The NFL Draft is just 13 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 third mock of #DraftSZN, and this one has a few major shakeups:
1) Cleveland Browns — QB Josh Allen, Wyoming (Previous pick: Sam Darnold)
I may revert back to Sam Darnold at this pick as we get closer to the draft because I am not sold on the fact that the Browns — a team starving for a franchise quarterback for decades — will take a risk on Allen, but for now I am going to give into the “Allen to the Browns” buzz that has picked up this week. It seems like a real possibility based on reports from journalists plugged into the Browns, similar to the way many reporters plugged into the Jets seem to be leaning Mayfield (more on that in a bit). In regards to both Allen and Mayfield, these leaks could be intentional but I am more inclined to believe the Jets are setting up a smokescreen than the Browns. John Dorsey is picking first — who could he possibly be trying to smokescreen?
2) New York Giants — QB Sam Darnold, USC (Previous pick: Trade to Bills)
The narrative surrounding the Giants seems to indicate three possibilities: trading back, selecting Saquon Barkley if Darnold goes first, or stealing Darnold if the Browns actually go for Allen. In this mock, the Browns do their part in making the third of those three possibilities come to fruition.
3) New York Jets — QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Previous pick: Josh Rosen)
Like I said, the buzz has picked up this week on both the “Allen to the Browns” and “Mayfield to the Jets” fronts based on reporters who cover those teams. Rich Cimini, Brian Costello and Robert Klemko all seem confident about Mayfield to the Jets. I will monitor the buzz closely with the draft less than two weeks away, but for now I think I just have to roll with what the chatter is saying. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
4) Cleveland Browns — RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Previous pick: No change)
If Josh Rosen is still on the board, expect teams to come after this pick with all they’ve got. With that being said, I think Dorsey realizes it’s time to start turning the Browns’ wealth of picks into blue chip players. Go get the running back who is the draft’s best overall player to go along with whichever quarterback is selected three picks earlier.
5) Denver Broncos — OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Previous pick: Baker Mayfield)
John Elway is either doing a great job of keeping his draft plans sealed, or he really has no interest in making a big splash at quarterback. There has been next to no buzz about the Broncos selecting one of the draft’s top arms. I think they should because Case Keenum is not the long-term solution, but in all likelihood there will be three — maybe four, if things get really wild — quarterbacks taken before Denver is on the clock. They are virtually guaranteed one of the draft’s three best overall players in Barkley, Nelson, or Bradley Chubb. After watching three slightly above-average quarterbacks make it to championship weekend this past January (Keenum included), maybe Elway is simply content with working towards fielding the best team possible around that average, game-managing quarterback. Nelson helps to shore up that quarterback’s protection.
6) Indianapolis Colts — EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State (Previous pick: No change)
The decision between Nelson and Chubb could be a tough one for the Colts. Do they work toward keeping Andrew Luck upright, or fixing a defense that is perennially among the worst in the league? I would lean towards Chubb anyway in a draft that is deep when it comes to interior offensive linemen, but the Broncos taking Nelson one pick earlier forces Chris Ballard’s hand.
7) TRADE — Buffalo Bills — QB Josh Rosen, UCLA (Previous pick: Denzel Ward to the Buccaneers)
Denzel Ward is still on the board and the Bucs could use a shutdown corner, but I think the Bills may put together an offer Tampa Bay cannot refuse if Rosen falls this far. The Bucs would pick up the 12th and 22nd overall picks in the first round at the very least in this deal.
8) Chicago Bears — CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State (Previous pick: Quenton Nelson)
The Bears have done a good job of building up the offense around Mitchell Trubisky. Now the focus should shift to the defensive side of the ball. A linebacker is an option here as well with Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds on the board, but I think they opt for the potential shutdown corner to put opposite Kyle Fuller.
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. In light of the charges brought against Reuben Foster, however, linebacker may ultimately be the way to go.
10) Oakland Raiders — ILB Roquan Smith, Georgia (Previous pick: No change)
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 — LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (Previous pick: Vita Vea)
Kiko Alonso is the only bona fide linebacker who can be trusted in this defense. Last year’s 2nd round pick Raekwon McMillan will return from injury, but he is a major unknown. Edmunds 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.
