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We are entering the home stretch of draft prep with just over two weeks until the first round kicks off in Las Vegas. Speculation is running wild about what teams are interested in and where certain players will go. It is a really fun time, but it is also incredibly tricky to sort through what is true and what is just a smokescreen.
With the draft drawing closer, I want to go beyond just the first round for the first time in this draft cycle. There are so many teams this year that do not have a first round selection. Plus, it is important to remember that just because a team does not address their biggest need in the first round that they will not address it at all during the draft.
As always, these mocks are a reflection of what I would do if I were the general manager for each team. I will do a predictive mock draft as we get closer, but right now I am going to stick to what I believe should happen. Also, no trades just yet.
With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my latest mock.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
This is going to be unpopular. I believe Neal is the best player in this draft class and plays one of the most crucial positions in the sport. Jacksonville does not have a huge need at offensive tackle for this season with Cam Robinson on the left and some combination of Walker Little or Jawaan Taylor on the right. That being said, Robinson and Taylor are both slated to be free agents after the season and Trevor Lawrence needs protection to develop. Neal has experience playing guard from his time at Alabama and can kick out to tackle in 2023 when Robinson is gone. Finding a franchise tackle is never a bad move.
2. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The player that most expect to come off the board at No. 1 slides all the way to No. 2. I think Hutchinson will be the Jaguars pick on draft day, but I like Neal better in that spot. For the Lions though, this is a slam dunk. They get a local kid with a high motor and a ton of college production. He will immediately make this defense better.
3. Houston Texans – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The smear campaign against Thibodeaux has been going on for a while now. Reports of poor interviews and criticism over a lack of fire have seemingly tanked his draft stock. Now, I wasn’t in those interviews, but when I turn on the film, I see a twitchy pass rusher with the ability to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. The Texans could desperately use a playmaker like that to pair with Jonathan Greenard.
4. New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
New York invested a lot in its secondary over the past two offseasons between spending a bunch of draft picks in the later rounds of last year and signing D.J. Reed this year. Perhaps New York will view that as a complete cornerback room. I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring in Gardner. He is a long, athletic shutdown corner with the physical tools to become one of the best in the league. After watching the secondary get shredded last season, bolstering this group feels like a really smart move.
5. New York Giants – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
The Giants have pledged to give Daniel Jones a chance to turn things around. In order for him to do so, he needs to have some time to throw the football. Ekwonu is a road-grading tackle with all the physical tools you like to see at the position. He would pair nicely with Andrew Thomas to give New York a very solid foundation to build the offensive line around. Saquon Barkley would also greatly appreciate Ekwonu’s arrival.
6. Carolina Panthers – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
This is a tricky spot. With the top two tackles off the board, this seems like it might be a good space for the Panthers to trade down. I’m not predicting trades quite yet in my mocks, so instead, let’s go with the No. 1 quarterback on my board, which is Willis. He has a strong arm, is incredibly accurate and has plus athleticism for the position. I don’t think he is necessarily a Day 1 starter with some major concerns over his pocket awareness and ability to play against the blitz, but I really like his upside. Darnold can be the starter while Willis gets up to speed in the NFL.
7. New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
New York addressed its biggest need with its first pick. The question is where do they turn to next. I’m usually not big on drafting safeties this early, but I think Hamilton fits well with the Giants and fills a big need. He would slot in next to Xavier McKinney and give New York a really talented duo on the backend of their defense. There will be edge rushers available for them to target in the second round.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Drake London, WR, USC
Some fans will hope for a quarterback here, but I don’t see it happening. I think Atlanta recognizes this is a rebuild, especially after eating over $40 million in dead cap money in the Matt Ryan trade. The Falcons need to rebuild this roster and could even consider trading out of this spot to acquire a few more 2023 selections so they can target a quarterback there. If they stay put, wide receiver is a must here. Drake London is my top receiver here with this contested catch ability and upside in the red zone. Atlanta has no one in their receiver room that comes close to being a No. 1 receiver. London and Kyle Pitts give the Falcons a good starting point as they reshape the offense.
9. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Another spot where it feels like quarterback could be in play, but I don’t have a first-round grade on anyone other than Malik Willis. Seattle is also more than just a quarterback away from competing. Instead, the Seahawks grab one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft. At this spot, Stingley could be a steal if he is able to reclaim his 2019 form. He had a strong showing at his pro day and I think answered a lot of the questions that existed about what kind of physical shape he was in following an injury-plagued season. There is definitely a bit of projection involved here, but after losing D.J. Reed, Seattle could use an upgrade at corner.
10. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
I was tempted to go with a wide receiver here, but I can’t pass up Johnson. He put together a fantastic season with 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. While his pass rushing ability is impressive, I think he is an even better run defender, which goes a long way in the NFL. Pairing Johnson with Carl Lawson, who should be back to full strength after suffering an Achilles injury last preseason, would give New York a really strong complement of edge rushers.
