As Pro Day season begins to wind down, and hopefully some of these NFL blockbuster trades, the upcoming NFL Draft is on the forefront of everyone’s minds as the last month closes in on the biggest offseason event in all of sports. Truly, no offseason coverage of any event in sports has the complete opinion drawing and the fans peaked interest like the NFL Draft does.
I’ve touched on this before – I don’t do fifty mock drafts before the NFL Draft because there are so many different factors that for the most part, they are click bait, until we’re close to the actual draft date. We’re almost two weeks away – it’s time to see where we stand.
There are so many smoke screens that come with the last month before the draft that the real draft order becomes very hazy. We’re going to try to cut through the fog and identify real factors.
Picks in italics are projected trades.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – OT Evan Neal, Alabama
I haven’t given up in the Jaguars ruling out an offensive tackle with their first overall selection, especially one with the versatility that Evan Neal presents and his ability to fill in wherever the Jaguars need help on their offensive line. It makes the most sense to me – there is so much uncertainty next year with Cam Robinson and the team. Why not get a book end left tackle who’s prepared to play right tackle this year?
2. Detroit Lions – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
I know a lot of people think that Liberty quarterback Malik Willis could come off the board right here, but it’s hard to justify any team going with a quarterback in this class – let alone that early in the draft. Aidan Hutchinson makes too much sense to the Lions as I’ve said multiple times before. He’s a hometown kid and he fits what Detroit wants from both a schematic standpoint and a locker room standpoint.
3. Carolina Panthers (from Houston) – QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Projected trade: Carolina sends 6th and 2023 first round pick to Houston for 3rd overall.
I can’t stand the thought of Kenny Pickett getting drafted with the sixth overall pick. Now, the Panthers are feeling heat from teams under them looking to move up and scoot up three picks to secure the man that Matt Rhule is betting to save his job after the Sam Darnold fiasco last season. And yes, every pre-draft indication is that the Panthers are taking Pickett over everyone else in this class. What a pity.
Before you argue that this isn’t a good enough quarterback class to see one go third overall, remember that the Jacksonville Jaguars took Blake Bortles top five in 2014, and Mitch Trubisky went second overall in 2017. If a team is desperate enough, they will get their quarterback. The Panthers firmly believed they were in a perfect spot to land Deshaun Watson this offseason, and the pro-bowl quarterback picked Cleveland over them. They will not let their guy get away from them again.
It’s also interesting that in my recent poll, most people wouldn’t bet on Kenny Pickett over the other quarterbacks in this class.
4. New York Jets – EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
Travon Walker has risen across the media boards as the draft has gotten closer – mostly because people started to hear how the NFL views Walker. He has displayed rare traits all his career, and the argument for him not being as productive his college career stems from the deep rotation that Georgia ran on their defensive line. Walker is a big help for anyone looking for a special pass rusher who can develop into a tremendously productive player.
5. New York Giants – OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
It has been no secret this entire cycle that the New York Giants love Ikem Ekwonu. Even with the smoke they’ve tried to distribute, everyone knows that they want him. Luckily for the Giants, in this scenario, no one cares. They get their guy sitting pat, thanks to quarterback rumors that force the Panthers to keep their guy from being stolen (again). Ekwonu is probably better suited to play guard, and I would imagine he will move inside later in his career. However, the Giants believe he’s a solid tackle option and they love him to solidify their book end tackles.
6. Houston Texans (from Carolina) – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Kayvon Thibodeaux came into the draft cycle as a potential first overall pick. It’s not that he did anything wrong, nor that he’s not talented. Those aren’t the issues. The problem is that most teams like Travon Walker better and Aidan Hutchinson is a scheme fit for either of the first two teams. The Texans, though, are glad to have him, especially moving back and grabbing him with additional draft capital.
7. New Orleans Saints (From NY Giants through Chicago) – EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
Projected trade: Saints send 16th and 19th overall picks to the New York Giants for the 7th overall, a 2023 2nd round pick, and 112th overall pick.
