Hey there, I’m Lee Wakefield and I’ll be here dropping mock drafts like Louisville receivers drop passes over the next couple of weeks in the lead up to draft night. I’ll run through a few scenarios and mix things up a little, then my final mock will be posted up on the eve on the big night. Ok? Let’s go!
Just a quick qualifier before we get started. For the purpose of this exercise, I’m not including trades. I DO believe there will be trades on the night but I’ll include trades in future mocks.
#1, Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Sashi and The Browns tried to get cute and maybe tried to be too clever throughout his tenure and got burned, passing on Carson Wentz and DeShaun Watson in the past two drafts. They don’t here. They take a quarterback 1st overall and this time they have the luxury of being able to let him develop for a year or so, behind a capable starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. Darnold has a sky high ceiling and a relatively high floor too which is what gives him the edge over his classmates this year. He’s by no means perfect and did suffer with fumbles quite a bit at USC, losing 9 last season as well as throwing 13 picks. This obviously needs cleaning up so it suits him to sit for a year or two before taking the reins.
#2, New York Giants – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn. State
Eli Manning may have been benched last season but he’s still got enough in the tank for another season, so the Giants go and get the best player in the entire class with the second pick and take some of the pressure of Eli. Saquon will likely give Big Blue a 1,000 yard rusher for the first time since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012. Eeesh.
Barkley is a strong and aggressive runner with soft hands when catching out of the backfield. He’s a physical specimen who many rate more highly than Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette coming out of collage.
#3, New York Jets – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
During the recent league owners meetings the Jets said they’re considering “6 or 7 players” players for the number 3 pick… well if that REALLY is the case, then why did they pay a king’s ransom to trade up from 6? Hmmm… make no mistake they’re taking a QB here, bet your house on it. The Meadowlands other occupant gets a pretty good one here, Josh McCown’s newest pupil is Josh Rosen. It’s a pretty crowded QB room over in Florham Park but I’d expect Rosen to rise up and beat McCown and Teddy Bridgewater out of the stating job by the end of the season.
#4, Cleveland Browns – Bradley Chubb, Edge, N.C. State
I expect Cleveland to field calls for this pick on the night but I’m not including trades in this mock. If Cleveland do make a pick here They could do much worse than getting Myles Garrett a running mate. This would give the Browns a young and ferocious pairing to chase down the AFC North’s quarterbacks for the foreseeable future and the bonus factor in this pick is that Garrett and Chubb make the other a little bit better by taking attention from each other from blockers. We could be seeing the birth of a premier pass rush duo to rival those from the Jags and Chargers.
#5, Denver Broncos – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Denver could go a number of ways here and again could be fielding calls for trades, especially if Cleveland stay at 4. Here John Elway takes another swing at trying to find his quarterback of the future after misses on Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Allen is a big project in my opinion but he can marinate behind Case Keenum for a year or two before taking the controls himself. It’s questionable whether he’ll reach his ceiling but it only takes one team to believe with these boom or bust prospects.
#6, Indianapolis Colts – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Colts began remodelling the defensive backfield in last year’s draft with the selections of Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson. Here Indy selects the top cover man in the class to play with Wilson and Hooker once they both recover from their perspective injuries and they get a young core to protect the end zone for years to come. As with the past couple of picks, the number 6 pick is going to be up for auction on draft night and if there are no trades in the first five picks, if expect the phones to be on fire in the Colts’ war room with calls from Baker Mayfield fans incoming.
#7, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
In this scenario Tampa Bay will be jumping around with delight. The run on quarterbacks means the most fireproof prospect in the class falls right into their laps at 7, which even for a guard is an absolute bargain because Quenton Nelson is not an ordinary guard. Nelson is regarded as pretty much as close to a sure thing as possible and will be making multiple trips to the Pro Bowl. Who wouldn’t want a guy on their team who says that they play football with the intention of breaking the will of the guy opposite. That is bad ass. I love it!!
#8, Chicago Bears – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Chicago have had a nice off season so far with their free agency signings and need to follow on from that by having a good draft if they’re going to give themselves a chance of getting out of the cellar of an absolutely loaded NFC North. The Bears kick off their draft by selecting the best linebacker available to give their front 7 an alpha dog and fill the hole left by Jurrell Freeman.
#9, San Francisco 49ers – Derwin James, S, Florida State
Over the past 3 drafts, the 49ers have used their first round selections to beef up the front 7 with Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Reuben foster. Some guy called Richard Sherman signed this offseason too and here the 49ers continue their defensive makeover taking James. James is a versatile safety who has an All Pro ceiling and will be an instant contributor to Robert Saleh’s defence.
