With free agency and the combine merely days away it is time to update our mock draft before the landscape drastically shifts in the next three weeks. We start with a change at the very top.
1. Cleveland Browns – QB Sam Darnold, USC
I am changing this pick from my previous version. My rationale earlier in the process was that given all the losing that has gone on in the past two years, Cleveland would opt for the most pro-ready guy of the bunch to make the largest immediate impact, and therefore choose Josh Rosen. While that certainly still makes sense and could happen, I think John Dorsey is going to end up liking Darnold the best.
Albert Breer just released a mock draft which factors in the intel he gets around the league, and he seems to think Darnold is the guy Dorsey will end up falling for because of his intangibles. Breer probably has a better beat on this than I do.
Dorsey was quoted saying there are four or five quarterbacks this year where you can debate if they are worth the number one pick. He said the question is “do they win?” You could argue that means Mayfield is destined to be the pick, but Rosen and Allen can’t match Darnold in the win category.
As for Hue Jackson, if we take Mary Kay Cabot’s “reporting” (skepticism explained here) as truth and believe that Hue Jackson was salivating over Carson Wentz before Sashi Brown ruined everything, here is Jackson’s mulligan. Wentz and Darnold are rather similar in many aspects: arm strength, some inconsistencies down-by-down, mobility, leadership, work ethic, high-level throws. Hopefully Jackson doesn’t dump buckets of water on the balls during the individual workouts this time around.
2. New York Giants – QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Different guy, same rationale for this pick as last time. Here is what I wrote previously:
No, I don’t care that Gettleman plans to move forward with Eli Manning. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to spend March 2018-August 2019 improving the offensive line before Rosen’s debut in September 2019. Ride Eli in 2018 and let Rosen sit and learn his entire rookie season. The Giants can cut Eli after 2018 for only $6.2 million of dead cap while saving nearly $17 million in cap space. The Giants will not pass on a possible franchise quarterback for the post Eli era because they want to roll with Eli for one more season.
Everything about this situation screams the Giants plan to start Eli Manning in 2018 and select a quarterback 2nd overall come late April. Dave Gettleman and Eli Manning have had multiple conversations since Gettleman has taken over the general manager job, and in one of those conversations Gettleman told Eli he wants to keep him but is going to evaluate the quarterback options in the draft. Gettleman has also been quoted as telling Eli he is going to draft “the best player available.”
3. *TRADE – Dolphins send #11, #73, #111, 2019 1st Rounder, 2019 2nd Rounder for #3*
Miami Dolphins (F/IND) – QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
And so it begins. As you will see as you continue to read, if the draft plays out according to my absurd projection for the first round, it will be the most entertaining opening round in draft history. I think the Colts will end up selling this pick off to the highest bidder that wants to go up and make sure they get their pick of Mayfield and Josh Allen.
No I don’t think this is going to happen because of some “Instagram ploy” by Baker Mayfield. It just makes sense to me.
I modeled this trade after the Carson Wentz trade, and in addition to the distance the Dolphins would be moving up the board, there are other similarities in play here.
The Eagles were looking at Sam Bradford and his multiple knee injuries as the future of their team before falling in love with Carson Wentz. A future that coach Doug Pederson wasn’t involved in acquiring. Adam Gase was not involved in drafting Tannehill, who is sneakily going to be 30 come Kickoff Sunday 2018, and has now torn his ACL twice. The Dolphins can easily get out of Tannehill’s deal either this year or next year. I would bet on Mayfield sitting a year and then starting in 2019.
I just foresee the Dolphins coaches and players falling in love with Mayfield when he goes on his private visit to Miami. I think their three-headed (for now) receiver monster, running backs, and offensive coaches will become enamored with his personality.
Add in the factors like the Dolphins would rather have this guy in their building as opposed to letting him end up a Jet, Stephen Ross has never seen a splashy move he couldn’t resist, and that the Dolphins’ front office doesn’t exactly consider long-term ramifications in their decision making process, and this seems like a good bet to have happen.
4. *TRADE – Jets send #6, 2019 1st Rounder for #4*
New York Jets (F/CLE/HOU) – QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
And as a result the Jets can’t risk the Browns selling this pick to another team and lose the last of the big four quarterbacks in the process. Allen is probably the Jets’ plan D, but with $80 million in cap space to build an infrastructure around a rookie quarterback in free agency, the Jets can’t leave round one without a face of hope for the franchise.
If neither the Bills nor Cardinals address quarterback in free agency, they could become realistic teams to launch up the board for Allen. Both the Bills and Cardinals have a head coach that formerly was employed as the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator. Allen’s size, mobility, arm strength, and erratic accuracy could be viewed in similar fashion to Cam Newton.
