Projections are pointless, since we don’t know as much as the teams do and one surprise move can blow everything up. So these are prescriptions—the players I’d pick to fill the top needs for each team. In other words, don’t expect Round 1 to play out this way
Mock drafts are the worst. Not only are you trying to guess what people far more experienced than you will do under the gun, but you’re doing so with about 1/1000th the amount of information they have—especially off-field information—about their own team and the prospects in the draft. So I don’t even bother with a mock draft. Look up the word futile in the dictionary, and there should be a string of NFL mocks next to it.
What I do is pick the player I think general managers should select—basically, The player each NFL team should take if the power brokers didn’t overvalue their own team’s talent, fail to see trends in the game and fear for their jobs and/or egos. I’ve studied the prospects, some more than others, and have combined that with my knowledge about each team’s scheme and talent level to choose a player for each team.
Again, this is a list of players I would select if I were in the driver’s seat. So I don’t want to see any tweets that say, “That idiot Bedard says the Bucs will take Marcus Mariota.” I’m not projecting that. I’m making the pick myself. The correct way to troll me: “Bedard, you’re an idiot for thinking Mariota would be a better pick for the Bucs than Winston. #loser.” After the players have had three full seasons in the NFL, then you can make fun of me all you want.
If you want a more traditional mock that takes a look at what predicting teams will do, bossman Peter King has you covered. But for now, I present The MMQB’s second annual Who Teams Should Select Anti-Mock Draft:
1. Tampa Bay: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
I think both of the top quarterbacks, Mariota and Jameis Winston, will have long careers in this league. I’m just not betting the top pick on Winston. No way. And people are selling Mariota, who is much more than a system QB and is loved by teammates, way short in terms of his ability and leadership skills. Will Winston have the better rookie season? Yes, I’d bet on that. But success is fleeting in the NFL. How you handle success in the NFL is one of its greatest challenges. I know Mariota can handle that challenge, and in the short term he’s smart enough and careful enough with the ball for a team to win with him. No rookie QB has ever gone to the Super Bowl, so it’s more about the long haul, not instant impact. I’ll take my chances with Mariota.
2. Tennessee: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Tennessee’s preference would be for someone (the Jets?) to jump up for one of the top two quarterbacks because the Titans have a lot of needs and could use the extra picks. If they stay here, or drop down a little, Cooper is the pick. There are still questions about what Cooper’s ceiling is because he lacks elite size, but the floor is so high for him (he’ll be a perennial Pro Bowler) because he’s so polished that talent meets need for the Titans.
3. Jacksonville: Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
Not the ideal fit for the open end position in Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme, but this highly active and athletic rusher will have to do. The Jaguars have only veteran Chris Clemons and are desperate for a young rusher.
4. Oakland: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
The Raiders are weak up the middle. Don’t overthink it. Just plug in stout and smart Williams.
5. Washington: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
New general manager Scot McCloughan would love to trade down and accumulate picks to work his magic. Don’t love this pick because the jury is out on whether Beasley can be anything but a situational pass rusher in the NFL due to his struggles against the run, but he’s about the only option in this spot. Randy Gregory has more potential but is way too high a risk off the field for this high in the draft.
6. N.Y. Jets: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Jets need a quarterback. Winston is going to be good if he stays focused (just confine yourself to the Jersey ’burbs, Jameis) and doesn’t think he runs the place. Jets have to roll the dice and move up to No. 2 if the Bucs pass.
7. Chicago: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Really wanted to go defense here at nose tackle or pass rusher, but Danny Shelton and Shane Ray don’t warrant this selection. The only player that can help early is White, who has great physical tools but isn’t as refined as Amari Cooper. With Brandon Marshall gone, Alshon Jeffrey gets a new running mate.
8. Atlanta: Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky
This pick was originally was Shane Ray, but with the Missouri product taking this year’s Alfonzo Dennard Award (in 2012, a week before the draft, the eventual Patriots’ seventh-round pick was arrested for punching a police officer) with his arrest for marijuana possession, I had to make a Dude, what the hell? audible. Dupree is really raw and lacks instincts, but his athletic ability is off the charts. Will need a coordinator that will limit what he’s asked to do until he gets more experience.
9. N.Y. Giants: Brandon Scherff, OG/OT, Iowa
Long shot to be a left tackle at the next level but should at least be an excellent right tackle or guard. The Giants have so many question marks on the line that Scherff’s versatility is a plus. Throw him out there with the rest, and put your best five guys on the field.
10. St. Louis: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
This was a tough decision, which makes me think a trade down is a distinct possibility. Rams could go in several directions, including receiver, cornerback and the offensive line. I like Peat here because he’s the best pure tackle in the draft and can play either side, which could give the team some valuable options if Greg Robinson, last year’s second overall pick, isn’t ready to play left tackle in the opening game.
11. Minnesota: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Vikings are fooling themselves if they think they’re set at cornerback in the NFC North with veterans Terrence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn behind Xavier Rhodes. Waynes isn’t a no-doubt talent (few college cornerbacks are), but he played in a pro-style defense and is fast and tough.
12. Cleveland: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Even with Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline in the mix, the Browns need some young speed on the outside. Cleveland whiffed on taking a receiver last year and can’t do that again. Take your pick. Going with Parker because he’s more polished than UCF’s Breshad Perriman.
13. New Orleans: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
All things being equal, I’d pick Randy Gregory over Ray because Gregory is a better two-way player and has freakish pass-rush ability. However, Gregory is bigger risk in this spot with drug and health issues (yes, even more than Ray, who was arrested this week). The Saints have to find more pass rush.
