Tyler Forness' Mock Draft 1.0

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More than any in recent memory, this draft class has been a mystery at the top. There is a group of 10-12 guys that are viewed in a tier above the rest, but how they come off the board is a state of flux. Pair that with the lack of a consensus No. 1 pick for the first time since 2018, and you have the ultimate drama.

Mock drafts are one thing that makes draft season a lot of fun. Exploring different situations and possibilities brings boundless entertainment and potential hope for NFL teams. While some mock drafts are around to explore situations, this one is a pure prediction with trades included. Here is how I believe the first round of the NFL Draft will go come next Thursday evening.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Georgia EDGE Travon Walker

The steam has been building for the last 10 days that Walker is the top selection in this draft. The rumblings started last Monday when Peter Schrager talked about it on Good Morning Football when his odds to go first overall were at +350. Three days later, he was off the board completely per Odds Checker US. General manager Trent Baalke has a history of taking high upside athletes in the first round and Walker moves on the field like a unicorn.

2. Detroit Lions: Liberty QB Malik Willis

The highest upside player in this draft is Willis. While there are issues to iron out, Willis has an insanely high ceiling similar to that of Michael Vick. The rocket arm, athletic ability, and being great with the ball in his hands are all special in a similar manner as they were with Vick. His 11% big-time throw rate was the highest in the country, nearly double that of second place.

3. Houston Texans: Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson

After being projected at one for the majority of the last three months, Hutchinson falls to three here. A high floor and high upside athlete, Hutchinson has the scheme diversity to play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 rushing off the edge. He immediately provides a massive pass rush upgrade to a defense that needs it.

4. New York Jets: North Carolina State OT Ikem Ekwonu

The debate here will be between Ekwonu and Thibodeaux. Protecting Zach Wilson wins this go-around with a deep edge class. Ekwonu has the flexibility to play guard initially while they figure out their long-term situation at tackle. There are rumblings that they could move on from 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton, which will be worth monitoring over the three days of the draft.

5. New York Giants: Alabama OT Evan Neal

With Joe Schoen in charge for the Giants, expect him to bring some of the same philosophies the Bills use. The biggest theme: build up the trenches. Neal has experience starting at left guard, right tackle, and left tackle, giving the Giants major flexibility in trying to give quarterback Daniel Jones a fighting chance.

6. Carolina Panthers: Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett

For the record, I don’t believe that Kenny Pickett is worth the selection here. To me, he is a low-upside player that has no special traits. For head coach Matt Rhule, the desperation is there to get the quarterback position right after two failed experiments. Pickett initially committed to play for Rhule at Temple, and the relationship they crafted plus his high floor allows the Panthers to justify the selection.

7. New York Giants: Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux

New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale runs a defense predicated on generating pressure and playing man coverage on the outside. Drafting Thibodeaux gives them a powerful, explosive edge rusher that can disrupt any play. He isn’t quite on the same level as the Bosas or Myles Garrett, but Thibodeaux projects to be a huge difference-maker and a 10-plus sack per year guy.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton

The Falcons just need to bring great football players into the building. Hamilton is just that. A unicorn on the back end of the defense, he can do anything you ask of him. They need to decide a direction for the franchise and focusing on the secondary could be the future for the Falcons.

9. Seattle Seahawks: Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning

The Seahawks have always been content going by the beat of their own drum. They are willing to take guys way higher than consensus. Penning himself is a fringe top-20 player among the consensus but goes at nine to the Seahawks. They want to focus on the running game, and he finished with a PFF record 99.9 season-long run-blocking grade.

10. New York Jets: USC WR Drake London

Helping Wilson is the priority for the Jets once again with the selection of London. A great complement to both Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, London knows how to separate with both technique and his large frame. This could also be a great spot for Treylon Burks, as his unique blend of size and after-the-catch ability could be really intriguing.

11. Washington Commanders: Cincinnati CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner

The Commanders sprint to the podium seeing Gardner available at this spot. At 6'3", Gardner ran a 4.43 40-yard dash and didn't allow a single touchdown in his college career. The best pure cover corner in this draft, Ron Rivera now has two high-quality starters to pair with their great defensive line.

12. Los Angeles Chargers (via Minnesota Vikings): Mississippi State OT Charles Cross

The Los Angeles Chargers trade picks 17 and 79 to the Minnesota Vikings for pick 12.

Maximizing Justin Herbert is the key. They got an All-Pro last year in LT Rashawn Slater and try to find his compliment in Cross. They give up a third-round pick to do so, but Cross thrives in pass protection using quickness and elite mirroring. Cross also has a lot of flashes as a run blocker in the Mike Leach Air Raid system.

13. Houston Texans: LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.

The Texans got a high-upside talent at EDGE and grab another player of the same ilk at another premium position in Stingley Jr. There are a lot of questions surrounding Stingley Jr. with the injury and tape regression over the last two seasons, but if he ever becomes 2019 Stingley Jr, you are getting a top-three prospect in any draft class. A team that is rebuilding is perfect to bet on that upside.

14. Baltimore Ravens: Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson

Strengthening the trenches is the most important thing for the Ravens. The top four tackles are gone, but a top edge is available for the taking. Johnson, the former Last Chance U and Georgia product, is at his best with his hand in the dirt and using his length and power to disrupt both the running and passing games.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Alabama WR Jameson Williams

The Eagles are in a precarious position. They have drafted a wide receiver in the first round each of the last two years and only have one starting-caliber player at the position. They need to surround Jalen Hurts with talent but also can afford to wait on Williams’ ACL injury to fully heal. The Eagles would have two young, talented receivers for Hurts to throw to and stretch the field.

