My best friend, Kevin Gregus, and I used to do a weekly podcast. From that podcast sprung this mock draft. For the fourth consecutive year, we decided that a fun exercise would be to do a mock draft for the NFL where we alternate picks and then discuss our mock draft on the podcast. The podcast portion is no longer, but we still enjoy doing this, so here we go again.
The rules are simple: Kage had the first pick last year, so the Seidkick will take the first pick this year.
In addition to the basic premise, we set guidelines for making our picks. We are picking as we think the teams should and not as we think they will. This is a "if we were the GMs, this is our thinking" mock draft, not a "this is who we think that particular GM will pick" mock draft. That rule is simply because it's more fun to think of what a smart GM would do rather than to try to guess what moronic move the Browns will make this year.
Without further ado, our fourth annual mock draft!
1. Cleveland – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The easiest pick of the draft, in my opinion, as Myles Garrett is an athletic beast who also has shown great production, a rare combo and something you must grab when you can. While the Browns are in need of a quarterback capable of running Hue Jackson's offense, there isn't a can't miss quarterback at the top of the draft. Add in that Brock Osweiler is worth giving a shot (cutting him saves the Browns no money) and grabbing a quarterback here is useless. Instead, add a playmaker on the defense that could make everyone else better and just like that, Cleveland is a much better team and still has another first round pick where they can grab a quarterback if they feel it's necessary.
2. San Francisco – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Chip Kelly era did not last long, and also marked the end of Trent Baalke's tenure with the 49ers. New GM John Lynch was a surprise hire, having spent the last several years as an analyst (Matt Millen anyone?) Kyle Shanahan also gets his first opportunity as a head coach after leading the offense as a coordinator, most recently for the Super Bowl LI runner-up Atlanta Falcons. Like the Browns, SF is lacking talent at multiple positions, particularly at quarterback, receiver, and offensive line. They also need help in the defensive backfield and linebacker. This team is not set to compete in 2017, and without a can't miss QB prospect in this draft class, the Niners would be wise to stick with Matt Barkley or Brian Hoyer for the year and find a QB for Shanahan develop in the later rounds. The top level OL is also not great, and with the depth of the WR class they can wait on both offensive positions. On defense, the top availables are DT Jonathan Allen, DE Solomon Thomas, S Jamal Adams, and CB Marshon Lattimore. Word is that San Francisco will be switching to a 4-3 defense after several years running the 3-4. The previous top picks were both pass rushers, so the Niners will choose to upgrade the back end here. I'm very tempted to take Jamal Adams here to play the Earl Thomas role in the new 4-3 system, but the need at cornerback is greater. The 49ers take the top CB in the draft, Marshon Lattimore, who can match receivers with both speed and physicality.
3. Chicago – Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
The Chicago Bears are in an unenviable position as the areas they need help the most (Quarterback and offensive tackles) are usually the easy pick at this point in the draft. Unfortunately, this season those positions are very poor options at this point as the quarterbacks are Deshaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky or tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Garrett Bolles. All of those players feel like reaches here (if I had to pick one, Deshaun would be the pick for me). Instead, Chicago waits and grabs better value at tackle and quarterback later in the draft. So where do we go? The secondary needed help but the offseason addressed that greatly with the signings of Quintin Demps, Prince Amukamara, BW Webb and Marcus Cooper. A need for a safety who can help in the run to compliment Demps is still necessary, where Jamal Adams would be a fit and a good value. Additionally, the defensive line has Eddie Goldman at NT, but could use some talent on the edges around him where Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard, and Mitch Unrein are the uninspiring DEs on this depth chart. This is where the great value can be found, as Jonathan Allen and Solomon Thomas would be great fits. I'm torn as both would be great picks for the Bears and give the defensive line a great talent. The Bears struggled in pass rush last year, so Thomas feels like the better pick, but I can't pass on the talented and hardworking Allen, who should be a great compliment to Goldman and provides great run support abilities as well as pass rushing skill.
4. Jacksonville – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The Jaguars are that team that seems to be in a perpetual state of being ready to take the next step forward, but instead falling flat on their faces. They have a solution at QB in Blake Bortles, a solid young receiving corps, and have spent their last two first rounders improving the defense. Yet, here they are again picking in the top 5 of the NFL Draft. They filled two needs in the offseason with DL Calais Campbell and CB A.J. Bouye, but can certainly still use upgrades at multiple positions. CB depth is needed, but the only CB worthy of a top 5 pick has been taken. Running back was an area of struggle in 2016, with neither TJ Yeldon nor Chris Ivory eclipsing the 500 yard mark. Top available RB Leonard Fournette is available, but this year features a deep running back class and I think that a Dalvin Cook or a Christian McCaffrey fits the Jags offense a bit better. Offensive line is typically a good bet for a struggling team, but as we've stated, the top end OL talent isn't there this year. This leads us to the position with the most top end talent - defensive line. Former #1 pick Dante Fowler had a good year, as did rookie Yannick Ngakoue, but the Hags could use more help on the edge. Derek Barnett and Solomon Thomas are the best available, and I give the edge (no pun intended) to Barnett, who recorded 34 sacks in 3 years at Tennessee and has a good balance of success against the run and the pass.
