The NFL Draft is still several weeks away but we are running out of things to talk about this offseason, even though Aaron Rodgers keeps popping up in the headlines just to say that he hasn’t made a decision yet. We can’t keep talking about you, Aaron. Make a decision and then we’ll talk. Until then, go sit with AB, Brady, Odell and the other drama queens and spotlight hoggers in the corner.
We turn our focus to the draft. The combine just ended, and people are already overexaggerating or underexaggerating certain prospects, particularly one players hand sizes, but the combine doesn’t necessarily show the best football player. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have players like Derrick Henry or Dak Prescott slip out of the first round. So I’ve made this mock draft, not to predict which team will take which player, but who I would pick if I were running each team. Obviously, I am not in the draft room or scouting department, but that’s not stopping me from making my picks.
Pick 1- Jacksonville Jaguars
Evan Neal – Alabama OL
The Jaguars should either take Evan Neal here or trade this pick to accumulate more picks to support their franchise QB. Some would say Hutchinson or Thibs are cant miss pass rush prospects, and that may be true, but you have to build around Trevor Lawrence if this team is to compete. Since I’m sure they’ll keep the 1st overall pick, taking the best Offensive Lineman in the draft to protect Lawrence is the best thing for the Jags. He’s a big man with even bigger upside. Start building up in the trenches and draft skill positions in the later rounds.
Pick 2 – Detroit Lions
Aiden Hutchinson – Michigan EDGE
The Lions should probably trade this pick to acquire more picks, like the Jags, but they probably wont. Similar to Jacksonville, they need weapons on offense, but they don’t have a QB yet to build around, and this draft doesn’t hold any promising can’t-miss candidates. Detroit is in better position to take one of the two best pass rushers in the draft. Hutchinson edges out Thibs and gets drafted to play for his hometown team, improving that already underrated Detroit defense.
Pick 3 – Houston Texans
Ikem Ekwonu – OL North Carolina State
The Texans are a mess of a franchise. The sexy pick would be another edge rusher or skill position player, but they need a complete rebuild on offense. Newly promoted HC Lovie Smith can most likely improve the defense in the later rounds. Smith has a bad history of struggling to produce an offense from his days in Chicago and Tampa Bay. He needs to take a can’t miss prospect on offense in Ekwonu to protect whoever plays QB for them, and set the foundation of that offense moving forward, that is, if the ownership intends on keeping him around and not another Dave Culley-like scapegoat.
Pick 4 – New York Jets
Kayvon Thibodeaux – EDGE Oregon
With both Neal and Ekwonu taken, the Jets will be forced to take the next best player. Fortunately for them, the next best player may be the best player in the draft, according to some scouts. Thibs may not be exactly what the Jets need, but they should feel excited that he fell to them. The Jets defense lacks any playmakers whatsoever, and the Oregon edge rusher is a great foundation upon which to build.
Pick 5 – New York Giants
George Karlaftis – EDGE Purdue
The first of two first round picks, I have the Giants adding some tenacity to their defense. In a division with some up and coming offenses that could be dangerous in the coming years, the Giants should be well equipped to counter that with the addition of Karlaftis. Its too early to take a WR without it being a reach and they especially shouldn’t reach for a QB. Karlaftis is big, explosive, and powerful, and moves faster than he probably should. Giants could get their next elite pass rusher here.
Pick 6 – Carolina Panthers
Charles Cross – OL Mississippi State
Carolina would be stupid to take a QB this early, instead they should take someone who could protect whoever they pick up in later rounds or in next years draft. Cross is a day one starter and can beef up the O-line. He may be a bit of a project but the Panthers should take the chance due to how much upside he has.
Pick 7 – New York Giants
Kyle Hamilton – S Notre Dame
The Giants double down on defense in the first round, taking the best safety in the draft. At 6’4″ and 219 pounds, he used his size to terrorize opposing offenses at Notre Dame. The Giants could definitely use that in a division with Ceedee Lamb, Terry McLaurin and Davonte Smith. The Giants could instantly turn their defense around in just a year, similar to their division rival Dallas. The addition of Karlaftis and Hamilton would certainly help.