#10, Oakland Raiders – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech.
Long, athletic, young and versatile. Sounds like a great prospect huh? Well they’re four words that describe Edmunds. Once drafted, at 19 years old, he will be the NFL’s youngest player, which in itself means there’s just that little bit more time to develop and mould him into what you want him to be. Some in the scouting community are saying Edmunds will play outside linebacker or even defensive end, I don’t see it that way. He CAN rush the passer in some situations but he’s best using this athleticism to go sideline to sideline and rack up tackles.
#11, Miami Dolphins – Vita Vea, DT, Washington
As everyone knows, Miami cut Ndamukong Suh and he’s gone out west to join this decade’s “Dream Team” in Los Angeles, leaving a big hole, both literally and figuratively in the defensive line. What better way to fill it than drafting a 340lb human wrecking ball with feet like a ballerina. Vea is unbelievably powerful, evident in that he threw up 41 reps in the bench press in the combine and he uses his power to overwhelm guards and centres regularly but is also likely to be chasing down ball carriers and making tackles at the sideline. Vea has a motor which does not stop. Quarterbacks and running backs beware, this man will be in your backfield.
#12, Buffalo Bills – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Bills get their quarterback of the future. If The Bills do get Mayfield then I could see him beating out A.J. McCarron for the starting job before the season even starts. Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech… as a freshman… and then started. Then transferred to Oklahoma then won the starting job there, leading to Trevor Knight leaving for Texas A&M. Are you spotting a theme here? Baker Mayfield is the ultimate competitor and the most accurate quarterback in the draft. I, for one, can’t wait to see him play in the NFL.
On a side note; if this were to happen and Buffalo did get their QB at 12, without having to trade up at all, there would be no table in Western New York that hadn’t had a Bills fan jump through it by the time the party was over.
#13, Washington Redskins – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
This would be another selection which would call for street parties in Landover. Fitzpatrick is everything that the modern day franchise looks for in a defensive back and he should be everything the ‘Skins wanted Su’a Cravens to be. Words you’ll be hearing a lot when people talk about Fitzpatrick are “chess piece” and “Swiss army knife”. He’ll move all over the defensive formation in order to fill a need on a certain play or situation as he did in college with the Crimson Tide. Single high safety, in the box, blitzing, playing corner outside or in the slot, he can do it all.
#14, Green Bay Packers – Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
Green Bay adds some juice to it’s pass rushing attack. Clay Matthews has been around for a long time and it’s time to pass the torch to a younger guy. Landry didn’t put up great numbers for Boston College last year due to a nagging ankle problem but his 2016 tape is fantastic with 22 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks. Now the injury is cleared up, that’s the Harold Landry Green Bay should be getting and with Matthews still around the building, he should have a great tutor to help refine this techniques and counters and give The Packers a premier sack artist for years to come.
#15, Arizona Cardinals – Connor Williams, OT
The Cardinals went out and paid Justin Pugh this off season and here They continue to bolster the offensive line. Williams played left tackle for The Longhorns but could easily play guard too in the NFL as he’s athletic for his size. Some teams may see him as a guard anyway because some teams believe in myths regarding ideal arm length for offensive linemen, which Williams does not have. However the Cards see Williams they get a great prospect to protect Sam Bradford and as we all know, Sam Bradford needs protecting.
On a side note; Arizona is a candidate to trade down since they’re in rebuild mode and have a lowkey average roster. I may include this in future mocks.
#16, Baltimore Ravens – Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
Another team with an aging pass rusher on his way out drafts his replacement. Davenport is incredibly raw as a prospect and needs serious development but he has the ingredients to do some damage in the NFL. He played at a pretty average level in college and basically just bullied and intimidated the guy across from him and he looked like a star… fast forward to the senior bowl where he was lining up against, guys who knew how to actually play offensive line and he was almost anonymous. Make of that what you will but like I said above, it only takes one team to believe.
#17, Los Angeles Chargers – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Upgrade the run defence. That should be Tom Telesco’s modus operandi for the first round of the draft. This could come in the form of a defensive tackle, especially since Corey Liuget is suspended for the first 4 games on the season due to a PED’S violation but here Los Angeles goes for an alpha dog linebacker to play alongside Denzel Perryman and sets them both loose to hunt down ball carriers. It could be a good competition I for who ends the season with more tackles. This also has the added bonus of rewarding Darius Philon for his upturn in play last year in Liuget’s absence. Gus Bradley’s defence is quickly becoming the strength of this team, with all 3 levels having genuine stars and promising youngsters alike. Rashaan Evans has the potential to go from being a promising youngster to a genuine star very quickly.
