I’ve said it a thousand times: i’m continually baffled by how football fans get frothed up beyond belief about mock drafts at this time of the year. Any mock draft — including the one you’re about to read below — is like listening to a political speech: a whole lot of words are said, but none of it means a damn thing.
As I said last year: before you get up in arms about the selections made below, exclaiming”MY TEAM WOULD NEVER TAKE [insert player name here]!!” or “WE’RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL IF WE DRAFT [insert player name here]!!,” just relax.
We’re still two weeks away from the NFL Scouting Combine, close to a month away from the start of free agency, followed by four-to-six weeks of teams thinking, re-thinking, and then overthinking what they’re going to do with their top pick… only to see all of that agonizing thrown right out the window, based on what happens on draft night.
But, as we enter the abyss that is known as the NFL offseason, we need something to give us a football fix. Hence, the publishing of the always-great-for-clickbait mock.
Before you all get your thongs in a bunch over any selections made/not made in this, just remember: the whole point of this mock is juxtaposing the top-ranked prospects in the upcoming draft with who your favorite team MIGHT pick based on current needs. We’ll probably look back on this mock in April, and see how hilarious this one — along with any other mock draft from any other draft pundit — ends up being.
All of that being said, away we go with Mock Draft 1.0…
1. Cleveland — Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California
Yes, the Cotton Bowl was ugly. Really ugly. I get it. And I agree that, in a perfect world, Sam Darnold would have gone back to school for another year, and receive a mulligan on his 22 turnovers (including a ghastly nine fumbles lost) this season.
But i’ll counter with two points: 1) Darnold is the best quarterback in this draft, in terms of the combination of size (6’4 and 220 lbs), accuracy, mobility, and mental makeup; and 2) Cleveland was already dead last in turnovers given away last year, so what’s another year of coughing up the football for them?
Frankly, my biggest concern for Darnold is the fact that he’ll enter his first training camp as an impressionable rookie quarterback only weeks removed from his 21st birthday, and will be coached by two guys who have no problem destroying their relationships with their starting quarterback(s) in head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
2. NY Giants — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Even in a season when Odell Beckham Jr. broke his ankle in the first week of October, the ownership of this team secretly sabotaged Eli Manning’s future in New York (and publicly blamed the entire ordeal on their dimwitted — and now deposed — former head coach), and the fact that their (equally dimwitted) former General Manager spent over $200 million in free agent contracts in 2016 but still couldn’t find an offensive lineman, running back, wide receiver (besides Beckham), or linebacker worth a damn, this organization still finds a way to beat the Washington Redskins at least once among their two match-ups ever year.
So, f*ck the New York Giants. I hope they draft Josh Rosen and keep Manning around for another year, leading to season-long pissing matches in the media over who should be the team’s starting quarterback next year.
3. Indianapolis — Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Imagine that the Indianapolis Colts’ roster was an automobile. The NFL’s version of Curly, Larry, and Moe — Colts owner Jim Irsay, former General Manager Ryan Grigson, and (now former) head coach Chuck Pagano — got together and decided that, after having one of the best “engines” in a generation fall into their lap, they had no need for things like the frame, suspension(s), exhaust, plumbing, wiring, or anything else that makes the car run, and they would just spend all the rest of their time and money on floor mats and steering wheel covers. And that’s exactly why, six years after drafting the best quarterback prospect since John Elway, the Colts find themselves with a top three pick in the NFL Draft.
Now that the Colts actually have an adult running things (General Manager Chris Ballard), Bradley Chubb should be the best pick for them here, especially given the fact that the Colts finished 31st in quarterback sacks.
4. Cleveland (from Houston) — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
As much fun as it would be to pick Saquon Barkley at this spot, don’t forget that the Cleveland Browns ranked 27th in passing defense DVOA last season, and they badly need a “centerfielder”-type safety opposite of Jabrill Peppers (who i’m still not 100% sure is anything more than a glorified kick returner).
Of all the incredible prospects who played for Nick Saban at Alabama, Minkah Fitzpatrick could be one of the very best to enter the NFL. They jokingly call him the only player to make Saban smile. think he could be a bigger, stronger version of Tyrann Mathieu: a defensive back so gifted that he could be a Pro Bowl player at either cornerback or safety, allowing the team that drafts him to use him in so many different ways. It wouldn’t be the slightest crazy to ask if he’s secretly the best defensive player in this draft.
