The NFL Draft is not until April 25-27th, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the pseudo effect of your team picking up a talented player in the first round. With players rising and falling on the draft board, here is how the draft could shake out as DeVaughn Townes and Da’Ron Frost make picks. The picks are based off of team needs or simply getting the best player available.
1. Cleveland Browns: Penn State, Saquon Barkley, RB
Townes: Why reach for a quarterback here instead of drafting another big need in the backfield? Barkley would make any of the current Browns’ quarterbacks better with his ability to run and catch. With the recent success of rookie running backs, is it farfetched to think the Browns could turn the corner? Look at what Leonard Fournette did for Jacksonville and Ezekiel Elliott two years ago with Dallas in their first year.
2. New York Giants: USC, Sam Darnold, QB
Frost: Eli Manning is 37-years-old and it is time for the Giants to find his successor. Darnold looks to have the most potential out of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. He may have to sit a year behind Manning and that is possibly the best for Darnold. A year to improve his mechanics and get familiar with a NFL playbook can only improve his play when it is his time to takeover in a pressure-ridden city like New York.
3.New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts trade): UCLA, Josh Rosen, QB
Townes: The Jets would be adding a third quarterback to the mix, but Rosen would be their prized jewel for years to come. He would be in an ideal situation where he could be groomed and poised to take over not only the Jets, but the AFC East once number 12 in New England retires. With two injury prone quarterbacks on New York’s roster, Rosen could be thrown into action a lot sooner than expected.
4. Cleveland Browns: Wyoming, Josh Allen, QB
Frost: After taking possibly the best pure football player at number one in Barkley, the Browns hope Allen can become the franchise quarterback they desperately need. Allen may have to sit for a year as the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor this offseason. He still needs to improve his accuracy after only completing 56.3 percent of his passes in his final year at Wyoming, so the year behind Taylor may prove to be a luxury.
5. Denver Broncos: Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield, QB
Townes: You have to wonder if the Broncos would be enticed enough to draft Mayfield as they could be banking on Case Keenum carrying some 2017 momentum into 2018. However, a player with the talent and the charisma of John Elway might compel Elway to pull the trigger. After all, Mayfield does have the highest quarterback grade of any prospect graded by Pro Football Focus (94.4).
6. Indianapolis Colts: NC State, Bradley Chubb, DE
Frost: The first defensive player off the board and it works out tremendously for the Colts. After trading back from three to six with the Jets, the Colts still get their guy and the best defensive player in the draft. Chubb adds a pass rushing presence the Colts need after only totaling 25 sacks in 2017, second to last in the league.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Notre Dame, Quenton Nelson, OG
Townes: Yes, Jameis Winston might be the face of the franchise down in Tampa, but a culture change is needed. One way to do so is by running the ball more and drafting Nelson would be a good move to jumpstart that process. The Bucs finished 27th in rushing yards with 3.7 yards per carry. The guard out of Notre Dame loves to steamroll the man in front of him as he wants to break their will. They can get a quality back later in the draft.
8. Chicago Bears: Ohio State, Denzel Ward, CB
Frost: Ward is a part of a tree that has produced a few good defensive backs from Ohio State over recent years. At the 2018 NFL Combine, Ward ran a 4.32 40-yard dash time, tying him for the fastest time among defensive backs. The Bears lost cornerback Kendall Fuller to the division rival Green Bay Packers, so Ward provides a replacement (and upgrade) at the cornerback position.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Alabama, Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB
Townes: Fitzpatrick is the best defender in this class and might be the best player as well. Over three years at Alabama, he accumulated 24 pass deflections, nine picks, and four touchdowns. He simply finds way to make plays like Tyrann Mathieu, but not with the same raw athletic ability. In a game that requires versatility in safeties, Fitzpatrick can cover like a corner, but sniff out the run like a prototypical safety. John Lynch has to be reminded of himself when analyzing him.
10. Oakland Raiders: Georgia, Roquan Smith, MLB
Frost: In the first pick of the Jon Gruden era with the Raiders, they select a football player their new head coach will definitely love. Smith is a type of linebacker that plays sideline-to-sideline. His intelligence and athleticism allows him to stay effective while being considered undersized. Smith is the type of player to bring back the “fear-factor” back to Raider Nation.
