Alright kids, it's almost time for one of my favorite sports days of the year, the NFL Draft! Hope springs eternal for all teams as we convince ourselves we have the next stud on our hands, other than the year that I almost lost it when the Giants drafted Daniel Jones 6th overall. Before we get to this year's mock draft, let's cover a couple important points.
This mock does not take trades into consideration as it is impossible to accurately guess what teams will look to move up or down. That said, trades will absolutely happen this year depending on what teams need. Next year is a very strong QB class so you may see some teams trying to trade their first round capital this year to accumulate picks for next year's draft. You may also see teams with disgruntled stars (Deebo Samuel on the Niners, Terry McLaurin on the Commanders, AJ Brown on the Titans) look to trade for assets at the end of the first round or picks on day two. Wide receivers will be highly coveted as will edge rushers this year. Don't be shocked to see teams trade to acquire assets at these positions. Tomorrow I'll be doing a quick preview of the local teams (NYG, NYJ and yes, even you Philthy) as well as some sleepers to look out for. And now the moment you've all been waiting for. Time to draft!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (DL, LB, S) – Travon Walker – Edge – Georgia – Walker is one of the most polarizing figures of the draft. Some will point out the lack of production while others will point out that the scheme he played in Georgia did him little favors. I tend to fall in the latter camp and while I think he’s a gamble, this is a draft without a clear cut #1 defensive linemen. I’d strongly consider Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal if I were the Jaguars but Walker’s potential may be too much to pass up. He is straight power who just needs some refinement on his technique but overall has a lot of potential.
2. Detroit Lions (QB, DB, LB) – Aidan Hutchinson – Edge – Michigan – Versatile, explosive, and an extremely hard worker. Would instantly become a household name in Detroit and fits in very well with Coach Dan Campbell’s philosophy. Malik Willis may be in play here but for a team who needs high floor players versus high ceiling players, Hutchinson would be a fantastic addition.
3. Houston Texans (OL, Edge, DB) – Evan Neal – OL – Alabama – The Texans are a wild card in that they have so many different needs they can literally go in any direction. Neal would make the most sense here however as he is an instant starter who was a captain on Alabama and also has football pedigree (two of his uncles played in the NFL). Some concerns about his weight management and consistency but he played against the best of the best at Alabama and held his own. If he’s motivated he could be a perennial pro bowler.
4. New York Jets (WR, CB) – Sauce Gardner – CB – Cincinnati – Another tough evaluation because there isn’t a lot of tape on Gardner. The reason? Most quarterbacks avoided his side of the field altogether. Gardner allowed only 6.6 yards per reception however and in the national semifinal game against Alabama more then held his own. Most consider him the number one corner in the class and although the Jets can go in many directions, I think they go for Gardner here with the idea they can fill additional needs out at the 10 pick.
5. New York Giants (OL, Edge, CB) – Charles Cross – OL – Mississippi State – Giants will have a tough decision in the 5 spot because the Panthers are a wild card who can rapidly change who is available in the 7 spot. Giants will have a tough decision but I’d be shocked if they don’t go offensive line here and I think Cross is an excellent pass blocker with a tough demeanor who has potential to anchor the right side of the line. I personally think our next selection may be under strong consideration but Cross allowed only 16 pressures this year and played fantastic against a great Alabama defensive front. I think where there’s smoke there’s fire here.
6. Carolina Panthers (QB, OL) – Ickey Ekwonu – OL – NC State – Tough run blocker, plays with a mean streak, and is extremely aggressive on the field. Many have the Panthers drafting a QB here and have linked the franchise to Kenny Pickett but I’m not sure how much of an upgrade he would be over a Sam Darnold. Ekwonu is an extremely hard worker who has improved his hand placement and would give the Panthers a foundational piece for when they do find their new quarterback.