5. Tennessee (via Rams) – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Tennessee was a playoff contender last year AND has two picks in the first round, with this pick coming as a result of the Rams deal to move up to grab Goff in last year's draft. This gives the Titans, a 9-7 team last year, the enviable ability to fill two needs in the first round to help the team try to grab a hold of the AFC South for the foreseeable future around star young quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Titans' need help for a poor secondary that was helped a ton in free agency (Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien) but still need another safety, a DE to go with Jurrell Casey and Sylvester Williams in that 3-4 front, a true #1 wide receiver, linebacker depth for an aging LB corps and some interior offensive line help. That's a lot of needs but nothing pressing and provides the ability to grab the best available thanks to the various areas. The best available remaining players in those positions look to be Solomon Thomas, Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker, Reuben Foster, Haason Reddick, Forrest Lamp, Mike Williams, and Corey Davis. I'm sorely tempted to grab a wide receiver here, but with my top tier of Solomon Thomas/Malik Hooker/Jamal Adams still on the board, I can't pass on the top tier talent. Hooker is a perfect complement to Cyprien , providing a center field playmaker to help in a division where Andrew Luck, DeAndre Hopkins, and the Jags WR corps is seen twice a year. Adams is similar to Cyprien, so while I like him better than Hooker, not enough to double down on the in the box safety. Thomas provides a great pass rushing option to go with Casey and Williams, making the Titans front seven quite formidable and helping a defense that at times last year were unable to help Mariota and the offense close out victories. I've bounced back and forth between Hooker and Thomas, but I go with Hooker because I believe he'll have more impact on this defense from day one.
6. New York Jets – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Of all the teams with a high draft pick, the Jets may be the ones with the biggest mess (though the Bears give them a run for their money). The J-E-T-S have holes at nearly every position and did little in the offseason to fill those gaps. Gone are Brandon Marshall and Darrelle Revis, replaced by Mo Claiborne. The Ryan Fitzpatrick pool finally ran dry, and there doesn't seem to be a viable option in Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg. Eric Decker is really the only viable option at receiver, and RB Matt Forte is on the wrong side of 30. Defensively, New York had one of the worst secondaries in the league, and the front seven was not much better. Outside of DT Leonard Williams and LB David Harris, the defensive front was highly disappointing. I'm tempted here to grab Jamal Adams to help the secondary, but cornerback is a higher concern for the Jets. Also, the offense is so devoid of talent at skill positions that it would be a mistake to pass up on one of the available options. A big possession receiver like Mike Williams would give the Jets a less-volatile replacement for Marshall and pair well with Decker. I think instead that the Jets should take the draft's first QB, choosing between Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson. Trubisky is billed as the top available due to his pocket presence and field awareness, but has limited experience. Watson is much more well-known and a much more controversial pick due to his size and inconsistency. When he is operating at full throttle, he is an electric player who can hit key passes and pick up big chunks with his legs, but has shown a tendency to panic in the pocket and throw to the other team. That said, while Trubisky is probably the safer pick, the Jets need an exciting player to build around and erase the taste of all the failed QBs from their mouths. Watson is is the guy to do it.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Oh this is weird to type...the LA Chargers *shudders* have officially wasted Phillip Rivers. A quarterback of his talent who doesn't suffer injuries and yet his team misses the playoffs is a travesty. This has a ton to do with the Chargers inability to protect that quarterback, as he has talent at the skill positions around him. Seriously, look at that offensive line. That's two mediocre tackles and two terrible guards. The new LT, Russell Okung, was mediocre in Denver, while Barksdale was decent two years ago but terrible last year. The guards have been poor for two years running. Hey, at least Matt Slauson is a good center! On defense, an upgrade over Dwight Lowery at safety, a third cornerback or another outside linebacker across from Melvin Ingram would be nice. I originally had the Chargers taking Forrest Lamp here to upgrade that terrible offensive line above, but with the stud dropping at safety in Jamal Adams, I couldn't miss the opportunity. The Chargers get the replacement for Eric Weddle they sorely missed last year and grab a franchise defender to quarterback the secondary. With an early second round pick and not many offensive lineman with first round grades, the Chargers will still get a top offensive lineman there to help this offense.
