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Draft day is finally here! We made it. At the end of the night, we will have a lot more answers and probably several more questions. I can’t wait.
Throughout the entire pre draft process, I have put out mock drafts based on what I would do as the general manager of the team. Now, I am trying to get inside the heads of these GMs with my first and only predictive mock draft. I projected a pair of trades, but let’s be honest, this is nearly an impossible exercise. Hopefully, I get at least one pick right. Let’s get started.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
I have finally bought into all the smoke. Walker is a physical edge rusher with a ridiculous amount of versatility. Him going No. 1 is all about the projection for him to turn his incredible traits into production at the next level.
2. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Brad Holmes is turning in the card immediately if Hutchinson is on the board. Keeping the local kid in town is appealing in its own right. However, Hutchinson is incredibly pro ready and fills a big need. He will be an instant impact player for the Lions.
3. Houston Texans – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
I’m buying into the late hype here. Perhaps it is a smokescreen, but Stingley answered a lot of questions with how he tested at his pro day. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to be the best corner in the NFL. That’s a huge risk, but one the Texans are willing to take.
4. New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Another corner here, it will be a bit of an upset at this point if Derek Stingley Jr. comes off the board first, but that won’t impact the Jets. Gardner has the length and speed to be a true lockdown corner. New York has not had that in a really long time.
5. New York Giants – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
In this scenario, the Giants get their pick of the top tackles. I know they have been linked with Charles Cross, but I think Ekwonu will be the top option on most boards. He will start at right tackle from Day 1 for New York.
6. Carolina Panthers – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Trading down is certainly an option, but I think Neal on the board means Carolina stays put and grabs their left tackle of the future. I expect the Panthers to swing a trade for either Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. Neal would fill a huge void that this team has needed to fill for a couple seasons now.
7. New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
This feels like a slam dunk at this stage. Thibodeaux is a twitchy edge rusher with a ton of upside. He reportedly did not have a great pre draft process, but I don’t think he will slide much further. Joe Schoen does what Dave Gettleman always said he was going to: build in the trenches.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
This is another potential quarterback spot, but I think Atlanta will opt for a receiver at this spot instead. While not the top receiver on my board, I think Wilson will entice NFL teams with his speed, quickness and polish. He would immediately be the Falcons’ top receiver and potentially create an exciting pairing if Calvin Ridley returns in 2023.
9. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
Nope, still no quarterbacks. Johnson feels like a great fit in Seattle, who moved on from Carlos Dunlap this offseason. He is strong and dominates against the run. He also had some impressive production as a pass rusher. With a lot of extra draft capital though, don’t rule out a move back into the first round if a quarterback is sliding.
10. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
If not for a torn ACL, perhaps Williams would have been the first receiver taken. He still might be. In this case, the Jets will be thrilled to find a weapon for Zach Wilson to grow with. They can target edge rushers in the second round.
11. Washington Commanders – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
This one feels pretty much set as stone, weirdly enough. Washington needs a playmaker on the backend of its defense. Hamilton is absolutely that. I think he will be a Commander by the end of the night.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
This is a bit earlier than I think he should go, but McDuffie is an aggressive and instinctive corner. He is a bit undersized, but Minnesota historically hasn’t had an issue with that. The new front office might feel differently, but for now, I think he slots in here.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers via Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The first trade and the first quarterback. Pittsburgh won’t wait any longer to move up for their quarterback of the future. I’m not buying the buzz that they only like Kenny Pickett. I think Willis would be given a chance to sit behind Trubisky for a season before taking the reins in year 2.
14. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Maybe not their biggest need, but he would have the biggest (literally) impact of pretty much any player they could take in this slot. Davis is a space eater and an athletic phenom. There are concerns about his pass rushing impact, but he will be at minimum a dominant two-down player with the potential to develop into a true three-down guy.
15. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The top three corners are gone, as are the top four edge rushers. That points to the Eagles going receiver. Olave is a speedster with the ability to impact this offense immediately. Pairing him with DeVonta Smith would create a fun and exciting duo.
