Friends, back again. Plenty has happened in the draft world over the last month, and plenty will happen during the upcoming month. Know that teams have not placed their final grade on players. That will happen in meetings in the weeks leading up to the draft. Presentations by scouts and coaches with the final decision will be made by decision makers. The longer I do this, the more I realize for early round prospects, the only evaluation that matters is that of the decision makers (head coach and GM).
Of course this mock will be inaccurate. The goal of every mock draft is to identify current needs, potential needs, draft trends of specific decision makers and highlight names that all of you can go and watch. Accuracy is not exactly the goal.
1. Cleveland Browns - QB Sam Darnold, USC - Thankfully the conversation has moved past the Browns possibly selecting Saquon Barkley at No. 1. It will be a quarterback, the only question is… which one? Chris Mortensen suggested the decision is down to Sam Darnold and Josh Allen (he mentioned Baker Mayfield, but it was a bit off-hand).
After Darnold’s pro day, Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Joel Klatt put it in permanent marker that Darnold would be the Browns selection. So who am I to disagree? I’ve seen or heard that Darnold is viewed as NFL ready. That’s not the case, in fact of the top four or five quarterbacks, he is most deserving of the “raw” label due to his frenetic footwork when working off his primary read.
2. New York Giants - EDGE Bradley Chubb, NC State - The Giants should select a quarterback. Shoot your shot at the position when you have the opportunity. Let’s talk through a scenario where they pick a different position. I know many would assume Saquon Barkley would be the selection. From a roster building perspective, I believe Dave Gettleman values EDGE over running back. And it’s amazing he has never traded down in any round of any draft. A flaw in Gettleman’s process is his inability to acquire extra picks.
3. New York Jets (via IND) - QB Josh Allen, Wyoming - We know the Jets traded up for a quarterback, but even they cannot be certain which passers will be available. However, in the case of Allen, it just makes sense. If we look at the Jets’ recent history, Allen fits on the Hackenberg/Petty spectrum more than, say, Baker Mayfield. Heck, even Josh McCown can be simplified down to an athletic passer who does not mind throwing down the field. Allen has a long way to go, but the NFL seems to really like him.
(TRADE) 4. Buffalo Bills - QB Josh Rosen, UCLA - This is a projected trade, as the Bills send the No. 12, No. 22 and a second round selection to the Browns to move up to No. 4.
If we look at the passers the Bills recently moved on from (Tyrod Taylor) and acquired (Nathan Peterman and A.J. McCarron), it appears the Bills want a prototypical pocket passer. Rosen is easily the best quarterback that fits that label. Josh Allen might as well. The Bills seemed to be interested in last year’s quarterback class (maybe Mitchell Trubisky specifically) and likely plan to not be near the top of the draft for years. Shoot your quarterback shot now.
5. Denver Broncos - QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma - Of the group of teams in the quarterback hunt, the Broncos likely feel most comfortable with Mayfield if only due to coaching him at the Senior Bowl. John Elway’s supposed height favorability kind of went out the window when signing Case Keenum. In fact, Keenum and Baker are practically identical in size.
6. Indianapolis Colts (via NYJ) - S Derwin James, FSU - The Colts are in a great spot to trade out again if a quarterback does drop out of the top 5. If not, adding a top talent like James to pair with Malik Hooker would be exciting. James is a fantastic athlete, is aggressive when moving towards the line of scrimmage and has plenty of experience as a split safety as well.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State - You’re welcome. The Bucs clearly want to upgrade the running back spot, so this is an easy fit. I love Barkley’s game as his receiving skills perfectly fit the NFL, but too often as a runner he forces a two-yard loss rather than taking the one-yard gain.
8. Chicago Bears - G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame - The NFL respects interior offensive linemen, as they should. Interior disruption is king, so preventing it is important. The Bears have a need at one guard spot, and hiring Notre Dame’s offensive line coach only adds fuel to the fire.
9. San Francisco 49ers - LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech - Football players Edmunds’ size should not move the way he does. He has his flaws, but as a run and chase player with a theoretical high ceiling, Edmunds could shine with the 49ers.
10. Oakland Raiders - LB Roquan Smith, Georgia - Roquan is a top five prospect in this class and perfectly fits a need for the Raiders. I wonder if Jon Gruden, who is now calling the shots, sees Derrick Brooks in Roquan’s game.
11. Miami Dolphins - DL Vita Vea, Washington - Cutting Suh does not mean the Dolphins don’t value defensive tackles. The price tag is totally different here, and if Mayfield, linebackers and Derwin James are off the board, Vea makes sense. He will make any linebacker who runs behind him better.
