With the trades of Amari Cooper by the Oakland Raiders and Eli Apple (the first apple to drop?) by the New York Giants, we thought it might be a good time to take a wildly early look at the 2019 NFL draft.
As our own Greg Gabriel likes to say, any mock draft before April 1 is just a fool’s errand. We mostly agree with Greg here from an accuracy standpoint, but we also recognize the fact that some teams — and thus some teams’ fans — appear to be in full tank mode at this point. (Our lonely eyes turn to you, Raiders Nation.) That might change further, we suspect, if someone such as Patrick Peterson is moved by the Arizona Cardinals, another top-of-the-draft team currently.
We used the current draft order, which is clearly subject to major change. And we’re going off what we know about the current crop of prospects, which also is due for a big shakeup in the ensuing six months.
So when you look at this mock, keep in mind that we’re merely trying to spot players in the general range where they might fall and trying our best to match up players with teams seeking upgrades at their positions.
We know it’s early. We know this will be soon outdated. But it’s not hard to see that this really could be a fascinating draft, especially with the Raiders potentially owning the top half of Round 1. And seeing which players did not make our first top 32, it’s clear that the depth on the defensive line and at wide receiver likely will make a lot of teams happy on Day 2.
1 New York Giants — Oregon QB Justin Herbert
The early scuttlebutt is that Herbert might opt to stay in school. That’s what they said about Sam Darnold, too. But it’s also what they said about Andrew Luck, and that turned out to be true. The Giants are praying the talented Herbert can solve the long-term issue at QB. They’ve already sent scouts to see him multiple times.
2 San Francisco 49ers — Ohio State DE Nick Bosa
Sitting out won’t hurt him. He was a top-five pick coming into the season and remains so. Teams love his upside, perhaps as much if not more than his brother’s potential. The 49ers have used a ton of draft resources to overhaul the defensive front, but Bosa could be special with so much talent surrounding him in Robert Saleh’s scheme.
3 Arizona Cardinals — Houston DT Ed Oliver
If this is how it unfolds, the Cardinals can’t pass here, even with a ton of offensive needs that must be addressed. Oliver could be a special interior rusher with unfair comps to Aaron Donald, but the similarities are evident. Turn on any tape and Oliver seems to rack up half a dozen legit pressures. Pair him with Chandler Jones and magic could happen, although it's worth noting that one area scout we spoke with who has been through Houston the past few seasons said he thinks Oliver is "a very good prospect" but perhaps not a great one. Take what you will from that one particular person's opinion. Many others love Oliver's upside.
4 Oakland Raiders — Alabama DT Quinnen Williams
We think they’ll take an edge rusher at some point, and yes, perhaps a QB, too. But Jon Gruden surely knows all about Williams, who just became a starter this season, with his close ties to Nick Saban’s program. No team in the country cranks out future stars from its former reserves quite like Bama.
5 Indianapolis Colts — Georgia CB Deandre Baker
Perhaps the best cornerback in the country, Baker would be an excellent addition to a secondary that has been forced to play too many retreads. The Colts will keep building their roster up one player at a time. Baker would be a good addition, but we also could see the next pick we mocked to the Bills being in play here, too.
6 Buffalo Bills — LSU CB Greedy Williams
Perhaps the best playmaking cover man in the country, Williams would join Tre’Davious White in what could be an excellent secondary. As we’ve noted with other teams with young quarterbacks, adding help for Josh Allen would be nice. But will there be an offensive lineman or receiver worth taking this high? That much we don’t yet know.
7 Cleveland Browns — Washington CB Byron Murphy
This is too high for some folks, and I completely get that. Murphy is a redshirt sophomore and could return to school, and the Browns went CB with their second first-rounder a year ago. But Denzel Ward was an inspired pick, and Murphy’s toughness and feistiness could endear him to this scouting staff. The Ward pick proved they’re unafraid to take players they like higher than others might.
8 Oakland Raiders (from DAL) — Alabama S Deionte Thompson
The secondary is a mess. The young Thompson could be special, and here Gruden doubles down on Bama defenders with the first two of his three first-rounders. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk quarterbacks with the Raiders soon enough.) It’s not clear if Thompson will come out, but the Crimson Tide have become a DB factory in recent seasons — and the Raiders badly need someone to patrol the deep halves. We'd have taken a receiver here for the Raiders, as this is the Amari Cooper pick, but right now there isn't a clear top-10 option.
9 Tennessee Titans — Florida DE Jachai Polite
The contracts of Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are up after this season, and yet the Titans could have themselves quite the edge duo with Harold Landry and Polite, one of the faster risers in the college season. The offense must be addressed for sure, but this pick makes sense.
