As the NFL season winds down, it is officially mock draft season. Mock drafts aren’t necessarily about being right or wrong. In this mock draft, I will be assuming the role of General Manager and will pick the pick for that team, and for the sake of simplicity we will assume there are no trades.
Cleveland Browns: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
I know what you are thinking, but hear me out. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen may be the prototypical QB’s, and may very well go on to have great careers. But Baker Mayfield brings a winning attitude and culture to Cleveland. Two things the Browns are sorely lacking, as you can see by their lone win the past two seasons. Mayfield can come in and provide a Deshaun Watson type boost to the Browns, who find their quarterback of the future.
2. New York Giants: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Josh Rosen is the most mechanically sound QB in this class. His decision making can be questionable sometimes, and his mechanics deteriorate when under pressure, but he is still the most NFL ready quarterback in this class. Sitting behind Manning for a year also can’t hurt Rosen, who has the potential to become the new face of the Giants.
3. Indianapolis Colts: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
Chubb may be the safest pick in the entire draft. At 6’4” and 275 pounds, Chubb carries an NFL ready body and a relentless motor to a soft Indianapolis defense. When the Colts were successful, their defense had relentless pass rushers coming off either tackle, and Chubb starts the defensive rebuild to revamp a weak Indy defense.
4. Cleveland Browns: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Saquon Barkley gives Cleveland a homerun threat in the backfield. Barkley is a do it all running back with the ability to run inside and outside the tackles, catch out of the backfield, and return kicks. His presence should take the pressure off the quarterback in Cleveland. The last draft landed some building blocks on the defensive side of the ball, and this draft the Browns can add their QB and RB with their two first round selections.
5. Denver Broncos: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
The Broncos desperately need a quarterback. The Paxton Lynch saga was over after one game. Trevor Siemian has shown he can’t be a reliable starting quarterback. And Brock Osweiler continued to do Brock Osweiler-esque things. John Elway may see himself in Allen. Josh Allen is a strong armed quarterback with the mobility to extend plays with his feet and can make every throw on the field. His decision making is poor at times and has trouble putting the ball in the right spots, but those kinks can be worked out. Allen gives the Broncos a viable starter who offers more than any player on the roster.
6. New York Jets: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
The Jets need an answer at quarterback. They need someone who can make plays. Sam Darnold could be the pick here, but he looked like more like another former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, who the Jets also took, than a franchise savior. Lamar Jackson gives the Jets a player who will electrify the Big Apple with his dazzling runs and impressive arm. Jackson can give defenses fits, and it shouldn’t be long before he is tearing up the AFC East.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
The Bucs sorely need pass rushers, but no player is worth this high of a pick. Fortunately, the Bucs can go best player available and fill a need. Minkah Fitzpatrick is a high character, high IQ football player with the talent to change the dynamic of a secondary. The Bucs can plug him anywhere in the defensive backfield, and he would instantly become a pro bowl caliber talent wherever he is playing.
8. Chicago Bears: WR Cortland Sutton, SMU
Sutton gives the Bears what they wanted out of Kevin White. At 6’4”, Sutton is a big play receiver who routinely wins 50/50 balls, and become a huge asset in the Red Zone for Mitch Trubisky. His only question mark is his top end speed, and if he can stretch a defense vertically by getting behind defensive backs. Either way, Sutton is an immediate upgrade to a lackluster Chicago receiving corps, and helps the development of Trubisky.
9. San Francisco 49ers: T Connor Williams, Texas
This pick will go to either the 49ers or Raiders, and we will find out via coinflip shortly. My coinflip gave this pick to the 49ers, and that’s how this mock will go. San Francisco has their franchise signal caller in Jimmy G, a young, emerging defense, and a solid trio of running backs. This pick could be spent to give Jimmy G more toys on offense, but I have them taking left tackle Connor Williams. Williams is a rock on the blindside. His technique is off the charts for a college tackle, and plays with excellent leverage. He is able to get to the second level, and can finish blocks all the way through. With Joe Staley nearing the end of his career, Connor Williams gives them another rock to build their offensive line around.
10. Oakland Raiders: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The Raiders defense was putrid this past season, and largely the reason they are back to picking in the top ten. They could draft a corner here, but I suspect they will look to revamp the linebackers. Smith would instantly upgrade the second level of the defense, and gives the Raiders a three down linebacker who is a heat seeking missile with the ability to drop back in coverage and take away the middle of the field. Also, with Jon Gruden running the show, Smith reminds me of another staple of the Gruden era: Derrick Brooks. In order for Gruden to run his Tampa 2 scheme, he needs a rangy, instinctive, athletic linebacker to man the middle, and that’s exactly what they get right here.
