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A few things have changed since our last mock, namely the bulk of free agency. So things are starting to crystallize. Not fully, because most teams will leave the owners meetings and go back to the facilities and put together in earnest their respective draft boards that will be about 95 percent of what they’ll look like close to draft day.
Picks will be traded, of course, but overachievers that we are, we went through and mocked out the first three rounds, to make sure that our projected picks for the teams without first-round choices – the Browns, Cowboys, Saints and Bears – were as authentic as possible.
(If you want to see the rest of my draft choices, which I drafted courtesy of my friends at The Draft Network, they can be found right here. Check it out; it’s a fun tool.)
1. Arizona Cardinals – Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
It’s getting harder for Kliff Kingsbury to hide his Murray love. Kingsbury reminds you of a guy in college who could ignore women, literally turn and walk away from them, but they still follow him around. Now the tables are turning. Kyler is that guy now, and Kingsbury is on the hunt. At first, he played it semi-cool, but … come on, look at this:
Cardinals’ HC Kliff Kingsbury on what he likes about Kyler Murray: “I mean, I guess it's more what don't you like? When you watch him play, I mean he can run it, he can throw it, he's a competitor....He's one of the better dual threat players to ever play.”
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 26, 2019
OK, we’ve seen enough here. Let’s safely call this thing. Josh Rosen will be a Giant or a Charger (my sleeper destination) or a Patriot or a Redskin or a Dolphin within a month. I predict the trade goes down within a day or two of draft night.
2. San Francisco 49ers -- Ohio State EDGE Nick Bosa
Hopefully the 49ers don’t get cute with this one. There are two players squarely at the top of this draft: Bosa and Quinnen Williams. It’s them and then a dropoff. If they play the whole “we just got Dee Ford!” or “the value of trading down was too good!” routine, I am potentially going to yell. Do the right thing: draft Bosa and prosper. The extra picks would be nice, but at some point Kyle Shanahan (10-22 record) has got to win games.
3. New York Jets – Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen
Let the record show that I would take (broken vinyl alert) Quinnen Williams here, but Allen is no slouch and hopefully would fill the Jets’ need for a young outside rusher that has been going for, oh, more than a decade now. The Jets might seek a trade with this pick to move down, but they reportedly have set the price high. I’m unsure anyone is moving up here unless Kyler Murray falls to this spot.
4. Oakland Raiders – Michigan EDGE Rashan Gary
It’s a mystery now. Gary at No. 4 feels like an awful risk, but it also feels like the hyper-toolsy player that Jon Gruden – and by proxy, general manager Mike Mayock – might seek. I could see Gary going fourth or 14th, and the safer pick might be 24th. His destination is hard to project. It would be a great landing spot for Gary, as he and Maurice Hurst had a close relationship at Michigan. “That’s my big brother,” Gary said of Hurst late in the 2017 season.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – LSU LB Devin White
White or Quinnen Williams? I settled on White because: 1) What are the Bucs’ plans for Gerald McCoy? 2) White is just that good. This is another trade-down team here, but the Bucs get a confident, three-down playmaker to help bolster a defense that ranked in the bottom 10 in a lot of categories.
6. New York Giants – Alabama DT Quinnen Williams
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman could refurbish his image with this pick if it goes down this way. He loves building through the trenches, and Gettleman could attack the lack of pass-rush juice by putting Williams next to his former Bama teammate, Dalvin Tomlinson, who is a mostly good run stopper. The Giants can come back with the next first-round pick and attack that QB issue that has people worried.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Florida OT Jawaan Taylor
The Jags’ offensive identity feels like a work in progress. They were built the past few years on a bullying ground game, but the acquisition of RPO-specialist Nick Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo – who was fired from the Vikings for not running the ball enough – cloud the picture. Drafting Taylor here could help mesh the two sides, as he’s a massive road grader with lighter feet than you might imagine in pass protection.
8. Detroit Lions – Mississippi State EDGE Montez Sweat
Sometimes mock drafts just line up and you don’t have to overthink things. With Sweat falling into their laps (he’d be a consideration for the Giants at No. 6), the Lions can go straight need and not reach. GM Bob Quinn has followed a clear path his first few drafts of taking a ready-made prospect at a need position in Round 1, so Sweat would carry that trend forward another year. Pass rush remains an issue, even with Trey Flowers on board.
9. Buffalo Bills – Houston DL Ed Oliver
Head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane were in Carolina when the Panthers drafted Kawann Short, who ended up being a huge key to their defensive success. Like Short, Oliver might be the missing ingredient up front on a solid defensive line, and he could line up in multiple techniques to wreak havoc in a penetrating system (as opposed to how he was deployed in college, which was almost strictly over the nose). An emerging defense gets better.