Pick 8 – Atlanta Falcons
Chris Olave – WR Ohio State
This may be a bit of a reach to take Olave this early but he’s my number one receiver and the Falcons desperately need weapons on offense, especially with the departure of Calvin Ridley imminent. Olave will instantly bring an explosive playmaking ability to the Falcons that they’ve lacked since prime Julio. With no Brees or Brady in the division, the NFC South is wide open again. Atlanta could ride another offensive performance to the post season if they play their cards right.
EDIT: Calvin Ridley is definitely not returning to Atlanta, nor will he be playing for anyone else this season, as he was just suspended for gambling on NFL games during the season, per Ian Rapaport.
Pick 9 – Denver Broncos
Kenny Pickett – QB Pittsburgh
Someone is going to be the first to reach for a QB, and it seems as if Rodgers will be staying in Green Bay. The Broncos seem desperate enough to be that first team. Pickett is probably a late first rounder but for a team that just needs a QB to compete it seems like this is where he will go. All anyone wants to talk about is how small his hands are, 8.5 inches, but his leadership skills and experience matter more than hand size. People who worry about hand size probably don’t realize that Daniel jones, who has 9 3/4 inch hands, has 36 career fumbles. Of this years rookie QBs, he is the most NFL ready and new HC Nathaniel Hackett could develop him into a franchise QB.
Pick 10 – New York Jets
Garrett Wilson – WR Ohio State
Zach Wilson needs weapons, and Garrett Wilson will help alleviate some of the pressure on the young QB. The Jets have a solid O-line, and their defense will be better with the help of Thibs, so its only right that they draft a solid number one receiver to pair with their franchise QB.
Pick 11 – Washington Commanders
Kenyon Green – OL Texas A&M
The Commanders could go defense here but if they manage to land one of these veteran QBs before the draft (they may not have this pick if they do), they should invest in protecting that QB. Brandon Scherff is expected to leave in FA and that leaves a big gap to fill in the offensive line. Green is a plug and play replacement.
Pick 12 – Minnesota Vikings
Andrew Booth Jr. – CB Clemson
I feel like the Vikings take a corner in the first or second round every year, but despite that, they still need help at corner. Booth falls into the Vikings lap and I think they’d be dumb not to take the 6’0 Clemson DB. He may not be the biggest but he has great length and that contributed to his phenomenal play in college. With all the top O-linemen taken, the Vikings take a chance at improving their defense.
Pick 13 – Cleveland Browns
Jameson Williams – WR Alabama
The Browns used to have a powerhouse of an offense. That went by real quick. They lost OBJ and Jarvis Landry may be out the door as well. Even if Landry does stay, the gap between him and the next best receiver on the Browns is a big gap. Cleveland needs another receiving threat. Enter Jameson Williams. He has tremendous explosiveness coming out of his breaks, and has the speed to break away from defenders. If utilized correctly, he could help the Browns climb out of the cellar of the AFC North.
Pick 14 – Baltimore Ravens
Tyler Linderbaum – Center Iowa
With Bradley Bozeman rumored to be gone, the Ravens will need a new man in the center of that already solid O-line. Linderbaum is the perfect guy to fit that role. He’s very quick with his feet and can get to the second level faster than any of his teammates. The Ravens have an exceptional run game with Lamar Jackson and whoever they have in the backfield. Adding Linderbaum only improves onto it.
Pick 15 – Philadelphia Eagles
Derek Stingley Jr. – CB LSU
The Eagles could use some help in the secondary, and what better player to add than the speedy LSU CB. One of the fastest corners in college football also has the footwork to keep up with the best of receivers. The Eagles need to bolster their aging defense, and the addition of Stingley could infuse the team with some much needed youth.
Pick 16 – Philadelphia Eagles
Devin Llyod – LB Utah
Similar to the Giants, the Eagles should double down on the defensive side of the ball. The offense has the ability to win games but the defense has sometimes lost them easy games. The Eagles don’t have a capable linebacker, but Devin Lloyd can fill that role. He has the football IQ and the instincts that separate him from the rest. An instant starter that can make immediate impact.
