Many teams utilize free agency to fill immediate needs. However, often this comes in the form of band-aids rather than long term answers. One year contracts or long-term deals that are eventually cut into two or three year additions. The draft is where teams try to find those long term answers, but also look to replace declining players on high priced contracts. I will project trades in the final mock draft, which will post draft week.
If I overlooked an aspect of your team’s roster, let me know. If I missed a signing or emerging talent that fills a starting spot, let me know.
My Team Needs/Mock Draft series with Evan Silva has 20 teams complete, with 12 left. Find your team here.
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1. Arizona Cardinals - QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Every report certainly points to the Cardinals taking Murray, but we only have to travel back 365 days to know draft reports at this point in the calendar do not matter. Sam Darnold was written in sharpie as the first pick last March. If you’re going to fire a coach after one season to shift to an offensive-minded play-caller, it makes sense to go all in on the players he wants. That would be the case here, and the Josh Rosen could be dealt for a second round pick (and maybe more) since the Cardinals have a wealth of needs.
2. San Francisco 49ers - EDGE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
49ers fans might be upset by another first round pick spent on a front seven player. Don’t be, as Nick Bosa is eerily similar to his brother. Both are great athletes (80th percentile for Joey, 69th percentile for Nick) and both win in similar ways. Their patented move is a slap, swipe rip to flatten out around the corner and get to the quarterback.
3. New York Jets - EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky
Could this be as simple as the Jets targeting Anthony Barr in free agency, agreeing to a deal, and it falling through, therefore the pick being Allen whose game might mirror Barr’s? EDGE has been a need for the Jets for 15 years.
4. Oakland Raiders - iDL Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Last year, the Colts dropped down from No. 3 overall to No. 6, partially because they saw six top prospects in this draft, and that slot would ensure one of those names. The Cardinals might do the same thing, moving down to No. 4, if they truly are sticking with Josh Rosen (who I still believe in), with the Raiders obviously targeting Kyler Murray. If that does not happen, Quinnen Williams would be a big addition and a premier player with other promising talents like Maurice Hurst and PJ Hall.
5. Tampa Bay Bucs - LB Devin White, LSU
If a team is moving up to target a quarterback, this would be a prime slot. We saw the Bucs move down last year with the Bills with their eye on a prospect they believed they could get later on. White tested in the 94th percentile, is an absolute missile at the second level, but also plays under control when necessary. That’s an important line to toe for a linebacker.
6. New York Giants - EDGE Montez Sweat, Miss St
I was a bit surprised that Dave Gettleman went with a running back over an edge rusher last season. He will never stop adding pieces to trenches. I like Lorenzo Carter as a drop edge and Markus Golden is a nice one year shot, but Sweat could lock down the long term future on the outside. I’d bet on Sweat’s game translating after testing in the 97th percentile. Sweat was reportedly flagged for a heart condition, but let’s not forget Dave Gettleman selected Star Lotulelei when the defensive tackle was sent home from the Combine for possibly a similar reason. I’m no doctor, only attempting to connect puzzle pieces.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars - OL Jonah Williams, Alabama
The No. 1 difference, outside of coaching, that Nick Foles will face in his transition from Philadelphia to Jacksonville is offensive line talent and play. The goal will be for Foles to succeed inside of structure. The Jaguars faced a wealth of injuries along their front five last year. Williams could compete to start at many of them.
8. Detroit Lions - EDGE Rashan Gary, Michigan
Rashan Gary won with athleticism in college. Rashan Gary tested in the 95th percentile at the NFL Combine. That part of his game will translate. I know the Lions just spent on Trey Flowers, but why stop there? Gary, if he hits his peak, can win from multiple alignments.
9. Buffalo Bills - iDL Ed Oliver, Houston
Ed Oliver should be a top 5 selection. I understand he might be lighter than most defensive tackles, but players who can potentially win every time they see a one on one matchup do not come around very often. He would pair perfectly with Star Lotulelei.
10. Denver Broncos - iLB Devin Bush, Michigan
The NFL knows there’s a cliff at the linebacker spot after the two Devins. As Evan wrote in our Team Needs series “From Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman and Chris Borland in San Francisco to Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Roquan Smith in Chicago, inside linebacker has long been a position of emphasis under new Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. And those inside ‘backers must be functional on all three downs.” We only have to look back one year ago with the Bears and Fangio.
11. Cincinnati Bengals - QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
New eyeballs and potentially new decision makers mean a potential switch at quarterback in the hope of exiting quarterback purgatory. Building around a (good) passer on a rookie deal can instantly create a window to win.
12. Green Bay Packers - TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
I’m having a difficult time pegging what the Packers might do. They’ve invested so much in the corner position recently. They seem content with their offensive linemen. Would they be willing to take a receiver here? Another edge rusher after paying two in free agency? Complete tight ends are difficult to find, and Hockenson looks like one early in his career.
13. Miami Dolphins - T Jawaan Taylor, Florida
If the goal isn’t to improve at quarterback this year, the goal should be to set up that future player for success. The position that most helps the running and passing game is the offensive line. We know Tunsil locks down the left tackle spot, and Taylor has plenty of right tackle experience and positive tape in both running and passing situations.
14. Atlanta Falcons - EDGE Brian Burns, FSU
Burns is a legit top 10 talent. He tested in the 94th percentile and won with athleticism in college. That translates. And we know the Falcons brain trust prioritizes athleticism along the front seven. This certainly could be offensive line as well after the injuries the team dealt with.