10. Denver Broncos – Michigan LB Devin Bush
I’ve been told not to assume that Devin White will assuredly go ahead of Bush and that some teams actually like the Wolverines’ Devin better. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio had everyone scrambling to change their mock drafts when he said neither player was as good as the rookie linebacker he coached last year in Chicago, Roquan Smith (the eighth overall pick a year ago). But we aren’t scared to pair up Bush with Fangio, who will have good intel from Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. (Fangio was Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in San Francisco.)
This is a big need for the Broncos, who can bypass a QB here – Drew Lock has been fixed in this spot previously, and Dwayne Haskins is still here, which is interesting – and hope someone such as Duke’s Daniel Jones can be had later.
11. Cincinnati Bengals – Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins
I thought about an offensive lineman, but how often do chances to draft a developmental QB come up like this? Andy Dalton has an extremely team-friendly contract, and the Bengals can move on from him at basically any point with no collateral damage. Grooming Haskins in what should be a rebuild season would be a deft move. New head coach Zac Taylor was asked at the scouting combine what he sought in a potential quarterback addition, and it seems to fit Haskins’ traits to a tee.
“The important thing is are they going to elevate the level of play of the people around them,” Taylor said. “Are they ready to lead and be accurate, can they get the ball out on time, are they tough physically and mentally? So if a guy has all those traits and you are willing to invest the time in them to figure out what they do best, how they process information and how to get the most out of them, then [they] have a shot to succeed.”
12. Green Bay Packers – Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson
Instant fan favorite. The Packers still have Jimmy Graham (suspect blocking and all) and Marcedes Lewis in tow at tight end, but adding Hockenson could diversify the offense in a way the Packers haven’t done in recent years. He’s an animal as a blocker and has great upside as a receiver, and yet the 21-year-old wouldn’t have to be thrust into a massive role in the offense with unfair expectations in Year 1. This would be an ideal landing spot for Hockenson, whose jerseys might be a hot Christmas item by year’s end.
13. Miami Dolphins – Alabama OL Jonah Williams
Don’t expect the Dolphins to take a QB here, even if, say, Dwayne Haskins slipped. Maybe my radar is off, but I expect a very blue-collar draft from the Dolphins, even though new head coach Brian Flores had strong words for anyone suggesting the Dolphins might be Tanking for Tua. Still, if they’re not going to draft a quarterback high, the least they can do is start building an environment for a quarterback who, you know, might not be so bad in a year. Laremy Tunsil has left tackle locked down, but there are multiple other OL spots in need of improvement. Williams can play guard or tackle (or even center, really), so this would be a cozy, safe fit.
14. Atlanta Falcons – Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
The Falcons have placed a priority on drafting high-character players, and none might fit the bill more than Wilkins, who was nothing short of an ambassador for the Clemson program and the surrounding community. He could instantly assume that role with his NFL team. He’s also a talented interior defender with great versatility (something the Falcons also prioritize in their scouting department), and he’d just so happen to fill a big depth issue up front. An easy choice, even if it’s not a sexy one.
15. Washington Redskins – Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf
This offense badly needs a dose of explosiveness, and that is 100 percent Metcalf’s game. What he lacks in lateral quickness and route variety, he can make up for in imposing physicality and rare athleticism. The Redskins have enough capable receivers so that Metcalf won’t have to walk into the facility and be anointed a savior on Day 1, but Jay Gruden knows that his offense needs plenty of help with who the Redskins currently have at QB.
(For context, I could see the Redskins being interested in someone like West Virginia QB Will Grier later in the draft if they don’t take one in Round 1.)
16. Carolina Panthers – Florida State DE Brian Burns
The Julius Peppers era is over, so it’s time to find a new source for pass-rush help. Enter Burns, who should go higher than this. He’s maybe the most bendy edge rusher in this year’s class, combining excellent movement skills with great finishing ability. Burns might not be the best equipped to be a three-down run stopper right away, but the Panthers badly need someone to heat up the edges.
17. New York Giants (from Cleveland Browns) – Missouri QB Drew Lock
Let the record show I believe Lock will go higher than this, or better said: I think the team that ends up drafting him will trade up above this point to do so. The Giants have done a ton of work on Lock, and they might have to go all the way up to No. 9 or so to make sure they get him, with Denver at 10 starting the range of a few teams potentially seeking a QB. But if it unfolds this way, it would be good for Lock, who could learn from Eli Manning for a year and take over full time in 2020.
And if Pat Shurmur is here for the long haul, his play-action based offense would be a good fit for the strong-armed, fearless Lock as long as they build in enough RPOs and use more shotgun than dropping from center.
18. Minnesota Vikings – Oklahoma OL Cody Ford
Ford is a massive people bulldozer who might assist in Mike Zimmer’s desire to crank up the run game. Ford projects as an NFL tackle, but in this circumstance he’d fit nicely as a massive, forceful right guard who would be expected to compete for a starting job out of the chute. The Vikings are still hopeful that Brian O’Neill can be a quality right tackle with another year under his belt, and having Ford lined up inside of him might make the much-maligned unit better.
