- A realistic look at Thursday's first round: Everyone wants to trade down.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!”
That’s the famous line, spoken by a ruggedly handsome veteran lead actor in a motion picture. If I remember correctly, he was the leader, and he and others were trying to overcome an obstacle of some kind. Aliens? Or a shark? Was President Sharkhunter a summer blockbuster or a dream I had? No matter, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
And the point is: The majority of NFL teams are looking at this first round and saying, “Let’s get the hell out of here!” desperate to trade down. When we look back in a few years we will see a handful of good and probably even great players in this draft class, but looking at it now, it’s not a great draft class. And considering next year is shaping up to be better (yes, especially the quarterbacks), everyone has an eye on stockpiling 2020 picks. Lots of trades are the closest thing to a guarantee in this year's first round. That, and the fact that it will turn out no general manager was telling the truth out loud over the last three months, which has been the case with every draft season ever.
With that in mind, I bring you, the people, a realistic look at how Thursday night might shake out. And if you don’t think some of these things will happen you're wrong, because if they weren't going to happen then they wouldn't be in this mock draft.
1. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* N.Y. Giants (from Arizona): Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
If there’s one thing you should know by now, it’s that this pointless, weeks-long lead up to the draft serves only one purpose: A chance for veteran GMs to troll you. Yes, you, person who has been whipped into a frenzy because you’re sure Dave Gettleman is going to sign Eli Manning to a fully guaranteed 78-year contract extension this summer. Last year it was a chance for John Dorsey to get all his Baker Mayfield/food truck material out there, at least until Netflix green lights the special. This year, well, who would love to mock you more than Gettleman?
And I know what you’re saying now: Kyler Murray isn’t the Giants’ style of quarterback. But a year ago, the conventional wisdom was that Dorsey would only take a quarterback who was tall enough to dunk from a standing position and had enough arm strength to shatter a human sternum with a football. But the game is changing. And people change. Dorsey took Baker Mayfield. Andy Reid and Norv Turner run two of the league’s most forward-thinking offenses. Your spouse doesn’t look at you the same way and you know something’s wrong but you no longer have the energy to fight for it.
So Gettleman uses some of the Odell Beckham Jr. capital to get the quarterback in this draft, sending the No. 6 and 17 picks, as well as 2020 third- and fourth-round picks. And all the folks who spent the last three months breathlessly absorbing every general manager press availability look back upon their lives, take stock of the wasted hours and softly weep.
2. San Francisco: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Even with Dee Ford in the fold, the 49ers are desperate for disruptive edge rushers after forcing a record-low seven takeaways last year. Bosa is the best in this draft, which outweighs all those complimentary things he said about Spiro Agnew on his Geocities website.
3. N.Y. Jets: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
The Jets desperately want to trade out of this spot, but no one is coming up to get it. Mike Maccagnan settles on Allen, who basically fills the role they wanted Anthony Barr to fill before Barr spurned them. And with that, Maccagnan once again leaves the building in this manner:
4. Oakland: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
It’s not ideal because Williams is redundant with P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst. But Williams is still an upgrade over both those guys, and the Raiders should be in the business of collecting good football players and figuring it out later.
5. Tampa Bay: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
The Bucs are another team putting a stunningly low Buy It Now price tag on this pick, but no one is coming into the top five. That’s all right, because Oliver is a stud. Are you telling me that, after all the cool things Todd Bowles used to do with Sheldon Richardson in New York, he can’t find a similar use for the lighter but even more athletic Oliver? Because those would be the words of a crazy person.
6. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Arizona (from N.Y. Giants): Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
Arizona goes with Williams and plugs him in at left guard, with the thought that he might be replacing D.J. Humphries at left tackle in 2020.
7. Jacksonville: Jawaan Taylor, Florida
The Jaguars add another mauling offensive lineman which should thrill offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who will surely never regret taking a job with a regime that insists he run the ball a minimum 40 times every week at all costs.