5. Denver — Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame
The early money is on the Denver Broncos addressing their glaring need at quarterback by bringing in a veteran, considering even a semi-competent quarterback could’ve gotten this team to at least seven or eight wins last year. The “Denver will make a big push to sign Kirk Cousins” chatter won’t go away.
Assuming they go some such route at quarterback, i’m projecting they’d address a major need along the offensive line by drafting Quenton Nelson. They already used a first round pick on an offensive tackle last year (Garrett Bolles), whereas Quenton Nelson is a rare elite interior offensive prospect — and one bad MoFo in general — who’s worth a top-five selection .
6. NY Jets — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
There’s no other way to put it: Josh Allen is the football scouting equivalent of a Rorschach test, and quickly becoming the most hotly-debated quarterback prospect to enter the NFL Draft since Tim Tebow.
There’s the group of people that will tell you he’s Ben Roethlisberger or Carson Wentz, but with a stronger arm (when Allen gets to the NFL, the only players in the NFL who will have as much arm strength are Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers). There’s a group of people that are terrified of the fact that Allen’s passes are about as inaccurate as the stuff you’ll hear on a Fox News Talk Show, and that he looks like he’ll be the next Kyle Boller or Jake Locker (I would be in that group). Watching him throw the football is like porn for quarterback scouting… until you see some of the hilariously wild misses that he’ll have.
According to ace reporter (and fellow Indian homeboy) Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets could very well purge their roster of every quarterback they currently have. If they don’t sign Kirk Cousins (they’re going to make a BIG push for him in free agency), it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go the “bridge” route of acquiring a veteran quarterback, and letting Allen sit on the bench for a while to develop.
7. Tampa Bay — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Despite an offense featuring Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and DeSean Jackson, head coach Dirk Koetter’s biggest concern heading into 2018 was to “score more points.”
That’s why there’s no way they would pass on taking Saquon Barkley here, especially considering many people believe he’s the #1 overall prospect in this year’s draft, and a generational-talent at his position (although some people think the media and #Drafttwitter are higher on Barkley than NFL teams).
Doug Martin’s time in Tampa Bay looks to be over, especially given that he hasn’t had a single game with 100-plus rushing yards over the last two years.
8. Chicago — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Even after the disaster that was the Kevin White selection by General Manager Ryan Pace, there have been whispers that the Chicago Bears will be looking to add a wide receiver early in this year’s draft — and that Calvin Ridley near the top of their wish list.
A 5-star, top-20 recruit coming out of high school, Ridley never quite got the national spotlight he deserves, as he was hindered for the past two seasons with Alabama’s total lack of a vertical passing game under Jalen Hurts; it’s rather ironic that Ridley will be leaving when the Tide could have their best passing quarterback prospect in years starting under center next season in Tua Tagovailoa.
Still, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network compared Ridley to Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings, given his/their ability to make “explosive/down-the-field catches.”
9a. San Francisco* — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
You could make an argument for the 49ers to go in a variety of different directions with this pick, as far as filling team needs, but the team showed last year that they’ll probably stick with the best player on their board.
Denzel Ward is one of those guys that most people are just starting to hear about, but I think he’s going to be this year’s Marshon Lattimore: the cornerback prospect — also from Ohio State, coincidentally — that everyone is going to start paying attention to, and saying “holy crap, this guy is really f*cking good.”
9b. Oakland* — Vita Vea, DT, Washington
I’ll come right out and say it: Vita Vea is my favorite player in this draft. Why? Because if Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (aka “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones) was a Polynesian defensive tackle, he would be Vita Vea.
A bunch of teams are going to out-think themselves and conclude that Vea is “not a three-down lineman,” and they wouldn’t be more incorrect in that assertion. This breakdown of Vea should tell you everything you need to know about what he can do in passing situations. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network called Vea “a more explosive version of [Haloti] Ngata,” the latter of whom was a five-time All-Pro selection. Yeah, that’ll do.
Oakland’s defensive tackles — Justin Ellis and Eddie Vanderdoes — aren’t anyone special, and the former is a free agent who might not be with the team next year. Some people might see this as a bit of a reach, but this would make so much sense for them.
11. Miami — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Simply put: Roquan Smith is a heat-seeking missile, except replace “heat” with “anyone carrying the football.”
