Hey, it’s me, the guy who has been shouting for a month that there are more teams than people realize who like James > Minkah Fitzpatrick in this league. Let’s just guess it’s the Bucs, who have a whole lot of needs on defense.I had Marshon Lattimore as my No. 4 overall player last year. I have his former college teammate, Ward, high (not that high but pretty darned high) and just a few ticks below where Lattimore would be if they were in the same draft class. They’re not; Lattimore was absolute theft last year at No. 11 to the Saints, and pretty much everyone knew it then. Washington landing Ward here would be the same kind of how-did-this happen scenario that would somehow make Bruce Allen look smart.Right now, they might as well be starting Dwight from Ashwaubenon at corner. I think this pick comes down to Jackson or Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, a fast riser. If Ted Thompson was picking between them, I suspect he’d lean toward Jackson. Will new draft picker Brian Gutekunst change the team’s methods slightly? This could be a telling little pick here, if this is how it plays out.Matt Patricia might not strike us as much of a runner, but he should sprint this damned card up to … well, who ever handles the draft cards and all that. Landry might have taken a step backward last season while playing hurt, but no one would know that better than the Lions’ new defensive consigliere, Paul Pasqualoni, Landry’s position coach the past two seasons in Chestnut Hill. Landry could be an instant upgrade for the pass-rush need and perhaps replace Ziggy Ansah in a year.Good lord, Alexander is still on the board? He’s good, and he would fill a much-needed spot opposite James Bradberry as a starter from the get-go. GM Marty Hurney has a really high slugging percentage on his first-round picks, and he would have a good chance to beef it up here with a top-20 prospect.Here comes the mini-Bama run. Even though his production was not that great in college, Payne is a really good interior presence to help replace Dontari Poe on a unit that’s suddenly too thin. Imagine Payne and Grady Jarrett working over NFC South guards and centers. That would be nice.If you’re going to invest in Kirk Cousins, you might as well insulate the dude. McGlinchey is a Mike Zimmer/Tony Sparano kind of lineman, kind of in that Doug Free mold, and the Vikings will want to improve their depth up front. The line was pretty good last year, but there has been talk about kicking Mike Remmers inside if they can find an upgrade at right tackle. McGlinchey might not be a premier athlete, but he is tough and consistent. If they want a guard instead, Will Hernandez is in play.
This is technically my second crack at a mock this year, and though not that much really has changed since then, everything feels different.
Pro days might feel like a bunch of dog and/or pony shows. But if you talk to people in the league after they’ve been to a bunch of them, information just seems to pour out. Say what you will about it being bad intel, but if you trust the sources, it’s usually pretty good.
So let me try to vomit (most of) what I know — and what I clearly don’t yet know in version 2.0:
1. Cleveland Browns — Wyoming QB Josh Allen
This has been Sam Darnold’s spot until now. But it feels like things have changed to me. More inkling than anything else, I get the idea that Browns GM John Dorsey is just infatuated with Allen’s ability and upside. Dorsey did a fantastic job keeping how enamored he was with Patrick Mahomes under wraps as Chiefs GM until the final few days before the draft. If Allen is his guy, can he keep quiet again?
Brave, determined NFL draft resistance leaders have done their noblest to scream/shout at how absurd it would be for such a flawed prospect to go so high — much less No. 1. And even the eternally fallible Browns would understand the optics of Allen going at one. Which is why they perhaps could …
2. New York Giants — USC QB Sam Darnold
… coax the Giants to flip-flop picks? I’ve never projected a trade in a mock (except maybe the lockout year, when we were all basically drunk for four months straight), so I am not going to officially start now. But you can understand why the Browns would want to project that they like Darnold best. (And yes, you may now make the joke about Darnold actually being better than Allen.)
So, yeah, trade? I think it’s Darnold or bust for the Giants; if the Browns take him, this pick would be a non-QB. The problem with a trade: The Giants don’t have enough draft picks, and the Browns have too many. This is where your brain explodes.
Ha, wouldn’t that be a gas? Let’s say Beckham and the No. 2 to the Browns for No. 1, next year’s one and, oh, let’s say Corey Coleman and something else small. Look, if mocks are implicitly ridiculous, we might as well go full frontal lobotomy here.