11. Miami Dolphins: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
The Dolphins can go any number of ways with this pick, but in order to stay competitive, the ‘Fins must continue to add talent to an underwhelming offensive line. The moment Nelson steps onto the field, he will be the best lineman on the roster. Nelson is a mauler and a technician. He plays with a nasty edge and loves to finish his block all the way to the ground, and is also surprisingly nimble for a man his size. He is rarely out of position and will turn a mediocre offensive line into a top ten group in the NFL.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: T Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Let’s not mince words here. The Bengals offensive line was atrocious. If the Bengals want to return to their winning ways, they will need to add talent up front. Enter Orlando Brown. This mammoth of man comes in at 6’8”, 345 pounds, who plays with a chip on his shoulder. Even though he may be a risky pick this early due to his inconsistent technique, but his upside comes from his ability to fill either tackle or guard spot. While he never played guard in college, the transition should be easy for a player his size. When his technique is there, he is a rock. Sometimes he plays without much leverage, but with a little coaching, it is a very correctable issue. They don’t make athletes this big very often, and when the opportunity is there to grab one, you do.
13. Washington Redskins: S Derwin James, Florida State
The Redskins need help on every level of the defense. With that said, they are lucky the best player available also happens to fill a position of need. Enter Derwin James, the best athlete in the class. James was a do it all gadget for Florida State. He could play the middle of the field, play in the box, and they even lined James up at defensive end. James gives the Redskins a stud safety, and James will bring back memories of Sean Taylor.
14. Green Bay Packers: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
The Packers window is only open as long as Rodgers is at the helm. That said, the defense needs to carry their own weight. Enter Josh Jackson. At 6’1”, Jackson has the size teams look for in their corners. His ball skills are also the best in the class, highlighted by his 8 interceptions in 18 pass breakups this past year. With this pick, the Packers are brimming with young potential at cornerback, and that is not a bad problem. There’s a chance the Packers nab a linebacker here, but I think the potential of a Josh Jackson/Kevin King cornerback duo is too enticing to pass up on.
15. Arizona Cardinals: QB Sam Darnold, USC
The draft day slide for Darnold ends here. While Darnold offers sky high potential in the long run, his basement is as low as his ceiling is high. At 6’5”, Darnold boasts NFL size and an NFL arm that can make any throw on the field. His accuracy and decision making can be suspect at times, and his mechanics get sloppy when under pressure. Coming into the season ranked so high, Darnold under achieved this year, but the Cardinals will gladly draft him here. With Carson Palmer gone, Darnold can step in and compete for the starting job day one.
16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
If the Ravens want to get back to the dance, they need better weapons for Joe Flacco. Calvin Ridley is the most refined route runner in this class, and gives Flacco a threat at wide receiver. Ridley’s numbers may not be impressive, but coming from a run heavy Alabama offense, that is to be expected. He can create separation on his routes by understanding when to break, and focuses on running crisp routes. He can come in and be an instant impact player on a Ravens offense desperately needing one.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
This isn’t the sexiest pick, but it’s the best long term option for the Chargers. Russell Okung played well, and rookies Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp should secure the guard spots. But right tackle is still a question mark. Mike McGlinchey can come in and start from day one on the right side, and take over for Okung on the left side. McGlinchey is a technician. He gets great leverage and uses his hands very well to dictate where the defender is going. With the Philip Rivers era coming to an end in Los Angeles, the more time he has to make throws, the more wins the Chargers could pile up, and give Rivers one last run at the playoffs.
18. Seattle Seahawks: S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
Yes the Seahawks offensive line is in shambles, and it makes life very difficult on offense. But the Seahawks have won in the past because of defense, and they need an injection of youth into their defensive backfield. Now that Kam Chancellor’s career may be over, The Seahawks could find his replacement in Ronnie Harrison. At 6’3”, Harrison possesses excellent size for a safety, and is a perfect fit for Seattle. He is solid in coverage, but really excels playing downhill and laying out bone crushing hits.
19. Dallas Cowboys: LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
The Cowboys front seven needs to get stronger if it wants to compete in the NFC. Malik Jefferson is a game changer at linebacker. The rumor among NFL scouts is that he will run a low 4.4 forty at the combine, which could bump his stock up to inside the top 15. The Cowboys can pluck Jefferson from their home state, and he can instantly slide in the Dallas defense and help turn things around. A linebacker core of Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Malik Jefferson sounds awfully scary for opposing teams.
20. Detroit Lions: RB Derrius Guice, LSU
The Lions rely too much on Matt Stafford’s arm to consistently win games. While the Lions offense remains one of the better offenses in the league, it is hardly because of the rushing attack. Ameer Abdullah has potential, but he lacks the violent running style needed to grind out yards in the NFL. Derrius Guice emulated violence in his two years of action at LSU. When healthy, he hits holes harder than anyone in the country, but also has the speed to take it all the way. With Guice, the Lions can commit to a more balanced offense, which will take pressure off the defense and open up the passing game for Stafford.
21. Buffalo Bills: QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
The Bills are in need of a franchise signal caller. The Tyrod Taylor experiment appears to be on its last legs, and Nathan Peterman threw more picks in one half (5) than Tyrod did all season (4). Mason Rudolph may not be in the top tier of quarterbacks, but he has the potential to be. While at Oklahoma State, he routinely showed off his arm strength, accuracy, and touch, en route to 4900 yards and 37 touchdown passes his senior season. At 6’5”, he also has excellent size for a quarterback. The only concern is how he will transition from an Air Raid offense to a pro style offense. If he does, the Bills may have the steal of this draft class.