8. Carolina – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Panthers were probably the most disappointing team of 2016, unable to follow-up on a 2015 season that took them to the Super Bowl. Cam Newton wasn't MVP-caliber and the offense around him did nothing to help. Defensively, the front seven was able to continue terrorizing offenses, but the secondary took a huge dive after letting Josh Norman walk in free agency. Besides finding some help at CB and finding a few defensive line depth pieces, the Panthers draft focus will be on offense. They did sign Matt Kalil to help the line, but he is starting to slide as he ages and an infusion of youth is needed. At receiver, Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess will be joined by Charles Johnson, but a no-doubt top talent is needed to improve the entire receiving corps. RB Jonathan Stewart was re-signed, but help is needed there. With Newton's skill set, a RB like Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffery could be very deadly, but those would both be reaches with the two top WRs still on the board-Mike Williams and Corey Davis. While Davis may be more experienced and is the better route runner, Williams is set to make an impact on day one with his physical gifts and ability to catch anything thrown near him.
9. Cincinnati – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Bengals have bled talent the last couple of years and this team that made the playoffs six of the previous seven years looked like a team that had missed its window last year. Still, there is a lot going for the Queen City's Striped Warriors, so a strong draft can get them back to the playoffs where anything can happen. The offseason was poor as I have only one position being upgraded (Kevin Minter replacing Rey Maualuga at MLB), so there are quite a few needs for Cincinnati. The Bengals badly need a wide receiver opposite AJ Green as evidenced by the offense's implosion without AJ last season; they need an upgrade at DE opposite Carlos Dunlap; they need a ball hawking safety to replace Shawn Williams next to George Iloka as Reggie Nelson's absence was quite evident last year; and finally they need a lot of help on the offensive line, where they lost two studs this offseason and replaced them with just Andre Smith, who was so bad in one year at Minnesota, that a team with terrible offensive line play themselves didn't want anything to do with him. The problem is that none of the offensive tackles available are guarantees to outplay the first and second round picks from 2015, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. So we look at safety, defensive end, guard and wide receiver. The top safeties are gone, but two of the three stud receivers are left as well as Solomon Thomas and Forrest Lamp. While I like both receivers remaining, I think the Bengals can wait and grab a useful one in the early second. The reason that matters is that Thomas is a top 5 pick who has dropped in our mock to a team that could plug him in from day one ahead of an aging and ineffective Michael Johnson. Put Thomas at WDE opposite Carlos Dunlap and next to Geno Atkins and now the Bengals have a devastating defensive line to protect an aging secondary.
10. Buffalo – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Bills enter 2017 with a new coach and some pieces in place to compete. Sean McDermott, formerly the DC in Carolina, replaces Rex Ryan as the new chief in Buffalo. The Bills defensive front has the talent, but were undisciplined in 2016 and let up several big plays. The secondary lost its best player in S Corey Graham, replaced by Micah Hyde. On offense, they chose to retain the services of QB Tyrod Taylor, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Bills, but likely doesn't have many more solid years in him. The receiving corps, already one of the league's worst, took a hit when Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin signed elsewhere in the offseason. LeSean McCoy is as solid as they come for NFL running backs, and a few fullback signings should help his performance. The good news for the Bills is that their positions of need-WR and CB-are some of the deepest in this draft. Gareon Conley has been shooting up draft boards, and Tre'Davious White should continue the longstanding tradition of excellence from LSU CBs. However, the receiving group is terrible, and the only quality piece, Sammy Watkins, is typically injured for at least half the year. The Bills pounce on the chance to grab a #1 WR in the top 10 and get Corey Davis, an experienced route runner who finished in the top 10 in receiving yards per route run in each of the past three years at Western Michigan.
11. New Orleans – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
New Orleans needs defense, they need defense bad. That being said, the player I wanted to give them (Reuben Foster) would be the fourth MLB for a team that runs a 4-3, as the Saints signed two young MLBs this offseason in AJ Klein and Manti Teo to take over that position. There other needs are an OLB, a WDE, and corners. Well, the best WDE remaining is Taco Charlton (poor value at 11, better value at 32) and there are no OLBs worth taking at 11 (Tyus Bowser is probably the best 4-3 OLB available and he's a late first, early second type). So we can grab a corner here to help and there are a ton available, but that's the thing, there are a ton available. While I would not be against taking any of the 5 or 6 corners remaining with first round talent, I think there is a much more enticing pick here for the Saints. Two years ago, the Saints traded away Jimmy Graham. This year, they traded away Brandin Cooks. There is now a distinct lack of explosiveness in this offense, no offense to Willie Snead. Let's give Drew Brees an explosive talent that he can play with and fill those defensive holes later with their second first round pick and second round pick. O.J. Howard brings the juice to the Saints offense, giving a brutal mismatch for defenses that hasn't been seen in N'awlins since Jimmy Graham was sent packing.