10 Jacksonville Jaguars — Missouri QB Drew Lock
Hmm, a Mizzou QB going 10th overall to the Jaguars … where have we heard that before? No, Lock is not Blaine Gabbert, even if some choose to make that comparison. And we say that Lock’s stock will be just fine when it comes to draft season despite a downtick in production to this point. He has all the tools you want, and the Blake Bortles thing might have just run its course.
11 New York Jets — Michigan DE Rashan Gary
A pressure player without a perfect position fit, Gary has been slowed lately with a shoulder injury. But his unique set of traits, we believe, will have him back on the rise in time. If you can’t figure out how to use Gary on your defensive front, perhaps you need to change coordinators. We don’t know the future of Kacy Rodgers with the Jets since he’s been battling health issues, but we assume the Jets can use this type of front-four scheme wrecker.
12 Atlanta Falcons — Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence
The Falcons’ defensive front has not held up that well this season, and Lawrence can alleviate some of that. He’s a massive space eater (340-plus pounds) and can fill the role vacated by Dontari Poe this offseason. You might be surprised by Lawrence’s Poe-like quickness when you watch him. Another player who easily could go higher than we have him here now.
13 Philadelphia Eagles — Alabama OT Jonah Williams
Finding a long-term replacement for Jason Peters is crucial, as the Eagles have been far too leaky in pass protection this season. They last drafted an offensive lineman in the top 75 picks back in 2013 (Lane Johnson). Carson Wentz takes too many hits, and the run blocking hasn't been up to par so far.
14 Denver Broncos — Mississippi State DT Jeffery Simmons
Simmons’ character could be called into serious scrutiny following a 2016 incident in which he struck a young woman who was an acquaintance of his sister (and it was caught on video). Simmons has tried to make amends for his behavior, and his play on the field has been exceptional, but his draft stock remains volatile until teams sign off on the young man first.
15 Oakland Raiders (from CHI) — West Virginia QB Will Grier
The whispers that Gruden also secretly is punting on the 2019 season to draft Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 are even too Gruden-ish for us to buy into. So for now, we’re pegging in a possible Derek Carr replacement here as Carr’s relationship with his coach has come into question recently. Fair or not, this is where we find ourselves now. Grier is tough-minded and an aggressive thrower who has had a few clunkers lately but seems to be impressing some NFL folks regardless. Admittedly, this is a total shot-in-the-dark pick here. I haven’t watched enough Grier to know whether his first-round status is warranted.
16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Kansas State OT Dalton Risner
A high-floor, solid-ceiling prospect who has the makeup to come in and start Day 1 as a rookie, Risner would be exactly what the Bucs could use to pass protect (for whomever lines up at QB next season, with Jameis Winston the assumption for now) and help spur a lagging run game.
17 Seattle Seahawks — Ohio State DT Dre'Mont Jones
He may not be Ed Oliver, but Jones is an athletic playmaker inside who can get upfield in a hurry. Ohio State has groomed some really good defensive talent in recent seasons, and Jones is the latest disruptor who has enamored scouts. This easily could be a pick for the secondary, too, as that’s a big area of need.
18 Detroit Lions — Florida State DE Brian Burns
We might look back at Burns landing outside the top 10 and laugh. That’s the direction his stock is heading with a torrid recent streak rushing the passer. That’s the Lions’ biggest defensive shortcoming, depending on the 2019 status of Ziggy Ansah: edge pressure. Burns is lean but mean and an intriguing prospect.
19 Miami Dolphins — Duke QB Daniel Jones
I have no clue where Jones will end up being drafted. Top 10? Second round? Both feel possible now. I don’t think there’s a chance, however, when it’s said and done that he’s not a fast riser in the postseason process. Jones returned from a broken collarbone suffered against Northwestern and was throwing darts three weeks later against Virginia Tech. He’s got size, arm talent, really good athleticism, smarts and — clearly — toughness. He’s my QB2 right now, above Lock and Grier, and I suspect others will jump on board soon enough.
20 Baltimore Ravens — Stanford WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
If you draft Lamar Jackson, you need to give him a jump-ball target. The Ravens already have a deep threat in John Brown, who is playing his way into an extension, and a stable full of intriguing tight ends and backs. That’s a great start, but Arcega-Whiteside could be exactly what this offense needs … for whenever Jackson takes over for Joe Flacco. The Cardinal receiver just outleaps people for the ball and makes plays after the catch.