3. New York Jets — UCLA QB Josh Rosen
The Jets could provide many things for Rosen:
• An offensive coordinator (Jeremy Bates) whom Jay Cutler actually didn’t despise.
• A Jim Mora-free sanctuary.
• And a city befitting of Rosen’s vast array of non-football interests.
Also: He’s good at quarterbacking, something the Jets haven’t been burdened with much in recent memory. Living up to the specter of Mark Sanchez isn’t the worst of NFL cloaks to have to wear.
4. Browns (from Houston Texans) — Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
If you’re going to take the Hackenberg-ian Allen first, you might as well get someone who can contribute immediately. I’ve been thinking that Barkley wouldn’t be the pick here either, but now I am changing that. I just don’t think they’d try to sell Quenton Nelson as the next Joe Thomas.
The Browns don't need a running back, one could argue, but it also would be stupid to suggest that they don't need game-changers on offense. Trust us: They do.
5. Denver Broncos — Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson
So the hot gossip (that literally everyone has heard) is that Baker Mayfield was a bit, er, tricky to work with at the Senior Bowl. If it’s Mayfield here, I think it’s to another team trading up. But this is the Miami Dolphins’ issue: If they want Mayfield, do you honestly think John Elway is going to allow Adam Gase to get his dream QB after
their awkward history together
Yes, so the actual pick. Nelson is super excellent. He’s like an X-Men character in pads. Adding him and Jared Veldheer, along with last year’s first-rounder Garett Bolles, would give the Broncos a pack of really gnarly blockers with designs on hurting people they line up opposite.
6. Indianapolis Colts — North Carolina State DE Bradley Chubb
Great trade by GM Chris Ballard moving down three spots, and it would work out best if at least three quarterbacks — as this mock clearly soothsays — go before this. The Colts would have another pick here if Barkley, Nelson and Chubb are gone, but the feeling I’ve gotten is that it falls under the “we can live with that” category if that’s how things play out.
But it’s Chubb here, and the Colts could add a Terrell Suggs-ish pass rusher to their new even-front system. They can fill their needs of an inside linebacker, offensive line help and offensive playmakers with their three second-round picks.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Florida State S Derwin James
Hey, it’s me, the guy who has been shouting for a month that there are more teams than people realize who like James > Minkah Fitzpatrick in this league. Let’s just guess it’s the Bucs, who have a whole lot of needs on defense.
Subscribers, read Greg Gabriel's scouting report on Derwin James here.
8. Chicago Bears — Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds
All of GM Ryan Pace’s first-rounders have been: high-ceiling, athletically blessed projects who are not instant coffee. He hasn’t played safely with any of them, and though Pace’s hit rate with Kevin White, Leonard Floyd and Mitch Trubisky is very much YTD, it stands to reason that Pace is going to stick to who he is as a talent hunter.
Here he bags a prospect in Edmunds who has as high a ceiling as almost any defensive prospect in the draft and yet remains a total projection because, dude, he’s not even 20 years old yet (that happens in May). The Brian Urlacher comps are wholly unfair, but then again how many tall, rangy freakazoids of Edmunds’ ilk do you know who play inside linebacker? It’s an important position in Vic Fangio’s defense, and with Jerrell Freeman having burned out, the kid steps in.
9. San Francisco 49ers — Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
The 49ers have been collecting long defensive backs and add another one here who can be worked into the secondary as either a corner or a safety. Sure, that’s perhaps not Need No. 1 with Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon in place and safety (Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert) in decent enough shape. But Fitzpatrick could fill the nickel role and also give them a little bit of insurance on defense with Reuben Foster, his former college teammate, dealing with a few issues these days.
I don’t know, maybe this pick is traded. You know, there have been a few puffs of white smoke around Rob Gronkowski lately … hmm.
10. Oakland Raiders — Washington NT Vita Vea
Jon Gruden has had it up to HERE with your 1998 jokes, man. But we aren’t scared, and heck, if Gruden were to turn it back 20 years, he could have a pretty good facsimile of his massive wall the Raiders were building back then with DTs Darrell Russell and Grady Jackson and do something similar with Vea and Justin Ellis, even if no one in the league really does that anymore.