The trade itself I honestly kind of just made up. There really isn’t a precedent here for moving from 6 to 4 to get a quarterback. The Bears didn’t have to surrender a future first last year to go from 3 to 2, but Trubisky wasn’t viewed as highly as any of these four guys. The Jets could give multiple mid-round selections this year and next year to secure Allen, but the Browns may charge a premium for the rights to get the last of the big four.
5. *TRADE – Buccaneers send #7, #69 for #5*
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (F/DEN) – RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
The Buccaneers are positioned to have about $75 million in cap space, before any cap casualties, new contracts for their own free agents, or accounting for draft picks. And I have previously talked about how I believe the Bucs will look to their instate neighbors for how to model their 2018 offseason. The Jaguars put the finishing touches on their defense through big time free agents last year and then used the 4th pick of the draft to take Leonard Fournette. The Bucs are not close to putting the finishing touches on their defense, but I expect them to address that side of the ball aggressively in free agency.
I also expect Dirk Koetter to behave as if he is fighting for survival, which he probably is. If the Bucs don’t have a significant turnaround this season Koetter may not even make it to the finish line. As a result, Koetter will want the biggest immediate impact he can find in this draft. That would be Barkley. The Bucs will be motivated to leapfrog the Browns to secure his services and roll out perhaps the most talented collection of skill position players in the entire league.
6. Cleveland Browns (F/NYJ) – DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Assuming the Browns don’t land Kirk Cousins and do use the 1st pick on a quarterback, I think they will be pretty active in trying to trade down from the 4th pick. I know they are already armed with more than enough draft capital for 2018, but the market for a preferred quarterback, Barkley, or perhaps Bradley Chubb as the clear cut top defensive end in this class, will probably create a lucrative enough bidding war for the 4th pick that the Browns will move down.
Swapping with the Jets really presents a perfect situation as well from a PR perspective. Not including quarterbacks, the biggest known names in this draft among casual fans are Barkley, Chubb and Minkah Fitzpatrick. It’s easier to sell to a fan base sick of trading down that you passed on Barkley but still walked away with one of the three best non-quarterbacks (in addition to your own quarterback). Falling from 4 to 6 guarantees one of Barkely, Chubb, or Fitzpatrick if the first three picks are in fact all quarterbacks.
As for the actual pick, it was hard deciding between Chubb and Fitzpatrick given the option to take either. John Dorsey wasn’t involved in the drafting of Nassib or Ogbah, but those two plus Myles Garrett make for a nice rotation at defensive end. Chubb is also getting overhyped by the national media. He is a good player but he is much more Derek Barnett than Myles Garrett. Of course I’m contradicting my own pick here as the Browns could just take Chubb (the 2018 Barnett) and have a four deep end rotation just like the Super Bowl champions. And this is a terribly weak defensive end class so the Browns shouldn’t bank on grabbing someone later.
But I’m going with Fitzpatrick for now. Cleveland finished 27th in DVOA pass defense in 2017. The Browns have a nice collection of pieces in the secondary, but if they want to copy the Eagles in a different way they can take the new Malcom Jenkins to play the en vogue safety-nickel hybrid and provide maximum lineup flexibility.
7. Denver Broncos (F/TB) – OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
The “Quenton Nelson is a top two player in this draft” chorus is growing louder. It also isn’t necessarily wrong. If you want to talk about “safest” player in the draft, Nelson is probably the guy. Also, considering he is a better prospect than Zack Martin was coming out, it is reasonable to conclude Nelson will be an excellent pro.
I don’t need to tell you that Denver needs to upgrade its offensive line. I will, however, take this opportunity to echo an idea I heard on a PFF podcast. Quenton Nelson was at Notre Dame the same time that Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey were on campus. What if, out of all three guys, Nelson was the only one with the ability to kick inside to guard? Then, when Stanley left, and McGlinchey moved over to the left side, him and Nelson formed this unstoppable force and the coaching staff decided it was better to leave well enough alone?
What if Nelson is secretly the best tackle out of the three? Nelson is 6’5″ and we will find out later this week how long his arms are, but if he has 36″ arms like many think he does, I want to see some team just shoot for the moon by drafting Nelson and planning to develop him as a tackle from day one.
8. Chicago Bears – WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
The most commonly agreed upon pick in the draft community is easily the Bears taking Calvin Ridley. It just makes too much sense. It is the team’s biggest need, and Ridley is essentially unanimously viewed as the top receiver in the class.