12) TRADE –Tampa Bay Buccaneers — S Derwin James, Florida State (Previous pick: Tremaine Edmunds to Giants)
The Bucs’ Achilles’ heel is its secondary. The trade with the Bills will allow them to address a need at both safety and corner in the first round. They get the safety here, and James has what it takes to be a perennial pro-bowler.
13) Washington Redskins — DT Vita Vea, Washington (Previous pick: Derwin James)
James would probably be the ideal pick for the Redskins, but they will not have a problem settling for Vea. Consistency has been an issue for him, but he is tough to contain when at his best.
14) Green Bay Packers — EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA (Previous pick: no change)
One of the few picks in my mock that has remained unchanged in all three editions. The Packers need to improve the defense to alleviate some of the pressure on Aaron Rodgers. Davenport has what it takes to be a force around the edge, making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
15) Arizona Cardinals — WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama (Previous pick: Jaire Alexander)
The more I think about it, the more I believe wide receiver is a bigger need than corner for the Cards. I mocked a corner here each of the last two weeks, but I think they take the draft’s safest receiver. Ridley projects as a Jeremy Maclin type of player at the next level in the sense that he won’t be flashy or put up gaudy numbers, but he’ll get the job done and quietly get to 1,000 yards. I don’t think Arizona will want to head into the season with Chad Williams, JJ Nelson, and Brice Butler second through fourth on the depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald.
16) Baltimore Ravens — EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College (Previous pick: Calvin Ridley)
I feel like I have been mocking the heir to Terrell Suggs to the Ravens in the first round for three or four years now, but maybe this is finally the year. Landry could be a great complement to Suggs in year one and develop into a dominant edge rusher in his own right when Sizzle hangs up the cleats.
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. The “Legion of Boom” is no more and there are holes in the defensive front, but the voids on the offensive line need to be filled first when you are paying a quarterback nearly $22 million per year. 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: No change)
Hernandez’s 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 –Tampa Bay Buccaneers –CB Josh Jackson, Iowa (Previous pick: Billy Price to Giants)
Derwin James fixes the issue at safety, and Josh Jackson plugs the hole at corner. The Bucs could have held their ground at pick number seven and went with the draft’s top corner in Denzel Ward. Instead, they come away with the draft’s second best safety and second best corner — both of whom have perennial Pro-Bowl potential.
23) New England Patriots — OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (Previous pick: Harold Landry)
The Patriots must come away from the first round with a left tackle. It has always been a position Bill Belichick prioritizes, but it is currently a major void that needs to be filled. I think the case can be made for McGlinchey as the draft’s best tackle, especially given the overall consistency of Notre Dame offensive linemen to enter the draft in recent years.
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: No change)
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: No change)
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. He also does a good job coming up to stop the run, which is something the Steelers struggled with after Ryan Shazier went down.
29) Jacksonville Jaguars –OT/OG Connor Williams, Texas (Previous pick: Mike McGlinchey)
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 versatile Connor Williams. He is capable of playing tackle or guard, so the Jaguars can slide him into any of the holes they have on the offensive line.
30) Minnesota Vikings — OC/OG Billy Price, Ohio State (Previous pick: Connor Williams)
It is hard to find a hole in this Vikings roster. Interior offensive line is the only one I could find, and it is an important one to plug given the money invested in Kirk Cousins and the potential for an electric run game with the return of Dalvin Cook. Price will go back to guard, where he played prior to switching to center for his senior year at Ohio State. He made the switch to center in the aftermath of Pat Elflein’s graduation, so he could be reunited with his former line mate up in Minnesota.
31) New England Patriots — CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville (Previous pick: Kolton Miller)
Left tackle is the “must-address” position for the Patriots. After that, they could justifiably opt for a quarterback, edge rusher or corner with their second pick of the first round. I would lean corner because entering the season with an aging Jason McCourty as your starter opposite Stephon Gillmore is worrisome. Alexander has the instincts, cover skills, athleticism and ball skills to be a solid starter in the NFL.
32) Philadelphia Eagles — RB Derrius Guice, LSU (Previous pick: Josh Jackson)
The Eagles do not have any major needs, but depth at corner and running back should be addressed. Pairing Guice with Jay Ajayi could be lethal considering opposing defenses have to give so much respect to the passing game. Whatever they decide, the Eagles are sitting pretty. Any pick they make could be considered a luxury pick that just adds depth to an already loaded roster.
Photo Credit: NFL.com