As promised , a look into my mock draft world. Only going to share the top 10 picks, mainly because I wrote a lot more about each selection than I intended to.
I suppose I fancy myself a pseudo-scout. I would never probably become an actual scout because they make so little in money and spend so much time away from their families. But I think I would be a pretty good one with a little more formalized training.
If you don’t understand some of the terminology that is OK. I think I will spend some time in the future clarifying what some of those things are, when I do talk sports. one clarification i will make clear is that i dont beleive in traditional designations like deensive end or tackle. Because teams have multiple fronts, I designate anyone that would play on the edge (4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB) as an edge and anyone who plays inside ( 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT) as a defensive interior (DI).
Anywho, here is my mock. There is a STRONG chance it is completely and totally wrong. But that’s not the point.
- CLE – Myles Garrett, EDGE – Texas A&M
This is a no-brainer pick despite Cleveland’s attempts to over think. Pass rushers are probably the 3rd most important position in the modern era of football (after QB and LT) and while the Browns tried to fill this void last year with Nate Orchard and Emmanuel Ogbah, neither is the prospect that Garrett is. Garrett wins with speed and with power and is ferocious against both the pass and the rush. He and Ogbah provide a high ceiling pair of rush ends that can wreak havoc on an opposing backfield for years to come.
The rumors are that the coaching staff prefers Garrett, but the owner and front office want a QB. Which QB is still a mystery as they have been linked to Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes. I can see traits in all three that would appeal to the Browns very data driven front office. However, I think they utilize their other pick in the first round plus their remaining draft capital to trade up (foreshadow) and get the QB they want.
Confidence Meter – 9/10 (Teams go crazy over QBs sometimes)
Could also be – Mitch Trubisky, QB – North Carolina
Dark horse – DeShaun Watson, QB – Clemson
2. SF – Solomon Thomas – DI – Stanford
San Francisco is one of the harder teams to peg in this draft as they have a lot of conflicts from typical teams. Yes they have a new regime in John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, which would mormally suggest them targeting a QB they can build around. However, both signed 6 year contracts so there is a degree of flexibility that most new regimes don’t have. They can afford to be patient and wait until next year when truly, truly elite QB prospects will be available, namely Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. I’ve been hearing rumors about Leonard Fournette, but he doesn’t really fit Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme carried on by his father, and that he used with aplomb in Atlanta last season with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. They could target a safety, but have moved Jimmie Ward to FS and Eric Reid will shift to SS, where he likely will be a better fit. Plus Jaquiski Tartt, the incumbent SS is a pretty solid player as well. They could target a corner, but Robert Saleh comes from the Pete Carroll coaching tree. If Saleh follows in Carroll’s mold, he’s not likely to prioritize drafting an elite man to man corner high in the draft, but will likely target a longer corner, later in the draft that is adept at press coverage and can play quarters. This is too high for any LB besides Reuben Foster, and he has too many question marks. So if the 49ers are not able to trade out of this slot (which I suspect is their preferred option) , I think it comes down to Solomon Thomas vs. Jonathan Allen. While I like both prospects, I think the pick has to be Thomas. In addition to outstanding production at Stanford, he had an amazing combine and his athleticism really wowed everyone in attendance. More-so, in reviewing his film, he has outstanding short area quickness and power. His hand use isn’t quite on Allen’s level, but it’s pretty good in its own right. I think athletically he could play the 5 technique in Saleh’s 4-3 over defense, but he would be even better if they let him gain about 10 lbs and play at the 3-technique, wreaking havoc in the interior. I think Thomas is actually even good enough to play the 0 tech in certain, limited situations. That’s just how good he is.
Confidence Meter – 2/10 – Not only do I not know if the 49ers will hold onto this pick, there is some duplication between Thomas’ skills and their last two first round picks (DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead).
Could also be – Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU is the most recent rumor going around the Draft community and he would make sense if they just think he has transcendent talent that will shine regardless of scheme. Plus I must admit that the assumption he can’t run zone just because LSU did not run a ton of it does not mean he is not capable of it. Plus even if they had run it , their offensive line was AWFUL last year so it would not have told us much.