The New York Giants take advantage of moving back and grabbing an extra first round pick while the New Orleans Saints move up to grab a guy they feel very comfortable nabbing. The wheeling and dealing that they’ve done in this draft puts them in a favorable position, and Johnson makes a lot of sense in their division with Tom Brady returning. The Saints have always prided their pass rush, and with Johnson’s versatility as a pass rusher and a run defender, he’s a solid piece for their defense to continue to be dominant.
8. Atlanta Falcons – WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Garrett Wilson fills a need with the Atlanta Falcons, who are struggling to field wide receivers to their team right now. With Calvin Ridley sitting the entire 2022 season from an NFL suspension for sports betting (what a joke), the Falcons need a guy they can turn to. Why not secure the most dominant wide receiver in the entire draft in the mold of DeVonta Smith? It makes sense, and it’s hard to see the Falcons going anywhere but receiver here.
9. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) – CB Ahmad Garnder, Cincinnati
The Seattle Seahawks have a chance to secure a player who fits their heavy zone scheme and prototype length preferences perfectly, and they will secure him. They’ve made it very clear that they believe that they will be competitive in 2022, despite what NFL analysts have speculated after the blockbuster Russell Wilson trade. That being said, Gardner fits a need and ends up in possibly the best situation he could end up in.
10. New York Jets (from Seattle) – CB Derek Stingley, LSU
Derek Stingley put together the most phenomenal 2019 season before dealing with nagging injuries and looking disinterested on a struggling LSU team over the next couple of years. Stingley is an impressive prospect – he tested unbelievably after his lisfranc injury at his pro day and checked all the boxes that the athletic ability remains. The Jets need a cornerback and were rumored to be very interested in Gardner, but I believe that with the needs that the team has, they’ll take Stingley and continue to build the overall talent on the roster.
11. Washington Commanders – WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The Washington Commanders have a solid number one receiver in “Scary Terry” McLaurin, and a very suitable slot option in Curtis Samuel, but now they need a solid number two. Jameson Williams, a former Ohio State receiver like McLaurin and Samuel, may not have tested in the process due to an injury that held him from working out during the pre-draft process, but there is no doubt that he fits what Washington needs. With Carson Wentz at quarterback, Washington will prioritize getting him the talent he needs to make a run at the NFC East title this season.
12. Minnesota Vikings – S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
The Minnesota Vikings are running out of time with Harrison Smith being able to play as effectively as he has over the last decade – and they can’t pass on Kyle Hamilton falling to them. It makes a lot of sense, where they can move Smith into more of a box safety role and let Hamilton handle more deep coverage. The versatility that could be presented from a defensive standpoint is exciting for Vikings fans.
13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland) – OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
The Houston Texans continue their mop-up duty, grabbing another prospect that analysts see as a top-ten talent in this class at thirteen and hope to shore up their offensive front. Cross has his areas of concern, mostly because of his two productive seasons in Mike Leach’s quick-throw air raid style of offense. Despite the lack of quality time fighting defensive lineman, he drew a lot of holding penalties through his career which is concerning. He can develop into a fine pro and has that potential.
14. Baltimore Ravens – NT Jordan Davis, Georgia
Jordan Davis to the Baltimore Ravens makes so much sense. They love these big, interior linemen on both sides of the ball. While there are concerns to how long Davis can remain on the field at a time, Davis has the athletic ability to play across the defensive line and be utilized in a variety of ways. His size and strength demand double teams and he was devastating in a rotation. It just makes sense.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami) – EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
Philadelphia last year had one of the worst pass rushing units in the NFL. A lot of that can be credited to the Brandon Graham injury in week one, but Graham is getting old. George Karlaftis makes a lot of sense to the Eagles, who like versatile defensive linemen that can play multiple techs and be effective in a rotation. Karlaftis is a power rusher who can play both the 5-tech and the 3-tech and bring that pass rushing prowess to the next level quickly.
