterback hits (48).
5. Bucs – LSU LB Devin White
White earned the 2018 Butkus Trophy as college football’s top linebacker, then solidified his stock at the Combine by testing in the 94th percentile with 4.42 speed. Lauded for his leadership skills and a coverage standout with sideline-to-sideline range, White would be a big upgrade on outgoing MLB Kwon Alexander.
6. Giants – Kentucky OLB Josh Allen
Edge-bender Allen ranked second in the nation in sacks (17) as a senior and theoretically fits Giants GM Dave Gettleman’s best-player-available philosophy. The Giants’ current starting outside linebacker duo consists of injury-rehab project Markus Golden – who settled for a one-year, prove-it deal – and mildly promising 2018 draft pick Lorenzo Carter, who managed four sacks off the bench as a rookie. As a team, last year’s G-Men finished second to last in the NFL in sacks (30) and bottom ten in quarterback hits (85).
7. Jaguars – Florida OT Jawaan Taylor
A ground-game mauler with vine-like 35 1/8-inch arms, Taylor fits Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone’s run-first profile and would solidify Jacksonville’s front five with LT Cam Robinson, LG Andrew Norwell, C Brandon Linder, and RG A.J. Cann back healthy but a gaping hole left by RT Jermey Parnell’s release.
8. Redskins – Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins (Trade with Lions)
Alex Smith’s career is threatened by his Theismannian leg injury. 32-year-old backup Colt McCoy is coming off a broken leg that required multiple surgeries. Case Keenum is a one-year bridge at best. If the Redskins can’t spin a pre-draft deal for Josh Rosen, they’ll certainly be in the early-round quarterback market. Rumors circulated throughout Tuesday and Wednesday that the Skins are smitten enough with Haskins to seriously consider trading up to secure him. The Lions want to trade down.
9. Bills – Alabama T/G Jonah Williams
Although GM Brandon Beane signed six offensive linemen in free agency, C Mitch Morse is the lone likely difference maker, and his injury history is long. RT Ty Nsekhe has a chance to be a sneaky short-term gem but turns 34 later this year. RG Spencer Long is coming off a miserable season with the Jets. Awarded the 2018 Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top offensive lineman, Williams landed PFF College’s No. 1 run-blocking grade in the country and allowed zero sacks with only three QB pressures.
10. Broncos – Michigan LB Devin Bush
“If your linebackers are slow, your defense is slow.” It’s a football-guy axiom that holds true far more often than not. The 2018 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Bush blazed 4.43 at the Combine and projects as a Deion Jones-level off-ball linebacker capable of making a difference versus both the run and pass. Bush increasingly emerged as the favorite to become Denver’s pick as draft week progressed.
11. Bengals – Washington State OT Andre Dillard
The 2018 Bengals finished 26th in tackle for loss rate allowed (25.6%), 22nd in Adjusted Line Yards, and 19th in Adjusted Sack Rate, trotting out swinging-gate starters RT Bobby Hart, RG Alex Redmond, C Billy Price, and LT Cordy Glenn. Only LG Clint Boling held his individual own. Dillard has more pass-blocking reps on tape than any tackle in this year’s class and earned PFF College’s highest pass-blocking grade in the nation as a senior.
12. Packers – Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson
With Jimmy Graham on his last legs and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown coming off up-and-down first years, Davante Adams returns as Green Bay’s lone bankable pass catcher. Hockenson earned the 2018 Mackey Award as a redshirt sophomore, then tested as an 88th-percentile athlete at the Combine. Also a tone-setting blocker, Hockenson projects as an impact player in both the run and pass games.
13. Giants – Duke QB Daniel Jones (Trade with Dolphins)
Dave Gettleman has notoriously never traded down in six drafts as an NFL general manager. But he loves to trade up. Gettleman’s six past drafts wound up producing pick counts of five, six, five, five, seven, and six for an average of 5.7 picks per draft. This year, Gettleman is sitting on a league-high 12 picks after trading away Odell Beckham, Damon Harrison, Eli Apple, and Brett Jones, and using this year’s third-rounder in last year’s Supplemental Draft on Sam Beal. A close acquaintance of bulletproof franchise centerpiece Eli Manning, Jones was coached by David Cutcliffe (Duke) like Eli (Ole Miss) and Peyton (Tennessee) before him and is widely believed to be the No. 1 quarterback on Gettleman’s board.