Dark horse – Christian McCaffrey, RB – Stanford – he has shown the ability to be proficient in both zone and power schemes, and his elite agility and vision would probably thrive under Shanahan. He also can catch the ball in a variety of ways, be it out of the backfield, in the slot or on the outside, and wold be a huge chess piece for Shanahan’s offense. Also, shout out to Stanford having two guys in consideration for the #2 pick in the draft !
3. CHI – DeShaun Watson – QB – Clemson
I have grown increasingly more confident in this one although I am uncertain if I agree with it. GM Ryan Pace came out today and said that they have three players on their board and will likely be taking one of the three (barring a trade down of course). I’m sure Myles Garrett is at the top of their board, and then I think it is between Solomon Thomas and DeShaun Watson for 2 or 3. One Bears insider has been pretty adamant that the pick will be Watson. Another is pretty certain that they like Watson but will likely not take him this high. I lean more to the first report just due to the Bears very thoroughly working out all of the QBs prior to the draft and Ryan Pace’s self-proclaimed emphasis on intangibles. To draft Watson and let him sit behind Glennon for a year or two, before unleashing him on the NFL is I think what their ultimate plan is. I like Watson as a QB but I think there are too many flaws in his game for him to be a slam dunk choice over a Jonathan Allen, who would really spice up their interior pass rush. He has a good arm and solid accuracy, but his mechanics are inconsistent at times, and he played in a spread offense that did not really prepare him for this level. That being said, he has exhibited some tape of being able to make full read progressions, is a strong runner, and has a strong mental makeup. He’s mentally tough and thrives in pressure. You have to be to break the Clemson curse. And he did so against Alabama. He could conceivably had done it twice if Clemson’s safeties had not busted coverage three times against Alabama in 2016. And you know what … After writing this post I think I have talked myself into this being a pretty good damn pick!
Confidence Meter – 6/10. It could get hairy if Thomas is on the board.
Could also be – Solomon Thomas, DI – Stanford. While elite QB > elite DL , elite DL > above average QB. I like Watson, but I’m still not entirely sold he’s an elite QB. I’m pretty sold on Thomas. In this scenario, Thomas is off the board, but if he is not … That could be a tough decision for Pace and Fox.
Dark horse – Mitch Trubisky, QB – North Carolina – There are some rumblings that Trubisky is really the QB that Pace has his eye on. We will see …
4. JAX – Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU
I have whittled this down to one of 4 picks. Team President Tom Coughlin’s SB winning New York Giant teams were built on dominant defensive lines with multiple waves of defenders who can rush the passer. That is how they were able to beat the GOAT Tom Brady in the SB two times, something no other team has accomplished even once. Based on that it would seem like this should come down to the aforementioned Jonathan Allen or Tennessee DE Derek Barnett. Those are the two best pass rushers (minus Garrett) in this draft in my opinion and they fit the scheme that the Jags will run (a 4-3 under. their DC is another one from the Pete Carroll coaching tree). However, the Jags have invested HEAVILY in their defensive line over the last 2 years. Malik Jackson and Calais Campbell got huge deals, they gave starter money to Abry Jones and they used premium picks on Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue. Unless Wash changes the defense (and I don’t expect that to happen as Campbell has already said he will be playing more DE in Jacksonville than he did in Arizona) , there just won’t be the snaps available for another pass rusher. More likely they add to their war chest later in the draft, as this is a deep draft for D linemen. So then it comes down to two athletic marvels. Leonard Fournette or Alabama TE OJ Howard. I think they would be comfortable taking either in this slot. They tried to get Bortles an elite TE already with the failed Julius Thomas signing two years ago. They also busted at RB giving Chris Ivory a big deal and drafting TJ Yeldon. It’s conceivable they could take OJ Howard here and maybe go Joe Mixon in the second round (I think I would probably go that route myself). But instead, I think the pick will be Fournette. He has an unreal combination of power and speed and would greatly enhance their offense. There are some rumors they may take a QB here, but I just can’t see that happening. Owner Shad Khan gave new head coach Doug Marrone a 3 year deal, and installed Coughlin as final decision maker over incumbent GM Dave Caldwell. Everybody is on a short leash and they do not have time to wait on a QB.