Just don’t tell Grudes that Denzel Ward would be the better pick here.
11. Miami Dolphins — Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
For all the reasons listed above, I think the Dolphins would need to move up for Baker. Teams now more than ever are willing to deal next year’s first to go up and get a quarterback. What it hurts in lost draft capital, it makes up for in financial flexibility, although that doesn’t apply to the Dolphins, who manage their books like a South Beach gentleman’s club that’s in deep with the shylocks.
Ryan Tannehill converted some of his 2018 salary into a bonus, which, translated, means he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But hey, at least they have Danny Amendola!
12. Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati Bengals) Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
If they can’t trade up for a crack at one of these coinflip quarterbacks, here’s a crazy idea: flip flop with Green Bay two picks down. Washington isn’t taking a QB at 13 (right?) so why not fetch something from the Packers, who we think would love Ward? Well, we don’t project trades here, remember? So it’s Jackson, who once (LOL) lost a game to Nathan Peterman. But that was before he was Lamar Jackson, so it’s different now. Seriously, though, he could go up to Buffalo and be ready to push A.J. McCarron — in what surely is the most interesting QB room in America — right away.
That is, if another team that quietly has shown a lot of interest in Jackson for a few years now doesn’t find a way to sneak up and leapfrog the Bills. Keep reading …
13. Washington — Ohio State CB Denzel Ward
I had Marshon Lattimore as my No. 4 overall player last year. I have his former college teammate, Ward, high (not that high but pretty darned high) and just a few ticks below where Lattimore would be if they were in the same draft class. They’re not; Lattimore was absolute theft last year at No. 11 to the Saints, and pretty much everyone knew it then. Washington landing Ward here would be the same kind of how-did-this happen scenario that would somehow make Bruce Allen look smart.
Subscribers: Greg Gabriel has this to say about Ward in his full scouting report
14. Green Bay Packers — Iowa CB Josh Jackson
Right now, they might as well be starting Dwight from Ashwaubenon at corner. I think this pick comes down to Jackson or Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, a fast riser. If Ted Thompson was picking between them, I suspect he’d lean toward Jackson. Will new draft picker Brian Gutekunst change the team’s methods slightly? This could be a telling little pick here, if this is how it plays out.
Josh Jackson scouting report from Greg Gabriel (subscribers only)
15. Arizona Cardinals — Texas OL Connor Williams
So much to accomplish with this team. So many directions they could go. That’s both a good and bad thing. I’ll peg them Williams here because of the many moving parts they have up front now. He could start off at guard and move to tackle if need be. It’s a pretty shallow class at the position, so getting one here might be fairly smart.
Plus, one of the comps I considered (
before settling on another current tackle
) for Williams was Jordan Gross, whom Cardinals OL coach Ray Brown had for years when he was in Carolina. It’s a bit of s stretch, I know, but it’s the best I have right now.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
Hey, did you know that GM Ozzie Newsome went to Alabama? Played there even! Yes, Newsome has dipped into the Red Tide frequently for draft picks in the past — nine times in fact, from Ralph Staten (please tell me his nickname was “Island”) in Round 7 of the 1997 draft up through Marlon Humphrey and Tim Williams in Rounds 1 and 3 last year. Well, if this indeed is Newsome’s final draft as the team’s grand poobah, it certainly would be clever to make it an even 10.
Not reason enough? Fine. Then take Ridley because he’s the most polished receiver in the draft. The Ravens currently are fielding castaways and ne’er-do-wells at the position. And if you think Ridley’s advanced age — he’s almost two years older than Humphrey — is an issue, check out the Ravens’ fairly long history of
drafting players 23 and older
17. Los Angeles Chargers — Georgia LB Roquan Smith
Quietly lying in the weeds, the Chargers feel like they have big plans to do something bold and predatory on draft night. They’re the team we’ve almost forgotten in the big picture.
