Tomorrow the free agency frenzy ensues, so I pieced together a mock draft regardless of knowing deep down inside that it will be completely blown apart. While finishing this up I got the news about the Case Keenum and Allen Robinson signings, but I didn’t change anything because this is supposed to be “pre free agency.”
1) Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State: I honestly think they’ll still go QB here after years of being cute and passing on players like Wentz and Watson. Drafting a tailback this high just doesn’t make sense from a value standpoint after the recent success of late round backs like Jordan Howard, Kareem Hunt, and Alvin Kamara. But Barkley is the best tailback prospect since Adrian Peterson, so if anyone is worth it it’s him.
2) New York Giants: Quenton Nelson, G Notre Dame: While they could trade back or take their QB of the future, in this mock they elect to take arguably the safest prospect in Nelson. He’s a guy you can insert immediately and pencil him in as a perennial All-Pro, he’s that good.
3) Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE NC State: This has been my pick for the entire off season, the Colts are going to run a 4-3 and they need a pass rusher. Chubb is the elite edge rusher of this class and projects even better in a 4-3, sometimes when things make this much sense you don’t overthink it.
4) Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB USC: The Browns still get their guy in Darnold who can now sit behind placeholder Tyrod Taylor for a year instead of being forced into action before he’s ready. Cleveland has done a good job acquiring weapons during the offseason, hopefully this will prove to be a good situation for Darnold.
5) Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB Wyoming: The Broncos are signing Case Keenum, how they view him will dictate which direction they go in. If they view him as a franchise caliber player they’ll surely select Nelson or maybe Fitzpatrick if either are available. If they view him as a bridge QB then they can take their guy here and groom him. Allen has all the tools to be the best in the class, but he’s also got the most potential to bust.
6) New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma: I’m predicting that the Jets lose the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, so they’ll need to find their guy through the draft. Mayfield has the perfect personality and attitude to thrive in New York. This is a match made in heaven if he can stay out of the new cycle for the wrong reasons.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S Alabama: While it might not fill their most pressing need, Fitzpatrick is just too good of a player to pass up at this point. He falls due to a run on quarterbacks, but he has a case for being the best defensive player in the draft.
8) Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith, LB Georgia: Smith is the best linebacker in a fairly deep class, he has rare speed at the position that allows him to truly be a sideline to sideline defender. Adding Smith to an already formidable young defense could truly take them to the next level.
9) Buffalo Bills: Josh Rosen, QB UCLA: The Bills have already traded up to the 12th pick, now they move up 3 more spots to ensure they get their QB of the future. Rosen is the most polished QB in this class and has the size that the Bills covet at the position.
10) Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State: Ward is the top corner in the draft regardless of being knocked due to being slightly shorter than desired. He’s got elite speed and ball skills, after using high draft picks on the position in recent years Oakland finally lands an impact player.
11) Miami Dolphins: Connor Williams, OT Texas: Tackle is arguably their biggest need, and Williams is the best at the position in the class. Willams had a down year but still has everything you want in a tackle, his combine performance also answered some questions about his overall athleticism.
12) San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB Virginia Tech: After moving back in the trade with Buffalo the 9ers add additional picks and still are able to grab one of the most unique prospects in the draft. Edmunds has unreal size and athleticism for his position, giving him an incredibly high ceiling. Add to that the fact that he’s only 19 years old.
13) Washington Redskins: Derwin James, S FSU: Washington has question marks in their secondary, especially after trading Kendall Fuller to Kansas City. Insert freak athlete James and his incredible range. His combination of size and speed will give Washington faithful flashbacks of the late Sean Taylor.
14) Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB Iowa: The Packers just traded arguably their best cover corner in Demarius Randall to the Browns, and they have to face Matt Stafford, Mitch Trubisky and new toy Allen Robinson, and (probably) Kirk Cousins twice a year. Not a great situation to be in, but Jackson has great length and isn’t afraid to be physical with receivers which should fair well in the NFC North.
15) Arizona Cardinals: Courtland Sutton, WR SMU: The Cardinals seemingly have no plan at the QB position, there isn’t a QB worth the 15th pick available so they’ll probably address the position with a veteran free agent (probably Bradford). Larry Fitzgerald has been a retirement scare for the past few seasons, adding a talented young player at the position to learn the ropes from him is a solid insurance policy. Wide receiver has long been one one the lone bright spots for this team, why stop now?
16) Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama: I hate taking receivers back to back, but Ridley to Baltimore makes too much sense. The Ozzie Newsome era is coming to a close, and the biggest knock on his legacy has been his inability to draft at the receiver position. Newsome loves Alabama players, so why not kill two birds with one stone?
17) Los Angeles Chargers: Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame: The Chargers have elite players at almost every level, so they can really afford to go BPA this year. A year after drafting Forrest Lamp to fortify the guard position, they can continue to improve the offensive line by adding a guy like McGlinchey who plays with a mean streak.
18) Seattle Seahawks: Vita Vea, DT Washington: Two weeks ago if Seattle was projected anything other than offensive line help my head would nearly pop off. Now that they seem to be purging the defense all bets are off. Vea would give him a powerful presence in their defensive front, add in his playing his college ball in Washington and he’s instantly a fan favorite.