12. Cleveland (via PHI) – Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The Browns have had a surprisingly successful offseason, acquiring center J.C. Tretter and guard Kevin Zeitler to improve the offensive line, and more importantly gathering up draft picks and clearing cap space. Now, the Browns history of drafting has been crap at best, so this may not pay off like they want. However, the new approach of the front office has folks intrigued, as they appear to be taking a "Moneyball" approach of finding market inefficiencies and exploiting them. While this may not work quite like baseball, it is a worthwhile attempt to rebuild a long suffering franchise. Cleveland already secured the draft's best prospect in the dynamic Myles Garrett. The Browns could certainly use more depth on the defensive front, along with upgrades at safety and depth at corner. However, the offense needs to be addressed as well. They may hold on to Brock Osweilier to play QB this year, and also have Cody Kessler. Neither of these guys has the ceiling to be a franchise passer. The only QB taken so far has been Deshaun Watson, who I believe has the highest ceiling of any QB in the draft. But the bust potential is high there, and the Browns can't afford to miss on another risky first round quarterback. Mitch Trubisky only has one year of college starting experience, but showed a good command of the pocket and sold decision making. He is the safest QB in the draft and while he may not reach the level of Watson, he certainly has the higher floor. With two second round picks, Cleveland will have their choice in the deep cornerback and wide receiver classes.
13. Arizona – Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
The Cardinals had a down year last year thanks to the poor play of the aging Carson Palmer and the defense being on the field too much. Arizona has a few holes that can be plugged with this pick to help a talented team contend in 2017. They need a guard as the interior of the offensive line was poor last year. Forrest Lamp is available. They need a wide receiver to stretch the defense for the aging Larry Fitzgerald. John Ross III is available. They need a cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. Gareon Conley is available. They need an inside linebacker to eventually replace the 14 year veteran Karlos Dansby. Reuben Foster is available. That's four holes with four great options. I'm torn! I think I can pass on John Ross here because Palmer will be better served with an upgraded offensive line. I also think I can pass on Foster as he probably won't take Dansby's spot this season and the Cardinals need help now while Palmer is still upright. So do we take the starting RG or starting CB #2? My bias comes through, as I've seen what a great offensive line can do for a team, especially if it's opening holes for a running back like David Johnson. Forrest Lamp steps in to start day one for the Cardinals.
14. Philadelphia (via MIN) – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Thanks to last year's top pick, Carson Wentz, the Eagles appear to be trending upwards. While Wentz's hot start and decent rookie year was overshadowed by fellow NFC East rookie QB Dak Prescott, Wentz put up good numbers and showed the NFL that he can be a good starter. Philadelphia's biggest challenge was rebuilding a roster that had been Chip Kelly'd. The receiving corps was a mess, the running back unit under-performed, and the secondary was the worst in the league. One of those positions was boosted over the offseason in the signings of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith. While the receiving position still needs help for seasons past 2017, this is no longer an immediate need. There are still all of the top RB prospects on board-Fournette, Cook, McCaffrey-but the cornerbacks were really awful in 2016. All three of the team’s top corners ranked in the top eight for total receiving yards allowed among all defenders in the league. Tre'Davious White and Gareon Conley are available here and are both certainly worthy of a top 15 pick. White was a multi-year starter at LSU and is seen as a reliable CB who excels in coverage. Conley has been shooting up draft boards after having one of the best years of any college CB, playing opposite of #2 pick Marshon Lattimore, and the growth potential has many scouts drooling. Despite the excellent track record of LSU cornerbacks, I'm taking the higher upside here with Conley to help fix the Eagles secondary woes.
15. Indianapolis – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
I'm going to make a prediction now. This will be the offseason where we mark the foundation of Andrew Luck's first Super Bowl win. The Colts finally fired Ryan Grigson after he spent five years putting together one of the worst rosters in football. With him out of the way, the new GM Chris Ballard came in and took this roster in a new direction, no longer wasting assets and money on past-their-prime vets and other failures such as Trent Richardson. Instead, the Colts made a ton of moves which I like, from adding Kamar Aiken as a third wideout for Luck, trading Dwayne Allen for extra picks, and adding 6 (!!) defensive players who will all play significant time to their defensive line and linebacking corps. Did I mention that all six are under the age of 29? Despite all of those moves, the Colts still need help at RT, RG, RB, ILB, CB, and S...whew, and that is despite those great signings at NT, DE, OLB and WR. Seriously, what did Grigson do to keep his job for five years and waste all of those prime Luck years? Anyways, with all of those holes, the Colts have three great options here: Reuben Foster, Tre'Davious White, and Leonard Fournette. I love Fournette and think a backfield with him, Gore and Luck would be amazing. That being said, this team was slaughtered last year by running games and tight ends in the passing game and to fix that, they need their Luck equivalent on the defensive side of the ball. Reuben Foster has some red flags in the character department, but on a team with great veteran leadership, I think he can grow into a defensive leader. This Colts team will compete for a playoff spot next year and if Ballard continues on this path, much much more very soon.