But a few weeks ago I read
this piece on the team’s official website
and couldn’t help but think that “Prospect 1” was Smith and that they’re very high on him, with LB Richard Smith (no relation) all but jumping out of his chair during a combine interview. Again, it could be someone else. But read closely enough and it sounds like the Bulldogs’ intense linebacker to me. Again, just a guess — and Smith is a top-dozen prospect to me.
18. Seattle Seahawks — UTSA DE Marcus Davenport
This has “trade down” written all over it. They currently don’t select until No. 120 overall, and that just won’t be sustainable in our eyes. This whole no-projecting-trades thing isn’t working out for us one bit. If we were doing such a thing, we might just hint that the Seahawks and Patriots have made a few deals together in recent years and that maybe Bill Belichick might be fascinated by someone such as Leighton Vander Esch here, but doing so would just be way too speculative of us.
Instead we peg the Seahawks a raw but fascinating pass-rush prospect who can help fill the void with Michael Bennett gone. Davenport won't step in and do what Bennett did — not even close — in Year 1. But for down the road, he could be something.
19. Dallas Cowboys — Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn
I know there’s a need on defense, and a one-gapping penetrator such as Maurice Hurst or a Sean Lee-ish player such as Vander Esch very much are possibilities. But the Cowboys also have to think about filling an immediate need at guard now and at least insuring themselves against not being able to pay Zack Martin one day. Wynn would be a fantastic addition up front either way.
The Cowboys have looked hard at receivers, too, and I was this close but couldn’t quite pull the trigger on Maryland’s D.J. Moore.
20. Detroit Lions — Boston College DE Harold Landry
Matt Patricia might not strike us as much of a runner, but he should sprint this damned card up to … well, who ever handles the draft cards and all that. Landry might have taken a step backward last season while playing hurt, but no one would know that better than the Lions’ new defensive consigliere, Paul Pasqualoni,
Landry’s position coach the past two seasons in Chestnut Hill. Landry could be an instant upgrade for the pass-rush need and perhaps replace Ziggy Ansah in a year.
Greg Gabriel scouting report on Harold Landry (subscribers only)
21. Cincinnati Bengals — Iowa C James Daniels
They need a center. Very badly. I could see them really liking Ohio State’s Billy Price, but with his pectoral injury possibly causing him to miss a big chunk of the offseason, Daniels would be a more immediate fit.
Not much else clever to add. Daniels is very good. Marvin Lewis and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz were on the Ravens’ staff together years ago, and Ferentz is basically the Lewis of college football coaches, if you really think about it.
22. Bills (from Bengals) — Florida DT Taven Bryan
It’s all but assumed that this pick will be traded as the Bills seek to zoom up and take a QB. But if that doesn’t happen, we could see them use this for a high-ceiling player such as Bryan. Kyle Williams is back for one year, and they need more interior pass-rush skill. They also could go for someone such as UTEP's Will Hernandez, who can help the interior on the other side of the ball.
Again, this is all in a if-they-don't-trade up world. That world might not exist in a few weeks.
23. New England Patriots (from Los Angeles Rams) — Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch
Something tells me the Patriots won’t be as eager to take a left tackle candidate as quickly as some people feel they will now that they at least have some in-house options to replace Nate Solder.
Instead, look for Belichick to fill a need for speed (on defense) following the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Rams for this pick. Vander Esch easily could go to another team higher than this. His stock is flaming hot. But assuming he's here, he would give the Patriots a versatile, three-down linebacker to help a unit that was gashed down the stretch.
24. Carolina Panthers — Louisville CB Jaire Alexander
Good lord, Alexander is still on the board? He’s good, and he would fill a much-needed spot opposite James Bradberry as a starter from the get-go. GM Marty Hurney has a really high slugging percentage on his first-round picks, and he would have a good chance to beef it up here with a top-20 prospect.
Does our Greg Gabriel have as high an opinion of Alexander? Our subscribers know.
25. Tennessee Titans — Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
You make a linebacker your head coach, you might as well make Evans your first-round pick. He would be an upgrade over what they have inside now following the departure of Avery Williamson. Mike Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson made the trip to Bama’s pro day, and
Vrabel got down and dirty
with the front-seven guys in drills.
