Mock drafts. We all love to read them, and we all love to roast them. A content necessity in the run-up to the NFL Draft. Now, I could say almost anything in this section, but odds are you’ve already skimmed past this part, gentle reader, and are scanning for your team’s selections. So let’s just skip the formalities and skip to the main event.
Oh, and some fine print before we start: This is a predictive mock, trying to guess what teams do rather than passing along what I would do for each organization.
1. Arizona Cardinals - Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The prevailing winds are certainly blowing in this direction. Josh Rosen’s rookie season was a bit better than he is given credit for, especially when you look at some early outings against the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, but if the Cardinals want to buy into Kilff Kingsbury’s vision of an offense, Kyler Murray might be the better fit. Arizona would be wise to hold out for a first- or second-round selection in return for a cost-controlled quarterback.
2. San Francisco 49ers - Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
With Arizona going Murray, the 49ers are free to address any position of need, and land perhaps the best edge defender in this class. Yes, San Francisco just acquired Dee Ford. Yes, the 49ers drafted Solomon Thomas in the first round two years ago. However, in today’s NFL you can never have enough pass rushers, and adding Bosa gives San Francisco some flexibility up front, with the ability to kick Thomas inside on rushing downs to give the 49ers a fearsome rushing package with Ford, Bosa and Thomas on the field.
3. New York Jets - Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
Defense certainly looks to be the selection here, as the Jets have some holes to address on that side of the football. This could be a darkhorse spot for a trade, if the New York Giants or another QB-needy team want to get up to the top of the board and make sure they draft their quarterback. Theoretically, the Jets could be on the other end of the same trade they made last year, this time moving down from three to six as a team comes up to grab the QB. Trading back might make sense for New York, which lacks a second-round selection this year. But for this mock, we’ll predict that a deal does not get done and the Jets land a pass rusher with some tremendous upside.
4. Oakland Raiders - Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
If the first three selections play out like this, here is where the draft truly begins. Oakland could go in a number of different directions in this draft, with three first-round picks and a selection in the top five. Despite recent rumblings that the Raiders would draft Murray, or at least explore a move to to the top of the board to get him, the wise move would be to bank on the additions around Derek Carr on the offensive side of the football, and address the defense. Oakland, after some decisions last year, needs to address the pass rush. With Bosa and Allen coming off the board with the two previous selections, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock turn inside and grab the best interior defender in the class. Building from the inside out is another way to generate pressure on the passer.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
With the loss of Kwon Alexander, there are big shoes to fill on the second level of Tampa Bay’s defense. This is making Devin White the trendy selection for Tampa Bay at the fifth spot. But do not count out the versatility and athleticism of Ed Oliver in a potential Buccaneers defense. Yes, the loss of Alexander means the Bucs might need to address linebacker, but with Gerald McCoy perhaps on the trading block, the organization would be wise to get a running partner for last year’s first-round selection Vita Vea, who closed 2018 strong after a shaky start. Pairing Oliver with Vea would give Tampa Bay two solid options on the interior, and would allow the Bucs to put Oliver at more of a three-technique, instead of the nose spot he was used in last year at Houston.
6. New York Giants - Rashan Gary, DT, Michigan
The trendy selection is quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but with the way GM Dave Gettleman has handled this offseason, it does seem that he wants to build around the quarterback position and make things easier for whomever is taking the snaps in New York, whether it is Eli Manning, a future draft pick in 2020, or a Day Two pick in this draft. So Gettleman addresses defense, and tries to fill the void created by the trade of Oliver Vernon to the Cleveland Browns. Gary has the athleticism to play on the edge, but he is best be suited to a life on the inside. Someone with his traits and potential positional flexibility is a solid bet at this spot in the draft.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
At first blush this might be a head-scratcher, but there is a schematic reason behind the selection. WIth the addition of Nick Foles, the Jaguars will be looking to protect their new acquisition, making offensive line the position usually associated with Jacksonville at this spot, and Jawaan Taylor usually the player selected. But with the addition of John DeFilippo as the offensive coordinator, there is a chance the Jaguars rely heavily on a zone blocking scheme in the run game. Dillard, coming from Mike Leach’s Air Raid system, might be a very good fit for such a system, making him the selection here.