11. Washington Football Team – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Terry McLaurin needs some help. Washington could return to the well so to speak by grabbing another former Buckeye to plug into this offense. Wilson is a talented playmaker who creates separation and has the speed to take the top off a defense. He would give Carson Wentz another reliable receiver as the Commanders hope they can get him to bounce back from a rough end to the 2021 season.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
I have such a tough time knowing what to do with Minnesota. Corner is this team’s biggest need, but with Gardner and Stingley off the board, I don’t think there is one worth going here. This feels like a trade down spot for the Vikings if they can find a partner looking to move up. With no trades allowed though, I will tab Wyatt to take over for Sheldon Richardson on the defensive line. He is stout against the run and can collapse the pocket. Suddenly, that Minnesota front seven looks like a really good group.
13. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
I went back and forth on this pick for a while, but ultimately landed on a wide receiver capable of changing this offense. Houston made a smart move in locking up Brandin Cooks, but there is not much other proven talent at the receiver position. Williams is coming off an ACL injury he suffered in the National Championship Game against Georgia, but that should not really impact the Texans too much. This team is not a title contender right now and would be wise to focus on the long term. Williams could be someone for Davis Mills to grow with in the coming years.
14. Baltimore Ravens – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Baltimore loves to load up along the front seven. If Walker is still on the board, I don’t see them passing. Walker is incredibly versatile. He can line up at defensive tackle, defensive end or outside linebacker. I think the Ravens will covet that flexibility and bet on Walker developing his pass rushing skills at the next level.
15. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Yes, the Eagles have drafted a receiver in the previous two drafts. No, the Eagles do not have a very good receiver room, outside of DeVonta Smith, despite using premium draft capital at the position. Olave would give Philly a dynamic and dangerous duo to roll out. If this team is serious about giving Jalen Hurts a shot at proving he is the franchise quarterback, giving him the necessary talent to work with is crucial.
16. New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
This is likely a big part of the reason the Saints made this move. They wanted to ensure they could jump ahead of the Chargers to take the top tackle available. Cross is a proven pass blocker with sound technique and tons of reps from his time at Mississippi State. He has limited tape as a run blocker, which makes him a bit of an unknown, but there is enough upside for me to think he can develop into a solid starting left tackle in the NFL.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The Chargers will be disappointed to see Cross go off the board one pick before them, but Penning is a heck of a consolation prize. He tested really well and showed a good deal of nastiness at the Senior Bowl. He definitely has room to improve when it comes to his hand placement and technique, but with his size and athleticism, Los Angeles would be more than willing to bet on his upside.
18. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Darius Slay is a quality starting corner, but the Eagles don’t have much in the way of proven options behind him. Zech McPherson is worth developing, but in the meantime, Booth can start across from Slay and take some pressure off McPherson. Booth has good size and some solid tape from his time at Clemson. He adjusts well to the ball while it’s in the air. Philly will be much better on the boundaries with him and Olave on board.
19. New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
This is a little bit early for Burks, but New Orleans needs someone to play alongside Michael Thomas and some insurance in case Thomas misses time with injury again. Burks was an exciting playmaker at Arkansas, but struggled a bit with consistency. If he can find his groove, I expect him to be a really strong No. 1 receiver for the Saints with the potential to take over as the top option down the line.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
I thought about taking an offensive lineman here, but I think Pittsburgh can target an interior lineman on Day 2. Instead, they grab the best corner available. McDuffie is a bit undersized, but he plays bigger and is not afraid of contact. He has the tools to become the Steelers’ No. 1 corner, which will be even more important if they do not bring Joe Haden back.
21. New England Patriots – Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
After trading away Shaq Mason this offseason, the Patriots have a big need at interior lineman. Kenyon Green is capable of stepping in and starting from Day 1 at either guard spot. Mac Jones is not a very mobile quarterback and New England loves to run the ball, so rebuilding in the trenches feels like a wise investment.
22. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Zion Johnson, G, Boston College
Wide receiver is the clear need here, but with five already off the board, it does not make sense to reach for one here. Instead, the Packers can bolster Aaron Rodgers’ protection with a versatile interior lineman capable of playing either guard spot or center. Johnson impressed at the Senior Bowl and has the tape at Boston College to back it up. He could be a Day 1 starter for Green Bay.
23. Arizona Cardinals – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
I have Davis rated much higher than this, but he slid based on how the board fell. He is an elite run stuffer with incredible athleticism. I think that will translate to him being a solid interior pass rusher as well, but maybe don’t expect him to become Fletcher Cox. For Arizona, this feels a clear need and gives them a devastating defensive line.