16. Baltimore – John Ross III, WR, Washington
The Ravens spent the offseason upgrading some key pieces on defense, acquiring S Tony Jefferson and CB Brandon Carr to improve the secondary. However, they were unable to find a lead receiver and lost Kamar Aiken to free agency, as well as cutting Elvis Dumervil. The Joe Flacco window is closing, and while most still do not view him as an elite franchise QB, he is the best hope the Ravens have of winning another Super Bowl in the next 3 years. To do that, Baltimore must find the following positions in the draft-WR, outside LB, and RT. John Ross is a do everything WR with blazing speed that led the Huskies to the CFB playoffs. Ryan Ramczyk is the top tackle available and has a good balance in pass and run blocking, but is coming off of hip surgery. Haason Reddick, Takkarist McKinley, Taco Charlton, and Carl Lawson are available as edge defenders/OLB to supplement the aging Terrell Suggs. While Ross doesn't compliment the current Ravens receivers, Mike Wallace and Brashad Perrimen, as well as Mike Williams or Corey Davis, there is a bit of a fall-off between Ross and the next available. Add in the depth of this year's edge defender class, and Baltimore selects Ross as a playmaker to terrorize all levels of opposing defenses.
17. Washington – Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
I never like seeing competent front offices in my own division, but all four teams in the NFC East right now are being run very well and the Washington football team proved that with their offseason. Most of their major holes were addressed and for a team that was so close to another playoff appearance, this pick can be used to patch up a small hole to help push it over the edge. The biggest question mark for me is quarterback, but this isn't the draft to address it. After that, where to go? John Ross III looks like a ready-made replacement for Desean Jackson, but can he even crack the top three of Pryor, Crowder and Doctson? Doubtful. Really, based on the top of my board, the areas that stand out are a replacement for Bashaud Breeland opposite Josh Norman, a DE to push the newly signed Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, and a running back to split the load with Rob Kelley. That leaves me with one of the many cornerbacks still available, Malik McDowell, and Christian McCaffrey (who would be the perfect compliment to the bigger Rob Kelley). I love McCaffrey on this team, but that feels like a luxury, so let's go defense. I think McDowell is a perfect fit, but his lackadaisical performance at Michigan State scares me into grabbing one of the corners. Tre'Davious White is someone who can start in the slot as the nickel back from day one and eventually replace Breeland, giving the Washington football team a strong secondary in a division that features Eli, Dak and Mr. Wentz.
18. Tennessee – Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
The Titans have already addressed a big need in the draft, improving the secondary with safety Malik Hooker. As we've already stated, the Titans were vastly improved in 2016 and look to be on the rise under the leadership of Marcus Mariota. There are still areas of need, though, and they can be addressed here. Wide receiver is a big need, even with the re-signing of Rishard Matthews. However, all the first round WR talent has been taken and grabbing someone here would be a big reach. Tennessee could certainly improve on the defensive front, especially on the edge. Current rushers Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, and Kevin Dodd all have injury concerns. There are several excellent options here that have all been previously mentioned. I think the best option here is Malik McDowell, who has the versatility to lineup as an edge rusher or on the ends of the 3-4 defensive front. Character and drive concerns have surfaced both at 3-9 MSU and at the combine. The physical gifts are just too much to pass up here and is the best available given the Titans needs.
19. Tampa Bay – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Bucs were a playoff team last year until they blew it down the stretch thanks to some poor defensive play. So they went out and signed JJ Wilcox, a solid safety, to shore up the back end and added Chris Baker to give them a strong interior defensive line. A defensive end would be nice here, but not necessary. Another safety wouldn't be bad, but the availables feel like a stretch. Really, every player at areas of need feel like stretches, until you look at running back. The Bucs have three talented backs but none that can stay on the field. Doug Martin has been inconsistent and will miss the first three games next season thanks to a PED suspension. Jacquizz Rodgers has proven to be a change-of-pace back at best. Charles Sims can't stay healthy enough to show us what he is capable of in extended time. With all of the top backs still remaining, the Bucs have their choice of back to improve the running game and make Jameis, Mike Evans, and Desean Jackson that much more dangerous in the passing game. With Quizz still there, I go for the bigger, more bruising back in Leonard Fournette. This offense will be scary with him carrying the rock alongside Jameis.
20. Denver – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
With the absence of Peyton Manning and a defense that took a small step back from its 2015 Super Bowl level, the Broncos couldn't quite get going last season. They seem to be set with using either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch at QB for the year. Following the Super Bowl victory, Denver lost a bunch on both the offensive and defensive fronts. Offensive tackle is probably the biggest need, as Donald Stephenson was one of the worst starting tackles in the league in 2016. They could also use a tight end and some more depth on the defensive line. If they are getting really greedy, they can look at adding depth on the outside at receiver. But with the top tackle in the draft being available at #20, the Broncos will leap to pick Ryan Ramczyk, yet another Wisconsin offensive lineman to be taken high in the NFL Draft. He is coming off of injury and there are concerns with his arm strength, but Ramczyk is very athletic and excelled at blocking on all levels of the defense.