14. Falcons – Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
Dan Quinn’s 2018 defense ranked bottom eight in sacks (37) and bottom seven in QB hits (79), unsuccessfully fielded in-season trade offers for Vic Beasley, and finished dead last in the NFC in tackles for loss (68). A consistent interior disruptor at Clemson, Wilkins’ 16 career passes defensed are the most in this year’s defensive line class. A recent Football Outsiders study showed passes defensed are a critical metric for predicting college-to-pro D-Line success. Wilkins would be a perfect complement to Grady Jarrett inside.
15. Lions – Michigan DE Rashan Gary (Trade with Redskins)
Gary is in danger of a draft-day slide based on underwhelming college production (10.5 sacks in 35 games) and a torn labrum, although NFL Network reported most teams believe Gary’s rookie year won’t be affected. If the Lions are comfortable with Gary’s shoulder, he would round out Matt Patricia’s front four nicely with Damon Harrison and Da’shawn Hand inside and Gary bookending Trey Flowers. Detroit is known to be in the trade-down market, and takes advantage of the Redskins’ quarterback desperation here.
16. Panthers – Florida State DE Brian Burns
Burns jammed 39.5 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, and seven forced fumbles into 25 college starts and was credited with the nation’s third-most quarterback pressures (66) by PFF College last season. The Panthers are bereft of edge-rusher talent beyond Mario Addison after finishing bottom six in sacks (35) and bottom two in quarterback hits (72) despite blitzing at one of the highest rates in the league.
17. Dolphins – Mississippi State DT Jeffery Simmons (Trade with Giants
The NFL’s most-openly bottoming-out team, Miami should aggressively look to trade down to stockpile picks with only seven at their 2019 disposal. Whichever team selects Simmons will have to be patient; he tore his ACL training for the Combine and will likely open 2019 on reserve/NFI. The Fins have shown their willingness to be patient by not prioritizing winning this year. Miami also spent 11 of its reported 23 team-facility visits on front-seven defenders. On tape, Simmons is a top-five talent in this draft.
18. Vikings – NC State C/G Garrett Bradbury
The Vikings have one of the league’s premier rosters, but one season-ruining hole. Kirk Cousins faced pressure at the NFL’s fifth-highest rate (39%) last season, and Minnesota’s front five finished bottom ten in Football Outsiders’ run-blocking metrics. GM Rick Spielman should seriously consider using three draft picks on the offensive line. 2018’s Rimington Award winner as the nation’s top center, Bradbury perfectly fits a Gary Kubiak-overseen offense with 90th-percentile athleticism, intelligence (35 Wonderlic), and technical advancement to neutralize even his most-powerful opponents (e.g. Clemson).
19. Titans – Missouri QB Drew Lock
Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill are both in contract years, and the Titans showed their diminishing faith in the former by committing to a ground-and-pound 2019 offense, then trading for the latter. Neither coach Mike Vrabel nor GM Jon Robinson was with the organization when Mariota was drafted. Here, Robinson tabs the strong-armed but sometimes-erratic Lock as Tennessee’s QB of the future.
20. Steelers – Temple CB Rock Ya-Sin
Joe Haden is entering the back nine of his career, and free agent pickup Steven Nelson is just above replacement level. A high school wrestling champion, Ya-Sin yielded a miniscule 53% completion rate and 62.1 passer rating when targeted last season, and didn’t allow a single reception of 20-plus yards. Draft-week reports strongly indicated mock drafts up until this point have been too low on Ya-Sin.
21. Seahawks – Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell
Edge rusher was a Seahawks need even before they traded Frank Clark to Kansas City. A high-floor prospect, Ferrell was an extremely productive outside pass rusher at Clemson, earning 2018 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end.
22. Ravens – Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown
Baltimore’s run-dominant offense can’t exist without at least some vertical-passing threat, and their wideout depth chart is currently topped by Willie Snead, Chris Moore, and Jordan Lasley. Brown served as Baker Mayfield, then Kyler Murray’s go-to target with the Sooners, averaging 18.3 career yards per catch and leading all of Division I in receptions of 50-plus yards (14) over the past two seasons.
23. Texans -- Oklahoma G/T Cody Ford
A bully in the trenches at 329 pounds with 34-inch arms, Ford doubled as a quality pass protector in front of Kyler Murray last season, permitting just eight quarterback pressures in 14 games. Last year’s Texans coughed up league highs in sack rate (10.9%) and QB hit rate (24.1%), and long-washed Matt Kalil was GM Brian Gaine’s lone offseason front-five addition.