I just wonder if the Bears will learn a cautionary tale from the 2017 draft. While Ridley is viewed as the best receiver prospect, everyone thinks he profiles as a really good number two option in the NFL. Last year we saw multiple teams eschew superior prospects for wide receivers due to a drop off at the position after the first three. If the Titans, Chargers, and Bengals could get a redo, would they opt for Marshon Lattimore, Derek Barnett, Malik Hooker or Jonathan Allen instead? Someone would take Lattimore for sure. Maybe all three teams would take someone else considering how little they got out of their receivers in year one.
Maybe all of this is just an overreaction. I’m sure each team with a top 10 receiver from 2017 still has high hopes for the guy they drafted. Besides, Ryan Pace’s job is essentially tied to Trubisky’s development. It makes perfect sense he brought in Matt Nagy as head coach and Mark Helfrich as offensive coordinator. He wants to get Trubisky into the best possible situation to improve in year two.
9. San Francisco 49ers – CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Corner is perhaps the 9ers biggest need, and they get their pick of the litter with this selection. Ward has only one year of starting experience, just like his former teammate Marshon Lattimore last season. Ward, however, is a fantastic athlete with incredible movement skills and I believe he will end up the first corner off the board come draft night. The fact Lattimore won Defensive Rookie of the Year will help Ward’s case as well.
10. Oakland Raiders – DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
The Raiders will be happy to end Chubb’s slide here. At this point Chubb is the best player on the board, and adding Chubb to Mack and Bruce Irvin (should he not be a cap casualty) will give the Raiders quite the pass rushing trio. If the Raiders want to get back to competing for the division title, they will have to generate pressure on Philip Rivers, chase Patrick Mahomes around, and perhaps pester Kirk Cousins.
11. Colts (F/MIA) – OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
The Colts should be highly motivated to bail from the 3rd pick. Someone is going to offer them a substantial offer to either lock up a quarterback they want or secure one of Barkley, Chubb, or Fitzpatrick. The Colts have plenty of needs and should be willing to accept a trade package.
Also falling back puts them into range to draft an offensive lineman without it being considered a reach. Protecting Andrew Luck has to be priority 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, maybe even 7, for this organization.
I went with McGlinchey here because the biggest knock on him as a prospect is if he can stick on the left side in the NFL. Well, the Colts don’t need him to play on the left side. Therefore, the Colts are getting a plug and play right tackle, creating a solid bookend duo in a division where they have to face J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Derrick Morgan, and Brian Orakpo twice a year.
12. Cincinnati Bengals – LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The Bengals could very well choose to take an offensive tackle here, as it is by far their biggest need. The Bengals, under Marvin Lewis, have also shown to have a thing for the uber athletic types. I expect Edmunds to absolutely blow up the combine and be universally viewed as a top ten prospect afterwards on account of his size and athleticism. He also has good tape to match, and the Bengals may be drafting the best player on the board here while also addressing an area of need.
13. Washington – DT Vita Vea, Washington
I know it was 2016, but I have never been able to get the imagine of the Carolina Panthers absolutely slamming the ball down Washington’s throat in the run game where Washington had to win to get into the playoffs. It was week 15, and had Washington won out the last three games they would have made the postseason. Instead, the Panthers rushed for 148 yards as Washington was helpless against Jonathan Stewart.
Washington spent their first round pick on Jonathan Allen in 2017, but it wasn’t enough. They still ranked 29th in rush defense DVOA and allowed a league worst 134 rushing yards per game on defense.
Vita Vea is a massive run stuffing nose tackle that is worthy of a selection this high because he is extremely athletic for a man his size and provides an interior pass rush.
14. Green Bay Packers – CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Corner is arguably the Packers biggest need and Green Bay can selection the second best cover guy in the draft here. This isn’t to say that the team, or myself, is giving up on Kevin King, but someone to play across from him is needed. The NFC North is a three headed race, and Detroit (Jones and Tate) and Minnesota (Thielen and Diggs) each have two receivers to match up against.
15. Arizona Cardinals – OT Connor Williams, Texas
If Arizona does address quarterback via free agency or trade, then they may utilize this pick to help protect their need signal caller. The Cardinals’ offensive line ranked 25th in adjusted sack rate in 2017 and Arizona was tied for the 2nd most amount of sacks allowed. Some of those sacks are surely a result of quarterback play, but the Cardinals desperately need an injection of talent up front.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Edge Marcus Davenport, UTSA
This is Ozzie Newsome’s last draft and true to form he might as well depart by taking the best player available one last time. I’m not sure if Newsome will view Davenport as the best player available, especially with Roquan Smith still around, but I think it is possible. I’m assuming it will also be torturous for Newsome to pass on Alabama prospects such as Da’Ron Payne and Rashaan Evans at this juncture.