Some football Neanderthal talent evaluators are going to point to the fact that Smith is “too small” to hold up in the NFL. By that logic, the same can be said about guys like Telvin Smith (6’3 and 205lbs), Deion Jones (6’1 and 222lbs), Eric Kendricks (6’0 and 232lbs), and Lavonte David (6’1 and 233lbs), who are some of the best tackling linebackers in the NFL.
Putting Smith next to Raekwon McMillan (who missed all of last year with a torn ACL) and Kiko Alonso gives the Miami Dolphins badly-needed infusion of speed and talent in the front seven of the defense.
12. Cincinnati — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
At some point, the Cincinnati Bengals have to debate whether they can rely on linebacker Vontaze Burfict, considering he’s missed over 1/3rd of Cincinnati’s regular season games over the past three seasons between a combination of suspensions and injuries. Between Burfict and linebacker Vincent Rey, the team needs an upgrade at the linebacker spot (among many others), which is always a position of focus for Marvin Lewis.
How talented is Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds? One NFC scout said the following: “Good luck with your player comp on this one. They don’t come like him. I don’t think there has ever been a linebacker that has had his size and speed. You’re better off comping him with a basketball player.”
13. Washington — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Because a d*ck-grabbing, flag-planting, slick-dancing, Mia Khalifa-rejecting, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who’ll be the subject of endless “is he or is he not the next Johnny Manziel?” discussions deserves to be drafted by one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL.
In complete honesty, I don’t actually expect Baker Mayfield to last this long in the draft; he’s actually my personal #2 quarterback prospect in this draft (only because Josh Rosen screams “evolutionary Jay Cutler” to me), and i’d be willing to bet plenty of money that he ends up being taken among the top seven picks come draft day.
But if the Redskins can at least have someone in place as their “quarterback of the future” (yet again), that will make the acquisition of Alex Smith a little closer to a eucatastrophe, versus the simple “Donovan McNabb-redux” catastrophe that it presently looks like.
14. Green Bay — Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UT San Antonio
My favorite comparison for little-known Marcus Davenport is Ziggy Ansah: A physical specimen (6’6 and 260lbs) who has all the physical pass-rushing tools you could ask for, but flew under the national radar because he didn’t go to a big name school, and absolutely dominated his competition despite the fact that he really doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing as a pass rusher.
Green Bay loves to draft players with measurables who also fit team needs, and upgrading the pass-rush remains near the top of the list of needs.
15. Arizona — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The outside cornerback spot opposite of Patrick Peterson has been a need for the Arizona Cardinals for quite some time now. They started last season by trying to play Justin Bethel there, and that turned out to be a big flop. Veteran Free agent acquisition Tramon Williams filled in admirably, but he’ll turn 35 this offseason, and is a free agent. That leaves only Bethel and cornerback Brandon Williams — their 3rd round pick in 2016 who only played one defensive snap in 2017 — to fill the job opposite of Peterson this season.
Considering new head coach Steve Wilks is an old defensive backs coach, and given this area of need, wouldn’t it make sense to see him grab the best ball-hawking cornerback in this draft class?
16. Baltimore — Connor Williams, OT, Texas
I’ll never fully understand why the Baltimore Ravens thought it’d be a good idea to let Joe Flacco throw the 7th-most passing attempts in the NFL last season, considering he’s really nothing more than a glorified version of Blake Bortles.
In fairness to them, the Ravens also did finish 7th in the NFL in team rushing attempts last season, and seemed to have come to the novel conclusion that going with a run-based offense — instead of relying on Flacco — is the best way to go. Assuming they stick with this idea, they have a big need at right tackle, which Connor Williams would fill sufficiently. Before an injury-filled 2017 season at the University of Texas, many people had Williams pegged as a top-10 talent in this draft.
17. LA Chargers — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
It kind of flew under the radar, but the Los Angeles Chargers ranked 27th in rushing defense DVOA last season, and gave up almost 2,100 yards on the ground last year (the second-most of any NFL team).
They need some more beef up front on the defensive line, especially with defensive tackle Brandon Mebane starting to show his age. Da’Ron Payne might be the most talented interior defensive lineman in this entire draft, but because of his inconsistent motor, he was the rare defensive freak whom Nick Saban couldn’t turn into a superstar. But when Payne is motivated, he’s a certified homewrecker.
