I make tons of calls this time of year—and I love the interaction with all the coaches and personnel folks (s/o to all you guys for the help) over these weeks. I hear lots of things, and by the time the draft arrives, my brain is mush.
But this year there was one thing someone said to me that’s pretty much marked everything I’ve done since.
“I feel bad for you guys having to predict all of it this year. Even we don’t know.”
So here’s your lesson going into Thursday night: Mock drafts are never that accurate at baseline, because the draft is hard to project, and this year might be the hardest one to forecast I can remember.
The problem is the positions that are strong are also deep. That goes for corner. It goes for safety. It goes for running back and tight end. It goes for the pass rushers. So while Myles Garrett is the consensus top player, there are a lot of different opinions on who’s second, third and fourth, and there’s widespread disagreement on the order players at each position come off the board.
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So of course, I’m making excuses for what’s ahead. Here’s my mock draft. Hopefully, under these harrowing circumstances, I can get a few right.
1. Browns: Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett. The Trubisky buzz is real. And I think Cleveland will be aggressive to get him after going chalk at 1.
2. 49ers: Stanford DE Solomon Thomas. Yes, this would be their third straight year with a first-round DL. But their Seattle-style scheme demands numbers up front. Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore is also in play.
3. Bears: LSU S Jamal Adams. There’s been buzz that John Fox likes OSU safety Malik Hooker, and Alabama DL Jonathan Allen could be a fit. But Adams is the safe play for GM Ryan Pace.
4. Jaguars: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. I’m 50/50 with Watson and LSU RB Leonard Fournette here. But if Tom Coughlin is smitten with Watson …
5. Browns (trade with Titans): North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky. If Cleveland comes away with both objects of its affection, that’s a win. The hope would be those two do what 2014 draftees Khalil Mack and Derek Carr have done for Oakland.
6. Jets: Alabama TE O.J. Howard. I’ve vacillated on this. But teams see Howard as close to a sure thing as there is. Also, won’t hurt the QBs to have him.
7. Chargers: Clemson WR Mike Williams. There are whispers about QBs here, and Hooker’s been the logical pick. But the Bolts did late work on Williams.
8. Panthers: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey. Shocker! Fournette isn’t the first back off the board. Instead, Cam Newton gets a Swiss Army knife for his arsenal.
9. Bengals: LSU RB Leonard Fournette. I’ve heard Washington WR John Ross, Alabama LB Reuben Foster and Howard here. But if Fournette drops in their lap, things change.
10. Bills: Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore. How serious Buffalo is about the QBs is an open question. But if Lattimore or Howard fall, the Bills would be happy.
11. Saints: Temple LB Haason Reddick. Such a great story, and a guy who can be a foundation piece for New Orleans’ defensive rebuild.
12. Titans (trade with Browns): Alabama DL Jonathan Allen. He is as good a college player as any in this draft. Shoulder issues are there. Tennessee is the beneficiary.
13. Cardinals: Western Michigan WR Corey Davis. Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes is in play here. Instead, Arizona gets a guy who will help, rather than eventually replace, Carson Palmer.
14. Eagles: Ohio State S Malik Hooker. I’ve heard Tennessee DE Derek Barnett here. Of course, that scenario supposes that Hooker doesn’t fall this far.
15. Colts: Missouri DE Charles Harris. GM Chris Ballard likes pass rushers with athletic juice. And while he needs some work, Harris can bring that.
16. Ravens: Alabama LB Reuben Foster. No one gets more background on Bama players than Ozzie Newsome. And I hear he’s OK with Foster’s flags
17. Redskins: UCLA LB Takkarist McKinley. Redskins are hunting for pass rushers. My sense is they’d like Harris. If he can get healthy, McKinley might be better.
18. Titans: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey. Could see him going as high as 13 to Arizona. This fit, with what Mularkey and Robinson are building, makes sense.
19. Buccaneers: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett. I’ve heard Dalvin Cook strongly here, but getting a pass-rusher is a priority and there will be backs later.
20. Broncos: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk. Ramczyk’s a fit for what Mike McCoy wants to do. The question is how comfortable Denver is with his hip.
21. Lions: Miami TE David Njoku. GM Bob Quinn comes from tight end-loving New England, and Njoku makes sense to eventually replace Ebron.
22. Dolphins: USC CB Adoree’ Jackson. Miami will invest in its defense, and with the pass-rushers off the board, it starts at corner.
23. Giants: Utah OT Garrett Bolles. He’s not without his warts, and he’s a little older, but Jerry Reese needs a pass protector. In this group, that’s Bolles.
24. Raiders: Florida LB Jarrad Davis. It’s a crying need. And if his health holds up, Davis belongs right in this area. Oakland can address corner later.
25. Texans: Alabama OT Cam Robinson. I believe they’ll make an effort to go up and get Watson, and consider Mahomes before settling on a right tackle.
26. Seahawks: Washington CB Kevin King. Big, long Pete Carroll type of corner makes sense as GM John Schneider starts to look to the future on defense.
27. Chiefs: Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes. I see this as the floor for Mahomes, who could go much earlier. That said, KC would be an ideal landing spot for him.
28. Cowboys: UConn S Obi Melifonwu. Free agency decimated the Dallas defense, and this rising prospect could well grow into a cornerstone.
29. Packers: Florida CB Quincy Wilson. Green Bay needs to overhaul this position and Wilson is a solid fit for Dom Capers’ scheme.
30. Steelers: Washington WR John Ross. Could go as high as 9, falls all the way to 30, exemplifying this volatile draft. I almost put Cal QB Davis Webb here.
31. Falcons: Utah S Marcus Williams. Atlanta could trade up, maybe all the way to the late teens. Failing that, Dan Quinn gets his centerfielder.
32. Saints: Washington S Budda Baker. This is a hunch, and a sense that this Bob Sanders clone would bring the edge Dennis Allen wants from his D.
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