Davenport does also fit a need as the Ravens could use more of a pass rush even with Suggs still around, and he won’t be for forever. Davenport may be a bit of a project but I think the Ravens coaching staff will know how to get the most out of him.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
Speaking of Da’Ron Payne, instead of taking an inferior offensive lineman over him, the Chargers learn from the cautionary tale of the 2017 receiver class and opt to address another glaring need. Only Washington allowed more rushing yards on defense per game last season than the Chargers, and Los Angeles finished 27th in run defense DVOA.
18. *TRADE – Falcons send #26, #90, #244 for #18*
Atlanta Falcons (F/SEA) – S Derwin James, Florida State
Out of all 32 first round selections, if there is one pick that I guarantee is traded, it is this one. I will explain once I get to the Seahawk’s capsule.
The Falcons seem like the type of team that is going to believe they are only one player away from winning it all. Considering how stacked the NFC is I don’t think they’d be right, but they wouldn’t exactly be wrong.
If Derwin James’ medical reports come back clean he is a top ten player in this draft easy. At 6’2″, 215, he routinely sticks with shifty slot receivers in man coverage. A guy his size shouldn’t be able to do that. There really is nothing that James can’t do on a football field and his biggest weakness is being a half second late in play recognition. If that can simply be remedied by reps and experience, James is going to become an elite NFL safety quickly, and remain one for a long time. The Falcons don’t exactly need a safety, but getting a player of this caliber at this point of the draft could prove to be too tempting for the Falcons to pass up.
The other nice parts of this projection are that the Falcons and Seahawks pulled off a trade last season where Atlanta moved up to get a guy they really liked, so clearly the Dan Quinn, Seattle familiarity helps, and if the Seahawks do stay put they could easily select James with Chancellor’s long term health in serious jeopardy.
19. *Trade – Bills send #22, #96 for #19*
Buffalo Bills (F/DAL) – QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
I have said before that I just have this feeling the Bills are going to draft Lamar Jackson and the hiring of Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator has done nothing but reinforce this theory for me. Daboll spent 2017 as the offensive coordinator for Alabama running a very college-y offensive system. He has also spent 11 years on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff with the Patriots. Belichick doesn’t try to change who you are as a player, he puts you in a position to utilize your strengths. He also stresses the importance of versatility.
Someone is going to fall in love with Jackson and take him in the first round and Buffalo seems to be a likely destination. It’s certainly possible McDermott and ownership fall in love with Jackson’s charisma while meeting with him, and the coaching staff is in position to not force Jackson to be something he is not, and instead take advantage of the gifts that he brings to the game.
The reason for the trade up is that Dallas is a team willing to deal on draft day, and another team could move up here to jump the Bills if they really want Jackson or Mason Rudolph.
20. Detroit Lions – Edge Harold Landry, Boston College
Landry seems like the type of guy Matt Patricia would like to get his hands on. He has size and versatility with a record of production. He was better as a junior than a senior in terms of stats, but this may be easily explained by injuries he sustained his senior year.
This also fits a need for the Lions who need more pass rushers even if they retain Ziggy Ansah via the tag or a long term contract.
21. Buffalo Bills – LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
Not only is Roquan Smith the best player left on the board, but he fits a need for Buffalo. With the combination of Jackson and Smith in the first round I don’t think the Bills could have possibly wished for a better first round scenario.
22. Cowboys (F/BUF/KC) – WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
I don’t know if Sutton is worthy of a first round pick, but he could end up going in the later part of the opening frame just because some team really needs a receiver. The Cowboys are having trouble deciding what to do with Dez Bryant. They can either keep him for a $16.5 million cap hit, release him, or try to rework his deal. Dez has already said “hell no” to taking a pay cut.
The Cowboys need a receiver even if they keep Dez. Terrance Williams hasn’t lived up to his contract (which Dallas can get out of this year), I don’t know if Brice Butler is exactly trustworthy, and Cole Beasley really regressed. Dallas has youngsters such as Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown in the pipeline, but perhaps they get enamored with the size of the local product from SMU.
23. Los Angeles Rams – LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
After the Marcus Peters trade, I think we can rule out cornerback for this pick. It has also been reported the Rams are more likely to tag Lamarcus Joyner than Sammy Watkins, which makes sense, so the Rams one way or another will probably retain Joyner.
The Rams could go a couple different directions here, including choosing between Billy Price and James Daniels. However, linebacker is an area of weakness for a run defense that finished 22nd in DVOA. Evans profiles similar to Dont’a Hightower coming out of Alabama in that he can provide a rush from the edge if you want him to.