24. Dallas Cowboys – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
With Randy Gregory’s departure this offseason, Dallas has a clear need across from Damarcus Lawrence. Ojabo will not be ready at the start of the season after suffering a torn Achilles last month, but his physical tools had him projected to go in the top 10 prior to the injury. There is obviously a bit of risk involved in taking a player coming off an injury like this, but the upside is enormous.
25. Buffalo Bills – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Tre’Davious White is still recovering from a torn ACL and Dane Jackson had a rocky rookie season. That sets the stage for Buffalo to find defensive back help early in this draft. Elam is what I love in a corner: long and athletic. He has room to improve in zone coverage concepts, but he will excel in any press man situations Buffalo puts him in.
26. Tennessee Titans – Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
Tennessee has gotten by for the past two seasons with David Quessenberry at right tackle, but he is a free agent this year and the Titans have not brought anyone in to replace him. Kinnard is a mauler with impressive play strength and superb length. He will definitely need a bit of refining at the next level, but he also has the potential to kick inside to guard if he struggles at tackle.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bernhard Raimann, OL, Central Michigan
With Ali Marpet and Alex Kappa both departing this offseason, Tampa Bay found itself needing to replace both of its starting guards. The Buccaneers already acquired Shaq Mason via trade so adding Raimann would help solidify the offensive line. Raimann played tackle at Central Michigan, but after watching some tape and seeing his arm length in the 23rd percentile for offensive linemen, I think a move inside is in his NFL future.
28. Green Bay Packers – Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Green Bay desperately needs receivers capable of playing on the perimeter. Watson fits that mold and should be someone Aaron Rodgers will enjoy throwing to. Watson is an impeccable route runner, getting in and out of his breaks quickly and understanding how to set up opposing corners to get himself open. Adding him would be a good start to the Packers rebuilding their receiver room.
29. Kansas City Chiefs via Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Karlaftis slides a bit with all the receivers and corners coming off the board. That is all well and good for the Chiefs, who need edge rushing help in the worst way. Karlaftis would be a great scheme fit as a 4-3 defensive end and could start across from Frank Clark right away. He has some areas of his game he needs to clean up when it comes to run defense and setting the edge, but he will certainly be capable of creating pressure.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
In a perfect world, there would be a wide receiver or corner worth taking in this slot, but with a run on both positions in the teens and 20s of this mock, the Chiefs will go with the best player available at a position of need. To me, that is Hill. Kansas City lost Tyrann Mathieu this offseason and they tend to run a lot of five or six defensive back sets. Adding in Hill, who can play either safety spot or even slot corner, gives the Chiefs a versatile playmaker on the backend of their defense.
31. Cincinnati Bengals – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
If we get to this point, I think the Bengals would be looking to trade down with a team trying to grab a quarterback at the end of the first round. In this scenario, I think continuing to bolster their interior offensive line makes a ton of sense. Linderbaum is definitely undersized, but he makes up for it with physical play and outstanding athleticism in space.
32. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Let me make something clear. I really like Devin Lloyd. I have him ranked among my top 10 prospects. I just had a hard time finding a good landing spot for him where the value of getting an off-ball linebacker made sense. Lions fans would be happy to see him fall this far. He is a dynamic playmaker with some pass rush ability and the versatility to play multiple roles. For a defense starved of talent, this is a great get.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars – Arnold Ebeketie, EDGE Penn State
34. Detroit Lions – Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
35. New York Jets – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
36. New York Giants – Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
37. Houston Texans – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
38. New York Jets via Carolina Panthers – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
39. Chicago Bears – Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
40. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
41. Seattle Seahawks – Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
42. Indianapolis Colts via Washington Commanders – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
43. Atlanta Falcons – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
44. Cleveland Browns – Cameron Thomas, EDGE, San Diego State
45. Baltimore Ravens – Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
46. Minnesota Vikings – Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA
47. Washington Commanders via Indianapolis Colts – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
48. Chicago Bears via Los Angeles Chargers – Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
49. New Orleans Saints – Sam Howell, QB, UNC
50. Kansas City Chiefs via Miami Dolphins – Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
51. Philadelphia Eagles – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
52. Pittsburgh Steelers – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
53. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
54. New England Patriots – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
55. Arizona Cardinals – Amare Barno, EDGE, Virginia Tech
56. Dallas Cowboys – Dylan Parham, G, Memphis
57. Buffalo Bills – Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
58. Atlanta Falcons via Tennessee Titans – Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
59. Green Bay Packers – Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
60. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Travis Jones, DL, Connecticut
61. San Francisco 49ers – Cole Strange, G, Chattanooga
62. Kansas City Chiefs – Cody Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
63. Cincinnati Bengals – Cade Otton, TE, Washington
64. Denver Broncos via Los Angeles Rams – Logan Hall, DL, Houston
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