21. Detroit – Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Last season, the Detroit Lions entered with low expectations thanks to the unexpected retirement of Megatron. Instead, the Lions offensive line gelled thanks to two rookies from rival schools (Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow) and Matthew Stafford turned into the James Harden of the NFL, an offensive mastermind taking what shouldn't work as a unit and turning it into a juggernaut to terrorize the league's defenses. The only weakness I see on that offense is RB, where they look to have two third down backs in Abdullah and Riddick and need someone more effective at running between the tackles. That is a solution that can be found later. Instead, the Lions focus on defense, where they were the worst defense in the NFC North last year and a bottom ten defense in the league. What makes this better is that while they got marginally better in the secondary with the addition of DJ Hayden, they got exponentially worse at LB. Their starting linebackers right now are Paul Worrilow, Tahir Whitehead and Thurston Armbrister. Wow... Additionally, the defensive line could use some depth at DT behind the aging Haloti Ngata and some more depth at defensive end. So while they could use upgrades everywhere on defense, they have a GRAND CANYON-sized hole at linebacker. Lions grab the best available linebacker and should grab another one in the second!
22. Miami – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Dolphins finally returned to the playoffs in the first year under Adam Gase, and really did look like a new team. Ryan Tannehill looked like a rejuvenated QB in Gase's system, and was unfortunately lost to injury just before the playoffs. Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, and DeVante Parker locked down spots among the top skill position players in the league, and the offensive line continued taking steps forward. Defensively, Miami made a number of nice signings at across the depth chart and set themselves up with few true needs. Instead, they can target the best player available as an upgrade for one of the current pieces. The thinnest positions are defensive line, linebacker, tight end, and interior offensive line. The top guys at guard and tight end have been taken, and the choices at LB aren't inspiring. However, for the 100th time, defensive end is very deep and there are a number of nice choices the Dolphins can make here. Given that owner Stephen Ross is a Michigan alum, the Dolphins will select Taco Charlton, one of the key pieces of college football's top 2016 defense. Charlton is very athletic and while he only has one full season of starts, he has an excellent frame to build on.
23. New York Giants – Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
The Giants, like the rest of the NFC East, has been on quite the run recently with their roster making, creating a team capable of competing for the last few years remaining of Eli Manning's career. The secondary is one of the best in football and the defensive line is quite stout, but the linebacking corps except Kennard needs help and a replacement for Hankins (who signed in Indy) at DT could be used. On offense, Eli needs better protection at tackle, a more reliable running back, and a TE who is more of a weapon. Looking at those needs, I see four options at the top of my list for the Giants: Jarrad Davis at linebacker, Garrett Bolles at OT, Christian McCaffrey at RB, and David Njoku at TE. My initial thought was Garrett Bolles, but Bolles has dropped because he isn't great in pass protection and will start next season at the ripe age of 25 years old, so can he develop as a pass blocker? Bolles would work, but do the Giants want to risk another wasted first round pick on a tackle? Then I thought, McCaffrey! The problem there is that McCaffrey is redundant to the talent on this team, as a pass catching RB (see Vereen, Shane) or a jitterbug in the slot (see Shepard, Sterling). That leaves Njoku, who could bring back memories of the last Miami TE to play for the Giants, Jeremy Shockey, or Jarrad Davis, a three down linebacker who can take over on day one as the starting MLB or WLB for the Giants. I love both of these picks for the Giants, but I'm going to go with the linebacker as the addition of Brandon Marshall makes an upgrade at tight end not as pressing a need.
24. Oakland – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
If not for a late-season injury to Derek Carr, the Raiders would likely have been the team to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Carr was excellent in 2016, a top 10 QB, and has some very nice options to throw to in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Running back did take a hit with Latavius Murray leaving for the Vikings, but it appears that Marshawn Lynch will return from retirement to join his hometown Raiders. There isn't a deal in place yet with Seattle, but all signs point to Lynch coming back to Oakland. Defensively, Khalil Mack followed up an incredible sophomore year by earning All-Pro honors as an edge rusher. The needs for Oakland are simple: running back and depth at defensive tackle and linebacker. Even if Lynch does return, it's hard to expect him to be an instant game changer and stay healthy for a full year. There is no one worth taking at defensive tackle in the first given the availables. Zach Cunningham is the top choice at linebacker, who has the size and athleticism to start right away for the Raiders. However, the need at running back is just too great, especially since two of the top three prospects are still available and the Lynch decision still hanging in the air. Carr deserves to have an elite level running back to take advantage of the top tier pass game. Dalvin Cook excelled at FSU in breaking tackles and creating big plays, but does have some injury concerns. Christian McCaffrey screams Oakland Raiders with his speed and ability to do pretty much anything on offense. There may be some size and durability issues, but McCaffrey would pair perfectly with Lynch and give Carr another very dangerous weapon.