24. Raiders – Alabama RB Josh Jacobs
Among the Raiders’ pre-draft leaks was word GM Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden have the hots for Jacobs, a shoo-in to be this year’s first running back selected. Passing-game specialist Jalen Richard sits atop Oakland’s backfield depth chart after neither Marshawn Lynch nor Doug Martin was re-signed. Jacobs gained a first down or scored a touchdown on a nation-best 41% of his carries last season, averaged 4.07 yards after contact per run, and shined as both a pass catcher and pass blocker.
25. Eagles – Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence
Trading for Timmy Jernigan (unsigned) and getting quality late-career play from Haloti Ngata (retired), GM Howie Roseman has valued plus-sized anchors for the middle of DC Jim Schwartz’s defense. A 342-pound mammoth with nearly 35-inch arms, Lawrence’s movement ability is incredibly rare for a human his size, and he showed disruptive pass-rush ability along with elite run-stopping skills in the ACC.
26. Colts – Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat
The only reason Sweat might be available this late is because of concerns regarding an enlarged heart. A first-team All-SEC pick in each of his two years at Mississippi State, Sweat rang up 22 sacks in 25 starts before measuring in with Go-Go Gadget arms (35 3/4”) at the Combine and running a wideout-like 4.41 forty at 260 pounds. PFF College also credited Sweat with the highest run-stop rating among SEC edge players in 2018. Drafting Sweat would be a calculated risk by savvy Colts GM Chris Ballard.
27. Raiders – Iowa TE Noah Fant
Easily this year’s most purely athletic tight end, Fant blazed 4.5-flat with a twitched-up 6.81 three-cone time at 249 pounds after setting an Iowa record for career touchdowns by a tight end (19). The Raiders’ tight end depth chart is all but barren after Jared Cook walked. Coach Jon Gruden has talked up Darren Waller as a big part of Oakland’s offense, but Waller can’t be counted on with 18 career catches and multiple suspensions on his four-year resume.
28. Chargers – Washington OT Kaleb McGary
2018’s Morris Trophy winner as the Pac 12’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, McGary left school with 47 starts as the Huskies’ stalwart right tackle. With Sam Tevi and Michael Schofield on the right side, the Chargers’ line play disintegrated as last season progressed. From Week 10 through the playoffs, Philip Rivers faced pressure on 39% of his dropbacks, the seventh-highest rate in the league. McGary has drawn Rob Havenstein comparisons as a well-rounded block winner in both the run and pass games.
29. Seahawks – Washington CB Byron Murphy
Seattle should feel fairly comfortable returning Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers at outside cornerback, but Pete Carroll’s slot defense took a major hit when Justin Coleman left for Detroit. A ready-made NFL slot corner, Murphy reminds of Chargers All-Pro Desmond King with substandard long speed (4.55) but big-time playmaking and coverage ability. He allowed a stingy 54.5 passer rating when targeted in 2018.
30. Packers – Boston College OG Chris Lindstrom
Green Bay’s right guard job is up for grabs, LG Lane Taylor is coming off a miserable year, and RT Bryan Bulaga’s contract expires after this season. The 2018 Packers finished second in the NFL in yards per carry (5.0) but struggled to protect Aaron Rodgers. Only the Texans (62) and Cowboys (56) allowed more sacks than Green Bay (53). Lindstrom permitted zero sacks and just three QB hurries as a senior, then blew up the Combine for 96th-percentile SPARQ results with a 4.91 forty and 25 bench-press reps.
31. Rams – Mississippi State OL Elgton Jenkins
Up-front dominance is the heartbeat of Sean McVay’s offense and especially vital for Jared Goff, who finished 28th among 38 qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating on pressured throws (59.8) last year. Longtime LG Rodger Saffold left for Tennessee, RG Austin Blythe is a liability, 37-year-old LT Andrew Whitworth openly considered retirement after the season, and C John Sullivan’s time in L.A. is up. Jenkins has experience at all five offensive-line positions and was charged with just one sack allowed over his final two college years.
32. Patriots – Maryland S Darnell Savage
Jason McCourty turns 32 before the season, while brother Devin and slot CB Jonathan Jones are in contract years. Both McCourtys have recently discussed retirement. Savage has been a late-process riser after blazing 4.36 with a 39 ½-inch vertical. NFL coaches believe Savage can handle slot corner in addition to safety, and Bill Belichick has long emphasized versatility at defensive back.