14. Miami: La’el Collins, OG, LSU
The Dolphins are seriously lacking an ass-kicker at guard. Time to get one and shore up that offensive line.
15. San Francisco: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
If I was projecting who the Niners will pick, I would give general manager Trent Baalke the troubled cornerback from Washington, Marcus Peters. Baalke can’t help himself with talented players who have sketchy character. But since I’m making the pick, I’m going to save Baalke from getting Jim Tomsula’s tenure off to a bad start with Peters, who was kicked off the Huskies. Going safe and, mostly, sound with Armstead. I don’t love him because his effort wanes, but if you’re just asking him to just be a five-technique DE, this big body can do that.
16. Houston: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
The uber talented Gregory finally finds a landing spot, and what plush accommodations with J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 scheme waiting for him. Gregory was born to play outside linebacker in the 3-4. Now, if he can just stay healthy and away from the bong, he’ll be a star.
17. San Diego: Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
Outside of the underrated Corey Liuget, the Chargers don’t have anybody of substance on the defensive line, although Mitch Unrein will be a nice role player. Don’t go for Todd Gurley, don’t reach for a pass rusher (like they did with Larry English at 16th overall in 2009). Go for the rock-solid pick that will make you better.
18. Kansas City: Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
It’s certainly tempting to grab one of the remaining receivers, and the Chiefs still need more speed, but they’re not going anywhere unless the offensive line is better. Get a receiver later, eat your vegetables and take the Seminole who can play just about anywhere on the line.
19. Cleveland: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
The Browns need to start getting younger and better on the defensive line, which was pushed around last season against the run. Not exactly sure what Malcom Brown’s best position is, but in Mike Pettine’s old defense (Jets) that doesn’t matter. He just wants strong, athletic bodies up front, and he’ll sort them out later.
20: Philadelphia: Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Stock up on receivers later. Complete the overhaul of that terrible secondary by pairing Collins him with FS Malcolm Jenkins, and the Eagles may be cooking with gas.
21. Cincinnati: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
A year from now the Bengals will have free-agency decisions at offensive tackle (Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith) and in the secondary (CB Leon Hall, CB Dre Kirkpatrick [option], CB Adam Jones, S Reggie Nelson). Take your pick here. Going in the secondary and targeting the emotional Peters.
22. Pittsburgh: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Outside of CB William Gay, the rest of the Steelers secondary isn’t even average. Have to start hitting on some picks here. Johnson may not have the highest ceiling, but he’s steady, smart and tough.
23. Detroit: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
The Lions did enough triage in free agency and with the Haloti Ngata trade to keep the defensive line from being a huge need. The O-line is a bit of a mess outside RG Larry Warford and LT Riley Reiff. Flowers is nasty, and he’ll start the first day at right tackle.
24. Arizona: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
The Cardinals are desperate for a bigger back, and they should pick the most talented player at the position since Adrian Peterson. Even if he is coming off the ACL injury.
25. Carolina: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Panthers have to start investing in the tackle position, and they should take the talented Ogbuehi. He followed top picks Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews at LT for the Aggies, and while Ogbuehi is the most talented with the highest ceiling, he didn’t deliver last season. It’s there—the Panthers just have to get the greatness out of him.
26. Baltimore: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Ravens stick to their board, and I’m not sure they’ll have one of the remaining receivers with a first-round grade. That means the pick will be between OLB Eli Harold, RB Melvin Gordon and DT Eddie Goldman. I think they’d pick Gordon, but that’s the wrong call with capable Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro on the roster (go get another RB later). The Ravens have some talented young defensive linemen, but I think they’re overvaluing them a bit. Goldman can play.
27. Dallas: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
There are glaring needs on the offensive line (RT Doug Free's 31 and always hurt and Jermey Parnell is no longer around to fill in) and in the secondary, but the value-to-need ratio here, with a plug-and-play running back like Gordon, is just too good to pass up. Go for it, Jerry (and stop calling Adrian Peterson).
28. Denver: Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
Tempting to go with the offensive line, but the interior of that Broncos defensive front was soft against the run, and that was before Terrance Knighton left in free agency. Phillips is a bit of a risk as far as injury and motor are concerned, but you can’t teach 6-5 and 329 pounds of power.
29. Indianapolis: D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Yeah, awesome—the Colts got Andre Johnson and Frank Gore. They still can’t block worth a darn from center to right tackle. Get somebody, anybody, who can protect Andrew Luck and open a few holes in the running game. Humphries has all the physical tools to play any position on the line.
30. Green Bay: Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
This pick is purely because I’m sick of watching the smallish Packers get pushed around on the defensive interior, which exposes their inside linebackers even more. Davis is nearly 6-5 and 320 pounds, with huge hands and long arms. He dominated at the Senior Bowl after a lackluster career at Iowa. Turn defensive line coach Mike Trgovac loose on him and see what happens.
31. New Orleans: Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami
This pick might just be because I love this player. Yes, he’s 5-11, 236 pounds, and ran a 4.71. But, boy, is this guy a football player, and a hitter. Look, the Saints have talked about changing the culture on defense with the right people. Start with this kid. Put him in the middle and watch the intensity rise.
32. New England: A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina
Tough call between Cann and Tre’ Jackson from FSU. And after the performance of former Seminole Bryan Stork at center last season, perhaps Bill Belichick goes back to the Rick Trickett tree. But I’d go with Cann because he’s a little better athlete and more consistent. You know what you’re going to get for the next 10 years.
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