24. Carolina Panthers – WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
The Panthers, easily, could opt to select whoever they feel is the best offensive lineman on the board. The Matt Kalil signing didn’t work out and Andrew Norwell is poised to leave via free agency. The Panthers can get out of Kalil’s deal this offseason, but it would be cheaper to do so next year. Carolina may also have confidence in its ability to find a guard in the mid-rounds.
Once again, I don’t know if Kirk deserves to go in the first round, or if he ultimately will end up going on Thursday night, but if the Panthers just want to lock up a speed option for Cam Newton, here is their chance.
Carolina spent last offseason overhauling their offensive philosophy. Less seven step drop backs to find behemoth targets, and more three step drops to find small, quick guys. They doubled down on running back/wide receiver hybrids in the first two rounds.
Well, for what it’s worth, when Cam Newton won MVP he had Ted Ginn streaking down field past defenders. Kirk isn’t the most polished or well rounded receiver, but he can fly and immediately contribute on special teams.
25. Tennessee Titans – Edge Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
Brian Orakpo will be 32 by the time the 2018 season begins and the Titans can save $7.75 million against the cap be releasing him. Considering the Titans are looking at around $51 million in cap space this offseason they don’t need to do that, but it is an option. Derrick Morgan is also entering the final year of his contract and will be 30 when the 2019 season begins.
Lorenzo Carter is another guy I expect to climb up boards as the draft approaches. I expect him to test well at the combine, and he can provide pass rushing and coverage from the linebacker position, which I think is going to become the new sexy traits everyone in the league will be after.
In today’s NFL, rushing barely matters and passing efficiency is much, much more predictive of winning. A recent study from Pro Football Focus found that the four RB measurements that best predict team wins in the following year are PFF pass-blocking grade, pass blocking efficiency, yards per receiving route run, and PFF receiving grade. That’s right: RB’s only help their teams win to the extent that they matter in the passing game.
If you can rush the passer AND cover a running back, you’re about to be super, duper coveted in the NFL.
26. *TRADE – Broncos send #40, #99, #109 for #26*
Denver Broncos (F/SEA/ATL) – OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
There seems to be a group of about nine offensive tackles that no one really knows how to rank, and Denver could certainly sit back at 40 and just take the guy they like most that gets to them.
However, Elway has demonstrated to be a rather aggressive general manager in the past. He is pretty aggressive in free agency, and has moved up in the first round to get guys he likes, such as Shane Ray and Paxton Lynch.
If Elway does end up with Quenton Nelson at the top of the draft and decides to leave him at guard, bringing in Brown to play right tackle will essentially finish solidifying his offensive line. Nelson and Brown would join last year’s first round pick Bolles along with Matt Paradis and Ron Leary (assuming he isn’t released to save money) to fortify the front five.
27. New Orleans Saints – OL Billy Price, Ohio State
For the first time in about 5,000 years we don’t have to sit here and simply project the best defensive player available to the Saints. What a time to be alive.
The Saints have long held a philosophy of placing a greater premium on interior offensive linemen than offensive tackles so that Drew Brees can have a clean pocket to step up into as he goes through his progressions. At this juncture of the draft the Saints get to take whoever they believe is the best interior offensive lineman in the whole class.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
It seems like Roethlisberger is going to be the new Brett Favre. He is going to keep going back and forth talking about retirement and playing for forever, and no one really knows when he will move on from the game of football.
Well, this pick echoes the Packers drafting Aaron Rodgers who sat for three years before ever seeing the field. Roethlisberger can sway back and forth for the next few seasons while Rudolph develops behind the scenes before Roethlisberger either retires, or the team decides it is time for a change.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
It seems as if the Jaguars will one way or another keep Allen Robinson around. If they do, they won’t need to reach for a receiver here. The Jaguars don’t have a need on defense so while they could just take a guy to be a luxury on that side of the ball it makes more sense for them to grab whoever they believe is the best tight end in the draft to provide more juice to this offense.
30. Minnesota Vikings – OL James Daniels, Iowa
The Vikings biggest (only?) area of need is the offensive line. James Daniels represents the best offensive lineman available in the draft at this point and provides enough versatility that the Vikings can play him wherever they feel it ends up creating the best five man unit possible.
31. New England Patriots – DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Maurice Hurst should not fall this far in the draft but I ended up having teams chase needs through the first 30 picks. I think someone will fall in love with Hurst and take him much higher than this, but I guess it’s going to take me a little while longer to figure out who.