I think the new head coach could appreciate Evans having to wait behind a bunch of all-stars in Tuscaloosa before getting his chance to shine. That’s almost exactly what happened to Vrabel early in his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers before breaking out as a player with the Patriots.
26. Atlanta Falcons — Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne
Here comes the mini-Bama run. Even though his production was not that great in college, Payne is a really good interior presence to help replace Dontari Poe on a unit that’s suddenly too thin. Imagine Payne and Grady Jarrett working over NFC South guards and centers. That would be nice.
Subscribers, read Greg Gabriel's full scouting report on Payne here.
27. New Orleans Saints — Penn State TE Mike Gesicki
Have you made it this far? Yes, when I said earlier to “keep reading,” you might not have realized I meant “keep reading way the heck down before you get to the goods,” but here we are.
According to a well-placed source, the team that has spent more time in Louisville than any other over the past year-plus has been the Saints. Now, that could mean they like Alexander or perhaps they’re big horse racing fanatics. But all we’re saying is that if there’s a team that could slide up a bit for Lamar Jackson, it would not floor us to see the Saints be the ones who do it.
If not, staying here and taking Gesicki — whom I compared to Jimmy Graham (seriously) — wouldn’t be the worst result. They might have whiffed on Coby Fleener, but their pursuit of Graham this offseason tells me they might still want an athletic seam threat who can’t block worth a hoot. That’s Gesicki.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers — LSU RB Derrius Guice
If ever there was a running back made to fit in Pittsburgh, it would be Guice. And given Le’Veon Bell’s increasingly contentious relationship with (at the very least) this city, the Steelers would be wise to protect themselves against him holding out and provide a little leverage too.
There are needs on defenses, sure. But Guice just feels so darned Steelers-y to us, we can’t help ourselves.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars — Maryland WR D.J. Moore
Ten picks after we first teased his name, Moore lands in a good spot. First off, the Jaguars need help here — you’re not really counting on Donte Moncrief or Marqise Lee as WR1, are you? Second, the Jaguars’ receivers coach, Keenan McCardell, knows all about Moore, whom he coached his first two years at Maryland.
Crazy to say, but Blake Bortles would be a massive upgrade for Moore following him working with eight (!) QBs in his four seasons in College Park. Watching what Moore was able to do with inaccurate passers throwing him balls will hit close to home for this staff.
30. Minnesota Vikings — Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey
If you’re going to invest in Kirk Cousins, you might as well insulate the dude. McGlinchey is a Mike Zimmer/Tony Sparano kind of lineman, kind of in that Doug Free mold, and the Vikings will want to improve their depth up front. The line was pretty good last year, but there has been talk about kicking Mike Remmers inside if they can find an upgrade at right tackle. McGlinchey might not be a premier athlete, but he is tough and consistent. If they want a guard instead, Will Hernandez is in play.
Mike McGlinchey scouting report (subscribers only)
31. New England Patriots — Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk
The Patriots typically wait in the draft to draft receivers, but we view Kirk as a four-down player who can play outside or inside as a pass catcher (and line up in the backfield as a runner, too) and be an instant upgrade at punt returner. He's exactly the kind of player they tend to seek out.
Adding a second first-round pick means they can survey how the draft develops. If they want to move up for the right QB, they can do that — they suddenly have four of the first 63 picks now. They could stand pat and take best player available with this pick or with No. 23. They could use OT, DB and TE help, in addition to adding speed on defense and landing Tom Brady's possible successor.
After a year in which they made only four selection, the Patriots once again are players on draft weekend.
32. Philadelphia Eagles — Georgia RB Sony Michel
I could see them looking at linebacker help here, or perhaps a receiver or tight end to help replace what they lost at those positions. But the Eagles do a good job of securing talent first and worrying about positional needs second. Michel is just a darned good football player whose workload could be managed and his
propensity for fumbling
could be work-shopped with RB coach Duce Staley, who attended UGA’s pro day to watch Michel.
Jay Ajayi is fine for now, and Corey Clement might always be viewed as a complementary runner. Michel would be a great addition who fits the Eagles’ athletic and character molds perfectly.