15. Washington Redskins - WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
Washington’s offensive identity last year was to create positive game script with good defense and run the ball. Part of that was due to Alex Smith operating at quarterback, and part of it was injuries across the offense. Still, creating big plays are a pillar of winning football. The team had no answer in negative gamescript situations. Metcalf is an interesting evaluation. He was glued to one side of the field, therefore he was able to focus on releases in just one alignment. All of his routes were based on a vertical plane. Still, size and speed receivers are making a comeback in this draft, and many will view Metcalf as the best.
16. Carolina Panthers - T Andre Dillard, Washington St
Drafts don’t always go according to plan, but it would make total sense for the Panthers to attack EDGE and LT in the top two rounds. Andre Dillard racked up a ton of pass pro reps in college, and looked excellent. Then he hit the 20-yard shuttle threshold, instilling more confidence in his evaluation. Full season team success is heavily reliant on offensive line talent, health and continuity. This would allow the Panthers to keep Taylor Moton at right tackle and possible shift Daryl Williams inside to guard.
17. New York Giants (via CLE) - iDL Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Yes, two prospects along the defensive front. Gettleman has a history of doubling up on positions when his team is in need of a talent boost (Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, James Bradberry and Daryl Worley). Gettleman also loves interior disruption from big men that can move. That’s Wilkins.
18. Minnesota Vikings - OL Cody Ford, Oklahoma
I like Brian O’Neill as the team’s starting right tackle, but the Vikings have at least one guard spot wide open. Ford is such a powerful player who might excel on the inside. We all know how much disruption Kirk Cousins faced last year. He needs a solid five in front of him to hit his peak.
19. Tennessee Titans - EDGE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
The first-round edge group is top heavy, and Ferrell might be last on the list. As Evan mentioned, Wake is a nice pairing with Landry, but planning for the future at a pivotal position is important. While Landry’s game is built on athleticism and bend, Ferrell’s is built on hand use and length to create separation and shed.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers - CB Byron Murphy, Washington
There does not appear to be a corner that will be highly coveted in this year’s class. One that will top every list. Murphy is a super fun watch, however, as he is very aware of route concepts and anticipates targets to disrupt. Plus he will crash down on receivers and ball carriers.
21. Seattle Seahawks - T Greg Little, Ole Miss
For a team that invests so much in the running game, the Seahawks could use improvements at a few spots along their offensive line. And if you don’t agree with the player, has that stopped the Seahakws in the past?
22. Baltimore Ravens - iOL Garrett Bradbury, NC State
The Ravens two tackles are locked in. Center deserves an upgrade. Bradbury tested like one of the best athletes at the position, is a fantastic reach blocker and could be fun to watch getting to the second level in the Ravens running game.
23. Houston Texans - T Kaleb McGary, Washington
Best player available is a myth. If you’re living in reality, you know that draft picks are based on the highest grade available, and grades factor in need either consciously or subconsciously. McGary is a mammoth with plenty of right tackle experience. If he gets his hands on you in proper position, you’re done. It’s over.
24. Oakland Raiders (via CHI) - CB Greedy Williams, LSU
Noah Fant makes a lot of sense here as well. I know Worley drew a pretty hefty tag considering his rocky career over the last few years. But Greedy is an instant upgrade at a pillar position.
25. Philadelphia Eagles - S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, UF
Maybe the Eagles target a building block for the future along the offensive line. I don’t see an edge rusher or linebacker on the board they’d target this high. The likeliest outcome could be trading out. But a versatile safety could be at the top of the wishlist, and CGJ is just that.
26. Indianapolis Colts - iDL Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
Chris Ballard is into athleticism along his defensive front. That was true during his time in Kansas City, and it was clear in his first year with the Colts. Look at the additions of Margus Hunt and the drafting of Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay. Enter Tillery, who is an outstanding interior disruptor from a variety of alignments and posted an athletic profile in the 84th percentile. Tillery is a top 15 prospect in my book.
27. Oakland Raiders (via DAL) - TE Noah Fant, Iowa
The Raiders have a major need at the position, and it is conceivable that Fant ultimately becomes the best tight end in this class. He’s much better as an inline tight end than given credit for. Conversely, he’s not as comfortable after the catch as Evan Engram or Jordan Reid, despite both names being cited often in association with Fant’s.
28. Los Angeles Chargers - iDL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
You know those interior defensive linemen who just move differently? The ones that show bend and flexibility when reacting to surprise movements in front of them? That is Dre’Mont Jones. He moves fluidly to work the edges of blockers, resulting in backfield tackles or interior disruption on passing plays. He loves the arm over swim at the line or instantly shooting a shoulder to immediately disrupt the backfield.
29. Kansas City Chiefs - CB Julian Love, Notre Dame
The Chiefs could go one of two ways. One, continue to load up on offense in the hopes of scoring more points than the opponent while banking on one or two big plays defensively per game to keep the score out of reach. Or, try to balance out the roster by heavily investing in defense in this draft. Love’s 36 pass breakups over the last two years is absurd. He shows comfort in man to man situations and route anticipation in zone.
30. Green Bay Packers (via NO) - WR A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Two skill positions in the first round for the Packers would add some real juice to the Packers offense. This is conceivably their window to win, despite what previous records would tell you. Browns is often viewed as a slot receiver, but he also played outside down the stretch. MVS and ESB played well for third day pass catchers last season, yet those talents don’t prevent you from upgrading.
31. Los Angeles Rams - iOL Chris Lindstrom, Boston College
One major key to the Rams success over the last two years has been offensive line health and continuity. That will be tested this year without John Sullivan and Rodger Saffold.
32. New England Patriots - iDL Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
There’s a lot of talent still left on the board. Wide receiver, cornerback, etc. But many view Dexter Lawrence as a first-round talent as a massive body who can also press the pocket.