With the 2017 season in the books, and free agency steadily approaching its time for one of my favorite things in the world. Mock draft season, I mean “mock draft SZN.” Everyone knows free agency and the combine will completely change every team’s big board, not to mention draft day trades. But everyone still partakes in a mock draft and then proceed to shit on everyone else’s. A little pretext for some of these picks, I did this mock under the assumption that the Broncos will land Kirk Cousins and the Bills will trade up in the 2nd to take their QB of the future, my money is on Lamar Jackson.
1) Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold QB, USC: Short and sweet, Cleveland has to find their franchise QB and Darnold seems to be the consensus top prospect at the position. Hopefully this is the last name they add to their infamous jersey for a while. This could change if they sign AJ McArron.
2) New York Giants: Josh Rosen QB, UCLA: Eli Manning is at the end of his career, and the Giants are picking higher than usual which allows them to take a cerebral player who can take over after a year or two behind Manning. They may consider trading back to obtain more picks.
3) Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb DE, NC State: Indianapolis is in the middle of a rebuild and they nab the best pass rusher and one of the safest prospects in the draft. They could also trade back to obtain more picks, as they have a lot of holes on their roster. If Andrew Luck isn’t ever going to be the player he was they could shock the world and select their next QB.
4)Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick CB/S Alabama: Many are calling for Barkley here, but Cleveland instead elects to take a can’t miss prospect with high character and an ever higher football IQ. Simply put Fitzpatrick knows what it takes to be a champion.
5) Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson G, Notre Dame: In this scenario the Broncos have signed Kirk Cousins and elect to draft the best guard prospect in years to protect him. Nelson is an absolute mauler and is as polished as they come.
6) New York Jets: Baker Mayfield QB, Oklahoma: Mayfield is my favorite QB in the draft, I don’t buy into the size or attitude “concerns.” His competitive nature and larger than life persona are made for the Big Apple. The Jets finally get their guy and begin their attempt to dethrone New England.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Saquon Barkley RB, Penn State: Tailback might not be their biggest need, but when arguably the best player in the draft falls to you at 7th overall you don’t question it, you thank the football Gods and run your card to the podium. Winston, Evans, Howard, and Barkley give the Bucs one of the scariest and youngest offensive cores in the league.
8) Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley WR, Alabama: The Bears have their franchise QB in Trubisky and a solid ground game with Howard and Cohen. It’s time to move on from the Kevin White experiment and give Trubisky a true weapon in the passing game. Ridley has all the tools to be an excellent pro player.
9) San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith LB, Georgia: The 9ers have their man in Jimmy G, and a TON of cap space for free agent signings as they look to be a top destination for many players. Reuben Foster was a 1st rounder last year but looks to be still struggling with off-field issues. Insert Smith who is the top linebacker in the class, he can truly do it all. He can either be Foster’s replacement or team up with him to form a Willis/Bowman like duo.
10) Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward CB, OSU: Ward is the best cover corner in the draft but falls due to the previous teams being QB starved, which works out great for Oakland. Their pass defense was anemic and haven’t gotten much out of recent picks at the position in Conley or Hayden. They play the pass happy Chargers, Tyreek Hill, and the possible Kirk Cousins’ Broncos twice a year.
11) Miami Dolphins: Connor Williams OT, Texas: The Dolphins have a ton of needs on defense, and they could also be a sleeper team to be in the market for a new quarterback with Ryan Tannehill being injury prone. Another huge need is to bolster the offensive line, Williams could step in and play guard or tackle immediately. Williams suffered an injury last season and didn’t blow anyone away with his play. Before his injury he was a top prospect and is a safe bet to regain that form.
12) Cincinnati Bengals: Will Hernandez G, UTEP: The Bengals owned one of the worst offensive lines in football last season, so look for them to build from the inside out. Hernandez is a behemoth of a man and was productive during his 4 year career at UTEP. He’s exactly what the Bengals need, a nasty guard who can open up holes for 2nd year running back Joe Mixon.
13) Washington Redskins: Joshua Jackson CB, Iowa: Washington just shipped an elite slot corner in Kendall Fuller to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade, so here they’d get a long and rangy corner who has excellent anticipation and ball skills. You can’t have too many corners when seeing the likes of OBJ, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Dez Bryant twice a year. They could easily go offensive line here, they were plagued with a ton of injuries and had the most starting offensive line combinations in the NFL.
14) Green Bay Packers: Tremaine Edmunds OLB, Virginia Tech: Edmunds has become a draft darling based off of his rare athleticism and his young age. Pairing him with Blake Martinez and Clay Matthews would give new DC Mike Pettine a solid linebacker group. The Packers have been an offense first team for years now, but Aaron Rodgers can’t stop opposing teams from scoring.
15) Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen QB, Wyoming: Let’s be clear, I don’t expect Arizona to stand pat if there’s a QB they want. But in this scenario they get their guy when the cannon armed Allen falls to 15. They’re going through a minor rebuilding stage as they don’t have a QB of the future. This is an ideal landing spot with Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson as a supporting cast. They could sign a veteran to start until Allen is ready.
16) Baltimore Ravens: James Washington WR, Oklahoma State: The Ravens have done a terrible job drafting at the receiver position, and the signing of Jeremy Maclin didn’t pan out as planned. Flacco needs somebody he can feel confident in as a go to guy. Insert Washington who was a wildly productive player in college. He’s got great hands and isn’t afraid to be physical with corners. He really shined at the Senior Bowl and is expected to run in the 4.5-4.6 range at the combine.
17) Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James S, FSU: James is an absolute freak athlete, he’s got incredible range and is a playmaker in the defensive backfield. The Chargers have a ton of weapons on offense and have impact defenders with Ingram, Bosa, and Hayward. Adding James would give them a scary defense. LA was the best team to not make the playoffs, another solid draft could get them over the hump.
18) Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Wynn G, Georgia: To be frank, their offensive line is absolutely awful, and it has been for years. Russell Wilson is asked to win games with next to no protection and zero run game to take pressure off of him. Insert Wynn who was a stud at Georgia playing against top level talent in the SEC.
19) Dallas Cowboys: Maurice Hurst DT, Michigan: Dallas elects to go defensive line again a year after taking Taco Charlton and they select his former teammate in Hurst. He has a vicious first step and will be an explosive player in their 4-3 defense. Dallas looks to take a page out of rival Philadelphia’s philosophy and build a solid rotation. They could also look at linebacker since Sean Lee is often injured. Wide receiver is also an option depending on what happens with free agency.
20) Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice RB, LSU: The Lions have a ton of holes on defense, but new HC Matt Patricia is used to getting more from less. In this scenario they finally give Matt Stafford a three-down running back and take some pressure off of him for the first time in his career. Guice is a big back with a great blend of power and speed. He would easily be the best tailback that Detroit has had in years.
21) Buffalo Bills: Da’Ron Payne DT, Alabama: There’s a chance Buffalo could package their picks and move up to select their QB of the future, they’ve got the ammunition to do it. In this scenario I’ve got them addressing multiple positions in hopes of creating a roster that can contend. If they want they can trade back up for a player like Lamar Jackson. Payne is a tactician against the run and surprisingly athletic for a 300+ pound man. He’ll remind HC Sean McDermott a lot of Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei.
22) Buffalo Bills: Billy Price C/G, Ohio State: With Eric Wood’s sudden retirement the Bills have a glaring hole at center. Price played both guard and center at Ohio State and shined at both. With this pick the Bills bolster both lines and ensure they’ll be dominant in the trenches.
23) Los Angeles Rams: Isaiah Oliver CB, Colorado: With the possibility of Trumaine Johnson leaving in free agency it leaves the Rams vulnerable at the position in the pass happy NFC West. Oliver is an athletic marvel with sprinter’s speed, at times he can be caught out of position but recovers quickly due to his length. If Johnson stays they could go in a different direction or create a duo of rangy corners.
24) Carolina Panthers: Christian Kirk WR, Texas A&M: There’s no question about it, Cam Newton needs more weapons. After losing Tedd Ginn Jr. to free agency the Panthers have sorely missed the speed element at the receiver position. Devin Funchess is their big bodied possession receiver, adding Kirk will provide them with a player that can blow the top off a defense and open up underneath routes for Greg Olson and Christian McCaffrey.
25) Tennessee Titans: Marcus Davenport DE, UTSA: Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are getting long in the tooth, they’ve been effective but for how much longer is the real question. Davenport has great size at 6’6 and 255 pounds, and a polished array of pass rushing moves. He also excels at closing lanes in the run game and is a willing tackler.
26) Atlanta Falcons: Vita Vea DT, Washington: Atlanta’s roster is solid top to bottom, although they could consider upgrading the tight end position. Here they add a behemoth of a man in Vea to team up with Grady Jarrett and form an overpowering duo. He’s still raw in some phases of the game, but with the right coaching he could be an All-Pro caliber player.
27) New Orleans Saints: Harold Landry OLB, Boston College: Landry started the year off as a top talent in this year’s draft, only to be plagued by an ankle injury during his senior year. When he was healthy during his junior year he finished with 22 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks, that’s the player Landry can be when healthy. He has great flexibility and bend when rushing the passer and can be Vic Beasley type player. The Saints have been retooling their defense and he would be a great addition. They could go a different route and draft a play making tight end or even address their need for a QB of the future with Drew Brees hitting free agency and getting to be an older player.
28) Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans LB, Alabama: The Steelers have to face the fact that Ryan Shazier might never play again. I hope that he does, but they have to address the middle of their defense. Evans is a cerebral player who can diagnose plays quickly and has impressive athleticism. He also plays with a nasty streak that Pittsburgh fans will love.
29) Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert TE, South Dakota State: The Jaguars have the most talented roster in all of football, but instead of upgrading the most important position they’re hitching their wagon to Blake Bortles. Here they look to get an upgrade from Mercedes Lewis who is now 33 years old. Goedert is what teams look for now at the position, he’s a mismatch against linebackers and has a basketball background that helps him high point passes and utilize body control. Scouts have compared him to Zach Ertz, if he reaches his true potential he’ll be a steal.
30) Minnesota Vikings: Arden Key DE, LSU: Minnesota had a top defense in 2017 but their best pass rusher in Everton Griffin is getting to be an older player. Key falls here due to some off field issues but is one of the most gifted edge rushers in this class. He won’t have pressure to start immediately and can come in as a situational player, the rich get richer.
31) New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander CB, Louisville: Malcolm Butler is guaranteed to leave during the off-season and Eric Rowe proved he isn’t capable of being a starter. Alexander is a tad undersized and is coming off an injury marred season, but all the other traits are there. Belichick will love his route recognition and man coverage skills.
32) Philadelphia Eagles: Leighton Vander Esch LB, Boise State: With most of the top offensive line prospects gone the Eagles address their other position of need. Jordan Hicks is an elite linebacker when he’s healthy, which isn’t often. Nigel Bradham is a free agent, and Mychal Kendricks has a high cap number and can be a liability in coverage. Vander Esch only has one year of starting experience but put up huge numbers. He’s got elite speed and hip fluidity for a player of his size (6’5 245). At times he looks like an enormous safety in coverage, his game is slightly reminiscent of Brian Urlacher.