21 Houston Texans — Ole Miss OT Greg Little
No team needs offensive line help more than the Texans, who stuck a project (Julién Davenport) at left tackle and a guard (Martinas Rankin) at right tackle. Then both predictably struggled, and they’ve tried out Kendall Lamm now on the outside. It’s just poor and unfair treatment of Deshaun Watson, who needs help. Little is a good pass protector, so he’s a fit.
22 Cincinnati Bengals — LSU LB Devin White
White might be the player the Bengals draft to finally replace Vontaze Burfict. He is a hitter and tone setter but is not nearly the reckless performer Burfict has become. The Bengals are said to like some of their young linebackers, but they’re all seemingly hurt now.
23 Green Bay Packers — Iowa TE Noah Fant
The Packers are starting to really figure out how to use Jimmy Graham as a weapon, and he’s on pace for his highest yardage total since he was with the Saints. But Graham also turns 32 in a month and has a potential out in his contract following the 2019 season. Fant is the latest to emerge from the Iowa tight end factory and could be special after serving as Graham’s understudy for a year.
24 Minnesota Vikings — Alabama LB Mack Wilson
Wilson is a rangy, intense playmaker who could be a perfect swap-out for Anthony Barr in free agency. Although he’s been a bit lost in the Bama shuffle, Wilson’s play has been exceptional this season. The Vikings’ biggest need would appear to be offensive line, but they don’t typically just draft for biggest need.
25 Pittsburgh Steelers — Kentucky LB-DE Josh Allen
It feels like the Steelers have drafted about nine players cut from similar cloth the past several seasons, along with a slew of defensive backs of similar ilk. But alas, the defense still lacks playmakers and an identity. Allen has developed so much as a pass rusher this season, and he’s added bulk, too. He feels like a Steelers-type of defender. (And we mean that in a good way, believe it or not.)
26 Washington — Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry
We also had Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown and Buffalo’s Anthony Johnson in mind here. It’s hard to know what the team thinks of Josh Doctson at this point, but the vertical speed (Paul Richardson) and the quick space roles (Chris Thompson) are pretty well spoken for. What Washington could use is a big-bodied red-zone target and chain-mover, such as Harry, Brown or Johnson.
27 Carolina Panthers — Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell
Lower than some folks have Ferrell going, but we feel he’s more of a solid-to-very-good prospect rather than a special one. This is the kind of pick GM Marty Hurney made for almost a decade in Round 1, and he has a very high batting average on those picks, too. Julius Peppers’ replacement won’t have to travel far down the road.
28 Los Angeles Chargers — Alabama DT Raekwon Davis
One, two, three, four … yes, that’s now five Alabama players in this Round 1 mock. They’ve had four Round 1 picks each of the past two seasons. That’s just stunning. Maybe a QB prospect such as Jarrett Stidham (or Dwayne Haskins?) might tempt them here, but we’ll go with Davis, who would be a perfect fit on a Chargers front that needs to make life easier for its edge performers. If Davis went this late, we suspect the pick would be called into police as grand larceny; he’s really too good to last this long.
29 New England Patriots — Mississippi State DE-LB Montez Sweat
Bill Belichick hasn’t seemed to value edge rushers in the draft as much as other teams have in recent years, but it might be hard for him to pass up such a violent, speed-to-power defender at this stage. Sweat has a great rip move and has a build and athletic profile that is similar to former top Patriots pick Jamie Collins.
30 Green Bay Packers (from N.O.) — Wisconsin OT David Edwards
A Big Ten twofer for the Packers in Round 1, and a short trip down I-41 for some much-needed tackle depth with their second pick. When Green Bay has suffered injuries up front, the backups have not performed well. Edwards is not super flashy, but he’s technically sound, shockingly consistent, physically strong and can play left and right tackle — a perfect swingman in Year 1.
31 Kansas City Chiefs — Penn State CB Amani Oruwariye
Someone to help the secondary makes a lot of sense; I also am a big fan of Notre Dame’s Julian Love and considered him here. Oruwariye’s ball production and size are just a little more ideal, however, and would appear to be a good fit in a Chiefs defense that needs both badly.
32 Los Angeles Rams — Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
Wilkins is a jack of all trades, having played almost every technique along the Tigers’ defensive front. He’s also lined up at fullback, run a fake punt, reportedly lined up at safety in the team's spring game and even jokingly lobbied to get snaps at QB after Kelly Bryant transferred. Wilkins is a competitive, versatile and effective player who would fit nicely in Wade Phillips’ scheme — especially if Ndamukong Suh ends up elsewhere next year.