16. New Orleans Saints: Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson

The Saints are committed to starting Jameis Winston this year, and the trade with the Eagles signals that they believe that they are a couple of pieces away from contending. Wilson provides a great complement to Michael Thomas, as he is great after the catch paired with his route running prowess and excellent ball skills.

17. Minnesota Vikings (via Los Angeles Chargers: Ohio State WR Chris Olave

The Los Angeles Chargers trade picks 17 and 79 to the Minnesota Vikings for pick 12.

After trading down from 12 nets them a third-round pick, the Vikings take the best player available here. Olave is my WR1 in this class and reminds me of his new teammate in Justin Jefferson. They share explosive traits in their route running and excellent ball tracking skills. With more 11 personnel coming for the Vikings, Kirk Cousins has one of the best receiver groups in football.

18. Philadelphia Eagles: Georgia DT Jordan Davis

Sometimes, adding a great football player is more important than positional value. Davis next to Fletcher Cox is a match made in heaven. He will be afforded time to learn pass-rushing prowess as well, allowing him to succeed early while developing.

19. Buffalo Bills (via New Orleans Saints): Arkansas WR Treylon Burks

The Buffalo Bills trade picks 25 and 57 to the New Orleans Saints for pick 19

With a mini-run of receivers ending with the Vikings, the Bills recognize the need to come up and get the last of them before the Steelers and Patriots. Burks gives the Bills an element that they don’t have: a maven after the catch. With Diggs, Davis, and Crowder, the Bills have built a versatile basketball team poised to thrive.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Clemson CB Andrew Booth Jr

The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky with the idea being that they didn’t need to force a quarterback. Matt Corral is an option here, but they get a top cornerback in Booth Jr. Thriving in press coverage with the ability to play off, Booth Jr’s ability to click and close is the best in this class.

21. New England Patriots: Florida CB Kaiir Elam

The Patriots were hoping that one of the top wide receivers got to them, but there is a player on the board at a position of major need. The Patriots play in a very man-heavy scheme, and Elam is great in press coverage. He will need some help fixing his penalty issues (seven in 2021), but the upside and scheme fit are excellent.

22. Green Bay Packers: Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis

Like the Patriots, the Packers were hoping that one of the top wide receivers fell to them here. They instead capitalize on a versatile edge rusher in Karlaftis. Similar to Rashawn Gary, Karlaftis is a versatile chess piece with high upside that can play anywhere and win in multiple ways.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Boston College G Zion Johnson

The Cardinals have spent too much time focusing on adding weapons and linebackers that they haven’t done enough to protect Kyler Murray. Adding Johnson, who had a grade of 84.4 last season at Boston College, would fortify a line that allowed 39 sacks in 2021.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum

The Cowboys were hoping that Williams or Johnson ended up here but Linderbaum is a great selection for them. An elite center prospect with a nasty mentality and great athleticism, Linderbaum would be going top-10 or 15 if he had longer arms.

25. New Orleans Saints (via Buffalo Bills): Tulsa OT Tyler Smith

The Buffalo Bills trade picks 25 and 57 to the New Orleans Saints for pick 19

The Saints picked up another pick in the top 64 to help their playoff run for 2022, and they get a better value in selecting Smith. A high-upside athlete, Smith has great size and power for the position, but he needs a lot of technique work to truly reach his potential.

26. Tennessee Titans: Washington CB Trent McDuffie

After selecting Caleb Farley last year in the first round, the Titans double down with McDuffie. While some will knock his poor arm length (29.75”), he is sticky in coverage and can thrive both inside and out. If he ends up failing at cornerback, he can transition to safety, which would be a tremendous fit.

27. Tampa Bay Buccanneers: Georgia DT Devonte Wyatt

With Ndamukong Suh still not re-signed, the Buccaneers don’t have an interior pass rusher to pair with Vita Vea. Wyatt was dominant at Georgia, totaling 30 pressures and four sacks on only 263 pass-rush snaps.

28. Green Bay Packers: North Dakota State WR Christian Watson

The Packers' history of selecting wide receivers is a complicated one. They have unique size and athleticism profiles along with not having selected one in the first round since Javon Walker in 2002. A true height-weight-speed player, Watson is the big-bodied receiver that the Packers have historically liked and has the versatility to succeed in a gadget role.

29. Kansas City Chiefs: Western Michigan WR Skyy Moore

Moore isn’t a prototypical X receiver, but he can thrive like one on the outside regardless. His release package is violent and explosive, gaining him separation at the beginning of the route and his 4.41 speed helps him keep it. Moore won't be a 1:1 Tyreek Hill replacement, but his presence will immediately impact the Chiefs passing game.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Michigan S Daxton Hill

The Chiefs will not be able to truly replace Tyrann Matthieu, but adding a versatile defensive weapon will help ease the burden. Hill played over 500 snaps at slot corner in 2021 with more than 200 snaps combined in the box and at free safety. DC Steve Spagnuolo will be able to use him similarly to the Honey Badger for a lot less money.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Minnesota EDGE Boye Mafe

The addition of Trey Hendrickson last year helped reshape the defense, and adding another high-upside, versatile pass rusher will take the defense to a new level. Mafe averaged a pressure for every six pass-rush snaps in 2021 with the ability to rush from the three tech to the wide nine.

32. Detroit Lions: Michigan EDGE David Ojabo

The Lions' rebuild is about two to three years away from being finished, and with a pick at 34, they can afford to take a risk. If he didn’t tear his Achilles tendon, Ojabo could have possibly been a top-10 pick. Taking him here gives the Lions team control for 5 years, which is a major benefit as Ojabo likely won’t be completely healthy until 2023.