8. Detroit: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Judging by their decision to let Eric Ebron walk and replace him with the Willson-Roberts-Toilolo trio, and their outsized usage of LeGarrette Blount even with Kerryon Johnson in the fold last season, the Lions might very well look at newly-signed tight end Jesse James and think they landed a better version of Travis Kelce. However, before they can submit their draft card for the best injury-prone offensive lineman available, Matthew Stafford crashes the draft night stage Fan Man-style and announces the pick as Hockenson, effectively upgrading the run game and giving Stafford another complementary weapon.
9. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* Washington (from Buffalo): Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
It was Daniel Jones. It was always Daniel Jones. Washington leapfrogs Denver to make sure they get their man.
10. Denver: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
The ironclad virtually lifetime contract Joe Flacco is on doesn’t preclude the Broncos from taking a QB here, but you can’t play a Vic Fangio defense without some athletic linebackers. And since the Bears were total jerks about it and wouldn’t let Fangio take Roquan Smith with him to Denver, they get a poor man’s Roquan Smith in Bush.
11. Cincinnati: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
The Bengals used to be pretty good when they had edge rushers who got to the quarterback.
12. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* Philadelphia (from Green Bay): Devin White, LB, LSU
The Eagles, freaking out that one of the two top prospects at their one immediate position of need—linebacker—is still on the board, make the jump from 25, giving up the No. 53 pick they had from Baltimore and a 2020 fifth-rounder (they got an extra one from New England in the Michael Bennett deal) to get there. Because after Devin White and Devin Bush, this class of linebackers is a bummer.
13. Miami: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Brian Flores and his staff take a chance that they can get the boom-or-bust Gary going, envisioning a movable pass-rush threat up front a la Trey Flowers (without the technical skills but with a lot more athleticism).
14. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* Houston (from Atlanta): Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
Owning an extra second-round pick from the Duane Brown trade to Seattle, the Texans exchange a second-rounder (54) for Atlanta’s fifth-rounder (117) in order to jump up nine spots. They get the best pass-protecting tackle in the draft, a major need on account of all the people who kept piling on Deshaun Watson last year and harming his bones and skin and lungs.
15. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Buffalo (from Washington): D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
The Bills, who had already picked up an extra third-rounder by trading down from 9, still land a guy who fits everything this front office looks for on (big catch radius for their less-than-precise QB) and off (devout, humble, wears a shirt all the time which will protect him from the cold of the Western New York winter) the field. With that, the Bills assure themselves a spot among official “Draft Winners” to be revealed across the internet next weekend, for which a celebratory parade will be held on Dick Road in Depew the morning of May 4. (You can get tickets at Dick-Urban Plaza, the abandoned store front where Macaroon’s used to be. Just look for Peggy, you'll figure it out.)
16. Carolina: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
The Panthers’ best teams of the past decade were built on the linebacking corps and a disruptive front four. Kawaan Short and Mario Addison can get it done up front to an extent, but mixing Burns in with Bruce Irvin would give them a chance to recapture the 2015 magic.
17. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Arizona (from Cleveland via N.Y. Giants): Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Brown is a perfect weapon for Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. And isn’t this so much better? Now the Cardinals have Josh Rosen, Jonah Williams and Brown plus the Giants’ third- and fourth-rounders in 2020, rather than Kyler Murray and an extra 2019 second-round pick.
18. Minnesota: Garrett Bradbury, C, N.C. State
The Vikings could take any offensive lineman in this class and have it be an upgrade, but Bradbury seems like a relatively safe choice and, with Gary Kubiak bringing that outside-zone running game to Minnesota, fits exactly what the Vikings will do.
19. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* Oakland (from Tennessee): Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Teams start checking in with the Titans about coming up, with Haskins the target. The Raiders win the bidding by offering two 2020 picks—a third-rounder and a sixth-rounder—to move up six spots and get the Las Vegas Raiders’ first starting QB.
20. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* San Francisco (from Pittsburgh): Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
The 49ers, in need of some defensive backs that can catch the ball now that they’ve upgraded their pass rush, jump up from Pick 36, giving the Steelers a third-rounder (No. 67) and a 2020 sixth-rounder for this pick and the Steelers’ fifth-rounder (No. 141).
21. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* Cincinnati (from Seattle): Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
The Seahawks, as they always do, threaten to just not pick anyone and delay the whole draft if someone doesn’t trade for their first-round pick. The Bengals oblige, coming up from 42 to get the last of the first-round quarterbacks in exchange for their third-round pick (No. 72) and one of their five(!) sixth-round selections. Lock will go on to back up Andy Dalton for five seasons before leaving as a free agent, because Andy Dalton will outlast us all.
22. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* Indianapolis (from Baltimore): Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
With the quarterbacks off the board, the Colts sense a buyer’s market for the Ravens’ pick and send a fifth-rounder in order to move up four spots to 22 and pick up Wilkins, who gives some interior pass-rushing juice to Matt Eberflus’s unit.
23. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Atlanta (from Houston): Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
Assuming the safeties are healthy, Damontae Kazee can slide into the nickelback role. Still, Atlanta is still a little thin on the perimeter, especially considering Dedmond Trufant’s injury history. Ya-Sin can make an impact down the line, as well as provide some nice depth in 2019 for a team with no major needs.
24. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Tennessee (from Chicago via Oakland): Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
The Titans trade down and still land Smith, the heir apparent to Delanie Walker, whose nasty broken leg in last year’s opener reminded us of his mortality—and, in a way, of our own.
25. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Green Bay (from Philadelphia): Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
The Packers take the best offensive lineman on the board. Ford could push veteran Billy Turner for the right guard spot this year, and/or has a chance to replace veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga in 2020 if Green Bay wants to go in that direction. Plus, GM Brian Gutekunst scoops up some extra draft capital to continue stockpiling the roster with young, cheap players, because that’s how you build around a $30 million-plus quarterback in the age of rookie wage scale stupidity.
26. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Baltimore (from Indianapolis): A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
With a bunch of big-bodied receivers to choose from, the Ravens trust they can trade down and still get one. Brown, who can split time between the slot and outside, is the kind of big possession target that would really aid Lamar Jackson's development.
27. Oakland (from Dallas): Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
More than anything, the Raiders desperately need help on the edge in this draft, and they scoop up the last first-round caliber edge player with the last of their three first-round picks.
28. L.A. Chargers: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
GM Tom Telesco, heart-broken to have missed out on the quarterbacks, composes himself long enough to turn in a tears-stained draft card. Simmons will redshirt this year after tearing his ACL during draft prep (the Chargers wouldn’t get a 2019 impact from a QB anyway) but, in 2020, would combine with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to create the most terrifying pass rush in football.
29. Kansas City: Joshua Jacobs, RB, Alabama
I know, the Chiefs need defensive help, but hear me out: Andy Reid is the best in football at designing downfield routes for his running backs:
And now, check this out:
Absolutely nothing beats 90s Conan. But as far as the Chiefs’ draft pick goes, watch what Jacobs does here:
He tracks that ball over the other shoulder (in Tua’s defense, he’s properly placing it away from the safety), doesn’t break stride and breaks multiple tackles on his way into the end zone. Jacobs is the best player available at this point and fits so much of what Andy Reid does. There are no edge rushers worth taking here, and there’s a fair amount of depth among defensive backs—the Chiefs have two late-second rounders with which they can address their pass defense. And you know what else helps the defense? Scoring a ton of points and having a hammer to wear opposing defenses down in the fourth quarter.
30. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* Jacksonville (from New Orleans via Green Bay): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
The Packers trade down again because—again—you need to scrape together thousands upon thousands of players on rookie contracts in order to build around a franchise QB on a market-value deal as the rookie wage-scale continues to make a farce out of the roster-building process. Now, as for Fant: I’m not crazy about his play in contested catch situations and in traffic, and in the NFL the spaces become far tighter. However, Fant is big and fast, and the Jaguars don’t have many guys on the roster who are both of those things. If you were to go back and transcribe every comment Cris Collinsworth made about the Nick Foles-led Eagles over the past two seasons, you’d find the phrase “above the rim” was spoken approximately 53,000 times. Fant can be that kind of receiver for Foles, and coming up from 38 to get him costs the Jaguars only a 2020 fourth-rounder.