7. New York Giants (OL, Edge, CB) – Derek Stingley Jr. – CB – LSU – Giants will have a very tough decision with the potential of Kayvon Thibodeaux or the player who has compared to former Buffalo Bill Stephon Gilmore. There are edge rushers to be had later but not many QB’s so I think the Giants go for one of the best athletes in the draft albeit one who only played 10 games in the past 2 seasons. Many evaluators feel Stingley is as good if not better than Gardner. With the Giants most likely releasing James Bradberry, I think they’ll look to go corner here.
8. Atlanta Falcons (WR, QB, OL) – Malik Willis – QB – Liberty – First surprise of the draft! Falcons may be tempted to go with Drake London here considering their depleted receiving corps, however I can see the Falcons taking a gamble on the QB who isn’t as refined as some of the others however has the most potential. Willis is a true dual threat who can run as well as he throws and is a fantastic athlete. He needs to improve his progressions but the Falcons have the luxury of letting him play behind Marcus Mariota for a year while he develops his craft.
9. Seattle Seahawks (OL, Edge, QB) – Kayvon Thibodeaux – Edge – Oregon – If Travon Walker is one of the most polarizing picks in the draft then Kayvon Thibodeaux is THE most polarizing pick of the draft. Strong, athletic, and extremely explosive, he would be a great foundational piece for a Seattle Seahawks team who is in rebuilding mode…if his heart is in it. Many evaluators have questioned his commitment to the game so whoever selects Thibodeaux is not doing so without risk, however it would be hard to see him falling out of the top 10.
10. New York Jets (WR, CB) – Drake London – WR – USC – Dream scenario for the Jets who land a multi-star athlete who simply knows how to make catches. He’s not overly explosive but he’s got solid size and is extremely consistent which is what a young quarterback like Zach Wilson needs. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave have more athleticism and a higher ceiling but London would make Wilson instantly better and has the best “go up and grab it” skills in the class.
11. Washington Commanders (OL, QB, LB) – Kyle Hamilton – S – Notre Dame – Hamilton may fall for only 2 reasons – the position he plays and the fact that he didn’t wow at the combine. Otherwise? Hamilton is as close to a sure thing in this draft and a defensive minded coach like Ron Rivera would love to get his hands on such a versatile talent. He has the ability to line up in multiple positions and plays with ferocity but control. There are very few weak spots in his game on tape, and at the end of the day how players play in games is what matters most of all.
12. Minnesota Vikings (OL, Edge, CB) – Jermaine Johnson II – Edge – Florida State – I may be shortchanging Jermaine Johnson here who is rapidly climbing many teams draft boards. He was the ACC Defensive Player of the year and for a team like the Vikings who lack an identity right now, you can never go wrong with a productive edge rusher like Johnson. He lacks experience and struggles against the run at times, but those are areas that can easily be cured by good coaching. He also played a little outside linebacker so there is nice versatility here.
13. Houston Texans (OL, Edge, DB) – Jameson Williams – WR – Alabama – Had he not been hurt at the end of the year, Williams would probably have been the number one receiver taken in the draft. He’s extremely explosive as evident by 11 touchdowns of 30 or more yards in 2021. Concerns are the fact he’s coming off a torn ACL in the national title game and some consistency questions, however the Texans have the luxury of waiting on Williams to get fully healthy for the upcoming season.
14. Baltimore Ravens (DL, OL, DB) – Trevor Penning – OL – Northern Illinois – Baltimore is another team that can go in many different directions, but consistency on the offensive line has been an issue and Penning can instantly step in and make an impact for Lamar Jackson. There will be some habits to break considering he played FCS ball but he’s a hard worker, can play multiple positions and has fantastic size to go along with athleticism. He’ll be a steal for the right team.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (LB, DL, DB) – Trent McDuffie – CB – Washington – A 3 year starter who despite his size limitations is a freak athlete. As a matter of fact, his size may be his only downside. Otherwise he is relentless, smooth, and extremely competitive. Considering the drop off after McDuffie, it would be easy to see the Eagles taking him at 15 while having more choices available at the 18 pick.