25. Houston – Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
Let's get this straight: the Texans biggest need is quarterback. I know that and most likely, the Texans take a quarterback here on draft day. That being said, I'm a value guy when it comes to drafting and I believe the Texans can extract value from drafting a quarterback in the second or third round that has the tools Bill O'Brien is looking for and letting him mold the player into HIS quarterback. So where am I looking instead? I think the Texans could use a better receiving tight end, some offensive line depth to develop to replace the aging tackles and mediocre guards, a corner and safety to replace the lost Demps and Bouye, and some linebackers to replace the lost Simon and the aging Cushing. There aren't great holes, just areas that could use fortifying. In that case, I am debating between Garrett Bolles, David Njoku, Takkarist McKinley, TJ Watt, and Kevin King. I like King and Njoku, but both feel like less necessary needs (King because he'd be the #3 CB at best this season and Njoku because the tight ends are deep and an upgrade over Fiedorowicz can be found in the third). Do the Texans believe Derek Newton is 100% from the double patellar tendon injury that sidelined him last season? If not, tackle is an immediate need. I think he's fine based on the lack of signings at that position this offseason by Houston. So we look to replace John Simon, who had 8.5 sacks the past couple of years before leaving for the Colts. As much as I would love to reunite TJ with his brother JJ and go all "Watt now?" on the AFC South, McKinley is a special talent who can develop into monster playing with that defense.
26. Seattle – Kevin King, CB, Washington
The Seattle Seahawks season was highlighted by a ton of injuries to key defensive backs and led them to use 11 different running backs. They also struggled mightily on the offensive line and Russell Wilson could never truly settle into a good rhythm. They brought in RB Eddie Lacy and OLs Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi in free agency to address a few areas of need. There is also the unknown future of star CB Richard Sherman, who has been the subject of trade rumors leading up to the draft. Help is still needed on the offensive line, and depth is needed at defensive tackle and the defensive backfield. Opposite Sherman, DeShawn Shead tore his ACL in the playoffs and is a question mark going into next season. The Seahawks can always use another playmaking WR, but that isn't an urgent need. Any offensive and defensive tackles available here aren't top tier, and given the Sehawks reliance on corners and safeties, they should grab one of the cornerbacks here to provide depth should Sherman depart or Shead not come back at 100%. The top available CBs are Kevin King, Teez Tabor, Marlon Humphrey and Adoree’ Jackson. Of these guys, one has the trademarks of a Seahawks defensive back-Kevin King. King is a big corner (6'3") who excels in zone coverage and has both the tools and athleticism to develop in another ball hawking, physical Seahawks corner.
27. Kansas City - Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
I had this pick made with an entire write up on the Kevin King to Kansas City selection. Then I was sniped by the Seahawks, leading to a reshuffle and to look at the needs again. The Chiefs areas of need are few, from positions that could use a starter now (CB, ILB, RG, and WR) to positions that could use depth to eventually replace aging starters (QB, OLB, and OT) to positions that would expand the options for Andy Reid (TE). Well let's skip the depth options, as the Chiefs can compete now and should be looking to do so before the Raiders get too good for the Chiefs to handle. The guard and wide receiver options are not first round worthy, so those options are avoided. That leaves two options: an inside linebacker (Zach Cunningham is the best option) to cover for Derrick Johnson (who will probably miss the beginning of the year thanks to the season ending Achilles injury suffered in December) and eventually replace Ramik Wilson or Johnson, or a cornerback to start opposite Marcus Peters and replace the departed Sean Smith, who was never adequately replaced last year. While I like Cunningham, I think the Chiefs have far more talented options available at cornerback. The Chiefs debate among the five (!!) remaining corners with first round talent (Marlon Humphrey, Quincy Wilson, Jourdan Lewis, and Adoree Jackson, Teez Tabor) for someone to take over the #2 corner spot and allow Terrance Mitchell to play where he is better suited, in the slot as the nickel back. It's close, but Quincy Wilson has had the comp of...wait for it...Marcus Peters by the scouts. What is better than one Marcus Peters? Two!
28. Dallas – Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
I think we can say it with confidence - the Dallas Cowboys are back! Much like the 90's powerhouse, the current Cowboys feature the best offensive line in the league, a do-everything running back, a QB coming into his own, and some flashy dominating wide receivers. Dak Prescott was such a revelation that he drove Tony Romo into the CBS booth to the joy of football ears everywhere (buh-bye Phil Sims). Almost all of Dallas' needed are on the defensive side of the ball, where they lost some key pieces. Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, and Barry Church all left in free agency, leaving the Cowboys needing to replace almost the entire secondary. They could also use an elite pass rusher, which they haven't truly had since Demarcus Ware left for the Broncos. The Cowboys are fortunate here, as their needs match the deepest areas of this draft. At corner, Marlon Humphrey, Jourdan Lewis, and Adoree Jackson are still available. Top edge rushers are Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Tim Williams, and Charles Harris. There has been some talk of including this pick in a trade to get Richard Sherman, but that's not a part of this mock. Instead, I think the Cowboys wait on both of these deep positions and grab one of the more exciting and polarizing players in the draft, safety Jabrill Peppers. While some few him as an overrated tweener who couldn't put up stats, others see an incredible athlete with top tier instincts and the ability to appear on special teams. Dallas has a need at strong safety and have not had an inspiring return game since the days of Deion Sanders. Peppers gives them both and brings with him some of that swagger Dallas needs on defense.
