- Plus, the Bengals go with a passer and Washington lands their next QB.
Thank you for reading Mock Draft version 5,629,383. I polled a sample of GMs, head coaches and scouts around the league, trying a variety of approaches to cut through the smokescreens that will inevitably cloud the next eight days before the draft begins. In several conversations, I referred to mock drafts as the “scourge of my business,” only to be told that every team reads them anyway, though some are valued more than others depending on byline (greetings, trash bin). I also decided to ask casually a few times, “So, who are y’all drafting?” which elicited a mix of “best player available lol” and emojis with unclear meanings.
In all seriousness, this is my best guess for what I think could happen with each pick, based on conversations with people much more knowledgeable than I am, but I should note that this year felt particularly difficult to project, largely because of the wildly disparate opinions on the group of QBs. I also think many teams will be looking to trade down. “This is a good year to have as many second-, third- or fourth-round picks as you can,” one team’s decision-maker told me. While there may be a small group of very elite players at the top, he explained that there also seem to be more players with a starter grade than in other years, which is why those second- to fourth-rounders are so valuable. (New England, not so coincidentally, has seven picks from 32 to 134). Fortunately, for all of our sakes, this mock draft ends at pick No. 32.
1. Arizona: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
A done deal? Some people around the league think yes, and some aren’t so sure. But no other team who picked a QB in the first round last year has again this year done the kind of homework on a QB that the Cardinals have done on Murray. If their interest in Murray is instead some kind of elaborate smokescreen, would that be worth risking their relationship with Josh Rosen? That’s why I’m sticking with Murray here.
2. San Francisco: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
I get the sense that many around the league see Bosa and Alabama DT Quinnen Williams as in their own tier, a smidge above the rest of the class. Bosa makes a lot of sense for the Niners, adding him to a defensive front with first-rounders DeForest Buckner (2016) and Solomon Thomas (2017) on the interior, and new addition Dee Ford on the opposite edge.
3. N.Y. Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
This may very well be a true test of the Best Player Available philosophy. If Murray and Bosa go 1-2—and if the Jets keep this pick—I think most evaluators would see Williams as BPA. But, the Jets have had a need at edge rusher practically since Mark Gastineau, which is why Josh Allen also makes sense here. I’m going to stick with Williams, banking on the fact that Gregg Williams will find a way to use both him and Leonard Williams (as long as the rest of us can keep the Williamses straight) and that the pass-rush they can generate inside will make both the edge rush and the blitz better. Trading out would be a great scenario for the Jets, giving them the ability to fill an acute need like cornerback later in the first round and also get back some of the second-rounders they gave up to move up for Sam Darnold last year. But assuming Murray goes first, I’m not sure this year’s draft has the QB demand for teams to clamor to move up.
4. Oakland: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
Stating the obvious: Khalil Mack replacement. While Jon Gruden may very well be keeping his options open at QB, I have a hard time seeing them go for a rookie passer here if Murray is already off the board.
5. Tampa Bay: Devin White, LB, LSU
White has the speed and versatility to be the true three-down linebacker, coveted in today’s NFL. His instincts need some improvement, but he has the athleticism to make up for it as he continues to grow in that area. Last year’s 27th-ranked defense needs a core player like White, who will never come off the field.
6. N.Y. Giants: Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan
The Giants will have a bunch of options at pass rusher at this spot, something they needed badly even before trading Olivier Vernon to Cleveland (and we know they love to draft pass rushers). Gary has the size, strength and explosiveness to be disruptive in the NFL, though his lack of production at Michigan (9.5 sacks in three seasons) scares some evaluators, so I’m conflicted about having him this high. If the Giants love a QB, they should take him here, but I don’t know if there is one they love this year.
7. Jacksonville: Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama
“The position that’s being the most overlooked in this year’s draft,” one evaluator said, “is offensive line.” Williams played at both left and right tackle for Alabama, but could very well kick inside to guard in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams played 2,748 snaps in his three seasons starting for the Crimson Tide, and in 2018, he allowed zero sacks, two hits and just 10 QB hurries. Because of his consistency and versatility, he could be the first OL off the board.