11. Miami Dolphins: Florida State, Derwin James, S
Townes: James flew under the radar much of the season because of the Seminoles lackluster season. However, a strong combine reminded scouts why he was considered a top 10 pick before the season started. He has the body and physical tendencies of Kam Chancellor, but has Earl Thomas speed. He would be a nice cornerstone on a Dolphins team that is in the midst of a rebuild.
12. Buffalo Bills: Louisville, Lamar Jackson, QB
Frost: After trading an athletic quarterback this offseason in Taylor, the Browns get possibly an even more athletic at the position in Jackson. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner possesses the talent that strikes fear in an opposing defensive coordinator and causes him to lose sleep at night. Knocked for his accuracy, Jackson has improved his completion percentage each of the last three seasons at Louisville. If Jackson can continue his growth as a passer, the Bills may have selected a steal with this pick.
13. Washington Redskins: Washington, Vita Vea, DT
Townes: Although he may look like another Danny Shelton in terms of position (nose tackle) and weight (340 pounds), Vea is 6’5 and slenderer than Shelton. In addition, he ran a 5.1 40 as opposed to Shelton’s 5.64. Washington ranked dead last in defending the run and Vea would be an upgrade over aging veterans like Matt Ioannidis and Ziggy Hood.
14. Green Bay Packers: Iowa, Josh Jackson, CB
Frost: In what is becoming a pass happy division with Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, and the up-and-coming Mitchell Trubisky, the Packers need as much cornerback help as they can get. Jackson is the definition of a ball hawk, intercepting eight passes in 13 games in 2017. A player that is able to create turnovers and get the ball back into Aaron Rodgers hands can lead the Packers a long way, so Jackson makes sense here.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Virginia Tech, Tremaine Edmunds, LB
Townes: It is hard to see Edmunds tumbling this far especially with scouts drooling over the potential of the former Hokie linebacker. In this scenario, he would be happily taken by the Cardinals as they have a history of taking versatile players like Budda Baker and Haason Reddick. He would be used in an array of ways in that Arizona front seven.
16. Baltimore Raves: Alabama, Calvin Ridley, WR
Frost: Ridley is considered the best receiver in this year’s draft and the Ravens desperately need a playmaker on the outside after a league worst 5.7 yards per pass. In 2017, Ridley averaged 15.3 yards per reception. His polished route running and speed will please Ravens big arm quarterback Joe Flacco next season.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Alabama, Da’Ron Payne, DT
Townes: The Chargers had subpar play at linebacker this past year, but a defensive tackle like Payne would be perfect in keeping players Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown clean. He doesn’t have the stats that make you drop your jaw, but he demands double teams. Playing with guys like Corey Liuget, Joey Bosa, and Melvin Ingram would help him see more one-on-one opportunities especially with that quick first step.
18. Seattle Seahawks: UTSA, Marcus Davenport, DE
Frost: The Seahawks traded Michael Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles, leaving a hole for a pass-rusher. Insert Davenport, a player with potential to be an elite pass-rusher in the NFL. He already has great length, but needs to improve with hand placement to become a high sack player.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Alabama, Rashaan Evans, LB
Townes: Dallas has needs in a plethora of areas including offensive line, receiver, and in their secondary. However, getting a linebacker like Evans would be huge as they lack the production needed at the second level. Evans has a nose for defending the run, but he needs to develop in coverage.
20. Detroit Lions: Georgia, Sony Michel, RB
Frost: Part of a dynamic duo at Georgia with Nick Chubb, Michel showed the potential of a player who can be a lead back. Michel displays a north-south type of running style and is able to break through tacklers. He will help take the pressure off Stafford, who ranks first all-time with 38.8 passing attempts per game.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Arkansas, Frank Ragnow, C
Townes: Andy Dalton was sacked 40 times a year ago and the Bengals rushing attack finished 31st in the league. The Bengals have the weapons to be one of the better offenses in the league, but what good are they without cohesion in the trenches? Ragnow is solid in run blocking and pass protection. He is a rising star among centers in this class.
22. Buffalo Bills: Maryland, D.J. Moore, WR
Frost: They selected their franchise quarterback earlier in the round, now they get the receiver to match. Moore had a breakout season in 2017, catching 80 passes for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns. He has the speed to get behind defenders and has strong hands needed for the Buffalo weather.
23. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams trade): Boston College, Harold Landry, Edge
Townes: New England compiled 42 sacks a year ago with the highest mark coming from Trey Flowers with 6.5. That means the Pats focused on a committee of pass rushers from all areas on defense. Landry had astronomical numbers as a junior with 16.5 sacks and 22 tackles for losses. His senior year he struggled as offenses doubled him. Bill Belichick would have his best pass rusher since Richard Seymour if the Pats selected Landry.
24. Carolina Panthers: Stanford, Justin Reid, S
Frost: After losing Kurt Coleman to the New Orleans Saints, the Panthers get better at safety with Reid. He plays with smarts and limits his mistakes. Reid has an advantage over most players in the draft. After living with his brother, Eric, who played with the 49ers when he was at Stanford, this helped him get accustomed to the NFL lifestyle.
25. Tennessee Titans: LSU, Derrius Guice, RB
Townes: Yes, they just got rid of Demarco Murray, but in this scenario, it would be hard to pass up Guice. The Titans are at their best offensively when they can run the ball down the opposition’s throat. Derrick Henry would be the starter, but Guice would be no slouch as he too runs the ball with malice.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Florida, Taven Bryan, DT
Frost: The Falcons lost Dontari Poe to the Carolina Panthers and Bryan provides a much-needed replacement. Bryan has received training from his dad, an ex-Navy Seal, and is getting comparisons to J.J. Watt. He is what the Falcons need, who lack a disruptive interior player.
27. New Orleans Saints: South Carolina, Hayden Hurst, TE
Townes: The tight end position has been a revolving door for New Orleans since they traded Jimmy Graham. Benjamin Watson had a stellar season, but was too old to justify paying. Josh Hill operates better as the second tight end and Coby Fleener struggles unless his quarterback is named Andrew Luck. Hurst had over 1,100 receiving yards the last two years as a Gamecock with woebegone quarterback play. Drew Brees would welcome the draft’s best tight end as his new target over the middle.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louisville, Jaire Alexander, CB
Frost: William Gay is now with the Giants, leaving the Steelers without a nickel corner. Alexander can fill in for Gay, but also do a little more. Joe Haden is the teams’ number one corner for the Steelers so the pressure for Alexander to cover the opposing teams best receiver will not be there. If he can stay healthy, Alexander will be a valuable piece, as the Steelers believe they are Super Bowl contenders.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: SMU, Courtland Sutton, WR
Townes: The Jags let Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson skip town without flinching. It makes sense for them to take the big body receiver from Southern Methodist. He is a raw prospect in terms of route running ability, but his size and 4.54 speed makes him a special player out wide. He can catch jump balls as Blake Bortles loved to do so with Hurns and Robinson.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Texas, Connor Williams, OL
Frost: Able to play all positions on the offensive line, Williams may be best suited to play inside on the offensive line at the NFL level. He is a great technician for a blocker and provides great redirect on his blocks. It would be smart for the Vikings to protect their new 84 million dollar quarterback in Cousins, so Williams is a good selection here.
31. New England Patriots: Texas A&M, Christian Kirk, WR
Townes: He isn’t Odell Beckham Jr., but Kirk might be the most explosive receiver to come out since him. He would fill an obvious void left behind by Danny Amendola and he could learn a thing or two from Julian Edelman. Edelman learned a lot from Wes Welker and he would be continuing “The Patriot Way” by instilling knowledge into Kirk.
32) Philadelphia Eagles: UCLA, Kolton Miller, OT
Frost: Jason Peters, 36, tore his ACL and MCL last season and it is time for the Eagles to find his successor. He may still be one of the best left tackles in the league when he comes back, but the Eagles need to prepare for life without Peters. Miller protected Rosen while at UCLA, so he understands the importance of keeping pressure off a first-round quarterback like the Eagles have in Wentz.
A lot can change from now up until the draft. Teams will start to lock in on guys that intrigue them and reports will leak out of organizations regarding a player or two in a positive or negative tone. Sometimes that is a misdirection move to get teams off the trail of a player they may want. Stay tuned for the next mock draft.