#18, Seattle Seahawks – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Seattle are rebuilding, make no mistake but they’re not going to lose they’re hard nosed identity under Pete Carroll. Guice should fit that perfectly as he’s quick, strong and physical. Some rate him more than old running mate Leonard Fournette… who didn’t do badly in Northern Florida his rookie year. Guice is a Back that will take huge pressure off Russell Wilson who was their leading rusher last season. The Seahawks are a better team with a pounding runner who can grind down opposing defences and take control of the clock. Having a clock controlling offense will also help to mask he possibly deficiencies Seattle may have on defence after losing multiple key pieces on that side of the ball this off season. This is possibly my favourite pick of the whole first round.
#19, Dallas Cowboys – Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
The Cowboys use another pick to protect Dak Prescott and open up holes for Ezekiel Elliott to run through. Here, La’el Collins would play at right tackle with Wynn at right guard. Smith, Martin, Frederick, Wynn, Collins give America’s Team the best line in football… Zeke will eat again. Wynn is a smart and strong lineman who played left back tackle Bulldogs but projects as a guard in the NFL due to lack of ideal size. Dallas could interchange Wynn and Collins to find the best fit for them. This selection also takes pressure off Prescott, who regressed last year when without Elliott.
#20, Detroit Lions – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
An second consecutive Georgia Bulldog comes off the board. Is it just me or does it feel like Detroit have needed a running back since Barry Sanders? Michel’s selection should mean Ameer Abdullah can play a more complimentary role, which should suit him better and give The Lions a thunder and lightning style rushing attack. Michel had great success at Georgia sharing backfield duties with Nick Chubb so he should be ok with the shared role. One person that will be ecstatic should be Matt Stafford, who will now have a functioning running game to open things up for Jim-Bob Cooter’s offence rather than having all the pressure on his shoulders.
#21, Cincinnati Bengals – Mike McGlinchley, OT, Notre Dame
The Bengals need to upgrade their offensive line. Their attempt to claim bookend tackles in 2015 with their first two picks has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster with Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher failing to live up to their billing for a multitude of reasons. Time to start over again for Cincy and in doing so they get McGlinchley, who is a rock solid tackle prospect. He’s got size, smarts and enough athletic ability to hold down one side of the line for the next 10-12 years. As well as protecting Andy Dalton, McGlinchley has great ability in the run game too, so Joe Mixon will also be pleased. It isn’t flashy but this makes The Bengals much better.
#22, Buffalo Bills – James Daniels, C, Iowa
Eric Wood having to retire means that Buffalo is on the lookout for an interior anchor. They immediately satisfy that need here by drafting the top centre in the class. Pencil James Daniels in for the next 10 years, he’s a smooth and fluid mover for a big man and he’s got a good amount of experience in college, even starting 2 games at left guard as a freshman for the Hawkeyes. He could bring that versatility to the pros and play as a guard in future if required. Probably needs to get a touch bigger but he can easily do so once he gets in an NFL weight programme.
#23, New England Patriots – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Malcolm Butler needs replacing. Bill Belichick evidently thought that before the Superbowl and now Butler is out of town he brings in Alexander to replace him. An undersized but chippy and physical corner who should fit perfectly in the Pats press, man coverage system. Plays bigger than he is and is very instinctive, he may need to play with a little more discipline in future as he’s a gambler on throws and routes. This does mean he can make a lot of plays on the ball but leaves him open to getting burned. I’m a big fan and if he landed in New England, in certain they would refine him and we’d be looking at a top corner in 3 years time… just in time for him to be cut… in cold blood… for no apparent reason. The Patriot way.
#24, Carolina Panthers – Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
Carolina picks up my top rated wide receiver here. They have gone through a little bit of a pass catcher evolution over the past couple of seasons, getting rid of the likes of, Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn and replacing with Curtis Samuel and promoting Devin Funchess. This off season we’ve seen Jarius Wright and Speedy wideout Torrey Smith come in. Miller comes in and adds variety to the attack. Norv Turner will have no excuses if he can’t get The Panthers in a good flow offensively, especially considering he’s got Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey to play with also.
If expect Miller to climb the depth chart quickly due to his great hands, precise route running and due to the fact he plays bigger than he is. Many of you will doubt this pick but remember this later on this year when Anthony Miller is killing it.