16. New Orleans Saints (WR, OL, QB) – Garrett Wilson – WR – Ohio State – The Saints are still in limbo with Michael Thomas and will jump at the opportunity to snag Wilson. He may be the most well rounded receiver in the draft. There are questions about him finishing catches and his YAC (yards after catch) but he has an expansive skill base that make those flaws easy to overlook. Has the potential to be the number one receiver taken overall.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (WR, CB, OL) – Chris Olave – WR – Ohio State – The Chargers will be biting their nails hoping that one of the elite receivers drop and in Olave they get their wish. Justin Herbert needs weapons in a loaded NFC West and Olave fits in perfectly. He’s a smooth route runner, has the ability to break big plays and would be a really nice compliment to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams where he wouldn’t have to be a number 1 option.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (LB, DL, DB) – Devin Lloyd – LB – Utah – Eagles may look to bolster their aging defensive/offensive lines here but Devin Lloyd’s potential may be too good to pass up. The key to Lloyd’s success or failure will be coaching as he is a true hybrid type player who can play multiple positions and fills up the stat sheet. He’s athletic, long and was a team captain on the field for Utah, making reads and calling plays. He needs some improvement as a pass rusher but has extremely high upside and is well worth the risk at this point.
19. New Orleans Saints (WR, OL, QB) – Bernhard Raimann – OL – Central Michigan – Incredible athlete who is continually getting better. He lacks some experience as he was a former tight end who only has been playing left tackle for 2 years but he is easily coachable and would be a great piece to have in place for when the Saints pull the trigger on a new franchise QB. He may need to put on some size but any issues or limitations he may have can easily be fixed with the right coaching.
20 Pittsburgh Steelers (QB, OL, TE) – Tyler Linderbaum – C – Iowa – In my opinion, Linderbaum may be the best prospect in the draft class. Why does he fall? Simply because of the position he plays. I wouldn’t be shocked if teams looks to trade up if he falls past 18-20th pick range. What he lacks in size he makes up for with fantastic footwork and a strong work ethic that he developed as both a football player and a wrestler. He’s scheme dependent but the Steelers would love him and he can anchor their line for 10 plus years.
21. New England Patriots (LB, Edge, WR) – Jordan Davis – DL – Georgia – There are many areas that the Patriots should look at including WR, however I think the notion of a strong nose tackle like Davis may be too much for Belichick to pass up. He’s not exactly Vince Wilfork but I can see him filling that type of a role for the Pats and he has extremely impressive athleticism for a player his size. He’s also a high character player which would bode well for a locker room that will need strong leadership as some of the veterans continue to leave.
22. Green Bay Packers (WR, OL) – Treylon Burks – WR – Arkansas – Davante Adams is gone, leaving a giant hole in the receiving corps for Aaron Rodgers. If the Packers feel like they still have a window to win a Super Bowl, the only smart choice here is a WR and Burks is a mismatch with his size and would thrive in Green Bay with Rodgers throwing him the football. He didn’t test well at the combine but he produced all along the way in college including 8 catches and 179 yards against Alabama. He does need to improve as a blocker on the next level but may not have to do that as much in a Matt LaFleur scheme.
23. Arizona Cardinals (OL, DL, CB) – Kenyon Green – OL – Texas A&M - Arizona is another wild card who can go in many different directions, however keeping Kyler Murray happy would be a great place to start. Green is strong in both run and pass protection and he’s played multiple positions in college although he will most likely be a guard. Green was a 5 star recruit and has very solid footwork and would be an instant starter on day 1. Green is moving up on a lot of team’s draft boards for good reason.
24. Dallas Cowboys (OL, LB, Edge) – Nik Bonitto – Edge - Oklahoma – Despite their lack of success on the field, the Cowboys have drafted very successfully the past couple of years producing multiple Pro Bowl level players. I think they would love to pick Burks if he is available here, however they decide to fortify their pass rush with Bonitto, a small but twitchy athlete with a high motor. He’s not great against the run but he can get below the tackle and that is a huge asset for teams today.