8. Detroit Lions - Montez Sweat, EDGE, MIssissippi State
This will be a “trust your doctors” player for whatever organization selects him, but Sweat pairs some impressive production, notching double-digit sacks each of the past two seasons, with a tremendous pre-draft season that saw him fare well at the Senior Bowl and test very well at the combine. His heart condition, also discovered at the combine, might scare some teams away, but it is hard to pass on his combination of production and raw athleticism. His 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine was the fastest ever recorded by a defensive lineman. With the Lions needing to address the defensive front, they’ll trust their doctors and make Sweat the pick.
9. Buffalo Bills - Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
Having gotten their quarterback of the future last year, now the Bills can start to build around him and turn Josh Allen into the quarterback of the present. Adding Taylor will be a step in that direction. Granted, the Bills added Ty Nsekhe this offseason, but Taylor has a tremendous blend of size and athleticism, and his improvement over the past season has him trending in the right direction. He can be a plug-and-play blocker along this offensive line, and if helping Allen is the goal, he is a smart selection.
10. Denver Broncos - Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Though the Denver Broncos did acquire Joe Flacco in a trade this offseason, expectations are that John Elway will still address the QB position in this draft, selecting a player with some room to grow, and with Flacco in place some time to do that. Elway has personally scouted Lock multiple times this season, and you can bet he is intrigued by Lock’s raw arm talent and upside. Lock has shown some growth over the past few seasons and under Derek Dooley last year he seemed more comfortable attacking between the hashmarks. He’ll get a chance to sit and learn behind Flacco and look to have a second-year breakout season of his own.
11. Cincinnati Bengals - Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
There are other picks linked with Cincinnati in this spot, often linebacker Devin Bush, but one cannot help but wonder if the Bengals are going to go down the rookie quarterback path themselves. While recent history has seen teams draft a rookie and then a year later pair him with a young, offensive-minded head coach (the Sean McVay model), perhaps the Bengals are going to flip the script a bit. They have added Zac Taylor, formerly from McVay’s staff, and now they will give him a chance to draft and mold a quarterback of his choosing. Haskins has the mental approach and the prototypical pocket-passing skills teams used to covet, but might need to improve on his mechanics and execution.
12. Green Bay Packers - T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
The past few days have been tumultuous ones for the Packers, in the wake of the fascinating piece by Ty Dunne of Bleacher Report breaking down the fractured relationship between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy. Bringing some changes, both personnel-wise and schematically, to the Green Bay offense would be a great way for new head coach Matt LaFleur to start things off right with Rodgers. Adding perhaps the most complete tight end from a deep group would be a huge first step. Hockenson has the versatility to play anywhere on the field, but can still function at a high level as a traditional, in-line tight end. He and Rodgers could develop a wonderful relationship together.
13. Miami Dolphins - Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Quarterback has been the trendy pick during mock draft season, but with Murray, Lock and Haskins all off the board, Miami goes in a different direction, addressing the offensive line with a fascinating prospect. Williams has played at multiple spots along the offensive line, and while some might say his arms are not long enough to function as a left tackle in the NFL, the league has seen many tackles with less-than-ideal arm length play extremely well on the edge. His versatility is also a huge calling card with him, and Miami continues the build to the future with this selection.
14. Atlanta Falcons - Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
With Grady Jarrett receiving the franchise tag, the Falcons are set at one DT spot, and drafting Wilkins will give them an option in addition to Deadrin Senat for Jarrett’s running mate. Jarrett is used primarily as a 1-technique but can also do some work as a 3-technique. With Wilkins in the fold, he can be used at that 3-technique spot, allowing Jarrett to attack the center and the A-gaps. Pairing Jarrett’s ability to penetrate with Wilkins’ agility and ability to string plays makes this a great duo in the interior.
15. Washington - D.K. Metcalf, WR , Mississippi
We will make an assumption that Washington bolsters its QB room by acquiring Rosen from the Cardinals for a second-round selection. Now, the need becomes getting help for the quarterback — whether Rosen or the newly-acquired Case Keenum. Metcalf is that help. The Mississippi product has the boundary skills and long speed to be a vertical threat in the league, but he will need to develop a more well-rounded route tree to be a true all-round NFL receiver. Washington has some nice pieces at the WR spot but needs a top guy, and Metcalf can become that player.