Pick 17 – Los Angeles Chargers
Drake London – WR USC
Mike Williams is gone and Keenan Allen is on the wrong side of 30, with his best days behind him. Justin Herbert is about to be without any weapons. The Chargers may want to make a few picks to fix that. Drake London could be the new flashy WR that the Chargers need to make their push in the AFC. Standing at 6’5″, it won’t be a hard target to miss and he can make contested catches with his impressively long arms. Give Justin Herbert a new toy to play with and watch the sparks fly.
Pick 18 – New Orleans Saints
Jordan Davis – DT Georgia
Jordan Davis is a monstrous man. 340 lbs., 6’6, oh and he ran a 4.78 40 time at the combine. A man that big should not be able to keep pace with receivers. Good luck to Fournette, McCaffery and whoever it is in the Atlanta backfield. You ain’t running up the middle with that man on the field, and with Cam Jordan on the outside, that defensive front just got even nastier.
Pick 19 – Philadelphia Eagles
Trevor Penning – OL Northern Iowa
The Eagles could triple down on defense, but there’s no need when Penning is still on the board. Penning is a nasty blocker that you want defending your QB. Andre Dillard hasn’t really panned out and with Lane Johnson future in question, the Eagles could get a steal. Penning’s stock has risen tremendously in these last few months. He plays with such ferocity that he reminds me of Taylor Lewan, a monster of a man who always has his QB’s back. Give Jalen Hurts his new best friend.
Pick 20 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Malik Willis – QB Liberty
Pittsburgh is in the market for a QB. They’ll most likely trade for a veteran in the offseason, Jimmy G, Trubisky or possibly Rodgers or Wilson, but the veteran wont last more than a few years. Willis could sit and learn behind a veteran presence. He could be a great investment or he could be a surprise contributor if the veteran sucks.
Pick 21 – New England Patriots
Ahmad Gardner – CB Cincinnati
JC Jackson is out to become the highest paid corner in the league. That’s not Belichicks style, he’s more into replacements than he is payments. A nice replacement for Jackson is Gardner, arguably the best corner in the draft, but I have him falling to the Patriots. I’m not too high on Gardner, but I believe he can succeed in Belichick’s defense. If any other team drafted him, I could easily see him being a bust. He never allowed a single touchdown in college, but that seems like a setup for a crash and burn type of career. he will give up touchdowns. The question is will he be able to bounce back from it. The NFL is very different and everyone you face is NFL talent. But Belichick knows how to play to his players strengths. Gardner is smart and light on his feet. He can be a great corner in NE until he inevitably wants a big deal in which case he old Bill says good bye.
Pick 22 – Las Vegas Raiders
Nakobe Dean – LB Georgia
The Raiders are pretty weak in the middle. Dean has the capability to rectify that and bring the tenacity back to the silver and black. Now this would be the smart move, but if you are familiar with the draft you know how the Raiders make their picks. They like to reach. A lot. I can’t remember a time when they didn’t. Maybe 2014, when they took Khalil Mack, but even then they found a way to screw that situation up. Please Las Vegas, take the right guy for your team. Sometimes the easy choice is the right choice.
Pick 23 – Arizona Cardinals
DeMarvin Leal – DT Texas A&M
The Cardinals could use some help in their front seven. They drafted Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins the last two years in the first round to beef up their defense, but neither player has played up to their expectations. Leal gives them help in the run game, which the team was struggling with late in the season. With long arms and the strength to toss grown men aside like they’re children, it will be a nice addition to a defense in need of a man in the middle.
Pick 24 – Dallas Cowboys
Daxton Hill – S Michigan
Dallas needs a receiver to replace Amari Cooper, but they wont get one without reaching. Instead they should go and bolster their already impressive secondary and take Daxton Hill. Hill has great versatility. He can play deep in coverage to bump and run in the slot. Sometimes the best player available is the best pick rather than reaching for a need.
Pick 25 – Buffalo Bills
Treylon Burks – WR Arkansas
Cole Beasley has been given permission to seek a trade. If he leaves, the Bills lose one of the best slot receivers in the league. They can replace him with Burks. While Burks isn’t necessarily a slot receiver at 6’3, he would definitely compliment Stefon Diggs. Buffalo could use an extra hand on defense, but with just one aerial weapon at Allen’s disposal, that offense becomes less dynamic, especially when in competition with KC, Tennessee and now Cincinnati. But you pair Burks and Diggs, that offense has the capability to carry the defense to a championship.