16. New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
I think we could see Cross slide a bit. The Saints would be happy to stop that slide though. After losing Terron Armstead, Cross would be in line to start from Day 1 on the left side. He is a proven pass protector, even if he might be a bit limited in the run game.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
He might not be the most pro ready, which will annoy Chargers fans, but they need offensive line help desperately. Penning is a physical, nasty blocker with a huge frame. Protecting Justin Herbert is priority number one.
18. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Let’s go with a dynamic defensive back who can line up in a couple different spots for the Eagles. Hill has experience at either safety spot and nickel corner. Philly desperately needs someone with his type of playmaking ability in the secondary.
19. New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
I don’t think the Saints should do this, but I can’t see them passing on Pickett twice. He could find success in this offense, especially playing in a dome stadium for half the year. It will be interesting to see what happens with Jameis Winson at this point.
20. Houston Texans via Pittsburgh Steelers – Drake London, WR, USC
After moving down, Houston can still grab a talented receiver for Davis Mills. London is my favorite receiver in this draft, but I think we could see him slide after he did not run during the pre draft process. Him and Brandin Cooks would be a really impressive combination for a team still trying to replace DeAndre Hopkins.
21. New England Patriots – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
I’m buying this hype right now. Walker is built like your prototypical NFL linebacker, with good size, impressive speed and good coverage ability. I think Bill Belichick will be eager to grab a pro ready impact defender.
22. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The streak could finally come to an end. The Packers haven’t drafted a first-round receiver since Javon Walker 20 years ago. Burks fits the Packers mold for a big body receiver with plus athleticism.
23. Arizona Cardinals – Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
Arizona has to protect Kyler Murray. Each of the past two seasons, he has struggled with nagging injuries. Minimizing the number of times he gets hit by adding Johnson feels like a smart move. Johnson has the versatility to play all three interior offensive line positions, which makes him even more valuable.
24. Dallas Cowboys – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
Dallas’ offensive line lost a lot this offseason. Green can help soften the blow. He has experience at both tackle and guard, with him more naturally fitting into the latter. Expect him to be a Day 1 starter.
25. Buffalo Bills – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Buffalo needs some help in the secondary. Booth is a bit of an unknown given his offseason surgery that cost him the entire pre draft process. I think he will still go in the first round and could start opposite Tre’Davious White when they are both back to full strength.
26. Tennessee Titans – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
A popular pick in this spot, Dotson would be a great slot receiver for the Titans. He has solid speed, incredible hands and a good feel for how to get open. Even after adding Robert Woods, Tennessee seems intent on finding more receiver help.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
This almost feels unfair. Wyatt won’t be on the same level as Ndamukong Suh, but he will come close to matching the production we saw from him as an aging player. He is pro ready and fits the timeline Tampa Bay has with Tom Brady in his final season under contract.
28. Green Bay Packers – Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
With Za’Darius Smith now in Minnesota, Green Bay will turn to Minnesota for his replacement. Funny how these things work out. Mafe is strong and athletic. I think he will work his way into the first round.
29. Kansas City Chiefs via Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Receiver is certainly an option, but I think Kansas City might trust in their ability to find another mid-round impact player. Instead, they can target the defense, adding a corner to replace Charvarius Ward. Elam is a tall, fast corner who excels in bump-and-run coverage.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
I strongly considered David Ojabo here, but I think Kansas City will jump at adding Pickens. He is big and athletic, but very unproven after missing almost his entire junior season. The upside is enticing, but there is a lot of risk.
31. Seattle Seahawks via Cincinnati Bengals – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Another trade and one last first-round quarterback. Ridder interviewed well this offseason and has some enticing physical traits. He is just going to need time to get up to speed in the NFL and work on some mechanical things in his game, but I like his upside.
32. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
This one was tough. I thought about doubling up on Michigan edge rushers, but I think the Lions will go for a dynamic linebacker instead. Lloyd is a much better player than this draft slot would indicate, but he could slide because the league does not prioritize off-ball linebackers.
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