8. Detroit: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Lions fans still salty over Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew will groan, but Hockenson is the do-it-all tight end that’s rare nowadays, able to contribute as both a blocker and a receiver. Offensive line could also be an option here, or a trade down, but Hockenson is one of the best player’s in this year’s draft. Scouts say he is more athletic on the field than his testing numbers indicate, plus, he comes with the endorsement of FOBT (Friend of the Belichick Tree) Kirk Ferentz.
9. Buffalo: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
I struggled with where to place Oliver, who has tremendous athleticism but because of his smaller size and length (6' 2", 280-ish pounds) requires a specific scheme fit as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense. He’s a match in both scheme and need for the Bills, who just lost Kyle Williams to retirement.
10. Denver: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
The Broncos don’t have to force anything at QB after trading for Joe Flacco. They have a glaring need at interior offensive line, so they could look to trade back in the first round for someone like NC State’s Garrett Bradbury. If they stay here, it would be hard to ignore Bush, whom some evaluators see as being neck and neck with White as the top linebackers in the class. Linebacker is a need for Denver, and behind White and Bush there’s a drop-off at the position, so it makes sense for the Broncos to address the spot early.
11. Cincinnati: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
I’m going to be totally honest: I have no idea how the QBs will come off the board. Opinions of this year’s class are all over the map. That’s particularly true with Jones—in discussing him with people around the league, sometimes I wondered if they were all talking about the same player. I think the divide with him comes with floor vs. ceiling, and coaches in particular may be more inclined to see a high ceiling in Jones. While some evaluators say he grades as a mid-round pick, others are smitten by him, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the second QB taken after Murray. If Zac Taylor loves Jones—or doesn’t love Andy Dalton—that could happen here.
12. Green Bay: Jawaan Taylor, T, Florida
Bryan Bulaga, the Packers’ 10-year veteran right tackle, is entering his 10th NFL season and the final year of his contract and has dealt with several injuries over the last two seasons. Taylor, who played right tackle for Florida, makes sense here.
13. Miami: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Look for the Dolphins to focus on the trenches as they reshape their roster under new head coach Brian Flores. Wilkins is a versatile defensive lineman who can play multiple positions. A team captain for Clemson’s national championship team, he also fits the bill as a culture-builder for Flores.
14. Atlanta: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
Our Andy Benoit has been making the case for Takk McKinley to move to inside on third downs where he could be more disruptive, and if the Falcons draft another edge rusher to line up opposite Vic Beasley, he can do just that. Sweat was very productive as a pass rusher in the SEC (22.5 sacks over the past two years) and ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine, but some around the league project he may not go in the top 10. The MMQB’s Albert Breer reported Monday that Sweat’s heart condition (though he was cleared to play with it in college, as well as work out at the combine) could take him off some teams’ draft boards; Sweat was also kicked out of Michigan State, for reasons he hasn’t disclosed publicly but has had to explain in his meetings with teams.
15. Washington: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Washington has been linked to Josh Rosen, but they can’t pass on Haskins if he’s here. Lack of mobility has been a knock on him, but Haskins is a big, strong-armed pocket passer who has impressed teams with his excellent recall and advanced knowledge of play designs.
16. Carolina: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
Torn between offensive line and defensive line here. In Burns, the Panthers address a major need with a burner (I’m sorry for not avoiding that pun) off the edge.
17. N.Y. Giants (from Cleveland): Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
We know how Dave Gettleman loves hog mollies. After going with an edge rusher early in the round, he could address the opposite front here. Dillard played left tackle at Washington, but NFL evaluators had him try out the right side during Senior Bowl practices.
18. Minnesota: Garrett Bradbury, C, N.C. State
Bradbury, winner of the Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football, would be an anchor for the interior of a Vikings offensive line in need of anchoring.
19. Tennessee: Irv Smith, Jr., TE, Alabama
Two tight ends in the top 20? Maybe it’s crazy, but Smith is a versatile player who could add another dimension to the Titans offense and make things easier for Marcus Mariota, while also filling a need (Delanie Walker, 34, is still on his way back from a serious leg injury suffered last September). Plus, like Hockenson, he is FOBT-approved.