18. Seattle — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
C’mon, we all saw the offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks basically spend the whole season shouting “olé!” while defenders ran right past them, and Russell Wilson had a near-MVP season despite running around for his life on every play.
Standing nearly 6’7 and weighing roughly 300 pounds, Mike McGlinchey is an absolute mauler in the running game, but might struggle a bit as a pass protector. At worst, he could come into Seattle and play right tackle right away. And they need all the help they can get.
19. Dallas — Derwin James, Safety, Florida State
To be clear: watching Derwin James fall into the lap of the Dallas Cowboys would absolutely ruin draft night for me.
He’s probably not going to last this long by the time the NFL Draft actually happens, but there are some who think he could fall to this point in the first round because he missed most of 2016 with a knee injury, and (understandably) took some time to round into form in 2017.
But James is one of those players with off-the-charts athleticism and instincts, who could do so many things really well for whatever team he ends up on. I just hope like hell it’s not Dallas. He would be an outstanding addition opposite of Byron Jones — or maybe in place of Jones — in the Cowboys’ secondary.
20. Detroit — Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
With the Lions likely moving from from defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (who turns 34 this offseason and is currently a free agent), Detroit has a big gap at defensive tackle. As one of the few teams that still runs a 4-3 defense (at least for now), Maurice Hurst could play the “three technique” at defensive tackle opposite of A’Shawn Robinson, and cause a lot of problems by getting in opposing backfields.
Hurst’s game is more about athleticism than power, so if new head coach Matt Patricia decides the Lions want to go with more of a 4-3/3-4 hybrid scheme, Hurst could kick out to a 5-technique end as well.
21. Buffalo — Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Whoever is playing quarterback for the Buffalo Bills next season, they need to surround him with more offensive playmakers. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has too many issues with inconsistency because of his nagging injury history and battles to keep his weight down (both of which are not unrelated), and behind him is Zay Jones (a second round pick in 2017) and Jordan Matthews (who also battled injury issues all year).
That’s why Courtland Sutton would make sense here. To me, Sutton plays like a not-as-angry Dez Bryant. Given his size (6’4 and 216lbs), if he times well in the 40 yard dash (like anything under or even around 4.55 seconds), there’s a good chance he might not be available with this pick.
22. Buffalo (from Kansas City) — James Daniels, OL, Iowa
James Daniels looks like he’s going to be this year’s “random previously-unheralded interior offensive lineman that teams are going to be fighting over late in the first round.” I think he’s going to generate a lot of buzz as we get closer to draft day. I
t would make a lot of sense for Buffalo to pick him here, with the sudden retirement of center Eric Wood because of a career-ending damaged disc in his neck that is dangerously close to his spinal cord. Wood was a Pro Bowl-caliber center, and his loss creates another need for a team that already had gaps on both sides of the line that they needed to address this offseason.
23. Los Angeles Rams — Arden Key, DE, LSU
Interestingly enough for a defense coached by Wade Phillips team, they only had one player with more than nine sacks, and none of them were edge rushers (Aaron Donald led the team — and all interior defensive linemen — with 11 sacks last season, because he might actually be a real life Kryptonian playing in the NFL). Robert Quinn was the only edge rusher with more than six sacks last year, but there’s a good chance the Rams release him this spring as a cap-cutting measure.
Arden Key could be a Pro Bowl pass-rusher in the NFL given his rare blend of size, athleticism, and explosiveness, if he can overcome his inconsistent (read: often lazy) effort on the field. But I think his raw skillset is something Phillips would love to work with.
24. Carolina Panthers — Billy Price, OL, Ohio State
Carolina Panthers’ center Ryan Kalil has missed 14 of the team’s last 32 regular season games, and will be a 33-year old free agent after this season is over. All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell is a free agent heading into this spring, and with a bunch of money tied up by offensive linemen Trai Turner and Matt Kalil, there might not be enough left to sign Norwell.
Billy Price is one of those guys who is about as safe as they come, as far as a drafting him and knowing you’ll get a guy who will play 10 years in the league. The Panthers could draft Price and play him right away at guard, with the option of moving him to Center next season.
25. Tennessee Titans — Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
Some team observers see the Titans’ biggest need as being an edge rusher, and it’s not hard to see why. Brian Orakpo still has yet to match the 11 sacks he recorded as a rookie, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Titans let him walk next season, after his current contract expires. Their other edge rusher, Derrick Morgan, has only one season with eight or more sacks in his eight-year career, and will also be a free agent after this year.