#25, Tennessee Titans – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
This just makes so much sense, if Vander Esch falls to 25 it almost makes too much sense not to happen! Tennessee have an aging linebacker group and need to get younger and more athletic at these positions. Vander Esch is certainly athletic and should become new HC, Mike Vrabel’s star pupil, considering he used to play the same position. Vander Esch was the 2017 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and was a team captain, the amassed 141 tackles, 8.5 for loss and 4 sacks, 4 pass break ups and 4 forced fumbles, so he affects the game in multiple ways. This to me is a match made in heaven and I wouldn’t be shocked to see The Titans add an outside linebacker on day 2, to continue the rejuvenation of the front 7.
#26, Atlanta Falcons – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Atlanta are definitely a candidate to trade back as their roster is pretty deep in most areas but here they take the Crimson Tide tackle who blew up the National Championship game with Alabama limiting Georgia to 142 yards in the second half. Payne is super strong and a great technician at the defensive tackle position. He’d come in, replace Dontari Poe and play at a high level from day 1 and the sky really is the limit for him.
#27, New Orleans Saints – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
New Orleans “won” the draft last year and they kick off this year’s edition with a pick for a player with big upside but also a low floor. I’m not sure Bryan starts right away in the league but he’s very athletic, tough (son of a navy SEAL) and has great burst and closing speed. Very much still a work in progress but the Saints are a good team with a veteran head coach and well established culture, so it could be a great landing spot
#28, Pittsburgh Steelers – Justin Reid, S, Stanford
Pittsburgh would really like to get a Ryan Shazier insurance policy with this pick but all the premier linebackers are off the board at this point so they’ll have to address this need later on. Justin Reid is not a bad consolation prize in this instance. A very capable safety with great instincts and the ability and savvy to play either safety position. Reid has great athletic ability and ball skills. He also has the family name to live up to! Brother, Eric is currently a free agent having been released by the 49ers.
#29, Jacksonville Jaguars – Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The Jaguars acquire one of the top members of this year’s deep interior offensive line class. They’ve already made an effort to reinforce this area with the big money signing of Alex Norwell. Hernandez would start in the other guard spot and solidify the interior of the Jags line. He’s fantastic in the run game, he real bulldozer of a man, which would be great news for Leonard Fournette. This move would also give Blake Bortles a little more protection and he could really use it. He’s on his last life in Jacksonville with the team winning in spite of him as opposed to because of him for much of last season.
#30, Minnesota Vikings – Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Minnesota are another team picking late in the first round who could either trade back and acquire more picks or so what have them doing here and taking the best player available. Hurst is a top 10 talent on paper, a really pocket pusher who makes life difficult for offensive linemen and quarterbacks alike. He drops only because of a heart scare at the combine. Fortunately he’s been cleared to play football but I do think it’ll affect his draft stock. Fortunately for The Vikings, they’re looking pretty good along the defensive line and the picked up Sheldon Richardson on a one year, “prove it” deal. Hurst will be spending his first year learning and taking what comes to him but if Richardson doesn’t prove it, The Vikes have his replacement on board already.
#31, New England Patriots – Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
New England have lost some players since the end of last season but none hurt then more than Tom Brady’s blindside protector leaving town. Kolton Miller is a big, strong and technically proficient linemen, he’s not the finished article by any stretch but he’s got the raw ingredients to become a top tackle in the NFL. The Patriots have got by with much worse on their line during TB12’s era since he gets the ball out of his hands so quickly that his blockers don’t have to block for that long. Miller could start right away and he absolutely fine and get better quickly. Miller was one the best tackles ever at the combine from an athletic point of view, I’m sure that Josh McDaniels would love to get Miller out in space on screens and swing passed blocking ahead of his stable of scat backs.
#32, Philadelphia Eagles – Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Philly have the Lombardi and a roster which is primed to take a run at defending the trophy. They really don’t have too many holes on the roster. Cornerback is a possibility here but instead they opt to replace LeGarrett Blount and give Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement another running mate. Jones does have a light frame which works to his advantage as he is a classic one cut and go kind of back which touchdown potential on every touch. His frame holds him back though as he’s already been criticised by some for taking too many punishing hits so therefore may have to temper his once he comes up against bigger, faster and stronger opponents in the pros. If The Eagles picked him, Jones and Ajayi could form a deadly backfield tandem, which I’m sure the rest of the league will enjoy reading.
So that wraps it up. Please get in touch with me and let me know what your thoughts are on this opening mock draft. I’m available on Twitter @Wakefield90 so hit me up! All comments and abuse is welcome.
So as I said at the top, I’ll be dropping another mock later this week that will definitely include trades, so I’ll be cooking up some interesting scenarios with that one. Then following that I’ll release one more than a final mock on the eve of the draft before sitting down and analysing the draft in the week after it’s all gone down so keep your eyes peeled for all of that!