22. Buffalo Bills: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
If you watched the National Championship game, you would’ve noticed one thing: Payne is a monster. He may not post eye popping stats, but he is a mauler on the inside. He consistently applies pressure up the middle by bullying his blocked backwards. Payne can step in and immediately fill the spot of Marcell Dareus, and he will be a pain for opposing offenses to handle.
23. Los Angeles Rams: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Rams took the NFL by storm this year, and return most of their young roster. Todd Gurley is a legitimate MVP candidate, and Jared Goff all of a sudden looks like a top tier quarterback. The biggest area of need is the defensive backfield, which is where Denzel Ward comes in. At 5’10”, Ward is a little undersized to match up with the bigger receivers. However, he is feisty, and does an excellent job tracking the ball. In his first year starting, Wards’ recovery speed also pops out on tape. He is not one to shy away from contact either. Ward gives the Rams another tool to bring their defense to the next level.
24. Carolina Panthers: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Cam Newton needs target to throw to. McCaffery and Curtis Samuel didn’t quite live up to expectations, and trading Kelvin Benjamin significantly weakened the Panthers receivers. Christian Kirk is a special talent, who runs excellent routes, has top end speed, and great hands. Texas A&M struggled to get Kirk the ball this past season, which may scare some teams off. However, when given the ball, Kirk is a home run threat, and may remind Panthers fans of Steve Smith.
25. Tennessee Titans: DE Taven Bryan, Florida
The Titans need to get younger and more athletic on defense, and Bryan happens to be a freak. The 6’5”, 295 pound defensive end is a monster. He squats over 600 pounds, box jumps into pickup trucks, and according to Florida coaches, he’s one of the fastest players on the team. You read that right. An SEC defensive lineman is one of the fastest players on his team. His production in college wasn’t great for someone with his ability. If he can get coached up to fine tune his technique, the rest of the NFL is going to have to watch out.
26. Atlanta Falcons: T/G Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
The Falcons don’t have many holes left on their roster. The offensive line remains a position group that could use an upgrade at right guard, and the defense could look to add more talent along the line. But the Falcons would be wise and take what is given to them, rather than reach. Rankin is a strong run blocker and would immediately bolster the Falcons right guard spot. He plays with great leverage, and is excellent at finishing blocks and reaching the second level. He would be a nice addition to a team struggling to find its identity on offense.
27. New Orleans Saints: LB Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech
The Saints nearly reached the conference championship game, had it not been for one of the wildest finishes to a game in NFL history. The Saints defense make tremendous strides from last year, but the linebackers could still use an upgrade. Tremaine Edwards is a three down linebacker who plays with a very high motor. He is a gadget player, who can play in space or bend the edge getting after the quarterback, and he would instantly compete for a starting spot on the Saints defense.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State
With Ryan Shazier’s career in doubt after a spinal injury, the Steelers must draft his replacement. Where else to go than from Shazier’s alma mater? Baker is a rangy linebacker who has a nose for the football. Most scouts have Baker as a day 2 pick, but with few holes on the roster, the Steelers can reach a few spots to grab their next linebacker.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
The third sooner to be taken in the first round adds weapons to the Jags offense. Mark Andrews is the most reliable pass catcher in the draft, and was Baker Mayfield’s favorite target. Andrews can line up in the slot, out wide, and off the line. With Allen Robinson coming back from injury, and the emergence of Leonard Fournette, the Jags suddenly have a offense that looks potent on paper. Of course, Bortles is still the weak link of this offense, and until he makes strides as a passer, the offense will continue to be held back.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Donte Jackson, LSU
The Eagles defense has been lights out at times this year. The defensive line may be the most underrated rated group in the league, but the secondary could use some work. Donte Jackson is a fast, aggressive corner who often goes for the big play. He needs more discipline to be a shutdown corner in the NFL, but his speed and man coverage skills make him perfect to compliment the pass rush in Philly.
31. Minnesota Vikings: T Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
The Vikings offensive line has been its Achilles heel all season. The tackle and guard spots could use upgrades, and Chukwuma Okorafor is their best option late in the first round. Okorafor possesses great length for a tackle at 6’5”, but needs to work on refining his technique so his consistently wins the leverage battle. He should come in and compete for a starting spot right away, and could be one of the biggest steals in the draft.
32. New England Patriots: OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
The Patriots defense still needs work. The unit does a good job of keeping teams out of the endzone, but far too often teams are able to meander their way down the field without much resistance. Cornerback is a need, as Butler has looked like a shell of himself, but the pass rush has also been non existent. Okoronkwo is a typical Belichick player. He has a very high motor, high IQ, and can play standing up or with his hand in the dirt. He’s fast enough to get around the corner and strong enough to set the edge. He would be a great addition to the Pats.