19. Tennessee Titans – North Carolina State OL Garrett Bradbury
A safe pick for sure, but a need. And GM Jon Robinson has played his first-round picks pretty straight in terms of attacking positions where there have been holes. Bradbury would be an upgrade over anyone the Titans have at right guard in Year 1, and he could be groomed as the eventual center; projected starting center Ben Jones is a free agent in 2020. One thing Robinson surely picked up in his days in the New England front office is that it’s never a bad idea to draft a year ahead of time to protect against free agency losses.
Bottom line: Marcus Mariota is getting one more year to prove himself, and surrounding him with more support is helpful.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Iowa TE Noah Fant
Well, this certainly is one way for the Steelers to solve their Antonio Brown problem. Fant is a multiple-use “move” tight end who is a steam train when he gets momentum. The Hawkeyes used him in-line, detached, in motion and even in the backfield; they also threw him bubble screens, seam routes and fades, making him a threat on three levels. Fant’s drop rate is concerning, but he could work through that and play a complementary role with Juju Smith-Schuster the offense’s centerpiece.
21. Seattle Seahawks – LSU CB Greedy Williams
It’s been a long time since the Seahawks took a DB this high – 2010, in fact. Yep, the Earl Thomas year. It has been mostly Round 3-and-lower investments since then, and it’s slowly starting to show. There’s talent in the secondary, just not enough of it. Williams can help. No, he’s not perfect. He’s immature. He looked like a player who didn’t want to tackle against Georgia. But the high-end talent is real, and it’s got to be tempting for a Seahawks team that coaches up its talented DBs well over the years. This would be a nice fit.
22. Baltimore Ravens -- Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler
Our first mini-wow moment. It’s not that big a stretch to pair a freakishly long and athletic receiver – whose specialty is catching passes down the field – with a young, talented but unrefined passer in Lamar Jackson. If you have a quarterback whose precision might not be pinpoint, it stands to reason that putting him with a 6-foot-6 receiver with 35-inch arms and nearly 11-inch hands might be smart. Butler is also a beast as a blocker, which matches well with what’s sure to be a ground-heavy attack.
Butler needs polish, but he perhaps has the most upside of any wideout in this draft, and it might shock people how high he goes.
23. Houston Texans – Washington State OT Andre Dillard
This scenario feels fortune for the Texans. They have the worst pair of tackles in the league, and a top-20 (and maybe top-15) pure talent falls this far? The Texans should tattoo the pick in ahead of time, just to be sure.
Dillard is a graceful pass blocker with gorgeous feet. How he hasn’t gotten more attention feels weird, but that might be what toiling up in Pullman, Washington for four years renders. He’d be a starter before he ever showed up to rookie minicamp.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago Bears) – Alabama RB Joshua Jacobs
Jacobs is a Jon Gruden type of back. I can just see him getting jacked up – Mike Mayock, too – watching Jacobs plow through and past SEC defenses on a weekly basis and sometimes be the best non-QB on the field on a day he had 13 carries. That’s the hallmark of a special back. Not Jacobs’ pedestrian 40 time (4.6) or his other middling numbers. Maybe that’s a position where high-athleticism is overrated when you flip on the game and watch him do something special almost every time out there. That’s what Gruden wants in a runner.
25. Philadelphia Eagles – Florida S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
It’s a total hunch pick from me here. With RB Joshua Jacobs gone, we’re not taking another back here. The Eagles could use a defensive tackle, but would you go safe here with one? Take a gamble on Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons and wait until his ACL heals? Or go with a safety who has intriguing skills and versatility, and might be a sound long-term plan at safety? Take the latter.
26. Indianapolis Colts – Notre Dame DT Jerry Tillery
No homer pick for the state of Indiana (after they took Quenton Nelson Round 1 a year ago) but just a darned good selection. Spoiler: Tillery is in our top 25 of overall player rankings, and he’s a high-end talent worth the gamble here for GM Chris Ballard, who has been hot. Tillery is a no-guts, no-glory pick at a need position for the Colts. If he hits, he gives them an interior disruptor on defense and a kick blocker on special teams. This defense isn’t too far off with a few more key adds.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas Cowboys) – Washington CB Byron Murphy
That’s three picks, three players with fascinating upside. Taking Rashan Gary at No. 4 would be a big risk. Running back Joshua Jacobs feels like it would be a safe choice. And getting Murphy here would be somewhere in the middle on the risk spectrum.
He’s still very young (he turned 21 in January) and is learning the finer points of the position. But Murphy could be special. I am not saying he’s Ronde Barber, but I am not saying he can’t be that either.