16. Carolina Panthers - Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
Heading into this draft, you can expect the Panthers to address one of the trench units with this selection. With a number of offensive tackles coming off the board before their picks, they turn to the defensive side of the football with this pick. Clelin Ferrell from Clemson University is often mocked here to the Panthers, but in this draft they look to the athleticism of Burns over the production from Ferrell. Burns might lack explosiveness off the line of scrimmage on film, but his testing and size at the combine will make some a believer in him.
17. New York Giants - Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
Yes, the Giants pass on a quarterback again.
It is true that Daniel Jones is a trendy pick for the Giants, and as we will see, the G-Men are not done ... but here they address the defensive side of the football again, drafting a linebacker out of Michigan. Bush was trending down prior to the combine, but his athletic testing has many rethinking his position in the first round. Bush’s athleticism makes him a three-down linebacker in the NFL, and perhaps an ideal "Will" linebacker in the Giants’ defense. He can be the sideline-to-sideline guy to pair with Alec Ogletree, who has taken on more of a "Sam" role in the New York defense.
18. Minnesota Vikings - Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma
Let’s face it, the Vikings need offensive line help. They’ll get it in Ford, who dealt with some injury problems in college but could find an immediate home on this Minnesota offensive line. Ford was a right tackle for the Sooners, but his mentality and traits might be a better fit for the guard spot, where the Vikings have a definite need. His run-blocking ability might be his best trait, and also meshes well with a kick down to the interior.
19. Tennessee Titans - Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
Marcus Mariota might be entering a “put up or shut up” type of season, as he looks to prove he is worth a potential long-term deal from the Titans. Giving him another great weapon at the TE spot would aid him in living up to the promise Mariota showed when the Titans made him the No. 2 overall selection in the 2015 draft. Fant fits the mold of today’s NFL "move" tight end, who can line up in the slot, on the wing or even toward the boundary and use athleticism to create mismatches.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers - Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Consensus is building that Pittsburgh is going defense with this selection, and likely one of the top two cornerbacks in this class. Here they go with Williams out of LSU. He is a long, athletic and sticky man-coverage corner, the type of player who is very valuable in today’s NFL. He faced some questions about his long speed when he struggled on film against Alabama, but the 4.37 he posted at the combine might ease those concerns.
21. Seattle Seahawks - Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware
Adderley is a bit of a polarizing name in draft circles, with some looking at him as a top safety in this class but others looking at him as more of a raw, developmental type of prospect. I will admit to being a fan of his game, and he has the athleticism and range to be a free safety in the league while still possessing the kind of aggression and demeanor necessary to play down near the line of scrimmage. That versatility will endear him to Pete Carroll, and with the Seahawks’ need to replace a departing Earl Thomas at the back of their defense, they will bank on Adderley's upside and potential.
22. Baltimore Ravens - Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
The Ravens have a full complement of tight ends, but need a boost at the WR position. With Metcalf off the board they’ll look to Hakeem Butler, a player who could be the perfect receiver for Lamar Jackson. Butler wins at the catch point and with his length, and for a quarterback that has struggled at times with his accuracy, those are huge selling points. His route tree might be limited to the boundary and in the vertical game, but in the Ravens’ offense that might be what they are looking for, given their offensive scheme and how they use their tight ends in the middle of the field.
23. Houston Texans - Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State
Protecting Deshaun Watson has to be the biggest priority for the Texans this offseason. While some of the big names are gone off the board, and Risner might be viewed as more of an early second round talent, the need outweighs the grade here. Risner is a versatile offensive lineman who lined up at both right tackle and center for the Kansas State Wildcats, and while his home might be on the interior in the NFL his tape and demeanor does not rule out a position on the outside. For lack of a better phrase, he plays the game pissed off. You need that in a lineman.
24. Oakland Raiders - Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
By a growing number of metrics, such as Expected Points Added (EPA), the passing game seems to be bursting past the ground game when it comes to value added to an offense. That has led to debates over whether running backs even matter in today’s NFL, and whether drafting one in the first round even makes sense. But that is where Jacob’s ability as a receiving threat comes in. He combines some of the between-the-tackle elements of a bellcow back with the traits to be a third-down back in the NFL. Gruden will find a way to use him in the passing game on a variety of quick routes, such as arrows and angles, giving Carr a security blanket out of the backfield.