20. Pittsburgh: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
This might seem late for the first cornerback to go in today’s pass-happy NFL, but as one GM put it, “if you want a corner high, it’s not an ideal spot to be in.” In other words, the value for cornerbacks is in the second half of the first round. Williams is a lanky guy who some believe has the best chance in this class to be a shut-down guy, though his lack of physicality may be what keeps him on the board this long.
21. Seattle: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
Frank Clark’s long-term future in Seattle is uncertain right now, but either way, it would make sense for the Seahawks to add to their defensive front. Ferrell is not the flashiest athlete, but he was very productive for Clemson (21 sacks over the last two seasons) and can be used against both the run and the pass. (As a caveat, esteemed editor Gary Gramling reminds me that, based on history, it’s far more likely that Seattle trades out of this pick than keeps it, and Gary is basically always right.)
22. Baltimore: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
The Ravens need a receiver, and one falls into their lap. Metcalf was one of the combine stars, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still available here. His college production was limited in large part due to injuries, including a season-ending neck injury last fall, and he had some issues with drops. If they’re comfortable with his medical, Metcalf is a big-bodied target with the ability to stress defenses, something the Ravens don’t have.
23. Houston: Cody Ford, OT/G, Oklahoma
This one’s simple: Best available offensive lineman, for the love of Deshaun Watson.
24. Oakland (from Chicago): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
The Raiders lost Jared Cook, who led the team in receiving last year, in free agency. Fant, the most athletic tight end in this year’s class, is a perfect replacement to be a pass-catching chess piece in Gruden’s offense.
25. Philadelphia: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Brown’s size (5' 9", 166 pounds) turns off some evaluators, and the fact that he’s coming off an injury (Lisfranc surgery) adds to the durability concerns, but the Eagles don’t need any help in projecting him: He’s DeSean Jackson.
26. Indianapolis: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
Some teams would absolutely not draft Simmons in the first round, because of the video of him repeatedly punching a woman in 2016, when he was in high school. (Mississippi State described the incident as an effort to break up a domestic fight between his sister and the other woman; Simmons has said he regrets his actions). He is also recovering from a torn ACL suffered during training in February, and may not be available this season. One team decision-maker said he does not think Simmons will go in the first round, but two other evaluators said they believed he’d be taken in the 20s, on account of his top-10 talent. Simmons has met with the Colts, who have a need at defensive line.
27. *PROJECTED TRADE* Denver (from Dallas via Oakland): Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Let’s get a little bit crazy here. The Broncos see an opportunity to nab a sliding Drew Lock by trading back into the first round, sort of like the Ravens did last year to get Lamar Jackson. In order to leapfrog a gantlet of teams who may be looking for a QB of the future—Chargers, Packers, Patriots—they give up their second- and third-round picks (41 and 71) in exchange for Oakland’s third first-rounder and fifth-rounder (140).
28. L.A. Chargers: Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
His name only recently began appearing in first-round mock drafts, but I think teams like him more than the media does. While some of the other corners in play in the first round have question marks in various areas, Ya-Sin is solid across the board.
29. Kansas City: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
The Chiefs added Tyrann Mathieu to last season’s 31st-ranked pass defense, and they should have plenty of options to add a cornerback with their first-round pick. Murphy doesn’t have the measurables other corners do, but he’s excellent in coverage.
30. Green Bay (from New Orleans): A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
I’m cringing at putting three receivers in the first round, but if Fant is already off the board, perhaps the Packers go for another offensive weapon? Brown is a big-bodied slot receiver who could help replace Randall Cobb.
31. L.A. Rams: Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College
The Rams address losing left guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan by drafting Lindstrom, a four-year starter at BC who was athletic enough to begin his college career at tackle.
32. New England: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Expected a WR or a TE? It would be typical Patriots to then go ahead and draft the 6' 4", 342-pound run stuffing defensive tackle.
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