31. L.A. Rams: Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College
Things are getting a little weird on the Rams’ offensive line, where Rodger Saffold is gone, John Sullivan is (maybe?) not coming back, and Andrew Whitworth might only have a season or two left. Shopping the free-agent market is no way to build an affordable O-line, which leaves the draft. Lindstrom has the athleticism for L.A.’s outside-zone scheme, and could immediately push for the starting job at left guard or maybe even center.
32. *PROJECTED TRADE UP* Denver (from New England): Connor McGovern, G, Penn State
The Patriots, who invented the concept of trading down circa 2003, say “meh” to the remaining prospects and move out of the first round, with Denver coming up from 41—sending the Patriots a 2020 fourth-round pick—in order to address their troublesome interior offensive line. McGovern profiles as relatively pro-ready. More importantly, he gives the Broncos a second offensive lineman named Connor McGovern, and you can imagine the hilarity. Like, Vic Fangio calls for Connor McGovern to come to his office, and the wrong Connor McGovern comes to his office, at which point Fangio gets frustrated and flustered and is like, “Ooooooooo, you!” Or someone in the locker room says, “Hey, Connor McGovern,” and both Connor McGoverns say, at the same time, “Yes?” You see where I’m going here. I feel like the bones are there for at least a pilot episode of ‘To’ Many Connor McGoverns.
At this point, I realized Broncos fans are frustrated that I just wasted all that time primarily to deliver a subpar “two guys named Connor McGovern” bit, but I honestly think Penn State Connor McGovern would be a nice quick-fix solution on this offensive line, and I think he’ll go higher than people expect.
And as for all those trade downs, and the teams who don’t currently have a first-round pick…
36. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Pittsburgh (from San Francisco): N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
As my co-host and candidate for state comptroller Andy Benoit and I have discussed a couple times on The Monday Morning NFL Podcast: Antonio Brown is secretly one of the best contested-catch receivers in football. So why not replace him with the best contested-catch receiver in this draft class? Harry can play the slot early on as JuJu Smith-Schuster spends more time outside to replace Brown.
38. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Green Bay (from Jacksonville): Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
The Packers will likely be incorporating some jet sweep stuff under Matt LaFleur, but they don’t really have a receiver who fits that kind of role. Enter Campbell, a gadget guy for now with a chance to become a more well-rounded receiver.
41. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* New England (from Denver): Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
The Patriots end up landing the underrated Knox—the prospect they wanted all along, you fools!—to replace Austin Seferian-Jenkins as soon as Seferian-Jenkins fails in his attempt to replace Rob Gronkowski.
42. *PROJECTED TRADE DOWN* Seattle (from Cincinnati): Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame
The schematic fit isn’t quite clear, but Tillery was dominant for stretches and should fit as a disruptor up front in the Seahawks’ Cover-3.
49. Cleveland: Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame
The Browns snag a great slot guy. Love doesn’t have the speed you want in an undersized corner but does have the short-area quickness and instincts to cover. He is also willing to come up and hit despite a lack of size.
58. Dallas: Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
Here’s your guy to step in once Jason Witten leaves after this season, at least until Witten leaves another broadcasting job to return to the team in 2021. It’s fair to wonder about Sternberger as a blocker at this point and he’s not an elite athlete, but he’s a natural as a receiver, with an understanding of setting up routes and excellent hands.
62. New Orleans: Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
The Saints also need a center after the retirement of Max Unger, but the more pressing need for 2019 might be on the edge. Alex Okafor walked, and how much do the Saints want to bank on Marcus Davenport breaking out after he looked very green a year ago? Winovich gives them a Plan B opposite Cameron Jordan.
87. Chicago: Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma
Because Kyle Long won’t play forever. Plus, what are they going to do, not take Dru Samia with the 87th pick?
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