The dust has settled on free agency as teams scour the free agent heap to find remaining role players at a bargain price. It is time to shift the focus to the NFL Draft, which is just 20 days away. Joe Malfa will put together a full 1st-round mock draft every week leading up to the morning of the draft — here’s his second mock of #DraftSZN:
1) Cleveland Browns — QB Sam Darnold, USC (Previous pick: no change)
Darnold is my top quarterback available and the Browns need to find one to solve the franchise’s decades-long quarterback issue. There have been some reports linking the Browns to Josh Allen that I will monitor, but for now I think they may just be smokescreens.
2) TRADE — Buffalo Bills — QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
The buzz about the Bills’ interest in trading up for Allen has ramped up over the last few days to the point where Todd McShay decided to mock this trade himself. Keep in mind he and Mel Kiper Jr. almost never mock trades, so this was actually a pretty big deal. I think it makes a lot of sense for both teams, it’s just a matter of Dave Gettleman budging from his self imposed “never trade down in the first round” rule. Giants pick up the 12th and 22nd overall picks, Bills get the quarterback they seem to covet.
3) New York Jets — QB Josh Rosen, UCLA (Previous pick: no change)
The closer we get to the draft, the more and more I think this is the pick. Some combination of Darnold, Barkley and Allen will make up the first two picks, leaving the Jets to draft Rosen.
4) Cleveland Browns — RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Previous pick: Bradley Chubb)
What a night it would be for the Browns, walking away with both the draft’s top quarterback and top overall player in Barkley.
5) Denver Broncos — QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Previous pick: no change)
Case Keenum is not the long-term answer for the Broncos. Mayfield’s boisterous personality rubs some people the wrong way and there will be detractors who say he is too short, but he has the tools to be a star. Don’t be surprised if the Broncos trade up one spot with the Browns to ensure that no one else comes up to take Mayfield, similar to the way the Bears moved up one pick in a deal with the Niners last year to secure Mitchell Trubisky. It is a great move for the Browns because they would pick up a couple of extra picks and still manage to land Barkley with the fifth pick.
6) Indianapolis Colts — EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State (Previous pick: Quenton Nelson)
As much as I think the Colts should go with Quenton Nelson to help keep Andrew Luck upright and healthy, their defense needs a major overhaul. Chubb could have the impact of a Von Miller or Khalil Mack, and that is not something the Colts should let go by the wayside.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State (Previous pick: no change)
The Bucs filled their need on the edge by trading for Jason Pierre-Paul. The next hole to fill is in the secondary, and Ward has what it takes to be a shutdown corner in the NFL.
8) Chicago Bears — OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Previous pick: Roquan Smith)
The Bears have already gotten Trubisky some weapons — the next step is making sure he is upright. Nelson is one of the top offensive line prospects to enter the draft this millennium.
9) San Francisco 49ers — DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Previous pick: no change)
The Niners could use either a linebacker or a defensive back, and there are good options still on the board at both positions. Fitzpatrick’s talent, football IQ and versatility make him an attractive pick. He can cover, play center field and come up to defend the run. John Lynch’s ties to that position also lead me to believe he goes secondary over linebacker.
10) Oakland Raiders — ILB Roquan Smith, Georgia (Previous pick: Tremaine Edmunds)
The Raiders are in need of a playmaking inside linebacker who can set the tone on defense. Smith is undersized, but his speed and quickness are off the charts. All he does is make plays, and he has a shot to be an All-Pro caliber player.
11) Miami Dolphins — DL Vita Vea, Washington (Previous pick: no change)
The departure of Ndamukong Suh left the Dolphins with a big hole to fill — both literally and figuratively — in the middle of their defensive line. Consistency has been an issue for Vea, but he is tough to contain when at his best.
12) TRADE — New York Giants — ILB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The Giants are in the market for both a linebacker and edge rusher. They get the linebacker here, and Edmunds is capable of helping in the pass rush as well. He is a freak athlete who will not turn 20 until after the draft. He is a bit raw in some areas, but he could be one of the league’s top linebackers within a couple of seasons.
13) Washington Redskins — S Derwin James, Florida State (Previous pick: no change)
The Redskins are in desperate need of a safety with D.J. Swearinger and Deshazor Everett currently occupying the starting roles. Not ideal. James has what it takes to be a perennial pro-bowler.
14) Green Bay Packers — EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA (Previous pick: no change)
The Packers consistently finish in the middle of the pack or near the bottom of the league in total defense. Aaron Rodgers can only do so much — he needs the defense to step up. Davenport has what it takes to be a force around the edge, making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
15) Arizona Cardinals — CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville (Previous pick: Mike Hughes)
The ebb and flow of draft season sees players rise and fall rapidly each week. Last week, UCF cornerback Mike Hughes was a fast riser and a popular pick for the Cardinals. This week, things seem to have cooled on that front while Alexander’s name has come up more. After Denzel Ward, there is a tight race for the draft’s second best cover corner between Alexander and Iowa’s Josh Jackson. It comes down to a matter of preference and I have Jackson ranked higher, but there seems to be more buzz around Alexander so he comes off the board here while Jackson falls to another avian team selecting later in the first round.
16) Baltimore Ravens — WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama (Previous pick: no change)
Joe Flacco may be the most overrated quarterback in the league, but in fairness, he does not have many options. I personally am not a big fan of Ridley, but he will probably be the first receiver off the board. The Ravens are desperate for help at the position. They added Michael Crabtree and John Brown in free agency, but that is not enough.
17) Los Angeles Chargers — DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama (Previous pick: no change)
It is a copycat league, and teams will try to duplicate the manner in which the Eagles constructed their defensive front. Even though it was already a strength for the Eagles, they went out and added Chris Long and Derek Barnett, making a strength even stronger. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are giving offensive lines issues from the outside, but they need a complement on the interior. Payne has the strength, athleticism and motor to be a three-down run stuffer and pass rusher from the inside of the line.