(TRADE) 12. Cleveland Browns (via BUF) - CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State - Now to the Browns end of this projected trade. Ward is even a possibility if the Browns stay at No. 4. He offers outstanding athleticism and comfort in playing the ball in the air despite his smaller frame.
13. Washington Redskins - RB Derrius Guice, LSU - Guice is a top 10 talent in this class, and the Redskins have been treading water for years in terms of their lead ball carrier. Chris Thompson is great, but also coming off injury and viewed as a complimentary piece.
14. Green Bay Packers - EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College - The best speed rusher in this class. No one can get upfield in three steps, bend and take a tight angle to the quarterback in this group like Landry. I know his run defense is not good, but don’t focus on that. Focus on Landry being able to make an impact on a game, even as a situational player.
15. Arizona Cardinals - CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama - The Cardinals drafted Tyrann Mathieu’s replacement in Budda Baker last year, but they showed two similar type players can be on the field at the same time. Insert Fitzpatrick, who fits best as a hybrid defensive back who works in the slot and the box.
16. Baltimore Ravens - WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama - It might not ultimately be at No. 16, but the Ravens should exit the early part of the draft with a pass catcher. It might be a cliché to lean in the direction of an Alabama prospect here since Ozzie Newsome is making the call, but Newsome has drafted a Crimson Tide prospect in the first round in two of the last four drafts. Ridley’s game is based on creating separation and sustaining it. That translates to the NFL.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame - I’m surprised at the lack of buzz around McGlinchey. Sure, you can find a handful of snaps where he badly loses, but overall he is super consistent. There’s a train of thought that he’s most comfortable on the right side, and that is where he would play for the Chargers.
18. Seattle Seahawks - OL Isaiah Wynn, Georgia - Wynn is a top 10 prospect. He has left tackle skills, however, he likely ends up inside due to height thresholds. The Seahawks must find dependable pieces along their front five.
19. Dallas Cowboys - LB Leighton Vander-Esch, Boise State - LVE is kind of a lesser version of Edmunds. He is uber-athletic and presents uncommon size at the position. If the Cowboys aren’t fond of the defensive tackles or receivers here, linebacker makes sense.
20. Detroit Lions - EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA - The Lions added Davenport’s position coach to the staff this offseason (also hired a former Boston College DC). Davenport has all of the tools and deploys a great long arm, yet he’s not a complete player right now. Filling a rotational role early makes sense.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via BUF) - C James Daniels, Iowa - The Bengals allowed top offensive line talents like Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth to leave prior to the 2017 season. The offensive line was a mess because of it. Finding an anchor to replace the replaceable Russell Bodine is vital, and Daniels is one of the best interior linemen in this class. I gave him a Ryan Kalil comparison.
(TRADE) 22.Cleveland Browns (via BUF) - OL Connor Williams, Texas - Joe Thomas’ retirement leaves a void at left tackle. Williams could be a fit since he played there in college, but he did take reps at all five spots at his pro day. Kolton Miller or Brian O’Neill are also possibilities.
23. Los Angeles Rams - LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama - Any linebacker will thrive behind Donald, Suh, Brockers and Easley. Evans is a top 32 talent thanks to his range, and he even offers some pass rushing ability.
24. Carolina Panthers - CB Josh Jackson, Iowa - After the Breeland contract fell through, the Panthers signed Ross Cockrell. I still think they would be willing to add talent at the position. Jackson is so good at playing the ball in the air and winning one on one matchups in the redzone.
25. Tennessee Titans - EDGE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State - Is it too obvious to link Hubbard to a head coach with Ohio State ties? Maybe even one who recruited him in college? Hubbard fills a need, as the Titans have aging edge rushers.
26. Atlanta Falcons - DL Taven Bryan, Florida - Dan Quinn prioritizes interior quickness, explosion and disruption in defensive tackles. That is Bryan’s game. After getting upfield, Bryan has no idea what to do. He is a ball of clay, and I’ll bank on NFL coaches earning their salary when coaching him.
27. New Orleans Saints - DL Da’Ron Payne, Alabama - The Saints defense took huge steps forward in 2017, but they need another disruptive force outside of my friend Cameron Jordan.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - S Justin Reid, Stanford - Justin Reid is receiving plenty of interest from mid- to late-first round teams. He’s super athletic, a trend for multiple first and second round picks for the Steelers in recent years.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars - DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan - More talent for the Jaguars front? Yep, and it’s because teams look multiple years ahead. Malik Jackson and Calais Campbell’s contracts are huge, and it might be difficult to roster both beyond 2018.
31. New England Patriots - T Brian O’Neill, Pitt - Kolton Miller is receiving a ton of love right now due to his athleticism. He’s overshadowing O’Neill right now, who is also athletic and currently a better player.