Pick 26 – Tennessee Titans
Matt Corral – QB Mississippi
Probably the biggest shock of the mock draft, but I have the Titans taking one of these young QBs. It’s not a win now move but a move that I believe is best for the future of the team. There are already rumors that Tennessee was in the Rodgers sweepstakes, that means they aren’t truly sold on Tannehill being the long term starter. he is a solid QB but he he has shown to lack the ability to take over games by himself. The team struggled when they were without Henry and Julio and AJ, but good QBs can make plays with backups. Tannehill is on his way out. I’ll give him one more year, two max. He is a great veteran presence for Corral to learn from. Many of these rookie QB’s will not start day one, but with a good supporting cast and a year or two to learn this could be the best pick the Titans make. He’s a solid passer at each level and has the arm strength to throw it deep. Let him iron out his kinks for a year.
Pick 27 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jahan Dotson – WR Penn State
With Godwin possibly walking in free agency, and AB being AB, the Bucs, in one offseason, could go from having the top receiving core in the league to crashing back down to earth. Dotson won’t fill the role of Godwin or Brown immediately, but he can slow the fall. He has great body control and can catch the ball from nearly any position. He’s smaller compared to his fellow rookies standing at 5’11 and only 180 lbs. but he makes up for it with the speed he displays on the field.
Pick 28 – Green Bay
Jermaine Johnson – EDGE Florida State
Well, I could force the Packers to take a WR with this pick but if they keep Davante I don’t think they really need to. Paired with Lazard and MVS, the offense does enough to get the job done, at least in the regular season. But with the Packers looking to break the bank to keep their two studs on offense, there will likely be casualties on defense. Za’Darius Smith looks to be one of those cap causalities. They can find a solid replacement for Smith with Johnson. Some “experts” have him going as high as the top ten, which is good for the Packers if he falls to them. The Packers need to replace their edges, and here’s a solid addition.
Pick 29 – Miami Dolphins
Kaiir Elam – CB Florida
The Dolphins should take a QB here, but I’ll give Tua another year. It’s also not great for a team who just drafted a QB to take another so quickly. Plus, the new HC Mike McDaniel really likes Tua. So instead, they take the speedy DB from Florida, Elam has a good combination of explosiveness and fluidity. Much needed attributes for a corner in the AFC East, especially when facing QBs like Josh Allen and Mac Jones and even Zach Wilson if he turns the corner. It’s a pass happy league and the Dolphins are short on talent in the secondary, save Xavien Howard.
Pick 30 Kansas City Chiefs
Jaquan Brisker – S Penn State
Tyrann Mathieu is set to test the market, leaving a big gap in the already massive hole the Chiefs secondary has. Juan Thornhill is solid but he hasn’t panned out the way the Chiefs hoped and don’t even get me started on Sorenson. Brisker would be an upgrade over both of those players. He has great vision and understands routes just as good as the receivers, having great anticipation and playing the QBs eyes while also seeing the field around him. Something the Chiefs safeties have been sorely lacking.
Pick 31 – Cincinnati Bengals
Zion Johnson – OL Boston College
Even if it is a reach the Bengals should spend their first 5 picks on fixing the offensive line. They gambled on it last year by taking Chase over Sewell and it worked to perfection, until it didn’t. Johnson has shot up everyone’s draft boards lately and it’s fitting that he goes to the one place that desperately needs him.
Pick 32 – Detroit Lions
Lewis Cine – S Georgia
Don’t take a QB. In a division that has Rodgers, Cousins and Fields throwing to guys like Adams, Thielen, Jefferson and Mooney, you need to stop the offense before you reach for a QB. The Lions D is actually pretty underrated, but I think they play up to their ability due to the passion they have for their coach. Imagine if that defense had actual talent. Oruwariye has been a pleasant surprise at corner, outplaying the former 3rd overall pick Jeff Okuda, who has been incredibly disappointing. Their safeties are bad, Tracy Walker being sub par at best. Enter Lewis Cine, who has the size to bully opposing wide receivers and bat away jump balls. Detroit isn’t a good enough team to develop a young QB right now, especially any of them in this draft. Build your defense, then build your offense.