The Patriots, if they don’t trade this pick, will sit here and take the best defensive player that isn’t a safety. That is easily Maurice Hurst at this point. Many people will point to the Patriots getting no pressure on Foles during the Super Bowl and saying New England needs an edge rusher, but Trey Flowers has now been a quality pass rusher for two seasons, Belichick likes Deatrich Wise, the team used a third round pick last year on Derek Rivers who has yet to make his debut, and it is possible James Harrison sticks around on a cheap deal to chase a ring.
Belichick never did anything to replace what Dominique Easley provided as an interior pass rusher after releasing him. The Patriots have plenty of run stoppers at defensive tackle but no one that provides any sort of pass rush.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
The Eagles don’t have a second or third round pick so they may look to trade down from this spot to recoup some of their draft capital. On the other hand, their roster is so loaded they don’t really have a glaring need and could just sit here and take the best guy.
If you had to make a case for a single position being a need, it would be left tackle. Even if the team doesn’t move on from Jason Peters, at 36 years old how well can one reasonably expect him to play after tearing his ACL and MCL?
Kolton Miller is beginning to get Nate Solder comparisons. I think the Eagles will happily take that with the last pick of the first round to protect Carson Wentz for the foreseeable future.
33. Cleveland Browns – OT Martinas Rankins, Mississippi State
The Browns need a right tackle and even if Joe Thomas plays one more year, Cleveland needs a plan for left tackle for life after Thomas. Letting Rankins play on the right side as a rookie before taking over the blind side once Thomas moves on is a great scenario, and a great way to help protect their investment in Sam Darnold.
34. New York Giants – OT Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh
I don’t need to convince you the Giants need offensive line help.
35. Cleveland Browns (F/HOU) – WR James Washington, Oklahoma State
The Browns, presumably, will have Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman next season, but John Dorsey wasn’t the guy that drafted Coleman so I don’t think his presence will prevent Dorsey from taking a receiver here. Washington provides another speed weapon for Darnold.
36. Indianapolis Colts – OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
More protection for Andrew Luck.
37. New York Jets – RB Derrius Guice, LSU
The second best running back in the draft falls to the second round to a team that desperately needs a lead guy.
Tangent: Running backs seem to be back in fashion as 2018 will be the fourth straight draft a guy has gone in the top ten. The early results on the previous three are pretty good, and most people think Barkley is destined for stardom. However, everyone should take a minute and read this article outlining why you should never spend a top twenty pick on a running back.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB Mike Hughes, UFC
The Buccaneers could look for an offensive lineman here, but I expect them to address those needs in free agency. Despite recently investing a first round pick in Vernon Hargreaves, the Buccaneers still need help at corner. Brent Grimes is a free agent and turns 35 before the start of the 2018 season. Some view Mike Hughes as first round worthy and is a local product.
39. Chicago Bears – OT Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
If anyone knows how to feel about Crosby’s NFL prospects it is Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Once again, Ryan Pace is doing everything to make sure Trubisky succeeds.
40. Seattle Seahawks (F/DEN) – G Will Hernandez, UTEP
So about the Seahawks trading down twice: The Seahawks have a history of trading down under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and that list was published before draft day 2016 and 2017, drafts where the Seahawks traded down in, or out of, the first round a total of three times.
The Seahawks are extremely short on draft capital in 2018 and 2019 thanks to the Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown trades. By making both of these moves (with teams – Atlanta and Denver – that Seattle has traded with in each of the past two drafts) Seattle is able to restock some of draft capital.
Will Hernandez doesn’t actually seem like the Seahawks type to me. Seattle loves athletes, and Hernandez would easily be larger than what Seattle normally looks for in an offensive lineman. However, he is easily the best guard on the board and excels in run blocking. So if Seattle wants to get back to pounding the rock effectively, Hernandez isn’t a bad start.
41. Oakland Raiders – LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
More defense and this hits a position of need. Vander Esch is another guy on combine watch.
42. Miami Dolphins – OG Braden Smith, Aurburn
Despite all the investments Miami has made in the offensive line they still have work to do. They ranked 30th in adjusted line yards this past season. Getting Pouncey back will help, but is he ever going to be the same player? More talent is needed up front, and this helps protect Baker.
43. *TRADE – Panthers send #55, 88 for #43*
Carolina Panthers (F/NE/SF) – OT Jamarco Jones, Ohio State
After passing on a tackle in round one the Panthers jump up to get a guy they believe can play on the left side before a significant tier drop at the position.
44. Washington – WR Michael Gallup, Baylor
I’m assuming Washington hasn’t given up on Doctson, but even with him and Crowder the team needs more at receiver.
45. Green Bay Packers – D.J. Moore, Maryland
Randall Cobb is a potential cap casualty, and if that comes to fruition Rodgers will need a new slot weapon.
46. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
The Bengals get the last of the nine offensive tackles here after passing on the position in the first round.
47. Arizona Cardinals – WR D.J. Chark, LSU
Even with Fitz playing in 2018 the Cardinals are looking at losing both Brown’s in free agency and need to think about life after Fitz anyway.
48. Los Angeles Chargers – LB Josey Jewell, Iowa
The Chargers are surely excited about a healthy Perryman in 2018, but they still need more help at the linebacker position. Jewell is someone I expect to rise during the pre-draft process.
49. New York Jets (F/SEA) – Edge Uchenna Nwoso, USC
After addressing the offense twice the Jets turn their attention to the defense. Corner is probably their biggest defensive need but the corner class of 2018 is pretty deep while the edge rushers are scarce. If you want to beat Tom Brady you have to make him uncomfortable.
50. Dallas Cowboys – DT Derrick Nnadi – Florida State
The Cowboys have a need at defensive tackle and ranked 21st in rush defense DVOA. Nnadi is a plug and play run stopper.
51. Detroit Lions – RB Ronald Jones II, USC
The Lions have never had a 1,000 yard running back in the Matthew Stafford era. Ronald Jones is getting first round hype so Detroit will happily select him here.
52. Baltimore Ravens – TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
The Ravens need offensive weapons and Newsome may view Andrews as the best player on the board.
53. Buffalo Bills – DT Taven Bryan, Florida
Taven Bryan is a guy I expect to rise during the pre-draft process as he can provide interior pass rush. The Bills have addressed their three biggest needs with their first three selections.
54. Kansas City Chiefs – S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
Even with a healthy Eric Berry the Chiefs need another safety. Harrison might be the best player available.
55. New England Patriots (F/CAR) – QB Luke Falk, Washington State
The Patriots will either trade down from their first round pick, the 9ers second round pick, or both. They don’t have many picks for this year and will look to restock their draft capital a little.
The Patriots are going to draft a quarterback this year. They basically draft a quarterback every other season, and haven’t taken one since 2016. Luke Falk doesn’t have a cannon but he has touch, accuracy and the ability to go through progressions.
56. Buffalo Bills (F/LAR) – RB Sony Michel, Georgia
After hitting their biggest needs the Bills may view this selection as a luxury pick. Sony Michel has flown up boards due to how he closed out the season and can split carries with McCoy before taking over the lead job in 2019.
57. Tennessee Titans – LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
Jefferson came into the season getting first round hype. A couple factors have dropped him down the board but the Titans can use what he provides and may end up with a steal for a low cost.
58. Atlanta Falcons – OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
I know the Falcons have Vic Beasley and just drafted Tak McKinley, but to win the Super Bowl the Falcons will probably have to beat some combination of Drew Brees, Carson Wentz, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Shit, to win their own division they have to compete with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Jameis Winston. You can never have too many pass rushers.
59. San Francisco 49ers (F/NO) – C Mason Cole, Michigan
There is a group of four centers in this draft that are clearly the best prospects. The 9ers could use help at center and it is never a bad idea to invest in protecting your $137.5 million investment.
60. Pittsburgh Steelers – S DeShon Elliot, Texas
The Steelers’ defensive showing against the Jaguars in the playoffs was pathetic and every time they play Tom Brady he either slices through them all game or goes to Gronk four times in a row when the entire planet knows Gronk is getting the ball. The Steelers need more coverage guys.
61. Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Dante Pettis, Washington
Just keep adding weapons to this offense. Pettis also has the career FBS record for return touchdowns.
62. Minnesota Vikings – DE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
Hubbard falls in my mock draft but the Vikings will gladly add him to their defensive line.
63. New England Patriots – CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
I have a lot of corners falling in this mock draft as I have teams going after needs more so than just taking the best player. The Patriots will be plenty ok with this.
64. Cleveland Browns (F/PHI) – RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
I’m guessing the Browns let Crowell walk in free agency, thus creating a need to add a power back to compliment Duke Johnson.
65. Cleveland Browns – DE Arden Key, LSU
This is the sixth (!) selection of the draft for the Browns so far and they may as well just swing for the fences.
66. New York Giants – RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
I probably don’t need to tell you what a disaster the Giants run game was this season.
67. Indianapolis Colts – RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
I think Ballage is going to rocket up draft boards after the combine. He is 6’2″ and 220lbs, he just had the best week of Senior Bowl practices of any running back, and will light up the combine.
68. Houston Texans – C Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
The last of the big four centers, and some protection for Watson.