Confidence Meter – 6/10. They don’t have a GLARING need and there are a couple of players that may be around the same value on their board.
Could also be – OJ Howard, TE – Alabama. OJ is a rare TE prospect athletically too and TE is a need spot. They could grab a Mixon in round 2, and that would be a truly dangerous team, provided Bortles gets it together.
Dark horse – Derek Barnett – Coughlin REALLY loves pass rushers. And while the expectation is that Myles Garrett will be the best pass rusher from this draft one day, the best one right now is hands down Barnett.
5. TEN – (trades to NO for pick #12 and #42) – Derek Barnett, EDGE – Tennessee
I’m not scared to predict a trade! I think this makes a ton of sense. The Saints BADLY need a guy to rush the passer opposite of Cameron Jordan. They could sit at 11 and hope that either Barnett or Taco Charlton falls to them, but I think they make a move and get the best pass rusher they can. Drew Brees only has so much longer to play and they seem to be serious about stocking this defense up. If they sit at 11, I think they lose their opportunity to get either player. Plus Charlton is already similar to Cam Jordan’s style … Barnett wins with ELITE hands and an ELITE bend around the corner, two things that are crucial to being a great rusher. He did not test well at the combine or his pro day due to illness and injury, respectively, but he’s a solid athlete going back to his HS days. His technique and bend/agility will ensure that he wins at the next level. The ridiculous numbers he has put up in the SEC the last three years also vouches for him. TEN could stay at 5 and I’m hearing they like Mike Williams there but I feel like they could get him at 11. I think they could also get John Ross there who I think is a better fit for them than Williams anyway. Also it would be tough I think to pass on Marshon Lattimore or Jonathan Allen, but I think picking up a 2nd round pick in such a deep draft (they traded theirs to CLE) would be worth it.
Confidence Meter: 5/10 – That’s actually pretty high considering I’m predicting a team will trade up and who they will pick. I just think it’s an awesome match of value and need.
Could also be: Mike Williams, WR – Clemson. The TEN GM Jon Robinson drafted Mike Evans in TB and these two share some similar traits. So the interest in selecting him makes sense. I am still skeptical though.
Dark horse: Marshon Lattimore, CB Ohio State. Tennessee has a need at corner and while this is a deep draft, Lattimore is almost universally considered the cream of the crop.
6. NYJ – (trades with Sheldon Richardson to CLE for picks #12 , #52 and #108) Mitch Trubisky, QB – North Carolina
Two trades in a row, yeah I’m gutsy! This one just seems like it has to happen. The Jets have made no bones about wanting to move out of this slot. The Browns really like Trubisky and I don’t think they trust he falls to them at 12. Match made ! I also think that Cleveland is the perfect match for a player like Sheldon Richardson looking for a fresh start. They have more than enough cap space to absorb his $8 million salary. I use him because I have heard the Jets are trying to get a ransom for this pick while the Browns are trying to go by the Draft Value Chart. This is a nice way for them to bridge their differences.
On the field, Trubisky has all the tools to be a great QB. Strong arm, very accurate, throws with touch and anticipation, makes full read progressions. What scares you about him is that he only has the one year as a starter under his belt. Many a player has impressed their first time through only to regress as teams get more film on them. You have to gamble with him that he is on an upward trajectory.
Confidence meter: 7/10. I don’t know if it will be the Browns trading up, another team trading up or the Jets themselves taking him, 6 just seems right for Mitch.
Could also be: Jamal Adams, S LSU. They reportedly are very high on him and he could have a huge impact from Day 1 for their secondary.
Dark horse: Marshon Lattimore, CB Ohio State. Same reason for Adams, and Jets coach Todd Bowles loves having corners who can play press man.