18) Seattle Seahawks — OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia (Previous pick: no change)
The Seahawks took steps towards improving the offensive line last season, but there is more work to be done. Wynn has the tools to start immediately and he can play either guard or tackle.
19) Dallas Cowboys — LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama (Previous pick: no change)
Anthony Hitchens left in free agency, and he needs to be replaced. Evans has the speed, athleticism and instincts to be an impactful NFL starter. He works well sideline-to-sideline, stops the run and can get after the passer.
20) Detroit Lions — C James Daniels, Iowa (Previous pick: no change)
The Lions do not currently have a center. I am a big fan of Ohio State’s Billy Price, but he split time between center and guard in college and may be better suited as a guard in the NFL. Daniels is a true center and a talented one at that, making him a wise choice at a position of need for a team investing an average of $27 million per year at quarterback.
21) Cincinnati Bengals — OG Will Hernandez, UTEP (Previous pick: Connor Williams)
Hernandez has been regarded as a potential first round pick for some time now, but his name is starting to heat up a bit more. His strength and nastiness are his best attributes, but he also has quick feet and does a good job of pulling around the edge. He could make an immediate impact as a starter on a team in need of a guard.
22) TRADE — New York Giants — OG/OC Bill Price, Ohio State
The Giants need to improve their situations at guard and center. Price plays both and plays both well, so they could use him however they see fit. He is coming off a minor pectoral injury that required surgery but will not cause him to miss any of training camp, so it should not be a concern. He is a first round talent who can start from the moment his name is called on draft night.
23) New England Patriots — EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College (Previous pick: no change in the pick, but a change in the team)
This pick was occupied by the Rams, but they traded it to the Patriots for Brandin Cooks. The Patriots are in need of an edge rusher, and Landry is by far my favorite after Bradley Chubb. He can get after the passer, stop the run and does a great job of getting his hands up to bat down passes. Before an ankle injury cost him the last five games of his senior season, there was talk of Landry being a top-10 pick. It is up to the teams to do their medical research but if he is 100 percent after that ankle sprain, he will be a steal at the back end of the first round.
24) Carolina Panthers — WR D.J. Moore, Maryland (Previous pick: no change)
Moore has strong hands, runs clean routes and has the strength and quickness to feast in the middle of the field. I may be a bit biased having watched him in person each of the last two seasons as a member of Maryland’s video crew, but the buzz is there. After his combine performance, he shot up draft boards and prompted people like Gil Brandt to call him the draft’s top wide receiver prospect. The fit with the Panthers is also perfect, and they spent more time with him than any other team at his pro day.
25) Tennessee Titans — EDGE Leighton Vander Esch (Previous pick: no change)
The Titans have improved steadily since drafting Marcus Mariota, and developing a pass rush is the next area in which they need to improve. Vander Esch needs to be polished up a bit, but the raw talent and instincts are there. New head coach Mike Vrabel could have some fun molding this prospect.
26) Atlanta Falcons — DT Taven Bryan, Florida (Previous pick: Billy Price)
The Falcons’ championship window is still open, but holes need to be filled in the middle of both the offensive and defensive lines. Worry about the interior of the offensive line later in what is a deep draft at that position. Get Bryan to fill the void left by Dontari Poe right here.
27) New Orleans Saints — TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State (Previous pick: no change)
There are not many holes on this Saints roster, but tight end is one of them. Drew Brees loves his tight ends, but Josh Hill and Benjamin Watson won’t cut it. They tried bringing back Jimmy Graham, but he opted to sign with Green Bay. Gesicki would immediately take on a prominent role in this offense. Forcing defenses to focus on him on the inside would open things up for their talented receiving corps on the outside.
28) Pittsburgh Steelers — S Justin Reid, Stanford (Previous pick: Mason Rudolph)
I ditched the cute quarterback pick here for the Steelers and went with something more practical — a safety who can start from day one. Reid could be this year’s Marcus Maye. He will be overshadowed by the draft’s top two safeties — Fitzpatrick and James in this case, Adams and Hooker last year — but he may provide better production as a rookie.
29) Jacksonville Jaguars — OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (Previous pick: no change)
The Jaguars started rebuilding their troubled offensive line last season with the selection of Cam Robinson at the top of the second round. They continue the trend by taking the player who is, in my opinion, the draft’s best tackle. Something about offensive lineman from Notre Dame.
30) Minnesota Vikings — OT/OG Connor Williams, Texas (Previous pick: Malik Jefferson)
From what I saw in person last season when Maryland played Texas and what I subsequently watched on tape, I view Williams as more of a guard than a tackle. The Vikings are in need of a guard and Williams has the versatility to kick out to left tackle to protect Kirk Cousins’s blindside if something should happen to Riley Reiff.
31) New England Patriots — OT Kolton Miller, UCLA (Previous pick: no change)
Left tackle has always been a position Bill Belichick has had under control, but the departure of Nate Solder leaves a gaping hole on Tom Brady’s blind side. They won’t waste too much time in plugging that hole by grabbing Josh Rosen’s blind side protector here, unless they ultimately trade out of the first round since they would have already made a pick in the round. Whether they were forced to forfeit the pick or just decided to trade out, they have not made a first round selection at all on a few occasions. Seeing them make two first round selections would be odd.
32) Philadelphia Eagles — CB Josh Jackson, Iowa (Previous pick: no change)
The Eagles do not have any major needs. Depth at corner is an issue if we are going to nitpick and we do not know what Sidney Jones will look like coming off the achilles injury, so Jackson would be a wise choice. I believe he is the draft’s top cover corner after Denzel Ward.
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