69. Denver Broncos (F/TB) – CB Carlton Davis, Auburn
It doesn’t seem likely that Aqib Talib is going to be on the Broncos next season. Elway will need to replace him.
70. San Francisco 49ers (F/CHI) – RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Penny has size and athleticism. Shanahan will probably think he can turn him into a star. I think Hyde will leave in free agency so Shanahan will have Penny, Breida, and Williams compete for the job.
71. Denver Broncos – S Justin Reid, Stamford
Elway also needs to replace T.J. Ward.
72. New York Jets – CB M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
As mentioned, the Jets biggest defensive need is probably corner. A great value here.
73. Indianapolis Colts (F/MIA) – LB Azeem Victor, Washington
The Colts address their need for an inside linebacker.
74. San Francisco 49ers – WR Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State
A big bodied target for Garoppolo.
75. Oakland Raiders – RB Royce Freeman, Oregon
The Marshawn Lynch experience hasn’t gone as well as fans dreamed. The Raiders need a young bruiser.
76. Green Bay Packers – TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
The Packers have just never been able to solve the tight end situation in the Rodgers era.
77. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Desmond Harrison, West Georgia
Another shot at an offensive tackle.
78. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State
A big bodied receiver to compliment Tyreek Hill.
79. Arizona Cardinals – OG Sean Welsh, Iowa
More reinforcements for the offensive line.
80. Houston Texans (F/SEA) – CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
The Texans let A.J. Bouye walk in free agency because of Kevin Johnson, who had a disappointing season. They need some insurance. Great value.
81. Dallas Cowboys – CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
The Cowboys took a couple day two corners last year but didn’t land a number one cover guy. Here is another shot at one.
82. Detroit Lions – S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
Adding Watts, who is good value here, to Glover Quin and Patriots castoff Tavon Wilson will give Patricia a similar safety trio to McCourty, Harmon, and Chung.
83. Baltimore Ravens – WR Auden Tate, Florida State
More weapons for this offense, this time a big guy to add to Maclin and Wallace.
84. Los Angeles Chargers – OT Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T
The Chargers could look to address offensive tackle earlier on as it is a need, and protecting Philip Rivers is paramount to their success.
85. Carolina Panthers (F/BUF) – RB Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Christian McCaffrey looks, uh, better as a receiver than a running back. Here is a Jonathan Stewart replacement.
86. Kansas City Chiefs – CB Donte Jackson, LSU
The Chiefs need to replace Marcus Peters. Good value here.
87. Los Angeles Rams – Edge Josh Sweat, Florida State
Connor Barwin may leave in free agency, but even if he is resigned you can never have too many pass rushers.
88. Patriots (F/CAR) – OLB Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
I have this feeling Belichick is going to see in Leonard what he saw in Jamie Collins.
89. Tennessee Titans – RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa
DeMarco Murray is probably going to be a cap casualty so the Titans could look to add a scat back to compliment Derrick Henry.
90. Seattle Seahawks (F/ATL) – CB Kevin Toliver II, LSU
Richard Sherman tore his achilles and has one year left on his deal, Byron Maxwell is a free agent, Jeremy Lane is going to be a cap casualty, and DeShawn Shead cannot be counted on.
91. New Orleans Saints – Edge Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
The Saints may let Alex Okafor walk in free agency after his injury and will need to replace him.
92. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Micah Kiser, Virginia
As much as it sucks, the Steelers need to fill the void of Ryan Shazier.
93. Jacksonville Jaguars – DL Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama
Hand is probably the best player available on the board and Malik Jackson is looking like a good bet to be a cap casualty.
94. Minnesota Vikings – QB Mike White, Western Kentucky
I don’t know if White really deserves to go this high, but he is a quarterback after all. If the Vikings do end up signing Keenum to a three-year pact, they could look to develop someone like White behind him to take over after that contract expires.
95. New England Patriots – Edge Rasheem Green, USC
I made it seem like the Patriots don’t really need an edge guy earlier, but I am sure at some point Belichick will add someone to the position group.
96. Buffalo Bills (F/PHI) – WR Anthony Miller, Memphis
I’d guess the Bills are going to let Jordan Matthews leave in free agency.
97. Arizona Cardinals – RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame
The Cardinals gave Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson carries after David Johnson went down. This isn’t 2009. They need to be better prepared for such a scenario should it happen in the future.
98. Houston Texans – TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State
Just give Watson weapons.
99. Seattle Seahawks (F/DEN) – Kentavius Street, N.C. State
Both Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril could be cap casualties this offseason.
100. Cincinnati Bengals – S Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The Bengals never adequately replaced Reggie Nelson and may like the idea of bringing in the Edmunds brothers together.