16. New York Giants (from New Orleans through Philadelphia and Indianapolis) – WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
The New York Giants dialed up a huge contract to former Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay last year and whiffed – Golladay not so quietly failed to score a touchdown and was largely ineffective on the boundary in the failing Joe Judge regime. Part of that can be credited to the lack of development that we’ve seen from Sterling Shepherd and the need for more talent on the boundary. The Giants have to go with Olave, who many people feel will be an excellent route runner at the next level. He can open up a lot of opportunities and help Brian Daboll scheme up success for Daniel Jones – if he has any remaining.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Is Tyler Linderbaum projected best as a center? Yes. But, the Chargers could use their inside help to protect Justin Herbert, so why pass on a great center prospect like Linderbaum? He will help create options on the starting lineup inside with his strength and nasty play style that will help give Herbert more time and continue to open up the Chargers offense. Plus – the Steelers don’t get him.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans) – WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The Eagles have been courting with Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks this entire process, going so far as to lead him through workouts on his pro day. He’s a player that they are very comfortable with and could help open a lot of opportunities across the Eagles RPO and quick throw offense with his size, schematic versatility, and run-after-catch ability. While his testing was slightly lower than expectations, it his tape puts to bed any real concerns people should have about him.
19. New York Giants (from New Orleans through Philadelphia) – CB Andrew Booth, Clemson
There have been rumors all offseason about the Giants moving on from cornerback James Bradberry. Perhaps that is the case, but the Giants need cornerback help regardless. Andrew Booth could be considered the best cornerback in this class when we look back ten years from now as his technique and athleticism is incredible and off the charts. It’s hard to find any real flaws in his game, but his one year as a full-time starter leaves some teams hesitant to select him. The Giants get a real player to help against the quietly loaded NFC East’s wide receiver tandems.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Malik Willis, Liberty
It’s been the NFL’s worst kept secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers love Malik Willis. Mike Tomlin would be enamored to have Willis on the team, even after the Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky to a “prove-it” two year contract. Now, after the tragic passing of Dwayne Haskins, and Josh Dobbs signing with Cleveland, the Steelers do need a guy that they can develop and bridge from Trubisky. It’s a perfect scenario for Willis, who needs a redshirt year, and allows the Steelers to plan for the future with the quarterback in this class with by far the highest ceiling.
21. New England Patriots – S Daxton Hill, Michigan
Daxton Hill just looks like a New England Patriot. I mean, look at the versatility. His football IQ is off the charts. Listening to him speak one-on-one at the NFL Combine with other Michigan workers, I was blown away by his intelligence. He’s a smart guy, he’s a great hustle player, and he can play all over the secondary. The Belichick duo would love to have this guy on their defense.
22. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas) – WR Drake London, USC
Clearly, the biggest need on the Green Bay Packers roster are wide receivers for Aaron Rodgers. After all, Juwann Winfree, Allan Lazard, and Randall Cobb are projected as the team’s starting receivers. Drake London is considered one of the top receivers in this class. While there is no replacing DeVonte Adams, London helps to fill the gap that’s been left following his trade and the losses of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.
23. Arizona Cardinals – CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
The Cardinals need a boundary cornerback. Right now, Marco Wilson and Jeff Gladney are projected as starters. Not only do they need a cornerback, but they need speed and hustle. That’s Trent McDuffie. He’s a great hustle and effort cornerback who can serve as a run defender on the perimeter and give effective coverage deep down the field. This is a great add and an immediate starter for the Cardinals right here.
24. Dallas Cowboys – OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Remember when the Dallas Cowboys had the undisputed best offensive line in the NFL for like… Five years? Why was that? They were nasty, big, fast, and strong. Now, the Cowboys offensive line hasn’t been what it was in recent memory over the last couple of years. It’s time to invest into the line and make some decisions to protect their franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott. Trevor Penning is all of that. He can come in, potentially start at right tackle and eventually move over to the left and replace Tyrone Smith in the near future. It’s a solid pick for Dallas.