29. Green Bay – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Ah, the end of the draft is so fun, when you have teams that don't have major needs and you can take chances with those tweeners who are just great football players. The Packers are not that team, though. Luckily for Green Bay, their two areas of major need are the two spots with great talent remaining. The Packers have a converted wide receiver as their starting running back and their corners were consistently torched by the great passing offenses of the NFC. So the debate is Dalvin Cook or one of the remaining corners. I love the idea of Dalvin Cook joining that Packers offense, but does that little bump make the offense dangerous enough to make up for the secondary? I can't say it does. Instead, we grab the corner that reminds me of Micah Hyde and Charles Woodson, big corners that can help in the running game like Dom Capers loves. Marlon Humphrey provides the punch to the outside and gives the Packers more depth along with the signing of Davon House to make up for the loss of Micah Hyde and Sam Shields this offseason.
30. Pittsburgh – Carl Lawson, OLB, Auburn
As we said last year, it's odd to see the Steelers dominate on the offensive side of the ball with the defense is the weaker unit. They have one of the top QBs in the league, the best wide receiver, and a top 5 running game. Also improved was the defensive secondary, with Mike Mitchell, Artie Burns, and William Gay each put in solid seasons, with Burns showing by the end of the season why he was worthy of a first round pick. The most help is needed in the front 7, where the best player continues to be the ageless James Harrison. The youth is there in Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, and Stephan Tuitt, but they have yet to truly live up to their billing. The Steelers could also use a WR to pair with Antonio Brown, especially with Martavis Bryant suspended, but the first round talent has been snapped up. The window to win for the Steelers is now, while Ben Roethlisberger still has some good years and Bell and Brown are healthy. Yes, CB is still a need, but the Steelers really need to have a plan for when/if Harrison finally shows his age. This leads to taking one of the two edge rushers I see having the most polish - Charles Harris and Carl Lawson. Of the two, I think Lawson is the better fit to fill in for Harrison to produce as a rushing outside linebacker. He may have some injury concerns and may need to develop against the run, but he is one of the top pure pass rushers in this draft.
31. Atlanta – T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
Not sure if you heard, but the Falcons had a monumental choke in the Super Bowl. Still, this is a team that brings back nearly the entire team that were well on their way to a Super Bowl victory before Brady went super saiyan. The few areas of need were mostly addressed this offseason. Need a defensive tackle to strengthen the interior? Check, with Dontari Poe. Need a guard to replace the mediocre Chris Chester? Check, with Hugh Thornton. Need some pass rushing help? Semi-check, with Jack Crawford. The rest of the team is pretty much good to go, so let's address that semi-check. Jack Crawford provides some good depth, but the Falcons could use another linebacker or defensive end to help in the pass rush and give the Falcons a scary rotation to send constantly at the star quarterbacks of the league and, more importantly, their division. The best options are Charles Harris and TJ Watt. I'm not as high on Harris, as I believe the guy is too much of a one trick pony that would need to develop a ton to be worthy of a first round pick. TJ Watt, on the other hand, is considered small, but his development reminds me a ton of his brother and thanks to his brother, knows what it takes to continue developing in the NFL. Atlanta gets a decent pass rusher now that can potentially turn into a monster in a couple of years.
32. New Orleans (via NE) - Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
The Saints have two first round draft picks thanks to a trade with the New England Patriots, and all it cost them was their top WR, Brandin Cooks. They have already replaced some of that lost production by picking OJ Howard at tight end. As mentioned at their last pick, defense, almost any defense, is what New Orleans really needs. The top linebacker available is Zach Cunningham, but he is an inside LB type, and they already addressed that in free agency. At DE, Tim Williams and Charles Harris are options. Williams is probably better suited as a 3-4 OLB, so Harris would be the guy to go with as a plug-in DE opposite Cameron Jordan. However, cornerback may be the area of greatest need. The two best corners left, Jourdan Lewis and Adoree' Jackson, both have the same problem-they are undersized. However, each play bigger than they are, they are very sticky in coverage, and have the athleticism to keep up with the best WRs in the NFL. Both also have the ability to be used in the return game. While Lewis may be the better pure CB by a very slight edge, I'm taking Jackson here because of the skills he can bring to the return game, where he is a step above Lewis.
That's all folks! Mock draft season is over. The draft begins Thursday, so watch and enjoy. I know I will be watching, hoping and praying that Dallas gets that missing piece to make a run at Super Bowl LII! Here's to your team getting that player you want.