That’s why Harold Landry would make the most sense here. He reminds me a fair bit of Dante Fowler Jr coming out of Florida in 2015, in the sense that his physical tools and athleticism outweigh his polish and sophistication as a pass rusher. He’d be able to come in and play as a situational pass rusher this year, before assuming a larger role in the defense.
26. Atlanta — Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
Coming off a really productive week at the Senior Bowl, I think Harrison Phillips will find his name in the late first-round mix. His versatility as a defensive lineman would make him a really good fit in the “Seattle”-style of defense that the Atlanta Falcons like to play under Dan Quinn.
They’re going to be focused on finding a replacement for Dontari Poe this offseason, and while Phillips may not be as big as Poe, he’s another one of those Stanford guys that plays with a relentless motor (unlike Poe), he’s ridiculously strong (he said he can do 45 reps of 225lbs), and stout at the point of attack. He would be a great fit for Atlanta.
27. New Orleans — Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Even though Drew Brees finished fourth in the NFL in passing yards last season, no team in the NFL had fewer targets to the tight end position than the New Orleans Saints. Tight end Coby Fleener was a disaster of a free-agent signing since day one, and the Saints can shave off about $6.4 million in cap room by releasing him this summer (post-June 1).
They could replace him with Mark Andrews, who was a unanimous All-American at Oklahoma this season, and the winner of this year’s John Mackey Award (given to the nation’s top tight end). He’s a do-everything tight end that compares favorably to someone like Greg Olsen or Zach Ertz.
28. Pittsburgh — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Inside linebacker was already something of a question spot for the Pittsburgh Steelers before the season started (don’t forget that they tried to sign Dont’a Hightower away from the Patriots last spring), and that issue was exacerbated when Ryan Shazier was lost to that terrifying spinal cord injury.
Pittsburgh is another team without a lot of obvious needs, but inside linebacker is definitely one of them (with safety being right behind it). Rashaan Evans is your typical Alabama linebacker: ridiculously athletic, chases the ball like his hair is on fire, and and arrives with malice.
29. Jacksonville — Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
You could actually make the case that the Jacksonville Jaguars have the most complete and talented roster in the entire league; it’s just that they’re a consistently competent quarterback away from being the best team in the NFL. The only real position where they’re lacking in talent — besides quarterback — is the tight end position.
Mark Andrews (taken previously) might be considered the best tight end in this class by some, but I think Dallas Goedert has ridiculous upside. He reminds you so much of Rob Gronkowski, in the sense that he’s the size of a defensive end (6’4 and 260lbs), but he’s so crazy athletic for a guy that size, showing the ability to move in space and make absolutely circus catches like a wide receiver.
30. Minnesota — Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
One of the under-discussed storylines from the Minnesota Vikings’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game was just how badly the Eagles’ defensive line whipped the Vikings offensive line. Minnesota had to shuffle players along their offensive line all year; for example: journeyman Mike Remmers played at three different spots on the line this year.
Taking someone like Kolton Miller from UCLA fits the Vikings’ single biggest weak spot, giving them another sorely-needed building block for that group.
31. New England — Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
As badly as the entire New England Patriots’ defense needs an infusion of youth and talent pretty much everywhere across the defense (as we just witnessed this past Sunday evening), New England doesn’t actually have an offensive tackle under contract for 2018.
They’ll likely bring back Nate Solder, but right tackle Cam Fleming was something of a liability for them last year (and especially in the Super Bowl). Brian O’Neill might be better suited to be a left tackle, but he’ll at least give them another young player to bolster their depth.
32. Philadelphia — Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
With offensive tackle Jason Peters having turned 36 years old just a few weeks ago, and coming off a torn ACL & MCL, it looks like it’s finally time for the Eagles to execute the plan for moving Lane Johnson over to left tackle. Assuming that happens, they’d need someone to take over at the right tackle spot.
As sad as this is to say, that’s the only position on the team where the Eagles really have a need; they’re basically good everywhere else. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, as fun as his name is to say, is best suited as a backup, depth guy. But Orlando Brown — the son of former offensive lineman Orlando “Zeus” Brown, the longtime tackle for the Browns & Ravens — is a enormous (6’8 and 360lbs), nasty, and nimble tackle who plays like a textbook right tackle in the NFL.
* final draft order to be determined via coin flip