7. LAC – Marshon Lattimore, CB – Ohio State
Gus Bradley is the new DC in LA and he loves big physical press corners (Carroll coaching tree again). Lattimore can give you that and more on the outside. He also brings size to a smallish core of corners which is important for battling against Demaryius Thomas, Michael Crabtree, or Travis Kelce – 6x a year. Most mocks have Lattimore’s teammate Malik Hooker slotted here. I think that’s definitely possible, but I think there are a number of safeties who can play that deep FS role later in the draft. Teric Thompson in the 3rd or Justin Evans in the 2nd could plug those holes. But I just cannot see the Chargers passing on the draft’s consensus #1 corner.
Confidence meter: 5/10. Tons of possibilities with this pick as new coach Anthony Lynn and GM Todd Telasco try to make an impact first selection together.
Could also be: Malik Hooker, S Ohio State. I mean his film is carbon copy for Bradley’s protege Earl Thomas. I don’t think he is as good as Thomas though.
Dark horse: Jonathan Allen. Sounds like Joey Bosa will be rushing more from the outside this season and they could use interior disruption since Corey Liuget has basically quit since getting his big deal.
8. CAR – Christian McCaffrey RB – Stanford
The Panthers love to run the ball and need a complement to Cam Newton. McCaffrey has experience running in a lot of schemes but especially in the power scheme the Panthers run. He also provides a big time receiving option to help Cam Newton move the chains underneath. He has the ability to carry the ball 30 times a game, and also the ability to complement the current incumbent Jonathan Stewart by providing versatility to the offense. If the board falls like it has, there’s no way they pass on Christian. The recent scuttle is that he may not even make it to 8.
Confidence meter: 9/10 UNLESS Fournette or Barnett are available here too. Then my confidence falls to a 4/10.
Could also be: Derek Barnett. If the Saints don’t trade up for him this is where I think Barnett may end up.
Dark horse: Jonathan Allen. #REDUNDANT. Panthers highly value defensive linemen. They currently have 5 former 1st round picks on their DL.
9. CIN – Jonathan Allen, DI – Alabama
If this happens Marvin Lewis and the Bengals will run to the podium so fast. I’m imagining Geno Atkins having an interior disruptor this good next to him and wondering how teams plan on moving the football against Cincy. Allen just consistently wins with his hands. He should thrive playing next to Atkins inside.
Confidence meter: 7/10. Just not sure Allen falls this far. There are concerns about his health but he is just so very productive. I do think he was slightly overhyped in the beginning of the draft process but now I think his below average combine has made teams overreact in the other direction.
Could also be: Taco Charlton, EDGE – Michigan. The Bengals have one of the worst collections of defensive ends in the NFL. They could opt to go Taco instead, a player who is only scraping the surface of his potential and would instantly be their best edge rusher.
Dark horse: Jamal Adams. Somehow he is still available in my mock and he is by far the best player available.
10. BUF – Reuben Foster, LB – Alabama
New coach Sean McDermott comes from Carolina where their scheme was predicated on smart zone corners playing heavy Cover 3 with safety support and fast rangy LBs who could fly all over the field. Hence why the Panthers used 3 first round selections on LBs when the rest of the NFL was devaluing their roles at this level. Reuben Foster fits that mold. He has a lot of Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly to his game. There are some of-the field and health concerns, but he is such an elite prospect at this position I think the Bills overlook those concerns and grab him.
Confidence meter: 6/10. There are rumors they may trade up for a QB. I don’t believe them but the rumors exist.
Could also be: Mike Williams, WR- Clemson or John Ross, WR – Washington. Two receivers who both win downfield, which is what Tyrod Taylor excels at, the deep ball. They just win in different ways .. Ross with quick feet, shifty routes and blazing speed; Williams with size , strength and the leaping ability to high point the football.
Dark horse: Marlon Humphrey, CB – Alabama. He has been kind of lost in the CB shuffle but at one point the draft community considered him a Top 10 lock. It’s not like he did anything wrong since then as he had an excellent combine. He has all the measurables and really excels in zone coverage, which I expect the Bills to use heavily, bringing over the Panthers defensive system.
So that is about it … let’s see how everything turns out in approximately 22 hours !