28. Los Angeles Chargers – Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence
That’s two straight mocks with this same selection. Every year there’s a lower-end first-rounder that feels too obvious that it almost has to happen. Someone could take Lawrence higher than this, and it wouldn’t be a stunner. How many 340-pounders on the darned planet can move the way this cat does?
He doesn’t blow your hair back as a playmaker; that’s just not his game. But as an immovable object, Lawrence fills his role well. Eat up blocks and let Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram make plays. And that run defense got dissected in the playoff loss in New England.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown
You’re Andy Reid and you’re completely freaked out that your X-factor receiver, Tyreek Hill, might not be available to you pending the results of a police investigation into an “incident” involving an alleged injury to a 3-year-old boy. So – hard turn here – you realize you need to replace that aspect of your offense. There’s one man in this draft who fits that profile, and it’s Brown. He’s been compared by everyone and their brother to DeSean Jackson, whom Reid drafted of course.
Defense is a priority, for sure. But the Chiefs have a few Day 2 picks they can use to beef up. If they go D here, the reasonable alternative might be to look at UMass’ Andy Isabella with one of those later choices.
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans Saints) – Washington S Taylor Rapp
Does Rapp fit exactly what they need in a safety? He’s really a box guy (an extra linebacker, if you will), and that also happens to be the strength of recently signed Adrian Amos.
Let’s, however, not limit Rapp’s potential impact. He has very good traits and can help neutralize the RB/TE mismatch pieces owned by the other contending teams in the division, such as the Bears and Vikings. Rapp, like their first selection in tight end T.J. Hockenson, would add a physical note and be a tone setter on defense. It’s been a little while since the Packers had a bell-ringing safety who also can cover and create turnovers.
31. Los Angeles Rams – Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell
The Rams have to be thinking trade down, one might assume, given that they don’t currently pick again until No. 94 overall. But this would be a wild turn of events, getting a top-20 talent – at a position of need, no less – at this stage. Frankly, we think this is a mistake and are looking to figure out why this might happen. It might not, but if it does, then Wade Phillips would be adding an edge rusher to a defense that is replacing a few parts.
32. New England Patriots – Arizona State WR N'Keal Harry
As I said in the last mock draft, pairing up the Patriots and a wide receiver this early in the draft feels entirely foolhardy. The last time Bill Belichick took a wideout this high, it was 1994 with the Browns (Derrick Alexander). And Belichick never has let fans’ or media’s believed biggest needs dictate his draft course. But in this case, Harry just seems to check a lot of the boxes the Patriots look for in players, even if he’s not their prototypical size. His impromptu 3-cone drill at his pro day not only showed his willingness to appease scouts’ wishes, but his time (right around seven seconds) fits the Patriots’ thresholds for short-area quickness, especially for such a big receiver.
Teams without first-round picks
49. Cleveland Browns – Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.
In the four-pick span prior to this choice, Michigan State CB Justin Layne and Mississippi State DT Simmons – both of whom fit the Josh Dorsey profile – went off the board. So keep that in mind. And I am not as high on Johnson as others; I left him just a few spots outside my top 100 overall players, in fact. But I could see the Browns liking Johnson’s length to pair with the smaller Denzel Ward and give them a matchup corner against the A.J. Greens and Juju Smith-Schusters of the world.
58. Dallas Cowboys – Virginia S Juan Thornhill
Like Johnson, he’s a player I am not quite as enamored with as some others are, but the upside is undeniable. Thornhill is a great athlete, has three years of starting experience, shows a nose for the ball and fits a Cowboys need. Addressing the secondary is a possibility here because the Cowboys can find decent receivers and running backs lower in the draft. In a simpler, zone-heavy scheme, Thornhill could thrive.
62. New Orleans Saints – Stanford WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
The Saints had no sidekick to Michael Thomas in the playoffs after Cam Meredith and Dez Bryant got injured, Brandon Marshall didn’t pan out and Tre’Quan Smith slowed down after a hot patch around midseason. Arcega-Whiteside fits somewhere on the spectrum of those first three receivers, style-wise, and would be a good complementary part who can win a few jump balls downfield per game.
87. Bears – Central Michigan CB Sean Bunting
The long wait is over. Bunting fits the mold of the toolsy, athletically gifted players that GM Ryan Pace seems to go for with his first overall selections. This one, of course, comes a lot later than Pace is used to, and what you get at this phase of the draft are prospects such as Bunting: an intriguing player but a player who needs a little work.
Bunting might not be known as a great tackler, but he did make some plays in this regard (check out his forced fumble against Kentucky RB Benny Snell). And can he play in the slot? He kicked inside, mostly in third-down situations, in the three games I watched. But covering shifty receivers on two-way goes might not be his strength. Still, the Bears have a vacancy at corner, and the depth drops off precipitously around this spot. A running back can come in Round 4.
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