19) Dallas Cowboys: Christian Kirk, WR Texas Tech: Dez Bryant’s time in Dallas seems to be nearly over, while Jason Witten is rumored to be mulling retirement. This could leave 3rd year quarterback Dak Prescott lacking weapons in the passing game. Don’t expect Jerry Jones to sit idly after their division rivals just won the Super Bowl. Kirk is an explosive playmaker who’s already popular in Texas.
20) Detroit Lions: Da’Ron Payne, DT Alabama: New Head Coach Matt Patricia will need some impact players for his defense, in Payne he gets a physical player who can make a difference against the run and the pass. Payne is a rare defensive tackle that can take a game over as witnessed in the national championship game against Georgia.
21) Cincinnati Bengals: Will Hernandez, G UTEP: The Bengals have one of the better rosters in the NFL, their biggest position of need is their offensive line. They addressed this yesterday by trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn, adding Hernandez would completely turn this unit around. He’s a behemoth of a man who possesses a ton of power, not to mention a mean streak that will be at home in the AFC North. His combine performance all but cemented his status as a first round pick.
22) Buffalo Bills: James Daniels, C Iowa: The Bills replace surprise retiree Eric Wood with Daniels, giving their new signal caller a player he can grow with. Daniels is the most pro ready center in this draft, he’s a smart and physical player who will endear himself to the fan base.
23) Los Angeles Rams: Harold Landry, DE/LB Boston College: After shipping away players like Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn, the Rams are in serious need of a pass rusher. Before having an injury marred senior year Landry was considered by many to be the best pass rusher in the country. Pairing him with Aaron Donald on Wade Phillips’ defense will allow him to flourish.
24) Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Wynn, G Georgia: This pick was made assuming Andrew Norwell would leave during free agency, it’s since been reported he plans on signing with the Jaguars. Wynn was a dominant tackle in the SEC, but projects better as a guard at the next level. He has the skill set to step in and be a day one starter, which is something the Panthers need as they look poised to make a run at the playoffs.
25) Tennessee Titans: Marcus Davenport, DE UTSA: Tennessee has a new head coach with a defensive background who is used to getting pressure on the quarterback. Unfortunately as far as pass rushers go the Titans have mostly aging veterans at the position. Last year they addressed the secondary, look for them to address DE this year. Davenport is a high upside player that is still raw at times, working with players like Brian Orakpo should help ease his transition to the NFL.
26) Atlanta Falcons, Billy Price, C/G Ohio State: The Falcons have become a consistently competitive team, but they struggled in the playoffs against the Eagles’ pass rushers. Price can start day one at center or guard and has the talent to be an All Pro. He injured himself at the combine but all signs point to him playing this season. His versatility makes him that much more valuable.
27) New Orleans Saints: Leighton Vander Esch, LB Boise State: The Saints had a draft for the ages last season, possibly pulling off the best single team draft in a decade or more. Here they elect to take a true playmaker at the linebacker position. Vander Esch was a tackling machine during his final season at Boise State, notching 141 stops. Pair that with his coverage abilities and size/speed combo (6’5 255, 4.65 40) and the Saints have a yet another potential DROY candidate.
28) Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Hughes, CB UCF: Pittsburgh could easily address the linebacker position here, but they haven’t had good cornerback play in a while. Hughes is one of the most talented corners in the class, but an off field incident drove him down draft boards.
29) Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Gesicki, TE Penn State: I’ve mocked them a tight end since they made it clear that they were sticking with Bortles. Gesicki had one of the best combine performances in the last decade, he finished first in every event except the bench press, which he lost by one vote. The Jaguars have have virtually no holes on their roster but have an aging Mercedes Lewis at the tight end position.
30) Minnesota Vikings: Taven Bryan, DT Florida: The Vikings have their answer at quarterback by landing the prettiest girl at the ball in Kirk Cousins. They’ve also got weapons at every level and arguably the top defense in the league. While they could use some offensive line help, there’s not many available that wouldn’t be a reach here. So instead they elect to follow the Eagles’ blueprint and stock their defensive line. Bryan is still extremely raw at times, but has all the ability in the world. Allowing him to be part of a rotation opposed to being an immediate starter would allow him to come along at his own speed without pressure.
31) New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, CB Louisville: The Patriots really need an edge rusher, but outside of possibly Arden Key there aren’t many worthy of a first round pick, and Bill Belichick isn’t going to reach for a player. Instead they draft Malcolm Butler’s replacement in Alexander, as the super bowl proved they don’t have ideal depth at the position. Alexander was hampered by injuries last season, but when healthy he showed flashes of being elite. His solid combine performance helped alleviate worries about his speed as he ran a low 4.3 40 yard dash.
32) Philadelphia Eagles: Rashaan Evans, LB Alabama: The defending champs catch a break and land a linebacker that has the ability to start from day one and have a long and successful career. Alabama has put quite a few good linebackers into the league over the last few years, this should be music to Philadelphia’s ears as they’re set to lose Nigel Bradham to free agency and have the often injured Jordan Hicks.