25. Philadelphia Eagles - Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida
Philadelphia was in the mix for a running back at this pick, and with Jacobs off the board they will address another position of need, tabbing the safety out of Florida. Gardner-Johnson has some versatility to his game, as he spent most of 2018 down near the line of scrimmage after serving as more of a deep safety in 2017. Positional flexibility is tremendously important for safeties in today’s NFL, as offenses do more and more with motion and shifting to change the strengths of their formation. That requires a pair of safeties who can fill either role on the fly, and the addition of Gardner-Johnson gives Jim Schwartz such a player.
26. Indianapolis Colts - Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
Expectations are that Indianapolis will address the defensive line with this pick, and while Dexter Lawrence from Clemson is the typical name used in mocks, Tillery makes a lot of sense for the Colts. Indianapolis would look to put Tillery on the outside shoulders of the guards in a 3-technique, pairing him with Margus Hunt on the inside. Aligned as a 3-tech, Tillery can use his combination of quickness and power to operate against guards on the inside and generate some pass rush and some pocket and pile movement.
27. Oakland Raiders - Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Having addressed both offense and defense so far, the Raiders turn back to the defensive side of the football with their final first-round selection. Pairing Murphy with Gareon Conley gives Oakland a pair of first-round prospects at the CB positions. Murphy combines great footwork for the cornerback position with an acute mind for playing in the secondary. He is good at diagnosing concepts and breaking on the ball, and while his long speed is not the best in this class, his mental approach helps narrow any potential gaps between him and his coverage assignments.
28. Los Angeles Chargers - Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson
The Chargers have a trio of edge rushers in Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Isaac Rochell that can wreak havoc on opposing pockets, but they do need an upgrade on the interior. Enter Lawrence, a near prototypical nose tackle who does have the ability to play more of a shade technique in a four-man front. Lawrence has the ability to set and even reset the line of scrimmage against the run, and would definitely help the Chargers as they look to maintain what was a pretty solid defense against the run last season.
29. Kansas City Chiefs - Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
The Chiefs need some help rushing the passer, thanks to the departures of Dee Ford and Justin Houston this offseason. Ferrell could be a good consolation prize if they miss out on some of the other EDGE prospects in this class. With the addition of Steve Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator, the Chiefs are expected to be more of a 4-3 base defense. While yes, the 4-3/3-4 distinction might be outdated in today’s NFL where 4-2-5 nickel packages are the new base, Ferrell is the prototypical 4-3 defensive end. He also brings to the table some ability as a run defender, making him a good fit for the Chiefs and their needs at the EDGE spot.
30. Green Bay Packers - Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia
After acquiring Adrian Amos in free agency, the Packers address another S spot by drafting Thornhill. A converted cornerback, Thornhill has the ball-hawking ability to thrive as a deep safety while still possessing the coverage skills to make him a versatile player in the back of Green Bay’s defense. Pairing him with Amos, who is a good safety with the ability to function at a high level down near the line of scrimmage and in run support, gives the Packers two great options at the back of their secondary.
31. Los Angeles Rams - Garrett Bradbury, C, N.C. State
The defending NFC Champions have a small number of needs, but two of their biggest are on the interior of their offense and defensive lines. With Ndamukong Suh expected to sign with another team, interior defensive line is a need. However, the value might not be there given the names already off the board, so the Rams look to address the center spot. The team declined to exercise an option on last year’s starter, John Sullivan, so they tab the top C prospect in this draft, Bradbury from N.C. State. Bradbury came to Raleigh as a tight end but moved to guard and eventually the pivot, where he won the Rimington Trophy last year as the top center in college football. If you were studying Ryan Finley at all this season, say against Clemson, you saw Bradbury more than handle his own against a defensive front with a number of names we’ve read about today.
32. New York Giants - Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
The Patriots are always fascinating to watch on draft night, as Bill Belichick continues to zig while the rest of the league zags. If the board were to fall this way, New England would likely consider players such as Irv Smith Jr. to address the TE position, or even a Jeffery Simmons to address the future of their defensive line, knowing full well he would need a medical redshirt season. But Belichick has also been known to pass if he feels the value is not right, and they do so here, trading back into the early second so the Giants can come up and get their next quarterback. Jones seems to be a polarizing player in this class, with the media world a bit down on him while NFL insiders are very much expecting him to be drafted early. I am in the former camp, but if he falls to this spot the value is too good for a QB-needy team like New York to pass up, especially if they can secure that fifth-year option by getting him in the first round.