25. Buffalo Bills (WR, DL, OL) – Andrew Booth Jr. – CB – Clemson – The Bills have an embarrassment of riches on their roster, however adding Booth to their already strong defense would make them even better. He’s got great ball skills, is physical and aggressive, and isn’t afraid of playing the run. He has some injury concerns but for a win-now team like Buffalo I can easily see them overlooking those concerns and bolstering their defense with this pick.
26. Tennessee Titans (WR, OL, Edge) – George Karlaftis - Edge – Purdue – How the mighty have fallen. Karlafitis was considered a top 5 pick a year ago however injuries and a so-so 2021 have caused his draft stock to drop. Still he has a lot of potential and at this stage of the draft he is well worth the risk for Mike Vrabel. He’s a very solid pass rusher with tremendous size and upper body strength. He can be better against the run, but again, in a passing league getting to the quarterback is the name of the game and it is something Karlafitis does very well.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (OL, DL, DB) – Devonte Wyatt – DT – Georgia – It’s hard to imagine the Bucs not taking reinforcements for Tom Brady here but the Bucs need reinforcements on their defensive line and Wyatt has been showing continual improvement. The Bulldogs defense only allowed 83 points all season and Wyatt was a huge part of that. He has a strong upper body, great hands and he won’t have to be counted on to be a dominant force, only a contributing piece.
28. Green Bay Packers (WR, OL) – Zion Johnson – OL – Boston College – The Packers continue to help our Rodgers by drafting Johnson from Boston College, a guard who has a lot of size and is a mauler. He’s not overly athletic so he will need some refinement on the next level but the Packers have been injury prone on the offensive line the past couple of years and Johnson’s leadership (two time captain) and work ethic would be a welcome addition for the locker room.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (WR, DL, DB) – Skyy Moore – WR – Western Michigan – Without Tyreek Hill, look for the Chiefs to pounce on Moore who is the best remaining WR on the board. Moore isn’t scared of contact and has very solid ball skills and footwork. He’s not a burner like Hill but he’s tough and reliable and would be a nice addition to a receiving corps that needs some reinforcements. He was extremely productive in college and is known as a tenacious competitor which would be a perfect fit in Andy Reid’s system with Mahomes throwing him the rock.
30 Kansas City Chiefs (WR, DL, CB) – Nakobe Dean – LB – Georgia – At this point Dean may be too good to pass up. I may be undervaluing Dean quite a bit here, but LB’s have had a tendency to drop in recent years. That said he is a Butkus Award winner in both college and high school and did so after suffering a torn labrum. He’s a 3 down player who is extremely athletic despite less than ideal size. He’s strong at diagnosing the run however and is a “volume” player in terms of production. Fit will be key with him.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (OL, LB, DL) – Zach Tom – OL – Wake Forest – After the Super Bowl, the Bengals will have no choice but to go offensive line. I think they’d love Linderbaum but I don’t think he’ll be available so they are happy settling for Tom who is a center prospect with left tackle experience. He’s great at pass protection which would bode well for Joe Burrow and his compliment of weapons. He’s been durable, is eextremely smart and is very athletic. I think he’s being very undervalued and would be a steal on Day 2 if he continues to drop.
32. Detroit Lions (QB, LB, DB) – Sam Howell – QB – North Carolina – I may have less quarterbacks drafted than other mocks and can easily see Desmond Ridder or Kenny Pickett going here as well. Pickett has the highest floor of all the quarterbacks on the board and is probably the most pro ready however he also has the lowest ceiling which is why I think the Lions go for Howell who is a curious case. His production wasn’t elite but some evaluators feel that was because of the lack of talent around him. I’m not a huge fan of Howell but rumor has it the Lions are intrigued.
Now with all of this said, I can't wait for the first trade tomorrow to screw all of this up! Happy Drafting!