25. Buffalo Bills – G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
This is the first time I think people have been able to say this about the Buffalo Bills in about thirty years – this is a complete team. The Buffalo Bills won’t be drafting for need – they’re going to be drafting the best talent on the board and continuing to build their depth. Kenyon Green is an outstanding talent. His brutal pass protection and physical style allows him to be versatile across the line and be a suitable backup and potential starter if needed. I’d love this for Green if he went to Buffalo.
26. Tennessee Titans – LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
The Tennessee Titans don’t have a lot of holes on their team either – but one position that they’ve struggled with over the years is linebacker. They missed on Rashaan Evans, who wasn’t an outstanding fit, and while they’ve added Zach Cunningham, if they had pass coverage prospect in the inside to pair with him, that defense would be very difficult to work against. Lloyd is all of that. While he didn’t test as well as some of the Georgia linebackers did, Lloyd stands out on tape with the most natural instincts and is more than capable in pass coverage. This, honestly, would be a steal.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in a bad spot when Tom Brady announced his retirement earlier this year. While he came back and bailed them out for their lack of preparedness, I don’t think that the Buccaneers want to find themselves in that spot ever again. Rumors have connected them to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, but the price tag is not ideal for them to pay. So why not take a guy now, get a fifth year option, and plan to move over to him next year?
I love Matt Corral, personally, and Tampa Bay would be a great situation for him. His work ethic, his mentality, and his ability to read the field could be amplified working under Tom Brady. Yes, they took Kyle Trask in the second round next year, but do they really think he is the future? I don’t think so. Corral could be that guy and Brady would love to have a pupil like Corral under him.
28. Green Bay Packers – DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
Devonte Wyatt is a very strong interior presence, arguably the best 3-tech defender in the class. The Packers are thin at this position right now. Wyatt has played his entire career in a rotation, why wouldn’t Green Bay start a rotation now? Every defense needs one to be successful, and Wyatt could fill that 3-tech and 5-tech spot behind Dean Lowry and provide that powerful rotation to keep the Packers front fresh all game long.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (from Miami through San Francisco) – S Lewis Cine, Georgia
Look at the arms race continuing in the AFC West. With the additions of Russell Wilson, DeVonte Adams, and Khalil Mack, the already stacked division is full of weapons. The Chiefs know that they need to protect the back end of their defense. Why not get the one guy in this class who can unquestionably play one-high coverage when he needs to? Lewis Cine can fill the slot role and provide help in the back end as the versatile chess piece for the Chiefs defense. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Hear me out on this one.
Yes, the Chiefs just took a safety and a cornerback in back-to-back picks. The truth is that they need a cornerback. Kaiir Elam is among the fastest prospects in the class. He’s a receiver playing cornerback and is sticky in man coverage, and he played against the SEC’s finest wide receivers on a weekly basis in college. They’re stocking up to defend against Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr/whoever the Raiders end up getting for the next five-to-ten years.
31. Cincinnati Benglas – CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
Roger McCreary is drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals solely to replace Eli Apple. Yes. I just went there.
That being said, while McCreary has been knocked by the media for being somewhat undersized for the boundary, his tape tells a completely different tale. I love what he showed last year as a guy who could take command throughout the game and play sticky coverage and has the reactive athleticism to develop into a top-ten cornerback in the game.
32. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams) – WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State
Christian Watson has been an explosive playmaker in a limited North Dakota State offense over the last few years, stepping on the field in 2019 and making plays immediately. His measurables and testing results are off the charts – arguably one of the most gifted athletes at the wide receiver position in years. His biggest question mark is his hands – his 13.3% college drop rate is alarming. The Lions see a schematically versatile prospect who can be a mismatch nightmare for their team if he can pull his game together.